The Window

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The WindowTwo men, both seriously ill, occupied the same hospital room. One man was allowed to sit up in his bed for an hour a day to drain the fluids from his lungs. His bed was next to the room’s only window. The other man had to spend all his time flat on his back.

The men talked for hours on end. They spoke of their wives and   families, their homes, their jobs, their involvement in the military service, where they had been on vacation. And every afternoon when the man in the bed next to the window could sit up, he would pass the time by describing to his roommate all the things he could see outside the window.

The man in the other bed would live for those one-hour periods where his world would be broadened and enlivened by all the activity and color of the outside world. The window overlooked a park with a lovely lake, the man had said. Ducks and swans played on the water while children sailed their model boats. Lovers walked arm in arm amid flowers of every color of the rainbow. Grand old trees graced the landscape, and a fine view of the city skyline could be seen in the distance. As the man by the window described all this in exquisite detail, the man on the other side of the room would close his eyes and imagine the picturesque scene.

One warm afternoon the man by the window described a parade passing by.  Although the other man could not hear the band, he could see it in his mind’s eye as the gentleman by the window portrayed it with descriptive words. Unexpectedly, an alien thought entered his head: Why should he have all the pleasure of seeing everything while I never get to see anything? It didn’t seem fair. As the thought fermented, the man felt ashamed at first. But as the days passed and he missed seeing more sights, his envy eroded into resentment and soon turned him sour. He   began to brood and found himself unable to sleep. He should be by that window – and that thought now controlled his life.

Late one night, as he lay staring at the ceiling, the man by the window began to cough. He was choking on the fluid in his lungs. The other man   watched in the dimly lit room as the struggling man by the window groped for the button to call for help. Listening from across the room, he never moved, never pushed his own button, which would have brought the nurse running. In less than five minutes, the coughing and choking stopped, along with the sound of breathing. Now, there was only silence–deathly silence.

The following morning, the day nurse arrived to bring water for their baths. When she found the lifeless body of the man by the window, she was saddened and called the hospital attendant to take it away–no words, no fuss. As soon as it seemed appropriate, the man asked if he could be moved next to the window. The nurse was happy to make the switch and after making sure he was comfortable, she left him alone.

Slowly, painfully, he propped himself up on one elbow to take his   first look. Finally, he would have the joy of seeing it all himself. He strained to slowly turn to look out the window beside the bed. It faced a blank wall.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 ?????????????????????????????????

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”?

James 4:1-10

The pursuit of happiness is a matter of choice…it is a positive attitude we consciously choose to express. It is not a gift that gets delivered to our doorstep each morning, nor does it come through the window. And I am certain that our circumstances are just a small part of what makes us joyful. If we wait for them to get just right, we will never find lasting joy.

The pursuit of happiness is an inward journey. Our minds are like   programs, awaiting the code that will determine behaviors; like bank vaults awaiting our deposits. If we regularly deposit positive, encouraging, and uplifting thoughts, if we continue to bite our lips just before we begin to grumble and complain, if we shoot down that seemingly harmless negative thought as it germinates, we will find that there is much to rejoice about.

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If anyone keeps my word, he will never experience death

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Today’s Gospel was very inspiring to me. Not only did it remind me of just how easy it is to love the Lord, but, It was as plain as the nose on my face. Even as a Catholic, I would be lying if I honestly say I don’t fear dying. While it is true, I can’t wait to be with the Lord, I still think everyone is afraid, even just a little.

John 8: 51-59

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Truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never experience death.” The Jews replied, “Now we know that you have a demon. Abraham died and the prophets as well, but you say: ‘Whoever keeps my word will never experience death.’ Who do you claim to be? Do you claim to be greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets also died.” Then Jesus said, “If I were to praise myself, it would count for nothing. But he who gives glory to me is the Father, the very one you claim as your God, although you don’t know him. I know him and if I were to say that I don’t know him, I would be a liar like you. But I know him and I keep his word. As for Abraham, your ancestor, he looked forward to the day when I would come; and he rejoiced when he saw it.” The Jews then said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old and you have seen Abraham?” And Jesus said “Truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” They then picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and left the Temple.

Consider This….

Death may be inevitable to all but in the Gospel today Jesus says that for those who keep his word they will not experience death. How is this possible when in truth no one escapes death? The Jews could not understand him. What death is Jesus talking about? Is it possible to live forever? Actually, Jesus was not talking about physical death. He meant that a life lived in him will bring one to eternal life. Jesus’ word is life giving. This means that if we keep his word and live it, we bring out the “shine of Jesus” in us. Therefore, we are alive when others see more of “Jesus” and less of us. As we experience more of the life that Jesus has shown us, we will come closer to the life everlasting that all of us are hoping for. Sin, on the other hand, means death (cf. Romans 8:5-6)  because it opposes Jesus, the Light. It operates in the darkness of evil and does not give light.

