Saturday, May 13, 2017

05-14-17 -- 5th Sunday of Easter, Year A

May 14, 2017 - 5th Sunday of Easter, Year A 
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

We are created as God’s beloved precious ones. In baptism, we become sons and daughters of God the father. And that’s a transformation that happens from the inside out.

As children of the father, we are brought into the Catholic Church. Until Jesus’ dwelling place is ready and he comes to take us home, we have a temporary dwelling place here. We have a place where we belong. We have a place at the table now.

This is our dwelling place. No matter where we go in the world we will always have this family. No matter what we go through in our lives we will always have this family. And even when we mess up terribly, this family of the church is always ready to take us back.

No matter what, we always belong here. This Catholic Church is our temporary dwelling place until we reach our eternal home.

It is here that we can have an incredible encounter with Jesus. Jesus wants nearness. Jesus wants closeness. I desire to take you to myself so that where I am you will also be.

There are many ways for us to begin to have this closeness to Jesus. We can start by coming here often. This is God’s dwelling place here on earth. And Jesus his only son, our brother, is the cornerstone of this edifice.

This is only a foretaste of the magnificent dwelling that is being made ready in heaven.

It is here that we learn Jesus is the way. It is Jesus who will get us to the eternal dwelling place that is being prepared. We are called to be men and women of the way.

It is here that we learn Jesus is the truth. Jesus gives an example of radical honesty. We are called to be men and women of the truth.

It is here that we learn Jesus is the life. When we feel forgotten, lifeless, unimportant, we can come here and reach out and take Jesus by the hand and he will restore us to new life. Jesus wants to share his life with us. We are called to be men and women of life.

Jesus is the cornerstone of this magnificent shrine. And Jesus desires closeness. Jesus longs for us to come here and be with him.

And when we come here, we belong. When we come here we are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, the sons and daughters of God the most high, who calls us out of darkness into his wonderful light.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

05-07-17 -- 4th Sunday of Easter, Year A

May 07, 2017 - 4th Sunday of Easter, Year A 
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

Sheep are smarter than everyone thinks they are. They exhibit herd behavior, which means that they instinctively know there is strength in numbers. They stay together for protection.

They are social and playful. They use all five senses. They know how to follow the leader.

They have the ability to recognize the face and the voice of their shepherd. They know their shepherd and they follow.

The shepherd’s task is to tend to and protect the sheep. The shepherd walks ahead and calls the sheep. The sheep follow because they recognize the voice.

The shepherd has a unique relationship with the sheep. The shepherd provides for the sheep. They are fed and watered and sheared and protected by the shepherd. The shepherd is a familiar figure.

Jesus says that he is the Good Shepherd. So then, everything that is true of the shepherd is also true of Jesus. Jesus provides for us. Jesus protects us. And if Jesus is the Good Shepherd, then his task is to tend to the good sheep.

If we are to be the good sheep, then we need to be able to say with confidence and faith: the Lord is my shepherd.

In Psalm 23 we learn that the Lord is my shepherd. The Lord guides my steps along the right path. The Lord walks with me though the dark times giving me courage. The Lord anoints my head with oil. The Lord refreshes my soul.

In the Gospel Jesus seeks the sheep as he calls out their names. Jesus serves. Jesus sacrifices. The Good Shepherd gives his life for his sheep.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd. Jesus knows his sheep. They recognize his voice. He calls them by name and they follow him.
Now, let’s be clear, just because Jesus knows all the sheep by name doesn’t mean they follow.

Look at the Pharisees. They refused to listen. They refused to follow. And Jesus accused them of being thieves and robbers who steal and slaughter and destroy.

We need to learn to recognize Jesus’ face. We need to learn to recognize Jesus’ voice. We need to learn to follow the Good Shepherd. We need to return to the Good Shepherd when we hear him call out our names.

In this way, we will have life and have it more abundantly. In this way, goodness and kindness will follow us all the days of our lives and we will dwell in the house of the Lord for years to come.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

04-30-17 -- 3rd Sunday of Easter, Year A

April 30, 2017 - 3rd Sunday of Easter, Year A 
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

Something terrible has happened to them. They had gotten their hopes up but those hopes have been dashed.

Now, looking all downcast and feeling sorry for themselves, they are going home. And, as they walk along, they are trying to process the whole thing.

They are replaying everything over and over, wondering what they could have gone differently, wondering if they made the right choices.

We do this all the time, don’t we? Things happen to us. Bad things. Downcast and depressed, we try to talk through those things. We process them out loud over and over.

But most of the time, when we do this, we get nowhere. We sort of wallow in the mess. And, if we are not careful, we begin to enjoy how others feel sorry for us.

