Saturday, September 21, 2019

9/22/19 -- 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

The reading from the Book of Amos is about people who are cheaters, people who are taking life instead of giving it.

God is watching these merchants, who are getting ready to open their stores. They have decided to cheat their customers. They are there to get as much out of people as they can and to give back as little as possible.

God sees human beings cheating or using or taking advantage of other human beings. God says, “I will never forget one thing you have done.”

God is ultimate justice. That’s why God has asked us not to judge. Judging is God’s job and God is always judging. Nobody gets away with anything. God is kind and merciful. But that doesn’t mean God is weak and uncommitted.

Jesus’ parable has the same theme. We see someone who is basically cheating the boss. In the parable, the boss or the master represents God.

God has a steward who is supposed to take care of the work. God has a steward who is supposed to perform the duties he has promised to perform. Instead the steward is cheating.

What happens next is interesting. The cheater, as he’s taking from his master, loses everything. Well I’m not going to dig ditches or cut grass or anything difficult like that so I’d better get to work.

What the steward does then is to put on a forgiving disposition. He forgives other people their debts. He reduces and forgives debt owed to his master so that he gains favor with others.

It is this image of forgiveness that we are called to grasp. Forgiveness is a way of loving this is simply generous and giving to others no matter who they are or what they’ve done.

This is the image of love we see in the gospel. Jesus is always writing off debts. Jesus is always giving people another chance to be transformed. Jesus is always forgiving wrongs.

The steward is very two-faced. One the one hand he is a cheater. But on the other hand he is acting in a loving and forgiving way when it suits him. That’s the whole “two masters” thing. We can’t have it both ways. 

We can’t have a religious life over here where we are really nice and loving and forgiving and another life over there where we are a liar and a cheat. That’s the very definition of schizophrenia. 

The steward in the gospel parable is a cheat and as a result he has lost everything. He has taken upon himself a different disposition and hopefully it will change the direction of his life. 

Saturday, September 7, 2019

9/8/19 -- 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

Could you, on your own, set a foundation and build a tower? Could you, on your own, raise an army and march off to war?

We don’t have the resources to set a foundation and build a tower all by ourselves. We don’t have the resources to raise an army and go off to battle by ourselves.

And maybe that’s exactly the point of the two parables. We are to realize this and seek terms of peace.

Peace and serenity. God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

We must come to terms with the reality that we cannot just do whatever we want. There are limitations. There is right from wrong. 

Certain things we might attempt could end up in disaster. Then we would certainly have the ridicule of our neighbor.

Certain battles we might attempt to fight could end up in defeat. So peace terms are necessary.

Jesus places the two parables within the context of families and possessions. So the peace terms deal with families and possessions. And these two things are very dear to us.

What’s Jesus getting at? Our possessions must not compete with our love for God. 

Likewise, our relationships with the members of our families must not get in the way of our relationship with God.

Discipleship is not about towers and armies. Discipleship is about counting the costs and making our peace with the price that must be paid.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

9/1/19 -- 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

Jesus does not criticize the people in his story for wanting to be honored. He knows we derive joy from being thought of as good or valuable. We want to be loved. We want to be recognized. We want to be respected. We want to be honored.

Jesus criticizes the people for their lack of humility. Jesus criticizes the people for puffing up and thinking too much of themselves.

“If you really want to look good, let me give you some advice. Don’t seek to look good by appearing on the scene acting like something special and taking the best seats in the house. 

“What happens when the host comes along and says, ‘Wait a minute. I’m sorry, that seat is reserved for someone else.’”

Then everyone watches as you walk to the back of the room. Humility is the act of knowing who we are and not inflating ourselves. Humility is being true and honest with ourselves. 

Humility is being who I am and not trying to be someone else. This is who I am. This is what I can do. This is what I bring to the table. This is my place. But if you want to honor me with a better place, I’m okay with that too.

Humility is being careful that we are not trying to be more than we really are. But above and beyond, humility is about doing good without expecting something in return. 

When we do good things, Jesus says we should do them because, in and of themselves, they are good. 

