Never Losing Hope

Reading 1 / Isaiah 66:18-21

Thus says the LORD:  I know their works and their thoughts, and I come to gather nations of every language; they shall come and see my glory. I will set a sign among them; from them I will send fugitives to the nations: to Tarshish, Put and Lud, Mosoch, Tubal and Javan, to the distant coastlands that have never heard of my fame, or seen my glory; and they shall proclaim my glory among the nations. They shall bring all your brothers and sisters from all the nations as an offering to the LORD, on horses and in chariots, in carts, upon mules and dromedaries, to Jerusalem, my holy mountain, says the LORD, just as the Israelites bring their offering to the house of the LORD in clean vessels. Some of these I will take as priests and Levites, says the LORD.

  • Quite often in Scripture, we are shown imagery that might have been what J.R.R. Tolkien saw when he wrote “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy.  The Book of Isaiah, much like the Book of Revelation, provides us with an opportunity to allow our imaginations to soar beyond this world.  While many have provided translations of the Books of the Bible, it is hard to say who’s version is right; or better.  It doesn’t matter who is right or wrong; what matters is that we engage with Scripture and ask the Holy Spirit for His guidance as we ingest it.  A long time ago, a good Friend suggested that I say a little prayer to the Holy Spirit before I read my Bible; she told me I should ask the Holy Spirit for clarity, understanding, and wisdom as it pertains to God’s Word.  She, of course, was right – It has helped me exponentially.  Jesus spoke mostly in parables; even to His Apostles.  If you feel frustrated, just remember that Jesus did this even with His own inner circle.  Just like last week’s Gospel Reading of Luke 12:49-53, Jesus said, “Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth?  No, I tell you, but rather division.”  What are some ways for us to better understand God’s Word?  How can we help ourselves and others to understand Scripture more clearly?

Responsorial Psalm / Psalm 117:1, 2

R. (Mark 16:15) Go out to all the world and tell the Good News.

Praise the LORD all you nations; glorify him, all you peoples!  R.

For steadfast is his kindness toward us, and the fidelity of the LORD endures forever.  R.

  • If you were to ask me to describe “forever” or “eternity”, I would stumble a bit.  Francis Chan offers an explanation of eternity using rope.  Interesting.  I’m not as smart as Francis Chan.  Like the rope in his illustration, eternity goes on forever.  And, God’s love endures forever.  Sometimes, we are consumed with the small stuff and we are not focusing on eternity.  We should shirk off the short-term thinking and the creature comforts of this world; we should focus on eternity.  That is what Jesus is asking of us today; to  “go out to all the world and tell the Good News.”  Why aren’t we preaching the Word more openly in the world?  What is keeping us from telling His-story?

Reading 2 / Hebrews 12:5-7, 11-13

Brothers and sisters, You have forgotten the exhortation addressed to you as children: “My son, do not disdain the discipline of the Lord or lose heart when reproved by him; for whom the Lord loves, he disciplines; he scourges every son he acknowledges.” Endure your trials as “discipline”; God treats you as sons. For what “son” is there whom his father does not discipline? At the time, all discipline seems a cause not for joy but for pain, yet later it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by it.  So strengthen your drooping hands and your weak knees. Make straight paths for your feet, that what is lame may not be disjointed but healed.

  • Growing up, some of us got in a lot of trouble.  Some might have even heard the infamous lines, “I’m doing this, because I love you” or “it’s for your own good”.  Regardless of how often we were scolded for our inappropriate behavior and/or actions, we would try again and again until the lesson took hold.  My good Friend shared with me his Mother’s approach to making his bed every morning.  He said that one day he didn’t make it and his Mother introduced him to “the Claw“.  It turns out, “the Claw” was actually his Mother’s right hand and forearm that she would morph into a rake-like state and then tear apart his bed from one corner to the other in an effort to take everything down to the mattress off the bed and onto the floor in one fall swoop.  Being the youngest of eleven, my Friend saw “the Claw” in it’s finest hours.  Once “the Claw” did its maneuver, his Mom would then tell him to make his bed and then call her for an inspection.  He called her back a few minutes later and she inspected the bed, pulled back out “the Claw”, and repeated the exercise.  This went on for 5 times in total.  Needless to say, the discipline worked.  I asked my Friend if he ever forgot to make the bed again – he told me that he had the pleasure of experiencing “the Claw” on one other occasion and then the lesson was finally learned completely.  I think it’s like that with Jesus.  He’s 100% consistent; what He says He’s going to do, He does.  You don’t need a warning shot from Christ – I bet a glare from Him would have frozen one of the Apostles.  But, He does it, like my Friend’s Mom, because He wants the best for us and nothing less.  It’s for our own good and He intervenes when we need it, because He loves us.  Why don’t we see discipline as Jesus’ love?  How can we pay more attention to the process and less to the situation?

