Saturday, August 16, 2014

WAIT DONT QUIT

Isaiah 56:1,6-7; Ps 67:2-8 O God, let all the nations praise you; Romans 11:13-32; Mt 15:21-28

Quitters.

Ever notice how many quitters are in our world.  People who just give up and walk away.

Growing up we would hear the following words, "no body likes a quitter."

What does it mean to give up easily or to lack the resolve to finish a task?

Quitters are all around us and sometimes we are the worst of quitters.

How often have we quit on the life of faith?  Or resolutions at the new year? The problem with many of us isn't lack of knowledge but rather will.  We hit a wall or meet up with resistance and we fold.

We never let the resistance or obstruction reveal our true self to us.

The woman in today's gospel doesn't have quit in her make up.  She encounters every kind of reason to give in, give up, and walk away and yet she persists.

AT first she encounters Jesus' silence.  She cries out for pity and Jesus says nothing.  Only silence.  A silent rebuke perhaps.

Then she turns her attention to his followers and she becomes a pest to them and Jesus responds with a rebuke and rejection, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel."

Yet refuses to be defeated.  She continues even though the odds seem against her.
Her cries is reduced to the bare essentials, "Lord, help me."

When has the last time we experienced that kind of prayer.  When was the last time we removed the dross and got down to bare tax?

Yet, she receives and insult from the Lord, "It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs."

Jesus just called this woman a dog.

Despite the silence, the rebuke, the insult the woman continues to defy reason and hangs on to hope.

Her perseverance gains her her request.

But why such a winding road?  Couldn't Jesus have simply granted her request from the get go?

Perhaps, as St Augustine points out, God was testing her an preparing her at the same time. The rejection inspires her to persevere and thus allowing her heart to expand that she might receive what God wanted to give.

Waiting increased her appreciation by deepening her hunger.

She didn't quit.  Do we?

We must never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat.  As Babe Ruth put it so bluntly, "every strike brings me closer to my next home run."

Silence, rebuke, rejection neither deterred or slowed down the woman and in the end her faith was realized.




Thursday, August 14, 2014

TEMPER THE SORROW

1 Chr 15:3-16, 16:1-2; Ps 132 Lord, go up to the place o four rest, you and the ark of your holiness; 1 cor 15:54-57; Luke 11:27-28


Here is a part of the Apostolic Constitution that has defined the dogma of the Assumption of the Blessed Mother into Heaven

"The most bountiful God (munificentissimus Deus), who is Almighty, the plan of whose providence rests upon wisdom and love, tempers, in the secret purpose of his own mind the sorrows of peoples and of individual men by means of joys that He interposes in their lives from time to time, in such a way that, under different conditions and in different ways, all things may work together unto good for those who love him."

What does God do all day?

Here is a question that many of the students ask when the conversation turns to heaven and in particular God being in heaven.  Well, What does God do all day, they ask?

Well the Apostolic Constitution helps answer the question.  God in his providence seeks to temper the sorrows of peoples by means of joy that he interposes in their lives.

The feast of the church are meant to be such occasions of joys so as to lift our spirits and pull us from sorrow and redirect our gaze to him whose purpose works for Good for those who love him. 

So in the middle of the dog days of summer when the heat has climbed to new heights, in the middle of squeezing in one more day trip to the beach before school starts, in the middle of barbecues and beer and leisure on the mind, the church as created a moment of inconvenience and calls us to gather together lest we forget what matters most of all. 

As we direct our gaze upward to ponder the mystery of the Blessed Mother being assumed into heaven we are reminded of our own destiny as well. 

Summer time is often a time for leisure and vacation and break from the routine.  We need that.  But what we need most is to pause and realize that God is always trying to break into our life.   God doesn't want us to break from our routine as much as he wants us to invite us into the routine of life so that in the end our life can be full of his joy that is meant to temper our sorrows in the valley of tears and direct our gaze upward to heaven, where the Blessed Mother shows us the pathway home. 

Our reach should always be beyond our grasp otherwise what's a heaven for.

May reach beyond our grasp and zero in on what matters most of all we too can join in the thanks of Mary who reminds us that death no longer has a sting and no longer holds victory but in Christ her son, we now share in victory.

Just as David rejoice in the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem on mt zion, we too rejoice with Mary, the new ark of covenant, whose womb bore Christ himself through whom the new Jerusalem stands as a city of welcome for all who believe. 



Wednesday, August 13, 2014

THAU

Ezekiel 9:1-7; 10:18-22; PS 113 The glory of the Lord is higher than the skies; Matt 18:15-20

Imagine being given the task to sort out amongst your fellow neighbors and citizens who was to be saved, kept alive, and who was to die?

