Monday, September 29, 2014

Invitations (2014-09-28)

SUNDAY Sept.  28 2014   / 26th Sunday, Year A

[__01__]    What names would be on your guest list?  Or…what names were on a guest list which you prepared?

I ask this because in this parable, we might say, that there is a guest list, an invitation list, a mailing list.

Two invitations are extended in the parable of the two sons. Two invitations are extended to each of the two sons. One accepts the invitation to work in the vineyard; the other turns down the invitation.

[__02__]      Are there not occasions when we extend invitations, recognizing that not everyone will respond YES.  The RSVP is a free choice; some will express their regrets on the RSVP card.

Nevertheless, even though we are not certain exactly who would respond YES, we go over the list carefully to ensure that no one important is omitted.

It is Good News to be asked, to be invited.

It is up to you and me – just as it was up to the 2 sons – to determine their response.

One said RSVP Yes; the other conveys his regrets. 1 of the 2 appears for work.

[__03__]         In this parable our Savior expresses his desire, his invitation to all of us, to work in his vineyard, to work for the coming of God’s kingdom.

Sometimes, this is an invitation that we try not to open – or we try to get out of…

Do we have something better to do? A better offer?

That is, we may – at times – avoid God’s invitation or appeal… because we have another call coming in.

“Please hold…”   [__Pause___]

[__04__]      Do we not, at times, feel  ambivalent or indifferent about certain responsibilities – certain calls or messages – in our lives?

We might prefer to reject them or move in the opposite direction.

When we read – in the parable – that the Lord is calling us to work in his vineyard, this would include – for example – the call to come to church on Sunday…for Sunday Mass.. it would include also repentance of our sins… confession.

For some of us, it might include becoming a priest or entering religious life..this would be a way to work in the vineyard.

But, we also receive God’s call to work in the vineyard to do his will …

  • Outside of church or the chapel
  • At home
  • In the library
  • In our own dorm rooms
  • At the dinner table.

For example, the Lord calls us invites us to…

[__04.01__]      Love the person whom others might reject.

Such an invitation may get lost in an In-Box full of invitations to love – or care about –persons with greater attractiveness or popularity.

[Please hold… one of the sons says to his father… I have someone on the other line…]

What if I were seen – what if you were seen – eating lunch with such an unpopular person, giving my time generously to him or here …Maybe I will not get the reward I want for my “day’s work”.

[__04.02__]      For example, the Lord calls us invites us to…

Love the person who may be dying, who may suffer from illnesss.

The reward here may be hard to perceive or read…

[Please hold… I’m not sure if I deleted your message…Maybe I should listen to it again..I may have it saved ..somewhere. ]

Loving and caring for someone who is dying or infirm or somehow disabled, we protect human life at all stages.

You and I are also, in a way, defending our own lives … by doing to others as you would have them do to you (Luke 6:31).

The protection of our own lives is tied to – connected to – our protection of others.

Such is the message of the 4th commandment – “Honor your father and your mother that you may have a long life upon the earth”

We honor our parents because they gave us life…

Neverthless, the invitation too may be one that requires extra effort…to re-read and to accept.

[__05__]      Each of the two sons receives the same message.

Only 1 of the 2 is able to respond at this time.. only 1 of the 2 can return with his own message of willingness. We might say that this is not beause his reward was greater … the reward was the same.

Don’t we perform many of our good actions not because of a reward … but simply because we know that someone is asking … because we were invited?

Knowing that you and I are being asked personally..that God relies on us to help… and that another person also relies on us to help…this is enough reason to say YES.

This parable reminds us that the Lord desire our appearance, our presence… our YES. 

It is Good News to be asked. [__fin__]     

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Equality, Good News, Workers in the Vineyard (2014-09-21)

[__01__]    We read this Sunday about the parable of the workers in the vineyard.

In this parable, the workers receive equality.

Equality is a value that we observe – civilly – in our country, equality for workers, equality before the law.

But, in the equality of reward to all the workers seems to present great difficulty.

After all, if everyone at school were to take the same test and everyone were to receive the same grade, this would seem to present a problem.

Or, if all the workers were to receive the same paycheck – regardless of the number of hours worked, regardless of experience, yet all were to receive the same compensation, paycheck.

What would the School Principal, or College President or Provost or Boss...or the U.S. Department of Labor say?

Surely, there are going to be lawsuits.

But, the end result in this parable is that everyone receives the same grade, the same paycheck.

[__02__]    Our Savior uses this parable - and other parables - to help us identify our attitudes towards ….   WORK, SACRIFICE, REWARD,  PRIZES, COMPETITIVE RANKING.

