Dressed for Action

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year 

Readings:
Wisdom 18:6-9
Hebrews 11:1-2 8-19
Luke 12:32-48

Dressed for Action

“Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit”. This is the advice we are all given by Jesus in today’s Gospel.

Expect the Unexpected

We are told to be on the alert. Get ready for whatever is coming. The best way to deal with unexpected situations is to learn to expect them. When someone is learning how to drive, part of that learning should be to practice meeting unexpected situations. I’m talking about the what if’s of driving. What if the car in front of you should suddenly stop? How do you prepare for that? Keep your distance at all times from the vehicle in front of you. Don’t tailgate. Try to look ahead of that vehicle to see if there are any obstacles in the road, detours, etc. You don’t wait until the car ahead of you suddenly stops before you start thinking about the way to avoid an accident. Be alert. Be ready.

We are forever seeing that more preparation is  needed in order to cope with the unexpected. Right now many different countries and communities are involved with making plans. Perhaps they are one of those places that have experienced some natural disaster and want to be more prepared next time. Or maybe they are trying to make decisions about how to best keep their communities safe from human causes of evil. You and I also must be in a state of preparedness.

Planning for Life

What are some of the more common things in life that we have to be ready for? Pain, illness, death – of self, of others; birth, healing. Loss of friends; making new ones. Temptations, evil; moral decisions, opportunities for good. We need to be prepared to  handle the negative experiences that come our way, and to take advantage of the life-giving experiences that also cross our paths.

“Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit.” These words from Jesus imply that life is not just something that happens to us. Life isn’t just a burden that is thrown onto our backs.  Being prepared to meet life demands readiness.

Strengthening our faith is the central way we can prepare for life. As Christians our response to life should be one that comes from the deepest centre of ourselves–our belief in God, in Jesus, in the Spirit. It is here that we will find the resources we need to cope with life.

Detail

When we are involved in making preparations, being vague and indefinite does not do us any good. If I want to prepare for a camping trip, then I have to pay attention to detail. If I don’t I could find myself in the middle of the woods without proper food or cooking utensils, or with an air mattress that is full of little holes, or a tent that leaks. So also in our spiritual lives we need to be definite.

There is something that every religious order has been using since religious orders began. It is called a ‘rule of life’. This just means a framework within which the members of the religious order live. It always consists of certain forms of prayer usually said in common at specified times. It will outline the requirements for meditation and spiritual reading, and will also talk about the obligations to the members of the community. Many other things are also included in the rule.

A Rule of Life

For you to grow in your spiritual lives and to be ready to face life with a Christian response, you also should have a rule of life. This would be a schedule of certain spiritual practices. This can be a very great help to you. There are a lot of advantages to having a personal rule of life. It can help clarify your own self-expectations in the area of prayer and spiritual devotions. It provides you with a certain system of growing in the faith. If you don’t have such a schedule, you can go for a long time neglecting prayer and the things of the spirit. When you are faithful to a plan of life, it becomes much easier to bring your faith to all the dimensions of living.

Many of you already have the beginning of a plan.  You know that every Sunday you will gather at your parish celebration of the Eucharist. Each morning and evening you take a few moment to pray.  This should be the absolute minimum. But along with that you need to schedule in spiritual reading and, hopefully, some quiet time for your own reflection. Some of you have devotions that you may have learned from your parents that you still find useful. If you are married, part of your plan could be a yearly enrichment program for you as a couple. If you are single, a yearly retreat or workshop of some kind could be a valuable addition to your plan.

Some people have a hit and miss kind of spirituality. Maybe I’ll pray today–maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll read something good today–maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll go to Mass next Sunday–maybe I won’t. We all know that if we operated this way in our job, we would soon be out of work. Our faith life demands at least the same kind of commitment.

“Be dressed for action, and have your lamps lit”

In the evening of life, we will be judged on love alone.

ST. JOHN OF THE CROSS

Enough Land for One Man

Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year C

Readings:
Eccles. 1:2; 2:21-23
Col. 3:1-5, 9-11
Luke 22:13-21

Enough Land for One Man

Leo Tolstoy

The great Russian writer Leo Tolstoy has a short story called “Enough land for one man”. This story is about a man whose name was Pakhom. Now Pakhom was very interested in getting some land. So he went to the landowners and inquired about their price. They in turn came up with a very interesting deal for him. They told him that they sold land by the day and that for a few dollars Pakhom could have all the land that he could cover by foot in a day. The only condition was that, if by the end of the specified day he was not back where he started, he would lose his money.

Pakhom got up early in the morning and started off, trying to cover as much ground as he could in the time that he was given. As he walked across the land each new field looked even better and so he made a bigger circle than he had planned on–near the end of the day he realized that he would have to hurry if he was going to get back to his starting point and not lose his money.So he started walking faster. Finally be began to run and run, faster and faster.
Completely exhausted and barely standing up, he reached the finish line, then collapsed, dead of a heart attack. He won the land but lost his life. A bad deal.

