Wednesday’s Word: Greed

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Their hearts are trained to be greedy. 2nd Peter 2:14

 

Greediness isn’t genetic. We don’t just wake up and decide to be that way, do we? It’s something we learn, maybe even without realizing it. There’s nothing wrong with wanting good things or enjoying good things, but when we demand more than our share or take for granted the good we already have, we set ourselves up for misery.

 

How do our hearts get trained to be greedy? We invest our security and contentment in something that can’t deliver the satisfaction it promises. We pursue short-term pleasure and want to extend that pleasure, so we buy more and more. If the things we acquired really provided contentment, we wouldn’t have to keep buying more of them. Madison Avenue’s job is to entice us into wanting more. We might know this intellectually and yet still succumb to the ploy if our greediness workouts have done their job.

 

The happiness that comes from acquiring things doesn’t last. Quite the opposite. “An ever increasing desire for an ever-diminishing return,” as C.S. Lewis put it. That is a formula for addiction, as well. Build up a tolerance to a drug means it takes more and more to achieve the same result. We train ourselves to be greedy precisely because the things we covet never provide what we are really looking for. St. Paul says greed is a form of idol-worship. (Colossians 3:5)

 

This isn’t only true of material possessions. We can be greedy for attention, approval, or any number of intangibles. Why? We want assurance that we are good enough, that we are important, accepted and loved. But again, the reassurance we get from fishing for compliments has a diminishing return. They don’t satisfy permanently, or we wouldn’t need to keep fishing. We can even drive people away, which is likely to breed more insecurity.

 

The good news if we are trained to be greedy, we can un-train. We can allow the greed “muscles” to weaken by not exercising them. We can replace the default action with new behavior, practicing gratitude, for example, or choosing to share. Every time we choose NOT to act on impulsive desire and instead seek and find our contentment in focusing on what we already have, our joy in healthy relationships, and our security in God’s unconditional unfailing love, we are training ourselves out of greediness.

 

Prayer: Lord, fill my heart with gratitude.

 

Reflection: What’s underneath my desire for _______________? How can I get that need met in a healthy way?

Saturday Spotlight: The Leper

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A leper came to [Jesus} begging him, and kneeling he said to him, “If you choose, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, “I do choose. Be made clean!” Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. After sternly warning him he sent him away at once, saying to him, “See that you say nothing to ayone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”  Mark 1:40-44 NRSV

 

Once determined “unclean” by the priests, lepers had to live outside the camp, wear torn clothes, and leave their hair uncombed. As if that wasn’t enough to keep others away, they had to call out, “Unclean, unclean!” to make sure people kept their distance. (Lev13:45-46) What a lonely, miserable way to live! It’s bad enough to be isolated, but forced to wear rags and give up personal grooming? That’s adding insult to injury, literally.

 

Many of us choose to isolate ourselves when we’re having a rough time for any number of reasons. We voluntarily treat ourselves much like the leper. We stay home in dirty pajamas or a ratty bathrobe and pull the covers over our heads. We don’t shower or comb our hair. We transmit the message loud and clear that we want to be alone. We determine that we are unclean, unfit for the company of others. The spiral of isolation continues in its downward trajectory every time we look in the mirror.

 

We don’t share our problems because we fear others will reject us. Instead, we beat them to the punch and reject ourselves….Our friends, loved ones, or even professionals may not have the power to heal us of our troubles instantly. What others can do is help us break out of the self-imposed isolation that makes the problems we’re struggling with loom larger.

 

Prayer: Trinity of Love, we’re called to live in community. Melt the barriers of fear and pride that isolate me from others.

 

Reflection for sharing: What isolates you from others? What would it take to be healed of this isolation?

 

 

Excerpts from:

 

“Your Faith Has Made You Well: Jesus Heals in the New Testament”

Copyright 2014 by Barbara Hosbach

Paulist Press, Inc., Mahwah, N.J.

www.paulistpress.com

Used with Permission

Wednesday’s Word: Insults

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When he was insulted, he did not answer back with an insult… 1Peter 2: 23a

 

Insults seem to demand a counter-attack. Otherwise, aren’t we allowing others to rob us of our dignity? The answer is no.

