Sunday, September 27, 2015

26th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year - B 2015

This has been an historic week for the Church in America.

We have been visited by four popes but none have ever spoken before Congress or had so much contact with the leaders of our nation or our culture at large.

The commentators are amazed at the crowds who went to great lengths just to see him. Even the jaded New Yorkers have been turning out in huge numbers.

I’ve always believed like St. Ambrose that
Where there is Peter there is the Church
Jesus put St. Peter  in charge of the Church
with all his faults and failings he made St. Peter the chief shepherd of our church.

Pope Francis is the direct descendant of St. Peter and hence he is our shepherd or He is Peter for us today

So we can say  
Where there is Francis there is the Church and I will follow him.

Many of the commentators noted that the simple way that Pope Francis presents himself speaks almost as loudly as what he has to say.

There was almost a comic moment when a regal trumpet fanfare was blaring from the balcony of the White House and a little Fiat drove up. Just that moment was a message in itself.

There were several themes that reminded which hit home for us. .

It was obvious that the Holy Father wanted to remind us that our country is built on the sacrifices of immigrants and in doing so he also reminded us that we have to respond to the question of immigration as God would have us do.

He also made clear that we have an obligation to care for the environment that God has given us and expressed his belief that humanity has the power to damage our world  for future generations

He reminded us that  all human life at every stage of development is precious and sacred and deserves our loving care especially those most vulnerable.

He warned us that money and the economy should not be our primary focus for they do not guarantee that we will live holy lives,

He brought me to tears as he spoke in St. Patrick’s Cathedral about the privilege of being a priest and the need for us to works hard and sacrifice to save souls.

He said all these things humbly, and respectfully without anger or resentment and he mentioned over and over again the need for dialog. Which means that it is important for all of us especially the Church to learn to both listen and speak.

As world our culture becomes more and more polarized.
our conversations become louder and angrier.
There always seems to be more speaking than listening

The divisions were crystal clear when one half of the congress would stand up and cheer and the other would sit in silent resentment.

It looked to me that some got caught off guard.
They were standing when our holy father spoke about defending life but had to quickly fall to their chairs because he almost immediately switched to the being against the death penalty and they were still clapping.

The texts of our Holy Fathers talks will provide us with lots of food for thought and we are in the process of putting them all on our parish website.

In the near term his example should cause us all to reflect on how we interact with others especially those who we don’t agree with.

When Pope Francis left the House of Representatives everyone  who heard him did not become pro life or anti-death penalty or pro immigrants and he was not offended by that.

His example should encourage us to never be afraid to speak the truth gently and respectfully even with those who don’t agree with us.

Our conversation in our families should be respectful and patient.

Our conversations at Bella’s or at the Whole Donut or McDonalds should be should be truthful, gentle and open. (especially McDonalds that’s where half the parish senior citizens gather to share town news on a regular basis)

The conversations in our parking lot when parents are waiting to pick up their kids from Religious Ed and St. Paul Schoo should build up rather than tear down.

We shouldn’t be afraid to charitably enter into dialog with people who we know have different beliefs and live different lifestyles.
Let’s find and accent what unites us rather than always starting with what divides us.

Our Holy Father’s visit should teach us all that If we only surround ourselves only with people who agree with us we will indeed be poorer rather richer.

Let’s be a more humble church, a more gentle church
Let’s charitably and calmly engage our culture with the revealed truths of Christ with our fear.

Let’s always try to listen as much as we speak when we find ourselves embroiled in controversy or disagreement

Let us not be afraid to try to find common ground with those who disagree with us.

In today’s Gospel Jesus told his disciples
“ whoever is not against us is for us.”

This week our Holy Father has taught us that best way to keep people from being against us
the best way of bringing the message of Christ,
is to humbly, patiently, lovingly, dialog with them.

Let us Go and do the same.

During the time of Jesus there is Peter there is the Church
In 2015 where there is Francis there is the Church

Thank you Lord for bringing Peter / Francis into our midst

Guide, comfort him, Inspire Him. Protect Him always     Amen

Sunday, September 20, 2015

25th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year- 2015

May the Peace Christ Reign in our hearts,
Once upon a time I asked a young man what he wanted most in life, and how he would know if he had made it.
He responded immediately without hesitation by saying “ I want the 4 P’s “

When he saw the confused look on my face he elaborated,
Then he said “When I have the 4 P’s I will know that I made it.
That’s is success for me. “
I said, “you sure had that list on the tip of your tongue” and he told me “I think about it alot.”
Prosperity and Property involved physical assets
Power and Prestige are more concerned about how people saw him.
I was saddened because he never mentioned love or companionship or caring for others at all.
For this young man success was all about having more..and sadly success was all about him.
We all know that power and prosperity, property and prestige don’t make a person happy.
Just look around... at people like Michael Jackson, and Lindsay Lohan, in fact it’s hard to find someone in the entertainment world that is happy and lives a good and holy and fulfilling life.

It’s hard to find an entertainer with a successful marriage and well adjusted kids. Look at the poor Kardashians they are rich but they are also a mess.

