31 Ordinary: Nov. 3/4, 2018

So this is somewhat of a typical morning in my house. . .

The alarm goes off:  do I get up or hit the snooze for a few more minutes of sleep?

Do I pray:  “Thank you, God, for another day” or “oh my God, it’s another day?”

Do I make the bed – or leave it be?

Do I feed the cat 1st, or get something to drink?

If Coffee: then macadamia nut, vanilla crème, or peppermint bark?

If tea: then mint medley, lemon ginger, or peach?

Do I eat cold cereal:  then rice crispees, golden grahams, or honey bunches of oats?

Or oatmeal: then maple and brown sugar or raisin, date, and walnut?

Do I walk outside or use the treadmill?

Do I shower then shave or shave then shower?

And then what should I wear today – and all the decisions that go with that.

Do I pray by the book or pray by the AP?

In the bedroom or in the living room?

With the cat on my lap or off my lap?

AND FINALLY?  Do I have everything  I need for the day before I leave?

So even before I leave the house – and certainly before you leave yours – a good 20-25 choices or more have been made. . . It reminds me of the old joke – yes, Fr. Healy thinks there should always be a joke:  a man prays to God:  thank you Lord, for I’m having a pretty good day.  Everything seems to be going well.  I haven’t lost my temper or gotten mad.  So please be with me – for I’m going to get out of bed now!!

All of these choices, all of these conscious and unconscious decisions about the trivial and the important – -will continue throughout the day – perhaps at even a faster pace than before we leave the house.

And all of them pale in comparison to the overall decision that should guide our lives as a Christian every time we do step out the door:  Are we going to love God with all our hearts, souls, minds and strength  – or are we just going to stick our toe in the water instead of diving in – do and say enough to make ourselves feel good – rather than trying our best to honor God but what we say and do??

And are we going to love our neighbor as ourselves:  or choose instead to be selfish, rude, and obnoxious to those around us??

These are definitely choices we make (for as Deacon Jim reminded us last) for we do have free will . . .  So what’s our choice going to be??

Are we going to hear the words of Jesus – and nobody says they are easy ones to hear – they are challenging as all get-out – are we going to hear Jesus’ and walk away – as the rich young man did several weeks ago —– or are we going to be like Bartimaeus – knowing that we need help with being the people God calls us to be – and cry out:  Son of David, have pity on us???

Yes, coming to Mass recharges our batteries – gives us the strength, the courage, and grace we need to be faithful to our calling.

And if we really take what happens here to heart: and not just go through the motions — if we truly believe that God loves us,

and everything we have is a gift from God — then life takes on a whole new meaning:  and so every time we do walk out the door, everyone should know we are the presence of Christ to them—by the way we talk, the way we act, the values we hold and live by, the use of our talents, how we spend our time, and spend our money — all indicators of the joy we have in our hearts because we have been touched by the Amazing Grace of God.  People will know we are disciples of Jesus Christ – for we have been transformed by the incredible good news of the Gospel.

 

As Moses told his people – so I tell my people, my parishioners, the souls I am entrusted to care for:  “Take to heart these words which I enjoin on you today.”

Nov. 2, 2018: All Souls

Several Sundays ago – I talked about how we all have fears – and my fears are not going to be your fears.  Two things most all people fear – is dying, and public speaking. . .

Another one of those common fears that people have is the fear of losing something or someone – and/ or the fear of being lost.

Children fear when they can’t see their parents – and parents hold on tight to little hands lest they lose their child in a crowd.

We check and double check to make sure we know where the house keys or the car keys are.

Don’t lose that credit card – or you will be in big trouble. . .

Use the GPS so you don’t get lost – or if you are like me – you don’t use the GPS until you get lost!

How significant, I think, that we describe the death of a family member or close friend or loved one as “losing” them.  “Sorry for your loss” we will say to a mourner . . .

Oh the ever present absence—

the hole in one’s heart and life once filled by the one we loved  –

the sound of the voice remembered, but heard no longer –

the quirks and habits that were so much a part of everyday life – now gone.

There is so much that IS lost when someone we love – dies. . .

On All Souls Day, which began in the 6th century as a way of honoring the deceased – comfort, compassion and hope are poured into the empty places of our hearts — through the words of Scripture:

“The souls of the just are in the hand of God.”

