Saturday, February 27, 2016

2-28-2016 -- 3rd Sunday of Lent, Year C

February 28, 2016 - 3rd Sunday of Lent, Year C
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

I love figs. I love to eat them raw. But I really love them when they are cooked into fig preserves. I think the fig is a really delicious fruit, almost a delicacy.

But the fig tree is not a beautiful tree. It’s really just a shrub with those leathery leaves. Even though I love them, I can can’t pick figs because of those leaves. I break out into hives.

And you can always tell when a fig tree is struggling. It’s not full and the leaves turn yellow and fall off. It’s pretty obvious when a fig tree is struggling.

Many of us are very much like that struggling fig tree. From all outward appearances, it seems that we’ve squandered our resources and exhausted the soil.

It’s funny that we think we can hide this from God, but we can’t. The Lord God looks down from heaven and sees everything.

Listen again to what the Lord God tells Moses in the first reading:
I have seen. I have heard. I am well aware of the sufferings of the people.

But God will not give up on us just yet. We are too precious in his sight. We are worth more time, more resources, more tender care, more love. We are.

God, who is cultivating the soil, is patiently waiting for us to bear fruit. So we ask the Lord to awaken in us the desire to bear fruit.

God keeps pouring resources down on us: the scriptures and the sacraments nourish us. Mercy and compassion and forgiveness are showered upon us soaking our roots.

We come here today because we need pruning. Christ the gardener prunes away what is sinful, cuts away at the sins we commit.

We come here today because we need nourishment. Christ gives us his body as food to eat. Christ gives us his blood as spiritual drink.

We come here today because we need light. We need Christ the Light to shine on the dark places in our lives.

We come here today because we need water. We need Christ the spring of life giving water to refresh us with life giving water.

Even though we look as pitiful as a struggling fig tree, the Lord God will give us one more year.

But remember. If the fig tree fails to bear fruit it will be cut down and thrown onto the fire.

Our selfishness and our sinfulness are not be be ignored. During this Lent, we repent and ask for mercy.

We beg Jesus to be our gardener and to help us produce good fruit, fruit as sweet and as rich as those figs that I love so much.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

2-21-2016 -- 2nd Sunday of Lent, Year C

February 21, 2016 - 2nd Sunday of Lent, Year C
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

We mean to do well. We give up this or that for Lent, with the best of intentions. But we never quite keep our word.

Perhaps this happens because we tend to focus on the negative. I will give this up for Lent. But why? For what? There must be an accompanying focus on the positive.

I will give this up so that I can do this instead. I will not do this so that I will have more time to do that.

Typically, we don’t think this way. So now one fourth of the way through Lent, we’ve probably become discouraged, and maybe even disappointed in ourselves.

Our fasting and prayer and almsgiving don’t seem to be doing any good. Things aren’t going the way we thought they would. Maybe this is because our focus was not where it should have been. So we are ready to give up and go back to our old ways.

We’ve gone into the desert to be tempted and taunted by the devil and we have given in to those temptations.

Now, consumed by feelings of guilt and shame and worthlessness, we are ready to throw in the towel.

The cross is too heavy. Discipleship is too costly. The road to God is too difficult. We are feeling discouraged.

When the Transfiguration took place, Jesus and the disciples were on the way to Jerusalem. It would be the last time Jesus made the journey he had made so many times before. Jesus knew that it wasn’t going to go well once he got there.

It is possible that he was distressed, discouraged. Maybe that’s why we went up the mountain to pray.

Jesus was worried about the disciples. Did they understand? Were they comprehending his message? Were they ready for their mission?

The disciples were worried about Jesus. They feared for his life.
Things just didn’t seem to be going well at all. Doesn’t this sound familiar?

God the Father knew that they needing reassuring. And so gave them this profound experience of the Transfiguration.

The brilliant, dazzling, comforting experience was meant for Jesus and for the disciples. It was meant for us too. We get to be witnesses.

This is my beloved Son, the chosen one, listen to him.

They needed this experience to have the strength to continue on their journey.

We also need reassuring, just like Jesus, just like the disciples. We need this experience of Jesus’ transfiguration to make it through our 40 days of Lent

And what does the voice from heaven tell us to do? Listen. Listen. Listen.

We are encouraged to spend the rest of our days of Lent listening, in prayer, to Jesus who says:

If you give something up, you must have a reason. I give this up so that I can do this other good thing instead.

We may have come here today discouraged, ready to give up. But we are given this wonderful glimpse into the glory of God. And we are given the strength we need to continue on our Lenten journey.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

2-14-2016 -- 1st Sunday of Lent, Year C

February 14, 2016 - 1st Sunday of Lent, Year C
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

We know that we are taunted by temptation. But could Jesus really be tempted by the Devil? Really? Jewish writings around the time of Jesus affirm the absolute sovereignty of God but place the Kingdoms of the World under the power and influence of the Devil.

Our world today doesn’t seem any different. Violence and evil and terror and sin are all around us. There is a constant struggle between good and evil, between right and wrong, between God and the Devil.

