Friday, October 29, 2010

31st Sunday of Ordinary Time Year C 2010

May the peace of Christ reign in our hearts,

He was wealthy and powerful.
As long as he paid the Romans what they asked he could extort anything he wanted from those who came to pay their taxes.

It was no wonder that people hated him.

And he did all of this without fear because he was backed up by the Roman army, the most powerful force in the world.

It seemed to many that Zacchaeus was in the best of all positions, but obviously he didn’t feel that way.

Something was wrong, something was missing.

Maybe the tears of the poor he extorted had softened his heart.

If Zacchaeus had been satisfied with his life he wouldn’t have cared that Jesus was passing though his town and he would not have gone to extraordinary lengths to encounter him.

Zacchaeus was so desperate for a different life that he even humbled himself and climbed a tree just to get a glimpse of what that life might become.

Can you imagine a rich powerful man being forced to climb a tree?

Power, influence and especially wealth, Zacchaeus had all of these things but he was not happy.

The average American house has almost doubled in size since 1950s.

Those of us who are older remember how it was to have one bathroom.

No one would think of building a new house with one bathroom.

In 1960 2% of households had three cars or more cars in

In 2008 19% had three cars or more.

And even though we are in a difficult place financially at the moment,

we have more toys, and more gadgets,
w e have more bathrooms,
we have more activities,
we have more space to live in,
we have granite kitchen tops,
we have more vacations in more exotic places,
we have more and more and more and more,
and yet so many people struggle to be happy.

I would venture to say that both as a country,and as individuals many of us find ourselves in a situation just like Zacchaeus.

Many of us long for something different,
maybe it is a peace filled life, or a more secure life.
Maybe it is a life with more time especially with those we love.
Maybe it is a holier life.

What we have does not satisfy.
Just watch the adds on TV it is so clear that we are not happy as a nation…

You know many in the world look to us with envy and they dream of coming here just like many envied Zacchaeus.

The Gospel today dares us to dream of a better life.

The Gospel today encourages us all to look for something more like Zacchaeus.

He dared to hope for a better life and so must we.

To find that better life and to find salvation Zacchaeus had to be willing to overcome many obstacles.

He couldn’t get to the front of the crowd because everyone hated him and would not let him pass.

He couldn’t see Jesus because he was too short.

He did not let these obstacles get in the way

He climbed the tree.

If we want a different life, 
a more peace filled life,
a more fulfilling life,
a holier life,
a happier life we have to be willing to overcome the obstacles which hold us back.

Maybe we have placed too much trust in material things.

Maybe we bought such a big house that it owns us rather the us owning it.

Maybe we just work too much at the expense of our relationships.

Maybe we hold on too tightly to our lives rather than being willing to give them to others.

Isn’t that what love is giving your life away.

Maybe we are afraid to get off the road we are on even though we know it is taking us to a place we are no longer sure we want to go.

Once Zacchaeus met Jesus he let go of his old life
Once Zacchaeus met Jesus he made amends.
He repaid everyone he defrauded.

Once Zacchaeus met Jesus he didn’t look back.
What do we have to let go of…

The answer will be different for all of us.
If we like Zacchaeus dare to dream of a different life.

..we must find a way to meet Jesus Christ, and when he sees us trying to find him he will say, “come down from that tree I’m going to stay in your house today.”


Saturday, October 23, 2010

30th Sunday of Ordinary Time –Year C- 2010

They both were  sinners.
One went through the motion of following the rules but tragically he had an arrogant and prideful heart.

The other one fell or jumped into sin over and over again and he knew it.

The first didn’t really ask God for anything… he just told God how great he was.

The second couldn’t even raise his eyes to heaven, all he did was repeat over and over again “have mercy on me a sinner.”


Only the second man was saved,

the man who simply went through the motions of following God’s law was not.

The moral of the story is simple.

We all have to be humble.

A proud and arrogant and self-righteous person with hardened heart cannot be saved.

He cannot be saved because he or she doesn’t even know that they need God’s love or God’s mercy.

