Saturday, September 29, 2018

26th Week Ordinary Time - Year B - 2018

May the Peace of Christ Reign in our Hearts.

In the fullness of time, when the Son of God walked the face of the earth he shared the  Gospel, the Good News with everyone he met.

When Jesus’ message was written on the hearts of those who followed Him it changed them just like it changes us.

No one, No one, who accepts the Gospel is ever the same...

After his ascension into heaven all that he said, and all that he did, was entrusted to this small band of followers or the twelve.

After Pentecost the disciples became the heralds and protectors of the Gospel, which was handed down from age to age.

To accomplish this the community of believers quickly formed a structure which developed into an institution whose only purpose was to protect and proclaim the revealed truth of God.

This institution we call the Church and it was founded by Christ on the rock of Peter who was its first leader.

Yes, throughout history our Church has been burdened by sin and distracted by the contemporary struggles.

We all know the challenges and sins which our Church bears right now and they are heart breakings.

We are not immue to the struggles of our time.

As the story goes in a fit of Rage Napolean screamed at Cardinal Consalvi I will destory your chuch…
The Cardinal calmly responded if the priests and bishops and popes haven’t been able to do it for 1800 years do you think you’ll be able to do it.

You see the Church which is both human and divine, broken and blessed, has been true to its mission. It has preserved the Gospel and proclaimed of the Good News all over the world

Soley Human institutions have come and gone but the Church has always survived...

Therefore the church, our church, with all it wounds still deserves our love and respect because it is also Christ’s Church. Broken and Holy at the same time

The first section of the Gospel reminds us Today.
The spirit is not limited to those formally commissioned by the Church

In the Gospel today we heard how the Apostles discovered others, people they didn’t know expelling demons in Jesus' name, they were not connected directly with the Apostles or his disciples

When they told Jesus they tried to stop the strangers because they did not know them. Jesus advised them not to so. "He who is not against us is for us" in other words leave them alone.

Throughout history there have been people who worked outside or on the fringe of the institutional church but were still instruments of God’s Spirit

The Desert Fathers left the community and fled to the desolation of the Desert to grow in holiness

St. Benedict the founder of Monasticism was suspect by some in the mainstream church as were...

St. Francis of Assisi until he won the heart of Pope Honorious

St. Teresa of Avila managed to frustrate so many in the church with her persistent call for reform

All of the above were on the fringe... some in the Church looked on them with suspicion.... as if they were strangers.

Many of them were persecuted and their ideas put to the test

In our own time there are tons of examples,
St. Maximilian Kolbe reformed our Conventual Franciscan Community but the friars in poland did not accept him and it was the friars in America who gave him the money for his first printing press and helped him begin his movement.

Mother Teresa left the comfort of her traditional convent to found a community to serve the poorest of the poor.

Pope John XXIII was supposed to be a caretaker Pope, or a do nothing Pope, he was elected because he was old he likes a lot of pasta and won’t last long. yet he called the Second Vatican Council.

And began a wonderful aggiornamento or reform of the Church.

So you see the first passage of the gospel speaks to all of us as members of the church.

It calls us to be open to the prompting of the spirit

It warns us not to dismiss those who seem to be living the gospel in a different way or calling us to do so

Even if we do not know, them they may still be instruments of the spirit and those who are not against us are for us...

The second part of the Gospel speaks to those who feel called to reform or challenge the Church.

Just as the institution must be cautious in dismissing them or stopping them

Those who feel called by the Spirit must be careful not to cause scandal or sin.

Their reforms, their charismatic teaching, can only be the result of prayer and a holy life lived...

If we took the last part of the Gospel literally we would all have major wounds. please don’t take it literally or cut anything off

Jesus simply used hyperbole to warns us  that we must be diligent and radical in our desire to separate ourselves from all that keeps us from faithfully living the gospel.

Brothers and Sisters,

Let us pray for a cautious discerning spirit so that we may be faithful to the Gospel which Christ preached and open to the ever changing promptings of the Holy Spirit


Sunday, September 16, 2018

24th Year of Ordinary Time Year B 2018

The other night I was driving as I was driving on 185.  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.”

No honest Christian can say they didn’t know that they would have to carry the cross to follow him.

All of us who follow 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 me?
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.

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 the 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. (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.

Sometimes it’s so hard to understand why a young Mom had to die of cancer or why a raging storm like Florence is permitted to take a innocent human life.

In difficult painful situations like these it is hard to find understanding or an answer that comforts. Words and theories just don’t cut it when we see an innocent person suffering

In moments like this, all we can do is take God at his word hold on to him
and trust that He 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 are often broken when we see suffering humanity on the evening news. Several years ago a the lifeless body of a Syrian boy washed ashore in greece. I looked around our friary rec room and there was not a dry eye among us.

When God doesn’t stop the suffering of an innocent person, we need to find some comfort or at least understanding that 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 or our broken choices

God 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 with God forever.

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 as worthless as straw. I know I haven’t answered the question of suffering or the cross. 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.”

