Saturday, February 17, 2018

02-18-18 -- 1st Sunday of Lent, Year B

Scripture Readings

What does temptation from the devil look like? It’s that strong desire to do something I want to do, but I know is not in my best interest; something I might want, but I know is ultimately not good for me; something that might be fun right now, but I know there’s going to be consequences later.

Jesus was tempted to do things that might have seemed attractive in the moment, but there would have been disastrous consequences.

If Jesus had given in to the devil’s temptations what would have happened? Jesus would have been turned to the dark side. Jesus would have been beholden to the devil.

If the devil is trying to tempt Jesus after 40 days of fasting and prayer, the devil will certainly try to tempt us.

We find ourselves tempted to do all kinds of things that seem appealing at the time: drink too much, eat too much, self-medicate with prescription drugs or alcohol, for young people, it’s partying and doing drugs all night and calling that “chillin'.”

We might be tempted to take a little bit more than our share when we think no one is looking, or in some cases to simply steal because we think we deserve it, or to visit sites on the Internet that are sexual or explicit or violent.

We might be tempted to bully someone in order to feel good about ourselves or look good in front of our friends, or we might be tempted to manipulate or lie or cheat to become powerful.

We are tempted everyday by the devil to make bad choices that seem good at the time. But we are also tempted by God everyday to do good deeds, or maybe we should say we are tempted everyday by God to do God's deeds.

What makes a teacher jump in front of a gunman to protect his students? The temptation or invitation from God to do good.

What makes a mother fiercely protective of her child who is being bullied at school? The invitation from God to do good.

What makes a priest willing to continue to work in the vineyard of Jesus Christ in today’s world? The invitation from God to do good.

What makes a person donate a kidney to a complete stranger? The invitation from God to do good.

What makes a soldier stay by the side of an injured comrade even at the risk of being shot and killed? The invitation from God to do good.

What makes three young men on a train to Paris dramatically and successfully confront and take down a terrorist who was intent on killing everyone on that train? The invitation from God to do good.

What makes an ordinary person reach out and do a good deed, reach out and help a total stranger? The invitation from God to do good. 

What makes us desire to show love and affection to the people closest to us? The invitation from God to do good.

Some of these examples are heroic acts. Some are not. But we are all invited by God to do good everyday. We are tempted by God to do God’s deeds.

I suspect that if we were to focus more on the temptation to do good and less on the temptation to do evil, we would all be happier, healthier, more loving, more forgiving and more fulfilled.

Yes we are tempted by the devil, but we must always remember that we are also tempted by God. And when we give in to the temptation or invitation from God, we do God’s deeds.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

02-11-18 -- 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

Scripture Readings

The lepers were estranged. They had to live outside the community. They were isolated, apart from others. As long as they had the sores of leprosy, they were not able to live with their families. 

That must have been a terribly tragic and lonely existence, calling out “unclean, unclean” everywhere they went. They were avoided by all, except Jesus.

Jesus does not fear leprosy, nor does he fear the lepers. He is moved with pity. He stretched out his hand and touched the sores. In touching them, he healed them. Jesus made the leper clean.

After Jesus heals the leper in the gospel of today, what happens? He says, “Go show yourself to the priest.” Why? 

The priest has the power to declare the leper clean. Once the leper was declared clean, that person was then able to return to the community.

So Jesus brings those who are outside back into the community. Jesus desires for those who are excluded to be included again.

Sometimes we find ourselves on the outside, on the fringe, excluded for any number of reasons. 

Maybe we are excluded because of our race or skin color, or our religious beliefs, or our sexual orientation, or our political views, or even our physical appearance.

Jesus doesn’t want this. Jesus wants us all to be included. Jesus doesn’t want these divisions. 

Yet we continue to divide ourselves into camps of us and them. And this continues to cause strife and even social unrest.

That’s one of the reasons why we try so hard here at Saint Martin de Tours to make sure everyone feels welcomed, to make sure everyone feels wanted, to make sure everyone feels like they belong.

Jesus comes to heal sin and division. Jesus wants those who are estranged to be brought back. 

We all need to feel like we are a part of something bigger than ourselves. We all need to feel like we belong. Otherwise, we are like the lepers who are forced to live apart from everyone.

The lepers were estranged but Jesus healed them so that they could return to the community. Jesus desires to heal whatever is keeping us from community. 

