Friday, August 27, 2010

22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time –Year C – 2010

When Jesus went to the Pharisee’s house for a meal he observed how the guests were all trying to sit at the head of the table.
Each one felt they deserved a place of honor.
Each one felt that they deserved be recognized as someone special, in fact more special  than the others present.

You see some of the guests either thought too highly of themselves or to little of the others.

Sadly our world and our time are also filled with people who think too highly of themselves or fail to recognized the good in others.
Ego and pride are still very real problems almost 2000 years after Jesus.

With all that mankind has accomplished we have yet to free ourselves from ourselves.

Sadly, it almost seems that things have gotten worse in this regard.
How often do we and others begin our sentences with words like:
I want
I think
I deserve
Give me
I come first?

And if we don’t say them how often do we think them?
So much of the violence and pain present in our society today is rooted in ego and pride.
Quite often a marriage fails when one or both of the spouses try place themselves first, at the head of the table, or convince themselves that the other is no longer serving their needs.
And when someone steals something they somehow convince themselves that they deserve to possess what they steal more than the rightful owner.
In other words they place themselves at the head of the table.
One time a young man simply spoke to a young woman he saw in the hall of his DC public school.
He wasn’t aware that she was dating someone already and when her boyfriend found out was outraged.
He felt that he had been dissed or disrespected.

He felt that his “offender” had placed his own interests ahead of him at the table of life.

Tragically the young boyfriend was so overcome by rage and hurt that he took out a gun and killed his the young man who had simply spoken to his girlfriend.
What a tragedy what a horrible tragedy  two precious young lives lost because of ego and pride.
How often to we see jockeying for power and position at work?
Instead of  doing their job to the best of their ability so that their work may be recognized…
…people use office politics to place themselves at the head of the table before their co-workers.
This pridefullness, this feeling of entitlement, this placing oneself at the head of the table before others, is not limited to individuals or even small groups of people.
Every war starts because some country feels itself more deserving to sit at the head of the table of the world than their neighbor.
Holy ones every sin is rooted in pride or ego.
We sin when we think that our well being, and our will, and our desires are somehow more important that God’s will and God’s law.
In other words when we sin we dare to place ourselves at the head of the table even in place of God.
The only cure to all of this pain and destruction caused by putting oneself ahead of others and God is humility.
There is a lot of confusion when it comes to being humble.
Being humble does not mean feeling bad about yourself.
Being humble does not mean having low self esteem.
Being humble does not mean we deny our God given gifts.

We are humble when we realize that we don’t have to be first in line.

We are humble when we don’t have to have the most possessions or the biggest or fanciest house..

We are humble when we recognize the wonderful gifts that others possess.

We are humble when we realize that all we have
our families,
our friends,
our talents,
our dreams,
and even our very next breath are gifts wonderful gifts from God.

Being humbled means that we realize that we and those at the table with us are loved equally by God and precious in His sight.
In God’s eyes we are all at the head of the table.
Jesus did not place himself at the head of the table.
He did not come in power and might but rather chose to be born at the very end of the table in the tiny little backwater town of Bethlehem where there was no room in the Inn.

If God had placed himself at the head of the table of creation he never would have forgiven us or paid the price of our sin by dying on the cross.
Yes indeed
Our families
our neighborhoods
our parish

our town and villages
our cities and our countries
even our world would be such better places

If we remembered the important lesson of today’s Gospel and lived humble lives.
For Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled,
but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

This week let us all pray for the gift of humility.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Some Thoughts on Family Prayer

prayer A lot of families pray at meals. Some families pray at night before the kids go to bed, especially when the children are young.

Often family prayer falls by the wayside at the critical moments of a young person’s life when it is needed most. If we want our kids to pray, we have to pray. We have to show them by our example that we really believe in prayer. I read some place that strong moments of shared family prayer were one of the best ways to bring one’s children to faith and keep them Catholic. It makes so much sense doesn’t it? I believe that a family that prays together and goes to Church together will have a much better quality of life. At Catholic University some of the students most involved in the life of the Church casually spoke about family prayer as if it was a given in everyone’s life.

I would like to propose to you 4 moments of family prayer... Some of you are thinking, “Oh for heaven sake. Is he out of his mind? We’re too busy already ?” Don’t stop reading hear me out.

