Tuesday, July 31, 2012

"How many legs does a dog have if you call the tail a leg? Four; Calling A Tail A Leg Doesn’t Make It A Leg."

“The church must suffer for speaking the truth, for pointing out sin, for uprooting sin. No one wants to have a sore spot touched, and therefore a society with so many sores twitches when someone has the courage to touch it and say: “You have to treat that. You have to get rid of that. Believe in Christ. Be converted.”  -  Archbishop Oscar Romero

(Gospel text: Mt 13:36-43)
Jesus dismissed the crowds and went into the house.
His disciples approached him and said,
"Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field."
He said in reply, "He who sows good seed is the Son of Man,
the field is the world, the good seed the children of the Kingdom.
The weeds are the children of the Evil One,
and the enemy who sows them is the Devil.
The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.
Just as weeds are collected and burned up with fire,
so will it be at the end of the age.
The Son of Man will send his angels,
and they will collect out of his Kingdom
all who cause others to sin and all evildoers.
They will throw them into the fiery furnace,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.
Then the righteous will shine like the sun
in the Kingdom of their Father.
Whoever has ears ought to hear."

A once-popular bumper sticker read: “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.” The saying referred to many things: government corruption, unjust wars, neglect of the marginalized. It was an attempt to stir people into action. And that’s a good thing if we’re being motivated by humility and love. It’s not so good if we’re motivated by harsh anger. That only leads us to destroy rather than create, to tear down rather than build up.

As we see in this parable, God is the only sure judge between right and wrong - not the media, not society, and certainly not us. Seeing all of creation from beginning to end, he alone is able to sort everything out with perfect justice. He alone can tell all the “good seed” from the “weeds.” So we don’t need to go around uprooting every weed we think we spot in his garden. Judgment is God’s job, not ours!

Unfortunately, we all have the capacity to appoint ourselves as judge, jury, and executioner and sometimes with disastrous consequences. Who knows if the person we just pounced on wasn’t on the verge of a spiritual breakthrough? We may have just pushed him or her farther away from God instead of closer to him. More likely than not, by misjudging someone we have also planted weeds of pride, anger, and isolation in our own hearts. This is why Jesus warns us that the measure we give to other people really does become the measure we will get back (Matthew 7:2).

If we ask the Holy Spirit for His wisdom, patience, and understanding and apply those virtues to those who have wounded us or whose views may offend us, we will see the greatest results. Jesus showed mercy to the people who nailed him to the cross. He can teach us to have that same kind of mercy, that same kind of patience, and that same kind of hope and trust.

If we can treat every person as a child of God, someone whom Jesus loved enough to die for, our words will bring healing and light instead of hurt. As long as we are planting seeds of love, we can be sure of a good harvest.

The secret to this state of being is outside ourselves ironically. Without God, to love in this way described above is absolutely impossible. That is why Jesus gave us His Church, the Sacraments, and His Mother. Only through grace can we see God in everyone and if we can see Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, we can see Jesus in our neighbor and truly love them.

There simply is no other way!

Monday, July 30, 2012

If you have not chosen the Kingdom of God first, it will in the end make no difference what you have chosen instead.

If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.- C.S. Lewis

(Gospel Text: Mt 13:31-35)
Jesus proposed a parable to the crowds.
"The Kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed
that a person took and sowed in a field.
It is the smallest of all the seeds,
yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants.
It becomes a large bush,
and the 'birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches.'"

He spoke to them another parable.
"The Kingdom of heaven is like yeast
that a woman took and mixed with three measures of wheat flour
until the whole batch was leavened."

All these things Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables.
He spoke to them only in parables,
to fulfill what had been said through the prophet:

I will open my mouth in parables,
I will announce what has lain hidden from the foundation
of the world.

M.C. Escher was a Dutch artist known for creating prints that were optical illusions. What you first see in an Escher print is seldom all there is to see.

The parables in today’s Gospel reading are like that. By themselves, they describe the profound growth of the kingdom of God. From a seed the size of a period on this page, a mustard tree can grow to be thirteen feet tall. The “large amount” of flour in the second parable probably weighed around six hundred pounds. And yet just a bit of yeast was all that was needed to turn that flour into bread!

These two parables, though, are part of a series of stories Jesus told about the kingdom of God. All are familiar: “A sower went out to sow,” “A man … sowed good seed in his field” (Matthew 13:3, 24). Separately, each relates a unique truth about the kingdom. But taken together, they point out another truth: the kingdom of God may not look like what you imagine.

Jesus wanted his followers to avoid idealizing the kingdom here on earth. He wanted to spare them from being disillusioned when the reality they saw did not match up to their expectation of a perfect, flawless, and problem-free church.

Yes, many seeds will be sown, but not every one will reach maturity. Good seed will be planted, but weeds will contaminate the field. Birds of all feathers will perch in the branches of the kingdom, and some will squawk or fight or make a mess. The “yeast” of worldly philosophies may even contaminate the “flour” of Christianity. But through it all, God is in control. His kingdom may not look as we think it ought to, but neither is his plan thwarted!

