Oct
11

Lets talk about evil.

evil_lyn_by_omegasupreme-d308n8zEvil is such an obscure word and/or idea.  When I was a kid I thought of evil as a thing.  Evil Lyn was a scantily clad He-Man character that I considered pretty bad.  There was a kid across the street named Scott that I assumed was born out of evil because he was a bully and a brat.  Evil Knievel is from Butte, MT.  Does that help?

Not sure I really understood the whole idea.

So the root of the word “evil” comes from old English.  It means what you think it does, namely, wicked, bad, etc.  The word also emphasizes “ultimate disapproval.”  This struck me as interesting.  When I witness evil am I seeing someone or something in “ultimate disapproval” of good?

Yeah…kinda.

In Luke 11:15-26 Christ is challenged about his methods and means of drawing out unclean spirits from people.  He is removing evil.  Naturally folks think he is doing this in the name of evil.  Christ squashes this argument by making it very clear he is working on behalf of God the creator and then he drops this bomb on them.  After a an unclean spirit has left someone it roams around and comes home to a clean place, “…then it goes and brings back seven other spirits more wicked than itself who move in and dwell there, and the last condition of the man is worse than the first.”

Encouraging.

Here is what I think all this means.  Evil attacks.  The disciple or follower of good and righteousness (Christ) is the ultimate subject for disapproval of good and righteousness.  We are victims of evil.  Sometimes we accidentally invite it (sin). Sometimes we purposely invite it (mortal sin). But, we are redeemed by our faith in the all-powerful God.  Nothing new here so far for Christians.  The challenge rests in the fact that as we grow in our spirituality…reconcile…become clean of evil…we must realize that our spiritual journey will be come harder and harder.  In other words…buckle up if you are serous about a life dedicated to Christ because evil is present and will become more present to the one who fights it and seeks cleanliness.

This is tough.

But, this all makes sense.  Evil disapproves of God’s free love.  Evil spirits know who God is exactly, they just disapprove of him entirely. His free grace flies in the face of wickedness.  A person drenched in grace becomes the subject of ultimate disapproval.  The saints had the hardest time with evil sprits (i.e. John Vianney, Anthony of Padua)! Sooooooooooo disciples…be prepared to fight evil.  And, be prepared to recognize evil more and more the more and more you grow in your discipleship.  God wants believers that witness to his ultimate righteousness.  It isn’t easy.  The difficulty of the spiritual life is laid upon those who embrace the spiritual life.  Embrace the healing redemption of Christ and expect to do so more heartily as you grow in relationship with your savior.  You can handle it.  He will provide.  Evil will subside.  We already know who wins.

Oct
8

Jesus is here…sit down and shut up.

busy-stressed-lady-325x260I have a hard time sitting down.  Sometimes I get so wound up that I cannot relax.  I am one of those people that need something to do all the time.  When I am at work I am constantly moving around.  When I get home, I am the same way.  I am sure I would have been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) when I was a child.  There was not enough Ritalin in the continental United States to mellow me out in the 80’s.

Today, I still wrestle with a kind of spiritual ADD.  I am a horrible contemplative.  Sitting down to pray is tough for me as it is for many others.  I have a bumper sticker on my desk that says, “Jesus is coming…look busy!”  Not good.  What it should say is, “Jesus comes, sit down and shut up so you can encounter him more peacefully you idiot!” Or something along those lines.

We are all busy people with crammed schedules.  Time is precious.  But, for me, I really just struggle to be quiet and rest in him.

This past weekend I participated in an hour of Eucharistic Adoration with 100 teens.  This is the easiest devotion in the history of the church.  All you need to do is sit down and be with Jesus.

It was really hard for me.

But it was necessary and unbelievable life giving.

We want to control the moment.  We want to do and work and earn and serve and move and build and clean and organize and and and and.  We rarely just want to be.

In Luke 10:38-42 the sisters, Mary and Martha, get to host Jesus in their home.  Martha is bustling around to serve Jesus and rightfully so.  Mary, her sister, is sitting at his feet.  Martha gets a little pissed.  “Lord, what is the deal?  I am working over here and she is just sitting…don’t you care?”  Jesus replies with a subtle yet divine, “Chill out.”  He expounds, “There is need of only one thing.  Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”  Enough said.

We only “need” one thing…to be with Jesus.  We don’t need to go and go and go some more for him.  That is for us.  We need only to be with him especially when he is physically present…in the Eucharist…at Adoration…etc.

It is good to serve, but it is better to yield to him.  It is noble to work hard for your family and be diligent, but it is equally valuable to simply be with them in joy.  I struggle with this daily.  Today, let us all be still.  Sit at his feet and surrender the need to do.  Embrace the gift of time and understand that all we really need is to be at his side.  We are of little value to the mission of discipleship if we take no value in the physical presence of the one we serve.

Oct
3

Evangelizing farmers.

farmersMy in laws are farmers.  They are incredible people.  They manage nearly 2000 acres of land outside of Shelby, MT.  Primarily they grow wheat.  This year they are having an absolute bumper crop.  In a good year they gather 45 bushels of wheat per acre.  This year they are somewhere around 70.  Incredible.  But, there is one problem.

My father in law has a 50 acre section of his land that he can’t harvest yet.  Its already October and he can’t get to it. It is just sitting ripe and ready.  There is too much moisture in the ground near the parcel of land.  If he drives in there with his combine, he might break an axel.  The weather won’t cooperate.  It won’t dry out.  It just sits.

The gospel today (Luke 10:1-12) is about the commissioning of the 72.  Go two by two, stay in one house, take nothing with you, dust off your feet when you are ignored, etc.  It is an amazing passage.  It is truly a commissioning.  In other words, it is a call to the community on the mission for the Lord.  At its core, however, is a message about God’s kingdom.  “The Kingdom of God is at hand for you,” the passage reads.

