Saturday, July 25, 2015

07-26-2015 -- 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

July 26, 2015 - 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

If the command from the readings this weekend is, “You give them something to eat,” I think we can give ourselves a pat on the back because here in South Louisiana, we already do a pretty good job.

I can’t imagine a Cajun saying, “Oh no you can’t come over, we don’t have enough food.”

We always make sure there’s enough for all our guests. We would never sound like the apostles, “You want us to spend our own money to buy these people something to eat.”

And if some extra folks show up, we know how to make our dishes stretch so that everyone gets fed.

That’s why we make jambalaya and gumbo and étouffée and potato salad. That’s why we serve almost everything with rice and we all know how to make rice dressing.

We already understand this lesson: give them something to eat. We know how to show hospitality. In this way, we are like the Prophet Elisha in the Old Testament. In this way, we are like Jesus in the Gospel.

But do we hear Paul in the Second Reading who tells us to do this with humility and gentleness and patience and love. Maybe that’s where we need to do a little work.

Can we learn to be hospitable with greater charity, love and kindness?

We love our social gatherings where we eat together. These “get togethers” strengthen and enliven and enrich us. They make us feel like we belong.
But then we say, “Mass is boring. I don’t get anything out of it.”

When we go to eat at someone’s house, we wouldn’t dare say to the host, “This is boring. I’m not getting anything out of it.”

Whether we realize it or not, what we do when we gather with family and friends for a meal is the same as what we do here at Mass. This is what the Nass is. It is our Sunday dinner with the Lord Jesus.

And it is at this Sunday dinner that we gather to visit, to greet one another with a holy kiss, to be together, to sing songs together, to tell stories, our sacred stories together, and to share our most precious meal, Jesus’ very body and blood.

It is also at this Sunday dinner that we bring to the Lord our troubles. It is here that the ask the Lord for help.

It is here that we try to make sense of some of the senseless violence that happens in our world, especially when tragedy hits so close to home.

And this Sunday meal is supposed to comfort us, to strengthen us, to enliven us and to enrich us.

If it’s not, then we’re doing something wrong. And if we don’t get it, then we don’t have a good or right understanding of Mass, of the Eucharist, of Jesus’ sacrifice.

Yes, we do understand the command, “You give them something to eat.” And we know how to show hospitality.

Maybe we need to work on humility and patience and love and gratitude as we come to learn to accept Jesus’ hospitality when he calls us together to share this Sunday meal that he has prepared for us.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

07-19-2015 -- 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

July 19, 2015 - 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

Let's face it, as a church we have driven away a good many sheep of the flock as a result of our actions.

The Catholic Church, the body of Christ on earth, has throughout history, alienated people from the love of Jesus Christ.

It's true, we have, priests and people alike.

Walk into any Pentecostal or evangelical church, go into any bar, or just listen to the evening news.
You'll find people who are angry with the Church. You'll also find people who are lost sheep, divided, scattered.

Jeremiah, in the first reading, is called to speak this Word of God: Woe to you shepherds who divide and scatter. Jeremiah is reaching from the past into our century and speaking to us.

So why are we losing people? How are we scattering the flock? And, more importantly, what can we do to change?

We lose some people as children. Maybe they were treated unjustly in the Catholic school system or maybe they were bored to death by a less than effective religious education program or maybe, tragically, they were assaulted or abused.

We lose some people as teenagers. Maybe they were made to feel guilty for going through puberty and ashamed for beginning to have sexual feelings. Or maybe they were made to feel unimportant, unwanted, not ready to take their places in an adult world.

We lose some people as adults. Maybe we make adults feel like failures when they don’t choose the right lifelong partner the first time. And when they do find the right person, we tell them they can’t come to communion.

We lose some people who find themselves sexually attracted to members of the same sex and we hurt them when we tell them over and over again that they are objectively disordered.

And now that the state has given gay people equal protection under the law, we refuse to acknowledge those rights even though we claim to uphold the inherent dignity of each human person.

