Saturday, November 15, 2008

Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

May the peace of Christ reign in our hearts.

We are two weeks away from Advent
and traditionally the readings at the end of the liturgical year are more challenging.
They often speak of the “last things”

They speak of our responsibilities and what it takes to get into heaven.
They speak of judgment and salvation.

In the Gospel today there are three servants
two are rewarded (They are invited to share their Master’s joy)

The other is not.
Rather, he is thrown into the darkness to wail and grind his teeth..
(That doesn’t sound too good)

Here are some thoughts from some commentaries I read.

A talent was a huge amount of money.
It was equal to 6000 Denarii
a denarii was equal 1 day’s wage.
So a talent is roughly 15 years of wages…

Even the person who was given one talent received an abundance from God
The man given 5 talents was entrusted with a life time of resources

Everyone in the parable received abundantly from God
There were no servants who received nothing.

The fact that the servants did not all receive the same amount
Does not mean that God loved some more…
Everyone received all that they needed
And they were expected to do the best they could with what they had

St. Theresa of Avila used to say… imagine that all of us are glasses, different size glasses,
Some are big some are small. But all are full
full of God’s love.
We are all full of God's love

Because we are all given different gifts
We are not in competition with each other rather
We are in competition with only with ourselves.

The servants were given opportunity.
They were not told what to do with the talent.
but the master clearly expected some kind of return on his investment.
And they were free to do as they pleased
They were free…

I found it interesting that the Master was away a long time
He gave the servants a long time, a life time,
to use the talents they were given.
He didn’t expect instant results.

The Gospel teaches us that our work is never completed…
Those who were successful in using their talents were not told come and rest but rather…
you succeeded with little now you will be given more

The Greek words used in the passage for “gained or earned” were often used in a religious context to mean winning converts or bringing people to faith

The faithful stewards who were rewarded brought other people to faith.
The man who buried his talent did not.

There are lots of things which we can apply to our own lives.

So often people think they have nothing to offer.
So often they are burdened with the fear that they have no gifts
I’m nobody
I can’t talk to people
I’m shy
I’m not smart
I’m not handsome or pretty
I’m not this I’m not that
All of us need to put that out of our minds..
That only happens when we compare ourselves to others
All of us have gifts from God
And one of the greatest tragedies is to fail to recognize that.

Even though we all have received differently
We have all been given all that we need
If God loves us God would not create us to fail

We all have the time we need to develop them and share them
The master is gone a long time.
We will not all live the same amount of time
But all of us will have the time we need to give back

The greatest danger here is to grow complacent
The greatest danger here it to put off to tomorrow what we could and should do today.
We must be living our quest for holiness NOW not later…

Our gifts are not just for us
They are not
Our gifts are meant to be shared with others…
We are expected to earn a return on our Master’s gifts.
How many people will be better because they knew us
How many people will be better because we shared our talents with them
How many souls will we bring faith
What will our return be on God’s gifts.

Our work is never done there is never a time when we can sit back and rest.
The servants who were good and faithful were not called home to rest
They were given more talents to do more things for God

At the end of our parable at the end of our story will we be invited to share our Master’s Joy
Or will be thrown out into the darkness?

It all depends how we use our talents…

A very important question indeed.

Friday, November 07, 2008

The Feast of the Dedication of St. John Lateran

For the first 300 years of the Church
Christians were persecuted by the Roman Empire.

Sometimes things weren’t that bad
sometimes they were horrific.

Sometimes whole generations never knew any suffering.
Sometimes there were incredible persecutions and entire families were called to die for their faith.

Tertullian one of the Fathers of the Church said
“The Blood of Martyrs is truly the seeds of the Church.”

Throughout this period Christians were never really able to pray together publicly.
Even when there was little or no persecution
they still had to meet and prayed in secret.
Their faith was forced to be a private matter a hidden matter.

When Christianity was finally accepted by the Roman Empire in 313
the first place Christians gathered to pray publicly was the Lateran Hill in Rome.

They met in the wing of a Roman Villa given to them by the Emperor Constantine.
It was an incredible blessing to be able to worship openly publicly for all to see.

Finally Christians had the chance to celebrate the Lord’s supper together without fear.

What a witness it must have been for the Romans to see people from all over the city gathering in that sacred space.

Today it is important to remember that moment 1700 years ago.
It is important that we reflect on its meaning in our lives.

The Hebrews could easily understand the significance of having a public place to worship
For them God was most especially present in the Temple.

It was in the temple that sacrifices and prayers were offered.
It was in the temple that the law was discussed and debated.
It was in the Holy of Holies that the Presence of God was manifest.

And in the first reading Ezekiel speaks about how it became clear to him in a vision
that life itself flowed from this public place of worship.

Wherever the waters of faith flowed life became present and
life became present abundantly

In the Gospel….
Jesus sought to purify the Temple.
He sought to purify the public witness of the temple and those who prayed there.

He drove out the money changers
and the people where were selling animals for sacrifice.

He wanted the temple to be a house of prayer
He wanted people to be edified by what happened in the temple not scandalized

Churches and temples are incredible blessings.
And the chance to pray publicly
The chance to live our faith in a public manner
is a huge blessing which we take for granted.

We should not forget that there are still places many places
where to walk into a church or to pray with others in the Church
is a great risk.

The Feast of Dedication St. John Lateran should cause us all to reflect
on how we publicly live our faith.

Yes the first public place to worship was so very important and an incredible witness to our faith.
however the second reading from St. Paul reminds us
that the church is not just a building….

We are Church
He tells the Christians in Corinth so clearly
You are God’s building.

