Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Big Picture (2012-05-13, Easter)

13 May 2012  The Big Picture
Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48 | Psalm 98 | 1 John 4:7-10 | John 15:9-17

[_01_]         One of my professors in college pointed out the way in which William Shakespeare would have his servants – his actors, the actors in his players – do what he commanded them.

The “commands” were written in the script.

Shakespeare would issue commands while also concealing some very important information. In the time of Shakespeare, the Elizabethan era in England, the time of Queen Elizabeth I [the First], around the year 1600, there were no copyrights, no agents, no attorneys, no agents to protect William Shakespeare … who is the pre-eminent playwright, one of the greatest writers in the English language, and the owner of very valuable intellectual property.   To protect that property from those who might copy it and profit from a copy.

So, in those days, he would give parts of the script to each actor who would only receive his or her own lines, his or her own cues. But, they would not receive the entire script.
This was to protect his property, his investment and to prevent Hamlet, Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, or The Comedy of Errors from being produced Off-Off-Broadway or in Las Vegas …in a pirated version. 

Shakespeare would conceal the full story – the big picture - from his “servants”, from his actors.

 [_02_]        Reading this Gospel, John Chapter 15, Jesus offers us the big picture, i.e., the long range or overall view of a complex matter.

In this new picture, Jesus invites us to be his friends rather than his servants.
“A slave does not know what is master is doing.” Slaves  - servants - would not immediately know – comprehend / understand – what their masters are doing.

A servant may feel forced to act in a certain way, to follow a certain script, even if he or she does not understand the consequences or the strategy being carried out.

Our feeling – our attitude – toward a friend is different.

We do not respond to a friend out of a reward system, but because of a relationship.
Also, isn’t the act of forgiveness also changed – upgraded – by friendship. We extend this forgiveness – our seek it – not due to a really eloquent apology but because we believe mercy is God’s gift.

This is the big picture.

We participate in the life of Christ by forgiving others, and by seeking forgiveness.

[_03_]        Another example with immediate financial-market / stock market implications this week is the manner in which intellectual property is protected in Silicon Valley, California.

Software. Technology. This week, Facebook, is supposed to go public. 

And, we know that  Mark Zuckerberg has protected his property very carefully. This is property developed first in his dorm room – with his roommates – at Harvard. Then, he and his partners started a company, moving to northern California, and are now going public.

The 2010 movie, The Social Network, portrays the drama of this concealment. Only a few individuals know – or still know – what Facebook is all about.

So, there is a similarity in Stratford-upon-Avon and Silicon Valley. Only a few will know the big picture.

[_04_]      This Sunday is Mother’s Day.  Today is a day to recall our mothers, grandmothers, great grandmothers, and the mothers and wives we still try to support.

Raising you and me, our mothers accepted heavy burdens willingly and sometimes also heartbreaking challenges. They did so freely, coming to understand their motherhood is a gift made by God shared not with servants but with friends.

Our mothers also taught us perseverance, persistence.

We might say that a servant is one who does not yet what – if any questions to ask.  Our mothers also taught us to serve, to be generous even at those times that we did not understand the big picture, when we did not understand why…for they also began serving before they had all the answers – or even the questions/syllabus.

And, in many ways, they did so when they did not completely know what they were doing… or what before they knew what – if any ---questions to ask …

The servent is one who gains insight by listening, being present. Our mothers are those servants – and they are servants who bought their own freedom – who purchased their liberty – by loving us.

And, in so doing, they have also grasped the big picture and protected the investment and image (Genesis 1:27) which God has made in us.      [_fin_]     

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Upward Mobility (2012-05-06, Easter)

This is my homily for 29 April 2012 (5th Sunday Easter). I am a Catholic chaplain in Teaneck at Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) campus and for the FDU Newman Catholic Association. We celebrate Catholic Mass - during Fall and Spring semester - every Sunday Evening (7:30 p.m.) at the Interfaith Chapel, 842 River Road, Teaneck, NJ.

READINGS: Acts 9:26-31/ Psalm 22/ 1 John 3:18-24/ John 15:1-8

[_01_] A vine – whether a vine of grapes or a vine of ivy – is capable of attaching itself and spirally coiling around a trellis, a wall, and then ascending upward.

The parable also reminds you and me that we are not merely passively hanging on the vine, but that we have a role to play in staying connected.

And, also, our health – strength – as individual branches also indicates something about the health and strength of the whole vine which not only symbolizes Jesus but also symbolizes the Church, the Body of Christ.

And, in the case of ivy, we see a plant with evergreen leaves and vines which will cover the exterior of a building, the exterior walls of older buildings on “ivy league” universities such as Princeton or Harvard. The vines climb up just as college students do. The vine symbolizes upward movement, mobility, even … wealth and strength and power.

We could also say that every family is a vine. The branches on the vine are nourished, protected by our mothers and fathers. Our mothers and fathers clear the ground for us … picking up after us, protecting us also from dangers, from harm which we do not always recognize on our own.

[_02_] The vine climbs upward. The vine grows.

In what ways do these vines grow within us? In what ways does the Holy Spirit grow within us?

What I’m suggesting is that the vines grow naturally – easily – upward and across the exterior wall of that Ivy League Library.

But, is this growth of the ivy – or any vine – only a superficial or surface change to the building? A change, we might say only in 2 dimensions, a change that we can see on any flat screen, or the flat wall.

The vines grow naturally in 2 dimensions, in physical size and in age.

But, are the vines growing in a 3rd dimensions, in 3-D? This 3rd dimension is our relationship with the Holy Spirit through our prayer, through Christ.

No 3-D glasses or expensive movie tickets required.

In this 3rd dimension, we are trying to repent of our sins, to admit our need for God’s help in various ways.

[_04_] For example, I can be – we all can be – superficial about certain commitments in our lives. We may only go through the motions, staying in 2 dimensions, flat.

We may do this in our gardens, our yard. We only cut the grass or trim – or skim - the surface without going down to the roots.

[_05_] At times, we would do the same in certain academic classes or professional commitments, doing only the minimum which is required. We might have a digital signal ..but we are still in 2-D.

Jesus – with the vine and branches parable – is inviting us to grow with him in all dimensions in 3-D.

[_06_] What I’d like to suggest is that this 3rd dimensions is observable. We can see it, feel it… in our relationships, friendships.

Don´t we naturally choose to be around friends, classmates, neighbors who agree with us even admire us?

These are positive emotions, affirmations.

But, we are also called to accept challenges which help us to grow.

A relationship has a life of its own apart from our current feeling. An example of this is the relationship between Peter and Jesus at the time of Peter´s triplet of denials.

Jesus is inviting us to an ongoing a relationship. As we known, a relationship, and love, can be re-energized with emotion, with affection, with a feeling of comfort. But, the relationship itself is like a vine which enables all of these feelings/emotions to flow through the circuit breakers.

Even Peter who feels threatened and denies Jesus three times remains in a relationship with him.

[_07_] We might also say that the process of grieving and mourning is part of the full 3-D, three dimensional experience in our lives.

For if we are truly honest about a death in our family, an illness, a tragedy, then we are growing not just in AGE, PHYSICAL SIZE ..but also we are growing in DEPTH, in the depth of our heart and love.

The vine and branches parable reminds us of Jesus’ love for us.

And, this parable reminds us that we are e carried forward, sometimes pushed outward so that we can grow in not only in age or physical strength but also grow in character, in integrity, in spirit by remaining close to the vine who is Jesus, the source of our growth.  { __fin__}