Saturday, January 31, 2015

02-01-2015 -- 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

February 1, 2015 - 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

We bring our demons to church with us. It would be silly to think that somehow our restless spirits and our dark sides are left at the door when we come to church. No. They come with us.

We are all sinners and we carry our demons within us wherever we go. Those demons and unclean spirits possess us. They negatively impact our lives and the lives of those around us.

So it shouldn’t surprise us that the man with the unclean spirit is in the synagogue. But Jesus is not afraid of unclean spirits. He has power and authority over them.

The authority of Jesus overcomes the forces of evil. And every time the demons try to face Jesus, they are defeated.

We seek escape from those dark passions that take possession of us, those restless, unclean spirits within us that cause us so much pain and suffering.

Because we seek to be rid of these, it’s good that we bring our demons to church.

Here our restless, unclean spirits encounter Jesus. They recognize him; they even challenge him; but they cannot prevail over him.

Jesus casts out our unclean spirits and heals our dark sides. Jesus does not come to destroy us. Jesus comes to heal us.

But Jesus wasn’t in the synagogue just to cast out demons. Jesus was there to teach. The gospel says that Jesus teaches with authority.

Jesus still teaches us in this temple. His teaching is with authority. And he desires to teach us something in each and every encounter we have with him.

Week after week we read a passage from one of the four gospels. And the Church says that when the gospel is proclaimed at Mass, Jesus himself comes to speak to us.

What is Jesus trying to teach us? What lesson do we need to learn?

Are we resistant? Have we come to church with an openness and a desire to allow Jesus to do the work he desires to do?

Are we willing to allow Jesus to cast out the demons, to allow Jesus to heal what is broken, to allow Jesus to teach us and guide us?

What darkness or what sin needs healing in my life? Do I ask for that healing? What demons need to be cast out? Do I beg Jesus to expel the evil spirits that dwell within me?

Jesus does all the work. We just need to be open and desire his authority to be at work within us.

And we need to be here. We need to bring our demons to church with us, because Jesus is not afraid of our unclean spirits.

Our dark sides challenge and confront Jesus. But every time the demons try to face Jesus, they are defeated.

So the best thing for us to do with these restless hearts of ours is to keep bringing them to church because it is here that Jesus heals us.

Lord, by your power and authority, vanquish the evil that is within us. Conquer and overpower and overshadow those evil spirits that lurk in our soul and seek to control our lives.

Heal us and open us to all that you desire to teach us. Take us by the hand and, once again, make us your own.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

01-25-2015 -- 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

January 1825 2015 - 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

When we hear the call of the Prophet Jonah by the Lord God or the call of Simon and Andrew by the Lord Jesus, I suspect that we think to ourselves that this kind of call only happens to special people.

We convince ourselves that we could not possibly receive this type of call. We say to ourselves, “ah priests, nuns, the pope but not me.”

Maybe we failed to read on.

The Prophet Jonah is sent by the Lord God to call ALL the people of Ninevah to repentance.

Jonah speaks on the Lord God’s behalf and calls the people of Ninevah to change their lives.

And what does Jesus do? He announces that the Kingdom of God is near and he also calls ALL the people to repentance.

Then he goes further. He says to Simon and Andrew, James and John, “Now you will be fishers of men,” or in some translations, “you will now go fish for people.” They, in turn, are to call others.

So you see, we cannot escape the call from God. It is not just for some special, holy elite. It is for all and it comes at us from every conceivable direction.

In each case, it is the Lord God who takes the initiative. God calls us and it’s up to us to response to that call.

Are we open to hearing God’s call? How do we respond to God’s call? The scriptures tell us that the response to the Lord’s call is repentance.

Repentance is a turning from sin to turn toward God.
Repentance is a changing of one’s mind.
Repentance is a changing of direction, we are called to turn from bad to choose to do good.

The call to repentance is a call to change the way our lives are heading, to change the way we think and act, to change our attitudes and behaviors.

The pagans of Nineveh believed the words of the Prophet Jonah. They responded to the call for repentance. They dropped everything and changed their ways.

Simon and Andrew, James and John also left everything and immediately followed Jesus.

It is evident by their actions that they have all responded to the call.

Does God see our repentance? Is it evident by our actions that we have responded to God’s call?

The Word of the Lord came to Jonah, “Set out for the great city of Nineveh and announce the message I will tell you.” Jonah responded.

The people of Nineveh were called by the Prophet Jonah to repentance. The people of Nineveh responded.

Jesus said to Simon and Andrew, James and John, “Come after me and I will make you fishes of men.” They left everything and followed him.

When the Lord Jesus or his duly appointed prophet walks onto the shores of our lives and says to us as I’m saying to you now,

“The time is at hand. The Kingdom of God has drawn near. Repent and believe in the gospel,” how do we respond?

