Sunday, September 29, 2013

Lazarus and The Rich Man

" Jesus said to the Pharisees, 'There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen, reclined upon an ivory bed, and dined sumptuously each day. And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man's table. Dogs even used to come and lick his sores. When the poor man died, he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried, and from the netherworld, where he was in torment, he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he cried out,  ' Father Abraham, have pity on me. Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am suffering torment in these flames.'
Abraham replied, ' My child, remember you received what was good during your lifetime, while Lazarus likewise received what was bad; but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented. Moreover, between us and you a great chasm is established to prevent anyone from crossing who might wish to go from our side to yours or from your side to ours.' He said, 'Then I beg you, father, send him to my father's house, for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they too come to this place of torment.' But Abraham replied, 'They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them.' He said, 'Oh no, father Abraham, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.' Then Abraham said, ' If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neigher will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.'"   [ Luke 16: 19-31.]

I grew up in a family that had nice clothes, plenty of food and a beautiful home.

And yet, when I went far away, to the university where they sent me, to study what they dictated that I study, they abandoned me in a time of dire need.

This happened at a time when I was in my early twenties. I was living in university housing. One day, around midday, a knock came at my door. It was a man with a weapon, intent upon robbing me and doing me harm.

I almost died, that day, at the hands of the attacker. The policeman, who came to my apartment after the man had fled, said that I had only about 30 seconds to a minute longer to live when I begged for mercy and the man stopped his assault. Miraculously, I was allowed to live.

In the aftermath, I looked at myself in the mirror. I was bruised, and my face and jaw were so swollen, I did not recognize myself. How awfully real this all became, when I caught sight of myself in a mirror. Like Lazarus, I was wounded. For weeks, I avoided mirrors, out of fear of what I would see.

And yet, when I told my family what had happened, they repeated to me 'The Rules': "Stay in school, or you will be a failure."

Back home, my family "dined sumptuously". After the attack, it was painful for me to get out of bed. I could not make myself meals, for weeks thereafter.

My family wore nice clothes. I was so battered, I could barely dress myself.

My family rested easily in their beds, feeling secure at night. I was extremely fearful of falling asleep, and even when I did, I was awakened each night by terrifying nightmares.

At first reading, this Scripture seems a bit unfair. Why should the rich man, who lives so comfortably, help a beggar whom he does not even know?

Ah. . . . but, the rich man DID know Lazarus by name! In fact, the rich man called out to Abraham, saying " Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue."

It pains me deeply that my family knew my name, as well; and yet, they left me to suffer like Lazarus. Not only that, they knew my favorite colors, my favorite foods, my favorite kind of music, and so on. They knew me in a deeply personal way, but they showed me no mercy or compassion.

It has occurred to me more than once, that the man who attacked me showed more mercy to me, than my own family did. After all, the attacker did respond to my cries for mercy. He allowed me to live. But, at my family's hands, I died a little more each day.

One day, in my university apartment, I cried out to God. I could not fathom the deep chasm between myself and my family. How had we come to this point, that my family and I were so far apart that they could leave me wounded and alone? I prayed, not for healing, not for strength; but for Wisdom.

That chasm that I felt is spoken of in this Scripture. It is a great chasm that prevents "anyone from crossing, who might wish to go" from one side to the other, or back.

At that point, I needed my family more than ever. Could anything bridge that chasm between us?

At the moment that the attacker left my apartment, I forgave him.  I cannot even explain this. In secular terms, I would be called crazy to forgive a man who had done this to me. Somehow, by God's Grace, I told myself that the attacker was sick and needed help. Otherwise, who would do this kind of thing to a complete stranger?

The road to forgiving my family has been harder. It is easier to walk away from someone you do not know. It is easier to forgive someone who does not even know your name.

But when the question is whether to forgive someone who knows all about you, that seems impossible.

I once asked my pastor if anything was "unforgiveable" He paused and said, "Um. No."  After all, Jesus, the Son of God, never hated even those who crucified Him.

What I have reached for over and over is the Mercy that I would have wanted for myself.

Recently, Pope Francis has been criticized for coming out in favor of Love and Mercy, before church rules.

In a sense, it was fanatical devotion to Rules that left me abandoned in a far away city, after I was almost killed. And it was blindness to Love that left me alone and terrified. Yes, I needed to get my education, but not when I was so injured, I could barely stand up.

