Wednesday, September 28, 2016

October 2, 2016 - The Good Servant

The Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year C

Reading I:  Habakkuk 1:2-3, 2:2-4
Response: Psalm 95
Reading II: 2 Timothy 1:6-8, 13-14
Gospel: Luke: 17: 5-10

These days when I hear the news with all the violence and controversy, I turn to the Lord and tell him that he is the only one who can solve our problems today. We hear in the first reading a similar plea from Habakkuk. Fr. John Foley, S.J. summarizes the Lord’s response, thus: God is saying, “I understand your sorrow and I will make things better.” However, in today’s world we are used to instant solutions. God asks us to wait and he will makes things better. Father Foley suggests that God may be delaying in order for us to deepen our faith.

In the Gospel, the apostles ask Jesus to increase their faith. His response is “If you had the faith the size of a mustard seed, you could do whatever it is that you want.” It seems that he is inviting them to work with him to make a better world. However, they need greater faith in Him and faith in themselves to do this. That is what the Lord is also asking of us today.

I recall vividly a visit with a young friend of mine and her family. While we were chatting on the patio, we could see her husband preparing a portion of their backyard to be a vegetable garden. He was busily raking up the soil. Beside him was their son who was about three years old. He was imitating the father with his own toy rake. It was such a touching scene!

Although the boy probably got in the way sometimes and was able to do little to really help, his dad let him attempt his little part. Of course, the little boy was happy to be working alongside his dad and very proud that he could “help” his father.

This scene reminds me of how our Father allows us to do our little part in making our world better for ourselves and others. In fact, he wants us to do our part. He doesn’t expect perfection from us. However, he knows it will make us happy.

We see this regularly when we hear the reactions of youth who volunteer to help others in special projects. We hear the sense of fulfillment expressed by older people who give of themselves to help others. We hear of the healing after loss which is brought about by those who choose to improve the life of others. Yes, the Lord knows what is best for us, even when we do not understand.

Lord, help us to place our trust in you.  Help us to give over our concerns to you.  Give us your peace!  Amen.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

September 25, 2016 - The Rich Man and Lazarus

The Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year C

Image result for the parable of the rich man and lazarus

Reading I: Amos 6: 1a, 4-7
Response: Psalm 146
Reading II:  1 Timothy 6: 11- 16
Gospel: Luke 16: 19-31

Is there anything wrong with being rich?  Jesus seems to focus on the dangers of being rich. He says that it is easier for a camel to pass through a needle than for a rich man to get into heaven. Of course, the “needle” is not a sewing needle.  However, even though he is referring to a narrow passageway in the mountains through which shepherds and herders needed to lead their animals, we wonder why he stresses this.   

It seems obvious that we need to share with those who are needy. But, there seems to be more to it. Eleanor Stump, professor of philosophy at St. Louis University, sheds some light on this when she points out the words used in the Gospel. When the rich man is in hell, he asks the Lord to send Lazarus, who is resting in the bosom of the Lord, to get him some water to quench his thirst.  When the Lord refuses, the rich man asks God to send Lazarus to his brothers to warn them about the folly of riches. The Lord refuses again. Why? Perhaps the Lord is reacting to the rich man’s basic attitude of seeing Lazarus as only useful to him. He doesn’t consider him a brother, as an equal. Rather he chooses only to use him for his own purposes. Even the dogs lick the wounds of Lazarus as they do for themselves and one another. They have compassion and try to heal him. 

The rich who are poor in spirit reach out and share with the poor. The poor recognize those who have a superior attitude and those who see them as brothers and sisters. At the 125th jubilee celebration for the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, Bishop Curtis J Guillory, SVD, of the Beaumont, Texas Diocese, shared his experiences with the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament. He made a comment which touched me. He said that the Sisters “engaged” with the people. In other words, they became a part of the people with whom they ministered. They realized that they were enriched themselves by the poor they served.

Another view is expressed by Fr. Ron Rolheiser, OMI. He reminds us that for our own physical,
psychological and spiritual health, we need to share. Our Native American brothers and sisters have retained that generosity of spirit by some of their customs. For example, when I young man has success hunting a deer, the family has a “deer supper.” I was invited to one by one of our Pueblo Sisters from Laguna, New Mexico. Before the meal the skull of the deer was placed on a side table. The mother of the young hunter blessed her son and thanked the deer for giving its life to feed the people. Then, everyone in the village and friends were invited to partake in the meal. They took turns eating in silence and moved on so others could have a place at the table. While waiting for a turn at the table, people were watching a ballgame on TV and chatting. It was like two worlds in one house.

Another custom is that on birthdays, the one being celebrated is the giver of gifts. Of course, in today’s world they probably receive gifts also. However, the custom reminds them that they are
here to share with others also. On special holy days, they have “throws.” Items like candy, blankets, etc. are thrown from flat adobe rooftops for anyone to take.  

A real challenge comes when a relative is in financial need, e.g. because of alcohol or drug problems. The expectation is that the relative with some resources will provide for the needy one. Therefore, it is difficult for them to save for future needs of their own family. Nevertheless, they do have the sense that accumulating too much is unhealthy.

