Gospel Reflections

 

 

 Weekly Gospel/Sermon



 

September 09, 2018 

(23th Sunday in Ordinary Time)

SERMON

 

We have all had bad times in our lives. Times in which everything seemed bleak and overwhelming. The words addressed to the Israelite People ( and I might say to us in these days) in our first reading were originally addressed to a  people who were undergoing a time of  great hardship and disappointment. The Israelites believed that they were God’s Chosen People, and indeed, they were! But at the time in which this reading was addressed to them they felt as though God had abandoned them. They had been defeated by the Babylonians, and many of them had been extricated from their homeland to become workers for their conquerors in a foreign land.  How could they feel that they were God’s Chosen people if such a defeat had befallen them? It seemed at the time that they would never be returning to the promised land.  Forget about their beloved city, Jerusalem, a city which symbolized to their minds their specialness in the eyes of God and in the eyes of the contemporaneous nations surrounding them. That city, which epitomized their very identity, was now torn apart…along with their central place of worship, the revered Temple in Jerusalem. In the midst of their despair, the Prophet Isaiah addressed these words to the Jewish people; we heard them in our first reading: “Thus says the Lord, Be strong; fear not! Your God comes with vindication; with divine recompense; he comes to save you.” Isaiah then used poetic images to indicate that through God’s actions, things will be turned around: “Streams will burst forth in the desert and rivers in the steppe. The burning sands will become pools, and the thirsting ground will render springs of water.” In other words, do not give into despair; in God’s time and through God’s action, a restoration of significant measures will take place. Hence, “Be strong andfear not!” And a restoration did take place.

Many of us feel those same feelings of despair, disappointment, disillusionment and anger in these days that those ancient Jewish people experienced during those times in which our first reading was written. Some of us who know something of Church history know that although there were many glorious periods of excellence and contributions to society in the history of our church, there were other times and experiences in which, through the failings of men, the Church deviated from Her exalted calling. For instance, at the time of the Renaissance, roughly from 1410 to 1699, there were many practices, especially on the part of the highest levels of the Church, which were far from what we are called to be: the Presence of Christ to the world. Are we back to the times of the corrupt Renaissance church? When and how will God lead us out of this new exile? As broken and corrupt as the church was in the Renaissance times, the Lord raised up powerful prophetic and healing people to restore the Church. People like Theresa of Avila, Ignatius of Loyola, John of the Cross, Rose of Lima, Pope Pius V, Francis Xavier and many others. It can be said that the Holy Spirit initiated the Counsel of Trent to restore a broken Church, as indeed it did.

In speaking to Peter, Our Lord promised that the “gates of Hell will not prevail against the church” although it may seem to be prevailing in these times. He further promised that He will be with the Church until the end of time. Just as the Lord through Isaiah promised that he would not abandon the Jewish people in their time of great suffering, disappointment, and exile so we should know that those same promises given to Isaiah along with the very promises rendered to Peter on behalf of the Church indicate that God will be with us during these strained experiences of these present times.

As a pastor of souls, my greatest worry is that this re-visited scandal will impugn your faith, and dissuade you from following it any longer. Don’t throw out the baby with the bath water!  Most of these scandals had been reported fifteen years ago and were largely committed by a small percentage of clergy over the past seven decades and a number of bishops who mishandled their sins and crimes. Unfortunately, a few new cases have recently surfaced regionally and nationally which only add fuel to an already raging fire. 

 I pray daily and often for your faith, just as Christ did for the perseverance of Peter’s Faith when he knew that it would be severely tested!  

We have all had bad times in our lives. Times in which everything seemed bleak and overwhelming. The words addressed to the Israelite People ( and I might say to us in these days) in our first reading were originally addressed to a people who were undergoing a time of great hardship and disappointment. The Israelites believed that they were God’s Chosen People, and indeed, they were! But at the time in which this reading was addressed to them they felt as though God had abandoned them. They had been defeated by the Babylonians, and many of them had been extricated from their homeland to become workers for their conquerors in a foreign land. How could they feel that they were God’s Chosen people if such a defeat had befallen them? It seemed at the time that they would never be returning to the promised land. Forget about their beloved city, Jerusalem, a city which symbolized to their minds their specialness in the eyes of God and in the eyes of the contemporaneous nations surrounding them. That city, which epitomized their very identity, was now torn apart...along with their central place of worship, the revered Temple in Jerusalem. In the midst of their despair, the Prophet Isaiah addressed these words to the Jewish people; we heard them in our first reading: “Thus says the Lord, Be strong; fear not! Your God comes with vindication; with divine recompense; he comes to save you.” Isaiah then used poetic images to indicate that through God’s actions, things will be turned around: “Streams will burst forth in the desert and rivers in the steppe. The burning sands will become pools, and the thirsting ground will render springs of water.” In other words, do not give into despair; in God’s time and through God’s ac3on, a restoration of significant measures will take place. Hence, “Be strong and fear not!” And a restoration did take place.

