Saturday, September 16, 2017

Twenty Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time 2017 A
Saint Martin de Tours

Sunday, September 17, 2017

The question is put to Jesus, “How much should I forgive?”
But Jesus doesn’t answer with an amount.  Jesus answers with a story.  

In the story, the master or king mercifully cancels a great debt but later learns that the forgiven servant has been cruelly unforgiving in cancelling a much smaller debt.

The servant is not a slave but rather, an employee or a manager in the king’s court, if you will.  And the debt is incurred through some sort of mismanagement.

It is a story about one who is powerful and others who are not.  But notice, if you will, it is the powerful one who forgives and the weak one who does not.

If we are paying attention to Jesus’ story, then we learn that to forgive is not a sign of weakness.  It is a sign of strength.

Forgiveness is not about feeling. Forgiveness is about doing. Forgiveness is an act of pardoning a wrong or cancelling a debt so that the hating can stop, so that the resentment can end. Forgiveness is an act of the will.

I will forgive you. I will release you from this debt. I will let go of this hurt. I will move on. I will be strong.  I will not be weak.

Why do this?  Listen to what SIrach says if we don’t.

Can you cherish anger and resentment and then ask for your sins to be forgiven? Can you withhold forgiveness and then ask for your sins to be forgiven?

Can you be angry and still expect the Lord to send you healing? Can you nurse grudges with wrath in your heart and still seek pardon for your sins?

The sinner hugs wrath and angry tightly. Are we holding some debt?  Are we holding some grudge? Do we need to forgive someone?

The parable warns us of the awfulness of failing to forgive as God forgives.

The most important reason for showing mercy time and time again is because this is how God forgives us.  

If we are forgiven much then we should certainly forgive much in return.

The difference between Peter’s proposal of seven times and Jesus parable is not a matter of math.  It is the nature of forgiveness.  To count is not to forgive. To forgive is not to count.

How often must I forgive?  Always, because that is how often God has forgiven me.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

09-03-17 -- 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Sept. 03, 2017 - 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A 
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

Discipleship demands decision!! But not just decision. Discipleship also demands action. Deny, take, and follow are verbs. Each requires that we do something.

We must deny our very selves, take up our cross and follow Jesus.

Denying ourselves is not necessarily like giving something up for Lent. Let's look at Jeremiah the prophet to get a better idea of what it means. Listen to Jeremiah, “You duped me, Lord, and I let myself be duped. You overpowered me.”

And so I gave myself over to you. I let go. I let go of my own wants. I let go of my own desires. I let go of my own will. I denied myself. I gave myself over to you Lord. And you took me.

Once we allow our own wills to give way to the Lord’s will, then we are called to take up the cross. Taking up your cross is work. Saint Paul says, “I offer myself as a pleasing sacrifice.”

To offer myself, I must take up my cross. I must do good. The cross is bearing hardship without complaint. The cross is doing good for the sake of doing good.

The cross is what two guys said on national television when they were called heroes for rescuing people in Houston. One said, “I’m not a hero.” The other said, “We’re doing this because these people need our help.”

And finally, the Lord says, “Follow me.” Following means allowing ourselves to be led by another.

We must allow ourselves to be led on the path which the Lord has chosen for us. Pope Francis has said, “Let us allow ourselves to be humbly led by the Holy Spirit in order to avoid taking the wrong road and closing our hearts.

Even if our hearts are closed and we are on the wrong road, there is still hope for each of us. Three simple verbs. Three difficult actions.

Deny. Take up. And follow.

We can turn to Jesus for help by denying ourselves taking up our cross and following after the Lord.

Discipleship demands decision.  But more than decision, discipleship demands action.

Deny. Take up. And follow. Why? Why do these things? The answer is simple.

One day, the Son of Man will come with his angels and repay each of us according to our conduct.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

08-27-17 -- 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Aug 27, 2017 - 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A 
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

I see many of you every week. I know your faces, especially those of you who shake my hand each week after mass. After six years, I’m still seeing new faces and learning new names.

I might not even know or recognize the people who leave out of the side doors.

If our relationship has never progressed beyond a hello after church, then I can’t really say that I know you. Truth be told, you probably know me better.

But many of you know me only by my Sunday homilies. That would give you a very limited understanding of who I am. So you wouldn’t really know me.

Do you know what kind of music I like or what kind of books I read or which tv shows I watch? Do you know any of my hobbies? Do you know that I do all my own cooking because I love to cook?

So, for many of us, we really don’t know each other all that well. Is that the kind of relationship we have with Jesus. It’s okay. But it’s not great.

We might know a lot about Jesus. We know where he comes from. We know the circumstances surrounding his birth.

We know who his mom and dad are. We know about his public ministry. We know his teachings. We’ve heard about his miracles.

We know about his trial and execution. And we know that his disciples claim that he was raised from the dead.

We even know that through the centuries many have come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. But do we really know Jesus?

More than anything else we need to encounter Jesus. We need to rediscover Jesus. We need to get to know Jesus. We need to hang out with Jesus and have a good heart to heart conversation.

Think about all the people in your life. You have your immediate family and your closest friends. You spend lots of time with them and you know them very well.