Alleluia / John 14:6

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I am the way, the truth and the life, says the Lord; no one comes to the Father, except through me.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

  • Jesus sets the example; nobody would question that – whether you’re a Christian or from another walk of life.  Much like Jesus, Mother Teresa of Calcutta worked tirelessly serving the “poorest of the poor”.  The movie, “The Letters“, is a brilliant movie about Mother Teresa’s struggles in both serving the Lord, as well as the internal suffering, pain, and doubt that she experienced.  Her trials in trying to follow Christ’s example (much like Saint Peter) are a reminder that we are never going to be able to follow Jesus 100%, but we are called to keep trying – no matter the cost.  Mother Teresa will be canonized a Saint on September 4th, 2016.  If Mother Teresa could fall short and still be made a Saint (like Peter, Paul, John, James, and many others), why can’t we be Saints?  Have you  ever heard that “still small voice”? (1 Kings 19:11-13)  Is hearing the voice of God a miracle and aren’t we already half-way to becoming a Saint?

Gospel / Luke 13:22-30

Jesus passed through towns and villages, teaching as he went and making his way to Jerusalem. Someone asked him, “Lord, will only a few people be saved?” He answered them, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough. After the master of the house has arisen and locked the door, then will you stand outside knocking and saying, ‘Lord, open the door for us.’ He will say to you in reply, ‘I do not know where you are from. And you will say, ‘We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets.’ Then he will say to you, ‘I do not know where you are from. Depart from me, all you evildoers!’ And there will be wailing and grinding of teeth when you see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God and you yourselves cast out. And people will come from the east and the west and from the north and the south and will recline at table in the kingdom of God. For behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”

  • Everyone loves the comeback.  There’s a great song by Audio Adrenaline called the “King of the Comeback” (lyrics below).  The song basically tells us to keep coming back from our failures.  It’s the comeback that matters the most.  Per the Gospel above, the song sings about how are to “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.”  ESPN does a program series called, “30 for 30”.  It’s basically 30 stories from 30 directors told in 30 short films; thus, “30 for 30”.  One of my favorite “30 for 30” films is “Survive and Advance” which tells the story of the 1983 N.C. State Wolfpack and how coach Jim Valvano willed them to the NCAA Basketball Championship.  It’s an amazing story of David slewing Goliath.  N.C. State was 19-10 and never should have won the ACC Tournament, let alone be in the NCAA Tournament.  Almost every game through both tourney’s is a lesson in making a comeback.  The best part of the film for me is when Jim Valvano talks about his Father believing in him even when he was a coach at Iona.  His Dad promised that his bags would be packed; he would be ready to come see his Son in the National Championship Game when he made it.  Jim Valvano said it was the greatest gift his Father or anyone ever gave to him.  Valvano would later be diagnosed with terminal cancer; a battle he would ultimately lose.  His speech at the 1993 ESPY Awards is famous for it’s “don’t ever give up” mantra.  Coach Valvano shouldn’t have even been there that evening – he was terminally ill and threw-up on the plane all the way to awards sitting next to his good Friend and Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski.  Dick Vitale, his long time broadcasting buddy, demanded him to be there.  Coach V couldn’t do it alone, but, “with God, all things are possible”.  (Matthew 19:26)  He knew his  Father believed in him.  Time ran out on Coach V and it will run out on each of us.  This Gospel is a sober reminder that the game clock will eventually strike “0:00”.  Pencils down.  No more shots, pitches, words… more comeback.  Your test will be graded.  How are we spending our time each day?  How could we spend our time more focused on the “narrow way”?


“King Of The Comebacks”

You been beat down cast out kicked in the shins
Never ever, ever did they think You could win
Like an underdog story, or return of a king
It’s never really over till the fat lady sings, so c’mon

Time’s ticking down we’re on the edge of our seat
Only a mighty good leader gonna make us believe
We’ve heard all about it now we’re waiting to see
The end of the story and it isn’t defeat
So c’mon, yeah c’mon

Oh, Oh, All over the world
We wait for the miracle and it’s coming
You know it’s a matter of fact
You’re the king of the comebacks

They thought it unbelievable that You’d ever win
But I know they know You’re gonna do it again
Stand up, eyes fixed, don’t wanna miss this
Jack up the cardiac, go ahead and call it a comeback

You can’t, you can’t, you can’t stop it
You can’t, you can’t, you can’t stop the comeback
You can’t stop the comeback

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