Yes our faith can and must be shared in our worship and in our churches
But our faith also has to be shared publicly in our lives.

Our parishes should be vibrant centers of prayer and good works filled with holy people and its not just the Priest’s job to make it happen

Our faith must be lived at our places of work
The example of our lives should build other people up and encourage them

Our faith must be lived in our families.
Our families should be like little churches were people are inspired
to find hope in God and believe.

A while ago a young man hit bottom.
His life was falling apart.
He went out drinking trying numb himself so
he wouldn’t have to face his problems and failures.

Then he got angry with someone and they threw him out of the happy hour.
Around 10:00 after stumbling around downtown Washington for a while
at his rock bottom he hailed a cab

When asked where he wanted to go he remembers saying in desperation to the cabby
I need God take me to God..

The cabby didn’t know what to do so he drove him to the shrine and left him on the steps

As the man looked up at the Shrine bathed in light
he felt the presence of God and he began to cry

One of our students saw him and went up to him.

Are you alright.. he asked.
I need God I need a priest the man said
I need a priest
and the student picked him up and brought him to Campus Ministry

There aren’t usually priests at 10:30 in the Campus Ministry office but in
his providence God made sure one was there

And he spoke to the priest and began to face his challenges
And then the students who found him walked him to the Metro
and rode with him back to his stop

They listened to him and cared for him
They protected him because he was still a little intoxicated and vulnerable.

They put him in a cab and gave the cabby the fare.
They did their best to make sure he got home..

That man experience the presence of God when he looked up at the Shrine

But he also experience the presence of God in the students who
reached out to this broken soul
picked him up and took care of him.

On this feast of the Dedication of St. John Lateran let us be grateful for blessing to be able to live our faith publicly in holy places like this beautiful Church

On this feast on of the Dedication of St. John Lateran let us remind ourselves that we are too are called to be living witnesses of Christ’s presence in the world.

For as St. Paul reminds us “we are the building of God.”

Saturday, November 01, 2008

All Soul's Day

Today we commemorate,
we remember together all those who have died
all those who have passed from this life to the next.

Today reminds us of a very important fact
Everything is not what it appears.

Anyone who has read the Gospel knows that
Jesus frequently turned the whole world upside down
When he said things like

Loss is really gain
Poor is really rich
Weak is really strong
The Humble are exalted
The Last are really first
And especially
When He teaches
Death is really life

For many,
Especially those without the consolation of faith
death is a scary thing.

For some it is even terrifying.
It appears so dreadful,
without hope

To some death
is the final, absolute, annihilation
It is darkness....

It is easy to understand why people feel that way
and why death is so scary.

A body without a soul
is only a memory of what it was

A body without a soul seems so
unnatural, foreign to our experience

Today we commemorate,
we remind ourselves that appearances can be wrong
and that Death is not all that it seems

Our faith teaches us that
By his death Jesus paid the price of our sins
By his rising from the dead he destroyed death and restored life

Our faith teaches us that…
Death is not an end but rather a beginning
Death is not something dreadful or silent
Death is not the final end

Death is really just a doorway.
The only doorway in fact that can lead us to everlasting life with God
Why do we remember?
Why do we have a day like today set aside
to remember those who have died
and mediate on death?

Why do we pray for the dead?

Some would ask what difference does it make
To them praying for the dead makes no sense
…. God’s judgement is final
If you are saved your are saved
If you are damned you are damned
That’s it…
ran out of time
too bad…
You lose

From the very beginning of the Church
we have believed that some people after having chosen Christ
may not quite ready for heaven

There seems to be many who are too good to go to hell
and not good enough to go to heaven

When people like this die some they still bear the burden of selfishness
or pride
or whatever.

Catholics and some other Christians believe that in God’s mercy
People in this situation are not given a second chance
Remember they have already chosen Christ

But rather they are provided a period of purification
a chance to be made whole
more time to let go of their sins,
their selfishness and their brokenness

We call this moment
this process purgatory

The church says very little more about it.
We don’t know how long it lasts
We don’t know where or how it happens

Simply put Purgatory permits a soul still burdened by sin to come home

We also believe that the prayers of the Saints and
The prayers of the church help in this process of purification

From the time of the apostles the Church has prayed for the dead
In the early Christian cemeteries the graves
were often marked with requests for prayer.

So today on this day of All souls We commemorate
we remember those who have gone before us
We think of them
We sacrifice for them.
We fast for them
We offer up our prayers for them
That their purgatory may be swift
That they may be with God forever…

That is the first purpose the first reason
for this day
It reminds us of those
who have preceded us home
It reminds us to pray for the dead

The second purpose of this day…
Is to commemorate, to remember together
that we too shall pass that way

All of us will one day face death
All of us will one day walk through that door

So often we get so caught up in the challenges of life
that we forget this incredibly important fact
Where they stand we to shall be

And it is important to remember
That how we live and the choices we make matter.

We conform ourselves to the image of Christ with every good choice we make
We deform ourselves,
we wound ourselves with every bad choice we make.

It is so important to remember that
We know neither the time or the hour

When will our time come
When will we face the death?
When will we have to walk through that door
In 20 years
In 70 years
Who knows

All souls day reminds us that we need to be ready
Where would we stand if today were the day we were called to face judgment

Where would we stand if the angel of death knocked on our door right now ?
Where would we stand ?
Would we be ready?

Let us commemorate
Let us remember together
those who have gone before us
Marked with the sign of faith

Let us keep them close in prayer

Let never forget
That death awaits us all…
Will we be ready…