Saturday, August 29, 2015

08-30-2015 -- 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

August 30, 2015 - 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

The traditions that the Pharisees and scribes kept regarding handwashing and the purification of household items were meant to keep them ritually pure.

In other words, these practices were supposed to lead to a purity of heart. These external things were meant to lead to interior purity.

But all these purification rituals and traditions did not do what they were supposed to do. They were ends in and of themselves. And so, over time, they became utterly useless.

In the gospel Jesus takes issue with these practices. Jesus knows that these practices are imposed upon the people by the religious leaders with legalism and hypocrisy.

Jesus makes it clear that these external rituals were not changing interior hearts. These practices weren’t making people better.

The Law of God and our religious traditions are not supposed to ensnare us. They are supposed to lead us to holiness.

And genuine holiness is transformative. When we follow the Law of God and our religious practices, they are supposed to help us all become better versions of ourselves. They are supposed to change our hearts and so change our lives.

To put it bluntly, our religious traditions, our saying of prayers like the rosary, and even our worship is utterly and completely worthless if it doesn’t change our hearts.

Our religious practices and our sacred worship speak to our hearts and help us turn from those things that defile us.

Jesus reminds us that the things that defile us come from within: greed, lust, envy, jealousy, deceit, anger and hatred, and a lack of forgiveness.

The Good News we proclaim here in this place calls us to be transformed. The Good News we proclaim here in this place calls us to change our ways. The Good News we proclaim here in this places calls us to have a deep intimate personal relationship with God.

The Pharisees and scribes were doing things for the sake of doing them. They were rule keeping. Jesus says this is not life giving.

All that we do here is not done for its own sake. It’s done to help us all become better versions of ourselves. What we do here is done to help us grow in holiness.

Our religious traditions and practices must change our hearts. This is the only way we will be made clean.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

08-23-2015 -- 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

August 23, 2015 - 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

Whom do we serve? Whom do we worship? Whom do we care about? Whom refers to people. For us, it’s not so much about whom as it is about what.

What do we serve? What do we worship? What do we care about? What refers to things? What things? We serve lots of things. We care about lots of things.

But can we honestly say that the person we serve is Jesus? Can we honestly say that the person we worship is Jesus? Can we honestly say that the person who is first in our lives is Jesus?

Unfortunately the answer is probably no. But that doesn’t mean that all hope is lost. That doesn’t mean we should pack it up and go home.

Sometimes that’s what we do though, isn’t it? We check out mentally.

We take our Zanex. We drink our glass of wine or whiskey. We turn on the TV or we get on the internet to look at porn. We play our mindless video games endlessly.

There are others who do not seek these creature comforts. Nope. They long for fame and fortune. They think they are more important than the rest of us.

They inflate their own egos or their own bank accounts so much that these things become more important than the Lord. And sometimes they are even more important than the people in their lives.

These are the things we worship. These are the things we care about. So, these are the things we serve. And, as a result, many of us are drowning in our own misery, aren’t we?

Jesus comes on the scene with a tough question for us, “Do you also want to leave?”

There we are. The question hangs right before us. And if Jesus didn’t make the choice clear enough, Joshua in the first reading says, “If it does not please you to serve the LORD, decide today whom you will serve.”

We must decide today, are we going to serve the LORD? This decision is not a once for all kind of thing. We have to make this decision anew every single day.

So it doesn’t matter what we decided yesterday, only today. Will you serve the LORD today?

Can Peter’s words echo in our ears? “Master, to whom shall we go? We have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Holy One of God.”

Do we approach Jesus like he is the Christ, the Holy One of God? Really? Do we?

No, we are kinda haphazard and lukewarm about the way we follow Jesus. We need to be more deliberate about following Jesus. We need to be more deliberate about coming to church each weekend.

We need to be deliberate about getting involved in the religious formation of our children and grandchildren. Our young people are not being taught the way of the LORD. And this must begin to change at home before it can change anywhere else.

We can reach out to those who have left and inquire how that’s working out for them. And then invite them back. We can act with greater charity toward our neighbors, especially those in need.

