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.