Saturday, October 14, 2017

10-15-17 -- 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Oct. 15, 2017 - 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A 
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

The invitation has been extended. The invitation is from God. Many people have been invited. But none of the intended guests want to take part in the feast.

Why? Well, many people have made all kinds of excuses. Some say they have other things to do. Others are indifferent. And a few are even annoyed.

God is good to us. God freely offers friendship. God freely offers joy. God freely offers salvation. God freely offers an invitation to the banquet.

What kind of banquet? Isaiah describes it as a rich feast. Rich food and choice wines for all peoples, juicy rich food and pure choice wines; a banquet where death will be destroyed; a banquet where God will wipe away the tears from every face.

This is the great feast for those who say yes to God’s invitation. It is a banquet of salvation, a banquet of redemption, a banquet of forgiveness, a banquet of love.

When so many make excuses and do not accept the invitation, God is not discouraged.

God doesn’t get upset. God doesn’t throw a fit. God doesn’t cancel the feast.

No, what does God do? God simply invites some more people. God invites everybody.

God simply sends the invitation to the ordinary, to the poor, to the marginalized, to the neglected, to the forgotten, to you and to me. All are invited without distinction.

Everyone is given the opportunity to respond to the invitation. We are called. We object, sometimes with our “I’m not worthy” excuse. God doesn’t want to hear our excuses. God wants us to accept the invitation.

Saint Paul tells us that God will supply whatever is needed to accept the invitation. I can answer the invitation because I can do all things in the Lord who strengthens me.

The invitation has been extended. The invitation is from God. Many people are invited. What are you going to do?

Saturday, October 7, 2017

10-08-17 -- 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Oct. 08, 2017 - 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A 
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

The landowner in Jesus’ parable does everything he possibly can to make the vineyard successful.

He equips the vineyard by planting the vines and building the wine press. He protects the vineyard by building the hedge wall and constructing the watch tower.

He tends the vineyard by hiring tenant farmers to work the land, to prune the vines, to gather the harvest and to press the grapes.

All he wants is a share of the crop. He is entitled to a share, isn’t he/ After all, it is his vineyard. And the initial investment needs to be recouped.

The tenants are either already bad people or they become bad people. The tenants want what is not theirs. They are greedy. They are disrespectful.

They begin as thieves and end as cold blooded murderers.

It is a disturbing story because they end up killing the owner’s son so that they can take the vineyard. But that doesn’t happen.

The vineyard is taken away from them. And they are all put to death. The vineyard is given to those who will be loyal, to those who will be faithful.

Jesus’ warning is clear. If we become like the bad tenants, the Kingdom of God will be taken away from us and given to others who will produce its fruit.

Are we becoming a nation of unruly tenants, ungrateful, self-absorbed thieves who take and take and take and do not give?

It does seem that many in our nation are slowly becoming more and more like these violent unruly tenants. There is an unease in our nation, racial tensions, economic insecurity, mass shootings.

It is my opinion that many of these signs of unrest are the result of a nation that has turned its back on God.

But there are also signs of goodness, signs of heroism, signs of great courage and bravery and loyalty and fidelity and generosity.

There may be countless examples of violence, but there are also countless examples of people going beyond themselves to help others in need, heroes doing what is good just because.

For example, even with all our own needs, the people of Saint Martin de Tours gave twelve thousand dollars to help strangers who were affected by the disastrous hurricanes this season.

In that act of kindness, we have done what Saint Paul says to do. Saint Paul tells us to be true, to be just, to be lovely, to be honorable, to be pure, to be gracious.

Let us resolve, here and now, to continue to be good tenants of God’s vineyard. Let us accept the challenge to be self-giving, to do what is good and right and just, because the Kingdom of God belongs to those who produce its fruit.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

10-01-17 -- 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Oct. 01, 2017 - 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A 
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

Do actions really speak louder than words? The parable seems to indicate this. Maybe we could look at a modern example to help us answer this gospel question.

Two world leaders, Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un, have recently exchanged some unhelpful rhetoric. They seem to be having a war of words, like two boys name calling on the playground at recess.

One called the other little rocket man and the other responded with deranged lunatic.

Their exchange of words seems immature. Both puffing their chests to see who will flinch first.

I think it’s probably inappropriate for world leaders to engage in this type of posturing and name calling.

The result, in my opinion, is that they have both embarrassed themselves on the world stage. And they certainly have created an atmosphere of global tension and unease.

The threat is real enough but right now it’s only a threat. Right now it’s only words.

Let’s look at what would happen if their words became actions.

If one would launch an intercontinental ballistic missile at the other, it is unlikely that the response would be measured.
We could easily find ourselves in a global conflict the likes of which we have not seen before. Actions would, in fact, speak louder than words.

