Gifted by God to keep Going & Giving

Third Sunday in Advent

A woman by the name of Bette Nash has been a flight attendant for 60 years when flights were just $12 and you didn’t need a reservation. She says, “My favorite part of flying over the years has been greeting my passengers as they board and deplane. People really are fascinating and it’s truly been a joy.”

With all those miles logged, Bette could fly any route she wants. She chooses to fly the shuttle between Washington D.C. and Boston so this single mom can be home in time to care for her son, who as Down syndrome and attention deficit hyperactivity. One recent afternoon, that meant taking him to see Santa Claus near their home. In whatever hours she has left, she volunteers at the food pantry at her local Catholic parish of Sacred Heart. The C.E.O. of American Airlines made a $10,000 donation to the pantry in honor of Bette Nash’s 60th milestone.

While the famous and the infamous garner the headlines, it’s people like Bette Nash who actually run the world.

I believe that Bette Nash could claim to say many of the words that we have heard in today’s proclamation of the Word.

The prophet Isaiah says “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the broken hearted.” Mary, the mother of Jesus cries out in our psalm today, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked upon his lowly servant. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.” John the Baptist knows he is not the Christ, but he does admit, “I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, ‘make straight the way of the Lord.” And “I am not worthy loosen his sandal strap.”

After all these years, Bette has learned something. The passengers might not listen to everything she says at 30,000 feet—and her son might not listen to everything she says on the ground. But Bette, as she approaches her 82nd birthday on New Years Eve, says she has found something that seems universal and true. “People want a little love. And I don’t mean a lot of hugging and everything, even though we might do that. But this is the big thing: People need attention. You can’t buy love. You can’t buy attention. But people need this.” She says, “And it’s free. You can give this to people for free.” Jesus once said, “Without cost you have received, without cost you need to give.”

For the past 41 years Nash has been a parishioner of Sacred Heart Church in Manassas, VA. She has given of her hospitality, the gift of her son, the gift of her volunteerism, and the gift of her love. For 30 years, Bette served as an “envelope counter,” but now she volunteers at the food pantry. It’s something she and her son, Christian, who has Down syndrome, can do together. The pantry gives out food to 40-50 families every Saturday morning. Bette hopes the money can be used to buy food when supplies are running low, as they often do during the summer. But she leaves the final decision up to Diane and her pastor Father Michael. “I’m’ a worker bee and I never want to be a queen bee,” she said. How fortunate we are here at St. Monica’s and St John’s with so many worker bees for Jesus. There is desperate need for more workers. Are some of you game?

The prophet Isaiah, Our Blessed Mother Mary, and John the Baptist believed that they received wonderful gifts from God. They are grateful and share them with us today. Bette Nash is grateful for the support of her friends and her employer who have helped her stay in the skies all these years.  She recently said, “I feel like I’ve been given a gift from God that I can keep going and giving.”

As full Catholics, we are all like flight attendants who have been hard at work for many years. Even though Bette is 81, she must still be able to pass the annual test for emergencies including knocking out a heavy window or throw open a large door. If there is an emergency, the passengers are Bette’s responsibility, with dozens of souls in her hands. In our ministry as confirmed Catholics, we must sometimes throw open the large heavy doors that block so many people from a deeper relationship of love with Jesus and God. Hundreds of souls are depending on our hospitality, mercy and smiles.

Wouldn’t it be great news if each of us could say the same at Christmas? “I feel like I’ve been given a gift from God that I can keep going and giving. The spirit of the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. My soul proclaims the greatness of God and my spirit rejoices in God my savior.”

Isaiah 61:1-11 ~ I rejoice heartily in the Lord, in my God is the joy of my soul;

Psalm (Luke 1:46-54) ~ My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior, Thessalonians 5:16-24 ~ May the God of peace make you perfectly holy and may you entirely, spirit, soul, and body, be preserved blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ

Gospel: John 1:6-28 John answered them, “I baptize with water; but there is one among you whom you do not recognize, the one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.” ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

 

Come share your Master’s joy!

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

November 18 & 19, 2017 ~ St. Monica, Palatka ~ Father Ron

Come share your master’s joy!

