“Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”
When I was an anxiety filled teenager and voiced my worries for the coming day or week to my grandmother, she would ask me, “Why do you look for more trouble?” It’s a question worth asking.
If there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.
I long for the days, in the not so distant past, when we had a president who led with compassion, sympathy and love for his country and the people he governed. The lack of empathy, compassion and human kindness displayed by our current president toward the people of Puerto Rico since hurricane Maria is shocking. Everything that he says and does appears to be motivated entirely by conceit, self interest, ambition and greed. It is up to the rest of us to show our love for the people of Puerto Rico by helping in any way we can. Please click on the link below if you’d like to make a donation to the Episcopal Relief and Development Hurricane Relief Fund.
Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one. For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
If we can’t motivate ourselves to forgive others out of compassion or generosity of spirit, maybe we can look at forgiving as something that is in our best interest. Forgiving feels good. It’s liberating to let go of a grudge or a bad feeling that we have harbored against someone. No one has ever told me that they have regrets about forgiving.
Jesus said, “Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven. So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
It seems that the fundamentalist types, of every faith think that they hold the copyrights to the Gospel, the Quran and the Torah. They make a big show of their religiosity and they use their self proclaimed, religious authority to bash anyone who’s way of life doesn’t fall in line with their beliefs. They would get along well with the Pharisees as Jesus describes them.
Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you. You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
To love our enemies defies logic and emotion. How does one get to love from enmity? We talk a lot about tolerance, but tolerating someone implies that we put up with a person, although we’d rather not. Tolerance is a step, but it isn’t even close to love. What Jesus asks us to do is to radically change our hearts and our minds.
That which we have heard and known, and what our forefathers have told us, we will not hide from their children.
Just as we have a duty to pass the love of God on to the next generation, we also have a duty to pass our knowledge of the world to the next generation, so that history does not repeat itself. We can’t expect to have a bright future, if we wont talk about our dark past.
“What would you prefer? Am I to come to you with a stick, or with love in a spirit of gentleness?”
It can be tempting to pick up the proverbial stick, rather than thoughtfully and lovingly, resolving our differences. All parties involved will end up happier though, if we can calm our tempers and approach one another without allowing anger to influence our interaction. (If ever I’ve written anything as a reminder to myself, this is it.)
Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; and he said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went. When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why are you standing here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’ When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.’ When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
No matter when our life in faith begins, whether it’s when we’re children or in our old age, we’re never too late to receive God’s generous, love and mercy.
I prayed with my whole heart, as one would for a friend or a brother; I behaved like one who mourns for his mother, bowed down and grieving.
Every person has their own special relationship with their mother and so in that way we are all the same and yet we are unique. Even within our own families if we, as I, were lucky enough to have siblings our relationships with our mothers are different from our sibling’s relationships with our mothers and so although we all knew and loved the same wonderful woman we each did that in our own way.
My relationship with my mother was almost never difficult and in that way I know that I was blessed. Of course there were times while I was growing up that I wished my mom could be different in some way, but there was never a time that I didn’t love her and there was never a time that I didn’t feel loved by her. My only window into the amount of worry I have caused my mom has been during the times that I have worried about her. I don’t know if it’s natural to think that our mom’s are immortal, but I always felt that somehow mine would be. That may be because my mom was the most stoic person I have ever met and so I assumed that she could conquer anything facing her, even death itself. Now I am faced with a future without our daily talks and without her loving guidance and without the simple joy of spending time with her. I’m glad that I was able to be there for her as she bravely fought the cancer that killed her and I am privileged to have three wonderful siblings who were there for her and who wanted more than anything to help her in any way possible. I’m very lucky to have been born into family whose love comes easily and whose loyalty to one another can be counted on without a doubt ever.
During her last days I learned a lot about my mom through conversations that my siblings and I had with friends and family and even relative strangers. I discovered that many more people than I’d ever realized have come to consider her a surrogate mother, either because they had lost their own mom or because their moms weren’t as loving or concerned as my mom. Mom had an incredible ability to make people feel important and loved. She listened to people and treated everyone with great respect. She always managed to turn conversation away from herself, not because she was secretive in any way, but because she wanted to hear what people had to say. Even while she was at the cancer treatment center for an infusion, when the nurses asked her how she was doing she would say, “very well thank you.” and then she would ask them about the problems which they had shared with her previously. We managed to hear the life stories of several of the nurses. Even from a treatment chair my mom gave sage advice to those who were wise enough to seek it.
Now on this second anniversary of my mother’s death I am grieving less intensely, but I’m still easily moved to tears by a memory. The tears now aren’t as bitter; they’re more wistful. I am filled with gratitude for the time that our lives overlapped and I know that I was lucky to have a mother who was loving and smart and funny and wise and wonderful. I miss her.