This week I went to  Buffalo to visit my 86 year old mother for 2 days.

As I travelled back from home this week, I kept reflecting on humility.

I always try to dress clerically when I travel because in my own little way I am trying to heal all harm that a very small minority of my brother priests have done to the good name of the priesthood.

Nowadays when you dress clerically some people ignore you,
some people are actually hostile,
and some people are kind.

On occasion someone wants to talk or go to confession  because they know they will never see you again.  I’ve heard lots of confessions in airports.

It doesn’t really matter how they act I have no control over that.

What matters to me is how I act.

I try to smile
I try to be solicitous
and I try to be humble.

You know I’ve come to be convinced that  the Gospel would be received so much better if the Church as a whole were more  humble.

We can never stop proclaiming the truths revealed to us by God, and we can’t ever presume to water them down, 
but if we and some of the leaders of our Church proclaimed God’s truths more humbly I believe that there would be a lot more people in the pews.

Catholics all over the world have to be more humble proclaimers of the Word.

Our parish has to be humble in its dealings with our town and fellow citizens.

And all of us are who have been given the gift of faith are called  to live it humbly especially with our friends and in our families.

One was proud and one was humble which one are we ?

Friday, October 15, 2010

29th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year C - 2010

May the peace of Christ Reign in our Hearts,

Today’s Gospel speaks about prayer and two essential characteristics of prayer.

Obviously God hears every prayer.
There is no prayer that God does not hear.

It is impossible for us to live out of range of God.

God  knows all, God sees all, God hears all.

Try as we might (and all of us try),
there is no God free zone in our lives
nor can their ever be a God free zone in our lives.

In this parable as he teaches us about prayer
Jesus give us the example of a widow,
the poorest of the poor and the weakest of the weak.

Jesus reminds us that like the widow in the story we are called to pray constantly and not grow weary.

All of us  must strive to live in a state of constant prayer.

The unjust judge says that the widow’s petition was answered because she would not give up.

If even an unjust judge will answer a petitioner
if they ask long enough and hard enough… much more will God who is not an unjust judge
but a loving father answer our prayers.

So you see the first characteristic of prayer is constancy.  We must pray always.

Our lives must become prayer.

The widow’s example also gives us another characteristic of prayer and that is trust.

She trusted that eventually her petition would be answered.

Like her we have to learn to trust.

We have to learn to trust.

We have to learn to trust the very God who gives us life
and gives us breath,
and gives us the ability and privilege to love.

No only must our prayer be constant,
but we  also have to have complete trust that it will be answered in the best possible way no matter what.

Sometimes we fool ourselves into thinking that we know more than God.

Sometimes we fool ourselves into thinking that our prayer was not answered because it was not answered in the way we desired.

In other words we really don’t trust God.

Dear friends each and every prayer we offer should end something like this…

“Father  I think this is what I need, and this is what I ask, but I know and I trust that
you know best and you love me.

Father your will be done.Your will be done O God.

That’s how Jesus finished his most fervent prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane and that is how we need to finish our prayers each and every one.

If you look at the first reading the message is the same.

As long as Moses kept his hands in the air the battle with Amalek  went well.

Whenever he gave up, whenever his prayer was not constant things went poorly.

Finally it was only with the assistance of Aaron and Hur that Moses was able to keep his hands up and remain in prayer.

We all know that it is not easy to hold  our arms in the air for long periods of time.

And we all know that it is not easy to pray constantly and trust constantly that our prayer will be answered.

So you see holy ones.

The last message of today's readings is simply this.

Like Moses needed Aaron and Hur to sustain his prayer during battle, we need each other, and we need the Church to sustain ourselves in our prayer.

If our prayer is constant,
and If we trust God completely,
then when the Son of Man comes he will indeed find faith on the earth.

He will find our faith.



Friday, October 08, 2010

28th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year C - 2010

May the Peace of Christ Reign in our Hearts,

Today the first reading and the Gospel talk about the same experience.