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Proverbs 31:10-31 ~ When one finds a worthy wife, her value is far beyond pearls. Her husband, entrusting his heart to her, has an unfailing prize. (We, the Church of Jesus Christ are the worthy wife.)

Psalm 128 ~ Blessed are you who fear the Lord, who walk in his ways!

Thessalonians 5:1-6 ~ For all of you are children of the light and children of the day.

Gospel: Matthew 25: 14-30 ~ Jesus told his disciples this parable: “A man going on a journey called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them. To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one—to each according to his ability. Then he went away.”

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Jesus is the husband. We have the opportunity to be the worthy wife.

It is sometimes difficult to accept that Jesus has been looking for each and every one of us.

Basically, Jesus is seeking out people who will accept his gifts and multiply them. What is the gift we receive? His Body and his Blood. What have we done this week with the gift we have received?

Each week we fill up with the love of Jesus in Eucharist. We give thanks for the gift we receive, and then we increase the love by sharing our talents. I understand that sometimes, one week seems like a long time like the man who entrusted his talents and went off. The week is really long when one of our loved ones is suffering from cancer, or our job security is anything but secure. Sometimes the week feels like forever when our children are not thriving or when our marriage is on quite rocky grounds. But still, Jesus has given each of us talents according to our abilities.

Jesus is counting on us to go out and increase his love in the world. Will you be a partner with Jesus? Will you work as a team? I am sure your answer is yes, but remember it is a lifelong commitment.

I Ron, take you, the people of God to be my beloved. I promise to be faithful to you in good times and in bad times, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honor you all the days of my life… or more!

Greedy Sons

There was once a hard-working and generous farmer who had several idle and greedy sons. On his deathbed, he told them that they would find his treasure if they were to dig in a certain field. As soon as the old man was dead, the sons hurried to the field and proceeded to dig it up from one end to another in search of the treasure. The longer they worked, the more desperate they became. Yet, they did not find a single ounce of gold.

Surveying the field, they reasoned that in his generosity their father must have given his gold away during his lifetime. Just as they abandoned their search, it occurred to them that since the land had been prepared they might as well sow a crop. They planted wheat, which produced an abundant yield. When it matured they sold their crop and prospered.

After the harvest was in, the sons thought again about the rare possibility that they might have missed the buried gold. Once again they dug up their fields, with the same result.

After several years they became accustomed to labor and to the cycle of seasons, something which they had not understood before. Finally they understood that their father had been training them to become hard-working farmers. As time passed they became wealthy through the work of their hands and no longer wondered about the hidden hoard.

 

If we think about who the parable is addressed to, Jesus is telling it to the servant who buried the talent in hope that he would become a hard-working disciple who does not depend on miracles, quick fixes or get rich quick schemes on the internet. Jesus is the hard-working and generous farmer. The harvest is great, but laborers are few. Wisdom is required to obtain the treasure of Wisdom.

 

God has given us great and wonderful talents… what will you do with them to become Good News?

Your Love is Extravagant

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time ~ St. Monica~ Matthew 22:34-40, Exodus 22:20-26

A recent study found that the Flint water crises resulted in horrifyingly large increase in fetal deaths and miscarriages. There was concern that there was not a greater outrage from pro-choice commentators asking, “Where are the so-called ‘pro-lifers’ on this tragedy?”  The argument was that pro-life is only concerned about the child in the womb, but not the child that is born.

Around that time, in his in-flight press conference from Columbia, Pope Francis was asked about the cancellation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) which places 800,000 young people without legal immigration status in danger of deportation. In the Pope’s reply he said that President Trump is pro-life, he should “understand that the family is the cradle of life, and that it must be defended as a unit.”

The national director of Priests for Life, took to the website Brietbart to question the fairness of Pope Francis’ description of immigration as a pro-life issue, claiming (misleadingly) that “since there is no specific immigration policy in the Catechism”, Catholics can disagree about immigration without calling their pro-life commitment into question.”

Pope Francis is clear that being pro-life should include concern for the vulnerable outside the womb. While doing so may not win over absolutist advocates, it might help persuade the majority of Americans who question unlimited access to abortion to listen more carefully.