Many of us feel those same feelings of despair, disappointment, disillusionment and anger in these days that those ancient Jewish people experienced during those times in which our first reading was wriVen. Some of us who know something of Church history know that although there were many glorious periods of excellence and contributions to society in the history of our church, there were other times and experiences in which, through the failings of men, the Church deviated from Her exalted calling. For instance, at the time of the Renaissance, roughly from 1410 to 1699, there were many prac3ces, especially on the part of the highest levels of the Church, which were far from what we are

called to be: the Presence of Christ to the world. Are we back to the times of the corrupt Renaissance church? When and how will God lead us out of this new exile? As broken and corrupt as the church was in the Renaissance times, the Lord raised up powerful prophetic and healing people to restore the Church. People like Theresa of Avila, Ignatius of Loyola, John of the Cross, Rose of Lima, Pope Pius V, Francis Xavier and many others. It can be said that the Holy Spirit initiated the Counsel of Trent to restore a broken Church, as indeed it did.

In speaking to Peter, Our Lord promised that the “gates of Hell will not prevail against the church” although it may seem to be prevailing in these times. He further promised that He will be with the Church until the end of time. Just as the Lord through Isaiah promised that he would not abandon the Jewish people in their time of great suffering, disappointment, and exile so we should know that those same promises given to Isaiah along with the very promises rendered to Peter on behalf of the Church indicate that God will be with us during these strained experiences of these present times.

As a pastor of souls, my greatest worry is that this re-visited scandal will impugn your faith, and dissuade you from following it any longer. Don’t throw out the baby with the bath water! Most of these scandals had been reported fideen years ago and were largely committed by a small percentage of clergy over the past seven decades and a number of bishops who mishandled their sins and crimes. Unfortunately, a few new cases have recently surfaced regionally and nationally which only add fuel to an already raging fire.

I pray daily and oden for your faith, just as Christ did for the perseverance of Peter’s Faith when he knew that it would be severely tested!

 


 

September 02, 2018 

(22th Sunday in Ordinary Time)

SERMON

 

Mark’s Gospel today is a timely message for all of us. In the past few weeks we have heard much discouraging news. Jesus makes it clear that sin originates from within one’s heart. It is wicked thoughts from the heart that really makes a person impure.

Jesus tells us, “This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines, human precepts.” Our church is only genuine when the true meaning of Christ’s mission is displayed through our words and actions that emanate from our hearts. Each of us can do right or wrong as we have been given free will by our creator. So why do some choose one way over the other. Psalm 36 speaks to this phenomenon and I want to read it to you. ‘Sin speaks to the sinner in the depths of his heart. There is no fear of God before his eyes. He so flatters himself in his mind that he knows not his guilt, in his mouth are mischief and deceit. All wisdom is gone. He plots the defeat of goodness as he lies on his bed. He has set his foot on evil ways, he clings to what is evil.’ Is this not a true reflection of what we have seen exposed within our church? When you were little did you ever disobey your parents? Did you plot how you could get away with it? If you were successful were you more prone to do it again or something much worse? Doing something that was forbidden has been a part of the human experience since Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit. It is our human nature to think that we can have our cake and eat it to. It is this very weakness that the devil exploits in his mission to remove us from God’s love and protection. Our human nature is a double-edged sword. It can bring great happiness or great suffering. Each of our decisions has consequences. No matter the level of deception, it cannot be hidden from the eyes of God. We may think we have gotten away with something now, but I assure you there will be a reckoning.