Let us allow the Light of Jesus to give us life. Live Jesus because he is the Resurrection and the Life! Something to ponder about today: we are made to live a life in preparation for what is eternal and reserved for all those who love God and do His will.

thecatholicword.com

Wilm4Life.org

No complaints, please!

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ImageDo you ever find yourself complaining about abundance? Too much food, too many t-shirts, too many gadgets, too many events on the calendar! The grumbling of the ungrateful has a long biblical tradition. In the desert years, the Israelites complained about the “wretched food” they were forced to eat daily. It’s shocking to realize they were complaining about manna, once celebrated as “bread from heaven” and now consumed with contempt! If you’re tempted in the upcoming weeks to grumble about “so many extra liturgies in church,” take a minute to recall what these services are commemorating, and give thanks.

Suzanna’s Innocence and the Woman Caught in Adultery’s Guilt

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All three of the readings for mass today are very powerful.  In the first reading, a young boy Daniel defended an innocent woman against those who accused her of adultery and had her sentenced to death.  In the gospel today, Jesus defended a woman who was guilty of adultery and was also sentenced to death.  They are both very powerful stories and each story is beautiful in their own way.  One woman was falsely accused and sentenced to die, but placed her life in God’s hands and trusted Him. The other woman was justly accused and was sentenced to die. She did not have any hope because it was the law that she was to die for her sin.

Jesus Christ did not come for the righteous, but sinners though. Christ’s compassion for the adulteress surpassed all of the rules of the past.  (Mt 9:13 / Mk 2:17 / Lk 5:32)

We can also understand Suzanna’s innocence in the first reading from the book of Daniel.  She was innocent of the charges against her and was unjustly sentenced to death.  All she had left was her faith in God, which she clung to as she was being led to her execution.  Can you imagine that walk?

While Suzanna was walking toward her execution, it must have felt a lot like Psalm 23 in our readings for mass today.  “Even though I walk in the dark valley I fear no evil; for you are at my side.”  And, this was true.  God was literally by her side.  Many people do not realize that the Holy Spirit existed and was active in the old testament too.  Today’s reading shows that He was definitely present and walking beside Suzanna, because the young boy Daniel felt the Holy Spirit’s presence so strongly, that he spontaneously stopped everyone and said that he would have no part in Suzanna’s death.  How could he know that Suzanna was innocent?  How did Daniel come up with the wisdom to pry the truth out of her accusers?  As a young boy, he could not have possessed this wisdom on his own.  The Holy Spirit inspired him to speak the truth, and then guided him on what to do to prove the truth.  All of this was unexpectedly accomplished while Suzanna was being led to her execution.

Actually, the same thing happened with the adulteress who was being led to her execution as well, except Jesus went over the top in his compassion for her.  Who would have expected this either?  This woman clearly committed adultery and deserved to be put to death according to their laws at the time.

Jesus-AdulterousWoman

Did you notice how Jesus wrote in the sand and seemed to ignore the scribes and Pharisees even while they continued questioning him?  This is a good thing for us to pay attention to.  Tempers were flaring, emotions were high, and demands were being made. The accusations flung toward the adulteress were dominated by self-righteousness, even if the woman caught in adultery was guilty of the crime.

Sometimes the punishment can be worse than the crime.  Even justifiable consequences can mushroom out of control and end up doing more harm than good sometimes.  This is something young parents should really pay close attention to.   Children have to be corrected when they do things that are wrong, but it is very easy to allow your emotions to get out of hand.  In one split second you can say or do something that your child will remember the rest of their life, if you allow your temper to get the best of you.  A small word of praise sticks with them forever, but so does the actions and words that we say in anger.  Elderly people often go to their grave never forgetting the hurtful words their parents said to them when they were little children, even if they did forgive them for it.  None of us want to be remembered for our worst moments.

Jesus diffused the whole situation in today’s gospel by doing nothing until everyone’s emotions calmed down.  Slowly writing in the sand may have distracted everyone from the problem at hand, and given them something different, something neutral to focus their attention on.  His calm, neutral response diffused the explosion that was on the verge of happening.  Jesus stepped back and separated himself from the situation for a moment until everyone could get control of their emotions.  This is good advice for everyone, but most especially parents of small children.

The rest of the gospel tells us how Jesus turned this very explosive situation, into a very healing and restorative thing for everyone involved.  People are actually more important than the rules.   Sometimes an infraction of the rules is so bad that they have to be set aside for the moment, in order to love the person, apart from their sin.  People change because of love, not rules.  Rules were made for love, or out of love for one another.

The person is more precious to Jesus than the rules they have broken, or the sins they have committed.  This should be true for us as well.

