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July 26, 2010

July 27th Holy Spirit Novena
Scripture selection is Day 4 Period II.

The Novena Rosary Mysteries  
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Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time 

January 28, 2007

INTRODUCTION- Matthew, Mark and Luke begin to tell us about Jesus’ public ministry with the baptism of John the Baptist. They tell us nothing about what happened during those thirty years between his birth and his baptism except for the one instance when Jesus’ parents lost him in the Temple at the age of twelve. I suspect Jesus lived a fairly ordinary life, working in the trade of his foster father, Joseph, as was the custom in those days. After Jesus baptism and his 40 days of trial and testing in the desert, they all move on to tell us about Jesus’ public ministry in slightly different ways. St. Luke describes how Jesus began his public ministry with a visit to his hometown, Nazareth. In several places in his gospel, Luke tells us Jesus and his parents were devout Jews and faithfully followed God’ laws. We would expect no less. Luke tells us it was Jesus’ custom to go to the synagogue every Sabbath. He was invited to give a reading from the Scriptures and he chose Isaiah. Then he began to comment on what he read and his comments were well received. We heard all of this in last Sunday’s gospel. Today the story continues. We don’t know specifically what happened, but what began as a good experience turned out very badly. His former friends and neighbors were basically asking, “Who does he think he is? Where did he get the authority to teach us?” Within a short time they attempted to throw him off a cliff. We don’t know how he escaped their murderous intentions, but he did. Our first reading, as usual, prepares us for the gospel. Jeremiah the prophet heard God’s call to preach God’s word, a calling that would lead to suffering and rejection.

HOMILY- Calvin Coolidge, who was a man of few words, came home from church one day and his wife asked him what the preacher talked about. He said “Sin.” She asked, “What did he say about it?” He said “He was against it!” If someone asks you what the preacher talked about today you can say “Just ordinary stuff!” “Ordinary” is the keyword of my remarks today. I think one of the reasons Jesus got into trouble in Nazareth was because he was so ordinary. His friends and neighbors could not conceive that he was any better than they were. St. Luke glosses over the conflict between Jesus and his neighbors with the one question he tells us they asked: “Isn’t this the son of Joseph?” But if you read St. Mark’s account of Jesus visit to Nazareth, Mark is very blunt. He tells us the people were asking “Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given him? Isn’t this the carpenter, the son of Mary…?” In that culture boys were identified by their father. Calling Jesus the son of Mary is an allusion to Joseph not being Jesus’ natural father and would have been an insult both to Mary and Jesus. Their rejection of Jesus and their desire to kill him foreshadow the future of Jesus.

In today’s second reading we heard one of the best known and best loved passages in Scripture: St. Paul’s description of love. What is so beautiful about this passage is that it doesn’t deal with those thrilling moments when all of our being is charged with excitement and joy. It deals with the ordinary, everyday kind of love that ordinary living requires. Paul describes this kind of love by telling us what love is not rather than what it is. It is not jealous, pompous, rude or selfish, it is not short-tempered nor does it hold grudges. It is patient and kind and trusting and willing to put up with all kinds of little annoyances. This is not about falling in love – a period of infatuation that may or may not lead to real love. Paul is talking about our ordinary day-to-day contact with other people, some of whom we may not like a whole lot, but whom we learn how to be kind to nevertheless. Practicing this ordinary kind of love doesn’t always sweep us off our feet, but it does bring a kind of joy, because our vocation and our fulfillment in life is to learn how to love one another.

On this fourth Sunday of Ordinary time we hear about ordinary things. But in the ordinary is the extraordinary if we know how to find it. As the poet George Eliot said: “If we had a keen vision of all that is ordinary in human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow or the squirrel’s heartbeat, and we should die of that roar which is the other side of silence.” It is through ordinary things that God touches our lives most of the time, through prayer and music, through the same Scriptures we’ve heard again and again, through bread and wine, and through the weekly Eucharist. We are perhaps surrounded by the same ordinary people we’ve seen week after week for years. Through our being together in prayer we become one body in Christ, and in Christ we love and worship our heavenly Father. Sometimes it feels pretty ordinary, but for those who can see more deeply, the mystery we celebrate is awesome.