Then there are those you spend time with, not necessarily by choice, but as a result of work or school. You know those folks well but maybe not as well as your family and closest friends.

You also have acquaintances, people you know by name but you don’t really know them. And then there are strangers.

Where does Jesus fit? Let’s hope he’s not a stranger. Maybe we don’t know Jesus anywhere near as well as we should. Maybe our relationship isn’t really as dynamic as it should be.

Maybe this fall it’s time to spend some time getting to know Jesus.

Maybe it’s time to develop a deeper, more dynamic and personal relationship with Jesus.

Maybe it’s time to find a quiet space for Jesus to be able to speak to our hearts.

I don’t want to be just an acquaintance. So I’m pretty sure Jesus wants to be more than just an acquaintance as well.

Jesus extends the invitation, “Who do you say I am?” How do we reply?

Saturday, August 19, 2017

08-20-17 -- 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Aug 20, 2017 - 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A 
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

Recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia have raised the whole race relations issue yet again in our country. You’d think that in 2017 we would have moved beyond this kind of bigotry and hatred.

The removal of statues commemorating Confederate leaders in New Orleans also speaks to the tensions that continue to simmer and even seem to be reaching a boiling point.

These fights suggest that maybe we don’t fully understand our history. We cannot rewrite our history. It is what it is. We can learn from it.

I think these fights certainly say that we still do not understand the beauty of diversity. These fights say that we still have a long way to go.

There are these racial stereotypes that are being propagated on all sides. These hateful slurs may have a hint of truth but they are always hateful and exaggerated beyond belief. And yet they are believed.

So many people are still so very racist. We divide ourselves into all these different categories of us versus them.

Then to make matters worse, we take these different categories and try to make some of them good and some of them bad, some of them right and some of them wrong, some of them beautiful and some of them ugly, some of them holy and some of them sinful.

The ways we divide ourselves are endless: black and white, gay and straight, male and female, young and old, republican and democrat, conservative and liberal.

Look at the disciples in the gospel. They are the same as we are. Listen to what they say about the Canaanite woman: Send her away. She is not one of us. She is not like us. She is a dog.

We must not allow this mean spiritedness to remain in our hearts. We must purge ourselves of this bigotry and racism and hatred.

Otherwise we look and act like the disciples, we look and act like the protestors in Charlottesville, we look and act like racist, bigoted terrorists.

Blame on all sides? Blame lies with all those who choose violence as a means of solving our differences when we should be celebrating those differences. If we were all alike, the world would be a most boring place.

The word Pope comes from the Roman word Pontifex meaning bridge builder. Building a bridge takes time and patience and effort.

We must make an effort to overcome the racism and bigotry and hatred that resides in our hearts. We must make an effort to see all people as children of God.

And listen to me good: We must make our house of worship a place where all God’s children are made to feel welcome; a place where all God’s children feel like they belong.

Black or white. Gay or straight. Young or old. Married or divorced. Liberal or conservative. Saint or sinner. I don’t care!! Everyone is welcome here. Everyone has a place at the Lord’s table.

We see the disciples and we don’t like the way they behave toward that poor woman and her sick daughter. But we do the same thing all the time.

So we have to start to change. And that change begins in our hearts. And like building that bridge, it will take a good long while.

But then it begins to happen. We begin to change, and that change begins to spill over into our church. And then it begins to spill over into our community.

The Prophet Isaiah speaks for the Lord: My house shall be a house of prayer for all peoples.

This is not my house. This is not your house. This is God’s house. And in God’s house, all God’s children have a place at the table.

Even those who turn their backs, even those who refuse to come still have a place at the table and will always have a place at the table.

Racism and bigotry may still be alive and well in our country. And many are saying things that divide us rather than unite us. To them I say, shame on you. Because this kind of hatred has no place in our hearts. And it certainly has no place in this house..

Saturday, August 12, 2017

08-13-17 -- 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Aug 13, 2017 - 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A 
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

We like to see things. We like to go see parades. We stand on the side of the road waiting for the parade to pass by. There is excitement and anticipation as we wait. We like to go to sports events and concerts.

We also have this desire to go see the aftermath of a natural disaster. How many of you went riding around to see the damage from last year’s historic flood?

The Lord says to the Prophet Elijah, “Go outside and stand on the mountain before the Lord, the Lord will be passing by.”

We go outside to see the storm or the heavy wind or the hurricane. We see the fires out west and the summer storms on the evening news.

But this is not how we get to see the Lord. Elijah discovered that the Lord is not in those things. The Lord is not in the wind. The Lord is not in the earthquake. The Lord is not in the fire.

In the Gospel, Jesus is not in the storm. Jesus is above the storm. Jesus is beyond the storm. Jesus is more powerful than the storm.

So it should not surprise us when Jesus comes walking on the water. The Lord is in the calm. The Lord is in the quiet. The Lord is in the tiniest whispering sound.

You know what that means? It is easy to see the parade. It is easy to go to the concert. It is easy to go outside and experience the rainstorm. But it is harder to find the Lord.

The Lord is not in the storm or the earth or the fire or the parade. The Lord is in the tiniest whispering sound.

