15th Sunday of Ordinary Time: July 13/14, 2019

My name is Samuel. But most people just call me Sam.
Like Don Coreleone in the Godfather movies – I was named for the place where I was born. . . I am from SAMARIA — so I am Sam, the Samaritan.
Now certainly you have heard of Samaria and Samaritans – and my bet is, if you have, your impressions aren’t that great. . .
Why just a couple of Sundays ago, you heard of some Samaritans being inhospitable to your man Jesus – the Gospel said, “On the way, some messengers of Jesus entered a Samaritan village to prepare for his reception there,
but they would not welcome him because the destination of his journey was Jerusalem.”
And when two of his disciples, James and John, heard of the incident they wanted to call down fire from heaven to consume them – not exactly something you want to do to people you like. . .
So why the bad blood? To make a long story short, once close kinsmen, Samaritans were regarded as not being proper Jews — by the time of Jesus. They were not orthodox, or good enough, so to speak. . . They came from a mixed background having inter-married with the local folks — so were seen as ethnically impure.
Since they were seen as outcasts and despised by the Jews in Israel, they were not allowed to worship at the Temple in Jerusalem, so the Samaritans built their own temple in their capital city of Shechem – which widened the gap between these two groups even more. . .
And that’s what gives the use of a Samaritan in perhaps one of the greatest stories ever told by Jesus – such force.
This Samaritan made good – because he was able to rise above the bigotry and prejudices of centuries and showed mercy and compassion for an injured man – after his own countrymen –
a priest and a Levite – pass him by – this was shocking news to those who originally heard the story
Remember when your preacher-man told you a couple of weeks ago that St. Luke’s Gospel is written for the underdogs of this world?? Those who are always finding themselves at the bottom of the pile, who never seem to get a break, and who always fall behind in some way?
Well, this “Good” Samaritan is a case in point – Jesus elevates this lowly one, and sets as his code of conduct the embracing of all, and the forsaking of no one – AND YOU – YOU— ARE TO GO AND DO LIKEWISE – but I am getting ahead of myself!
I’m here to confront you quite bluntly with the inconvenient truth of this story: ARE YOU CAPABLE OF BEING A GOOD SAMARITAN?? Before you answer the question, let’s consider a few things. . .
How often do you see people in need – and pass by on the other side?
Do you heed Christ’s calling to serve others, when you encounter soul after soul, day after day, everywhere you go. . . or do you pass up the opportunities way too often?
Do you selfishly justify your own agenda? Being so rushed and so distracted. Or worse, do you deem the needy unworthy of your time and effort?
Is your life bound in comfort and safety – and are those boundaries drawn to limit you from seeing the other side of the road, keeping you from going there?
It’s so easy to keep to ourselves, to our lives, to our people – isn’t it??? So are you uncomfortable yet? That’s the whole point of this parable – -to shake you up a bit. . . But I’m not finished yet. . .
Haven’t we all become somewhat blind to those barriers that have slowly been built – surrounding our sacred world of plenty, of selfish demands, of foregoing the dirty work with our clean hands?

The irony is we always looked on the priest and Levite with such disdain, using our punishing critical voice of “how could you just pass by and do nothing??”
But wait.
Don’t you see yourself? Even just a tiny bit of yourself – often doing the same thing???
“Love thy neighbor” doesn’t mean: Help when you have the time. Help when your heart is in the right place. Help when you have energy. Help when it’s convenient. Help when it’s someone you are comfortable with and love.

“Love thy neighbor” doesn’t mean — Help only those you agree with and understand. Help only the people you deem lovable and worthy of help. Help only those who believe the same things you believe.
NO, it means so much more. . .
LOVE: Sacrificially. Selflessly. Enduringly. Unconditionally. Generously. Compassionately. These are words that describe Christian ministry. . .
Our neighbor, as in love they neighbor — is broadly defined, not narrowly construed.
Now in reality — we don’t know what the priest and Levite had in their minds or on their hearts — when they chose to ignore the wounded man. . . Perhaps they did not want to get their holy hands dirty, or their sacred lives messy.
It could be that they were so distracted with their own pious mission, they simply did not think to look up so did not even see the man.
Or even worse? They may have believed someone so broken and beaten down was surely not worthy of their precious time and attention. . .
Were their deceiving beliefs keeping them from serving their Lord, hidden in the person of their neighbor? Oh, this fundamental hypocrisy lays the groundwork for so many people. . .