The gospel does challenge us to look at our actions. Maybe some of our actions are unhelpful, maybe some are immature, and maybe some are downright sinful. These are the actions we each need to work on.

Isaiah says that if we turn from these sins, we will surely live. We will not die. But it’s not just these actions. The son who does his father’s will, whose actions are correct, is not perfect. He needs to look at his words. They reflect his heart.

I am certain that all of us are called to look at our words with discernment because our words reflect our hearts. With our words we can lift up or tear down. With our words we can give life or crush spirits.

We can say things that are helpful or we can say things that are hurtful. We can build trust or increase unease. Actions may speak louder than words, but words are very important.

Saint Paul says to the Philippians, let every tongue proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord. Jesus gives us two commands, to love God and neighbor. We show this with our actions and our words.

Do we proclaim that Jesus is Lord with our actions and with our words? Do we show love of neighbor with our actions and our words? Both sons have things they need to work on and so do we.

09-17-17 -- 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Sept. 17, 2017 - 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A 
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

The question is put to Jesus, “How much should I forgive?”
But Jesus doesn’t answer with an amount.  Jesus answers with a story.  

In the story, the master or king mercifully cancels a great debt but later learns that the forgiven servant has been cruelly unforgiving in cancelling a much smaller debt.

The servant is not a slave but rather, an employee or a manager in the king’s court, if you will.  And the debt is incurred through some sort of mismanagement.

It is a story about one who is powerful and others who are not.  But notice, if you will, it is the powerful one who forgives and the weak one who does not.

If we are paying attention to Jesus’ story, then we learn that to forgive is not a sign of weakness.  It is a sign of strength.

Forgiveness is not about feeling. Forgiveness is about doing. Forgiveness is an act of pardoning a wrong or cancelling a debt so that the hating can stop, so that the resentment can end. Forgiveness is an act of the will.

I will forgive you. I will release you from this debt. I will let go of this hurt. I will move on. I will be strong.  I will not be weak.

Why do this?  Listen to what Sirach says if we don’t.

Can you cherish anger and resentment and then ask for your sins to be forgiven? Can you withhold forgiveness and then ask for your sins to be forgiven?

Can you be angry and still expect the Lord to send you healing? Can you nurse grudges with wrath in your heart and still seek pardon for your sins?

The sinner hugs wrath and angry tightly. Are we holding some debt?  Are we holding some grudge? Do we need to forgive someone?

The parable warns us of the awfulness of failing to forgive as God forgives.

The most important reason for showing mercy time and time again is because this is how God forgives us.  

If we are forgiven much then we should certainly forgive much in return.

The difference between Peter’s proposal of seven times and Jesus parable is not a matter of math.  It is the nature of forgiveness.  To count is not to forgive. To forgive is not to count.

How often must I forgive?  Always, because that is how often God has forgiven me.

09-10-17 -- 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Sept. 10, 2017 - 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A 
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

We could come up with many examples of people behaving badly. Differences and disagreements seem, more and more, to be handled in a very public way.

Fights get posted on Facebook. Disagreements get hashed out on Jerry Springer. A gun gets pulled in a Walmart over school supplies.

Our scripture readings this weekend do not attempt to explain why people behave badly. But they assume that people do. Jesus talks about what to do when people wrong us. He gives us steps to take when dealing with difficult people.

First, if someone wrongs you, go tell that person. Don’t punch the person in the face. Don’t spread rumors about the person. Don’t pull a gun on the person. Don’t try to run the person off the road. Don’t even lose your temper and fly off in a fit of rage. No.

Go calmly and tell that person that they hurt or offended you. You know, when you spread that false rumor about me, you really did hurt my reputation here in town. You know, when you chew ice while we are eating, it really does unnerve me.

You can fill in the blanks yourself. You know when you did this, I felt that.

If the person doesn’t listen, take two or three others along as witnesses. Document.
Today, we often use our cell phones for this step. We get the bad behavior on camera.

When things go badly, we aren’t bringing others along as bullies. We bring them along so that the facts can be established.

If things don’t get better, we can always go to the next step. Jesus says, go tell the church. Today the priests of the church don’t function in this role anymore. But our law enforcement officials do.

We can go tell the police or go to the courts for remedy. We shouldn’t try to take matters into your own hands. That never goes well and can be dangerous and even life threatening.

We can seek legal remedy when we believe someone has wronged us that seriously.

Jesus desires for us to live in peace with our neighbor. The goal is to love our neighbor. Saint Paul says, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Love does no evil to the neighbor.” This is the golden rule, to loose, not to bind, to let go of the wrongs others have done to us.

