Saturday, September 24, 2016

9-25-2016 -- 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

Sept. 25, 2016 - 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

Many people don’t recognize when they are being selfish. I suspect that this is the case because “putting me first” has simply become a habit. It’s second nature.

Here are some signs that selfishness has overtaken us.

Many look for every opportunity to be the center of attention. We spend too little time listening and too much time talking.

We long to control everything. And we get nervous or anxious or angry or pouty when that control is taken away.

Many are unable to compromise. It has to be my way. Period. We hear constructive criticism as a personal attack on our character.

We become moody when others have the spotlight. We have a difficult time forgiving. And we are often unwilling to share with others.

These selfish traits result in a lack of awareness that there are others around who are impacted by our behaviors.

Without realizing it, living this way pushes others away. It creates hurt and resentment. It alienates and isolates us.

We become like the rich man in the parable and we don’t even notice. So what’s the problem with the rich man? It’s certainly not his wealth.

And it’s not even that he is unaware. He is aware of Lazarus. He knows who Lazarus is. He calls him by his name.

The problem is that he doesn’t care. And that’s the real tragedy. The rich man cannot see beyond himself.

He has no love of neighbor. He has no care, no concern, no compassion, no mercy. There is only selfishness and self centeredness. He thinks only of himself and his brothers.

We cannot be like him. Jesus challenges us to move beyond our selfish ways. That’s why we need a remedy for our selfish behaviors. Otherwise, we could end up just like the rich man, lost in our own eternal punishment.

Truly selfish people find it difficult to consider the possibility that they are selfish.

So that’s where we have to start, with awareness. But the rich man is aware. He knows Lazarus is there. That’s not enough. It’s just a place to start.

We have to be able to put ourselves into someone else’s shoes. Now that’s easier said than done. To do that we have to recognize the other’s feelings and needs and desires.

Is it really necessary for me to make someone feel terrible just so that I can get what I want, just so that I can have my way?

Having put ourselves in the shoes of others we could begin to learn to show interest in others’ lives. We could learn to share. We could stop talking about ourselves and start listening to others.

We could show interest. We could volunteer. We could say please and thank you. We could compromise. We could show gratitude.

Many people don’t recognize when they are being selfish. And that’s no way to live. That’s like saying, “I’m just like the rich man in Jesus’ parable and it’s okay.” But it’s not okay, because none of us wants to be where the rich man is now.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

9-18-2016 -- 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

Sept. 18, 2016 - 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

There seems to be a growing lack of honesty and integrity among people today. Let me give you some examples.

Contractors taking money from people in crisis and skipping town leaving folks devastated and broke.

People whose homes were not flooded showing up at distribution centers taking handouts and supplies badly needed by those who were affected.

Others lying about the number of people living with them in order to get more money on their DSNAP cards.

People committing perjury by lying in courts of law, to the IRS or even before Congress.

Political candidates using talking points to tell us what they think we want to hear instead of what they believe.

Our daily dealings with others either builds up or diminishes our trustworthiness. Our selfish choices damage our reputations. Our dishonest choices ruin our credibility.

Are we trustworthy in small matters? Are we trustworthy with the things that belong to others. Or have we become a nation of liars and thieves and cheats?

The readings this weekend ask us to look at our trustworthiness.

Jesus wants us to be men and women with integrity. Jesus wants us to be men and women with honor. Jesus wants us to be men and women of justice. Jesus wants us to be people who live in the truth.

Our God desires justice. The Prophet Amos in the first reading calls the people to practice justice.

In the marketplace do not fix your scales for cheating. In the marketplace do not buy and sell human beings as if they were cattle. In the marketplace do not sell poor quality wheat as if it were the best of the harvest.

Amos says the Lord God will not forget what you have done.

We are called to take pride in our work again. We are called to do our best in our work again. We are called to be honest in our work again.

Jesus wants to trust us with the church. Jesus wants to trust us with our families. Jesus wants to trust us in our work. Jesus wants to trust us with the Eucharist. Can we be trusted? Have we proved ourselves to be trustworthy?

Paul, in his letter to Timothy, says that he does not lie. He speaks the truth. We are challenged to speak the truth. We are challenged to act with integrity. We are challenged to seek justice and redress wrongs.

The person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones but the person who is dishonest in very small matters is also dishonest in great ones.

