Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time: Matthew 5:13-16

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“Don’t turn your back on your own” Finger Painting: Ronald Raab, CSC 2016

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Dear Believers in Christ our Light,

Several weeks ago when the winds blew strong in Colorado, many people experienced power outages. Many food items were lost when freezers got hot. Many people struggled to heat their homes for their infants and ailing parents. Many were not prepared to walk around in the dark in their own homes without bumping into things. Light became important again when we were without such a necessity.

Jesus has called us to be light and salt to the world (Matthew 5:13-16). These are strong images of survival and life. We know how quickly darkness comes when we cannot see what is right before us. We know the natural ability of salt to preserve and taste our food. Salt and light are ingredients that not only make life worth living, but ultimately are ingredients that we cannot live without. Jesus needs us to show others the way.

In these past few weeks, Jesus has called us again to follow him in the gift of the Holy Spirit in our baptism. This gift of the Holy Spirit fuels our ability to be salt and light for the world. I know these are just images, but they tell us a lot about how we are to respond to the call of mission and service in our world.

Jesus is inviting us to see ourselves as light. This means Jesus is relying on us to show people the beauty, love and hope that God has to offer us. We are to step out of the darkness of doubt, rudeness, laziness and apathy. We are to show the world that our faith means something.

This integrity of light comes to us from the fountain and source of our faith— the power of our connection to Jesus who is the light of the world. When our children don’t participate in faith, they lose the ability to show others the miracles of Jesus. When we grow old and think that we already know what to do and the rules to follow in the Church, we lose the light of faith that gives us purpose and connection to Jesus. We need one another to reveal the light of faith in the world. We need people’s voices to speak up for those who cannot help themselves.

We need one another’s talents to show the world that life in all of its forms has meaning. We need to pursue our faith through continued learning, personal growth and prayer, and through acts of compassion and justice for people in poverty. We need one another to be light! People are relying on us!

Perhaps there is a serious power outage within the hearts of many people who are already Christians. We hide our light under the bushel baskets of ignorance, what others think of us, and even under our own anger and rigidity. We need a new vision of who we are as people of light, people of hope and people who reveal the salt and light to those who need it most.

Here are a few things to pray about this week: How are you light and salt to your family and friends? Who reveals light and hope to you? How does your prayer keep you directed to the Light of Christ? What are those times in your life that you have felt incredible darkness? How do you find hope in your relationship with Jesus?

Blessings to all of you,

Fr. Ron

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time: Matthew 5:1-12

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Dear Followers of Jesus,

In our Christian tradition, the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12) are the roadmap to sainthood. This blueprint to living the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth is not unattainable in our own lives. We already possess the nature and heart of God through the gift of our baptism. We already belong to God. We already possess the nature of goodness or blessedness in God’s continuing creation.

Jesus announces these blessings for people who live in “the kingdom of heaven.” These aspects of our discipleship include: being poor in spirit, mourning loss, being meek, seeking justice, being merciful, being clean of heart, being peacemakers and bearers of insults and persecution. The Beatitudes are amazingly countercultural. Our happiness comes in letting go of our rigid and judgmental attitudes, our demands and certainties, and instead, learning to rely on God. We are given happiness from the Kingdom of God when we finally let go our ego and self-assuredness.

These Beatitudes are really a formation process for a life of gratitude. Perhaps as we listen and reflect on this week’s gospel, we can take to heart this message of gratefulness. This is another good posture, to turn toward gratefulness, as we begin the year of 2017.

Many of us can easily turn away from blessedness. Life can get us down. We easily lash out and blame others for our misfortunes and problems. Living this kind of life only leads to bitterness, envy, fear and loneliness.

God invites us to a different kind of life than foul-mouth blaming and finger pointing. Jesus is suggesting to us that we take stock of our lives and learn to be grateful. Thankfulness is a spiritual practice. This practice is often overlooked. For many people it seems frivolous and a waste of time, especially when a parent has lost a job or a youth has been rejected entrance into his first-choice for college.

Gratefulness is an act of blessedness. Unless we become humble enough, we will never find the Beatitudes. We may never discover a life of sheer grace, beauty and freedom. Here are some thoughts about living a life of gratefulness:

Allow yourself to find some moments of silence in the early morning. Make a list of blessings and gifts that you were given in the past twenty-four hours. Recall every conversation and feel the memories in your heart. If there are things you regret in those conversations, offer that regret in prayer. If there are aspects of anger, ill will, judgment or bitterness, offer those things to Jesus. Take stock of your relationships, family, work, talents, gifts, creativity and past. Be with God in silence and simply be grateful. Thank God for everything.

