Saturday, October 22, 2016

30th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year C - 2016

May the Peace of Christ Reign in our Hearts

The Gospel today is not difficult to understand

The storyline is simple
There are two men both in the Synagogue
Both recognize that there is a God
Both realize that God is important in their lives
Both of them have come to pray.
That’s where the similarities end

The Pharisee prays in the front of the synagogue
He likes to be noticed.
He want’s to be heard by God but he also wants to be heard by everyone else.

He is not a bad person
He follows all the rules
He tithes
He lives well  He prays regularly

His downfall is his pride
His pride makes him self righteous
And tragically his pride blinds him to his faults

If you don’t realize your own faults you have no way of ever fixing them.

His love of God is not free he wants something out of it.
He wants to be recognized and praise for his good deeds
And even though he has some grave faults

He is quick to point out the faults of others…
“Like that tax collector over there”

The Tax collector…..
Is not a holy man
He is working for the Roman occupiers
He probably has done his fair share of extortion
He has probably done some pretty horrible things.
He knows he’s a sinner and a big sinner at that
and he knows he has to change.
That’s why he is praying

He is humble and his humility permits him to see his own faults desire to be a better person and that’s why his sin is forgiven.

This parable should give us pause
It should cause us to stop and think.

How often do we allow prideful thoughts to harden our hearts?
How aware are we of our own faults and failings?
How often we we concentrate on the faults of others rather than our own?

We should never be quick to condemn.
We should always always always remember that people are better than their worst moments and we are better than our worst moments

We should be quick to welcome both  sinners and saints.
We should concentrate on our own faults rather than the sins of others.

The Pharisee was a prideful soul indeed
The practice of his faith was hollow and fake
Tragically his prayers were not answered

The tax collector’s prayers were answered because he was humble and sorry for what he had done.
His example challenges us to be repentant and humble


Sunday, September 04, 2016

23st Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year C - 2016

May the peace of Christ reign in our hearts

Today’s Gospel speaks truthfully, but also starkly, about the cost of authentic discipleship and about the cost of love.

It reminds us us so clearly that there is a big difference between being a follower of Jesus Christ and a Disciple of Jesus.

I’m sure none of us are surprised that Mother Teresa was canonized a saint today in St. Peter's Square by Pope Francis. I mean it’s Mother Teresa

We all know that Mother dedicated her life to caring for the poorest of the poor.

Her witness was so powerful that it inspired a whole community of women to desire be like her.

Her ministry and her love for the poor is recognized all over the world by both believers and nonbelievers.

So none of are surprised that Mother has been declared a saint and that all of us are encouraged to imitate her virtuous life.

What may come as a surprise is that despite her smiles and gentle faithful love of the poor, for most of her public life Mother Teresa endured what the saints have called a dark night of the soul.

Only when her letters were published did the world get a glimpse of the struggle and pain and doubt she carried and many of the saints have carried In one of her letters Saint Teresa of Calcutta wrote

“I am told God lives in me, and yet the reality of darkness and coldness and emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul.”

She also wrote

“In my soul I feel just that terrible pain of loss, of God not wanting me, of God not being God — of God not existing.”

Only her spiritual directors knew of mother's heavy burden.

Even her closest sisters never saw an inkling of the doubt and loneliness that mother carried.  

She never wanted her loneliness to become the loneliness of others and her doubt become the doubt of others.

This pain, this darkness, this loneliness and doubt lasted until her death in 1997 but it was a heavy cross but she was resolved to carry.

We heard in the Gospel today Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.

We don’t know why God asked Mother and many saints to carry the cross of doubt and loneliness and darkness, we don’t know why God was so resolute in hiding his face and love from her soul, but with all the pain and doubt that she was given Mother Teresa like Jesus she carried the cross till the end

She did not lament, did not give up, she did not grow bitter or resentful, up but rather she remained faithful to God’s call continued to inspire and give hope.

Mother Teresa was more than a follower of Jesus she was a disciple of Jesus.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a Lutheran Pastor during the rise of the Nazis in Germany. From the very beginning of their reign of terror until he was executed 3 months before the end of the war.

He resisted Nazis and Hitler in a very public way.

Over and over again his friends and church leaders and even some Nazis themselves begged him to escape and begged him to quiet his public dissent yet he refused.

A prison Guard was even willing to help him escape from prison but he refused.

In his book the Cost of Discipleship he wrote

“When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”

He also wrote...
“So many people come to church with a genuine desire to hear what we have to say, yet, they always go back home with the uncomfortable feeling that we are making it too difficult for them to come to Jesus.”

