Saturday, February 22, 2014

02-23-2014 -- 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

February 23, 2014 - 7th Sunday, Ordinary Time, Year A
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

No revenge. No hatred. Only love.

Saint Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians, says,
“You are the temple of God.”
I am the temple of God.

And the temple of God is holy.
If I am the temple of God then I am holy.
If you are the temple of God then you are holy.

The Spirit of God dwells in the temple.
The Spirit of God dwells in you.
The Spirit of God dwells in me.

Notice please, it is not: You can become holy.

No. The temple is holy.
You are the temple. You are holy.

Because you are holy, I am called to love you and respect you.
No revenge. No hatred. Only love.

But our culture constantly encourages us to treat each other as adversaries. We are encouraged to be competitors.

Our political system, our sports, games shows, most reality TV and even our classrooms have challengers who compete against each other to win, or to be first, or to come out on top.

Using phrases like “going for the kill” or “destroying the opposition” is just a step away from Jesus’ examples in the Gospel.
An eye for an eye is revenge.
Violence brings more violence brings more violence.

It’s a vicious cycle of drugs, bullying, gangs, school shootings, mall shootings, chants of hatred, plots of revenge.

No revenge. No hatred. Only love.

Loving those who love you and hating those who hate you is predictable and boring. Everyone can do that.

But a holy temple of God where the Spirit dwells can do more.
We can do better.

Turning the cheek and walking away
requires courage and inner strength.

Being pressed into service and going beyond
what is needed requires courage and inner strength.

It’s easy to hold a grudge. It’s easy to plot revenge.
It’s easy to hate and withhold forgiveness.

It’s hard to walk away. It’s hard to forgive. It’s hard to love.

Discipleship requires a new way of acting.

Walking away requires a relationship with Jesus
that few of us have.

Forgiving is an act of faith that requires us
to put our trust in the Lord.

We may not be capable of such heroism today.

But that’s no reason to live lives filled with a desire for revenge,
to have hearts filled with hatred.

Can we begin by identifying why we want revenge,
why we cannot forgive, why we bear hatred in our hearts?

Can we bring this to the Lord in prayer and ask for conversion.

Then, can we try to walk away from revenge and begin
to work on forgiving and learning to smile away the anger
and irritations of daily life?

What Jesus is asking for is challenging. We need his help.

Only with Jesus’ help we can begin saying no to revenge
and yes to holiness.

Only with Jesus’ help we can begin saying no to hatred
and yes to forgiveness and love.

Jesus is calling for us to change our hearts
and so change our lives.

Turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, love our enemies.

I am the temple. I am holy.
The Spirit of God dwells in me.

You are the temple. You are holy.
The Spirit of God dwells in you.

No revenge. No hatred. Only love.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

02-16-2014 -- 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

February 16, 2014 - 6th Sunday, Ordinary Time, Year A
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

Sitting in a doctor's office, a married couple quietly discussed their excitement and anticipation as the reality that they were finally going to become parents began to sink in, after more than ten years of waiting, hoping, and praying that their marriage would be blessed with the gift of a child.

The doctor came into the room and sat down at his desk, smiling at the couple as he proceeded to pull out the wife's medical file.

"It says here that you were diagnosed with multiple sclerosis approximately twelve years ago," the doctor stated.

The wife nodded, knowing this was likely the reason why the couple had experienced trouble conceiving.

"It seems to me," the doctor continued, "that there could be very serious medical ramifications if you were to continue this pregnancy."

The couple gave each other a concerned look.  "What do you mean, if I continue the pregnancy?" the wife asked.

"Well, due to the many medical complications that could ensue, your health could be put at serious risk.”

Becoming uneasy, the husband asked, "What are you suggesting?"  The doctor paused, then said, "I would suggest terminating the pregnancy."

At his words, the wife looked over at her husband, tight-lipped, stood up angrily, and walked out of the office.

Her husband followed close behind. The doctor had been nice enough, but his opinion was one the couple had never expected.

