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!

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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.”

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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?

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

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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.”

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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!

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Generous with Forgiveness

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time

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

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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.”

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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.”

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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

Donkeys for Christ!!!

22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

3 September 2017 ~ St. Monica, Palatka & St. John Interlachen~

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Jeremiah 20:1-9 ~ The word of God has brought me derision and reproach all the day…

Psalm 63 ~ My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God!

Romans 12:1-2 ~ I urge you brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship.

Gospel: Matthew 16:21-27~ Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised. Then Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him, “God forbid Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you!” Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”

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An Aesop fable goes like this: A lion, a fox and donkey became partners and successfully acquired a large amount of food. The lion asked the donkey to divide the prize. Carefully, the donkey divided the spoil into three equal shares. The lion was offended, burst into a rage, and devoured the donkey.

            Then the lion asked the fox to make a division. The fox accumulated all they had killed into one large heap and left but a small morsel for himself. The lion said, “This is perfect. Who taught you how to divide so well?”

            The fox replied, “I just recently learned it from the donkey.”

They say that wise people learn from the misfortunes of others.

Last week, many of us would have loved to be Peter who got the right answer when Jesus asked his disciples, “But who do you say that I am?” But this week we hear Jesus say to Peter, “Get behind me Satan! You are an obstacle to me!” In Marine terms, we would say that the drill sergeant ate the private for lunch!

Was Peter that wrong? Peter believed that Jesus was the Christ and that things would be Great. But for Jesus, things would be great, but not in the way the world thinks.

Jesus has a mission. He said at the beginning of his ministry in his home town, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. God sent me to proclaim liberty to captives, recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free and proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.” At first the people thought this was wonderful, until it meant they had to change. Jesus added, “No prophet is accepted in his own native place.” Then they tried to kill him. Jesus was telling us that the inequality in our towns, even Palatka, is unacceptable. No one is better than anyone else. We are all equal.

The world believes we can get away with being self-serving like the lion or fearful of the bullies like the fox. We believe that we can go on in this world without accepting our cross. Jesus minces no words to his disciples and us. We must deny self, take up our cross, and lose our life. So who in the world would choose to follow Jesus? No wonder Peter rebukes Jesus!

Jesus is the donkey, meek and humble but fair. That means we are all called to be donkeys! All are welcome. He died for all. We tend to be more like the fox by living in fear and conforming to the lions and the racists in the world. We defend our rights and amendments, and our securities while we close our doors and wall up our ability to hear the cry of the poor. We fail to offer first fruits to God.

Jesus not only learned from the prophets, but he became one. Jeremiah the prophet chose to accept his calling and be the one prophet out of 100. Jesus tells us, “There are 99 false prophets for every true prophet.”   Jeremiah simply told the truth, but he was ready to quit because he knew he would be killed if he kept speaking the Word of God. Jesus never quits on anyone, especially the poor, immigrants and refugees. Jesus is asking each of us today for a radical conversion. He knows we will be rejected, but he knows we will gain eternal life.

What we bring to this altar is nothing less than our entire body and soul. “Pray my brothers and sisters that my sacrifice and yours will be acceptable to our loving God.” It really has nothing to do with the money. “Do not be afraid,” Jesus tells us. If the worldly lion eats us for lunch, God will raise us up on this altar today!

Who do I say that I Am?

27 August 2017 ~ St. Monica Feast Day ~ Father Ron Moses

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Gospel: Matthew 16:13-20~ Jesus said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 

How well do we answer the questions posed by Jesus?

Who is Jesus for you? Who are you?

Jesus asks many questions, but very few really answer them. Sure, Simon answers the question, but the credit doesn’t go to Simon. Jesus tells him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.”

Who do people say I Am?

Some say the Christ, Lord, Savior, miracle worker, story teller, prophet, servant, healer, teacher, etc. All of these are correct. Simon Peter said, “You are the Christ, the son of the living God!” But what does it mean? In order to answer this question, I believe we need to ask ourselves, “Who am I?” Jesus could only ask his question because he knew who he was. Do you really know who you are as saint and sinner?

Unless we have experienced Jesus loving us in our weakness and failures, we may never understand who Jesus is… or who we are.

Who is the Jesus of your journey?

For all of us, may I suggest that Jesus is the one who washes our feet? This probably makes all of us uncomfortable. Imagine that we are in the upper room for the last supper as one of the apostles or servants. Unexpectedly, Jesus begins to wash your feet.

Breathe in…     Breathe out…

Sensing your dismay and fear, Jesus places his hand on your knee and says, “Do you know what these years together have meant to me? You were being held even when you didn’t believe I was holding you my friend.”

