Thursday, October 17, 2019

A Lesson in Constancy

Dear Friends,

Today’s first and third liturgical reading go together like peanut butter and jelly.  It’s a no-brainer, but don’t let that make you think that their message is easy to live out.

Both Moses in the first reading and the woman who came to the judge over and over again about her claim are persistent. 

In modern terms, persistence means:
                                Hang in there!
                                Don’t let up seeking justice.
                                If you believe you know truth and right, live by that belief.

Let’s take a look at the key figures we meet today.

Consider Moses. Forget the fact that he is presiding over a battle and just concentrate on the man for a moment – this leader of a ragtag band of Hebrews making their way to the promised land. As their leader, Moses' part in the day’s events was to keep his arms raised in prayer over the battlefield. He couldn’t do it. We couldn’t do it.

Go into the kitchen and set the timer on the stove for five minutes. Extend your arms for that whole time. Is that hard to do? No! It’s impossible !  Moses, the leader, needed help. The future of Israel depended on it. Once Aaron and Hur figured out what they had to do, the leader got the help he needed.. Aaron and Hur stood on either side of Moses to hold his arms raised. Only then could victory be achieved.

And then there is the widow in the Gospel .She didn’t have an advocate, no power to bribe, cajole or force, but she didn’t fear the judge who kept denying her justice. She simply wore him down by her persistence. She was undaunted in her tenacity. She wanted what she needed enough to stay the course. She believed in her cause. The judge, on the other hand, depended on his authority. It was not enough. Justice has a way of making us determined in a way that enfeebles authority which is not based on justice.

What’s in these readings for us?

Perseverance needs to be relentless, but often needs assistance. Do you need help to persevere? Are you aware of others who need help in order to persevere?
No leader can lead alone. If we are the leader, reach out to the community for help. If we are in the community, work with the leader to achieve the desired goal.
As Paul counsels Timothy in the second reading ,be constant in season and out of season, when convenient or inconvenient.  Only this constancy will achieve the desired goal.

-Sister Joan Sobala

Sunday, October 13, 2019

The Meaning of Happiness to a Catholic Christian

Dear Friends,

Someone suggested  recently  that I should do a blog on happiness and the meaning of  happiness in the life of a Catholic Christian. Just to see if people are interested in that topic, I googled “happiness” and found that the site had had 899,000,000 hits.  Are people interested or what? The web tells us that the pursuit of happiness has sped up in the last ten  years,  that it is global in scope, and that it is at the very top of human desires and needs.

Among the ancients, the Jewish mentality was that happiness and blessedness are equivalent  terms . People  were  happy or blessed  if they  had good health, many children and success in their economic lives. The danger then, as now, was that people’s attitude toward happiness could be completely self-centered: happiness is when things are going my way.

For Jesus, who stood tall among the ancients, happy and blessed also were interchangeable words with this difference:  The person blessed by God was happy. In both word and parable, Jesus also conveys that happiness is not what we expect.

Jesus engaged life on life’s terms. He reinforced, rubbed, disagreed, supplemented what he saw and hear. He engaged in prayer and in life’s incongruities. He became an expert in discovering the good in every person. With Jesus, no one was ever categorically excluded from happiness.

In the Gospel,   those who suffered had an opening to Jesus. Ironically, happiness came through suffering. Think of the woman with the hemorrhage in Mark 6 and Bartimaeus  in Mark 10. Happy were the people who sought for others, for then,  they  themselves  received. Remember the Syrophoenician woman in Matthew 15 and the Father with the demonic son in Matthew 18.  They came to Jesus on behalf of their children, and they were rendered happy. Happy also were the people whose possessions did not possess them Contrast Zacchaeus, who gave away generously once he met Jesus, with the rich young man who went away saddened because he couldn’t let go of what he had.

Some translations of the Beatitudes in Matthew 5 render them “Blessed are they”, while others say “Happy are they”. (The original Aramaic is “Mature are they” … but that’s for another time.) What Jesus is saying, in effect is Blessed are people who are good, whose hand does not strike, whose mouth does not betray. Blessed are the merciful, those who comfort others, help and tolerate each other. Blessed are those who do not give way to dominant powers, those who let go of power and those who, without restraint, speak and love everything that lives. The beatitudes contain and reveal such depths of happiness that we can see in them layer after layer of meaning.

The great Mohandas  Gandhi studied both Jesus and humanity. From these sources, he concluded that happiness is when what you think, what you say and what you do are in harmony.

May harmony and happiness be yours today, and may you share it with others.

-Sister Joan Sobala