In the past few weeks, I have felt the same emotions as all of you. I was hurt and angry at the scandal and the cover up. The faith that I loved so deeply was betrayed from within. So how would our Lord want us to handle these issues facing the church? Fortunately, last weekend I had planned a spiritual retreat and the timing could not have been better. I spent 3 days focusing myself on our Lord and His Blessed Mother. I asked them for the strength and courage to push forward through this difficult time in our church and provide the necessary grace and perspective. Private adoration time before the Blessed Sacrament, just me and our Lord! It is in these quiet moments that we shut out our own voice and allow God to fill us with his divine guidance. Praying the rosary, reminds us that the mysteries of our faith are not always glorious, some are sorrowful. Walking the stations of the cross contemplating on each station that Christ endured for our sake and be moved by his love. Using the sacrament of reconciliation to remove any obstacles between our hearts and that of our Lord. Attending mass frequently to share in the food that he left us as nourishment for our journey. During those 3 days of prayers, Christ constantly reminded me that each of us play an important role in the health of his body, the church. He has provided us with all we need for the difficult journey that lies before us. Through his body, blood, soul and divinity he has shattered death. He has given us nourishment in the Eucharist, forgiveness of our sins through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Do the trials of today sadden me? Absolutely. Do they dissuade me from the church or God’s calling? Never. Our faith is precious, and the church is Christ’s body and we should never abandon it. It is in these moments that our true faith will guide us to healing. We must purge our church of those who wish to do her harm. It is a time for each of us to commit to a spiritual renewal of our faith. No matter the challenges that lie ahead, we will be given the grace necessary to defeat evil. This is our cross that we must carry with courage, determination and faith. In Matthew 16 Jesus proclaims, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock, I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

We must pray for the victims, who have suffered because of these horrible sins against the Body of Christ. Let us pray for all the faithful clergy, religious and laity who live Christ’s calling every day.

Let us pray now to St Michael the Archangel


 

August 12, 2018 

(19th Sunday in Ordinary Time)

SERMON

                        Our Old Testament reading takes us back to the time of Elijah the Prophet. To better understand the reading, it is perhaps important to know the context in which it happened. The Jewish people were tempted to follow a regional god by the name of Baal. To ward them away from the worship of this false god, the prophet Elijah set up a contest between the representatives of Baal and himself who would represent the God of the Hebrews. The contest would entail the leaders of those who followed Baal to invoke their god in hopes that he would render a sign of his reality, power, and presence. Then after they had their turn invoking their god, it would be Elijah’s turn to invoke the God of the Hebrews in hopes that He would manifest his presence through a miraculous happening. A multitude was assembled and the contest ensued.  The followers of Baal went first, and as the hours unfolded there was no sign from Baal that he was present. Elijah mocked the leaders representing Baal with such taunts as: “Where is Baal?; he must be asleep; maybe he is taking a nap.”After a prescribed period of time it was Elijah’s turn to invoke the God of the Hebrews. As Elijah invoked the Lord, a clear manifestation of His presence was observed by all who were gathered there. It was hoped by Elijah that this would convince his wayward Jewish followers that they were right in following the God of the Hebrews rather than Baal.  In recent homilies I pointed out that the role of a Jewish prophet was often fraught with challenges, dangers, and difficulties. We hear of that happening in our first reading, which is a sequel to what I just related to you. The queen of that area, Jezebel, was a follower of Baal, and she was infuriated that the Jewish prophet had out-matched the leaders of her religion, representing her god.  Incidentally, I have never heard of parents calling a new-born daughter Jezebel, and that is probably so because Jezebel had quite an evil reputation in her time and in the Scriptures. She was not above stealing and killing to get her way. She was manipulative and ruthless. She was so angry at Elijah that she sent her guards to pursue him and kill him.  We can imagine the terror in Elijah’s heart when he realized that he was being hounded to bring about his death. We hear today of Elijah’s exhaustive efforts to evade his pursuing killers. He departed into the desert in hopes of escaping Jezebel’s grasp. He ,in time, became exhausted and fearful to the point of giving up on life itself. He was in despair, and collapsed under a broom tree where he made a prayer to God. “God take me; I can’t go on.” Undoubtedly, he was thinking, “There I was championing God, and look what’s happening to me? Why is the God to whom I was so faithful allowing my life to fall apart?”