It is healthy to share because it prevents one from becoming too self-centered. One of the first things that many mothers teach their small children is to share treats that they receive and to share their toys. That can be a difficult lesson, but an important one. Young people who are encouraged to do some type of service to help others experience a sense of pride and joy. It feels good and is a wonderful experience for them and those they help. That is good for people of all ages. God our Father and Jesus know what we need for a healthy and happy life. It is not to hold tightly onto wealth. Rather it is to share our time, talent, and treasures with our brothers and sisters.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

September 18, 2016 - God's Call to Share His Gifts

The Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year C

Image result for parable of the unjust steward

Reading 1: Amos 8: 4-7
Response: Psalm 113
Reading II:  1  Timothy 2: 1-8
Gospel: Luke 16: 1-13 or 10-13

In the “Parable of the Unjust Steward,” Jesus notes the mercy of God toward the Steward. The steward was one who managed the property of the Master (owner) and collected produce or money from the renters. He was allowed a commission or fee for each transaction. However, according to the Mishnah (a post-biblical tradition in Judaic literature), there is no evidence that the steward would be given a commission as high as 50%. In this story, not only had he failed in the management of the master’s property, he had also tried to cover up his errors
by cheating.

As humans we are prone to making mistakes and are usually readily excused. However, being deceitful leads to distrust with more serious consequences.

In the Gospel, it is noted that one “cannot serve both God and mammon [wealth].” This does not mean that being wealthy means one does not serve God. There are some wealthy people who are aware that their wealth has been accumulated, not only by hard work, but also due to God’s gifts of health, education, and favorable circumstances, for which they are indebted to the Lord. They see themselves as stewards for God, their Master. They use their gifts in a variety of ways by volunteering time and talent, as well by the the opportunity to help others financially. 

At a time when the Indian peoples were being driven off their lands and a prime source of survival was being destroyed by the ruthless killing of the buffalo, The Drexel family was noted for their philanthropy and their generosity to the Indian Missions. They even traveled by stagecoach to see the plight of these people and bring them assistance.

Closer to home, in Philadelphia, they were aware of the plight of African-Americans who had recently been released from slavery, but had no education and means of providing for themselves and their families. Some even chose to go back to work for their former owners in order to survive. The Drexels became aware of the need for a good education for these people so that they could develop their skills for profitable employment.

Several times a week, Mrs. Emma Bouvier Drexel together with her three young daughters, would open their doors to the poor and provide them with food, clothing, rent money, etc. Involvement in this charity allowed the young ladies
to become engaged with the poor so that they related to them on a very
personal level.  

Even as Francis Drexel made out his will, after assuring that his daughters would be well cared for, he included many charities. Not aware that Katharine would be founding a Community to help the poor among the Black and Native American peoples, much of his money was distributed to those charities on
his death.

While most of us do not have very large resources to reach out monetarily to help others, wealth comes in many other forms. It can be love, expressed by a smile, a listening ear, or a helping hand. These and many other ways of reaching out can make a person feel as if he/she had been given a
million dollars.

One of my favorite poems by Nikki Giovanni, a famous African-American poetess, attests to this:


Related Poem Content Details

childhood remembrances are always a drag   
if you’re Black 
you always remember things like living in Woodlawn   
with no inside toilet 
and if you become famous or something 
they never talk about how happy you were to have   
your mother 
all to yourself and 
how good the water felt when you got your bath   
from one of those 
big tubs that folk in chicago barbecue in   
and somehow when you talk about home   
it never gets across how much you 
understood their feelings 
as the whole family attended meetings about Hollydale 
and even though you remember 
your biographers never understand 
your father’s pain as he sells his stock   
and another dream goes 
And though you’re poor it isn’t poverty that 
concerns you 
and though they fought a lot 
it isn’t your father’s drinking that makes any difference   
but only that everybody is together and you 
and your sister have happy birthdays and very good   
and I really hope no white person ever has cause   
to write about me 
because they never understand 
Black love is Black wealth and they’ll 
probably talk about my hard childhood 
and never understand that 
all the while I was quite happy

Let us be good stewards of the Master. Let us share his unique gifts to us, whatever they may be.  The more we share, the more we are enriched. That is how we can delight the heart of our Heavenly Father!!!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

September 11, 2016 - The Prodigal Son

The Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year C

Image result for the prodigal son

Reading I: Exodus 32: 7-11, 13-14
Response: Psalm 51: 3-4, 12-13, 17,19
Reading II: Timothy 1:12-17
Gospel: Luke 15: 1-32

This Sunday’s readings are again about mercy. Fr. Hans Urs von Balthasar in his book, Light of the Word, uses the expression that mercy is the “innermost attitude” of God. He quotes Timothy’s Epistle: “If we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself.”
(2 Tim 2:13)

God does not just give mercy when we come to Him. He goes after us. We see this in the parable of the lost sheep when the shepherd leaves the ninety-nine and goes in search of one lost sheep. Then, we see the woman looking for the lost coin. The father of the prodigal son watches for the return of his son and runs to greet him, embraces him, kisses him and orders his servants to prepare for a celebration of his son's return.

