To Forgive Always Is The Answer

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Peter approached Jesus and asked him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times. (Matthew 18:21-22)

I am not a scholar or theologian but I do know that Jesus is telling Peter that he has to forgive always. The Gospel today tells the parable of a servant who asked his master to be patient and that he would pay off his debt. The master, cancels the entire debt, a huge debt! The servant then goes to one of his fellow servants, who owed him a small debt, to pay it off. The debtor begs for compassion but the servant who just received compassion, seized him, choked him and put him in prison until he paid the entire debt.

You can imagine what happened when the master found out how this servant treated his fellow servant after the master cancelled the debt. It was not pretty. So we ask in the “Our Father” prayer to “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Jesus taught us this prayer, we ought to listen.

I tend to forgive very easily. That is probably a very good thing that I do but my challenge is from the other side. I have hurt the person I love most with my past sin of adultery. Though it was 30 plus years ago, it is still fresh in her mind. Our relationship pretty much died when my sin became known. She has not forgiven me and though we are still together, I hurt seeing her holding onto the pain that my sin has caused. I have been yelled at, ignored and basically treated like an enemy in our home. But I still have to forgive even though the forgiveness I seek appears for naught.

The world would say that we should split and go our own ways. God says, for better or for worse…. Today it may be worse but my hope is in the Lord. I am not a good person for giving advice so I would finish tonight hoping we will all love the Lord with all our hearts, souls, minds and strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves. And if that neighbor is your spouse, forgive and love.

Mike Burke; Tuesday, March 1, 2016
To Forgive Always Is The Answer

God’s Ways Are Not Our Ways

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“Go and wash seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will heal, and you will be clean.” But Naaman went away angry, saying, “I thought that he would surely come out and stand there to invoke the LORD his God, and would move his hand over the spot, and thus cure the leprosy. Are not the rivers of Damascus, the Abana and the Pharpar, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be cleansed?” With this, he turned about in anger and left. (2 Kings 5:10-12)

As humans created by God, we think too often that we know better than the creator. We live in the 21st century not 2000 years ago. We are so much smarter now. Why would I want to do something that some uneducated person wrote or passed down in the 1st century? Like the Romans, if God were so powerful, why didn’t Jesus come down from the cross and save himself? Why would a powerful God who could split the Red Sea, heap amazing plagues upon the Egyptians and destroy Sodom and Gomorrah send a Savior as a baby, born of a virgin in the poorest of conditions, just to die?

Today, Naaman thought he knew best. He was a king that captured a little slave girl who told him he could be cleansed of his leprosy if he would travel to see the prophet Elisha. Surprisingly, Naaman listened but once he received directions from Elisha, he went away angry because it wasn’t how he thought the healing would be. Of course, our ways make more sense than God’s ways. But his servants reasoned with him and he ended up doing what the prophet Elisha said and he was completely cleansed of his Leprosy.

It got me to thinking today of how God speaks to me. I believe he speaks to me through scripture, nature, books, social media, my children, my grandchildren, meeting people daily and I think you get my point that it is pretty much in everything. I have to be open to listening. I believe God continues to knock and call. It may take a bunch of people like Naaman’s servants to get the message to me. I know it is going to take prayer on my part and honest discernment of the Holy Spirit to listen and accept the will of God. More than ever, I am coming to understand that my ways are often not God’s will. My continual prayer must be Lord, your will be done, not mine. Amen.

Mike Burke; Monday, February 29, 2016
God’s Ways Are Not Our Ways

Searching For Some Fruit

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“He said to the gardener, ‘For three years now I have come in search of fruit on this fig tree but have found none. So cut it down. Why should it exhaust the soil?’ He said to him in reply, ‘Sir, leave it for this year also, and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it; it may bear fruit in the future. If not you can cut it down.’” (Luke 13:7-9)

To make this personal, our Heavenly Father created and gave the fig tree life, Jesus and the power of his Holy Spirit is the gardener and I am the fig tree. I am withered and exhausting the soil, doing nothing to glorify God in the purpose I was created for and seemingly worthless in the eyes of the Father who has for three years, been seeking the fruit I was created to bear.

As I think about it, why am I not using my gifts to bear fruit? What are my gifts? Am I lazy? Am I looking for a free ticket to heaven? Do I even care about building up the Kingdom of God by loving God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength? Do I love my neighbor as myself? Do I love myself? Have I waited too long? Is this the end?

O Savior of the world, come to my aid. Jesus begs his Father to give me some more time. He will cultivate the fig tree, fill me with his Spirit to accomplish the Father’s will to bear more fruit. Will I accept his grace and cooperate? Will I listen to my Savior who just stood up for me to save my life? Will I accept his mercy and repent?

I am looking at a crucifix as I write. Jesus hung on the cross and died for me and my sins. How can I not bear fruit for the Kingdom of God? He gave everything for me, everything! I must give everything for him. Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and enkindle in them the fire of your love that we will bear your fruit all the days of our lives. Praise, Glory and Honor to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Mike Burke; Sunday, February 28, 2016
Searching For Some Fruit

The Lord Is Kind And Merciful

hqdefaultI had a long conversation today with my supervisor about our lives and the directions we are going. She is going through a lot and is struggling with some issues. I am also having issues, as we all do, but I have a grace of peace about me that is hard to explain but very real and noticeable as she has told me. We talk often about Jesus and striving to do our best to understand and do his will. We also remind each other that when we fail, we have a merciful and loving God.

So I am looking at the first reading from Micah, the Responsorial Psalm (The Lord Is Kind And Merciful) and the Gospel of Luke and they are all about mercy. Not much more to say than to let you read God’s words of Love and Mercy for each of us. We are blessed!

