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Where’s God in the Mess?

5 March 2021

Matthew 21:33-43, 45-46

Our world, and particularly our nation, has seen such upheaval during the last year. Horrific fires ravaged the west, demonstrations for racial justice turned violent, the political climate has kept many on edge. A mob even stormed the Capitol. Say nothing of the pandemic. And these are just the public issues that we all know about – in the midst of these crises are an uncountable number of personal stresses and tragedies. Whew! It’s enough to make the most faithful among us throw up our hands and wonder where God is in all this mess.

Matthew’s Gospel tells us exactly where we can find him – in the beautiful produce his tenants are harvesting. In the firefighters who battled blazes all summer, in the brave souls who will not be silent against injustice, in the many, many people who have helped battle COVID-19, and in you, each time you have offered love and support to the Body of Christ.

The world might reject you as misguided for clinging to your faith, but we all know what happened to that stone the builders rejected. It is an integral part of the entire structure, just as you are integral to the Kingdom here on earth. The Church has a mission and is a mission, and your good produce helps her to fulfill that role.

We are people of faith and people of the light.

Erin Raymond

Lent Devotional 2021
Download your copy of A Time to Grow: A Daily Devotional for Lenten Pilgrims here.
jesus christ figurine
Advent, Bible, Family Life, Gospel

Considering our Family Tree Gospel Reflection

Thursday 17 December

Read today’s Gospel here: Matthew 1:1-17

This forced isolation is a perfect time to get my life together! I’m going to organize and purge, quit binge-watching Netflix, and finally sit down to read the Bible front to back. Well, maybe not the Old Testament – so many rules and too much smiting. But I can totally relate to the New Testament. But wait, you open Matthew, and the first thing you read is a long boring list of Old Testament people who seem sort of familiar.

This has nothing to do with the Gospel message – you’re certain you can just skip past to the good part. But not so fast – what if I told you that is the good part? That the Gospel message is encoded there? Stay with me on this.

In today’s Gospel, we see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, bringing the Torah front and center. We see kings in Jesus’ lineage, but we also see Asaph the psalmist and Amos the prophet. And we see that Jesus, the Davidic King, has some wily characters in his lineage, indeed, some dysfunction.

Did you notice the shady characters in that list? There’s Tamar, who posed as a prostitute to get her father-in-law to sleep with her? How about Rahab, who actually was a prostitute (and non-Jew) in Jericho? There’s Ruth, who as a Moabite was not allowed to worship in the Temple. And poor Bathsheba – not even mentioned by name – whose husband was killed through the actions of her soon-to-be lover, King David.

One of the lessons in this lineage is that Jesus works through dysfunction and offers salvation to all people; he is prophet, priest, and king, and we as the Body of Christ share that with him.

As we wait for him this Advent season, think about Jesus’ ancestors. Even with their dysfunction, God worked through them. Jesus came to heal them and love them. He does the same with our families. Imagine that heavenly family reunion – after all, if we live in God with our whole selves, we’ll have a front row seat!

Erin Raymond

Meditation

Are there are some wily characters in your family, remember, that we really are one family, and Jesus’ love extends to all of them. Offer a prayer of healing for your family.

Dignity, Encyclical

I See You; You Matter

**Elizabeth here – I’m very glad to share with my readers that my dear friend (and fellow redhead) Erin Raymond is contributing to the blog this week.  Erin is a gifted speaker, former stand-up comic and speaks frequently about Catholic theology of the body. Her wit and wisdom make her a very compelling speaker to young adult and college age audiences, in particular.  This reflection is from observations she made when we attended a large Catholic conference earlier this spring. Enjoy!** 

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This is my very first blog, which seems a little weird in 2019, but there you go. I may have never attempted this had it not been for a near-midnight bar conversation with some Catholic authors at the Mid Atlantic Congress in Baltimore, Maryland. 

Said one man author to a table of women: I need some contributors for my blog – anyone interested? 

Woman author #1: It’s always kinda awkward to write a blog for someone’s page. 

Woman author #2: IKR? Who wants to hear what I have to say? 

Me: Are you kidding? Who doesn’t want to hear what I have to say? (said in a joking but not really joking manner).

I may have been joking, but the self-doubt in these talented women was palpable.

Do you recognize yourself in those comments? You have a desire to share the message that God has put on your heart, but somewhere in your psyche there a lack of confidence, fear, maybe even self-loathing?  There’s a chance that the insecurity demon may have jumped in and answer that question for you. 

If you’ve ever thought, “No one wants to hear what I have to say,” I want you to say very loudly, “GET THEE BEHIND ME SATAN!” Discouragement is not of God.

You are a beloved child of the King, and God would never speak to you that way, or permit you to belittle yourself. God loves your thoughts and ideas and wants you to share them wherever and whenever appropriate. 

Several years ago, I had the great fortune to take a class on St. John Paul II’s encyclical Laborem Exercens, with Msgr. Brian Donahue at West Point, New York. (And thank goodness! – I could never have worked through it all alone!) It’s the first time I’ve really understood the value of overtly recognizing the dignity of another human being. 

In the encyclical, St. John Paul II helped me learn to look someone directly in the eyes and tell them, “I see you; you matter.” You – the person who has experienced one bad break too many and now finds herself in the soup kitchen line – I see you! 

You are a beloved daughter of God. You – the man who is so tired from working two jobs just to feed his family, and one of those jobs is cleaning the bathrooms at the airport – I see you and you are a beloved son of God.

And I say to you – reader of my very first blog: I see you. And I want to know your story. And I want to hear your thoughts. You are overflowing with the dignity of humanity, and you bring that dignity with you every step of your day. You bring the dignity to your job – don’t ever expect your job to bestow dignity on you (shout out to JPII for that nugget of wisdom). 
One of my favorite saints, St. Teresa of Avila wrote, “Yours are the eyes through which to look out Christ’s compassion to the world.” I challenge you to look out with those holy eyes, and see the world as God made it.  Look at others with compassion. See their dignity as a person created in the image and likeness of God. I especially challenge you to start with your own dignity, worth, and value. Look at yourself in the mirror with God’s eyes. What do you see?