Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Prophets. How Do You Know? (2018-07-08)

8 July 2018     /    14th Sunday Ordinary Time, Year B

•• Ezekiel 2:2-5    •• Psalm 123  •• 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 •• + Mark 6:1-6a  ••

Title:  How Do You Know?

 [__01__]    How do you know if a major event, concert sporting event – Super Bowl or World Cup – is taking place at the Meadowlands, Met Life Stadium?
          We know not only by watching the news but also by our experience on the roads and highways. We want to KNOW before we GO.
          You know – we know – based on the traffic patterns and our need to avoid the Route 3 and NJ Turnpike interchange, especially before and after the event.  We might, however, get lucky and travel through the Meadowlands during the event … because everyone is parked and inside.

 [__02__]    How do you know? We know based on what we see.
Nevertheless, we cannot measure the success or effectiveness of any such event based only on the people– attendance figures – or what the crowd may be doing or not doing.

[__03__]   In the Gospel of Mark – of last Sunday – and this Sunday – we observe that the Lord draws a crowd and attracts people.
          Last Sunday, he attracted the synagogue official, Jairus, and the woman suffering from the hemorrhage.  But, what we also observe is that both Jairus and the woman stand out by their confident attitude toward Jesus.
          The crowd, on the other hand, does not expect much.
          In this Sunday’s Gospel, the crowd – at large – had a similar attitude.
          This time, the crowd is the Nazareth – hometown community – of Jesus.  They should love him, adore him, right?
          This is the home field advantage, right?
          How do you know that Jesus is home in Nazareth?
          Do we know he is at home because he is accepted, welcomed, victorious? Not so much…

 [__04__]   How do we know that a prophet is in our midstIn Ezekiel, we read that the Israelites shall know that a prophet has been among them. (Ezekiel 2:5)
          Sometimes, the prophet is not welcomed but gives us something we need to know – if not immediately – at some point we need to know.  
          You and I may experience many different types of TRAFFIC DELAYS, TIME DELAYS, CONGESTION, WAITING.
          We do not always get what we want, or we do not get what we want immediately.
          This also involves the cross, taking up our cross each day.
          It may also be a prophecy, a prophet may be in our midst.
          How do we know?

[__05__]         How do I know that a prophet is in my house?

          [E.g., … ]At the time I graduated from high school and was leaving for college, my grandfather was recovering from some serious health issues. At the time, he could no longer live independently in his own home.
            My mother invited him to live at our house. This invitation and his recovery time coincided – almost exactly with my departure to go away for college.
            Now, as the eldest child in my family, I was fortunate enough to have my own room. That is, I had my own room in August. But, this room became my grandfather’s room and by Columbus Day, I was sleeping on the couch.
            A prophet was in our midst. How did I know?

[__06 __]         At the time, I did not recognize – but did not recognize later – how important it was to my mother to care for her father and to do so in our house.
            I was, in my internal attitude, no angel and recall being uncomfortable during my visits home during that time.
            However, I also learned through this experience that we have the power to bless, to serve, to forgive, and to do so not because of what a person does or delivers, but simply because the person is.
            Pope John Paul II speaks of this as the gift of self and of loving another person for his own sake, for her own sake.
            And, learning to do this first at him, we then are able to go out on the road – to go on the road – to love others.  John Henry Newman writes that private virtue – at home – is the foundation of public virtue.
            I did not know at the time, that a prophet was in my midst, was in my room.
          How do we know that a prophet is in our midst?    [__fin__]  

Memories. Miracles (2018-07-01)

1 July 2018       /   13th Sunday Ordinary Time, Year B

•• Wisdom 1:13-15    •• Psalm 30  •• 2 Corinthians 8:7, 9, 13-15 •• + Mark 5:21-43 ••

Title:  Memories. Miracles.

