Sunday, September 26, 2010

Lay Hold of Eternal Life

Lay Hold of Eternal Life

Carpe Diem!  Seize the Day!  That is the message for us today.  But, it is not the message in that secular sense of eat and drink all you can for tomorrow we die.  Nope, the Christian’s carpe diem is what we hear in St. Paul’s first letter to Timothy today:  “lay hold of eternal life” (1 Tim. 6:12).  This isn’t simply a rallying call,  it is a genuine and practical invitation for us to consider.  But how on earth do we lay hold of something that has already begun and is intangible?

Last week the Christian event of the Resurrection was our focus.  The Resurrection changed history from the perspective of a timeline, but the only reason that occurred is because it changed individuals’ perspectives of  the timeline.  The history of salvation has many genealogies associated with it.  There are many rulers and kingdoms to trace back over the course of our salvation story.  But with the Resurrection, the new Christian event, our focus is on eternity in the present.

Think of it this way.  Step into a dark room and turn on a flash light.  Now, try and lay hold of that light that is being projected.  As you will find out,  you cannot grasp it with your hand.  Your hand will pass right through the light.  In order to lay hold of the light you need a different perspective.  Instead of fits of reaching and clutching for the light,  if you step back and step in front of it, you will have found a way to capture it.

This is the perspective of our call as Christians.  We are meant to live in the light and we do this by stepping back from the petty things of life to see what is beautiful.  We lay hold of eternal life when we recognize the glory of a brisk breeze or the red leaves of a Fall morning.  We lay hold of eternal life when we pause beneath the peacefulness of a clear starlit night.  We lay hold of eternal life when we take joy in our friends and the community that we create together.

In the gospel this Sunday, the rich man did not take hold of any of these things (Luke 16:19-31).  He chose the feast and the fine linens.  He chose to know the poor man Lazarus’ name, but to not invite him in to dine.  Laying hold of eternal life is directly associated with the Christian vocation to insert love into the world.  For when we insert love, we insert God.  And when we insert God, we insert eternity.  When we insert eternity, we have laid hold of the Christian perspective. 

This week, when you are concerned with how much time you have to finish your work or get to a meeting or eat dinner or sit in traffic, think of the time you do have at that moment to turn your thoughts to the beautiful things.  Carry those beautiful things with you and you will live more fully and eternally.  Blessed be God forever.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Sunday Break

The Sunday Break

At the end of the creation story in Genesis, we hear that God rested on the seventh day, blessed it and made it holy.  This is what we know as the Sabbath.  The Jewish people count the 7th day as Saturday on our calendar.  As Christians, we also recognize this, but we choose to celebrate our Sabbath on Sunday, the day of the Resurrection. 

This illustrates how radical the Christian event truly is.  Jesus was not a historical blip on the radar as more and more people would like us to believe,  Jesus transformed how we view and live in the world.  The Resurrection of Jesus is the birth of the new Creation in which grace reigns supreme for those with eyes to see it.  But how do we develop the vision to see this grace?

This information alone should be enough for us to take seriously a day of rest for our faith.  But, just in case we are not motivated enough, we also hear the call to keep holy the Sabbath in the Ten Commandments.  I think when most people hear the word commandment, they are turned off.  No one likes being told what to do, even if it is actually for their benefit.  The Ten Commandments are just that though: prescriptions that are for our benefit.  This is precisely how we should look at the Ten Commandments.  If a physician gave you a remedy to something that was making you sick, would you refuse to take it?  If an eye doctor offered you glasses to improve your sight, would you not use them?

The idea of a day of rest, is a concept that our culture has already embraced.  In fact, every week the general academic and working world shares two days of rest.  Anyone who has ever bought something on-line understands that shipping takes 5-7 business days (Monday-Friday).  Even though we provide an entire extra day of rest to our schedules, we still cannot find the time to take advantage of the call though.

Now, I know several individuals whose profession keeps them for enjoying what God and our society have provided in the idea of a weekend.  These individuals don’t let that keep them from seeking out an alternate day of rest though.  Ideally we will all take 15 minutes a day to find God and ourselves among the rest of our lives.  But especially on our Sabbath, we should take time to rest and praise.

I would like to invite you to create for yourself a Sunday Break this week.  Come and join us for “the Sunday Break” at 4p.m. in the Campus Ministry Lounge each week if you would like to enjoy the Sabbath in a community.  We will meet for an hour each Sunday before dinner and Mass to make ourselves more open to God’s presence in our lives.  See you there!  Blessed be God forever.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Learning Stillness

Learning Stillness
I was reflecting the other night on my commute each week. Each day I drive 70 miles and spend about an hour and a half in the car. That’s a lot of time and it is valuable time as well. I think a lot of people that commute to work use the time to and from work to gather their thoughts or line up their day. And when they leave to head home, they decompress from their day and get ready for what they can do with “their time.”

As I was thinking about all this, I noticed that when I get in the car, I have developed a ritual over the years. Start the car, turn on the radio and then throw on the seat belt. Every time I get into the car I do the same thing in the same order and it made me ask a question: why am I in such a hurry to turn on the radio? I fix the volume or change the channel before I even have my seat belt on! Where are my priorities?

I think my rush to have the radio going is partly the result of my want to hear the news and maybe get a good laugh in the morning, but it is also something that I think has been conditioned by the way we live today. There are radios in every car, televisions in every room, phones in every pocket and portable computers and music players in every bag. So, amongst all these things where is the peace and quiet? Where is the stillness?

Last time I did one of these reflections I spoke about the need for discipline. I’ve recognized a need in my life to grow in the discipline of stillness. I need to learn better how to use that hour and a half in the car each day. I need to learn how to better hear the person I’m having lunch with. I need to learn how to hear God in both those situations and many others as well. This leads me to the story of the Prodigal Son we hear in this Sunday’s Gospel (Luke 15:1-32). I think the son who leaves the Father’s house faced a lot of the same struggles that we see today. He immediately sought and was overcome by the culture and society that he entered. Eventually he discovered that the things he wanted, were not the same as the things his heart desired and he returned to the Father. He went back to the stillness. Returning to the stillness is not all that matters though. The older son in the story, never physically left the Father’s house, but his thoughts and his heart were led away. When his brother returned from what his Father described as death, he took no joy from it. He had lost a sense of what it meant to be with his Father. He had lost a sense of what it meant to be with love. Though he lived with the Father which the younger son gave up, the younger son demonstrated the desire that his older brother had been lacking.

So, now that we see that stillness is a physical state of being as well as a mental state of being, we have a series of questions to consider. How can we learn stillness? What things can we do to set ourselves up for success? Where is one place you can go to return to stillness? I pray that you spend time in the Father’s house this week. Blessed be God forever.