Saturday, August 18, 2018

8/19/18 -- 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

Recently someone said to me, “I wish I could do more for this community.” I reminded that person of what he is already doing and said that if everyone did their part the result would be amazing.

A couple approached me and said, “We’ve noticed that this isn’t getting done. We think it’s an eyesore and we want to volunteer to take care of it. Would that be okay?”

“Absolutely.”

When I take inventory of our volunteers here at Saint Martin de Tours, they number around 110 to 120. These volunteers give of themselves, some in small ways and some in big ways, all on a regular basis.

That’s about 10% of our regular church going congregation. 

Then, maybe another 50 or so folks volunteer somewhere out there in the community. That’s my best guess. Which means about 15% of us are giving back.

Where does that leave the other 85%? I know that there are people in this world who take and take and take and they do not give. But I would hope that wouldn’t be 85% of us.

This does seem to be the case with the people confronting Jesus in gospel. They take and take and take but they do not give.

Jesus gives. Jesus feeds them with 5 loave and 2 fish but they want more.

So Jesus gives them his flesh and blood to eat and drink. In other words, Jesus gives his very life, his very self. All that he has, he gives.

For what? We’re told right there in the gospel. For the life of the world. For the life of the world.

Saint Augustine tells us that we become what we receive Jesus. Here at the Eucharist we receive Jesus, his flesh and blood. For the life of the world.

If we receive Jesus’ flesh and blood for the life of the world, this means we are tasked with doing something that brings life to the world. We are tasked with giving back something that gives life to the world.

We cannot simply take and take and take. We must give. We are tasked with volunteering some time or some talent to make the world a better place. 

Because we receive Jesus in here, we are supposed to be Jesus out there. 

This fall I promised some renewal. Over the next month you we be hearing about an exciting event we are hosting here over the course of five Wednesday evenings for our renewal. 

But not just a spiritual renewal, there must also be a renewal of self giving, a renewal of volunteerism. For the life of the world.

Imagine what would happen if everyone did their part to make our church or our church grounds or our cemetery or our community or our world a better place. 

If you see something around here that’s not getting done, don’t ask me when I’m going to take care of it. I’m only one person. 

It would be better if you asked me if it would be okay for you to do it.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

8/12/18 -- 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

What happened to the great prophet Elijah? When we encounter him in the first reading today, he’s worn out. He’s discouraged He’s sitting under a scrawny broom tree praying for death.

How did the great and mighty Old Testament prophet who defeated 450 pagan prophets end up like this? Well, the gods of those pagan prophets were also the gods of the evil Queen Jezebel. 

And instead of being converted to the Lord God of the Prophet Elijah, Jezebel is furious with him and sends her army after him. 

Elijah escapes into the desert wilderness. It is there that he loses heart and wants to die.

He’s done what God has asked of him and still he finds himself in this dark place. But the angel of the Lord God urges Elijah to eat. Get up and eat, else the journey will be too long for you.

Elijah is reminded that he is on a journey and he needs his strength. The food the Lord God gives him nourishes him. Rejuvenated by this food from heaven, Elijah continues his journey to Horeb, the mountain of God.

Our lives can be very difficult. Problems plague us. Tragedies strike us down. Violence seems to be all around us. We are no strangers to sickness and sorrow and death.

Like Elijah, we sometimes find ourselves at the end. The will to live has been completely drained out of us. It is at this very moment, this low point, that we are in most need of bread from heaven to revive us and help us on life’s journey.

I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever.

Like Elijah, we need to let Jesus be our food for the journey. Like Elijah, we need to come to this holy shrine to receive Jesus who is our bread of life.

Saint Paul in his letter to the Ephesians reminds us that Jesus loved us and handed himself over to us as an offering, as the bread of life. And we should imitate him in our lives.

Saint Paul says that we should not hold grudges, instead we should be forgiving. We should not be cheap or stingy, instead we should be generous.

We should not lose our tempers, instead we should be compassionate. We should not call each other names, instead we should be kind and understanding

We should not raise our voices in anger or frustration, instead we should be respectful. We should not be spiteful, instead we should be loving and forgiving.

In this way, we become the children of God. In this way, we put aside our grumbling. 

We come here week after week to eat this living bread come down from heaven. 

Strengthened by the food that comes from heaven, we leave this place with the courage and the strength and the grace to continue on our journey. 


Saturday, August 4, 2018

8/5/18 -- 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

In Jesus’ time, a daily wage was just enough to feed a family for a day. When Jesus teaches the people to pray, the prayer includes the petition, “give us this day our daily bread.”

But when Jesus says do not work for food that perishes, the people would have been puzzled, maybe even confused. You see, that’s all the people of that time could do. They could hope for a day’s wages that would buy enough bread for that day.

The Israelites in the first reading don’t even have that. That’s why they grumbled against Moses. In the desert, food was scarce. But at least they had their freedom. Moses had led them out of Egyptian slavery. 

But are they grateful? No. Why not? Because they are hungry. They say to Moses it would have been better to die as slaves then to die of hunger in the desert.