Misuse of Things

Jesus tells us to “Take care; be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.”

We place things above God. Besides affecting our relationship with God our possessions also affect our relationships with other people. We think that we are worth more than others, not because of who we are, but because of what we own. Standing in front of our house, or sitting in our car, we can feel we are as big as the house or as powerful as the car. We think that we will be a more important person because we have more. This is one of the most common illusions of humankind.

We are all more or less affected by it from childhood. You know yourself that you tend to give more respect to people if they are better dressed or if you know that they have a lot of money. This is a very real form of personal discrimination. One person deserves our respect just as much as the next–no matter what he is wearing or how much he owns. He still has the same God as his father.

Hypnotized

This story from Tolstoy illustrates the truth of a statement of the Second Vatican Council: Many people, especially in economically advanced areas, seem to be hypnotized, as it were, by economics, so that almost their entire personal and social life is permeated with a certain economic outlook.

Imagine walking around in a state of hypnosis. When someone is hypnotized they are not aware of what they are doing. The one who has hypnotized them can ask them to do any silly thing he wants and the victim has to obey. Well in this case, money, economics, possessions–these are the hypnotizers. Many of us will do any silly thing to get more money, more stuff. If you really think about it, this is a terrifying concept. It means that we have surrendered our freedom to something less than God, something less than human. We have become possessed by our possessions.

In our second reading St. Paul tells us that greed is a form of idolatry. We sin against the first commandment by putting something created before the Creator.

Social Nature of Ownership

One way we can fight against this spirit of being possessed by our possessions is to recognize the social nature of ownership–that we own things together, and not just as individuals. Ownership means that I may dispose of my possessions freely. But a certain dependence remains. Nothing is purely and simply mine. I may use what is mine, but not abuse it. A person may not use his expensive piano by pushing it out of the top window for fun. There are other people who could make good use of it. We must not forget that we are all brothers and sisters and that sharing with others who have less is a part of what it means to be Christian.

Rich or Poor?

Greed, far from making us rich , ends up by making us poor. At the end of today’s parable, Jesus says, “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich towards God.”

As a Christian I will treasure all temporal things as gifts–welcoming them and giving thanks for them, loving them as so many riches that God has heaped upon me, while always recognizing that behind them at their source is God, and through them it is still God that I love, and never shall I love any of them more than I love God. The risk the Christian runs is not too much love for the good and beautiful things of this life, but rather the risk of too little love for God and for one another.

We pray for the grace to become rich in works of love and compassion. If we do so, then when the Lord calls us home, we will be able to take our wealth with us. We will have become truly rich in God’s sight.

The Lord’s Prayer

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year C

Readings:
Gen. 18:20-21, 23-32
Col. 2:6-14
Luke 11:1-13

The Lord’s Prayer

Prayer and Commitment

When people exchange wedding vows, get confirmed or ordained, they are making promises before the Lord and to the Lord. They are taking on major commitments. It’s always a serious matter when we do this kind of thing. And when we pray we are also making commitments, especially when we pray the Lord’s prayer.

When we talk with another person we presume that the other person will take us seriously. We would be insulted if we thought otherwise. Why go on talking to someone if they are not going to listen to you? When we pray to God, God is listening very closely to what we have to say. When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray he gave them the Lord’s prayer. That fact in itself makes this the preeminent prayer of the Christian–it has been given to us by Jesus Christ himself.

God’s Kingdom

Today I would like to reflect with you about the phrase, Your Kingdom Come.

What is the kingdom of God that we are praying will come? This question has no easy and complete answer but basically it is the rule of God. The Kingdom happens whenever and wherever the will of God is fulfilled, for God rules where God’s will is at work. The Kingdom is God present–reconciling, renewing, healing and liberating. God’s kingdom is one of love, justice, peace and freedom.

Praying this part of the Lord’s prayer implies many different things. It tells us that faith in Christ is not just an idea or an emotion. It is a concrete reality that is now here, but not here fully. God’s kingdom is one of love and justice. If you are in a march for a specific cause such as racial equality, everyone knows that by your being in that march, you are making a strong statement about where you stand on that issue. You don’t just happen to find yourself in a march and then go along for the ride, not knowing what you are marching for. Our praying that the kingdom will come implies that in our daily decisions we are doing something to make the kingdom come more and more into our world. This is our pledge to be more loving and more just.  

Consequences

If you cannot pray these words with at least some sincerity, then it is better not to pray them at all. We are held accountable for the words we speak–especially the words we speak in prayer.

What are some direct consequences of praying that God’s kingdom may come?

No Boundaries

As members of the kingdom we are citizens without boundaries. God’s kingdom cannot be enclosed by some imaginary lines that are drawn on the map of the world. Neither gender nor race can exclude one single person from God’s kingdom. We are first of all citizens of the kingdom of God, and only after that are we citizens of our own country. If we see that our country is making laws that go against the kingdom of God, we have a duty to work to change those laws, and in some cases to show our disobedience to those laws. This could require an act of courage on our part, but if we are firmly convinced that God’s law comes first, then we will have to act with the courage of our convictions.