And that’s where we at times during our faith-journey can identify with Elijah? Have you ever felt the way Elijah felt as you made your way through a dreadful passage of life? We, like Elijah, might have felt as though we had tried to be faithful to God, yet God did not seem to be faithful to us.  We may have lived our lives as best we could, but then some unexplainable thing happened to us, a thing we did not think we deserved, and perhaps, like Elijah we felt like giving up on life, on God, on everything! 

Now what happened to Elijah? The Lord, seeing his plight and hearing his prayer, sent him an angel to bring nourishment and support to him, and with that aid Elijah was restored in strength and in hope to move on and continue his journey to safety.  When we are at a point of despair, we should do what Elijah did. He invoked God in prayer, even if his prayer was quite devoid of hope in that bleak moment, and the Lord supported him. That’s what we should do also; invoke the Lord and ask him to hold us up as we pass through rough patches of life. Perhaps He will send an angel to us in a person who says just the right thing, or give us just the right kind of support in our moment of despair, or perhaps an event will happen in our lives which will change everything to a more positive note. When we are in a hopeless state, that is especially the moment we should rely on the Lord to pull us through! Probably most of us can remember some passage in life in which we were at our wits-end, feeling unable to go on, and yet, as threatening as that time and experience might have been, we got through it. It is now only a memory from the past, yet at the time we thought things were hopeless.  As bad as it was for us when were going thorough some of those passages, they did not destroy us. The Jews in the gospel were murmuring against Jesus because he said I am the bread which came down from heaven. By that, he meant, in this section of John’s gospel, that just as bread sustains us, so he can sustain us.  Let us place ourselves in the hands of Jesus, our sustenance in good times but especially in bad times…. times in which we perhaps find ourselves also murmuring against the Lord. If in those moments we turn from murmuring to serious petition, we may well find that he will pull us through, just as he did Elijah.   

 


 

August 05, 2018 

(18th Sunday in Ordinary Time)

SERMON

 

        Our readings of today are rich in spiritual insights. The readings of the Mass are not just placed there to tell us of happenings of the distant past, which might be nice to know, but apart from being historical happenings do not seem to have much to do with our present lives. The Scriptures in our Liturgy do report past historical happenings, and they are important for us to know, but they are also meant to have applications for our lives today. For instance, our first reading from the Book of Exodus, tells us of the Jewish people who were released from the slavery which they and their ancestors had experienced for over four-hundred years. They, understandably, loathed being slaves and longed for liberation. The Lord heard their pleas and intervened. Through powerful manifestations of His power He broke the will of Pharaoh, who reluctantly released the Jewish people from the yoke of slavery.  Our first reading takes us back to a very short time after these liberated Jewish people were released. The chosen people on route to liberation quickly found themselves to be in a harsh desert environment, and they began to complain: “ Oh, if only we were back in Egypt and died there; at least we had “ fleshpots” that had some bread in them;  here we have nothing.” The “fleshpots” they wished to return to hardly contained satisfying or sufficient amounts of food, but at least, they had something to eat, and they longed for it.   There they were, recently released from the harshness of slavery, and they were wishing to be enslaved again rather than to continue on the difficult road towards total liberation in a new land and with a better life. 

Isn’t that kind of experience we have as have as committed Christians who are on a course towards reaching the final destination of heaven. If we are serious about the salvation of our souls and look on life as a journey to attain that goal, there will be many times in which we will be tempted to give up, and return to a life in which we just consider our comforts and pleasures.  These are the “fleshpots” we might substitute for our eternal salvation. Those kinds of feelings of giving up on the Lord, his promises, his Church especially come into play when we experience some kind of difficulty which the life of faith entails. If we take our faith seriously, we will have to make sacrifices at times which will be difficult. Did you ever notice that if you are trying to move away from some failing, some addiction, some entrenched trend in our lives, some destructive way of living, some sin, we will invariably find resistance? The road to transformation will invariably have road-blocks, and we will be tempted often to give up on our faith and return to the “ fleshpots” which life has to offer just as those ancient Jews were tempted. 

