Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

"You are not far from the Kingdom of God"

Love God...Love Neighbor

Then one of the lawyers, who had been listening to these discussions and had noted how well he answered, came forward and asked him, 'Which commandment is first of all?' Jesus answered, 'The first is, "Hear, O Israel; the Lord your God is the only Lord; love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength." The second is this: "Love your neighbour as yourself." There is no other commandment greater than these.' The lawyer said to him, 'Well said, Master, You are right in saying that God is one and beside him there is no other. And to love him with all your heart, all your understanding, and all your strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself - is far more than any burnt offerings or sacrifices.' When Jesus saw how sensibly he answered, he said to him, 'You are not far from the Kingdom of God.' Mark 12:28-34

This lawyer, who would have been an expert in religious detail, has been listening to Jesus manage these religious guys who have been messing with him. We might get the feeling he's trying to be tricky too, asking Jesus which of the more than 600 religious laws is the most important. We have no indication whether Jesus thinks the fellow is friend or foe, he simply gets to the point and uses the question to teach.

We must remember now, Jesus doesn't invent any new commandment; his revolution is putting two commandments together: Love God with everything you've got and love people. Jesus knows how we complicate things (maybe especially in religion) and so he gives us a spiritual way of love and simplicity. 

But to love can't be a command. No one can force love; it must be free. I can however, line up my own will with the command. The desire to love is already to love. By desire, I've already set myself on the right course.  And I can ask God to teach me to love rightly. Catholics have the lives of the saints to encourage us: not that I would copy the saints so much as strive to become the saint God has dreamed me (you) to be. Love doesn't require heroics.

In choosing these two commandments Jesus is also telling us that religion has got to be about relationship - with God and with others. Religion is not a private affair. People who fall in love open themselves to the words of the other. They open their arms, hearts, minds to the other. They can bare their souls - their past, their wounds, their flaws. To fall in love is to accept the love of the other. I can love God and others because I know fundamentally that I am loved first by God - even (or especially) in my imperfections and incompleteness. How wonderful is this!

How will I know if I'm really a loving person? I have to go beyond surface-y living (which the culture invites) and get very honest with myself. Love is not a sentiment or a wish, but rather, yielding self-interest, it actively makes good happen for the other. 

I would add that love breaks out of the little orbit of those immediately around me. Love doesn't just look, but it sees. "Lord, I want to see," the blind man says to Jesus. (Luke 18:41-42) Perhaps looking is a function of the eyes, while seeing is a function of the heart.

Jesus gives us the key to life here, saying to the lawyer: "You are not far from the Kingdom of God." Which is to say, "You're getting close to allowing God to rule your life." So what would be next for the fellow? To go and do it.

O Jesus,
 that we would be freed
 of all the distractions and obsessions,
 and learn simply to love God and other people.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

The O Antiphons

The O Antiphons (each starting off with the word or sound O) are addressed to Jesus as he fulfills a Messianic hope of ancient Israel. The Messiah remember, is God's promised agent of hope-restored, renewal, peace, healing and unity. The Jews still wait, while Christians believe he has come to us in Jesus Christ, the great King, greater than all the rest, or any thing we might "crown" today. And while the Messiah has come to us in history, we sing these short verses, asking for him to come to us each personally and spiritually. Don't we need a restorer, a healer, a reconciler?

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Intercessions ~ Third Sunday in Advent ~ Gaudete Sunday

Sandy Hook children and staff

This Advent Sunday of  light,/ we pray for our country in its degraded social discourse./ For the enlightenment of  blamers,/ slanderers,/ mockers,/ liars,/ stereotypers and bullies./ We pray to the Lord. 

Monday is International Migrants Day./ We pray for those who move from place to place for seasonal work to produce our food./ For those who are away from home,/ who work long hours for poor pay/ often in poisoned environments./ We ask for just employers./ We pray to the Lord.

Preparing for Christmas,/ we pray for the world's children/ mindful of those who are never held,/ smiled at or consoled./ For the children who know only chaos,/ desperate poverty and crisis./ For the strengthening of those who raise children in a traumatic world./ We pray to the Lord.

We ask for open hearts and minds to hear the pope's message of peace at Christmas./ For leaders who have the responsibility of creating a just and harmonious world./ For those who make huge sums of money by weapon-izing the world./ We pray to the Lord.

For those who generously and bravely continue to fight ferocious fires in California./ For those who have lost everything to this disaster./ For the gift of rain that will restore the charred landscape./ We pray to the Lord.

This week/ remembering five years ago the massacre of the twenty first-graders and six staff at the Sandy Hook Elementary school,/ we boldy ask God to teach the nation the difference between the real second ammendment/ and the imagined second amendment./ We pray to the Lord.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

I could imagine there's no one who tunes-in here who doesn't know who Our Lady of Guadalupe is. The story is so important Mexican Catholics call it the Fifth Gospel. Some Catholics know the Guadalupe only for devotional purposes. Other Catholics claim her as the patron of their cause. But I'd suggest the Guadalupe is of much greater meaning and value than this; it's a story closely linked to the Incarnation feast we're getting ready to celebrate in two weeks - Christmas.

In 1531 the Virgin Mary appeared to Juan Diego - a newly baptized Christian whose indigenous culture had been violently suppressed by the Spanish empire. Empires expand to take, not give. When Mary asked Juan Diego to speak with the Spanish bishop about building a chapel on the site where she appeared, he nervously asked her, "But why ask me? I'm the tail on the dog, the bottom rung on the ladder, a leaf?" Forgive the indelicacy, but in referring to himself as "a leaf" he was likening himself to toilet paper. That's how worthless he thought of himself and his degraded, exploited and ruined people.

The Incarnation of God at Christmas is this: God is now enculturated. This means God has stepped out from the beyond, the glory-place, and into the terrible messiness of our planet with its cultures and peoples. Other religions believe their god has become human, but never to share our lives so intimately, and to help us find our way through to the fullness of what it means to be a human person. This is new!

The Guadalupe then - Mary visioned as standing barefoot on the ground, brown and black with the features of a crushed people, speaking not an imperial language but an indigenous one - is the visible image of Christianity's ability to express itself in the signs and symbols, the languages, struggles and values of every culture on earth. Her appearance says: "We can be seized by new ideas, new mindsets, new possibilities, and a new understanding of what to-be-alive means."

  • The new idea of a humanity at peace.
  • The new idea of a humanity of joy and inclusion.
  • The new idea of every life's inherent dignity and worth
  • The new idea of divisions overcome.
  • The new idea that we don't have to stay stuck in shameless lies, stubborn selfishness and greed.
  • The new idea of political agendas that are truly just and loving.
  • The new idea that we can become new Christ-persons with opened hearts and opened minds and so reveal God's goodness, God's coming to us in love, God who has put down the warrior weapons and picked up the staff of a good and tender Shepherd.

The Guadalupe message has the power to change our world, our hemisphere and this nation of ours, so sorely stressed and tested from within these days. Bless you, and happy Feast Day everyone!