Involved

When possible we should become directly involved in the governing of our country so that we can bring the Christian vision to decisions that affect our human community. This could mean running for office or supporting those who do so. At the very least it means exercising our right to vote. Becoming involved with volunteer groups is another way of bringing love and justice to our world. If we have been given some special talent which can be used for the sake of the kingdom, then we should do so. Each of us has to discern in his or her own way how we can help bring that kingdom more into reality.

Eucharist

Every time we gather to celebrate the Eucharist we are celebrating the Kingdom of God. Here we remember Gods work on our behalf; Gods love for all of us and for all of creation; Gods promise of forgiveness and peace. Here we exchange our sign of peace with one another, praying and hoping we can make peace through the power of Christ. Here we partake of the Eucharist, a foretaste of the heavenly banquet. Yes, it is true that just being here doesn’t make  us people of peace. But if we allow the words and signs of the Eucharistic celebration to penetrate our lives then we will be strengthened and encouraged to live in Gods kingdom.

Between-the-times

We are now living between-the-times: between the decisive inbreaking of the Kingdom in Jesus Christ and the fulfilment of the Kingdom at the Second Coming of Christ when history is brought to perfection. This should be a time of hope, but of hope that is being brought to birth by our activity on behalf of God’s will. As we strive to bring more justice, love, peace and freedom into every aspect of life, we can be assured that we are not only praying “Your Kingdom come”–we are also, together with God, making it happen.

Being Centred

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year C

July 19, 1998

Readings:
Gen. 18:1-10
Col. 1:24-28
Luke 10:38-42

Being Centred

A Cluttered Room

In the last few years we have heard a lot of talk about “being centred”. This means trying not to live a distracted life. At times our life can look like a room after someone has pulled open every drawer and opened every box in a frantic search for something. If there is anything that life suffers from today, it suffers from distraction. Our attention is constantly being taken away from the place where it should be, from the really important and central things in our life. We often give our attention to what is most immediate, even though it may really not be that important. Most of us are trying to do too much with the limited amount of time and energy that we have at our disposal. We try to cram too much of life into a space that will not hold it.

Distraction

Jesus points out to Martha that she is distracted. What does a distracted person look like? When you are with one of them you begin thinking to yourself: this person is not really here. Their body is here, but that’s all. The essence of the person is missing. Their distraction has taken them away from you–deprived you of their presence.

If you are married this can be devastating. When you no longer pay attention to your marriage partner, then your love is heading towards troubled times, if it has not already arrived there. Husbands and wives often miss the beauty to be found in each other because they allow too many things to get in the way. Before a couple gets married they are often naturally very contemplative with each other. By this I mean that they pay attention to each other. They are very much aware of the other’s moods, their thoughts and interests, their desires and dreams. Sometimes they spend a lot of time together in silence, just enjoying being in each others company. But then comes marriage with all of the responsibilities of taking care of a home, children, mortgage, loans, so on and so forth. They gradually lose their focus on each other. That can be the beginning of the end. And this does not only happen in marriage. It can also happen in friendship or in the relations between parents and children, or parents and their own parents.

Being before Doing

We have many things to do–that is true–but as the Christian philosophers have always told us–being comes before doing. What is more important is who we are, not what we are. Only when we are confident in our own identity can we be confident in our activity. A teacher or preacher may be brilliant but if their teaching is not based in their own lives then it is so much fluff, so much dust in the wind.

Contemplation

In our gospel today, Mary has discovered and chosen the better part. Jesus is not saying that we must not serve. What he is saying is that service must be grounded in our prayerful attention to himself and to all that he teaches and shows us.

The person who is centred lives out of a place inside that cannot be destroyed. Our first reading emphasizes welcoming the guest. Jesus is the guest that must be continually welcomed into our lives.

Father William McNamara says that a contemplative is not a special kind of person, but that every person is a special kind of contemplative. Contemplation can be defined as a long loving look at the real. Think about a gardener, a musician or an artist. When they are about their task then they are contemplating–they are focused, centred on what they are doing. A good listener is totally focused on what you are telling them. There’s no need to ask them: Are you listening? We all contemplate in our own particular ways. Contemplation is a very practical thing to do. It benefits our emotional health, our physical health, our relationships–actually all of life. When we pay attention to God then we end up paying attention to all of God’s people and all of God’s creation.

Our spiritual contemplation is not separated from other kinds of contemplation. They all work together. There is no artificial separation between them. If a person is truly a person of the spirit then they also pay attention to others and to creation.

Find your cell

Fr. DeMello tells this short story.
The disciple asked for a word of wisdom.
Said the Master,”Go sit within your cell and your cell will teach you wisdom.”
The disciple then said,”But I have no cell. I am no monk.”
The Master replied,”Of course you have a cell. Look within.”

