Sunday, January 21, 2018

Nothing But Net (2018-01-21, Sunday-03)

January 21, 2018 –  3rd  Sunday, (Year B)

●● Jonah 3:1-5, 10 ●● Psalm 25 ●● 1 Corinthians 7:29-31 ●● Mark 1:14-20 ●●

[__01__]   In this Gospel, Jesus is calling his disciples and speaking to them about the net, and putting down their nets. They are fishermen.
          Perhaps, you have not been involved – on fishing boats on a lake or ocean – setting up a fishing net. But, there is a certain type of net or network with which we concern ourselves.
          That is, the communications network – or net / internet – in our homes and places of business becomes an important topic of conversation.
          For example, there are many devices and routers and cables. We place them strategically for optimal transmission and reception. Download speeds, upload speeds, et cetera, et cetera.
          And, then with this net we have to decide where we can display (or hide) the blinking devices. Do you want that thing in the living room? Outside your room? On top of the refrigerator.
          What is going to help us communicate and get the signal within the building/house, to each other and to others?
          Where is the net?
          How do we set up the net?
[__02__]    Jesus is speaking about a new net for his disciples, not a net for fishing, but a new net or network a connection among themselves as disciples and a network to new people to whom they are called to preach.
          Jesus also interrupts them at their regular place of work, of business.
          Sometimes, an interruption to us to see people – even loved ones – out of context.
          Consider those times when your parents – or a younger sibling – or a family member – appeared in your life or in the middle of your day unexpectedly.
          Maybe, your mother showed up at school when you were not expecting her, or a sibling showed up when you were hanging out with your friends.
          This is a network disruption but also a reminder of our connection to others.

[__03__]     Jesus interrupts Peter, Andrew, James and John at their place of work.
          He also interrupts us at our place of work if we are open to his presence.
          He might be speaking to us through a person across the desk from us, across the garage, kitchen, laboratory, classroom, through a person who desires our friendship, a person who desires our forgiveness.
          Forgiveness – whether we are asking for forgiveness or trying to forgive someone else – is often (always?) an interruption of our regularly programmed activity, and disruption in the network.

[__04__]     Jesus is setting up a network and present to us in our network of relationships.
          Sometimes, he arrives at what we think are inconvenient times, asking us to put aside our nets and to follow him, each day.
[__05__]  He is also asking us to do this with prohibitions in our lives, to things that we are called to say NO to.
          When we encounter a limit, a boundary in our lives, we are called to consider where is the YES, the Good News even in what I might experience as a prohibition.
          This past Friday, there was the March for Life, national Pro-Life event in Washington DC which is often – rationally or legally – associated only with something that we cannot do or should not do.
          Our Catholic ethic and spirit is reminding us not only about the NO, but also about the YES. That we are saying YES to life starting at conception and the nurturing of life at all stages.
          An analogy – is the ideal of marriage, the sacrament of matrimony. Consider that when a man and woman get married, each one is saying YES to the other person’s happiness and to their salvation.
          That is, the other person’s happiness is equally important to my own happiness.  Now, of course, we do not live this perfectly – 100% - every single day. However, it is our ideal, isn’t it?
And, is it not our hope that the other person thinks that my happiness is as is important to his own or her own? 
          That’s a pro-life ethic, to put the other person first. And, to say life is to be nurtured – at all stages – means that we are putting the other person’s life is equally important as my own life.

[__06__]   Yes, God appears – Christ appears – sometimes out of context and at times that we are not expecting, asking us to put aside our nets, to follow him.
          Coming to Mass on Sunday morning is a time to put aside our nets but we also remember that God comes to us at all times and places, even when we are not in church. And, sometimes to say NO to something so that we can say YES to his presence and yes to faith, hope and love in our lives.


Sunday, January 14, 2018

"What are you looking for?" (2018-01-14)

January 14, 2018 –  2nd, (Year B)

●● 1 Samuel 3:3b-10, 19 ●● Psalm 40 ●● 1 Corinthians 6:13c-15a, 17-20  ●● John 1:35-42 ●●

