Thursday, August 25, 2016

" lead a good life a man should always imagine himself at the hour of death..."

"...Remember that the Lord seeks not only flowers, but fruits; that is not only good desires and resolutions, but also holy works..." - St. Bernard of Clairvaux: (1090 – 1153: was a French abbot and the primary reformer for the Cistercian order)

Gospel Text: (MT 24:42-51)
Jesus said to his disciples:
“Stay awake!
For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.
Be sure of this:
if the master of the house
had known the hour of night when the thief was coming,
he would have stayed awake
and not let his house be broken into.
So too, you also must be prepared,
for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.

“Who, then, is the faithful and prudent servant,
whom the master has put in charge of his household
to distribute to them their food at the proper time?
Blessed is that servant whom his master on his arrival finds doing so.
Amen, I say to you, he will put him in charge of all his property.
But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is long delayed,’
and begins to beat his fellow servants,
and eat and drink with drunkards,
the servant’s master will come on an unexpected day
and at an unknown hour and will punish him severely
and assign him a place with the hypocrites,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.”

I’m sure all of us have had experiences throughout our lives where we struggled to stay awake. Maybe those experiences were experiences of waiting for someone to return home late at night. In such a case, you might have experienced any sort of emotion: perhaps joy, or perhaps fear, or perhaps anger. Maybe the experience was one of driving late at night in order to reach a far-off desperation, anxious but exhausted. Maybe the experience was one of finishing a project, paper, or report for school or the office: such an experience may have been fraught with fear.

There is a wide variety of emotion which can accompany the experience of trying to stay awake, but if we consider the two events that Jesus’ words today concern—the coming of Christ in salvation history, and Christ coming to us at the moment of our death—we see that these two things share something in common: namely, that they are both unexpected. To stay awake for these two things is to stay awake for the unexpected.

Do not expect Christ to be part of your life in the way that you expect, or even perhaps in the way that you would prefer.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

“The problem with labels is they lead to stereotypes - and stereotypes lead to generalizations - and generalizations lead to assumptions - and assumptions lead back to stereotypes.”

“Once you label me you negate me.” ― Søren Kierkegaard: (1813 –1855: was a Danish philosopher, theologian, poet, social critic and religious author who is widely considered to be the first existentialist philosopher)

Gospel Text: (JN 1:45-51)
Philip found Nathanael and told him,
“We have found the one about whom Moses wrote in the law,
and also the prophets, Jesus son of Joseph, from Nazareth.”
But Nathanael said to him,
“Can anything good come from Nazareth?”
Philip said to him, “Come and see.”
Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him,
“Here is a true child of Israel.
There is no duplicity in him.”
Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?”
Jesus answered and said to him,
“Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.”
Nathanael answered him,
“Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.”
Jesus answered and said to him,
“Do you believe
because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree?
You will see greater things than this.”
And he said to him, “Amen, amen, I say to you,
you will see heaven opened and the angels of God
ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

In these days with constant news of terrorism, bombings, and other forms of violence on television and on the internet, it's very easy to create stereotypes with people we meet. We see a dark-skinned, bearded man with an accent boarding a flight and, right away, we'd think. . . "Hi-jacker" . . . or maybe, "suicide bomber!" A man entering a store wearing a hoodie could easily be seen as a shoplifter or thief. 

Sometimes, it's difficult not to think like this, with these stereotypes but this was no problem for the Lord. Jesus only saw the best of each person whether Nazarene, Israelite or any other. Often, He would even see more good in a person than that person even saw in himself. Christ sees the goodness of God in our spirit. He sees the real us. What would it take for us to start seeing the goodness of God in others?

We need to go beyond what we notice initially. There are deeper levels to every person we encounter. We shouldn't just rely on first impressions. After the initial niceties and formal salutations, discovering the real person might be quite surprising. We realize that we all want to respect others and have others respect us. Jesus challenges us to level up and love one another, even the ones that we don't find lovable . . . at the start.

Develop the relationship and again be caught off guard in a wonderful way.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

“How would your life be different if…You approached all relationships with authenticity and honesty? Let today be the day…

To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst nothen be false to any man. – (from Hamlet), by William Shakespeare

Gospel Text: (MT 23:23-26)
Jesus said:
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.
You pay tithes of mint and dill and cummin,
and have neglected the weightier things of the law:
judgment and mercy and fidelity.
But these you should have done, without neglecting the others.
Blind guides, who strain out the gnat and swallow the camel!

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.
You cleanse the outside of cup and dish,
but inside they are full of plunder and self-indulgence.
Blind Pharisee, cleanse first the inside of the cup,
so that the outside also may be clean.”

