Tuesday, October 30, 2007

God is in control, not us.

Tuesday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time
October 30, 2007
Mass Readings:
Romans 8:18-25
Luke 13:18-21

Control is something we like to think we have down. None of us like to admit that we are not in control of any particular situation. When we are kids we learn quickly how to manipulate others in an attempt to get what we want. That is a normal part of development when we are kids. The problem is that we continue to do it when we know better as adults. We tend to think that if we can master the manipulation of people, things and events then we will be in control. We usually find out the hard way that we truly do not have control.

Many of us try to control God. Sounds really silly when you stop and think about it but we try it anyway. I believe that our readings today are a strong reminder that we are not the ones in control but rather God who is in control. Take the parables Jesus gives us today. A seed and the yeast are items that have a plan and will carry that plan out. The seed grows and the yeast leavens and makes bread. Simple.

I believe that Jesus is showing us that God's plan is simple and cannot be manipulated by anything we say or do or don't say or do. The Kingdom of God is in God's control, not ours. We may think that God is on "our side" but the fact is that we must always work to be on God's side. I don't understand how we get off thinking that we can control God.

God's Kingdom is a gift. We are given the great gift of salvation and we are invited to accept that gift and use it not control it. The only thing we do have control over is how we respond to God's great gift of salvation. It is simple really. We either say yes or we say no and then we live according to our response. The gift is given, the gift is received and the gift is used. How we live shows whether we value God's gift or not.

I believe these readings fit in perfectly with our readings this past Sunday. We pray out of our neediness and God hears us. We ask for our needs and not merely our wants. We pray because we are dependent upon God and not the other way around. We need God! We need his love! We must be open to God's plan. Our relationship with God is about our living to do his will and not our own. Our prayers should be about our need and not about us trying to get God to bend to our will.

If we ask God, we will receive. If we try to play games with God, we refuse his great gift of life and all we receive is our own empty self righteousness.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Keep the Sabbath holy? I'd rather go shopping.

Monday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time
October 29, 2007
Mass Readings:
Romans 8:12-17
Luke 13:10-17

I had a strange experience yesterday. I had finished up the last mass of the day and I was looking at the list of things I needed to get done. I need to get a new passport photo taken so I got in my car and thought I would hop down to the corner Walgreens and get it taken. I developed a knot in my stomach. I started remembering when I was a kid how most all the stores were closed on Sunday except for drug stores. Even few grocery stores were open. I didn't get that photo taken. I couldn't bring myself to spend money on Sunday. I pondered that the rest of the day.

I remembered how when I was a kid, we spent time together as a family. I would go bike riding with my friends after church. We fixed dinner and sat together while we ate at the kitchen table. Sunday was always about church and family when I was a kid. After church there was the understanding that the front door was open and family and friends would get together. I miss that. I am only 40 years old yet I remember a time when Sunday was holy. I know, I'm getting nostalgic and that is always tricky. Nostalgia can often times be more about what we once hoped for but never had, yet I have talked about this with other folk my age and they remember it this way too. There is something true here.

I got up this morning and checked the readings and lo and behold, Jesus talks about the Sabbath and what it means to keep it holy. God was working on me yesterday. Jesus is faced with some self righteous folk who want to accuse Jesus of not keeping the Sabbath holy because he had the audacity to heal! Apparently watering an animal on the Sabbath was holy but healing someone was a violation! Nice.

How do we keep the Sabbath holy? Each of us do it differently. Going to Mass is a part of our Sabbath celebration. But what do we do after that? Are we obsessing over whether Mass goes 50 or 55 minutes just because we have to hit the mall at a certain time? Do we treat Sunday as merely another shopping day? Is the Sabbath just another day of business because we have crammed the other six days so full we use Sunday as an overflow day?

After my experience yesterday I think I miss those blue laws. Maybe we would spend more time with family and friends if we didn't hit the latest sale at the mall. Maybe we would be less tense if we actually took a day of rest. Maybe we would be happier if we actually took a day to slow down and reconnect. One thing I know for sure, we would spend more time with God if we viewed the Sabbath as a gift and not merely an obligation. Mass should be a time to be with family and friends as we celebrate and worship God together. Then, as we leave Mass, wouldn't it be nice to spend time with each other instead of fighting check-out lines at the local big box store? What a novel idea. Spending time with God and family on the Sabbath. Now that sounds like a holy time.

Close to the earth.

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 28, 2007
Mass Readings:
Sirach 35:12-14, 16-18
2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18
Luke 18:9-14

Not too long ago I saw a t-shirt that has stuck with me. It was one of those with a saying plastered on the front of it and it read: "My Attitude? Your Problem!" I was sort of taken-aback by it. What struck me most was that it was worn by a child no more than five or six years old. Today I wonder about how we cultivate and celebrate a culture of arrogance and a sense of superiority at the expense of others. I think that t-shirt reflected an idea that many of us believe that we can do and say whatever we want and other folk just have to put up with it, an "it's all about me" attitude.