After many years, I gradually came to forgive my family for abandoning me. For, "they knew not what they did." I came to give them the Mercy they did not give me, because I do not want to make their mistakes. I do not want to become merciless in return.

Sometimes when we are poor, lonely and abandoned, Mercy and Love are all that we have. Because it is Mercy and Forgiveness that bridges that chasm, and leaves us feeling far less alone. For, it is Mercy and Forgiveness that lead us to God. 

[Related posting, " Prayer For Wisdom", July 23, 2011].

(c) Spiritual Devotional 2013. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Shrewd Steward

" Jesus told His disciples: ' There was a rich man whose manager was accused of squandering his property. So, he called him in and asked him, ' What is this I hear about you? Give me an accounting of your management, because you cannot be manager any longer.' The manager said to himself,
 ' What shall I do now ? . . . .  I know what I'll do so that, when I lose my job here, people will welcome me into their houses'.

So he called in each of the master's debtors. He asked the first, ' How much so you owe my master?' 'Eight hundred gallons of olive oil,' he replied. The manager told him, 'Take your bill, sit down quickly and make it four hundred.'

Then he asked the second,' And how much do you owe?' 'A thousand bushels of wheat,' he replied. He told him, ' Take your bill and make it eight hundred.'

The master commended the dishonest manager, because he had acted shrewdly. For the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation, than are the children of light. Make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.

Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one or love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and mammon.'  The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and ridiculed Him. Jesus said to them, ' You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows what is in your heart. What is highly valued among humans is an abomination to God.' " [Luke 16: 1-13.]

This Scripture is a puzzlement. Many Biblical scholars have debated its meaning.

Here is a manager who mismanages his master's property, taking on too much debt. Then, when confronted with this mismanagement, the steward decides to "clean up" the debts by marking them down by as much as 50%. If I had a manager like that, I would fire him!

But Jesus says, "The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly." Now why would Jesus say such a thing?

This manager kind of reminds me of my father. My dad was a shrewd, clever man when it came to accumulating and compounding his assets. He counted every penny. His income he invested, and reinvested.

In this world, a man like my father would be commended. Perhaps, others would even emulate his strategies.

I can tell you, though, that often his behavior humiliated me.

When we were on holiday a few years ago, I was a young adult. We were driving in the country and were looking for a place to buy a sandwich for lunch. We drove and drove, but could find no place of business on the country road we traveled.

Finally we backtracked and went into a convenience market. The market did not sell sandwiches. So we pulled a few ice creams from the freezer. When he went to pay, my dad realized he was short about a dollar. He told the owner, 'This is all I have.' The owner protested, ' You are short from what you owe.' My father told him abruptly, ' It does not matter'.

The owner told him firmly, ' It may not matter to you. But it matters to me. How can I run my store, if everyone shorts me like this? '

I stood there, mortified. I was frantically searching my purse and pockets forsome extra change. My father glared at me and said, "Never mind!" My father plunked down the money, grabbed the ice creams and exited.

I suppose some could praise my dad for being a shrewd manager. But God knew what was in his heart. What was in his heart was the narcissism of  dictating his own price, and dismissing the need for the owner to make a living.

And then, something like this happened again. My dad had bought a case of sparkling water. After we arrived back at the place where we were staying, he realized that 2 or 3 of the cans were sealed but actually empty--- filled only with air. I thought that was a wonderful mystery, how those few cans came to be sealed in the factory, when they contained nothing.

But my father was furious. He packed up the few empty cans and stormed back to the store. At the service counter, he confronted a young man at the register. When he pointed out the empty cans, the young man said that he was sorry that had happened. My dad said, "You SHOULD be!" ( As if the young man had been the one at the factory to sneak in some empty cans, just to be fraudulent. . . .?!)

The young man reimbursed my father for the empty cans. This amounted to about 15 cents apiece. I was humiliated.

These two incidences taught me that my father was "dishonest with very little", with his pennies and his dollars. 

My dad pinched his pennies. He could squeeze pennies out of anyone, even if it meant greedy and rude behavior.

He was also " dishonest with much." Unsurprisingly, his behavior at home was equally cruel. Because every night, he came home from work and got quietly drunk. That was when the ugliness began and most of it was directed at me-- the baby and the daughter, who had nothing to do with his rage.