Even if People  have an abundance of property, power, prestige and prosperity often they still have lives that resemble a train wreck.

Today’s Gospel shows us that the Apostles were not immune to the glitter or temptation of the 4 p’s.
When Jesus was sharing with them his future passion and death. Instead of listening and trying to comfort him they were arguing about who had the greatest prestige.
Jesus knew he had to make them understand once more that happiness and holiness were not about how much property they had,
or how much money they had,
or what people thought of them
or how much influence they had over others.
You know today we treasure Children, but this was not always the case.
During the time of Jesus Children were insignificant.
A father could simply refuse to accept a child and it would be put outside to die in neglect.
Children were the poorest of the poor with no rights and with no means to repay any kindness.
So Jesus took a little child and told His Apostles success is welcoming and caring for them he was saying success is welcoming and caring for someone who can never pay you back.

For a follower of Christ…
Success is giving without expecting anything in return.
Success is a life poured out in loving service.
Success is letting go rather than holding on.
Success is caring about others more than you care about yourself.

I never heard what happened to that kid but I will always remember his determination to have his property, power, prestige and prosperity.
Sadly some people never get it.
I once visited a lonely old lady.
She lived in a huge house and every time we spoke she told me that someone was after her money.
The people that were living in her home and caring for her kept changing because after awhile she would convince herself that they were after her money and fire them.
She had no contact with her family.
You know the story she was sure that they wanted her money.
I went to see her once a month and listened to her and tried to help her understand the people actually cared about her.

Sometimes I thought that I was this close to getting through to her

But she never really believed me and could not accept that they were not just after her money.

Then one day her helper called and said you don’t have to come tomorrow father.

I immediately asked if she was OK or if she had taken ill.

The helper responded candidly Father. “She thinks you are after her money.”

When they had her funeral the funeral director told me only a couple past employees came. Sadly she died like she had lived alone and sad with a big bank account.

So much for the four p’s

How will we know when we made it
What do we think about success ?

And Jesus said….
"If anyone wishes to be first,
he shall be the last of all and the servant of all."
Taking a child, he placed it in the their midst,
and putting his arms around it, he said to them,
"Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me;
and whoever receives me,
receives not me but the One who sent me."

Sunday, September 13, 2015

24th Year of Ordinary Time Year B 2015

The other night as I was driving.  I noticed that it was really getting dark but that people were not putting on their lights.

It puzzled me for a moment until I realized that I was wearing my sunglasses and when I took them off everything changed.
In today’s Gospel Jesus forces his disciples and all of us to take off our sunglasses and clearly see the demands of discipleship.

Jesus makes sure that everyone knows what it really means to follow Him.

Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it.”

And so, you see that all of us as followers of Christ are called to carry the cross. All of us as followers of Jesus should expect suffering and pain.Jesus is very upfront about this.

Often human suffering is one of the greatest challenges a person can face.
Sometimes when we are faced with suffering, we ask ourselves questions like,
Why do I have to suffer?
Why do I have to watch someone I love suffer?
Why doesn’t God take away my pain or the pain of my loved one?

These are very human questions and we should not be afraid to ask them.

If we really think about the suffering in the world some things become clear.

Sometimes if we are honest with ourselves, our suffering is the result of the choices we have made in our lives.

  • We all know that  if we live a poor lifestyle, we increase our chances for illness and suffering.

  • If we drive everyone in our life away because of our selfishness or our anger, we will probably suffer loneliness when we need people the most.

Sometimes it’s clear to see that our suffering is the result of the choices other people make.

  • Those who pollute our world or produce foods with ingredients that we can’t even pronounce so that they last a little longer on the shelf, increase our chances for cancer and sickness.

  • Sometimes other people’s sinfulness affects us. When we are in the wrong place at the wrong time and we are robbed or mugged, our suffering is caused by someone else’s sin.

Sometimes our suffering is just part and parcel of having a physical body and angels don’t have to worry about cholesterol.
  • It should be a surprise to no one that sometimes bodies simply wear out.
  • When we fall down, we risk breaking something. If we hit our thumb with a hammer instead of the nail (been there, done that), we are going to suffer.

Yes, suffering is often caused by how we, or someone else, chooses to use the free will that God has given us.

Sometimes suffering is really good waiting to happen. There have probably been moments in our lives when our suffering has molded us, stretched us and shaped us into being better people, more loving people, more compassionate people, holier people.  

A young father once told me… Kids stretch you Father. and so does marriage. But at least I’m not only thinking about myself any more (Truer words were never spoken)

The hardest type of suffering a human being can face is when someone who is innocent, someone who had done everything right, and nothing wrong has to carry the cross of suffering.

Our faith can easily be shaken by the sight of a child who was abused  or ill.

We had a couple of very painful funerals this week. A beautiful young mom who was only 44 yrs old and who suffered with cancer for years went home to God.

We all prayed for her over and over again. She was anointed so many times and yet for some reason God called her home to be with Him.

We also had a father and husband who was only 64 years old die suddenly without any warning. They were both very painful funerals.

