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!

4th Ordinary, Feb. 2/3

Last week, we heard in the Gospel of Luke how Jesus travelled back home to Nazareth – where he went into the synagogue – when he opened the holy scroll of Scripture and read from the prophet Isaiah:

          “The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tiding to the poor.  To proclaim liberty to captives, recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.”

                    St. Luke’s Gospel is known as the “Gospel of Mercy”.  Now while each of the other Gospels:  Matthew, Mark and John – do show the mercy of God at work through Jesus – St. Luke emphasizes this aspect of Jesus’ ministry in a profound fashion.

           It was thought that Luke was a doctor, a physician  – so Luke was accustomed to the sufferings of humanity – and so he draws from his own experiences, highlighting the Lord as a kind of “divine physician” and stressed Jesus’ tenderness, concern, and kindness.

          This mercy of Jesus culminates in Luke’s Gospel as Jesus hangs on the cross and says of his executors:  “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”  And to one of the thieves hanging with him:  “Today, you will be with me in paradise.”  Both unique sayings to Luke’s Gospel – because for St. Luke – no one is outside of the possibility of salvation offered by Jesus!

          How one understands the role of Jesus as the Christ shapes one’s understanding of discipleship.  Jesus is the model to be imitated.  Jesus is empowered by the Spirit, he is compassionate toward the poor and the oppressed, he heals and forgives, he prays, and he dies a model martyr’s death.

          And as disciples — we are called with an unconditional, absolute, person-centered call:  “Follow me.”

                    And there are two responses we can have – both found in today’s Gospel reading: 

          Either we “speak highly of Jesus and are amazed at the gracious words that come from his mouth” and we are moved to action to build the kingdom of God in our midst.

OR   we are filled with fury and want to drive Jesus out of town – or at least – out of our lives – and choose not to imitate the divine physician in our words and actions.

          There is a story we will hear in Luke’s Gospel – that we hear ONLY in Luke’s Gospel – which I think is one of the pivotal stories which puts all of this into perspective. . . 

Now we don’t hear this story until the middle of the summer –  July 14th — during our long stretch of Ordinary Time – and yet we are all so familiar with it — The story of the Good Samaritan.

          Let’s save ourselves some time — unless we are willing to commit to being the one, the Samaritan – who stops and helps his brother in need — instead of being like the priest and the Levite – who pass him by

–unless we are going to commit ourselves to building the kingdom by seeking out the lost and brokenhearted, those seeking to be healed or hungering for forgiveness       —then why sit here week after week – listening to the Gospel read to us???

          Accept – in doing that – maybe our hearts will eventually  be softened to accept that unconditional, absolute, and person-centered call:  COME FOLLOW ME!

3rd Ordinary: January 26-27, 2019

Deacons Jim Koger and Mike Lewis preached:  so no homily to post.  Fr. Matthew made the following remarks after Communion to mark Catholic School Week:

In what I consider an under-rated, and under-

used document of Vatican II – The Declaration on

Christian Education – dated October 28, 1965, we

read:

“Parents are, in fact, the first and foremost educators of their children within a family atmosphere animated with love – providing a well-rounded formation.

The family can be called the first school of those social virtues that every society needs.

The Christian family is enriched by the grace of the sacrament of marriage and is the place where children are first taught to know and love God and to know and love their neighbor.

Here they come to understand human companionship, here they are introduced to civic life and here they are initiated into the parish community.”

And I want to say:   WOW – you parents, and grandparents, have a huge role to play in your children’s lives.  And that is why, if you remember, you were given a special blessing at the end of your child’s baptism – because they church realizes how awesome, and difficult, your role is.

And that is why this Church document continues:  “And while the family is basic, it also needs the help of the wider community and society which oversees the work of parents and provides assistance to them.

And while the family and society have these roles, the Church, too, has a role in helping provide the kind of education through which all know Christ and develop their full humanness.”