 

Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time

February 4, 2007

INTRODUCTION: Our first reading is one of my favorites. It is from the prophet Isaiah who lived about 725 years before Christ. He describes his call from God to be a prophet. The setting is in Jerusalem in the Temple. Notice he is unable to describe what God looked like. He describes God's royal robe, the angels, the sounds and the profound sense of God's holiness. In this experience he becomes aware of his own unworthiness. You will recognize in this passage the inspiration for two familiar hymns: the Holy, Holy which we say or sing at every Mass and the hymn, Here I Am, Lord.

In the other two readings we hear how two other people experienced God in Jesus Christ: Paul in his vision of the Risen Christ and Peter in the miraculous catch of fish.

HOMILY: If we were walking along the street and found a wallet full of money we probably wouldn’t say “What luck that all the molecules in the atmosphere just happened to come together right now to produce this money for me to find!” We might like to say that so that we wouldn’t have to worry about who might have lost it. But, in spite of the fact that it may have been lucky that we found it, we know that nature doesn’t just produce piles of money for people to find. Yet people can look at the planets and stars, the various forms of life on this earth, and many other marvels in this universe that we are still discovering and say “What luck that the molecules floating around this universe somehow came together by accident and produced all of this. Just don’t ask where the molecules came from.

Most people prefer to say there was a power greater than we can imagine at work here, a power we call the Creator, the Supreme Being, or simply God. But can we know something more about God than that God is someone greater than we are? That is an important question because some day we hope to be spending a lot of time with God and even in our present everyday lives God can be a source of power and wisdom for us. So that is a very relevant question, how can we get to know God better? What we can figure out on our own is so very limited. It’s personal experience that helps us to know more. Many people have claimed to have had personal experiences of God. I’m sure that most of the people here in church have had moments when God's presence became very real to them. Unfortunately those moments are infrequent and usually rather brief.

We see in today’s readings that God chose certain individuals who have had special experiences of God and to whom God gave a special mission to teach others about him. Isaiah experienced God in the Temple, most probably while in prayer. After the experience God asked, “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” Isaiah answered, “Here I am, send me!” Paul was on his way to arrest people who believed in Jesus when Jesus appeared to him. Through this experience he came to know Jesus as Lord and he experienced that God had chosen him to preach to the nations. Then we heard about Peter who experienced God in Jesus through a miraculous catch of fish. After Jesus gave Peter a catch of fish that astounded even him, the professional fisherman, Jesus said, “From now on you will be catching people.”

Our insert in today’s bulletin tells us about the Church and how it grew. I like the way the author of the article describes this growth. He said it wasn’t gradual, but it was an explosion, revealing the power of the Spirit at work in the apostles and in the early Church. It was not only Isaiah, Paul and Peter who taught us about God but most of all it was Jesus Christ. And saints and scholars have continued to reveal God to us.

There is a tendency among many Christians to take what they like from the gospels and ignore the rest. If we are to know God, we have to listen also to those elements of God's self- revelation that are not so easy to hear. Following only the parts of the gospel we like will not lead us to God any more than reading only the books you enjoy will get you through college or playing a sport without the discipline of practice or hard work will make you an athlete. The journey to God is often easy and pleasant, but sometimes God takes us through dark valleys, steep hills and rugged terrain. But even in hard times he is always there to help us.

Common sense may convince an open minded person that there is a God, but we have to look further to get to know God better. Our own personal experiences can help us, but they are limited too. We have heard today about three spiritual giants who can teach us a lot more. Through meditation and reflection on the teachings and the testimony of prophets, apostles and saints and especially through the revelation of Jesus Christ we can come to know the God of the universe more personally and more fully. Today we gather in faith and prayer, thanking God for what we have come to know through the experiences and testimony of others, and asking him to enrich the faith and knowledge we have. Amen.
 

