Pondering the Word…
What matters to God?
Have you ever considering asking God what that means in your life? And how does
what you think matters to God align with what matters to you? Take a few minutes
right now to consider these questions.
I like to imagine that, at least theoretically, what’s important to God is
important to me too. But I’m not sure my day-to-day existence really bears that
out. I know I don’t stop to consider this reality enough during the course of my
It’s easy to allow generalizations about God and what Scripture tells us matters
to God—mercy, compassion, justice, care of those in need—to distract us from
looking at our own lives and the specific instances when what we do is not in
line with what we claim to believe. We all get caught up in the “vanities” of
The Hebrew translation I use says this: “Merest breath, merest breath. All is
mere breath.” This is borne out in today’s psalm and gospel reading. We all
die and we will take nothing with us. Sure, it would be wonderful to leave
behind a legacy, especially one dedicated to preserving the earth and helping
our fellow human beings, but in the end, we will be as naked as we were the day
we were born.
Death is our unspoken constant companion, and the companion to every person we
encounter each day. This knowledge need not be morbid or fatalistic, but instead
provides a healthy perspective to gain wisdom of heart and shine a light on the
quality of our days. We often hear the question, “If you knew today was your
last day on earth, how would you want to live?” But perhaps if we change the
focus-- “If you knew the person in front of you was to die today, how would you
want to treat them?—we might just do a better job of truly living in the way
that matters most to God.
Living the Word….
I encourage you to put aside any discomfort you might feel about these readings
and the subject of death, and instead use them as a great source of hope and as
inspiration to change those aspects of your life that might conflict with what
you feel God is asking of you. What role do material goods, power, recognition,
fame, and the like play in your life? Talk to God about whether these things
matter. Take a cue from Moses in the readings this week and have an honest,
frank conversation with God about how you feel and the frustrations you deal
with in trying to live up to God’s commands. Ask for help to live today in a way
“Why are you so displeased with me that you burden me with this people? Was
it I who conceived all this people …that you tell me to carry them at my
bosom?…If this is the way you will deal with me, please do me the favor of
killing me at once, so that I need no longer face this distress.”(Nm
Moses has had it. This is the same Moses who has pleaded with God not to destroy
the Israelites. Now he asks God to take his life so he doesn’t have to deal with
them anymore. It reminds me of a quote attributed to St. Teresa of Avila in a
conversation with God: “If this is how you treat your friends, it’s no wonder
you have so few!” Sooner or later, most of us reach a breaking point--too
much responsibility, too much sorrow, too many people to be fed. Are we willing
to be as bold as Moses or Teresa? It can be scary to express our frustration
with God, and yet, in doing so, our faith in God’s presence and power comes
through loud and clear. In fact, it just may be that God is waiting for us to
open up to him. Pray with this passage if you are struggling with God.
is my chosen Son; listen to him.”
(Lk 9: 28-36)
God’s direction is clear. We are to listen. Not just hearing Jesus’ words. Not
just mimicking his actions. Listening. Pondering. Learning at a soul-level what
it means to be a true son or daughter of God. We cannot have Jesus as our model
unless we understand his words and what they mean in our lives. The next time
you read or hear the words of Jesus, imagine being there with him. Are you
listening? What is he saying to you?
The men…spread discouraging reports among the children of Israel: "The land is a
country that consumes its inhabitants. All the people are huge, veritable
13:1-2, 25-14:1, 26-29, 34-35)
Uh oh. It sounds like these guys who’ve been scouting the Promised Land are
prone to exaggeration. They seem to be spreading “fake news” as a way to
discourage the Israelites. Can you imagine?! Why do we always get caught up in
the negatives? I fall into this trap over and over. I can forget that if I am
faithful to God’s commands, I have nothing to fear. My hope is in God’s promise
fulfilled in Jesus. I need to remind myself to stay grounded in that hope,
especially in light of the naysayers and purveyors of lies that dominate the
airwaves today. Each morning, let’s say a prayer for the strength to see the
light of hope amid the darkness.
But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, "Because you were not faithful to me in
showing forth my sanctity before the children of Israel, you shall not lead this
community into the land I will give them."
Poor Moses. God is so tough on him. The sin Moses and Aaron commit is that they
doubt God’s willingness to continue to show mercy on the rebellious Israelites.
God has, several times, threatened to wipe out the people, so I understand why
Moses and Aaron think God has had enough—they surely have. Some commentators say
it appears Moses is taking credit for calling forth water from the rock. But of
course, Moses’ staff was used throughout Exodus as a way of calling forth God’s
power. Stories like this can foster an image of a fickle and judgmental God, but
really the messages are these: All that we are and all that we do in God’s name
is for God’s greater glory, not for our own; and more importantly, there are no
limits on God’s mercy. It is beyond our abilities and understanding. Never doubt
God’s willingness to forgive.
What profit is there to gain the world and forfeit life? What can one give
in exchange for life? Top of Form(Mt 16:
sure the thing you’re living for is worth dying for.” (Charles Mayes) What
do you live for? Is it worth your life? This is material for deep prayer, but is
a topic we tend to avoid. We go along in our day-to-day lives but fail, as the
psalmist tells us on Sunday “to number our days aright.” (Ps 90) This is why the
daily examen is so important: “Thank you God, for this day! Did I live true to
my convictions and priorities in light of your call? Where was I able to spread
your love and mercy? Where might I, with your grace, improve tomorrow?
“Whoever sows sparingly reaps sparingly, and whoever sows
bountifully will reap bountifully.”
(2Cor 9: 6-10)
This verse reminds me of some wisdom from the Dalai Lama: “If you want others
to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”
Compassion is a seed that returns to us many times over. But is must be good
seed we sow—genuine, true seed. If we sow mercy and compassion just so we can
reap the benefits; or, if our sowing is done just for show, our harvest will be
disappointing. In fact, the seeds that yield the greatest harvest are often the
ones we sow without even realizing it or having any expectation of return. Take
a look at the garden of your heart. If your harvest is lacking, perhaps it’s
time to take a look at the quality of the seeds you are sowing.