Daily Reflection
March 6th, 2000
Andy Alexander, S.J.
University Ministry and the Collaborative Ministry Office
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2 Peter 1:2-7
Psalms 91:1-2, 16
Mark 12:1-12

"Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours." Mark

Jesus confronts the religious leaders of his day with a really tough parable.  The more I read it, the more I hear its challenge for us today. 

The toughest religious insight is that everything we have is gift.  I remember teaching my first religious education class thirty years ago.  The class I had was with pre-teens in a wealthy suburban parish.  The lesson was on gratitude.  I must have been going on for some time about how we must be grateful to God for all we have received, when a young student raised her hand and proclaimed, "I don't have to be grateful to God, because my dad has a very good job."  I was shocked at first, but then I came to realize that this youthful candor revealed something very true and very deep.  Success and security inevitably pose risks to our dependence upon and gratitude to God.  The more we feel that we have "earned" what we have, the more difficult it is to have a religious sense of how all we have is gift.  It is easy to imagine "killing" the Son in our hearts and trying to steal the inheritance by all our hard work.

Four years ago I spent two nights living in the home of a family in a remote mountainous region of the Dominican Republic.  I felt overwhelmed that this beautiful family that had no electricity or running water was so generous with me.  The two room house was tiny but clean and warm with love.  When the sun went down, we talked by candle light at great depth, with simple words, about life and love.  We prayed out loud before we feel asleep and we prayed again, while still in bed, waking with the dawn.  When I left, I tried to thank my hosts for what they shared with me so generously.  The mother of the house said to me, with a smile as wise as it was sparkling, "We are poor, but we have everything God feels we need."  This woman has met the Son and knows the inheritance is hers.

How do we come to a renewed sense of the gifts we have received from God, and a revitalized ability to give thanks to God through the way we use these gifts?  By tasting our poverty.  What successes and security we think we have are merely fragile illusions.  All of us know someone who has died recently, and can taste how death shocks our sense of security about life itself.  And who has not yet discovered that money and accomplishments don't themselves bring happiness?  We received an e-mail recently from a woman making the online retreat in Mozambique, as the devastating flooding there had just begun.  She acknowledged the taste of poverty, "I stood up in my room, held my hands open in front of me and  realized what it means not to care for one's honor, not to care for one's possessions...to let them all go. There are floods and suffering all round me.  People who have lost everything  they own."

When we come to see that our very lives are in God's hands, we have come to a place where we can be grateful for what we have received.  Let's all prepare for the coming of Lent in a few days by "taking stock."  We are only tenants, entrusted with incredible gifts, which God gives us that we might bear fruit, for others.  With hands held open, perhaps with our own floods and suffering all around us, let us give thanks.  What we really have is what what God feels we need - all we need to bring forth fruitful love and generosity.

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