[__01__]   What are the miracles for? i.e., what is the purpose of a miracle…
            Have you ever been required – at a 25- or 75-year reunion – a school or class reunion to wear not only a name tag, but a photo of yourself – usually a graduation/class photo,  from 25 or 75 years ago?
            Helpful and humbling are these photos. Helpful to identify people whom we thought we would always have memorized.  And, humbling to realize how much we have changed – or not changed. I say “not changed” because – while iPhone 8 camera is much better than the iPhone 3 camera,  -- there are certain image-constants – externally and internally, spiritually, for you and me– over the years. We do not get re-programmed.
            However, we do get “recovered” – by being attentive to our relationships – in love of God and love of neighbor – and love of classmates and family and friend. We recover, discover who we are and remember.
[__02__]        What are the miracles for?
            I suggest that the Lord was not trying to impress the crowd with a new diagnosis.
            Regarding the young girl / daughter of Jairus, the miracle was performed at home, and contrary to the opinion of the crowd. They thought Jairus “bothering the rabbi/teacher” Peter, James and John join him, signifying the presence of the Church, but the crowd was not there. The crowd did not expect anything to happen anyway.
            What Jesus taught here was the personal relationship, personal connection that was made in each of these miraculous encounters.
            But, were they seeking a relationship? Perhaps, no. Nevertheless, Jesus wants them – and us – to recognize him and his presence. To remember.
[__03__]   It could be observed that the 2 people in need of healing were not, in the language of Wells Fargo or Chase, looking for relationship-banking or to make an investment.
            There is a sense that they regard Jesus as a magician or a machine. Perhaps, an ATM with a touch screen.
Those machines are kind of magical!
            What does the woman say and do? She insists that if she can merely make contact, she will be healed. Her life, up to this point, which has not been improved by doctors has been really “touch and go”. This woman seems to want to touch and go.
            However, Jesus reminds her that it is her faith that has brought her to this point. And, her faith – confidence in God  - will continue to sustain her.
 [__04__]   Jairus, big man on campus and at the synagogue – wants “touch and go” also.  He just wants Jesus to touch and heal his daughter.
            More, touch and go, perhaps. 
[__05__]         It’s also true that Jairus and the woman display a confidence, a confident demeanor towards Jesus our Savior.
            Both of them display more faith than the surrounding crowd. The crowd is not looking for a connection. They are also brushing up against Jesus, touching him, but they are not changed by it. They just want to see and to be seen, and they want to go.
            The woman of the crowd – the marginalized woman of the crowd – believes that if she can at least touch Jesus’ garment/clothing that something memorable, something miraculous – will happen.  (pause)
[__06 __]        Is it possible to forget who someone, even someone we know very well?
            What is it …what is the method that helps you and me to remember names?
            Have you ever seen someone on TV or seen a famous actor / celebrity – in person, in the flesh – and despite all the person’s awards, Oscars, MVP’s, et cetera, you cannot – on the spot – remember his or her name.
            These spectacular achievements alone may not be enough to make the connection and recall the name.
            On the other hand, if you or I were, let’s say classmates in 1st grade – or 2nd grade – and we saw each other many decades later …and there was at least some resemblance, even if this encounter were in a crowd at Penn Station or the Prudential Center. We would pick each other out of any line-up.   We may not even need the photo-name-tag!
            I’m suggesting that Jesus is not healing us with short-term miracles but with long-term memory.
            What do we think the miracles are for?   (pause)
[__07__]      We may – naturally or logically – see a miracle as a response to TROUBLE.
            The miracle is a 911 response Jesus.  Got trouble? Ask for a miracle.
            And, I agree that it’s good to pray for God’s protection, God’s shelter – the intercession of Our Lady of Lourdes – for healing and strength.
            Yet, are we not also in this faith-relationship not just for the TRANSACTION but for the INVESTMENT.  We are in this, here, not just because we are in TROUBLE, or in need of a TRANSACTION, but also out of TRUST, faith in God. In other words, we can pray that we can accept and continue the journey under troubled circumstances too.
            Yes, faith is necessary in times of trouble, but is it not also true that our faith can prosper, thrive… grow in times of trouble?
            Trust and confidence is not something we are born with, neither GENETIC nor HEREDITARY. Though it may seem otherwise, it is not passed down from generation to generation – even in families royal or wealthy.
            And we are not told to place our ultimate – greatest -  trust in God ..this was written that earthly leaders – while they need our prayers – church leaders, government leaders – all leaders  -- do not have absolute power … in Psalm 145 we read:   put not your trust in princes.”  (Psalm 145:3)
            Trust and confidence are not things you and I are born with. Rather – trust and confidence – we receive them, in some cases, that we earn or grow into them.  This confidence can be as bright as the rising sun or it may resemble darkness and sunset. Nevertheless, confidence is something we receive as a gift, to be guarded, protected, not only for ourselves but for those we love and serve. What are the miracles for?

