Holy Thursday ~ Passover of Love

Holy Thursday ~ Queen of Peace Community, Gainesville

April 13, 2017 ~ 30th Anniversary

Gospel According to St. John (13, 1-13): Before the feast of Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to pass from this world to the Father. He loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end…   So when he had washed their feet and put his garments back on and reclined at table again, he said to them, “Do you realize what I have done for you? You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’ for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”

A woman ran up to Jesus and knelt down, saying, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answered with a question as he often does, “Why do you call me good, for no one is good but God Alone? Do you really know I am the Son of God who came for you and loves you unconditionally? You know the commandments, which are essential for the journey. You shall not kill, steal, covet, commit adultery, defraud, or lie. You shall receive God’s gifts gratefully, cultivate them responsibly, share them lovingly in justice, and return them to God with increase.” This community of Queen of Peace answers, “Lord, we have kept all of these commandments, since we were established as a parish in 1987.

Tonight, this night, Jesus looks at us and loves us. Then he says, “You are lacking one thing. Go sell what you have and give alms to the poor. Give more than 10% to the poor and you will have treasures in heaven. Then come and follow me and I will be with you through your fears.” In order to follow Jesus, we must be all in. We can’t be just a little pregnant with the Word of God.

Tonight, this most holy night, Jesus offers us a most wonderful and almost unimaginable gift. Jesus loves us. Jesus washes our feet… everyone of us! The gift is love. The gift is joy. The gift is peace. What more do we need if Jesus looks at us and loves us? On Passion Sunday, a song was proclaimed at the foot of the Cross-after the community proclaimed the Passion. That was Father Jeff’s homily. It was perfect. On Good Friday, we will hear the song again… but the response to our prayer will not be totally understood until the Easter Vigil when the baptismal waters and the Holy Spirit are poured out on all of us.

Jesus, the resurrected Son of God, will sing the song back to us with love:

In your eyes are my secrets that I’ve never shown you.

In my heart I feel, I’ve always known you.

In your arms there’s a comfort that I’ve never known

You’re what I’ve been waiting for. There’s no one like you.

Sure as a sunrise, pure as a prayer,

You fashioned hope right out of thin air.

Every dream I imagined, seems it could come true

I believe in miracles, there’s no one like you.

Jesus is inviting each of you tonight to a journey we have always known. It is the Passover into Love itself. Martha, loved by Jesus, recognized Jesus as the Passover Lamb when he said, “I am the resurrection and the life, whoever believes in me and dies will live, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” What is your response? Jesus is washing you with Baptism, feeding you with his Body and Blood, and enflaming your soul with His Holy Spirit. He is looking at you with love. If the Mass never ends, and I believe it never does, then let us take it with us and give thanks to God by loving one another and washing the feet of the world. And we shall pray together many more songs.


Many nights we prayed, with no proof anyone could hear
In our hearts a hope for a song, we barely understood

Now we are not afraid, although we know there’s much to fear
We were moving mountains long before we knew we could,

There can be miracles, when you believe
Though hope is frail, its hard to kill

Who knows what miracles, you can achieve
When you believe, somehow you will
You will when you believe
In this time of fear, when prayer so often proves in vain

Hope seems like the summer bird, too swiftly flown away
Yet now I’m standing here. My hearts so full, I can’t explain,

Seeking faith and speakin’ words, I never thought I’d say (Refrain)

From Prince of Egypt

 

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 was blind, but now I see!

We are all blind from birth. Jesus spits on the ground and makes clay with the saliva, anoints our eyes with the clay and sends us to wash in the waters of Baptism. The Spirit of the Lord rushes upon us like it did for David.

Whenever we are confirmed in the Spirit (Baptized in water and the fire of the Holy Spirit), the same oil of David is used. But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not judge from his appearance or from his lofty stature, because I have rejected him. Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but the Lord looks into the heart.” How can a man born blind teach us anything?

