Sunday, July 16, 2017

Parable of the Sower (2017-07-16, 15th Sunday)

SUNDAY 16 July 2017, 15th  Sunday Ordinary Time
 • Isaiah 55:10-11 • Psalm 65 • Romans 8:18-23 •  + Matthew 13:1-23 •


Title:  “Parable of the Sower. Daring. Discouragement. Demand”


[__01__]   What we read in the Gospel this Sunday is the parable of the sower.  This is a setting of agriculture, of farming, of the soil and the earth, of planting and growing wheat or grain.
          The sower went out to sow.
          And, the parable of the sower is one we might consider in the  3 ways, in a parable of …
[►  1st  DARING]
[►  2nd DISCOURAGEMENT]
[►  3rd DEMAND ]

          [* * * pause * * *]

[__02__]     [►  1st  DARING]   If you or were on a dare, we would then be crossing a boundary in some way.  To accept a dare or a risk is not only something we do out of dishonesty or greed.
          It is also daring,  risky, to spread the Word of God as widely and completely as the sower does in the parable. It may be daring – or it may seem risky – if we let other people know – even in subtle ways of our faith in Jesus Christ and in the Church.
          I recall one time, several years ago, when I was staying with some family members for a week and the subject of going to  Sunday Mass never came up the entire week. Whether I went to church or did not go to church, they really had no idea. I must admit that I did not – in this case – dare to bring it up.
          In the Gospel, Jesus is the sower. He goes within his town, he goes out of town, he goes, at times, beyond the borders of Judaism and Israel to sow the seed.
          He sows the seed everywhere, resembling the planter or landscaper who wants to cover every patch of earth with the plants or the grass. Yes, some will end up on the path. Some will be rejected, or eaten by the birds.
          He pushes the border,  the boundary, even if it gets him into trouble.
          But he also does not force the Word on anyone, his Gospel on anyone.
          He is taking the risk, he is not forcing anyone else to take a risk or do something they do not want to do.
          This is his dare, his daring. It is also ours … refer to 2 Corinthians 4 _ à

[* * * pause * * *]

[__03__]     [ 2nd DISCOURAGEMENT]
Jesus, as the sower of the seed, also indicates that there will be discouraging moments, disappointments that we  will face.
          And, in this case, he is not simply referring to the discouragement of poor performance, or the discouragement of a particular failure.
          Rather, we might consider how we interpret, how we think about such setbacks or discouragements. And, how do we receive the discouragement we encounter from another person.

          For example, I recall a difficult class that I took in college  in which I started  out with a score of 56 on the first test.
          This was discouraging. This was not because the teacher said or did anything. He just wrote 56 and handed me the test. He did not write … good job … or you can do better or anything.
          It was just a number.
          I was, at that moment, ready to pack it in.
          When I told my parents about it, I was simply told… “we are already paying  the tuition, we are not paying for you go to summer school.”  This was also discouraging.
          I was kind of getting psyched out.
          Finally, a friend of mine urged me to go and see the professor for extra help. This was the encouragement that I needed  amid the thorns, and amid the very shallow roots of my own confidence about the situation.
          This is just an example. I am suggesting, then, that the thorns that hinder us are not the failure …but our reactions to the failures…or, at times, what other people communicate to us – intentionally or unintentionally.
          Discouragements will happen.  They are thorns, they grow naturally, sometimes in abundance.
         
[__04__]    [►  3rd DEMAND ]
          Every commitment we make will involve some daring (some risk) and some discouragement.
          Knowing this about our lives, Jesus – as our Savior and Lord – also makes a DEMAND, a REQUEST of us.
That is, we are called to immerse ourselves, to bury ourselves in his word.
          What enables the seed to grow?  The environment of the earth and soil enables the seed to grow.
          Yes, there will be discouragements, disappointments. There  will be thorns.
          However, because the seed is buried in the earth, it can grow.
          Families, mothers, fathers, are the soil for their children.
          And, throughout our lives, we need the love of both God and neighbor as this soil.
          In this regard, we can also dare to be generous as Jesus was, to forgive as Jesus did, even to dare and risk to lay down our lives for each other.
[__fin__]   

Sunday, July 9, 2017

"My Yoke is Easy" (2017-07-09, 14th Sunday)

Sunday July 9, 2017

14th Sunday, Year A

Zechariah 9:9:10   ● Psalm 145 ● Romans 8:9, 11-13 ● +Matthew 11:25-30

Title: "My Yoke is Easy. Structure. Silence. Simplicity"

[_01_]  My yoke is easy, my burden is light. Jesus describes our Christina method and Christian way as “easy” and “light.”

