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Monthly Archives: June 2016

THIRTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

 

1-15

LUKE 9:51-62 KEY VERSE: “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God” (v 62).

The readings today are about the call of vocation and our human response. What can we learn about vocation and response from them?

The first thing we can learn is how radical God’s call is. A vocation is not a job or a profession. It’s about our whole life’s direction. This is why Elisha “burned his bridges,” so to speak—sacrificed the oxen with which he ploughed his fields—before he followed Elijah as Elijah’s successor. It’s why Jesus is so insistent on those people who wanted to follow him or whom he asked to follow him had also to leave everything behind: security, family, possessions, livelihood. It’s why Paul insists that discipleship has nothing to do with the “flesh” (focusing on oneself) but with life in the Spirit (being fully focused God and on others).

A convert says she will follow him, “wherever you may go,” and he replies, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests.” He invites a stranger to follow him, and that one replies, “First let me go and bury my father”—and then he says, “Let the dead bury their own dead.” And another asks simply to say farewell to his loved ones. To this one, Jesus says, “No one who puts a hand to plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of heaven.”

So, a second thing we can learn about vocation is patience with and tolerance toward those who don’t follow the call. It’s interesting that Jesus doesn’t condemn the people who seem to hesitate to follow him. He just tells them what discipleship entails and leaves it at that.

But then he seems to say something like, “If you wish to follow me, you must drop everything and everyone in your life. Just give up everything and follow me.” And just where is he leading? To Jerusalem, as it says in this passage “to be taken up.” To his betrayal, crucifixion, and death. Can he really mean this? Can our Lord be ordering us to put down our livelihoods, to put aside our relationships, and to abandon our property in order to enter into pain, suffering, and death?

Well, it sort of depends on whether you see Jesus as someone to worship or someone to follow. Now, both of these have merit, both have their supporters, both are completely orthodox. But, for today, let’s consider the possibility that Jesus is asking us to follow. For, were we to worship him, we might expect him to save us from trials, to rescue us from danger, to keep us from harm.

That’s what an omnipotent God should do, that’s how the Almighty really ought to treat those he loves. And that’s exactly the problem. For this is to make Jesus into a religion, instead of a journey toward union with God.

What Jesus calls us to do is much harder work. To do the work given to us: to share love, to spread joy, to wage peace, to foster patience, to nurture kindness, to exhibit generosity, to seek faithfulness, to cultivate gentleness, and to strive for better self-control.

This is what it is to follow Jesus, rather than just worship him. To accept our baptismal calling to become dead to sin and alive unto righteousness. To seek, by word and example, to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly—following our God on the same path. This path that may lead us directly into whirlwinds or even through the valley of the shadow of death. But also the path that will lead us from sin and death to the kingdom of heaven and everlasting life. The path can and will leave a world behind us a little better, a little kinder, and little safer. The path can and will leave us stronger, more spiritually fit, and better able to cope with whatever lies ahead.

As St. Paul puts it, we are “you were called, as you know, to liberty” and this liberty comes by leaving things behind. Maybe not every possession, maybe not every relationship, maybe not everything and everyone—but certainly we are called to leave behind what Paul calls “the works of the flesh.”

To leave behind strife. To leave behind anger and quarrels. To leave behind dissensions and factions.

And to follow Jesus on the journey toward unity: with others, with the world, and union with God.

Jesus’ promise to all of us—that we will be inheritors of the kingdom of heaven: this does not promise us avoiding all difficulties in this life. But if we truly follow Jesus, we have an amazing trailblazer ahead of us.

One who never repaid anyone evil for evil. One who sought only love—with others, and with God. One who set his face on Jerusalem, knowing that what lay ahead was torture and death. And who one who renounced the devil and all his works, renounced the vain pomp and glory of this world, and turned away from all covetous desires of the same—and then on the third day conquered death. So that we might be everlastingly rewarded, and become the people of the way.

Not a mere religion of belonging and believing, of who’s in and who’s out, of what’s correct and what is not. But a lifelong journey, following Jesus along his same path. A lifelong journey of transformation of ourselves and of the world around us. A lifelong journey toward greater union with God.

The call, the vocation, will always be there. The invitation will never be revoked. God will be ready when we are. It will always be demanding, though, —even scary. But it will not go away. Elijah, Paul, Jesus all tell us that leaving is for life. Today, when Christ comes once again in Holy Communion to strengthen us for the journey, let’s renew our promise to follow him, to anchor our hopes in him. .

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Posted by on June 25, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

TWELFTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

 

1-15

Many priests hear the following “My children won’t go to Sunday Mass anymore. They used to come with us, but now they refuse. We don’t know what to do.”

All priests have heard such comments from parents for an explanation and for advice. They come to Mass every Sunday, they pray at home, they send their children for religious instruction or Catholic school, and they make certain that their sons and daughters receive the sacraments.

