Saturday, August 30, 2014

08-31-2014 -- 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

August 31, 2014 - 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

There’s a price to pay for standing up and speaking out. It takes courage to speak up when we see wrongdoing.

Like the teenage boy who stands up for the classmate whom everyone is bullying and name calling even when he knows the crowd will say it’s because he must like him or something like that.

Like the parents who stand up to their daughter’s abusive spouse knowing that the intervention will end the marriage, as well it should.

Like the priest who stands up to the bishops of the church calling them to greater charity of spirit knowing full well there will be a price to pay.

Like the whistle blower who stands up to unethical business practices in the workplace knowing there will be a pink slip coming as a result.

Our natural tendency is to go with the flow, to accept the ways of the world. We do this so that we will be accepted and liked.

The readings this weekend remind us that the ways of God are not our ways. God’s ways are not the ways of the world.

Saint Paul says, “Do not conform yourself to this age. Be transformed by the will of God."

But so many of us just remain silent. Why? Because we know that anyone who questions the status quo runs the risk of being treated harshly by those who benefit from things being just the way they are.

Look at Jeremiah. Lord you have enticed me and I was enticed. I allowed myself to be enticed. You have overpowered me. You have prevailed.

Jeremiah describes the fire that burns in his heart, caged in his bones. And despite himself, he must declare his love.

Jeremiah had to submit to the Lord.

Look at Peter. Peter wanted to tell Jesus how it was going to go, “God forbid, Lord.” But Peter had to submit to the Lord.

It is not the way of the world that matters. It is the way chosen for us by God that matters. And this way, God’s way, can be difficult. We say to ourselves, we will not mention him. We will not speak of his ways.

And God continues to entice us. God will not relent until we accept the invitation to follow.

Following Jesus means acting entirely contrary to the conventional wisdom of the world. Following Jesus means self-giving.

To follow Jesus, we must be like Jeremiah and Peter. We must deny ourselves. We must lose ourselves. We must give ourselves over to God who is greater, who overpowers us, who entices us.

We have to let go of our selfish pride and our own wants and desires to take up the cross of service, the cross of self-denial.

The cross that Jesus calls us to carry is a cross of dying to self in order to do the will of the one who is greater. Only in this way can we rise to new life.

In the readings today, both Jesus and Jeremiah are called by God to challenge the establishment. Might we be called to do the same?

If we stand against the church, the government, an institution, a multinational corporation, a bully, a demon we know there will be consequences.

But sometimes we are called to speak up, to speak out, to stand up for something – this is the cross!

The cross we are called to take up and follow.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

08-24-2014 -- Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

August 24, 2014 - Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

Our Catholic Church, founded on the rock foundation of Peter, the Apostle, has spanned the centuries.

We are the world’s oldest institution with a continuity of identity and structures and faith that reaches back to the first Christian communities.

With God’s help, our Catholic family has started hospitals and orphanages.

We are the largest charitable organization on the planet reaching out to care for the poor and down trod.

We educate more children than any other organization. We developed the scientific method. We founded the college system.

We encourage the arts and have a rich tradition of liturgical music. We defend the dignity of all human life.

We compiled the Bible and are transformed by the reading of Sacred Scripture at every mass. We boldly proclaim Jesus Christ to the world.

We have over one billion in our family: people of every race, young and old, rich and poor, men and women, saints and sinners.

We embrace more than half the Christian world. We pray every hour of every day, bringing Jesus’ life, his body and blood into our hurting world every time we celebrate the mass.

We have dedicated priests who walk in the footsteps of the Apostles serving in church parishes and religious orders, in hospitals and nursing homes, as military chaplains and university professors.

Jesus himself laid the foundation for our faith when he said to Peter, “You are rock. And upon this rock I will build my church.

Today there are Catholic Churches present in almost every country. Many try to imitate us; some criticize or make fun of us. But none can claim what we can; and none can do what we do.

