Monday, September 30, 2013

Word of God

Today we celebrate the memorial of St. Jerome.  A monk and scholar, St Jerome translated the Sacred Scriptures into Latin.  That in and of itself is an outstanding accomplishment, but equally as impressive is Jerome's love and devotion to the Word of God.  The monastic tradition teaches about the importance of Lectio, or reading and meditating on the scriptures.  St. Jerome's work helps us understand the importance of the scriptures in our faith.

Our families have stories some of which immerse us in joy and comfort, while others recollect the pain and frustration of our family journey.  Some folks attempt to read the bible from cover to cover.  The first few books are fine, but then comes Leviticus, and other texts having to do with laws and regulations.  This method would be akin to going into a library and attempting to read each of the books from the stacks.  The scripture stories are meant to remind us of our part of God's love, and his tradition of faithfulness.

While we might read the scriptures for information or direction, it is an excellent source of prayer and meditation.  We might not realize how much of the Mass is directly or indirectly taken from scriptural texts.  Men and women of faith are invited to prayer Christian Prayer, or the Liturgy of Hours, a compilation of Psalms and scripture texts.

The Word of God draws us into an even closer relationship with God the Father.  The Sacred Scriptures asks us to reflect upon our faith tradition, connected to the faith story of men and women throughout the generations.  In whatever translation we read, the Scriptures reminds us that we are a people of light, happiness, and peace. 

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Make Friends With Dishonest Wealth

It would seem that Jesus is giving a wink and a nod to dishonesty.  The quirk some passage from Luke applauds the dishonest steward for being dishonest.  But perhaps we can look at this in a different way.  In particular in light of the Prophet Amos who recognizes that greed and the accumulation of power have warped a once holy people and set them against the covenant. 

In an odd way when dishonest folk know that their dishonesty has caused them all sorts of problems, then they begin to look at virtue, mercy, and life.  What is really true begins to become clear.  I remember a man asking me to come to his house on a particular evening.  He was very upset, he and his wife had been having some real difficult times, and he thought that I might be able to resolve their differences.  When I pulled up to the house there was a U-Haul backed up to the garage, and the wife was putting clothing and some furniture in the back.  Yes, maybe I could do something.  Sometimes when we have done wrong, and the consequences begin to expose themselves, we begin to look for help.

Money, power, authority, are fine things as long as they do not control us  Where your treasure is there your heat will be.  It is so very important to become acquainted  with the covenant relationship which we have with God.  Then we can orientate ourselves with whatever is true, perfect, and good.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

St. Matthew - apostle

While St. Matthew does not occur in the Gospel stories, or at least frequently, we understand that he was part of this close group of Apostles.  More so as one of the Evangelists  Matthew shared the Word of God and made present the message and ministry of Jesus Christ.  This is part of what St. Paul would refer to as 'ministry' as he speaks to the Ephesians.  Matthew's words help to build up that edifice of the temple, which is the Body of Christ.

Matthew begins his Gospel with this lengthy genealogy of David's household, from which Jesus is connected.  The text itself is flawed, as are some of the individuals named there.  This is certainly not a listing of 'saintly' people.  But that is sort of the point.  Jesus Christ comes into a broken humanity, calling to himself imperfect people, to preach, proclaim, and make present the 'Good News.'  It is Jesus who will perfect men and women through the Paschal Mystery, bringing salvation and peace to all peoples.  Not only are we called to participate in this mystery of faith, but we also are ministers, disciples if you will, of the faith we profess.

Matthew is called away from his 'tax collector' job to follow Jesus.  He is not called out of the world, but will be sent into it so as to proclaim the Gospel.  There are folks that would like to see the Church, and its members, somehow removed from the culture so as to practice faith without the distractions of the world.  Even monks and nuns will tell you that escaping from the world is neither good nor is it desirable. We are to live out our baptismal vocation by sharing the story of our faith  life. 

St. Matthew makes the story of our salvation known through the Gospel he authored.  In our daily wanders we share the Good News in a variety of ways.  The manner is not always based in religion nor religious words.  It is using our gifts and talents to build up the Body of Christ.  Imperfect as we might be we have a calling to share our faith and faithfulness.  St. Matthew teaches us that by saying 'Yes' to Jesus Christ we can make his grace and blessing present to a broken world.