Wouldn’t it be great if, before everyone left the house, there was a brief moment, maybe even a quick huddle if you will, with a prayer like “Lord thank you for this day, please help us make good choices and return us all home safe and sound Amen.” Maybe just Mom and Dad could say it. Maybe you could say it in the car as you drive the kids to school. Whatever the case might be, I’m not talking about an hour long novena in the morning. All that is needed is a moment, a simple moment together as a family, together with the Lord.

What about expanding our evening meal prayer together. Hopefully, some people still have an evening meal together (more on that another time). I would propose in addition to the traditional “Bless us oh Lord and these thy gifts which we are about to receive…” what if each member of the family added a petition for some need they felt, or maybe someone could add a prayer of thanksgiving for a grace received that day. What a beautiful way to start a meal and what a beautiful window into the heart of your family.

And what about trying to gather everyone together before the littlest one goes to sleep. I know… I know easier said than done. Here is another opportunity for a short prayer, a moment of thanksgiving, maybe even just a Hail Mary. You know the whole Church finishes it’s day with a hymn to Our Lady every night. Why not join your prayer with the whole Church and do the same.

Finally, I would propose that as you and your spouse go to bed, before you nod off after a long day, that you pray together. Some of you are thinking, “We have never done that Father Robert.” Why not give it a try? If a husband and wife can’t pray with each other, who can they pray with? I repeat… If a husband and wife can’t pray with each other, who can you pray with. When you pray before you go to sleep, nothing elaborate or drawn out is needed. As you lay there you could simply say the name of each of your children, then either in the silence of your heart (the chicken’s way out) or out loud, you could pray for that Child. Ask God to bless and protect them, ask God to help you figure out how to love them more and parent them as he would have you do. You can also add other petitions. If one of you is a night owl and the other one a sleepy head, why not stop what you are doing and pray before the first one goes to bed. Radical you think? Is it really radical to pray with your spouse or your kids ?: By the way Grand parents can pray for their children and grandchildren in just the same way. I can hear it already, “For heaven sakes Fr. Robert, we’ve been married 40 years and now she wants to start praying together! Thanks a million.” My response will be after 40 years you should know to be quiet and do as you’re told (just kidding). All I can say is if your priest doesn’t call you to prayer, who will?

When we begin to insert little moments of prayer in our lives beyond the “Lord find me a parking space…” or “Give me some good numbers Lord,” or whatever, our life will be changed. By inserting little moments of prayer throughout your day it reminds us that we continually live in the loving presence of God.

I know what I am asking may seem crazy to some of you. I know that once relationships and family routines are established, it is really hard to change them. I know that many of you might have already stopped reading, thinking to yourself “this is too much”. All I can say to that is …

Jesus said,

“Ask and you shall receive, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be open to you.” Let’s take him at His Word and give it a try. I’ll be praying for you this week

Saturday, August 21, 2010

21st Sunday in Ordinary Time – 2010 – Year C



Jesus was not a proud or arrogant man.

He and his disciples simply spent their time walking from town to town proclaiming the good news to anyone who would listen.

As we heard in today’s Gospel,
one day as he was walking into a village
someone asked him. 

“Lord, will those who are saved be few?".

Jesus didn’t answer the question,
but rather he used the opportunity to talk to them about what people needed to do to grow in holiness and be saved. 

You see for most of its history Israel was a tiny country among giants.

It was at the crossroads of many nations and because of this it was continually being taken over.

In order to survive and maintain its identity Israel became very insular and isolated.

The people of Israel rarely interacted with others.

In fact they looked down on  people from other countries and somehow convinced themselves that only they would enjoy eternal live.

It was the opinion of many during Jesus’ time that simply being an Israelite and following the letter of the law was enough.

And so in today’s passage  Jesus warned them  not to take their salvation for granted.

Being an Israelite or  simply following the letter of the law was not enough.

Jesus explained that in order to be saved a person had to strive or work at being holy.

And when he said strive he used  the word which describe the strenuous exercise of an athlete.

I don’t know about you but for me strenuous exercise is not easy.

His point was simple
being the men and women God wants us to be is not easy.

It is strenuous because  we have to change..

We have to change our hearts.

It’s not easy to let go of our wills,
it is not easy to let go of
our desires and our plans.

To be holy there has to be a continual surrender of our wills to God’s will ….  our plans to God’s plan.

Religious practice, going to Mass, going to confession, are so important because they help us understand God’s will and fall in love with him.

But without love and a conversion of heart all the  religious practice in the world is worth nothing.

Being holy is indeed like trying to squeeze a big body through a tiny door.

