Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A Man with Two Sons and Jesus-Love

In this week's Gospel, Jesus shares the story of the man with two sons.  He told his eldest son to go work in the vinyard, but the elder did not want to go work and said "no" to his father.  He later reconsidered and went to work in the vinyard.  Meanwhile, the man told his younger son to go work in the field.  He agreed to go, but didn't.  The chief priests and elders claim the elder son did his father's will, and Jesus tells them:
[Yeah,] tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you.  When John came to you in the way of righteousness, you did not believe him; but tax collectors and prostitutes did.  Yet even when you saw that, you did not change your minds and believe him.
You know what I wonder?

Why is it always tax collectors and prostitutes?  What's so bad about tax collectors?  Aren't they just doing their jobs?  (This website - http://www.colonialucc.org/worship/sermons/2008/sermon_060808.html - likens tax collectors to first century Palestinian Sopranos.  Ha. That strikes me as funny.)  I guess the case could be made that prostitutes are only doing theirs as well.  Aren't those paying for the prostitutes' services sinners too? 

Of course the whole time I'm wondering, I'm missing the point of the parable.

I do get the point:  the elders and church leaders considered themselves righteous and above reproach, and they didn't bother to even listen to what John had to say. Meanwhile, the sinners were listening.  They may initially have said "no" to their heavenly Father, but then they went out and did right - they chose to follow Jesus.

Fr Tony really nailed his homily again this week. He opened with two thoughts:
  • I bet each of us can tell stories about how people have let us down - made promises to us and never followed up on them.  We put our trust in them and, in the end, they aren't there for us.  (Why, yes, that's happened to me.)
  • But we must acknowledge times that we ourselves have gone back on our word when we have given a half-hearted "yes" to someone or something that we never planned to follow up on.  (Why, yes, I have done something like that as well.  True, not intentionally - I always mean it when I say "yes" to someone.  Still, I'm guilty of failing to follow through.)
He continues, "this parable today offers us good news:  sinners can change!"  Attending Mass is our new commitment to die to ourselves - leave our own wants and needs behind so we are "going out and serving Him and sacrificing for Him as His disciples."  When we say "Amen," we are promising to "see our Lord in our brothers and sisters and respond with a 'yes' when God calls us."

It's a challenge to see the Lord in our brothers and sisters, especially those brothers and sisters who have wronged us.  It may be a bigger challenge to see the Lord in the brothers and sisters we have wronged.  If we were really able to love the way Jesus wants us to love, it might not be such a challenge.  And what kind of love is Jesus-love?  It's love that is patient, kind, not jealous, does not brag, is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly, does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, rejoices with truth, bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.  Best of all, Jesus-love cannot, will not, does not fail.  Jesus-love is awesomely, wonderfully, eternally perfect.

I fail at Jesus-love sometimes. So do most people. Where I most often fail is in my inability to believe that sinners - and we are all sinners - change. I long for cosmic justice. 

Punish the sinners! 

Off with their heads!

Clap on the chains!

And yet...
The sinner basically punishes himself. The punishment is built into the very sinfulness. This is what Ezekiel is saying [in Sunday's first reading]. “Listen, you House of Israel: is what I do unjust?” It is not altogether uncommon to hear people complain that God is unjust to them. But God responds that a good person who violates his own integrity to do something evil dies in sin, precisely as a result of the evil he has done.

Our self-seeking, our hate, anger, aggression, violence, jealousy, resentments, our greed and avarice… all lead to isolation, loneliness, hostility with others and often to physical and mental stress and breakdowns. Sin, which is a refusal to respond to God loving us, brings its own inevitable punishment. Our sins often leave wounds which take a long time to heal. God does not need to punish us; we do that very well by our own choices.
 Well, hell.  What else is there to say?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The File is Closed!

Now that I finally know what I want to do when I grow up, things are happening fast.

I have learned enough Latin and Spanish to be dangerous. I have an approved map to follow for the next two years at the end of which I will have a Masters in Spanish K-12 education.  And I have completed both the application to the graduate program and the application to the foreign study program. 
I encountered two major challenges completing my applications.  The first was writing my resume and personal statement.  I can't remember another time when I sat longer staring at a blank screen trying to figure out how to define myself and articulate my skills.  The second was writing a 300-word statement in Spanish describing my goals for my foreign study.  I can type thousands of words about anything in a half hour or less, so the effort it took to write and submit those documents surprised me.  But now the applications have been sent and the file is closed.  It feels really, really good to write that.
I'm thrilled with my first effort in Spanish composition too.  And here it is, my Spanish Goals Essay:

               Yo quería estudiar en Europa cuando era joven, pero decidí casarme y tener hijos.  Estoy feliz de haber pasado mi tiempo de esta manera.  Durante el proceso de planificación para cambiar de carrera, descubrí este programa.  Estoy muy contenta que mi familia apoye mi decisión de ir a España en enero. 
Quiero ir a España porque la gente es muy interesante y la cultura es antigua. Estoy emocionada de visitar la hermosa ciudad de Seville.  Creo que la mejor manera de aprender el idioma es utilizarlo, y creo que voy a usar la lengua con frecuencia mientras estoy estudiando en España.  Este verano pasado tome dos clases de español intensivas.  Pienso que estas clases intensivas son útiles porque hay mucho tiempo con la lengua.  Porque yo soy mayór que la mayoría de los estudiantes y tengo un objetivo para empezar la escuela de posgrado en el otoño, completar los requisitos de español de forma rápida y buena es importante para mí.  También, creo que es bueno intentar cosas nuevas, especialmente cuando tengo la oportunidad de aprender acerca del mundo y la gente del mundo. 
Mi objetivo más importante es el uso de la lengua española lo más posible entonces planeo interactuar con otros estudiantes y participar en muchos eventos todos los días. También me gustarían ver el país y conocer a gente en diferentes lugares de la escuela, así que voy a ir a la iglesia y disfrutar de las comidas en los restaurantes.  Porque me gusta estudiar la historia, voy a visitar diferentes partes de las áreas circundantes y algunos lugares históricos. 
Mi esposo y yo hemos recibido a los estudiantes de intercambio a nuestra casa por cinco años.  Miré a estos estudiantes jovenes viajar lejos de sus casas y familias con valor.  Ahora yo soy la que entra en un país nuevo y experimenta una cultura nueva y personas diferentes.  Me siento muy afortunada tener esta oportunidad.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

If the Bra Fits...

I haven't written - again - in another long time.

Life is magnificently busy.  Being busy is good for me, I think.  It keeps me moving in the right direction.  I think sometimes my busy-ness gets a little out of control.  Then the work of the day only serves to frustrate me and keep me from being still and reveling in those moments of utter stillness during which I fill my cup. 

A funny thought compelled me to login and warm up my rusty blogger fingers.  The funny thought?  Bras.

For those of us who use them, bras consume a considerable portion of our wardrobe budget.  And yet too many of us are trapped in silken or lacy cages that don't fit the right way.  If you are a user of said devices, you know exactly what I mean.  Worse, when they don't fit right, they mean the rest of our clothes don't fit, we look older and heavier than we are, and we can spend the day pulling up drooping straps or tucking in stray bits of... well, the stuff that belongs inside the bra.

I found a great resource for really great bras, but my friend who fits and sells them is leaving that company because they've changed their product to less great bras.  Bummer. 

Look at these pictures the company used on their website. What a difference a bra makes.

I'm feeling a little sad.  Where, oh where, can I find good bras now?

Here's a case of a company improving its product while leaving it's fans behind.