There are a few things that come to mind as we reflect on Jesus’ admonishment to the scribes and the Pharisees. One is the reminder to resist the temptation to focus on the shortcomings of the scribes and the Pharisees. Jesus’ words are meant as a caution to us! So often we can be tempted to focus on the small stuff as a way to demonstrate our superiority over others, or as a way to avoid the real issues with which we need to grapple. There are so many challenges facing people today, and we need to explore ways to help them live their lives with integrity as we strive to do the same.

Another thing is to reflect on what Jesus means by being “frauds.” Jesus is not saying “Woe” to them because they fell short of perfection. We all do. If I am judged as being a fraud or a hypocrite because I haven’t perfectly followed Jesus, then, yes, I admit to being a fraud. But I don’t think falling short constitutes being a fraud. Jesus says “Woe” to the scribes and the Pharisees because they were so quick to condemn others for falling short.

Recognizing our own weaknesses and sins, we can’t condemn others for not being perfect. Instead, may we turn to God, who, in the words of our first reading from 2 Thessalonians, “loved us and in his mercy gave us eternal consolation and hope.” And may God console our “hearts and strengthen them for every good work and word.”

Monday, August 22, 2016

“…when the door starts closing a bit because of our weakness and sins, confession reopens it.”

"Everyone say to himself: ‘When was the last time I went to confession?’ And if it has been a long time, don’t lose another day! Go, the priest will be good. And Jesus, will be there, and Jesus is better than the priests - Jesus receives you. He will receive you with so much love! Be courageous, and go to confession,”  - Pope Francis on Feb. 19, 2014

Gospel Text: (MT 23:13-22)
Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples:
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.
You lock the Kingdom of heaven before men.
You do not enter yourselves,
nor do you allow entrance to those trying to enter.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.
You traverse sea and land to make one convert,
and when that happens you make him a child of Gehenna
twice as much as yourselves.

“Woe to you, blind guides, who say,
‘If one swears by the temple, it means nothing,
but if one swears by the gold of the temple, one is obligated.’
Blind fools, which is greater, the gold,
or the temple that made the gold sacred?
And you say, ‘If one swears by the altar, it means nothing,
but if one swears by the gift on the altar, one is obligated.’
You blind ones, which is greater, the gift,
or the altar that makes the gift sacred?
One who swears by the altar swears by it and all that is upon it;
one who swears by the temple swears by it
and by him who dwells in it;
one who swears by heaven swears by the throne of God
and by him who is seated on it.”

In the Gospel reading, Jesus denounces the religious leaders of his time for their lack of godliness and sincerity. He accuses them of hypocrisy; of cleansing the outside while being defiled in the inside. 

This applies to all of us who call ourselves people of God.  We are all sinners, fallen and in great need of God's grace.

Jesus is calls us out of our conceited selves and reminds us that holiness is not something that we put on for others to see and notice. It is more important to nurture our relationship with God than to receive the empty admiration of others. 

Cleaning from within through repentance before God, especially through the sacrament of Reconciliation, and being truthful at whatever cost brings us closer to God, "Purify the inside first, then the outside too will be purified."      

Sunday, August 21, 2016

The pretense of self-sufficiency is the enemy of salvation. If you “think” you are self-sufficient, you have no need of God. If you have no need of God, you do not seek Him. If you do not seek Him, you will not find Him.

I shall be telling this with a sigh somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” Robert Frost: (1874 –1963: was an American poet)

Gospel Text: (LK 13:22-30)
Jesus passed through towns and villages,
teaching as he went and making his way to Jerusalem.
Someone asked him,
“Lord, will only a few people be saved?”
He answered them,
“Strive to enter through the narrow gate,
for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter
but will not be strong enough.
After the master of the house has arisen and locked the door,
then will you stand outside knocking and saying,
‘Lord, open the door for us.’
He will say to you in reply,
‘I do not know where you are from.
And you will say,
‘We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets.’
Then he will say to you,
‘I do not know where you are from.
Depart from me, all you evildoers!’
And there will be wailing and grinding of teeth
when you see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
and all the prophets in the kingdom of God
and you yourselves cast out.
And people will come from the east and the west
and from the north and the south
and will recline at table in the kingdom of God.
For behold, some are last who will be first,
and some are first who will be last.”

I sense that Jesus is saying to us that we can all be saved.  He is telling us that it is not something we can take for granted.  It is not a guarantee that can seduce us into thinking we don’t have to do anything, that we are not called to a special life, to a special role in this world.  He’s alerting us to the fact that our journey is counter-cultural.  It is not a journey that looks like a path of world values.  

It isn’t about “blending in with the crowd.”