You sense tears rolling down your cheeks. “But Lord, my sins, my repeated failures, my weaknesses…”

Jesus gently interrupts by saying your name, “I understand. Beloved, I expected more failure than you expected yourself.” Jesus smiled. “And you always came back. Nothing pleases me as much as when you trust me, when you allow that my compassion is bigger than your sinfulness.”

But you protest, “But Jesus, what about my irritating character defects—the boasting, the inflating of the truth, the pretense of being prayerful and holy, the impatience with people, and all the times I drank to excess or lust got the better of me?”

Jesus looks into your eyes, “What you are saying is true. But your love for me has never wavered. Your heart has remained pure. What’s more, even in the darkness and confusion, you’ve always done something that overshadowed all the rest. You were kind to sinners.”

“Now I’ll go.” Jesus says, “I’ve washed your feet. Do the same for others. Serve my people humbly and lovingly. You will find happiness if you do. Peace my friend.”

So who are you Jesus? You, Jesus, are the one who wash my feet. You are faithful to me when I am unfaithful to you. You welcome all people, especially sinners, into your loving arms. There are no exceptions. You help me to carry my cross like Simon. You wipe my face like Veronica. You never give up on anyone. You are all compassionate, joyful, kind, merciful and faithful.

You, Jesus, ask me who I am?

 

I am a flower quickly fading, here today and gone tomorrow, a wave tossed in the ocean, a vapor in the wind. Still You hear me when I’m calling, Lord, you catch me when I’m falling. And You’ve told me who I am. (Song by Casting Crowns)

 

I am yours. I am yours!

Who shall I fear? Who shall I fear? ‘Cause I am yours. I am yours.

I am precious in the eyes of God, the Father.

I am precious in the eyes of Jesus and his community.

I am Good News! Amazing!!!!

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(Reflection on washing of feet adapted from Brennan Manning, A Glimpse of Jesus: the stranger to Self-Hatred (HarperCollins Publishers, New York), chapter 2, pp 23-50)

The best Easter ever!

And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, approached, rolled back the stone, and sat upon it. His appearance was like lightning and his clothing was white as snow…. Gospel according to St. Matthew 28:1-10

The Magi who came seeking the Messiah were overjoyed at seeing the star of Jesus, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

The Women who came to the tomb seeking Jesus the crucified were not expecting an angel with the appearance of lightning. After seeing the angel of the Lord, the women went away from the empty tomb fearful yet overjoyed. But then Jesus greeted them as they ran. They approached, embraced his feet, and did him homage like the Magi did. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of humility, surrender and love. Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid.”

Here I was in Fallujah, Iraq on Christmas night 2004, I was exhausted, beat up and depleted. I had celebrated about 19 Masses in three days. It was rainy and cold with broken glass all around me. A 19 year old Marine on lookout was unable to receive communion and asked for me to bring Jesus to him. I almost said no, but here I was. He was fearful yet overjoyed at seeing me with the Eucharist. We didn’t know that the battle was over. My homily was the same for every Mass and Communion service. “If this is not the best Christmas ever, then something is wrong.” The Marine looked at me from the mud, death and broken glass as if I was crazy. Even though I truly believed that every day living and believing in Jesus makes it the best ever, my hope was frail and despair was building. My joy was on life-support.

This young Marine reverently opened his grimy hands to receive the Body of Christ. I thought of Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes in the crèche and on the cross. As I began to sing O Holy Night, which is really an Easter hymn of resurrection, the Marine sang louder and louder in an operatic voice. Could the whole world hear this Marine? With our eyes closed, tears streamed down my face and soul. I was no longer afraid. When I opened my eyes and saw the Marine radiant with face awash in tears, he gave me a smile and simply said, “Yep, Padre, this is truly the best Christmas ever!” We had approached Jesus, embraced his feet, and did him homage. We offered him gifts of innocents lost, broken minds, and love. Jesus simply said, “Do not be afraid! Tell my brothers and sisters the Good News! You will see me in the Eucharist!” And now today is the day that springs from the best Christmas ever. It must truly be the best Easter Ever…

Some people are still trapped in the rubble of life and some, like you, with the help of God, are raised from the rubble and rebuilt with strength, courage and patient hope. We have the choice, will we step out of the tomb new and renewed, resurrected in our lives, or will we be tempted to return to the tomb with our same old perspective, and, like shackles, take them again into our life’s experience?

