Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Those pesky "Lower Case gods".

August 21, 2007
Memorial of Saint Pius X, pope
Mass Readings:
Judges 6:11-24a
Matthew 19:23-30

Today's Gospel got me in trouble a few years back. At a morning mass this was the text that I preached on and a certain individual got very angry with me for using it. Why? Well, she is a very wealthy person and she thought that I was "condemning her for being rich". I did nothing of the sort and neither does Jesus in this text.

I believe that Jesus is giving us a warning about what I like to call "Lower Case gods". These "gods" are all of the things we place before our relationship with Christ. These "gods" can be anything, money, internet, cars, sports, houses, hobbies, etc... Anytime we sacrifice our relationship with Christ we are worshiping a "Lower Case god". It isn't just about money but rather our seemingly endless list of desires and agendas that put up obstacles between us and God.

I believe that this is an example of why we need to always keep the teachings of Jesus always with us. If the Gospels make us uncomfortable then we need to listen to that. Jesus' words are just as critical for us today as they were in the 1st century. Perhaps they are even more crucial today. We can devote ourselves to "Lower Case gods" without ever having to leave the house! We can tear down our relationship with Christ without leaving the comfort of our own homes and it isn't just about money.

I try to always remind myself that anytime I commit myself to some "thing" and that "thing" becomes more important than Jesus then I have sacrificed myself to one of the "Lower Case gods" and it tears down my soul.

I believe that this is what Jesus is warning us about in today's Gospel reading. Anything that takes the place of Jesus and serving one another as Christians is going to tear us down. Yes, it becomes hard to see Heaven when we are so committed to acquiring so many of those pesky "Lower Case gods".

Monday, August 20, 2007

Division is a choice.

August 19, 2007
Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mass Readings:
Jeremiah 38:4-6, 8-10
Hebrews 12:1-4
Luke 12:49-53

Jesus' words today seem unbearably harsh. All this talk of division and warring among family members is hard to hear. Well, it is hard to hear if all we do is read this one particular part of Luke. Jesus repeatedly throughout the Gospels talks of how God's love is for all creation and that he has come to save the world. So why does Jesus give us this harsh warning about division?

Jesus was preparing the disciples for a hard reality. It would become clear very quickly after Jesus' Resurrection that division would begin right in the heart of the Church. The Apostle Paul would write numerous letter addressing division. Jesus wanted the disciples to be ready and he also wanted them to strive to stay above it.

I believe that Jesus is setting us up to see that division is our doing and not his. Each and every one of us must make a choice whether we strive for unity or we work for division. God's love unites us but we can choose to live divided by our infighting, agendas, selfishness, prejudice, grandiosity, anger, sense of entitlement, delusions of superiority, etc. Divisions within the Church, the Body of Christ, is our doing. We only have ourselves to blame.

Let us all work hard to dismantle the things that divide us. We can remain strong and true to the Faith and at the same time work for unity. Being different from one another does not mean we have to be divided. True unity is when we can agree to disagree and still work together faithfully for the Kingdom of God. We must choose to be united rather than divided.

Hail Mary! and bless Archbishop Kurtz!

August 15, 2007
Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Mass during the Day
Mass Readings:
Revelation 11:19a; 12:1-6a, 10ab
1 Corinthians 15:20-27
Luke 1:39-56

Today we celebrate the Assumption of our Blessed Mother. So great is her place that Jesus took her body and soul to the glory of Heaven before the corruption of death could touch her body! Hallelujah! What a glorious day this is in our life of faith. For not only do we celebrate the First Disciple, the Blessed Mother, but also the feast day for our cathedral and the instillation of Archbishop Joseph Kurtz! It's a full day so fasten your seat belts because Louisville is alive and kicking! I might also add that today is also the 30 anniversary for Archbishop Kelly's ordination as bishop. A full day indeed.

I must note that Archbishop Kelly ordained me and I give him a great round of thanks this day. He has been a loving father to me and I am very grateful for his leadership and kindness.

On this feast day we look to the great example of our Blessed Mother. Mary was just a young woman, a teenager when she was asked to be the mother of our Lord. Her "yes" to God would open the door to salvation!

Can you imagine what it must have been like for Mary? This young woman, approached by an angel and given the task of giving birth to the son of God must have been terrified! I have always wondered about all of the paintings and movies that display our Blessed Mother as this stoic young woman who hardly flinches when approached by God. I would dare say that her reaction was one of confusion, terror and stress! How could she not have been distressed? However, she said yes! Her trust in God was stronger than her emotions and concerns and would guide her to be the first disciple. How blessed we are that Mary was strong in her faith and would do her all to follow God.

This brings me to what I believe all of our Marian feast days call us to do. I believe that every time we celebrate our Blessed Mother we are called to examine how each and every one of us say yes to God. Or for that matter, do we even say yes to God? Do we follow the example of the Blessed Mother and follow God with sheer abandon?

Each and every one of us is called to be a faithful disciple. Each and every one of us is given a mission by God. Each of us is asked to say yes to God. Do we? Do we follow the example of Mary by putting God's call ahead of the desire for wealth, fame or power? Do we humble ourselves so that we may serve for the good of God's Kingdom? Do we set aside our own selfish desires so that we may have full life in Christ?

May we each learn from our Blessed Mother. Mary was the first disciple, the Queen of the Apostles and she is our model of faith today. May we find the same joy in serving the Lord as our Mother Mary.

"My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour;
he has looked with favour on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed;
the Almighty has done great things for me and holy is his name.
He has mercy on those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm
and has scattered the proud in their conceit,
casting down the mighty from their thrones
and lifting up the lowly."


Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Trusting like a child but not acting like one.

August 14, 2007
Memorial of Saint Maximilian Mary Kolbe, priest and martyr

Mass Readings:
Deuteronomy 31:1-8
Matthew 18:1-5, 10, 12-14

Be like a child. Jesus gives a command in our Gospel text that is often times misinterpreted. We live in a society that tries to not grow old and spends billions trying to stay young. And I dare say that there are times when we all act a bit childish for our age. I know I am guilty of that from time to time.

Jesus is not calling us to act childish. Jesus, I believe, is calling us to have a child like spirituality. I have three nephews who are one of the core parts of my life. The youngest is eight. Every time I see him, I am reminded of just how cynical a man I am. My youngest nephew is an amazing kid. He is honest, loving, generous and trusting. No matter how long it has been since I have seen him, as soon as I enter the room, he trusts me. Even if it has been several months since I was last home for a visit, he treats me like a beloved uncle whom he trusts. That is an amazing gift he gives to me each and every visit.

I think that is what Jesus is getting at in today's Gospel. We are not to act like a child! I dare say that if we all acted like we were eight years old again we would be in a lot of trouble! No, I believe that Jesus wants us to trust like a child, love like a child and pray like a child. It was much easier as a kid to believe and trust God. Unfortunately, as we get older, we lose some of that due to world weariness. Jesus calls us to shed that callous layer that drains the soul of joy. Jesus wants us to live boldly as God's children and trust, love and welcome one another as we give God our lives in service. As God's children, let us give God our trust, love and service.

Maybe if we greeted God each day as the beloved Father whom we trust, love and cherish we would find that the joy we experienced as a kid is still there.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Did you just call me a dog?!

August 8, 2007
Memorial of Saint Dominic, priest
Mass Readings:
Numbers 13:1-2, 25–14:1, 26a-29a, 34-35
Matthew 15: 21-28

Today's Gospel text is amazing! Well, they all are, but today's really hits me. Some have commented to me how Jesus seems to be mean in this text and maybe even downright sexist. Nothing could be further from the truth! This text is a prime example of just how in tune Jesus was, is and always will be to what it means to be human.

We have the scene where a Cannanite woman is very, very bold. Here she is, an ancestor of those who were an enemy of the Israelites. The tension goes back to that whole incident with Moses and the Promised Land. There would be great stigma associated with being from Cannan, a gentile. It would even be a sin for an Israelite to marry a Cannanite. These people were outcasts in the 1st century to say the least.

So here we have Jesus being approached by a Cannanite woman. She is an outcast in two senses by race and gender. However, she is obviously a woman with great chutzpah! She comes to Jesus and clearly expects him to hear her and give her what she needs. Of course, the disciples are miffed by this. How dare her! Jesus takes the opportunity to teach a very important lesson. That lesson? No one is an outcast in God's eyes.

Jesus appears to give the disciples what they want, he seems to insult this woman. Yet that isn't what Jesus is doing at all, he's waiting for her to be even more bold, to express her great faith and teach everyone a lesson. Jesus places an obstacle in front of her and she steps right over it. She follows Jesus even though it seemed that Jesus was indifferent to her plea. This brave woman follows Jesus and is faithful in spite of any hardship. That we should all be so faithful!

This Cannanite woman is heard and her need is met. The Cannanite woman, an outcast, is shown to be what she truly was, a child of God. We tend to put obstacles and artificial divisions in our relationships. We tend to view some as more worthy than others. We tend to categorize each other and rate one another's value. It is something we all do and it is sinful. Jesus shows the disciples and all who were gathered that no one is outside of God's love. No one is rejected by God because of sinful human judgments. There is no outcast in God's eyes.

Friday, August 3, 2007

What's my responsibility?

Friday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time
Mass Readings:
Leviticus 23:1, 4-11, 15-16, 27, 34b-37
Matthew 13:54-58

"And he did not work many mighty deeds there because of their lack of faith. "

This sentence from today's Gospel is one that I find a bit haunting. Often I will hear people complain that the days of miracles are over. Many folk seem to believe that there is no use in praying since they do not believe that miracles can happen. And they wonder why nothing miraculous ever happens!

Our culture tends to expect everything without having to do anything. We live in an age when entitlement is an epidemic that drains the life out of the soul. I remember an episode of The Simpson's where Grandpa Simpson is walking down the street and complaining about how the young slackers want everything for free and are lazy and unworthy of anything. He then walks in to a government office and screams; "I'm old! Gimme, gimme, gimme!" I laughed so hard I could hardly breathe. How right on target is that scene. Often times we can be so self absorbed that we think we should have everything fall in our lap.

Our faith can get that way at times. We want the most return without any investment. If we do not exercise our faith then how can we expect to experience the miraculous? Do we honestly expect Jesus to do all of the work while we just sit back and expect him to drop our heart's desire in our lap? Don't we realize that Jesus has done all we need through his death, burial and resurrection? Jesus has already done the hard work and what does he ask of us in return? Faith.

If we think of Jesus as just some "celestial granter of wishes" then have no doubt, we will not experience the miraculous. If we let our hearts become lazy and cynical then how can we expect Jesus to work miracles with us? Today's Gospel reading shows the consequences of being hard hearted. The people missed out on the miraculous because they could not open their hearts. I believe our text calls us to open our hearts, exercise our faith and expect amazing things! And the most amazing thing that can happen to us is the deepening of our relationship with the Lord. As we exercise our faith we draw closer to the One who is our salvation. How great a miracle is that!?