Many people behave badly. But we cannot allow them to ruin our lives. We cannot allow them to be in the majority. We cannot allow ourselves to become like them.

Jesus challenges us to treat our neighbors with dignity and respect. Jesus does not want us to end up on Jerry Springer. Jesus gives us another way.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

09-03-17 -- 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Sept. 03, 2017 - 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A 
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

Discipleship demands decision!! But not just decision. Discipleship also demands action. Deny, take, and follow are verbs. Each requires that we do something.

We must deny our very selves, take up our cross and follow Jesus.

Denying ourselves is not necessarily like giving something up for Lent. Let's look at Jeremiah the prophet to get a better idea of what it means. Listen to Jeremiah, “You duped me, Lord, and I let myself be duped. You overpowered me.”

And so I gave myself over to you. I let go. I let go of my own wants. I let go of my own desires. I let go of my own will. I denied myself. I gave myself over to you Lord. And you took me.

Once we allow our own wills to give way to the Lord’s will, then we are called to take up the cross. Taking up your cross is work. Saint Paul says, “I offer myself as a pleasing sacrifice.”

To offer myself, I must take up my cross. I must do good. The cross is bearing hardship without complaint. The cross is doing good for the sake of doing good.

The cross is what two guys said on national television when they were called heroes for rescuing people in Houston. One said, “I’m not a hero.” The other said, “We’re doing this because these people need our help.”

And finally, the Lord says, “Follow me.” Following means allowing ourselves to be led by another.

We must allow ourselves to be led on the path which the Lord has chosen for us. Pope Francis has said, “Let us allow ourselves to be humbly led by the Holy Spirit in order to avoid taking the wrong road and closing our hearts.

Even if our hearts are closed and we are on the wrong road, there is still hope for each of us. Three simple verbs. Three difficult actions.

Deny. Take up. And follow.

We can turn to Jesus for help by denying ourselves taking up our cross and following after the Lord.

Discipleship demands decision.  But more than decision, discipleship demands action.

Deny. Take up. And follow. Why? Why do these things? The answer is simple.

One day, the Son of Man will come with his angels and repay each of us according to our conduct.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

08-27-17 -- 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Aug 27, 2017 - 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A 
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

I see many of you every week. I know your faces, especially those of you who shake my hand each week after mass. After six years, I’m still seeing new faces and learning new names.

I might not even know or recognize the people who leave out of the side doors.

If our relationship has never progressed beyond a hello after church, then I can’t really say that I know you. Truth be told, you probably know me better.

But many of you know me only by my Sunday homilies. That would give you a very limited understanding of who I am. So you wouldn’t really know me.

Do you know what kind of music I like or what kind of books I read or which tv shows I watch? Do you know any of my hobbies? Do you know that I do all my own cooking because I love to cook?

So, for many of us, we really don’t know each other all that well. Is that the kind of relationship we have with Jesus. It’s okay. But it’s not great.

We might know a lot about Jesus. We know where he comes from. We know the circumstances surrounding his birth.

We know who his mom and dad are. We know about his public ministry. We know his teachings. We’ve heard about his miracles.

We know about his trial and execution. And we know that his disciples claim that he was raised from the dead.

We even know that through the centuries many have come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. But do we really know Jesus?

More than anything else we need to encounter Jesus. We need to rediscover Jesus. We need to get to know Jesus. We need to hang out with Jesus and have a good heart to heart conversation.

Think about all the people in your life. You have your immediate family and your closest friends. You spend lots of time with them and you know them very well.

Then there are those you spend time with, not necessarily by choice, but as a result of work or school. You know those folks well but maybe not as well as your family and closest friends.

You also have acquaintances, people you know by name but you don’t really know them. And then there are strangers.

Where does Jesus fit? Let’s hope he’s not a stranger. Maybe we don’t know Jesus anywhere near as well as we should. Maybe our relationship isn’t really as dynamic as it should be.

Maybe this fall it’s time to spend some time getting to know Jesus.

Maybe it’s time to develop a deeper, more dynamic and personal relationship with Jesus.

Maybe it’s time to find a quiet space for Jesus to be able to speak to our hearts.

I don’t want to be just an acquaintance. So I’m pretty sure Jesus wants to be more than just an acquaintance as well.

Jesus extends the invitation, “Who do you say I am?” How do we reply?

Saturday, August 19, 2017

08-20-17 -- 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Aug 20, 2017 - 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A 
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

Recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia have raised the whole race relations issue yet again in our country. You’d think that in 2017 we would have moved beyond this kind of bigotry and hatred.