What did the Lord do when He heard of the complaints uttered by those tempted Jewish people in the desert who wanted to turn back and give up the course for total liberation God intended for them?  He supplied nourishment for them, bread and quail, so that they might be encouraged to stay the course and to continue on their journey and fulfill their destiny.   What was this bread? It goes by the name “manna”.  Scripture commentators tell us that there is a form of desert-growth which looks like bread and offers some nourishment; they muse that this might have been what the Lord provided for the Israelites to keep them on course towards the promised land and to curb their discouragement.

St. John’s gospel which we hear today began last Sunday and will continue in sequence for several weeks. Last week’s segment told us of the miraculous feeding of thousands of people. This week’s segment takes up after the Lord Jesus returned to his home-base of Capernaum. A number of those miraculously fed pursued him. When they caught up with Him, he told them that they were only following him because they hoped that he would again supply them with perishable food.  He then said to them, “ Seek the food which does not perish.” He then went on to speak of Himself as being the imperishable bread of life which will truly sustain them.  Just as the Father sent manna and quail to the errant Israelites when they were wishing to quit the journey towards the promised land and that kept them on course, he gives us Jesus to keep on the course towards heaven. Stay close to Him on your journey.  Rely on Him as you make your way through the mountains and valleys of life, and just as the Jewish people eventually reached the promised land through the measures which God provided, we also can enrich our present lives with the presence of Jesus as we make our way through life but also attain the eternal life which is our true calling and destiny.    

 


 July 29, 2018 

(17th Sunday in Ordinary Time)

SERMON

 

        We hear of two “feeding stories “in our first reading and gospel today. The first reading tells us of a man from a place which is hard to pronounce, Baal-shal-is-hah’.  I doubt that any of you planning to visit there for vacation this summer.  This man brought the prophet Elisha twenty barley loaves made of fresh fruit and grain. “ Give it to the people to eat, “ Elisha told the generous giver. There must have been over a hundred people to whom it was to be given, and the man rightly asked the question, “ How can one hundred people be fed with what I brought? “ Nonetheless,  Elisha said again, “ Give it to the people to eat.” The man did and surprisingly there was enough for all. The other “feeding story” is one with which we are all familiar. The feeding of the thousands with the five barley loaves and a few fishes which were in the possession of a boy in the crowd.  Again, through his generosity there was enough to feed the multitude.  

 Let us consider for a moment these two givers whose donations allowed two ample bestowals of food to happen. The man from Baal-shal-ishah, whose name we do not know, came bringing Elisha provisions to help people who were starving because of a famine. He never expected that his act of generosity would be so effective in feeding more people than he had provided for.  In the gospel the boy whose name we also do not know provided the fish and barley loaves, and again, through his gift a miraculous and ample meal was provided for the many people who were in the company of the Lord, Jesus on that day. We do not know how the boy initially felt about surrendering his five barley loaves and fishes, but we can certainly conclude that they were not forcibly taken from him by the Apostles. In all likelihood, he probably was not initially inclined to give up what he had brought for himself and perhaps others who came with him, but the bottom line is that he did surrender these foods at the request of the Apostles.  Both givers of food could have refused to hand over their provisions, but they did not, and in giving they experienced an enhancement of their gifts they had given in ways they never thought possible.    

The first lesson we can learn from this is that the Lord can take our acts of generosity, our actions of good-example, our acts of goodness, our acts of charity and multiply their effectiveness far more than we can ever imagine, if we let Him. If we offer our gifts and our lives to the Lord, He will take those gifts and multiply their goodness in ways perhaps we often never see or can even imagine.  When we give to a bonified charity, for instance, we rarely come to know the good effects which are rendered to people we will never see or with whom we will ever come into contact. 

Another lesson we can draw from these two nameless donators of food  is that if we are generous with God, God will be generous to us.  I have heard many people say that in giving to God, they always seem to get it back in one way or another. In the gospel of St.Luke we hear the words of Our Lord affirm that experience. He said, “ Give and it will be given to you. In good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, it will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will be measured back to you. “  

We can give in many ways. The usual way we think of giving is by sharing our material resources. When we give to the Lord by way of helping those less fortunate, or supporting the mission of the Church, we may well find that our giving does not seem to deplete us, but rather seems to be returned to us in one way or another.  But we are not only asked to give of our material resources to God or God’s purposes.  We can give our time to Him, and if we give our time to Him, we will often receive many rewards in return.  I was recently speaking with a young woman who told me that there was something missing in her life. When I asked her if she ever prayed she said that she did pray when she needed something. I told her that God wants to hear from her more often than when she is in need.  “ Pray unceasingly,” St. Paul tells us. I assured her that if she cultivated devoting more of her time to God by praying to Him many times during the day, and giving more of her time and heart to Him she might find that her investment in the Lord would supply what was missing in her life. God rewards us amply when we think of Him, and search for Him.

