Monday, November 10, 2014

Don't be a stumbling block!

Jesus said to his disciples:
There will always be something that causes people to sin. But anyone who causes them to sin is in for trouble. A person who causes even one of my little followers to sin would be better off thrown into the ocean with a heavy stone tied around their neck. So be careful what you do.  Correct any followers of mine who sin, and forgive the ones who say they are sorry. Even if one of them mistreats you seven times in one day and says, “I am sorry,” you should still forgive that person.  

The apostles said to the Lord, “Make our faith stronger!” Jesus replied:If you had faith no bigger than a tiny mustard seed, you could tell this mulberry tree to pull itself up, roots and all, and to plant itself in the ocean. And it would!”  Luke 17:1-6

Jesus says today – sin happens it is unavoidable.  It’s part of the human condition.  But, don’t be the one who causes another to sin.  The word Jesus uses today can be translated as – stumbling block.  Don’t be a stumbling block for someone.
We say to ourselves: 
“I’d never do that!”

What about professing to be a Christian and then being mean and in a foul mood all the time.  To the point others might say, “If he or she is a Christian, I want nothing to do with Church.”  That’s being a stumbling block.  We can’t just talk the talk.  Jesus is saying today, must walk the walk; and be examples of what a Christian looks like, acts like and does.   Like being a forgiving person, as Jesus suggests today.

Is there someone in your life you need to forgive?
Is your lack of forgiveness a stumbling block for others in your life?

I have a friend who is so bitter, and unforgiving, about her divorce she is a stumbling block for her children.  They say, “If my Mom is a good Christian and bad mouths my Dad all the time, who needs that?”

My mother always used to say, 
“Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” 

It’s almost humorous that the disciples on hearing this instruction to forgive ask Jesus to give them more faith.  We all understand that we need God to increase our faith so we can do the right thing at times. And how does Jesus respond to this request?   He says, we don't need a lot of faith – we just need a faith that is personal and sincere and alive.  

A faith that does not cause others to stumble, and forgives those that injury us.

Monday, November 3, 2014

10 Things to know about Jesus – Fr. James Martin

1. Jesus was poor.
Jesus’s occupation as a tekton, a Greek word usually translated as “carpenter.” But it can also mean “woodworker,” “craftsman” or even “day laborer.” It’s important to note that in the social and economic scheme of things, carpenters ranked below the peasantry, because they did not have the benefit of a plot of land. 

Jesus knew what it meant to eke out a living in a poor town.

2. Jesus saw income disparities firsthand, and he condemned them.
In the Parable of Lazarus and Dives in Luke’s Gospel (in which a rich man refuses to care for a poor one), we often think of his words as divinely inspired. And they were: Jesus was fully divine. But they also were informed by his human experience, and that experience included seeing great disparities of wealth in his own life.

3. Jesus had close friends.
We tend to think of Jesus as interacting with his apostles, disciples, and followers. But he also had friends. The Gospels describe, for example, Jesus’s relaxing at the house of his good friends Mary and Martha, who lived in Bethany, just outside of Jerusalem. The Gospel of John says, quite plainly, “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister.”
It’s a window into the deep relationships and intimate friendships that Jesus enjoyed. He was not simply Messiah; he was a good friend.

4. Jesus instructed his disciples not to judge.
For some reason, this is often difficult for people to accept. Whenever I mention Jesus’s injunction not to judge — “Judge not, lest you be judged” — some people bristle. We are called to live moral lives, and invite others to lead moral lives, but we do so primarily through our own example and by gentle persuasion — not by judging and condemning them. Judgment is left, as Jesus reminds us, to God.

5. Jesus didn’t say anything about gays and lesbians.
In all his many utterances about many social situations and human conditions, Jesus never said one word about homosexual persons. In any event, Jesus himself spoke a great deal about helping the poor, forgiving one’s enemies, and even divorce (which he condemned), but nothing about, and certainly nothing against, gay and lesbian men and women.

6. Jesus always reached out to those on the margins.
If a Gospel narrative introduces a marginalized person, it is a sure bet that Jesus will reach out to him or her. The examples are too numerous to mention. He meets a Roman centurion, and rather than forcing him to convert to Judaism, he heals the man’s servant. He meets a Samaritan woman (someone viewed as a foreigner or even an enemy for Jews of Judea and Galilee), and rather than condemning her, engages in a friendly conversation. He meets Zacchaeus, the “chief tax collector” in Jericho and therefore the “chief sinner” of the area, and even before Zacchaeus offers to repent, Jesus offers to dine with him, a sign of acceptance. Jesus is continually reaching out to people on the margins, and he asked his disciples to do the same.

7. Jesus can’t be tamed.
Thomas Jefferson went so far as to construct his own “Gospel” by (literally) scissoring out the miracles and other traces of his divinity. Like many of us, Jefferson felt uncomfortable with parts of Jesus’s story. He wanted a Jesus who didn’t threaten, a Jesus he could tame.  But Jesus cannot be tamed. The people of his time could not do this, and neither can we. Scissor out the uncomfortable parts and it’s not Jesus were talking about — it is our own creation.  Thomas Jefferson’s Jesus was . . . Thomas Jefferson.

8. Jesus really did perform miracles.
Many people are uncomfortable with Jesus’s supernatural power and other signs of his divinity. But an immense part of the Gospels is taken up with what are called “works of power” and “signs” — that is, miracles. Jesus’ ability to perform miracles was never in doubt in the Gospels. Even his detractors take note of his miracles, as when they critique him for healing on the Sabbath. The question posed by people of his time is not whether Jesus can do miracles, but rather the source of his power. The statement that Jesus was seen as a miracle worker in his time has as much reliability as almost any other statement we can make about him.

9. Jesus struggled, even in prayer.
Jesus was fully divine. But he was also fully human. That’s a basic Christian belief. It’s also a mystery, that is, something not to be fully understood, but pondered. And one of the most telling windows into his humanity comes in the Garden of Gethsemane, when he is confronted with his impending crucifixion. Jesus asks God the Father to “remove this cup.” He is saying, in essence: “If it’s possible, I don’t want to die.” Eventually, Jesus accepts that his coming death is his Father’s will — but not before struggle and prayer. Later, when hanging on the cross, he cries out, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” This is not a person who does not struggle: Christians do not relate to a person who cannot understand our own human struggles.

10. Jesus rose from the dead.
Not everyone believes this about Jesus, because to believe this is to be a Christian, and not everyone reading this is Christian. The Gospels portray the apostles as abject cowards during the crucifixion: most of them abandon Jesus; one of them, Peter, denies knowing him; and after his death they are depicted as cowering behind closed doors. That’s hardly something that the Gospel writers would make up.   But after the Resurrection, they are utterly transformed. The disciples move from being terrified victims to men and women ready to die for what they believe. Only something dramatic, something visible, something tangible, something real, could affect this kind of change.

Jesus really and truly rose to the dead. For me, that’s the most important thing to know about Jesus