Valuing depth and
commitment.

He made a whip out of cords and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen, and spilled the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables, and to those who sold doves he said, “Take these out of here, and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.” His disciples recalled the words of Scripture, Zeal for your house will consume me.

What do we value? Today’s scriptures confront us with that question and ask us to consider the value of our salvation in light of everything else.

Paul, in writing to the Corinthians, places three things of value on the table: wisdom (think learning, knowledge, and education), signs (think miracles, wonders that cannot be explained), and Christ crucified (our salvation). He is asking us to figure out what is most important, not in philosophical or conceptual terms – but in reality. What would we give our lives and our all for? And, if we were to give our lives for that thing, which of them would carry us beyond the here and now and into an eternity of bliss? These questions assist in defining our commitment as Christians and the depth of our faith by drawing value comparisons.

Knowledge or wisdom will surely not give us eternal life. They are the most ephemeral of things. When we die, all our knowledge and wisdom is gone. We could have a wall full of degrees, but none would be valuable enough to act as a passport into heaven.

Signs and wonders might get us a little closer. At least we would be acknowledging a power beyond ourselves. But, that alone will not get us to heaven. In fact, Jesus saw right through people who would only follow Him while He entertained them with signs and wonders. He also knew that His people had a history of experiencing all of His Father’s signs and wonders, and still wandered away in faithlessness. No, signs and wonders do not hold enough value.

If we set those two things aside as not valuable enough, we are left Jesus crucified. We know that faith in Him is entry into heaven. He is the only assurance we have. So, He should be at the top of our value list. In fact, all our values should flow from His being at the top of our list.

Jesus demonstrates this during His visit to Jerusalem. His Father was His sole value. Love for His Father, and His Father’s will, consumed Him. It was never about the building, the temple, it was about His value choice.

Jesus saw that the people of Israel had their values all wrong. They were focused on paying for form over substance. He is asking them to re-define their commitment and the depth of their faith in his Father. Is it about a building, a place, or setting values correctly? He asks us the same question each day. Lent is about our value choices, and what’s on our list.

Reflection for the 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time

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I can’t help myself.
Isn’t it ok?

“Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.”

The theme of our readings and gospel all center on doing things for the right reason, having the right priorities. They obviously focus on avoiding greed as the antithesis of proper living, “…the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?

As Christians we are to guard against placing our priorities wrongly. As we reflect on Carson’s baptism, we should recall our baptism. We descended into the waters of baptism, dying to the world and buried. Emerging we came into new life in the resurrected Christ. As people living in the resurrected Christ we have new priorities.

St. Paul says this plainly: For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. He reminds us that our focus must be changed – and we need to be reminded because we forget: If you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.

The problem we face in setting priorities as Christians is how far and how fast we need to go in re-ordering our reasons, focus and priorities.

Can we find a word that simply expresses the overwhelming love and dedication we are supposed to have for Jesus Christ? It has to be a word that describes a love and dedication that is more than something that just bubbles under the surface, but rather radiates out of us, making our lives evidently different to all those we meet. Perhaps the right word is “crazy?” Crazy can mean mentally deranged; demented; insane; senseless; impractical; totally unsound. It can also mean intensely enthusiastic; passionately excited.

So how do we get to the kind of crazy that shows an enthusiastic and passionate life with Christ? It starts with commitment and practice. Baptism is the first step in commitment and dedication. From there, with the help of our parents, we practice – in Church, by reading scripture, and in regular prayer – learning Jesus’ way, focusing on educating ourselves about Jesus’ direction for our life, and working in community to do His will. With that education and practice we learn to live the right way and with the right priorities.

When we get to the kind of crazy that radiates passions in line with Jesus’ priorities we become restorers of hope in the midst of our families, workplaces, neighborhoods, and in the wider world. We find that we cannot help ourselves in a way that is absolutely ok – more that ok – it is wonderful. It is crazy right.

Reflection for the 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time

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What!?!
…no pillow either?

As they were going along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head.”

For the very poor of the East, in ancient times as now, the “bed” was and is, as a rule, the bare ground; and the bedclothes, the gown or “outer garment,” worn during the day. When one was on a journey, or watching his flock by night as a shepherd, such a “bed” was the most natural, and often a stone would serve as a pillow. Over time the use of a mat on the floor as a bed, with or without covering, became more common. At first it was literally laid on the main floor of the home in some convenient place near the wall; but later it was put on an elevation, either a raised part of the floor, or a bedstead, which gave rise to the expression “going up to the bed.” With later development, “beds” came to be built on supports and constructed in different forms. This fact is reflected in the variety of names given the “bed” in Hebrew and related languages. The pillow was likely formed of sheep’s fleece or goat’s skin with a stuffing of cotton.

These beds and pillows are a far cry from what we have today. We can get adjustable beds, harder or softer beds, memory-foam beds and pillows – and beds of all sizes. We likely have a favorite pillow and hopefully we like our beds.

Jesus’ reference to no bed or pillow may have seemed odd to the person pledging to follow Jesus because he knew that preachers like Jesus had no bed. It seems equally odd to us. Do we have to sleep without a pillow for Jesus?

No. Jesus isn’t telling us to grab a rock for a pillow or sleep on the ground. What He is calling for is a life of total commitment. Jesus, who lived the life of an iterant preacher, had no place to lay His head. Rather, He lived and modeled the total commitment we are to have. He was the Shepherd, on His journey for us, following the Father’s will, showing us the way we must go, the life we must lead.

To follow Jesus requires that we make a conscious and consistent effort to live the life He calls us to live. Does it involve sacrifice in the present for His promised eternal reward? Certainly!

Jesus points out that thoughts of material things or present day rewards from following Him lead us “nowhere.” Instead we have to be people following His journey into eternity, life forever. We too must be shepherds, out in the fields and roads day and night living up to Jesus’ teaching, leading others to Him.

When we get in bed and grab our pillows let us commit again and again to Him.