Thursday, February 21, 2008

Doesn't get much clearer.

February 18, 2008
Monday of the Second Week in Lent
Mass Readings:
Daniel 9:4b-10
Luke 6:36-38

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

“Stop judging and you will not be judged.
Stop condemning and you will not be condemned.
Forgive and you will be forgiven.
Give and gifts will be given to you;
a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing,
will be poured into your lap.
For the measure with which you measure
will in return be measured out to you.”

Why do we make it so cloudy sometimes when Jesus has made it so clear always?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

But I don't want to change!

February 17, 2008
Second Sunday of Lent
The Transfiguration

Mass Readings:
Genesis 12:1-4a
2 Timothy 1:8b-10
Matthew 17:1-9

The Transfiguration is something that always make me take a long look at myself. The Transfiguration is all about one very small word, CHANGE. Six letters that are sometimes frustrating and maddening. I don't like change yet here I am in an vocation that is all about change. Here we all are facing the merger of our five parishes into one. There's change for you! We all are facing something that is scary but exciting, draining yet life giving. Change can be both fun and torturous at the same time.

The Transfiguration is all about change. Jesus has been preparing the disciples for a life shattering change, his crucifixion. Yet the disciples are not really grasping what is about to happen. Jesus takes the three disciples up to the mountain to witness change. Jesus is ministered to by Moses and Elijah, the Law and the Prophets. Everything is about to change because of Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection. Jesus' ministry would make complete the Law and the cry of the Prophets. Jesus was preparing to change the world and bring God's saving work to completion.

So what happens? Well, Jesus is strengthened by the Father and Moses (The Law) and Elijah (The Prophets) come so that Jesus is ready for the torturous task at hand. The three disciples were understandably shaken. Peter is so enraptured with the events that he purposes a solution so that nothing has to change. Peter will have them build three dwellings so that Jesus, Moses and Elijah can stay on the mountain top forever and then the disciples and Jesus' other followers can come and bask in this glory forever! Sounds great except for the fact that all mountain top experiences are temporary. Jesus wants the disciples to take this experience, learn from it, grow from it so that they can go forth and be agents of change and proclaim the good news of salvation.

Every day we are faced with having to either accept or resist change. The one thing we know is inevitable is change. Whether that change is pleasing or painful, expected or unannounced, it will happen regardless. As we grow in our relationship with Jesus, we discover that we change. As we learn more from God's Word, we find that we are being called to do things differently and new. As we plunge deeper into a life of prayer we see that Jesus is calling us to be more involved with proclaiming his Good News! To be a disciple is to be willing to accept whatever Jesus asks us to do and be. That means we must be open to change.

The disciples on the mountain top with Jesus would come to understand what the Transfiguration was all about. Jesus was prepared for the horrifying change of stepping up to the cross. The Law and the Prophets, all that had been proclaimed through the centuries had arrived and the world was about to change. A wave was about to sweep over humanity and it's wake would change every human being. Nothing would ever be the same again and thank God for that! The world has been transformed and God invites us daily to draw closer to His Son and receive the goodness of salvation. Then, God asks us to listen to His Son and be willing to say yes to the call. Saying yes will lead us into new and ever changing things and we will be given the strength to accept and flourish in those changes.

We have all been to the mountain top when we were saved and now Jesus asks us to go forth and change the world.

Monday, February 11, 2008

New Year's Resolution part 2?

February 10, 2008
First Sunday of Lent
Mass Readings:
Genesis 2:7-9; 3:1-7
Romans 5:12-19
Matthew 4:1-11

A few days leading up to Ash Wednesday I am always asked the same question; "So. Father what are you giving up for Lent?" I always say the same thing; "Marriage. That's what I am giving up." And I always get the same puzzled look and the open mouth wanting to ask me if I am serious. I know, I know. I shouldn't make light of such a question but I use it to try and open a conversation about what we do when we give up something for Lent.

We usually hear the same things when we talk about Lent. We often hear how many folk give up candy, soda, chips, etc. This got me to thinking. Why do we always give up a luxury item for Lent? A luxury item is something we don't need in the first place and we will just pick it up again as soon as Easter Sunday arrives. Where is the sacrifice? It isn't hard to give up something we don't really need in the first place. In fact I wonder if many times we give up things for Lent that were actually part of our New Year's Resolution. If we pledged to lose weight in the New Year we have probably fudged on that resolution and had the forbidden fruit we swore to give up. Enter Lent! Why not give up those fattening delicacies for Lent? Surely if we do it for God we won't fudge and sneak a bite of that forbidden delicacy! So again, where is the sacrifice?

