Saturday, August 27, 2016

8-28-2016 -- 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

Aug. 28, 2016 - 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

The Book of Sirach tells us that the mind of a sage appreciates proverbs. The readings this weekend speak of humility, so let’s reflect on some proverbs that speak to us about humility.

Sirach says humble yourself and you will find God. Jesus says take the lowest place for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.

In the Second Book of Chronicles, the Lord God speaks to his people saying, If my people who are called by name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sins and heal their land.

The Psalmist reminds us that the Lord delivers a humble people, but those with haughty eyes are brought low. The Lord leads the humble in what is right and teaches the humble his ways. And the Lord takes delight in his people, adorning the humble with victory.

Humility is the opposite of pride, and according to what we read in Scripture, it is a state of mind that is pleasing to God. And so we are challenged to practice greater humility in our lives.

The Book of Proverbs tells us that when pride comes, then comes disgrace, but wisdom is with the humble. The reward for humility and fear of the Lord is riches and honor and life.

The Great Christian author C. S. Lewis writes, humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.
The proud think of themselves and their accomplishments. The humble know their good works but also understand that bragging is unbecoming.

The need to seek honor is a great temptation among those who have accomplished great things. And the biggest challenge after success is learning not to boast or to brag, but learning, rather, to keep quiet about it.

Madeleine L’Engle has some insight into the role God plays in the work we do. She says, in a very real sense not one of us is qualified, but it seems that God continually chooses the most unqualified to do his work, to bear his glory. If we are qualified, we tend to think that we have done the job ourselves. If we are forced to accept our...lack of qualification, then there is no danger that we will confuse God’s work with our own, or God’s glory with our own.

Always the pragmatist, Mother Theresa gives some practice tips on a few ways we can practice humility:
Mind your own business.
Stop trying to manage other people’s affairs.
Avoid curiosity.
Accept contradiction and correction cheerfully.
Pass over the mistakes of others.
Accept insults and injuries.
Accept being slighted, forgotten and disliked.
Try to be kind and gentle ever under provocation.
Never to stand on your own dignity.
And always choose the hardest path.

And finally, C. S. Lewis reminds us, As long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud (person) is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

8-21-2016 -- 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

Aug. 21, 2016 - 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

The narrow door quickly becomes the locked door, and those who thought they should be inside find themselves standing outside.

Do you feel the urgency here? Time is of the essence. The message: get in before it’s too late.

Those who don’t make it in are further shocked to find that the owner of the house says he doesn’t know who they are or where they are from.

This is perplexing. Why are some turned away while others are not? Let’s speculate:

Perhaps some are seeking to enter through the wrong door. Maybe they are standing at another door when they should be trying to get through the narrow door.

What might that look like in our lives? We see something earthly that attracts our attention and we strive to attain it. Maybe it’s a new car or a bigger house or the latest iphone or the prettiest girlfriend or the jock boyfriend or the trophy wife or the highest paying job.

But Jesus says strive to enter the narrow door. The word strive implies a great deal of effort. Olympic gold medal winners invest a great deal of time and energy and effort in winning. They do not win by accident. It is the result of deliberate, sustained effort.

Do we strive to get to know Jesus and enter the narrow door to his home? Do we make a deliberate, sustained effort to practice our faith?

Perhaps some lack the faith or the courage or the strength they need to enter through the narrow door. The wide open door looks so appealing that they just can’t help themselves.

Having passed through the wide door, one finds a room full of trouble and sin and temptation and death. But at the outset it looked so attractive. That is the allure of evil, its ability to masquerade as something very attractive .

There are times in our lives when we walk through the wrong door or travel down the wrong path. Eventually we come to our senses and recognize the mistake.

Now, having recognized the error of our ways, we can either continue down the wrong path or strive to correct the error. It takes effort. We must strive to change, not half-hearted or go-with-the-flow. No, we must repent. And there must be a sense of urgency. Otherwise the door will be slammed shut.

Perhaps some have not done enough good works to unlock the locked door. Maybe the key to unlocking the door is acting with charity, kindness, mercy and forgiveness. These good works have the ability to open doors that were previously closed.

The letter to the Hebrews calls us to strengthen our drooping hands and our weak knees and do what is good and right and just. With all the recent flooding, the opportunities to do good works are endless because the need is so great.

We are challenged to keep striving to enter through the narrow door because only a few will find their way inside. Many will get lost and will be shocked to find the narrow door closed and locked.