Saturday, September 08, 2018

23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time Year - B - 2018

I’m not a very artsy guy but this caught my eye in the Washington Post many years ago and I still remember it.

In 2007 Joshua Bell one of the world’s most renowned violinists was in Washington for a concert tour.

The Kennedy Center immediately sold out at $100 a seat.

But while he was there the Washington Post commissioned him to pay his 4 million dollar stradivarius in one of the subway stations in our nation’s Captial

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

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.

In today’s Gospel Jesus healed a man who couldn’t hear or speak.

Most of the time when he performs a miracle all that Jesus does is speak and it happens.

Come out and Lazaraus came out,
Be still and the sea was calm,
Talithacum and the little girl got up.
This time Jesus did something different
He put his fingers in the man’s ears and touched the man’s tongue with saliva so that the man would know what was going on.

Jesus accepts each of us where we are

The scholars tell us that Jesus used these actions from contemporary medicine to put the man at ease as a whole new world would of sound would and communication would enter into his experience.

The scholars also 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.

God gives us our senses, hearing, sight, touch and even smell so that we can connect with each other and nature.

Our sense give us  ability to communicate in a profound way and they make it possible for us to to be in communion.

All of our senses all of these God given gifts should be used for what is good and holy.

Our senses and ability to communicate  to bring us together rather than cause division.

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

Quite often God’s Word 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.

The Gospel today calls us to reflect on our relationship with God’s Word and our relationship with each other

It calls us to ask ourselves on whose word do we shape our thoughts and our opinions and our lives

On Whose word do we place our hope ?

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 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 hear God’s word 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 to follow and to share

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 all to love without counting the cost.


Sunday, September 02, 2018

22nd Second Sunday of Ordinary Time Year B - 2018

May the peace of Christ Reign in our hearts…

There is probably no group of people that Jesus loved more and that frustrated Jesus more than the Pharisees and the Scribes

Over and over he reached out to them and he tried all kinds of ways to break through, but they simply refused listen to him or welcome him.

Their name means “set apart” and they and the scribes fashioned themselves the special keepers and experts of the Law

The Jews considered the Pentateuch or first five books of the Bible God’s Law…

And in the Pentateuch God presents general outlines by which his people could remain faithful to him and each other

300 Years before Jesus a group immerged called the scribes and they took upon themselves the task of applying the law to everyday life.

They developed a very complex set of rules to help people remain faithful the law

They prescribed how a faithful Jew was to wash you hands
How much water was needed to wash your hands 1 ½ egg shells
What type of containers could become clean and how you had to cleanse them

They taught How much weight could you carry on the Sabbath without breaking it God’s law or how far could you walk without breaking the Sabbath.

These laws became so complex that an industry developed interpreting them for people in everyday circumstances.

People went to scribes to learn how to avoid breaking the law and you had to pay them for their advice

This way of observing the law skewed the people’s understanding of religion and religious practice

Being faithful was no longer about love but about rules, and it became about doing the bare minimum, rather than answering God’s call to love your neighbor

Just think about the story of the good Samaritan…

This exaggerated legalism allowed God’s people in good conscience
to walk by a wounded beaten man without coming to his assistance

The priest walked by and the lawyer walked by because they did not want to touch him and become unclean….

With today’s Gospel
Jesus erased all of these interpretations by declaring that nothing outside of us can make us unclean

This was radical… it abolished centuries of practice 
And people nolonger needed to go the the scribes for advice.

It took away the livelihood of a whole class of people. 
No wonder the scribes and pharasees hated Jesus so much he took away their power and he took away their salaries.

This new position of Jesus also  took away the security of being able to say
I follow the rules so God can’t touch me.

And  it forced people to answer God’s call to love rather than hid behind the interpreation of the Scribes.

That’s the first point we need to understand our response to God must not be about just following the rules, rather heartfelt loving response to God and our neighbor

the second point that the Gospel makes is this 

Jesus tries to help the people of his time and us understand
That our sins are not found in the manner we wash our hands or what we eat. 

Rather all sins begin in our minds and in our heart

This is where  all our sins start
And if we want to stop sins we have to stop them there in our minds and in our hearts.

All begin in our minds

And so we have to fight our sins in our minds way before they take on flesh from our actions.

We begin on the road to holiness when we begin to control our thoughts.
By rooting out of our minds all bitterness or angry thoughts

We begin on the road to holiness when we try to look at the good in someone rather than concentrating on the bad

Yes we all know that Being chaste is hard, 
we all know being patient is hard, 
and we all know that forgiveness is hard

We all know that..
If anyone of you find  being chaste, forgiving, and generous are easy let us all in on your secret

And so dear brothers and sisters we can’t find comfort or solace in just following a few rules.

God wants and needs so much more from us.
He needs and wants us to love Him and our neighbor

As St. Augustine said when you really love God and when you really love  your neighbor do whatever you want

For Jesus said

Hear me, all of you, and understand. 
Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person;
but the things that come out from within are what defile.

"From within people, from their hearts,
come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder,
adultery, greed, malice, deceit,
licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly.
All these evils come from within and they defile."