Sunday, February 28, 2010
Friday, February 26, 2010
I would like to concentrate on the first reading this week
because it speaks volumes about the mystery of God’s relationship with us.
First of all from this reading of the covenant ceremony in 2nd Genesis
we understand that
God longs for our friendship.
We know this because it is God who took the first step.
God introduced himself to Abraham,
our Father in Faith.
By reaching out to Abraham
God also reaches out to us his descendents.
When He introduces Himself to Abraham He introduces Himself to all of humanity for all time.
During His encounter with Abraham God even mentions us when he says.
“Your descendents will be as numerous as the starts.”
It is important to note that when Abraham asked for proof of God’s love;
God used the rituals and symbols common to Abraham’s time to establish His covenant and make His promise clear.
During Abraham’s time, to prove one’s faithfulness to a covenant or solemn promise it was the custom to
slaughter some animals,
which were very valuable possessions,
split them in two,
which was no easy task,
and then have both parties walk through them.
When a person walked through the carcasses it was like saying,
if I break my promise or my covenant
then may I end up like these animals
dead and split in two.
It kind of inspires fidelity doesn’t it.
Notice that Abraham does not walk through the carcasses,
probably because God knew that we his descendents would be unfaithful.
In this covenant ceremony only God makes the promise of faithfulness.
While waiting for God to appear and seal the covenant,
we read that a terrifying darkness came over Abraham and the covenant sacrifice.
Birds of prey swooped down and tried to steal the sacrifice of the covenant.
Scholars tell us that the birds of prey in this passage represent Satan’s desire to distract us or frighten us from God’s covenant and our promise.
It becomes clear from that line that keeping the covenant will not be easy.
During the ceremony God revealed His presence in two ways.
God appeared in the form of a smoking pot which represents God’s holiness.
And He appears in a flaming torch.
When God appears as a flaming torch it was
His way of promising that He would guide us on your journey.
So from the torch we learn that the light of God’s love
and God’s word
and God’s actions will guide us home.
What does all of this mean to us?
God has given us life.
God has given us relationship with Him through covenant He made with our Father Abraham.
Our relationship with God is a covenant a serious commitment a solemn promise.
It should never be broken
However collectively and individually we have broken over and over again,
yet God remains faithful in every age and every generation.
The covenant proves
He loves us and longs to be loved by us.
The covenant proves to us that our God is not distant
or removed or hidden from us.
God could have expressed His covenant or relationship with us in any way he wanted
but he chose to use the rituals and customs of Abraham’s time.
He chose to use what was familiar to Abraham.
This teaches us that we should never look for God only in big or mysterious signs.
We should not look for God only in His power and might.
We need to recognize the signs of God’s presence in our everyday lives.
God’s presence can be found in…
In the silence of an empty Church
In the good works
Kneeling before the Eucharistic presence
The beauty of creation
The love and companionship of a friend or family member
Indeed everyday every hour and every moment of our lives.
With the Covenant ceremony God reminds us that,
He will leave the footprints of His love in ordinary things here and now.
We have to grow better at noticing them and appreciating them.
When we are afraid,
when we feel that we are lost,
when all that surrounds is the darkness of doubt and fear,
The covenant ceremony teaches us that God’s light will be there in the darkness,
like it was on that evening with Abraham
and like it has been over and over again throughout history.
We must simply and patiently search it out. God want us to find it.
Without the light of God’s truth we would never be able to find our way home to him.
Without the light of God’s truth we would never really understand ourselves of the meaning of our lives.
And finally the reading shows that God’s covenant demands a response from us.
It shows that living the covenant will not always be easy.
Like Abraham fought the birds of prey we must fight the temptations of infidelity.
This little passage should challenge us by God’s example
to be more faithful
in our own relationships with each other and with God.
We need to be faithful even when others are not.
It sounds so hard but that’s exactly how God is with us.
Over and over we are unfaithful
Over and over we break the covenant
Over and over God takes us back
God always remains faithful
The covenant ceremony push us to try with our whole heart to love like God loves.
