Saturday, September 26, 2015

09-27-2015 -- 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

Sept. 27, 2015 - 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

Jealousy is a feeling of resentment against a rival or against a person enjoying success or advantage.

Or jealousy can be a feeling of unhappiness or even anger caused by the belief that someone has something we want.

Isn’t that what’s happening with the Apostles of Jesus?

The Beloved Apostle John is saying that he tried to cast out a demon in Jesus’ name but he couldn’t. Then he saw someone else trying to do the same thing and maybe even doing it better, so he tried to stop him.

In essence, he was saying to the Lord Jesus, “We are jealous because this other person we don’t know is actually doing a better job at the things you taught us to do. So we are resentful.”

Jesus stuns the Apostles by pointing out that they don’t have a monopoly on the healing power of God. It seems that the Apostles thought they had some power that others didn’t have.

Perhaps they wanted to be honored or made to feel special because of the ability to exercise power over others.

Some priests and bishops today are no different. They believe that their calling to serve Jesus and our church have somehow placed them above others.

But Jesus will not support their position. Jesus will not restrict God’s power. The call from Christ is to serve.

Further, the mission of healing and saving humanity is not the sole responsibility of the Apostles or of today’s clergy.

It is a mission that is entrusted to everyone. And we can’t be jealous of others who exercise this ministry, especially if they do it better than we do.

What we have to focus on is our own hearts and our own actions. We must struggle against this urge to be jealous or resentful.

We must work at giving others the benefit of the doubt. We must learn to assume that God is working in and through others as well as ourselves.

And here’s the Good News: we don’t even have to do something as grand as driving out demons.

Jesus says, “whoever gives a cup of water to drink will not lose a reward.”

Giving a cup of cold water to one who is thirsty is a simple act of kindness. What is needed is less jealousy and resentment and more simple acts of kindness.
We just need to be more charitable to others, more gentle with others, more aware of the needs of others, and more giving of ourselves to others.

When we begin to focus on others, our own jealousies and resentments simply begin to fade away.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

09-20-2015 -- 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

Sept. 20, 2015 - 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

When I was in high school, I was a member of one of the top marching bands in the State of Louisiana.

We were not so much a half time show band as we were a competitive band. We participated in several band competitions each year and always wanted to be the Grand Champions.  

We truly desired to be the best and were willing to work hard to get there. Our football team was the same. They wanted to go to the State Championship each year.

We wanted to be number one in a world of winners and losers. And in those days only the winners got trophies.

As I’ve grown older I’ve seen another generation raised in a very different way. Every child now gets an award or trophy for just showing up. In my opinion, this social experiment has led to a mediocre generation of self-entitled and self-indulgent people.

In a world where there are no winners and no losers, where there is always a level playing field, who is motivated to excel and become the best or the greatest? Why bother? Everybody gets something for nothing.

On the one hand being number one might not be the thing that makes us the greatest. But on the other hand, being rewarded for being mediocre or even for just showing up won’t make us the greatest either.

I don’t think Jesus is an advocate of one position or the other.

Jesus says if you want to be the greatest you must be the one who serves. Jesus does not measure greatness the same way we do. Jesus measures greatness through service. 

If we wish to be the greatest in Jesus’ eyes then we must serve others.

So we must ask ourselves, “How am I serving my neighbor? How am I serving here in this church community? And how am I being of service to my neighbor in the larger civic community?”

The problem with being number one is that it isn’t about serving. It’s about conquering. The problem with expecting a trophy for just showing up is that it isn’t about serving either. It’s about entitlement.

Neither of those two positions focus us on the right issue nor do they point us in the right direction.

Our lives shouldn’t be about rewards and trophies and handouts and entitlements.

Jesus calls us to reach out and serve the least, them most vulnerable, children, the sick, the needy, the poor, those the world looks upon as losers.

In the second reading, James says, “Where jealousy and selfish ambition exists, there is disorder.” We are seeing that disorder in our society more and more today.

James says, “In your prayer, you ask but you do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.”

You see, when we pray for our football team or our band to win a particular competition, we are actually praying for the wrong thing.

And when we pray to win the lottery but won’t go out to earn our daily bread, we are actually praying for the wrong thing.

In the end, our greatness will not be measures by our trophies. Our greatness will be measured by our service.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

09-13-2015 -- 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

Sept. 13, 2015 - 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

Maybe Jesus’ question “who do people say that I am?’ is a good question for us to ask ourselves.