Francis Thompson wrote a beautiful poem in which he describes God as “The Hound of Heaven.” I can still remember Bishop Sheen reciting the poem on his television show.

Even without the dramatic voice of Bishop Sheen, it is a powerful poem which brings out the 
extravagance of God's Love. The whole poem is beautiful, but very long. Therefore, I am quoting only the beginning.  
The Hound of Heaven
By Francis Thompson  (1859–1907)
I FLED Him, down the nights and down the days;
  I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
    Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears
I hid from Him....

To view the entire poem, click the title link.

What an awesome God we have! His goodness is beyond our understanding. He could well be called the “prodigal father” for He is lavish, unsparing, and bounteous in His love.

How blessed we are!!! Let us praise the Lord and bless his holy name! He only asks of us to imitate Him by extending love and mercy to our brothers, sisters, and ourselves.

Gerald Darring, of St. Louis University, challenges us to mercy for our brothers and sisters in prison. Today, we are seeing people released from death's row now that DNA tests can more accurately determine whether a person has committed murder. In the spirit of mercy, Gerald Darring reminds us of the “Statement on Capital Punishment” announced by the U.S. Bishops
in 1980:

                         Abolition of capital punishment is a manifestation of our belief
                         in the unique worth and dignity of each person from the moment
                         of conception, a creature made in the image and likeness of God.
                         It is particularly important in the context of our times that this
                         belief be affirmed with regard to those who have failed or whose
                        lives have been distorted by suffering or hatred, even in the case
                        of those who by their actions have failed to respect the dignity and
                        rights of others.

Mercy would require attempts at rehabilitating prisoners. In addition, when a prisoner is released, we need to provide some assistance in finding a job and housing. Even those who might be considered unsafe to release can be treated humanely as they remain in prison.

How can we, who have received mercy from the Lord, extend mercy to his beloved children?

Thursday, September 1, 2016

September 4 - Take up your cross and follow me.

The 23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time - Year C

First Reading: Wisdom 9: 13-18b     Response: Psalm 90
Second Reading: Philemon 9-10, 12-17     Gospel: Luke 14:25-33

When we hear today’s Gospel, sometimes we are taken aback when Jesus says, “If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” Didn’t Jesus tell us to love our neighbor as ourselves?

Fr. John Foley, SJ, notes that the word “hate” was probably an oratorical way to say “love them in proportion.” We sometimes forget that the first great commandment is to “love the Lord your God with your whole mind, your whole soul and with all your strength.” Often a person, an animal, or a thing can become a God for us. It can even be something like money, or success, or reputation, which engages all our interest and time. We need to prioritize.

A powerful example of this is seen in the life of St. Thomas More. A husband, father, and favorite of King Henry VIII, he was the Chancellor in the King’s court. King Henry, disappointed that his wife had borne him no male child, asked the Pope for an annulment of his marriage. When he was denied, he declared himself the head of the Church in England. He required that his subjects sign a declaration that he was now the head of the Church.

Thomas More refused to sign and was punished in many ways which affected not only himself, but also his family. How difficult it must have been when he was in prison and unable to support or be with his wife and children. When even that did not persuade him to go against his conscience, he was beheaded.

You can see, beside his picture above, his famous words just before he was executed when he was dying: “the King’s good servant - but God’s first.” What anguish, what courage, what integrity he displayed!!!  It would have be so easy to give in and please his family who were dependent on him! However, he gave example of “love in proportion” for them and for all the world.

Only God’s special grace could enable him to love as he did. When I wonder if I would be able to withstand the suffering he bore, I just pray that the Lord would give me the strength. I know that I would be too weak to do it on my own. However, the Lord has promised to remain with us.

Another challenge Jesus gives us is the following: “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” In James Martin’s book,  Jesus, A Pilgrimage, he suggests that by taking up our cross daily, we can find a deeper life.

There have been many instances when I have seen this in my own life and in the lives of others. Tragedies, losses, and hardships can cause us to turn to the Lord for help. In the midst of these circumstances people often develop a closer relationship with the Lord. Also, many times they become more aware and sensitive to the crosses that others bear. Often, they reach out to help others when they may have just looked the other way before.

I can recall my own mother telling me what to do if I were feeling sorry for myself. She said to look around and see that there were others worse off than I was. Then, she encouraged me to help them in some way.

Also,  I met a woman who had just been through a divorce. Her mother-in-law, who was a good friend to her, encouraged her to volunteer in a hospital. By doing that she was able to put her own situation in perspective, while helping others.

I have seen parents who have lost children through illness, drugs, and other tragedies reach out to help other parents going through similar circumstances.

If flowers are to grow, they must have sunshine and rain. Each of us is a unique, special flower in the Lord’s garden. He knows what each of us needs. Let us trust that he is with us so we do not have to carry our crosses alone.