Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Accountable to you? No way!

August 12, 2009
Wednesday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Mass Readings:
Deuteronomy 34:1-12
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.
If he does not listen,
take one or two others along with you,
so that every fact may be established
on the testimony of two or three witnesses.
If he refuses to listen to them, tell the Church.
If he refuses to listen even to the Church,
then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector."

Accountability is something we usually like to apply to others but rarely ourselves. It is one thing to demand accountability and something harder to accept our own accountability.

Jesus is speaking of division in this morning's Gospel reading. The Body of Christ on Earth is each and every believer. We are a family that is united in our love of Christ and that requires many things from each of us and one of those things is accountability.

Jesus lays out a very simple and dignified way of dealing with division and sin in the Church. First we are to go to the one who has wronged us and seek to reconcile. Now, I don't believe that Jesus meant every time we are unhappy with someone. It is easy to get worked up and feel wronged if someone breathes wrong! Jesus isn't talking about our oft time desire to make someone be and do what we want. Jesus is referring to that true rupture of relationship where there is damage not only to the two involved but the entire Body of Christ. In other words, sin.

So. Go one on one and seek to reconcile. If that doesn't work, take some folks from the Church with you and seek reconciliation. Now here comes the kicker. If that person still refuses, take it to the whole Church! Seriously, can you imagine how well that would go over! And if that individual, or group, still refuses, then that person or group would be an outsider. Pretty harsh but it addresses just how serious division in the Body of Christ is viewed by the Lord.

If we are the Body of Christ and we are called to be the messengers of the Good News then we are all called to be accountable to one another. Not in the sense that we demand people meet requirements or pass a test to be considered worthy. It is that we are willing to admit wrong and do what is necessary to repair the rupture of relationship with God and one another. Our sin not only damages our relationship with God but also with one another as the Body of Christ. We are accountable to God for our actions and also to the other members of the Body.

So what would the Body of Christ on Earth look like if we took accountability seriously? I imagine it would look more like the Early Church. I don't mean that in an idealistic or romanticized way. I mean in the sense that the Early Church was a much smaller body and as such, it wasn't possible to hide when one had done wrong. As a result, people were held accountable. I worry that we have lost that reality of accountability and can lob "spiritual hand grenades" and then duck and hide and feel that we can get away with that type of behavior.

The community that practices mutual accountability is the one that becomes stronger because much is expected of those who have been given much. We are a community that has been given much and God expects much. It is our responsibility and privilege to work together in the best way we can and do all for the glory of God.

Monday, July 6, 2009

A new beginning.

Well, I am settling in at my new assignment and new posts are on the way. I hope everyone is having a safe and happy summer.

Here is a quote I came across recently and I want to share it.

"All our religion is but a false religion, and all our virtues are mere illusions and we ourselves only hypocrites in the sight of God, if we have not that universal charity for everyone - for the good and for the bad, for the poor and for the rich, and for all of those who do us harm as much as those who do us good".
--St. John Vianney--

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Thank you.

A big thanks to all who have sent me an email asking if I am still alive! Yes I am. I apologize for being so far behind. I have been working on a new project and getting ready to start a new assignment. My time has been consumed with so many parish responsibilities that I have let this blog slip.

I start a new assignment in July and I am hoping to jump-start this site and use it as a greater source of ministry. I plan on returning to my homily posts and perhaps add even more original material. I have a number of ideas that are brewing and I am excited to share them with any and all who would like that.

May the love of God, the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you always.

See you soon.
Fr. Jeff

Friday, February 6, 2009

Stuck in a rut.

February 4, 2009
Wednesday of the Fourth Week in Ordinary Time
Mass Readings:
Hebrews 12:4-7, 11-15
Mark 6:1-6

We humans are prone to getting stuck in ruts. I am a creature of habit and I have a morning routine that is seven days a week. I get up at the same time, I eat the same thing, blah, blah, blah. I realized it the other day when I realized that I even transport the morning routine with me when I am in vacation. I even take my breakfast things with me when I travel to see my family. I think my parents have just accepted my eccentricities. God love em.