Looking Within

Mary sat at Jesus’ feet. You and I are asked to do the same. But now we don’t have to go out searching for the Lord. He is within each of us. As Jesus says: Make your home in me, as I make mine in you. Prayer is not an option for the follower of Christ. It is the one thing necessary. If you have given up on prayer, today Jesus is asking you to come back to it. Carve some time and space out of your hectic lives. Go to your cell–your within–and meet the God who loves you.

Becoming A Neighbour

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year C

Readings:
Deut: 30:10-14
Col. 1:15-20
Luke 10:25-37

Becoming a Neighbour

The word ‘Neighbour’

What comes to mind when you think of the word ‘neighbour’? The dictionary commonly defines neighbour as a person who lives near another. But there is a definition, which the dictionary says is rare, that goes this way: neighbour means to bring near or into close association with. This use of the word ‘neighbour’ makes it into a verb – it gives it some activity. Rather than just seeing neighbour as the person who lives next door, it implies that to neighbour somebody is to bring that person nearer to you. I believe that this is how this very important word is used in today’s gospel.

To be a neighbour is to be a supportive kind of person. We need the help and support of others as we go through life. We need others to be neighbour to us and we in turn need to be neighbour to others. Being neighbour is not tied to personally knowing the one to whom we should be neighbour. In many of our living situations we do not know our neighbours, and to be truthful, sometimes it is better that way.

But that is not the point of today’s story. In fact the point is that you and I must become neighbours to those who are in need, no matter where the other lives; no matter whether or not we know them personally. In fact no other circumstance really matters. What does matter is only this: Is the other person in need and can I offer some help to the specific need of this other person?

A New Relationship

The man who was robbed and beaten was not known by the Samaritan. Both were strangers to each other and yet somehow both were related…in a mysterious way before they met, but most certainly after they met. They became related in a most significant and real manner. The act of helping creates the new relationship. Moving next door to another person does not make you a neighbour. Our reaching out to others makes us neighbours.

Obstacles

Why did the priest and the levite cross the road? The answer is not given to us in the story, so we can only make a guess. Perhaps there was fear, cowardice, laziness, uncertainty. Important as this question is, there is yet another question that is much more important: What prevents us from being the neighbour that Jesus asks us to be for others?

Is it fear? What will I have to lose in order to give to someone else? Is it going to cost me time which I could use doing something more pleasant? Perhaps like the good Samaritan it will even require me to give some of my money. How will I handle that decision? The Scriptures tells us that fear is the enemy of love.

Or maybe we just can’t stand the uncertainty. We’re not sure what will happen if we reach out to someone else. Will we be able to handle the demands of that new situation? Will we be able to face the failure involved if we don’t perform exactly the way we want to?

Or are we just too lazy? Maybe we’d rather spend our spare time doing as little as possible. After we finish our work day we don’t want to have to think about doing things for others. We just want to sit in front of the television and be entertained for hours on end, and then go to bed. It takes too much effort to be neighbour to others.

Mercy

Jesus asked: “Which of these three was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” The lawyer said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

Author and lecturer Leo Buscaglia once talked about a contest he was asked to judge. The purpose of the contest was to find the most caring child. The winner was a four-year-old child, whose next-door neighbour was an elderly gentleman who had recently lost his wife. Upon seeing the man cry, the little boy went into the old gentleman’s yard, climbed onto his lap and just sat there. When his mother asked him what he had said to the neighbour, the little boy said, ‘Nothing, I just helped him cry.’

This little boy saw what the older man needed; then the boy took the time to give the man the very thing that would help him.

The Ability to See

The first quality we have to cultivate in order to become a neighbour to others is the ability to see. We must be able to see others’ needs. We have to become open to discovering where the needs are. This is an active, outgoing quality.

The temptation here is to cross the street – don’t get too close – don’t look – don’t ask questions. We hear it said: What you don’t know won’t hurt you. I don’t know if this is true, but what is true is–what you don’t know will hurt others. Sometimes we like to stay in the dark. We would rather not know about the needs of others, because we might have to do something with that new knowledge. This kind of ignorance is destructive of the human community.

In our first reading today Moses tells the people that the command of God is not something that is far away from us. It is not something that we need some special powers to discover.

“No, the word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe”. And after the lawyer says that the one who proved himself a neighbour was the one who showed mercy, Jesus says: “Go, and do likewise”.

May God help us to do the same.

Ministry of Like to Like

Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year C

Readings:
Is. 66:10-14
Gal. 6:14-18
Lk. 10:1-12, 17-20

Ministry of Like to Like

What are you thinking about?

After hearing this Gospel, what are you thinking about? As you heard it read did you think of religious missionaries going off to foreign lands to spread the Word of God to those who had not yet  heard about Jesus Christ? If that is what you saw with your mind’s eye, was there anything else in the picture? Did you see yourself as carrying out the mission of the church? Perhaps today would be a good time to remind ourselves about the mission that lay people have in the church.