Whatever the reasons, no matter their intentions, two prestigious and religious people failed in God’s greatest purpose for our lives. God calls us all — to care for his children: There are no boundaries, no rules, nor qualifiers that limits this command: go, and do likewise. . .
And the one man, who was hated among the Jews. . . did what was right. A Samaritan. A Good Samaritan. He cared for a broken and beaten human being who was in desperate need of help.
What is so great about this story, I think, is that God chose a Samaritan – one of my people –
to exemplify doing the work of building the kingdom of God. A task many thought all Samaritans were incapable of doing. . .
Someone whom people despised back in that day.
Christ honors HIS heart, HIS choice, HIS service – and condemns the others for neglecting what is most important to the Lord – caring for his children – all of his children.
Oh how this truth is powerful, and the message is clear. May we all stop our busy distracted lives to lift the wounded, tend to the weak, love the unlovable, and serve those in need.
NO MATTER WHO THEY ARE, no matter how ugly the situation, or how broken and beaten down they appear.
Jesus is calling all of us to get our holy hands dirty and our sacred lives messy. We need to feel this call of the Lord deep within us, so we can open our eyes to see the broken and the wounded, the weak and the lost. We need to stretch out of our comfortable places, and remove our fears, our judgements, and our daily distractions —- AND CROSS THE ROAD!
So, my good friends of St. Patrick, take it from Sam the Samaritan – open your eyes and your hearts, open your holy hands, and your sacred lives —
For Christ is calling you to cross the road –
Because one thing is for sure – there is plenty of work to be done there.
So just to end on a lighter note. . .

Why did the Christian cross the road?? Because there was a person in the ditch on the other side. . . and they were going to help. . .

15th Sunday of Ordinary Time: July 13/14, 2019

My name is Samuel. But most people just call me Sam.
Like Don Coreleone in the Godfather movies – I was named for the place where I was born. . . I am from SAMARIA — so I am Sam, the Samaritan.
Now certainly you have heard of Samaria and Samaritans – and my bet is, if you have, your impressions aren’t that great. . .
Why just a couple of Sundays ago, you heard of some Samaritans being inhospitable to your man Jesus – the Gospel said, “On the way, some messengers of Jesus entered a Samaritan village to prepare for his reception there,
but they would not welcome him because the destination of his journey was Jerusalem.”
And when two of his disciples, James and John, heard of the incident they wanted to call down fire from heaven to consume them – not exactly something you want to do to people you like. . .
So why the bad blood? To make a long story short, once close kinsmen, Samaritans were regarded as not being proper Jews — by the time of Jesus. They were not orthodox, or good enough, so to speak. . . They came from a mixed background having inter-married with the local folks — so were seen as ethnically impure.
Since they were seen as outcasts and despised by the Jews in Israel, they were not allowed to worship at the Temple in Jerusalem, so the Samaritans built their own temple in their capital city of Shechem – which widened the gap between these two groups even more. . .
And that’s what gives the use of a Samaritan in perhaps one of the greatest stories ever told by Jesus – such force.
This Samaritan made good – because he was able to rise above the bigotry and prejudices of centuries and showed mercy and compassion for an injured man – after his own countrymen –
a priest and a Levite – pass him by – this was shocking news to those who originally heard the story
Remember when your preacher-man told you a couple of weeks ago that St. Luke’s Gospel is written for the underdogs of this world?? Those who are always finding themselves at the bottom of the pile, who never seem to get a break, and who always fall behind in some way?
Well, this “Good” Samaritan is a case in point – Jesus elevates this lowly one, and sets as his code of conduct the embracing of all, and the forsaking of no one – AND YOU – YOU— ARE TO GO AND DO LIKEWISE – but I am getting ahead of myself!
I’m here to confront you quite bluntly with the inconvenient truth of this story: ARE YOU CAPABLE OF BEING A GOOD SAMARITAN?? Before you answer the question, let’s consider a few things. . .
How often do you see people in need – and pass by on the other side?
Do you heed Christ’s calling to serve others, when you encounter soul after soul, day after day, everywhere you go. . . or do you pass up the opportunities way too often?
Do you selfishly justify your own agenda? Being so rushed and so distracted. Or worse, do you deem the needy unworthy of your time and effort?
Is your life bound in comfort and safety – and are those boundaries drawn to limit you from seeing the other side of the road, keeping you from going there?
It’s so easy to keep to ourselves, to our lives, to our people – isn’t it??? So are you uncomfortable yet? That’s the whole point of this parable – -to shake you up a bit. . . But I’m not finished yet. . .
Haven’t we all become somewhat blind to those barriers that have slowly been built – surrounding our sacred world of plenty, of selfish demands, of foregoing the dirty work with our clean hands?