We serve lots of things. We care about lots of things. But can we honestly say the person we care about the most is Jesus? Can we honestly say the person we serve is Jesus?

If it does not please you to serve the LORD, decide today whom you will serve.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

08-16-2015 -- 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

August 16, 2015 - 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

In the first reading from the Book of Proverbs, Lady Wisdom builds a house and prepares a meal and says come, be my guest, and eat my food. Leave behind your foolish ways and you will grow in understanding.

Jesus makes his home with Lady Wisdom. The Lord Jesus joins Lady Wisdom in inviting us to the feast that has been so carefully prepared.

Jesus says I am the feast. I am the Bread of Life. To accept this invitation is the beginning of wisdom in each of us.

But it seems so many today would rather live foolishly. Or maybe in our foolishness we don’t even realize that we have failed to accept the invitation to seek out wisdom in our lives.

So I thought maybe we might reflect on some things that can help us grow in wisdom.

And if we each took one thing from today's reflections, it would help us all become better, wiser people.

The foolish always look for someone to blame for their misfortunes. They try to be right by making others wrong. Playing the blame game only keeps us trapped in the role of the victim.

But the wise refuse to be victims. They take responsibility for their actions. They know there is no one to blame. The wise learn from their mistakes and seek to learn from everyone in every situation.

The foolish spend too much time gossiping, living in a world of lies and deceit and half-truths, ruining the good name and reputation of others.

But the wise live in the truth. They know how to listen. They know that silence is an important discipline and that noise crowds out wisdom.

The foolish live their lives in a virtual reality. They post everything online for the whole world to see. And then wonder why everybody knows all their business.

The wise understand that privacy is important and that there are some things that are meant to be treasured in the heart, not on the web.

The foolish get jealous over things that other people have. But the wise are content with what they have.

The foolish are constantly trying to impress others. But the wise only try to impress themselves.

The foolish get offended too easily when they don’t get their way. But the wise have learned to listen to authority. They seek an increase in knowledge and know that their decisions often must be tempered by the wisdom of others.

The wise do not lament yesterday's mistakes but look forward to a new day with a positive attitude.

The wise are full of gratitude and treat others with charity. The wise plan for the future and seek to make something of their lives.

Lady Wisdom has prepared a feast and Jesus has invited us to that feast. We can live foolishly or we can accept the invitation to live in Lady Wisdom’s house.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

08-09-2015 -- 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

August 09, 2015 - 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

When tragedy strikes us today, we end up creating t-shirts and yard signs and slogans like “Lafayette Strong”.

While I believe that these are important ways of dealing with our collective grief, I also think we mistakenly look for civil authorities to heal us. We forget to look to our spiritual authority.

We forget to look to Jesus. Or it is possible that we haven’t drawn close enough to the Lord for the Lord to be able to help us? By our own choosing, have we simply moved too far away from Jesus?

Then, when we feel like we've had enough, we don’t run to the Lord. Instead, we run off seeking to be satisfied and healed by yard signs and t-shirts and slogans, but we really are left empty inside.

Why? Because we don't turn to Jesus and ask him to fill us. We don’t come to Jesus seeking to be nourished with his spiritual food, his very body and blood.

We turn to all kinds of other things to satisfy us. But those things don’t satisfy us, so we're left spiritually hungry and emotionally drained.

It can seem like things are falling apart. There seems to be an increase in violence, rising poverty, a growing lack of respect for other people.

There is this sense of entitlement that has affected our young people.

We are faced with the rising cost of healthcare and the growing sense that medical treatment is being manipulated by insurance companies.

All the while, big businesses and their CEOs make megaprofits at the expense of all of us who are being trampled upon.

Aren’t there times when you feel like you’ve had enough?

When this happens, we end up like the prophet Elijah in the first reading when he said, “I just want to lay here and die. I can't take it anymore.”

What's going to happen. The future is so uncertain. Everything seems to be falling apart. I've had enough.

The Lord’s response to “I’ve had enough” is “Get up and eat.” Stop your whining, stop your complaining. Get up and eat or else the journey is going to be too rough for you. The journey is going to be tough for you and you're not going to have any food inside of you to sustain you.

