Saturday, July 30, 2016

7-31-2016 -- 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

July 31, 2016 - 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church



Father Paul Bienvenu and I recently attended a production of West Side Story. The show was sponsored by the Christian Youth Theatre. The budding thespians were mostly high school and college age.

Given their ages and experience, these young performers did a great job. What shocked me was the behavior of the people who attended the show.

I realize that they were probably family and friends of the young performers and possibly not very familiar with theatre etiquette; so I’ll cut them some slack.

But there was an elderly woman in front of me who kept texting throughout the show. There were three ladies behind me who kept talking. There was a woman directly behind me who kept kicking the back of my seat.

And there was a special needs child seated next to us who kept calling out during the performance. He’s the only one who had an excuse for his behavior. At intermission the boy obviously wanted to get to know the people around him and quickly befriended us.

During the second act it became apparent that the boy was not calling out randomly. He was familiar with the show and seemed to be, in some way, participating.

I mean, he could be heard clearly by all the performers and they didn’t seem to mind or be surprised at all.

So I assume that he was known to them personally, probably because he had been at some rehearsals and they knew that he was in the audience at that particular performance.

Once this dynamic was understood the child was no longer a distraction. He was a sweet child.

His mother, not so much. During the first act she could be seen playing on her phone and even had her notifications still turned on. Ding. Ding. Ding.

During the second act the people sitting on the other side of them did not return. In the middle of the performance she got up and moved two seats away from her son, so that she could continue to play on her phone.

Actors report that they can see our cell phones lighting up during performances and that it is very distracting and disheartening. It is also very rude and disrespectful to others who are watching the performance.

Why share this with you? Because these are the very behaviors that Jesus rails against in the gospel.

“No, they are not!” you say. Yes they are! And so are many of the other behaviors we’ve seen in the news recently.

What behavior of the man in Jesus’ tale gets us so upset? Is it that he is rich? It better not be, because that would make us jealous.

It is the reality that he is so caught up in his own little world, that he fails to realize that there are others around him. And that his actions and choices are negatively impacting people.

Greedy. Selfish. Self-absorbed. Entitled.

These are the very behaviors I witnessed. They seem to be behaviors that are becoming more and more commonplace.
God says, “You fools!” But we don’t want to be called fools by God. So this means it’s time for us to wake up and change our ways.

Another way to say this is that we sometimes do things and our response to ourselves should be, “Well, that was stupid. I’d better change. I’d better try harder to be a better person.”

Saint Paul, in the second reading, hints at a remedy. Put to death the evil desire and greed within. Put on a new self in the image of the creator. Put on Christ because Christ is all and in all.

Greed gives way to generosity. Selfishness gives way to self-giving. Self-absorption gives way to awareness. And entitlement gives way to service.

These new traits help us put on Christ.

Generosity: not hoarding our blessings, but sharing them with the people around us.

Self-giving: not looking to take, but looking to give instead.

Awareness: paying closer attention to how our actions affect or even offend those around us.

Service: giving of ourselves in a way that makes our struggling world a better place.

If we begin to do these things, then we will be storing up for ourselves treasure in heaven. And really, that’s the only place we should be storing our treasure.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

7-24-2016 -- 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

July 24, 2016 - 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church



Having trouble praying? We probably all need a little help with our prayer life from time to time. Here are some of the most common problems I’ve found people have with prayer.

Maybe it’s the wrong time. If you say, “I keep falling asleep during my prayer,” then I want to suggest that you may be praying at the wrong time.

Maybe it’s the wrong place. If you say, “I keep getting interrupted or distracted during prayer,” then I want to suggest that you may be praying in the wrong place.

Maybe it’s the wrong form. There are many different ways to pray. Meditation. The Rosary. The Jesus Prayer. Lexio Divina. Intercessory Prayer. Thanksgiving. Formal prayers. Spontaneous prayers. Praying with scripture.

None of these are right or wrong; but if you say, “I just feel like I’m going through the motions,” then maybe it’s time to try a different type of prayer.

Now we can read about prayer all we want and that might help us discover these different forms of prayer. It might even give us some helpful advice. But reading a book on prayer is not the same as praying.

We actually have to do it to get better at it. We actually have to practice prayer and do prayer and live prayer.

I recommend a set time and a specific place and a form of prayer that works for you. Lord I’ll be back tomorrow at the same time and the same place.

Prayer is about relationship. Prayer is about visiting with an old friend. The conversation between Abraham and God shows that prayer has the power to change things.

The disciples ask Jesus to teach them how to pray. And he gives them the “Our Father.” There are basically five parts to the “Our Father.”

Our Father in heaven, hallowed by your name. In this first part, we adore the holy name of the Lord God. And how does Jesus do that? In the most intimate way possible. Abba. Daddy.

Give us this day our daily bread. In this part we ask that our daily needs be met.

