24 January 2015

Three Paintings More

I'm dedicating this paintings to Young Master Thurmond, a budding 6 y.o. artist. For his inspiration! 

 Between Grass and Flowers * (18x24 canvas panel)

 Fig Tree (18x24 canvas panel)

 Unblemished (18x24 canvas panel)

* This title is just a little pretentious. It refers to Dante's Purgatorio, Cantos VIII. Consider it a "shout out" to my University of Dallas homies (is "homies" still a thing?)


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18 January 2015

Speak, Lord!

2nd Sunday OT (B)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
Our Lady of the Rosary, NOLA

God calls. He calls us to service, to sacrifice. He calls us to surrender. Do we hear His voice when He calls? Are we like John the Baptist who while still in his mother's womb recognizes his Lord's presence and leaps with joy? Or, are we more like Samuel who doesn't recognize the voice of the God calling him in the night? What's the difference btw John the Baptist's and Samuel's encounter with God? Both are called to serve. Both answer the call – eventually. The difference btw the two is that Samuel doesn't immediately recognize God's voice b/c “at that time [he] [is] not familiar with the Lord, because the Lord had not revealed anything to him as yet.” From Elizabeth's womb John knows the Lord. Nothing more was necessary than Christ's nearness. Samuel needed a leap of faith; he needed to believe before he heard God's voice as God's voice, calling him to serve. To hear the Lord Samuel had to put aside confusion, doubt, and fear. He had to say: “Speak, for your servant is listening.” Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening. That's a confession, a profession of faith, an invitation from a servant to his Master to teach him. Do you have the courage to say to God, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening”?

Before you too eagerly agree that you have the courage to invite God's call, consider the consequences. Hearing the Lord's call and listening to Him could mean a revolution, it could mean an upheaval in your life like you have never experienced before. It could mean becoming a different person, a new person, one led by an all-consuming desire to do God's will, a person fired up to preach and teach the Good News, a person born anew in the power of the Spirit — forgiving, loving, merciful, peaceful, prophetic. Inviting God's call into your life could be the end of your life as you know it. Sin becomes heavier; absolution all the more refreshing. The need to speak the truth becomes unbearable. Look at John the Baptist! He leaps for joy in his mother's womb at the mere presence of the Christ Child. He knew before he was born that his life would be forever bound to Christ's. He lived in the wilderness most of his life, and his head landed on a platter for speaking the truth to a king. Invite God's call into your life. If you dare. The only we can do more dangerous than saying to God – Speak, Lord! – is to say, “Leave me alone, Lord, your servant is busy with other things.”

If it takes courage to invite the Lord's call into your life, it takes something like suicidal recklessness to dismiss Him from your life. As a followers of Christ vowed to bear witness to the Father's mercy in the world, we cannot function w/o the constant attention of God's energizing grace. We cannot be anything near who and what we need to be w/o constantly drawing in His glory, w/o being constantly perfected in His love. To dismiss God's voice from our lives is more than just spiritual suicide. It's a betrayal of everything we have pledged to be and to do in the world for the world. This might all seem to be a little out-there. I'm not suggesting that any of us actually say to God, “Nope. Not working for you, Lord.” But what we might say is something like, “I'll get to your work after I've done mine.” Or “I've got a thousand things to get done today. One of those things is your work.” God's work goes on the To Do List along with grocery shopping, picking up the kids, and paying the bills. In the chaos of daily-getting-by our vow to God to be His living witnesses to the world becomes another mundane task, another chore to check off a list. How do we remember that those groceries, those kids, that job; everything, including this life is His freely given gift to us? We belong to God. 100% wholly owned by the Father. Our lives are His.

How do we remember this basic truth? When Jesus walks past John and two of his disciples, John announces, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” John's disciples leave his side and follow Christ. Jesus asks them, “What are you look for?” They could've said eternal life, pardon for our sins, a place to get some good gumbo. What do they actually say? “Rabbi, where are you staying?” Where Jesus is staying is not all that important here. What is important is that they address Jesus as “Rabbi,” Teacher. They are looking to Christ to be their teacher, to be the one who shows them the Way. After spending an afternoon with Jesus, Andrew, one of John's former disciples, goes to Simon, his brother, and tells him, “We have found the Messiah.” They find a teacher and a savior. And what do they do? They go out and bring others in. The gospel says that Andrew brings Simon to Jesus. How do you remember – day in and day out – that your job, your kids, your friends, your very life are all freely given gifts from God? And that you are His servant? You bear witness to God's mercy everyday and bring to Him a student, a disciple, someone in need of being taught the Way. Even if – especially if – that someone is yourself. You get out of bed every morning, saying, “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.”

That takes courage. Because – as I've said – hearing the Lord's call and doing His will can be revolutionary. Nothing remains the same. Samuel grows into a great prophet. Andrew and the other disciples grow into apostles. Simon becomes Peter, the Rock, the foundation stone of Christ's Church on earth. That small band of men and women cowering in the Upper Room at Pentecost become the longest surviving human institution on the planet. Who will you become when you invite the Lord's call and listen to His voice? You will become exactly who and what He needs you to be right where you are. More faithful, more loving, more hopeful, stronger, more courageous, wiser, more just. You will become – in Christ – exactly who and what you have vowed to be and do: a powerful witness to the mercy of God.

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