Friday, August 23, 2019

Making our way through the eye of the needle

Dear Friends,

The question Who can be saved?  has been persistent among many religious people throughout history even up to today. It plagued the Israelites right down to the time of Jesus. We hear that question repeated in today’s Gospel, but Jesus never really answers the question.

Instead, He tells a story of a group of people who were confident that they had reserved places at a banquet – but didn’t. They believed they had a claim on the master and deceived themselves into thinking that the master would recognize them and welcome them because they ate and drank with Him.

Were they ever surprised and disappointed! None of them and none of us has fullness of life with God sewed up neatly once and for all.

Three things, it seems, are required of anyone who wants to live, really live, fully in this life and beyond.
(1) Faithful love.
(2) The willingness to serve our cantankerous brothers, sisters and neighbors.
(3) The self-discipline which permits us to do both.

These three things make up the narrow door that Jesus speaks of today. Of these three, the hardest to achieve and least palatable is personal discipline. We don’t like the sound of the word “discipline.” Discipline is work – arduous and sometimes painful, yet, deep within us, we know that every worthwhile human endeavor requires discipline.

The second reading today from Paul is really an encouragement to self-discipline for a person who wants to win the race – achieve an end.

You and I demand quality and a high level of expertise from airline pilots, surgeons, tax experts, chefs and athletes – the list is long. Why should we think we can be any less disciplined in our own lives and in particular, our lives of faith?

For love and service to be genuine and long-lived, we need to choose the narrow way, and apply ourselves to whatever we are capable of for the sake of the Gospel. Only then will our world be satisfied of its hunger, comforted of its sorrow, healed of its diseases and where people at last can live together in peace.

The narrow way.  Making our way through the eye of the needle. These are the way of salvation for all who would be saved.

 -Sister Joan Sobala

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Are we ready to be ignited?

Dear Friends,

In today’s Gospel, Jesus casts fire and brings division, not by default or by accident but by design.

                “I have come to cast fire on the earth,” he says, “and I can’t wait until it’s kindled.”

What does the fire of Christ do to the tangle of life? What is it doing, here and now, in your life and mine? How is life more richly  livable  because of the fire Christ continues to kindle on earth?

One way to get at the meaning behind Christ’s words is to think for a few moments about the nature of fire: what it does and what it requires.

We know that fire warms the cold. It destroys, illuminates, purifies and divides that which burns from that which does not.Last year, the forest and mountains of California burned ferociously. People who know about these things assure us that such fires renew the forest. But it doesn’t mean that people who live in the burned out areas don’t suffer life-altering loss.

Words also create fire within us. If I say to you “white supremacists” or “racism”, I have said words of fire and division.  Anger. Shouting.  Rejection and  ejection.  Disowning. These are part of the cost of the divisions in our  country  today. Within our very families we find division over these words. Divsions in our families burn over moral issues and movements as well.

Our divisions come from many sources: selfrighteousness, convction or charged emotions. Sometimes they come from human error or clumsiness. Somethimes they come from taking a deliberate stand on the other side.

How often we treat others, particularly those close to us as the crowds treated Jeremiah.  His is a universal story. Many a Jeremiah are thrown into the pit of mud in our own times, in the hope that such an inconvenient witness will disappear. We stuff them down a well so that we won’t have to listen to them or be challenged by them.   Do we try to create a world of harmony or do we content ourselves with life in our own small worlds, ignoring the cries from the well.

At times, we, to, are stuffed down a well: misunderstood, unaccepted , ignored. If we have ever been there, and have gotten out through the help of others, I hope we are charged up to help others down under.

It is precisely the fire of Jesus hat can illuminate these questions for us. He challenges our values, culled from our culture, and presents us with alternatives that may put us at odds with our family or society. Christ insists that redemption involves conflict and change, not just charity to victims. We are called to challenge oppressive structures.

Our attentive God will be as a spark for us, and if that spark catches, we’ll find ourselves burning with new motivations, a clearing vision, deepening hope and great compassion. Are we ready to be ignited?