The disciples on the road to Emmaus really aren’t getting anywhere either. They are walking away. They are done. And they are wallowing in self-pity.

That’s when this stranger, a fellow traveler, begins to walk along with them. And what do they do? Probably the same thing we would do. They start telling the story of all their woes.

We were hopeful. We were excited. But our hopes were dashed when our leader was crucified. We’ve been crushed and now we are going home.

What does Jesus say to that? Oh how foolish you are. How slow of heart to believe.

Next Jesus does two things. First, he breaks opens the scriptures for them. He takes the time, while they walk along, to explain the sacred texts in a way that they can understand.

Then he breaks the bread. And at that moment they recognize him.

Don’t these two things sound familiar? They should because they are the two things we do here week after week.

We read the scriptures and have them explained to us. Then we take, bless, break and share the bread. We believe the bread becomes Jesus’ very body. In this way, we recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread.

These things have a profound effect on the two disciples. They are no longer downcast. They have the courage and the strength to return to Jerusalem. Their lives are forever changed.

The road to Emmaus is a lot like our lives. It is a journey. Our lives are a journey. This is the sacred place where we come to have the scriptures read and explained to us. This is the sacred place where we come to recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread.

And this is where our lives are changed forever, giving us the courage to be good disciples, giving us the strength to get up and go on.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

04-23-17 -- 2nd Sunday of Easter, Year A

April 23, 2017 - 2nd Sunday of Easter, Year A 
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

Now that the Easter Triduum has passed and summer has not yet arrived, it's a great time to do some spring cleaning.

Our 50 day Easter season celebrates Resurrection. Spring is in the air. It's a time of new life, a time of new beginnings, a time to make things fresh and clean.

Jesus sends the Holy Spirit upon the disciples for the forgiveness of sins.

This sending of the Holy Spirit is meant to strengthen them. This forgiveness of sins is meant to transform them.

After all, they are going to have to go out into the world and tell the good news. That takes courage and strength and they are going to need it.

Don't we have some transforming of our own to do this Easter Season? Aren't the Easter Resurrection Gospels calling us to do some spiritual spring cleaning?

We can clean our hearts by forgiving others who have hurt us. We can let go of hatred and prejudice and anger.

We can clean our mouths by watching what we say. We can stop cursing and swearing. We can stop speaking ill of others. We can begin saying only the good things and kind things people need to hear.

We can clear out our spiritual closets by letting go of the past. What we've done to others and what others have done to us cannot be changed. We can only heal and move on.

We can clear out the cobwebs of our minds by not dwelling on lustful thoughts and fantasies that will never come true.

We can dust off our bodies by reminding ourselves daily that we are beautiful temples of God. We can begin to treat those temples with the respect and reverence they deserve.

A good spiritual spring cleaning can help us focus on who really matters, Jesus Christ, and on what really matters, our relationship with him.

This spring cleaning helps us get to where Thomas is, no longer doubting, no longer hiding.

Thomas needed a good spring cleaning and he got one. It turned his doubt into belief.

Thomas is now able to boldly proclaim that Jesus is Lord and God.

Sending the Holy Spirit upon us for the forgiveness of sins is intended to change us. It's intended to help us grow closer to Jesus. It's intended to help us have the courage and strength to be good disciples.

It’s spring. New life is all around us. There is nothing like a good spring cleaning to make everything new again.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

04-16-17 -- Easter

April 16, 2017 - Easter, Year A 
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

It seems to me that the world is a pretty tense place right now. Innocent people, especially innocent civilians were gassed to death in Syria.

Our Coptic Catholic brothers and sisters were bombed in Egypt while attending Palm Sunday services.

ISIS and Islamic radicalists continue to wage a jihad, a holy war, against us. Their end game includes the death of each one of us.

Tensions are rising between the United States and North Korea, and between the United States and Russia.

Elected Democratic and Republican officials have become polarized and entrenched, their rhetoric less and less civil. Their ability to lead and govern effectively is being questioned by many.

American society seems to be more and more divided, less and less charitable, more and more violent.

And while all that seems to be out there somewhere, there is a growing sense of unease and unrest here at home.

Our dependance on technology has become alarming and leads to great anxiety.

It appears that everywhere we look we find corruption and unrest, decay and destruction, violence and death.
But appearances can be deceiving.

Because the Angel of God descends from heaven, rolls back the stone, sits on it and proclaim: Do not be afraid!

The stillness of yesterday is broken. Death is overcome. The quiet is replaced with bells and music and laughter.

Darkness is overcome by light. Destruction is overcome by beauty. Depression is overcome by joy.

We let the alleluias wash over us. We let the waters of Baptism wash over us. Jesus is risen from the dead.

And we are called to come out into the light and be the children God call us to be.

