Thursday, September 21, 2017

"It's not a problem that we're sinners; it's a problem that we aren't ashamed of our sin and don't seek forgiveness."

…the Church is called on to pour its mercy over all those who recognize themselves as sinners, who assume responsibility for the evil they have committed, and who feel in need of forgiveness.  The Church does not exist to condemn people but to bring about an encounter with the visceral love of God’s mercy.  I often say that in order for this to happen, it is necessary to go out…I like to use the image of a field hospital to describe this ‘Church that goes forth’; it exists where there is combat, it is not a solid structure with all the equipment where people go to receive treatment for both small and large infirmities.  It is a mobile structure that offers first aid and immediate care, so that its soldiers do not die.  It’s a place for urgent care, not a place to see a specialist.”  - Pope Francis

Gospel Text: (MT 9:9-13)
As Jesus passed by,
he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the customs post.
He said to him, “Follow me.”
And he got up and followed him.
While he was at table in his house,
many tax collectors and sinners came
and sat with Jesus and his disciples.
The Pharisees saw this and said to his disciples,
“Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
He heard this and said,
“Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do.
Go and learn the meaning of the words,
I desire mercy, not sacrifice.
I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”

What is your “calling”?  Is it the life you are currently living, or could it be something entirely different, something more, something perhaps even a little frightening?

As we reflect upon Saint Matthew, that haunting question certainly comes to mind.  He likely was very comfortable with his tax collection career, maybe even living up to the shady reputation that followed that profession. 

Do you suppose he felt like he was fulfilling his calling?

I suspect Matthew could never have imagined what he was about to accomplish that fateful day when Jesus passed by and offered him the “follow me” invitation.  Matthew simply got up, on the spot, and followed Jesus – a simple, courageous response.  Was Matthew an entirely unlikely candidate for a calling leading to becoming an apostle and powerful evangelist? Of course he was, yet as Jesus reminds us throughout His holy word today at Mass, “those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do” 

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

A closed mind stumbles over the blessings of life without recognizing them.

We must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character--that is the goal of true education. The complete education gives one not only power of concentration, but worthy objectives upon which to concentrate. The broad education will, therefore, transmit to one not only the accumulated knowledge of the race but also the accumulated experience of social living. If we are not careful, our colleges will produce a group of close-minded, unscientific, illogical propagandists, consumed with immoral acts. Be careful, brethren! Be careful, teachers! - Martin Luther King, Jr.: (1929 – 1968: was an American Baptist minister and activist who became the most visible spokesperson and leader in the Civil Rights Movement)

Gospel Text: (LK 7:31-35)
Jesus said to the crowds:
"To what shall I compare the people of this generation?
What are they like?
They are like children who sit in the marketplace and call to one another,

'We played the flute for you, but you did not dance.
We sang a dirge, but you did not weep.'

For John the Baptist came neither eating food nor drinking wine,
and you said, 'He is possessed by a demon.'
The Son of Man came eating and drinking and you said,
'Look, he is a glutton and a drunkard,
a friend of tax collectors and sinners.'
But wisdom is vindicated by all her children."

Jesus, in the gospel, according to Luke, speaks directly to us. What is our generation like? Are we children who never seem to be happy or satisfied? Are we perverse and difficult? Do we reject the word of God in almost any form in which it is presented? Jesus seems to almost muse aloud…they rejected John because he was too austere; they reject me because I do eat, drink, and associate with anyone that can be saved.  The wisdom of God and the church may be presented in many ways.  Do not close your mind to it. 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

One of the problems in today’s world is that people lack trust in goodness.

“Do your little bit of good where you are; it's those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” ― Desmond Tutu: (born 7 October 1931: is a South African anti-apartheid and social rights activist and Anglican bishop.)

Scripture Text: (1 TM 3:1-13)
Beloved, this saying is trustworthy:
whoever aspires to the office of bishop desires a noble task.
Therefore, a bishop must be irreproachable,
married only once, temperate, self-controlled,
decent, hospitable, able to teach,
not a drunkard, not aggressive, but gentle,
not contentious, not a lover of money.
He must manage his own household well,
keeping his children under control with perfect dignity;
for if a man does not know how to manage his own household,
how can he take care of the Church of God?
He should not be a recent convert,
so that he may not become conceited
and thus incur the Devil's punishment.
He must also have a good reputation among outsiders,
so that he may not fall into disgrace, the Devil's trap.