The scene in our gospel text reminds of someone stuck in a rut. The people listening to Jesus believed that they knew what they needed. So determined were they in their belief, they were blinded to Jesus' message. The people firmly thought they knew just how, what, and who they needed to be the Christ of God. Sure in knowledge but wrong in practice. They could not accept Jesus because they knew him! How could someone they know be anything for them other than who they were convinced, knew, him to be? So, they knew he could only be the carpenter's son so they refused his offer of life.

I am painfully aware of how at times I am blind or deaf to God's Word because I cannot accept the messenger. There are figures in the world and even in the Church that I avoid listening to because I do not like their methods, views, or even theology. These people do not fit the way I believe things should be. I am not proud of this. It is judgmental on my part and I know it but it is the rut I am use to when it comes to these individuals. It is wrong of me to do this. Recently I made myself listen, really listen to one of these individuals and I discovered, even though I didn't agree with everything said, there were things I needed to hear. This individuals words made me rethink some of my preconceived ideas and "spiritual habits" that I just knew were the right way. I hate it when I am so sure of my self that I refuse to listen.

Needless to say, I needed to hear the words even though it was hard for me. I had to be willing to push myself out of my spiritual rut and be open to the Holy Spirit. I didn't care for the messenger but God used that person to reveal truth to me. All I had to do was shut up and listen.

The people in today's gospel couldn't take it upon themselves to push up out of their spiritual rut and be open to the Holy Spirit. It was their loss and Jesus left. It would be wise for us all to be open to the Word of God regardless of our belief that we think we know who, what and how God should speak. We may just find God speaks to us more than we ever dreamed.

So, back to the rut. We all have our routines and ways of doing things. I find routine sometimes reassuring. But, there is a big risk with being in a rut spiritually. We can dig such a deep rut in our spirit that we can no longer see or hear above the ditch we have dug.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Not so much as a slap on the cheek.

November 23, 2008
The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King
Mass Readings:
Ezekiel 34:11-12, 15-17
1 Corinthians 15:20-26, 28
Matthew 25:31-46

Kingdom. Empire. These are two words that for me at least, conjure images of mighty, wealthy, armed to the teeth countries. Empire and kingdom always trigger for me images of the Roman Empire or Alexander the Great who conquered and claimed the known world as their own.

The New Testament is loaded with tension between the people of God and the powers that be of the Roman Empire. There were zealots of the day who believed that the Jews should physically strike against the Romans and overthrow the empire and reclaim the land. Jesus even had a zealot or two in his rag-tag band of disciples.

In the century and a half before the "Word was made flesh", there was the Maccabean revolt that saw the overthrow of the Greeks. Judas Maccabee was heralded as a "messiah" and that their empire would stand indefinitely. Judas Maccabe also known as Judas the Hasmonean, Judas the Hammer was the model for a messiah. His strength in battle was the ideal and he established a dynasty of security and prosperity. That worked until the Romans decided otherwise. Thing is, the idea of a military messiah was already ingrained in the psyche of the people. The hope was that the messiah would usher in a new empire, a kingdom that would overthrow the Roman Empire and restore control to the people.

So here comes Jesus, the Word made flesh and he doesn't come into the world with a roar and a military brilliance to crush the Roman Empire. Jesus was exactly the opposite of what was hoped for. Jesus enters the world defenseless and dependant. A baby that needs love and support. How could this be the glorious entry of the Messiah sent from God? How can a baby possibly mirror the great Hasmonean Dynasty?

