Easter 7th Sunday A - They are Mine - in Communion

Purpose: The Ascension of our Divine Savior marks the destiny for all human flesh; glory with the Father and the blessed in heaven. The greatest gift of the Christian faith is the supernatural end to which the anchor of hope secures joy amidst the difficulties and sufferings of this life. We learn in this Sunday’s readings that Christian life consists of walking toward Jerusalem with the Apostolic band and our Lady, so that we shall see the good things of the Lord in the land of the living. This Sunday’s readings teach us: 1. The necessity of praying with the Church; 2. Prayer as the key to suffering; 3. The unicity of Jesus Christ; and, the necessity of proclaiming His Lordship. 
As we look around us at a world falling into deeper and darker traps and snares, we can ask ourselves what Jesus has brought? Pope Benedict XVI asked this very question in the first volume of his trilogy, Jesus of Nazareth. His answer was stunning in its simplicity: God. Jesus has brought God. Perhaps this fails to convince us as modern western citizens enjoying the enthralling world of science, technology, and many other legitimate achievements of modernity. Even so, each of us—no matter the level of affluence achieved or comfort enjoyed—faces squarely the reality of our second reading: suffering. Suffering, trial and persecution are part and parcel of every human life, and they culminate in a darkness which seems absolute, the dark night of death.

What is St. Peter’s response to this perennial riddle? Rejoice! But wait, he says more: Rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ! What an incredible claim … what an unimaginable paradox. No one enjoys suffering, and it has lead all too many to despair and hopelessness. For the Christian, it is so. Jesus, very God robed in our flesh, has suffered the bitter passion of our sinfulness, the mocking of humanity, before the banner of hope. He truly suffered and died; this we profess with full faith every Sunday at the Eucharistic liturgy in the Creed. The miraculous happens though, the Miracle which stuns the world, and still stands as the only “new thing under the sun”(Ecclesiastes 1:9), and the only perduring revolution of human history: a man returns from the dead. Who cannot but cry out and say with St. Peter, “Lord it is good that we are here!” It is, indeed, good to be here, namely, to be a member of this risen flesh through faith and baptism as Christians. We are witnesses to this life and joy. But there is more.

This risen flesh breaks open the confines of space and time, ascending into heaven. As Pope Benedict so beautifully spoke in his 2008  homily for the Mass of the Ascension: there is space in God for humanity. The flesh we bear shall be ours in eternity, and we shall see God in the flesh. The glory of the Father, shining through the humanity and wounds of Christ, will be the light of that city, and we will all bask in its glow. We are no longer permitted to be pessimists amid the vicissitudes and trials of life and history because we share in the risen and ascended flesh of Jesus Christ! Only because of this great Divine condescension in the Incarnation, and human divination, and elevation in the Ascension of our Lord, can we rejoice in our sufferings. Only in this way can we learn “to suffer as a Christian.” (I Peter 4:16)

How should we journey as Christians, as believers in the works Jesus accomplished? (John 17:10) The first obligation of the Christian is to pray. Not just any prayer though, but to pray in one accord with the Apostles, and their successors—the Bishops, Mary, and the disciples. St. Jose Maria Escriva would lament to his spiritual sons that their prayer wasn’t more liturgical (The Way, 86). He was not speaking of “liturgical” in the sense of vestments, incense, candles, etc…(as important as these all are), but liturgical because he wanted them united quite concretely with the Bishop, his priests, deacons ,and all the lay faithful, in common prayer. It is here, in this appeal of Acts 1, that we find the true need for the Sunday Eucharist, which St. Paul reminds us some absented with great fault (Hebrews 10:25-27). It is this prayer with the successors of the Apostles, Mary, the saints, and the disciples of every age, that equips and strengthens us to suffer like Christians, and find sure hope in a future that can never be denied, or taken from us. It is here that we imitate Jesus in the Gospel who raises his eyes in prayer to the Father (John 17:1) and so receive the courage to proclaim the good news that God is one, and there is no other. He alone is true and anything that promises salvation, or truth, apart from Him, is from the evil one. We are sent forth from this prayer, and the purifying fire of suffering, to proclaim the works of him, Jesus, whom the Father has sent as the only Lord. The Church’s “missionary option,” as Pope Francis reminds us, comes from this encounter with the risen and ascended Christ, who anchors our hope in a love that fills even the darkest moments of suffering, and even death itself, with his light. Praying with the Church we are able to unlock the mystery of suffering and so find joy in the eternal life offered by the one true God, and Jesus Christ, whom he sent. 

