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.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

The Heavenly Jerusalem - 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time

The Heavenly Jerusalem - 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time

Invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind

Last week there was a luncheon for seniors at an affluent parish.  Many people came to attend, very nice people most of whom are now retired from distinguished careers in law, medicine, and business.  Their gathering was a jovial one:  good food, good conversation, and some lively bingo games with nice prizes awarded to winners.  

One other person was invited to the luncheon.  Jeremy is a large African American man who suffers from a permanent disability.  He found himself homeless recently and was found on the corner crying about his plight.  Jeremy was invited and welcomed to the luncheon, sitting with all the others enjoying the food, fellowship, and friendship.  After the luncheon Jeremy was given a ride to an agency who will help him find housing. 

This simple event captured in the concrete and practical the lesson of today's readings:  our judgment has to do with how we treat the least among us and in nothing else.  And in serving the least among us, we provide a foreshadowing of the heavenly banquet table in the heavenly Jerusalem - the reign of God.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Counting Chickens - 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time

Counting Chickens - 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time

Lord, will only a few be saved?

Today's Gospel is filled with points we often overlook in the reading.  The text begins with this question above, and the first thing to notice is that Jesus does not directly answer the question in either the affirmative or negative.  Instead, he offers parables that redirect the question to a consideration of our own status before God.  Perhaps Jesus realized then, as now, that the motivation behind the question was not salutary.

The second point to note is that the Church connects this Gospel text to the first reading from Isaiah where people of all nations are coming to Jerusalem finding salvation, a point that Jesus too makes in the Gospel text.  In our own time we need to be reminded of the point of these passages:  that God is generous with his salvation, and it is not restricted to our exclusive clubs and our preconceived ideas as to who gets in and who gets shut out.

We have only one conscience God has given for us to examine, and very often we don't accomplish that feat very well.  In the Ignatian examen done rightly, God reveals to us the horrid state of our souls, but also reminding us that we are his children whom he calls to himself.  Each one of us is in that state, which is the point of today's readings, and the way forward for us all toward the reign of God.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Mary's Assumption, Our Assumptions

Mary’s Assumption, Our Assumptions

God’s temple in heaven was opened,
and the ark of his covenant could be seen in the temple.

The presence of God among the Jewish people wandering in the desert was the Ark of the Covenant.  What suggested God’s presence was not the box itself but what was in the box:  the tablets of God’s commandments, the heavenly manna, and Aaron’s staff.  These represented God’s great presence to them while in the desert:  God’s law, God’s feeding his people, God’s deliverance of his people from Egypt at the Red Sea.

Mary, the Mother of Jesus, has been given the title Ark of the Covenant by the author of the Book of Revelation and early church fathers.  Mary suggest God’s presence to us not in herself but in what was within her – Jesus, the Son of God.  Jesus, like the contents of the previous Ark, represents God’s great presence to us in our journey through the desert of the world:  God’s law of love, God feeding us with the body and blood of Christ, and our deliverance by God from evil at the font of baptism.

The original Ark of the Covenant was lost forever in the history of Israel, not that God’s presence had left Israel but that God’s presence was found in the hearts of His people.  Mary, the new Ark of the Covenant, has been brought up to heaven by God, for the presence of Jesus is with us sacramentally and in the hearts of his disciples down through the ages in the Church. 

As disciples of the Lord Jesus, we too can be a certain Ark of the Covenant.  If we carry within us the presence of Jesus in our hearts and make that presence known to others by the lives we live, then we are an Ark manifesting God’s presence – the law of love, the sacramental presence of Christ, and deliverance from sin.  And we too hope to be one day body and soul with Mary and all the saints in the reign of God.