They are parents who give good example and practice what they preach. But despite that, sometimes their children start saying, “NO” when it comes to Mass and living their Catholic faith.

Some of that resistance can be attributed to adolescent rebellion and to the influence of our culture that increasingly disparages organized religion and disdains authority of any sort.

But this Sunday’s Gospel (Luke 9:18-24) offers another possible explanation.

In that Gospel Jesus asks the disciples what people are saying about him. They respond that some think that he is “John the Baptist, others, Elijah, still others, ‘One of the ancient prophets has arisen.’”

Often teenagers and also adults know the same answers. They know what others are saying about Jesus but they do not personally know him. If asked to explain who Jesus is, they simply repeat what they have heard in religion classes or at church. Jesus is the Saviour, the Redeemer, the Messiah, and the Son of God. Jesus was a prophet, a teacher, a miracle worker, a religious leader, etc. They mouth answers spoken by others, but those responses hold little meaning for them.

In the Gospel Jesus asks another question, the central question, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter responds, “The Christ of God.” Peter gives a personal response. He does not simply parrot what he has heard.
But interestingly Jesus tells Peter and the disciples not to publicize that answer for they do not grasp its implications. For them the title “Christ” connotes power and authority, for Jesus it denotes suffering and the cross.

Only when a person truly knows Jesus and has a relationship with him is that person ready to follow him. Only then are they willing to embrace their daily cross, the daily effort it takes to faithfully live as a Christian. As Jesus says, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”

We only sacrifice for those with whom we have some connection. The closer the relationship, the more we are willing to do. The same is true when it comes to our faith. Christianity is not a collection of facts to learn, or a set of rituals to undergo, or a series of religious ceremonies to attend, or a moral code to follow. It is an ongoing relationship with Jesus Christ who extends God’s hand in friendship.

This invitation, once extended to the disciples, is extended to us. And just as Jesus wanted each of the disciples to give their personal statements of commitment, he asks the same of us. “No one else can offer our assent.” Each of us has our own free will and our own heart to give him in faith. And this is what Jesus cherishes most about us. We have this wonderful gift of freedom—a gift given by God himself—to accept or reject Jesus’ invitation. Only we can give him the answer to his question, “Who do you say that I am?” We answer the question every day of our lives with some form of the cross—in the decisions we make, the friends we choose, how we decide to use our time, and how we treat others especially the weakest and those unable to care for themselves. Some will be easy, some will be joyous and others will bring on suffering. Within everything that happens to us, chances are we’ll find the cross waiting, and each will provide us with the chance to do what we promised; to do what we said we’d do when we gave our personal answers to the Lord’s question, “Who do you say that I am?”

 
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Posted by on June 18, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

ELEVENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

1-15

LUKE 7:36–8:3  “And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace” (Lk 7:50).

There is an old heresy known as Pelagianism, named for the British monk who promoted the idea. Pelagianism is the belief that we can earn favour with God on the basis of our own merits and good behaviour

Despite the clarity of the New Testament and Christian theology, our sinful pride often gets the better of us, and we begin to think that we have life with God because we are well behaved and do the right things. We look at our good things, the things we have accomplished in life and the good things we would like to do, and we begin to believe that we are closer to God because of them. We become good people in our own eyes, sometimes, acknowledging our mistakes, we become convinced that if we put in the effort to fix some of our problems, God will love us more. Perhaps the worst version of this bad theology is when people try and fail so much that they start to believe that God could not and would not ever love them or forgive them.

The Good News for those who will receive it is that God’s love and mercy for us are not dependent on our good works, our feelings, or our failings. God does not love us more because we give money to the right causes or protest the wrongs of the world. God does not love us less because we as broken creatures keep trying to improve ourselves and we still fall short. God does not justify us because we think we deserve it rather God justifies us because God loves us.

Theologians call this gift of God’s love “grace.” Grace is simply a gift. Grace is undeserved. It is something we have not earned and cannot earn, because, as Paul reminds us, if we as sinners could have earned our justification, Christ would have died for no purpose. Elsewhere in the New Testament, the Apostle writes, “By grace you have been saved not by works, and this is so that no one can boast.”

Jesus provides a good example of what this looks like in today’s Gospel reading. Luke tells us about a dinner party at the house of a very religious man named Simon. Simon apparently believed he was right with God because he was a devoted Pharisee and was therefore different from the common lot of sinners. The Pharisees were known for trying to make themselves holy by following the precepts of the Law and by performing good works. In contrast, by all accounts the woman at the dinner was a sinner. She made no appeal to her righteousness or her good works. Instead, threw herself at Jesus’ feet, seeking God’s mercy and forgiveness. Jesus forgave her. He told her to go in peace because her faith had saved her. He restored her to communion with the Father, and he justified her because she trusted in him. The woman’s signs of affection were responses to Jesus’ overwhelming love and kindness.