This is the atmosphere of the tomb, but Jesus wants to instead, open the way of life, the way of joy and the way to lasting peace. The light has conquered darkness; hosanna to God in the highest!  ( Check out the short video clip which will inspire)

Best Easter Ever

I pray for each and everyone of us that we might be filled up, filled up with the joy of salvation, filled up with the joy of justice, filled up with the joy of the Sunday experience so that our lives speak something, so that our lives mean something, so that our lives have a purpose, so that our lives have an impact. Jesus is the light that comes into our world, his words echo through the Gospels, may we remain young as they also echo in our lives fully alive with strength, courage, wonder, awe and hope, as Good News.

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Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.

Gospel of St. John 11: Now A man was ill, Lazarus from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who had anointed the Lord with perfumed oil and dried his feet with her hair; it was her brother Lazarus who was ill. So the sisters sent word to him saying, “Master, the one you love is ill.” ~ When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days…

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When Martha acknowledged that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world… she would pay the price and no longer be welcome in the synagogue, but she would no longer be frozen in the fear of death.

Last week we heard that the Jews had already agreed that if anyone recognized Jesus as the Christ, they would be expelled from the synagogue. The man who regained his sight was thrown out when he acknowledged Jesus as the Christ, but his parents chose to remain in their fear rather than rejoice with their son. In many ways they were dead.

The religious leaders were corrupt and didn’t want to be exposed. They were divided about how to actually love God, neighbor and their way of life. They were poisoned by greed and power. They were divided about who was in the synagogue legally and who should be deported. Jesus was their enemy. They concluded that, “It is better for one man to die rather than a nation to perish.” They weren’t bad people, just afraid, lost and blind. Jesus says of them from the cross, “Forgive them, they know not what they do.”

Martha and Mary were healed of their fear of death by the love of Jesus and their love for Jesus. They knew that Jesus could heal people, but they didn’t realize yet that he could bring their brother back from death. He could also help them to understand that if they live and believe in Jesus they will never die.

The religious leaders recognized that fear of death was big business and made gross amounts of profits. Having wealth and security is not a problem, unless we neglect the poor, the orphans, those fleeing war, the hungry and the oppressed. The United States is well-known as the world’s biggest spender on arms and weapons systems. Catholic bishops have regularly denounced as moral scandal a defense budget measured each year in the hundreds of billions. (America Magazine Jesuits, April 3, 2017)

Less noticed is the nation’s status as the world’s top merchant of arms and the government’s role as facilitator in that market.

In a historic address in Washington on Sept. 24, 2015, Pope Francis told congress:

Being at the service of dialogue and peace… means being truly determined to minimize and, in the long term, to end the many armed conflicts throughout our world… Here we have to ask ourselves: Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society? Sadly, the answer, as we all know, is simply for money: money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood. In the face of this shameful and culpable silence, it is our duty to confront the problem and stop the arms trade. 

Congress applauded Pope Francis, but they spent more on exported weapons. We are divided in politics, but mostly in defense of our profiting from war.

The devil doesn’t want us to believe that he exists. The biggest fear of the Beast (the Devil) is that we believe in the Jesus who says, “I am the resurrection and life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

When we don’t fear death, when we don’t care if we are even rejected by our parents, we truly live in the freedom of God’s Kingdom today. Jesus is looking for followers who are brave enough to see him crucified without giving into despair. Jesus is counting on each of us to answer the question he asked Martha. Then, and only then, will we truly be free and be instruments of God’s peace and love. Do you believe this? If you do, you are Good News!

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5th Sunday in Lent

April 1, 2017 ~ Queen of Peace Catholic Community

Ezekiel 37:12-14 ~ O my people, I will open your graves and have you rise from them

Psalm 130 ~ With the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption.

 

“I Thirst”

Jesus said, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him or her a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.” Gospel of St. John 4

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Life can sometimes harden our hearts. We are always looking for something more. There are many billionaires in this world. But have you noticed how happy they are? NOT! You would think that they would be satisfied and enjoy their wealth and security. Something is missing. They still thirst, just like you and me. Some of us are gifted with retirement, money, national championships, family and/or fame, but there is still a thirst for more. What are you thirsting for today? In the first reading we hear, “In those days, in their thirst for water, the people grumbled against Moses.” O yes, they got their water from the rock, but they did not know that they thirsted for the Rock of Jesus. If Jesus asked you for a drink today, and I believe he is asking, how would you respond?

“Jesus, you don’t even have a bucket or a place to lay your head. You have a cross and suffering. The hatred in the world is deep. The problems of this world are massive. People are filled with anxieties, hunger, thirst, division, depression and politics.” Our reactive response to a simple question from Jesus blinds us to the man before us who simply asks for a drink of water.

