Saturday, October 17, 2015

"A Radical New Way" - 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Mark 10:35-45

Last Sunday we heard in the Gospel how difficult it is for a rich person to get into heaven.  The burden of possessions weighs heavily.

The young man proclaimed himself to be a ‘good person’ but could not bring himself to face the truth Jesus called him into living as his disciple.  For the young man, giving up his worldly possessions was more than he was willing to sacrifice for the kingdom of God. 

It was more than material possessions Jesus was calling the young man to sacrifice.  He challenged him to change his whole way of life; his whole world view.  Jesus called him look at the poor and the whole world in a radical new way.  Behind the young man’s sad face was his fear of changing his heart; of sacrificing his long held understandings of this world.
The Lord said:

“I will sprinkle clean water over you to make you clean; from all your impurities and from all your idols I will cleanse you. I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36: 25-26

Jesus called the young man away from himself.  He called him to seek fulfillment in service to ‘the other’.  To see ‘the other’ with the love of God; taking responsibility for their well-being, their justice and their peace.

Jesus, in today’s Gospel, calls James and John away from seeking glory for themselves into seeking fulfillment in a life of service to ‘the other’.  James and John sought to possess Jesus in a material way; riding on his coat-tails into positions of power and honor. 

But Jesus calls them away from themselves.  He calls them into a radical new way of looking at the world.  He tells all the disciples that those who serve others are true leaders.  They, who give up their lives in service to the needs of ‘the other’, are the ones who gain true glory in the eyes of God.  They shall receive their reward in the love of God; becoming inheritors of His eternal kingdom.

Jesus calls his disciples into a life of sacrifice.  But this sacrifice is not one of loss, as the world thinks of sacrifice. It is a sacrifice of love, of joy and of fulfillment found in the embrace of God. 

Those who serve the least of His children find their reward not in the material things of this world: which decay and do not last; but receive the reward in the ever-lasting glory of God and the peace of His heavenly kingdom. ~Amen

Deacon Don

Sunday, October 11, 2015

"Let Go - Let God" - 28th Sunday Ordinary Time - Mark 10:17-30

“There is a story about a tribe in North Africa with an interesting method for catching monkeys.  The hunter hollows out a gourd; making a hole in its side just big enough for a monkey to insert his open hand.  He then fills the gourd with nuts; tying it to a tree.  The monkey attracted by the smell of the contents, reaches into the opening in the gourd and grabs a handful of the nuts.  Here comes the trick: The hole in the gourd however, is too narrow for the monkey to withdraw his hand while holding a fistful of nuts.  In his greed, the monkey refuses to release the delicacies to extract his hand; allowing him to become easy prey for the hunter. 

If only the monkey would relax his grip on his desired treasure, he would escape capture.  But because of his stubborn refusal to let go of his prized possession, the monkey is easily trapped.”

Let go and let God.  We are called to let go of the things of this world, the things that trap us; keeping us tied to this world: for Jesus came into this world to release us from the world so we can enter with Him into the next: God’s eternal kingdom of glory.

As we see in the Gospel, the act of being holy and holiness are not the same.  We rely on God, through His Holy Spirit, to touch our hearts; making us truly holy, enabling us to keep the things of God ever on our minds and in our hearts; releasing us from the traps of the evil-one through the things of this world.  It is the evil-one’s distractions that keep us from being truly holy.

We are called to trust in God; relying on Him for all our true needs, the desires of our hearts – that lead us to eternal life and the peace of His kingdom.  We are never truly free until we let our Lord free us from enslavement to the things of this world. We do not reject this world, but are called to hold it in proper perspective, so that in our heart – God’s love and His gift of eternal life are held – as our true heart’s desire.

The evil-one sets many attractive traps using very persuasive arguments; attempting to turn us away from becoming fully human, as intended by our Creator.  In the evil-one’s jealousy, because he objects that God made us in God’s image, the evil-one hopes to lure us from the light and salvation through Jesus Christ into the darkness of disobedience and sin, thus thwarting God’s desire for His children to dwell with Him for all eternity.

The evil-one uses the things of this world, - those ever-changing fads, created needs, and must-have-now’s of our secular culture.  His toadies tell us that these things are ever so important and necessary to finding true happiness and fulfillment.  We know them very well.  We are daily bombarded with their messages; playing to our fears and insecurities, our weaknesses and frustrations, our longings and loneliness. – they become the false desires of our heart; turning us away from God and eternal life; trapping us forever in this finite world.

The act of being holy and holiness are not the same.  We can follow the rules and say the prayers, but if we don’t love with the love of God; sharing truly a life in Christ – we can be like the young man, sad - for lacking a heart that loves others with the love we have from God.

We trust in God; relying on His Holy Spirit, to touch our hearts to make us truly holy.  For us holiness is difficult, but with God all things are possible.  Through His grace we keep the things of God ever in our hearts and on our minds, so we find true freedom and peace in letting go of the evil-one’s enticements of this world that distract us; keeping us from finding perfection in God.

If it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven, then we too must ask the same question today that the disciples asked of Jesus, “Then who can be saved?”

I want to finish with this little story from the pages of life.

I knew a man many years ago who owned his own business.  He was a humble worker gifted with a savvy business sense and the ability to make friends easily. As his business grew, as expected, so did his wealth.  Early in his business life he purchased a prized possession - a Corvette.  It bore the license plate ‘Toy’.   In place of pride in his office he had a gilded plaque that read: “He who dies with the most toys -- wins.”

As the business grew over the years he added to his collection of ‘Toys’. Each an increasingly expensive and exotic sports cars.  The license plates of each of these cars also sported the “Toy” license plate, with a little sub-numeral counting up his prize possessions.  When I last saw him he had added four more Toys for himself, not including the one’s he purchased for his wife and children.  Together, they had quite a collection. 

I often wondered about that little sign on his office wall.  It had a prominent position right behind his desk for everyone to see.  What I wondered was, when he died what did he expect to win?

Deacon Don