People claim that those here illegally have broken the law. But it needs to be pointed out that this country also has a law that allows abortion. Therefore, our country’s laws are not the same as God’s laws. If we truly follow the laws, then Joseph, Mary and Jesus would not be welcome in our country today. The first reading is clearly the law of God.

“You shall not molest or oppress an alien, for you were once aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt.”

We have unfair laws that have been created by rich people who are more concerned about making money than loving people. God also says, “If you lend money to one of your poor neighbors among my people, you shall not act like an extortioner toward him by demanding interest from him.” What about foreclosures, evictions and entrapment of people to spend more than they need in advertisements? Our country spends more on laws to protect guns than people. We judge people as not worthy of love and respect.

Did you hear that last line of our Exodus reading of the law that Jesus summarized today? “What else has he/she to sleep in? If he or she cries out to me, I will hear him; for I am compassionate.”

It is about love.

dscf2239

This is a true story shared by Father Anthony de Mello, S.J.:

“My friend isn’t back from the battlefield, sir. Request permission to go out and get him.”

“Permission refused,” said the officer. “I don’t want you to risk your life for a man who is probably dead.”

The soldier went, all the same, and, an hour later, came back mortally wounded, carrying the corpse of his friend.

The officer was furious. “I told you he was dead. Now I’ve lost both of you. Tell me, was it worth going out there to bring in a corpse?”

The dying man replied, “Oh, it was sir. When I got to him, he was till alive. And he said to me, ‘Jack, I was sure you’d come.’ 

Since both men died, who told the story? Jesus tells stories and teaches the people set in their way of self-righteousness. We are all like the Pharisees and Sadducees. We believe we are justified. But love will melt our icy hearts and taking sides. Jesus wants us to see the immigrant, the woman who out of fear had an abortion, the refugee, and the rich person with love. We have to trust that love will win out.

Project Rachael works. It restores more than the sinner and the innocent child. It restores each of us to love as Jesus loves. The women are released when they name their child, offer their child to Jesus, and hear the child offer forgiveness. Powerful release for the people who just didn’t know what they were doing. We are very much challenged to love those whom we disagree with or who have done things that we feel are against God’s commandments. We need to let God take care of them. They will have a much better chance.img_0593

This is a song I have been singing to God by Integrity Music:

Your love… is extravagant.

Your friendship… oh so intimate.

I find I’m a moving, to the rhythms of your grace

Your fragrance is intoxicating…

In a secret place….

 

Your love… is extravagant

 

Spread wide are the arms of Christ

Is a love that conquers sin

No greater love have I ever known

And you call me an intimate friend…

Capture my heart again

Capture my heart again

 

World Mission Sunday ~ 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time

God is Love. God owns everything. God showers us with abundance.

It really is quite simple. It seems that our country recognizes a need for tax reform. But we need to ask ourselves a few questions. What is the problem with our tax code, as it exists? Is it fair? How do our taxes pay for national defense, safe roads, water, food, or disaster relief? Does our nation’s spending of taxes reflect our motto, “In God we Trust”? God is more concerned about how we spend the 90% left over. God gives laws like tithing, to teach us how to give 100% Love! God gives us everything… even Jesus in his mother’s arms. If we are involved in tax loopholes or avoiding paying our fair share of taxes to Our One Nation Under God or to God in the poor, refugee or immigrant, is it possible that we are naively plotting ways to entrap Jesus?

img_7956            So if Jesus were to ask us, “Show me what you pay your taxes to Uncle Sam with,” how will that turn out? Our money states clearly, “In God We Trust”. But today we pay bills without cash. If we had no money, credit card or Internet, how would we buy anything? We just don’t realize that sometimes we pay more to our phones, Internet, football tickets, concerts or health insurance than we do for treasures in heaven.

I have veteran friends in Puerto Rico who were able to post on social media. “Went to CVS and found a pint of Ben and Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie ice cream, found two spoons in the car, turned on the car and sat in parking lot in AC and devoured the pint of ice cream. WOW. What a treat. Takes very little to entertain and make us super happy. … Life is good we have our little routine and are enjoying life as it is now. We have our faith, each other, family and friends and our home. Life is good and the beauty of our Island is shinning through this all. So come on down folks.” How grateful are we today, really?