This is exactly the job given to the man dressed in linen cloth in Ezekiel's vision.  Here is the command, "pass through the city, through Jerusalem, and mark a "thau" on the foreheads of those who moan and groan over all the abominations that are practiced within it."

Those so marked would be saved from destruction.

The rest were all to be destroyed.

Would we belong to the group marked to be kept alive and saved?  Do we moan and groan over the abominations practiced in our current milieu?  Or do we just allow ourselves to be swept along the current of the times?

Do we lament what needs to be lamented?

Do we weep for the tragedy of sin and destruction that has befallen us?

The marking of the forehead with the sign is something we do for all those baptized in the faith.  With the sign of the cross we are welcomed into the household of God, the christian community.

Perhaps, here through Ezekiel we can rediscover our mission and task as ones who bear the mark of salvation.  We too must reject the evil impulses of the age and stand int he threshold between good and evil and stand fast.

What is the proper sequence in a practical sense of standing against the evil of the age?

Jesus gives us the recipe in the gospel: "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 doesn't listen, take one or two along so that the fact may be established on the testimony of two or three.  IF he refuses to listen to them, tell the church  If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat as you would a tax collector and gentile..."

Interesting sequence of response.

The offended is directed to speak to the offender, privately.  Then witness are brought forth in a private fashion so the facts can be established. Then the whole community should be involved, that is the church, the community of believers gathered together around the authority given to Peter way back in Matt 16:18.

I wonder how much heartache and division could be avoided if the above sequence would be followed.

Rather than broadcasting everyone's dirty laundry over Facebook, twitter, news, TMZ and the like.

A little more privacy, a little more caution just might create a little more harmony.

So just a few things to remember.  Sins matter.  We have to throw out the notion that sins are no body else's business. In fact they are the business of the community.  There is no "mind your own business" clause.  In regards to the health and welfare of the community, your business and my business is our business is everyone's business.

Secondly, we need to be up front when dealing with others.  Don't broadcast it, deal with it.  Only then can honor truly be experienced for all involved.





PALATE PLEASERS

Ezekiel 2:8-3:4; Ps 119 How sweet to my taste is your promise; Matt 18:1-14

Many of us have a favorite food.  Perhaps it is fried chicken or potatoes and gravy or enchilada casserole or whatever.

Many folks have what they call "comfort" food.  This is food that picks them up when they are down.  For me, Chicken Noodle Soup has always been comforting, especially the way momma makes it.

Of course, anything from my mother's kitchen is quite spectacular.

We also have favorite drinks.  Things that really quench our palate in times of thrust.  I love happy hour at Sonic.

But of all the things that get us going and quenches our thirst or hunger, when is the last time we allowed the promise of God to do the thirst quenching in our life.  The psalmist invites us to do just that, "how sweet to my taste is your promise."

Our taste buds have never experience such delight like the promise of God.   I think too often in life we lose sight of the thirst quenching reality of God's promise as the anchor in our life that keeps us steady in the presence of storms and chaos.

Today take a big bite out of God's promise and have a second helping while you are at it. Jesus is the one who fully illustrates that promise, puts flesh on it.  He says he will be with us always.  And in deed, in the sacraments, especially the Eucharist and confession, God's abiding presence is fully present to us.

Lastly, Jesus invites us to become like little children in order to enter the kingdom.

The hallmark of a child is receptivity.  Children are receptive to life.  They take it as it comes and they flow with it.  As grown up, we try to control too much too often.  Today practice being receptive.

Pray for the gift to open wide to receive.


Monday, August 11, 2014

GOD EXPERIENCE

Ezekiel 1:2-5, 24-28; Ps 148 Heaven and earth are filled with your glory; Matt 17:22-27

What happens when someone experiences the presence of God?  How does that encounter affect the the life that is lived?

Something has to give if the encounter is true.

Ezekiel experiences the "hand of the Lord" in today's first reading.  This is not a life changing experience but rather a life directing experience.  This is important.

We focus to much energy on looking for that life changing experience and not enough paying attention to the life directing experience that God relays to us on a daily basis.

We want so much to fully grasp God all at once and fail to realize the grasping of God can only be done gradually has life unfolds on the path God directs.

Life directing message is way more challenging than a life changing message.

The vision as Ezekiel describes is startling.  God appears wrapped in a storm wind and huge clouds flashing fire and brightness.  Then Ezekiel describes the Lord  as surrounded with splendor like the bow that appears in the clouds on a rainy day.

What a unique description and powerfully meaningful.

Remember the first time the bow is described in scripture.  It was used with the covenant God makes with Noah and humanity after the flood.

Here Ezekiel sees the Lord of the covenant, the one who is enveloped by his promise he has made to humanity.  The rainbow has lost its original meaning to us but to God.