"I don't care what happens to me," she would later tell her husband. "If it has to come down to my life or the child's, I want you to save the baby. I'm having this baby."

The husband concurred, knowing the risks and praying that he wouldn't be faced with such a decision.

As it turned out, the doctor was completely wrong. The wife was as healthy as she had ever been in her life during the pregnancy, and, according to her husband, had never looked more radiant.

When the time came to deliver her child, she did not even have strong labor pains. She described the entire pregnancy and birth as a gift and blessing, even though it could have potentially cost her her life.

Before us are set life and death, good and evil.  Which do we choose?  If we choose to, we can keep the commandments. 
Our scripture says they will save us.

The choice is ours and Jesus does not make the choice easy.

Our prayer often reflects this reality.  We would like Jesus to make things easier for us.  Jesus please take away my suffering.  Jesus please give me a better job.  Jesus please give me more friends. 

But the simple fact is this.  Jesus doesn’t always make things better or easier.  Sometimes Jesus challenges us to live up to his expectations.
It is not easy to follow the commandments Jesus sets forth in the Gospel today.  It is not easy to change our hearts and become holy. 

Jesus is not impressed that we have never killed anyone.
He expects us to do better than that.  We should not even consider insulting anyone or gossiping about anyone.
Likewise it is not enough to say that we haven’t committed adultery.  Jesus asks us to root out the lust in our hearts.

Jesus wants us to get to the core of the commandments, the Spirit rather than the letter of the law.

When we are honest with ourselves, we begin to realize that we fail to attain the high moral standards that Jesus has set for us.

This is what we call sin.  Sin means to miss the mark, to not get things quite right, to not reach the goal Jesus has set for us.

But that doesn’t mean we should just give up, that doesn’t mean we should stop trying.

We must do our best to center our lives on the Lord, to fill our hearts with love and to root out the evil we find there.  This takes work.

Great athletes do not develop by simply learning how to dribble a basketball or catch a football, but by learning to love the game.

Great students do not blossom simply by learning the techniques needed to pass an exam, but by having a passion for knowledge.

We choose to keep the commandments not by simply changing our behaviors, but by changing our hearts, and having a love for the Lord.

We are challenged to go beyond the dos and don’ts of the law.
We are challenged to open our hearts to God.

We are asked to struggle with the evil within.
This is not easy.  Change is difficult.

Before us is set life and death, good and evil.
The one that we choose will be given to us.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

02-09-2014 -- Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

February 9, 2014 - 5th Sunday, Ordinary Time, Year A
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

You are a sinner.  You are a failure.
You are so stupid.  You are a loser.

If we hear these words often enough, we begin to believe that we are no good, to be thrown out and trampled upon.

But Jesus says we are something we may not realize.
We already have a gift that maybe we haven’t discovered or developed.

You are salt!  You are light!

Notice, it’s not:  You should be salt.  You can become salt.
You are called to be salt.  Nope, it’s none of those.

It’s a simple declaration of fact:  You are salt!  You are light!

What a wonderful gift God has given us.

Think of all the people who have been salt and light for us, how they have affected our lives and helped us, how they have brought about change in us because they cared about us.

They are salt and light!  We are salt and light!
We are called to become what we already are.

Salt does not exist for its own sake. 
No one sits down to eat salt.

Salt is quite unremarkable really. 
It’s commonplace and can be found in everyone’s kitchen.

It blends invisibly into the foods we eat.  Its presence unnoticed until we taste.  And then, an explosion of flavor. 

Salt is a seasoning.  It’s meant to flavor the food we eat. 
It makes the food we eat taste better.
Imagine French fries or popcorn without salt.

As salt, our mission is to bring zest and meaning and flavor to people, to live life with passion.  We are flavor for the world!

In the same way, light does not exist for its own sake.
It’s just the opposite of inconspicuous salt. 
It is not hidden.  It shines everywhere.

It’s there so that people might see what is around them. 
It penetrates and overcomes the darkness.

As light, our mission is to shine for all to see, to use our own unique gifts and talents to light up our dark world.
We are light for the world! 

