Monday, 22 July 2013

A life of service: Readings for Sunday July 21st

St. Lawrence of Brindisi
Feast: July 21

Feast Day:July 21
Born:22 July 1559 at Brindisi, Italy
Died:22 July 1619 at Lisbon, Portugal
Canonized:1881 by Leo XIII
Major Shrine:Villafranca del Bierzo
Patron of:Brindisi

Lorenzo  was received into the Order of Capuchins under the name of Brother Lorenzo in 1575, and, after his preofession, made his philosophical and theological studies at the University of Padua. Owing to his wonderful memory he mastered not only the principal European languages, but also most of the Semitic tongues. ( I wonder if it's ok to be jealous of Saints for their natural talents and abilities that made them so awesome!!? Probably not! Still...)

Such unusual talents, added to a rare virtue, fitted Brother Lorenzo for the most diverse missions. When still a deacon he preached the Lenten sermons in Venice, and his success was so great that he was called successively to all the principal cities of the peninsula. Subsequently, thanks to his numerous journeys, he was enabled to evangelize at different periods most of the countries of Europe. The sermons he left fill no less than eight folio volumes. This is what makes him a Doctor of the Universal Church.  His biography goes on for quite a bit, as do his various ministries -including Chaplin to the imperial army as they faced the invading Muslims, and working for the conversion of Jews in Italy -neither of these, necessarily saintly tasks, but still a testimony to his devotion to the mission!-

Readings:  By looking at the readings we had on Sunday, there's one theme that would make me a little uncomfortable , if I'm not in a spiritually rich place: Servitude.  Don't get me wrong, my life is one of service to others. I'm ready for this, and have no reservations, no desire to live this life any other way. But I also, like many out there, have a rather fragile ego that doesn't respond well to the idea of 'being servant to others'. I love being OF SERVICE to others, but being a servant can be different, very humbling.  And yet, as an act of faith, it's probably the greatest act one can do. It says 'I may have my own needs, but those aren't important to me now...the person in front of me, and their needs are what I value and have a desire to serve'. That desire to serve others is how many religious express their deep love for God, and is an important part of our lives. Still, there remains something almost off putting about the way the act of service is lived in Sunday's readings.

From Abey, ( my nickname for Abraham! Tell no one!!!) it's a radical act of service. One moment he's sitting in the shade of his dwelling, and the next, he's running out to meet strangers, to  offer them a place to rest and eat, and is running around his 'domain' to ensure that everything is prepared just right. He even offers some of his precious cattle to these strangers. Now of course, what's important here, is that he recognizes right away that these 'strangers' are either from God, or are God.-You can see why many Christians would see this passage as proof of the Trinitarian nature of God. Whatever it is, it makes for an interesting read!-.  This is why he's so quick in switching gears, going from 'relaxation mode' to 'service mode' in a flash! Perhaps part of the message there is that, once you fall in love with God,  there's no limit to how much you will want to do in order to serve the Lord! 

 Unless your name is Mary! No, not Mary the mother of Jesus...but Mary the sister of Martha. There are some intelligent speculations that the Mary in today's Gospel is really Mary Magdelaine. Whether this is true or not is irrelevant to me. What is relevant is that in the  Gospel story for this past Sunday, we have two (opposite) models of  'the good Christian': The Martha model, and the Mary model! What's interesting here is that Jesus doesn't really criticize either. He likes both responses. Some people believe that he's critical of Martha who chooses to be like Abraham and run around and get things organized so that everything looks good for the Lord. They may say 'she's concerned about superficial things'.However, I don't think Jesus response to Martha is criticism per say. First, his response is 'Martha Martha'!!  Then it's ' you chose to be anxious about many things. She chooses to focus on one...she's chosen the good and that can't be changed'. This may sound harsh to some, but I don't think it's meant to be. If I were to put this passage, in my own words, I'd say "you think you're doing the good by running around and making sure everything runs smoothly, but her act of devotion and quieting herself to listen to me is just as valuable". 

And this is a message that's tough for us to hear today as well. We value busy people more than we do quiet, meditative ones. We think the ones who go out there and do a million things are more useful to society than the monk or nun who spends their day in prayer. This is a testimony to the fact that we value efficiency and hard work more than spiritual wisdom and depth. Obviously, it's not a position I subscribe to. like Jesus, I'd like to find that middle ground, the point where I can be both a hard worker, and make the time for spiritual reflections. Like Ignatius, I continue to labor at developing my skills as a contemplative in action. It's a lot easier than it sounds. All it takes is for people to take 15,30, 45 minutes a day to really sit, and listen to the silence of their lives, or listen to the wisdom of holy books. Not just read these books...really listen. Anyone can read the bible. Not everyone can open it and be like Mary in this reading...truly put her entire being in listening mode. This is why she is a role model in holy listening. 

blessings on your week!

Genesis 18: 1-10 1And the LORD appeared to  Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the door of his tent in the heat of the day.2He lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, three men stood in front of him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them, and bowed himself to the earth,3and said, "My lord, if I have found favor in your sight, do not pass by your servant.4Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree,5while I fetch a morsel of bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on -- since you have come to your servant." So they said, "Do as you have said."6And Abraham hastened into the tent to Sarah, and said, "Make ready quickly three measures of fine meal, knead it, and make cakes."7And Abraham ran to the herd, and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to the servant, who hastened to prepare it.8Then he took curds, and milk, and the calf which he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree while they ate.9They said to him, "Where is Sarah your wife?" And he said, "She is in the tent."10The LORD said, "I will surely return to you in the spring, and Sarah your wife shall have a son." And Sarah was listening at the tent door behind him.

Psalms 15: 2 - 5

2He who walks blamelessly, and does what is right, and speaks truth from his heart;3who does not slander with his tongue, and does no evil to his friend, nor takes up a reproach against his neighbor;4in whose eyes a reprobate is despised, but who honors those who fear the LORD; who swears to his own hurt and does not change;5who does not put out his money at interest, and does not take a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things shall never be moved. ------------------------------------------------------------------------

Colossians 1: 24 - 28

24Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church,
25of which I became a minister according to the divine office which was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known,
26the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now made manifest to his saints.
27To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
28Him we proclaim, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man mature in Christ.

Luke 10: 38 - 42

38Now as they went on their way, he entered a village; and a woman named Martha received him into her house.39And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching.40But Martha was distracted with much serving; and she went to him and said, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me."41But the Lord answered her, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things;42one thing is needful. Mary has chosen the good portion, which shall not be taken away from her."

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