Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Roots (2014-07-20)

[__01__]    The root is the part of a plant that grows underground, gets water from the ground, and holds the plant in place.[1]

To speak of a person or an idea as “radical”, we would have in mind …

  • Something very basic and important – for example
  • There are some radical differences between the two proposals.”
  • “there were radical changes in the country after the election”

Something which is “radical” is one which stands out not only in terms of its obvious or visible appearance – or behavior…but is also is different – at the roots.

[__02__]     For example, civil rights leaders are sometimes described as “radicals”.  And, in 1992, Nelson Mandela – after decades in prison… became a “free radical”.    And, a free radical – in science and the environment is seeking something to bond with …something to do…

And, so Nelson Mandela –at the age of 70 was now – a free radical…with new ideas… and was elected president of South Africa, his own country.

As a “radical”, he was elected president of the country which had only recently imprisoned him for his ideas. So …there was a radical shift… not simply because Nelson Mandela was black and most of the other leaders were white… This would have been only a shift in appearance.

He was also hoping for a shift at the root level.

[[[  In mathematics, “radical” also mean the root or square root of a number….  The radical of 16 equals 4 … because 4 times 4 equals 16;  the radical of 9 equals 3, because 3 times 3 equals 9.   ]]]

[__03__]     In this Gospel reading about the farm, the cultivated field, an image is presented for our consideration and prayer about our roots… about our own ¨radical ideas¨.

And, we are invited then, below the surface, to radical reform… not of a government… or institution but of ourselves.

[__04__]      Each day, we manifest – demonstrate – behavior and personality and emotions to others. In this way, you and I behave certain ways – by word, action, silence, or inaction.

St. Paul writes in 1st Corinthians that this behavior is evidence that we are growing, changing …that we are, as St. Paul writes, ¨God´s field¨  (1 Corinthians 3:9)

[__05__]     And, we are invited to consider where are roots are …. Not simply how we appear on the surface.

Jesus cautions us not to consider only the appearance, or only the surface, saying that if you pull up the weeds [the bad plants] you might uproot the wheat [the good plants] along with them. (cf. Matthew 13:29)

So, if we are examining our lives, examining our conscience, or – as Jesuit Father George Aschenbrenner, [S.J.] wrote – “examining our consciousness” …

“examining our consciousness”

We might consider not only what we see on the surface.

[__06__]     For example – “CONFIDENCE” … or “BEING CONFIDENT”

We might describe ourselves or someone else as confident. But, we might also ask – what is the root – or origin – of my our your confidence?

Where is the root?

Is my confidence based on my pride, by own need to be # 1, to be correct?

Or, could you and I not also be confident – and trustworthy – if were to endure criticism, or correction… that is, because we would trust in God’s strength and grace?

In other words [I.e.,à ]  is my confidence based on pride (a bad plant in the garden) or prudence/wisdom (a good plant in the garden).

Sometimes, these roots are intertwined. We need God’s help to unwind them.

[__07__]    Or … for example, we might describe ourselves or another person as ANGRY…

Certainly, all of us feel  - experience – at times – frustration and anger.

However, at times, anger could be defined as a legitimate and virtuous reaction to some injustice.

We are angry at offenses against religious freedom, or justice… our anger, then, could lead us to God and to the truth.

Or, if my anger were only rooted in pride, then my anger could harm another person or could harm me.

[__08__]    This Gospel reminds us that our emotions and behaviors can be rooted in goodness or rooted in wickedness.

In either case, we need God’s help to discern our own thoughts and actions.

For example, in Psalm 141, we pray that that God will set a watch before my mouth … a guard at the door of my lips.

In the letter to the Hebrews we read, that it is God’s word cuts to the heart as a double-edged sword, penetrating as far as the separation of soul and spirit, joints and marrow. (cf. Hebrews 4:12)

Thus, as Jesus says ... don’t be concerned only with outward behavior…or what is at the surface…

Yes, at times, we may be concerned about not having enough confidence…. To take on some situation…

We may be concerned that we are too angry or upset to take some action.

