Sunday, October 25, 2015

30th Sunday of Ordinary Time year B - 2015

May the peace of Christ reign in our heart

I once knew a young man in college who was great at sports especially ultimate frisbee.
He had a winning personality with lots of friends, and  was a straight A student.

The only burden he seemed to carry was a stutter which would make it’s presence felt only once in awhile.

It would have been easy for him to turn into himself, limit his relationships, and stand by the sideline but he refused. He looked this challenge he had been given in the eye and he never let it hold him back.

At the end of his career in college the university wanted to honor him with an award. The only problem was he would have to give a speech to accept it.

He faced this challenge without fear. Now I’m happy to say he is priest doing great work. S

ome would say that having a stutter and being a priest are incompatible after all most of what a priest does is speak. God sees things differently.  

I have to say it was an honor to know this young man and it was inspiring to see him overcome the challenge he was given..

I mention his story today because Bartimaeus also had a challenge. He was blind, he could not work.

He was forced to beg on the streets. He was dependent on the goodwill of others.

The gospel mentions no family or wife or children he was alone. In that culture and that time who would marry a blind man?

One scholar I read said that many people who lived in  Jericho were members of the priestly class who would have been opposed to Jesus and his followers.

By reaching out to Jesus Bartimaeus risked alienating the very people he depended on to live.

Let’s look briefly at the scene and try to see what at the see Bartimaeus really did.

It might not be clear to us but when Baritmaeus stood up and started yelling Jesus Son of David he was making a profession of faith. By using the Title Son of David Baritmaeus was proclaiming his belief that  Jesus was the Messiah. This was sure to alienate the people whom he depended on.

He continue to proclaim his faith in Jesus even when people rebuked him publicly.
When Jesus called him Bartimaeus threw off his cloak and ran to him.

A poor man’s person’s cloak what his also his bed. It kept him warm in the night the pockets of the cloak might have had a little bread or food they had managed to save.

The cloak was also like a poor man’s wallet. Any coins he had collected would have been squirrelled away were probably in the cloak there were no pockets in the other garments a poor person wore.

By throwing away his cloak he was risking everything he had.
Bartimaeus could have stayed on the roadside that day

He probably could have begged a lot of money from the crowd that had gathered along the road that day but he wanted more and he took a big risk to obtain it.

All of us have challenges.
All of us have weakness.
Some of us face illness and handicaps.
Some of us have addictions.
Some of us regularly drink the bitter nectar of anger or resentment
There is not a person in this church that doesn’t have some burden some sin which limits their ability to live a happy normal Christ filled  life.

The question we have to ask ourselves is simply this.
Are we going to to let these things win and stay on the side of the road like Bartimaeus could have done or are we going to ask God for help.

Are we willing to make the changes in our lives needed to move beyond our limitations and our problems.

With God all things are possible. The first step is simply to ask for help or to ask for healing.  

Saturday, October 17, 2015

29th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year B

In the Gospel of Mark, On three separate occasions
Jesus tells his closest followers, his closest friends, that he will have to suffer and die and each time they either don’t understand or fail to grasp what he is saying.

The first time Jesus spoke of his passion to the disciples Peter tries to convince him that he is wrong and Jesus says to him. “Get behind me Satan”

The second time Jesus reveals that he has to suffer and die, his disciples don’t seem to pay attention and start arguing about who is the greatest in the God’s Kingdom.

Just before today’s Gospel passage Jesus tried one more time to prepare his disciples for the passion..

No one consoles him or offers their support.

Instead James and John ask for places of honor one on his right and one on his left in the kingdom of God.

Their comment was so embarrassing to the early church that in the Gospel of Matthew the evangelist has the Mother of James and John make the inappropriate request.

The other disciples were indignant when they heard James and John not because they had asked for the places of honor but rather because they had beat  them to the punch.

Before we are too harsh on the disciples and before we are to harsh on anyone it is important for us to look at ourselves and our own lives.

How self focused are we?

How much effort do we spend trying to get ahead .