Puppies for Sale

Listen to this story please: A store owner was tacking a sign above his door that read “Puppies for Sale”. Soon a little boy appeared and asked the store owner, “How much are you going to sell the puppies for?” he asked.
  The store owner replied, “Anywhere from $30 to $50.”
  The little boy reached in his pocket and pulled out some change. “I have $ 2.37,” he said. “Can I please look at them?”
  The store owner smiled and whistled and out of the kennel came Lady, who ran down the aisle of his store followed by five teeny tiny balls of fur. One puppy was lagging considerably behind. Immediately the little boy singled out the lagging, limping puppy and said, “What’s wrong with that little dog?”
  The store owner explained that the veterinarian had examined the little puppy and had discovered it didn’t have a hip socket. It would always limp. It would always be lame. The little boy became excited. “That is the little puppy that I want to buy.”
  The store owner said, “No, you don’t want to buy that little dog. If you really want him, I’ll just give him to you.”
  The little boy got quite upset. He looked straight into the store owner’s eyes, pointing his finger, and said, “I don’t want you to give him to me.  That little dog is worth every bit as much as all the other dogs and I’ll pay full price. In fact, I’ll give you $2.37 now, and 50 cents a month until I have him paid off.”
  The store owner countered, “You really don’t want to buy this little dog. He is never going to be able to run and jump and play with you like the other puppies.”
  To this, the little boy reached down and rolled up his pant leg to reveal a badly twisted, crippled left leg supported by a big metal brace. He looked up at the store owner and softly replied, “Well, I don’t run so well myself, and the little puppy will need someone who understands!”

The Apostolate of Like Towards Like

In the Decree on the Apostolate of the Lay People, the Second Vatican Council talked about the apostolate of like towards like.(Par.13).  When we have a certain type of experience, whether it is one of being a certain age, or having gone through certain experiences, we then find ourselves in a unique position to help people in similar positions. This mission can be carried out by children, young people, married people, the single person, the divorced or widowed, the elderly–in other words everyone can participate in this apostolate.

Evil to be Overcome

In Jesus’ ministry and that of his church the powers of evil are attacked and overcome.  Jesus says: “I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you.” The serpent and the scorpion that we hear mentioned in today’s Gospel were not only well-known sources of physical evil in Palestinian life, but were old testament symbols of all kinds of evil. Your mission as lay people is to overcome evil wherever you find it.

And where will most of you find evil that most be overcome? First and foremost, in the places where you find yourself–work, home, leisure, holidays, clubs, sports and so on. You don’t have to look that far afield to see that many things are not as they should be. If you are in the habit of being aware of what is going on around you, it will be revealed to you that everything is not as it should be. Our little boy in the story knew that the little lame puppy was just as valuable as the puppy that looked the best and could run the fastest. He also instinctively knew that there was a danger that this little animal would not be as wanted as the other more attractive dogs in the litter. And so he did what he knew he had to do. His own experience of being crippled gave him a special awareness of others who were also in his situation.

Seeing What Is

We also are asked to practice seeing. As a young person with new ways of seeing, you may also have a unique gift to bring to those you meet everyday. It is probably very clear to you which other young people are being neglected or even shut out of a certain group. Only you have the power to do something about that kind of situation–it is not your parents or teachers that can bring the needed kindness and understanding to that  other person–it is you.  This could be your way of carrying out the mission of the Church–bringing the presence of Christ into the world in a quiet and meaningful way.

More and more, in the business place, the witness of the follower of Christ is absolutely necessary. So much of work seems to be moving towards an inhumane approach–longer hours and more demands on the worker’s time and energy. The workplace cries out for redemption. Here again, it is the lay person that will bring compassion and understanding into this important arena of life. Whatever your present state in life, look around. Listen. Watch. Ask. What needs to be done to bring the love of God into that particular situation? Jesus sent out the seventy disciples. Today he is sending you.

Single Mindedness

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year C

Readings:
1Kings 19:16b, 19-21
Gal. 5:1, 13-18
Lk. 9:51-62

Single Mindedness

Just Water

Here’s a little story for you. There once was a thirsty Moslem who came upon a well in the desert. He dropped a bucket into the well and pulled it up. It was full of silver. Emptying it, he dumped it into the well again and pulled it up full of gold. The Moslem protested: “My Lord God, I know how powerful you are and what marvels you are capable of! But all I want is a cup of water.” He emptied the bucket of gold, lowered it into the well, and retrieved it. It was full of water. He drank and quenched his thirst.

All this traveller wanted was water. It was all he really needed. He knew that he could not live without it. He didn’t need the silver or the gold. He knew that was not essential for his life. But water! He could not go on without it.

Single Minded

He was single minded. He had one thing on his mind and would not be content until he got what he needed. In spiritual terms we call that purity of heart. This means that we have one overriding goal in life – one thing that we need no matter what else we find on the path of life.

Jesus today shows his own single mindedness and gives us some very strong words about what he expects from his followers. Luke says that Jesus “set his face”–this unique expression means that Jesus’ was totally committed to fulfill God’s will despite all opposition. Discipleship as following Jesus on his way is illustrated by three proverbs.

