Saturday, November 18, 2017

11-19-17 -- 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Nov. 19, 2017 - 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A 
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

The writer of the book of Proverbs says that a worthy wife has value far beyond pearls. Pearls are very expensive. There are precious. They are prized possessions. Is it just a worthy wife that the writer is saying is so valuable?

Or could the writer be giving us an example? Could the writer also be talking about a worthy husband, or a worthy son or daughter, or even a worthy friend?

Love, appreciation, generosity, charm, helpfulness and kindness are all prized possessions. These characteristics are precious.

We all want that. We want to be that. I want to be a worthy pastor. I am not, but I want to be.

You want to be a worthy friend or a great wife or a treasured husband. Yes?

Yes, of course. In reality, maybe not so much, but deep inside that is what we want. There is a desire. Or at least there should be.

The Psalmist sings, blessed are those who walk in the ways of the Lord. They shall be fruitful.

We want to be fruitful. Better yet, Jesus wants us to be fruitful. That’s why he tells us the parable of the talents.

Jesus has called us and entrusted his possessions to us. Our children, our husbands, our wives, our parents, this parish church. These are very precious to the Lord.

So what do we do with these? This is very important. We have been entrusted with much. We cannot say peace and security. I will sit back and do nothing for everything has been taken care of for me.

No. We must be vigilant and take good care of the possessions Jesus has given to us. Of course we are not there yet. We are not yet worthy wives. We are not yet worthy husbands. We are not yet worthy friends. We are not yet worthy children. We are not yet worthy pastors.

But that’s no reason for us to stop trying. We are on our way and the effort we make is never overlooked or tossed aside. And we must continue to struggle to do better. Jesus has entrusted his very own possessions to us, and we must work vigilantly to be good stewards.

So that when the time comes, Jesus will say to us as he said to so many before us, well done my good and faithful servant.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

11-05-17 -- 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Nov. 5, 2017 - 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A 
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

The Scribes and the Pharisees want to be noticed. They want seats of honor. They want fancy titles. Look at me, I’m important. I’m somebody.

They are puffed up and full of themselves. They are arrogant and boastful. They want others to bow down and defer to them.

But Jesus says don’t be like that. Don’t follow their example. Be humble instead.

Humility is having a modest view of our own importance. Humility is freedom from pride and arrogance.

But humility is not weakness. Humility requires character and strength. It is more difficult to be humble than it is to be arrogant.

The proud always want to do something that will gain the admiration of others. However, one who is secure does not need to gain the admiration of others. One who is secure is free to do what is good and right and just.

So a humble person is a happy person. A humble people is thankful. A humble person is helpful. A humble person is tender. A humble person is kind.

Humble people don’t feel a need to boast and to brag. Humble people put others before themselves. Humble people see everyone as equal.

The Pharisees and the Scribes are not humble. They think they are better than everyone else. Jesus says don’t be like them.

Jesus says, be humble and be kind.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

10-29-17 -- 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Oct. 29, 2017 - 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A 
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

How do people become mean? People who are violent, people who are angry, people who are mean, people who are bullies?

What happens inside a person to make that person so hateful, so twisted? I can’t believe that a person is born that way. God doesn’t make people that way.

Could it be that people become mean because they feel like they are in competition with others? Could it be that people are mean because they feel like they are less than and have to make others look worse to feel good about themselves?

People who feel a need to measure up, people who are jealous might become mean as a result of this perceived injustice.

They feel wronged and have to do something about it. Instead of improving themselves, they choose to tear others apart. After all, it’s easier.

I know of several priests and seminarians in our diocese who have been victims of this kind of attack. Someone in the church, a priest, a deacon, a seminarian, an employee has felt so threatened by that person that they actually made a real attempt to get rid of him.

In some cases character and reputation had been maligned so badly that the person had to appear before the bishop to try to defend himself against the attacks, all lies, completely fabricated, designed to destroy.

In many cases, though not all, the attacker has either eventually left the church or has been removed from ministry. And I promise you, that sort of behavior is not unique to the church.