 

Rude comments don’t have the power to make us better or worse people. Our characters are determined by our own actions, not by other people’s remarks. If we lash out in kind, we have given away our freedom and allowed another person’s negativity to be in control of our behavior. Is handing over our freedom worth it? We have choices about how we respond to someone else’s foul mood. We don’t have to accept abuse. We can stand up for ourselves, let the other person know that is not acceptable behavior, or walk away, all without stooping to their level.

 

What allowed Jesus not to answer an insult with an insult? Jesus, certainly no doormat, was anchored in the awareness of who he was: the beloved son of his heavenly Father. No verbal puffs of air from anybody’s mouth could take that dignity away.

 

Maybe if we’re tempted to answer rudeness with rudeness it’s because we’re not grounded in who we are: precious children of the God of love. We have value, not because we are perfect, but because God loves us. Who can take that away from us? If we spend time reflecting on who we are, we won’t feel so threatened by someone else’s negativity.

 

Prayer: Lord, help me remember I am precious in your sight.

 

Reflection for sharing: What are some ways to detach from other people’s negativity?

 

Saturday Spotlight: Four Fishermen

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When [Jesus] had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.” When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken; and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people” When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him. Luke 5: 4-11

 

Peter voiced what the others may have felt—their own unworthiness to receive such a staggering gift…Jesus reassured Simon and the rest, telling them not to be afraid. Fear of their own inadequacies could have kept them from answering their call to serve. Jesus offered healing from that fear.

 

…It’s easy to see why the fishermen felt their own inadequacy being in Jesus presence, let alone helping him carry out his mission. Maybe we feel the same way…

 

…Who could be more regular, more down-to-earth, than a bunch of fishermen? Sailors are not known for their Sunday-school speech or polished manners, and yet these four were at the heart of Jesus’ ministry. Who better to speak to regular people than regular people?

 

We shouldn’t let our inclinations toward humility mislead us into thinking we have nothing to offer. Like the four fishermen, all we really need is willingness and openness to follow Jesus’ instructions…Step by step, we can be drawn into God’s plan for our lives with no fear about our inadequacy for the task at hand.

 

Prayer: My Creator, you know me better than I know myself…Reassure me that you provide everything I need to follow you.

 

Reflection for sharing: How comfortable are you with bringing your own inadequacies to God?

 

Excerpts from:

“Your Faith Has Made You Well: Jesus Heals in the New Testament”

Copyright 2014 by Barbara Hosbach

Paulist Press, Inc., Mahwah, NJ

www.paulistpress.com

Used with Permission

Wednesday’s Word: Motivation

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Sometimes it takes a painful experience to make us change our ways. Proverbs 20:30

 

Why change if you’re comfortable? At one point during my career, I found myself in a job that simply was not a good fit for me. I was reluctant to look for another position so I endured with grim determination. My misery increased day after day. Finally, the pain of remaining where I was became greater than my fear of change. I made the change–the smartest career move I ever made.

 

When the discomfort of our situation reaches the tipping point we become willing to make any changes necessary. In Twelve Step programs like AA, they call it “hitting bottom.” Or as C.S. Lewis said, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, but shouts to us in our pain.” Unfortunately, sometimes we allow the pain to get so bad that it ends up not just shouting, but screaming inside of us. We then become willing to go to any lengths to change the circumstances, and risk the unknown.

 

Sparing other adults from the natural consequences of their poor choices might not always be helpful to them. Instead, it might be teach them to continue making poor choices. People can learn from their mistakes when the results of those mistakes become uncomfortable. If we are wise we can benefit from the experience of others and become quicker to see where our behaviors are leading us. Unfortunately, sometimes, no matter how much we think we want things to be different, we just aren’t ready to change until we’re hurting. Luckily, God always meets us at the point of our willingness.

 

Prayer:  Loving God, make me teachable.

 

Reflection for sharing: When has pain motivated you to change for the better?

 

Saturday Spotlight: Simon Peter’s Mother-in-Law

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Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told [Jesus] about her at once. He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them. Mark 1: 30-31

 

He took the sick woman by the hand, lifted her up, and the fever left her.

 

Sometimes lifting our spirits can be just as important as physical recovery. So often we can’t raise ourselves up out of our own pain. It’s easy for our morale to sink to the depths when our bodies hurt or our brains are fevered by anxious thoughts. In isolation there may be nothing to interrupt our focus on how miserable we feel. When we can’t see beyond the horizon of our own distress, sometimes others can help us shift our focus. Whether or not they realize it, they then become channels of God’s healing love.