How can we work to become what we already are:
salt and light? 

The prophet Isaiah tells us how to season and shine.

Share your bread with the hungry.
Shelter the oppressed and homeless.
Clothe the naked.

Then your light will break forth and your wound will be healed.
Then you will call and the Lord will answer.
You will cry for help and he will say, “Here I am.”

The choice is ours. 
To season or be discarded?
To shine or be hidden?

Sometimes people may say mean and hurtful things:
You are a failure.  You are a loser.  You are so stupid.

If we’re not careful, we might begin to believe them.
But we shouldn’t, because Jesus says something very different:

You are the salt of the earth.
Go, therefore, and season everything in your life and the lives of the people around you.

You are the light of the world.

Go, therefore, and let your light shine for all to see.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

02-02-2014 -- The Presentation of the Lord, Year A

February 2, 2014 - Presentation of the Lord, Year A
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

I think people are beginning to lose a sense of the sacred. Religious rituals seem to have lost their significance in people’s lives.

Busy schedules, dual-career marriages, single-parent homes, and an overabundance of after-school activities all mean that fewer families eat together or pray together or even go to church together.

So an understanding and appreciation of ritual and ceremony is lost, and so is any sense of the sacred.

For many, religious rituals are arcane, medieval nonsense. They are reduced to church attendance at Christmas and Easter, and, of course, the socially required times: baptism, weddings and funerals.

Ritual is anything we do repeatedly or in a particular manner.
What we seem to have lost is a respect and reverence for religious ritual and its importance in our lives.

Marking daily and special events with rituals help us recognize the sacredness of human life and the presence of God in our lives. However, in the lives of so many today, ritual is practically extinct.

God has disappeared from the awareness and experience of daily life.

The result: our daily lives are reduced and impoverished. Little room is left for the sacred, for the mystery of God, for holiness.

Reflecting on the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple challenges us to recover the mystery of God in our everyday lives.

How? Through our celebration of religious ritual.

Simeon seeks the Lord. Anna seeks the Lord.
And where do they find him? In the Temple.
Why the Temple?

Because Mary and Joseph have brought Jesus there for a religious ritual: the circumcision and naming of the child and the purification of the mother - a religious ritual very similar to baptism.

When Jesus is presented in the Temple, he is seen by those who were looking for him.

It is here that Simeon and Anna see the Lord.
It is here that they had been watching and waiting.

It is here that the Holy Spirit came upon them.
It is here that they were enveloped in the mystery of God.

That’s why religious ritual is so very important.

It is here that we watch and wait.
It is here that the Holy Spirit comes upon us.

It is here that Jesus gives us his very Body and Blood in our ritual observance of the Last Supper.

Jesus is presented in this Temple each and every time we, as church, gather to celebrate the Eucharist.

When the sacred species of bread turned Body is lifted up, those who are looking see. When the sacred species of wine turned Blood is lifted up, those who are looking see.

It is here that we are enveloped in the mystery and transcendence of Almighty God, the creator of heaven and earth, our Father.

This religious experience calls us to seek the presence of God, not just here, but in the ordinary events of our daily lives:

  • Greeting the new day with an expression of gratitude.
  • Celebrating the goodness of food and family and friends at meals.
  • Recognizing the mystery of God in all that is beautiful.

  • Reading and reflecting upon a passage of scripture each day.
  • Placing a cross or crucifix or some other religious symbol in a prominent place in our homes.
  • Pausing at the end of the day to reflect on the day’s successes and failures and to promise to do better tomorrow.

Each of us can find creative ways of adding religious rituals to our everyday lives. These play such an important role in our ability to find intimacy with God.

Without our religious rituals, we lose that sense of the sacred.
And without that sense of the sacred, we live in poverty of spirit.
Any sense of the mystery of God is lost

Simeon and Anna went to the Temple. In the religious ritual celebrated there, they found the Messiah, the Christ, Jesus the Lord.

Seek, and in celebrating our religious rituals, you will find.