I think in some ways we still look for a "Christian Empire". I am currently reading a book that describes how there are radical, so called "Christian" groups who actually believe that if the Middle East would just devolve into WW III, then Jesus would be forced to return and "rapture" the faithful away and just let the sinners burn! Peace in the Middle East for them is a bad thing. Holy cow! These people even believe that military force is just fine and dandy in order to force Jesus' hand and get him to come back! How can anyone believe such things? Why do some still want to make Jesus a figure of violence? Are some Christians so desperate to escape the world that they believe any means necessary to try and force Jesus' return is okay? As if we mere mortals can force Jesus to do anything! Silly and arrogant stuff yet horrible, terrifying and worst of all, dangerous.

Today we celebrate the last Sunday in Ordinary Time. Today we celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King. Today we celebrate the Kingdom of Christ. This kingdom is eternal and complete. Jesus' Kingdom is one of absolute good, absolute peace, absolute love and absolute joy and it is built without so much as a slap on the cheek. There can be no violence, hatred, malice, or deceit in Jesus' kingdom.

Jesus' kingdom is the promise of God's love! In Jesus there is life eternal for all who call on his holy name and believe. There are no hidden initiation rites that only a few are privy to. There are no physical battles that must be fought in order to enter Jesus' kingdom. There is only the call from Jesus to surrender to his love and accept his salvation. A kingdom that never fires a shot, a kingdom that is for any and all who merely believe and call upon Jesus. That's a kingdom we human beings can never build on our own because it all rests upon Jesus, the true Messiah who conquered sin and death with love and self sacrifice.

Christ Jesus is the one true and eternal King of all creation and no human being can force or hinder his act of love and redemption. Jesus is not a king of violence and hate and he does not wish for anyone to suffer and die. It is our choice to accept or deny his salvation. If there is to be suffering it is of our own choosing, not his.

So what is our part? Any and all of us who have received the Lord's great gift of salvation are the disciples of today and we are called to go forth and invite all people to the great table of the kingdom so that all may dine with the Lord. We are to build the Lord's kingdom by being the very face of Jesus to all our brothers and sisters. Jesus' idea of kingdom is one that sees to the needs of all who suffer and not the quest for geographical boundaries or riches. Jesus' kingdom is one of justice, love, and peace. Jesus' kingdom is one in which prejudice and bigotry cannot and do not exist. Jesus' kingdom is for all and not a select group that knows the secret handshake.

We gather here today and we celebrate the kingdom over which Christ is the eternal King. This kingdom is of spirit and truth. We receive the Body and Blood of our Salvation and we have a foretaste of eternity in the Lord's presence. Earthly kingdoms rise and fall. Nothing on earth stands forever so we should really be careful where we put our trust. We are to rest in the confidence that we are welcome in God's Heavenly Kingdom where Christ is the king that saves and loves.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Power of Yes.

November 21, 2008
Memorial of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Mass Readings:
Revelation 10:8-11
Luke 19:45-48

This morning we take a moment to reflect on the powerful ministry of our Blessed Mother. This celebration looks to an important even that happened in the year 543, the dedication of the New Basilica of Saint Mary that was built in the Old City of Jerusalem. That basilica is no longer in existence but it brings today to pause and reflect on the Virgin Mary. This weekend Ordinary Time comes to a close and we prepare to enter the Advent Season but first we celebrate the great feast of Christ the King. It is fitting that we pause today to remember Mary's great part in the plan of salvation for she bore the great King of our salvation.

There is no greater passage about our Blessed Mother than the Magnificat found in Luke's Gospel, chapter 1;46-55. Here we have Mary's beautiful response to the angel Gabriel after he reveals to Mary that she will be the mother of God's son. Mary is faced with an unbelievable blessing but also burden. The mind boggles at the immense task God entrusted to this young woman. What courage and faithfulness Mary shows by saying yes to God!

That brings me to my point this morning, the power of saying yes to God. I am often reminded by staff here at the parish that I need to say no a bit more often. I admit to trying to squeeze as many things into a 24 hour period as possible. Not healthy I admit. However, saying yes to yet another meeting is not what we see today. Today we look at the joy of saying yes to God! Nothing can give greater joy than to accept God's call to serve Him and His Church and Mary is THE example of saying yes to God.

