Lord, I Want to See

“Then Jesus stopped and ordered that the man be brought to him;
and when he came near, Jesus asked him,
‘What do you want me to do for you?’
He replied, ‘Lord, please let me see.'”

In this morning’s Gospel reading, the author of Luke shares this powerful story of healing and puts the burden of our requests on the lips of one man (18:35-43).

“Lord, please help us see.”

This week, let us pray that we see civility return to our public discourse.

Let us pray that we see those for whom we are thankful gathered safely around our table.

Let us pray that we can see peacemakers in our families, our parishes, and our communities.

Let us pray that we can see safety in our schools and in our churches and synagogues.

Let us pray that we can see those in need around us and be moved to share what we have.

Let us pray that we can see those who need a lift up, a kind word, or an encouraging note – and be inspired to act.

Let us pray that we see a way that we can help support those who sacrifice so much for the freedoms we enjoy.

Let us pray that we can see fires quenched, homes rebuilt, lives spared, and first responders home with their families.

Let us pray that we can see the lines on the road, the signs at the corners, the lights that are red, and the cars all around us so as to arrive safely to our destinations.

Let us pray that we can see the face of Christ in those who annoy us, challenge us, and confuse us.

Let us pray, too, that we can see the face of Christ in the mirror, shedding self-doubt and remembering that we are all children of God.

Lord, help us see the truth, not as we wish it were, but as it is.

Lord, please help us see…

With a grateful heart.

 

Healed

As coldness begins to cover the northeast, and the first cold of the season makes its way through the family, I am reaching back into the archives today. Partly because it is a powerful story of healing and partly because, on this day off from work, all I want to do is crawl back into bed.

From 2016 –

The author of Luke’s Gospel account has Jesus’ healing ten lepers in this week’s reading. It’s a story that always causes such consternation. Ten were healed but only one returned to say “thank you.”

It is good to give thanks.

But to concentrate on the one who returned is to miss the point. Maybe the other nine had good reasons.

Maybe one was a mother who had been kept away from her children for so long by this disease that turns you into an outcast. She was healed and she rushed right home and returned to her family.

Maybe one didn’t believe he had been cured because he didn’t do anything to deserve it. He couldn’t face unconditional love – healing without a price – so he couldn’t see he was healed and just went back to the colony.

Another was really, really excited about being free from the ravages of his illness and in his excitement, he just forgot.

Maybe another was alone, having already lost his family and now the only family he knew – the other lepers – were gone too. He was cured but now he was alone. He wasn’t grateful, he was ticked.

I could go on but you get the point.

Ten were healed and only one said: “thank you.”

To concentrate on the one is to miss the point. Then again, I sometimes think we’ve institutionalized missing the point.

Ten were healed.

Ten were healed.

Ten cried out for mercy. Ten longed to be near Jesus so they just shouted as loud as they could. And Jesus, never one to leave someone wanting, responded simply, “Go, show yourselves to the priest” (the priest being the only one who could verify that they had, in fact, be healed).

They asked for Jesus’ mercy and received so much more.

Ten were healed. One said thank you.

It is good to say thank you.

But something tells me it is better to be healed.

Different Paths. Same Journey.

In this morning’s Gospel reading, there is a battle that plays out in every family. Who is the greatest? Who is the least? As my mother’s favorite, I can relate.

Then Jesus takes a child and makes some comments about having the faith of a child and about receiving the Word like one receives a child. But that is not my favorite part of the passage. Here are my favorite lines:

Then John said in reply,
“Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name
and we tried to prevent him
because he does not follow in our company.”
Jesus said to him,
“Do not prevent him, for whoever is not against you is for you.”

You have to love a guy who wants to stop other people from doing that which is good and holy because that person doesn’t “follow in our company.” It’s like the party on the left yelling at the party on the right for doing what is right but going about it the wrong way. Or the people at work who accomplish a great task but get criticized because they didn’t go about it the way we would have. What kind of world would it be if we all kept our eyes on the Light and not on the path we took to get there?