This woman of Samaria came to draw water and was beginning to feel that her bucket list had perpetual holes. She was addicted to unsatisfying relationships and the tediousness of life. She must have been unbelievably beautiful to be able to secure so many men! She kept looking for love outside of her own beautiful self. When she came to the seventh man, she did not think anything would be different. She was indifferent and in a way, she had lost hope, but she did have one last drop of hope in her bucket. That is all that Jesus needed.

Jesus was pouring his mercy and love into this woman even before her first failed marriage. Jesus, the Son of God, had been waiting at the well for a very long time. Jesus is waiting for each of you. Jesus simply reaches into our hearts and says “I thirst.”

If we want to get closer to God, we must be thirsty first. We need to transform our grumbling into desire, our hostility into hospitality, and our illusions into prayer. We need to open up our hearts. “We have peace with God through Jesus the Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith to this grace in which we stand, and we boast in hope of the glory of God.”

When we come to Mass, are we open to the thirst of Jesus? “Give me a drink.” How amazing that we have access to Jesus every day. The Mass never ends; we take it with us. Jesus in the Eucharist totally quenches our thirst for so much more. I was at the well with Jesus… and all was well. “And hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

 

Psalm 63:

My soul is thirsting for you O Lord, thirsting for you my God.

O God you are my God, and I will always praise you.

In the shadow of your wings I cling to you, and you hold me high.

Through the day you walk with me. All the night your love surrounds me.

To the glory of your name I lift up my hands, I sing your praise.

I will never be afraid, for I will not be abandoned.

Even though the road grows long and weary, your love will rescue me.

3rd Sunday in Lent

March 19, 2017 ~ Queen of Peace Catholic Community

Exodus: 17:3-7~ In those days, in their thirst for water, the people grumbled against Moses

Psalm 95 ~ If today you hear God’s voice, harden not your hearts

Romans 5:1-8 ~ And hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

QUEEN OF PEACE CATHOLIC COMMUNITY ~ CATHOLIC SCHOOLS WEEK ~ Matthew 5:1-12

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him. He began to teach them saying, “Blessed are…” nine times.

Jesus was a Teacher, not a trainer. A true teacher teaches in a way so that the student (or disciple) becomes an equal. Jesus, the Teacher, does not want to be our Master, but he does want to be our Friend and Beloved.

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Today we heard the introduction of the Sermon on the Mount. This is at the very beginning of his Mission. His Mission is to teach us all about the Kingdom of Heaven. He is attempting to give us the rules, just like we have rules of conduct in school, work and growing up in a family.

What kind of rules do we have growing up in a family? Yes… clean your room, say “please” and “thank you”, go to bed a certain time, eat your vegetables (not just M & M’s), take out the garbage, do your homework, go to church, say your prayers. When we are kids, if we rebel against these duties, there are consequences. As an adult, we have the freedom not to follow through with these rules, but the consequences might be more grave and could rob us of a peaceful and productive life.

A thousand years before Jesus, God gave us the Ten Commandments through Moses. They tell us to love and obey God, our parents and our neighbors. We are to rest and worship with God one day a week. We don’t kill, cheat, steal, lie or become envious and greedy. This Gospel passage today is like the first day of catholic school. Jesus is going to teach us much more than rules, which can be challenging by themselves. If we don’t learn these beatitudes, there are grave consequences like remaining slaves rather than children of God or never finding the Kingdom of Heaven.

When our minds are developing, they work more like a puppy that needs to be trained or disciplined (discipled). If I train my puppy to be mean, what does it grow up to be? Yes, a mean dog. Does it have a choice? No, of course not. Can the dog say to itself, “I don’t feel like being mean anymore.”? That is why rules for dogs are so important when they are young. That is why rules for children and teenagers are so important when we are young. But here is the difference. We don’t just learn rules growing up. We have to learn how to think and grow in faith. We need to master the gifts of the Holy Spirit like wisdom, knowledge and understanding.

When Jesus goes on to finish teaching the crowd, the Gospel writer tells us, “When Jesus finished these words, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.”

Jesus is the best teacher we will ever find. Our catholic schools allow the Jesus in our teachers, parents and guardians to connect with the Jesus in every student. Once we learn the basic commandments, the goal of catholic schools is to become disciples and teachers. Let us all grow in wisdom, faith and love.

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1st Reading: Prophet Zephaniah 2:3; 3:12-13

Seek the Lord, all you humble of the earth, who have observed his law; seek justice, seek humility;

Psalm 146

Blessed are the poor in spirit; the kingdom of heaven is theirs!

2nd Reading: St. Paul to the Corinthians 1:26-31

God chose the foolish… the weak, the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing..