At that point they will find themselves in the darkness where there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Wailing and gnashing of teeth doesn’t sound like a particularly pleasant experience. Being locked out in the dark doesn’t either.

That is why this gospel demands our attention. We cannot assume that Jesus knows us just because we know Jesus. We must strive to enter through the narrow door that leads to him.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

8-14-2016 -- 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

Aug. 14, 2016 - 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

For a long time, this gospel passage was very confusing to me. I mean, I just couldn’t figure it out.

What is Jesus talking about when he says, “I have not come to establish peace. I have come to bring division.”

Isn’t he the Prince of Peace? How can be bring division?

Well, my life experience shows me time and again that Jesus does in fact bring about division.

Over the years, I’ve noticed that parents are often deeply grieved by the choices their adult children make. And the decision that grieves them the most is when their children stop coming to church.

It is extremely painful when those we love turn away from the faith that we hold so dear, when our loved ones turn away from the church where we find such comfort.

I think this is the division that Jesus is speaking of. Jesus understands that following him is a difficult choice, so he is asking for a decision from each of us. He is asking us to make a choice.

We have to choose to follow or not. Some follow. Some do not. This creates division.

Now, this is nothing new. It’s not just happening to us. The Prophet Jeremiah, in the Old Testament reading, faced the same situation.

Jeremiah chose to obey the Lord God and spoke the Lord’s words to the people. But the people were wicked and didn’t want to hear what Jeremiah was saying.

So they plotted to kill him. They threw him in a deep well and left him there to die. But some righteous people wouldn’t let this happen to Jeremiah, so they pulled him out of the well.

Jesus found this division in his own life. Some people chose to follow him, but others did not. And those who did not follow him became his enemies. Eventually, his enemies had him crucified.

The conflict that marked Jesus’ life, marks our lives too. We each must make a decision to follow. And sometimes our decisions bring about division.

The writer of the letter to the Hebrews admonishes us to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus. He endured opposition from sinners so that we might not grow weary and lose heart.

If Jesus faced division, then we can expect it too. But Jesus forgave those who opposed him.

We cannot hate our adult children or any of our loved ones when they make decisions we do not agree with. That’s too easy and doesn’t really allow the possibility of reconciliation.

Indeed, we must pray for them. We must keep our eyes fixed on Jesus. And we must always remember to strive to act as Jesus did, with mercy and charity, with love and forgiveness.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

8-7-2016 -- 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

Aug. 7, 2016 - 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

A recent survey by LifeWay Research of people who haven’t attended church in the past six months found that 2 out of 3 of them are not particularly interested in religion.

And 3 out of 4 of those who consider themselves to be unchurched don’t care and are not interested in talking about God.

These findings suggest that an ever growing number of Americans, especially millennials, no longer claim to be religious.

A growing portion of our population appears to have no faith, does not believe in God or believes that organized religion is pointless and religious worship is meaningless.

I’m not sure how they would respond to Jesus’ admonition to be prepared. Why would you be prepared if you did not think the Son of Man would ever come for you?

So, I think this gospel is inviting us to reflect on what we believe and why.

Do we believe that Jesus, the Son of Man, the Son of God, will come for us just as he promised?

I am going to prepare a place for you. And if I am going to prepare a place for you, I will come back to you and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be.

About that return, Jesus says: You must be prepared. With lighted lamp. Watching and waiting. Standing at the door or looking out the window. Vigilant. Ready to open.

You must be prepared. It will come when you least expect it. It will take you by surprise.

Let’s take a look at how Jesus calls us to prepare:

Watching and waiting indicates awareness, looking and seeing with spiritual eyes.

Standing at the door indicates alertness. Standing is a posture of alertness, watchful, ready, right there.

Have you ever had company come over and you stand by the door or by a window watching for their arrival?

With lighted lamps indicates preparedness. We prepare for hurricane season. Do we prepare for the coming of the Lord? Do we have the tools we need?

When preparing for the Lord’s coming, it’s spiritual tools that we need. The most important spiritual tool is the Eucharist, food for the journey, nourishment from Jesus himself to give us strength.

Ready to open indicates eagerness, hopefulness, anticipation, maybe even longing. Ask older religious folks who are ill and they will say, I’m longing for the day Jesus comes to take me home.

Let us not be like those folks in the recent survey who say that they don’t particularly care about God or religion or going to church.

Rather, let us continue to prepare for the coming of the Lord. Let us continue to await the salvation of the just. Let us continue to watch and wait, ready to open when the Lord comes and knocks.