 

After Jesus touched and lifted up the suffering woman, she had a higher vantage point that when she was flat on her back. What did she do once that happened? She began to serve others. …When we’re sick, there’s certainly a time to rest and allow healing to take place. We need to let others minister to us, as Peter’s mother-in-law allowed Jesus to help her…it’s also true that there’s something very healing about being of service to others. …Shifting focus from our cares and worries can help shrink them to their proper proportion. Simple but genuine service (rather than compulsive martyrdom) can bless us with freedom from self-centeredness.

 

Prayer: Lord, when I can’t see beyond my own pain and anxiety, lift me up. Teach me to lift others up by reaching out as a channel of your healing love.

 

Reflection for sharing: How do you know when to rest and nurture yourself and when to help others?

 

Excerpts from:

“Your Faith Has Made You Well: Jesus Heals in the New Testament”

Copyright 2014 by Barbara Hosbach

Paulist Press, Inc., Mahwah, NJ

www.paulistpress.com

Used with Permission

Wednesday’s Word: Self-Importance

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Many people become increasingly arrogant when honors are given to them and favors are done for them. They do not know what to do with so much good fortune… Esther E: 2-3a

 

Too much of a good thing is not a good thing. Just as children can be spoiled by an abundance of toys, we can be glutted with too much good fortune. Fame and all the perks that go with it can go straight to a person’s head. With adulation from the crowds, it’s hard not to believe the hype. It isn’t a pretty sight to see young celebrities ill-equipped for honors, accolades, and the luxuries that go with them turn to excesses. Their fame often becomes notoriety.

 

Most of us don’t have that problem, but we can fall prey to arrogance just the same. Without gratitude, we may find ourselves looking down on or being impatient with people who haven’t been blessed with our quick minds or healthy bodies. “If I can do it anybody can” might not be a mark of humility as much as an expectation that what comes easily to us should come easily to others.

 

Ironically, arrogance can be a problem for those of us who, for whatever reason, never had the opportunity to develop healthy self-esteem. We all have a mixed bag of strong points and weaknesses, talents and faults. Self-acceptance grounded in God’s unconditional love and gratitude for His gifts are antidotes to self-importance. When we’re starving for approval as evidence that we’re not worse than everybody else (as we secretly fear) honors and accolades can go straight to our heads.

 

When we play the comparison game and gloat over special abilities or recognition we become self-important, rather than self-accepting. When we are full of ourselves, we don’t have room for anyone else and we certainly don’t have room for God. It’s been said that EGO stands for Easing God Out. You can see why.

 

Prayer: Father of all that is good, create in me a grateful heart.

 

Reflection for sharing: When are you likely to get “full of yourself”? Why?

Saturday Spotlight: The Man with an Unclean Spirit

iStock_000019044346_ExtraSmallIn the synagogue there was a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice, “Let us alone! What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” When the demon had thrown him down before them, he came out of him without having done him any harm. Luke 4:33-35

 

The man came to a place of worship even though he had a spirit of evil within him. Interestingly, the evil spirit could not override the man’s free will nor keep him from entering the holy place to hear God’s word.

 

The evil spirit cried out, asking to be left alone. So often, temptations beg to be left alone…We want to stop indulging in ways that damage our health, our self-esteem, or our pocketbooks—but not if we have to give up the treats we like. We long to have better relationships—but not if we have to do the hard work of looking within and searching out how we contribute to the unhealthy patterns.

 

Then, some moment of truth shows us the finer things we’re capable of.

 

…There are times when we must acknowledge the truth, at least to ourselves. In those moments, will we choose to listen to our Higher Power or some lower power?

 

Prayer:  Loving Savior, remind me that you are greater than my demons. It is safe to surrender myself to your care.

 

Reflection: When you wrestle with inner demons, what are some ways to turn to God and appropriate God’s healing power?

 

Excerpts from:

“Your Faith Has Made You Well: Jesus Heals in the New Testament”

Copyright 2014 by Barbara Hosbach

Paulist Press, Inc., Mahwah, NJ

www.paulistpress.com

Used with Permission

 

 

Wednesday’s Words: Simple Service

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“I assure you that anyone who gives you a drink of water because you belong to me will certainly receive a reward.” Mark 9: 41

 

I pulled up to the gas pump on a steamy summer afternoon. The attendant looked hot and tired.