You have to pull in tummy and fold over your arms and bend your neck and tuck up your legs and then if you are like me you need someone to unfold you when you if and when you get through.

What does this have to do with all of us here is Berlin Connecticut?

Holy ones
If our presence here on Sunday is to bring us closer to God…

We have to strive
We have to really work at being the men and women of God.

We have to work really hard at being holy.

If we think it’s easy  then something is wrong.

Coming here every Sunday and warming the bench is important but it is not enough.

In in this passage Jesus is  reminding us
warning us if you will that 
we can’t just sit back and take salvation for granted.

We can’t permit ourselves thoughts like
I go to Church every Sunday
and there are a lot of people worse than me 
so that’s enough.

We have to be more loving,
more merciful,
more kind,
less judgmental,
less angry,
more trusting,
more concerned about the need of others,
more forgiving,
less proud
more faithful… etc etc etc…
and it is not easy.

The Word of God which we hear at Mass will inspire us.

The grace of the Eucharist will nourish us and sustain us.

The incredible grace of a good confession will make us more humble and merciful.

No going to Mass is not enough.
And being baptized Catholic is not enough.

We can never take our salvation for granted.

The message of the today’s Gospel is simple.

We have to work at conforming ourselves to Christ every day of our lives
so that someday we may pass though the narrow door of holiness to life eternal.


Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Assumption of Mary

May the peace of Christ Reign in our hearts…

You know the twentieth century was an incredible time.

It was like no other century in the history of the world.
There were huge advances in medicine to many name

There were advances in technology and science….
Remember “One small step for man who giant step for mankind.”

I can remember that day so clearly when humanity walked on the moon for the first time.

For many especially here in the United States during the second half of the 20th Century there was  significant growth in the standard of living
things seemed so good.

On the other side of the coin…

The 20th century was also time of great suffering.
Never in the history of the human race had so many people died from war and violence.

World War I was a terrible war of attrition with 16 Million deaths.

During the Second World War 60 Million people died .

At the end of the war we developed the atomic bomb and for the first time in the history of world humanity had the power to wipe itself off the face of the earth.

The 20th century was  the best of times and it was the worst of times  Just like Charles Dickens described the  period leading up to the French Revolution.

In the context of such suffering and loss of lives….

It almost seems like we had forgotten who we were and where we were headed.

We forgot that we were the children of God.
We forgot that each and every person matters.

We forgot living and loving according to God’s plan is the best possible choice we can make.

Humanity forgot that our destiny is to be with God forever.
That’s why God created us…
He wants to love us forever heaven.

For centuries some say as early as the third century Catholics had believed that Mary the Mother of Jesus was assumed into heaven

She did not ascend into heaven like Jesus.

Mary was assumed into heaven as
Like Fr. Martin said the other day notice the passive voice.

Jesus ascended into heaven on his own.
Mary needed God to be assumed into heaven.

Since she was conceived without original sin.
She did not have to suffer death one of consequences of original sin.

Catholics believed that  Mary’s Assumption
was God’s way reminding us we too were destined to be united with Him in heaven.

In a world marked with so much suffering and death
Pope Pius XII wanted to find a way to give us hope again.

And so after lots of prayer and consultation he proclaimed the dogma of the Assumption of Mary.

He did so to call mankind back to faith 
He proclaimed the dogma to remind us who we are.

He wanted us to remember our destiny,
the goal of our lives, is to be with God.

It was his hope that by proclaiming the dogma of  the Assumption of Mary humanity somehow find its heart again and come back to faith.

Sometimes like humanity we too forget who we are.
We allow ourselves to be filled with anger and resentment.

Sometimes you would never know that we are Catholic by the way we talk to each other.

Sometimes we live as if all that matters is how much money we have in the bank or how big our house is 
or how much power and influence we can amass.

We allow ourselves to loose hope in God’s love.
Sometimes we just don’t trust God’s loving providence.

Sometimes like the many who lived during the 20th Century we loose our way home…

May this feast day of Mary remind we are children of God

May it remind us that we are indeed very loved by God.

May it help us refocus our efforts to live good and holy and generous lives.

May the Assumption of Mary help us set or reset our priorities and our values.

And once again point us in the direction of home.

Holy Ones…
No matter what life throws our way…
No matter what….

May we be filled with hope and be consoled with Joy

Mary our Mother was assumed into heaven and someday if we live good lives it will be our destiny to find our way home to God and in heaven to be with her,
our loved ones  and God forever.