2. From the Connections: 


Today’s reading from John’s Gospel is the climax of the Last Supper discourse: the “high priestly prayer” of Jesus.  As his “hour” of glory approaches, Jesus prays to the Father for the unity of present and future disciples, a union rooted in the love of the Father and the Son.

In the first part of his prayer, Jesus prays that his disciples will be worthy and effective witnesses of the Gospel he has entrusted to them.  When Jesus left this world, he had little reason to hope.  He seemed to have achieved so little and to have won so few.  And the Twelve -- soon to be the Eleven -- to whom he has entrusted his new Church are certainly not among the most capable of leaders nor the most dynamic of preachers.  Yet with so small a beginning, Jesus changed the world.  As Jesus returns to the Father, he leaves a portion of the Father's glory behind: the community of faith.


Jesus’ priestly prayer is a prayer not only for his followers at table with him then but also for us at this table: that we may be united and consecrated in the truth Jesus has revealed and that we may reveal to the world the love and care of the Father for all of the human family.

The Church as a community of prayer is at the heart of today’s readings -- prayer that is, first and foremost, an attitude of trust and acceptance of God's presence in the community, an attitude that is not occasional but constant and continuing, an attitude not limited to asking for something but of thanksgiving for what is and for what has been.  The prayer of Jesus at the Last Supper and the prayer of the company of disciples seek not God's acquiescence to their will but that God's will might be done effectively through them.

In baptism, the Gospel first preached by Jesus and then by the Eleven is passed on to us -- we became witnesses of the great Easter event and accepted responsibility for telling our children and people of our time and place the good news of the empty tomb.  Not in words alone but in our attitude of joy, our work for reconciliation among all, our commitment to what is right and just, our simplest acts of generosity and compassion, do we witness the Father's name and presence to the generations who follow us.


From Fr. Tony Kadavil

1: The great ones found their glory in their death: William Barclay says, “It was in their death that the great ones found their glory.” Abraham Lincoln had his enemies in his lifetime, but even those who had criticized him saw his greatness when he died. Joan of Arc was burned as a witch and a heretic by the English. But some people left the scene saying, “We are all lost because we have burned a saint.” The Church finally concurred, canonizing St. Joan of Arc on May 16, 1920. Martin Luther King, Jr. was ridiculed as a radical, a rabble-rouser, and a dangerous Communist in his lifetime, but is hailed today as a prophet. Maybe that’s what Jesus had in mind when he turned his eyes toward heaven and prayed, “Father, the time has come; glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you.” The one who endured the shame of the cross brought salvation to a broken world. It was in their death that the great ones found their glory.

2: Mother Teres’s Simple Path: A businessman and admirer of Mother Teresa of Calcutta offered to make a set of “business cards” for her work. Imprinted on the small yellow cards, are five lines which outline the direction of what Mother Teresa calls her simple path. The cards read: “The fruit of silence is PRAYER. The fruit of prayer is FAITH. The fruit of faith is LOVE. The fruit of love is SERVICE. The fruit of service is PEACE” (Mother Teresa, A Simple Path, Ballantine Books, New York: 1995). This simple path has led Mother Teresa to live her life in union with God and given in loving service to the poorest of the poor. While he was with them, Jesus marked a similar path for his disciples. A life of prayer, faith, love, service and peace was his legacy to them, and before he returned to the Father Who had sent him, Jesus prayed that his followers would persevere in the path Jesus himself had traveled. To aid believers in keeping to the path he had set for them, Jesus promised that he and the Father would come to dwell within them through the Spirit who would remain with them always (recall the gospel for Sixth Sunday of Easter, especially John 14:16-20). In a sense, Jesus was telling his disciples that each of them would become a dwelling place for God, a meeting place of prayer and peace, an Upper Room! (Sanchez Files).