We should be proud to be Catholic. We stand in good company. We stand with:

Peter, James and John, Matthew, Mark and Luke
Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Salvador Dali

Francis, Clair and Dominic, Martha and Mary
Dorothy Day, Mother Theresa and John Vianney

Grace Kelly, Bing Crosby, Sophia Loren, and John F. Kennedy

Ignatius of Loyola, Vincent de Paul, Angela Merici, Thomas Moore, Francis Cabrini, Martin de Tours, Catherine of Sienna

John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI

Our Holy Father Pope Francis, who walks in the footsteps of Peter, the Apostle, calls us to bring Jesus Christ to a world desperately in need of the Gospel, in need of the Good News.

We live in a violent and hurting world. And in this world filled with chaos and hatred, our Church has stood the test of time, remaining strong and true.

Our Church is our rock to lean on in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. Our Church brings us Jesus our Lord, who loves us with a love that is rock, a love that endures forever. Amen.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

08-17-2014 -- Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

August 17, 2014 - Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

In his book Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict poses this question:  What did Jesus bring to the world?

He did not bring peace.  He did not bring prosperity.  He did not bring an end to sickness and disease.

So, what has he brought us?  The answer is very simple.  Jesus has brought God to the world.

The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of Moses and the prophets, the creator of the universe is revealed to us in the person of Jesus Christ.

Up to the point where we see Jesus in the Gospel today, it seems that Jesus felt like his mission was only to the lost sheep among the Jewish people.  At least, that’s what he says.

But he is God’s only son.  So he cannot ignore the pleadings of the Canaanite woman.  Her faith and her persistence bring about healing from his hands.

And this is the beginning of Jesus’ mission to the whole world.  Almighty God does not see or recognize national boundaries. 

God’s loving, merciful kindness is for everyone.  And we are all God’s children regardless of race or national origin.

God is not American.  God is not white.  God is God. 
And God is love.  And God is life.  And God is light.

And God is merciful and forgiving, slow to anger and rich in kindness.

Through this act of healing the Canaanite woman’s daughter, God is revealed to the world.  We learn that God cares about all his children.

And this loving kindness, this care and concern removes all barriers and heals all wounds.

But it is something we must seek out.  It is something we must call for.

Like the woman in the gospel who seeks healing for her daughter, we must focus on Jesus persistently, and, in faith; we must keep calling out to him.

This is difficult because the demons keep trying to silence us.  They stir up trouble in our lives.  They unsettle us.  They tell us lies, and sometimes we believe them.

They make us feel so unworthy that we think that we cannot call out to Jesus, that Jesus does not love us, that Jesus does not hear us, and that God does not care about us.

We believe these lies.  And, as a result, our hearts become filled with anger, hatred, racism, lust, greed, deceit, depression, anxiety.

These sap all our faith, the very faith we need to call out to Jesus.

Listen again:  O woman, great is your faith!  Let it be done to you as you wish.

If we want our faith back, we must close our ears to the voices of evil that are all around us.

And we must, once again, seek the Lord with all our hearts, calling out to him:  Have pity on me! 

Friday, August 15, 2014

Saturday, August 9, 2014

08-10-2014 -- Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

August 10, 2014 - Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

We think that people who have great faith are somehow immune to the storms of life.

We think that a closer relationship with God will somehow shield us from tumult, danger, trouble or crisis.

But in the first reading, Elijah is a prophet of God, a man of great faith. He is being hunted down like an animal, threatened with death.

He seeks refuge in a cave. He just wants to die.

If the storms of life can batter the apostles and the prophets of God, we cannot think that coming to church will spare us from the storms of family problems, the winds of peer pressure, the earthquakes of sickness and disease, and the fires of anger, jealously, lust or greed.

Pay attention though, in the first reading we are told that the Lord is not in the storm. The Lord is not in the wind, nor the earthquake, nor the fire.

The wind that is against the apostles does not hinder the Lord Jesus. Jesus is not affected by the storm, but the apostles are powerless against its power.

It’s the same with us. Our efforts to calm the wind and the waves are ineffective. The storms of life are simply stronger than we thought they would be.

Against these storms of disease, poverty, violence, intolerance, injustice, greed, lust and ignorance we are powerless and afraid.

But not Jesus. Jesus’ courage can replace our fears.