“Don’t worry,” Jesus says. “I’ve got things under control. Despite every unpleasant appearance, growth will continue. My Father can deal with everything that shouldn’t be there. Don’t become disillusioned when things start looking different from the way you think they should. Trust in me. Trust in my Father. The kingdom will grow and endure until I come again.”

Sunday, July 29, 2012

“The most astonishing thing about miracles is that they happen.”

"The real miracle is a man who can walk with God every day ... When a person walks with God, he finds joy in the everyday things he does. Gradually his life begins to expand.”

(Gospel text: Jn 6:1-15)
Jesus went across the Sea of Galilee.
A large crowd followed him,
because they saw the signs he was performing on the sick.
Jesus went up on the mountain,
and there he sat down with his disciples.
The Jewish feast of Passover was near.
When Jesus raised his eyes
and saw that a large crowd was coming to him,
he said to Philip,
"Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?"
He said this to test him,
because he himself knew what he was going to do.
Philip answered him,
"Two hundred days?' wages worth of food would not be enough
for each of them to have a little.'"
One of his disciples,
Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, said to him,
"There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish;
but what good are these for so many?"
Jesus said, "Have the people recline."
Now there was a great deal of grass in that place.
So the men reclined, about five thousand in number.
Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks,
and distributed them to those who were reclining,
and also as much of the fish as they wanted.
When they had had their fill, he said to his disciples,
"Gather the fragments left over,
so that nothing will be wasted."
So they collected them,
and filled twelve wicker baskets with fragments
from the five barley loaves
that had been more than they could eat.
When the people saw the sign he had done, they said,
"This is truly the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world."
Since Jesus knew that they were going to come and carry him off
to make him king,
he withdrew again to the mountain alone.

Many times what we have to offer seems so inadequate. We may only have a couple free hours a week. So how can we renew the Church? We may be confined to home. Our main contact with people is by email. Under these circumstances, how can we make disciples of all nations? (Mt 28:19) We have five dollars to give, but the church needs $100,000 to shelter the homeless. What good is five dollars?

We often find ourselves in the same situation as Jesus when He found Himself with five loaves, two fish, and fifteen to twenty thousand people to feed. Perhaps we don't need food multiplied as much as time, energy, and money multiplied. We need Jesus' multiplication miracle daily to change our inadequacy into His sufficiency. Jesus works this miracle daily in the Mass. Because of this, the early Church called the Mass "breaking of the bread." When Jesus gave us the Holy Eucharist, our little lives are multiplied to transform the world.

Believe in miracles – Be a miracle for others!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

“Don't wait for the last judgment - it takes place every day.”

"Only after the Last Judgment will Mary get any rest; from now until then, she is much too busy with her children." – St. John Marie Vianney

(Gospel Text: Mt 13:24-30)
Jesus proposed a parable to the crowds.
"The Kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man
who sowed good seed in his field.
While everyone was asleep his enemy came
and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off.
When the crop grew and bore fruit, the weeds appeared as well.
The slaves of the householder came to him and said,
'Master, did you not sow good seed in your field?
Where have the weeds come from?'
He answered, 'An enemy has done this.'
His slaves said to him, 'Do you want us to go and pull them up?'
He replied, 'No, if you pull up the weeds
you might uproot the wheat along with them.
Let them grow together until harvest;
then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters,
'First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning;
but gather the wheat into my barn.'"

Imagine that as spring approaches, your flower and vegetable gardens begin to display so many signs of life: growth, color, and sweet fragrances. But then you start noticing weeds that are growing alongside your plants. You try to pull them out, but you end up pulling up the roots of the flowers and vegetables as well because they haven’t had time to take root in the ground. So you let them grow side by side until the garden is full grown. Then it’s so much easier to remove the weeds!

Later in this chapter, we will read how the one who sowed the good seed is the Father, and the enemy who secretly sowed the weeds is the devil. We will learn that Jesus doesn’t want us to try to uproot all the weeds prematurely, lest we damage the tender roots of the good seed he has sown. Better to leave the harvesting and the discernment of wheat from weeds to the angels at the end of time!

Day after day, Jesus seeks to sow words of comfort, encouragement, peace, and perseverance in our hearts. At the same time, the devil is always trying to sow words of doubt, fear, discouragement, and confusion.
Now you could spend all of your time trying to tear out the negative thoughts. But this approach leads to an unhealthy introspection and self­centeredness a toxic environment that is incapable of nourishing the good seeds of God’s word.

Let’s say that you sense the Holy Spirit encouraging you to be hopeful, but then all of a sudden you begin to feel discouraged? How about if you felt inspired to help someone or evangelize them but then thoughts of fear, doubt, and rejection started creeping in? What should you do? Try to get rid of all the bad thoughts before you act on the good ones? Or step out in faith despite these inner objections? Jesus would tell you: “Step out! Let the good seeds take root, and leave the bad thoughts to me and my angels.”

So the next time you feel torn between good and evil, ignore the evil and choose the good. Act on Jesus’ words and let them take root in your soul. Over time, you’ll find that the weeds are being choked off as you bear more and more fruit for the kingdom!