Nevertheless, ask for God’s help to go beneath the surface, to cling to what is God’s to ascend to Heaven… and, perhaps, to leave in the earth… in the soil, what belongs to the evil spirit, the spirits of temptation, from which we need God’s help to unwind, and be set free.

[1] Merriam-Webster., “root” defined for English language learners.

The Ground Floor (2014-07-13)

[__01__]    The seed is the word.

“Some seed fell on rich soil.” (Matthew 13:8

This parable about the seed falling on the ground, on the earth is similar to the parable about the house built on rock.

In the parable about the house built on rock, our Lord and Savior said to us that the wise man built his house on rock so that when the winds blew and buffeted the house, it did not collapse. (cf. Matthew 7:24-25)

[__02__]     The foundation of the house is essential for the survival and strength of the house in a storm. The ground is its strength.

And, in the parable of the sower and the seed, the earth and the good soil give strength, beauty, health to the seeds which fall there.

[__03__]     From the ground, from the ground floor of the earth, we build.

Investors know this well in their pursuit of profits, to do as they say on the New York Stock Exchange, NASDAQ or the bond markets … “buy low and sell high.”

That is, to make big money, the investor wants to be in on the “ground floor”. 

For example, these days, Google or Starbucks are large corporations and it would be expensive to invest in them to own them. But, at one time, they were small …and certain individuals invested …bought in – at the “ground level” and the foundation level … and made big profits.

On the ground floor, we learn lessons which pay off later.

[__04__]      What is your ground floor? My ground floor?   I only use these “corporate” or businesses as examples … of the harvest that some of us may also observe or dream about …

Jesus wants us to be attentive to the ground floor, to the earth and the environment of our lives.

[__05__]     The quality of the soil, of the earth, of the ground will determine the growth and the results

Our Lord is calling us remember the importance of the soil, the earth, the environment, in which we grow and develop.

[__06__]     For all of us, this was – or is – our family and home life. This is our soil, in which we were raised or in which we currently raise and care for another person or young person.

[__07__]    As adults, don’t we demonstrate – manifest – the values which we learned on the ground floor of our family and home life.

We learn – or learned – many things from our parents and families even before we could rise up – get up – off the floor.

Our mothers, fathers, families, help to create the soil, the earth in which we grow…and in which the seed of the Word of God will fall into our lives.

From the Word of God, we learn about –

  • HumilitySt. Paul writes that Jesus came in human likeness and was found human in appearance but that he humbled himself and became obedient….

We not only, however, need the example of Jesus to be humble… we need the example of many people in our lives from whom we learn about the importance of listening, of confessing our sins, of repentance…so that the seed will fall into the rich soil…into a good climate.

From the Word of God, we learn about –

  • Prayer  – the evangelists tell us that Jesus – on the night before he died – prayed that he was really doing God’s will.  He prays, Father, not my will but thine be done… as we say, “on earth as it is in heaven. ”

We not only, however, need the example of Jesus to pray … we need the example of our mothers, fathers by whom we are brought to church, with whom we pray  and say Grace before meals, with whom we might say a prayer before we go to sleep at night…

We need this soil so that we will be enriched …

We are also called to provide this soil of love, prayer, humility, to others so that God’s word may be multiplied, may grow…

Thirty, sixty, and hundred fold.


14th Sunday, Year A (2014-07-06)

[__01__]    There are many tests of endurance, tests of perseverance – which we might experience.

In high school, college and other classroom settings, the academic homework is test of our patience, a challenge to our mental and physical strength at times.

Is this yoke easy? Is this burden light. Often it is not, it is a heavy difficult burden. But, in the middle of summer, when many students are off – and not doing homework – we may for the moment not recall the burden.

We are in a physical and mental sense – as Jesus says  -- “finding rest for ourselves.”

[__02__]    The classroom and academic life are just one example of a burden.

Some of us may have particular responsibilities at home, responsibilities which we cannot be evaluated in terms of a grade point average, financial aid, or a salary or hourly wage.

We may, for example, have the burden of care, the burden of care at home for a parent, a spouse, child, a friend.