When Jesus says, “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God,” what could we possibly give to God for our breath in this world? I remember when my mother was being ravished by cancer that metastasized her body as she was literally starving to death. Every day she lived was phenomenal and painful for all of us. For as much pain as she was in, I wouldn’t trade a billion dollars for one of those horribly beautiful 40 days. Although my family was begging for the suffering to end, there was something awesome, something beautiful we couldn’t give to God yet.

One day, less than a week before her death, I sat with my mother and father at the back window of their home as about 70 people from the Cursillo group sang to my mother across the pool. My mother, who had no water in her tear ducts, was upset because she couldn’t share the gift of her tears. She wanted to give something in return for their awesome gift of song and love.

A couple days later, my family gave to God what was God’s, our mother. Yes, God gave her to us, but we trusted God with her. We thank God in the Eucharist for her to this day. Her love is stronger than her death. What we gave to “Caesar” was the hospital bed, the doctor bills, her unused social security check, and her taxes for the first six months of 2000. Caesar seemed to give nothing in return, except more bills and a death certificate.

We will all die one day, and give back our bodies to God. And God will give us eternal life in exchange for our worn out bodies, if, and only if, we love one another and recognize that when we give to the poor, we give to God. We owe God everything. Without God we are nothing. We are called to act with justice and to give to God tender love that we share with one another. Without love we are worth nothing. Wouldn’t it be Great News if we truly gave to God what God most wants from us?

img_7958

22 October 2017 ~ St. Monica, Palatka & St. John Interlachen~ Father Ron

Isaiah 45:1-6 ~ I have called you by name, giving you a title, though you knew me not.

Psalm 96 ~ Give to the LORD, you families of nations, give to the LORD glory and praise; give to the LORD the glory due his name! Bring gifts, and enter his courts.

1 Thessalonians 1:1-5 ~ We give thanks to God always for all of you,

Gospel: Matthew 22:15-21 ~ Knowing their malice, Jesus said, “Why are you testing me, you hypocrites? Show me the coin that pays the census tax.” Then they handed him the Roman coin, He said to them, “Whose image is this and whose inscription?” They replied, “Caesar’s.” At that he said to them, “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”

 

Gratitude: Two Birth Day Poems! ~ Our Lady of the Rosary ~

 

Eucharist

Center of my life and soul

Piece of Bread, drops of blood

My body, just a little achy

Attempting to awaken

Yes, by standards of many (and sometimes my self)

There are many things to criticize

Much that lacks “father” wonderful

And yet

I am:

loving, joyful, kind

gentle, generous, somewhat self-controlled

peaceful, patient and faithful

 

If I try to defend my flaws and being less than perfect

I gloss over my limitations

which are sometimes my greatest strengths

You see, all of us have temptations, struggles and growing edges

We love things and people that others abhor or avoid

That is just the way it is

 

But ALL are welcome, no exceptions

The only ones excluded from the table,

are those who excuse themselves

or exclude others

My mission apostolic and sometimes impossible:

Bring them home

the isolated, the alone, the lost, the lonely, the wounded

I love my mission and the God who sends me

Soulitude revisited

Ron Moses +

dscf2170

O Jesus,

I cannot see you, but I do see your body and blood

            I am able to taste you

hold you

worship you… and in a sense worship with you

People do see You in me

But there are times when people see me in You

 

You invite me to see myself

as the person you love

the one you desire to love

and be loved by

 

As my mother indicated on my 10th anniversary card

just months before her death

“Through all the scary and wonderful times,

you must admit,

that Jesus and the Holy Spirit

seem to be having fun walking and dancing with you!”

Yes ~

Gratitude for all that has been in my life and for the life I have lived

Gratitude for the present day of well-being

Gratitude for hope and joys to come,

along with sorrows that bloom like a rose

and wilt and vanish

only to explode with more

 

I love you Jesus

Gratitude for Emmaus partner and soul mate

Birth of Love

Lived, enjoyed, celebrated, Eucharistic!

 

                                                Ron Moses +  October 7, 2017

 

St. Teresa de Avila: “God save us from these sour-faced saints.”