We have all been given certain talents by God. We may be inclined to simply use the talents for ourselves, but if we use some of our talents for the betterment of others, our church, the mission of our Faith, needy causes, we might well find that the dedication of our talents to these outside causes will bring us more fulfillment than we ever thought possible, and do more good than we ever thought possible. 

The bottom line of all this is that if we surrender what we have to God whether it be our time, our talents, our resources we may well find that we are rewarded in ways in which we never expected, and instead of the giving of our gifts depleting us, they may well be replenished in wonderful ways just as they were for the man from Baal-shal-ishah or the nameless boy in the gospel who donated his loaves and fishes to the Apostles only to find that not only was his personal hunger was satisfied, but that the hunger of thousands around him was also satiated that day. 

 


 

July 22, 2018 

(16th Sunday in Ordinary Time)

SERMON

 

In last week’s Gospel reading, Jesus sent his disciples off two by two and gave them authority over unclean spirits. He instructed them to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick. This was a long and arduous journey that relied solely in trusting Jesus. There would be times when they would be rejected and turned away but that would not deter them from there task of preaching repentance and healing the sick.

Today we hear of the disciples returning from their mission they told Jesus all that they had done and taught. The demanding crowds were so insistent that they had no time to eat or rest. So, Jesus told them to come with him to a deserted place on the other side of the lake and rest for a while. This story is a wonderful foretelling of what it is like to live as Christ and the endurance that is required. The Christian life is a continuous going back and forth between the presence of God and the presence of men and women. It is like the rhythm of sleep and work. We cannot work unless we have our time of rest and sleep will not come until we have worked until tired. There are two dangers in life, First, there is the danger of too much activity. We cannot work without rest and we can not live the Christian life unless we give ourselves time with God. It may well be that the trouble in our lives is that we give God no opportunity to speak to us. We do not know how to be still and listen. We do not give God time to recharge us with spiritual energy and strength. How can we bear life’s burdens if we have no contact with him who is the Lord of all good life? How can we do God’s work unless he strengthens us? And how can we receive that strength unless we seek in quietness and loneliness the presence of God? Second, there is a danger of too much withdrawal. We must never seek God’s fellowship to avoid human fellowship but instead to prepare ourselves better for it. The rhythm of the Christian life is alternating between meeting God in a secret place and serving one another in the market place. Our faith and action do not work separately but instead complement each other. Jesus knew that he and his disciples needed rest to recharge but that was not to be as the crowds awaited him on the other side of the lake. An ordinary man would have been annoyed and resentful, but our Lord was moved with pity for they were like sheep without a shepherd. They all wanted what he alone could give them. Jesus is teaching us something so important in this Gospel passage. Sheep without a shepherd cannot find their way. Left to ourselves, we get lost in life without Christ. Life can be so bewildering to us. We can stand at life’s crossroads and not know which way to turn. It is only when Jesus leads, and we follow that we can find the way. A sheep without a shepherd cannot find its pasture or food. In this life, we seek sustenance as well. We need the strength that can keep us going and the inspiration to lift us up. When we seek nourishment from anyone but God, our minds remain unsatisfied, our hearts still restless, our souls still unfed. We can gain strength for life only from him who is the living bread.

Our world is not intended to live on our own as defenseless sheep. We can not face the temptations which will assail us and from the evil of the world which attacks us. Only in the company of Jesus can we walk in the world and remain untainted by it. Without him we are defenseless but with him we are safe.