If we want to invite some friends to dinner then we should do so with all the joy and enthusiasm we can muster. But we shouldn’t do it because we think we are going to get something in return.

And really, Jesus isn’t even talking about throwing parties or going out to dinner. Jesus is talking about doing any kind of good deed for anyone, whether it gets noticed or not, whether people think we are wonderful for doing it or not, whether we get rewarded or not.

There is such a thing as the sheer pleasure in giving a helping hand to someone in need. Yes, we want to look good and yes, we really want the place of honor. But we also want to be thought of as being someone who has the ability to help others.

There needs to be a balance between our concern for ourselves and our concern for others.

Jesus doesn’t criticize us for wanting to be honored. Jesus knows we derive joy from being thought of as valuable. We want to be loved. We want to be respected. We want to be treated with respect. 

But Jesus also wants us to be good and to do good. And he wants us to do good for the sheer joy of doing good without expecting anything in return.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

8/25/19 -- 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

Anyone who’s ever been last in a schoolyard pick knows what it feels like to be left out. The gospel is about being included or being left out. 

I think the question put to Jesus, “How many will be saved?” probably has an underlying question. “Will I be saved?” When it comes time, will I be included or will I be left out?

Jesus doesn’t answer the question directly, but his response could be summed up like this, “Don’t be so sure you will be included.”

Strive to enter through the narrow gate. Take the road less traveled. It may be a difficult path. Not many will attempt it. 

It’s easy to give up and take the broader way. Taking the more difficult path means becoming more Christ like in our thoughts and in our actions.

Jesus ate with outcasts and sinners. He healed the lepers who no one would touch. He forgave the woman caught in adultery. He did the difficult things no one else would do.

We don’t want to find ourselves left out after the door has been locked. Knocking, trying to get in, crying out, “Open the door!” only to hear, “Go away! I don’t know you.”

If we don’t want to find ourselves locked out, then we better be on the inside. We want to be included. We want to enter through the narrow door.

Jesus wants us to understand that feeling entitled won’t work. Thinking we deserve a place won’t gain us admittance. So we ask, “How do I get in?”

This is difficult because Jesus doesn’t give us a formula for getting to heaven. Is commitment required? Is discipleship required?

A disciple is one who strives to following Jesus. And striving to follow Jesus isn’t always easy. So many people take the easy way. 

The second reading, the letter to the Hebrews, says strengthen your drooping hands and weak knees. 

Discipleship requires us to take the narrow path. And strength is needed to take the narrow path.

Taking the narrow path requires us to be more like Jesus. Good deeds. Right choices. Kindness. Patience. Honesty. Humility. Forgiveness. 

Some will be brought in and others will be left out. Some who think they should be first will find themselves last and some who are last will be find themselves first.

We should make the effort to strive to be more like Jesus, otherwise might find ourselves excluded, left out in the dark with the door locked. 

We might find ourselves last in the schoolyard pick. And if we’ve ever been picked last, we know what a terrible feeling that is. 

Saturday, August 17, 2019

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

Scripture Readings

These readings are not cheerful. But life isn’t always cheerful, is it? Our inner peace and serenity can be shattered by so many things.

War, violence, racism, hatred, bad health, divorce, depression, disagreements with loved ones, financial insecurity.

Our lives can spiral into yelling and fighting, criticizing and scolding, judging and demeaning, belittling and manipulating.

In many cases the only thing we have any control over is our response to these things that threaten our peace and serenity.

Jesus seems to threaten our peace and serenity. I have come to set the earth on fire. But fire doesn’t really threaten our peace and serenity. What does fire do? Fire purifies. 

Purifying our hearts brings us from the darkness of sin to the light of truth. Jeremiah is an example. 

Jeremiah is a moody prophet. He speaks the truth to the people. But they don’t want to hear the truth. They become so angry that they throw him into a dark muddy pit.

He was trying to bring them light yet they brought him darkness. But the Lord rescued Jeremiah.

If we struggle against sin Jesus will rescue us with a baptism of new life. And while Jesus may not have come to establish peace on the earth, Jesus’ baptism of new life can bring peace and serenity to our hearts.

