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, August 6, 2011
The following is an excerpt from a fictional conversation between 2nd century catechumen, Respecta, and her teacher, Petras.
Respecta shivered. “I don’t like ghost stories and I am surprised that the twelve believed that Jesus was a ghost when he walked on the water toward those in the boat.”
“That’s interesting, Respecta,” Petras replied. “Let’s explore why you don’t like ghost stories to begin our conversation today.”
“Doesn’t everyone fear ghosts?” Respecta began. “After all, they are malevolent spirits that can wreak havoc in our lives. I wouldn’t ever want to meet up with a ghost!”
“I am not sure everyone fears ghosts, much less believes they exist. In the first century when Matthew’s gospel was written, Mediterranean peoples believed in all kinds of spirits. They thought of spirits that governed weather, spirits that caused waves on the ocean or earthquakes on shore. They thought some spirits were mischievous and others were malevolent. The disciples in the boat in today’s gospel reading, likely believed that a malevolent spirit whipped up the sea and was trying to kill them.”
“My people think like that, too,”Respecta observed. “In fact, we have believed that there were all kinds of gods who were angry or jealous, and that we needed to appease them for our safety.”
“Then you might understand how it is that Jesus’ disciples were afraid when they saw him walking on water. They already were afraid for their lives, believing that some evil spirit wanted to kill them when Jesus appeared. In the wind, rain and darkness before dawn they wouldn’t have been able to see well, so it is natural that they thought Jesus was a ghost. Jesus had to reassure them it was he. He told them, ‘Be brave, it is I; do not be afraid.’”
“He knew their feelings and addressed them right away. It is one of the characteristics that I love about Jesus,” Respecta commented.
“Yes, he didn’t want them in distress. At the same time, Jesus was surprised that they had so little trust in God and in him. I imagine that Jesus wondered how it was possible after the multiplication of loaves and fish that the disciples still had more fear of malevolent spirits than trust in his love and power.”
“I can see that, especially when Peter began to walk on the waves but then became afraid and started to sink.”
“Isn’t that a lot like most of us, Respecta? It is so easy to trust God when things are going well, but when trials come we are not so sure that God has the power to save us. We become like Peter and cry out, ‘Lord, save me!’”
“Doesn’t God want us to cry out to him, Petras?”
“Certainly. But God hopes we’ll cry out to him in trust, not out of fear or doubt. Remember, Jesus reached out to Peter immediately and took him by the hand to save him. So, we need to reach out our hands in complete confidence that God cares for us and sees our needs before we even ask.”
“That’s easy enough when troubles are small. Sometimes, though, we live in fear that things will never change and we’re going to suffer for a long time. It’s hard to believe that God will save us from all suffering.”
“Respecta, I am not saying that at all. The God who allowed Jesus to suffer and die does not save us from all the trials that come our way; not at all. Yet, Jesus trusted in God who raised him up from death. That is our hope, too. God walks with us in all our sufferings. God suffers with us, cries with us and loves us through all that happens. Even when our fears come true, God is with us through it all. Our hope is that we, like Jesus, will be vindicated in our hope. God will raise us up to eternal life. When that happens, all the trials and fears we had will be seen in the light of love and they will seem very small compared to the love of God and God’s plan for our eternal joy.”
“Your hope inspires me, Petras. At the same time, it is hard for me to imagine trusting God so much that I stop worrying about everything. That really would be like walking on water!”
“Perhaps, you want to keep in mind Elijah’s experience of God. In all the destructive elements that came his way, the wind, the earthquake and the fire, God was not speaking. Our God is not a god of destruction. Rather, God came in silence or the tiny whisperings of Elijah’s heart. Life can clamor at us. Pay attention, life calls out! Pay attention to all the fears that can take over; fear about loss of work; fear that children will be lost; fear of loss of health; fear of wars; fear of death. These fears almost yell at us, drowning out the still, quiet place in our hearts where God moves and speaks. It is so important to lay our fears at Jesus’ feet and be still. Trust that he knows what is best for us and will take care of us. When we trust him, the voice of fear quiets. Only then can we listen to his voice in our hearts.”
“I think it might be a good practice to take my fears and place them in front of Jesus daily.”
