Sunday, August 2, 2020

Add, Subtract, Divide ... Multiply ! (2020-08-02, Sunday 18)

2020-08-02 _ 18th Sunday  ● Isaiah 55:1-3 ● Psalm 145 ● Romans 8:35, 37-39 ● + Matthew 14:13-21 

 [_01_]     This is the Gospel of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes.

          Given that that this is the multiplication – multiplying – I’d like to touch on 4 aspects of being in church – or praying – that lead up to this calling to us to be multiplied.

          For it is not just the loaves and fishes that are multiplied, because the multiplication is a precursor to the sacrifice of Jesus’ Body and Blood on Calvary. And, we – receiving his Body and Blood – are multiplying his presence …multiplying his presence in our own homes, in our own school, in our own family.

          Our Savior has this goal for all of us to be multiplied I’d like to touch on in this in 4 parts, as the 4 parts of going to Mass.

 

[_02_]     Part. 1. ADDITION.

          “Addition” or 1 + 1 = 2, helps us to understand multiplication.

          And, what happens at the beginning of Mass or even before we come to Mass – there is some addition – or adding – going on..

          That is, when you come to church –to Sunday Mass – or even when you pray at home as part of our parish family – you are consciously choosing to add yourself to the assembly, to the community.

          These days, this adding or “addition” is more complicated because we are supposed to register for Sunday Mass.

          There’s even a headcount limit. I.e., we cannot have more than 100 people inside the church building.

          I assure you, we will keep you safe and we are not yet near the 100 person limit.

          In any case, coming to Mass to prayer, is often a conscious effort to pray and to add our prayer to an already busy schedule.

 

[_03_]     That is, that’s how we logically look at the task of praying. But, Jesus wants us to do the ADDITION a different way. That is, rather than adding our prayer to our To-Do list or daily schedule… rather… add our To-Do list or daily schedule to our prayer.

          Make Mass and prayer the center and priority of our day.

          St. Paul summarizes this,saying “Pray constantly, pray unceasingly.”

          Jesus touches on this in the encounter at home with Mary and Martha, reminding us that Mary has made Jesus’ Word her priority and focus and works everything in around that. For Martha, it seems to be the other way around.

          The better part – Mary’s part – is to put add the prayer as the first agenda item.

          Coming to Mass, nevertheless, you are added to our number. You count and  our lives are connected, not only physically but spiritually.

And, even if you participate from home, you are added to our number.

Jesus wants to add you here.

         

 

         

[_04_]     Part 2. SUBTRACTION.

          Subtraction helps us to get to multiplication. What is subtraction? 7 -2 = 5.

          That’s subtracting.

          Coming to pray or putting ourselves in God’s presence involves some subtracting or minimizing.

          This doesn’t mean God or the Church wants to diminish you or seize anything from you, but we are all called to take step back to allow God to work in our lives, to cooperate.

          We are called to subtract in order to cooperate with anybody.

          For example, recently, I was moving a desk down the stairs with my brother. We were moving it together. The desk was not super heavy. Part of the trick of moving a large object is to allow the weight to be distributed to be shared. I.e., do not try to lift it all by yourself. Subtract your own effort a bit, allow the person to add some effort. That’s a healthy subtraction.

          John the Baptist also summarizes this, saying of Jesus, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30)

          Subtraction is Good News.

          And, at Sunday Mass, I suggest that when we are attentive to readings and Gospel, we are trying to allow God’s ideas and God’s love to replace some of our own plans.

          We need SUBTRACTION in order to see this.

 

[_05_]     Part 3. DIVISION.

          Division helps us to understand multiplication.

          In the Gospel parable this Sunday, we see that the solution and salvation was in the loaves and fishes.

          But, before there was multiplication, there was a problem of division.

          I.e., the disciples were “divided” and disagreeing with Jesus about how to feed the crowd.

          What the disciples see – visually and naturally – are 5 loaves and 2 fishes, a quantity way too small to be divided and shared among so many.

          The disciples wished to dismiss the crowd, to disperse them, to divide them.

          Let them order on Instacart or GrubHub or stop at the supermarket on the way home.