So parents, and grandparents – you do have an awesome and difficult and important role to play in the lives of your children.  And our parish of St. Patrick is here to help you:

1st – in providing good and meaningful liturgies Sunday after Sunday – that helps shape all of us – adults and children – more and more into the image and likeness of Christ.

2nd – in providing our Children’s Faith Formation on Sunday mornings – that nurtures and develops your child’s sense of faith.

And 3rd – in providing a Catholic School, where every day, your child is challenged, inspired, and empowered in their faith — so they can serve.

As we celebrate Catholic Schools week – may we all realize the important task we all have in passing the faith on from one generation to the next.

May we appreciate the distinct roles all of us have in the task of education and formation.

Let us be thankful for those who give of their time, talent and treasure to support our parish’s role in these endeavors.

And may we be ever thankful for those who dedicate their lives to this ministry in the Church, and in particular – within our parish.

 

St. Patrick:  pray for us – and as our school children add every morning:  BECAUSE WE NEED IT!

Baptism of the Lord: Jan. 12/13, 2019

It was bedtime for six-year old Maria.  Her dad was at the computer, finishing up a report due at work the next day.

After a few minutes, he realized Maria was standing next to him.  “Honey, what do you need?”  He asked.  “Daddy is kind of busy.”

“It’s bedtime, Daddy.  I came to say goodnight.”

Still keeping one eye on his work, he gave Maria a hug and a kiss.

“Good night, sweet pea.  Sleep tight.  I love you.  Now off to bed,” Dad said, quickly returning to his report.

Again, after a few minutes, he realized Maria was still standing next to him.  “Honey, I gave you a hug and kiss.  What do you want now?”

Little Maria said, “Yes, Daddy.  You did give me a hug and kiss.  But you really weren’t into it.  How about doing it again, but this time give me your full attention.”

If we claim to be among Jesus’ followers, then Jesus demands that we be “into it” with him – that we give him our full attention – not just our passing thoughts from time to time – as we keep ourselves focused on something else.

True discipleship demands a constant awareness of God’s presence in our lives – true discipleship compels us to seek the presence of God in all things.

Today we celebrate the Baptism of Jesus – the official close to the Christmas season.  But as we celebrate Jesus’ baptism – we are called to remember our own Baptism – when three things happened to us after the life-giving waters of Baptism were poured over us:

We were anointed with the Oil of Chrism: and reminded that just as Christ was anointed priest, prophet, and king – so, too, are we. . . which in part means we strive to make ourselves, and those around us – holy.  >>

We accept the call to announce the good news of the kingdom by comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable.  And we are good stewards of all the things God has loaned to us for our time here on earth:  every quality and skill, every kind and generous impulse, every material things we possess and every holy thing that dwells in our hearts and minds.

The second thing that happened to us at the time of our Baptism – was that we were clothed in a white garment – and asked to see in it – the outward sign of the change that took place within us – our dedication to Christ – and asked to keep our Christian dignity unstained – on our journey toward the kingdom of God –

which demands a constant awareness of God’s presence in our lives – and not just our passing thoughts from time to time.

And third, we were given a candle lit from the Easter or Paschal candle – symbolizing the light of Christ – and were challenged to walk always in the light of Christ, rather than in the darkness of sin – something which, again, compels us to seek the presence of God in all things.

 

Last week we were told that the Magi were “overjoyed” at finding Jesus in Bethlehem.  May we always be “overjoyed” at being called to follow Christ as a priest, prophet, and king.

And, like the Magi, may we always “search diligently” for Christ in our lives – so that we can always walk in his wonderful light – rather than in the darkness of sin.

To do both of these things – will require that we be “into it” with Jesus – that we give him our full attention – and not just our passing thoughts from time to time – as we keep focusing on something else, rather than him.

This is certainly a new year’s resolution fit for us all. . .

Christ our Light. . .

Epiphany 2019

I’m back. . .   after four weeks of guest speakers in Advent and on Christmas, and after our deacons preached on the feast of the Holy Family – now you’re stuck with me. . . for a while. . .

