Saturday, May 31, 2014

06-01-2014 -- Sixth Sunday of Easter, Year A

June 01, 2014 - Ascension, Year A
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

Why are you just standing there?

The two men, God’s angels, dressed in white, ask them:
Why are you standing around?

In our lives there are times when we just stand around.  We know we should act, but we just stand there waiting for something to happen, waiting for someone else to do it.

We might be paralyzed by fear or apathy or anger or peer pressure or jealousy or whatever.

Just standing around, dumbfounded, we become spectators watching life pass us by.

On this Feast of the Ascension, Jesus calls his disciples to action.

He commissions them to go and make disciples, to go and baptize, to go and evangelize in his name.

But the call isn’t just for them, it isn’t just for me, it’s for all of us. The call is for the entire Church.

The angels say to all of us, “Why are you just standing around?”

Who else is going to consistently recognize and uphold the dignity of each human person?

We, as Catholic Christians, are commissioned by the Lord himself to stand up for the voiceless, to protect the innocent, to speak clearly against abortion, euthanasia and capital punishment.

Who else is going to consistently make a preferential option for the poor? 

Francis is not the first Holy Father to call us and commission us to care for the poor and the needy, the hungry and the homeless.

John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI all called for justice among the nations and peace among the peoples.

They all called for a just family wage and an end to name-calling, discrimination and persecution.

Who else is going to care for the sick and the dying? 

We, as Catholics, have been providing affordable health care through a network of hospitals and clinics, not just in this country, but throughout the world, for centuries.

We cannot just stand around.  We are called to visit the sick and the shut in, bringing them Jesus’ healing touch.

Who else is going to teach our young children?  There are approximately 50 million children in Catholic schools worldwide.

In addition, every Catholic parish has a religious education program to hand on our faith to the next generation.

Who is going to volunteer to assist with this most important task?

Who else so consistently prays as Jesus taught us?  We pray not just for ourselves and for our families.

We also pray for our enemies, we pray for all people, asking God to be merciful and to watch over and protect us all.

Who else holds up the Eucharist for the salvation of the world.  Who else so consistently proclaims that Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away our sins and the sins of the whole world?

Why are we standing around?  Recently someone asked me, “Do you mind if I repaint all the benches in the church square?  It’s what I do and I’d love to help out.”

I said, “I’d love for you to do that for us.”

If you see something that needs to be done, and you can do it, then step forward. 

That’s what disciples do.  They don’t stand around gossiping. They don’t mill about, criticizing others or spreading negativity.

They are not idly watching life pass by while doing nothing other than complaining.

No!  Disciples go and do what Jesus commissioned them to do!

We are Jesus’ disciples here and now.

Why are we just standing around?

Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.

And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

05-25-2014 -- Sixth Sunday of Easter, Year A

May 25, 2014 - 6th Sunday of Easter, Year A
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

One of our greatest human fears is the fear of being abandoned or ignored. Monophobia is the fear of being alone, abandoned, rejected, left behind.

Like the child who is alone in this world bounced from foster home to foster home because mom has chosen crack cocaine over the loving embrace of a child.

Or the young girl who hasn’t yet blossomed into a woman and is still a bit of an ugly duckling and faces teasing and ridicule every day.

Or the teenage boy who prefers music over football and is bullied by his peers.

Or the single woman who wonders if she will ever find the right man to marry.

Or the widower who is lost in this world without his wife who took care of him for so many years.

We may grow up, but we never outgrow the need for attention, for care, for compassion, for feeling recognized, for feeling like we belong somewhere, for feeling loved.

Today Jesus says how much he loves you, how much he loves us: I will not leave you orphans.

In our Sacred Scriptures, Jesus assures us that we will not be left alone, that we will not be left behind.

If you love me I will ask the Father and he will give you the Spirit and the Spirit will remain with you.

We are not left orphans. Neither were the disciples after Jesus’ ascension into heaven.

Jesus had been with them for so long. He had done so much for them.

Every time they were hungry, there had been food. Every time they were thirsty, there had been wine. Every time they were sick, he had healed them. Every time they were in debt, he had bailed them out. Every time they were in trouble, he was right there by their sides.

True, he had been sending them out, but they had always been able to come back, to sit down at his feet, to listen to his counsel, to be with him.

Then he said to them: In a little while I will be with you no longer, in a little while you will be alone, in a little while you will have to be independent.

He saw their frightened faces and the growing despair in their eyes. But I won’t leave you orphans. Another helper will be given to you, a helper who will work from within you: the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is with us. We are not left orphans. God’s faithful and loving presence in us is a fact, a reality.

We call down the Holy Spirit each time we celebrate mass: Let your Spirit come upon these gifts of bread and wine so that they may become for us the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.

It’s easy for us to recognize the working of the Holy Spirit here in this place, but it takes some effort to recognize the presence of the Holy Spirit within us.

Jesus tells us the Holy Spirit is our helper. How does the Holy Spirit help us?

The Holy Spirit dwells in each of us. Because we receive Jesus’ Body and Blood in this Eucharist, we are temples of the Lord God where God’s Spirit dwells.

The Holy Spirit, dwelling in us, transforms us from the inside out. Some have remarkable transformations, others are refashioned slowly over their whole lives.

As we are transformed, we come to recognize our beauty and giftedness and are able to bring those gifts to the church.