“That’s a good idea, Respecta. As your trust in Jesus grows and grows, your fears will lessen. You will be able to more easily hear his voice in your heart. When you lessen fear, your worship will also become more joyful.”
“That will be wonderful.”
Reflection question: What worries about the environment do I carry that I want to hand over to Jesus today?
Sunday, July 31, 2011
The following is part of a fictitious, ongoing dialog between second century catechumen, Respecta, and her teacher, Petras.
“You know, Respecta, some days I believe that God gives us an opening right into the Divine Heart!” Petras commented.
“I feel that way, too, Petras. When we listened to the prophet Isaiah at liturgy, I felt as if God were showing us the deep desires of His heart. I felt the tugging at my own heart as God nearly begged us to be allowed to feed all our desires.”
“Me, too, Respecta. Sometimes, we listen to catechists and preachers who seemingly want to reduce religion to rules and regulations. But true religion is all about our relationship with God. If we keep our eyes focused on the designs of God’s heart, then rules are no longer necessary. Any god who wants to fill our deepest desires is One who earns my love and respect. Naturally, I want to love God and do what is loving to others in return. Jesus said this is the essence of true religion.”
“I was struck by the reading from Matthew’s gospel, too. I kept picturing in my mind the banquet that was served in Herod’s palace and comparing it with the feast that Jesus prepared.”
“Tell me more about that.”
“Well, Herod’s birthday arrived, so a banquet was held in his honor. I’d just bet all his political cronies were there, oozing false friendship in order to curry Herod’s favor. Then in the background, there was Herodias who was scheming with her daughter to end John the Baptist’s life. The banquet probably fed the guests with the finest seafood and deserts that cost a pretty penny. But instead of leaving the palace filled and grateful, the banquet ended with the beheading of the Baptist. How gruesome! And it must have been frightening to see the trap laid and sprung against the king. The very man that the politicians wanted to find favor with is a weakling who can be tricked by a seductive dance!
In contrast, people flocked to Jesus to hear the life-giving words that he taught and be healed of all the infirmities that blocked them from participating in family life. Jesus miraculously fed a crowd of over 10,000 people with only five loaves and two fish; yet everyone was filled—and there were even leftovers. People left this feast with their hearts strengthened and their deepest human hungers fed. Instead of the fear and danger that surrounded King Herod’s feast, this meal satisfied and brought peace and joy to folks.”
“Your insight is remarkable, Respecta. Just like that feast on a hillside that Jesus presided over, we Christians celebrate Jesus’ presence among us every week at the Eucharist. It is our time to recognize his healing power in our lives and allow him to feed the deepest needs of our hearts. It is time for us to share our common faith and be encouraged by one another’s experience of God’s love in our lives. It is also the place where we can prepare for the experiences of persecution and suffering that come to every Christian. I am reminded of St. Paul’s letter to the Romans where he reminded us that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ.”
“Nothing, that is, except our own attitudes and behaviors. Just like arrogant Herod and the jealous Herodias, we can be separated from Christ’s love by our own bad attitudes and behaviors, right, Petras?”
“Not exactly, Respecta. Even our own sinfulness is no block to God’s love. His grace is stronger than any sin of ours. The problem with sin and the arrogance that you refer to in Herod and Herodias is that we can imagine we are so powerful and self-sufficient that we turn away from Christ’s love and depend solely on ourselves for our needs. It’s a recipe for failure, for sure.”
“Oh, I understand, Petras. I was forgetting that Jesus took the people to a deserted place in the story of the miraculous loaves and fish. A desert in scripture stands for our total dependence on God. In the desert we will starve to death or die of thirst unless God provides for our needs. There, all the social rank and privilege, even our possessions, cannot save us. It is a good image to remember.”
“Yes. It’s probably a good question for personal reflection, too, Respecta. As much as we may want to depend on God, we must beware of all attitudes of false security in ourselves. You’ve given me much to think about this week, Respecta. It seems the teacher is being taught by the student this Sunday!”
“Well, I wouldn’t go that far, Petras. I dearly want to respond to the God Who desires to fulfill my deepest desires, and if that means a bit of self-examination to rid me of pride or arrogance, so be it. We’re at my street. See you next week, Petras.”
“God be with you, Respecta.”
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