I think this is what Pope Francis is talking about when he says, “The important thing is that each believer discern his or her own path, that they bring out the very best of themselves, the most personal gifts that God has placed in their hearts (cf. 1 Cor 12:7), rather than hopelessly trying to imitate something not meant for them. We are all called to be witnesses, but there are many actual ways of bearing witness.” (Gaudete et exsultate, 11)

This week let us be witnesses. Let us refrain from imitating others and be faithful to the gifts God has given us. Let us not fight about who is greatest or who is the least.

Most of all, let us recognize the good works going on around us and acknowledge that, even though we might have done the work differently, God is present.

~pjd

 

 

Lighting Our Lamps

This morning’s Gospel gives us Luke’s version of one of my favorite passages in Matthew.

Jesus said to the crowd:
“No one who lights a lamp conceals it with a vessel
or sets it under a bed;
rather, he places it on a lampstand
so that those who enter may see the light.
For there is nothing hidden that will not become visible,
and nothing secret that will not be known and come to light.
Take care, then, how you hear.
To anyone who has, more will be given,
and from the one who has not,
even what he seems to have will be taken away.”

 In this parable of the lamp, we are given very clear instructions: those who have heard the Word of God are to show it to others – in word and in action.

Even when we are surrounded by darkness (perhaps especially when we are surrounded by darkness), we are to be a light for others.

This week, it might be worth asking: when people look at our lives, can they see light? Does that light direct them towards God or towards ourselves? Do we let the darkness overwhelm us? Consume us? Paralyze us?

This week, I will work on being a light. I will work on reflecting the love of God to others so that they may see the good things I do and thank God for my presence in their lives.

Will you?

 

In The Quiet

Back in January when I visited the Holy Land, the Dominican guiding us on our journey suddenly turned to me and said, “Do you think the pilgrims would like a surprise?”

“Sure,” I said, thinking maybe we were going for ice cream. Ice cream is always a good surprise.

About a half hour later, the bus took a turn down a dirt road, off the paved highways and away from the familiar. Father Pawel told us that we were on the road that went from Jerusalem to Jericho, and reminded us what had happened on this road two millennia before. As Jesus had told the story, this path was not one to be traveled alone, lest a band of thugs leave you lying on the road, dying in the sun.

The bus stopped and we were invited to take a walk. There were some Bedouins selling their wares on the side of the road and Fr. Pawel joked, “Special deal, just for you,” as we headed up the hill. After a few hundred feet, we crested the hill and gasped.

We were in the Judean Desert. Nothing for miles around us but hillsides of sand and rocks. But before us, as if in a movie, was a monastery cut into the vast ravine that lie just ahead. To fall into the space between where we stood and this magnificent edifice would kill you so we stood in silence on our side of the valley taking it all it.

There was no noise. No airplanes or passing cars. No clicks of the cameras or tweets being sent. Nothing.

Then Fr. Pawel pointed out an aqueduct, built by the Romans and still carrying water today. It was cut into the hillside and brings water from the springs to Jerusalem. Once he mentioned the water, you could not un-hear it. The silence was now broken by the deafening sound of running water as it poured down the path it had followed for centuries, past one loan tree, the only sign of life in this barren land.

We spent about thirty minutes in prayer just taking it all in.

I think it might be the last time I experienced such quiet.

As we boarded the bus and headed back to the main road, I kept thinking about wonder and awe. Nobody seems amazed by anything anymore. We seem to have lost our sense of astonishment. Perhaps that is why the experience of the eclipse last summer was so memorable for my children; it was awesome in the truest sense of the word.

This week, find something remarkable. Be awed by something, not because you cannot believe how idiotic or mundane it is, but because it reminds you of the presence of a God who never lets go.

Let the waters of wonder and awe wash over you this week and stand still.

Stand. Still.

(Then, you should have some ice cream. Being amazed can make you hungry.)

A Good Measure

In this morning’s Gospel reading, our instructions are pretty clear.

“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”

But what is mercy? Patience? Kindness? Forgiveness? Compassion? Can I be full of mercy and not really like somebody? Can I have patience, but not with everyone? About this kindness thing, just how kind are we talking?

“Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned.”

Okay, this is getting trickier. I am going to need to think more about this. I am an expert judge when it comes to other people. 

“Forgive and you will be forgiven.”