Today’s Proverbs

The function of normal proverbs is to help people make sense out of life. In the proverbs in today’s Gospel Jesus uses exaggeration to jolt listeners out of their staid way of ordering the universe and to view existence from an entirely new angle–that of discipleship in response to the kingdom of God preached by Jesus. Jesus says that no one who puts his hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.

When Jesus talks about the plow, the modern tractor and plow are not what we should have in mind, but a very light Palestinian plow, which was guided by one hand while the other hand drove the unruly oxen. This primitive kind of plow needs dexterity and concentrated attention. If the ploughman looks around the new furrow becomes crooked. The proverb challenges our expectations of who would be fit to receive the reign of God into their lives.

This should be our goal: to have only one goal–following Christ in everything, absolutely everything–no exceptions, no exclusions, no ifs, ands, or buts–everything. This is what is called purity of heart. The Moslem in our story knew what he wanted and treated everything else as a distraction. This is what we are called to: to allow our lives to be shaped and formed by the one who creates and loves us. Can you imagine this? You must. The life of any person of greatness is carried along by one great overriding passion–our passion must be for God.

Concrete Projects

Passion for God has got to be fleshed out in concrete specific life projects. We don’t necessarily have to know all the details of what such a project would look like, but we have to be committed to carrying out God’s will for ourselves. Some people may have social justice as their life project. They have discerned that for them to follow God’s will they have to direct their energies to helping people achieve their God given rights–rights to proper living conditions and all that goes along with that.

Other may have as their life project the raising of a family. They see that following God’s will means centering their energies and time on helping their children grow up in the best possible way. Later in life they may change that project to looking after the elderly; perhaps their own parents might fall into that category.

Others may give themselves up to prayer and contemplation. Some might be called to glorify God through art or music. And the list goes on and on. But each of us must pray to know what it is that we are called to and then commit ourselves to that calling.

Perseverance

Purity of heart needs perseverance to go along with it. Just think of any person who has achieved greatness and you will discover an overriding passion for something and the perseverance to seek that goal. St. Teresa said, “Strive and strive and strive; we were meant for nothing else.” Our triumph may not consist in achieving all the results that we would like to achieve; our triumph may consist in our persevering effort.

To Speak and to Heal

Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ

Readings:
Gen. 14:18-20
1Cor. 11:23-26
Lk. 9:11b-17

To Speak and to Heal

A Special Gathering

In our Gospel today we are given the picture of a very special gathering that happened almost two thousand years ago. A great sea of people who would probably not have otherwise associated with one another, had been drawn together because of the words and works of Jesus Christ. In many respects, the makeup of that crowd and its motivation for coming together are very similar to our own gathering today. Many of us don’t see one another at any other time during the week; our varied interests, backgrounds, lifestyle and careers prevent us from meeting. But because of Jesus, all of us with all our differences, have come together today as one hungry people, in need of the nourishment only he can give.

Today’s feast of the Body and Blood of Christ is a strong reminder of the reality of Christ present under the appearance of bread and wine. It is about the mystery of the Eucharistic celebration–the celebration that we are involved in at this very moment. It is also about how when we receive the Body and Blood of Christ we are pledging ourselves to be that body for others.

Jesus Spoke and Healed

The opening lines of today’s Gospel tell us that:

“Jesus spoke to the crowds about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed to be cured.”

Jesus spoke and healed. These two words “spoke” and “healed” can very neatly sum up who we as the Body of Christ should be today. We are to be people who speak the Word of God and who bring healing to our world. It is necessary to take the abstractness out of those two words. We speak the word of God not only by direct teaching about the Scriptures but by using our lips to speak, as it were, godly words…words that give life to others; words that build up another’s spirit, that encourage; words that show others how special and loved they are; words that ask for and offer the gift of forgiveness; words that offer consolation in times of grief and praise in times of joy.

Our Silence

Sometimes our silence with each other can cause a lot of pain. We withhold our words of appreciation. We don’t offer our thanks to those who deserve it. We don’t share ourselves with those who need to know what we are going through. We don’t tell one another how much we love them–we even withhold these words from our husbands or wives, or our children. Our silence keeps us separated from others. The right words spoken at the right time can bring us so much closer to one another. They can help build up the body of Christ as perhaps nothing else can. We have an obligation to use these words–to speak out of love and care for one another.

Where are we today?

As the Body of Christ have we achieved what we are supposed to achieve? Have we become what we are called to become? The answer is both yes and no. Throughout our history as a parish there have been many moments of grace when we  as a community have been a true presence of Christ to one another and to others.

We have helped others  through our caring for the sick and those who needed a friend; through our financial sharing we have spread our love beyond the boundaries of this parish – even beyond the boundaries of our nation – we have brought the Word of God to those who were hungry for the word – we have educated our children to the Good News of Jesus at home and in a special way through our Catholic Schools – in many, many ways we have fed the hungry – both the physically and spiritually hungry.