3: “I look at God and God looks at me.” There is a familiar anecdote in the life of St. John Maria Vianney, the “Cure D’Ars.”  He used to notice a peasant standing in front of the tabernacle in the village church every morning on his way for farm work. One day he asked him, “What do you do here every morning?”  The man answered very simply: “I look at God and God looks at me.”  The Cure D’Ars liked to repeat this story: “He looked at God and God looked at him: this says everything about genuine prayer, my children!”  Today’s first reading gives us the model of a silent spiritual retreat as conducted by the apostles, and the Gospel gives us a model for prayer in Jesus’ own farewell prayer.

4: “Reggie, this is God. Go to Green Bay.” Here’s a good story for football fans. Many of you may know the name Reggie White. Reggie was a defensive end for the Green Bay Packers for 6 seasons (1993-1999). But he is also an ordained minister. Before signing a 17-million-dollar deal with the Packers, White had said that he would look to God to tell him where to play. Later, Green Bay Coach Mike Holmgren confessed that he had left a message on White’s answering machine that said, “Reggie, this is God. Go to Green Bay.” (Sports Illustrated) Today we want to focus for a few moments on prayer, but not just any prayer; we are focusing on a prayer from the lips of God Incarnate – Jesus’ “High Priestly prayer.”

5.      So Far, So Good. “So far today, God, I’ve done all right. I haven’t gossiped, haven’t lost my temper, haven’t been greedy, grumpy, nasty, selfish, or over-indulgent.  I’m really glad about that.  But in a few minutes, God, I’m going to get out of bed and from then on, I’m probably going to need a lot more help.  Thank you.  In Jesus’ Name.  Amen”

6.    Sit back and enjoy a fine game: Just before the football game started, both teams gathered together and prayed briefly.  A fan seated next to a rabbi asked what he thought would happen if both teams prayed with equal Faith and fervor. “In that event,” replied the rabbi, “I imagine the Lord would simply sit back and enjoy one fine game of football.”
3)  “No Sir, I’m not scared.” “Do you say your prayers at night, little boy?” inquired the pastor.  “Yes, Father,” answered the lad. “And do you always say them in the morning, too?” “No, sir,” responded the lad. “I’m not scared in the daytime.”

13-Additional anecdotes:

1) “Dear Lord, you know Charlie Stoltzfus.” Tony Campolo, professor emeritus of sociology at Eastern University and the founder and president of the Evangelical Association for the Promotion of Education (, tells an intriguing story about being in a worship service where a man prayed a very pointed prayer for a friend. “Dear Lord,” the man prayed, “you know Charlie Stoltzfus. He lives in that silver trailer down the road a mile. He’s leaving his wife and kids. Please do something to bring the family together.” Amazingly, as the man prayed, he repeated the location “the silver trailer down the road a mile.” After the prayer, Tony preached, and then left to drive home. On the turnpike he noticed a hitchhiker and decided to give him a lift. “My name’s Tony,” Campolo said, “What’s your name?” “Charlie Stoltzfus,” the hitchhiker said. Campolo was dumbfounded. It was the young man for whom the prayer had been offered. Campolo got off at the next exit. “Hey, where are you taking me?” asked the hitchhiker. “Home,” Campolo said. The hitchhiker stared in amazement as Tony drove right to the young fellow’s silver trailer. That afternoon that young man and his wife surrendered their lives to Christ. And today that hitchhiker is a preacher of the gospel. [“You Can Make a Difference.” Today’s Christian Woman. (Nov./Dec. 1988).] Today’s Gospel gives Jesus’ “High Priestly prayer for his disciples.