Who is there like you, the God who removes guilt and pardons sin for the remnant of his inheritance; Who does not persist in anger forever, but delights rather in clemency, And will again have compassion on us, treading underfoot our guilt? You will cast into the depths of the sea all our sins; You will show faithfulness to Jacob, and grace to Abraham, As you have sworn to our fathers from days of old. (Micah 7:18-20)

Bless the LORD, O my soul; and all my being, bless his holy name. Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.
He pardons all your iniquities, he heals all your ills. He redeems your life from destruction, he crowns you with kindness and compassion.
He will not always chide, nor does he keep his wrath forever. Not according to our sins does he deal with us, nor does he requite us according to our crimes.
For as the heavens are high above the earth, so surpassing is his kindness toward those who fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has he put our transgressions from us.
(Psalm 103: 1-2, 3-4, 9-10, 11-12)

The Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32)

Mike Burke; Saturday, February 27, 2016
The Lord Is Kind And Merciful

A Christian Life Is Not Easy

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If you try to do the right thing by living a right and just life, you are going to have major problems. Or should it be said that living a Christian life is not easy. That seems to be the theme today in the scripture passages from Genesis 37 and Matthew 21.

The story of Joseph, sold into slavery by his very jealous brothers as he was dad’s favorite son. And in the Gospel, Jesus tells the “Parable of the Tenants” where good and just people are beaten and killed by greedy tenants who want it all.

Hopefully, you were not anything like me growing up in my non-Christian days trying to make it big in the world. I was the king of the manipulators. I would tell you what you want to hear and then do what I needed to do. You mattered to me but I mattered more so if it came to the point where it was one or the other, it was definitely me.

Times have changed. You matter much more to me now. I have such great hope in the Lord who through the power and beauty of his grace, changed a young brash sinful man into a still sinful man striving to do only God’s will. I can tell you honestly, regardless of the pressures, the sufferings or the joys of this life, I experience much peace in surrendering to the will of God.

Vindication comes from the Lord and today’s readings also bring that to the table. Fear of the Lord is a good thing if we look at fear in the proper context. I do not want to sin because it offends my Lord and not because I think he is going to punish me. It’s like pounding on the nails in his hands and feet when all Jesus wants to do is love me. The Lord knows I deserve punishment for my sins and I may receive it, but my real hope is in his love and mercy.

So I will continue to live a Christian life and expect nothing less than what Jesus suffered for my salvation. Thank you Jesus.

Mike Burke; Friday, February 25, 2016
A Christian Life Is Not Easy

The Rich Man And Me

3335984783929b89406078f0d76555d4Abraham replied, ‘My child, remember that 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. (Luke 16:25)

Today, Jesus tells the parable of a rich man who had it all. He ignored Lazarus who sat on his doorstep, poor and hungry with dogs licking his sores. And after they both died, Lazarus is comforted in the bosom of Abraham and the rich man is tormented, both separated by a great chasm to prevent anyone from crossing over.

I could just let this passage slip by. I, by the world’s standards, am not a rich man. I might even consider myself closer to Lazarus than to the rich man. But as with most scripture passages, I think it has many layers to contemplate. Spiritually, I think I am very rich. I have been given so many graces, too numerous to count, and I wonder how many graces I am given that I waste each day.

Maybe a smile for someone who is down, a handshake, pat on the back, a kind word or generosity in sharing what I have. Like the rich man, I can often be so much into me that you might think that you do not matter to me. My heart knows you matter to me but I may be ignoring the grace given to show my love and care for you. That is what I hear in this passage.

The rich man pleads with Abraham to send someone from the dead to warn his five brothers so they will repent. Abraham says, “If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.” Quickly off the top of my head comes to mind someone I know who rose from the dead! It would be good for all of us to “listen to Him” as our Heavenly Father has told us.

Jesus has told us how difficult it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. I think he is referring to much more than material wealth. We are all rich in many ways and called to share our gifts to build God’s Kingdom for his glory. My hope and my prayer is that each of us do the best we can do.

Mike Burke; Thursday, February 25, 2016
The Rich Man And Me

Evil Plots And Prayerful Thoughts

hqdefaultSome days when I read scripture, I just shake my head. Today is one of those days. All three readings, Jeremiah 18:18-20, Psalm 31 and the Gospel from Matthew 20:17-28 frustrate me. It is just like the world today. Everyone seems to want something or plotting to do something that is not right. There is little love, lots of greed and desire for self-seeking gratification.

In Jeremiah, “Come, let us contrive a plot against Jeremiah…..And so, let us destroy him by his own tongue; let us carefully note his every word.”

In the Psalm, “I hear the whispers of the crowd, that frighten me from every side, as they consult together against me, plotting to take my life.”

In the Gospel Jesus says, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death, and hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and scourged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day.”

And then again in the Gospel, the mother of the sons of Zebedee asks Jesus, “Command that these two sons of mine sit, one at your right and the other at your left, in your kingdom.”

Working at a college, I hear a lot. People feel entitled with the need to exercise their “rights”. The desire to be better than others, to get ahead, to make more money, to find powerful positions and in general, to conquer the world. I guess that is life in the real world. Is this what is called planning or should I say plotting for success?

So I have learned a few things in my journey, so I offer from the same scripture passages the prayers of prophets and the wisdom of Jesus as the antidote for the worldly pursuit of success.

Heed me, O LORD, and listen to what my adversaries say. Must good be repaid with evil that they should dig a pit to take my life? Remember that I stood before you to speak in their behalf, to turn away your wrath from them.

But my trust is in you, O LORD; I say, “You are my God.” In your hands is my destiny; rescue me from the clutches of my enemies and my persecutors.

“Whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Now I feel much better. Thank you Jesus.

Mike Burke; Wednesday, February 24, 2016
Evil Plots And Prayerful Thoughts