Think about all the injustices at school or in the workplace. Think about all the injustices you’ve seen because someone was mean to someone else. It doesn’t have to be that way.

I don’t have to totally destroy a person to make myself look good. We don’t have to do that. We destroy ourselves in the process. It is better for me to work on myself rather than tear down someone else.

The Lord says in the Book of Exodus, you shall not molest or oppress, you shall not wrong the weak. If ever you wrong them and they cry out, I will surely hear them for I am compassionate, says the Lord.

If I am generous, I will receive generously from the Lord. If I am compassionate, I will be shown compassion by the Lord. If I am kind, the Lord will treat me with kindness.

If we practice these things, we become these things. This is what the Lord means when he says love your neighbor as yourself. It means we are called to live with charity in our hearts, kindness in our souls, and good thoughts in our minds.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

10-22-17 -- 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Oct. 22, 2017 - 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A 
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

Jesus says give to God what belongs to God. So our gospel reading this weekend asks one question. What belongs to God? Some part of my time? Some part of my talent? Some part of my treasure?

No! Everything belongs to God. God wants everything. God wants all of me. God wants my whole heart, my whole soul, my whole life, my every prayer, my every thought, my every action. God wants it all.

The famous Catholic writer Matthew Kelly, founder of Dynamic Catholic, says that God wants me to become the best version of myself.

When our hearts are divided, we cannot become the best versions of ourselves. When our hearts are divided, we cannot give everything to God. We are pulled this way and that.

And if we are being pulled this way and that, we have trouble giving God just one hour of each week. And that means we aren’t even close to giving everything to God.

So we’ve got work to do. Are we gonna get it perfectly right?

No. Should that stop us from even trying? That would just be lazy, or apathetic, or even irresponsible.

We come to Mass each week to learn how to give God everything. We come to confession to get rid of the trash in our lives that keeps us from giving God everything.

The more we give to God, the more open we are to receiving what God wants to give to us. God’s grace. God’s guidance. God’s forgiveness. God’s mercy. God’s love.

The Prophet Isaiah teaches us that the Lord is God and there is no other. The Lord grasps my right hand. The Lord opens doors before me. The Lord calls me by my name.

Paul echoes this by reminding me that I am called. I am chosen. And you are called. You are chosen. For faith. For hope. For love. You are called to become the best version of yourself.

God loves us and wants our whole lives to be a response to that love.

Jesus says give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar. Giving to Caesar does means taking care of all of our civic responsibilities so that we can live in a functioning society.

But we must always remember that Jesus also says to give to God what belongs to God. And what belongs to God? Everything. Everything belongs to God.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

10-15-17 -- 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Oct. 15, 2017 - 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A 
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

The invitation has been extended. The invitation is from God. Many people have been invited. But none of the intended guests want to take part in the feast.

Why? Well, many people have made all kinds of excuses. Some say they have other things to do. Others are indifferent. And a few are even annoyed.

God is good to us. God freely offers friendship. God freely offers joy. God freely offers salvation. God freely offers an invitation to the banquet.

What kind of banquet? Isaiah describes it as a rich feast. Rich food and choice wines for all peoples, juicy rich food and pure choice wines; a banquet where death will be destroyed; a banquet where God will wipe away the tears from every face.

This is the great feast for those who say yes to God’s invitation. It is a banquet of salvation, a banquet of redemption, a banquet of forgiveness, a banquet of love.

When so many make excuses and do not accept the invitation, God is not discouraged.

God doesn’t get upset. God doesn’t throw a fit. God doesn’t cancel the feast.

No, what does God do? God simply invites some more people. God invites everybody.

God simply sends the invitation to the ordinary, to the poor, to the marginalized, to the neglected, to the forgotten, to you and to me. All are invited without distinction.

Everyone is given the opportunity to respond to the invitation. We are called. We object, sometimes with our “I’m not worthy” excuse. God doesn’t want to hear our excuses. God wants us to accept the invitation.

Saint Paul tells us that God will supply whatever is needed to accept the invitation. I can answer the invitation because I can do all things in the Lord who strengthens me.

The invitation has been extended. The invitation is from God. Many people are invited. What are you going to do?