Our readings today are about an attitude of humility. We often view humility as being a state of being where we have a low opinion of our self and walk around with a "woe is me" attitude. Nothing could be further from the truth. Our word humility comes from the Greek word humus which means close to the earth. Humility is about being grounded, knowing who we are and more importantly, whose we are.

Our Gospel text is a glaring example of how not to treat God. The Pharisee comes in and seems to think that he is doing God a favor by spending time with him and God should feel honored to be in his presence because he is so good and holy instead of the other way around. The way we pray reflects on who we think God is and our relationship with him.

The tax collector, a tool of the Romans, used to extort money from the people is painfully aware of his dependence on God. He prays out of his desire to know God instead of trying to prove his holiness to God. The two men pray in very different ways. One prays out of a sense of superiority, while the other prays out of the need to know God and hear God. Jesus tells us that it was the cry of the needy and not the arrogant that was heard. The tax collector went away justified while the Pharisee went away with what he walked into the Temple with, his ego.

Our reading from Sirach instructs us that God hears all of our prayers but it is the prayer of the one who seeks God's will that is answered. In other words, God isn't merely a celestial department store where we just get what we want by going down a request list. Prayer is about drawing close to God so that we can be one with him and do his will. The prayer of the humble is answered while the prayer of the arrogant is heard but doesn't get a response. It is about being grounded, "close to the earth".

Close to the earth. I think this is an important term for me to remember whenever I get too full of myself. I came from the earth and to the earth I will return someday. We all are alike in that we were created by God from the earth and some day we will all return to the earth and we will all have to face God. No one is better than anyone else when we are standing and facing God. So much for arrogance!

So I find myself pondering why we seem to always gravitate to an attitude of arrogance, sense of entitlement, and self righteousness. Why do we do that? All these things give us are broken relationships with one another and with God. We may look like a big deal in the eyes of the world but what we should be concerned about is how we present ourselves to God. God doesn't care about how important we are in society. Our social status doesn't mean squat to God. Our level of importance in our jobs doesn't mean squat to God. What matters to God is that we give our all to be close to him and do his work in the world. Everything else is nothing but our own egos.

Being "close to the earth" is about setting aside our selfishness, arrogance and sense of entitlement so that we can be open to God's call to serve him and one another. We are all in this together. We all came from the earth in Creation and we will all return to it and we will all have to face God on equal footing. In God's presence, none of us can hold to our ego for it is an even field and we have to answer for how we treated one another and how we treated God.

Let's face it. We are in this life together and we should be striving to draw closer to God and with one another. Everything else is just ego. I pray that I can remember this. I pray that I never adopt a sense that my attitude is someone else's problem. It will always be my problem because I will have to answer for it alone.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


Sorry for the lack of posts. There is much business at the two parishes I serve and I am far behind on my homily posts. I will have more posts up soon. Thanks for bearing with me.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Am I really as important as I think I am?

Memorial of Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus, virgin and doctor of the Church
October 1, 2007
Mass Readings:
Zechariah 8:1-8
Luke 9:46-50

I really enjoy this feast day. St. Therese is a great example for each of us today. St. Therese is, in my opinion, the model of how important it is to keep things simple. Simplicity is not a thing most of us do well. We tend to want things complex and we tend to want to be in charge.

Jesus is facing a problem in our Gospel today. the disciples are in a fit. The disciples are arguing about which one of them is top dog. Imagine it. Here the disciples are in the presence of the Savior yet they are more concerned about which one of them is going to get the most glory. Now we may be inclined to think that the disciples are being childish, but don't we do the same thing? How many times do each of us struggle to be in the top spot or what we think is the top spot?

Jesus gives us the moving scene of calling a child to him and elevating that child as the example of what it means to be the greatest, to hold the "top spot". Now, Jesus isn't calling us to act like children! Acting like a child edifies no one! Rather, Jesus is calling us to empty ourselves of our sense of self importance, our sense of independence, our sense of entitlement and become wholly dependent upon God. Children our dependent upon their parents or guardians. A child does not have the luxury of being self sufficient and must rely upon love and generosity. Jesus calls us to live a life of simplicity, humility and dependence upon God.

To be great, each of us must place ourselves upon God's mercy. Being great does not mean a life of perks and praise. Living a life of greatness means that we are to be a servant. To live a life of greatness is a calling to live a life of trust upon God's great love.

Whenever I get into the trap of feeling I am more important than I really am, I like to repeat this mantra to myself: Get over yourself! Get over your sense of entitlement! Get over your feelings of grandiosity! Get over your idea of greatness and let God be in charge! God wants us to get over our selfish, self seeking ways. God wants us to let him be in charge, to realize that it is God who is the greatest and we are wholly dependent upon him! We come and go but God is forever! In comparison, I don't think any of us have room to claim to be the greatest.

You know well enough that Our Lord does not look so much at the greatness of our actions, nor even at their difficulty, but at the love with which we do them.
Saint Therese of Lisieux (of the Child Jesus)

Amen, St. Therese. Amen!