2) “Name it and claim it.” The preacher urged his television congregation to “But why should I tithe?” someone asked him. “To get,” the preacher replied. “We tithe in order to get. I want to get healed, I want to get well, I want to get money, I want to get prosperous.” This popular form of Christianity was recently written up in Time magazine. The “prosperity Gospel.” (Does God want you to be rich?,9171,1533448,00.html). That is what it is called. There are many who peddle its wares. You might have heard some of them on radio or television. “Name it and claim it.” That is what it is about. Just name what blessing you want in life. Then claim it. Claim that the Lord has given it to you. If you name it and claim it in true Faith, it will be yours. If you fail to get what you ask for, then your Faith is obviously weak. Anyone who wants to prosper in this world, and who claims that prosperity in true Faith, will prosper indeed. That is the message of the so-called “prosperity gospel.” The prosperity gospel illustrates the incredible ways in which the values of the world that we live in and the values held by some Christian people are virtually indistinguishable from each other. Here the world’s agenda has become the Church’s agenda. In today’s Gospel, Jesus prays for his disciples and for their right relationship to the world. In his prayer Jesus says that his followers are not of this world as he is not of this world. When Jesus says that we are not of this world, he means that we have been born from above or born anew. When Jesus Christ gives us his word, we experience a new birth. Christians are not of this world. Since we are not of this world, Jesus says, the world hates us. (See Jn 17:14.).

3) The Boy Scouts of America are locked in a court battle, testing whether or not a private organization can set standards based on its own values. The Boy Scouts are being sued because a homosexual person believes he should have the right to be a scoutmaster. But the Boy Scouts and the United Methodist Church regard homosexual conduct as immoral. Here is a perfect example of how our Christian value system stands against that of much of secular America. Some Americans believe that whether a politician cheats on his wife should have no bearing on his fitness for public office. They say, “As long as the stock market is up and inflation down, who cares what he does in his personal life? That might be okay — if God were not righteous and if America did not need God. Then any behavior would be acceptable. But America without the protection of God is just a latter-day version of Sodom. If a man or a woman cannot be trusted with private moral decisions how can he or she be trusted with moral decisions affecting all of society? Our challenge as Christians is the live secular society without selling out or bailing out.

4) “A fool would have swallowed that.” In one of his writings, Thomas Carlyle the famous Scottish satirist, essayisthistorian, teacher, and philosopher told of a country boy who went to a fancy dinner. In the midst of the meal, he got a piece of hot potato in his mouth. Much to the embarrassment of all those dignified ladies and gentlemen there at the table, he spit the piece of potato out and put it back on his plate. Then he looked around at the shocked faces of all those gentled people and said, “You know, a fool would have swallowed that.” The text from John’s Gospel chapter 17 is not too hot to handle because it is too expansive, too rich in meaning and offers too many profound truths to conquer in one sermon.

5) “Jesus, remember them when You come into Your Kingdom.” There is a book about a lawyer named Ned from Australia [Bruce Larsen, My Creator, My Friend (Dallas: Word Books 1986), pp. 142-143]. He had once visited Kenya and, while there, walked through one of the worst slums in the world to a hut where three brothers lived. When he entered the hut, he immediately found himself in the center of a dozen or so children leaping into the air with joy at his presence. There was a contagious spirit in that rundown little hut, and soon Ned was jumping up and down with them. Then the kids started a sing-along, and they had a wonderful time together. When it came time for Ned to leave, something happened that he says he will always remember. From the far side of the room he heard a quiet but clear voice. And what Ned heard was something like this: “We pray for the people of Australia, for Ned and his family.” The group of children suddenly became very quiet. Then they responded: “Jesus, remember them when You come into Your Kingdom.” Ned couldn’t believe it. In the middle of Africa, in the middle of the worst slum in the world, a group of slum kids, with reverence and earnestness, were holding up before God the people of Australia. The prayer hit him hard, and he thought to himself, “God, if Australia has any hope at all, it will be because of kids like this.” There is a great power in prayer and today’s Gospel passage is about Jesus’ prayer for his disciples.