IMG_5652

dscf8835

 

Wall

Just finished watching Vietnam documentary… 18 hours… Ken Burns

I am exhausted, but alive and breathing in…

war disfigures our souls especially of the surviving warriors and gold star families

tormented by living in the new normal

it is the silence that roars…

My own experiences of a horrific war

somewhat gentrified

but still eyed as a lie

Evil is in the backline

that bloodies the frontline

Love does prevail at times

the true hero or heroine

are those who traverse after

innocence stolen or beaten out of us

children and siblings returned in bits and pieces

and fragments of enemies now loved

those who fragged, now forgiven

What is it about our feeble memories

failing to avoid our really botched and flawed,

if not diabolical previous choices,

blaming without looking

at our own almost botched choices if not for the grace of Love?

Love have mercy…

ron-self have mercy…

Jesus have mercy…

Buddha have mercy…

            on me

your beloved

who doesn’t always feel so loved or being…

Heal my soul… please!

 

My own soul haltingly, evasively nears the Vietnam Memorial

that spreads beyond the 58,272 to the 20 at Arlington Cemetery

and 61 and counting souls embraced at their death from Fallujah.

Many more are dying from spiritual heart attacks every day…

“I hate war,” I read on the FDR memorial wall

The fake wall with names like “Lies” and “Arrogance”

along our neighborly southern border,

will not work,

has not worked

in Vietnam, Korea, Berlin, Israel or Confederate/Union

the real though callous wall already built within the American psyche…

a wall that once hoped to keep out hate and racism

Mister President… take down that wall!…

we pray the Vietnam Memorial, the real Wall,

will remind us of who we are,

We as a people are not a wall, but a golden door,

Let us never again keep out

“…your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.”

Let us rather keep out the greed and profiteers of war.

Greatness as a nation comes from

those who fought and reconciled on both sides of a conflict,

not rhetoric nor tweets

nor self-righteousness

nor any political solution.

Healing comes from within

and from the balm of love

that former enemies have for US

and US for them.

Ron Camarda

 

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

(Emma Lazurus ~ New Colossus ~ Statue of Liberty)

IMG_7059dscf9170dscf4150dscf0108

Samsung

God calls us to work in God’s vineyard

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time

24 September 2017 ~ St. Monica, Palatka & St. John Interlachen~ Father Ron

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Isaiah 55:6-9 ~ For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways says the Lord.

Psalm 145 ~ The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness.

Philippians 1:20-27 ~ Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death.

Gospel: Matthew 20:1-16~ Jesus told his disciples this parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. Going out about nine o’clock, the landowner saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and he said to them, ‘You too go out into my vineyard, and I will give you what is just.’ So they went off. And he went out again around noon, and around three o’clock, and did likewise. Going out about five o’clock, the landowner found others standing around, and said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ They answered, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard.’… The landowner said to one of them in reply to their grumbling, ‘My friend, I am not cheating you. Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what is yours and go. What if I wish to give this last one the same as you? Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?’ Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

img_2738

God owns everything, and that is a lot! Without God we have nothing. The real good news is that God is really generous. In fact, it is difficult to comprehend how generous, merciful, forgiving and kind God is with us. Every week we come to Mass, God gives us his Body and Blood to everyone of us. “Take this all of you and eat of it. This is my Body which will be given up for you.”

When were you called by God to work in the Kingdom of God? How wonderful was it? How old were you? Are you like St. Paul who says, “If I go on living in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me.”

Many of us here are “cradle” Catholics. We have been working in the vineyard of God for as long as we can remember. Jesus cautions us today to not judge others, bur rather focus on the generosity of God. If we truly take on the mind and heart of Jesus, then we too will give all we have, including our lives, to those we love and are friends with.

I am reminded of a story about two dogs, Brownie and Big Red. They had just finished eating and decided to lay in the shade to take a nap. “I have no finer friend than you,” Brownie said to his companion. “How fortunate I am to be able to run and sleep with someone like you.”

            “I agree,” Red Dog said as he scratched himself. “Others argue and fight and are envious. But you and I are content just to have each other.”

            “The two continued to speak of the joys of friendship until a cook opened the back door and threw a bone onto the grass. The two friends then leaped to their feet and raced to the bone. Each claimed the fragment for himself, and soon a fight broke out between the two dogs. (19th-century Russian writer Ivan Kriloff)

Beloved, when we talk about money, like bones, often causes friendships to go to the dogs.