He is a Father who keeps his promise and not only keeps it but wraps himself, clothes himself in the promise that he gives.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

MISFIT HEROES

Daniel 7:9-14; PS 97 The Lord is king, the most high over all the earth; 2 Peter 1:16-19; Mt 17:1-9

Wonder how often in movies its the misfits that become the heroes, the outcast that get the glory, those on the fringe of society seem to be the ones who are chosen to lead the charge of goodness over darkness?

From the Isle of the Misfit toys who save Christmas  in Rudolph to the recent released movie Guardians of the Galaxy, it is the ones we least expect become the bearer of great expectations.

These misfits who begin with a certain self centeredness, a drive for power and glory and money some how get transformed.  They begin to set aside their selfishness and truly begin to click as a team with a higher purpose for the greater good.

IT happens with the apostles as well.  They start out as the misfits and outcast driven by self preservation and self worth.  They get caught up in their own thirst for authority and power.  I suppose hanging out with Jesus, getting hand selected by the man who walks on water as a way of doing that to someone.

But often along they journey humility comes; brokenness is revealed; selfishness fades and things begin to click for  a higher purpose and greater good.

We see this in today's gospel.  Peter, James, John were once again tagging along the side of Jesus.  They were once again singled out as different than the other 9.  Perhaps they were feeling good about themselves until the cloud over shadows them and the voice of God is heard.

Not sure what is about the voice of God but it seems to have way of bringing humility to those who hear.  Peter who was once bold and brazen becomes silent.

This experience along with the resurrection began to drive out their selfishness and direct them toward a higher purpose and greater good.

So much so, Peter recalls the events with great clarity in his letter, "For he received honor and glory from God the Father when that unique declaration came to him from the majestic glory, "This is my son, my beloved, with whom I am well pleased.  We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven while we were with him on the holy mountain."

What was the result of such an experience.  It wasn't arrogance but humility and deep confidence of the things to come, "we possess the prophetic message that is altogether reliable.  You do well to be attentive to it, as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts."

That's it.  This is the higher purpose and the greater good that transforms the misfits into heroes.

It is what pulls them out o themselves so that they might live for another.
It isn't just Christ who is transfigured not he mountain but it is the beginning of the transfiguration of the apostles as well.

They get it, though it unfolds slowly nonetheless it becomes reliable and true.
Do we get it?  Have we become humbled by the voice of Christ?

We are post resurrection followers of Christ, which means we have no excuse to keep an eye on the bright and shining lamp in the darkness. Fixed on his light we move forward hearts yearning for the rising star in our hearts.

Friday, August 1, 2014

REMEMBER

Jeremiah 26:1-9; Ps 69 Lord, in your great love, answer me; Matt 13:54-58

"They took offense at him."

This was the reaction of those from Jesus home town.  They took offense at him.  Why?  Why take offense at a local boy?

Side note.

I go to the local prison every tuesday.  In fact, there are a group of guys of partake in this ministry.  They hold classes on tuesday and thursday evening.  I hear confessions and celebrate mass on tuesday afternoon.  We have quite a team of those who gee of their time to be with these men.

I am blessed to part of such a group.

But when i speak of going to prison and visiting with these men, there are quite a few folks who turn their nose up.  They take offense to these men who have been locked up.

I tell them that i think it is a shame that their is no air on the dorms for them.  Most people respond that they guys are simply getting what their deserve.  They don't need air.

I point out that in south texas the temperature in the dorms can reach 110-120 degrees.  Again, they don't seem to care.

The same response given:  they get what they deserve.

Then I remind them that these men do have conversions.  That many them regret the choices they have made and the consequences as well.  Yet, the same reaction follows as stated above.

They refuse to let the men become better than they remember.  They hold these men prison to the past, the past actions and they refuse to admit that they can change or get better. So they take offense at them.


It is similar in today's gospel.  The citizens of Jesus' native place refuse to let Jesus be better than they remember.  They let the past dictate the present rather than open their hearts to God's grace.

Or perhaps they refuse to admit that they aren't that good.  They refuse to acknowledge that they are worse than they recall.

Either way their hearts are closed to God's invitation.

There is a perversity of the human heart that wants to keep others at a lower level lest they outshine us in some way.  St Thomas describes it as envy, "the refusal to rejoice in the goodness of the other."

Perhaps all of us have touch of envy.  Perhaps all of us refuse to let others be better than we remember. Perhaps all of us think ourselves better than we are.

All of which points to the need for a redeemer.  We need our memories and how we remember to be purified daily.  Perhaps this is why Jesus ask us to "do this in remembrance of me."  The one good memory is meant to purify all other memories and open up a path way of hope for us and for others.

God is never done.  Grace is always active.  Our judgment of another or even of ourself is always flawed because it is never complete; that belongs to the judgment of God alone.