            The man who was truly joyful for being able to see for the first time was quite innocent in his approach. He thought that everyone would want to rejoice with his miraculous healing of sight. He thought they would want to find and follow this man called Jesus. But they could not seek Jesus because they were blind. The religious leaders ridiculed him for his fast growing faith in Jesus. Then he made the works of God visible.           

The religious leaders could not see the person before their eyes. They could not see his love and courage. They clung to their traditions and old wineskins. Their own authority blinded them. Then they threw him out.

All of us are desperate for community, and sometimes we go against our values just to be part of the gang, the synagogue, the team, or to be famous. We avoid being “thrown out”. This man born blind, who from no fault of his own, was miraculously healed. He wasn’t prepared for his parents wanting to be part of the religious community more than the joy of being with their son who could now see. This is not that far fetched from our reality today. I have seen people healed of their drug addiction or alcoholism, go home only to discover that their spouse and children and parents preferred to deal with them as addicts because they were used to the insanity. They become blind to their own resistance for healing.

Jesus came specifically to heal our blindness.

But the really good news is that when Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, Jesus found him. Jesus is looking for each of us.

Jesus finds us and knows that we feel persecuted, lonely, insulted or thrown out, “Do you believe in the Son of Man, the Light of the World, the God of mercy, love and sight?” We might be looking right at Jesus and not recognize him. “Who is he, sir, that we may believe in him?” Jesus answers our prayer; “You have seen him in the poor, the orphaned, the oppressed and the blind. The one speaking with you is he.”

“We do believe.”

And miraculously we no longer feel thrown out, but part of the team of Jesus that launches a most joyous buzzer beater..

We have advanced to the Elite Eight…Let us worship and rejoice!

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4th Sunday in Lent

March 26, 2017 ~ Queen of Peace Catholic Community

1 Samuel: 16:1-13 ~ Then Samuel, with the horn of oil in hand, anointed David in the presence of his brothers; and from that day on, the spirit of the Lord rushed upon David.

Psalm 23 ~ You spread the table before me in the sight of my foes; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Ephesians 5:8-14 ~“Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light!”

Gospel of St. John 9: “Jesus answered, “Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him. We have to do the works of the one who sent me while it is day. Night is coming when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva, an smeared the clay on his eyes, and said to him, “Go wash in the Pool of Siloam” –which means sent–. So he went and washed, and came back able to see.”

“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.

I Have Set My Soul in Silence and Peace

2nd Sunday of Lent ~ 12 March 2017

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1st Reading: Genesis 12:1-4 ~ Abram went as the Lord directed him.

Psalm 33 ~ Our soul waits for the Lord, who is our help and our shield.

2nd Reading: St. Paul’s 2nd Letter to the Timothy 1:8-10 ~

Beloved: bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God.

Gospel: Matthew 17:1-9

Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.     While Peter was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud cast a shadow over them, then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”

 

Every time we come to the Eucharist, we go up the mountain and experience the transfiguration and the glory of God. Sometimes our clouds of anxiety, depression, fear, addictions or worldly affairs prevent us from seeing even the love of God. That is so sad.

I am a licensed mental health counselor and I counsel part time at a psychiatric hospital in Jacksonville. Many of the people have serious addictions that require treatment plans and a commitment to sobriety. It is like some of the things that we fast from during lent. Many of us give up sugar with a secret benefit of losing weight. There is nothing wrong with that, except after Lent we begin to realize that nothing has changed and it sometimes get worse. We relapse to not bearing the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

When we listen to Jesus and do a fast that he suggests, we would be foolish to stop that fast after Easter Sunday. God is very clear in saying, “This, rather is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly; setting free the oppressed, sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own.” In other words, Jesus is taking us up the mountain with Peter, James and John to undergo a reality check. We say here at Queen of Peace: “The Mass never ends, we take it with us. Thanks be to God.” I would like to propose that, “Lent never ends, we take it with us.” When Lent is over, we don’t go back to the way we were before Lent. When an addict quits drugs, alcohol, or internet porn, they can never go back. If they do, we call it relapse. Most addicts go through many relapses before they find total peace and sobriety. We do it one day at a time and humbly admit our weakness.