Friday, September 20, 2013

St Andrew Kim Taegon

The story of St Andrew Kim, and his companions, is a remarkable one at best.
These are men and women who took the foundation of Baptism and Confirmation most seriously, and displayed it by their lives.  In the early 19th century Korea came under new leadership.  The emperor at the time despised and distrusted Christianity.  He launched a persecution against the Christian churches, and slaughtered thousands of Christians.  St. Andrew Kim, a convert with his family, eventually became a priest and ministered in Korea.  He and several dozen of his parishioners were tortured and put to death.

These are folks that did not fear suffering or death.  Like Jesus and many of his faithful followers death was not seem as a barrier to life.  Rather Andrew Kim, and many like him, welcomed the opportunity to suffer in the Body of Christ.  To take up ones cross as not simply a theory or nicety, but a living witness which demonstrated the deep commitment one had for the message of Christ.  St Andrew Kim shared his faith in celebrating the sacraments and dying for the faith he professed, as well as the people he served.

And today we have folks who choose soccer over church, and are inspired by the media and not the gospel message.  Martyrs remind us that we are challenged to be counter-cultural in our faith life today.  Sadly today many believe religious practice to be more akin to rainbows and unicorns than the Paschal mystery and standing for truth and righteousness.

St. Andrew Kim, and many others, taught the world that it is essential to profess faith by our very response to what we say we believe in.  May the good works begun in us be brought to completion.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

prodigals among us

The characters in the Prodigal Son story are a sandbox of dysfunction.  The father tries, by love and mercy, bring unity and peace into the brokenness which is his house.  We should not be surprised since in so many ways we are overwhelmed by the Sin and Confusion which shows up today.  Especially in place where there should be love and compassion.

The younger son cannot comprehend the love of the father and searches for love in all of the wrong places, and by the wrong means.  The older son lives according to the rules and direction of the father, but it becomes apparent that there is not a relationship there.  For the youngest, realizing that his actions have led him to a pigsty, he returns to the father.  Perhaps, an hopefully so, the older son might recognize that his hardness of heart has removed him from the house of the father.  Both have missed the understanding of the father's lavish giving.

What is fantastic about the Prodigal son story is that we relate to it so well.  The attempting to find meaning in actions or choices which only serve to destroy life and relationships.  The inability to forgive or to let our misgivings heal.  In the center of our lives is a Father who loves us abundantly.  God is a patient God who is longing to be found; always ready to embrace us with love and mercy.  Too often we seek meaning and purpose like cotton candy.  We fill up on air and sugar only to become more and more disappointed that we are never full. 

Building relationships on the love and mercy of God the Father is the only source of life which we need.  The ability to forgive and be forgiven opens us to each other, and most importantly, to the renewed relationship which our God holds out to us..  Seeking out the lost and forsaken is part of the ministry of Jesus and is part of our ministry too.  Our God of mercy delights in us and sees in us the possibilities of new life.

With St Paul we praise and thank God for the abundance he blesses us with.  Hopefully we can approach the work with a mature faith always ready to forgive and make peace in the world today.  We are like prodigal children, lost sheep and coins, that once found are able to rejoice,  "I once was lost but now I am found."

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Triumph of the Cross

In a homily by St. Andrew of Crete, from the Office of Readings today, St. Andrew muses about the reality that the passion and death of Jesus Christ consummates salvation history.  It is an interesting and a powerful expression to covey the mystery we celebrate.  To be sure its implication is the union we have with God through Jesus Christ, and the life giving properties of the action of the cross.  Also from the Readings, St. Paul reminds his hearers in Galatians that the cross conveys a new way of existing for us.  Because of the cross we do not live in the flesh but become people of the Spirit.

Very much like the Eucharist which commemorates this sacred event the Cross is a great comfort for us.  The Cross and the Paschal activity is a sign of God's great love for us.  God says "Amen" (once again) to humanity and to our identity as God's people.  But the challenge of the Cross, as St Paul implies in his various letters, we respond to this initiative of new life by acting like children of God.  When I was a Deacon, and would go out on a Friday or Saturday with my Deacon classmates, my pastor would jokingly remind me that I was a St John's 'boy' and needed to act accordingly.

At Baptism one of the first actions we do with a child is to make a sign of the cross on his or her forehead.  We then announce that the Christian community welcomes this child with great joy.  For all of it's solemnity Good Friday really is a 'good' day in that it recognizes that we are given salvation and peace through the wood of the cross.  To be sure through Christ Jesus God has broken through the pall of Sin and Evil to draw us into a sacred and holy relationship with him.

While the sign of the cross is most unique to us, it invites us to consider the place we have been given in God's household.  More over we are a special possession consecrated to new life in Christ.  So we can make bold and stand against the evils of humanity and strive for what is true, beautiful, and good.  There is that temptation to stand down from doing what is right in order to be nice to others and not offend.  But the sign of the cross proclaims a truth about our relationship with God and others which we have the responsibility of making present.  We go into the world and Lift High the Cross.