 

[_06_]     We may have a similar attitude when we think of relationships in our life in which there are cracks or stress fractures or fault lines – i.e., “divisions.”

          We may meditate on these precisely when we are in church or in quiet. We may wonder how to heal them, if they can be healed, is there anything we can do?

          Sometimes, it’s long division!

          In the Gospel, Jesus reminds us that if our prayer or receiving of Communion reminds us of “division” with a brother or sister…in other words, if we are at the altar and remember that our brother or sister has something against, us, go first and be reconciled with this person, then return to the altar.

          We all have divisions that we may want to run from or avoid.

          And, for this…I suggest the solution is the multiplication…

 

[_07_]     For, by this miracle, Jesus is not simply saying he is going to multiply loaves and fishes, but he’s also going to multiply the compassion you bring to others, the forgiveness your bring, the hope and energy you bring…no matter how small or insignificant you may think it is.

          Jesus is going to multiply what we bring.

          Jesus is going to multiply the host and body and blood, multiplied so that it will nourish not only you but those whom you know and see…nourish even those you do not yet know.

          It starts by ADDING ourselves to God’s presence, SUBTRACTING our own ego so that God may work…  recognizing DIVISIONS and SINFUL FAULTS that need healing and allowing Jesus to multiply his presence in us and in our world.

[_fin_]     

Sunday, July 26, 2020

What's Valuable? (2020-07-26, Sunday-17)

2020-07-26 _ 17th Sunday

● 1 Kings 3:5, 7-12 ● Psalm __ ●  Romans 8:28-30 ● + Matthew 13:44-52  ●

 

[_01_]     About a year ago – twice a week – at around 11:00 am, I was going for physical therapy, to a physical therapy office and was doing exercises for my shoulder which fortunately improved.

          It was a way for me to do a little “fixer upper” improvement on my body, personally.

          Coincidentally, the physical therapy office had a television and during the exercises many of us would watch a TV show from the “Home and Garden Channel” (HG-TV) called “Fixer Upper” – Fixer Upper, hosted by Chip and Joanna Gaines.

          So, I was fixing up my shoulder while they were fixing up houses in Texas on the TV show.

          In this show, there is a real house needing renovation and design for real-life people. But, there is also a selection process – before any walls are knocked down or nails are hammered, a decision about which house to “fix up” – which is the most worthwhile property for the owner.

          Which is the most valuable?

[_02_]       How good are you and I at recognizing what is valuable, or who is valuable?

 

[_03_]     In the Gospel, this Sunday, Jesus says the Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure buried in a field which a person finds and then conceals it – he hides the treasure – then out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field, that property.

          This seems unethical – dishonest – in our world of laws and regulations surrounding real estate and construction industry. You are supposed to have a realtor, a building inspection.  If you find something buried underground, are you not supposed to tell someone?

          So, in the example of our Lord, the finder and discoverer of the field seems a little bit greedy and overly enthusiastic to get what he wants, Jesus is using this as an exaggeration/hyperbole to remind us that we are called to have this same enthusiasm for the Gospel and Kingdom of God.

 

[_04_]      So, we are called to “renounce”, to give up ourselves, our possessions, our conveniences, to do what is virtuous and good, not just immediately and for short-term profit and gain, but also do so over the long term.

          So, I suggest that Jesus’ example about the acquisition of a nice field with some buried treasure – the “real estate purchase” of the Gospel – is a good example.  It shows that someone is really giving something up for a long-term investment.

          And, isn’t this what people do – on HG-TV reality shows and in the real-life reality of buying a home, that we make sacrifices – we give up certain things to get the best possible house.

          For example, would we not drive a lesser or older car or have lower-quality furniture, if we knew that by giving up these things, we could get a better house. Because the house and property are going to endure and be around a lot longer than a car or a couch.

          How good are you and I at recognizing what is valuable?

 

[_05_]    To our young people, I ask you to pray ….??? Who may look at other people’s houses or homes as better or more attractive than your own. I just remind you that your home, your house, is a blessing and your mother – your father – your family – gave up a great deal to give you the best  ????