New Needs to Address

But we must remember that we are still a living body of Christ – we have new needs to address – many of our brothers and sisters no longer join us at the Eucharistic Table – we must continually and with imagination reach out to them. We must build our own body – nourishing it with God’s Word and the Sacraments of the Church. We have to become more aware of our own wounds as a community, and be about the work of healing any brokenness that we can.

We Must Continue to Speak and Heal

We cannot leave our celebration today without considering Jesus’ challenge: Why do you not give them something to eat yourselves? We who are nourished at the table Christ so generously provides are thereby made responsible for the hungers which continue to plague our world. And these hungers are not only physical ones. People have social hungers, intellectual and spiritual hungers. How are we to help lessen some of these hungers? These are important questions that we as a community are asked to look at.

It is such a privilege to be a part of the body of Christ. You and I have a union with one another in Christ that is so deep that it is almost beyond our imagination. Jesus Christ has made us one with him–one in love, and one in mission to spread that love. As his body, may we have the grace and the courage to both  speak and heal in his holy name.

In the evening of life, we will be judged on love alone.

ST. JOHN OF THE CROSS

Understanding the Trinity

Trinity 

Understanding the Trinity

Images of the Trinity

If someone, who didn’t know much about our religion, asked you to show them what the Trinity looked like, what would you do? Would you desperately search for a shamrock, and then point out to them that the three leaves and the one stem is a great sign of what the Trinity is like? Or would you get a little more creative and use the old image of water in it’s three forms – liquid, frozen and steam. Water is still water in all of its three different forms. That surely gives them a good idea of what the Trinity looks like, doesn’t it?  

And what if they still weren’t impressed? Well maybe you could just find an ordinary family where the parents and children really cared about each other. That would be your best bet if you wanted to give your friend some idea of what the Trinity was really like.

Persons in Communion

The Catholic Catechism tells us that “The Christian family is a communion of persons, a sign and image of the communion of the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit. In the procreation and education of children it reflects the Father’s work of creation. It is called to partake of the prayer and sacrifice of Christ. Daily prayer and the reading of the Word of God strengthen it in charity. The Christian family has an evangelizing and missionary task.” (Catechism, par. 2205)

The family where love is present is a much better image of the Trinity than any inanimate object ever could be. And the same holds true for any community or friendship where genuine love can be found. We have very little intellectual understanding of the Trinity. We can’t adequately describe it or understand in any detail the relationships between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And we will never understand this profound mystery, neither here nor in the next life. But we can live this mystery even if we don’t understand it.

Living the Mystery

Whenever we genuinely love others and experience their love in return, we are living in the mystery of the Trinity. So if we want to understand the Trinity with our heads, we might as well forget that quest because it will only take us down dead end streets. However, if we want to understand the Trinity with our hearts, we should take every opportunity given to us to love others, and allow them to love us.

And so, in some way, today we are celebrating love, family, friendship and genuine community. When we experience those relationships we definitely have a deeper experience of God as Father, Son and Spirit. The man or woman who does not cultivate genuine relationships, where people care about each other, is in danger of having his or her faith weakened, and perhaps even destroyed. I realize this is a strong statement and many people would not agree with it. But the truth of life is that we are not islands; we do not thrive when we are alone for long periods of time, nor do we thrive when we continually refuse to enter into relationships of friendship, love and community. There is not much difference living on a deserted island, or living in a city where we have isolated ourselves by refusing to care for others. Marriages and friendships are gifts given to us to help us believe more strongly in a God whose real name is love.

On A Desert Island

Imagine you were going to be sent to a desert island. You have the choice of bringing only one thing with you; and that one thing is whatever you desire- there is nothing you can’t have – you have only to name it and you can bring it with you, but you can only have one thing. I’m sure that most of you would make the decision to bring a friend as your one desired choice. Yes, it would be great to have a case of your favourite foods, or any number of other things you think you can’t live without. But we all know that the one thing we can’t live without is a good friend. This is because we were made in the image of a God who is a community of persons, each loving the other. We need to be in genuine closeness with others to really be alive.

True Friendship

True friendship is one of the best possible teachers of what God is like. Many people have tried to describe what a true friend is. Everyone seems to have some kind of definition or description of a friend. Here is part of one such description. “Friends are people with whom you dare to be yourself… They ask you to put on nothing, only to be what you are… When you are with them, you feel as a prisoner feels who has been declared innocent. You do not have to be on your guard. You can say what you think, as long as it is genuinely you.

“Friends understand those contradictions in your nature that lead others to misjudge you. With them you breathe freely. You can avow your little vanities and envies and hates and vicious sparks, your meanness’ and absurdities, and in opening them up to friends, they are lost, dissolved on the white ocean of their loyalty. They understand. You do not have to be careful…They are like fire that purges to the bone. They understand. You can weep with them, sing with them, laugh with them, pray with them. Through it all-and underneath-they see, know, and love you” (C. Raymond Beran).

And, thank God, friendships can exist within any genuine relationship, whether that relationship be one of marriage, a faith community, a family, or any other gathering of people.