We will try our best to love the other person, to be generous…but there will be certain responsibilities which are at times…heavy …though not measured in kilograms or pounds …nevertheless, the gravity of the situation pulls upon our shoulders.

This can be uncomfortable, difficult.

[__03__]      Through this Gospel passage in Matthew, chapter 11, the Lord is inviting us to come to him with our burdens … with the weight that is upon is physically, mentally, emotionally…

[__04__]     A person with professional lifting experience… say a body builder or a piano mover  – can make the burden of several hundred pounds appear easy.

They have practiced, lifted many barbells, dumbbells … for them, we might say, the burden is always light and well balanced from side to side. 

Of course, these lifters and movers – professionally – know exactly how and when to lift… They understand the burden not only in terms of its weight but also its degree of difficulty.

[__05__]    Coming to the Lord in prayer, we are also asking for the same insight, intelligence, awareness.

We are asking the Lord to counsel us, advise us… regarding what burden to lift or bear first… for we cannot lift everything all at once.

[__06__]   When we come to Sudnay Mass, when we come to confess our sins, when we come to pray, we are also called to put down our burdens, boxes, baggage… if not also the barbells.

 [__07__]    Do you and I have decisions to make?  

Put them in God’s presence, in God’s hands, ask God to help us to know the full dimensions of height, weight, length…

We might ask ourselves… regarding our burdens, responsibilities… We might ask – for whom do I carry this weight, this cross? Is it is only to prove something to myself? Am I willing to carry this burden for God and for the good of my neighbor … my loved one?

  [__08__]     In prayer, we are also called to put down our burdens … so that the Lord might evaluate them …and also that he might – at the next step … help us to lift them, help us to continue.

His yoke is easy and his burden is light.    [__fin__]

Feast, Sts. Peter and Paul (2014-06-29)

[__01__]   In the Gospel this Sunday – on the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul – Peter answers the question first, puts the ball in the goal first … before all others .. and before the clock runs out.

Has he simply worked harder, practiced longer hours, to reach this point, to excel beyond the other apostles?

On the one hand, St. Paul encourages us to work, to persevere, reflecting on his own life ---

For I am already on the point of being sacrificed, the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”  (2 Timothy 4:7)

[__02__]    Effort is important also, because this shows the connection between our faith and our works…our love for God and our love of neighbor.  We are called to do both, as we read in the letter of St. James:

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?  If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,” but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” (James 2:14-17)

[__03__]   Peter the Apostle had, at this moment, both faith and works. He believes in God and he is able to communicate and express our faith in Jesus Christ and the Church.

The other students – the apostles – were providing incomplete answers, repeating what they had heard other people say about Jesus. But, they could not yet say for themselves.

Peter – currently in the top percentile intellectually and religiously among the apostles – offered a correct answer to our Savior’s question, “who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:15)

[__04__]      Yet, Peter – star student is also cautioned about his report card and GPA …

flesh and blood has not revealed this to you but my heavenly Father ” (Matthew 16:17)

In other words, Peter is being told that he did not come this conclusion entirely on his own, by his own study, by long hours of practice, or an all-nighter in the library.

[__05__]     This gift of knowledge and  of wisdom came from God.

Being asked, “who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:15) … you and are also being asked about the priority or weight we give to God’s influence – God’s inspiration in our lives.
For example, can you and I figure it all out on our own … to figure out how to live our vocation or how to face and talk to a difficult person… whether we are in a situation say… of …

  • Marriage
  • Family / mother / father / parent
  • Being a parish priest
  • Being a religious sister

Wisdom is a gift available to all of us, in decisions that may seem very small or very large… For God, we say nothing is impossible… or we might say, no job is too small to be unimportant.

[__05.01__]      The Lord is asking us – can we make sacrifices or choose the honest path simply because we know that this is God’s command, God’s priority, God’s ideal …

He calls us to strive for perfection, to strive for goodness, even if we feel tired, alone, scared…

As St. Paul wrote… fight the good fight, finish the race, keep the faith[1].