Often, like the disciples, we are overwhelmed by the storms of life. We are frightened by the storms of life. We are terrified by the rough winds. We are rocked by the waves. We feel like we will drown.

Jesus invites us out of the safety of the boat. Come out into the storm. Come out onto the water.

Can we step out in courage to follow the Lord? Like Peter, we must muster every bit of strength, every bit of courage and step out into the storm to get to Jesus. It can be frightening.

Jesus is there, inviting us. Come to me. Come be with me.

When we realize how strong the winds of those storms of life really are and that we are beginning to sink, we must cry out, “Lord save me.”

And immediately Jesus stretches out his hand to catch us.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

08-06-17 -- The Transfiguration, Year A

Aug 6, 2017 - The Transfiguration, Year A 
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

In 2001, I attended the Saint George Trek at Philmont Scout Ranch in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. During that 10 day, 100 mile trek, my crew climbed the highest peak on the ranch, Mount Baldy, at 6,000 feet above sea level.

At that altitude breathing becomes difficult and there is a sort of euphoria upon reaching the top. Mount Tabor is 1,900 feet above sea level. While not nearly as high as Mount Baldy, it is still a difficult climb to the top with an impressive view.

It took work for Jesus, Peter, James and John to get up there. Upon reaching the top they would have been winded at the very least.

It is there that they see the Divine, flames of fire, a lamp shining in the darkness, Jesus transfigured before their very eyes.

The voice from heaven gives the command, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.”

We do lots of talking. We also do lots of listening. And there are so many different voices vying for our time and attention.

There are the talking heads on TV, there is Cajun Dorris on YouTube, there is Donald Trump on Twitter. Kids today have ear buds or headsets on all the time.

While we like to do lots of talking and an even greater amount of listening, I suspect we spend very little time discerning the credibility of the voices we listen to.

All those voice drown out the voice of Jesus, the beloved Son. To listen to Jesus we must be still, we must be quiet and we must stop talking.

Are we taking much time to listen to Jesus? If we are honest we probably aren’t doing too much of that. And then we wonder why life goes all wrong.

We have this tendency to blame God for all our misfortunes. But how can we do that when we weren’t even listening in the first place?

When we listen, we hear something new. I love you. You are mine. This is a message of adoption. You are my beloved son, you are my beloved daughter. With you I am well pleased.

Are we climbing the Mountain of the Lord? That’s the only way to see the Divine, the flames of fire, a lamp shining in the darkness, Jesus transfigured before our very eyes.

And we are given the command, “This is my beloved Son, listen to him.” Are we listening to the beloved Son? Discipleship takes effort. It takes listening and seeing and climbing.

As we climb and see and listen we are transformed and come to understand that we are God’s children, that we belong, that we are loved.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

07-30-17 -- 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

July 30, 2017 - 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A 
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

What do you desire more than anything? What is the longing of your heart? Maybe you desire the Lord. Maybe you desire holiness. But maybe your desires are not so pure, not so chaste, not so holy.

Maybe we are poor and there is a longing for wealth. Maybe we have a poor self image or lack self confidence and we are longing for acceptance and popularity.

Maybe we are lonely and there is a longing for intimacy. Maybe we are weak and we are longing for power.

There are the things God expected Solomon to ask for: a long life, earthly riches and justice. We could understand if Solomon had asked for these things from the Lord. But Solomon asked for wisdom.

The readings ask us to examine our desires. Dealing with our desires can be a tough thing. On the one hand, we want what we want, we like what we like, we desire what we desire.

But on the other hand, our desires can become unruly. They can get out of hand. And when that happens, they begin to control us. Sometimes our desires are not so good. Sometimes they run amuck.

In Jesus’ parable, the characters have a desire for something that is very precious. And in both cases that something brings earthly wealth. Once you possess a pearl of great wealth or a buried treasure, you are rich by the world’s standards.

Jesus says that the Kingdom of Heaven is like this. So, the Kingdom of Heaven brings about earthly wealth? No, of course not.

The Kingdom of Heaven brings about heavenly wealth. The Kingdom of Heaven brings eternal life with God.

So, it seems to me that Jesus isn’t saying earthly wealth is bad. He is saying heavenly wealth is better, it is what our hearts should desire. It is something that should be sought after, like a pearl of great price or a buried treasure.

Do we seek the Kingdom of Heaven? Do we desire a closer walk with the Lord? What are some ways that we seek the Kingdom?

Ask something and I will give it to you, the Lord tells Solomon. What do we ask from the Lord?

Do we ask for wisdom? Do we ask for better control of our desires? How can we begin to tweak our desires? Do we ask for and long for the Kingdom of Heaven?

I may be poor and ask the Lord for wealth, but I cannot let that wealth control me. I may be insecure and ask the Lord for confidence but I cannot let that confidence become cocky or arrogant.

I may be lonely and ask the Lord for intimacy but I cannot let sexual prowess replace intimacy. I may be a victim and ask the Lord for justice against my enemies but I cannot let that justice become vengeance.

Dealing with our desires can be a tough thing. What do you desire most? What do you ask of the Lord?