I see the painful truth that, "No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money."

My dad loved money. He did not even know God. Nor did he care to. God meant nothing to him. My dad served Money. And his own needs. 

Is it any wonder that I grew up to detest money, but to love God? I know that God does not want us to starve. To go cold and homeless and hungry.

But I cannot worship the Money that my dad twisted and manipulated to his will, at the abuse of others.

I often wonder, what would this world be like, if all those who manage their wordly wealth with cunning cleverness, would bestow that resourcefulness on working for God?

I am not sure, but I am willing to try. For, "No servant can serve two masters." I chose to serve God. His Eternal Riches are worth far more to me than any worldly wealth that I could accumulate in my lifetime.

[Related Posting: "The Hoarder", August 5, 2013].

(c) Spiritual Devotional 2013. All Rights Reserved.


Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Prodigal Daughter

" Jesus told this parable: 'There was a man who had two sons, and the younger son said to his father, ' Father, give me the share of your estate that should come to me.' After a few days, the younger son collected all his belongings and set off to a distant country where he squandered his inheritance on a life of dissipation. When he had freely spent everything, a severe famine struck that country, and he found himself in dire need. Coming to his senses, he got up and went back to his father. His father caught sight of him and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him. His son said to him, 'I no longer deserve to be called your son.' But his father ordered his servants, 'Quickly, bring the finest robe, and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Take the fatted calf and slaughter it. Then let us celebrate with a feast.

Now the older son became angry and refused to enter the house. His father came out and pleaded with him. He said to his father in reply. 'Look, all these years, I served you, and not once did I disobey your orders. His father said to him, ' My son, you are here with me always; everything I have is yours. But now, we must celebrate and rejoice, because your brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.' " [ Luke 15: 1-15].

The first time I read this story, I thought that it must be wrong! I have spent my entire life, working hard to be obedient and helpful. But, this story says that the father [i.e., the Father] does not love us more, or less, according to what we do. God will take us back, in our contrition, no matter what we have done.

Our earthly, secular selves cry out, screaming : "That is NOT fair! Look at how good I have been!"

I suspect that we also grumble, as we would at an unrealistic movie, saying, " Like THAT would ever happen!?"

But the story of The Prodigal Son does happen in real life. We all descend into difficult, back-biting, even vengeful relationships: with the difficult boss, with a high maintenence friend, even with our own brothers or mothers. This is what it is to be human: to bicker, but to long for reconcilation.

It is when we face the permanent loss of that person that we face a stark choice. What if that younger son in the parable had truly been lost? What if he had died?

I faced this with my own mother.

My mother was beautiful; but mercurial in every sense of the word: eloquent, shrewd, fast changing. She was sharp tongued one minute, gentle the next.

She could heap compliments on me that were actually veiled barbs of jealousy. She would say, " You have beautiful hair, thick and lustrous. Not like my thin, drab hair." Or she would say, " You have beautiful strong legs. Not like mine that are thin and weak."

She could be cruel to me. One day, I came home from school and our little dog was gone. My mother had given her away. I walked to back school for the afternoon session, in tears. I thought, 'What kind of mother did I get?'

When I was 13, I came home from school and all my beloved stuffed animals were gone. These were my dear friends. They all had names and personalities. She had given them away because a day or so earlier, I had sided with my father.

And yet, she always took me to the library, or to the pool, or to the skating rink, whenever I asked. If we ate at a diner, she always shared her French fries with me. She called me "Dear", and invited me into her bed as a child, if I had a nightmare.

But in graduate school, she truly abandoned me. I was a victim of a violent crime. I almost died that day. But my mother left me there in that distant city to cope alone.

I got married to a Catholic. My mother was furious. She refused to stand in the receiving line at my wedding.

After I married a Catholic, I was disinvited to holidays. I was invited on vacations with her and my father, but without my husband. I declined to go.

My husband and I moved away. We hit the hard times that many young couples do: expensive dental work, saving for our first house, sudden expenses for burst water pipes. I decided that I would rather eat rice and beans, before I went crawling back to my mother for help.

Then, one spring day, I was tackling some spring cleaning when the phone rang early in the morning. It was my brother. Our father had fallen gravely ill, and had been rushed to the hospital.