6) Christian integrity: In 1966, at the 39th Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, DC, in the fourth round, Rosalie Elliott, then an eleven-year-old from South Carolina, drew the word “avowal.” In her soft, Southern accent, she spelled it. But did the seventh grader use an “a” or an “e” as the next to the last letter? The judges couldn’t decide. For several minutes they listened to tape recording playbacks, but the critical letter was accent—blurred. Chief Judge John Lloyd finally put the question to the only person who knew the answer. “Was the letter an “a” or was it an “e”?” he asked Rosalie. Surrounded by whispering young spellers, she knew by now the correct spelling of the word. But without hesitating, she replied that she had misspelled it. She walked from the stage. The entire audience stood and applauded, including fifty newspaper reporters, one of whom was heard to remark that Judge Lloyd had put quite a burden on an eleven-year-old. Rosalie rated a hand, and it must have been a heart-warming and proud moment for her parents. [Quoted by Don Shelby, “Who’s in Charge Here?” (September 16, 1984).] In today’s Gospel Jesus prays for such integrity in his disciples.

7) “I can’t remember the other.” One of the most memorable sections in Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ prize-winning novel, One Hundred Years of Solitude concerns a strange disease that invaded the old village of Macondo from somewhere in the surrounding swamp. It was a lethal disease of insomnia that attacked the whole town. The initial effect was the inability of people to sleep, although the villagers did not feel any bodily fatigue at all. A more critical effect than that slowly manifested itself: loss of memory. Gradually the victims realized they could no longer remember or recall the past. Soon they found that they could not remember the name, or the meaning of the simplest things used every day. You’ve heard of the fellow who said two things happen to you when you grow old: “one is the loss of memory, and I can’t remember the other.”— Christians are to be reminders, living reminders of Christ’s presence in the world. The world’s lethal disease is amnesia, the loss of memory. The Christian is God’s secret potion that cures this malady. Who was it who said, “The Church is always one generation away from oblivion”? So, the question: What is required that the world may believe? The first thing required that the world may believe is that we have Christians who are in the world but not of the world. “Christianity was never meant to withdraw a man from life; it was meant to equip him better for life.” (Barclay) “And now I will no longer be in the world, but they are in the world, while I am coming to you… I do not ask that you take them out of the world but that you keep them from the evil one. (John 17: 11, 15).

8) Help someone in distress: Back in the days of King Arthur, a young knight would be invited to the banquet feast set for the Knights of the Round Table. He would be wined and dined. But he would not receive his golden spurs of knighthood until he went forth on a quest to serve his King and to help someone in distress. In much the same way, we are gathered in the Christian community, and Jesus prays that his Father will protect us, for we, too, are sent forth, one in Faith and one in service.

9) “A Couple of VIPs” An advertisement campaign for the humane society in one city that pictured a dog and cat seated side by side on a beautiful couch. The caption over their heads read, “A Couple of VIPs – Very Important Pets.” And at the bottom, a second line read, “What makes them important is who owns them.” If you and I are VIPs, there is only one reason – Who owns us. We are children of God, followers of Christ, Jesus’ own brothers and sisters by adoption – and it is in his footsteps that we follow. We are one in Faith and one in service – all children of God and followers of Christ. From the readings this morning it is clear that there is a purpose for our lives. And that purpose is that we go forth in loving service, bringing the message of God’s love to light.