Even though his family, his fiancee his closest friends everyone dear to him begged him Pastor Bonhoeffer refused to flee Germany, and refused be silent He wrote.

“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil:
God will not hold us guiltless.
Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”

Remember what we heard in the Gospel.
“If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother,
wife and children, brothers and sisters,
and even his own life,
he cannot be my disciple.

The word “hate” in that sentence is jarring. And when I was hiking this Friday I spoke about it with a scripture scholar

He explained that Jesus was not asking us to wish harm on our families and our loved ones rather, in the context Jesus was saying that our first love must be God. To the consternation of many that’s what Dietrich Bonhoeffer did.

Pastor Bonhoeffer was not just a follower of Christ.he was a true disciple who carried his cross right to the gallows of a nazi prison.

Think about it just a minute.
The best way for me to be a good priest for you is to be a holy priest to love God first and then be inspired by God to love you.

The best way for a Mom and Dad to be great parents to their children is to be holy parents.

If you want to be worthy of your wife or your husband
You have to love God first and then love your spouse like God loves them.

I was hesitant to share the examples of Mother Teresa and Dietrich Bonhoeffer with you lest you think that discipleship is out of reach for a normal person.

I assure you all of us can be disciples.
I run into true disciples all the time.

I know a tiny little skinny mom who walks into abandoned buildings in the worst parts of Hartford to find her Son who has been a heroin addict for 10 years.

He has lied to her, stolen from her, and yelled at her and even threatened her yet she can look a person right in the eye and say.

He is my Son and I am his mother and I will always love him.

She is a disciple

There is the 84 year old man who came into the office the other day. The 86 year old love of his life was with him she has faded into the haze of alzheimer's yet he cares for her and speaks with her with such tender love. He is a disciple.

There are the many many people I meet who carry the cross of illness without resentment or bitterness.

They go from doctor to doctor and from test to test.
You never hear a word of complaint from their mouths
They are true disciples

There is the Dad who gave up the promotion of his dreams and the fast track in their company  because he know that to say yes meant less time for his family and especially his son who was a little high maintenance at the moment.

The list of modern day true disciples goes on and on and on.

Discipleship true discipleship heroic discipleship is not out of our reach we have everything we need.

And so good people the Gospel  today is calling us to ask ourselves are we simply followers of Jersus Christ or are we disciples.


Sunday, August 21, 2016

21st Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year C - 2016

I once heard a story about a very kind elderly woman who had one daughter.
She loved her daughter and always looked forward to seeing and being with her.

The daughter however was often busy and unable to come and visit.
Sometimes she could not even spare the time to talk  with her Mom on the phone.

There was always some pressing issue that needed attention or she just had so much on her plate.

When she did come to visit she often arrived late, stayed a short time and left early.

The mother never got angry, she never held a grudge,  she always forgave her daughter even though she longed for more time and attention from her.

As the mom got older and more dependent on her daughter the visits became even less and less.

Finally, the Mom died but sadly the daughter arrived late as usual and was unable to say goodbye.

The next day after her mother had died the daughter went to the funeral home to make the arrangements but to her surprise they had already been made by her Mom.

When the daughter tried to change some of the details but she was told that her mom had left that responsibility to someone else.

Leaving the Funeral Home the daughter drove to her Mom’s home.

To her surprise her key no longer worked in the door and she could not get into the house.

A neighbor saw the daughter trying to get and and came over.

Your Mom had us change the locks as soon as she passed away and she left me in charge of the house and the property.

The daughter was shocked and dismayed yet there was nothing she could do there was no way to make amends to her mom.

Obviously the elderly Mother in the story represents God and the busy self absorbed daughter is humanity.

The moral of the story and the first lesson that the Gospel teaches today us is simply this.

During our time on earth God will give us chance after chance after chance

He will forgive us over and over again.

Jesus is reminding us in this Gospel that once we die our choice is made and there are no more second chances.

God will judge us fairly and justly by the lives we have lived and the love we shared.

The second lesson is just as important as the first.

Jesus describes the path to salvation as a narrow door.
It’s a narrow door. He says “Some will try to enter but be not be strong enough”

The message is clear.

Being saved and living with God forever will require some effort some sacrifice on our part.

It will probably require letting go of some things we value.

Picture someone trying to carry all of the things they hold dear through a narrow gate or doorway. Possessions, Opinions, Desires, Prejudices, anger, resentments etc.