Gospel: Matthew 5:1-12

Blessed are…, for they…

Teaching, Preaching, Curing

3rd Week Ordinary Time, January 2017

Matthew 4:12-2 ~ When Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee… Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”… He called them and they immediately left their boat…and followed him… Jesus went around all of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and curing every disease and illness among the people.

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Two brothers were discussing their future goals after Sunday school one day. The first said he wanted to be rich and famous. The second said he wanted to follow Jesus to the fullest. The second went on to reach his goal. His name was David Livingstone, the renowned medical missionary and explorer of Africa. The first went on to be rich, but his fame came from another. His tombstone reads, “Here lies the brother of Doctor David Livingstone.”

Jesus was on a mission to teach us about a God of mercy, love and compassion who happens to be his Father. Jesus, walking along, met Peter and Andrew, James and John after they had just finished their hard days work as professional fishermen. What happened to their nets and boats? What was so compelling about Jesus that they’d leave without concern for the details that had preoccupied their lives and gave them a sense of security?

Clearly there was something magnetic, even contagious about Jesus that caused people to forget the important and unimportant-the boats and the nets—and all the things that distract us everyday to follow him. There was something about Jesus that compelled people to connect with our God who they had heard of, often spoken of and who drew them toward goodness.

We might say it’s no problem connecting with Jesus, he was a healer of both external and internal wounds, he was exemplary, he put his life on the line for his friends. Our problem is more about connecting with God’s people. Maybe that’s because God’s people don’t represent Jesus very well in the world today. God’s people don’t practice what Jesus preached. We need to connect, though, because God’s fullness is not revealed in any one of us; but when we connect with one another we manifest God’s goodness.

“Repent, (metanoia, change course), the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” What John and now Jesus is saying is that repenting or changing course is essential to entering heaven. To follow Jesus is a drastic change of life goals or plans. Before the brothers could teach, preach and heal people, they had to first change course. They had to learn to fish in a different way. It was like learning to drive in one of those countries that drive on the other side of the street. It was like learning to write with the other hand. It was like learning to speak a new language or breaking an addiction or a toxic relationship. It could also be like trying to learn to speak after suffering a stroke. In reality it is all of these. It sounds impossible, but nothing is impossible with God.

Even Simon had to let go of his name and pick up a new name Peter. Once we repent, the hard work begins. So often, people go back to their old ways because the internal emotions are too uncomfortable.

Before we can go out and proclaim the good news or heal the sick, Jesus must first call us. Then we must listen to his teaching. Then and only then does Jesus send us out two by two. An isolated Christian is a dead Christian.

This Gospel passage is from the 4th chapter of St. Matthew’s account. The Gospel passages we hear in the following five weeks are critical if we wish to reach our goals in life. Chapters 5, 6, and 7 speak of the goodness and expectations of God. This is what he was teaching in the synagogues. This is what Jesus was proclaiming as Good News. This is where his authority to cure every disease and illness comes from.

I am going to go out on a limb and assign some homework this week. It only takes about 5 or 10 minutes to read, but it will probably take you a lifetime to learn. I am still learning! What would it be like to hear Jesus as he went to all the synagogues? Read and pray these chapters out loud a couple times this week if not daily. You will most likely recognize many of the teachings which all boil down to “love God and love neighbor” with no exceptions. However, to apply these teachings will be a true metanoia experience, but don’t be afraid, you are in good company. Mark Twain once said: “Most people are bothered by those passages of Scripture which they cannot understand; but as for me, I have always noticed that the passages in Scripture which trouble me the most are those which I do understand.”

It may be important to invoke the Holy Spirit. “Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful. Enkindle in us the fire of your love… O God who by the light of the Holy Spirit instructs the hearts of your faithful, grant that by that same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever rejoice in your consolation forever.”

Jesus is longing to go to the ends of the world, teaching the mercy of God, preaching the kingdom of heaven, and curing every disease and illness. All he needs is your body, soul and fire… and your change of direction.

Lord, when you came to the seashore
You weren’t looking for the rich nor the wise,
But only asking that I might follow
O Lord, with your eyes set upon me
Gently smiling, you have spoken my name
Close to you, I will find other shores
Lord, you knew what my boat carried
neither money nor weapons for fighting,
but nets for fishing my daily labor

(PESCADOR DES HOMBRES  by Cesareo Gabarain)

We could connect with others and follow Jesus toward God, toward pleasing God, by seeing the Sacred in others. The Holy Spirit unites us with the Divine and offers the only route to Good News in this world.

Jeff McGowan and I worked together on this homily.

Have a blessed and holy week. Pray and journal about Matthew 5, 6, and 7 and see how Jesus calls your from your boat. You might even walk a few steps on water!