Not a problem. My wife is always saying that she is impressed with my capacity to forgive. I do not do a great job of forgetting, however, so I could work on that. A friend told me recently that real forgiveness is choosing to love. It is remembering that the reason you first loved someone is greater than your righteous anger.

“Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap.”

This is good news. I like when the Gospels talk about gifts. I like getting gifts. I like giving gifts. I think I am a pretty generous person. It’s nice to know that some of that generosity might be coming back my way…though I guess that is not really the point, is it?

“For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.”

If this means, “what goes around comes around,” I might be in serious trouble.

Perhaps this week I will try very hard not to judge, to stop condemning (even people who might deserve it….there I go again) and to give more generously, forgive more easily, and come to understand more completely what it means to be merciful.

(sigh)

Lent is hard.

~pjd

The Card In My Wallet

There is a card in my wallet that tells a story. It started, as all good stories do, with a teacher who made a difference.

It was my junior year in high school and Sr. Judy Eby, RSM asked us to reflect on this morning’s Gospel reading from Luke. Then, after we read it, we watched a scene of Franco Zeffirelli’s 1977 masterpiece, Jesus of Nazareth. The story unfolds just like it does in Luke’s Gospel: the crowds have gathered and there is no room for the men to bring their friend to Jesus. He cannot walk, you see, so they carry him over the wall, through the thatched roof, and place him before the Teacher.

You know what happens next. The movie takes some editorial license, but after a brief conversation, the man is told his sins are forgiven. The movie version, while riveting, fails to follow Luke’s account. Jesus forgives the man’s sins because he is moved by the actions of the friends. But more on that later.

In both versions, the crowd goes nuts. “Only God can forgive sins,” they reproach Jesus. Putting yourself on the same plane as God is only going to cause trouble. To this, we get a classic Jesus response: “Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’?”

Think about it. Surely forgiving sins is easier. But to show the crowd what he’s really capable of, he tells the man to get up, pick up his mat, and go home. The man obliges. The crowd goes nuts for an entirely different reason and everyone learns an important lesson.

But back to the card in my wallet.

We wrap up the reading, the watching, and the discussion about the friends who carried the stretcher, and Sr. Judy hands us all an index card. “Now,” she tells us, “write down the names of those who carry you to Christ.”

Wait. What? This just got real.

I have repeated that exercise with youth and adults alike for years. Like Sr. Judy, I challenge people to think of those who, when we are paralyzed with fear, sinfulness, and selfishness, carry us to Christ. When you cannot move, who lifts you up? When you are sick or alone or unhappy or in serious need of a friend, who do you call?

I have edited my list throughout the years. Friends come and go. People die. But my list has been there since that spring day in 1987. I have moved it from wallet to wallet. It’s a thirty-year-old ratty piece of paper that I carry with me everywhere.  On more than one occasion, the list has saved my life, my soul, my sanity.

Yes, there is a card in my wallet that tells a story. It tells a story of salvation.

Who is on your list?

~pjd

Increase Our Faith

In this morning’s Gospel reading, we hear:

And the Apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.” The Lord replied, “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.”

The consummate teachers, Jesus never really answers the question. Then again, the Apostles never really ask. No, they complain about not being able to do all the really cool things Jesus can do. (I imagine that water into wine thing turned some heads). They want faith and they do not ask, “Lord, how can we become more faithful.” They just command, “Increase our faith.”

It is not unlike what I hear at home sometimes. “When will we have dinner?” instead of “Is there anything I can do to help?” or “Why don’t I have any clean clothes?” instead of “Do you need me to switch washer and dryer?”

We have all been there. Demanding children or coworkers, chores that will not complete themselves, emails that just keep coming.

“Lord,” we cry. “Give me more time in the day. Take all these distractions from me.”

But, like Jesus, the distractions, the commands, the complaining, the whining – they are the work. Jesus answers the Apostle’s command to increase their faith by telling them that faith is not something that can be given, like a fish or a piece of bread. We do not give other’s faith. We show them our own. We teach by example. We accompany others so that they might understand that the joy we have comes from a relationship with a God who never lets go.

“Increase our faith.” Indeed.

