Assumption of Mary: Aug. 15, 2019

Several weeks ago I was in southern Indiana, a place I still call home, although I have lived in Kansas City for almost 30 years — to help my two sisters begin the process of cleaning out my mother’s house. My mom, you may remember, died in April of 2018.
After two days, 6 trips to Goodwill, and 2 trips to the landfill — we had touched just the tip of the ice berg. . . it was a slow, arduous, process.
One of the things that slowed us down was – as we all worked in a different room – we would come across mostly pictures, but also other items, that would remind us of a funny story, or a big event, or some memory – that we of course had to share.
That’s the power of pictures – they invoke memories – -hopefully mostly of good times – but perhaps some bad times as well. They allow us to connect to the past and relive, if only for a few moments: family, friends, and fun times.
Today – we are given some scriptural pictures of Mary. None of these scriptures speak directly about the belief we celebrate: that at the end of her earthly life: Mary was taken, body and soul, into heaven – because there is no explicit scriptural basis for the Assumption. But the readings do lead us into a deeper understanding of Mary and a deeper appreciation for who she was. They allow us to linger, if only for a moment, in the presence of this special woman.
The reading from Revelation gives us a picture of a pregnant woman in the splendor of the universe: amid the moon, the sun, and the stars.
But then another sign appears – a dragon waiting to devour the child yet to be born.
In this symbolic depiction – the woman gives birth to the son – who is then caught up with God.
This is a picture of dazzling colors and awesome activity – of greatness – of power – and of might.

Next to this we have a picture coming from the Gospel. . .

This is a picture of a peasant girl – also with child – traveling to see an older relative who is also pregnant. This picture is relatively uneventful and almost sweet in its simplicity. It’s a great contrast to the power and might of the picture from revelation.

Someone who did not have a clue – might wonder why we think these two pictures actually go together. Only one who was a family member would realize that both women are important – because of the child. Which becomes clear in the reading from Paul to the Corinthians.

The risen Christ is the focus of this scriptural picture, just as the child is the focal point of both the other pictures: “Christ has been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.”

So how do these scriptural pictures lead us to a deeper understanding of Mary?

They allow us to affirm of Mary what we always affirm of her on feast days that honor her:

That we celebrate Mary’s assumption ONLY because we venerate the body that gave birth to Christ. The peasant girl from Galilee is made queen of heaven – because she gave birth to the anointed one of God.
And since we don’t claim of Mary anything that we don’t also claim for ourselves — the Assumption is also a celebration for us.
For we, too, are called to give birth to Christ – not by wailing aloud in the pains of labor – but to give birth to his kingdom by crying out for justice.

Not by cradling in our arms the new born Christ or dead body of Christ fresh off the cross – but by extending our arms in welcome to the poor and needy, the broken and forgotten – in whom we recognize the face of Christ.
Not my swaddling the newborn Son of God in the clothes of infants – but clothing ourselves in heartfelt mercy, compassion, and understanding – so as to be of service to those around us.

Just as in Adam all die – so, too, in Christ – shall all be brought to life. Where Mary has gone – we hope to follow.

20th Ordinary: August 17/18 2019

We had just finished celebrating the Easter season, and the feasts of the Holy Trinity and the Body and Blood of the Lord.
We were just getting back into the routine of methodically reading St. Luke’s Gospel Sunday after Sunday when, on the 13th Sunday of Ordinary time – June 30th – we heard that Jesus was “resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem.”
There, in Jerusalem, Jesus knows that he will suffer and die. He knows that from here on out, on that journey to Jerusalem, his life is going to be far from a picnic in the park.
And he wants his followers, which includes all of us, to know that if we choose to follow him, life can get a little messy for us, too.
The Catholic author Flannery O’Connor has a saying that kind of captures the spirit of this Gospel. She says: “The truth – will make you odd.” The truth, will make you odd – make you stick out, make you different, make you unlike those around you. . .
Jesus knows that what he preaches – and asks of his followers — will cause division. Not everyone is going to be willing to eat with tax collectors and those known as sinners.