“You look like you could use a drink,” I said as I handed him my credit card.

“Yeah…and I can’t get one until 5 o’clock. The Coke machine is broken.” He nudged his head in the direction of the vending machine while he filled my gas tank.

As he gave me back my credit card, I handed him an unopened bottle of cold water from my lunch bag.

He grinned. “Thanks. You don’t have to…”

“That’s okay,” I said, and drove away. The above scripture passage came to mind. I couldn’t remember it exactly, something about giving a cup of cold water to someone because they belonged to Christ and getting a reward.

 

I started wondering if that attendant was a believer and immediately decided it didn’t matter. We all belong to Christ. He loves us all, whether we know it or not, like it or not, accept it or not. Nobody is outside of God’s love.

 

I guess my conclusion was right, because I certainly got my reward: I started feeling good about myself. Such a tiny gesture cost me nothing. The miracle is that because I was not preoccupied with my own thoughts while the man filled my gas tank. I was able to think about him as more than just moving scenery in my world. I was gifted with the awareness that someone around me had a need that I could meet without even taking time from my schedule, straining my pocketbook, or even getting out of the car.

 

How often do I go through my day oblivious to people right under my nose? How many are thirsting for something I could provide? People thirst for all kinds of things: validation, a listening ear, reassurance that they’re not alone. Yes, the world is filled with people that have huge needs and devastating hurts. We could probably spend all our time, talent, and treasure volunteering and contributing to worthy causes and still not meet all of humanity’s needs. Still, we can all do something if we have the awareness, especially closer to home.

 

Someone said, “Don’t let the little you can do stop you from doing the little you can do.” For today, I’m glad it didn’t let it stop me. How about you?

 

Prayer: Lord, open my eyes to those in my day who have a need that I can fill.

 

Reflection for sharing: What keeps you from noticing those around you?

 

Saturday Spotlight: Roman Centurion

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“Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof…but only speak the word, and let my servant be healed. For I also am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and the slave does it.” When Jesus heard this he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, he said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” Luke 7: 6b-9

 

The training this Roman soldier received shaped his understanding of what Jesus could do and he approached Jesus on those terms. Being not only a Gentile, but also an enemy, the centurion felt unworthy to approach Jesus as an equal. But the centurion’s heart was full of love for his slave and that love opened him to receive the gift Jesus freely offered.

 

Like the centurion, do we sometimes think that we are unworthy of God’s healing love? Swamped in guilt or low self-esteem, sometimes we feel so undeserving that we don’t dare to hope, let alone ask. Worthiness has nothing to do with God’s love. The centurion recognized his humble position in relation to Jesus, but didn’t shrink from making his needs known.

 

On the other hand, he made a request, not a demand. God’s grace is pure gift. To receive a gift, we need open hands and hearts. It’s tempting to pray for healing on our terms. We limit ourselves when we narrowly expect our prayers to be answered the way we think they should. Jesus accepted the centurion’s approach; the centurion trusted Jesus. God will meet us on our terms, but we have to trust his response.

 

Prayer: Lord, help me see that your power is bigger than my pre-conceived notions. May I trust myself and my loved ones to your loving care today and every day.

 

Reflection: The centurion related to Jesus based on his own experience of chain of command. What in your experience influences your approach to God?

 

 

 

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Meditations

But Jesus answered “The scripture says, ‘Human beings cannot live on bread alone, but need every word that God speaks.’” (Matthew 4:4)

 

All Bible quotes are from the Good News Translation unless otherwise noted.

 

It is reassuring that Jesus called fishermen and tax collectors to be his followers. These were laymen, not Scripture experts. It is wise to seek guidance from religious scholars and clergy who have studied Scripture to avoid errors in interpretation. But the Bible is also a gift given to each of us, to use as a basis for prayer and meditation.

 

I’m not a Biblical scholar; I’m an expert only on my own experience. Following the Scripture passage is a brief meditation along with a question or two as a springboard for your own reflections. Please feel free to share your own thoughts or insights on the passage by adding a comment. All comments are moderated, so please allow some time for your comment to be posted.

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