“Grace and mercy are with God’s holy ones, and God’s care is with his elect.”

“I fear no evil for God is at my side.”

“Hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”

And most especially:  “And this is the will of the one who sent me, that I should not lose anything of what God the Father gave me, but that Christ should raise it on the last day.”

In the Lord, nothing is lost, and no one is lost.  The precious gift of faith, the fruit of Jesus’ death and resurrection – assures us that in Christ  —

All that is good, precious, treasured and loved – remains – for all eternity.  Even for those whose ending left behind “unfinished business”, our faith knows the love of God which strengthens and purifies the good and burnishes away all that gets in the way of perfect love and communion with God.

We pray that this communion with God, and our communion with one another – may be abundant — and that through the gift of faith and in the sacramental life of the Church – we may be consoled and comforted and strengthened – until we all meet in Christ, and are with our loved ones again.

 

Nov. 1, 2018: All Saints

If you are in Coffee and Theology on Sunday morning – then you know all about the encyclical (which just means it is a long letter) that Pope Francis  wrote in March of this year called:  Gaudete et Exsultate:  Rejoice and Be Glad described as a “Call to Holiness” in today’s world.

Pope Francis says, as did the Second Vatican Council in its document on the Church, Lumen Gentium, ( The Light of the Nations)  – that all of us are called to holiness – all of us are called to be saints!  Pope Francis says that Jesus wants us to be saints, to be holy and blameless before him in love – and not to settle for a bland and mediocre existence.

On this feast of All Saints, when we celebrate the men and women who have gone before us for the last 2,000 years who are now counted among the saints of heaven (which as of October 14 now includes Pope Paul VI, Bishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador and 4 others) – I want to read to you a few paragraphs of the Pope’s message to give us all something to strive for on our road to holiness – on our journey toward sainthood.

 

 

 

 

 

Pope Francis writes (Paragraph 14-18):

To be holy does not require being a bishop, a priest, or a religious.  We are frequently tempted to think that holiness is only for those who can withdraw from ordinary affairs to spend much time in prayer.  That is not the case.

We are all called to be holy by living our lives with love and by bearing witness to the Gospel in everything we do, wherever we find ourselves.

Are you called to the consecrated life?  Be holy by living out your commitment with joy.

Are you married?  Be holy by loving and caring for your husband or wife, as Christ does for the Church.

Do you work  for a living?  Be holy by laboring with integrity and skill in the service of your brothers and sisters.

Are you a parent or grandparent?  Be holy by patiently teaching the little ones how to follow Jesus.

Are you in a position of authority?  Be holy by working for the common good and renouncing personal gain.

Let the grace of your Baptism bear fruit in a path of holiness.  Let everything be open to God; turn to God in every situation.  Do not be dismayed, for the power of the Holy Spirit enables you to do this, and holiness, in the end, is the fruit of the Holy Spirit in your life.

This holiness to which the Lord calls you will grow through small gestures.  Here is an example:  a woman goes shopping, she meets a neighbor, and they begin to speak – and the gossip starts.

But she says in her heart:  “No, I will not speak badly of anyone.”  This is a step forward in holiness.

Later, at home, one of her children wants to talk to her about his hopes and dreams, and even though she is tired, she sits down and listens with patience and love.  Yet another sacrifice that brings holiness.

Later, she experiences some anxiety, but recalling the love of the Virgin Mary, she takes her rosary and prays with faith.  Yet another path of holiness.

Later still, she goes out onto the street, encounters a poor person and stops to say a kind word to him.  One more step in holiness.

In this way, led by God’s grace, we shape by many small gestures the holiness God has willed for us, not as men and women sufficient unto ourselves but rather as “good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”  Our lives can demonstrate God’s power at work in us –even in the midst of human weakness.

SO:  Gaudte et Exsultate:  Rejoice and be glad – for as Pope Francis said many years ago:  “You have never heard of a sad or gloomy faced saint.  That would be a contradiction.”  (Dec. 14, 2014)

Rejoice and be glad.  Become holy.  Become a saint.  So all of us, together, can be a great cloud of witnesses – and be Lumen Gentium:  a light to the nations. . .