So what needs to change? Whatever it is, let’s get to it. What’s holding us back? Whatever it is, Jesus has already overcome it.

As we renew our Baptismal promises, let us make a commitment to be people of the Resurrection, people who live in the light, people who go about their daily lives doing good, being kind and charitable, acting with compassion and love.

The angel calls us to rejoice. The angel calls us out of that unrest and decay and destruction and death.

The angel calls us to sing alleluia because Jesus has saved us. Death has no power here, because the Angel of God comes down from heaven, rolls back the stone and proclaims, Do not be afraid, the One you are seeking is here.

Friday, April 14, 2017

04-14-17 -- Good Friday

April 14, 2017 - Good Friday, Year A 
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

Death is in the air. You can feel it. The earth is quiet. Today is a day of mourning. Today is a day of quiet reflection. Today is a day for standing at the foot of the cross.

Jesus’ mother Mary is there. His aunt Elizabeth is there. Mary the wife of Clopas and Mary of Magdala are there, along with John, the disciple Jesus loved.

Even though we might want to, we cannot go back in time and stand at the foot of the cross of Jesus. So maybe we can stand at the foot of the crosses of others.

There are many different crosses in life: divorce, sickness, loneliness, unemployment, fear, anxiety, depression, addiction, heartache, disappointment, self-pity.

How can we stand at the foot of someone’s cross?

First, we can show up. We can be present. Mary, Elizabeth, John, Mary and Mary are there standing at the foot of the cross. They are in terrible pain and agony, but they are there.

Where are the others?

We cannot run away from the crosses in our lives. We must show up and stand there in grief and pain and agony.

Next, we could take our cue from last night. Jesus washed the feet of his disciples as an example. As I have done, so you must do.

We could perform acts of kindness for those nailed to the cross. Little things done, not out of obligation, but out of care and concern and love.

And finally, when someone has been nailed to the cross, we should say little. We cannot take the pain away with our words. So we should take our cue from today and be quiet.

We just need to show up. We don’t need to talk over the hurt.

Today there is stillness. The earth is quiet. Death is in the air.

Today and tomorrow are not days to fill with activities. They are days of mourning. They are days of death. They are days of quiet reflection.

They are days of thinking about how we can better connect our lives to the Passion, Suffering and Death of the One who died on the Wood of the Cross for us.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

04-13-17 -- Holy Thursday

April 13, 2017 - Palm Sunday, Year A 
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

By washing the feet of his disciples, Jesus is taking the role of the house servant. But Jesus is not washing their feet out of obligation. Jesus is washing their feet out of love and care and concern.

Jesus is also washing their feet to make a point, to teach an important lesson. As I have done, so you should do.

How can we wash the feet of others? Through acts of kindness, not done out of obligation, but out of love and care and concern.

Acts of kindness should done without expecting reward or recognition and no deed is too small.

Opening the door for someone.
Putting a smile on someone’s face.

Picking up a nail in the road or trash on the side of the road.
Taking out the trash or doing the dishes or washing the clothes.

Expressing to someone how special they make you feel.
Donating money to a worthwhile cause or a reputable charity.
Cleaning out your closet and giving gently worn clothing to the needy.

Volunteering for a civil or church event.
Doing something good for the environment.
Paying for the next person’s order at the drive through.

Visiting the nursing home.
Having a conversation with that person who is socially awkward.
Defending the person who gets bullied all the time.

Donating blood.
Babysitting for free so a young couple can have a night out.
Tipping the waitress generously for doing hard work for very little pay.

Giving to the homeless some food to eat.
Putting together a basket of treats for someone who has lost a family member, then delivering it when most people have gone back to their daily lives.

Offering your elderly neighbor a ride to church or to the store.
Surprising someone with breakfast in bed.

Saying I love you to someone you care about.
Forgiving someone who has hurt you.

All of these are just examples of doing what Jesus did, thinking of others first, putting others first, doing for others first.

Jesus teaches us by example: as I have done, so you must do. We learn from watching Jesus, we learn from listening to Jesus.

But Jesus doesn’t just teach by example. He does so much more. At the Last Supper he takes bread and says, “this is my body for you.” He takes wine and says, “this is my blood for you. Eat and drink.”

Jesus knows we can’t follow the example he has set on our own. We need his help. So he gives us the gift of the Eucharist.

When we receive the Eucharist, we receive Jesus’ very flesh and blood, his very life given as spiritual food which gives us courage to do what he calls us to do.

Tonight as we celebrate the Last Supper of the Lord, may we learn from Jesus’ example. And tonight as we celebrate the Last Supper may we receive the Body and Blood of Jesus as nourishment, as strength, as spiritual food.