We give into the power of temptation when we say yes to bad choices that we think might make our lives seem easier or more fun or less lonely.

When we feel like we aren’t appreciated in the workplace, we are tempted to steal from our employer.

When we feel like we aren’t getting enough attention at home, we are tempted to cheat on our spouse.

When we feel like we just don’t fit in, we are tempted to give into peer pressure and do something we are uncomfortable with, or something we know is wrong.

When we are lonely or isolated or overwhelmed by sexual tension or puberty, we are tempted to look at internet pornography as a way of easing those tensions.

When we have physical problems or mental challenges or suffer from anxiety or depression, we are tempted to abuse alcohol or drugs to ease or even to erase the pain.

When we feel like our freedoms have been restricted or even taken away from us and exchanged with never ending responsibility, we are tempted to be very selfish and neglect those who depend on us.

All these temptations come from the Devil. And we might even be tempted to give into the Devil just to make him shut up for awhile. But that doesn’t work. Listen again to the last line of the gospel.
When the Devil had finished every temptation, he departed from Jesus for a time. Satan would return when Jesus, hanging upon the cross, was at his weakest.

It is there on the cross that the Devil again tempts Jesus three times with the wine forced to his lips, with the taunts to save himself and with the mocking sing that speaks the truth: Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.

Satan tempts Jesus when he is most vulnerable. We can be sure the same is true for us. The Devil tempts us when we are most vulnerable, when we are at our weakest, when it is the hardest for us to say, “Be gone, Satan.”

On our own, it is almost impossible to resist. And during this Year of Mercy we cry out to the Lord to show us mercy for the times when we have failed to resist temptation. The Lord God grants us forgiveness and shows us merciful love and calls us to look to Jesus for strength.

Seeing how Jesus resists the Devil gives us insight into how we can resist when we are taunted by temptation.

Jesus uses the Word of God to help him resist the devil. We certainly hear the Words of Satan tempting and taunting us. We must also listen for the Word of God which is spoken as a remedy, spoken to help us resist.

So on this first Sunday of Lent we are reminded just how important our Sacred Scriptures are for us. We read and reflect upon the Word of God here in Church. It is here that we find the strength to resist temptation.

It would also be helpful for us to read and reflect upon the Word of God in our homes as well. The more the Word of God dwells within us, the more effective it is in help us draw closer to Jesus.

Too often we allow Satan to speak to us and take possession of our lives. Today we are called to listen to and reflect on God’s Word so that it can have an impact in our lives giving us the strength to resist the Devil.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

2-7-2016 -- 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

February 7, 2016 - 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

What is happening in the first reading from the book of the prophet Isaiah? The Lord God above is seated on a high and lofty throne. The host the angels are all around the Lord crying out, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God of hosts. All the earth is filled with the glory of God.”

Does their cry sound familiar? It is the “Holy, Holy” that we sing before the Eucharistic prayer every time we celebrate Mass.

At the sound of the angelic cry, the Lord shakes the door of the house when he comes to see Isaiah. The Lord's arrival cannot be mistaken.

Isaiah knows that it is the Lord who is coming. And when the Lord comes, the prophet Isaiah cries out, “Woe to me, for I am doomed.”

Isaiah regrets that he is too human and too sinful to fulfill God's plan. Maybe he’s afraid that the Lord God will condemn him for his sins. Maybe he does not yet have the courage to answer the Lord’s call.

We are like Isaiah. We hear the call of the Lord. We feel the Lord tugging at our hearts. But we protest. “I am not worthy,” we say. “I am unclean. I have this spot of sin. I live among wicked people and I myself am shamefaced because of the sinful things I do.

We know that we are sinful. We are selfish. We are resistant to God’s plan. We are too attached to our own ways.

But then something absolutely fascinating happens to Isaiah. And this is where we really need to pay attention. The Lord God of angelic hosts sends one of the angels with an ember taken from the fire of the glory of the Lord and touches the mouth of Isaiah with it.

I can only imagine that the burning ember seared the lips of Isaiah and that he cried out in pain. It must have hurt terribly.

Then the Lord God speaks with clarity, “See now that this has touched your lips, your wickedness is removed and your sin is purged.”

But pay attention though. For the wickedness to be removed and the sin to be purged, the burning ember must be touched to the lips. And this is painful.

So we must look into our lives to see where the pain is; to see where the suffering is. We look to see if the Lord is not touching our mouths with the burning ember to purge us of our wickedness and our sinfulness.

Perhaps the hurt comes from letting go and letting God take control of our lives.

It is only then that we can hear the voice of the Lord, with clarity, saying to us, “Whom shall I send. Who will go for us?”

Notice the use of the plural. Who will go for us? The prophet Isaiah writes long before Jesus was born in Nazareth, and already there in our Sacred Scriptures we see signs of the Holy Trinity: the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Who will go for us?

The most Holy Trinity seated upon the lofty throne surrounded by the angels and the saints asks this question, “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?”

We are called, each in our own way, to answer the Lord’s call. Have we been purged of our wickedness enough to have the strength and the courage to say, “Here I am. Send me.”?