So much of our pain and the pain of others,
So much of our hurt and the hurt that others experience,
is because of infidelity,
infidelity in our business relationships,
infidelity in our friendships,
infidelity in our marriages,
infidelity in our religious vocations
infidelity in our families,
infidelity to God’s will and God’s law.
The world would be such a different place
If we simply were ever able to be faithful like God is faithful
God of faithfulness help us be more faithful.
Friday, February 19, 2010
May the Peace of Christ reign in our hearts.
Every first Sunday of lent the Church encourages us to reflect on the temptations of Christ in the desert.
At 12 Jesus realized that he had a special relationship with God and just like any precocious 12 year old he wanted to jump into manhood and be about his father’s business.
Like any good parent Mary had to reign him in and she did.
And like any good kid he listened to her.
Around 18 years later when he was 30 Jesus stirred by the preaching of John the Baptist went to be baptized and in doing so he accepted the mission that the Father had for him.
In all the synoptic Gospels the temptations follow the baptism because Jesus has to figure out how he was to accomplish the awesome task of saving the world.
The three temptations are not complicated though volumes have been written on them.
The first is simply to turn the stones of the desert into bread.
In other words the devil tempts Jesus to provide the world with all it’s earthly needs.
Bread to the hungry
Health to the sick
Companionship to the lonely
In other words the devil is saying.
Give mankind everything they need or want and they will worship you.
It is a pretty shallow temptation.
We all know that the more we have the more we want.
The better we have the better we want.
That’s precisely one of the most pressing problems in our world today.
A few of us have so much more than the rest of the world and we are not satisfied.
The countries and people who have all that they need and all that they want have slowly but surely pushed God from their lives.
Their churches are empty and their cultures glory in becoming more and more secularized.
Remember what Jesus said it is hard for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of God.
The second temptation is sadly one which the people of God or the Church has succumbed to for centuries.
The devil shows Jesus the whole world and promises that he can rule over it politically if he compromises and admits a little evil into the world.
For centuries the Church has battled this temptation and been emeshed into the political power and intrigue of the world.
We had armies, and worldly power, and influence and sometimes it was used for the good of the people.
Sometimes it was used to defend the poor and protect the weak.
But alas we all now it was also used to oppress and to dominate to defeat and to conquer.
We all know that worldly power corrupts.
Jesus did not choose worldly power or influence to bring the world to salvation he chose the Cross or suffering love, sacrificial love.
The last tempation is to demand a sign from God or to force God’s hand.
The devil quotes scripture and says put yourself up in the parapet and throw yourself down and make God save you because in the scriptures He promised he would.
This temptation is an attempt to take faith out of the picture in our relationship with God.
The devil is trying to get Jesus to attempt to remove any doubt from the relationship between God and his people.
Think about it…
If somehow God gave us irrefutable proof of his power and majesty would we be free to choose Him ?
Would we be free to love Him?
Would there be any place for faith in our relationship with God?
Without the possibility of doubting
we would not have the possibility of believing or choosing God or even of loving God?
And to be honest even with the greatest extraordinary signs from God look at the wonders of creation… doubt always slowly returns into our lives.
Sadly doubt is part of our fallen nature all of us have to live with it and wrestle with it.
We will never be free from doubt until we rest in the loving arms of God for all eternity.
So what does this all have to do with us.
First of all we have to ask ourselves…
Have we given into the temptation to want more and more and more and more and more and better and better and better?
Do we really some how think if I had a better job or a bigger house or more money in the bank that our life would be any holier and more loving ?
Would having all of our physical needs taken care of, would having “all of the bread we need” really be better for us.
Are we still working our way through that temptation?
Look around when compared to the rest of the world so many of us have so much more even with our latest financial problems.
Our affluences has gotten us … more suicides, more drugs, more broken homes, more shootings in school etc. etc. etc.
Having more and more and more just doesn’t work.
And as far as the second temptation is concerned everyone who has ever had a broken heart because of unrequited love knows that Love can’t be forced it must be freely given.