Does the Lord God punish them for their grumblings? No. God sends them manna (bread) from heaven. And Moses tells them, “This is the bread the Lord has given you to eat.

After Jesus feeds the five thousand with the five loaves and two fish, he goes off alone. But the crowd pursues him. 


When they find Jesus, he asks, “What are you looking for?” 
He is asking if they are looking for another free meal. He tells them, “I am the Bread of Life.”

The Israelites failed to recognize that their freedom from slavery was a gift. And the bread from heaven was a gift.

The people in the Gospel failed to recognize the gift was not the five loaves and the two fish, nor was it the miraculous feeding. The gift is Jesus.

Sometimes I think we fail to recognize the gift Jesus is for us as well. Jesus desires to fill our loneliness. Jesus desires to quench our desires. Jesus desires to sooth our hurts and to heal our wounds.

I am the Bread of Life. Believe in me, not in the five loaves and the two fish.

It is a treasure to discover that Jesus wants to satisfy our hungers. Jesus wants to feed us. Jesus wants to fill us.

Jesus says that if we come to him, we will never hunger again. Jesus says that if we believe in him, we will never thirst again.

Jesus wants to be our bread from heaven. Jesus wants to be our food for the journey, so that we never hunger and thirst again.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

7/29/18 -- 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

Notice how Jesus challenges the Apostles. Where can we buy enough food to feed all these people?

The simple answer is that they don’t know and they can’t possibly buy enough food anywhere to feed all these people. It’s just not possible. 

But, it’s a test to see how generous the Apostles will be. Do they have the same love and care and concern for the people as Jesus does? 

I want to suggest to you that we often take the same approach in our lives. The river’s too deep. The mountain’s too high. The valley’s too low. The world has gone to hell in a handbasket. 

Awe, the Presbytere is too far gone. It was neglected for too long. What do you want me to do? I’m just one person. 

So the Apostles don’t even try. How fatalistic. They just make excuses. Well, there’s a boy here with five loaves and two fish. What good is that? We can’t do anything with five loaves and two fish. 

And they’re right. It’s just five loaves and two fish. What can I do with five loaves and two fish? Not much.

Well, the miracle in today’s gospel takes place because of the little boy’s selfless act. Just look at what Jesus does with five loaves and two fish. Jesus takes what the little boy gives and is able to feed everyone because of that small offering. It’s miraculous. 

Jesus can take what little we have to offer and work miracles. Jesus can take what little we have to offer and make it enough.

We’re really good at saying, I don’t have much to offer. We’re also really good at selling ourselves short. What good is what I have to offer?

Jesus takes what is offered and give thanks. Jesus never complains that it’s too little or too late little because for Jesus it’s always enough. And from that little bit, a great multitude of people were cared for.

Imagine what would happen if we all brought Jesus our five loaves and our two fish.

Imagine if we all brought Jesus the little gifts and talents we have to offer. It would be enough. It could even be miraculous. So much in fact, that there would always be some left over.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

7/22/18 -- 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

How is it that we become lost, like sheep without a shepherd? I think it starts with this simple reality. We don’t want to be shepherded today, do we? 

We don’t want to be told what to do. Come here and do this. Go there and do that. Our response usually goes something like this: “Who do you think you are? You can’t tell me what to do.”

Those who are not shepherded can easily become lost and scattered.

We tend to be proud and confident. We think we don’t need a shepherd. But then, we make a mess of our lives and we wonder what happened. We get lost. 

But the reality is we wanted to do what we wanted to do. But then when things go badly we don’t want to take responsibility. We want to find someone else to blame. And sometimes we even blame God for the mess we made.

Jesus as shepherd emphasises God’s kindness to us. Even in the midst of the messes we make in our lives, and especially when we get lost, it is a grace to allow ourselves to be found. 
It is a grace to recognize that we need to be shepherded. It is a grace to realize that we need Jesus.

The Lord is my shepherd. Jesus wants to be our shepherd. Jesus wants us to be shepherded. Jesus wants to care for us as a shepherd cares for the sheep.

In the Gospel, Jesus is touched by the needs of the crowd. 
Pay attention to what he does. He teaches them. He heals them. And then he feeds them. Now, we will have to wait till next weekend to hear about the miraculous feeding.

First, Jesus teaches. Jesus desires to teach us. Of all the saints, not one of them ever thought they knew enough about Jesus. They were always looking for more. 

We should always desire to learn more about Jesus. We should always seek out opportunities to learn more about our faith. Discovering who Jesus is, is a lifelong project we should each undertake. 

Next, Jesus heals. Jesus lays hands on the sick and heals them. Some of us need healing in our souls. Some of us need healing in our bodies. Some of us need healing in our hearts.

Jesus desires to heal us. We need to beg Jesus to lay his hands on us and heal us.
Maybe we need to go to confession to heal our souls. Maybe we need the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick to heal our bodies. Maybe we need to forgive someone to heal our hearts.