If we desire peace and serenity, we must continue to struggle against sin. But there are people who don’t or won’t struggle against sin. And this is how division comes about.

There are those who will choose meanness over kindness. If we want peace and serenity when faced with mean-spiritedness we must choose to make a kind response.

There are those who will choose revenge over mercy. When faced with injustice we must choose mercy over revenge.

There will always be those who take and take and take. If we want peace and serenity we must choose to give.

There will always be those who hold grudges, whose hearts are filled with hatred. We cannot control them but we can struggle to fill our hearts with forgiveness and love.

Our readings this weekend are not cheerful. We are reminded that as a result of the sin and division in our world, our inner peace and serenity is threatened. 

But in the midst of all those things that shatter our peace and serenity, the only thing we have any control over is our response. We can choose light and truth and peace.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

8/11/19 -- 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

There seems to be something unexpected about the Master’s arrival. The servants are expected to be watchful, vigilant, ready to open the gate at a moment’s notice, ready to offer hospitality, ready to serve a meal. 

Jesus uses this image to indicate that there might be something unexpected about God’s arrival as well.

So the command is given: gird your loins and light your lamps. Be ready to open immediately. Be prepared. The Son of Man will come. And it may be at an unexpected time.

So be ready all the time. Be prepared all the time. No one knows when a thief might come, so the command is given to be prepared always, at all times. 

Maybe God is trying to make himself known all the time. Maybe God is trying to break into our hearts and minds and souls all the time. 

So we need to be ready for the Lord all the time. Alert. Awake. Attentive. Ready to open the door so the Lord can come in. So let’s look more closely at these vocative commands Jesus gives.

Gird your loins. In Jesus’ day, men wore tunics. One cannot run or do heavy labor or fight in a long flowing robe. So loins must be gird. To gird is to tuck the long tunic above the knee. 

To gird your loins is to prepare to take action. So are we prepared to take action for the coming of the Lord?

Light your lamps. Servants were expected to keep oil lamps trimmed and burning throughout the night because they might be needed for something unexpected, like the arrival of a guest or the arrival of the master returning from a journey.

The light helps those in darkness see things clearly. Have we lit our spiritual lamps in preparation for the coming of the Lord?

Be ready to open. The act of hospitality was so important in Jesus’ time. The servant was to be watchful, waiting for the guest or the master to come as unexpectedly as a thief in the night. 

The servant had to be ready to open the door to invite the guest in. The servant had to be prepared to offer a meal immediately. Are we ready to open our hearts to the Lord?

There seems to be something unexpected about the Master’s arrival which seems to indicate that there might be something unexpected about God’s arrival. Are we vigilant? Are we awake? Are we prepared? 

Saturday, August 3, 2019

8/4/19 -- 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

Jesus does not seem to be particularly concerned that the farmer is wealthy. Jesus does not portray him as a sinful man. The farmer does not steal. The farmer does not cheat.

But he is greedy. His life on earth is full and the rich man has stored up an abundant treasure. But what about his life in heaven? Jesus is concerned that the farmer is not rich in what matters to God.

Greed and envy can take control of our lives and our possessions end up owning us. This leads us to neglect more important things like God and the people God places in our lives.

Our lives should not consist of only our possessions. Our lives should also consist of relationships. Depending on our attitudes and actions, we can have a positive or negative impact on the people around us.

I think we store up treasure in heaven by having a positive impact on the people God places in our lives.

I believe that our treasure in heaven comes from the people who will testify on our behalf when we get to the gates of heaven.

As we are standing at the gates of heaven, the people God placed in our lives will be allowed to testify on our behalf. And because it’s heaven, only positive testimony will be allowed.

The last thing we want to hear when we get to heaven is silence. We want to hear from all those people we have positively impacted.

This is how we store up treasure in heaven and pay attention to the things that matter to God. 

So when we get to heaven, who will testify on our behalf? Have we stored up for ourselves what really matters? Do we have treasure in heaven? Are we rich in the things that matter to God?