Do we not favor – prefer – what is easy, what is light, not heavy?

Now, what is easy? What makes something easy?

If we observe a person who is successful – whether playing tennis at Wimbledon or playing the cello – he or she often makes what is complex appear to be easy or simple.

In fact, the apparent achievement is so easy and simple that we are astounded when such a professional makes an error, a double fault, goes out of bounds or out of tune.

It takes practice to be as “simple” and “successful”  as Serena Williams or Tom Brady or Yo-Yo Ma.

[_02_] Jesus is speaking about simplicity to you and to me. And, he invites us to this simplicity through daily prayer, meditation, practice.

 [_03_]   In addition to SIMPLICITY, I’d like to touch on STRUCTURE and SILENCE in our lives.

[_04_]   STRUCTURE.   Every day, following Jesus, we are asked to follow certain virtues, to purify ourselves.

And, sometimes, we may read these as prohibitions.

In fact, we do the same thing when we think of the STRUCTURE of the natural world or environment. Purity of the water or the ocean is defined by what is NOT present.


And, so for you and I to be purified of sinfulness or evil or injustice, we are also called to avoid certain temptations, certain occasions, certain places. We may are also called to avoid excesses… excess that can hinder our success in the spiritual life.

Certain things that are good – in excess – can be harmful. Certain things that entertain or distract us … could, in excess, not only distract but destroy or break us.


[_05_]  STRUCTURE  reminds us of our identity.

For example:  consider a husband and wife in marriage. They are called to love and serve each other, not only because they love each other but also because they love being married to each other.

They do things for the good of the other. They do things for the good of the relationship.

Some days, they may not like each other … but they will still be identified by a certain structure.

Similarly, is it not true that sometimes we are called to listen to our mother, our father, simply because this is my mother or my father.

Structure.  The way of simplicity.

It is is not always easy. It takes practice.

[_06_]  SILENCE. Silence is the simple way. Do I choose it?

For example, I hear or experience something troubling, my first instinct may be to tell someone.

But, in some cases, I may not be able to tell anyone, or at least not immediately.  This silence, however, invites us into a relationship with our Savior who always wants to hear and to listen.

In a similar way, if someone wants us to keep a secret, we can do so for the same reason that we do not boast about our GPA, or wealth, or intelligence. Modesty. Simplicity.

[_07_]   By following Jesus’ way of structure, silence, and simplicity, we also gain a new freedom, liberty, with his help,

Praying that God will continue to bless our our lives, our country, our world.

[_08_


[_09_]   

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Hope. Hospitality. Honesty. (13th Sunday, 2017-07-02)

Sunday July 2, 2017 /    13th Sunday

Title: “Hope. Hospitality. Honesty”

Readings:  [• 2 Kings 4:8-11, 14-16a • Psalm 89 • Romans 6:3-4, 8-11 • Matthew 10:37-42 • ]

[__00__]     In the Gospel, Jesus touches on what his disciples will experience, and what are the conditions of discipleship of following him. He touches on
►HOPE ►HOSPITALITY ►HONESTY

[__01__]   Recently, a high school senior appeared at EWR Newark airport and at the doorstep of my mother and father in New Jersey. This was their granddaughter and my brother’s eldest child who is about to start her 4th year, senior year, of high school in the autumn.
          She was visiting New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts with her parents and siblings and was visiting because she is applying to college.
         
[__02__]    When we apply to, or go to God for help, we also expect to be heard.
          In the Gospel, Jesus touches on what his disciples will experience, and what are the conditions of discipleship of following him. He touches on
►HOPE ►HOSPITALITY ►HONESTY

[__03__]    1st . HOPE. What is your hope?  I can tell you the hope of this particular high-school senior – my brother’s daughter – is an acceptance with decent financial aid at Barnard College of Columbia University in New York. At this point, there is no substitute for this hope.
          Sometimes, we put our hope in some definite and predetermined outcome or result.
          “I must make the soccer team.”
          “I must get into Columbia or …  ”
          “I must make a certain amount of money.”
          None of these is a bad result. Each is good.
          Yet, our true hope is in someone even greater than an admissions officer or boss or coach. Our true hope is in God, in God’s help which does not come in the form of an acceptance letter.
          But, there is wisdom in studying his ways, in listening, praying. He is also giving us a scholarship, a path.

[__04__]    2nd . HOSPITALITY. Jesus touches on the experience of hospitality, the importance of HOSPITALITY, generosity, as an expression of Christian virtue.
          What we read in this Sunday’s Gospel, Matthew Chapter 10, is about the gift of nourishing another person in a very simple way:  “whoever gives only a cup of cold water
to one of these little ones to drink because the little one is a disciple— amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward.” (Matthew 10: ___)
          Hospitality is also a measure, a yardstick, of our hope or trust.
          If we go back to school and back to the material world of tuition and room and board, we are evaluating colleges not only for their ACADEMICS, their KNOWLEDGE, but also for the experience of hospitality. How was I treated when I visited the campus? How was my daughter or son regarded? How was the food?
          Of course, some of this is pure marketing and advertising.
          Nevertheless, hospitality is a virtue for all of us . This does not mean that we are equally affectionate to every person or that we disclose ourselves to everyone we meet.
          Nevertheless, we are called to hospitality to cordiality.
          As St. Paul summarizes in the letter to Romans: “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:15)[1]
          Taking up your cross – my cross – each day can simply mean being cheerful and punctual.
          Hospitality is a virtue of the disciple.

[__05__]  3rd. HONESTY. For a high school senior to stand out and be recognized, he or she is not only called to EXCELLENCE, but also to AUTHENTICITY, to TRANSPARENCY.
          Or, to say another way, to HONESTY.
          Jesus is asking for nothing less in his acceptance criteria and in his interview of prayer with you, with me, each day.
          Do you ever look in the mirror and not recognize your own face?  Of course, we recognize our own faces. This is the beginning of honesty and the mirror – literally or symbolically – is test of honesty. Can I look at myself? Can I look you in the eye? Can I look myself in the eye?
          The letter of James has a similar caution: “For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his own face in a mirror. He sees himself, then goes off and promptly forgets what he looked like.  But the one who peers into the perfect law of freedom and perseveres, and is not a hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, such a one shall be blessed in what he does.”  (James 1:23-25)
          Honesty also requires courage, bravery, heroic action.
          It is not easy, for example, to be honest about our weaknesses, our brokenness, our sinfulness.
          It is not easy to love someone with whom we disagree or by whom we have been hurt due to his or her brokenness or sinfulness.
          Honesty invites us to consider that we are all sinners in need of God’s grace.
          And, that we are all disciples in need of the home and hospitality of Jesus’s body and blood  in Holy Communion, and that that through his life, we have hope.  [__fin__]  



[1] Also à  “And hospitality do not forget; for by this some, being not aware of it, have entertained angels.”   (Hebrews 13:2)

Monday, June 19, 2017

Credit. Correction. Connection (Corpus Christi) (2017-06-18)

Sunday June 18, 2017 /    Corpus Christi

Title: “Credit. Correction. Connection”

[__01__]   What rolls and scrolls visually and vertically on the screen at the end of a movie (film) in the cinema (theater) are the CREDITS, the closing CREDITS.
          Reading the CREDITS, we can find out who the DIRECTOR, THE PRODUCER, the WRITERS were. We can find out who played what part. We can also be well informed when it comes time for the Academy Awards and the Oscars and the announcements of winners in obscure categories are made.
          What are the CREDITS? What is the importance of the CREDITS ?

[__02_]   This Sunday, the Feast of Corpus Christi – we see Jesus – front and center and in dialogue with some of the most informed ---- and opinionated -- judges and viewers of his day, the scribes and Pharisees. They are listening to what he says, but not hearing him completely when he says “I am the bread of life; I am the bread that came down from heaven.”
          Some will see him as an actor, a pretender, an impostor, an impersonator.  This gets him into great trouble.
 [__03__]    What I would like to touch on here are
►CREDIT►CORRECTION. ►CONNECTION.

What does  it mean for you and me to follow Jesus, to love God, to love our neighbor, and to love and pray for  our fathers on Father’s Day.
          I will not take the full 2-hour video/film to talk about all that.

[__04.01__]    CREDIT.  As Jesus himself is being discredited (rejected) by some, he is also trying to share his credit – his merit and strength – with us. He is teaching us to love.
          As Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI (B16) wrote, this credit claimed by Jesus is controversial.
Jesus, then, is not simply a teacher delivering a lesson or prophet delivering the news. He is the lesson personified. He is the News, he Good News[1] Or, in this  cinematic metaphor, Jesus as  Savior is the actor, the director, the movie, and the script all-in-one.
            He is the Word made flesh (John 1:14)
          Through Jesus, we learn not  only that God loves, that  one of God’s attributes  is love, but that God is love. God is love personified.
          And,  isn’t this the path for a mother or father  to follow, the path to which they are called. That is, whether family life brings sorrows or joys, a child needs a love. And, a father and mother endeavor  not only to deliver “love” as though it is one of several menu options but simply to be love. This love may take  different forms. It may even be resisted.  It may not be “credited”, but it remains love.
[__04.02__]   Also, “credit” is something we take that but we share. We spend it on others, do we not?  Financially and spiritually …
          My calling is also to praise God, to thank God and credit God and others in my life.
          We practice this and view this in others. On the playing field, or  in a school play – or at work  we give credit to our teammates, coaches.
          And, among the futbolistas, the soccer players of FIFA, CONCACAF, the EuroCup, the World  Cup, it seems the average Catholic midfielder or striker gives outstanding credit to  God as he blesses himself after scoring a GOAL (!).
          In this regard, credits are not something we watch and wait for, but something to give and share.
 [__05__]    CORRECTION.
In our relationship with God and with each other, we are called to recognize that our faults are not times to collapse but they may be times to rest and to recover.
          CORRECTIONS are part of our faith journey.
          Here, I do not simply mean self-correction. I know how to correct myself. I prefer to correct my own errors before anyone knows bout it.
          Can I accept correction from God or from another person? This is a challenge, but it also draws us closer to God and to the other person.
          And, we benefit by asking in prayer for direction and correction, about what we are doing …rather than rushing to the closing credits and looking for our names.
          On Father’s Day, we might also give  thanks not only for the  things we wanted to receive or wanted to hear from our fathers. Shall we not also give thanks for the things we needed to hear, for their guidance, their correction.
          Simply by listening to one’s father, we give them tons of credit.

[__06__]    The CREDIT and CORRECTION reminds us of our CONNECTION.
          How we are joined to each other.
          And Jesus lays down his life for us, and teaches us to do the same so that we can share his credit, accept correction and grow closer in our connections in love of God and love of neighbor.

 [__fin__]  



[1] Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth, New York: Image, 2007, p. 105.

“Trinity Sunday: Impression, Expression & John 3:16 (2017-06-11)

Sunday June 11, 2017 /  Trinity Sunday
[ • Exodus 34:4b-6, 8-9 • Psalm ___ • 2 Corinthians 13:11-13 • +John 3:16-18 • ]



[__01_]       Jesus made a good first impression upon at least one of the Pharisees.  This Pharisee’s name was Nicodemus.
          Having made this impression – this connection – upon a Pharisee, a person with whom Jesus often had disagreement or received negative comments, Jesus meets with him one-on-one.
          In the Gospel of John, chapter 3, verse 1, Nicodemus – a Pharisee – had gone to see Jesus. They met up, at night. There were no cameras or recording devices.
          We would imagine that Nicodemus had been with our Savior before. Probably he had heard Jesus speak to a crowd.
          This made an impression upon him.
          And, in some cases, these were – potentially – embarrassing encounters for Jesus.
          For example, the Pharisees want to trap him, to trick him and ask – “should we pay the census tax to Caesar or not?”
          In other words, should we pay taxes to the government which has taken over our land and governs us oppressively?  
          And, Jesus impresses the crowd – and Nicodemus – with his answer in fewer than 140 characters:  “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and render unto God the things that are God’s.” (Mark 12:17)”
          Impressive.

[__02__]     You and I have first impressions of God, of the Church.
          We have first impressions of other people in our lives. We have first impressions of our families, first impressions of a spouse, of a child.
          Several years ago, I attended a 25th reunion after college graduation. 
          During the day we had together, we spent a fair amount of time talking about what happened 25 + plus years ago. So, we were pretty locked into our first impressions. This was what connected us.
          And, in some ways, it seemed that we had not changed at all.
          Some of my classmates seemed to behave – perhaps I too – as though we had not been apart for 25 years. And, some seemed to behave in a way similar to our first meeting, our first impression.
         
[__03__]   So, first impressions are important.
          Nevertheless, these impressions are invitation to a relationship.
          In fact, you and I change over time, over the years. Unfortunately, if you see someone only once every 25 years, you may only observe the most superficial of changes.
[__04__]  A positive first impression is an invitation to a relationship and to something more intense.
[*** P A U S E ***]

[__05__]   There is some intensity, some tension in the encounter between Nicodemus and Jesus.
          Nicodemus is investigating his own first impressions of Jesus, interviewing him.
          And, if we were to meet someone and be interested in him or her, we would do the same. Sometimes, what we do – and I know I have done this – we try to find out as much as possible about the other person without revealing too much of ourselves.
          This is Nicodemus, perhaps you and I at times also.

[__06__]        Jesus is reminding Nicodemus that love involves not just an impression, but also an EXPRESSION.
          And, this EXPRESSION often takes us to the EXTREME.
          Love can take us to the EXTREME of gladness, happiness, affection.
          Love is extreme. When we are in love, we sense a connection that we do not have with people in general.

[__07__]   The EXPRESSIONS of love, however, are not always easy.
          Some people – we love them – but they may not be easy to love. We have an impression, we make an expression.   And, the call to love may make us feel that we are living under an oppression.
          Love is difficult, at times.
          Love us takes us to the extreme.
          Today’s Good News reminds us of the invitation to God’s love, to remain in God’s love by not only a first impression or or even a first interview, but also by a daily expression of a relationship.
          And, in this case, we are not simply – like Nicodemus – showing up at night to ask the Son of God a few questions.
          Rather, we are allowing God into our lives each day – and night – to ask us the questions.
          In this we recognize –  in the impression and the expression – that love is our goal, just as heaven is our goal, for God is love.
          This is his impression, his expression which we know … “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.  ”   (John 3:16) [__fin__]

Monday, June 5, 2017

Attraction and Action. (Pentecost 2017-06-04)

[__ver-06_ ___words _]  

Sunday June 4, 2017 /  Pentecost Sunday
[ • Acts 2:1-111 • Psalm 104 • 1 Corinthians 12:3b-7, 12-13 • +John 20:19-23 • ]

Title: “Attraction and Action: Pentecost”

[__01_]       Attraction brings action. This our Feast of Pentecost Sunday.
          And the arrival of the Holy Spirit is an attraction, an event which commands the attention of the disciples:
          We read; this is our reading from the Acts of the Apostles, chapter 2:
When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them.”  (Acts 2:__)

[__02__]        In the joy of a great celebration or the excitement of sporting event, we are also attracted and united by the action.           The French Open. The NBA Finals. Check your local listings.
          We are attracted to the action and then we talk about, discuss – ANALYZE (beat a dead horse?)  what happened and why.
         
