Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The experts in the law and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat. Therefore pay attention to what they tell you and do it. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they teach. They tie up heavy loads, hard to carry, and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing even to lift a finger to move them.
— Matt 23: 1-4
The fierce words of Jesus addressed to the Pharisees of His day stretch across the bands of time. Today they are directed not only to fallen televangelists but to each of us. We miss Jesus’ point entirely when we use His words as weapons against others. They are to be taken personally by each of us. This is the form and shape of Christian Pharisaism in our time. Hypocrisy is not the prerogative of people in high places. The most impoverished among us is capable of it. Hypocrisy is the natural expression of what is meanest in us all. Continue reading “Desert Day 44: Like The Pharisee …”
In the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32), there are two sons: the younger son, who runs away from home to an alien country, and the older son, who stays home to do his duty. The younger son dissipates himself with alcohol and sex; the older son alienates himself by working hard and dutifully fulfilling all his obligations. Both are lost. Their father grieves over both, because with neither of them does he experience the intimacy he desires.
Both lust and cold obedience can prevent us from being true children of God. Whether we are like the younger son or the older son, we have to come home to the place where we can rest in the embrace of God’s unconditional love. Continue reading “Desert Day 43: On Coming Home …”
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
— Matthew 19:14
Vulnerability is something we instinctively reject because we are taught from kindergarten on that we must protect ourselves, control our behavior and our lives. But in becoming man for us, Christ made himself totally vulnerable for us in Jesus of Nazareth, and it is not possible to be Christian while refusing to be vulnerable. Continue reading “Desert Day 42: Children Of God …”
Something stirred from deep within. I felt it knocking, begging to be acknowledged and released. I could not put a name to it, but something felt awakened after a long period of dormancy. In truth, this gnawing sensation had been building for more than a year, but on the levee that day, I grappled with this powerful presence at work in me. I had no words for the hunger that was asking me for more. All I could do was attempt to be still and acknowledge its existence. Continue reading “Desert Day 41: Be Still, My Restless Soul …”
I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve.
— Albert Schweitzer from Returning: A Spiritual Journey
Even the best of human love is filled with self-seeking. To work to increase our love for God and for our fellow man (and the two must go hand in hand) – this is a lifetime job. We are never going to be finished. Love and ever more love is the only solution to every problem that comes up. Continue reading “Desert Day 39: Love and Even More Love …”
Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
— Acts 1:6-8
Standing in my evening vestibule
wrapped in fading light
I push Chronos out the door firmly,
Your time is up, I say
as I usher in my dear friend Kairos,
pulling her into a welcome embrace.
Goodbye clock time,
Hello grace time,
Set-my-heart-free time is
past due today. Continue reading “Desert Day 38: For Some Things There Are No Wrong Seasons …”
How does the Spirit of God manifest itself through us? Often we think that to witness means to speak up in defense of God. This idea can make us very self-conscious. We wonder where and how we can make God the topic of our conversations and how to convince our families, friends, neighbors, and colleagues of God’s presence in their lives. But this explicit missionary endeavor often comes from an insecure heart and, therefore, easily creates divisions. Continue reading “Desert Day 37: The Fruit of the Spirit …”
Abba Xanthias said, “A dog is better than I am because a dog also has love but, unlike I myself, the dog does not pass judgment.”
Abba Sarmatas said: “I prefer a person who has sinned if he knows that he sinned and has repented, over a person who has not sinned and considers himself to be righteous.”
Humility and contemplation are the invisible twins of the spiritual life. One without the other is impossible. In the first place, there is no such thing as a contemplative life without the humility that takes us beyond the myth of our own grandeur to the cosmic grandeur of God. In the second, once we really know the grandeur of God we get the rest of life – ourselves included – in perspective. Reaching the moon told us how really insignificant we were in the universe. We begin to rethink all our dearly held notions of human consequence. Humility leads directly to contemplation. Continue reading “Desert Day 35: Humility And Contemplation …”