Monday, June 18, 2018

Being Great Givers

Matthew 5:42 (NABRE): Great Givers
Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.
When I was leaving South Korea in 1993 to return to the US, I remember exchanging cash for American Express Travelers Cheques. That company used to have an advertising slogan: “Don’t leave home without them.” Well, I thought it wise to take their word. So I bought $200 worth of cheques and kept no cash. When I arrived at a remote airport outside of Seoul, I had to purchase a one-way airline ticket to Japan. No problem, I thought. However, the teller took only Korean won or American dollars. I had those cheques and nothing else. Three people behind me, a man stepped forward and paid my ticket in exchange for $125 in travelers cheques. The man was an angel of God in my eyes. Little did I know, however, that in turning over the cheques to the man, I forgot to sign them. They were useless to him without my signature. After I arrived home, I received the cheques in the mail with a letter asking for me to sign and return them, which I did in haste. That man’s generosity remains an example of self giving that I will never forget.
In this verse from the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus teaches us about giving. And giving isn’t limited to just handing over our money; it is about handing over a piece of ourselves. We are called upon daily to look around us and step up in line for the needy person who is sometimes too shocked or confused to ask. Figuratively, this may be a friend in need of a listening ear. Maybe we are called to serve others by giving up our free time so they can have a minute to breathe. Our moment of giving may not equal $125 of our cash, but our small act of love might mean the world to the person who needs it.
Let us keep our eyes open for the moments where we are called to self give, to serve, to offer up our love for the sake of someone else. And as we “give to those who ask” and turn toward those in need, we will notice an infection of love in the wake of our example.
Loving God, we pray for the grace to be great givers. Let the example of your Son shine in our hearts as we offer ourselves to those around us in need. We pray in Jesus Christ’s name. Amen.
Have a blessed week!

Stan

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Family Ties

Mark 3:32-35 (NRSV): Family Ties
A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”
We are heirs to the kingdom of God. How can this be? Is it due to the traditions we follow, our service in the church, the Christian organizations that we support, or our participation and attendance at church services? Jesus clearly explains that it is neither. There is no club, organization, creed, volunteerism, or oath we can take to make us heirs to God’s kingdom, to bind us as brothers and sisters in Christ. Our familial bond with Jesus is simple in definition but costly in commitment: We must follow Jesus’ way, truth, and life of love.
To be part of the family of Christ is to commit ourselves to God’s will. And God’s will is expressed in Christ’s two great commandments -- to love God above all things and our neighbor as ourselves. Ah, there’s the rub: Loving our neighbors as ourselves is a challenge that will cost us our lives.  Let’s contemplate a few examples to see living Christian charity.
In 2006, after a horrific school shooting in Nickel Mines, PA, members of the Old Order Amish community -- the same that lost their 5 children and grandchildren in the shooting -- reached out in forgiveness and support to the shooter’s mother. The Amish bishop told his congregation, “We must think evil of this man.” Through grace and commitment to faith, the Amish community forgave the killer and expressed love and sympathy to his family.
One night in 1993, Oshea Israel, a teenager in Minneapolis, Minnesota, got into a fight, which ended when he shot and killed Laramiun Byrd. Laramiun was the only child of Mary Johnson. Fighting the hate and resentment in her heart, Mary eventually went to the penitentiary to visit the man who murdered her son. And through her faith and God’s grace, she forgave Oshea. Years later they not only became friends, but Johnson and Oshea became family. Johnson describes Oshea as her now “spiritual son,” even walking him down the aisle at his wedding.
Consider the smaller moments in our lives where people have wronged us. How has our resentment become an obstacle to love and forgiveness? Everything in Jesus’ life example is shown in his love and forgiveness of all -- this example is his way, truth, and life. And in this week’s gospel, Jesus points us to his way of love. It is a way, moreover, that bonds us to Jesus as his brothers and sisters, as heirs to the kingdom of God.
Heavenly Father, we pray for the grace to forgive those who trespass us as you forgive us our trespasses. In Jesus Christ we pray, amen.
Have a blessed week!

Stan