Friday, September 13, 2013

St John Chrysostom - "The Golden Mouth"

Some of us have at least heard of or have even seen, Bishop Fulton J. Sheen.  The original T.V. priest, presented a catechetical hour, weekly on national television.  With his 'magic' blackboard he announced the truths of sacred scripture, and the Catholic Church, to a catholic and non-Catholic audience.  He was both dynamic and charismatic.  St John Chrysostom was the 4th century version of Bishop Sheen.  He was known as an articulate and powerful speaker who offered a no-nonsense approach to the scriptures and Christian life.

John's zealous beginnings originated as a monk and hermit.  He was known to be very well educated and pious in prayer and practice.  As a bishop he was rigorous but very popular in spiritual direction and pastoral matters.  One source describes him as being "outspoken and excited" when he preached from the pulpit.  To be sure he seems to have been a natural born teacher.

Like in every age of the Church, there was division and conflict in the Church at the time of St John.  John Chrysostom worked eagerly to bring about a sense of unity in his communities, and the larger Church itself.  Because of the clarity of his teaching, and powerful preaching ability, he was fulfilling that task.  He began to break down many of the barriers between the different communities and draw peoples from the various ethnic and cultural groups together. 

But his love for the people of God, and his work at bringing together the various communities did not go unchallenged.  Some saw his ministry as a threat.  The Empress Eudoxia had him exiled to a remote section of Armenia.  He died there shorty thereafter.

The Word of God has power and effect.  It transforms and changes our lives and can bring about transformation in the world.  Sometimes we take time o articulate what divides us.  But the Paschal Mystery is the profession which unites us to God and the Body of Christ.  The greater insight we gain the more we can see ourselves as members of Christ's life.  Our Mass prayers today offer us the grace to be zealous and faithful to the Mystery of Faith which we celebrate and the love that we bear.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Come, Follow Me

If Jesus had a Facebook, I suspect that he would have thousands upon thousands of "Like," and even more Facebook friends.  Most of us I think would want to follow him - on Facebook at least. The challenge of course is to fully love and serve him in this life.  Our restlessness can cause us to be distracted from the daily opportunities to demonstrate our faith.  The examples given in the Gospel today invite us to plan and orientate our lives in such a way whereas to draw close to the Kingdom of God.

We really have to be able to discern the Spirit as well as to be open to the Spirits movement in our life.  The Scriptures tend to tease us into waiting for angelic visits or burning bushes, before we make a clear decision for God.  I love Thomas Merton's prose in which he freely admits that after a life-changing conversion, and a life as a Cistercian Monk, he still is uncertain of God's call for him in life.  But he firmly believes that it is the desire to do good, and to do the Father's will that draws him close to the Kingdom of God. 

To be sure the Gospels invite us to understand that Jesus does not want men and women as "friends," but as devoted followers who seek the truth, and pour their lives out as faithful witnesses to all that we have seen and heard.  Today is also the Feast of the Birth of Mary.  Here is a woman whose life is surrounded by poverty, oppression, and strife, yet still believes in God's love and faithfulness.  So much so that she allows herself to become part of the story of salvation.  Being a faithful disciple means taking up part of the mission, even when we do not know the ending.  It is a commitment based in trust and faith.  And when people see our faithfulness they may change their own lives and give glory to God.

I have always love Annie Dillard's prose in which she challenges Christians to believe what they are doing.  She chides us when suggesting we be wearing helmets and life-jackets when invoking the name of the almighty.  Especially today we have to be prophetic in our belief and by our way of life.  At St. Mary's Grade School I was accused of being "too catholic."  We have to take that chance and become 'too faithful' in all things.

As a faith community we bring our crosses with us wherever we go.  As with the Beatitudes we are always becoming meek, humble, righteous, peaceful, and even persecuted for the sake of the Kingdom of God.  More than friends we are his disciples who are all too happy to declare the cross and to profess our faith.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

A Day of Prayer and Fasting

Pope Francis has asked the world community to join him in a day of prayer and fasting today.  The United States wrestles with a military response against Syria, for atrocities committed there.  In this area of the world war and violence seem to be a normal part of daily life.  One again Pope Francis, like so many voices before him has implored the interested parties to discover peaceful and healing solutions to their problems and disagreements.