And finally, Jesus feeds the crowd. Jesus feeds us here at our Sunday Mass. Sunday Mass is so important in our lives because it is our weekly opportunity to give thanks to Jesus for the ultimate sacrifice he made for us. 

Sunday Mass is our weekly opportunity to remind ourselves that we need to be shepherded by Jesus, who is the Good Shepherd. 

Sunday Mass is our weekly opportunity to be fed at the Lord’s table, where Jesus gives us his very body and blood as food for our journey.

It is a difficult journey, and we can easily lose our way. We are blessed to have such a Good Shepherd who seeks us out when we are lost, who heals our wounds and soothes our hurts, who teaches us the right way to go and provides food for the journey.

The Lord is my shepherd. The Lord teaches me. The Lord heals me. The Lord feeds me. There is nothing I shall want.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

7/15/18 -- 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

There are many biblical passages that recount the call from the Lord to be a prophet or the call from the Lord to be holy or the call from Jesus to follow him.

God called Moses at the burning bush to lead the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt to the promised land.

God called Jonah to preach to the great city of Nineveh telling them that if they didn’t change their ways, the city would be destroyed.

In the first reading today we hear the story of the call of the Prophet Amos. Amos was working as a herdsman in his native land of Judaea when he heard God calling him. 

God called Amos to leave those pasture lands and go to Israel to challenge the sophisticated priests and rulers at Bethel. 

In the Gospel we hear the story of Jesus calling the Twelve Apostles. Jesus sent them out to proclaim the good news of repentance, a call to holiness.

We think this call to holiness is for someone else, for the prophets, for the Apostles, for the saints of old, for grandma but not for me.

But the truth is, God calls ordinary folks to do extraordinary things. And this call to holiness is a call for all the baptized.

In the Bible we hear the call from God to holiness over and over again. These stories capture our attention. We think only others are called to holiness but the truth is God calls each one of us by name.

Matthew Kelly, founder of Dynamic Catholic, says that we have come to believe that holiness is only possible for someone else. 

He challenges us to create holy moments each day of our lives. What is a holy moment? It is a moment where you are being the person God created you to be and doing what God has called you to do in that moment.

If we can create one holy moment each day, then we can also create two. Once we learn how, we can do it over again. And by learning to string these holy moments together we can, in time, learn how to lead holy lives.

This weekend, we have heard two stories of this call to holiness. We should be able to write our own call story. It could be modeled off the story of the Prophet Amos: 

I was doing “this” when I heard the voice of the Lord God calling me to go do “that” instead. I objected but God sent the Holy Spirit upon me so that I would have to courage and strength to answer the call.

If you had to write the story of your call to holiness, how would it go? 

Saturday, July 7, 2018

7/8/18 -- 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Reading

You would think Jesus’ neighbors and friends would have been proud of him. But they were not. He wasn’t doing what they thought he should do. He wasn’t being who they thought he should be.

Imagine if Jesus had been worried about what others expected of him. He would have remained a carpenter all his life.

Imaine if Jesus had not had enough confidence and self-esteem to step out and to step up. He would have never become who he was truly called to be.

How often do we limit ourselves because we are afraid of what others might say or think about us?

How often do we fail to reach our own potential because we are worried about what other people expect from us. And then, we spend all our time trying to meet those expectations?

Jesus and the prophets teach us that we cannot possibly live up to everyone’s expectations. And they show us that we shouldn’t even try.

Look at how young people are affected by social media. Studies are now coming out that show the impact of social media on our self-esteem.

Social media causes anxiety and adds stress to our lives. We count the number of likes we receive when we post a new picture. We fret over negative comments. 

Young people are even learning how to portray different versions of themselves online to seek the approval of others. 

When we spend our entire lives worried about what others will say or think, or about whether or not so and so will like us, we can emotionally exhaust ourselves trying to please others.

We can get so caught up in trying to meet others’ expectations that we lose ourselves, and in losing ourselves we lose our self-esteem and our self-respect.

Then we worry. We worry about whether or not we are thin enough, or pretty enough, or smart enough, or funny enough.

But we seldom worry about whether or not we are kind enough or generous enough or honest enough.

The Prophet Ezekiel was sent by God to a rebellious house of Israel. The people were mean spirited and hard headed.

The Prophet Ezekiel had to have self-respect and courage and inner strength to speak the Word of the Lord to people who would ignore or reject or even hate him.

Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians, speaks about a thorn in his side that affects him greatly. He is worried and anxious and upset, like we often are. The Lord says to Paul, “My grace is enough.” 

Being liked by all the people on Facebook will never be enough. Meeting everyone’s expectations completely will never be enough. 

Until we give into the call of the Lord to do God’s will freely and completely, all the world has to offer us will never be enough. But the Lord’s grace is enough. 

People may not love us or adore us. People may try to force us to behave or believe in a certain way. People may even say, “Who does he think he is?” or “Does she think she is better than us?”

But when we answer the call of the Lord, then we discover that Jesus’ grace is enough. Jesus’ strength is enough. Jesus’ love is enough.