Saturday, October 25, 2014

10-26-2014 -- 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

October 26, 2014 - 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Love is the greatest commandment.
But love is not about rules and regulations, ordinances and laws.

Love is a command to do something, the command to do something about our relationships.

A four year-old child had an elderly neighbor had just lost his wife. One day she saw him sitting in his yard crying, so she went over and climbed into his lap and just sat there.

When her mother asked what she was doing she replied, “Nothing, I just helped him cry.”

Love is a command to do something, the command to do something about our relationships.

A young boy sat at a diner and asked the waitress how much was an ice cream sundae. Fifty-cents came the reply.

The pulled the coins out of his pocket and studied them carefully.

How much is a plain ice cream? Thirty-five cents.
I’ll take the plain ice cream.

When the boy finished his ice cream he paid the cashier and left. When the waitress came back to wipe the counter she found fifteen cents placed neatly beside the empty dish.

Love is a command to do something, the command to do something about our relationships.

The command is to love God and neighbor.
Do we follow this command?

We all need assurance that we are loved. We all need to feel the loving touch of another. We all need the warmth of another’s cheek. We all need the comfort of another’s arms embracing us.

Our neighbors come in remarkable varieties.

Ranging from delightful to classy to funny to irritating
to challenging to bothersome to downright enraging.

It’s easy to love a neighbor who picks up the paper and feeds the dog while we’re away.

It’s more difficult to love a neighbor who spreads gossip about us all over town.

It’s most difficult to love a neighbor who blares his boom box at the stop sign outside our window at two o’clock in the morning.

Let us commit ourselves, here and now, to reach out to a neighbor in need.

It could be as simple as visiting a sick or elderly relative; or having a cup of coffee with a friend who hasn’t been to Mass in a while; or doing a good deed for someone without expecting something in return.

Are we willing to love and to be loved? To care and to be cared for? To hold and to be held?

Above all else, we must be people of love. Love must come first.
Love must be the center of our lives.

Love was central for Jesus. It was so central that he gave his very life out of love for us.

We can get everything else just right but if we don’t have love, we don’t have anything at all.

As we approach the Eucharistic table, do we realize that the bread and wine are gifts of love?

These gifts of love come from the one who gave his very life for us, the one who gave us the two greatest commandments:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind and love your neighbor as yourself.

The famous children’s poet Shel Silverstein puts it this way:

Said the little boy, “Sometimes I drop my spoon,”
Said the little old man, “I do that too.”

The little boy whispered, “I wet my pants.”
“I do that too,” laughed the old man.

Said the little boy, “I cry often.”
The old man nodded, “So do I.”

“But worst of all,” said the boy, “It seems
Grown-ups don’t pay attention to me.”

And he felt the warmth of a wrinkled old hand.
“I know what you mean,” said the little old man.

Love is a command to do something, the command to do something about our relationships.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

10-19-2014 -- 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

October 19, 2014 - 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Jesus is very clear that we are to give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s. That’s easy to say, but I think we have trouble deciding what belongs to whom.

And I think we do a better job giving to Caesar what is Caesar’s. We pay our taxes. We vote. We generally obey the laws. For the most part, we are good citizens.

But we Catholic Christians, which means we hold dual citizenship. Saint Paul reminds us that our citizenship is also in heaven.

Are we as good being citizens of the kingdom of heaven as we are being citizens of the United States?

It’s easy to know what we owe in taxes. We fill out the right forms and the government tells us what to give.

Jesus says we must also give to God what is God’s. So, today let us reflect on what is God’s.

The psalmist tells us that God’s is the earth and all its fullness, the world and all its peoples.

All of creation is God’s. Our very souls belong to God. Our very beings belong to God. Do we give our whole selves to God?

Are we willing to offer our lives to God or are we always seeking to file an extension so that we can hold out just a little longer?

If we do anything at all, we probably give God our leftovers.

If we have time leftover at the end of the week, we might give God an hour here in church.

If we have any money leftover at the end of the week, we might give some of it to God.

If we have any love leftover, we might give it to God.

Jesus challenges us, “Give to God what is God’s.”
We owe God our very lives but we give to God very little.

It’s a question of loyalty really. Jesus declares himself loyal to God. And so, what belongs to God is of greatest concern to him.

We are created by God, in God’s image, in God’s likeness.
We belong to God. Do we give to God what is God’s?

Giving to God what is God’s means allowing God to possess us completely. When God possesses us completely, we are at God’s disposal. We are available to do God’s will.

Giving to God what is God’s is about giving our hearts to God, giving our lives to God, giving our souls to God, giving our gifts and talents to God, giving our time to God, giving our loyalty to God.

God wants it all. God desires to possess us completely.
But, so often, we push God away. We keep God at arms length.

We are afraid that if we get too close, God will want everything. And that’s right. He will. He wants it all.

So, how can we give ourselves to God more completely? How can we give to God what God is due?

First, we can seek God in the ordinariness of our lives, in taking care of our homes, our kids, our aging parents, our neighbors, those who are like us, and those who are different.

Second, we can seek God in the poor and those who have no resources.

Finally, we can seek God in the sacraments of the Church. Jesus comes to us, body, blood, soul and divinity, to nourish and strengthen our souls so that we can draw closer to God.

The Roman coin bore the image of the Emperor Caesar who made it, our human souls bear the image and likeness of God who made us. We are his. We belong to him.

And God desires to possess us totally, completely.

Giving to God what is God’s is what Jesus calls us to do and should be woven into the very fabric of our lives.