10) John Chapman, alias Johnny Appleseed: In the early 1800s, there was a New Englander by the name of John Chapman. One morning he appeared in Licking Spring, Ohio, and taking some seeds from a burlap bag slung across his shoulder, he began to plant them. When he was finished, he quietly left town and moved on to the next town, where he did the same. You see, Chapman had read that there were few fruit-bearing trees in the Midwest, and he decided to do something about that. So John Chapman, alias Johnny Appleseed, set out, and in giving of himself in service to others, he left a lasting legacy of himself for generations to come. God calls each of us to be a spiritual Johnny Appleseed, sowing the word of God’s love in the hearts and lives of those around us.

11) “If you mention God or Jesus, it’s taboo.” The great soul singer, Smokey Robinson, was a scheduled speaker for a two-day Youth Anti-Drug rally for the public schools of Sarasota, Florida. On the first day, he testified how God had rescued him from drug abuse. As a result, his speech for the second day was canceled. Smokey Robinson said, “The awful thing is that you can go into many public schools and talk about the Charles Manson murders, describe sexual promiscuity, and even pass out condoms, but if you mention God or Jesus, it’s taboo.” Something is out of kilter. Smokey discovered that we Christians are always caught in tension between the prevailing standards of our culture and the standards of Jesus Christ. We are called to live in that tension. We must neither cave in nor bailout. The more we are molded by Christ, the more tension we will have with the culture. The sparks ought to fly. Through that friction and tension, Jesus Christ can change our culture. That is why Jesus prayed for his disciples in his “High Priestly Prayer.” Note also St. Paul’s classic admonition as recorded in Romans 12:02, “Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.”

12) “Significant pause.”  In his book Feather on the Wind, Edward Hayes discusses   “waiting time” –- the pause or “waits” between the big incidents of our lives.  Life is not so much composed of grand moments as it is of small ones:  events that seem insignificant.   If we add up these small events, however, they amount to a considerable part of our lifetime.  Studies show, for example, that an average American spends about one year of his life simply searching for missing and lost belongings!  During an average lifetime, a person spends around three years sitting in meetings.  (If you’re in pastoral ministry, it may be closer to thirty years!)  Dan Spreling, in Study in Time’s A-Wasting, reports that we spend five years waiting in line and eight months opening junk mail.  Instead of becoming upset and angry, we can use this time spent in waiting to examine more closely the world around us. If we have to wait in traffic or for someone we are supposed to meet, we can use the time to converse with God in silent prayer. What a wonderful opportunity to add years of prayer to our life! Karl Barth, the theologian, once designated this time as a “significant pause.”  It is a pause between the actions of God, a pause in which all we can do is to wait and pray.  As we gather at the end of these Easter weeks, we too might pause and ask ourselves how we can use this time to serve Christ and his Church as the apostles did in the upper room.

13) A martyr’s majesty appears in death: Abraham Lincoln had his enemies during his lifetime, but even those who had criticized him saw his greatness when he died. Someone came out of the room where Lincoln lay, after the assassin’s shot had killed him, saying: “Now he belongs to the ages.” Stanton, his war minister, who had always regarded Lincoln as crude and uncouth and who had taken no pains to conceal his contempt, looked down at his dead body with tears in his eyes. “There lies,” he said, “the greatest ruler of men the world has ever seen.” Joan of Arc was burned as a witch and a heretic by the English. Amidst the crowd there was an Englishman who had sworn to add a faggot to the fire. “Would that my soul,” he said, “were where the soul of that woman is!” One of the secretaries of the King of England left the scene saying: “We are all lost because we have burned a saint.” (William Barclay)

In Act 5 scene 5 of Shakespeare's Macbeth, the character Macbeth has heard that the queen is dead and he knows his own death is imminent. At this time he delivers his famous soliloquy: 

Tomorrow, and tomorrow and tomorrow
creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, Out, brief candle
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
and then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot. Full of sound and fury signifying nothing. 