In our first reading from Jeremiah, we are warned of shepherds who mislead and scatter the flock of the Lord. There are elements in our world that attempt to mislead the flock. Many of life’s temptations lead us away from the love of the Good Shepherd. We can find ourselves so entwined with the trappings of the world that we do not leave time for the Lord. This is when chaos and troubles seem to overwhelm us. Our frustrations and anxiety dominate our lives and we can sense a hopelessness. The further we move away from God, the more prevalent this feeling can be. We can not satisfy ourselves with things of this world as they are merely temporal and will not quench our desires. Our lives will become empty shells with little purpose if we do not rely on time with our Lord. Our lives are hectic because we fill them with the activities of this world and do not find adequate time to be reinvigorated spiritually. Take time this week to think about how much time you give to the Lord? If we were only able to eat food for 55 minutes on Sunday would our bodies be nourished? It is the same way with our spiritual life. Your physical life is fleeting but your spiritual life is forever. It is time to change.


 

July 15, 2018 

(15th Sunday in Ordinary Time)

SERMON

 

                      “ Take this job and Shove it,” was a popular song a number of years ago. And it kind of represents the mood of the prophet Amos in our first reading. Amos had been a groundskeeper and a shepherd. He was a simple man with a simple jobs, and he was apparently very happy with his life . Then the Lord singled out this ordinary man to be a prophet. Prophets were guides which God used in the history of the Jewish people, not so much to predict the future, but to be a corrective spokesman about the present. God especially called prophets at times in which God’s people wandered far from their dedication to Him . And so the Lord called this unlikely man, Amos, to speak an unwelcomed message to His chosen people . Here he was, an ordinary man correcting the errant ways not only of ordinary people, but of religious leaders. As he went from region to region he had to deliver this message: the Jewish people were not being faithful to their covenant with God. He spoke his message to the lowly; he spoke it to the exalted.   This made him very unpopular with both. In the opening words of the first reading we hear of the dismissive words of the priest of Bethel to the prophet. “ Off with you, go somewhere else with your message.” Amos speaks back to the priest: “ I was a shepherd and a dresser of sycamore trees,” he responds to  the priest, “ but God called me to deliver His message.’  In other words, Amos is saying: “ I did not ask for this job. I was happy doing what I was doing, but God called me to leave my secure and happy life and bring to you His message; I am only doing what I am supposed to do, not what I want to do.” 

As we move through life we may find times in which we are in situations very similar to Amos. We may find ourselves in situations not entirely of our making, nor of our expectations nor preferences, yet we feel dedicated to follow through with them, as Amos did. When people get married they do not know what will befall them. They may wind up going through difficult financial crisis that they never thought would be part of their lives.  They may wind up having to deal with sickness in a spouse sooner than they ever thought possible. And they stop and say to themselves: “ I never bargained for this; life is not supposed to be this way! “

The role of parenting is especially fraught with difficulty  these days. The world we live in has dangers which parents can readily see, but in which young people find no danger. There is a current saying: “ When children are small there are small problems; when they are big, there are big problems.” ( I recently had a parent of mostly grown children say to me: “ It is not easy to be a parent today.”  She is weary of seeing her children veer off in directions which she knows are dangerous; her children are oblivious to these dangers.  Like Amos, she did not choose to have the problems which she sees her older children having to face, but she feels compelled to persevere through these difficult passages of life since she believes perseverance is part of her calling as mother. 

No matter what our calling is in life, we will have to face unwelcomed problems which go along with the calling. You have such in your life; I have such as a priest. The Buddhists have a saying: “ Life is Difficult.” And it is! 

These difficulties may never have been anticipated at the time in which we took on the responsibility of whatever we are called to be or to do.  They may be unwelcomed experiences, unpleasant passages through which we are called,   not to abandon our calling, but to fidelity, as was Amos. 

In the Gospel Our Lord sends out his apostles on a fledgling mission. It was a mission of short duration, but it was a mission in which Our Lord councils his rooky apostles not to rely on the usual securities one might think a necessity for a journey, such as money and provisions. They were to rely, solely,  on God’s providence . He hints that there will be some resistance to the Mission. In other words they will face some problems in being faithful to the mission, but he calls them to persevere in spite of all opposition. 

So don’t “shove a job” just because it becomes difficult. Even if you never bargained for, nor expected some the trials which can be part of a calling: persevere. Remember Jesus words in last week’s epistle: “ My Grace is sufficient for you!”  If God gives us a calling; he will give us the means to sustain that calling.