The irony is we always looked on the priest and Levite with such disdain, using our punishing critical voice of “how could you just pass by and do nothing??”
But wait.
Don’t you see yourself? Even just a tiny bit of yourself – often doing the same thing???
“Love thy neighbor” doesn’t mean: Help when you have the time. Help when your heart is in the right place. Help when you have energy. Help when it’s convenient. Help when it’s someone you are comfortable with and love.

“Love thy neighbor” doesn’t mean — Help only those you agree with and understand. Help only the people you deem lovable and worthy of help. Help only those who believe the same things you believe.
NO, it means so much more. . .
LOVE: Sacrificially. Selflessly. Enduringly. Unconditionally. Generously. Compassionately. These are words that describe Christian ministry. . .
Our neighbor, as in love they neighbor — is broadly defined, not narrowly construed.
Now in reality — we don’t know what the priest and Levite had in their minds or on their hearts — when they chose to ignore the wounded man. . . Perhaps they did not want to get their holy hands dirty, or their sacred lives messy.
It could be that they were so distracted with their own pious mission, they simply did not think to look up so did not even see the man.
Or even worse? They may have believed someone so broken and beaten down was surely not worthy of their precious time and attention. . .
Were their deceiving beliefs keeping them from serving their Lord, hidden in the person of their neighbor? Oh, this fundamental hypocrisy lays the groundwork for so many people. . .

Whatever the reasons, no matter their intentions, two prestigious and religious people failed in God’s greatest purpose for our lives. God calls us all — to care for his children: There are no boundaries, no rules, nor qualifiers that limits this command: go, and do likewise. . .
And the one man, who was hated among the Jews. . . did what was right. A Samaritan. A Good Samaritan. He cared for a broken and beaten human being who was in desperate need of help.
What is so great about this story, I think, is that God chose a Samaritan – one of my people –
to exemplify doing the work of building the kingdom of God. A task many thought all Samaritans were incapable of doing. . .
Someone whom people despised back in that day.
Christ honors HIS heart, HIS choice, HIS service – and condemns the others for neglecting what is most important to the Lord – caring for his children – all of his children.
Oh how this truth is powerful, and the message is clear. May we all stop our busy distracted lives to lift the wounded, tend to the weak, love the unlovable, and serve those in need.
NO MATTER WHO THEY ARE, no matter how ugly the situation, or how broken and beaten down they appear.
Jesus is calling all of us to get our holy hands dirty and our sacred lives messy. We need to feel this call of the Lord deep within us, so we can open our eyes to see the broken and the wounded, the weak and the lost. We need to stretch out of our comfortable places, and remove our fears, our judgements, and our daily distractions —- AND CROSS THE ROAD!
So, my good friends of St. Patrick, take it from Sam the Samaritan – open your eyes and your hearts, open your holy hands, and your sacred lives —
For Christ is calling you to cross the road –
Because one thing is for sure – there is plenty of work to be done there.
So just to end on a lighter note. . .

Why did the Christian cross the road?? Because there was a person in the ditch on the other side. . . and they were going to help. . .

14th Sunday of Ordinary Time: 6/7 July 2019

Sister Melannie Svoboda, a school sister of Notre Dame, tells the following story in her book, Rummaging for God – a rather appropriate title as many of you will be rummaging at our garage sale this week. . . Anyway – Sister Melannie writes:

Beth and Cora, twin girls were born twelve weeks early. As was standard hospital practice at the time – the little girls were place in separate incubators in the PICU: the pediatric intensive care unit.
Cora, the larger twin at two pounds three ounces, quickly began to gain weight.
But little Beth, weighing only two pounds, had breathing and heart problems. Two weeks after birth, Beth’s condition became critical.
The doctors and nurses did everything they could to stabilize Beth. They suctioned her airway, and increased her flow of oxygen. But Beth just squirmed restlessly and her heartbeat soared.
It was then that one of the nurses remembered reading about a procedure common in parts of Europe – that called for putting newborn twins in the same incubator.
The nurse secured the permission of the twins’ parents to try the procedure.
She placed little Beth alongside her sister Cora.
No sooner had she closed the door to the incubator than Beth snuggled up to Cora. Immediately she calmed down. Within minutes her blood-oxygen level was the best it had been since her birth. Within days, Beth was gaining weight. Eventually both babies were healthy and strong enough to go home. Today, more and more hospitals are adopting the practice of the double-bedding of premature twins. . .