28 Ordinary: October 13/14, 2018

We all have fears – and my fears are probably not your fears.  I have a fear of spiders and snakes and heights.  You might have a fear of flying or doctors or dogs. . .  For almost anything we can name – elevators, bridges, enclosed spaces, darkness and dampness  – someone, somewhere, is afraid of it.

And when people are asked about their fears – certain ones are almost always at the top of the list – including death and public speaking – which usually is ranked higher than death, which is really quite interesting when you think about it.

Oh yes, there is another fear that usually makes it into the top five — the dreaded:  fear of commitment!

We tend to joke about this last one – but for some people – it is a real problem. . .  Some people have a hard time taking out a mortgage – worried about owing someone else for so many years.

Some are afraid to pursue academic degrees beyond high school – worried that they won’t finish and will have wasted a great deal of money.

Some people might be interested in military service – but NOT if it means signing up for more years than they would like.

And of course the big commitment fear – the fear of relationships!  Some people just get cold feet and push others away once they start to get too close.  >>

I guess you could say that many people often want to maintain their freedom and don’t want to get tied down to anything or anyone.  They want to do what they want – when they want!

SO — What about our commitment to God??

And the truth is – even though people sometimes fear certain kinds of commitments – others they willingly embrace.

Some people would never think of missing an episode of their favorite television show.

Some people golf on the same day of the week, with the same people – and would never think of skipping a round.

Some have the latest phone the day it comes out – even if their current phone works just fine.

Some people place their children’s sports ahead of absolutely everything else – including Mass.

Some have never missed a single day of jogging or working out in years – or never have a problem working out conflicts when it comes to watching a particular team play on ESPN. . .

Yes, some people may have a fear of certain commitments — but not all commitments.

SO –What about our commitment to God??

That seems to be what Jesus is trying to get his listeners to consider in the conversation he has with the rich man in today’s Gospel. >>

We know the story well.   A man wants to know what he needs to do to inherit eternal life.

He is obviously a good guy.  He follows the commandments –and Jesus has no beefs with him.  But Jesus does challenge him –and anyone within earshot – which means you and me —- and Jesus looks at him lovingly – a detail that should not be overlooked – and tells him he is only lacking one thing:

“Go sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven. . .”

There goes Jesus again!  Just when we are getting comfortable.  Just when we’re feeling pretty good about our relationship with him.  >>

Just when we are thinking we are obviously pretty good guys – or gals —— he shakes things up – rattles our conscience – makes us wonder if we can even call ourselves a disciple. . .

SO — What about our commitment to God?  Are we just dipping our toes in the water – while Jesus wants us to dive in?

We sometimes forget that Jesus’ message is NOT an easy one.  We try our best to “tame it” – or water it down – try to make it into something that won’t require much effort. .  .  And yet would our God have chosen to become one of us, walk our journey, and ultimately die for us — simply to teach us how to be NICE??

Jesus’ life was a radical one – demonstrating a radical amount of compassion, a radical amount of mercy, a radical amount of forgiveness and generosity, and gentleness and love.  Nothing about Jesus was “watered down.”  His life was over-flowing in everything we believe God is – and everything God calls us to be!

SO — What about our commitment to God?  Are we afraid to be fully committed to Jesus – out of fear that it will just cost too much?

The hardest thing to wrap our minds and hearts around, I think, is that we tend to think following God’s will is going to be restricting for us – that it will hold us back – that it will take away our freedom.

Yet, in faith, we are taught the opposite is true.  God’s way is always the best way.  God’s way will always bring us a fullness of life in ways we can’t even imagine on our own.

God’s way is pure freedom – a life free from anything and everything that makes us less than who God created us to be.

Our way – our own selfishness – is actually what leads to spiritual bondage – leads us to the chains of a self-centered life, leads to the slavery of sin.

God’s way – leads to something meaningful and life-giving – something worth giving up everything in order to have.

Like the rich young man – God looks lovingly at us – and wants so much more for us than we usually end up settling on in life.  May our commitment to God be something we never fear – but something we readily embrace, each and every day.  And may no other commitment ever take a priority in our lives.

BE NOT AFRAID!

27th Ordinary: October 6/7, 2018

“Amen I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.”