 


July 08, 2018 

(14th Sunday in Ordinary Time)

SERMON

 

We hear today from a man named Ezekiel. I’m sure you don’t think of him often. He lived thousands of years ago, and his existence on this earth probably does not come into your consciousness very often, if at all. He was one of those people God signaled out to be a prophet. As I said in prior Hmes, we often think that a prophet’s main task was to foretell events of the future. Sometimes prophets did that, but their main task was to give God’s messages to people who lived in their own Hmes. Now the messages they gave were not their own opinions, nor their own concerns, but God’s concerns and teachings. They were called to be God’s mouthpieces, and they were selected by God to speak, urged on by the promptings of the Holy Spirit. As Ezekiel says in the opening words of our first reading, “ The Spirit entered into me.” Ezekiel was prompted to submit his message due to a conviction that the Holy Spirit of God was urging him to do so. Moreover, the audience he was to address were not strangers, outsiders, but his own people, the Israelites, and the message he was to deliver to them, was not a confirming or posiHve message, but a criHcism and a corrective word that would probably not be welcomed. It is always harder to deliver prophetic messages to those who know us well as we see evidenced when Jesus returned to his home town and the townspeople dismissed the value of his words thinking him to be just another hometown boy who was making too much out of himself. But to get back to Ezekiel, God’s message was issued through Ezekiel because the Israelites to whom he would deliver it, were a rebellious people in need of correcHon . “ Hard of face and obstinate of heart are they to whom I am sending you, “ the Lord tells Ezekiel. In listening to this, we might think, “ Poor Ezekiel, I wouldn’t want to be in his shoes...having to issue a message that wouldn’t likely be listened to.” But here is where our likeness to Ezekiel comes in. We, too, at Hmes are called to take on a prophetic role, and it’s never easy. When you were baptized you were reminded that in so far as Christ was a prophet, priest, and king, as a baptized person you also would share in his role as a prophet, priest, and king. I will not go into how you should fulfill the role of priest and king at this Hme but will elucidate a bit about our role as a prophet in so far as we are baptized into Christ.

To be a prophet we have to know what God’s values are, and we try to remind people as best we can to follow them. That is rarely an easy task.

As parents you play the prophetic role when you try to veer your children away from destructive actions or courses in life you see them entering. It might be the use of drugs, or alcohol, or pre-marital sexual acHvity, or smoking, or consorting with dangerous companions. The propheHc word, when it needs to be given, should not be issued in an obnoxious, angry, or harshly confrontive way, but in a studied way, as a suitable Hme when the hearer will be most receptive. And as Our Lord states in our gospel, it is especially hard to be a prophet to people we know well.

If the old Israel was described by God as a rebellious people, we should know that the Church is described by St. Paul as being the New Israel....a gratigratied onto the Old Israel. And as the Old Israelites were described by God as being rebellious, it can clearly be said that many who belong to the New Israel in our times are also rebellious. Take for instance, the percentage of people in our modern world who take their faith seriously versus those who are negligent in regard to it. When I was young about 85 % of American Catholics aYended Mass every week. The Church was so much stronger, then in comparison to now. Now if we are lucky less than thirty present attend Mass regularly. Perhaps some of those 70% are in your own family. Part of the prophetic role might be to invite them to come to Mass with you.

Rebellion is also reflected in those who have lost their faith entirely, or those who pick and choose the doctrines which are acceptable to them. A high percentage of Catholics go along with the trends of our Hmes, co-habitation before marriage, total sexual freedoms which our society promotes, the legitimacy of abortion, and the general disregard to Church teachings. Whenever our Catholic population becomes completely identified with the trends of the outside society, we lose our edge of being the “ salt of the earth.” Today is very fashionable people to atack our faith, and very often we as Catholic just remain silent either because we do not know enough to defend the faith or we just don’t want to appear that we are one of those who are being aYacked. Without be argumentaHve or obnoxious we can perhaps inject a prophetic word to elucidate understanding.

The Lord indicates to Ezekiel that his message might not be received well. He says

“ Whether they take heed or resist---for they are a rebellious lot---they will at least know that there has been a prophet among them.” St. Theresa of Calcutia says that in fulfilling the prophetic role we may not always be successful, but we are

called to be faithful. Perhaps in issuing a prophetic word we might not be successful, but the word might plant seeds which later are fruitiul, and perhaps on later reflecHon, those who heard our words might realize that there had indeed been a prophet among them.