In the Gospel, Jesus appoints 72 people to carry the Good News of the Gospel to every town and place he intended to visit – and he sends them out not alone — but in pairs: two by two he sends them. . .
I want to strongly suggest that Jesus knew we draw great strength and support from those
with whom we share a common journey. . .
And I think that’s why the Church, in its wisdom, requires us to have godparents at Baptism, a sponsor for Confirmation, why a couple wanting to get married in the Church is sent to a lead couple as part of their preparation and why newly ordained priests spend a year or two in a parish with a seasoned pastor – because the Church also knows we draw great strength and support from those with whom we share a common journey.
During these Sundays of Ordinary Time – as we journey with Jesus to Jerusalem— making his mission our mission: bringing glad tidings to the poor, proclaiming liberty to captives, recovery of sight to the blind and allowing the oppressed to go free:
We have to stay focused on Jesus – and not on the things of the world —– and we have to remember that we do not journey alone – in fact, we cannot journey alone – we need the care and support of one another.
Perhaps that is just another way of reminding us that because we are created in the image and likeness of the God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – we long to be in love, to be in relationship, and to be in community. We are who we are because God is – who God is. . .
So let’s be ever thankful for our families – who more than likely first gave us the gift of faith — be thankful for this community of St. Patrick that surrounds us Sunday after Sunday and with whom we get to worship — and be thankful for those special people — spouses, friends, pastors, religious and relatives, godparents and sponsors — who God has sent to be our traveling companions in faith —- as we journey to Jerusalem together.

June 30th

Way back on January 27th, on the third Sunday of Ordinary Time – we heard these words from the beginning of St. Luke’s Gospel:
In the synagogue at Nazareth, where he had grown up, Jesus unrolled the scroll and found the passage of Isaiah where it was written:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. God has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.
And Jesus said to them: “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”
With these words, Jesus told those in Nazareth, and he tells us – what his life is all about – what his mission statement is. . .
I thought it would be a good idea to revisit those words and that mission – because, in case you haven’t noticed – we are back to green – Easter and other feast days are over and done with — and now we begin our looooong stretch of Ordinary Time.
Beginning today, the 13th Sunday of Ordinary Time, we will begin a methodical count of Sundays all the way up to the 33rd Sunday of Ordinary time on November 17 – and then celebrate the Feast of Christ the King –

and then begin a new liturgical year with the season of Advent – at which point we will probably be complaining about the cold and frigid weather. . .
In most years, our methodical count is interrupted by a feast day or two falling on a Sunday: the Transfiguration here, the Assumption there, and perhaps the feast of All Saints or All Souls, the Birth of John the Baptist or the feast of Saints Peter and Paul — but not this year. Our counting is a straight shot – which means our reading of St. Luke’s Gospel is uninterrupted: from now until late November, wherever we leave off reading the Gospel on one Sunday – we will usually pick right back up reading the next Sunday—
which will give us the clearest picture possible of that mission of Jesus – which needs to become our mission:
Bringing glad tidings to the poor, proclaiming liberty to captives, recovery of sight to the blind, and allowing the oppressed to go free.
St. Luke’s Gospel is written for the underdogs of this world – those who always find themselves at the bottom of the pile, who never seem to get a break, and who always fall behind in some way.
In the coming weeks as we read some interesting parables unique to St. Luke – like the farmer who feels the need to build bigger barns, guests who attend banquets, a woman who loses a coin —
And as we meet some interesting people: like a “Good” Samaritan, a rich man and Lazarus in the afterlife, a Pharisee and tax collector praying, 10 lepers who are cured, the tree climbing Zacchaeus, and a good thief who hangs on the cross next to Jesus —- who knows — we may just find out that we are among the poor, the captive, the blind and the oppressed – who desperately need to hear the liberating message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Over the next 20 weeks – we may have a guest speaker or two, hear a good story or two, have some laughs or shed some tears —
all as we do as Jesus does today – be resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem —
and we know as well as Jesus does what awaits us there: the cross —- from which our glorious king will eventually reign.
If we are going to be successful on our journey, and most especially if we are going to be successful in our mission of proclaiming the Gospel —we have to do two things — keep our eyes, minds, and hearts focused on Jesus — and know that we do not journey alone – in fact we cannot journey alone – we need the care and support of one another —- and we will have a story about that just next week.