 [__06__]   This gift of forgiveness and mercy also come from God.

Being asked, “who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:15) … you and I are also asked if we recognize that the Christian life is not only about mercy but also about justice.

Yes, the gift of mercy is the reason for the sacrifice of Christ’s body and blood for our sins. He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. He has mercy on us.

Yet, he is also inviting us to reform our lives, to open to his invitation, to his plan, to his schedule, to his teaching… for we also are his students, his disciples being asked the question,

who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:15)

[1] For I am already on the point of being sacrificed, the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”  (2 Timothy 4:7)

Corpus Christi Sunday (2014-06-22)

[__01__]   It is common for a team – whether amateur or professional, local or international – to display and promote its medals, awards, championships.

The trophy – or cup – celebrates a win / victory and reminds the players of the sacrifices made on the practice field and in the match.

St. Paul, writing his 2nd letter to Timothy, also refers to perseverance, endurance in his own life, and struggle … as he anticipates his own martyrdom – Paul writes,

For I am already on the point of being sacrificed, the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”  (2 Timothy 4:7)

Finishing and winning – with God on our side - are spiritual objectives …They are also national motivations in stadiums throughout Brazil.

In Brazil, in a few weeks, one national team– at a soccer/football stadium in Brazil – will kick its way to an elevated FIFA World Cup.

The cup raised by the players will indicate all the work they have completed.

[__02__]    This is Corpus Christi Sunday – the Feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.

At every Sunday Mass and celebration of the Eucharist, there is victory… a victory over sin, death.

This is the bread and cup of which Jesus spoke in John’s Gospel today, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink.” (John 6:55)

This Gospel reminds us that the Lord gave his life, also against rivals and adversaries –

  • Rivals and adversaries --- In a courtroom of sorts with officials of the Roman Empire

  • Rivals and adversaries --- in both the political and religious arena

  • Rivals and adversaries – on the Way of the Cross.

Rivals and adversaries of whom Jesus himself said, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” ( Luke 23:34 )

Forgiveness is a victory.

[__03__]   How is a victory or a win or the defeat of an adversary possible?

In a general sense, is not a victory possible because of the sacrifices made …

Thus, we believe that in our pursuit of “spiritual perfection”, we are also called to sacrifice –

  • Sacrament of matrimony – as husbands and wives.

  • Parents / children/ teachers – lay down their lives for the young.

  • For the weaker person or the person with an illness-- lay down their lives for the older person, the person with an illness or disability.

[__04__]     Sacrifice may mean inconvenience, discomfort…

Nevertheless, it is also our belief that sacrifice is neither a defeat nor a loss of freedom…or a penalty …or penalty kick against us.

Sacrifice is a required part of the Christian life… but we are also called to sign up freely for this required course / examination.

For example, on the way of the cross for our savior, Pontius Pilate appears to have a great deal of the power; and Jesus, very little.

However, Jesus himself reminds Pilate – “no one takes my life from me…I lay it down on my own and take it up again.” (John 10:18)

In a similar way, Jesus had confused – and frustrated – the Pharisees by suggesting that the Temple could be torn down in 3 days and rebuilt again. (cf. John 2:19).  But, Jesus was referring to the Temple of his body…of his own power – as God – over death.

[__05__]    Jesus wins a victory through sacrifice, through surrender of his body and soul. However, this is not a victory that is an accomplishment once a season or every 4 years.

Rather, his victory is also about the present and the future for you and for me.

[__06__]     We participate in this victory when we offer our repentance, confess our sins, give our love ..through the Church to our brothers and sisters.

In the traditional verse about Christ’s victory, we sing…. “were you there when they nailed him the tree…?”

The Feast of Corpus Christi – of his Body and Blood on the altar, in the tabernacle each day – reminds us that this is not only about the past …or of his previous passion and death …but rather about his life in the Eucharist.

Yes, when he died for our sins… we were there…

On Corpus Christi Sunday – and every Mass – we recall that always – he is here, victorious, running the race, fighting the good fight, keeping the faith. [__fin__]