We do a good job giving to Caesar what is Caesar’s.

I suspect we would be happier and holier if we learned to do a better job giving to God what is God’s.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

10-12-2014 -- 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

October 12, 2014 - 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Imagine receiving an invitation to an event like the royal wedding of William and Kate. It is a great honor to receive an invitation to such a grand ceremony.

This is the kind of spectacle the gospel is speaking of. It’s surprising that some of the invited guests don’t even bother to respond to the invitation. They make all kinds of excuses not to attend.

I’m not ready. I have to tend to my farm. I have to tend to my family. I have to finish the yard. I have to work late today.

Our excuses: I don’t feel like going to church. I don’t get anything out of it. What’s in it for me?

Some of the invited guests mistreat the messengers. They beat and kill them.

Our mistreatments: Who does she think she is? He can’t tell me what to do. Nobody’s gonna make me do anything.

As a result of the excuses and mistreatments, everyone gets invited to the banquet. This helps us understand that the generosity of God’s invitation is extended to all – good and bad alike.

What is so amazing or surprising is that we see someone at the banquet who refuses to wear the proper wedding garment.

You might say, well maybe he didn’t have one and it’s probably expensive. It’s likely that the king provided royal wedding garments for all the invited guests.

Sometimes we are like the one who refuses to put on the royal grab. I’m not going if I have to dress up. I’m only going if I can dress like this.

I’m only going to the Saturday evening mass if it’s at 4 o’clock.
I’m not picking up that songbook when a hymn is announced.

Although salvation is offered to all, not everyone accepts it. Why? Because people are stubborn, hardheaded, self-righteous.

While God’s invitation is given to all, God’s invitation is not accepted by all. And we are told that those who do not accept are blind.

In their arrogance they don’t even realize they have rejected the invitation; or they don’t realize they have mistreated the messengers; or they don’t realize that they are not dressed appropriately for the wedding feast.

So I think one of the things we need to struggle with is this: What does a good response to God’s invitation look like?

It’s easy to give examples of bad responses, but examples of good responses are more difficult. Maybe that’s why many are called but few are chosen.

First there are those who make excuses not to accept the invitation. A better response is to accept God’s invitation. To do what God wants. To answer God’s call.

This involves an openness to hearing God speak to us and to do what God asks as he calls us to some good work or to some church ministry.

Second there are those who persecute the messengers. A better response is to stop persecuting those who bring us God’s voice.

This involves being more charitable to our brothers and sisters. It also involves seeing the face of God in those who try to help us.

Third there are those who refuse to put on the wedding garment. A better response is to start wearing the wedding garment.

I think this involves an openness to worshipping in spirit and in truth, this involves singing at church and praying at church, not because we have to, but because it is our gift to God.

If we open our eyes and ears to God, we will hear the invitation. If we respond to the invitation, we receive the blessing of being at the Lord’s banquet.

Today we ask for the courage to respond. In this way, we just might find ourselves clothed in royal garments, sitting at God’s banquet feast, wondering how we got there in the first place.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

10-05-2014 -- 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

October 05, 2014 - 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Imagine how you would feel if you were the vineyard owner?

You had done your research, bought just the right tract of land, prepared the soil, planted the best vines and purchased all the right equipment.

You had done everything you could to help the tenants produce a rich harvest.

And so you say to yourself, “What more is there for me to do that I have not already done to make my vineyard rich and fertile?”

Now how would you feel to be treated the way the tenants treat the vineyard owner in Jesus’ parable?

Your response might be similar to the response the religious leaders give to Jesus, “He will put those wretched tenants to a wretched death.”

Notice, if you will, that this is not Jesus’ answer. Jesus says simply: the kingdom will be taken away and given to those who will produce fruit.

We see the same thing in Isaiah’s song. The vineyard is abandoned, left to be overgrown.

This happens because the tenants, God’s chosen ones, have turned from God. It is painful to read about the abandoned vineyard left to grow wild.

Because they have turned from God’s help, the rascally tenants are left to their own devices. It is they who have turned from the Lord. And because of this, they will see the vineyard whither and fade.

God is the vineyard owner. And all of God’s creation is the vineyard.
God wants his beloved children to enjoy a rich harvest. And he has gone to great lengths to do everything he can to help make this possible.

But our God has also given us free will and allows us to go where we wish and to do as we please.  In his great love for us, God has given us freedom of choice.

And God loves us so much that he honors our freedom to choose good or evil. He does all he can to help us choose good, but we are free to turn away, to ignore, to rebel.

That choice to turn away, to ignore and to rebel comes with consequences. Because we have turned away from God’s divine assistance and protection, we see the vines wither, unable to bear fruit.

But when we return to God, we are given the divine assistance of the Master Vineyard Owner who does all he can to help his children produce a rich harvest.

True humility is recognizing that creation is God’s and that God calls us to take care of it and to use its resources wisely.

When we do this we show great respect for God’s creation. In showing respect for God’s creation we also learn to show respect to all God’s children.

On this Respect Life Sunday, we are reminded that each and every human life is crafted in the image and likeness of God, and that our brothers and sisters are co-workers with us in God’s vineyard.

Each and every one of us is a masterpiece, special and unique; each and every one of us is deserving of the utmost reverence and respect.

How would you feel if you were the vineyard owner whose tenants did not produce a rich harvest?

Fortunately God’s ways are not our ways. God continues to prepare the vineyard so that his children have abundant opportunity to produce a rich harvest.