Let’s face it, Jesus says some strange things at times – doesn’t he??  I’m sure more than a few of his followers were puzzled by this particular statement.

First of all  — did any of them really know what he meant by the “kingdom of God??”

And then certainly the part about a child entering the kingdom would have been a bit challenging for them. . .

Aren’t the ones who always do the right thing – those who are pleasing to God — worthy of God’s kingdom?

Aren’t those who know the Jewish law inside and out – or canon law in our days – the ones who should find favor with God?

How about those who pray the most or sacrifice the most in their day in and day out lives – should not they be at the top of God’s list??

How can a child somehow be more faithful or more connected to God or living a holier life than men and women who know more and do more and pray more???

What exactly was Jesus trying to say??

 

 

As you probably know – Jesus talked about the “kingdom” a lot.  Sometimes he said the kingdom of God and sometimes it was the kingdom of heaven – whatever the kingdom was –it clearly was pretty important to Jesus – and clearly needs to be important to his followers so they can understand what it is all about so they can get there successfully.

And there is NOT really one simple, short answer – as to what the kingdom really means.  It doesn’t have such a narrow meaning that it can be tied down so easily. . .

In one sense – we, the Christian community two thousand years later – have sort of tilted the focus of the kingdom — toward the afterlife –

that after our earthly lives have ended, we hope to live forever with God in the eternal kingdom of heaven.

And why this is certainly NOT WRONG – Jesus seems to use the word kingdom to describe something NOT in the future – but in the present.  A reality that can be embraced and entered into and made present in every time and place.

In other words, God’s kingdom is NOT something we have to wait for.  It is right here in our midst – should we choose to step into it, and begin living in it – by thinking a certain way, and seeing a certain way, and acting a certain way.

And so Jesus seems to be telling his followers that there is this wonderful thing called the KINGDOM that he wants us to embrace and share in – a kingdom which can only be experienced when our hearts become like that of a little child.

So what do young children have that adults often lack?

Children have an ability to TRUST.  Do we trust God?  Do we trust in the inherent goodness of others.  Or is our first tendency to distrust – and only change our minds after it is proven otherwise??

 

 

Children have an ability to be HOPEFUL.  Do we do the same?  Do we truly believe that tomorrow can be better than today —  that the world can be better – that we can be better??  Or do we remain cynical and negative?

Children have an ability to LIVE IN THE PRESENT – disinterested in the past and hardly ever worrying about the future. . . Whatever kid happens to be standing in front of them –is their new best friend, and has all of their attention.  Do we go through life clinging to grudges and past hurts?  Do we continually play our regrets over and over and over in our minds?  Do we plan our lives to the smallest detail and are crushed when things don’t go our way?  Do we spend our time absolutely dreading the future? >>

Or do we just try to make today the best day it can be – a day in which we are kind and thoughtful and generous in whatever situations come our way?

Children are often completely AMAZED AT THE WORLD AROUND THEM—filled with a deep sense of wonder and curious about just about everything.  Do we no longer find beauty and wonder in our world?  Do we fail to see the hand of God in people and situations?  Do we fail to find anything special in the day-to-day “ordinariness” of life?  Do we consider our world a “good” place or a “bad” place – something worth treasuring or simply something to criticize and look down on?

Children are completely DEPENDENT ON OTHERS for nearly everything.

Do we try to go it alone?  Are we convinced that we are in charge, that we are calling the shots, and that we can’t count on anyone, including God, to help us out?  Do we see needing others as a weakness?

Children have FEW BOUNDARIES.

Do we keep people at a distance?  Do we put up walls rather than tear them down?  Or as Pope Francis would say – do we build walls or bridges – between ourselves and others?  Are we reconcilers or dividers:  stepping stones or millstones?  Do we build up the body of Christ or tear it down?

This isn’t an exhaustive list, of course.  But it does show that many of the very best things about children often get discarded as we move into adulthood.  And some of these qualities and attributes are precisely the things that help us to begin living in God’s kingdom right now – this very day – a kingdom of incredible goodness and generosity, and love – a kingdom which reflects deep truths about  what God created the world to be and knows it can be.

It just takes the heart of a child.  May each of us strive to reclaim the very best in ourselves that might have gotten lost along the way.                            Whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it. . .