Saturday, January 17, 2015

01-18-2015 -- 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

January 18, 2015 - 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

Often I hear people say, “If the Lord would just tell me what I need to do, I would do it.”

And I wonder, maybe God is saying something but they just can’t hear the voice of God, or they hear but don’t know that it’s God speaking to them.

As a boy, Samuel heard the voice of God but he could not identify it. What makes us so sure we aren’t making the same mistake as Samuel?

Maybe the Lord is trying to speak to us and we either aren’t listening or we can’t identify his voice.

So it’s important for us to understand why Samuel made this mistake. The story tells us. Samuel did not yet know the Lord, because the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.

He heard but didn’t understand who was speaking. An introduction was needed.

Eli, who already had a friendship with God, came to understand that the Lord was calling Samuel and introduced Samuel to the Lord.

When God called Samuel the fourth time Samuel knew who was speaking so he said, “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.”

This introduction is often necessary; especially today when the Lord’s voice can be mistaken, ignored or even overlooked in our noisy, busy lives.

Andrew was delighted to introduce people to Jesus. He’s the one who brings the boy with the five loaves and the two fish. He brings some inquiring Greeks to see Jesus.

And in today’s Gospel, he brings his brother, Simon Peter, to meet Jesus. The Lord issues an invitation to Andrew and Simon Peter, and through this encounter, the brothers become Jesus’ disciples.

The Lord issues an invitation to each of us, but it is up to us to respond. And that brings us to our second reason why we might not hear the Lord speak to us.

We might not be listening. We have to be ready to hear the call. We have to be in the right place to hear the call.

Samuel was in the right place. He was living in the Lord’s sanctuary.

The disciples were in the right place. They were already followers of John the Baptist.

We have to be in the right place spiritually and physically.

Physically, Samuel was in the temple. The disciples were with the Lord. Do we come here to this sacred shrine to listen?

As we grow in friendship, we learn to recognize the Lord’s voice and walk in his ways.

John introduced his disciples to Jesus.
Andrew introduced Simon Peter to Jesus.
Eli introduced Samuel to the Lord.

We are introduced to the Lord each time we gather here to celebrate holy mass. The Lord comes to us in the Eucharist, to be with us, to nourish us, to speak to us in the depths of our souls.

When we find ourselves saying, “If the Lord would just tell me what I need to do, I would do it…” we should say instead, “Speak Lord you servant is listening.”

Saturday, January 10, 2015

01-11-2015 -- The Baptism of the Lord, Year B

January 11, 2015 - The Baptism of the Lord, Year B
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

We think we have to earn God’s love. And when we behave badly, as we all do from time to time, we think we’ve lost God’s love and somehow have to earn it back.

But our scriptures reveal something very different about God. God is pleased with Jesus and delights in him even before Jesus begins his public ministry. God loves Jesus unconditionally.

God’s love for Jesus is not something Jesus has to earn.

This is echoed in the words of the Prophet Isaiah: Here is my servant, my chosen one with whom I am pleased.

In the Gospel today we see Jesus being baptized. Now, Jesus’ baptism does not change his identity. But it does reveal who he is. He is the Son of God.

In baptism our identity is revealed as well. We are also beloved children with whom God is well pleased.

Through baptism God claims us. The Acts of the Apostles tells us that God shows no partiality. God does not pick one child over another. God loves us all.

Through baptism we become members of the church, a part of God’s family.

But baptism is not just about identity and belonging. In baptism we are also called to discipleship.

The Lord God, through the Prophet Isaiah, says to us: I have called you. I have grasped you by the hand. I have formed you.

But the Lord doesn’t stop there. We are called to do something.

Isaiah says the servant of the Lord opens the eyes of the blind and brings prisoners out from confinement

Our call is similar, but different. It is a serious call to follow Jesus more closely.

Have you ever stopped to notice all the baptized people around here who are answering their call from the Lord? Lectors, ushers, servers, musicians, Eucharistic ministers, teachers, helpers, lots of volunteers who make what we do here possible.

All this good work in our church is not done with my permission. It is done by right. Yes, by right. Those who serve the church have a right to do so by virtue of their baptism.

Baptism is a commissioning for service in the church. Everyone who is baptized is commissioned.

Everyone is chosen! Yes, you too. You are called by name!

God says to each of his children: You are my beloved. In you I am well pleased. And God says this before we do anything.

God’s love for us should compel us to change our ways. God’s love for us should bring about a desire in us to do good, a desire to serve.

God’s love for us should change our hearts. God’s love for us gives us our identity. God’s love for us gives us our dignity. This cannot be lost or taken away.

Sometimes we think we have to earn God’s love. But God’s love is fierce and unconditional. It is freely given. It cannot be earned.

God says to each of us: You are loved very much. I am well pleased. Now go and do good.