[__01__]  At the beginning of this year of 2018, in chapter 1 of the Gospel of John, a question is introduced, by Jesus our Savior, to interested parties, inquiring minds and disciples: “what are you looking for?”  (John 1:38)
          Direct, simple, and a logical place to start. “What are you looking for?
[__02__] Responding to this question on a search engine – or SIRI, Google, we receive ►choices,  ► maps ►directions  ► reviews by customers. ► emoji, stars … et cetera, et cetera.
          With such electronic guidance, we can gather information – sometimes an overwhelming amount of information – before making a decision.
[__03__]  In the Book of Samuel, we read about a beginning, an initiation.  This book is – partly – the autobiography of Samuel. How did he come to be a prophet?
          Recently, I read this definition of an autobiography, by the Harvard Law Professor, Alan Dershowitz. Of course, he would define this with a legal metaphor, as an attorney.  Professor Dershowitz writes that an autobiographer’s task is similar to that of a witness on the witness stand:  tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
[__04__] God – as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is asking us to tell the truth. And, Samuel at this moment admits that he does not know – but wants to know – who is calling him.        
Samuel – the first of all the prophets to the kings of Israel is young at the time prophet  -- he knows not why or by whom he is being awoken in the middle of the night.
          So, he goes to his mentor, Eli. Samuel thinks Eli is messaging him or alerting him.
[__05__] What are you looking for ? I can think of instances where – in a moment of perplexity or uncertainty – I have sought out the answer or the approval of someone.
          Sometimes, we even do this with our loved ones, our parents, a spouse, a relative.
          What am I looking for? Sometimes, it is your approval … regardless of what the truth of “right” course of action might be.
[__06__]  What are you looking for?  What Samuel seeks, first, is Eli’s direction, guidance. And, truly we often start – or have to start  - with the direction or guidance of a teacher, of a colleague, of a friend, of “my mother” … “my mother.”
          Samuel starts with his mentor. But, he does not end there.
Eli is sending him to God.
          And, we are called to do the same – to bring before God what we think is important, to be in conversation and relationship with Him each day.
[__07__]  Several years ago, I traveled to Los Angeles to visit my brother. I was not staying at the Hotel California but at their home. I was trying to enjoy myself, enjoy them, while also respecting their family schedule. We did not spend every waking moment together. I had a rental car.
          One afternoon, I returned home to tell them that I went for a walk near the Angeles National Forest, where I had been, what I had seen. And, while relating this, I was asked, “You will really do anything to get away from, won’t you?”
[__08__] What are you looking for? Jesus is asking us to tell the truth.
          I think my brother and his family were  also asking for the truth … but in this situation I do what many of us do when we are trying to avoid …I smiled. That was honest, sort of.  I was concerned that my answer might  be recorded for quality purposes.
          Obviously they were looking for me to spend time with them. God is also seeking – and searching for you and for me, not only to gather data on our whereabouts, but to know our hearts. And, he asks us to visit, to come and see.
[__09__] What are you looking for?
          If we are looking for God, then we are also looking for love, for God is love.
          John the Baptist teaches us that true love – in  the terms of Jesus – is a gift, a gift to be shared, it involves sacrifice, and may invite us to change our ways.
          Was this what I was looking for ? Perhaps, it was not my first search criteria…what I first typed into the phone.
          John the Baptist reminds us to put this love first, to behold the Lamb of God, WHO we are looking for.   [__fin__]

Sunday, January 7, 2018

The Epiphany & The Eclipse (2018-01-07)

7 January 2018,  EPIPHANY / THREE KINGS

●● Isaiah 60:1-6  ●● Psalm 72  ●●  Ephesians 3:2-3a, 5-6  ●● + Matthew 2:1-12 ●● 

[_01_]     On this feast of the Epiphany of the 3 Kings, we read about the Magi – or the 3 Kings – coming from the East. And, they are following a star.
          They have left their own country and comfort zone to follow and see the child, Jesus, in Bethlehem.

[_02__]     Last year, there was big news about following – seeking – something – in the sky, in the heavens. Astronomically. Scientifically.
          On August 21, 2017, we had the solar eclipse. Many people went out to see something in the sky. They even went to follow a path – the so-called “path of totality” or path of total darkness.
It was visible from west coast / Oregon to east coast / South Carolina.
Why did we go out to see that – to see that solar eclipse?

 [_03_]      The ECLIPSE invited many individuals – scientists and non-scientists- to see things in the darkness that we cannot see in the bright light.
          In other words, when the moon passes in front of the sun – creating a shadow – we get a certain view that we cannot get when the sun is shining 100% exposed at us.
          Why did the Magi come to Bethlehem?