The removal of statues commemorating Confederate leaders in New Orleans also speaks to the tensions that continue to simmer and even seem to be reaching a boiling point.

These fights suggest that maybe we don’t fully understand our history. We cannot rewrite our history. It is what it is. We can learn from it.

I think these fights certainly say that we still do not understand the beauty of diversity. These fights say that we still have a long way to go.

There are these racial stereotypes that are being propagated on all sides. These hateful slurs may have a hint of truth but they are always hateful and exaggerated beyond belief. And yet they are believed.

So many people are still so very racist. We divide ourselves into all these different categories of us versus them.

Then to make matters worse, we take these different categories and try to make some of them good and some of them bad, some of them right and some of them wrong, some of them beautiful and some of them ugly, some of them holy and some of them sinful.

The ways we divide ourselves are endless: black and white, gay and straight, male and female, young and old, republican and democrat, conservative and liberal.

Look at the disciples in the gospel. They are the same as we are. Listen to what they say about the Canaanite woman: Send her away. She is not one of us. She is not like us. She is a dog.

We must not allow this mean spiritedness to remain in our hearts. We must purge ourselves of this bigotry and racism and hatred.

Otherwise we look and act like the disciples, we look and act like the protestors in Charlottesville, we look and act like racist, bigoted terrorists.

Blame on all sides? Blame lies with all those who choose violence as a means of solving our differences when we should be celebrating those differences. If we were all alike, the world would be a most boring place.

The word Pope comes from the Roman word Pontifex meaning bridge builder. Building a bridge takes time and patience and effort.

We must make an effort to overcome the racism and bigotry and hatred that resides in our hearts. We must make an effort to see all people as children of God.

And listen to me good: We must make our house of worship a place where all God’s children are made to feel welcome; a place where all God’s children feel like they belong.

Black or white. Gay or straight. Young or old. Married or divorced. Liberal or conservative. Saint or sinner. I don’t care!! Everyone is welcome here. Everyone has a place at the Lord’s table.

We see the disciples and we don’t like the way they behave toward that poor woman and her sick daughter. But we do the same thing all the time.

So we have to start to change. And that change begins in our hearts. And like building that bridge, it will take a good long while.

But then it begins to happen. We begin to change, and that change begins to spill over into our church. And then it begins to spill over into our community.

The Prophet Isaiah speaks for the Lord: My house shall be a house of prayer for all peoples.

This is not my house. This is not your house. This is God’s house. And in God’s house, all God’s children have a place at the table.

Even those who turn their backs, even those who refuse to come still have a place at the table and will always have a place at the table.

Racism and bigotry may still be alive and well in our country. And many are saying things that divide us rather than unite us. To them I say, shame on you. Because this kind of hatred has no place in our hearts. And it certainly has no place in this house..

Saturday, August 12, 2017

08-13-17 -- 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Aug 13, 2017 - 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A 
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

We like to see things. We like to go see parades. We stand on the side of the road waiting for the parade to pass by. There is excitement and anticipation as we wait. We like to go to sports events and concerts.

We also have this desire to go see the aftermath of a natural disaster. How many of you went riding around to see the damage from last year’s historic flood?

The Lord says to the Prophet Elijah, “Go outside and stand on the mountain before the Lord, the Lord will be passing by.”

We go outside to see the storm or the heavy wind or the hurricane. We see the fires out west and the summer storms on the evening news.

But this is not how we get to see the Lord. Elijah discovered that the Lord is not in those things. The Lord is not in the wind. The Lord is not in the earthquake. The Lord is not in the fire.

In the Gospel, Jesus is not in the storm. Jesus is above the storm. Jesus is beyond the storm. Jesus is more powerful than the storm.

So it should not surprise us when Jesus comes walking on the water. The Lord is in the calm. The Lord is in the quiet. The Lord is in the tiniest whispering sound.

You know what that means? It is easy to see the parade. It is easy to go to the concert. It is easy to go outside and experience the rainstorm. But it is harder to find the Lord.

The Lord is not in the storm or the earth or the fire or the parade. The Lord is in the tiniest whispering sound.

Often, like the disciples, we are overwhelmed by the storms of life. We are frightened by the storms of life. We are terrified by the rough winds. We are rocked by the waves. We feel like we will drown.

Jesus invites us out of the safety of the boat. Come out into the storm. Come out onto the water.

Can we step out in courage to follow the Lord? Like Peter, we must muster every bit of strength, every bit of courage and step out into the storm to get to Jesus. It can be frightening.

Jesus is there, inviting us. Come to me. Come be with me.

When we realize how strong the winds of those storms of life really are and that we are beginning to sink, we must cry out, “Lord save me.”

And immediately Jesus stretches out his hand to catch us.