Jesus wants us all to belong. Jesus wants us all to feel like we are important members of his family.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

02-04-18 -- 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

Job’s life unfolds in a way he doesn’t expect. We hear him lamenting.

I have troubled nights. I am filled with restlessness. My life is drudgery. Is this all there is? What has happened to me? What have I become? Why has my life turned out this way?

At some point, Job comes to the realization that all his whining and complaining does no good. He begins to understand that the question “why” has no answer.

Once he is no longer fixated on why his life has ended up as it has, he can begin to change. He can begin to see a new future. He accepts what is and begins to move toward what can be.

We ask plenty of “why” questions in our own lives. Why did this happen to me? Why did God do this to me? Why did you do this to me? Why did I do that? Why did I let this happen? 

Sometimes we get so caught up in our self-pity that we resign ourselves to what is.

Are we supposed to just resign ourselves to our struggles? Are we supposed to just accept our disappointments? 

Are we supposed to turn a blind eye when we see injustice in our world?

Are we supposed to just give in to our grief? Are we supposed to be resigned to the chronic pain we feel? Are we supposed to just live with our brokenness?

I don’t think so. And I think wallowing in our own self-pity is not very helpful.

Like Job, we eventually come to the realization that there are no answers to our “why” questions. And that if we just resign ourselves to what is, we could possibly end up living a pretty pitiful existence.

We are called to accept what is and work toward a different future. Jesus takes us by the hand, like he took Peter’s mother-in-law. Jesus grasped her hand and healed her.

Jesus is reaching out to you and to me. Jesus wants us to take his hand so that he can lift us up and heal us.

Our lives may be unfolding in a way we didn’t expect, but with Jesus by our side, we can take comfort that he can see us through anything.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

1-28-18 -- 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

I think sometimes we get taken up with the demon in the gospel. We get caught by the glamour of evil and we forget that there is a man standing there.

That poor man is tormented by something. He is gripped by some force that has power over him. He has lost control. The evil within seems to want to drag him down a dangerous and unholy path.
The demon challenges Jesus but Jesus isn’t taken up by the demon. Jesus is concerned with the man who is possessed.
Jesus doesn’t judge. Jesus doesn’t condemn. Jesus doesn’t ignore. Jesus encounters the man. Jesus casts out the evil. Jesus heals the man. And the man’s life is forever changed.
This gives us hope, because there are things inside of us that are unholy. Grudges. Prejudices. Anger. Lust. Selfishness. Things that aren’t healthy. Things that aren’t life-giving.
We might be broken and hurting and in need of healing. We might be running from and avoiding our problems. We might be possessed by loneliness or fear or despair or depression or grief.
Jesus doesn’t judge. Jesus doesn’t condemn. Jesus doesn’t ignore. Jesus encounters me. Jesus encounters you.
And Jesus loves. Jesus has the power to cast out the evil that is within us.
Jesus wants nothing more than to reach out to you and to me and to remove whatever is sinful, to heal whatever is wounded.
The evil that controls the man has the power to lead the man down a terrible path. But Jesus has power over evil.
If we stay close to Jesus, if we stay in relationship with Jesus, then Jesus can protect us from all the evil lurking in the world. This is what we pray every time we say the “Our Father.” Deliver us from every evil.
When the man, possessed by the unclean spirit, encounters Jesus in the synagogue, he is healed.
We encounter Jesus in this Eucharist. We eat his body that was nailed to a cross for us. We drink his blood that was poured out for us.
When we encounter Jesus here in this holy place, we ask Jesus to heal us. We ask Jesus to cast out the demons within us. We ask Jesus to strengthen us. We ask Jesus to draw near to us and to love us.
Sometimes we are tantalized by the glamour of evil. But the demons only come to destroy. Jesus comes only to love, because love conquers all.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

1-14 -18 -- 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

January 14, 2018 - 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church
The call of Samuel is supposed to be humorous. The Lord God calls Samuel but Samuel thinks it’s Eli, the old prophet calling him.

Three times this happens before old Eli realizes that it is the Lord God who must be calling Samuel. One would think that Eli, a seasoned prophet, would have figured it out sooner.

So finally, the fourth time Samuel is able to answer, “speak, for your servant is listening.”

This funny little scene should actually bring us great comfort. It took Eli three times before he realized the Lord God was calling the boy. And the boy didn’t even have a clue.

We usually don’t fair any better. Why? Because God’s voice is not the only voice vying for our attention.