He says, “Come.” It’s an invitation to bring us to where he is.
He’s out walking on water and he says to Peter, “Come. Come out onto the water with me.”

And Peter is brought to where Jesus is. He, too, is walking on the water. But when Peter doubts, he falters. It’s only then that Jesus can reach out and save him, pulling Peter to himself.

If we are courageous, we step out when Jesus calls us. When we step out, sometimes we doubt and falter and fail. It is then that Jesus reaches out his hand to save us.

When he saves he, he pulls us to himself and whispers in our ears, “Oh you of little faith! Why did you doubt?”

In this graced moment, close to the Lord Jesus, we are like Elijah, hiding his face, hearing that tiny whisper.

And we respond, “Truly, you are the Son of God.”

If we never step out when Jesus says, “Come,” how can we ever hope to be brought close to him?

If we never doubt and falter and fail, he can’t draw us close to himself to save us. He can’t reach out his hand to catch us because we never accepted the invitation to come in the first place.

And if he never has the opportunity to reach out his hand and pull us to himself, then we would never hear him whisper in our ears, “Oh you of little faith, how could you ever doubt that I love you.”

The storms of life that trouble us have no effect on Jesus. So stepping out when Jesus says, “come,” seems to me to be the best way to make it through the difficult times.

Elijah and Peter and we might be battered by the storm, tossed about by the wind and the waves, but no matter how dark life might be, no matter how high the waves or how rough the sea, Jesus is still able to reach out and save us.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

08-03-2014 -- Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

August 03, 2014 - Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

Last weekend, the readings posed a question: If you could ask for one thing from the Lord, for what would you ask?

It is a thought-provoking question. I hope you pondered it this past week. I know I certainly did.

Hopefully, your answer was, in some way, connected with satisfying some of your deepest needs, some of the deepest desires of your heart.

That’s why the crowds flocked to see Jesus. They were longing for 
healing and wholeness. They wanted to have him touch their sick loved ones, to heal them and change their lives.

They were so affected by his words and his care for them that they forgot themselves and the day got away from them.

Now they are hungry, physically hungry, without enough provisions. Jesus loves them so much that he is concerned about meeting all their needs.

He distributes a few loaves of bread and miraculously feeds thousands. There are enough scraps left over to fill a dozen baskets. This is proof that God is concerned for those who are hungry.

In the first reading, the Prophet Isaiah shares with us the image of a rich banquet with plenty of food and drink. Come eat, come drink, come delight in the banquet God has prepared.

Today we are seldom physically hungry. Most of us have more than enough to eat.

As a matter of fact, we must resist the urge to be gluttons. We must resist the urge to be wasteful while much of the world’s population is hungry.

Now, we may not be physically hungry, but many are spiritually malnourished. It seems that we, as individuals and as a society, are experiencing a spiritual famine.

Something's not quite right in our relationship with the Lord. There is a spiritual and emotional longing, an aching of spirit, an overwhelming desire to feel loved unconditionally.

Into this overwhelming desire steps St. Paul. And he reminds us that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord, not life, not death, not distress, not persecution, not famine, not the sword.

We are always invited to the Lord's banquet, but we sometimes forget about the Lord and prefer our own earthly banquets.

We feast on the riches of this world and the food might fill us for a time, but it does not satisfy our hunger. It leaves us wanting more.

And our earthly banquets can get downright messy. Family fights can break out, someone's going to drink too much, feelings are going to get hurt, food's getting burned.

Things don't always go the way we planned, but not at the heavenly banquet. With God as our host, our desires and longings are finally satisfied.

What we do here each Sunday is a foretaste of that heavenly banquet. God sets before us food from heaven, food that satisfies our deepest needs, food that is proof of Jesus’ overwhelming love.

The heavenly food which the Lord provides at this banquet feeds us well and renews God’s life with us.

The bread of life, Jesus’ sacred body, is food that assures us that no power, nor any adversity, nor divorce, nor a loved one who is in drug rehab, nor waiting for a medical diagnosis, nor things present, nor things to come, absolutely nothing, not even death itself can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.