The color for Ordinary Time is green — and out of curiosity – I googled “the meaning of the color green” and this is what I found:
GREEN is the color of life, renewal, nature, and energy. Green is associated with meanings of growth, harmony, freshness, safety, fertility and the environment. All life-giving and Gospel oriented things and themes. . .
Now listen to this contrast: GREEN is also traditionally associated with money, finances, banking, ambition, greed, and jealousy. Not quite as life-giving and certainly world oriented things and themes.
What are we going to keep our focus on? The world and its values, or the gospel?
The world promises acceptance.
The gospel promises the cross.
The world offers flesh and flash.
The gospel offers faith.
The world says: follow everyone else and fit in.
The gospel says: follow Jesus and stand out.
The world promises to please.
The gospel promises to save.
God doesn’t want to hear our excuses – like the ones Jesus had to listen to in the Gospel –
Let me go first and bury my father — let me first go and say farewell to my family at home – our excuses might include we are too busy, we don’t have the time or the energy, we have better things to do . . .
No, God doesn’t want our excuses – God just wants a commitment from us and asks which is it going to be — the world or the Gospel??

Let’s end with a prayer from the Letter to the Hebrews:

Let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us— and persevere in running the race that lies before us — while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith. For the sake of the joy that lay before him, he endured the cross and has taken his seat at the right hand of God.
May we not grow weary or lose heart as we strive to follow after Jesus. AMEN! (12:1-3)

5 Ordinary: February 9/10, 2019

So last Sunday – I invited you to think forward a few months – to mid-July, when we have the Parable of the Good Samaritan.

          This week, I want you to think back a couple of months  – all the way back to the 4th Sunday of Advent — December 22-23. . .

          Yes, our anticipation was running high – as Christmas was just a couple of days away – and there was still so much we had to get done…..

          And that’s a disadvantage of Advent – sometimes we are so focused on Christmas that we forget Advent is a season of watching and waiting – of preparing ourselves – more than our houses – for the coming of the Messiah.

          But on that 4th Sunday of Advent – we had a guest speaker:  the prophet Micah.  Who, among other things, reminded us that sometimes when it comes to our encountering and experiencing God – we have thoughts and feelings of being unworthy.

          Yes, the thought that when it comes to opening oneself to the great free gift of God’s love – we should be passed over – because somehow we don’t deserve such a gift.

          Peter, who we will come to know as Mr. walk-on-water and in our Catholic tradition as the 1st Pope  — is certainly caught up in this way of thinking and feeling:  “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful person.”

          But Jesus counters Peter’s thinking — and all who may be lead to believe such things (which just might include you and me) by saying:  “Do not be afraid, from now on you will be catching men and women.”

          You see God, and remember Jesus is God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God —

God has a long track record of picking the most unlikely of people and allowing them to do great things. . .

          Abraham was old.

          Elijah was suicidal.

          Joseph was abused.

          Job went bankrupt.

          Moses had  a speech problem.

          Gideon was afraid.

          Samson was a womanizer.

          Rahab was a prostitute.

          Noah was a drunk.

          Jeremiah was young.

          Jacob was a cheater.

          David was a murderer.

          Jonah ran from God.

          Naomi was a widow.

And as we know, Peter, the one who walked on water and became the 1st Pope:  denied Jesus three times.

          Martha worried about everything.

          Zacchaeus was small and money hungry.

          The disciples feel asleep while praying.

          And Paul – a Pharisee, persecuted Christians before becoming one.

          If you ever feel like you aren’t worthy enough to hear Jesus’ call of “come follow me” – then remember that God has a long track record of picking the most unlikely of people and allowing  them to do great things.

          God uses flawed people (which more than likely includes you and me) to share HOPE to a broken world.  In Christ we find renewal and mending.  Jesus did not call the equipped, he equipped the called. 

And no matter what you’ve been through in life – remember that the same power that conquered the grave — lives within you.

          Remember – apart from God’s grace – we are just splendid sinners, lovable losers, miserable misfits and fantastic failures.  But with God’s grace working through us ——-each of us can succeed at being everything God intends us to be:  for all things are possible with God.  So we have no excuses to heed Jesus’ call:  come follow me!