Jesus is very clear in this parable. God has given us everything, including his life. Where is our compassion for those who were hired late and would not be able to feed their family that night with one hour of pay? If we lack compassion, we will be very uncomfortable in heaven.

God’s ways are not our ways. Let us change ourselves without attempting to change others. Let us use the gifts we have without being envious of others. That would be Good News!

dscf2239

Generous with Forgiveness

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time

17 September 2017 ~ St. Monica, Palatka & St. John Interlachen~ Father Ron

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Sirach 27:30-28:9 ~ Forgive your neighbor’s injustice; then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven.

Psalm 103 ~ The Lord is kind and merciful, slow to anger, and rich in compassion.!

Romans 14:7-9 ~ None of us lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself. For if we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord; so then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s..

Gospel: Matthew 18:21-35~ Jesus completed his story, “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 or sister from your heart.”

IMG_5237

When Father David arrived at his first parish several years ago, he discovered the little town had a fascination for nicknames. He learned that the pharmacist O. R. Carlson is called “Wolf” because when he was a boy he called the police to report a wolf roaming the neighborhood. It turned out to be a large cat, but the name stuck. George, the fire chief, who was credited with saving the horse farm is called “Blazing Saddles.” Eleanor Duffy who owns the local body shop, is know as “Crash,” and Wayne Monson, a 6-foot-7-inch giant who runs a fix-it business, “Tinker.”

Sometimes entire families, such as the Crowleys, have interesting names. August Crowley was chair of the pastoral counsel. He also had the reputation of being a fine biblical scholar. August had attended seminary for a while and had a masters degree in Scripture. Father David thought nothing of August’s name until he met the three Crowley sisters, all members of the church. Their names—April, May, and June. Surely, Fr. David thought, this must be a family with a great sense of humor. In fact, the four Crowley’s had seemed to be a jolly group, until about three years ago when their mother Tillie died. The events surrounding Tillie Crowley’s death had caused a painful split in the family.

The sibling squabble broke out over the disposition of Tillie’s property. It was as one local wit said, spring against summer. April and May were on one side, June and August on the other.

During his first visit to the house after his mother died, August found messages under three antique lamps and on the backside of several pictures. The messages read, “This is for April,” or “This is for May.”

All four children had long believed that Tillie never completed a will. When they opened their mother’s safety deposit box, however, they discovered that she left a detailed will which included a list of what every child was to receive, down to the silverware. Her list and the names on the backs of the lamps and pictures did not match. It was pretty clear to June and August that the messages were written not by their mother, but by their sisters. World War III broke out in the Crowley family.

In the weeks that followed, each pair threatened the other with a lawsuit. Hardly a day passed when some juicy tidbit wasn’t released into the town’s gossip mill. One-week people were buzzing over what August did to April, and the next week over what May did to June.

Father David, as the pastor of the Fighting Irish, I mean Crowleys, preferred not to get involved in this family feud, yet found it increasingly difficult to avoid it. All four Crowleys attended church every Sunday, and April and August never missed the Sunday morning Bible class right before Mass. Neither was willing to let the other prevent them from attending, but the minute they arrived their icy stares seemed to make the temperature in the room drop. The family feud made everyone in the church uncomfortable.

Father David knew something had to be done and he took it to prayer. During the following Sunday Bible study, the pastor announced that next month they would focus on the gospel for the next week. He said, “I’m going to ask some of you to do a little homework for that class. I’ll call you this week.”

The first week the group studied Matthew 18:15-20. “In this passage Jesus gives us instructions on how to deal with grievances between believers,” Father said, “I’ll read just a section. ‘If your brother or sister sins against you, go to them and show them their fault. Do it privately. If they listen you have won your brother or sister back.’”

Although there was a lot of discussion, neither August nor April, normally quite vocal, took part. In conclusion David said, “The purpose of these instructions is to help us win back those we love. It grows out of conviction that we are to forgive the way we are forgiven.”

The following week Fr David made separate phone calls to April and August to ask them to write a brief paragraph for next Sunday’s class. After hesitating, each agreed. Unknown to the other, David gave them both the same assignment. “I’d like you to write 50 to 100 words on the “unforgivable sin,” he said.