If we are to become something other than a nation of liars and thieves and cheats, then we must begin to change the small things first for if we cannot be trustworthy in small things how can we be expected to be trustworthy in anything.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

9-11-2016 -- 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

Sept. 11, 2016 - 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

The world we live in is fractured and broken, leaving many of us feeling frustrated, lonely, isolated and lost.

The US presidential campaign is an example. The campaign has hit new levels of incivility. Both candidates are crass and constantly attack each other. Most Americans feel excluded from the process of choosing our next leader.

It seems that everyone I talk to is unhappy with the choices we are being given and we don't feel like we are a part of the conversation. There is this feeling that the system is being controlled and manipulated by the powerful and wealthy.

Our economy is not much better. The current levels of inequality have devastated the middle class and things have only worsened since the recession of 2008.

Many people feel that they can no longer provide adequately for their families and feel helpless and lost and see no end to the troubles. Not only is the nation’s debt soaring; personal debt is soaring as well.

It's no surprise then to see the overwhelming number of people who believe our country is headed in the wrong direction.

Organized religion hasn’t fared much better. The number of people who claim that they have no religious affiliation continues to grow.

Religious communities like this one used to be a source of community, the place that held everyone together. It was the source, the center, the undergirding.

But now people doubt institutions or fear institutions or believe that our institutions are trying to control them.

Is it any wonder why we as Americans, despite all of our access to technology, feel lonelier and more lost than ever. When we are honest most of us can easily identify with being lonely, confused, and lost.

Paul in his letter to Timothy expresses these same sentiments. “I was once a blasphemer, a persecutor, an arrogant sinner.”

The Israelites in the desert quickly turn on the Lord God. Moses goes up the mountain to visit with the Lord and by the time he gets back the people are worshiping the golden calf.

Mother Teresa who was recently proclaimed a saint by Pope Francis expressed this same sentiment in her writings.

For much of her life, she struggled with feeling lonely and unloved. In one of her letters she writes, “You don’t know how miserable and nothing I am.”

In the midst of our sinfulness our feelings of worthlessness, worry and anxiety, self-doubt, and depression, in the midst of our lost feelings, Jesus offers us the lost parables, the parable of the lost sheep and the lost coin.

Not only does he offer these parables but he eats with sinners and they seek out his company. God seeks out those who are lost. And God rejoices when we are found.

This is good news for us. In a world that leaves us fractured and broken, lost and lonely, our God seeks us out and rejoices when we are found.

Rejoice with me because I have found the one who I thought was lost.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

9-4-2016 -- 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

Sept. 4, 2016 - 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

Lots of folks are currently calculating the cost.

Can I get a new car since my old one got flooded? Or do I only have enough resources and insurance to buy a used one?

Should I bulldoze the house and start again building a new one higher? Or is it more feasible for me to repair what I already have in the hope that this was a once in a lifetime event?

Even though I’m not in a flood zone, should I buy flood insurance now? Do I get structure and content or structure only?

Should I go ahead and apply for a DSNAP card? Will I qualify for an SBA loan? How much housing assistance will FEMA provide? How am I going to come up with the rest?

Those who lost everything have literally given up all their possessions. “Anyone who doesn’t renounce all possessions cannot be my disciple.”

They have given up everything, but have they given up everything to follow Jesus? Or have they given up on following Jesus?

When tragedy strikes, we usually make a decision without even realizing it. Either we turn to Jesus for help or we turn on Jesus to blame.

Have we given up on following Jesus? What a shame if we have, because we need Jesus now more than ever.

Make no mistake, Jesus calls for our lives. And Jesus wants everything. “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.”

Jesus then goes on to describe the building a tower and the waging a war. Both activities require a great deal of money and planning and effort and people.

The focus of these stories is on the disciples, which means the focus is on us. If we follow, do we have what it takes to complete the mission?

The Book of Wisdom reminds us that the plans and deliberations we are making should be made with God’s counsel. The writer tells us that the wisdom of the Holy Spirit will be sent from on high.

We need that Holy Spirit wisdom to help us with the rebuilding that lies ahead. We also need the Holy Spirit to help us take up our crosses and follow with grace and dignity and strength.

We are certainly committed to rebuilding our lives after the flood. We are calculating those costs.

Jesus says his disciples must be all in. Are we also committed to following Jesus? Are we calculating those costs as well?