Some voices are good, others are not so good. Some helpful, others destructive. Some worthwhile, others misguided. Some leading us down the right path and others tempting us to go astray.

We have to learn to tune out voices that encourage us to look out for ourselves before others, get revenge on those who have harmed us, look down on those who have less than we do, gossip, put down and belittle others, and bend the truth.

We have to learn to listen to voices that call us to grow in our spiritual life, respect the dignity of each person, act with kindness and charity and work on becoming more loving and forgiving.

Learning to recognize God’s voice takes time. We have to learn to be good listeners because God is always trying to communicate with us. God is continually trying to speak to us. God is continually trying to reveal wisdom and guidance to us.

The Lord God desires to do this in many different ways, through our scriptures, through the church, through holy people we encounter everyday and in the deepest recesses of our hearts and minds and souls.

We have to want to hear God’s voice. We have to be open to what God wants to say to us. But listening is just the first part of being a good disciple.

Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John teach us that the second part of discipleship requires action. When they hear John the Baptist say, “Behold the Lamb of God,” they begin to follow Jesus. When we hear God’s voice we also must act on it.

We are called to have a heart open to God’s voice. We are called to have the strength and courage to follow.

In this way, we, like Samuel and Eli, like Peter and Andrew, James and John, will grow into the people God desires us to be.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

1-7-18-- Epiphany, Year B

January 7, 2018 - Epiphany, Year B

Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

We are all on a journey. Where we say we are going says a lot about who we are.

I am trying to finish school. I want to retire. I am looking to make lots of money. I want to get married. I’m going to be a priest.

We might all say we are looking for love. But when others look at our lives they might say we are looking for love in all the wrong places.

Our entire lives are a journey and where we are headed says plenty about who we are.

The magi in the gospel are on a tremendous adventure. They saw a bright star in the sky and they left their homes to journey to see the newborn King.

They did him homage, brought their gifts and then continued on their journey.

Did they even know they were on a pilgrimage to see God? I don’t know. More importantly, are we on a search for God?

The journey we call life can be painful, uncertain, filled with unexpected twists and turns. Sometimes we can get off track and lose our way.

But from time to time, like on this Feast of the Epiphany, we get a glimpse of the end. We see the Lord shed light upon our hearts. We see the Lord illuminate the darkness to light our paths.

We feel the radiance of the Lord fill us with peace and joy. We gather here in this holy place so that the glory of the Lord can shine upon us.

We ask the Lord of light to go before us to illuminate our paths so that we may reach the brightness of our eternal home where light overcomes darkness, good overcomes evil and life overcomes death.

The Magi searched diligently for the Christ. Their pilgrimage to see the Lord brought joy.

Life is a journey and where we are headed says a lot about who we are. Today we ask God to shine the light of Christ into our lives to guide us along the right paths.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

12-31-17 -- The Holy Family, Year B

Dec. 25, 2017 - Christmas, Year B
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

If your family is anything like mine, I’m sure there was a bit of family drama over the holidays.

Someone got upset about something, someone got their feelings hurt, someone said something that was hurtful, and maybe someone had too much to drink.

Why is it such a challenge to love those who are closest to us?

Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta said, “It is easy to love the people far away. It is not always easy to love those close to us. Bring love into your home for this is where our love for each other must start.”

On this Feast of the Holy Family can we bring love into our homes? We are called to imitate Jesus, Mary and Joseph. In this New Year we want to work on being like the Holy Family.

And in our second reading, Saint Paul tells us exactly what we need to work on.

Avoid bitterness. Let go of grudges. Bear with one another patiently. And forgive one another.

He also gives us a list of virtues to work on: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

Then he reminds us of the Christmas message we heard just a week ago. He says, “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you.” Let Christ dwell in your hearts. Let Christ be a welcomed guest in your homes.

We invite the Word made Flesh, Jesus Christ, into our hearts. Not just today, but throughout the entire New Year.

This will give us the grace and the strength we need to imitate the Holy Family.

Pope Francis encourages us to use three key phrases that will give us a more peaceful family life. May I. Thank you. And I’m sorry.

In this way, all family members can work on showing honor and respect. In this way, all family members can work on being more charitable. In this way, all family members can work on being more like the Holy Family.

There might have been some drama in our families this holiday season. That’s definitely something we want to work on in this New Year so that we can make our families more like Jesus, Mary and Joseph, the Holy Family.