Saturday, October 7, 2017

10-08-17 -- 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Oct. 08, 2017 - 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A 
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

The landowner in Jesus’ parable does everything he possibly can to make the vineyard successful.

He equips the vineyard by planting the vines and building the wine press. He protects the vineyard by building the hedge wall and constructing the watch tower.

He tends the vineyard by hiring tenant farmers to work the land, to prune the vines, to gather the harvest and to press the grapes.

All he wants is a share of the crop. He is entitled to a share, isn’t he/ After all, it is his vineyard. And the initial investment needs to be recouped.

The tenants are either already bad people or they become bad people. The tenants want what is not theirs. They are greedy. They are disrespectful.

They begin as thieves and end as cold blooded murderers.

It is a disturbing story because they end up killing the owner’s son so that they can take the vineyard. But that doesn’t happen.

The vineyard is taken away from them. And they are all put to death. The vineyard is given to those who will be loyal, to those who will be faithful.

Jesus’ warning is clear. If we become like the bad tenants, the Kingdom of God will be taken away from us and given to others who will produce its fruit.

Are we becoming a nation of unruly tenants, ungrateful, self-absorbed thieves who take and take and take and do not give?

It does seem that many in our nation are slowly becoming more and more like these violent unruly tenants. There is an unease in our nation, racial tensions, economic insecurity, mass shootings.

It is my opinion that many of these signs of unrest are the result of a nation that has turned its back on God.

But there are also signs of goodness, signs of heroism, signs of great courage and bravery and loyalty and fidelity and generosity.

There may be countless examples of violence, but there are also countless examples of people going beyond themselves to help others in need, heroes doing what is good just because.

For example, even with all our own needs, the people of Saint Martin de Tours gave twelve thousand dollars to help strangers who were affected by the disastrous hurricanes this season.

In that act of kindness, we have done what Saint Paul says to do. Saint Paul tells us to be true, to be just, to be lovely, to be honorable, to be pure, to be gracious.

Let us resolve, here and now, to continue to be good tenants of God’s vineyard. Let us accept the challenge to be self-giving, to do what is good and right and just, because the Kingdom of God belongs to those who produce its fruit.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

10-01-17 -- 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Oct. 01, 2017 - 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A 
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

Do actions really speak louder than words? The parable seems to indicate this. Maybe we could look at a modern example to help us answer this gospel question.

Two world leaders, Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un, have recently exchanged some unhelpful rhetoric. They seem to be having a war of words, like two boys name calling on the playground at recess.

One called the other little rocket man and the other responded with deranged lunatic.

Their exchange of words seems immature. Both puffing their chests to see who will flinch first.

I think it’s probably inappropriate for world leaders to engage in this type of posturing and name calling.

The result, in my opinion, is that they have both embarrassed themselves on the world stage. And they certainly have created an atmosphere of global tension and unease.

The threat is real enough but right now it’s only a threat. Right now it’s only words.

Let’s look at what would happen if their words became actions.

If one would launch an intercontinental ballistic missile at the other, it is unlikely that the response would be measured.
We could easily find ourselves in a global conflict the likes of which we have not seen before. Actions would, in fact, speak louder than words.

The gospel does challenge us to look at our actions. Maybe some of our actions are unhelpful, maybe some are immature, and maybe some are downright sinful. These are the actions we each need to work on.

Isaiah says that if we turn from these sins, we will surely live. We will not die. But it’s not just these actions. The son who does his father’s will, whose actions are correct, is not perfect. He needs to look at his words. They reflect his heart.

I am certain that all of us are called to look at our words with discernment because our words reflect our hearts. With our words we can lift up or tear down. With our words we can give life or crush spirits.

We can say things that are helpful or we can say things that are hurtful. We can build trust or increase unease. Actions may speak louder than words, but words are very important.

Saint Paul says to the Philippians, let every tongue proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord. Jesus gives us two commands, to love God and neighbor. We show this with our actions and our words.

Do we proclaim that Jesus is Lord with our actions and with our words? Do we show love of neighbor with our actions and our words? Both sons have things they need to work on and so do we.