At the next Bible study, Father David shared how Jesus wants forgiveness to overflow, he says ‘seventy times seven times.’ In other words, forgiveness without limits.

“In today’s Gospel Jesus underlines his message. A king had a servant who owed him millions of dollars, and there was no way the servant could ever repay that amount. Out of compassion the king forgave him.”

David saw April and August staring at the floor. “Next, the man who was forgiven insisted that a friend repay him 100 denarii, which may have been worth about $30. When his friend pleaded for mercy, the man refused and threw him into jail. When the king heard what happened, he arrested the first servant. The story ends with these words, ‘So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart. ‘” Father David concluded, “I think we may have another unforgiveable sin.”

There was an awkward silence until one of the women in the front row responded, “I don’t understand,” she said. “This story and your point aren’t clear to me.”

Father resisted saying anything more. He let the words hang in the air. Finally a man’s voice broke the silence. “It is painfully clear to me.” It was August, the biblical scholar.

“God is like the king,” he said slowly, without looking up. “God looks at the dark hearts of his servants, the debt people like you and me owe. There is no way we can repay him. We cry out, “Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy.’ And in Christ’s death on the cross God forgives our massive debt to him, a debt worth millions. But when we meet a sister who owes us a few lousy bucks, we refuse to forgive that sister.” August glanced across the room briefly catching April’s eye. “We refuse to pass on the very forgiveness of the king, a forgiveness that allows us to walk free and live clear. The unforgivable sin is refusing to forgive as we have been forgiven. I’m afraid it is all too clear.”

When August finished, no one else spoke. The only sounds were a nervous cough and the noise of people changing positions on their hard metal chairs. Finally August stood up and walked out of the room. No one moved until the bell rang, calling people to Mass. August was not in his usual spot when the service began.

Father David thought about August during the entire service, and again on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. He continually second-guessed his decision to go public with their family feud. At the time, he had decided it would take a terrible jolt to make them see. He also knew that their division was not private, but had touched the lives of the entire congregation.

David thought about visiting his friend, but decided to wait for August to make the first move. On Friday, August did. David looked up from his desk and saw him standing silently in the doorway. David wordlessly invited him in. For several minutes the two men sat looking at each other without speaking.

Finally August’s eyes narrowed. “That was a dirty trick you pulled on me Sunday,” he said. Then there was a long pause. “But I deserved it. This has been a long week. It has been a time of soul searching. You said nothing new, nothing I didn’t know. I knew all about forgiveness as a concept, an idea. For mercy sakes, I’ve led classes on the subject. My problem is that I knew little of forgiveness as an experience.”

August thought for a moment before he continued. “I visited my sisters last night. I told them I had been a fool. I told them their friendship was worth more than trinkets, whether those trinkets be new or antique. I asked them to pray for me. We all cried a lot before I left.”

Tears flowed down August’s wrinkled cheeks. “Father, I have sinned. Pray for me,” he cried.

Father David walked over to his friend and asked, “Is this your confession?” August nodded.

Father David put his hands on the old man’s head and spoke lovingly, “God the Father of all mercies, through the death and resurrection of his Son, sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins. Through the ministry of the Church, may God grant you pardon and peace. And let me be Jesus for you. I forgive you of all your sins, seventy times seven times. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”

dscf6097

Homily Story adapted extensively from Stories for the Gathering: A Treasury for Christian Storytellers by William R. White, 1997, Augusburg Fortress, Minneapolis, MN ~ Family Feud, pp 78-82

Evacuation Route to Heaven

Ezekiel the prophet warns of us of hurricanes. If we fail to heed the warnings, he is not held accountable. If we see that our brother or sister is heading into harms way, but do not warn them, we will be held accountable. Sometimes we complain that we were evacuated for no reason at all. Many didn’t listen to these warnings and died or were injured or caused first responders to be harmed. But what about the internal storms we harbor for others? How have we prepared for them? Are we warning others?

Yes, the storms are brewing. We tell people that we love them. We clean up our yards so that our junk doesn’t harm our neighbors as flying debris. We stock up on water and gas. We begrudgingly heed mandatory evacuation orders. Sometimes we share what we have with others even if we know there will not be enough. We trust God. We share our evacuation plans so that we can reunite once the storm passes or lessen the worry.