Similarly, deacons must be dignified, not deceitful,
not addicted to drink, not greedy for sordid gain,
holding fast to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience.
Moreover, they should be tested first;
then, if there is nothing against them,
let them serve as deacons.
Women, similarly, should be dignified, not slanderers,
but temperate and faithful in everything.
Deacons may be married only once
and must manage their children and their households well.
Thus those who serve well as deacons gain good standing
and much confidence in their faith in Christ Jesus.

Recently, I began reading a biography of the Lutheran martyr, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who became a theologian and a pastor when Hitler began his rise as leader in Germany. He came from a wealthy, well know family in Germany. Shortly after Hitler’s election, Bonhoeffer broadcasted a sermon over the radio in which he said that Hitler was not trustworthy and why. The radio station stopped transmitting mid-sermon, but no one would be able to stop him from preaching the Gospel. As we know, the German authorities later arrested him, threw him into a concentration camp and executed him. Of course, he was not the only one who condemned Hitler for his policy of extermination of the Jewish race and other crimes against humanity, but certainly he continues to be an outstanding example of someone who knows the difference between someone who is trustworthy and one who is not.

So, when Paul writes to Timothy, he is telling him to pay attention to what is trustworthy. Who is Timothy supposed to trust? Who are we supposed to trust? God and God’s Word. God acts of Love, which includes Jesus’ death on the Cross. The word and testimony of the many men and women over the centuries who have taught us the Gospel of Jesus, its values, its way of life, its sayings, and its saving message of grace. That is trustworthy and worthy of full acceptance!

St. Paul is asking us to be trustworthy ourselves. And Paul is also asking us not to be deceived by people who are not trustworthy. The rest of the first reading today from Mass describes people who are trustworthy and people who are not.

In whom do we put our trust?

Monday, September 18, 2017

Not only does charity begin at home. Everything begins at home, including our faith

“What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family.” – Mother Teresa: (1910 –  1997: was an Albanian-Indian Catholic nun and missionary)

Gospel Text: (LK 7:1-10)
When Jesus had finished all his words to the people,
he entered Capernaum.
A centurion there had a slave who was ill and about to die,
and he was valuable to him.
When he heard about Jesus, he sent elders of the Jews to him,
asking him to come and save the life of his slave.
They approached Jesus and strongly urged him to come, saying,
"He deserves to have you do this for him,
for he loves our nation and he built the synagogue for us."
And Jesus went with them,
but when he was only a short distance from the house,
the centurion sent friends to tell him,
"Lord, do not trouble yourself,
for I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof.
Therefore, I did not consider myself worthy to come to you;
but say the word and let my servant be healed.
For I too am a person subject to authority,
with soldiers subject to me.
And I say to one, Go, and he goes;
and to another, Come here, and he comes;
and to my slave, Do this, and he does it."
When Jesus heard this he was amazed at him
and, turning, said to the crowd following him,
"I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith."
When the messengers returned to the house,
they found the slave in good health.

In this passage the Centurion is credited by Jesus for his loyalty, concern and care of his slave "who is ill and close to death."  The Centurion does not leave his dying servant, not even to go to Jesus to ask healing for his servant.  Jesus is amazed at the faith of the Centurion who recognizes that his calling is to family, to his extended household, to his slave.  The Centurion speaks to Jesus of his understanding of loyalty and dependability.  He is a man responsible for his household. 

Sunday, September 17, 2017

“You cannot conceive, nor can I, of the mercy of God.”

“I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice.” ― Abraham Lincoln: (1809 – 1865: was an American politician and lawyer who served as the 16th President of the United States from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865)

Gospel Text: (MT 18:21-35)
Peter approached Jesus and asked him,
"Lord, if my brother sins against me,
how often must I forgive?
As many as seven times?"
Jesus answered, "I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.
That is why the kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king
who decided to settle accounts with his servants.
When he began the accounting,
a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount.
Since he had no way of paying it back,
his master ordered him to be sold,
along with his wife, his children, and all his property,
in payment of the debt.
At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said,
'Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.'
Moved with compassion the master of that servant
let him go and forgave him the loan.
When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants
who owed him a much smaller amount.
He seized him and started to choke him, demanding,
'Pay back what you owe.'
Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him,
'Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.'
But he refused.
Instead, he had the fellow servant put in prison
until he paid back the debt.
Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened,
they were deeply disturbed, and went to their master
and reported the whole affair.
His master summoned him and said to him, 'You wicked servant!
I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to.
Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant,
as I had pity on you?'
Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers
until he should pay back the whole debt.
So will my heavenly Father do to you,
unless each of you forgives your brother from your heart."