A short time later, my brother called back. He said, "Dad did not make it."

He said, "We need you down here. Right now."

Part of me wanted to say no. My mother had abandoned me. Let her cope alone.

I struggled only momentarily, though. Then, I said to myself, this is my mother we are talking about.  My father had died. What if my mother died as well? What if I never had a chance to be close to her again, or to say goodbye? And so, I told my brother, "I am on my way."

As I got in the car to go to her and to my brother, all the years of anger and hurt melted away. Whatever my mother had done or not done over the years, it did not matter in that moment. I was going to see my mother again and get her back in my life. With my father's death, she had become precious anew.

When I saw my mother again, she was pale, painfully thin, needy both physically and emotionally. She had changed utterly. She needed me. And I needed her back in my life. I had a relentless urge to cradle her in my arms

My mother ultimately moved near me. That first night she came up to me, we had a family celebration dinner, all of us-- our mother, her children, her grandchildren. It felt odd to be all together like this, when things had been so strained in the past. But it felt right.

She and I made our new life together. But, we made the mistake of trying to "prove" our new-found allegiance, with what we did for each other. She cleaned my house. She did my dishes. She tried to give me money for groceries. I took her to the doctor and hairdresser. I balanced the checkbook for her and filed her taxes. We could not out do each other in this way.

We were both wrong. 

Noted author Stephen J. Binz says, " God does not care about production. There is no way to make points with Him."  God simply loves us, as His children, no matter what.

His Love is not a contest. His Love simply IS.

Our Love should not be a contest either. Neither should our Hate become a battle of wills, sending us into vengefulness, stubborn silence, or harsh words. We lose too much that way.

We lose each other, when we should be finding each other.

" Prodigal" means "wasteful", in the sense of the younger brother, who squandered his half of the paternal inheritance. It also means, "extravagantly generous." I was, in essence, the Prodigal Daughter.

Call me crazy, call me extraordinarily generous. But I took my mother back when she had treated me cruelly and abandoned me, and when I had no earthly reason to even speak to her again.

It was the loss of my father that taught me how precious my mother really was. I HAD to be generous, or I would have lost my mother, as well. More loss, or Love? I chose Love.

[ Related Posting: "The Prodigal Son", March 10, 2013.]

(c) Spiritual Devotional 2013. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, September 9, 2013

The Cost of Christianity

" Great crowds were traveling with Jesus, and He turned to address them: 'If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. . . Which of you wishing to construct a tower does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if there is enough for its completion? Otherwise, after laying the foundation and finding himself unable to finish the work, the onlookers should laugh at him and say, 'This one began to build but did not have the resources to finish.' Or what king marching into battle would not first sit down and decide whether with ten thousand troops, he can successfully oppose another king? In the same way, anyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.' " [Luke 14: 25-33].

My husband has an expression: "Do not start what you cannot finish." 

As for me, I use the metaphor about running a race. I tell our son, " Why would you exhaust yourself running a marathon, then sit down one foot away from the finish line?"

Being a Christian is a long and exhausting race. St. Paul said so himself when he declared: " I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race. I have kept the Faith." [2 Timothy 4: 7].

There is a serious cost to being a Christian, even today. In this Scripture, Jesus relates to his disciples the metaphor of building a great tower. Would you even begin construction, without at least a fairly accurate assessment of how much it will cost you?

In a way, this warning of Jesus' here is like "Truth in Advertising" or informed consent. Jesus calls to us, "Come, follow me". [Matthew 4: 19]. But, He also wants us to know what the consequences will be, if we say, Yes.

Some say that this is Jesus being so very human here, traveling on the road to Jerusalem where He knows what awaits Him, knowing in His heart that Peter, 'before the cock crows will deny Him three times' [Matthew 26: 34]. Who would not want absolute loyalty from His best friends, as He marched to a violent end?

I also say that this is Jesus as God's Son, saying, "People will hate you because of me." [Luke 21: 17].  Jesus is not simply posing a provocative theory here.

This is real. Jesus wants us to put Him and His Father first, if we are going to claim to be Christians. Everything else comes second, even our own families.

We are called to the same priorities, even today. I think of the Theodore Kaczynski case. (He is better known as the Unabomber.) His own brother turned him in to authorities, because  he did not want anyone else getting hurt. This was a case of putting God before one's own brother.

