Archive for the ‘Lent’ Category

First Sunday of Lent 2-18-2018

Friday, February 16th, 2018

On T.V. today, we see a lot of political debates. Reporters usually interview the winners and losers. To the losers, the reporters often ask very blunt and often irritating questions.
I would like to take you to one of those interviews—except the participants are not politicians.
They are Jesus and the Devil. The Devil, like in the gospel, has just lost very badly in his debate with Jesus over such things as power, prestige, values. I believe it would go like this—let’s listen:
“Mr. Devil – How are you feeling after the debate?” “Terrible, lousy – how would you feel if you just got your _____ kicked by Jesus?
“Do you plan on a rematch — A second debate?”
“You can count on it, but next time, I am going to develop a new strategy, a new plan of attack! I’ll tell you one thing, Mr. Reporter, the next time I won’t be wearing a red outfit with horns and a tail. That outfit is too obvious. I must come up with some new outfits, with some new temptations, and remember this—you can count on one thing—I am not going away!” shouted the Devil.
Till the day we die, we are going to be tempted to do or say things that hurt ourselves—hurt others—and damage our relationship with God. We are going to wrestle on a regular basis with how to keep things like food, work, relationships, sex, money, computers, sports, the list goes on—how do I keep them in a healthy perspective and not abuse them, not allow them to get out of balance.
In these areas of our life and in many others, we are gong to be under attack. We are in a Giant Tug of War with Mr. Devil.
It’s OK to tell little lies, your wife will never find out. Cheating in school doesn’t hurt anyone. You don’t need God, look out for number 1. Church is for hypocrites—you’re a virgin—everyone does it—a couple of pills won’t hurt at all—come on—just one drink. “A Tug of War”.
The Good News is that we are not in this “Tug of War” alone. Our God has said over and over—I am with you. It won’t be easy, but no matter how dark it gets—you are not alone. I want to be your partner!
In closing, I have one final and very important point to make.
What happens when we blow it, when we give into temptations that get us into trouble, cause us to sin, leave us with a lot of guilt?
Do we pretend like it’s no big deal? I hope not.
Do we beat ourselves up over and over again with tons of unhealthy guilt? I hope not.
Or, do we take responsibility for our actions—stop blaming other people, sincerely ask for forgiveness and healing and move on trusting in a God of second chances? A God who says, start over – try again. I hope so.
“I am not going away”, proclaims the Devil.
“I am with you always, through it all”, shouts the Lord of Hope. “Don’t forget, we will win the battle together—Believe it!”

The Raising of Lazarus 4-2-2017

Sunday, April 2nd, 2017

Let’s allow our imaginations to create a Hollywood version of the raising of Lazarus.
Picture it: Lazarus comes out of his tomb-bound up, mummy-like, wrapped tightly in burial garments.
See those tight wrappings around his body? Even as he comes forth to Jesus, they restrict his sight, speech and freedom of movement.
Listen carefully to the words of Jesus. “Untie him and let him go free.”
I believe Lazarus coming out of the tomb represents every person!
What is it in our lives that binds us up? At times ties us up, immobilizes us, limits our perception, and gets in the way of us reaching out to others and to God?
Is it an attitude or possibly our own fears that restrict us? Maybe it is a prejudice toward a particular group of people? Perhaps it is something that worries us? Something we did in the past that we are ashamed of? Could it be financial problems or a medical concern? Is it a broken relationship in our family, a habit of lying, trying to cover our tracks? Are we being squeezed to death by bitterness, resentment, anger, grief, guilt or a poor self image?
Remember these words. “Untie him and her and let them go free.”
As we reflect on what has us all wrapped up. What is preventing us from moving freely and experiencing real life?
I think it is important to also ask ourselves: Are there situations or relationships going on right now, where we are binding or tying up other people? How would we do this?
Does our sour, negative attitudes and biting criticism destroy the spirit of those around us? Are we quick to see the bad, and blind to the good and positive in the people close to us?
How about back stabbing rumors, parking lot gossip and unfair stereotypes?
“Untie him and her and let them go free.”
During this Lent as we take some time to look inward, as we think about what binds us and how to remove the tight wrappings. I think our Gospel reminds us of 3 significant realities that need to be clearly stated.
As Martha mentioned, regarding her brother, it is going to be a smelly procedure. Taking off these bindings will be a slow and painful process. It will be very messy. No real conversion happens without pain. We may be tempted to short circuit the process. We may want to fantasize that everything will be fine in he morning. But it will not go away by itself!
Jesus tells others to help unbind Lazarus. We will need help also. A good friend to listen and to challenge. A teacher, a minister, a trained counselor and a support group. We are fooling ourselves if we think we can do it alone!
The final point may be the most important. Right in the middle of this smelly, messy process of unbinding that we are challenged to enter into, we too, just like Lazarus, have the presence and reassurance of Jesus. “I am with you!” “You are not alone, even when it is the darkest.” “Don’t give up!” “Keep trying!”
“Untie him and her and let them go free.”

Lightning Strikes 3-26-2017

Sunday, March 26th, 2017

Years ago, a boy was collecting berries in the woods near his Southern home. He was concentrating on filling his bucket – and mouth –with the delicious fruit and not paying attention to how deep he was going into the forest. The boy didn’t notice the dark clouds forming on the horizon. Then he heard crashes of thunder. Suddenly he realized that he was lost. Darkness enveloped the woods. The terrified youngster started to run with no sense of where he was going.
Then he remembered what his parents had taught him: When you’re lost, stop and be still, look around, and listen. So the boy stopped running and stood still. And he observed the lightning strikes illuminating the forest landscape. With each lightning flash he was able to see a bit farther ahead and walk a little closer to his destination until he found his way home, guided by the storm that had, at first, frightened him.
“Seeing” and “light” are key images of today’s Gospel for this Sunday in mid-Lent. Jesus cures a man born blind – but the greater miracle is opening the eyes of those around him to “see” the presence of God in their midst. Terrified of the storm, the little boy remembers his parents’ wise advice: Stop and look. See the light and make your way towards it. The Christ of Lent is that light that illuminates those times and places in which we can realize the love of God in our midst. Like the Jewish leaders and the temple officials, we sometimes become so obsessed trying to find God where God is not that we fail to see God where God actually is. We desperately want to know where God is when tragedy befalls us; we live our lives taking comfort in the erroneous notion that God is found only at certain times, in the rituals and pious practices our religion specifies. The reality is that God is most profoundly present in the simple, ordinary doings of life, in the kindness and love of others, in life itself and the gifts of the earth to sustain that life. May God grant us the vision that the blind man receives in today’s Gospel: to see the love of God present in all things.