None of us finds it easy to forgive. Christians should be virtuosos of forgiveness because we know that God has been—and always will be—endlessly merciful to us. But sometimes we’re understandably reluctant to forgive because we know forgiveness is both challenging and risky. Forgiveness is challenging because in order to forgive we must be willing to move beyond the justifiable anger, hurt, and resentment we feel when we are unfairly treated by another. And forgiveness is notoriously risky because we can never be sure it will repair relationships that have been damaged by unkindness, carelessness, and thoughtlessness. What if our forgiveness is refused? Even worse, what if the people we forgive show little remorse, accept no responsibility, and do nothing to amend their behavior? No wonder it is sometimes easier to remain estranged than to be reconciled; easier to nurture anger and bitterness over love and forgiveness.

But nothing could be more self-destructive or hopeless. Forgiveness is seldom easy, but what is the alternative? Yes, what was done to us was wrong, unfair, and inexcusable—which is also true about how we sometimes treat others—but do we want our lives defined by anger, hurt, and bitterness? Is that how we want to be remembered? The message of this Sunday’s readings is unmistakably clear: Forgiveness really is a matter of life and death. As the late Passionist priest and renown scripture scholar, Carroll Stuhlmueller, wrote about these readings: “Not to forgive is like not breathing; it is that unnatural and inhuman.” Those are words to take to heart.

Friday, September 15, 2017

All mothers feel the sufferings of their children as their own…. But what mother ever loved a child so much as Mary Loved Jesus?

“Even while living in the world, the heart of Mary was so filled with motherly tenderness and compassion for men that no-one ever suffered so much for their own pains, as Mary suffered for the pains of her children.” » Saint Jerome: (347 –420) - Father and Doctor of the Church

Gospel Text: (JN 19:25-27)
Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother
and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas,
and Mary Magdalene.
When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved
he said to his mother, "Woman, behold, your son."
Then he said to the disciple,
"Behold, your mother."
And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.

No mother should have to experience what Mary did as she watched her Son die. Is the actuality worse than a mother can imagine? 

Other gospel writers mention the presence of the women at Golgotha, but it is John who explicitly tells us that Mary and the beloved disciple stood by the cross and who gives us Jesus’ words: “Woman. behold, your son” and to the disciple whom Jesus loved: “Behold, your mother.”

When our faith is tested by pains, difficulties and challenges, may we see God's loving hand helping us. We can surely depend on the care and intercession of Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows and our Mother, to help us through the pain and sorrows of life to the joy and peace of God's unwavering love and care.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

“There is no cross to bear that Christ has not already born for us, and does not now bear with us.”

“It is to the Cross that the Christian is challenged to follow his Master: no path of redemption can make a detour around it.” ― Hans Urs von Balthasar: (1905 – 1988: was a Swiss theologian and Catholic priest who was to be created a cardinal of the Catholic Church but died before the ceremony

Gospel Text: (JN 3:13-17)
Jesus said to Nicodemus:
"No one has gone up to heaven
except the one who has come down from heaven, the Son of Man.
And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert,
so must the Son of Man be lifted up,
so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life."

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him might not perish
but might have eternal life.
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world,
but that the world might be saved through him. 

The cross, the symbol of Christianity.  In our Catholic faith we think more about the crucifix.  It’s more than a symbol.  Our Savior is on the cross.  The one who emptied Himself, humbled Himself, was obedient, even to death, on a cross.  For us.

When I reflect on the cross I think of when Jesus said if we want to follow Him, we need to take up our cross.  Taking up our cross in life is not something today’s world wants to think about.   Today’s world says we can have it all.  There is no place for suffering.  But while that is what our culture promotes,  who of us really wants to suffer, to deny themselves, to do the work necessary to turn away from sin.   Those aren’t things most of us want to do.  We get the “no pain no gain” perspective on some level and intellectually understand that we grow through our challenges, struggles, and suffering, but we still would prefer not to.

In my life I have come to see another saying from Jesus as an accompaniment to the challenge to take up my cross.  Yes, Our Lord asks me to take up my cross, but He also says “My yoke is easy and My burden light”.  He invites us to come to Him when we are burdened and He will give us rest.  So we might not want to seek out suffering, but when it comes, if we sincerely go to Him, He may not take it away, but, as Paul Claudel  said, He will fill it with His presence.