I think of that brave young man Matthew Cordle,who went on You Tube to confess that he had killed a man while driving drunk. This is a case of Cordle putting God before even himself. Cordle will likely spend about 8 years in prison, because of his confession.

I think of some of the choices I have been faced with:

My mother told me in college, that if I did not major in what she dictated, she would cut off tuition. I opted for her choice AND mine, and earned a double major. This was a lot of extra work, but studying the subject for which I had innate gifts, rather than the subject my mother foisted upon me,  honored God first.

When I brought home my husband-to-be, my mother was horrified to find that he is Catholic. She said to me, "What do you see in him? Can't you date someone else?" But in marrying my Catholic husband, I was affirming the value of my faith, something my mother could not "see". I put God before my mother.

My mother offered me money to get married by a Justice of the Peace, then to go off on a trip for a few weeks. But I wanted to be married in a church, before God. I turned down the money and the trip. I chose God first.

My parents refused to stand in the receiving line at my wedding. Instead, I went around to every table at the reception, to greet each guest. I chose to welcome my guests with love and caring, even though I had no dinner and only one bite of cake.

Since I "came out" as a Christian at my wedding, and thereafter, I have :

* Lost friends, who stopped calling me or asking to get together.

* Left jobs, when I found out that the products or practices of my employer were questionable.

* Been disinvited to holidays by family; and therefore had to spend holidays alone.

* Received invitations to go on vacations with family, BUT the invitation clearly excluded my husband. (As my husband are I are now One, I stayed home.)

Jesus calls us in Luke 14: 25, to "get real" about our faith.

We are called to follow God and Jesus above all else-- above money, above fame, above friends, above jobs, above even our own mothers.

I have been told that I have a steely bond with God. As a Christian, could you, would you, love God above all else?

[Related Postings: "In Battle For God", August 25, 2012; " Hating This Life", March 25, 2012; "My Baptism By Fire", August 19, 2013.]

(c) Spiritual Devotional 2013.All Rights Reserved.

Friday, September 6, 2013

The Queen of Peace

The world is watching and waiting as the crisis in Syria unfolds. Approximately 2 million citizens of Syria have fled, becoming refugees. Over 1,400 citizens have died from a deadly Sarin attack.

The United States debates whether to make a military strike. Italy and Russia have sent warships to the region, to join American warships.

Syria warns that a military action could result in untold consequences in such an unstable region.

Is War inevitable?

Pope Francis has issued a declaration, which states in part:

" Dear Brothers and Sisters, Hello!

Today, dear brothers and sisters, I wish to add my voice to the cry which rises up with increasing anguish from every part of the world, from every people, from the heart of each person, from one great family which is humanity: It is the cry for peace! . . . Never again war!

. . . In these days, my heart is deeply wounded in particular by what is happening in Syria and anguished by the dramatic developments which are looming. . . . I appeal strongly for peace, an appeal which arises from deep within me.

To this end, brothers and sisters, I have decided to proclaim for the whole Church on [Saturday], September 7, 2013, the vigil of the birth of Mary, Queen of Peace, a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria, the Middle East, and throughout the world, and I also invite . . . all people of good will, to participate in whatever way they can, in this initiative.

On September 7, in Saint Peter's Square, here, from 7:00 p.m. until midnight [Vatican Time], we will gather in prayer and in a spirit of penance, invoking God's great gift of peace upon the beloved nation of Syria and upon each situation of conflict and violence around the world. Humanity needs to see these gestures of peace and hear words of hope and peace! I ask all the local churches, in addition to fasting, that they gather for this prayer intention:

"Let us ask Mary to help us to respond to violence, to conflict and to war, with the power of dialogue, reconciliation and love. She is our Mother: May she help us to find peace; all of us are her children! Help us, Mary to overcome this most difficult moment and to dedicate ourselves each day to building in every situation an authentic culture of encounter and peace. Mary, Queen of Peace, pray for us!"

[To all those who read my impassioned blog posts in this space, always calling for peace:  Whether you be in America, Tanzania, Sri Lanka, China, Russia, Great Britain, or the South Pacific, let our cry for peace ring out and be heard! Gather with your families tomorrow to pray for Peace.]