This is a life of Beatitudes. This is a life of gratefulness and thankfulness.

Blessings to you,

Fr. Ron

On the Margins: Matthew 5:13-16

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On the Margins from Mater Dei Radio, Portland, OR

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time: Matthew 5:13-16

This show does not have the usual opening and closing and is unedited

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The Beatitudes are very counterculture. Humility and weakness are bold and strong. This is the place where Jesus really lives. How do we live the life of Jesus once we are called into the life of Jesus? With hope and love!

 

 

 

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time: Matthew 4:12-23

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“Jesus withdrew” Pastel: Ronald Raab, CSC

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Dear Followers of Jesus,

Today’s gospel (Matthew 4:12-23) reveals the call of the first disciples. Simon and Andrew were brothers. Jesus saw them and invited them to follow him. With no second thoughts, they left everything behind to follow Jesus. Wow! There must have been more to this story! Imagine that a stranger comes along and invites you to follow his ways and you leave everything you have ever known, including your livelihood, to follow him.

Jesus asked the same of two other brothers, James and John. They even left their father, Zebedee, to follow Jesus. Jesus then performed miracles along the way, curing every disease and illness among the people, and establishing his authority among them.

One thing strikes me in this gospel. Jesus saw the best in people. He recognized their potential. He overlooked many of their weaknesses and foibles. I believe that Jesus does the same for us. I want to hold on to this from Jesus’ encounter with his disciples.

So many times when I hear people talk about their relationship with Jesus, they start off by saying that it is a negative relationship because of what people have done in their lives. I don’t believe that anything really stands in the way of our relationship with Christ Jesus. Life is a journey. I think we need to take this gospel to heart. Jesus wants the best for us because he sees the best within us. Perhaps we can learn to carry this example into other aspects of our lives. Examine how many times you put other people down or speak negatively about them when you meet someone new or hear rumors about their lives.

Perhaps we can let these negative things go and begin to see the positive aspects of people’s lives as Jesus did. Whether in parish communities or politics, in our family lives or with people in authority, we tend to condemn first and ask questions later.

The gospel today suggests that Jesus saw the best in these two sets of brothers. Let’s examine our lives so that we, too, may follow in the path of Jesus seeing the best in one another. When we can do this, all kinds of new miracles will flow into our lives.

Let’s build a community where we can see the best in people and believe the best about what people do.

Here are some questions to consider: How can I realize that I am loved and accepted by Jesus? How can respond to his call in my life? How can I take a minute to reflect on Jesus’ ways so I don’t respond negatively to other people? Can I start the New Year by seeing on the good in others?

Blessings to you all,

Fr. Ron

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time: John 1:29-34

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“The Baptism of Jesus” Pencil Drawing for Bulletin: Ronald Raab, CSC

 

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Dear Followers of Jesus,

We listen to today’s gospel (John 1:29-34) and it seems we are back to the beginning of Advent. John is pointing again into the direction of Jesus and says, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” His gesture and words point out to us who Jesus really is- the Lamb who will be slain for our sins. He is God who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.

The point of these gospels in the early weeks of Ordinary Time is to establish Jesus’ authority in his ministry. We are back to the beginning of his adult life and his ministry needs to be put into a context of what will happen. His entire ministry as an adult leads him and us to his passion, death and resurrection.

Our own baptism enables us to know Jesus. Our connection to Jesus does not get washed away in our memory from when we were baptized. Our identity does not fade away. Our connection does not get lost even though we move on to other things such as greed, power or lust as the primary source of our identity. Our connection to the Holy Spirit always finds a way to refresh us even though we get lost in our denial or self-sufficiency. Our life in the Holy Spirit is real even when we believe that God must have abandoned us years ago. Our future remains tightly in the bonds of the Holy Spirit even when we have not prayed in the years since we were children.

Perhaps this year we can renew our lives in the Holy Spirit. Perhaps we can pick up the scriptures again and pray. Perhaps we can learn a new dependence on God even in the center of our aches and pains and our anger about being lost and alone. Perhaps this is the year that we can recognize Jesus as John did—that He is the Lamb of God who takes away my sin and loves me for who I really am.

Here are some questions to ponder this week and beyond:

Jesus, how do I learn to trust you again? Help me Jesus, to have the gumption of John, to truly recognize you, to call your name out loud and find my place within your life.

Jesus, how do I learn to pray again? Help me Jesus, with my lonely heart, and show me again how to pray in the silence. Sustain me when I feel so abandoned and lost. Give me the grace to get out of my head and into my heart.

Jesus, how do I learn to live with a greater love in the world? Help me Jesus and show me the real needs of people so I may learn to offer your love to people.

Blessings,

Fr. Ron