“Watch what I do,” Jesus says. “Love like I do. Forgive like I do. Heal like I do. Speak of love and compassion and mercy and justice like I do.”

Then the trees and the bushes and the mountains and yes, even the people, will come to understand the power of your faith because that faith is not rooted in self, but in God.

~pjd

Just Arrogant Enough

Take a look at this morning’s Gospel reading and read between the lines.

To understand the metaphor, understand the Samaritans: bastard Jews – religiously and biologically. In 581, Babylonians moved into Samaria and intermarry with Jews there. You cannot do this if you want to keep the religion and the culture pure. By marrying their captors, the Samaritans “gentiled themselves,” at least in the eyes of a “good Jew.” In 535, at the end of the exilic period, the Jews come back to Judea and seek to build a Temple. The Samaritans offer to help. Jews say, “No thanks” (not after you married your captors)…so Samaritans build there own.

Now look at this morning’s reading: the Scribe who asks the question ‘who is my neighbor’ should know the answer but asks anyway (there’s one in every class). Jesus got the Scribe to put two things together that a good Jew cannot – Samaritan and neighbor. To the Scribe, the Samaritan is beyond the pale of God’s forgiveness. For Jesus, that just isn’t possible.

To the Jews listening to Jesus tell the story, the next expected category (after priest and deacon (Levite)), would be a Jewish layperson but Jesus gives this coveted spot to a Samaritan, who is moved with compassion.

The hearer of the story discovers that God’s love is limitless. To the Jew of Jesus’ time, love is limited – not everyone is my neighbor. If God’s love is limitless, so must yours be, Jesus tells the hearer. So must ours.

No one listening is surprised that the Priest and Levite do not touch the guy in the ditch. If either had stopped to help, they would become unclean and would need to go through all sorts of rituals for getting ‘unsuspended’ – they kept the law. For those listening, the point is not to help the one in the ditch, but in keeping the law.

But in keeping man’s law, they broke God’s law, which raises the question: is the law made for us, or are we made for the law?

A priest could not raise this question. Neither could a deacon. It was up to a previously rejected; ostracized, humiliated, last resort of a character to make this clear for those struggling to believe.

God takes the weak and makes them strong.

So where is the arrogance the title suggests? It’s mine. I am just arrogant enough, I said to a friend the other day, that I edit Luke’s Gospel when I read chapter ten. You see, I think the Samaritan said something to the man in the ditch. I think he bent down and whispered something that Luke forgot to write down.

It is the same whispering that compelled people into action last week when the shooting started. It was the same message that made strangers carry strangers, cover each other, and hold a lifeless body until help arrived.

“I do not wish to be saved without you.”

That is what the Samaritan says in my head as he bends down to care for the sick, dress the wounds, and lug him to safety.

“I do not wish to be saved without you.”

You matter to God, so you matter to me. No matter what you look like, what your DNA says about you, or how you identify yourself as a child of God. You matter. You are His and therefore you matter to me.

I do not wish to be saved without you.

That. Changes. Everything.

~pjd

On The Road Again

I have been thinking about the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. So much has been written about the two men and how “he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.”

I imagine Jesus having a great time knowing he wasn’t recognized. He converses with them, chides them, even plays the fool so their doubts are made clear, paving the way for the teacher to invite the students into a greater understanding of the Truth.

But one thing always bothered me about that story. As a young man, I was always a bit dumbfounded that Jesus didn’t introduce himself.

As a parent, I realize that He seldom does.

Instead, we find God in the laughter of the children who are young enough to still experience joy while the adults around them settle for happiness.

We find God in the man on the corner asking for money – but only if we are aware enough that the children are watching and switching lanes carries as powerful a message as rolling the window down and offering what we can.

We find God in the springtime when we are surrounded by new life, but only if we pause from medicating ourselves against the pollen.

We find Him in holding hands, a good night kiss, a blessing on the forehead, and a hug instead of a shout.

We find Him in the messiness of house and home.

We find Him in the busyness of work.

And we find Him in the people we love – and those we struggle to love – if only our eyes are open.

Open my eyes, Lord. Help me to see your face.

 

 

 

Artwork by He Qi