And by bringing them to the church, sharing them with the people of God, we also give them to the Lord.

We are not alone. We enjoy the presence, the blessing, the indwelling of God today and everyday.

When God’s helping hand is offered through the power and working of the Holy Spirit, it is up to us to take it. And God’s helping hand is offered to each and every one of us.

We are not left orphans. All we have to do is reach out and take God’s hand and we will be saved.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

05-18-2014 -- Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year A

May 18, 2014 - 5th Sunday of Easter, Year A
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

Many years ago, when I was a bit younger, I made a pilgrimage to the shrine of Saint James, the Apostle, in Northern Spain.

Unlike other pilgrimages which take pilgrims in airplanes and air conditioned tour buses, the route to the burial place of Saint James is to be walked.

Pilgrims make their way on foot on some 500 miles of ancient roads winding their way across Northern Spain. The pilgrim route is clearly marked with yellow arrows. These arrows point the way to the shrine.

As long as pilgrims follow the yellow arrows, they walk with a certain trust, a certain faith that they are headed in the right direction.

The trek is grueling. One morning, my friends’ aches and pains were too great for them, so they took a bus. I chose to walk, which meant that on that day, I walked alone.

In the dim light of early dawn I came to a crossroad. Before me were three paths, but I couldn’t find any yellow arrows.

I choose one of the paths and walked a ways looking for yellow arrows. I continued to walk finding a white arrow and then another.
I found it strange that the arrows were suddenly white, not yellow.

But I convinced myself that this must be the way. So I continued walking. Finally, after about an hour or so, I came to the realization that I was lost. I was no longer on the way.

Suddenly, with very limited Spanish speaking skills, I was on my own. With no map, I had to use my physical and mental resources to find my way back to the pilgrim route.

Eventually I did. It took me the whole day and I probably walked an extra 5 to 10 miles because I did not look down all three paths until I found a yellow arrow.

Jesus is our way. Without him we would be lost, left to our own meager resources.

It was easy for me to be fooled by the white arrows. I convinced myself to continue down the wrong path.

It’s easy for us to be fooled by the devil. It’s easy to continue in our sinful ways, traveling down the wrong path.

But Jesus challenges us when he says, “I am the Way.” If we follow Jesus, who is the Way, there are certain promises made to us in this weekend’s Scriptures.

We are told that if we follow Jesus, who is the Way, we are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people called out of darkness into God’s wonderful light.

We are also told that if we follow Jesus, where he is, we also will be. He has gone before us to prepare a place for us.

So the Way for us as Catholic Christians turns out to be not a path or a pilgrim route, but a person. To get where we are going, we don’t need yellow arrows or a map or a compass. We need a companion.

Jesus is the one who guides us on our journey because Jesus is our journey. And we encounter him here in this holy place.

Our souls, our spirits, our minds are nourished here in this holy place. We are guided by his word spoken to us in our sharing of the scriptures.

Our souls, our bodies are nourished, fed with his body and blood, food for our journey.

Jesus says, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. I am the Way.

If you simply follow me, you will never be lost again.”

Saturday, May 10, 2014

05-11-2014 -- Fourth Sunday of Easter, Year A

May 11, 2014 - 4th Sunday of Easter, Year A
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

We don’t listen when people talk to us anymore. We choose, rather, to be entertained by giving our brains short-term dopamine fixes.

We do that by using YouTube, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, and Internet pornography.

We text instead of talk. We stick earbuds in our ears to block out everyone and everything. Then we wonder why we’re loosing our hearing.

The result: we don’t listen.

We don’t listen to our parents. Parents don’t listen to their children. We don’t listen to our teachers. Teachers don’t listen to their students. We don’t listen to our doctors. Doctors don’t listen to their patients. We don’t listen to our pastors. Pastors don’t listen to their parishioners.

We always think we know better. And so what do we do? We go off and do our own thing. Typically, we make a mess of it. And then we wonder why we’re anxious, upset, depressed, lonely, lost, stressed.

We’re just like a bunch of sheep who don’t hear the shepherd’s voice. Wandering about, lost as lost could be.

The readings today are about listening. If we don’t listen, we cannot hear the voice of the Good Shepherd.

And yet, we make a mistake when we think that there is only one way that Jesus, the Good Shepherd, will speak to us.

Jesus speaks to us through the Scriptures, through the Breaking of the Bread, but also through those he brings into our lives.

Sometimes we need to listen to others, instead of always trying to manipulate them into doing what we want. If we’d start to listen, really listen, then I think we’d begin to recognize that we don’t know it all.

And coming to that realization we would begin to see that we have much to learn from one another.

We really do need to listen to our parents and our teachers and our pastors. They really do care about us. They are the people in our lives who love us and call us by name, just like the Good Shepherd does.

Those who call us by our names, help us recognize that we don’t know it all. They help us grow in our ability to listen. They care about us and want to see us live rich lives of faith.

If we would begin listening, then slowly, gradually, our hearing would improve and we would begin to hear the voice of Jesus the Good Shepherd calling us to follow.

We would begin to hear Jesus the Good Shepherd who is the gate for the sheep leading them to greener pasture.

We wouldn’t need those short-term dopamine fixes anymore.

We would be able to follow where our Good Shepherd leads so that we could rejoice and say, “I was lost but now I’m found.”