What is this kingdom?  Do I get a new house?  Will I be a servant of the king or a slave?  Huh?

Pope Bennedict XVI wrote, “…the Kingdom of God is not a thing, a social or political structure, a utopia.  The Kingdom of God is God.  Kingdom of God means: God exists.  God is alive.  God is present and acts in the world, in our – in my life.”

I love this line.

Luke begins the passage with, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few…”  God’s kingdom is a harvest.  It is an abundant feast.  It is a banquet.  The kingdom is not necessarily a social revolution (although it can be for some).  It is God.

“Thy kingdom come, thy will be done,” is an invitation to be mastered by a king who wants you to go to work for him.  Does your daily routine advertise a God that exists, that God is alive, and that God is working here.

Hmmmm.  I am gonna work on that today.

Better yet, where is the difficult 50 acres in your life.  What is the untilled harvest that requires risk and dedication?  We all have one.  We all have that place where we don’t dare to labor for fear of failure or worse…brokenness.

Pray for the strength to go there today.  Remember…God is present and acts in the world – in our lives.  He is here.  The kingdom is here.  It is at hand.  Lets go to work.

Oct
1

Jesus stops a knife fight.

Dean-James-Rebel-Without-a-Cause_01-e1358617748690Montanans make fun of North Dakotans cause, why wouldn’t you?  It’s flat and full of sheep and slow talking farmers that don’t know how to drive on interstate highways. Just kidding.  Not really. Q: How many University of North Dakota freshmen does it take to change a light bulb? A: None, it’s a sophomore course.

We love rivals.  Schools get into fistfights over letterman jackets.  Sometimes rivalries become deadly like Dodger fans stabbing Giants fans.  Yeeeesh!

The Israelites hated the Judeans.  The two kingdoms of the Hebrews were like Friday night-lights football in east Texas all of the time!  Both had their capital cities.  In the north was Samaria, the Israelite capital.  In the south was Jerusalem, the Judean capital.  These cities were both holy and symbols of truth for their people.

In Luke 9:51-56 Jesus and friends are resolved to head toward Jerusalem.  Most of the disciples were Judeans.  This is both an image of the passion to come and a pilgrimage of truth.  However, they stop by a Samaritan village along the way and the game is on. The disciples are treated rudely and they are ready to throw down!

“Lord do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them!,” James and John say in their best Biff voice from Back to the Future.  No wonder Jesus calls these two the “Thunder boys.”  The scene is actually rather comical.

James and John have a history of not liking any northerners.  They have a newfound faith in the king of kings and are ready to show those idiots in Israel who is the best once and for all.  They assume Jesus approves of their discourse and are ready to proceed to action.  Its like a James Dean knife fight is about to ensue.

But it doesn’t.

Jesus rebukes them.  He tends to do that a lot.

Rebuke is an old French word rooted in the same term as “butcher.”  It means to sharply cut down or trim.  It does not necessarily mean to put down or silence.  It some ways, to rebuke is to correct.  A healthy rebuke in the spiritual journey can be a great thing.

Our rivalries are usually just that…they are silly misunderstandings of truth.  Or, they are entities that we simply choose not to get to know.  In the narrative, Jesus and the disciples simply moved on to another village.

They just moved on.

Trim the fat today.  Get rid of the excess baggage that comes with disapproval of something or someone.  We are a whole lot lighter when we move on to more important things in life.  Sometimes the adolescent voices in our heads want to stay and fight, but most of the time it is a waste.

Move on towards truth, even if it is in the direction of North Dakota.  Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.

Sep
30

Casting out demons with your buddies.

The_Torment_of_Saint_Anthony_(Michelangelo)Nothing gets me more riled up than when I see someone that I don’t hang out with cast out a demon.

I was reflecting on this idea this morning and I couldn’t stop giggling.  Not because casting out demons is funny.  It is rather violent I would imagine.  I was laughing because of how silly we are when we compare our spirituality to another.

I love the saints.  They are sinners.  All of them.  They have had children outside of marriages, committed murder, lied, deceived, led others astray, cheated and strutted in vanity.  They are us and we are invited to become them.  All of the saints had to recon with their own spirituality and how it related to others.  Some grew in their understanding of Jesus living in the mountains and some thrust themselves into the most difficult slums of the poor.  All of them immersed themselves into Jesus.

Luke 9:46-50 is such a great lesson for us today.  The twelve argue about which one of them is greatest.  This alone is an eye opening start!  Jesus gently grabs a kid and puts him on his lap and says, “…Receive this child in my name.”  Jesus knows that in welcoming innocence and the potential of youth we both understand the creator and his creation.  We understand humility.

The next line in the passage is John’s frustration with non-disciple demon casters.  Don’t blame him; he was probably only 13 when he made the comment.  Jesus says to John, “Do no prevent him, for whoever is not against you is for you.”

John, the other eleven and all of us are victims of our own egos when it comes to spirituality.  We compare, compete and categorize with the intention of marking our progress.  This is a bogus misunderstanding of the spiritual journey.

A spiritual journey is about surrender.  We see the young heart and are reminded of innocence and learning.  We see the peer pursing the power of Christ and are not intimidated but are in awe of wisdom and experience.  We see each other and do not compare but rather collaborate in belief and action.

The simplicity of today’s gospel passage is the heart of the pursuit of sainthood…it is all about Jesus.  It is not about you.

Remind yourself of the errant ways of the saints and smile at their intense conversions.  Yield to the innocence of the young today.  Embrace the notion of surrender in an effort to grow.  Smile at the opportunity to pursue a loving king so freely.  He is for you.  The creator of the universe is with you.

Oh, and go cast out a few demons on your own.  Nobody is watching.  The world needs a whole lot less of them anyway.