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Price. Value. Parable of the Seed (2018-06-17, 11th Sun, B)

17   June  2018   
11th Sunday Ordinary Time, Year B

•• Ezekiel 17:22-24   •• Psalm 92  •• 2 Corinthians 5:6-10  •• + Mark 4:26-34  ••

Title:  Price. Value. Parable of the Seed.

[__01__]       I read this on the website,  the  blog, of a real estate agent….
            When you start thinking about buying your first house [or any house], it’s easy to let your emotions run the show. Before you know it, you’re stalking the owners of homes – you’re stalking homes for sale – maybe in person or on your home-browsing app, you’re rearranging your schedule to drive by your dream house to check it out, and you’re researching creative financing options on your calculator or computer do the whole thing with no money down.
            Price is what we pay … value is what we get. Price is also what we pay right now… value is what we get or hope to have forever in our home.
[__02__]        It seems as if the man of the parable got a pretty good price and has a lot of value in his property. He has land, seed, agriculture, a good climate of rain and sun and a field that is a sure thing, and small structure of the seed grows into a great crop of grain. It’s a sure thing for him. And, he does not even know how it happens. “He knows not how.” (cf. Mark 4:27)
            What is the PRICE + VALUE of the Gospel, of the Kingdom?
            I suggest that the Gospel has  PRICE for us and a VALUE.  A PRICE   right now and VALUE for the future.
[__03__]         E.g., the Commandments exact a price. And, they are PERCEPTIBLE. We can read the Commandments, touch the Commandments, pay attention to the Commandments,
            The 10 Commandments cost us something to follow. According to these, we practice honesty: “thou shalt not bear false witness”   we are told.
            Being truthful is a tangible way for us to love and be loved – and avoid trouble.  It  - this honesty - might cost us something, but we believe: honesty is the best policy.
            We want to be known by others that our word is good, that we are trustworthy.
            And, the contrary is true. If someone has reason to be believe that I cannot be trusted, then it is like a mathematical proof.  If someone were to have reason not to believe me – my “worth”  or market price goes down -- it could really cost me.
            Following the Commandments is a way to pay the price – TANGIBLY – to follow God’s ways.

[__04__]        But the Gospel is not just about the PAYING the price right now in everything that I can see and touch. It’s about believing in what we cannot see – at least not right away.
            For example, to believe that there is value in you and me, to recognize that I am a sinner and in need of God’s grace.
            This is Good News. Knowing I am a sinner – or knowing another person is a sinner – does not make me – or you – less valuable.  This is the paradox of mercy and POTENTIAL.
            The paradox is that recognizing this sinfulness – in myself and others – helps to build community and communion and to avoid fear and find true friendship.  Mercy – forgiveness – is our POTENTIAL, our FUTURE VALUE.
            Sometimes, it happens in hidden ways, like the SEED that grows and the man “knows not how”.  (Mark 4:27)

[__05__]         This is also Father’s Day and last month, May, was Mother’s Day, have given us things both by what they PAID (they pay for a lot of stuff!) and by the VALUES they taught us.

[__06__]        Recently a family member shared this episode with me, this experience with her young daughter – who had just started elementary school, kindergarten.
            The child was anxious about the new habitat: classroom, teacher, classmates, et cetera et cetera.

[__07__]       And, does not every person experience this at some critical juncture, some critical point? It might not be the first day of school in kindergarten or first grade, but might be the first day in a new school, or high school, or college, at any age. It could be the first day – for any of us – the first day or first few days of a new job, or the first few days or years of being retired.
            After several months of this, this young child began to feel more comfortable, happier, more peaceful about the PRESENT MOMENT, and could see that going to school was worth it. I will pay the price of going to school, it has VALUE. I’m on board with this.
            And, she announces to her mother, very independently, a can-do attitude - “Mommy, I’m OK at school now. I’m OK, you don’t have to worry about me anymore.”[**pause**]
            That’s independence. She is 6. But, true stability and value is not something we turn ON or OFF independently at 6 or 66 or 96.
            Because God does worry about us, Jesus is concerned about us, and we benefit by God’s love and concern.  Heeding this concern, we learn things. And, we learn things by people being concerned about us. Their concern helps in our conversion.
            This stability is a value that we gain because God loves us, and we receive this love through our family and friendships so that we can know that we are precious and valued in God’s eyes.       [__fin__]  

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Lines. Lanes. Construction (2018-06-10, 10th Sunday)

10   June  2018   
Tenth Sunday Ordinary Time, Year B

•• Genesis 3:9-15  •• Psalm 130  •• 2 Corinthians 4:13-5:4  •• + Mark 3:20-35  ••

Title:  Conscious. Connected.

[__01__]      It seems most of us view road construction – and the related detours – as an obstacle, annoyance?  We want to get around them or away from them ASAP.
            But, isn’t it true that this is also a  remarkable process that helps us to be safe, secure, and to survive?

[__02__]       Recently, as you may recall - Eagle Rock Avenue – was under construction.

[__03__]       …. & during the work, Eagle Rock Avenue had no lines or lanes,          I agree this was a hindrance, but  also found this thought-provoking as we drove up and down Eagle Rock Avenue without any yellow and white painted lines.
There were no boundaries. And, as a result, it seemed that drivers had to be more CONSCIOUS and more CONNECTED … TO RECOGNIZE.
            To RECOGNIZE, pay more attention (be  mentally conscious) that they were lines, lanes and boundaries…even though we could not see them painted in yellow and white.
            There were lines, lanes, but they were not visible.  Nevertheless, the lines existed.

[__04__]     God’s commandments can be this way.  Our choices between RIGHT and WRONG, GOOD & EVIL, sometimes are not painted in yellow and white lines for us to see. Or, we may notice the boundary only after the fact.
            Sometimes, these boundaries are absolutely visible and clear.
            On the other hand, at times, it might not be so clear.
            Consider a parent trying to raise a child, a family member trying to take care of someone who is sick or suffering. In such situations, we are called to follow the commandments, to be loving, respectful, honest.
            Years ago, I observed how hard it was for my parents to take care of my grandparents. There were many decisions to be made about their care. Some of them were ethical decisions. And, there were detours and decisions.
            At times, my grandparents’ home to be re-arranged in order to provide the necessary care.  It was, in a way,  under construction.

[__05__]      In the Book of Genesis, we read today about the EXPERIENCE OF of Adam and Eve.
            Their lives are under CONSTRUCTION.
            We observe they were given a very specific boundary to follow, a law to follow. They did not observe it.  Perhaps, they found it annoying or an obstacle to their freedom, like road construction or a detour.
[__06__]   The paradox is that they develop and come to understand their responsibility and freedom– and God’s mercy … not because what they do is right…because of their violation, their sin.
            It is a paradox that the boundary made them free. It is a paradox that boundaries and lanes on Eagle Rock Avenue enable people to drove more rapidly, more efficiently, more freely…and reach their destination and true identity.
[__07__]     The Good News for you and me is that we are free.  And, even our faults – the knowledge of our sins and faults – is what makes us free and helps us to know we are free.
            Asking for God’s mercy, for forgiveness is a free choice.
            Consider what happens when we have the inclination or courage to admit we are wrong to another person.. Let’s say I have the voluntary-will to admit I am wrong even to the person who may be reluctant (resistant) or unable to forgive. By admitting I am wrong, I am truly free.
            (More challenging – is when we have to correct someone else or tell someone to change, to re-think. These are difficult conversations we say …”I don’t really get anything good out of this.”   This person is not going to like me or like what I have to say. But in these instances we are also truly free.)
            My knowledge of the boundary makes us free.   Jesus has a new path for us, a new a road. He is the way, the truth, and life. (John 14:6)

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Corpus Christi (2018-06-03)

Corpus Christi /  3  June  2018      At Sunday June 3rd Mass at 11:30 am

•• Exodus 24:3-8  •• Psalm 116 •• Hebrews 9:11-15 •• + Mark 14:12-16, 22-26 ••

Title:  Search. Study. Sacrifice (Corpus Christi)