Just like Jesus did not give into the temptation to force people to believe we should never try and force our love or our faith on someone.
It should be a gift freely and humbly offered
We should inspire people to believe by the holiness of our lives.
We should never look down on those who have not yet arrived to the fullness of faith.
We must patiently love them to more.
Finally today’s Gospel calls us ask ourselves if we regularly like the devil try and put God to the test or force His hand.
Do we try and force him to act with petitions like…
Lord give me this..
Lord I need that..
Yes, elsewhere in the Jesus encourages us to… Ask and receive, seek and to find, knock and the door will be opened…
However do we trust that no matter what our petition God will give what we need when we need it?
Do we really think we know better than God what is best for us and best for the world?
We don’t need to force his hand he loves us.
Holy ones, temptations will come and temptations will go.
As we saw today Jesus himself faced them with faith.
Every time we are able to overcome a temptation we are so much more able to face it the next times it comes around.
This lent may we work everyday to face our own unique temptations and over come them without fear.
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
My Mom is 85 years old and she sends me an email every night.
She checks her bank account on line to see if her Social Security check is deposited.
I believe that she has lived to 85 because she is always willing to try something new always willing to adapt.
She can’t climb on a ladder so she changes her curtains with a pole she made out of a broomstick
The pipe was broken outside and the ice was freezing on the driveway… I noticed it is now wrapped in aluminum foil and is no longer leaking.
She can’t shovel snow anymore so she floods the neighborhood with coffee cakes all year round and people happily show blow her sidewalk.
When she comes to a problem or a challenge she adapts.. It keeps her young and it keeps her spry
When she gets confused on her computer she x’s out as she says, closing the little x box in the window until she is where she wants to be.
When that doesn’t work she resets the computer by holding the power button in and when that doesn’t work
she simply gets on her hands and knees and pulls the plug and then plugs it back in again. She’s never afraid to start over and figure things out.
She never gets discouraged. she turns it back on and she keeps going.
Today is Ash Wednesday.
Ash Wednesday calls us to reflect on three things.
The first is simply this..
and our routine are simply not all there is to life.
If you thought this was all there was there would be no reason for you to be here.
Why would you be here if you didn’t believe in God or the eternal life God offers us.
Some of you may have doubts but you are here to hedge your bets…. because you are not willing right now to completely give up your faith.
Ash Wednesday reminds us in fact that our life on earth is but a blink of an eye when compared to eternity.
Remember that you are dust and until dust you shall return
Not only will we turn to dust,
but all we own will turn to dust.
The people we love will turn to dust
and much of what we did during our lives will turn to dust.
It’s true a few us will live on in the memory of those we love for a couple of generations but after a while our name will only appear in a baptismal record someplace and not much more.
With all that set it is important to look and prepare for the future, the future beyond out life here on earth.
It is so important to understand and reflect on the fact that
Our future will either some day end up in a perpetual loving union with God or eternal loneliness.
Said more starkly we will either be in Heaven or Hell. There are no other options.
The second thing that Ash Wednesday and actually all of lent calls us to do is to examine our lives,
How are we living and how do we need to change.
We have to learn to adapt as you will just like my Mom does.
Sometimes we just have to x out of our current choices,
Sometimes we have to hit the reset button or even crawl under the computer desk and pull the plug and start over.
I’ve often reflected on why so many people come to Ash Wednesday.
On Ash Wednesday our chapels are always full.
We are all here because we know that there are things we have to change in our lives.
We are here because we all know we can do better.
We are here because we just can’t let go of the hope which springs from our inner most being that we too can love more.
Finally the third thing Ash Wednesday calls us to do is to begin to make the changes we know we need to make.
Why give up something we like
Because being able to say no to ourselves enables us to better say yes to God and God’s will
Being able deny ourselves good things enables us to and love other people more.
Denying ourselves good things is part of every virtuous life
What kind of Mom or Dad doesn’t have to deny themselves all kinds of things for their children.
