Sunday, July 10, 2016

15th Sunday of Ordinary Time - Year C - 2016

Many of us go through life asking questions like:
What do I need to do to be successful?
What do I need to do to be happy?
What should I do to be healthy ?

We ask ourselves over and over again..
What do I need to do to get ahead of the pack and stay there?
How much money do I need for my kids to go to college ?
How much money do I need so that I can retire comfortably ?

These are all valid questions and frankly many of us live with them day in and day out.
But...all of these questions are about our life here on earth,
which we need to remember  is so very short and fragile.

Every week before the start of Mass we read the names of people who have passed away and we have to wonder as they knocked on heaven’s door if they had wished they had spent more time worrying about eternal life.

Today’s gospel asks us, it is wise to spend so much energy only thinking about the here and now and not spend time thinking about forever?

Today’s Gospel and this question reminds us so poignantly  to raise our eyes and our thoughts and our worries beyond  the normal everyday challenges of this life.

There was a little old lady in my very first parish in a very poor violent neighborhood of Rome.  She had all kinds of challenges, she was desperately poor.

One day when I saw her she was so happy I would say she was ecstatic because a distant family member was coming to visit her.

People rarely came to our neighborhood because it was so violent and they were afraid.

If it wasn’t for the church the little lady would have been terribly alone.

She didn’t have money for any special food so she spent the whole day in a park picking mushrooms.

When  I passed her walking home she was so excited because she found some great mushrooms and she would be able to put them in the pasta she was going to serve her guests.

The next day when I saw her I asked how her visit went and how the pasta was.
For the briefest of brief moments she looked sad and then she said.
I put the mushrooms on my porch to dry and someone stole them
but then she quickly added but Father when you think about eternity what difference do those mushrooms make?

The Scholar’s said the way to heaven was
“You shall love the Lord, your God,
with all your heart,
with all your being,
with all your strength,
and with all your mind,
and your neighbor as yourself.”

Jesus said to him, “You have answered correctly;
do this and you will live.”

So the next time we find ourselves worrying about
What this person or that person said,
or how much money we have,
or what color we have to paint the living room,
or whatever...

Let us ask ourselves
When you think about eternity what difference does this really make.

And if we really want to live in God’s Kingdom
Let us occupy ourselves with things that really matter.

Let us Love God,
And Love our neighbor especially those in need whoever they may be.

That’s  what the samaritan did in the Gospel and that’s what we have to do.


Sunday, July 03, 2016

St. Maximilian Kolbe

This week the Relic of Maximilian Kolbe is in our parish so we will speaking at all the masses a little bit about his life and his heroic witness.

Maximilian Kolbe grew up in challenging times.
For much of his life it must have seemed like the world was falling apart.

When Maximilian was born, Poland was partitioned between it’s powerful neighbors.

Poland was a battleground during WWI because it was situated in the middle of the powerful countries that had partitioned it.

When he was a young man The Tsar of Russia was overthrown by a the communist revolution and Russia became a Godless socialist state. That must have been terrifying for a pious simple family of faith from Poland

In all this confusion, social turmoil and violence, Maximillian’s family turned to God for consolation and hope. They never stopped trusting God.

When he was 12 while at prayer he asked the Blessed Mother what should do with his life.

He later recounted that she appeared to him and offered him a choice between two crowns, the red crown of martyrdom and the white crown of purity. He with his passionate young faith he told her he would accept both of crowns.

A few years later he and his brothers entered the Conventual Franciscans. By the age of 20 he had distinguished himself as a friar and had earned a doctorate from the Gregorian University in Rome.

As a young seminarian and priest was very charismatic and natural leader and soon many friars wanted to join him in his ministry.

He always lived very simply but wanted to use any modern means he could to share the gospel.

So after his priestly formation he returned to Poland determined to start a printing publishing house. He had no money but one day in church while prayer at the Blessed Mother statue he found an envelope with the exact amount of money he needed to begin the publishing house.

His life was full of successes.
Eventually he published several Catholic publications.

So manywanted to work with him that he had built a huge Franciscan Friary to hold them all. It was so large that it was called “city” of the Immaculate.

He started missions in Japan and India and everything he touched seemed to thrive.

But we all know that worldly success, even when it is for God is not always an indication of holiness.

When World War II came he started a hospital at the city of the Immaculate treated anyone who would come no questions asked and He and the brothers who remained continued his publications.

Eventually, he was arrested by the Nazi who saw his devotional publications as a threat and he was sent to Auschwitz.

While there he ministered to the other prisoners regularly heard their confessions, helped them face the challenges of life in Auschwits and prepared many for death.

He was revered by fellow prisoners who did whatever they could to protect him from of the Nazis who had a special hatred for Priests.

Then one day three prisoners escaped and the Nazi decided to execute 10 in their place as they were being chosen one of the men spontaneously yelled out “my wife and my children.”

In a moment without hesitation  Maximilian stepped forward and offered himself in the man’s place saying “take me instead he said I am a priest and have no family. “ The Nazi were only too happy to comply.

He and the others were confined to a death bunker where they were denied  food and water for the rest of their short lives. In many of the other death bunkers those condemned went insane as they suffered.

From Fr. Maximillian’s bunker  only prayer and hymns could be heard. He prepared and comforted each man for death and finally when he was the only one left because he did not die quickly enough he was executed by a lethal injection.

Fr. Maximilian had huge successes for God throughout his life but it was that singular moment that moment of self surrender that moment when he offered his life which proved that his faith was real and authentic.

I’m sure he had human weaknesses and idiocracies remember being declared a saint does not mean that someone is perfect. It means that in the end they somehow chose God.

By his self surrender in that one spontaneous moment it became clear to all that Maximilian Kolbe had given his life to God.

We live in challenging and difficult times. Sometimes it seems like our world is falling apart. Sadly our church seem to be emptying out rather than filling up as we face our challenges.

The first thing we have to ask ourselves is in this time of confusion where are we going to place our trust.

With all that was happening around them Maximilian and his family did not surrender to cynicism,
they did not become angry like everyone else,
they did not lose hope. They placed their trust in God.

As confused as things have become of late their example should inspire us to do the same.

It is clear that even at the age of twelve young Maximilian understood that life was not only about him. Even at that early age he was willing to dedicate himself for the good of others.

We need to do a better job at teaching our children that they are not the center of the universe, we need to help them understand that everything does not revolve around what they need and what they want.

We need to plant in their hearts a desire to work for the common good and not only think of themselves.

Thoughtout his life Maximilian took the time to properly discern God’s will.
He never did anything without taking it to prayer and discerning if what he hoped to do was for the good of God’s Kingdom.

We need to ask ourselves how often do I seek to understand God’s will rather than our own will. How often do I place the good of God’s Kingdom, the spiritual lives of our famllies before my needs and my wants. Or is it vice versa.

Finally there will come a moment in our lives or several moments in our lives when love will call us to make a special sacrifice.

Someday God is going to call us to step out of our ordinary lives and do something heroic just like he called Maximillian.

Maybe it will be taking care of our elderly parent or infirm spouse or child.
Maybe it will be bringing someone in need into our home
Maybe it will be forgiving someone we love for the hundredth time
Maybe it will sharing something we need for ourselves with a person in need rather than just giving for our leftovers

Maybe we will even be called in someway to give our lives to someone out of love

When God calls, will we be willing to step out of our everyday life and say yes take me. Here I am take me.

Maximilian did and that moment proved his faith was real.  Amen