Thursday Thoughts

At Long Last
I finally got my rear end in gear yesterday and I started gathering together the things I’m going to be taking back to Denver. Mostly I went through my office area where I keep all of my files, crocheted goods, and other miscellaneous items. When I pack in my mind it always feels like it is going to be more things; when I pack in real life, I’m always surprised at how little we transport…..

I think Bill and I have both done a good job of figuring out what things we need to have here AND in Denver so that we aren’t hauling big items back and forth. This weekend I will begin packing our clothes. That is the one thing that we do take back with us since it will be summer soon. Yes Colorado friends and family: I promise, it really will be summer soon.

Last Bites
I mentioned that there are restaurants here in AZ that we particularly enjoy, so this week we are trying to have our so-called “last suppers” at these restaurants. Sometimes it’s not supper, but lunch. Day before yesterday, we had lunch at Fuddruckers, where I enjoyed the heck out of my hamburger. Yesterday, I had lunch with my sister Bec at our favorite pho restaurant near her house while Bill ate lunch at one of his favorite pizza restaurants near our house. Today we are having lunch with friends at a restaurant called Red White and Brew, where my niece Maggie serves food. The good news is we go home to good restaurants and food in Denver.

An Afternoon with Paul
Tuesday, Bill was busy doing legal work, and I was still looking at ways to avoid packing. I decided to go to the movies since there was a movie I have wanted to see in which Bill had little interest. Paul, Apostle of Christ, was making its final appearances at our nearby theater, and there was an afternoon showing. I thought I would be alone in the theater, but surprisingly, there were quite a few folks. People my age, of course. When I got my ticket, the young girl who took my money volunteered, “You’re going to like this movie. The story stays true to the Bible.” She also announced that St. Luke was being played by James Caviezel, who played Jesus in Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. “He must like playing those kinds of roles,” she said, as the people behind me were tapping their feet, wishing that I would wrap up my ticket buying. I enjoyed the movie a great deal, despite the fact that the woman sitting next to me made me feel a bit like I was at a Baptist church service. Whenever St. Paul would say something meaningful, she would respond with an amen, or uh huh! Out loud. I was left with two thoughts: 1) The early followers of Jesus – and I’m not talking about the 12 apostles, but those in the first couple of hundred years – were fervent believers in Christ and such brave souls. They encountered so much persecution and martyrdom. People who now doubt their faith in Jesus today might consider these original followers’ faith and sacrifice as a sign of the truth of their beliefs. Just a thought. 2) The Acts of the Apostles has to be one of the most exciting and interesting books of all time. Catholics hear excerpts from Acts during the weeks following Easter, but I am going to re-read the entire Acts. St. Paul can get on my last nerve, but man, he was a strong believer.

Continuous Loop
I mentioned the other day that Luke Bryan’s Most People Are Good tends to run through my mind during the night in that way that songs do. Last night, Luke Bryan was nowhere to be seen. Instead, I sang When Someone Stops Loving You, by Little Big Town, throughout the night. Oy vey. Country singers: Just let me get some sleep!

Ciao.

Pulling Weeds

Yesterday morning as we were waiting for the start of Mass, I overheard a woman behind us stage whisper to her husband, “The parable in today’s gospel is the one about the bad seed and the good seed and Jesus saying to let them grow together until harvest.” Her husband responded that he liked that parable. One of their two sons – a boy of about 6 or 7 – said, “Does that mean we don’t have to mow our grass anymore?”

If only. But God doesn’t tell us what to take from the gospels, so that’s as good an idea as any, I guess. I’m certainly using that philosophy in my vegetable garden this year…..

My green beans and my Swiss chard struggle to survive amidst the weeds.

Unlike the woman sitting behind me, I find myself squirming a bit when I listen to Matthew’s gospel, and not just because of the weeds in my vegetable bed that make me feel like a bad gardener. But the whole notion that the good plants and the bad plants grow right next to each other is not something I like to think about, mostly because I’m not sure which one I am. In the parable, the farmer tells his workers to let them grow together and then at harvest time they will separate the two plants – the good plants will go into the barn, and the weeds will be bundled up and sent to be burned. Yikes. Could you get more vivid than that, Lord?

Our Mass celebrant was a visiting priest – a man who had emigrated Nigeria with his family to live in the United States when he just a small boy. He earned a bachelor’s degree in physics but was kind of lost and uncertain about what he wanted to do with his life after college. His father told him to get into the IT field because that’s where the money was. His uncle told him to get his MBA because then he could earn the big bucks. His buddies told him to play soccer because it was fun and he could see the world. But he still couldn’t make up his mind. So, he resorted to Plan B, which was to ask God what he was supposed to do with his life. God’s answer was to become a priest.

“Well, that certainly wasn’t the answer I was looking for,” the priest told us. “How about another suggestion, God?” But apparently God was firm on that particular idea. And so he became a priest.

