Archive for January, 2011

“And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and his sight was restored. Then he got up and was baptized,” -Acts 9:18

Today marks one of my favorite “Other Major Feast” days of the church year. The Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul always bring forth in my mind the imagery of the great light and voice of Christ that Paul (then Saul) was blessed with experiencing while traveling on his way to persecute more of the followers of Christ. The other imagery that I love is that of “something like scales fell from his eyes, and sight was restored”.  The powerful imagery of St Paul’s conversion often runs through my thoughts.  The account in the Acts of the Apostles has Paul spending three days without sight, food, or drink after his encounter with Christ on the road.  A waiting period, perhaps, to allow Paul to truly embrace Christ as Lord.  Meanwhile Ananias, who knows exactly who Saul of Tarsus is, and what his mission is/was, receives a message from Christ that he is to lay hands on Saul to heal him and “restore his sight”.

And that act by Ananias, who even had the gumption to remind/inform Christ of Saul’s deeds, loved his enemy by laying hands upon him in order that he might experience the fulfillment of his conversion by the will of God and start his journey as the disciple who would bring the Good News to the Gentiles and suffer mightily for the effort.  Yet again, we should be reminded that we do not know if our enemies will experience conversion tomorrow, and thus we should not hate them, but love and pray for them.

As I mentioned before, the story of Paul’s conversion is often in my thoughts and prayers.  I often find myself in that “waiting period” between believing and have the full conversion of the “scales falling from my eyes”.  Now and then, I think the scales may have fallen, but then I turn my thoughts to the Gospel and Paul’s letters and I know I have a long way to go.  But I keep trying, and I have faith that the scales will indeed fall from my eyes if I truly want it to be so and with God’s help.


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‎”Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” -Matthew 5:9

This past Sunday at church, our priest preached a wonderful sermon tying in the lessons and Gospel with Martin Luther King Jr’s amazing legacy.  One statement in particular really stuck with me, that the Rev Dr. King “loved his enemies into submission”.  In light of the escalating tone of violence in the political arena in this country and the acts of violence committed or attempted, I have been praying quite a bit on the commandment that Christ made, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”.  A few days prior to this past Sunday the saying “Kill them with kindness” popped into my head, and my immediate reaction was to reject it.  I did not reject it because of its perceived meaning, I rejected it because of the use of the word “kill”.  It was a fleeting thought, but it certainly made hearing the words “loved his enemies into submission” that much more powerful.

Just the other day, I happened to be reading through the liturgy for Tenebrae (Lent and Holy Week are my favorite time of the church year, more on that in a later post) and rediscovered the wonderful excerpt from St Augustine’s Treatise on the Psalms.  “Would that those who now test us were converted and tried with us; yet though they continue to try us, let us not hate them, for we do not know whether any of them will persist to the end in their evil ways. And most of the time, when you think you are hating your enemy, you are hating your brother without knowing it.”

Think about it, we don’t know if those people who we consider enemies today will not have a conversion of mind, heart, and spirit tomorrow.  What we do know however, is that God created them just as he created you and me.  And Christ challenged us, no, commanded us, to love our enemies and pray for them.

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Fr James Martin, SJ has started a 6 part series on How to find God based on his excellent book The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything. Reading Fr Jim’s book had an enormously positive and transformative impact on my spiritual journey and my life in general, I highly recommend it to anyone and everyone, regardless of your beliefs. If you are interested in learning more about this book, or have read it yourself, I encourage you to comment on this post, find Fr Jim on Facebook and/or follow him on Twitter @JamesMartinSJ

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I composed the majority of this blog entry prior to learning of today’s violence in Arizona. I did not edit any content but I did add content, as I had not completed it. I will say this, the title did change, because, if nothing else, the events of today have only galvanized my faith that if we live the Word, we will eliminate the evil we see every day, and particularly on this day, because those around us will be overwhelmed by our witness and have a conversion of heart, mind and soul.

If you attended any Daily Masses at a Roman church this week, or followed the Roman Lectionary for Mass, you (like me) were reminded of perhaps the most important precept of the faith, God is Love. God loved us first, so that we would have God’s love within our souls. We were also reminded that we are required to love one another if we love God. If we say we love God and don’t love one another, we are liars. Pretty blunt and to the point, and all from Scripture (see the The First Letter of St John). If you were lucky, you were also reminded or thought of the passage from Chapter 13 of St Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians “So faith, hope, and love remain, and the greatest of these is love.” St Paul also emphasizes that without love, nothing else matters, as love never ends. All of this teaching flows from the new Commandment given to us by Jesus, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself”. We are taught that this Commandment is second to only to the Commandment to love God.

So what about those “noisy gongs and clashing cymbals” who say that they love God and yet openly preach hate? They are clearly liars according to St John and are blatantly disobeying Christ’s Commandment. Rather than return their hate with hate, perhaps we should pray for their conversion of heart, mind, and soul as we continue to pray for our own. For those who have heard the Word and claim to accept it but do not follow it truthfully are far more in need of prayer than those who have never heard it or accepted it. Many who have never heard it or accepted it live their lives in accordance with it and Thanks Be to God for them.

We must continue to bear witness to the Gospel in our everyday lives, in our actions, in our words, and in our charity and love. We must continue to spread the Good News by our example of sacrifice for others in need, whether they are known to us personally or not, and our example of love.

Our witness will overcome the hate that is spewed because God is Love and Love Never Fails.

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In line with the placement of the celebration of the birth of Jesus on December 25th, today is the day when Jesus would have been named.  In the Anglican tradition, today is the Feast of the Holy Name.  What I love about this Feast day is the readings, particularly the alternate Epistle reading in the Episcopal lectionary:

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,

who, though he was in the form of God,

did not regard equality with God

as something to be exploited,

but emptied himself,

taking the form of a slave,

being born in human likeness.

And being found in human form,

he humbled himself

and became obedient to the point of death–

even death on a cross.

Therefore God also highly exalted him

and gave him the name

that is above every name,

so that at the name of Jesus

every knee should bend,

in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

and every tongue should confess

that Jesus Christ is Lord,

to the glory of God the Father.

-Philippians 2:5-11

This passage of Scripture is an early Christian hymn which was known to St Paul and others in the community.  This passage of Scripture is one I often turn to when I need to get back on track on my journey.  This passage of Scripture is also one that you will hear again on Palm Sunday, the Passion.  Personally, I can’t imagine a better “New Year’s Resolution” than to try with our best selves to personify the humility and obedience of Christ to God’s will.  Love one another always and help those in need by giving until it hurts.

I leave you with the first reading from today’s lectionary, which is common across many of the lectionaries for today, and I wish you all blessings in the new year:

The LORD spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the Israelites: You shall say to them,

The LORD bless you and keep you;
the LORD make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;
the LORD lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.

So they shall put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.

-Numbers 6:22-27


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