Is Macbeth right? Is life nothing but a shadow having no substance, no meaning? Writers and philosophers since recorded time have tried to answer the question. I don't think any of them have been successful in answering the question to everyone's satisfaction. Someone once said that "Trying to speak about the ultimate reality is like sending a kiss through a messenger." I understand their point: Something of its truth is lost in the translation. 

What is the meaning of life? A philosophical question to be sure but this is not only the philosopher's question. It is a genuinely human question and therefore a question that we all ask. It might be a question that is asked in despair or hope, out of cynicism, or out of sincere curiosity and a deep desire to have goals and guidance in life. However we raise the question about the meaning of life, it is our most basic and fundamental question. 

And so it comes as no surprise that Jesus deals with this question and answers it... 
 In elementary school we all learned the ditty: "In fourteen hundred and ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue." Convinced by Christopher Columbus that a new, faster route to the rich spice regions of India could be found by sailing east instead of south, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain financed an exploratory mission for this new route. Instead of India, Columbus found the New World - the lands that lay across the Atlantic ocean from Europe.  

In the long run it was a very good deal for Ferdinand and Isabella. But while Columbus was floundering about in the sea, the royalty of Spain had some other big-idea irons in the fire. Ferdinand petitioned the Pope and was granted permission to start a serious investigation into the religious orthodoxy of those under his rule. This ecclesial exercise became known as the "Spanish Inquisition." It seems 1492 is a year when both new, exciting frontiers and possibilities were discovered. Yet it is also a year when old prejudices, animosities, and cruelties were reborn with a vengeance. 

Although there were all sorts of free thinkers and some genuine wild-eyed crazies who got caught up in the Inquisitor's net, the primary focus was on the resident Jews and Muslims residing in Spain. Both Jews and Muslims were rounded up and subjected to questions and the questionable tactics (yes torture) of the "Inquisition." In the spring of 1492, shortly after Muslims were driven out of Granada, Ferdinand and Isabella expelled all the Jews from Spain. Both groups were basically given a "thumbs up or thumbs down" choice: Convert, leave or die.  

The Jews who "converted" were dubbed "conversos" and were subject to suspicion and scrutiny for centuries. The Muslims who "converted" were dubbed "Moriscus," and they too were held at arms' length within the Christian community for centuries. Not surprisingly both conversos and Moriscus' had secret underground networks to keep them connected to their heritage and faith, no matter what they had to show to the political powers that might be.  

But that is a history lesson. That was long ago and far away. Those wrong-headed, wrong-hearted actions are in a past that we as Christians today acknowledge as horrific actions and terrible attitudes. We acknowledge our failures and foibles. We repent and say our confessions.  

The problem is history happens every day. The problem is that history doesn't repeat itself, but it does recur. Nothing repeats, but everything recurs... 
 Keepers of the Aquarium

Paul Harvey, the well-known radio broadcaster, once said, "Too many Christians are no longer fishers of men but keepers of the aquarium."

I take that to mean that we Christians are more concerned about preserving the Church than we are about touching the lives of other people, more concerned about preserving our "religion" than we are about helping people discover the source of wholeness, the fountain of living water that wells up to eternal life.

Richard J. Fairchild, The Last Words of Jesus
Humor: Giving While We Are Alive

I'm sure you've heard the old story of the conversation between a pig and a cow. The pig is complaining to the cow that nobody ever has a kind word for him. "Look at the way I give of myself," he says. "I produce bacon, ham, and pork chops. The bristles of my skin are used for brushes, my hide for luggage. Why, some people even pickle my feet and consider them a delicacy. Why is it then that everyone speaks more kindly of you, the cow, than of me?" To which the cow replied, "My friend, perhaps it is that I give of myself while I am still alive."

Lee Griess, Return to The Lord, Your God, CSS Publishing Company
Losing Sight of Life's Goals 

In Steven Covey's best seller "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People," talks about how we can lose sight of our main goals in life. In no other place are the consequences more destructive than in our families: Covey writes: 

"I value my children. I love them, I want to help them.  I value my role as their father. But I don't always see those values. I get caught up in the "thick of thin things."  What matters most gets buried under layers of pressing problems, immediate concerns, and outward behaviors. I become reactive.  And the way I interact with my children every day often bears little resemblance to the way I deeply feel about them." 