In order to heal we ask addicts to go to anonymous meetings (90 meetings in 90 days). This is so they can replace a bad habit with a good habit. It is like seatbelts. Why do we wear seatbelts? Some will say safety, but when I was a kid we didn’t have seatbelts in the car. We knew wearing a seatbelts increases the chances of surviving an accident, but we didn’t take it serious until the introduction of an annoying ding, blue lights in our rearview mirror, or slogans like, “click it or ticket”. The mountain transfiguration with Jesus is a wakeup call to take this season seriously, to listen to Jesus. Eternal life depends on it.

When I look at the group of men or women before me, they are detoxed from their destructive behavior. They are balanced. Sometimes I play my flute and ask them to breathe in… and breathe out… After I play, it seems that their anxiety and depression are momentarily balanced and they seem quite normal. I believe they are normal. We all need depression to sleep and we all need anxiety to wake up. It is when they are out of balance that trouble snowballs. They need to take this calm and serenity out into the world even when they are triggered or tempted. We must stay calm when we encounter the Cross.

We are like a little toddler having a temper tantrum because Mom is weaning the child off of breast milk. The key to recovery of any addiction, including getting into bad relationships, is to wean our selves off. Our hope is to come to Easter as mature Christians who not only accept the Body of Christ into our bodies, but also the Blood of Christ. If you choose to give up chocolate for Lent, you will never see God until you give up chocolate for the rest of your lives. If you choose to go on a mission to a poor nation, you will have to go on mission every year. But we can do this in our mind. Even if an alcoholic misses an AA meeting, he or she will be fine if he simply puts on the seatbelt of sobriety in the morning. Today I will not drink. Today, I will be God’s child. All of us need to be weaned off of worldly things and mean it when we say, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” We need to go up the mountain and then listen to God’s Beloved Son.

Beloved, our fast must somehow further the mission of Jesus and not our own pursuits. Our fast must always be good news for the poor, the oppressed, the homeless and the addicted. My fast is to continue to visit those imprisoned by addictions and to be an instrument of God’s peace to console, to understand and to love. In the book, The Imitation of Christ, we hear, “Jesus has many lovers of His heavenly kingdom, but few bearers of His Cross. He has many seekers of consolation, but few of tribulation. He finds many companions at His feasting, but few of His fasting. All desire to rejoice with Him; few are willing to endure anything for Him. Many follow Jesus as far as the breaking of bread, but few to the drinking of the cup of His Passion. Many reverence His miracles, but few will follow the shame of His Cross. Many love Jesus as long as no adversities befall them. But if Jesus hide Himself and leave them but for a brief time, they begin to complain or become overly despondent in mind.” (Thomas A Kempis)

Jesus is trying to wean us so that we too hear God’s voice, “You are my Beloved”

We all must wrestle with God from time to time, just like child being weaned wrestles with its mother. Jesus lived and breathed the psalms. He cried out Psalm 22 and 63 on the Cross. Before we sing “The Lord is my shepherd there is nothing I shall want”, we need to understand Psalm 22, “My God, My God, why have you abandoned me, why so far from me?” The following psalm is for us to when we experience the transfiguration of our souls.

Psalm 131

O Lord my heart is not proud

nor haughty my eyes.

I have not gone after things too great

nor marvels beyond me

Truly I have set my soul

in silence and peace

A weaned child on its mother’s breast,

even so my soul.

O Israel, hope in the Lord,

both now and forever.

Passing on the Torch of Compassion

We can only hope to give the best care possible to our heroes and heroines.

When medicine has gone to its limits

Or sometimes even beyond

In the compassionate care of the providers

It is then that the

Spiritual dimension of the human person

Shifts into high gear

It was already there, this spiritual dimension

Even in her denial

But at the moment of pain that escapes

the morphine

and encouraging words

and even tears of the soul…

that is when your RMT

Religious Ministry Team

facilitates the

Faith or lack thereof…

Within the indomitable

mysterious

wholly incredible

person

human being

and spirit

To save

That source and summit

Beyond death

And yet below, that is attainable

As I have witnessed

And borne with gratitude and trepidation

When a son or daughter of our nation is close to breathing no more,

Or even after the breath has been stolen away,

It is then that we ask their final wish and receive

their final statement

In the timeless moment before departure

stripped of all earthly desire…

life runs dry.

