Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Ordinary Time

Genesis 2:4b-9, 15-17
Psalm 104
Mark 7:14-23


Perhaps you've dieted at some point in your life. I don't mean establish a regular food plan to maintain weight and optimal health, I mean the kind of diet where you considered yourself overweight, decided you needed to do something about it, and put together a plan that would allow you to reach your goals. Perhaps you made it up on your own, perhaps you cobbled it together from a book or two, and perhaps it came from your doctor.

Generally, in such instances, the first few days are really exciting... you're doing this new thing, and you know it's for a great goal. Then things begin to get more difficult. Hunger pangs begin, you miss your favorite foods, the chocolate bar that someone else in the office is eating for a snack is calling your name... and their waistline doesn't seem to have moved since middle school. UGH! The diet becomes difficult, but if you've ever had this experience, and then stuck with it through the trouble, if you chose to cling fast to the ultimate goal, you may have experienced the relief and the profound sense of joy that comes from recognizing that you truly do have what you need, and that you need not worry about all the temptations. You settle into a sense of assurance and awareness of what you are doing, and - at least for a time - all is well; and you are truly content.

In his work of creation, God has truly given us all that we need... and yet, sometimes, it becomes difficult for us to be content. We see so much in the world that is deeply appealing to us. We see beautiful homes, nice cars, good food, great films. We are exposed time and time again to pop culture, advertising, and peer pressures that attempt to form our views on what we want and need. Sometimes, this happens because people genuinely believe it, and other times, it's simply to make a profit; but our culture is never, it seems, happy with people who are content with what they have.

God wishes us to know contentment. He sustains us, as we hear in our Psalm today. His sustaining power is perfect... it touches us, when we are open to it, in every way that is truly essential for our spiritual well-being. In creation, God intended for that sustaining work to go further, but in the rebellion of our first parents, the openness to his sustaining power evaporated, just as a puddle on a hot summer day.

In Christ Jesus, we have been called back to the sustaining presence of the Father, and to a trust that he truly knows what is best and right and holy. When our minds turn to thoughts of fulfilling our own desires, often times they degenerate into precisely the kind of thoughts that Jesus highlights in our Gospel today. When we find ourselves discontented with our lot, when our lives seem empty and baseless, our thoughts tend to become base, selfish, and yes, sinful. We want all kinds of things for us... because we're not in that place where living the Christian life has become easy - at least, not at that moment. We're in that phase of the 'diet', so to speak, where we suddenly become hyper-aware of what we're missing out on... where our stomachs begin to growl because our mind is calling out to fill the emptiness we feel at that moment.

Just as it happens in dieting, so too such occurrences creep up in any disciplined activity... workouts, our jobs, family relationships, and yes, in our faith-walk. As Christians, we are called to walk away from evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness... and yet, at times, they seem so appealing! 

I'll tell a lie here to get out of consequences of the truth. 

It's OK for me to coyly check out that girl - or, for the ladies in the room, that guy! - who's so hot because it isn't like I'm going to do anything about it. 

Sure, I'll let them think I am taking care of this issue in my office, even though it's actually Jane over there in the back cube. 

The list goes on and on... 

The problem is, when we engage in such behavior, we don't simply sin in the present, we foster the very discontent that society, advertisers, and yes - let's call the root culprit - Satan, would have us wallow in... and that discontent can lay a powerful incentive at our feet to fall further away from contentment with our lives and, ultimately, that can move us toward deeper sin and a complete rupture in our relationship with God in Christ.

May God grant each of us the grace to truly examine ourselves, recognize in God the source of true hope, peace, and blessedness, and allow us to walk in faithfulness today, and every day, until that final day when we are called to our heavenly home.


That those in leadership in Christ's Church
would model lives of humility, faith, and joy
let us pray to the Lord:
Lord, hear our prayer.

That those who serve in positions of civic trust
would seek to work towards the fulfillment of the needs
present in the lives of those they represent
let us pray to the Lord:
Lord, hear our prayer.

That those who find themselves weighed down
by committed sins or through lack of hope
would find in us,
and ultimately in God,
the strength to turn away from all that entraps them
in lives that are less than they could and should be
let us pray to the Lord:
Lord, hear our prayer.

That those who silently suffer
from lack of food, shelter, safety, and love
may be brought to rejoice in the kindness of God
made manifest through the work of those in our community
who seek to reach out with their loving hands
let us pray to the lord:
Lord, hear our prayer.

That those who, today, have received difficult diagnoses,
or the prognosis of death,
may find in Christ's atoning death
the hope of everlasting life
let us pray to the Lord:
Lord, hear our prayer.

That the needs we hold in our hearts,
and the needs we dare to speak aloud,
would be ministered to
through the compassionate goodness of our heavenly Father...
...let us pray to the Lord:
Lord, hear our prayer.