We even lose some priests and religious who are unable to fulfill the Church’s stringent law requiring celibate chastity and yet we still continue to uphold this archaic practice as sacred tradition.

We lose others who are simply shocked by what we Catholic Christians do and say year after year in the name of the Lord.

And let's not forget those we lose because they are lazy, the ones who simply choose sin over grace because it's the easiest route. And so the flock is scattered.

It's seems to me that it is our task to do what we can to gather the flock back together.

Look at Jesus in the Gospel. He gathers. He does not scatter. He gathers the Apostles together and calls them to be other shepherds. He also gathers the people and tends to their needs.

As a priest of Jesus Christ in the Catholic Church I am one of those other shepherds.

I am not supposed to divide and scatter. I am not supposed to make your life harder. Nor is it my calling to make you feel perpetually guilty for your mistakes.

I have come to proclaim the Good News. I have come to faithfully take the gifts of the bread and wine and change them for you into the body and blood of the Good Shepherd.

I have come to bring healing and anointing. And I have come to call others to do the same.

Do I do these things perfectly? Goodness no. Is that a good reason for me to stop trying? Absolutely not.

If we desire to be like Christ, then we must stop dividing ourselves. Jesus does not do this.

If we desire to be like Christ, then we must stop judging others. Only Jesus, the Good Shepherd is judge.

If we desire to be like Christ, then we must stop drawing lines in the sand that turn some into insiders and others into outsiders. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, says there is one flock.

We are torn apart by this sinful tendency to always judge who belongs and who doesn't.

The living Body and Blood of Jesus Christ gathers. It does not scatter.

If we are to be authentic Catholic Christians then we must continue to strive to be gathered together as one flock into the living Body and Blood of Jesus Christ

Let us pray that the Lord Jesus will gather us together, take pity on us and teach us, transforming us into his very own precious body and blood.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

07-05-2015 -- 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

July 05, 2015 - 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

Sometimes people don't want to hear the truth. It seems strange, but people don't like the truth if it's about them being wrong. Other times people say they want to hear the truth, but then they react badly once they've heard it.

Do we have the courage to listen to the truth? Maybe not. We prefer to believe what we want. And the problem with that is that lies are easy and the truth is hard. Lies compete against the truth. The truth is rare and lies are commonplace.

Don't tell us what is right. Don't tell us the truth. Tell us nice things. Make us feel good about ourselves. Tell us lies. And we will believe you.

This becomes a problem for us because then we don't want to hear the truth about our nation, the truth about our social issues, the truth about our families, the truth about ourselves, and most importantly the truth about our relationship with God.

Jesus speaks the truth and look what happens. There are those who are searching for the truth and they hear it plainly. But others resist. They react with hostility when they hear what Jesus has to say. Why? Because they don’t agree with him. They don’t want to hear the truth.

Now this hostile reaction from the people is nothing new. The people were rebellious against the prophets throughout all of history. When the Spirit entered the Prophet Ezekiel, the Spirit said, “You are going to go to a rebellious house.”

“You will speak the truth that they do not want to hear and they will not listen. Go anyway. Speak the truth anyway.”

The Spirit entered Jesus and he returned to his hometown to meet a rebellious crowd. They said, "Who does he think he is? Why does he think he can speak to us this way?"
Why do Jesus and the prophets encounter such resistance? It is precisely because they tell the truth. The prophets called the people to change but the people were stubborn rebels who refused to listen.

Sometimes we are stubborn rebels and we refused to listen. Sometimes we don't want to hear the truth. We prefer to believe that following Jesus is easy. We prefer to believe that we can grow without pain, that we can change without effort.

We are called to open our hearts and our ears to hearing the truth that the Lord Jesus desires to speak to us. Hearing the truth is difficult. We will be called to change. We will not want to change, but we need to do it anyway.

Mother Theresa had her favorite prayer. The verses reportedly were written on the wall of her home for children in Calcutta, India, and are widely attributed to her. Can we let this prayer speak the truth to us today?

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.
What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.
Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.

Listen to the truth. Believe the truth. And let the truth set you free.