How much of our time is spent at home and at work looking to amass more and more property and more and more influence and more power?

How often have we failed to notice the needs of others
or when we did see someone in need  just not want to get involved.

How often have we failed to be of service to those around us

If we added up all the hours of a typical day how many of them would be focused on us getting ahead and how many of them would be directed toward concern for others.

Are we teaching our children to look out for the needs of others or are we teaching them that their needs and their wants must always come first.

A world where everyone thinks of themselves as first is a very sad world indeed.

All of these are very important questions because like the Jesus, we were given our life, to serve and not to be served.

Sadly in our world success is measured by how many people report to you or answer when you call.

In the God’s Kingdom success is measured by how many people you serve.

This same teaching is echoed in the first reading from the prophet Isaiah.
In this passage written 700 years before the birth of Christ seems to foretells how the Messiah will save a very broken and sinful world.

It will not be by force,
it will not be with an avenging army,
it will not be by coercion,
rather it will be by suffering love.
a love which is willing to sacrifice
a love which is willing to pay the price of our sins
a love which gives itself away freely.

Think about it
Do we really want a world where selfishness is a virtue or the main virtue which guides our lives ?

Do we really want a world where everyone looks out only for themselves and their own interests first and the rest get the leftovers

Today’s Gospel makes it very clear that’s not what God wants for us.
and that’s not how Jesus lived.

For as Jesus said the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life in ransom for our sins.


Saturday, October 10, 2015

28th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year - B -2015

Last year one of our Grandmas couldn’t be with her Grandchildren on Halloween because they lived out of state.

So rather than sit home alone and sad, she packed up her car with lots of candy and a box of old matchbox cars left over from her kids and parked in our parking lot for trunk or treat.

As the kids came through she offered them a piece of candy and once in awhile she would pull out the toy car box and offer one of the cars too.

She told me it was a wonderful night and she was so happy to see all of the children.

A little boy probably around 2 ½ came to her trunk and he found a small matchbox car that he loved he looked at it and looked at it and wouldn’t let go of it or put it in his bag no matter how hard his mom tried to get him to do it.

When he came to the next car he had a big problem the candy bag was in one hand and the car was in the other and he couldn’t figure out how to get his candy because he simply refused to let go of the car or the bag.
The rich young man in the gospel was a good person
He kept the commandments,
He didn’t kill anyone
He didn’t commit adultery,
He didn’t steal or lie,

Yet there was something going on in his life, he longed for something more something different.

It was obvious that Jesus was touched by this desire to live a better life.

And so Jesus offered him another way to live another way to find happiness.

And with love he said “sell what you have and give it to the poor and your will have riches in heaven, then come follow me.”

Jesus understood that his had to be the next step for the young man.

You see even though he didn’t He didn’t kill anyone
He didn’t commit adultery,
He didn’t steal or lie,
there is no indication that he ever did anything good for anyone either.

Being generous, sharing or giving what he had to others would have radically changed the young man’s life.

Letting go of his wealth, his security, his position and prestige would have freed him up to love more and be more dependent on God’s love.
But alas he just couldn’t bring himself to do it.

He wanted something different but he just couldn’t let go of what he had so he was trapped.

Just like the little boy at trunk or treat who couldn’t bring himself to put down the bag or let go of the car or even put the car in the bag..

You know we priests talk to unhappy people all the time.
People rarely ring the doorbell to say gee father I’m happy, life's great, things are going well.

Often people who come to us find themselves at a crisis point or a difficult moment  for themselves or someone they love.

Frequently when we offer them alternatives or speak of other choices they can make but they just can’t bring themselves to do try anything new.  

They want something different out of live but they just can’t bring themselves to change anything or let go of any of their old habits..

All of this should call us to ask ourselves
What am I holding on to?
What do I refuse to let go of ?
What is keeping me from changing.

All of us have something which holds us back otherwise this church would be full of saints instead of wannabe saints.

For the young man couldn’t bring himself to let go of his riches.
even though they didn’t satisfy him.
And that’s why Jesus said… It’s so hard for a rich man to be saved.

