Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Solemnity of All Saints -- November 1, 2013

The Solemnity of All Saints
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church
November 1, 2013

We think we could never be saints. 
We think we aren’t good enough.

But Saint John in the second reading reminds us:
“Beloved, we are God’s children”
And as God’s children we are called to be Saints.

We think that the saints were always holy,
but that’s not quite true. 

Many of the saints struggled throughout their lives;
they struggled through their sinfulness to become holy.

They worked very hard at bringing the Beatitudes to life.

They worked to become poor in spirit, to hunger and thirst for righteousness, to be clean of heart, to show mercy and bring about peace.

Some were even insulted and persecuted because of their quest for holiness.  They now rejoice in heaven.

Pope Francis, reflecting upon our annual Feast of All Saints posed this question,

“Who among us has not experienced insecurity, loss and even doubts along the journey of faith?

“All of us, myself included.

“It is part of the journey of faith, part of the journey of our lives.

“All of us are weak,” he continued.  “We all have our limits.  Do not panic.”

The communion of saints goes beyond this earthly life, goes beyond death and lasts forever.

There is a deep and unbreakable bond between those of us who are still pilgrims and those who have crossed the threshold of death into eternity.

The communion that we share with the saints is realized most fully when, in our prayers, we ask for the Saints to intercede for us.

We think falsely that we could never be saints;
when, in fact, many of us are already well on the way.

Quote of the Day: 10/31/2013

"When we honestly ask ourselves which persons in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand."
~~ Henri Nouwen

Sunday, October 27, 2013

10/27/2013 - 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
October 27, 2013 - Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

When Jesuit Father Antonio Spadaro asked Pope Francis, in the now famous interview, “Who is Jorge Mario Bergoglio?” our Holy Father seemed genuinely surprised at the question.

The pope stared at him in silence.  Then, after reflecting for a moment, he said, “I am a sinner.  This is the most accurate definition.”

The pope continued to reflect and concentrate as if he hadn’t expected the question. 

He continued, “Yes, the best summary, the one that comes more from the inside and I feel most true is this:  I am a sinner whom the Lord has looked upon.  I am one who is looked upon by the Lord.”

One wonders if he was thinking of the very gospel passage we are reflecting upon this weekend.

As I reflect, I am very much aware that I am a sinner myself. 
I rush to judgment, sometimes thinking the worst about a person instead of giving the benefit of the doubt.

I get frustrated and sometimes angry with people who are small-minded.  I fail to consult as widely as I could when making pastoral decisions. 

I can be short or even ill-tempered with people who make inappropriate requests of the church.

From time to time, I join in the Saint Martinville gossip.

And through my own body language, I sometimes give the impression that I am aloof or unapproachable or even uncaring, when, in fact, the opposite is true.
I too am a sinner whom the Lord has looked upon.

In the Psalm we sing that the Lord hears the cry of the poor.

Does the Lord hear Pope Francis’ cry from mercy?
The Lord hears the cry of the poor.  Blessed be the Lord.

Does the Lord hear my cry for mercy? 
The Lord hears the cry of the poor.  Blessed be the Lord.

Does the Lord hear your cry for mercy?
The Lord hears the cry of the poor.  Blessed be the Lord. 

In the Book of Sirach from the Old Testament reading, we are told that the one who serves God willingly is heard.

We serve God in our worship.  Do we come here willingly or out of a sense of obligation, begrudgingly?

We serve God willingly when we lift our voices in song.  Do we pick up the songbooks in church when a hymn is announced and at least try our best to sing along?

We serve God willingly when we answer the call to help our brothers and sisters in need.  Do we give to some charity, maybe the Bishop’s Services Appeal, or do we do some good volunteer work in our community?

The one who serves God willingly is heard.

In the gospel, the Pharisee asks for nothing and he receives nothing.  The tax collector, on the other hand, bangs his chest and asks that his sins be forgiven and his prayer is answered.

We must be careful not to be like the Pharisee.  His prayer is not necessarily a bad prayer.  But it is mostly about him. 