Forgive us our trespasses. Here we ask for forgiveness for the sins we committed today.

As we forgive those who trespass against us. Then we request help in order to be able to forgive those who have wronged us. We need to ask for this because forgiveness can be a difficult thing. But it is necessary for healing.

And lead us not into temptation. Finally we ask to be saved from evil and sin and temptation.

The prayer comes in the form of a conversation, first a greeting, then a request for divine assistance.

It is much like the conversation between Abraham and God in the first reading. The prayer conversation between Abraham and God influenced God. God listened to Abraham. God spoke back to Abraham. And God responded to Abraham’s request.

Jesus says to ask. Jesus says to seek. Jesus says to knock.

Time. Place. Form. Establishing these three things will help us have a better conversation with Jesus. And that conversation will slowly become like the conversation between God and Abraham.

“Lord, for the sake of these people whom I love, won’t you do this?” “Yes, for the sake of these people you love, I will do it.”

Saturday, July 16, 2016

7-17-2016 -- 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

July 17, 2016 - 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church




Maybe Martha is trying to do too much. Or maybe not. Maybe she is just trying to do her best. Either way, she gets a gentle rebuke from Jesus.


Maybe Mary is not trying hard enough. Maybe she is a bit lazy. Or maybe she is so fascinated by her guest that she just can’t get enough of his words. Either way, she gets praised.


So what’s the problem for Martha? Why the rebuke? It can’t be her hospitality, because Abraham and Sarah are praised for their hospitality in the first reading.


They are even rewarded with a son in their old age. And we are told that they went through a lot of trouble for their guests. So why is Martha rebuked for the same thing?


Maybe this...Aren’t you going to notice all the work I’m doing? She wants praise for her work. Aren’t you going to tell her to help me? She has resentment because her sister is not helping.


Was she providing hospitality just to be noticed, just to be praised? If so, she was doing it for all the wrong reasons.


What might this look like in our lives today, this wanting to be noticed, wanting to be liked, wanting to be praised?


We have become very attached to our technology. We are tied to our smart phones. We are very reliant on social media. It seems that we use social media to validate our self-worth and boost our self-esteem.


That makes us like Martha. Hustling and bustling for what? We can’t seem to put those phones down. We can’t help ourselves. And now Pokemon Go! For what?


Do we really have to check every message and answer every phone call? We are constantly scrolling through Twitter feeds and Facebook pages, wanting to be liked. Do we really need to tell every detail of our lives on Instagram through selfies.


And what happens? Meaningless, helplessness, anxiety, depression, distraction, disconnection. These all begin to set in, all in a desire to be liked, to be recognized, to be noticed, just like Martha.


So what’s the remedy? Well, I’m not sure. Less worry, less anxiety. That’s easy to say, but what does that mean? Maybe it means acting with a more charitable spirit? Maybe it means doing good without expecting praise.


We cannot provide hospitality or compassion or charity or mercy to others and expect something in return.


We cannot post things on Facebook with the hopes that they will be liked. We cannot live our lives thinking all our selfies on Instagram will find us love or win us fame.


We need to learn to be still. We need to learn to be quite. This will help us surrender to Jesus. It’s hard to be quiet and listen.


Whether we are sitting or standing, whether we are resting or working, whether we are giving or receiving, can we be still and surrender to Jesus? Like Mary, we can learn to take in all that Jesus offers.


And today Jesus offers us hospitality at his table. Today Jesus asks us to be seated around his table as he prepares a meal for us. Today Jesus asks us to unplug for a moment and be present to him.


Today Jesus asks us to sit at his feet and listen to his words. Today Jesus asks us to eat and drink his body and blood as spiritual food.

When we do this, we choose the better portion, and it will not be denied us.

7-17-2016 -- 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

July 10, 2016 - 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church




Maybe Martha is trying to do too much. Or maybe not. Maybe she is just trying to do her best. Either way, she gets a gentle rebuke from Jesus.


Maybe Mary is not trying hard enough. Maybe she is a bit lazy. Or maybe she is so fascinated by her guest that she just can’t get enough of his words. Either way, she gets praised.


So what’s the problem for Martha? Why the rebuke? It can’t be her hospitality, because Abraham and Sarah are praised for their hospitality in the first reading.


They are even rewarded with a son in their old age. And we are told that they went through a lot of trouble for their guests. So why is Martha rebuked for the same thing?


Maybe this...Aren’t you going to notice all the work I’m doing? She wants praise for her work. Aren’t you going to tell her to help me? She has resentment because her sister is not helping.


Was she providing hospitality just to be noticed, just to be praised? If so, she was doing it for all the wrong reasons.


What might this look like in our lives today, this wanting to be noticed, wanting to be liked, wanting to be praised?


We have become very attached to our technology. We are tied to our smart phones. We are very reliant on social media. It seems that we use social media to validate our self-worth and boost our self-esteem.


