Welcome to Green Reflections, the blog dedicated to reflections on the readings from the Roman Catholic Sunday Lectionary, with particular sensitivity to the needs of the earth. Use this blog to deepen your own awareness of our Creator's desires for the planet and ways that we can appreciate God's goals for the earth,giving it the loving care that it deserves.
Saturday, May 28, 2011
This reflection is taken from an ongoing conversation between first century catechumen, Respecta and her teacher, Petras.
“Why so quiet this morning, Respecta?” Petras asked on the way home from the meeting with catechumens.
“Oh, I guess my mind is full of thoughts about the readings chosen for today’s liturgy,” Respecta responded. “I can hardly keep my mind from swirling around with Jesus’ commandment to love. I remember when he told the parable about the so-called ‘good Samaritan’ and realize how far I have to go in order to truly love everyone as unconditionally as Jesus loves.”
“Yes, that is truly a life-time project. I doubt that any one of us can be fully satisfied with how well we keep His commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves. We live in a world where we love our families and, perhaps, some of our local neighbors while we don’t even feel we owe the truth to others. To really love as Jesus loves stretches our boundaries to include absolutely everyone. Isn’t that what attracted you to the Christian community in the first place, Respecta?”
“Yes, of course. It blew my mind at first. I saw all kinds of people living in harmony who were supposed to be enemies. Their love for Jesus opened their hearts to people who had such different customs and traditions from their own. Seeing that kind of love at work caused me to think that God was at work in this community. I am trying to overcome my natural hesitancy to reach out to strangers, particularly ones that I was taught to treat with suspicion since childhood.”
Petras let the quiet between them grow again. “What else is on your mind?”
“I am completely amazed at what Jesus said when I heard him quoted this morning. What really got my attention was the line, “Because I live, you also will live.” What I mean is, I am already alive, but He talked in the future tense. It’s like He was promising something more.”
“Yes, He was speaking about the future in one sense. Right now we are alive, but not fully alive in the resurrection as He is alive. Jesus’ life dramatically changed on Easter. We heard about it in the stories of His appearances to the disciples after He rose from death. Jesus was able to simply appear and no one saw Him coming or going. There was a kind of freedom about Him that wasn’t present before His death. He is in glory already while we are living mortal lives awaiting our own eternal life. And, of course, He will never die or suffer again. We trust His promise that our life will continue with Him where He is after death. Then all the life, love, and freedom that we see in Jesus will also be part of our lives. It is as though our life right now is a mere shadow of real life. What we think is so good and so beautiful now is a pale reflection of the goodness and beauty that we will encounter in resurrected life.”
“That is something to look forward to,” Respected interrupted.
“Yes it is. But we must not think of eternal life as something that is only after death. The gospel of John tells us that right now, at this very moment, we are living in the grace of Jesus’ resurrection. We possess eternal life right now because He is alive in us. His Spirit guides us, inspires us and gives us the strength to love as Jesus loves. We are filled with the Holy Spirit from the moment of our baptism. This Spirit is no stranger to us either. This Holy Spirit is the same Spirit that moved Jesus to love and preach and heal. The Spirit is the love between the Father and the Son.”
“Even, so, Petras. I would rather have lived while Jesus was alive on earth than now. Imagine the extraordinary experience of seeing Him at work! We are only left with His Spirit.”
“Oh, Repecta, don’t imagine that it was easier for the disciples who walked with Jesus to understand what they saw. While their hearts were moved by Jesus’ miracles and teachings, they were also limited to seeing Him as a great teacher or a prophet. They didn’t know about His resurrection and many were disappointed in Him. After all, much of what Jesus taught was so contrary to both Jewish and Roman society’s values, that He was considered dangerous. Some thought that He was a simpleton or misguided revolutionary. Because you and I believe in His resurrection, it is so much easier to accept His ways and His teachings as God’s will for us. I actually think that it is easier to be a Christian now than in the pre-Easter days. Of course, it is never easy to become fully Christian!”
“I understand what you mean, Petras, and I am encouraged that Jesus has not left us orphans to manage on our own power. I am amazed to think that God’s own Spirit has already been at work in me even when I didn’t know that the desire for more understanding and love drove me toward the Christian community. Now that I am aware of the Spirit’s power at work in the community and in my life, I can ask for the specific gifts that I need to be faithful to Jesus. I wonder what the Spirit can do for me when I don’t know what to ask for.”
“Well, Respecta, I don’t think you and I have to worry about what to ask for. As our lives unfold and needs present themselves to us, then we know what to ask for. To do what is good, generous and loving with everyone we meet can also bring about constant prayer in us so that we respond as Jesus did. You and I are fortunate that we are no longer in the position that the Samaritans were when Philip taught them. We know that the Holy Spirit is Jesus’ promise and our Counselor –they didn’t even know there was a Spirit at first. The Samaritans were baptized into Christ without so much as hearing about the Spirit, so that Peter and John had to come and complete the teaching that Philip began there. Then they were able to receive the Spirit and their rejoicing increased. You can rejoice already that the Spirit has been at work in you before your baptism. Imagine how much more you will rejoice later!”