So how can we figure out what is really important in life?

How can we know what to hold onto and what to let go of.
The answer is found in the first reading.

God promised King Solomon that he would give him anything he asked for:

Power riches, influence, health and easy life and instead Solomon prayed for wisdom

Wisdom is simply the ability to see things and understand things as God sees them.

When someone is wise they know what really matters and what doesn’t
When someone is wise they understand what they should hold onto and what they can let go of.

Let us all spend our lives seeking to see as God see, understand as God understands and live as God would have us life

For if we do we won’t ever  have to walk away sad like the rich young man in the gospel who just couldn’t let go of things that just didn’t make him happy.


Sunday, October 04, 2015

St. Francis 2015

Once upon a time there was a man who fell in love with God

His love was so radical, so real,  that it changed him and everyone around him.
Love can do that !
He went from the child of privilege

To a man dedicated to the poor and the outcast
To a man not afraid of suffering
To a man enamored with creation so much so that he called the sun his brother, the moon his sister, and the earth his mother.
To a man who stopped worrying about so many things and was filled with the peace that only God can give.

His name was Francis of Assisi or St. Francis

Francis’ love affair with God grew slowly like any love.
It was born out of defeat he was a failed soldier who was captured during his first battle.
It was born out of suffering and illness because of his long imprisonment
It was born out of loneliness and confusion
He worried so much about what he was supposed to do with this life

All of these things and more drove him to solitude and prayer and that’s where he met God. (Sometimes we think that  

Slowly but surely Francis of Assisi dared to trust God

One day while at prayer in the abandoned church which of San Damiano which was literally falling down Francis was meditating on the cross that still hung in the sanctuary when all of a sudden the face to the cross moved and spoke to him.

It said “Francis rebuild my church”

Looking around at the church he immediately set out to literally rebuild that little church with Joy
He finally knew what God needed him to do

He sold everything he had to accomplish the task and slowly but surely other young men came to help.
They were intrigued by the changes they saw in their friend.
They were amazed at his dedication to his project.

The Church in Francis’ time was very worldly
It was made up of the privileged and the noble
It was very concerned about it’s power and wealth and influence
It was always in competition with the emerging civil governments.

The people the normal people were marginalized and pushed aside to the fringes of the Church.

Quite often there was literally no place for them in church on Sundays.

Many times the poor were forced to stand outside and listen through a window or door.

The Church was far from what it should be, and what God needed it to be.

So many people and even the clergy were inspired by the poor men of Assisi and their leader Francis.

This little group of men became a reform movement which was a catalyst of change

The church became more responsive to the poor, the clergy became less concerned about their place of privilege and more concerned about their service to God’s poor.

Francis the man who fell in love with God did indeed rebuild the Church not just the little Church of San Damiano but the whole Church.

And he did it by his humble example.

Now it should become clear why Jorge Mario Bergoglio chose the name Francis. He knew well the story of St. Francis and he knew the Church needed to change.

St. Francis rebuilt the church
Some 800 years later Pope Francis is trying to do the same.

Some agree with his method and some don’t.

All of this begs the question
What are we doing to rebuild the church?
What are each of us doing?
What are we going to do to build up our parish?

Yes we are in a far better situation than many.

However the gospel needs to be preached, a whole younger generation has to be called home.

Just managing the facilities in a parish like ours is almost a full time job.
There are senior citizen who are all alone.

There are confirmation students who disappear as if confirmation is graduation.

The list goes on and on and on. I carry it in my heart everyday.

None of us can say… I’ve done my share.
I’ve put my envelop in the collection.
I’ve gone to mass.
None of us can say I’m too busy. as if we’ll get involved as long as we have nothing else to at all to do.

Let us all meditate on the life of St. Francis.
Let us ask God what he needs us to do.
Let us resolve answer his call.

Everyone is needed no one is expendable.

As Jesus asked Francis of Assisi he asks us… Rebuild his Church let us answer his call.