Saying yes to God requires our willingness to set aside our own agendas and desires. Being open to God's call requires us to abandon self and strive to be pleasing to God. This does not mean that we walk away from our life and the people in it. It means we have to be willing to follow God wherever the call may lead. That may sound scary and uncertain and in a way I guess it is. However, God always promises that when we say yes, he is always faithful and will not in any way shape or form abandon us. To say yes to God is to accept a share in the ministry of Jesus himself. That acceptance of God's call may not include fortune or fame but it does promise the joy of proclaiming the Good News of Jesus, the great gift of salvation and the promise of eternity with God. Mary understood that and her saying yes to God transformed the world.

The Maginificat is second only to the great prayer that Jesus gave to us, the Our Father. Let us pray together that glorious yes of Mary;

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

Praise be to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit! Amen!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Sacred Space

November 9, 2008
Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome
Mass Readings:
Ezekiel 47:1-2, 8-9, 12
1 Corinthians 3:9c-11, 16-17
John 2:13-22

Today is one of those feasts that often make us scratch our heads and wonder. The Lateran Basilica? What does that have to do with us siting here in this church this morning? I think this feast day is a great opportunity for a bit of a Greek lesson. There are two important words when we talk about time, kairos and chronos. Chronos refers to our chronological time. It is the chronological that runs our lives. My wrist watch keeps in tune with the 24 hours a day of chronological time. Kairos time is time that exists outside of chronological time, its God's time. This kairos time is where we encounter the Sacraments. Kairos is the moment when we touch eternity.

There is another Greek word that is important to what we do here today and that is anamnesis. Anamnesis is about remembering, remembering the death, resurrection and ascension of the Lord. Yet is goes further. As we celebrate Mass, we enter into that kairos time and we are present in the past, the present and the future. We are present as Jesus celebrates the Last Supper. We are present here with one another as we receive the Body and Blood of Christ. Yet there is more! We are touching that beautiful eternal banquet in the presence of the Lord! Do you feel tired yet? A lot is happening as we celebrate Mass each day.

Now we come to the feast day of the Lateran Basilica in Rome. I had the privilege of attending Mass there in 2000. It is an amazing structure. The Lateran Basilica is the mother of every Catholic church throughout the world. This church we sit in this morning is linked to that amazing basilica in Rome. Today we celebrate sacred space. We are so accustomed to buildings being built, torn down, and built again that we don't really think about space as holy and sacred. This church has been consecrated to the service of God and his people. This church we worship in today has been consecrated by a bishop, a shepherd of the Church, the altar and walls anointed with Sacred Chrism and dedicated to God's glory. This is holy ground! Here we leave behind the demands of our watches and we enter that sacred time that God uses to give us strength on our spiritual journey. Here at this altar we encounter the risen Lord as bread and wine is transformed by the Holy Spirit into the Body and Blood of Jesus himself. We receive Christ and then go forth to be the very Body of Christ in the world. We are to become that which we have received. Our stepping outside of the chronological into the sacred time of God is so that we can rest our souls and be fed by God's great love.

So here we are, celebrating a building in a far away country. But no ordinary building do we give thanks for. It is from that sacred place that this place is made sacred. We are united throughout the world with every Catholic church from the small to large, the simple to the complex, the plain to the ornate. We are joined as one body proclaiming the message of salvation through word and sacrament proclaimed in our deeds. It is here that we encounter the mystery of the Uncaused First Cause. It is here in this church that our lives are transformed by the glorious mysteries of our faith and we actually touch the Risen Lord as we enter into his time!

So yeah, we celebrate a church building this morning. We celebrate that by God's mysterious love, we have a sacred space that propels us to encounter the Divine. We honor a space that has been made holy by God, where we strive to be holy as our Heavenly Father is holy. Let us give thanks this day that God gives us such sacred and holy places to encounter him and to receive salvation from his Son Jesus and be filled with the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Amen!

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