Saturday, October 15, 2016

Finding Faith

Finding Faith 

But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?

In a generic sense, faith is all around us and is part of our everyday lives.  Who among us knows how to perform brain surgery, fix a car, butcher meat, make clothing, or program a computer?  Even if a person knows how to do one or more of those items, they do not know how to do all things, and so we rely on others to provide these things for us.  We put our faith in others to do all sorts of things we rely on each day, but we are generally unconscious and unaware of the faith all around us.

This generic faith can form the basis of our acceptance of the gift of supernatural faith that God freely gives to each one of us.  Once we become aware of the faith that governs our everyday lives it becomes much easier to accept this free gift of God and so see God in all things in each moment of each day.  This supernatural faith then permeates our every moment and enables us to see that with God all things are possible - unlikely victories are won, overwhelming injustices are overcome, hardened hearts are softened to love beyond all imagining.

The Son of Man will find faith when he comes again.  The question is whether he will find faith within me at that moment, whether I have accepted this free gift of God that is all around me.  If so, then I can hope beyond all hope that this coming will be the final act in this great drama of faith - our entrance into the reign of God.  

Saturday, October 8, 2016

God's Surprises

God's Surprises

But the Word of God is not chained.

For whatever reason it is the tendency of human beings to create exclusive pathways to God, announcing that God can only work in certain people, and that God does not show favor at all to certain other people.  External human differences often account for these man-made exclusivities:  God can't work through that foreigner; God can't work through that sinner.

Foreigners play a prominent role in today's readings:  God heals Namaan the Syrian leper, who sees God at work in his life and dedicates his life to God.  God heals ten lepers, among them a dreaded Samaritan, and it is this one who alone sees God at work in his life and he gives thanks.  The fact that God healed these lepers at all is itself an challenging our prejudices and biases, for leprosy was thought to be contracted because of sin and so the person was cut off from God.

As Paul states in today's second reading:  the word of God is not chained.  We can try to put God in a box of our own making, but in doing so the only person we keep away from God is ourselves.  God is for all, and so we must be as followers of the one true God, for it is the only path to the reign of God.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Profit Motives

Profit Motives 

How long, O Lord?

There is a lament across the land:  our culture is in decline; Christian values are losing sway and replaced by secular values.  The lament is not new - we find it in the first reading today, and we find it throughout history.  We mourn the loss of institutions and laws that once supported Gospel values; we bewail a culture that does not assist the soul in its search for God and authentic values.

Consider this:  when laws and culture were supportive, were people following Gospel values because those values were right and true, or were they doing so out of peer pressure, cultural adaptation, or some other motive of personal self-interest?  The Gospel text highlights the one and only reason for our adherence to Gospel values:  because it is the right thing, it is good in itself.  

So let us rejoice that we live in such times, for we have the ability to to what is right and good for no other reason than the fact that it is right and good.  Let us stop mourning over the illusion of blessed times of yesteryear, or of cultures and laws that were not what we thought they were.  If we are to mourn, let us mourn over the fact that we are not yet in that blessed city, the place of our real citizenship, the ultimate destination of our pilgrimage - the reign of God.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

The Eyes of Faith - 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time

The Eyes of Faith - 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time

...neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.

St. Theresa of Calcutta visited New York once and stayed with the Jesuit community.  A young Jesuit was assigned as her escort, and on his first day he led her by foot through the streets of Manhattan to her first appointment.  Along the way the young Jesuit lost her, and he searched frantically for her, eventually finding her in an alley, kneeling down talking with a homeless man who was living in a cardboard box.

When Mother Theresa resumed walking with the young Jesuit, he asked her:  "Mother, I have walked this street every day for 10 years, and I have never seen that alley, and I have never seen that cardboard box, and I have never seen that man before.  How is it that you saw him and I did not?"  She replied, "That's because I was looking for him, and you were not."

The eyes of faith know the road to salvation:  care for the least ones.  This is the sole criteria of the judgment of the nations in Matthew 25, and it is the criteria Jesus uses in the Gospel story with the rich man who failed to care for Lazarus.  The eyes of faith will find the least ones and care for them, for this is our only sure path to the reign of God.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Stewardship - 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Stewardship - 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time

No servant can serve two masters.

Today's Gospel is confusing.  Jesus is praising the wicked steward for being shrewd and resourceful in avoiding utter shame and derision for his poor management of the estate.  Why?  And then he encourages us to make friends with dishonest wealth, something that sadly we need no encouragement in doing.  What gives?

First, the steward:  in seeking to find himself a place to live after expulsion from his position, he goes about lessening the debt of others, forgiving what is owed.  All of us are in the position of the steward - we deserve expulsion from the estate for our failures.  But if we forgive others for their sins against us, then we are on the road to redemption, and as children of light we ought to act thus.  

As for our friendship with dishonest wealth, know that it is a false friendship that will betray us.  When we come to that realization, we will know where true wealth lies - in the care of others, in serving the least ones, in forgetting self and living for others.  For that is the currency that is our admittance into the reign of God.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Going My Way? - 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Going My Way? - 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time

I shall return to my father's house.

Most people do not choose to leave the place from which they come.  Refugees leave their country of origin to escape the horrors of war or political reprisal.  Immigrants leave grinding poverty to seek a better life for themselves and their children.  Even we Americans move from one part of the country to another to escape a bad situation in search of a better one.  

The Prodigal Son, however, is seeking to return home.  He realizes how good it had been, much in contrast to his present situation.  So he begins the journey back to his father's house, a journey all of us are on, whether we are conscious of it or not.  We realize the blessed state of Eden we have lost, and we search for it, often in many dead ends and false paths.

Like the Prodigal Son, we ourselves do not find the way back.  We are found and rescued by our father who searches for us in the highways and byways of this world.  The way is not our own, but God's.  The house is not our own, but God's.  And the Father, through His Son and our brother, the Lord Jesus, leads us along the way to the Father's house in the reign of God.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Strategic Planning - 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Strategic Planning – 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

In the same way, anyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.

Business leaders – for profit and not for profit – live by strategic plans.  They create models, SWOT analyses, and forecasts designed to make their work successful.  Teachers and schools do likewise:  they plan out lessons and map curriculum with great detail in order for the students to be successful at learning. 

Jesus points to similar planning in the Gospel today and challenges us to similar planning in our spiritual lives.  But there is no SWOT analysis, no forecasts, models, lesson plans, or mapping.  There is but one step:  renounce all of our possessions.  Pretty simple, and yet what a challenge it is, for we are attached to so many things that keep us from discipleship:  material possessions, our own ideas and plans.

But all of it has to be set aside and let go.  The road to discipleship is long, and carrying too much baggage will only slow us down or prevent us from completing the journey.  All that we need awaits us at our final destination, the goal of the journey – the reign of God.