A chaplain records and witnesses this miracle of death

And the RMT can teach the Medical Team to provide likewise.

Let us journey with great love, hope, and humility.

Let us celebrate the hours and days and minutes

that will transform and transfigure

our wounded, dead, and their families forever!

AMEN.

We can only imagine what our kind acts, our compassion, our love, and our skills will create in eternity.

We can only imagine.

Chaplain Ron Moses Camarda +

Camp Fallujah, Iraq

February 24, 2005

Tear in the Desert

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Last night I watched in great horror and disbelief when our president evoked a standing ovation for the widow of a Navy Seal who was killed in an operation that was deeply flawed. It didn’t seem like it was done out of compassion, but to make him look like he is doing a great job as our president. Most notable is that the father of that sailor is estranged from the president who hasn’t shown any respect for the loss of his son. The father held that Navy Seal when he was a baby. He was proud of him. He is probably mourning the many civilians and children who were also killed in that raid. Our safety as a nation can’t be bought with the deaths of millions of displaced people. People who make arms and weapons profited from that fiasco. Where are the prophets?

Where are the chaplains and commanding officers who know this is not the way to go? When I was in Iraq, I knew that my most difficult task would be to comfort the families and friends of those who died in my arms or whose bodies I received from the battlefield. As a priest, there are times when I need to be quiet while those mourning the death of their loved ones pounded my chest. That is the Cross and that is the fast that God requires or desires. To feel hopeless at such loss.

I do pray for President Donald Trump, but I still believe that Jesus is trying to break through his stony heart. I am trying not to judge, but Jesus does give me permission to observe the fruit. “You will know them by their fruit.” So when I think of our leaders of our country (including the media, congress, lobbyists and military industrial complex), I see people trying to profit at the expense of bearing the fruit of love, joy and peace.

Think of anyone you are supporting and see whether they have any of these fruits of the Holy Spirit…

LOVE

JOY

PEACE

PATIENCE

KINDNESS

GENTLENESS

GENEROSITY

SELF-CONTROL

PURITY

FAITHFULNESS

These are more important than the Ten Commandments, because this fruit is what rules and laws are aiming for. This is what decreases the need for government; when people love one another. I have a long way to go, but at least I believe I am bearing some of this fruit.

For Ash Wednesday and Lent, I speaking out against hate that is often masked behind self-righteousness and hypocrisy. Of course, I am beginning with myself. It is not easy, but the peace, love and joy that rises in my heart is worth the fasting and sacrifice.

Love, joy, peace,

Ron Moses +

The fruit of silence is prayer

the fruit of prayer is faith

the fruit of faith is love

the fruit of love is service

the fruit of service is peace…

I prayed this prayer of Mother Teresa many times as the soldier, marine or sailor died.

 

Don’t Worry and Sister Death

26 February 2017 ~ 8th Sunday in Ordinary Time

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1st Reading: Isaiah ~ Even if your mother should forget you, I will never forget you.

Psalm 62 ~ Only in God is my soul at rest; from God comes my salvation.

2nd Reading: St. Paul’s 1st Letter to the Corinthians 4:1-5 ~ Thus should one regard us: as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.

Gospel: Matthew 6:24-34 ~ “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life… Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.” Jesus

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A child does not worry all day long whether his house will be there when he gets home from school or whether her parents will have a meal for her that evening. Children do not worry about such things, because they trust their parents. In the same way, we as Christians should trust our heavenly Father to supply what is best for us. *

And although our country says, “In God we Trust”, many children are now worried about whether their parents will be there when they return home. All of us have ancestors who were undocumented at one time. This is against our Gospel principles and love itself. Solutions need to be thought out and prayed about.