 

Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time

February 11, 2007

INTRODUCTION – (Jer 17:5-8; 1 Cor 15:12, 16-20; Luke 6:17, 20-26) Life is full of options for people in the world today, but the Bible tells us that all our options ultimately will be reduced to two. We either make God the center of our lives or we don’t. Choosing to make God the center of our lives will lead to true happiness, making any other choice may satisfy us temporarily, but it will in the end leave us disappointed and unhappy. This was crystal clear to Jeremiah the prophet who lived at the time of the Babylonian exile. His way of
expressing this truth is crystal clear too.

HOMILY – We are more familiar with St. Matthew’s beatitudes. They tend to be more spiritualized than St. Luke’s version which we just heard. St. Luke’s version is a little more puzzling and perhaps unsettling. The Greek word which is translated here as blessed also means happy. Jesus is saying some of the most unlikely people are happy while the ones you would suppose should be happy are in deep trouble. He is saying happy are you who are poor, you who are hungry, you who are weeping, happy are you when people hate you. He goes on to say it’s bad news for those who are rich, the well fed, those who are laughing and having fun and those who are well
liked. They face great sorrow and disaster. Pretty strong, isn’t it!

    Certainly our Lord is not advocating that poverty, hunger, grieving and being rejected by our friends and neighbors is virtuous. As a matter of fact Jesus encouraged people to care for the poor, even to the point of promising eternal reward to those who feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, visit the sick, etc. And he even invited some people to give everything they had to the poor. He also had some friends who had to have been fairly financially well off. He is simply warning us with forceful language, we better not build our happiness on partying, being well off and well liked. Life goes deeper than that and so does our happiness. Like a tree that sinks its roots deep into the earth to receive water and nourishment, we have to have our lives rooted in God, which means obeying the Commandments, taking time for prayer and having an active love for others.

    This past Friday I was driving down the expressway from Dayton and as the wind gusts kept pushing my car into the left lane, I had to keep turning the steering wheel to the right just so I could keep going straight ahead. That’s what I think our Lord is doing here in St. Luke as he preaches to the people of his day. Like a strong wind, the values of this world keep pushing us to invest fully in the pleasures of this life. Our Lord is trying to pull us back so our lives do not end up in great sorrow and disaster. We face many options in our lives, but in the end only one will really count, whether we have made Christ and his law of love for God and for each other the central value in our life. If we haven’t, we will be sorry and it will be too late.

    Anthony De Mello in one of his many inspiring books gives us a parable of life to ponder. There were a group of tourists riding in their tour bus. The shades on the windows were pulled down and they were busy arguing about what to watch on TV, who had the cutest outfit, who got to sit where and with whom, where they were going to eat lunch and they were totally unaware that they were passing through beautiful countryside: lakes, mountains, green fields and rivers. Some people go through life and miss the best parts. The human race started out on the wrong foot, looking for happiness in the wrong place and we still do. The God who created us and who knows us best of all is trying to tell us where we will find it.

    This week we commemorate, as we do every year, four chaplains who were on a ship that got torpedoed in the Second World War. As the ship was going down, they helped to hand out life jackets to the men on the ship. When they came to the end of their supply, each of them took off their own life jacket and gave it away. They went down with the ship praying together and encouraging each other. They are a beautiful example of Jesus’ words, “greater love than this no one has, than that he lay down his life for his friends.” (Jn 15, 13). They are also a powerful example of hope in the resurrection and the next life which St. Paul tells us about today.

    When we’re young this life seems very long, but the longer we live the more aware we become of how short it is. There’s another life beyond this one. God wants us to be with him, so he can share his happiness with us. But we have to follow the way he’s shown us. Jesus would not have bothered to come to us, to teach us, and to die for us if it didn’t matter how we live our life. Too many people in society today adopted a credit card mentality in their spiritual life. You know the credit card mentality: buy now and pay later. About their spiritual life they say “I’m not going to worry about it until payoff time.” I can say that for a variety of reasons that usually doesn’t work. If we don’t live our faith now, it may not be there to help us at the end of life.

 

 

 

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