That makes us like Martha. Hustling and bustling for what? We can’t seem to put those phones down. We can’t help ourselves. And now Pokemon Go! For what?


Do we really have to check every message and answer every phone call? We are constantly scrolling through Twitter feeds and Facebook pages, wanting to be liked. Do we really need to tell every detail of our lives on Instagram through selfies.


And what happens? Meaningless, helplessness, anxiety, depression, distraction, disconnection. These all begin to set in, all in a desire to be liked, to be recognized, to be noticed, just like Martha.


So what’s the remedy? Well, I’m not sure. Less worry, less anxiety. That’s easy to say, but what does that mean? Maybe it means acting with a more charitable spirit? Maybe it means doing good without expecting praise.


We cannot provide hospitality or compassion or charity or mercy to others and expect something in return.


We cannot post things on Facebook with the hopes that they will be liked. We cannot live our lives thinking all our selfies on Instagram will find us love or win us fame.


We need to learn to be still. We need to learn to be quite. This will help us surrender to Jesus. It’s hard to be quiet and listen.


Whether we are sitting or standing, whether we are resting or working, whether we are giving or receiving, can we be still and surrender to Jesus? Like Mary, we can learn to take in all that Jesus offers.


And today Jesus offers us hospitality at his table. Today Jesus asks us to be seated around his table as he prepares a meal for us. Today Jesus asks us to unplug for a moment and be present to him.


Today Jesus asks us to sit at his feet and listen to his words. Today Jesus asks us to eat and drink his body and blood as spiritual food.

When we do this, we choose the better portion, and it will not be denied us.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

7-10-2016 -- 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C


July 10, 2016 - 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church



OT 15 C 2016
Saint Martin


In asking the question “Who is my neighbor?”, the lawyer is attempting to limit the number of people who are considered as neighbors. He is attempting to limit the amount of goodwill he is obligated to show.


In telling the story of the Good Samaritan, Jesus is making it clear that all people are to be considered as neighbors. Jesus resists any attempt to limit those who are entitled to our goodwill.


With Jesus, everyone is my neighbor. Everyone is entitled to be treated with respect and dignity.


In our ever increasingly violent society, this is becoming more and more difficult. Everyone is now considered a suspect rather than a neighbor. We cannot even let our children play unsupervised in the neighborhood anymore.


What is it like to be black parents having to watch their kids head out the door each day? What is it like to be a wife and mother who watches her police officer head off to work every day?


All Muslims are not radicalized. All Hispanics don’t belong on the other side of a wall. All cops don’t use excessive force. And gays shouldn’t be killed for kissing.


How have we come to this?
#blacklivesmatter
#copslivesmatter
#hispaniclivesmatter
#gaylivesmatter
Even saying #alllivesmatter might not be the right thing to say. Maybe we are focused on the wrong things. We are focused on what divides us, rather than what unites us.


As society becomes more unstable, it also becomes more racist. It becomes a place filled with hate. And the hate turns into violence and the violence becomes terror.


In essence, it becomes more and more like the road from Jerusalem to Jericho, a place where robbers take advantage of the vulnerable.


This new reality makes Jesus’ parable all the more challenging. In the story, the ones who were supposed to show mercy do not, while the one who is under no obligation whatsoever is the one who acts with compassion and renders assistance.


Jewish ears would have been shocked to hear Jesus say that a Samaritan stopped to aid the victim. Samaritans were regarded as enemies, and yet here is a Samaritan who is a good guy.


It is the Samaritan who behaves like a loving neighbor while the priest and the Levite who were supposed to be examples of right living passed up the opportunity to show love. They passed up the opportunity to be good neighbors.


In addition, the Samaritan's compassion comes with a cost. He now has to walk rather than ride his mule. He is now vulnerable to attack himself because his travel is now much slower, more labored.


He has also made financial payment to the innkeeper to look after the victim. And finally, he runs the risk of being ostracised by his own people for assisting a Jew.


Today it would be the black man who stops to render aid to the white police officer who has been shot. It would be the gay boy who offers help to the school bully who finally got a taste of his own medicine.


It would be the Palestinian family who donates their teenage son’s organs to an Israeli family. It would be the woman who offers assistance to the Muslim man who does not think she is entitled to education or social standing.


It’s not enough to say #blacklivesmatter or #copslivesmatter or even #alllivesmatter, because this allows us to continue focusing on what divides us. This allows us to continue to act like the lawyer in the gospel saying, “This person cannot possibly be my neighbor.”


Love matters. Mercy matters. Compassion matters. Kindness matters.


We are challenged to change our hearts. But that is not enough. We are challenged to try to begin seeing the inherent dignity in each and every human being. And upon seeing that God-given dignity, to learn to call that person neighbor.


And in calling that person neighbor, to render assistance, kindness, charity, compassion and mercy whenever possible.