For us truly be known by our children would be wonderful. I suspect that this is so much more difficult for men than women. And yet here in Jesus' prayer it is his first thought, that we might know the Father and the Son. This, he says, is salvation. You want to know what being saved means, what the meaning of life is? It is written here in Jesus prayer: If you will come to know God, the only true God, and the Son whom he has sent, you will be saved. 

You might say this is difficult for me to do--to know God. Yes it is. It is difficult for you to do. But it is not difficult for God to make himself known to you. 

Brett Blair, 
 A Weapon Terrible to Behold 

In one of my favorite Peanuts cartoons, Lucy comes into the living room to find Linus in control of the TV. She demands he change the channel. "What makes you think you can walk right in here and take over?" asks Linus.

"These five fingers," says Lucy. "Individually they're nothing but when I curl them together like this into a single unit, they form a weapon that is terrible to behold."

 "Which channel do you want?" asks Linus. 

Turning away, he looks at his fingers and says, "Why can't you guys get organized like that?" 

Brett Blair,
 Prayer for Work 

Peter Marshall once began a Senate session with this prayer, "O Lord, forgive us for thinking that prayer is a waste of time, and help us to see that without prayer our work is a waste of time." 

Robert J. Bryan, All Constantly Devoted to Prayer. 
 To clasp the hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world. 

Karl Barth 
 Shoving It All Back 

The moment you wake up each morning, all your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists in shoving it all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other, larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in. 

C.S. Lewis
 Keep Climbing

A Canadian by the name of Ashleigh Brilliant draws cartoons to go with pithy sayings called "Pot Shots." There is one I really like. Two people with walking sticks in hand are climbing a mountain in knee-deep snow. The caption reads: "Keep Climbing Upwards! You may never reach the top, but it's definitely in that direction."

We have to continue to work toward unity and understanding - between each other, between the races, between cultures and between denominations. We may never reach it, but by working toward it, at least we'll be going in the right direction.

Billy D. Strayhorn, So That We May Be One In Christ 
 Individual Skills 

We still have to live in the world and each of our individual skills can be used to enhance the kingdom. Some are more visible than others. Some are very subtle. For example; Idlers of a seacoast town watched the village smith day after day as he painstakingly wrought every link of a great chain he was forging. Behind his back they scoffed at such care being taken on such an ordinary thing as a chain. But the old craftsman worked on, ignoring them as if he had not heard them at all. 

Eventually the chain was attached to a great anchor on the deck of an ocean vessel. For months it was never put to use. But one day the vessel was disabled by a breakdown in its steering apparatus while nearing the coast in a storm. Only a secure anchorage cold prevent the vessel from being driven onto the rocky coast. Thus the fate of the ship and hundreds of passengers depended on the strength of that chain. No one knew of the care and skill that had been lavished on each link of that chain by an obscure smith who was only doing his best. The chain held, both the ship and its passengers and crew were saved. The blacksmith had saved the day. 

Keith Wagner, In a Different World 
 Grabbing up the Truths

Forty-three years ago, I read something by Sherwood Anderson in an upper-level literature class at Albion College. Which took me a while to find, given that I wanted to see if it was as I remembered it. But I did. And it was.

Anderson shared a legend, suggesting that in the beginning there was a valley filled with truths. And the truths were all beautiful. There were truths about every subject under the sun. There were truths about virginity and truths about passion....truths about wealth and truths about poverty....truths about thrift and truths about profligacy....truths about carefulness and truths about abandon. There were hundreds and hundreds of truths, all of them beautiful.

And then the people came along, pouring into the valley. Each snatched up one of the truths. And the strong...