So on this feast of the Epiphany we hear a great one liner:  “Then they opened their treasures. . .”

I’m sure we have all had the experience of loaning something of ours to someone else – and we know that can kind of be tricky business.  We might be a bit hesitant to loan anything that really matters a great deal to us – it might get broken or it might get lost.

But probably the reason that causes us the most anxiety – is that when we loan something to someone else — WE MIGHT NOT GET IT BACK!!

And that can be frustrating.  Sometimes people just forget.  Sometimes they turn around and loan they thing they borrowed to someone else.  Or in some cases – they just decide they like the thing so much – they keep it for themselves!

And so we mention and remind and nag repeatedly about returning whatever it is we loaned to them – sometimes even offering to come by and pick it up ourselves. . .  Sometimes that works, other times it doesn’t –

and the thing or things we lent disappear into the black hole of no return – never to be seen again.

So pay attention to this one liner:  God has loaned to us – and God wants his stuff back!!

“Then they opened their treasures.”

As we celebrate the Epiphany – we remember the incredible story of the magi from the east attempting to find the newborn king of the Jews.  This is one of the stories which can take a homilist off in many different directions – perhaps preaching about light and darkness // or the journey each of us has to take to discover the divine // or how God is alive and well and at work in hearts and minds of people outside of our group:  religious, ethnic, race, status – however we want to divide up the pie // or how we need to strive to see God in the most unlikeliest of places. . .  and all of those are valid directions to take a homily. . .

But I think sometimes we can forget the simple, obvious messages in a story – and this might be one of those times.

You see, in one sense, this story shows people simply going to great lengths and distances — to give gifts to someone they feel deserves them.  It really might not be any more complicated than that.

Of course, each of the gifts have some symbolic significance, which is another homily in itself – but we, having two thousand years of perspective – know how much Jesus really did deserve those gifts – because he is after all – God:  Emmanuel, God with us.

A so the story of the magi, in our time and place, becomes kind of a model for our own spiritual lives – a story worth imitating – a story about an encounter between God and his people – between a creator and his creation – between a spirit and those within whom that spirit dwells – a story about a Savior and those he died to save. . . And if that’s the case, and we certainly believe it is — then WHAT DOES GOD DESERVE FROM US?

Remember the one liner I told you to pay attention to:  God has loaned to us – and God wants his stuff back. . .

The most important word in that sentence is the possessive pronoun:  HIS.  You see, every good thing we have and every good thing we are able to do – every quality and skill, every kind or generous impulse, every material thing we possess and every holy thing that dwells in our hearts, minds, and souls — it all belongs to God.  Every bit of it.

And God is simply lending it to us – throughout our lifetime here on earth.  God has loaned to us – and God wants his stuff back. . .

And so will we give back to God what is his already?

You might want to think that we are sort of “off the hook” – after all it might seem impossible to return to God what is God’s.  I mean – where exactly do we drop these things off?  Where do we take them to return them?   How does God go about collecting what is his?   Where is our Bethlehem manger?

You might know the answer:  “Then they opened their treasures. . .”

My sisters and brothers – there is only ONE way to give to God what God has loaned to us.  And that is by paying these things forward to each person in need of a little kindness, a little mercy, a little understanding, a little generosity, a little love.

By sharing with others, especially with those who are not as blessed as we are — by sharing with others all the good things God has given us and done for us — we are giving back to God what was his all along.  Love of others IS love of God – they are not separate things. . .

It’s not a stretch to say that, at its core, the spiritual life is a life of good stewardship:  it’s nothing more than gifting to others what has been gifted to us.

 

And so let’s become good at – downright experts at – opening our treasures and laying them at the feet of every person who needs to experience God and experience God’s great love and mercy and generosity. . .

May the magi be an example of what and who we are called to be every single day.  In others words – let’s start giving God his stuff back!!