Think of how much of a sacrifice many of your parents are making right now to have you come to Catholic and sit in those chairs.
Holy ones at the end of this lent… may our works of self denial and charity bring us closer to each other and bring us closer to God.
May we live thoughtful lives this lent and find the courage, and the strength and the wisdom to hit the reset button and begin anew.
Remember that you are dust and unto dust you shall return.
Repent and believe the good news.
Saturday, February 13, 2010
You know when you read the four Gospels it becomes clear that they are not copies of each other.
If they were why would we need four?
God inspired the four evangelists to meditate on the mysteries of the life of Jesus,
His death and resurrection,
and then to convey the meaning of these saving events to their communities,
the people they cared about,
the people they loved.
The evangelists were four people inspired by God with different perspectives, and different experiences.
They meditated on the same profound mysteries, and wrote to different audiences with different needs.
It’s as if you and I see the same event and when we recount it we accent different things in different way.
Our stories would be both the same and different because of our own background and the needs of the people we were talking to.
Today we see this very clearly, Luke’s version of the beatitudes is different from the other Gospels.
There are common passages but then Luke makes a special effort to warn the rich, those who are satified,
those who laugh,
and those of whom everyone speaks well.
“But woe to you who are rich,
for you have received your consolation.
Woe to you who are filled now,
for you will be hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now,
for you will grieve and weep.
Woe to you when all speak well of you,
for their ancestors treated the false
prophets in this way.”
He probably feels compelled to do this because he loves the rich and sees where they are headed.
It is also clear from his Gospel that Luke has a special concern for the poor.
Over and over again in Luke’s writings we hear about the special place the poor have in God’s heart.
Remember the Magnificat where he wrote,
“The hungry he will fill with good
or remember when Luke recounted Jesus’ homecoming in Nazareth
In Luke’s account ,
Jesus begins.with a quote from the Prophet Isaiah.
“The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, because He appointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor.”
And in today’s Gospel Luke writes
“Blessed are you who are poor,
for the kingdom of God is yours.”
Frequently Luke makes the effort to warn the rich of their peril. Here are some examples
Once again in the Magnificat we read
“The Rich he sent away empty”
The story of the rich man in the parable of Lazarus ends sadly we all know where he goes.
And remember the rich man or rich fool, who worked hard all his life and had so much to show for it that he needed bigger barns..
Luke recounts how he died never to enjoy any of it.
There are so many more examples that fit this pattern in Luke’s Gospel that the scripture scholars even have a name for it.
They call it the “great reversal. “ because the parables often take a surprising turn.
When you think the rich are going to fare well it is the poor who come out better.
The strange thing is that it doesn’t seem to matter why someone is poor and someone is rich.
The rich man in the story of Lazarus was not mean, it doesn’t say that he became rich at the expense of the poor, he simply was blinded by his affluence and didn’t notice Lazarus.
That was his sin… he didn’t notice the poor and because of this sin he was was forced to call out from “a place of torment.” for all eternity.
You know I was so blessed to work in a desperately poor neighborhood in Rome when I studied theology.
When you live and work with the poor it becomes apparent that it is easier to preach the Gospel to them.
Easier because they don’t have as many distractions.
When life’s questions close in on a poor person he can’t distract himself by going and buying himself something.
He may not even have the resources to go to the movies or find some other kind of entertainment.
He has to face the questions of life, and many do so through the eyes of faith.
The poor, not all but many, turn to God because there is simply no other place to go.
The poor, not all but many, can also be much more sensitive to the needs of others.
When we were in Tanzania an elderly woman told me, in my village no one will die of hunger we will always cut the loaf of bread so that all may eat, even if that means that no one really gets enough.
Luke understands that the converse is also true.
The rich have so many distractions and consolations that it is possible for some to go through life without ever really feeling the need to even know or love the Lord or be concerned about the poor.
And while not always true, sometimes those who have more hold much tighter to what they have, than those who have little.
We live in the most affluent country in the whole world.