[_03.01_]            They come to get a view of the light – the light of God that is not otherwise visible.
          God appears in the light and appears as a small child to us.
          Isn’t it true that children bring us joy and information and revelation about ourselves and about God’s love for us?
          Children demonstrate to us the existence of UNCONDITIONAL LOVE.  Of unconditionally loving another person.
          Children appreciate this unconditional love.
          Also, children give unconditional love in a way that we, sometimes, forget how to do.
          This is the star, the star of God’s love coming to us.

[_03.02_]     Children demonstrate to us the importance of forgiveness.
          Children also demonstrate a divine quality that we – as adults – find difficulty. That is – forgiving and forgetting. Or, forgiving and letting go.
          A child cannot only be forgiving but also can, in their way, forget what happened.
          In this regard, children resemble God because God is able to forgives our sins and forgets our sins as well.

[_03.03_]      So, children in their slightly small stature – and situation – represent the greatness, the power, the vastness of God’s love to us.
          They represent to us God in slow motion, we could say.
          And, the eclipse was a similar phenomenon for the NASA scientists and every physicist and person who went to see the darkness on August 21, 2017.
          They went out to see the SUN in slow motion, the brightness of the SUN in a way that is not otherwise visible.
          And, it does not happen very often.
          (The ECLIPSE was big news because such an event is not usually visible in North America or the U.S.– the next such eclipse is April 8, 2024. Save the date.)
          And, the eclipse requires that we have special vision, special eye-protection, glasses.
          Remember you and I could look up at the eclipse with any glasses or ordinary UVA / UVB sunglasses.
          It helped if you were a welder or a construction worker. They had the glasses already.
          But, you needed special glasses. And, remember there were people on August 17, 18, 19, 20 of last year running around …paying high prices for the glasses at the last minute.
It helped then if you were prepared, ahead of time …with the vision. The Magi – the 3 Kings, 3 Wise Men were prepared ahead of time with this special vision.
This special vision is not on their heads but in their hearts, a desire within to discover God – in the person of a child.
And, we are called to see and discover in Jesus as the newborn Messiah – and as it is manifested to us in the children in our lives.


Monday, January 1, 2018

Making Peace (2018-01-01, Solemnity of Mary Mother of God)

1 January 2018,  Solemnity of Mary Mother of God

●● Numbers 6:22-27  ●● Psalm 67  ●●  Galatians 4:4-7  ●● + Luke 2:16-21 ●● 

Title:  Peace and  Presence

[_01_]     We read from the Book of Numbers this blessing:
The LORD bless you and keep you!
The LORD let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you!
The LORD look upon you kindly and give you peace!” (Numbers 6:24-26)
A blessing of peace.
What is the definition of peace?
Peace could be the absence of conflict.
Peace – however – is not really an ABSENCE or a LACK ..but a PRESENCE.
It is the presence of Christ whom we celebrate.
And, it is our own presence in and through Christ according to his word.

Peace is a presence.
Practically, PEACE could be the PRESENCE of this hymnal – with the reading from Numbers -- (my own – right here) so that I did not have to memorize all of Numbers 6:24-26.
On a practical level – at Port Authority or Penn Station – we have peace when we have information.  If we know, for example, our train or bus is late, we are more peaceful / tranquil if we know how late or for what reason.

[_02_]      However, Jesus wishes to raise the bar – raise the standard for us – to remind us that peace is something we can have as a stable, permanent gift in our lives.  And that peace is not simply the absence of conflict or the status quo. Peace can exist even with change and conflict.
          In the Beatitudes, our Lord teaches – “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”  (Matthew 5:__)
          We are called to make peace, not simply to keep peace.

[_03_]        And, I’d like to make this connection between the works of mercy and peace. That is, being present– and living – the works of mercy bring peace.
          Materially, we see this in the charitable giving.  Feeding the hungry, we make peace.  Visiting the sick, we make peace. Giving to someone in need, we make peace physically, materially. This is our “present” and “presence” and “gift.”
[_04_]      In a spiritual sense, we are also called to be peacemakers.
          The spiritual works of mercy call us to give and to receive wisdom and knowledge.
          Isn’t it true, in a fundamental way, that we promote peace by sharing knowledge.
          On an interpersonal level, the same is true.  We promote peace when we disclose and share ourselves with others.  That is we are present to the other. This does not mean we have to share every detail of our background, but that we share and instruct others with some generosity.
          We do this very naturally and easily in the early stages of a relationship, especially in a falling-in-love type of relationship. We tell the other person about ourselves and this promotes peace and reassurance. And, we want to be present to the other. Whatever faults or failings there are between 2 people are compensated by their desire to be present – and to know – the other.
          Sometimes, however, as time goes on we assume there is nothing more to learn or we become indifferent and it is much more difficult to resolve conflicts. We are less “present”.
          We may even think it is normal to live in a state of quasi-armed resistance against certain people – even loved ones.  