[__03__]  Now, in earlier visits – arrivals – of God to his disciples, there was attraction, but sometimes less action. At least, in the immediate moment of the event,  there were fewer observers, friends, followers, likes and comments.
          Consider: Jesus is born in Bethlehem, an out-of-the way place and the significance of his birth is noticed by a few.
          Even King Herod noticed. He was attracted, tried to take action, but never really made the connection.
          Pentecost is different from Christmas. There is an attraction, an event and everyone is talking about it afterwards. It’s an international global episode. Had there been a 24-hour news cycle, someone would have picked up the story.
          And, Pentecost is important to you and to me today. We are called to act in a way similar to the disciples.  Yes, it is true that a few disciples were able to speak in multiple languages without 4 years in high school, 32 credits in college or Rosetta Stone. Yes, this is remarkable.

[__04__]    However, you and I are also called to recognize that God is trying to attract us, to draw us, to call us and that we are called to take action, to be his translators.

[*** P A U S E ***]
[__05__]     In 1977, Star Wars was released. That year, Star Wars and director George Lucas – whom no one had ever heard of – made 10x more money than the James Bond movie of the same year.
          This was attraction. A new attraction. And, there was lots of action.  Now, these days, many people anticipate the release and arrival of a new Star Wars movie.
The premiere of a movie is big deal.
          Many people want to see it is as soon a possible. It is also an international – multilingual event which is simulcast in many languages.
          One day, several years, a person with whom I worked offered me tickets to the Star Wars premiere. I was so fascinated. I thought, at first, that this meant I would need a limousine. Maybe get my picture taken. Not quite.
          What this meant – on the “planet” of Star Wars was that the movie was being shown as a premiere, 24 hours a day around the clock over several days at cinemas in New York City. So, if I could be at 78th Street at 11:00 am on a Thursday, I could be part of the worldwide multilingual – Pentecostal (?) – premiere of Star Wars.
          I did not make it

[__06__]    In any endeavor – including the endeavor to forgive someone, to love someone, to speak the vows of marriage, and to extend ourselves in love, we are called to more than attraction.
          We are called to action, to participation in God’s plan.
          God uses his disciples, you and me to go out and speak with others.

[__07__]       And, after the Star Wars premiere – if you had been there or if I had been there – we would be telling everyone about it.
          Today, we have had the Pre-Cana retreat for 25 couples at Our Lady of Lourdes preparing for their wedding day. And, your day is important, holy, sacred…and it is a joy to know that people will talk about your vows, your commitment on the day and afterwards…and to tell others not only that they were there ..but why they were there.
You and I are also called to tell others about the effects of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
[__08__]   [__03__]    Now, of course, you might say this is quite difficult.
          After all, I only speak one language. And, maybe you or I might not feel confident to speak – let alone translate – our faith into another language.

[__09__]     But, I would suggest you are already doing the translation  and doing so with God’s help, with the Holy Spirit.
          If you are trying to care for a child, a young person and trying to raise them up in the ways of God, in honesty, integrity, purity, you are – at times – speaking a foreign language, a language they may not hear. For a mother/father to maintain a signal, a connection to a daughter/son, he ore she is called to speak and listen to new ideas, new words, new languages and also to share ideas with the young person that may seem foreign. It takes courage.
          And, whenever we are trying not only to speak the Gospel but also demonstrate the Gospel by our compassion and love, then we are also making a translation and delivering a message that no one else can deliver.  And, when we do this by accepting a little inconvenience, a little suffering, a change in routine so that we can tell the Good News, then we are also spreading the Good News on a worldwide, international scale, to a person whose only access to the Jesus may be through you or through me.
           We pray that the Holy Spirit will assist us with these words, these actions, these translations, 24 by 7.

[__10_PRE CANA / 5:30 pm Mass Saturday_]    Today, we also make this prayer for couples preparing for the Sacrament of Matrimony.
      This morning our Pre-Cana team including married couples from both St. Joseph’s and Our Lady of Lourdes hosted a day of Pre-Cana for engaged couples in Connor Hall. They join us at Mass tonight for prayer.
   We pray that the Holy Spirit will also be their interpreter, their guide, to make their love known to each other, in both spoken and unspoken ways.
            Also:  attraction, action, love for each other ..and in this regard through action of the Holy Spirit, your attraction to each other will endure, your attraction will also last.
 [__fin__]