Who do people say that I am? Who do I think I am? Who would I like to become? I’m not so sure we are good at asking these kinds of self-reflective questions.

Who am I? Where am I going in my life? What kind of person am I? What do other people think about me?

What kind of person do I want to be? How do I get there from here? What kind of choices am I making to get there?

What are the destructive choices that I make that keep me from becoming a better person?

Do I have a relationship with Jesus the Christ? If my answer is yes, what am I doing to build and strengthen that relationship? Sunday Mass is good place to start but it is probably not enough.  

Is there prayer, scriptural meditation, study, personal reflection, spiritual direction?

Well come to think of it, maybe it’s more honest to say that Satan is a better friend of mine than the Lord?

A friendship or even an acquaintance with Satan is easy. Peter didn’t even realize it had happened and was probably terribly hurt when Jesus pointed it out to him, “Get behind me Satan. You are caught up in the things of this world.”

A relationship with Satan teaches me and tempts me to love the things of this world. Things like money, power, fame, possessions, control, manipulation.

A relationship with Jesus is far more difficult. And if I cultivate a relationship with Jesus the Christ I begin to focus on the things of heaven.

The things of heaven are far more subtle than the things of earth. Things like charity, kindness, forgiveness, generosity, prayer, fasting, self-denial, self-reflection, cross-bearing.

This is difficult but it helps me focus on the things of God instead of the things of this world. And focusing on the things of God helps me to become the person God is calling me to be.

And God is always calling me to be a better version of myself than I am today.

So the choice is set before me. As I reflect on who I am, I must ask myself, am I centered on the things of God? Am I focused on Jesus the Christ? Or am I centered on the things of this world? Would Jesus say to me, “Get behind me Satan?”

Am I trying to grow in self-understanding? Am I comfortable in my own skin? Am I honest with myself? Am I self-reflective? Am I working on those areas of my life that are ungodly?

Am I growing in the ways of God? Am I able to be alone with myself and my thoughts? Am I able to sit silently with God?

Who do people say that I am? I want them to say that I am a kind and loving and generous and honest person. They might not be saying that right now. And so that’s where I have to do some work.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

09-06-2015 -- 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

September 06, 2015 - 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

The man’s ears were closed, unable to hear. Jesus opens them. The man’s tongue was silenced. Jesus touches it and the man is able to speak.

Having been unable to hear, a whole new world of sound and speech is now open to him.

What was closed is now open. This the what happens when Jesus heals us. What was closed is open. So what is closed in us?

We are resistant and our resistance closes us in on ourselves. We don’t want a new world opened to us. Sometimes we are content to keep things just the way they are. Don’t go changing things. You’ve changed enough already.

We are judgmental and our judgmentalism closes us. Saint James talks about this: You pay attention to the man with the fine clothes while ignoring the shabbily dressed poor man.

Do we think God favors the rich over the poor? For God there is no distinction between the two. All people are God’s children.

When we make distinctions among ourselves we close ourselves to the gift that each human person is.

We are closed. And there are many other behaviors that show that we are closed: stubbornness, addictions and fixations, anger, hostility, restlessness, complacency.

The Prophet Isaiah says God is not resistant, God is not judgmental, God is not closed. So we make ourselves the opposite of God. Resistant, judgmental, closed.

Isaiah goes on to say: Here is your God who comes to save you. God will open the eyes of the blind. And clear the ears of the deaf. God will make the lame leap and the mute speak.

And we see Jesus doing just that in the Gospel. The man is healed and made whole. Do we want that in our lives? Do we want to be healed?

Jesus longs to touch our lives. Jesus desires to heal us. Jesus is our God who wants to come to save us.

There is not a single one of us who does not need some kind of healing. For some it may be physical healing. But for many it may simply be healing from the hurts of life.

Healing from a feeling of distress or unhappiness. Healing from worry about the future. Healing from anxiety about a family member or friend. Healing because of an unresolved issue or conflict that’s gnawing away inside.

What is stopping us from singing out and leaping for joy? We are closed.

The story about Jesus healing the man who could not speak and could not hear is a story for us. It is our invitation to be open.

Can we allow ourselves to be healed of our impairments and become the sons and daughters God intends us to be?

What do we do? Can we ask Jesus to lay his hands on us? Can we ask Jesus to stick his fingers in our ears? Can we ask Jesus to place his hands on our hearts? Can we ask Jesus to touch our lives and open us?

When we do, the deaf will hear and the dumb speak. The lame will leap and we shall all sing praise to the glory of God.