But Jesus asks us to do more than the law of preparedness. Jesus asks us not only to warn our neighbor of the impending dangers, but also to love them and help them to avoid the impending doom. Jesus loves both me, and my neighbor who has sinned against me. Period! If we warn our loved ones to evacuate and they end up dying, part of us also dies. This is a law of love.

DSCF5528

Why are you terrified?

There are many hurricanes in this world with far deeper and catastrophic consequences. These are the hurricanes of poverty, war, indifference, addiction, family discord and selfishness to name a few.

Jesus warns us of the consequences of family hurricanes and infighting. Here is the evacuation route Jesus proposes:

  1. If your brother or sister sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. Simple but seldom done.
  2. If he doesn’t listen, bring one or two along with you. In other words, if the road you are taking toward love is blocked, change course and find another way. Don’t give up!
  3. If he refuses to listen still, then tell the church. So often people come to confession and tell me the sins of others. It is my job to gently invite them to look at the part they played in the sin and love them.
  4. If that evacuation route is blocked, then Jesus tells us to treat the person as you would a Gentile (refugee) or tax collector. Following the law we would treat the offender with constitutional justice. But how did Jesus treat the Gentile or tax collector?
  5. If you cannot evacuate, have a hurricane emergency kit. Be prepared.
  6. If you bind judgment, racism and unforgiveness on earth, you will bring a surge of judgment, racism and unforgiveness into heaven.
  7. But if you loose or forgive the debt of others on earth, then God will let loose an abundance of love. Pack love, mercy, forgiveness and joy.
  8. Many of us are inconvenienced this week. We complain about losing things like electricity, possessions, running water, and abundant food that we have often wasted. Insurance, government help and citizenship help restore us quickly. God is asking us to consider the poorest of poor who lack basic essentials, insurance or even citizenship. They literally live the aftermath of a hurricane or some other natural disaster perpetually. Pack a cross.
  9. In our hurricane emergency kit, we need a very strong flashlight that requires no juice. The Body and Blood of Jesus is essential for our survival. Jesus is our Light in the darkness. Bring along Jesus.

This next couple of days could be an opportunity for us to connect with the eye of the storm. This time can be savored if we have faith.

A tiger was chasing a man. A cliff blocked his evacuation from the jaws of the tiger. But he saw a vine that he climbed down. When he looked down, he saw another tiger below. Then looking up, he saw two mice chewing on the vine. He felt his anxieties and despair rising. Then he saw a strawberry on the side of the cliff. He reached out and plucked it. He then placed the strawberry in his mouth and savored the taste of the delicious strawberry.

The hurricane is on both sides of our state of mind. Anxieties and worry have paralyzed us. It is time to turn on the Light of the World. Turn the hurricanes of your life with love for one another and prayers united.

My life flows on in endless song

Above earth’s lamentations,

I hear the real, though far-off hymn

That hails a new creation

 

Through all the tumult and the strife

I hear it’s music ringing,

It sounds an echo in my soul.

How can I keep from singing?

 

No storm can shake my inmost calm,

While to that rock I’m clinging.

Since love is Lord of heaven and earth,

How can I keep from singing?

 

When tyrants tremble in their fear

And hear their death knell ringing,

When friends rejoice both far and near

How can I keep from singing?

 

In prison cell and dungeon vile

Our thoughts to them are winging,

When friends by shame are undefiled

How can I keep from singing?

Words of this song first published by Robert Lowry, a Baptist Minister in the 1869 songbook, Bright Jewels for the Sunday School. Lowry most likely wrote the music but the words are anonymous and public domain.

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

10 September 2017 ~ St. Monica, Palatka & St. John Interlachen~ Father Ron

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Ezekiel 33:7-9 ~ When you hear me say anything, you shall warn them for me.

Psalm 95 ~ Come, worship the Lord, for we are his people, the flock that he shepherds…Alleluia!

Romans 13:8-10 ~ Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law…Love does no evil to the neighbor; hence, love is the fulfillment of the law.

Gospel: Matthew 18:15-20~ Jesus said to his disciples: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother.