9 October 2017 Monday Twenty Seventh Week Ordinary Time Year 1 Homily

9 October 2017 Monday Twenty Seventh Week Ordinary Time Year 1 Homily

Jonah 1:1-2: 2:1-2,11

Psalm Jonah 2:,,4,5,6

Luke 10:25-37

Jonah is known as the “reluctant prophet”.

Jonah hated the Ninevites.

Jonah hopped on a ship to flee the Lord’s insistence that he preach repentance to the Ninevites. The furthest place he could go to was Tarshish. It was a Phoenician city in Southwestern Spain and signified and really was for Jonah and people of his time and place “the end of the world” as they knew it.

Jonah is thrown off the ship as a storm comes up and the sailors divine that Jonah is the reason they are in danger.

A large fish swallows Jonah who is brought to, you might guess, his least desirable destination: Nineveh.

Many of the saints fled from the Lord’s will but Lord in time brings them to accept and embrace the Lord’s plan rather than their own carefully thought life project.

 

Jesús challenges a scholar of the law who tests him. Jesus uses a kind of parable, in riddle form.  The scholar must figure out the answer to one question.

A man fell among robbers and is lead ‘half dead”.

A priest passed him by. To touch an open wound make the priest impure and unable to participate in religious rituals.

A Levite passed him by on the opposite side for the same reason.

A Samaritan, embraced and cared for the wounded person.

The scholar is taught a lesson by the “country preacher” Jesús the Nazarene.

Can we accept this teaching?

Who is your neighbor?

Who is my neighbor?

Can we see the poor, wounded, the refugee, the immigrant and vulnerable person as our or my “neighbor”?

Can we learn from the “self justifying” scholar and the “itinerant preacher” from the country?

Does our salvation depend on living the answer to this one question?

“Who is my neighbor?”

 

 

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7 and 8 October 2017 Twenty Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time A Homily

7 and 8  October 2017  Twenty Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time A Homily

 

Isaiah 5:1-7

Psalm 80

Philippians 4:6-9

Matthew 21:33-42

 

My sisters and brothers in Christ.

 

The scriptures today again address the issue of our appreciation of the gift of salvation.

Matthew’s Gospel again uses the image of a vineyard.

It is important to recall who Jesus is addressing.

If anyone is “assured” salvation or any group or groups think they have a “lock” on entrance into the kingdom it is very likely precisely the groups that Jesús addresses today.

“The chief priests and elders” are the people addresses. These are the religious leaders of the day. Jesús wants them to understand, in the tradition of the prophets, like Isaiah, that the gift of salvation is not a right, or deserved and not something we “earn”.

Isaiah in the first reading “sings” his message about his friend who, worked so that his  vineyard would produce “choicest wines”.  

Despite his friend’s hard work “choice” vines the vineyard produced “wild” that is bitter grapes.  The “vineyard” Isaiah tells us is “the house of Israel”.

The “cherished plants”  the “friend”  planted  produced not justice but bloodshed. Instead of justice  an “outcry” was produced!

The Gospel today is eerily appropriate.

 

Last Sunday night before I went to bed I heard there was a shooting in Las Vegas.  I heard one person was dead and that there were some wounded.

 

Monday morning I learned many more had died and there were many wounded.  My shock as the numbers grew and prayed for the victims. I included the victims of the shooting. I included their families, the first responders. Eventually, I included the perpetrator because he surely was a victim of some kind of sickness.

We discovered once more as a nation what one sick person can do.

Given the time, money and will, one person  massacred and wounded  many people in a relatively short time.

I would like to share with you one of my occasional religious practices. I have on my electronic calendar a repeat  entry that is quite simple it reads “Mosque”.

There is a story here. Several months ago I was invited to go to the local Oklahoma City Islamic Center.  The invitation was to participate in a project benefitting  homeless women and children in Oklahoma City.

The center is next to the Mosque.

While I was there I met an Imam (a muslim prayer leader). We visited and he invited me to come on Fridays for their twenty minute “teaching”.  I have gone two times before and decided that this Friday (yesterday) was a good time to go.  

I expected there would be some mention of the shooting but did not expect two main points of the “teaching” which we would describe as “the preaching”.

First:

The Imam who lead the prayers spoke about the prophet (I assume Mohammed) in his early teaching counselled non violence.  The prophet taught  that oppressed people and “banned” people had a special place before God and could always rely on God for protection, comfort and solace.

Second:

The second thing he said was very fascinating, moving and news to me.

The Imam said every Muslim in America has an automatic reaction to news of a shooting or especially a mass shooting anywhere in the world.

The reaction is deep and continuous and emotional. It is this: “We pray that the person who did this horrible action is not a Muslim. We are relieved if we hear, as we did Monday that the person was not a Muslim.”

I had no idea of the fear our Muslim brothers and sisters live in each day here in Oklahoma City.

 

The Gospel parallels last Sunday’s events in that it is a story of sickness, selfishness, greed and injustice, which left unchecked, escalates into the violent death of the son of the owner of the vineyard.

Jesús plainly makes the case to the chief priests and elders that:

“The kingdom of God will be taken from you

And given to a people that will produce its fruit.”

 

What this Gospel conveys to us is that our confidence that we are “just”,

“fair”, “pious”, “good” does not make it so.

 

We may be delusional about how  accurate our “image” of ourselves really is.

Father Thomas Merton, a Trappist monk, taught and spoke about the “false self”.  

Our “false self” is the “persona” or “person” we would like others to think we are. We might suspect, when we are honest,  that we are putting on a good imitation of the “ideal” me. In our heart of hearts we may know what we present is not always what is truly who and how we are.

Thomas Merton, invited others to discover their “true self” through prayer and contemplation.

The chief priests and elders at the time of Jesús  externally “acted” the part of just and pious agents of God but inwardly they were false, deceitful and took advantage of the people they were charged with serving by leading them.

Saint Paul gives us some insight today about what the “true self” is like once we have been “taken” into the Kingdom of God.  

In other words once we “empty ourselves” of selfishness, self seeking, self importance  we can be possessed by and possess the Kingdom of God.

Paul tells us when we empty ourselves  “the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesús”.

I would like to conclude with the words Paul concluded with today:

“Keep on doing what you have learned and received…..

then the God of peace will be with you.”

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4 October 2017 Wednesday Twenty Sixth Week Ordinary Time Year 1 Homily

4 October 2017 Wednesday Twenty Sixth Week Ordinary Time Year 1 Homily

 

Nehemiah 2:1-8

Psalm 137

Luke 9:57-62

 

Nehemiah goes to the KIng and is given permission to go to Judah.

 

Nehemiah wishes to restore the city since his ancestors are buried in the ruins of Jerusalem.

 

The King gives Nehemiah permission and he goes after the reconstruction project  with great eagerness.

 

“The journey” in Luke’s Gospel is focused on Jerusalem.  The city and Temple had been restored since the time of Nehemiah.

 

Going on the journey means following after Jesús.

 

One  person ask Jesús if he can follow him.

Jesús is clear about the journey’s rigorous aspects.

“…the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”

 

Jesús say “follow me” to one person and the person answers: “Let me go first and bury my father.”  Jesús reiterates the primacy of the journey. The Kingdom cannot wait.

 

Another person wants to say farewell to the family at home. Jesus declares we cannot be looking back if we wish to do the work of the Kingdom.

 

Francis Rother and Francis of Assisi and Francis of Rome did and do not look  back.

Their concerns were and are living and proclaiming the Kingdom.

 

Are we able to join them?

 

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27 September 2017 Wednesday of the Twenty Fifth Week Ordinary Time Year 1 Homily

27 September 2017 Wednesday of the Twenty Fifth Week Ordinary Time Year 1 Homily

 

Ezra 9:5-9

Psalm Tobit 13:2-3,4.7-8

Luke 9:1-6

 

The “remnant” theme is one that reminds the people that God’s mercy comes to his people even in times of exile and sinfulness.  

God even “turned the good will of the Persians” toward God’s people.

With the help of the Persian kings the temple is restored and God’s protection is given to Judah and Jerusalem.

 

Jesús sends the disciples to proclaim the Kingdom of God.

Jesús wants the disciples to go without “baggage”.

The mission must be undertaken with trust only in the Lord.

Rejection is to be recognized and the disciples are to move on to another town.

The disciples have two tasks:

They proclaim the good news and

Cure diseases everywhere.

We share in this work of proclaiming the coming of the Kingdom and

the healing of diseases.

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20 September 2017 Wednesday Twenty Fourth Week Ordinary Time Year 1 Homily

20 September 2017 Wednesday Twenty Fourth Week Ordinary Time Year 1 Homily

 

First Timothy 3:14-16

Psalm 111

Luke 7:31-35

 

Paul wishes to reassure Timothy, even if he is delayed in visiting him, that the centrality of Christian conduct in the church of Ephesus is necessary.

This “living in Christ” is the only way to demonstrate the importance of Christ in the life of a person who follows Christ.

It appears that Paul borrows an early Christian hymn when he speaks of Christ reflecting the flesh- spirit contrast, the being seen- proclaimed, the contrast of the world- glory of the resurrection.

 

Jesús encounters various responses to his asceticism compared to that of John the Baptizer.

John was an ascetic who was responded to by being accused of being possessed.
Jesús’ less strict asceticism opens him to the accusation of being a “glutton and drunkard”.

Jesús knows both he and John follow the wisdom of God. John’s asceticism prepares for  Jesús who is the One who is to come, the One who fulfills the law and the prophets.

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19 September 2017 Tuesday of the Twenty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time Year 1 Homily

19 September 2017 Tuesday of the Twenty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time Year 1 Homily

 

First Timothy 3:1-13

Psalm 101

Luke 7:11-17

 

The qualifications of the Bishop and Deacon have to do with leadership and responsibility as well as living the Christian life for a period of time.

 

The reference to “women” in the context of the duties of the deacon may imply that women served in certain ecclesiastical offices that were like or shared with the deacons in the community.  

 

Paul does not mention priests in this description of the desirable qualities of ecclesiastical ministers.

 

The more Jesús travels the more his concern for the poor and bereaved is revealed.

 

A man who died is being carried out of the city.  The man is “the “only son of his mother”.  This is a catastrophic loss economically speaking since “the only son” is responsible for the care of his mother.

 

Jesús tells the young mn: “Young man, I tell you, arise!”

The man sat up and spoke.

 

The people respond with an affirmation that

“A great prophet has arisen in our midst,”

And ”God has visited his people.”

 

These are signs of the coming of the Kingdom and Jesús’ actions are reported throughout the region.

God visits his people when we gather for Eucharist and when the prophetic message is announced.

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18 September 2017 Monday of the Twenty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time Year 1 Homily

18 September 2017 Monday of the Twenty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time Year 1 Homily

First Timothy 2:1-8

Psalm 28

Luke 7:1-10

 

There appeared to be some reluctance in Ephesus to pray for non Christians. This may explain the insistence on prayers for those in authority who most likely were not followers of the “Way of Christ”.

Timothy’s mission to the Gentiles may also explain his insistence on prayers for everyone.

The ultimate reason for prayers for everyone is that God wills everyone to be saved and Christ is the “one mediator between God and the human race”.

This might give us pause when we find reasons to not forgive or not pray for another person or group.

 

The inclusive nature of Luke’s Gospel is underlined by the story of the Roman centurion who respected and generously supported the Judean religion.

The lack of “worthiness” of the Centurion may have had to do with his sensitivity to the Jewish prohibition on “entering the house of a gentile”.

Jesús mission, much to his own and the disciples surprise is not just to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

Jesús, despite the Jewish teachings that exclude foreigners, finds himself offering the healing Reign of God to various men and women who are not “Judeans”.

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19 and 20 August 2017 Twentieth Sunday Ordinary Time A Homily

  19 and 20 August 2017 Twentieth Sunday Ordinary Time A Homily

 

Isaiah 56:1,6-7

Psalm 67

Romans 11:13-15,29-32

Matthew 15:21-28

 

My sisters and brothers in Christ.

Do you ever wonder which of the “Acts of Jesús” really took place historically?

Scripture scholars like to compare the same “incident” from the Gospels to see if there are differences, theological “points” to be made, or possible explanations for discrepancies we find in the Gospels.

For instance the story of “a Canaanite woman” from “Tyre and Sidon” appears in the the Gospels of Mark where the woman is called a “Syro Phoenician”  woman.

The two incidents are essentially two different reports on what happened between Jesus, the disciples and a woman and her daughter

The fact that this encounter is in both Matthew and Marks’ gospels tells us that historically this encounter most likely did occur.  The story’s popularity is attested in two of the four Gospels so it is given more certainty of actually happening than if it appears in only one of the four Gospels.

In a way it would be less work and easier on all of us if there existed only one Gospel.  Discrepancies, events, the chronology of events would be a much simpler for everyone concerned.

However we know that the gift of faith is experienced in different ways by different groups and persons.

 

It just so happens that there are four Gospels in our tradition. There are fragments of other Gospels attributed to other Apostles. But these are fragments and not whole Gospels.  Where they coincide with the Four known Gospels we can recognize them as portions of “lost” Gospels but we do not give them the weight or recognition of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. We call these four Gospels “Canonical Gospels” meaning they are in the official “Canon” of Sacred Books in our church.

When I reflect on today’s Gospel I am amazed that it is even in the Gospels, much less two of them.

Matthew and Mark both present this encounter in a similar but not exactly identical forms.

What amazes me that Jesús is portrayed in this fashion is that there have been plenty of opportunities to substitute say Peter or Thomas as the main character in the story but this incident always has Jesús as the “heavy”.

Jesús in this story will not even look at the woman. What the woman wants is what any and all mothers want for their daughters.  Simply “help me”! “Help me by helping not me but my child.”

Jesús is very clear about why he will not even speak to the woman. “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel”.

In today’s terms she is one of “them”.

She is not one of “us”.

 

The woman persists. She does Jesús homage and addresses him: “Lord, help me”.

Jesús really is irritated and wishes this woman, this foreigner, this “other”  would go away and says:

“It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.”

This woman is tenacious and gives at least as good as she gets:

“Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.”

Jesús says: “O woman, great is your faith!

                    Let it be done for you as you wish.”

 

The woman’s daughter was healed from that hour.

There are a few things to be concluded from this.

 

First, Jesús was the Son of God be he was also the son of Mary and struggled with the messages, rules and customs of his Judean religion, Judean culture and the complicated politics of the Judean Nation.

Second, the truth of Jesús being truly human is demonstrated in this passage.

We recall that Jesús had to struggle as he emptied himself in the Garden of Gethsemane before he died on the Cross.

Jesús is forced, today,  by a foreign woman of all people, to empty himself, free himself  of the limitations his religion, culture and nation had taught him.

Jesús,  like us, at times comes to an insight about his mission that frees him to reach out to “all” not just “some” people.

Third, Jesús and the woman meet at the cultural and geographic boundaries of the their own time and place.

We too must reflect upon the boundaries and limitations of our religion. Our religion, our culture and our nation “give” us as a set of “certain truths and unquestionable values”.

Jesús, like the Judeans of his time, referred to gentiles (non Judeans) as “dogs” or “swine”.

Jesús until his encounter with the “woman” of Canaan could, without even thinking, refer to this troubled woman and her daughter as “dogs”.

My money says he never made that mistake again.

A final comment is in order.

Jesús does not get much good advice from his male companions. In the Gospels these “men” are like overgrown, immature, awkward boys who mostly miss every clue that comes their way.

Certain women do seem to be able to get Jesús’ attention. Jesús listens  to and even changes his plans at the request of is mother Mary at a wedding feast.  

A Canaanite woman with a daughter in need brings Jesús to “see” that his mission, contrary to his “training” , was

to everyone and to all,

not to some and a few.

 

One commentator suggested this story of the foreigner as “dog” might have inspired Jesús to give us the parable of the Good Samaritan.

 

One thing I know is: that the Lord’s inspiration and even sometimes obscure puzzling observations may come from a source Jesús and we least expect.  

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12 and 13 August 2017 Nineteenth Sunday Ordinary Time A Homily

12 and 13 August 2017 Nineteenth Sunday Ordinary Time A Homily

 

First Kings 19:9,11-13

Psalm 119

Romans 8:28-30

Matthew 13:44-52

 

My sisters and brothers in Christ.

Today we are treated to a plethora of “findings” of the divine presence.

Elijah, the prophet, is a man on the run. He has crossed Jezebel, Ahab’s wife. He flees for his life and ends up on Mount Horeb.  Horeb was also called Mount Sinai where Moses had “encountered” the LORD on many occasions.

Elijah is hiding in a cave and  is told by the LORD:

“Go out and stand on the mountain before the LORD; the LORD will pass by.”

There was a great wind and an earthquake…but the Lord was not in the earthquake.

Then there was a fire- but the LORD was not in the fire.

After the fire there was “a light, silent sound”.

 

The wind, storms, earthquakes and fires  may accompany the LORD “passing by”  but the LORD’S presence with Elijah is mysterious like: “a light, silent sound”. (In the Spanish translation: like a soft murmur).

 

Paul finds it ironic, in the Second Reading  that “his own people” his “kindred according to the flesh” have not accepted Christ.

Paul remarks that the Israelites had everything going for them “adoption by the LORD, covenants, the LORD’S glory, the law, the promises. They   even had the Christ born to them in their own flesh. Still they did not accept the divine presence in Jesús who was of the Israelite tribe of  David.

 

The Gospel speaks about the divine presence of the LORD in Jesús. The divine presence is found not in a Temple, or Synagogue or Holy Shrine. The divine presence is found in a storm in a lake. Jesús is recognized “walking over the water” and offered “homage” by a small congregation riding in a boat.

To set the scene from Matthew’s Gospel:

Jesús has just heard of the death of John the Baptizer.

Jesús next went off to pray.

Then Jesús  fed “five thousand men, not counting the women and children”. Jesús does this “feeding” with “five loaves and two fish.”

Jesús then,  puts the disciples in a boat and again Jesús goes off to pray.

I would like to share three vignettes about water,  two near drownings, and a boat ride.

 

Transparency Alert: I could not make up these yarns (as my Irish cousins call them) if I tried.

# 1. I remember, after our family moved from New York to Tulsa, going to a lake since there was no ocean. I remember my oldest brother going into the lake and not coming out. I remember my mother who was very pregnant lying on a rock and reaching down to pull my brother from the lake. My father, who could swim, had jumped into the Lake and “saved” my older  brother. My mother sent us all to the local pool for swimming classes as soon as she could manage that.

#2. Father Mike Hanrahan, who was one of my predecessors here at Saint Patrick’s  asked me to be a Camp Counsellor at a Summer Camp. He did not tell me I would be, at age 16, the head of the Camp when he went to his Parish and Missions on the Weekends.  I as only a year or two older than some of the “campers”.

Early on we took all the campers to go swimming in the lake. One of the kids, ran onto the dock, ran to the end and jumped into the lake.

(You might guess this was not a very well organized project.)

 

The wee lad came back up but realized the water was deeper than he was tall. I jumped in and pulled him out and told him to take his time going into any body of water, including a bath tub. “Get the lay of the land”, one of my mentors still says to me.

#3. Fast forward a decade or two. I am the Chaplain at Mount Saint Mary’s High School and Convent.  The thirty Sisters treat me like their little or younger or favorite brother depending on their age. I owned a boat because water skiing was for me a great source of fun in the sun. The Sisters and I go down to Lake Texoma for a weekend.  We decide, the first afternoon to go for  a ride on the boat.  

Six or seven us pile into the boat. We go out. It is still Spring and the sun goes down early.. It gets very cool and very dark. I do not know how full the fuel tank is. I do not know exactly how to get back to the “inlet” we launched from. This is long before cell phones.

Flashlights were available but we probably did not think to bring any.

God takes care of fools and idiots and we find our way back to where “we put in” and the Cabin and our companions. I was the only one who knew how lost we were. I think there was not much more that a pint or so of gasoline left in the tank.

So, I can identify with Peter.

I believe anyone who has water skied has a clue about what it is like to walk or “skim” over the water.  

Peter was fearless until he realized how really risky and dangerous this “walking over the water” feat is.

Think for a moment when something serious and life changing has happened to you. You can lose your health, your security, the love of your life. You can be tossed about by winds, by earthquakes caused by fracking, by depression, by bad luck, or by greed,

The only good that can come from these storms, struggles, failings, occasions of falling down is when we realize we are “truly” lost.

When we are desperate and without good alternatives we realize our need for others, for the Other, for the LORD.

The Jesús /Disciples Dialogue is fascinating today.

Loss, fear, death lead to the Disciples discovering what and who was there or “present” in plain sight “walking over the water” and “in the boat”.The Disciples: “It is a ghost.”  They cried out in fear.

Jesús: “Take courage, It is I: do not be afraid.”

Peter: “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”

Jesús: “Come.”

Peter: “Lord save me!”

Jesús: “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

The Disciples: “Truly you are the Son of God.”

 

My sisters and brothers,

Let us “Come”.

Let us ask to be “Saved”

Let us believe, “Truly Jesús is the Son of God.”

 

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9 August 2017 Eighteenth Week Ordinary Time Year 1 Homily

9 August 2017 Eighteenth Week Ordinary Time Year 1 Homily

 

Numbers 13:1-2,25-14:1,26-29,34-35

Psalm 106

Matthew 15:21-28

 

The land of Canaan was a new and exciting place. There appeared to be both a land “of milk and honey” as well as a land with people “who are fierce.”

The special number forty appears to catch the Lord’s attention and because of their distrust in the Lord after the reconnoitering of forty days the people will “suffer forty years for their crimes.”

The Lord of the Old Testament could indeed be a harsh and punishing with his people.

Jesús meets a Canaanite woman who asks for healing for her daughter.

Jesús does not respond to her in keeping with the tradition of the elders to not engage with a foreign woman.

Jesús mission is “to the lost sheep of Israel”.

The woman persists.

Jesús calls her, indirectly to a “dog”.

The woman challenges Jesús to give at least “the scraps” of spiritual food and healing he has been given.

The woman has “great faith”.

Today we ask for “great faith” to “see” as Jesús “came to see” the fullness and inclusiveness of the Father’s will for the peoples he created.

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