[__01__]      This is Corpus Christi Sunday. Jesus sends his disciples to prepare for the Passover, which is really a preparation for Last Supper and Holy Communion. I’d like reflect on the way in which the disciples – and you and I are called by Christ to a…
            continuous [SEARCH]
            continuous [STUDY] …and by “study” I don’t simply mean book-academic study at the library.
            And continuous [SACRIFICE] by our Communion with Christ and each other.
 [__02__]       What is the
► [SEARCH] of the disciples?
            Jesus sends them to SEARCH the city, asking             “Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?
            How do they find this room? They search not for an address – the Manor, Mayfair Farms or some random restaurant.  He sends them to a person. He said you will meet “a man carrying a water jar.” In communities ancient and modern where water must be drawn out of a well and carried home, typically the division of labor is that women would carry water. To see a man, a male, carrying water indicates someone doing an unusual service, an uncommon service.
            Do you and I fit that description of unusual, uncommon service? If the disciples were sent out with DNA or bloodhounds to find someone with the virtue of hospitality, would they find me? you?  We have all taken both routes toward or away from hospitality.
            Jesus is emphasizing that Holy Communion begins with a continuous  SEARCH for an uncommon, unusual servant, not just the man with the water, but the person of Jesus Christ.
[__03__]      The disciples – you and I are also called to ► [STUDY].
            What do I mean by ► [STUDY]?
            You are saying to yourselves – he  wants me to “study” – it’s almost the 1st day of summer!  Or …maybe you say that study is not for you (or me) because we’re not officially enrolled or getting academic report cards or transcripts
            And yet… God is continuously searching us and studying us.  Prayer is our continuous study.
            Psalm 139: “O, Lord you search me and you know me, you know when I sit and when I stand; you understand my thoughts from afar.”  (Psalm 139:1-2)
            Prayer and reflecting on God’s love and mercy is a type of studying.     Is this ► [STUDY] meaningful to you? Me? Do I want to be known?
            Coming to Sunday Mass is a moment of ► [STUDY] and contemplation.
            Knowing that the Lord searches us and studies us, we allow ourselves to be known by him and to be known by others.
            Loving another person is also a call to ► [STUDY] in our relationships: marriage, family to know and to be known.
            Isn’t it true that – for all couples here, all married couples here, all families here – engaged couples – there is a paradox?
            The paradox is that in order to
talk with someone, we also have to be comfortable being silent with the person or experiencing the silence of another person.
            The paradox of ►[STUDY] or contemplation in a relationship. We know each other not only by what we say and do, but also by how we  are …and how we are silent.
            Also, we do we not ►[STUDY] and continuously learn from our loved ones? Loving someone does not mean that we have him or her figured out, but that we are open to the mystery of the person.
            Jesus is also calling us to continuous ► [STUDY] to grow closer to Him, our Daily Bread.
 [__04__]      In the sacrament of Holy Communion / Holy Eucharist, Jesus gives us a continuous ►[SACRIFICE].
            What is he talking about, a continuous sacrifice? IN the words of the Eucharistic Prayer, the priest says, “This is my body given up for you” – in present tense, here and now, continuing. And, we are called – all of us to make continuous sacrifices for each other.
            And, Jesus is sustaining us by leaving Holy Communion for he sacrifices himself every day on the altar at every Mass. You may say..Ok, that’s not really not possible.
            But, isn’t it true that continuity of  ►[SACRIFICE] changes the world .. changed our hearts …and reminded us that our own gifts of love connect to the Body of Christ?
            Such continuity and connection = Memorial Day last week…
            Jesus is also handing down his  sacrifice to his disciples as we hand it down to our children and families and friends.
            This continuity can be stunning.
 [__05__ I was stunned.    When I was a freshman in college/university, our coach thought it would be a good idea if all every player of you would go to the local hospital medical center and donate blood. I understood his “suggestion” (order?) but I was also stunned/terrified, having never done this before.
            Fortunately, no one knew that I felt scared … nor did I pass out. They made me have the cookies and juice.
            The coach thought it would be a profound gift that would be good not only for the community but for us as well. We might get in the newspaper, good publicity. I think there was a photo in the newspaper of the team captain and his arm. But, the impression on me was not the photography of the moment but the biography of the messenger. Our coach was the messenger.
            He was trying to connect the sacrificial gifts he received and one we were asked to make.
            While inviting us to get to the blood bank, he told us how as a young boy, he had been in a fire and had needed many blood transfusions to survive. It was a miracle that he survived. To this day, if I were to give blood or see someone giving blood, I recall his biography, his message.
            So, in this regard, I see a connection between my sacrifice (our team sacrifice) and the sacrifice of others of many years before for him, when he was a young boy hanging on for life in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
            Jesus is helping us to hang on for life – through our search, through our study, and through his sacrifice, his body sacrificed and risen for us, our Communion.  [__fin__]