Now I am not judging anyone for giving up a luxury item for Lent. I have the luxury items that I have given up for Lent too so please don't say that I am judging you. Okay? Now, while driving to an event the other day I was reminded of why I hate driving. While trying to merge onto 265 I was run off the road by someone who was, of course, talking on the mobile phone and not paying any attention. And as the mean words were coming out of my mouth, yes I must confess to experiencing road rage, the thought hit me of how good it would be to give up road rage for Lent. In fact, why don't I give up a bad habit for Lent and in return take up a good habit? That is what sacrifice is about. It is about doing something so important that our life becomes different.

Lent is about change. It is about our striving to simplify our life and rid ourself of the things that get in the way of our relationship with God and one another. Lent is about honoring the sacrifice Christ made for us. Christ's sacrifice transformed the world and made us one with God. Shouldn't our sacrifice during Lent be something that will make each of us different and a better Christian? I believe that is what we should be going for.

Why not give up the habit of road rage and in turn take up the habit of praying for the person who just cut us off and ask God to get that person home safely? Why not give up the habit of gossiping and in turn take up the habit of saying something nice when we are tempted to say something harmful? Why not give up the habit of being selfish and in turn take up the habit of doing something good for the people we may not be too keen on? Wouldn't these sacrifices make more of a difference than giving up chocolate? Wouldn't these types of sacrifices help us to be better Christians and just down right better people? I believe they can and will if we are willing to do the hard work of sacrifice. Keep in mind that these are just a few examples that came off the top of my head. I am sure that each of us can look inward and find several bad habits to give up and replace them with good habits.

If we give up the bad habits in exchange for good, I believe that come Easter Sunday we will discover that we not only celebrate Christ's resurrection but also our own resurrection to a life that is filled with more peace, hope, and joy. I believe that we will definitely be a nicer lot if we sacrifice our bad habits and take on good habits. Maybe, just maybe, we will not pick those bad habits up again like we will pick up the chocolate again on Easter Sunday.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Rend your hearts.

Ash Wednesday
Mass Readings:
Joel 2:12-18
2 Corinthians 5:20—6:2
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18

Lent has arrived and it seems like we just put away the Christmas trees and sparkling lights. Actually, we just did! Today we shift gears hard. We see that the church has gone from ornate to simple, from bright to subdued colors focusing on dark purple. All of this is done on purpose so that we slow down, hopefully stop, and take time to look inward and examine our relationship with God and one another.

I am struck today by the simple words from our first reading, "rend your hearts, not your garments..." In the days of the Old Testament it was a common practice to place ashes on your head and rip a part of your clothing as a sign of grief and penance. It was meant to be an outward sign of the inner cry, a cry for reconciliation with God. The prophet Joel is calling for the people listening to him to be sure that they are truly seeking reconciliation with God and not merely putting on a show.

The prophet continues by begging the people to return to God and be one with Him. That is what we do today, we stop and call to mind that we are fully dependent upon God's mercy and His unwavering love for each and every person. Lent is often referred to as a journey in the desert. The desert is a dry and barren place. However, in that stark and dry landscape, the beauty that exists is piercing and easily seen. Today we begin a time where we are to simplify and throw away the attitudes and desires that separate us from God and one another.

Today we celebrate in a more somber way but we acknowledge the joy of God's forgiveness and we give thanks and praise to the Lord our God for the immense and unwavering love that is poured out upon us.

Each of us will receive ashes as a sign of our understanding that we have sinned and have fallen short of God's glory. These ashes are not a symbol to be flaunted so that we might feel superior to others. That is exactly what the prophet was crying against. What good does it do to put on a facade when the structure is crumbling? It benefits no one to look holy rather than be holy. Ash Wednesday is a time for us to make every effort to say to God, "I'm sorry. Please help me." Lent is a time of renewal as we clear out the clutter that is weighing us down spiritually and fill ourselves up with God's forgiveness and love. Confession, receiving the Eucharist, doing good deeds and possessing a willingness to admit where we are wrong is all very, very good for the soul. As we seek reconciliation with God, let us not overlook the necessity of seeking reconciliation with one another.

May you have a joy filled and peaceful Ash Wednesday. God bless you all.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Three simple words.

What are those words? They would be BACK-IT-UP! I didn't follow the simple rule of backing up my homilies and now they are no where to be found. I have nothing since the last post I made in December. Lesson learned. So starting today I have the auto-archive settings up and running plus a flash drive always at the ready for good measure. I plan on posting regularly starting this weekend. Peace!