If we load ourselves down with lots of things during our life and we refuse to let go of them how will we ever fit through the narrow door to heaven that Jesus is talking about ?

How will we ever get through it ?

Salvation seems to demand that we put things down and let things go.

Over and over in the Gospel Jesus warns us to travel light as we journey through life and yet the world tells us take this and that you need this and you need that you have a right to this and don’t let anyone take that from you.

The world would have us take to ourselves as much as we possibly can and make it difficult for us to get to through the door.

Finally the third lesson about salvation is simply this.

The religious leaders of Jesus’ time believed that  their salvation was assured simply because they were Jews .

They took God’s love
and God’s mercy
and God’s forgiveness for granted

You see it’s not enough to want to be good.
It’s not enough to have been good once upon a time.

Our salvation depends on loving God and loving our neighbor.
Jesus is warning us not to simply presume God’s love or forgiveness.

Remember what we just heard in the Gospel

He will say to you in reply,
‘I do not know where you are from.

And you will say,
‘We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets.’
Then he will say to you,
‘I do not know where you are from.

Depart from me, all you evildoers!’

Today’s Gospel is not easy to hear but the message is clear Jesus was warning the religious leaders of his time and he is warning us

that even though Salvation is a free gift that God longs to give each of us,
we must live good holy lives which demonstrate that we are willing to accept God’s love and salvation.

Yes God loves us.
Yes God longs to be with us in heaven forever.
Yes God is good and merciful.
Yes to all these things.

But God is also just.
God is and must be as just as he is loving,
as just as he is merciful,
as just as he is forgiving.

And so good people it is  important for all of us to remember that what we do and how we live our lives matters.

One day when our time comes our merciful and loving and just God will do the loving thing and judge us justly by how we have lived and how we have loved.

Our consolation should be that only God knows our hearts
He knows us better than we know ourselves.

God understands all the challenges we faced and the love we have shared.
God loves us and longs to be with each of us forever.

God’s Judgement is final
Our salvation will demand some effort on our part
We should never simply presume God’s love

So Let us be attentive to God’s word today.


Sunday, July 10, 2016

15th Sunday of Ordinary Time - Year C - 2016

Many of us go through life asking questions like:
What do I need to do to be successful?
What do I need to do to be happy?
What should I do to be healthy ?

We ask ourselves over and over again..
What do I need to do to get ahead of the pack and stay there?
How much money do I need for my kids to go to college ?
How much money do I need so that I can retire comfortably ?

These are all valid questions and frankly many of us live with them day in and day out.
But...all of these questions are about our life here on earth,
which we need to remember  is so very short and fragile.

Every week before the start of Mass we read the names of people who have passed away and we have to wonder as they knocked on heaven’s door if they had wished they had spent more time worrying about eternal life.

Today’s gospel asks us, it is wise to spend so much energy only thinking about the here and now and not spend time thinking about forever?

Today’s Gospel and this question reminds us so poignantly  to raise our eyes and our thoughts and our worries beyond  the normal everyday challenges of this life.

There was a little old lady in my very first parish in a very poor violent neighborhood of Rome.  She had all kinds of challenges, she was desperately poor.

One day when I saw her she was so happy I would say she was ecstatic because a distant family member was coming to visit her.

People rarely came to our neighborhood because it was so violent and they were afraid.

If it wasn’t for the church the little lady would have been terribly alone.

She didn’t have money for any special food so she spent the whole day in a park picking mushrooms.

When  I passed her walking home she was so excited because she found some great mushrooms and she would be able to put them in the pasta she was going to serve her guests.

The next day when I saw her I asked how her visit went and how the pasta was.
For the briefest of brief moments she looked sad and then she said.
I put the mushrooms on my porch to dry and someone stole them
but then she quickly added but Father when you think about eternity what difference do those mushrooms make?

The Scholar’s said the way to heaven was
“You shall love the Lord, your God,
with all your heart,
with all your being,
with all your strength,
and with all your mind,
and your neighbor as yourself.”

Jesus said to him, “You have answered correctly;
do this and you will live.”

So the next time we find ourselves worrying about
What this person or that person said,
or how much money we have,
or what color we have to paint the living room,
or whatever...

Let us ask ourselves
When you think about eternity what difference does this really make.

And if we really want to live in God’s Kingdom
Let us occupy ourselves with things that really matter.

Let us Love God,
And Love our neighbor especially those in need whoever they may be.

That’s  what the samaritan did in the Gospel and that’s what we have to do.