Death was walking toward a city, and a man stopped Death and asked, “What are you going to do?” Death said, “I’m going to kill ten thousand people.” The man said, “That’s horrible!” Death said, “That’s the way it is; that’s what I do.”

As the day passed, the man warned everyone he could of Death’s plan. At the end of the day he again met Death. He said, “You said you were going to kill ten thousand people, and yet seventy thousand died.” Death explained, “I killed only ten thousand. Worry, anxiety and fear killed the others.” *

Left to our own, our anxieties can cause wars in our own family and beyond. Let us trust in Jesus when he tells us, “Do not worry about your life. Your heavenly Father knows your needs. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.”*

* Taken from Illustrations for Biblical Preaching, edited by Michael P. Green, 1989, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Love your enemies?

“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.” Jesus (Gospel St. Matthew 5:38-48)

As we have journeyed through the Sermon on the Mount these few weeks, we could conclude that Jesus is very demanding. Today, we are encouraged not to be driven by fear but to love our enemies and build friendships and trust. But we are challenged to ask our self what we stand for as Christians.

A child returned from Sunday school and told his parents that the teacher said we must love our neighbors and even our enemies. So, he said, “I love all the dragons and monsters.” His dad said, “Just start by loving your sister.”

On June 17, 2015, nine members of Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina were shot to death in the basement of their church. The shooter, a self-proclaimed white supremacist, wandered into the room wearing jeans and a sweatshirt; and instead of telling him to leave they invited him to join them. There they were in prayer and study, and as they bowed their heads in prayer, he shot them. Can you imagine the anguish the families of those nine good people felt? I cannot. And that is what makes the rest of this so stunning. Only three days later, when invited to share a statement as the shooter was arraigned in court, several of the family members turned to the shooter and through their tears, said, “I forgive you.”

Today’s readings come right into our hearts and invite us to do some “house cleaning.” There’s a lot of attack and counter attack in our lives today, and here we are being told to hold no grudges, seek no revenge, and let go and let God. When we pray for someone who has hurt us, the gift is to ourselves. When Jesus rose from the dead and entered the room of the disciples where the door was locked, he simply said: “Peace be with you.” And he showed them his hands and his side. At the sight of the Lord, the disciples rejoiced? He said it again. “Peace be with you.” And then he breathed on them. “Receive the Holy Spirit… If you forgive each other’s sins they are forgiven. But if you hold them bound, they will hold you bound.” Jesus knew that the most powerful weapon in the world, if not the universe, is simply love and mercy.

As a priest over the years, I have received many broken souls who come in to confess their anger toward someone who has genuinely hurt them. They don’t see how they give control to their persecutor. I simply ask them, “Have you prayed for this person? Do you love this person unconditionally like God loves them?” You would be surprised how often the answer is, “No.” Jesus only gives us commandments that will help us. But all commandments must eventually be done out of love rather than rules or obedience.

St. Paul tells us: Bless your persecutors; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Have the same attitude toward all. Put away ambitious thoughts and associate with those who are lowly. This could restore peace and joy and gentleness in our lives.

Father Jeff bought this poster you see on the video boards at the Holocaust museum. We reflect on what we stand for as we celebrate our thirty years as a parish.

What do we stand for? We as a community hope to integrate what we stand for in our vision. We are cultivating and fertilizing our community organically with:

Courage, friendship, wisdom, justice, faithfulness, honesty, tolerance, imagination, equality, fairness, citizenship, self-discipline, integrity, responsibility, creativity, assertiveness, caring, confidence, honor, empathy, accountability, respect, kindness, restraint, conservation, purpose, sincerity, sharing, loyalty, forgiveness, truthfulness, loyalty, cooperation, giving compassion, humor…

Queen of Peace is celebrating 30 years and will have a round-table discussion this Wednesday to look at where the community wants to stand for in the next five years and beyond.

Father Rene (top photo first from the right) was murdered less than a year after my 25th, and we are devastated, but we forgive the person as Jesus teaches us.