Monday, March 14, 2011

First Sunday in Lent

MATTHEW 4: 1-11

MARCH 14, 2011

We live in a universe that is unstable and changing. Our little earth is part of this. We have earthquakes. Platelets beneath the earth are shifting and competing for space with one another. Japan had a whopper of an earthquake recently. It caused much damage and loss of life. God made the universe. There will be exploding stars, new stars being formed, and locally, floods, earthquakes, and more. Maybe the poles are going to reverse themselves, the one north going south and the one south going north.

This can be a cause for anxiety if we think about it. One answer that the power of evil gives, is to seek more of something such as power, control, food, and things. Adam and Eve were in the garden, tending to this shaky earth, when the thought came to them that they would be better off with "more" of whatever they already had, which was just not good enough for them. God said, "Don't touch the tree of life." The tree is there with them and won't go away no matter what the garden does, but that was not enough security for our first parents. They had to reach out and grab the tree.

In the gospel, Jesus is offered more of several things. The same devil is doing the same tricks. It had worked for a long time, but Jesus was into giving things up, not getting "more" of whatever the devil offered. We cannot grab God, but we can receive God whenever God draws us into the Holy Presence. Let God embrace us in God's choosing. God is always with us no matter what goes on around us. Jesus knew this.

We know it too in our Catholic sacramental experience. We do not "take" sacraments. We "receive" sacraments. We hold out our hands, palms up, or hold out our tongue and receive the tree of life in the Eucharist. God comes to us. We wait. This is the manner of our contemplative prayer. We wait in the Holy Presence and let God do as God wishes. If I am living where an earthquake takes place, (and I have been through a big one), God is not going away from me. God will be with me when the earth shifts, shakes and floods, just as God was with Jesus on the cross. God loves. The earth moves.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Toilet Seat

MATTHEW 6: 24-34 FEBRUARY 27, 2011

My big sister Maureen, the bad witch, and I shared a bathroom in our Bronx apartment. She was always reminding me, "Terry, put the toilet seat down after you use the toilet." I most often forgot, because I was self-absorbed, living in my own private world. One day, Maureen brought me into the bathroom and pointed to the raised toilet seat. "You forgot to put the seat down. Next time, I am going to cast a spell upon the seat and it will disappear. Then I will have evil spirits throw you down the open toilet and flush you into the sewer where the snakes, rats and spiders live. You will be forgotten forever." I hated snakes, rats and spiders. Fear entered my heart. Could the witch do such a thing?

I tried to remember to put the seat down thereafter, but to no avail. Bad habits are hard to break. One day I entered the bathroom and the seat was gone. Suddenly I feared for evil spirits to come and flush me away to oblivion. I ran down the hall to my Mom. "Mom," I panted breathlessly, "Maureen cast a spell on the toilet seat and it disappeared and she said evil spirits would come to flush me down the toilet to the sewer and I would be forgotten forever!" Mom looked at me and after a moment said, "Terry, I am your mother. I will never forget you." Well, I was expecting something more proactive from Mom, but then again she was a girl too and probably had this toilet seat issue out with Dad when they first got married.

But I could have avoided evil spirits and disappearing toilet seats by living more in the Kingdom of God. This means that I act with a sense that I live in community, in a world with other people. To live with others but to act as if I am alone in my own little world, is to live outside the Kingdom. Jesus invites us not to pay so much attention to ourselves, that we ignore other people around us, even if we live alone. We still live in a world that includes other people who have interests other than our own.

Jesus is not telling us to ignore our needs for food, clothing and shelter. He wants us to keep a balance between what we need and what others may need. We can become so focused upon ourselves that we ignore other people altogether. That certainly would be an evil spirit in the world. Jesus is trying to help us to see that I cannot be my own master doing as I please. We are the body of Christ. Maureen was trying to teach this to me. She was not such a bad witch after all.