It is self-absorbed.  It is boastful.  In his prayer, he tells God about all the good things he is doing.  He is convinced that he has earned his place of honor.  He thinks he is managing his own salvation.
The Pharisee believes in a God who is quick to judge and condemn anyone who falls outside the norms of what he considers to be acceptable behavior.

As a result, he is also quick to condemn those who are not like him.  This makes him proud and arrogant; and his temple worship becomes self-centered.

The tax collector, on the other hand, confesses his sinfulness and begs for mercy.  He cries out to God in despair. 

He is overwhelmed at what he perceives to be the great gulf separating him from God.  The Lord accepts his sacrifice of a broken contrite heart and draws near to the tax collector.

We are called to acknowledge our own sinfulness and entrust ourselves to the generous mercy of God.

Our God is bigger than any particular sins we have committed.
God’s mercy is much stronger.  God’s love bring forgiveness.

Jesus teaches us to never look down upon our fellow sinners. 
If we do, we are like the Pharisee.  “Thank you God that I am not like so and so.”

Rather, we are called to help our neighbors in their search for God.

Our church community should be an open, welcoming place for all God’s children, sinners every one.

It is in this place that the humble broken contrite heart is exalted and made new.

It is in this place that the Lord hears the cry of the poor.
Blessed be the Lord.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

10/20/2013 - 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
October 20, 2013 - St. Martin de Tours Catholic Church

In the Apostles creed we say we believe that Jesus will come again to judge the living and the dead.  We accept that at some point we will face some sort of final judgment before God.

So, when Jesus tells the parable about a judge and a widow, it’s not surprising that we are tempted to compare the judge to God; and to compare the widow to us, thinking that the gospel message is to simply be persistent in prayer and not give up.

I’m not so sure. I don’t think so.  Because if this is the case, then the gospel message is that if you badger God long enough you will eventually wear God down and get what you want.

But that’s not right.  That’s not how God works.
So there must be something more going on here than that.

Our God will not be bribed.  The scriptures tell us time and again that our God is a God of justice.

But the judge is a bad man.  He is not a man of justice. 
He’s self-serving, arrogant, narrow minded, maybe even a thief who takes bribes from special interest groups.

He is not like God.  Actually, if we’re honest, he’s more like us.
So the judge should not be compared to God.

Which means we should not compare ourselves to the widow, thinking we are like her.  We are not like her.  She is formidable. 

She hungers and thirsts for justice.
She is like God who pleading with us to change.

So then the message of the parable is to stop being like the judge and start trying to act more like the widow.

Anyone who resists injustice, faces it, names it, denounces it until justice is achieved is acting as God acts.

The widow is as powerless as Jesus of the cross.  His death defeats the power of death.  In the just the same way, the widow defeats injustice.

She goes again and again to the judge, so much that he despises her.  He doesn’t want to help her.  She’s poor and insignificant, like Mary the mother God.

But she kept coming.  Once a day.  Twice a day. 
Three times a day.  For one week.  For two weeks. 
For three weeks.  Four weeks.

She filled the mind of the judge with the idea that justice should be done for her.  Against all odds she endures until justice is done and God is present.

So the parable is not about strategies to wear down a reluctant God.  It’s about justice. 

It’s about holding those self-serving politicians’ feet to the fire.
It’s about uncovering and exposing greed and corruption.
It’s about improving education.

It’s about breaking barriers that separate people.
It’s about standing up for the voiceless, the hidden,
the marginalized, the abused, the neglected.

It’s about protecting the rights of the unborn.
It’s about caring for the elderly and the dying.
This is the very message I think our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has been trying to communicate to us.

That Jesus doesn’t want us to be persistently whining to get God to do what we want. 

It’s really the other way around.

God will not stop knocking on the door of our hearts until we submit ourselves to God’s will and seek to carry out God’s justice.

Our God is persistent.  Even if God has to keep coming to us saying, “Rending justice for me.” 

God will keep knocking once a day, twice a day, three times a day, for one week, two weeks, three weeks, an entire lifetime.

God will not rest until justice is done.

Pay attention then to what the dishonest judge says,
because we are too much like him.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

10/13/2013 - 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
October 13, 2013 - St. Martin de Tours Catholic Church

28 OT C 2013
Saint Martin

Some people in our midst have the power to heal.
Sometimes it’s the saints who we ask to intercede for us.