“I am looking forward to being baptized, Petras. Until then, I want to grow in loving everyone as Jesus loves them. Will you pray for me, too?”
“Of course, Respecta. See you next week?”
Reflection question: When could I be seeking the Spirit’s guidance in my everyday life? Where do I still need to grow in living the Christian life?
Sunday, May 22, 2011
The following is part of a series of reflections in which first century catechumen, Respecta, talks with her teacher, Petras, about the meaning of the Christian life.
“Oh, Petras!” Respecta exclaimed while leaving church after the readings. “My heart is almost flying after listening to Peter’s letter. He confirmed what I’ve been sensing over the past few months: that the Christian community is the New Israel. We’ve been chosen by God to be His voice to the nations and offer our lives as a living sacrifice while Christ makes us a holy people.”
“How right you are,” Petras responded. “While the Christian life can be very challenging, it is also a high calling to be the voice and hands and heart of God reaching out to others. Each time we extend compassion, understanding, consolation and material help to others we are the priestly people whose lives are given totally for Jesus and the Good News. When we are able to forgive another for wronging us, we conduct God’s ever-present mercy to that person. When we walk with someone who is suffering, we are God’s healing grace. When we can announce the Good News that we are redeemed by Christ and now live in the gift of grace, we are prophets announcing the reign of God right here!”
“But, isn’t it sad, Petras, that so many find Jesus to be stumbling block? It worries me that there are so many, even in my own family, who do not accept the revelation of God in Jesus. I mean, how will they ever be saved? I hate to think that they could be lost forever.”
“Dear Respecta, do you think God’s hands are tied—that there is only one way for God to save us? We are so blessed to understand the greatness of God’s mercy in knowing that Jesus is the full revelation of God. And we are the most fortunate of people because we believe that Jesus is our salvation. We must not imagine that this great gift of our faith makes us the only ones saved by God. Quite simply, we are twice blessed because we realize and rejoice in salvation through Christ Jesus. However, God is able to save people even without their knowledge because Jesus died for all people. If anyone sincerely seeks God and does what is right to his or her neighbors but does not know Jesus Christ, God can save them by the more limited gift of faith that they’ve received. We need to remember that faith is God’s gift to us. We cannot give faith to another and we cannot earn faith, either. It is God’s pure gift. Each person is accountable only for the faith that has been given her. What is unique for Christians is that we believe that we have the full revelation of God that we know through Jesus, the incarnate Son of God.
In fact, we must not worry about others who live good lives. Jesus commanded us to not worry. Did you hear today’s gospel reading? John wrote, ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God and trust in me.’ Even if we love others and are concerned for their salvation, we have to trust that God loves them even more and has a plan for their salvation.”
“I understand that, Petras, but I worry about them anyway.”
“Perhaps your trust is not great enough, yet, Respecta. When we worry about things that are not in our hands, we demonstrate our lack of trust. Jesus told us that he is preparing a place for us in heaven. At the same time, he told us that there are many mansions in the Father’s house. I am sure that as you continue to grow in your awareness of the height and depth of God’s love for you, you will also come to believe that this immeasurable love is given to everyone. God will do everything possible to bring each person to eternal life.”
“Well, I have to confess, that is not all that I worry about, Petras. I also worry that my children will be harmed or killed for the faith. I worry that they will not grow to adulthood. You know that over half of children die before their fifth birthdays. There are so many things that I worry about.”
“I understand your worries, Respecta. I have had many of my own over the years. All I can tell you is that when I’ve turned my worries over to the Lord, I have learned that everything is in God’s hands. And, yes, some of the bad things I worried about actually did happen. Yet God is able to bring something good out of every suffering. I hope that you will be able to trust the Lord Jesus so much that you can give him all your worries and see what he can do with them. Worry robs us of the peace and joy that God wants us to live out of every day. Worry shows that we still do not trust God to take care of all things. Worry actually wastes our time because it does nothing to avoid the things that we worry about. Trust in God acknowledges that we are not in control of our lives but we know the one Who is in ultimate control. Trust frees us to be the priestly, prophetic, holy people that God desires us to be in the world.
Perhaps this week would be a good time to take each worry as you experience it and firmly place it into Jesus’ hands. Tell him that you trust him to do what is best for you and those you worry about. Then proceed each day as if you already know how God is doing everything possible to bring about your best good. That way you’ll be able to live in the peace that surpasses understanding. Can you do that?”
“I will try. Pray that I grow a deep trust, won’t you Petras?”
“You bet. I look forward to seeing you next week”
Reflection question: What are those worries that I need to confidently place in Christ’s hands?
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