People all over the world go without the bare necessities of life.
In panama I knew people who worked for $5.00 a day.
When we take the time to really understand, it is almost scary how we disproportionately use the resources of the world to support our standard of living.
Sometimes I wonder if Luke’s Gospel shouldn’t have a special place in all of our heart.
If Luke were here today would we have been his designated audience ?
When we hear the beatitude of Luke we have to ask ourselves which ones apply to us?
as a Church,
and as a nation,
And the answer to that important question has to affect the way we choose to live and the choices we make.
There’s lots to think about and lots pray about here..
Sunday, February 07, 2010
Once, when I finished swimming at the YMCA in Danbury CT I noticed that in the far lane near the windows there were several women with babies.
The babies were being held in the water and were moving their arms and legs and making happy sounds.
Then as I watched in amazement a life guard took each baby from the mother and gently let them drop out of their hands into the water.
Each baby instinctively held their breath when their heads went under the water and then they rose to the surface and began to float and move their hands and feet.
They didn’t seem to mind even though they were in way over their heads.
They didn’t seem to be afraid at all.
They were definitely in deep water at least it was deep for them.
In today’s 1st and 3rd reading we are clearly dealing with people who feel that they are in over their heads.
Isaiah felt he was in way over his head,
because he had been in the very presence of God.
In fact he was sure he was going to die because he knew he was a sinner and so unworthy to be in the presence of God.
Peter felt he was in over his head
when he saw the incredible catch of fish they had made.
He knew he was a sinner and he knew Jesus must have been a very holy man.
“Depart from me he said for I am a sinful man.”
How often have all of us shared the same sentiment, the same feeling?
Both Isaiah and Peter felt that they were not worthy and probably they weren’t.
And yet Isaiah went on to be one of the greatest prophets of the Old Testament.
And Peter who would even deny Jesus three times
became the leaders of the Church, a fisher of men. (and women)
Both of them were called by God who obviously knew all about them.
He knew that they were sinners.
He knew their strengths and weaknesses.
And he knew they were up to the challenge.
Both took a risk
and because to their willingness to do so
both of these men
both of these sinners
did incredible things.
Peter’s risk shows just how abundant God’s grace can really be.
Remember the nets were filled to overflowing ….
even to the breaking point.
Because of his willingness to put out into the deep water even when it didn’t make any sense at all.
Peter did not just catch a few fish he caught a ton of them.
All of us are called to take risks
All of us are called to go into the deep
All of us are called to venture into uncharted territory
It is not easy.
Sadly some of us are never able to over come our fear of doing so.
There have been so many times that I have felt I was not up to the task,
so many times I felt I was In deep water in over my head.
I felt over my head when I entered the novitiate and kept tripping on my habit.
I felt over my head when I faced a classroom full of kids for the first time.
I knew I was over my head when I flew to in Italy to go to graduate school only knowing the word for bathroom.
I felt over my head when I came to Catholic to interview and I had to talk to a Cardinal.
I feel over my head when some people place before me the their life’s story
and I don’t know what to say or how to comfort them.
I always feel in over my head when I have to talk in public it is so uncomfortable for me.
It would have been so easy for Peter to say no.
It was morning and everyone there knew that you fished at night.
Jesus’ request just didn’t make any sense at all.
God can ask us to do things that make no sense.
But these readings prove that when we answer God’s call
things will still work out if we trust him.
So holy ones… we all have to understand that…
God can use us despite our sinfulness
God can use us despite our fear
God can use us in ways that don’t make sense to us at all
When God’s call comes to you…
When you know God is asking you to "Go out into the deep water...
When what God asks you to do something that flies in the face of reason…..
When you feel you are absolutely not up to the call,
And not worthy of the call,
whatever it is
put out into the deep.
Every single one of us knows that there is something God wants us to do
God needs us to do.
Yes All of us have thoughts like.
It makes no sense
Depart from me for I am a sinful man.
When God Calls
Have no fear
Hold your breath
and Say yes..
And get ready for the Great Adventure.