[ Related Posting: " War is Not a Game",  March 22, 2013; " The War For Love", April 19, 2013.]

(c) Spiritual Devotional 2013. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

And The Lowly Shall Be Exalted

" On a sabbath, Jesus went to dine at the home of one of the leading Pharisees. He told a parable to those who had been invited, noticing how they were choosing the places of honor at the table. 'When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not recline at table in the place of honor. . . The host who invited you may approach and say, 'Give your place to this [more distinguished man], and then you would proceed with embarrassment. Rather, when you are invited, go and take the lowest place so that when the host comes to you, he may say, 'My friend, move up to a higher position.' For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.' Then he said to the host, 'When you hold a lunch or dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors, in case they may invite you back, and you have repayment. Rather, when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; blessed indeed will be you because of their inability to repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous." [ Luke 14: 1, 7-14].

So many commentators talk of Christians in America as being "conservatives". Do you know what a Conservative really is? A Conservative, in a literal sense, works to preserve the "status quo."

But we see here that Jesus was truly a radical. He came, not to pander to those in power, nor to strive to protect things as they were. No, he came to upend the usual rules of society. Christians are called to to be radical, as well.

And so, in this parable, Jesus tells us that the exalted (the wealthy, the powerful) shall be humbled. But the humble shall be exalted ( promoted, glorified).

In many ways, our world has not changed much since Jesus' time-- except that we now have the technology to indulge in the voyeurism of wealth and power. Remember the TV show, "Lifestyles of  the Rich and Famous"? Followed by the MTV show, " Cribs",  showing off  the obscenely lavish mansions of celebrities?

The rich and famous exalt themselves. And we ordinary citizens feed into that, by elevating and even worshipping them.

Jesus asks us, What if it were the humble, who suddenly could escape their nameless, faceless imprisonment? What kind of world would it be if the humble were admired and promoted?

What is it like to be invisible to society? Martin Luther King, Jr. said, for a person of color in America, "You are fighting a degrading sense of No one-ness."

When I was growing up. I lived most of my life as a "No One". I know what it feels like to be  forgotten. As a child, I essentially raised myself.  I found food when I was not fed, I put myself down for naps, I taught myself to read. I walked myself to school in the cold, in the rain. When my family was cruel, I simply left the house. I disappeared. I became invisible.

I had an aunt and uncle who lived out of state. My father's whole family lived out of the country. My grandparents died when I was young. I was a No One. I had No One to turn to.

Am I any less than the person who has wealth and fame?

Jesus calls us to see the humble, not only as equal to anyone else, but as "exalted"-- that is elevated, admired.

This is totally NOT what our world believes. The world, believes, What could anyone possibly see in the poor, the forgotten, the invisible?

Consider Mother Teresa, whose entire adult life was consumed with serving the poor. Mother Teresa said, that when Jesus died on the Cross, He died alone. What He was given to quench His thirst was a rag soaked in vinegar. It is said that He cried tears of blood. He even asked where God was? And so, Mother Teresa believed that in loving and caring for the humble, she was actually loving and lifting up the Jesus in all those she encountered.

And here is another reason why the humble shall be exalted. It is because they are closer to God.

We all have the capacity for a close relationship with God. But, those who are No One and who have nothing, have only God. My mother used to tell me that those who have "only God" are losers. Yes, maybe in this world. . . .

The truth is, after my childhood, I have imagined my life to be like a house that was blown to smithereens by a tornado. I see the roof on the ground and the floorboards up in the air. All that I thought was precious-- photos, china, fancy clothing-- are wrecked and spread in shattered pieces, everywhere. Everything material thing that I thought was most important in life is now --- Nothing.

But I DO have God. And so I cling to Him. I have sometimes had nothing BUT my Faith. I have found that, the less I have in this world, the bigger my Faith grows.

God loves me for this! Perhaps we ought to listen to Jesus, and cherish those who have only God; and admire those who love Him and count on Him the most in the world.

The famous and powerful in this world have already received their generous reward, in this life.

But, the Humble shall receive God's greatest blessings; because it is the humble who possess the greatest treasure of all, a deep and constant Faith in God's Love. And that is worth more than all the riches on Earth!

[Related Postings: "Putting the Last, First", August 25, 2013; "The Humble Shall Be Exalted", November 4, 2011.]

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