          Another practical example – or the contrary case.   A friend of mine told me how he used to work – early in his career – and how this caused frustration.  In fact, he was not fully present.
          In fact, he came to work every day, worked diligently, but he generally did not keep his boss well informed about his progress.
          When he would go to meet his boss, he would not make it easy for the boss to gain information.
          So, his boss said to him frequently at meetings– you know, working with you is like playing “Where’s Waldo?” You remember “Where’s Waldo?”
          “The objective of each Where's Waldo? book is simple enough: comb through the crowds of people to find Waldo, who's always decked out in his trademark red and white striped sweater and glasses.
          And, rather than this young man telling his boss straight-up what was happening, he forced his boss to “find” Waldo or fish for the information.
          Sometimes, we play Where’s Waldo? by our partial presence to each other.

[_05_]     Consider the example of our Blessed Mother on this Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
          Certainly, she has much joy, but also much to be concerned about. So much is unsettled and uncertain.
          Yet, amid this , she is able to be present to her son, to her husband …and even to the visiting shepherds whom she does not really  know.

          Mary – in her conversation with the angel at the Annunciation even found herself in some conflict.
          “How can this be…?”

 [_07_] In other words, Mary – and later Jesus -- gives us an example of PEACEMAKING in the middle of conflict.
          Mary gives us an example of the simple question which is sometimes the hardest one to formulate.
          Simplicity – in our dialogue and conversation and question - followed by silence helps to promote peace.
          So, that we can be a blessing of peace, so that we can go in peace.


Sunday, December 31, 2017

Holy Famly Sunday (2017-12-31)

[Holy Family Sunday, ]
••Sirach 3:2-6 •• Psalm 105  •• Hebrews 11:8, 11-12, 17-19 •• + Luke 2:22-40 ••

Title: “Do we get what we deserve? Holy Family Sunday

[__01__]  Walking home from school one afternoon, I was asked this question: why are you walking? Where is your bicycle?
          I had been hoping to avoid this question because the last time I saw my bicycle it was unlocked outside of school.
          You got what you deserved.  You left your bicycle – unlocked ??!!??   There was no hue and cry about crime rates or injustice.
          I simply got what I deserved, logical, like a scientific proof.
          The immediate consequence was that there would be more walking, still some cardio (cardiovascular exercise), but slower from home to school.
          I valued the bicycle and was now missing it.
[__02__]  It is Holy Family Sunday. We read in this Gospel about Simeon and Anna, the prophet and prophetesses of the Temple.  Both of them discover the newborn Messiah, Jesus, whom they see being brought to the Temple by Joseph and Mary.
          Simeon’s words form part of our traditional Catholic night prayer, a late evening reflection where we also naturally ask together with prayer with our Savior – what happened today? We may also, at times, ask – did I get what I deserved?
          Simeon is rejoicing because his prayers are answered.
[__03__]  This prayer was answered but it took quite a while.  Perhaps, Simeon had been disappointed with other Messiah candidates. Yet, he persisted in prayer.
          He know that he was missing something in his life – he persisted in prayer, persisted in asking, seeking, knocking.

[__04__]  We also see in Simeon that his prayer is not only for the SOLUTIONS.  Rather, Simeon is seeking a SAVIOR, and a PERSON. It is a reminder that Jesus comes to us personally.
          In our relationship and conversation with him – in prayer – we discover answers, we gain insight, we gain imagination and compassion.
          In our conversation – we may not gain the ANSWERS or INSIGHT or WISDOM we expected.  You and I are called to talk this out – in prayer with Jesus.
          Is there not an analog (not a perfect digital replication ..just an analog) in our relationships with others?
          That is, we talk things out with to others – we disclose ourselves to others – so that we are able not only to examine the other person – but also to examine ourselves.
          We want to understand not only what are missing but what we truly value.
          Was Simeon, from the outset, expecting a Messiah who would be an infant? Perhaps, not always. But, after years of prayer, he came to this realization. He had come to realize not only what he was missing – what he deserved – but what he truly valued.
[__05__]   This is Holy Family Sunday and we recall that it is in and through our families that we not only ANSWERS but QUESTIONS.
          We gain not only COMFORT and CONVENIENCE but also we have a place to share our SUFFERING and DIFFICULTY and what we are missing.
          From my own parents and family, I am grateful they taught me about friendship and love and that friendship begins not with ANSWERS, but with QUESTIONS.
[__06__]   Through the silent partnership and gift of my grandparents, the bike was replaced several months later.
          The Holy Family also reminds us that we experience Christ together – in moments of forgiveness and of crisis – and that he gives us more than we deserve.
          Jesus Christ is our true and greatest value.  [__fin__