TheCatholicWord.com

Disciplining and Prayer

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15“If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. 16 “But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. 17“If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen to even the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18“Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven. 19“Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. 20“For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”

This has two logical parts to it:

  • Jesus tell us the procedure to follow when our brother sins. The first Anabaptist called this procedure, “The Rule of Christ”. (Anabaptist – Protestant groups that appeared at Zwickau in Switzerland as early as 1521)
  • Jesus broadens this authority of discipline to include the idea of the authority (The Church) to decide right from wrong—discernment.

What sins need to be confronted?

  • Anything that causes offence.
  • Anything that breaks fellowship.
  • Anything that is taking the brother or sister away from God.
  • Anything the community has agreed to hold each accountable for.

In Luke 17:3, a parallel text, Jesus says, ‘If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents forgive him.’ The rebuke is not limited to personal offences. Neither is it restricted to personal offences in the writings of Paul. In Galatians 6:1 we read, ‘Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently.’ This can be done gently in five steps:

Step One – Challenge one another

  • The first step is going directly to your brother or sister, avoiding shame and gossip.
  • Don’t go while you’re angry; don’t go to vent your rage. But don’t wait too long before you say something. It will only get harder.

Step Two – Take a witness

The second half of verse 15 tells us the goal of the Rule of Christ – ‘If the member listens to you, you have regained that one.’ The goal is not punishment but restoration, c.f. Galatians 6:1.

  • If you can’t work it out between you or you can’t agree on whether the person is actually in sin. This is why, in the second step, we bring in one or two others – someone with more spiritual wisdom or experience, someone who can listen carefully to both sides.

Step three – Tell it to the Church

  • If the conflict still can’t be resolved with the help of one or two others, the matter is made public before the church. Again, this is to restore the sinner back to faith.

Step four – Treat the Offender as an Unbeliever

  • When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan, so the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord. (1 Cor. 5:4-45)

Paul’s concern is the offender’s reconciliation that he might realize the seriousness of what he has done and repent. So, even at the fourth stage, the purpose is still to win the brother or sister over. If the offender refuses to listen to even the church, we are to treat him or her as a tax collector or a pagan. How did Jesus treat tax collectors and pagans? He ate at the table of tax collectors! He treated them as people in need of good news, in need of conversion.

Step five – Restoration

  • Jesus doesn’t explicitly mention restoration as a separate step, but he says it’s the goal of the process. Sometimes restoration won’t happen. But it is your hope and prayer that it will.
    Restoration should be as public as the discipline process was. It needs to come about as a result of obvious repentance. The church should then forgive the person and welcome them back into the church. Restoration should be full and final, with the person welcomed back into full church membership.

20 Questions for Today’s World:

1)       If you have children, how do you resolve their conflicts? Can you think of an example of a conflict that was resolved and all parties felt good?

2)       Why does Jesus take the time to tell us how to effectively deal with sin and conflict?

3)       What if there was no mention in Scripture on how to deal with conflict; can there be a better plan?

4)       Why is the application of love so important in maintaining growing, healthy relationships, and resolving disputes? What happens when love is absent?

5)       What happens when we, as a church, decide to ignore or fail to remove sin?

6)       How does a sin against God’s precepts affect you?

7)       How do repentance and the refusal to repent affect the church and community?

8)       Why does God call us to exercise mercy and forgiveness when dealing with Sin and Church discipline?

9)       How does mercy and forgiveness affect a person’s sin and his / her repentance? How would it affect you?

10)   What are some of the motivations and reasons why you or any particular person would not repent when confronted with sin or wrong doing?

11)   How would you define the word Church? What does Church mean to you as an expression? What should it mean?

12)   Read James 5:16: Why does God call us to confess our sins to one another and to Him? Why do so few Christians heed this call? How have you practiced this call?

13)   How is confessing sins an essential aspect to forgiveness and resolving conflict?

14)   Do you see in this passage the stages of offering mercy and forgiveness until all options are sought? How does it make you feel that God takes His time to deal with us with love and care?  How can you communicate this to others?

15)   How does it make you feel when someone who is clearly in the wrong refuses to acknowledge his or her sin or admit responsibility? Have you done this to someone else, and how do you think they felt?

16)   What happens to conflict and sin when the church is focused on community and prayer?

17)   Have you ever seen conflict draw people together for a cause, or perhaps create opportunities and communities to bring people together? How so?

18)   What happens in the life of the church when our motives for the restoration of God’s people from sin are skewed? What are some examples of skewing this motive?

19)   We are to take seriously the call to be responsible for one another in love and care. What can your church do to exercise this call better? What would happen in your church if the leaders took this call seriously?

20)   What would your personal life and church life be like if you put greater effort to extol people, that is, to come along side of them with comfort and help? How can you make this so?

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