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.  

Donkeys for Christ!!!

22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

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

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

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.”

 **********************************************             

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

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

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!!!!

IMG_5638

 

(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)

Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid!

Putting this story in context, we know that Jesus had heard that his cousin, John the Baptist, was beheaded and given to a woman who danced for the king. Jesus who was grieving, withdrew to a deserted place where people tracked him down. Jesus was moved with pity when he got out of the boat. He taught them, but the disciples were very anxious and wanted him to send them away to get food. Jesus asked them to give them some food yourselves. The disciples complained, “Five loaves and two fish are all we have.” Jesus asked them to “bring them here.” Was he asking them to bring to him the 5 loaves or the people? He then transformed the five loaves into enough to feed 5000 men, not including the woman and children.

When I was ordained 27 years ago I was quite nervous and my homilies were a mess. No comment! Anyways, the bishop called me into his office about this issue. I assured him that I was well prepared, but my anxieties took possession of me. The bishop suggested I use a story or humor to start the homily. I told the bishop it was a great idea, but I did’t know any stories. The bishop offered me an example, “I begin sometimes saying, ‘I am in love with a beautiful woman… and her name is Mary!’” I thought that was a great idea and told the bishop so. The next Sunday, I went into the pulpit with great confidence and peace. I couldn’t wait to share the Good News. I began my homily like this, “The bishop is in love with a beautiful woman!” After a moment for it to sink in, “But I forget her name!” Needless to say, I was called into the office by the good bishop, but he was merciful to me.

Whenever we fail to be calm, we can make huge mistakes. Jesus asked the disciples to get in the boat at first, but then he began to ask us to get out of the boat in the storms of life. We can all relate to Peter. When we get anxious, we stop seeing the persons before us, and focus only on our fears, real or imagined.

It is like this boat that we can imagine being in together. What happens if someone points out that there is a whale on the starboard side? Yes, everyone runs to the other side and before long, we forget about the whale and focus only on the fact that we are dipping deep into the water. We react and run to the other side. This continues until we capsize or see Jesus walking on the water. Jesus calms and encourages us, “Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid.” And yet our terror and fear blind us. We start focusing on the anxiety and depression like it is an illness. Like Peter, we doubt that Jesus knows cares, or can cure our mental turmoil, “Lord if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” Jesus simply says, “Come.” We know his voice.

So like Peter, we get out of the boat and walk on the water until we lose our focus because our addictions, financial woes, relationship problems or children floundering terrorize us. While we are sinking, we cry out, “Jesus, save me!”

What irritates us is that Jesus does catch us, but he says those sometimes dreaded words, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

Those words sometimes sting. We forget we have much to learn. We forget that we must constantly step out in faith to learn more about God, to fly on our faith, and walk on water like Jesus. After all, we are created in the likeness of God.

This reminds me of the story of the farmers who found an abandoned eagle egg, and then placed it in a chicken coop. The eagle hatched and was adopted by the chickens. He grew up to peck, scratch, cackle and run around like his adopted chicken siblings… but he did not learn to fly. One day, after a very long time, a beautiful golden eagle flew above them. The shadow caught the little eagle by surprise and he looked up. He hollered out to his fellow chickens, “What is that?” The other chickens said, “O that is an eagle, the king and queen of all the birds. They fly and rule the skies. Us? We are just a bunch of chickens.” The little chicken that looked like an eagle simply said, “Oh.” And then he went back to pecking and scratching and cackling. He died a chicken, for that is really all that he was.

IMG_6341          You see no chicken could teach the little fellow how to fly. Only a disciple who walks on water like Jesus can show others how to do likewise. Often we resort to the behaviors of those around us, because we don’t know how to be kind, merciful, compassionate and loving like Jesus. We can only learn to fly and walk on water like Jesus if we have faith. But if the anxieties and fears overwhelm us and blind us, we simply cry out to Jesus. He immediately stretches out his hand saying, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” All of us must not only learn to walk on water, but we must learn how to fly like the Eagles. Jesus is our true flight instructor and “lifesaver”. Isn’t that Good News?

IMG_6615

19th Sunday in Ordinary Time ~ August 13, 2017

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

1 Kings 19:9-13 ~ After the wind, earthquake and fire…there was a tiny whispering sound.

Psalm 85 ~ Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.

Paul’s letter to the Romans 9:1-5 ~ Brothers and sisters: I speak the truth in Christ, I do not lie;

Gospel: Matthew 14:22-33~ After Jesus fed the people, Jesus made the disciples get into a boat and precede him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After doing so, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When it was evening he was there alone. Meanwhile the boat, already a few miles offshore, was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it. During the fourth watch of the night, he came toward them walking on the sea. When the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified. “It is a ghost,” they said, and they cried out in fear. At once Jesus spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”

                  Peter said to him in reply, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw how strong the wind was he became frightened: and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!’ Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught Peter, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” After they got into the boat, the wind died down. Those who were in the boat did him homage, saying, “Truly, you are the Son of God.”

img_7587.jpg

Best Baked Bread Ever!

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time
22-23 July 2017
St. Monica & St. John the Evangelist Catholic Communities

Wisdom 12: 13-19 ~ And you taught your people, by these deeds, that those who are just must be kind; and you gave your children good ground for hope that you would permit repentance for their sins.
Psalm 86 ~ Beloved, you are good and forgiving.
St. Paul to Romans 8:26-27 ~ The Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness: for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes with inexpressible groanings.
Gospel according to Matthew 13:24-43 ~ Jesus proposed another parable to them: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a person took and sowed in a field. It is the smallest of all the seeds, yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants. It becomes a large bush, and the birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches.” He spoke to them another parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch was leavened.”

Jesus goes on to teach that in the first parable, “The one who sows good seed is the Son of Man, the field is the world, the good seed the children of the kingdom. The weeds are the children of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. Just as weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son o Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all who cause others to sin and all evildoers. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears ought to hear.”
Jesus did not explain who the slaves of the Master were. Who do you believe are the slaves? Jesus tells us that the harvesters are the angels, which means that is not any of us. I am certainly not an angel.
My hunch is that the slaves are those of us that are ministers of the Word and the Eucharist. The good seed are the baptized. St Paul has told us in Philippians that Jesus took the form of a slave, something to be grasped.” So we priests and you ministers and volunteers of St. Monica and St. John are slaves, something to understand, something to ponder. We ask Jesus what to do with the weeds that seem to be in heaven. I am pondering writing a book called, “Mosquitoes in Heaven”!
Beloved, what if the mustard seed is the church of St. Monica? Surely it is the smallest of parishes that was sown by Jesus in 1858. It survived a civil war and so much more. But when we grow, we have become the largest parish in Palatka where people from all over Florida and parts of the States have come to her branches and dwell here. St. John the Evangelist in Interlachen is the same. People are fed through the food distributions and ministries to the poor. People come in and rest within the bountiful branches of our beautiful but simple sanctuary.
I love the parable of the yeast where God is portrayed as a woman and Jesus is the yeast. Look at this unleavened bread with no yeast (hold the unconsecrated bread). This is what we use at Mass. It really is rather tasteless and, well, flat. But this is the wheat gathered into the barn. God takes the gift of Jesus and mixes him into all of us through the Word and at Communion until we all rise together as the whole Body of Christ resurrected. Wow!
Now this is real Good News, don’t you think?
Let’s make the Best Bread we have ever eaten!!!

 

 

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.

dscf2170

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…

dscf2504

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!

DSCF4124

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

IMG_1718

**************************************************************

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.