In difficult painful situations like these it is hard to find understanding or an answer that comforts.

In moments like this, all we can do is take God at his word and trust that God loves us;

It seems that sometimes the loss of a loved one or the suffering of an innocent person is allowed to happen according to God’s plan. And it is just not possible for us to understand why.

God doesn’t cause the suffering, but sometimes he allows it to happen or refuses to stop it either.

Our hearts were all broken when we saw the lifeless body of that little Syrian boy who drowned while fleeing the war in Syria. (There was not a dry eye in our friary) The news people say the sight of his lifeless body was the moment that hearts in Europe changed and  the borders were finally opened. That heart breaking image of the that little boy saved 1000s of children like himself. That’ little boy;s ultimate sacrifice allowed so many other little children to live. Sound familiar? We have to ask ourselves did God need to permit that little boy’s death to move our hardened hearts and save others.

When God doesn’t stop the suffering of an innocent person, we need to find some comfort in the fact that Jesus, who was also an innocent person, had to carry the cross, suffer and die.

When humanity walked down the wrong road, when our sinfulness caused us pain and suffering, God didn’t run away. He did leave us to be victims of our own designs.

He ran to us and became one of us and for us Jesus walked down the road of suffering and pain so that we might be reconciled.

Jesus, innocent though He was, bore the weight of our sin. His love was redemptive; in other words, His suffering love saved us.

I know that for some much of what I said is worthless like straw. I know I haven’t answered the question of suffering. I know that there are people who are still hurt or still filled with doubt because of the crosses that they have, or someone they love, have had to carry in their lives.

I offer you these humble thoughts in the hope that they will help us see the connection between love and suffering.

Sometimes love calls us to suffering

And When someone suffers no matter who they are no matter where they come from we, all of us are called to run to them and love them more and help them carry the cross anyway we can.

Yes we need to take off our sunglasses and see clearly what it means be a disciple.

When, not if our time of suffering comes, may we all have strength and courage and the faith to pick up the cross and follow Jesus on the road to Calvary without fear.

For Jesus said…, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it.”

Sunday, September 06, 2015

23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time Year - B - 2015

In 2007 Joshua Bell one of the world’s most renowned violinists was in Washington for a concert tour. And while he was there the Washington Post commissioned him to pay his 4 million dollar Stradivarius in one of the subway stations.

The morning after the concert almost 2000 walked by his concert in the subway without stopping to listen or even notice him and he got $37.19 in tips.

In case you don’t know this man is considered by many to be the world’s greatest violinist. He is the Tom Brady of classical music

I mention this story because our lives are filled with sounds and words.
But many times it’s hard to notice what is of value and what is not.

It’s hard to discern what we should really listen to and what we should tune out.

Because of all the noise and words in our world,
Parents have a lot more challenges than my parents did.

When those of us who are a little older grew up our parents were still the main voice in our lives.

Now parents have to compete with the likes of Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift and Kanye West.

When my Dad wanted our attention he turned off the TV or pulled the plug on the radio and he had us  

Today all of these voices speak to our children not only on the radio or TV but on twitter on facebook on reddit, on snap chat, on their phones in their email.

Sometimes when I look in my inbox and there are 200+ emails and I feel like i’m drowning in communication and noise

And sometimes there are so many emails that important messages just get buried in the avalanche of emails.

In today’s Gospel Jesus healed a man who couldn’t hear.
The scholars tell us that this miracle is both real and symbolic.

It was real because yes there was a real man whose hearing was restored

It was symbolic because by giving the man back his hearing Jesus also connected him with the world in a new and more intimate way.

If God gives us our senses, hearing, sight, touch to connect with each other then we should use these gifts for what is good and holy.

Just like many people walked by Joshua Bell in the metro or Subway station so much of the world simple fails to notice or hear God’s word.

Quite often it just gets drowned out by all the other voices and noise competing for our attention.

So many people even life long believers fail to give God’s word its proper place in our lives.

We simply walk through life not knowing what we are missing or even really paying attention. Like the people that morning simply walked by Joshua Bell.

The Gospel today calls us to reflect on  our relationship with God’s Word
It calls us to ask ourselves whose word do we allow to shape our thoughts and our opinions.

Whose word do we place our hope on ?
Whose word directs our life and informs our actions ?

These are very important questions indeed.

The day that Joshua Bell played in the subway.
I was sitting at the  supper table in the Priest residence on campus and one of the priests who loves classical music had been to a Joshua Bell concert the previous night at the Kennedy Center.

He told us at the table “I will never be able to listen to a violin in the same way again. From now on every time I hear a violin I will compare it to that concert last night.” It was beautiful somehow he could make that violin sing.

Good friends once we really hear God’s word
Our lives and the lives of those we love will never be the same.
The way we look at the world will never be the same

Everything will be seen in the Light of the loving Word of God which each of us is called to hear and to follow.

Let us pray.
Lord help us to notice and listen to your Word
May it shape the way we think
may it inspire our hope and may it move us to love without counting the cost.