Saints like: Saint Peregrine, Saint Dymphna, Saint Lucy,
Saint Pio, Saint Luke.

Sometimes it’s someone who reaches out a comforting hand in a time of need to sooth our troubled spirits or wipe away a tear from our eyes or hold us when we need to be held.

Sometimes it’s a priest who lays hands on our heads during the Sacrament of Anointing of the sick and we feel the power
of the Holy Spirit coursing through us.

Often times, when I am anointing the sick or giving absolution, I can feel the healing power of God passing though me as I become a vessel bringing the Lord’s healing to others.

In those moments of awareness, I very much understand Mary’s humility when she cries out, “I am the handmaid of the Lord.”

Why should it surprise us that there are some among us who have the power to heal.

We know that Jesus has the power to heal.  But not only Jesus.  Why?  Because he sends his disciples out with the power to heal as well.

So it shouldn’t surprise us to discover that there are some among us who, coming in the name of the Lord, have the power to bring us healing.

This tradition of healers goes all the way back to the Old Testament. 
The prophet Elisha was a healer.

Naaman, a general in the Syrian army, had leprosy.  He was told by his little servant girl that the prophet Elisha had the power to heal him.
He believes her, so he gathers his retinue, brings lots of gifts, and goes to Elisha.  He appears at the prophet’s door, but the prophet does not come out to see him.

Instead Elisha sends Naaman this message, 
“Go, dip seven times in the Jordan River.”

Naaman is insulted.  “A man of my position, power and authority. 
How dare he not come out to me, and lay hands on me and cure me.”

If that’s not enough, he goes on, “”Syria has two beautiful, sparkling rivers.  The Jordan, in comparison, is nothing more than a muddy ditch.”

Naaman turns on his heels to go home, in a tizzy.
But Naaman really needed the Lord’s healing.
And he really needed to accept that healing on the Lord’s terms.

You see, the Lord wanted to heal more than Naaman’s skin.
The Lord wanted to heal his heart as well. 

Naaman’s servants convince him to get off his high horse and do what the prophet asked.  And this is where our first reading today begins.  Naaman dips seven times in the muddy waters of the Jordan and is cleansed.

Each one of us has a spot of leprosy, some troubled spot, some disease or defect, and we are in desperate need of the Lord’s healing. 

But we have to get down on our knees and cry out, “Jesus have pity on me.”  Can we honestly say to Jesus, “I have this spot of leprosy that needs healing?”

broken relationship       foul mouth          addiction
nasty temper           lustful impulses       depression, anxiety
a physical ailment  a hardened heart     a lack of forgiveness

In the gospel, all ten lepers cry out and all ten are made clean, but only one is made whole.  The one who returns to give thanks and praise to God is the one who is made whole. 
We long to be made whole.  It seems to me that two things are required to be healed and made whole.

First, we have to seek out the healers in our midst, those who feel the healing power working through them, a trusted friend to hold us, a priest to lay hands on us.

Second, we need to be grateful for this healing that the Lord desires for us.  Sometimes we get so busy in our daily activities that we never take time to reflect on the Lord’s healing touch at work in our lives.

Or maybe we don’t feel thankful because we simply don’t pay attention to the things for which we should be thankful.

The Mass we celebrate here each Sunday is our greatest expression of thanksgiving.  It is our time to return to the Lord saying, “Thank you.”

Saint Paul in the second reading reminds us that one of the ways we give praise and thanks is through song.  He calls upon us to sing songs, psalms, and spiritual hymns.

The Lord gave us his body and blood in the Eucharist.  And the Lord died on the cross for us.  That’s worth singing about.
And when we sing, we give thanks.

The Leper who returns to give thanks and praise to God is the one who is healed and made whole.  The other nine are still in chains.

The Lord has sent healers to live among us.  If we seek them out, they have the power to heal us.  Do we seek them out? 
Do we come to them bringing our spot of leprosy that needs healing?

And once we are healed, do we come here to this holy place to give thanks and praise to the Lord for what he has done for us? 
It is in this way that we are healed and made whole.