The point of his story was that turning your life over to God can be risky.  Sometimes the things God wants you to do aren’t necessarily easy or what you were hoping for. Often it is easier to listen to all of the other voices that are crowding out God’s voice, sort of like the noise you used to hear when you were trying to find a good radio station by actually moving a dial. Remember those days? Lots of crackling with an occasional clear song. But the song might be a polka when you are hoping for Carrie Underwood.

But amidst the noise of everyday life, we have to be careful to make sure we are listening to the voice of God. Because unfortunately, the other voices might be a lot easier to understand and considerably more fun. Just like the weeds seem to grow easier than the tomatoes and the green beans that they are trying to overtake.

I struggle every Sunday to figure out how the readings relate to one another. Mostly, I’m unsuccessful. And trying to understand St. Paul’s letters is – at least for me – nearly impossible. Still, his letter to the Romans that was read yesterday surprisingly gave me some comfort as I considered how difficult it can be to hear God’s voice.  The Spirit comes to the aide of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes with inexpressionable groanings.

Now I don’t know what St. Paul meant by inexpressionable groanings. I don’t know if inexpressionable  is even a real word. You know Paul. He would say anything to get the attention of his listeners and readers. But it sounds like sort of the noise I was making when I gave birth to Court, when I gave birth to a new life. And it gives me hope and confidence if the Holy Spirit is interceding with strength and vigor in an effort to help me hear the word of God, and so, be given a new life. It’s nice to think I have the Spirit on my side.

However, I wish the Holy Spirit pulled weeds with or without inexpressionable groanings.

This post linked to the GRAND Social

Agape

Jen called me early Sunday morning, and she was very excited.

“I know you’re getting ready for church, but I just wanted to tell you that you are going to LOVE today’s readings,” she said. She knows me well.

I really did love all three of the readings.

First of all, the weeks following Easter Sunday, I enjoy the stories from the Acts of the Apostles. In fact, I like the stories so much that it makes me wonder why I don’t simply READ the Acts of the Apostles several times a year. It is my most sincere hope that I don’t get struck down by lightening generated by St. Paul, but I mostly enjoy reading about the time before Paul’s conversion. I love reading about the apostles’ enthusiasm right out of the box and St. Peter’s rather bungling ways. But in Sunday’s first reading, Peter is not bungling. He thumbs his nose at the Sanhedrin  when they tell the apostles that they must – they simply MUST – stop preaching about Jesus as they had been instructed. Peter tells them, “We must obey God rather than men.”

No bungling. As clear as a summer morning in the Rocky Mountains.

The second reading was from Revelation, but instead of being confusing, as I find most of the Book of Revelation, the message is clear: Worthy is the Lamb that was slain. And perhaps I like this reading because as the lector reads the words, I hear Handel’s version of Worthy is the Lamb that was slain being sung in my head. Next to the Hallelujah Chorus, that is my favorite Chorus in Handel’s Messiah.

But actually, what grabbed Jen’s attention and to what she wanted me to pay attention was the St. John’s Gospel. It was actually kind of a two part gospel. The first part tells the story of a handful of the apostles going out fishing and having a terrible day. They caught nothing. Suddenly, a man on the shore suggests they cast the net again, which they do. This time, the net is so full of fish that it begins to break. All of a sudden, they realize the stranger was actually Jesus. (Well, actually, in John’s gospel, here’s how he puts it: So they cast it, and were not able to pull it in because of the number of fish. SO THE DISCIPLE WHOM JESUS LOVED said to Peter, “It is the Lord.”

John refers to himself as the disciple whom Jesus loved several times thoughout his gospel, and it always makes me laugh. Biblical scholars probably have theories about this; I, on the other hand, always want to slap him aside the head and tell him to have some humility. It’s the mom in me.

The second part of the gospel tells us that Jesus takes Peter aside (ahem, leaving THE DISCIPLE WHOM JESUS LOVED behind; just sayin’) and asks him three times, “Simon Peter, do you love me?” Three times Peter says yes, getting a bit crabbier each time. I always found it understandable that Peter got annoyed. At first glance, Jesus sounds needy.

Here’s where Jen’s phone call came in. The homilist at her Mass explained why he believes Jesus asked three times. In the Greek language, there are three words for “love.” One refers to intimate love such as that between spouses. The second refers to the love one has for a friend. That word is phileo. The third refers to a deep and profound love, such as the love God has for us. That word is agape. In the Greek interpretation of this gospel, Jesus uses the word agape. When Peter responds to Jesus’ question, he uses the word phileo. Jen’s homilist suggests that Jesus wanted Peter to promise that he loves Jesus with agape love. It is only when Peter feels agape love that he can truly follow Christ.

I think that Jesus asks me every day of my life, Kristine Rae, do you love me? I’m pretty sure my answer is pretty much what Peter said. Of course I love you. But is it phileo or agape?