So long as we are convinced of our own righteousness like Simon the Pharisee, we will miss the point of the Gospel, and the point is that God gives us what we cannot earn when we trust in Jesus Christ. He justifies us freely by his grace. Jesus restores our broken relationship with God the Father through the merciful gift of his love.

Upon hearing Jesus’ words to the woman: “Your faith has saved you,” we might ask, “What is faith?” The best answer to that question is that faith is trust. Faith is trust that God truly loves us and wants to forgive us and to restore us to his family. Like the woman who trusted Jesus not to condemn her, we trust that Jesus will not condemn us, and we trust that he will forgive us because he died for our sins and rose from the dead to give us eternal life.

The fruit of God’s gift of justification then is that we have a new life in Jesus Christ. At Baptism God’s love is poured into our hearts in such a way that we can join St Paul in saying, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who love me and gave himself for me.”

Our faith will save us, as Jesus tells the woman today. Our faith that no matter how many our sins, or how serious, if we come to him in true sorrow and repentance we will hear his words of forgiveness. Like David. Like the woman in the Gospel this Sunday.

 
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Posted by on June 10, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

TENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

1-15

LUKE 7:11-17 KEY VERSE: “A great prophet has risen among us!” (v 16b).

In our Gospel today from Luke and in our Old Testament lesson from 1 Kings, we hear of people being healed. We too often hear stories like these and think that they are great stories, but that they have nothing to do with us. We cannot simply say that these are inspirational stories and leave it at that. Jesus did not come to earth and become one of us so that we could be inspired, but came to earth as one of us so that we could learn from him and change the world around us into the Kingdom of God. Jesus is constantly reminding the people around him that they are called to live as he lived. Thus, we too are called to live as Jesus did. Our Baptismal promises reminds us time and again that we are to live as Jesus did, that we are to be a people of God to everyone around us. We are called to be vehicles of God’s grace, love, and peace in the world around us.

Jesus comes upon a woman who is in deep grief over her son’s death, her husband’s death, and the fact that she is alone in the world. He does not pass her by thinking that there is nothing that he can do for her, but rather he stops – he stops the funeral procession – and acts out of compassion. He tells her not to weep, not in the way that someone would tell us to stop weeping if they were uncomfortable with it, but in a way that tells her that he will take care of her and show her great care and compassion. In raising her dead son to life, he completely changes the outlook for this woman. She once again has social standing in the community, she once again has a family, she has what she had lost.

Jesus’ great love for this woman is just a glimpse of the love Jesus has for each of us. After Jesus gives this mother her son, the people say, “A great prophet has appeared among us; God has visited his people.” Those words are also heard in Mary’s song, the Magnificat and Simeon’s song, the Nunc dimittis. God looks with favour on God’s people. It is all throughout scriptures and it is all throughout our lives. No, our lives are not one happy, moment; but our lives are enriched with those around us and they are brought to fullness and grace through God. Yes, there will be difficulties in our lives, yes we will suffer hardships, there will be war and violence and oppression around us AND it is our duty as people of God to serve in a way, to live in a way as to help stop these horrible things from happening and continuing to happen. God looks with favour on us, God looks with love on us, God looks with grace and unconditional caring upon all of us. It is then our job as people of God to turn and do the same.

There are times in all of our lives when we wonder where God is. How could God be letting this happen? Why didn’t God come and save the day and perform a miracle like it happens in the Bible? Where is God in those moments? God is with us. In our moments of pain and suffering and aloneness, God is there in the people who are around us, God is there in that compassionate card or phone call. God is there in the offerings of help, the hugs, and the people who will sit with us as we journey into the depths of our lives. God does not promise that life will be easy. God does promise to be there and to look with favour on us. God is a God of compassion and caring, of peace and justice, of love and grace. We, by our Baptismal Promises and through scriptures are called to be conduits of God in the world through are actions, through our words, and through our very being.

“The Practice of Presence of God”, is a book about Brother Lawrence, a Carmelite Friar who lived in the 17th century. Many people are intrigued by this man because he simply lived every moment with God and lived every moment acting out of God’s presence in his life. He was assigned to work in the kitchen of the monastery, not anything that he was particularly good at, but did it with faithfulness and with a mind toward God. There was not anything that was beneath him because there was no task that was too mundane or routine as each thing was a medium for God’s love. For him, it was not about how sacred or important the task, but more about the motivation behind the task.

As people of God, we are all called to see our tasks as part of our life with God. Who we are, how we act, how we treat others… this is how we are God in the world.

So, in this ordinary time of the year, as we continue to explore where God is calling us to grow, where God is calling us to serve in the world, know that it may be in the everyday, it may simply be in our actions and in our words that we will best serve God.

 
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Posted by on June 3, 2016 in Uncategorized