Not everyone is going to want to love the unlovable – address injustice – suspend judgement of others – and forgive those who have done them wrong.
Jesus message of love of God and neighbor WILL separate family and friends. For those who follow the truth – Jesus, who is the way the truth and the life – the truth will make us odd.
Now, as then, it is often easier to ignore the truth of the Gospel. Temptations to do that can surface as simply as this:
-Just go along with it, don’t make any waves.
-Those people live half-way around the world – why should I care about them?
-Don’t bother telling him why you are angry – he’s a jerk and won’t listen anyway.
– Let them spend our tax dollars on abortions, and executions, and fighter jets – there isn’t a thing we can do about it.
-Why not gossip at the card party – we’re only talking, we’re not hurting anyone.
-Let the kids play Dead Space and Mortal Combat – it will keep them quiet and give them something to do and certainly won’t harm them – they’re just games.
-Why shouldn’t I pick on him at recess – everyone else does.
-Sure I cut corners on getting the job done – how else am I supposed to make any money?
-Don’t give her credit for getting it done — just let everyone think it was you who did it.
All of these statements reveal values that ignore the Gospel message of Jesus. And to challenge these values – would involve speaking a truth that counters the culture and demands commitment to the Gospel.
To challenge these values – means struggling to sort out the complexities we face daily – figuring out what Gospel truth requires – and then speaking and living that truth with compassion — even IF it means a division between family members and friends. . .
For you see – Jesus never intends on those divisions lasting very long. For he also says in the Gospel:
If the same person sins against you 7 times 70 times – and asks for forgiveness – you must forgive them.
And he tells us to “do good to those who hate you and bless those who curse you.”
Compassion, forgiveness, understanding, and mercy – are all Gospel values. And the work of the Gospel always invites dialogue – to reconcile differences – so as to witness to the power of God’s healing love.
May we be blessed with the courage and the faith to do this – whatever the cost. Even if it does make us a little odd.

18th Sunday of Ordinary Time: August 3 / 4

Bigger Barns
Or
Bigger Hearts?

-Fr. Matthew
Brumleve

This is a story about a parable Jesus told and about a brother and sister named Will and Jessica.
One day Jessica and Will came home from school hungry and wanted a snack. Their mother had baked a pie earlier in the week and there was just enough left for each of them to have a slice.
“Let’s have a piece of pie,” suggested Will.
“I’ll get the pie while you get us each a glass of milk,” he said to his sister.
When Will sliced the pie, it turned out that one piece was slightly larger than the other piece. . .
Jessica poured each of them a glass of milk and sat down at the table. When Will brought the two pieces of pie over from the counter, he placed the smaller piece in front of Jessica and kept the larger piece for himself.
“Wait a minute,” cried Jessica. “Look what you’ve done – you gave me the smaller slice of pie and kept the larger piece for yourself. I don’t think that’s very fair.”
“Well how would you have done it?” Will asked.
“If I were serving the pie,” said Jessica, “I would have been generous and given you the larger slice and kept the smaller one for myself.”
“Well, what are you complaining about then?” Will said. “That’s exactly what just happened – you got the smaller piece, and I got the larger piece – so thank you for your generosity!”
They both kind of looked at each other and then began to giggle . . . but most of all, they began to dig into their piece of pie!

We might think the story rather funny ourselves – but selfishness and greed and being generous and sharing – are all very serious topics. . . Every day, we see people who not only want the biggest slice of pie for themselves – they want it all!! And that’s what Jesus told a story about, a parable about – in today’s Gospel.

The man in Jesus’s story was very rich. He had a large, fertile farm which produced very good crops.
“What should I do?” The man asked himself. “I have such a large harvest that I don’t have room in my barns to store all of it.”
So what did the man do? You know he could have shared some of what he had with those who did not have very much. . . but is that what he did??
No, instead he said, “I will just build bigger barns so I can keep everything for myself.” Then he kicked back, thinking he had plenty of everything. He ate, drank, and was merry. . .
And much like the Grinch who tried to steal Christmas many years ago – the man’s heart shrunk in size. . .

And God had other plans, for this man with the small heart: God said to the rich man, “You fool! You will die this very night – -then who is going to get everything??”
God is certainly good and has given most of us — more than we need.
The question is: what will we do with what God has given us?

Will we share it with those who don’t have as much as we do – allowing our hearts to grow in size — or will we greedily keep it for ourselves – so that our hearts shrivel up to the size of a peanut?
Remember the warning that Jesus gave to the listeners of his story: “Watch out! Be on you guard against all kinds of greed.”

So are we going to just have bigger barns in our lives – or are we going to have bigger hearts: hearts that grow and expand – because of our generosity??
Generosity may well be the most natural outward sign of an inner attitude of compassion and loving kindness.

And, as the rich man in Jesus’ story shows us – we cannot do an act of kindness too soon – because we never know when it will be too late. . .

And so we pray: Loving God, you have blessed most of us with more than we need. Help us to be generous and to share with those who may not have as much. This we ask through Christ our Lord. AMEN!

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.