You are going to be spiritually empty. Get up and eat. He got up, and ate and drank. Then strengthened by that food, he walked forty days and forty nights to the mountain of the Lord.

It's called food for the journey. It's called the Eucharist. It's called Jesus' body and blood. It's the one thing we have to offer here that you can't find anywhere else, freely given so that we can be made spiritually strong.

Strengthened by spiritual food, we can do what Paul calls us to in the second reading, “Be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving, living in love.”

When we feel like we’ve had enough Jesus says, “I am the bread of life. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever.”

We can call out “Lafayette strong” all we want, but unless we turn to the Lord Jesus and beg him to feed us when we had enough, beg him to feed us when we’re empty inside, we will still just be empty inside.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

08-02-2015 -- 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

August 02, 2015 - 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

The world is full of grumblers – armchair quarterbacks whose lives are filled with would-ofs, could-ofs, and should-ofs.

Some people are never satisfied, and they let everyone else know about it – always complaining about something.

That's nothing new, the Israelites grumbled in the desert. They grumbled because they were hungry. They were starving in the desert.

God, of course, provided for them – quail and manna. The quail and manna filled their bellies, but it did not satisfy them.

They remained grumblers. They remained unsatisfied because they never came to the realization that what they hungered for was spiritual nourishment.

The people in the gospel are also grumblers. Last week we read that Jesus miraculously fed the crowd of thousands with five loaves and two fish.

This same crowd came back the next day. Was it with eager hearts longing for spiritual nourishment? Or did they return with eager stomachs?

What were they longing for? More bread and more fish? Were they seeking out Jesus because they wanted another free meal?

Listen to what Jesus said, "What you are looking for will not satisfy your longing. You are looking for a free meal, but I am offering you spiritual nourishment. Take me as your bread of life."

If we take Jesus as our bread of Life, we choose what is good for the world, we choose what is good for us, and our spiritual longing is satisfied.

If you have come here today because you are spiritually hungry, then you have come to the right place.

Jesus continues to come down from heaven as the bread of Life to nourish our spiritual lives.

We Catholic Christians refer to this in different ways:

The Eucharist: Jesus' real presence under the appearances of bread and wine – the center of the life of the church, our source and summit, the most important thing we do each week

Holy Communion: the sharing together of Jesus Christ by receiving his body and blood during Mass.

The real presence: with the conclusion of the Eucharistic prayer Jesus is present, body and blood, soul and divinity, under the appearances of bread and wine.

If we search our hearts, what do we really believe about the Eucharist?

Do we believe that the Eucharist is merely a memorial service –
do this in memory of me?

Do we believe that receiving Holy Communion it is merely a symbolic meal shared by Jesus' followers?

Or do we believe in Jesus' real presence, body and blood, soul and divinity, come down from heaven to be shared among those of us who believe – God truly present among us.
We Catholic Christians believe that Jesus is really, truly present in the bread and wine, given to us for our spiritual nourishment.

When the priest prays the Eucharistic prayer and the people respond Amen, the bread and wine are transformed, transubstantiated, into the body and blood of Jesus Christ –
the bread come down from heaven,
the bread of angels, the bread of life,
the only bread that can satisfy our spiritual hunger.

Do we sing “Amen” with conviction at the conclusion of the Eucharistic Prayer? Do we show our belief in the real presence with respect and reverence?

Respect and reverence for Jesus present in our midst cannot be merely cosmetic. A genuflection before receiving communion or before and after mass does not suffice. Respect and reverence must sink into our hearts, calling is to conversion, calling us from sin to new life.

Respect and reverence calls us our of our selfishness and into the life of this community of faith. Respect and reverence must move us beyond our grumblings, so that we can gather around this table to share the Lord’s supper, filled with joy.

God's presence in bread goes all the back to Moses in the desert.
God's presence in bread continues today in the Eucharist that we celebrate.

We can deny ourselves many things, but when we deny ourselves the Bread of Life necessary for our spiritual nourishment
we are destined to be merely grumblers.

And the world is already full of grumblers.