Monday, December 25, 2017

Bethlehem is Crowded (Christmas 2017)

[Christmas]  ••Isaiah 9:1-6 ••Psalm 96••Titus 2:11-14 •• + Luke 2:1-14   /  

Title: “Bethlehem is Crowded.”

[__01__]  In this Gospel, we read about Bethlehem:  Bethlehem as a sacred place.
          A sacred place for the Jewish people, a sacred place for the Christian people in the Holy Land.
          And, Bethlehem is crowded.
          Bethlehem is overbooked and for a particular reason. It is because of the census which required Mary and Joseph – among many others – to go to Bethlehem for the census of the population by the Roman Empire. There are many people required to go to Bethlehem. As a result, they cannot find a room, or any space. There is no room at the inn.

[__02__]   It is a paradox that that Bethlehem should be crowded. Bethlehem is an out an out-of-the-way place, a back-water – up-river place - sort of like West Orange before Thomas Edison and electricity.
          And, later, Nazareth is considered similarly, an out-of-the way place. No one expects a great Messiah from there. So, it is a paradox that  Bethlehem should be crowded.
And, a paradox, that Jesus our Savior should be born.

[__03__]   And, he is ignored by the crowds. The only people who notice him are those who were not in the crowd. The shepherds were keeping their night watch over the flocks, out in the field. They were told by the angel to go and see Jesus, to encounter him.

[__04__]    So, Jesus is not even noticed by the crowd, part of the paradox that Bethlehem a sacred place.
          There are places sacred to you and to me in our lives.
          A home we once lived in, a college we once attended in, an apartment we once lived in.
          Our Lady of Lourdes is a sacred place to many of us as we return here for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
          We read in Psalm 84, “one day within your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere.”
          This reminds us that our place before God –and Christ our Savior – is the best place of all.

[__05__]    Bethlehem is crowded. Life is crowded.
          Our relationship with Christ invites not only to encounter him privately in perfect silence – but also in the crowds – the things in life that may be out-of-sequence or otherwise difficult.

[__06__]   Bethlehem is crowded. Washington D.C. is also crowded.
When I was 12, my father and mother took my 2 brothers and me to Washington D.C. to see the sites – Smithsonian, Lincoln Memorial, the Mall and monuments.
          We drove to D.C. and stayed in a Holiday Inn hotel.  My father was eager to report – and point out – that the WATERGATE office / apartment building was just across the street. At that age, I knew Watergate was a thing, but I did not know that Watergate was a place. 
          By the way, I’m not suggesting that Watergate is a sacred place, but that what is precious to me is the memory of my father teaching me about a place.  
          And, knowing “location” is important in every relationship. Do I know where I am – where I stand – with another person? If I just met someone, I may talk/listen in a particular way. After 20-30 years of friendship – being further down the road in the geography of affections – I may communicate differently.  Place is important.

[__06__] Location is important. It was important in the Gospel, connecting Jesus to Bethlehem to the kingdom of David.   
[__07__] Bethlehem is crowded. Washington D.C. is crowded. Being on a crowded sidewalk, on the 2nd day,  my mother accidentally stepped off one of the curbs in our nation’s capital and twisted her ankle.  A slight sprain. She was at this point, expecting a baby – our next sibling and was 6 ½ months along, 2 ½ months before the birth of our sister.
          Fortunately, my mother was quite fine. The next day, however, she informed us that she would be separating herself from the city crowd and our crowd and stay behind in the hotel room.
          This seemed strange to me at the time.  She would not be with us. Would she be lonely? OK?
          Not quite…

[__08__] My mother loved us, , cared for us, but was so happy, so glad to see us leave that hotel room.
          But, she was not alone and nor were we truly separated from her. She was with us the whole time in a different way.
          Also,– the reality of new life – of our new sibling appeared clearly to me at that time as my mother rested and stayed behind. There was going to be a new crowd, a new person, a new presence.
          There would be room for one more at the inn.

[__09__] Bethlehem is crowded. Our hearts are crowded. It is Good News that Jesus arrives there to be born, to give us new life with his presence.