In a statement issued earlier in the week, The Holy Father reminds us that "peace is a precious gift, which must be promoted and protected" and that "all men and women of good will are bound by the task of pursuing peace."   To be sure the sacred scriptures implore people of faith to become peacemakers, using their gifts and talents to advance humanity, extending mercy and reconciliation.  The celebration of the Incarnation has strong themes of peace and salvation.  The Prince of Peace comes into our lives that we might understand the sacredness of humanity and move away from violence and destruction.

In the olden days there were occasionally posters plastered about which stated, "If you want peace, work for justice."  Prophetic men and women have shown us that poverty, violence, neglect, abuse, and oppression, only lead to more and more horrific acts in our world.  In this the "culture of death," when we become used to the terrible disregard of human life and dignity, we begin to allow it in all sorts of forms.

So today we are asked to be fasting and to engage in prayer.  That might means the rosary, praying the psalter, adoration of the Eucharist, or meditation on the Sacred Scripture.  This can be done in the privacy of our room, or in the Church.  It is important that we engage as a community in these actions, as a Body of Christ, that we might move hearts set on war and destruction, into the ways of peace.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

And the fever left her

The other day I had gone to the hospital to visit a woman who a heart attack hat morning.  One of the daughters was there, and was very anxious concerning her mother.  She decided to call her sister and have her come to the hospital too.  Listening to the conversation I heard the first woman implore her sister to come to the hospital, "Father is here to give mom 'the last rite.'"  Then for the next several minutes she tried to calm her sister who now believed that death was imminent. 

Despite our best catechesis we still use terminology that does not exist.  We have no problem using words like, 'car.' 'cell phone,' 'laptop,' but we still reach into the far away history to describe a rite which the Church has seen as part of it's healing ministry.   The introduction to the sacrament says it best as it instruct us from St. James, "Are there sick among you, send for the priests of the Church..."  More so as Jesus sends his disciples out on mission, healing the sick is one of the basic instructions that they are given.

Sadly we have relegated this Sacrament to the end of ones life.  In today's Gospel, after a day of teaching, preaching, and sanctifying, Jesus and the Apostles are going to Peter's house.  We are told that Peter points out the fact that his mother-in-law has been sick.  There is a great amount of trust and openness that is shown here.  But this is what communities of faith do.  With faith and confidence in Jesus Christ they bring to him the sick, suffering, anxious, and afraid.  They believe that Jesus can and does bring healing to people/

The early Church also understood this remarkable care that Jesus left for the Church.  The Church continued to pray with, anoint, and pray over the sick and elderly.  The revised ritual insists that this is not an 'end of life' ritual but an action that can be repeated throughout an infirmity. 

The sacraments continue to be signs of God's love for us through Jesus Christ.  God does not desire sickness and brokenness to drive us o despair, so it is through these rituals we are brought healing through the ongoing saving action of Jesus.  Remember though:  there is no such thing as 'Last Rites.'

Monday, September 2, 2013

The Lord Has Anointed Me

Some time ago I had read a book by James Hunter, entitled Servant, in which he details his own experience of a life transformation.  As the president of a small company, husband, father, and active in his community, he had realized that his life had stalled.  His relationships were not getting better, but were falling apart all around him.  He attended a retreat held at a monastery, though not catholic in nature, for peoples in business and leadership positions.  The theme of the retreat was about Servant Leadership. 

This new concept, authority based in loving others (not the 'kissy-face' kind of love) caring for others, actively listening, nurturing others, and seeing others as a gift and gifted, radically changed his mind-set and relationships.  Eventually this new model of relating, brought new life and energy into many of the relationships that were dying.  To be sure this was not an overnight miracle, but it offered a radical paradigm through which  to operate.

In today's Gospel Lk 4:16-30, Jesus begins his ministry by offering a 'Mission Statement' which will be reflected in his life and teachings.  Jesus will become for us the suffering servant.  Now we have to offer that being a Servant does not equate to being a door-mat.  Jesus' ministry of healing, forgiving, gathering peoples into a community, challenging people to oppose oppression and injustice, sought to bring about conversation and a transformation of heart. 

Likewise in the Church, it is not McDonalds, but a faith-filled community, which seeks to imitate the Body of Christ in the world today.  So when we are anointed at Baptism and Confirmation it is so to follow in the footsteps of other faith-filled believers in being servants in the world today,  Our service hopefully enlightens and guides a culture to seek holiness, and to find healing and peace.  The Gospels, and sacred scripture, the sacraments, the teachings of the Church, become our inspiration, as well as the tools we use, to demonstrate the Kingdom, and share Jesus' life as Servant.