Sunday, March 23, 2014

3rd Sunday in Lent - John 4: 5-42 - Thirst

There is a lot going on in this Gospel story from John.  Jesus is alone, no disciples are with him and we’re not told why they’ve all gone off to buy food, leaving no one with him.  Mediterranean people are very social, no one is ever left alone.  Having a private moment just wasn’t done.  Leaving someone alone in this culture was unthinkable.

Not only is Jesus left alone, but he’s in a Samaritan town - alone.  This is a town is in an area where Jews would not normally travel, especially alone.  Samaritans and Jews did not mix.  While they shared a common faith, they did not share common practices.  Pious Jews did not associate with Samaritans.  They looked upon them as inferior, second class persons.  

Even the time of day is significant, about noon.  Morning or evening were the normal times of day when women would draw water from the well.  This woman too is alone.  She comes to the well at noon, a time of day when no one, but Jesus was around.  From the time of day and her being alone we may conclude that she was socially shunned by the other women of her community – she was an outcast from her society because she was, as we find out – a sinner – a shameless woman.

Which brings us to a part of the conversation Jesus has with this Samaritan woman.  While this is a story about moving from unbelief to belief and evangelization, it is also, a story about thirst, longing and satisfaction. 

Jesus begins his conversation with this woman by asking for a drink of water to quench his thirst, he winds up revealing to her that He is the living water that will quench her thirst forever.  He reveals to her the truth about her own thirst – an emptiness that keeps her unfulfilled, unsatisfied.  He tells her the story of her fruitless search to satisfy her longings, her thirst – her search for satisfaction in life through worldly relationships.  He has what she seeks – something that will give her what she desires most - a relationship that is fulfilling, whole, everlasting and complete – satisfying her thirst and longing forever.

His living water is what she has searched for all her life.  Jesus offers her something that she could not find in her five failed marriages and which continues to elude her in her present worldly relationship.  Jesus reveals to her that He is the one she seeks – the Christ – the one she has been searching for, longing for throughout her life. 

She is astounded by what Jesus says to her and rushes off to tell everyone in her town.  She, who was lost – is now found.  She moves from outcast sinner to evangelizer – one who has faced the deepest truth about herself and her unrewarding attempts to fill the void, the emptiness in her life.  She now comes to know the truth.  Her joy and the fulfillment she seeks rests in Him - Jesus, the Christ.  Rejoicing, she rushes off to share what she has seen and heard with everyone she meets.  Her brokenness is healed by Jesus – in him she has found what the world could not give her – a living water that quenches her thirst and satisfies her longing: filling the emptiness within her.

In this Lent, this time of reflection and repentance, we are called to examine how we are “Looking for love in all the wrong places,” as the Johnny Lee song goes.  We search for what will fulfill our longing and make us whole in the distractions of this world.  Do not be blind to the truth of who Jesus is and how He will satisfy us when we come to know him.  He is the Word made flesh.  In him we will find healing of our brokenness.  In him we will find fulfillment and be satisfied.  He will give us our fill of His Living Water that will quench our thirst forever and ever. ~Amen


Deacon Don Ron

Sunday, March 16, 2014

2nd Sunday in Lent - Matthew 17: 1-9 - "All we need . . ."

We are all radicals!  Cultural subversives!  Our lives, as disciples of Jesus - calls us to reject the ways of the world to live new lives.  We are called to be courageous; trusting completely in the promises of God.  We are strengthened by our beliefs to endure suffering and pain for the sake of God’s truth and we are comforted and assured that God is with us always – through his Son, Jesus Christ.

Our call to Christianity is a call to a radical new way of living, far removed from our secular life – the life we’ve come to know – a life filled with the familiar, - the comfort of friends and family – a life acceptance of the ever-changing norms of our culture and society.  Christ calls us away from this life - to a new life – a holy life – a life filled with hope and promise - a life of truth and the eternal peace of God’s kingdom.

Our life in Christ is often called a journey.  It is a journey because we never reach our destination in this life, but are always moving, seeking and discovering God’s call - as he reveals himself to us.  We are always traveling toward our Father’s promise of a new and eternal life.

It is a journey filled with grace and temptations, - a journey along rough and easy roads.  Sometimes our path is straight and clear; running all the way to the horizon and at others it twists and turns, with diversions and dead-ends - that lead to sorrow and regret. 

But as hopeful travelers, disciples in Christ Jesus, we journey on with strength in belief; trusting in the promise of God through our Lord, Jesus.  Courageously seeking Him; following His path toward salvation and life eternal.

In speaking with those whose journey brings them to join our Christian community, the One, Holy, Apostolic, Catholic Church, through the Rite of Christian Initiation (RCIA) - I tell seekers that we don’t “make” Catholics or teach people to become Christians – the Holy Spirit is already working in their hearts, bringing them closer to God – being a Catholic is not something we do, but who we are!  We all journey together on our Road to Emmaus - our journey of discipleship in Christ.  Helping one another recognize the signs and wonders of God’s work in our lives.

God calls each of us to Him.  He sends us signs and hints, reminding us of his great love for us and – shows us The Way of living in His love.  Even through pain and suffering we find grace and understanding in His love.

In our journey of discipleship in Jesus; as believers in God’s promise of salvation - we are like Abram, as we see in our reading from Genesis. 
Abram believed in God’s promises so completely – He willingly gave up all that he knew – to journey out into the unknown world - seeking fulfillment of God’s promises. 
Abram’s trust in God was complete; allowing him to be led out of his comfort zone – away from all that was familiar and safe - forsaking family and friends – to journey into a new life.

In our journey of discipleship - we are also like Paul.  We know what happened to Paul – his dramatic call to a life in Christ.  He suffered great hardships in his new life - for the sake of the Gospel.  Paul believed all he suffered was in God’s plan of salvation.  He saw his journey as a furtherance of God’s promise through Jesus Christ and stood each hardship as a grace-filled gift from God.

Paul found strength and courage in God through Jesus – bringing His Word to others.  In his suffering he found God’s consolation.

Peter, James and John journeyed with Jesus high into a mountain where – in a bright dazzling light - they witness Jesus Transfigured - conversing with Moses and Elijah – God’s fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets in Jesus. 

Then, - in echo of Jesus’ baptism, - a loud voice fills the air saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”  Peter, James and John journey into fear; falling prostrate, trembling before God‘s mighty sign.

“Rise and do not be afraid”, Jesus tells them – For in Him is the fulfillment of God’s promise - a sign to them that - all they would ever need is Jesus.

On our Road to Emmaus we too should be:
Trusting – like Abraham - completely in God’s promise.
Strengthened – like Paul – enduring suffering for God’s truth
And fearless – in Jesus’ Word – assured that He is all we will ever need and He is with us always until the end of time. ~Amen


Deacon Don Ron

Sunday, March 9, 2014

1st Sunday in Lent - Matthew 4: 1-11 - "Where are you?"

“Where are you?” God calls out to Adam and Eve after they’d eaten the forbidden fruit and hidden themselves from Him in the shadows of the Garden of Eden.

I hope we are all familiar with this story in Genesis: The Fall of Man.  And I hope that we pass this story on to all generations, so they may learn what man has lost through sin after succumbing to the temptations of the evil-one.  In knowing this story, are we able to appreciate God’s gift in sacrificing His only Son, Jesus, to restore us to eternal life.  For when God banished Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden it was to the Tree of Life that he denied them access.  This gift is from God alone, restored to us through Jesus, the Christ.

After the fall of man, when Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of Knowledge, they became aware of good and evil just as the evil-one said, but realizing in their nakedness – they now knew what they had done was evil.  As they hear God approaching they hide themselves out of shame and fear: Shame for their disobedience and fear of God’s punishment.

While they hide in the dark, God searched for them in the Garden, calling, “Where are you?”  He sought them out until He found them.  God’s love for His children brought Him to search for them; knowing that they were lost and afraid.  He knows us too, for we also are His children.  As he did with Adam and Eve, he continually searches for us, calling out, “Where are you?”  Unceasingly, He searches wherever we may be hiding from Him, in our shame and fear.  God loves all His sheep and tirelessly seeks His lost lambs: rescuing them from all the most dangerous places into which they fall; carrying them back into the fold.

As we begin our season of Lent: our special time for reflection and examination, let us come out from our hiding places and allow God to find us, no matter what deep dark place we’ve fallen into.  None is too terrible that God will not go to rescue us and return us to His safety.
  • Let us step out from hiding in the dark to come into the light of Christ; seeking God’s unending mercy and love. 
  • Let us run into the embrace of His loving arms to be comforted and caressed. 
  • Let us be reconciled with Him and His people, in the Body of Christ: healed and restored: to take up our rightful place in the peace of heaven. 
  • Let us not be afraid to accept our just punishments, as we accept God’s love and His gift of salvation and reward of eternal life.

When God asks us, “Where are you?” we should ask ourselves “Where am I” in my relationship with God.  I use this rhetorical question when speaking with seekers, candidates and catechumens as they come to the Church looking for the sacraments.  I ask this because the Church are not a sacrament factory, but body of fellow seekers of God’s love all on this journey of discipleship in Jesus Christ.  It is our discipline as Christians to watch out for, care for: support, strengthen and encourage one another on our journey into God’s kingdom.

We are each called by God into an ever closer relationship with Him, through Jesus and the Spirit.  God never stops searching for us.  We should never stop reaching out to Him.  He knows our frailty, our weakness and wants us to come into the Light of Christ to be healed and reconciled with Him and with one another.

What God has denied us in this life through original sin, He wants to return to us in the promise of His heavenly kingdom.  He knows we live in the world where the evil-one rules.  He knows we are tempted and misled by the lies spoken by the great deceiver.  Just as he tricked Adam and Eve, evil works to plant doubt in our minds and fill us with desires of our own magnificence, so we may make gods of ourselves and remain banished from God’s kingdom.

It is important to ask ourselves where we are in our relationship with God. 
  • Where we are on our Road to Emmaus, our journey of discipleship in Jesus Christ? 
  • Do I truly live as Jesus taught and believe in Him? 
  • How much closer am I to God today than I was yesterday? 

So, when God asks, “Where are you?”  Am I hiding in darkness or am I standing in the Light? 
When He calls to me – do I stay silent, hidden from His sight or do I say, “Here I am Lord!  Speak, for your servant is listening.” ~Amen


Deacon Don Ron

Monday, March 3, 2014

A Lenten Reflection - 2014

“The Lord is kind and merciful.
He pardons all my iniquities.”

There was an old holy man sitting on the banks of the Ganges meditating while worshippers bathed in the river to wash away their sins.  The old man noticed a scorpion struggling in the water trying to get to the shore.  As it floated closer to him it became snared in some reeds by the water’s edge.  The more it struggled, the more entangled it became, so the old man reached out to free the scorpion from its watery fate.  As he touched the creature – it began to sting his hand.  Despite the pain, he continued to free it; placing it on the shore.A young man nearby watching shouted to him, “Why do you risk such pain for such a useless and ugly creature?”The holy man replied, “Just because it is the nature of the scorpion to sting, why I should give up my nature to save?”

God’s love is all powerful: healing, reconciling, comforting, embracing, life-affirming, good and beautiful.  There is no sin we can devise or engage in that will separate us from God’s love.  His forgiveness is unending; His mercy boundless, His understanding infinite.  God is love (1 John 4:8) and He cannot deny Himself.  His nature is to love His children; desiring them to return to Him, calling them to His embrace, giving them all the good things they need, bring them into His Kingdom of Light to dwell with Him eternally.

“Who can separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword?No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us.” Romans 8: 35, 37

Only we have the power to separate ourselves from the love of God!  As we turn our face away from Him we place ourselves out of His embrace; turning away from His forgiveness, mercy, understanding and all-encompassing love.  We should let nothing stand between us and God’s love.

Lent, a time for reflection and examination is our occasion to have an encounter with Jesus and the saving power of God.  Taking this opportunity to be reunited with Him through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we are lifted up in His arms and embraced as a mother embraces her child. “(The confessional) is not a torture chamber where you will be raked over the coals,” but where we “renew the grace of (our) baptism,” (Pope Francis) experiencing the tender love of our adoring Father.

Go to confession and be reconciled with God, who is love.  Invite someone to join you to experience their own encounter with Jesus and His healing, saving, loving power. Prepare to celebrate Christ’s sacrifice for our sins and His Resurrection; conquering death, bringing us to life everlasting.

Deacon Don Ron

Sunday, March 2, 2014

8th Sunday Ordinary Time - Matthew 6: 24-34 - "Sufficient for a day . . ."

We spend a lot of time worrying.  The world is a complex place and there are so many things going on both locally and globally that we find worrying is a full time job. 
  • How much snow will we get?
  • Do I have enough eggs, milk and bread to survive the storm?
  • What’s the best time to get to the grocery before all those others?
  • Do I have batteries? Enough salt? Gas for the snow-blower?

And while we’re waiting on that long line to purchase our survival ingredients for making French Toast, we can take a moment to reflect on the escalating situation in the Ukraine or the riots in Venezuela.  Or maybe its strife within our own borders that occupy our thoughts, the healthcare mess, our legislative meltdown or the injustice of economic inequality.  No matter which way we turn there is always something to worry about.

Now we hear Jesus telling us not to worry.  God will provide. 
“Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all things will be given you. Do not worry about tomorrow, tomorrow will take care of itself.” 
Does that mean when I get up Monday morning, as the snow piles up in my yard, that the Lord will have placed those eggs, milk and bread in my larder, so I can enjoy a hearty breakfast or will there be just that lonely can of chickpeas, some stale saltines and the empty container of OJ I left there yesterday?

Our lives are a matter of priorities.  What is really important, what matters not so much and what in our lives is ‘Much ado about nothing.”  How do we occupy our time, energies and thoughts?  Do our worldly worries take precedence or do we really place God above all things and let the other ‘stuff’ fall into place in proper perspective?

All thing point to the primacy of God in our lives.  He tell us, ‘I am your God, you are my people.’  In his covenant with his chosen people, the commandments handed to Moses, begins with,

 ‘I am the Lord, your God. You will have no other gods before me.’

 And now Jesus says,

‘Seek first the kingdom of God.’ 

How can we not understand the proper place of God in our lives?  How can we let the worries of this world seem more important than our worship and praise of God, our Father, our creator and provider?

We are stewards of this world and all that God provides.  It is in His name that we live.  It is His will that we obey.  It is His love we seek.  Do not lose sight of the priorities in His gift of this life.  The latest fashions, the newest must-watch entertainment, the hottest gossip, the rising career path, the up-to-the-minute trending topics and technologies – whatever it is that occupies our attention – should not take away from our seeking God above all things.

In seeking God and living in his love, we love one another as He loves us.  We care for one another as He cares for us.  We seek His love, in our love for our neighbor and live in His love, as we live in His peace and His justice with one another. 

Our God is a God of people, not a god of things.  He alone knows and provides the good things we need in our lives.  Trust in the Lord.  Fear not, for He is with us. ~Amen


Deacon Don Ron