They both speak of the journey to a faith that can save.

Both the Samaritan and Naaman came to a new found faith.

They are both different people at the end of their stories.

In both readings both Naaman and the Samaritan Leper realize that they needed to be healed .

They also realize that only God can do it.

So Naaman travels a long way to see the Prophet Elisa.

And the Samaritan and the other lepers in his company reach out to Jesus who many considered a prophet.

They went to these holy men to ask God for help.

Their encounter with Elisa the Prophet and Jesus was less then memorable.

Elisa quite matter of factly said go wash in the river and closed the door.

Jesus simply told them to go to Jerusalem show themselves to the priests.

Neither invoked God,
or uttered a prayer
or touched
or medicated the lesions
or offered any kind of sacrifice.

Next both Naaman and the Samaritan had to trust that God would hear and answer their prayer.

In other words they had to do what they were told even if it didn’t make sense.

If you know the story Naaman needed some convincing to go and wash in the river but he finally went.

When they were healed both Naaman and the Samaritan made a profession of faith.

Naaman returned to Elisa and declared his faith in the God of Israel.

The Samaritan returned to Jesus and prostrated himself before Him and thanked Him.

Jesus to him, “your faith has saved you.”


What an incredible statement… not only was he healed physically but more importantly he was brought to faith.

Jesus lamented that the others even though they were healed did not come to faith.

They failed to realize that God had given them an incredible gift.

Let’s look at those four moments a little closer

First we must know we are in need of God and are dependent on him.

Second we must ask His help.

Third we must trust He will give it.

Finally we must thank him for the gift received.

What do these four steps have to do with us?

Holy ones…

Lots of people today simply don’t turn to God.

Many are lost in despair believing that no one can help them or they don’t realize how ill they really.

So many of us are in denial about how ill we really are spiritually or physically.

So many of us comfort ourselves with thoughts like,
I’m not perfect but I’m not as bad as him or her… they’re a mess.

If Naaman or the Samaritan had not felt they were ill they would never sought to be healed.

One the of the first steps in sobriety is for a person to realize that they are powerless,over their addiction.

Those in AA know only when you realize that you are powerless can you really turn to God your higher power.

To be brought to faith we have to be humble enough to be willing to ask for help.

This is so essential.

Think about it…
If the lepers and Naaman had not sought out help from God there is no indication that they would have been healed.

It is so clear from the first reading and the Gospel that we must open the door to our hearts for God to come in.

So many of us refuse to ask for help.

So many of us let our pride get in the way of being healed.

The second step is also crucial

Both Naaman and the Samaritan had to trust that their prayers would be answered.

The stories make it clear that trust is essential.

Naaman had to wash himself in the river.

The Samaritan had to start off toward Jerusalem to show himself to the priest

Faith, healing, God’s loving providence demand a response from us.

May people never feel God’s presence in their lives because they never really seek it out.

Finally a careful reading of the scriptures reveals that 11 people were healed that day but only two were brought to faith only two were saved body and soul.

Naaman and the Samaritan were saved because they believe and they returned to thank God for his blessing.

Quite frankly many of us pray a lot when times get tough.

But few of us remember to be thankful or recognize God’s presence in our lives  when times are good or when our health is restored.

You know here at St. Paul’s we have the October count for the Archdiocese.

At Catholic University we had the December count for the Board of Trustees.

And it usually showed that around 50% of the students who identified themselves as Catholic went to Mass on Sunday.

Sometimes however it would jump to 52% or 53% and I could never figure out why… until one year I realized the closer the count was to final exams the higher the number.

I’m sure there were often prayers at that Mass like Oh God help me fit a whole semester into 10 days… Please… my parents are gonna be very upset with me.

Yes today the scriptures reminds us that

We must know we are in need of God and are dependent on him.

We must be willing to ask His help.

We must trust he loves us and will provide for us.

And we must thank him for the gifts received recognizing His loving providence

Only then  will we ever hear the

“Stand up and go your faith has saved you…”