Tuesday, December 24, 2013
Exodus 36-38; Psalm 53-54; Matthew 27:1-26: Choosing St. Peter's Path
In November 2013, I started a Catholic Bible in a year reading program created by the Coming Home Network. As I am now on day 52, this reading plan has been incredibly fruitful for me. In my daily reading, I am using the The Catholic Prayer Bible (NRSV) by Paulist Press. The insights and reflective notes are very real-world and applicable to daily life, as expected by the great Paulist fathers. These notes inspire some of my reflections. The Holy Spirit, however, is the true guide to my thoughts and prayers in all Scripture readings. It is my aim to reflect every day in prayer and some days in writing. Enjoy.
The outpouring of time, talent, and treasure is too much. Moses puts a limit on what is donated and asks people to stop giving, for “the people were restrained from bringing” (7). This is a far cry to what we see today in our parishes. Although most people have the love of God in their hearts, they are reluctant to give their time, talent, and treasure. Most parish ministries and community outreaches are in need. Although many people listen to the call of the Holy Spirit, some choose the noise of the world and are reluctant to take a chance and give. I donate minimal time, talent, and treasure, but it sometimes is a struggle of will: Am I worthy to be part of this ministry, are my talents just a bogus sense of pride, and am I being selfish in my giving? I cannot imagine there ever being a situation when a pastor tells his flock to cease giving. It is often too easy to just write a check. Let this be our call to giving more of our hearts to God and our neighbor.
Psalm 54:4, 7
All of the struggles and near-tragic ends in my life have concluded in lessons-based survival, but not on my account. God was (and continually is) always there picking my nearly-expired self off of the floor of sin. As the psalmist writes, “God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life. . . for he has delivered me from every trouble”(4,7). It is difficult to count the endless poor choices I made during the “loose-cannon” days of my teenage years, the near misses, the brushes with the enemy, the moments of delusion, and the pride-filled times of trial. Blinded by my own anesthetized sense of denial, God was there protecting, teaching, and guiding me to truth. Part of my on-going conversion is the essence of God’s continual presence and salvific vindication, for I fall daily, but through His grace and love, I rise with Christ.
The contrast between Peter and Judas Iscariot is stark. In the previous chapter Peter “wept bitterly” 26:75. But in chapter 27, Judas “repented” but “hanged himself” in despair (27:3-5). We are reminded of the Sacrament of Reconciliation in this scene. Christ offers us the gift of His grace in the confessional, but many of us are too embarrassed by our sins and ignore the sacrament. I struggle with this every month, but only through God’s grace am I able to hurdle my own pride and ask for His loving forgiveness. Part of humility is humiliation, and confession is the key to peace. Peter later repents by offering his love three times to our Lord (John 21:15-19) and is vindicated by Jesus’ loving forgiveness. God loves us unconditionally; we must choose the path of Peter.
Pilate “wash[es] his hands before the crowd” (27:24) as a sign of purification and innocence. How many times do we wash our hands of the difficult decisions in life. It is easy to say “my vote doesn't count” or “we live in a flawed world” and chalk up an unethical, immoral choice to relativism. The message here points to the question Pilate asks Jesus in John 18:38, “What is truth?” Truth is listening to and acting on our well-formed conscience and standing up for what is right in the context of lies, even when everyone looks at you as if you, too, are wearing a crown of thorns.