We are given this food for the journey so that we can all do as Jesus has done: wash the feet of others through acts of kindness, not out of obligation, but out of love and care and concern.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

04-09-2017 -- Palm Sunday, Year A

April 9, 2017 - Palm Sunday, Year A 
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

There are many prophecies in the Old Testament regarding the coming of the Messiah. At the time of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem these are some of the prophecies that had already been fulfilled:

The Messiah would be a descendant of King David. Jesus of Nazareth was born in the line of King David.

A great star arose in the sky as Jesus was being born in Bethlehem. This was to be the sign of the arrival of the Messiah.

When Jesus rides into Jerusalem at Passover astride a donkey, he is sending a powerful message.

The Prophet Zechariah wrote, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Should aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you. Triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

At the time of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, these are some of the prophecies that had yet to be fulfilled:

Jesus of Nazareth will be falsely accused of crimes he did not commit. Psalm 27 says “false witnesses have risen against me.” Psalm 25 says “malicious witnesses rise up.”

Jesus of Nazareth will be beaten. The Prophet Micah tells us that with a rod they will strike the ruler of Israel upon the cheek.

Jesus of Nazareth will be spat upon. The prophet Isaiah says “I gave me back to those who struck me and my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard. I did not hide my face from insults and spitting.”
Jesus of Nazareth will be stripped and soldiers will throw dice for his clothing. Psalm 22 says they divide his clothes among themselves and for his garment they cast lots.

Jesus of Nazareth will be crucified. The Prophet Zechariah tells us that when they look on the one whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him.

Jesus of Nazareth will be crucified and yet not a bone of his will be broken.

The book of Exodus says this about the passover lamb: It shall be eaten in one house. You shall not take any of the animal outside. You shall not break any of its bones.

The book of Numbers says they shall leave none of it until morning, nor break a bone of it. The Passover Lamb must be completely eaten at the Passover Supper and none of its bones can be broken.

Jesus of Nazareth will be crucified at the same time that the Passover Lambs are being slaughtered in the Temple and Psalms 34 tells us that not one of his bones will be broken.

Jesus of Nazareth will be taken down and placed in a tomb.

The book of Deuteronomy says that the corpse must not remain all night upon the tree. It shall be buried that same day, for anyone hung on a tree is under God’s curse.

It is the sabbath. Passover week has begun. Jesus of Nazareth has less than five days to live.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

04-02-2017 -- 5th Sunday of Lent, Year A

April 2, 2017 - 5th Sunday of Lent, Year A 
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

Lazarus is in the tomb. He is dead. His body is decaying. It is finished. Lazarus’s body already reeked of decomposition when Jesus ordered that the stone be rolled away.

And as bleak as the situation looks, Lazarus is raised up again. Jesus stands at the entrance of the tomb, calls out to him and gives him another chance.

We die inside. Things in our lives happen to us that leave us looking like the walking dead, decaying, finished.

Some people have given up on life, so much so that they just as soon be placed in a tomb.

All too often when we hear this Gospel miracle, we focus on the ways that we die:

Our our poor self image, poor self esteem and lack of self acceptance; our poor communication skills which lead to messed up relationships.

Our national addiction to pornography and our need to post naked selfies on instagram and the internet.

Rampant drug addiction decimating many communities; death of family and friends which leads to grief stricken depression.

Our own sickness or the illness of someone we love; unemployment or underemployment or financial troubles.

I’m sure there are many other ways we can shrivel up and die inside. We can’t sleep. We can’t eat. We feel sad or angry or lost or confused. We are numb. We are empty inside.

Instead of focusing on how we die, we should focus on ways that we can reach out, take Jesus by the hand and rise again. This should be our earnest desire these last two weeks of Lent.

Jesus raises us up again and gives us another chance. Jesus calls us to new life. Jesus’ healing power challenges us to focus on ways we rise again.

And it doesn’t have to be some great thing. It can be simple things really: hugs, smiles, good deeds which lead to greater kindness, charity, joy.

Lending a helping hand or saying encouraging word or some other nice thing costs us very little and fills the world with more love.

Lazarus is unbound, unwrapped. So are Martha and Mary. They were lost is anger and grief. They are also healed and given new life again.

Lazarus begins again. Martha begins again. Mary begins again. Let us begin again. Let us make a fresh start.

Jesus calls us out of the tomb to start over. Jesus calls us out of the tomb to reboot. Jesus calls us out of the tomb to refresh and renew and recreate ourselves.

If there is anything holding us back from this new beginning, it is not the Lord. He calls us out of the darkness of the tomb.

We hold ourselves back. We live in fear. We live in shame. We live in grief. We wallow in sickness.

But this is not what Jesus desires. Jesus desires new life. Jesus stands on the threshold of the mess we’ve made and cries out to each of us:

Come out and begin again. Come forth and have new life.