Today’s feast of the Holy Trinity is a great encouragement to deepen those friendships and love relationships that God has already given to us. In doing so, we will come to a heart understanding of the mystery of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

In the evening of life, we will be judged on love alone.

ST. JOHN OF THE CROSS

Birthdays

Pentecost Sunday  – Year C

Readings:

* Acts 2:1-11
* Romans 8:8-17
* Jn.14:15-16, 23b-26

Led By The Spirit

Birthdays

Today’s feast is our feast. The celebration of Pentecost is our celebration. Each one of us here has a birthday, and I hope that each year we celebrate that special day when we came forth into this world. Today we celebrate the official birth of ourselves as God’s Church, God’s family, the people of God, the Body of Christ, the Temple of the Holy Spirit. Today we are asked to remember who we are, where we have come from, and where we are going. We are gathered here today because two thousand years ago, there was another gathering; and at that gathering the Holy Spirit came and, in an extraordinary way, brought men and women together in a oneness that the world had never seen. Different languages and different cultural backgrounds no longer divided people. All heard the good news of the works of God in their own language.

Difference as a Sign of Strength

We must not allow differences of opinions and viewpoints to disturb the gratitude we should have on this occasion. In fact, the very existence of differences of opinion about how things should be done, really only point to our strength as a Church. It is only in alive and growing communities that differences are allowed to exist. For example, in countries where there is very little freedom, you are not allowed to think differently. Any real difference of opinion is seen as a threat to the government of such a country. If our Church was one in which every person had to think and feel the same way, it would be nothing but a dead institution. One of the outstanding strengths of the Catholic Church has been her ability to embrace peoples from all over the earth. That is the very reason we are called catholic. Catholic means universal–we are, indeed, a universal Church, a Church that embraces the whole world.

It is true that we have had dark moments in our history when our intolerance of others’ beliefs has led to persecution, but, thankfully, those times were short-lived. In fact, one pope publicly asked forgiveness of any sins we may have committed against others in our two thousand years history. That is a wonderful sign of our health. The ability to see ourselves as we are, and to accept the consequences of that seeing, point to our ability to survive even our mistakes. And all of this is because we are God’s people, and ultimately submit ourselves in obedience to being led by the Holy Spirit.

Our Identity as Church

Who are we as a Church? Perhaps most fundamentally we are a sign to the world of God’s loving and merciful presence. Because this is so, we continue to take up the cause of the poor and the oppressed, we speak and act on behalf of human rights and freedom, and we enter into dialogue with the rest of humankind to help further the cause of all those who are treated as less than human. This is our awesome duty and responsibility. We are not a small, insulated community trying to escape from our responsibilities to God’s world. On the contrary, we are sent by God to bring God’s mercy and love to all of humankind. And one of the main ways we can do this is to remain united in our convictions of the dignity and worth of every human person, unborn, born, aged, sick, well, disabled, whole, male, female, black, white–there is not one person on the face of the earth whom we do not value–no matter who they are, or what they have done. But we must stay united in our conviction that we are carriers of God’s mercy.

A man tells of being on a bus tour in Rome that was led by a guide who spoke English. Their first stop was a basilica in a piazza, which was surrounded by several lanes of relentless Roman traffic. After they were all safely dropped off, the group climbed the steps for a quick tour of the church. Then they spread out to board the bus, which was parked across the street from the church. The frantic guide shouted for the group to stay together. He hollered out to them,”You cross one by one, they hit you one by one. But if you cross together, they think you will hurt the car!” There is always much to be said for unity, particularly the unity of the Spirit.

A Lived Witness

Allow me to remind you of a few words that were preached by a pope on this feast a few years ago. “… if the proclamation is to be effective, a lived witness remains crucial. Only the believer who lives what he professes with his lips has any hope of being heard. One must bear in mind that circumstances at times do not permit an explicit proclamation of Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour of all. It is then that the witness of a life that is respectful, chaste, detached from riches and free from the powers of this world, in a word, the witness of holiness, can reveal all its convincing power, even if suffered in silence. (Pope John Paul II, homily for Pentecost, 2000).

Looking to the Future

And so my wish is that our celebration today is marked primarily by thankfulness. It is only by the grace of God that we have been called to be witnesses to the world, and to each other, of the meaning of life, and the goodness of God. But looking to the future also, at times, marks birthdays. We sometimes take a closer look at ourselves on our birthdays, and begin to see where we would like to direct our lives in the coming year. As the Church in this particular time and place, may we have the wisdom and the courage to see where we can become stronger witnesses to the love of God? We do this through our prayer and our open dialogue with one another. If the Spirit of God is moving you to become more involved with our faith community, or is leading you in some special service, we all pray that you may respond generously to such a call. In the meantime, may the Lord bless us as we continue to bring the message of mercy and kindness to all those with whom we live and work.

In the evening of life, we will be judged on love alone.

ST. JOHN OF THE CROSS

Create your website with WordPress.com
Get started