 

[_06_]     How good are you and I at recognizing – at deciding what is valuable or important

          An author named Malcolm Gladwell wrote about this question in a book called “Blink”, entitled because we often make decisions in a “blink” or “blink of an eye”, very quickly.

          In this book, the author asks how good are we at judging what is valuable,  what is important?

          For example, let’s say you walk out of your front door and it is bright and sunny out.  Then, after a few minutes, you hear thunder and lightning and the skies are dark and it is now raining… and it might start raining very heavily.

          You do not have a lot of time to think through all of your options. You have to move inside or go back to your house…or – if you do not mind the water… you will accept the drenching thundershower.

          How good are you and I at recognizing what is valuable?

 

[_07_]     We have been celebrating – here at Our Lady Lourdes Church parish – on July 18 and July 25 …and again on August 15 – First Holy Communion for our children.

          In receiving Holy Communion, we identify the value of our Savior’s body and blood given up for our sins, to reconcile us to God.

          Jesus said that you and I are valuable and shares his body with us in Holy Communion and in the sacraments.

          So, what is valuable?

          Mercy – compassion – forgivness. Valuable. Important.

          Holy Communion reminds us to ponder this, reflect on this and receive this mercy.

 

[_08_]     We are invited to be intentional about this, as intentional as though we are buying a house, and also recognize that you are worthy – to the Son of God – of being saved, renovated, fixed up.

[_09_]   In the Christian view and Gospel view, we believe that 1 sheep out of 100 is worthy of being reconnected with the other 99, that 1 coin out of 10 is worthy of being reinvested with the other 9, and that 1 prodigal son or daughter is worthy of being reconciled with the family and with the father and parent.

          Unfortunately, in many ways, we judge public figures – or sometimes just people we know …not based on whether they can be saved, but simply based on our own prior judgment of who is a winner and who is a sinner.

          We are all winners, we can be victorious through God’s love and mercy. We are all sinners in need of his grace.  How good are you and I at judging what is valuable?

[_10_]   [_05_]   [_fin_]    

Sunday, July 19, 2020

What's Next (2020-07-19, Sunday-16)

2020-07-19 _ 16th Sunday   ● Wisdom 12:13, 16-19 ● Psalm 86    Romans 8:26-27 ● + Matthew 13:24-43 

 [_01_]     Today, in the middle of the summer of 2020, it is practically obligatory – required – to talk about what life will be like at the end of the summer, what life will be like in September, when the school and academic year starts.

          Will children and teachers be in school classroom buildings or not in school classroom buildings?

          Will there be online computer based learning?

          And, will there be soccer, football and sports?

          Of course, this summer is something distinct. In years past, we didn’t wonder what life would be like in the Fall / Autum. Perhaps, we just wanted to enjoy the summer, savor it. It goes by very quickly.

[_02_     One of my brothers – who is a high school teacher – enjoys the summer, and finds them each of them all too fast and furiously brief.

          This is how he summarizes it. This is how the summer goes. It’s like a weekend:

·        The month of June = that’s  Friday afternoon.

·        The month of July = Saturday

·        The month of August = Sunday

·        The month of September = then, it’s all over and you are back to school on Monday.

[_03_    So, when you are enjoying your weekend, who wants to think about Monday or what’s coming next?

 

          Sometimes we can be too worried about the future, not living in the moment and too focused about what is coming next, and not living in the current moment.

          And, I will give an example.

          I recall an instance – perhaps one of many -- that I embarrassed myself years ago on a school trip with classmates.

          We were in a museum, in Manhattan, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC. It was a Friday, the trip was really a holiday and break from our regular schoolwork and studies. So, who thinks about academic homework in the middle of fine paintings and sculpture?

          Nobody, except me!

          I turned to one of my classmates and asked him a question about that had recently come up in the classroom.

          Overhearing my impertinent question which ruined the fine-art meditation moment, another classmate stormed off mocking me for bringing this up in a museum telling me – effectively – you know, we’re not in school right now, turn it off !

          I was not, as we say, in the moment. I was too consumed with what was coming next.

 

[_04_     Pope Benedict XVI  (B16) wrote this about the meaning of Advent a season in which we also focus on who is coming next and who – the Son of God – is already here.

          Jesus arrives on 12/25 at Christmas but also he is coming to us each day:

          “The Christian knows that the presence of God that has now only begun will someday be a full and complete presence. This knowledge sets him free and gives him an ultimate security”.

(Josef Ratzinger, Dogma and Preaching, “The Meaning of Advent”, San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2011, p. 322, )

 

[_05_]    Another example from our local environment and ecosystem, the natural world

A few months ago, there was a bird’s nest just a few feet from one of the rectory windows. I noticed the nest after the nest was constructed. Then one day, I saw two bird’s eggs in the nest.

I watched those eggs every day. They reminded me of a bird’s nest from 25 years ago, in my parent’s backyard, a nest that was discovered first by a friend of mine.  Then, we made sure that it was secure and undisturbed.  So, protecting the nest, protecting ourselves for what is coming next is important.

For so many of us, during the COVID 19 shelter in place, and even now, we are protecting our own “nest”, our own lair, our own casa or home.

Here’s the thing, during all of  this COVID 19 and coronavirus, I do not really know what happened to the birds and eggs. I lost track of them…and never saw them again.

I wonder what is coming next … for them. Wondering, what is coming next, I am also called to let go of my own desire to control the outcome and let God be in charge…

By the way, the nest, is still there as a reminder of this to me.

 

[_06_    There are many examples of things that happen to us in which we wonder what is coming next, what will happen next?

          And, in these situations, we are called not only to protect ourselves – in the nest – in the home – in our own human life span – but also to be prepared for what is coming next.

          The Gospel this Sunday is about something coming next.

          And, along the way, along the way of our lives, we are sometimes called to endure very difficult things.

          It may be the death or illness of someone we love. This invites to ask – what is coming next?

          It may be addiction or harmful habit of someone we know ..or even ourselves. We amy ask – what is coming next?

          It may be our need to repent of our sins or sinfulness. We may ask, what is coming next?

          It may be the invitation to forgive someone who has hurt us or trespassed or sinned against us. We may ask, what is coming next?

         

[_07_]     Many of these are very imperfect and troubling experiences that we live through, but while they produce trouble and distress, they can also purify us and bring us closer to God and neighbor and love.

         Jesus is coming next.

          B16 wrote:

“In point of fact, we cannot see God as we see an apple tree or a neon sign that is in a purely external way that requires no interior commitment. We can see him only by becoming like him.”

[In parallel, we also see and love others in a sense by becoming “like them”. Imitation is truly a high form of flattery.  In this regard, in a family or marriage we can remain distinct but also become similar to each other.]

We see God by becoming like him, by turning away from pleasures, enjoyments, possessions and from ourselves. We can see God only when we stop looking for him as we might for a street sign or dollar bills and begin looking from the visible to the invisible.

          The invisible is what is coming next.


Saturday, July 18, 2020

Reaction. Recognition. Reconnection. (2020-07-18, Saturday)

Mass of First Holy Communion, July 18, July 25, August 15

Reaction. Recognition. Reconnection.

Part 1. REACTION.

 [_01_]      CROWD. FACIAL RECOGNITION.  “WALK”

Let's say you are  standing in a crowd and reacting to everyone who is walking by … perhaps also searching for someone in the crowd.

          I read this … that it turns out that we’re good at recognizing people from their body language, stance and other physical cues that we can observe long before we see their faces (smile, eyes, nose, hairstyle..)

The research, published the journal Psychological Science, looked at just how we rely on body language for identification. What they found was that we’re actually just as good at recognizing people from faces as we are from other cues. “Accuracy in identifying the person without the face was identical to that in identifying the whole person,” the researchers write.

I remember an experience from many years ago when we my family and I went to Yankee Stadium – where there was a very big crowd of people and we were meeting my uncle.

We had to wait and wait for a long time for him to arrive. And, there was a large crowd. I was “reacting to” everyone in the crowd.. I was very young and did not really know what to look for.

On the other hand, my father – who knew his brother quite well- recognized – from very far away – because they knew each other so well, he did not need to see his face … he could recognize him by other characteristics…such as by how he walked.

          And, _____ and _____ …. And to all of our First Communion Children – to all of us – God does not recognize by just one characteristic …but also by our total person and personality.

          He loves you as you are … and give us not just words … not just a smile..but in the Sacrament of Holy Communion, we receive the whole person, Body of Christ…

Part 2. Recognition.

     In this Gospel passage,there is a reaction and a recognition problem.

Maybe the disciples on the Road to Emmaus should have had facial recognition software?

What happened in this episode?

          The disciples of this Gospel passage have had a most unusual day or series of days, most unsettling and disturbing because their Savior and Lord – Jesus – suddenly appeared to them, though they did not know it was Jesus. They did not recognize him…though  he come up to them very close and personal.

RECOGNITION – Teacher

GOD’S VOICE – RECOGNITION (e.g., teacher)

          I would like to suggest that listening to God and listening to what God wants is similar to listening to our teachers in school.

          I make this comparison because sometimes we look at our teachers and we say … Oh, the teacher is smarter than I am …or bigger than I am…or more advanced than I am …simply because  the teacher has the answer….

          And, as you know sometimes, the teacher tells you if you are “correct”or “incorrect”.

          But, what a good teacher wants to do for you – for you __NAME___ … for you __NAME___…is not just to give you answers but also to help you to ask questions and to keep asking questions and keep talking and seeking knowledge for the rest of your life.

[_03_]        And, in this Gospel passage we read of 2 disciples to whom a mysterious “unknown” 3rd traveler appears to them on the road.

          And, the 2 disciples are very attentive to this stranger, but they do not recognize him by his FACE or by his WALK.  But they do later recognize him by his VOICE, by what he says.

          So, these 2 travelers heard a question, “What are you talking about?”

          It is a reminder to us that God is – Jesus is – reaching out to us even when we do not explicitly acknowledge His presence. It is a reminder to us that Jesu wants to know what we are talking about what we are thinking about.

          Nevertheless, the 2 disciples welcome this 3rd person, talk with him and share the events of the day with him.   Yet, this person does connect with them – this unidentified person – this stranger shares with them their sorrow, their grief at the death of Jesus and then this 3rd traveler starts to explain the scriptures and prophecies to them.

[][][][]]

Part 3. Reconnection

          A few years ago, I happened to see someone I grew up with in high grade school and school. I had not seen him in many years. At this social event, he was standing right next to 2 of my friends ...first I saw him from about 12 feet away. He was on the other side of the kitchen. I did not recognize him.

          Then I walked right up to him …I still did not recognize him.  Because I still looked confused… I actually needed someone to introduce me to him, to tell me his name….

          I was really surprised!

VOICE - RECOGNITITION       

What was also interesting to me …in that example.. as soon as my old friend started talking… then I recognized him…… I recognized his voice actually more than I recognized his appearance.

RECOGNITION – when we are in dispute. Listen !

          Talk / Listen. This is also a reminder to us that when we feel that we are separated from someone, or upset with someone…or judging someone only by appearance, one of the hardest things to to do..but most important things to do is to talk… to them…to really listen to them. By talking – by really listening – we come to know the whole person, and we can see and understand something we did not see at a distance.

          In this episode on the Road to Emmaus, the disciples recognize Jesus’ voice…. And remember his voice… it takes a while…but this is an important part of our own prayer and connection to God, to hear his voice, to hear him speaking to us  each day.  [_fin_]     

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Life on Earth (2020-07-12, Sunday -15)

2020-07-12 _ 15th Sunday

● Isaiah 55:10-11  ● Psalm 65  ●  Romans 8:18-23 ● + Matthew 13:1-23  ●

Title:   Life on Earth

 

[_01_]   It has now been several months since the coronavirus crisis and COVID-19 halted the world, changed “business hours” for many places that we shop …and it’s not yet clear if we can dine in a restaurant indoors or not.

          I see that Oak Barrel Pub and Nicholas Anthony’s on Main Street outdoor dining but not yet indoor tables in the restaurant.

         

[_02_]   Some of us have had to adapt our ways and behavior to obtain food. Ever ordered supermarket food online before? I have not..and actually still have not done so..but there is a first time for everything.

          I am grateful to you, the parish family, of Our Lady of Lourdes, because I know that you have helped so many of your neighbors, friends, family to obtain the food they need.

          Several of you have volunteered at Christine’s Kitchen / Holy Trinity Episcopal down the street… or just dropped off food here or for your neighbors.

          Buying and obtaining food, which we used to take for granted… we no longer take it for granted, as a given as a guarantee.

          There even are age limits and age brackets for going food shopping.  Under age 65? Over age 65? This may dicatate when you go to Shop Rite? If so, at what hours?

          Either way, wear a mask.

 

[_03_]   The Gospel this Sunday reminds us where the food comes from, how it gets to us, even before it is loaded on to the truck or placed on the shelves.

          It comes from the ground, from the earth. Some of us know this quite well because we have grown our own food, grown food in our gardens.

          Growing your own food is not rocket science, it is not a super advanced technological endeavor. It just requires the right soil, the right conditions, the right earth.

 

[_04_]   But, in order to grow food – in order for the seed to grow – the seed that is scattered,  we need to have good earth.

          What is true for the seed to grow and sprout into corn or spinach or tomatoes … is also true for us.

          Are we taking care of our earth, our soil, our lives?

[_05_]            So.. growing food is not “rocket science”, it is not as complicated as landing on Mars or launching the International Space Station, but there is some science to growing food, caring for the earth.

          Everyone with a garden is concerned with the science and development of life in some way.

          And, those who dig in the dirt know that we cannot simply take the earth and soil for granted.

          Jesus was communicating this as well… the seed grows best in good soil.  It will grow poorly or not at all in bad soil.

          Am I – are you – taking care of your soil, the earth?

          In this regard, I am not asking you if you mowed your lawn or cleaned your room or did the dishes .

          I am asking how are you and I taking care of ourselves. We are the soil

 

[_06_]   Many years ago, I worked for a few weeks for a landscaper….in this particular line of work, we were not cutting the grass or cutting the trees…but usually putting in new green plants …or a new lawn.

          One day, we had to put down sod…  Basically, sod is grass that has already been planted. Also referred to as turf grass, sod is sold in sections that are grass and soil held together by roots or other materials. This type of grass is more lusher and grows more evenly. It is often longer than other types of grass as well.

          I remember my co-worker in this task absolutely dreading the task because of how hard it was going to be, to unload every section of grass for the rest of day.

          It was pretty hard work.

          And, in order to put in the grass, the lawn…we had to spent a lot of time preparing the soil, picking up every rock, every stone…and then also providing much water – hydration – to the new grass in order to make it grow.

          The earth had to be prepared. It is sometimes messy work to prepare the earth.

[_07_]   What is true for the earth to receive new seed and new grass is also true for you, for me.

          We are called to give our bodies enough rest, nourishment, food, so that we can grow.

          We do the same for our children and for those in our care.

          It’s also true that those who are older and those who are younger need more rest, more food, more water. That young grass needed constant watering.

          And those who are younger or older need more rest, more food, more love, more affection, more forgiveness.

          If have ever taken care of an older person or younger person, you know this…

          But, our soul and spirit also needs this same type of nourishment.

Also, just as the earth and environment thrive when they are NOT exploited or abused… but rather thrive when they are cared for and nurtured, so also do we.

At the end of the Gospel of John, Mary Magdalene was near the tomb, weeping and Jesus appears to her though she did not know that it was Jesus.

We read that Mary Magdalene confuses Jesus whom she does not expect to see with the “gardener” whom she did expect to see. She thought Jesus was the gardener.  

One commentary I read years ago pointed out the paradox.

In fact, for us, Jesus is the gardener. He is working the earth. We are called to let him work in our earth, in our lives, so that we can receive the seed he scatters.

Jesus is not asking us, necessarily, to grow our own food. He is asking us to live each day by every word – which is food – that comes forth from the mouth of God.  [_fin_]