Our Savior Lord has cautioned us and his disciples about the true value of ELITE ACCESS, of competitive advantages, in the Kingdom of God.

For example --

(1) James and John, the two ambitious brothers, the two ambitious disciples vying for places at the table are asked if they are willing to sacrifice.

 "Can you drink the cup that I drink or  be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?"  (Mark 10:38)

(2) to Nicodemus, the learned, educated, advanced Pharisee. Jesus tells Nicodemus about being "born again" and to
be born again is an experience of being a child, a child of God, even an experience of humility rather than material reward or honor.  (cf. John 3:1-16)

(3) and, of his own mission, Jesus says ...
 “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve.”  (Matthew 20:28)

There may be extra hours in all of the above without additional reward.

[__03__]    In God's kingdom, those who work harder may receive the same reward as those working shorter hours or with less effort.

Isn't this also the reality and within our own homes and families?

That we work without counting
the cost (Isaiah 55:1), that we are alll expected to contribute something, to contribute what we can, but even if we are at fault, or lacking motivation, we still receive the same reward love of our family.

Thus, the equality keeps  us honest, the equality keeps us together. 

If we were try this strategy at Seton Hall Prep or Harvard University, this equality would cause division and a huge decrease in motivation. But, here the equality keeps us together.

This invites to accept sacrifices expect that there will be difficulties ..
and  hurdles to overcome...and to try and work through them without bitterness or a stopwatch or  clock or a timesheet.

That is, in the Kingdom of Heaven / Kingdom of God, don't we wish to avoid - or rise above -- methods such as annual bonuses, class rank, report cards, for motivation.

In this we take our light from under
the bushel basket or burying our talent in the ground.

[__04__]    Even on Commencement Day, are not the honors students and/or the valedictorians called to give thanks for more than just their accolades or their competitive  advantages?

For in such a situation  - even if we have worked harder, attained more - we might give  thanks not only for the material reward but for the profit of the sacrifice itself, for what we have learned, for the knowledge gained by the effort.

A similar message is given to us about how we might regard either the difficulities of the past.

St. Paul writes to the Philippians this reminder that we would do...
"Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,"
(Philippians 2:14-15)

As we read also in Proverbs -- "In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty." (Proverbs 14:23)

And, we might say that some of the workers in the parable are mere talkers...

Whereas we know the real work is achieved by God's inspiration... as Paul writes...  "I can do all things through
him who strengthens me." (Philippians 4:13)

In other words, aren't we called to reinvest the profits of the lessons we have learned,  what we have learned from our work...even to reinvest our monetary savings for compound interest.

We are also called to reinvest the profits of all of our hurts and difficulties. That is, to avoid the attitude of the workers
who started earlier, the envious or jealous workers.

We give thanks that there is a reward to be shared, a reward of God's mercy.

There will be inequalities to solve in our journey. But the reward to be shared, the equality of the reward, keeps us together and is Good News.


Sunday, September 14, 2014

Going Up? (Exaltation of the Cross) (2014-09-14, Sunday)

Title:    Feast: Exaltation of the Cross

[__01__]  This Sunday – September 14 is the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, the rasising of the Cross on Calvary.   The Cross is elevated.
[__02__]       Are we going up?   Are you going up? “Going up?” or … “Are  you going up?” is the question we ask standing in the corridor outside the elevator in a tall building. We ask the vertical direction in which the passengers are traveling.

Depending on the response, we would either board or wait for the next one.

[__03__]     In the letter to the Philippians, this Sunday, we also read about elevation. Jesus humbled himself by going up the hill, to the higher altitude of Calvary.

We elevate ourselves also by making the sign of he cross.

[__04__]      We elevate ourselves also by making the sign of the cross.  This is true …for example, when we say Grace before meals…. We offer the meal and our physical nourishment, even our health, to God.

We also elevate ourselves with the cross before hearing/reading the Gospel at Mass, making the sign of the cross over our hearts, lips, and head.

For our HEARTS …..We make this sign,  praying that the Cross and Gospel would protect and guard our hearts, our emotions, our passions, our relationships, that God will protect those we love.

May the the words of the Gospel be on our hearts

For our MOUTH and LIPS …..We make this sign, praying the Cross and Gospel would help us to speak words of encouragement, wisdom, mercy, honesty which others need to hear. In Psalm 51, we pray that God will set a guard at our mouth.. a guard that we will both know when to speak and when to be silent.

May he the words of the Gospel be on our lips

For our HEADS/MINDS…..We make this sign, praying that the Cross and Gospel would go to our heads .

Many things “go to our heads.” We speak of power going to a person’s head; wealth going to a person’s head…

Rather than desires for wealth, comfort, convenience, popularity filling our mind, we pray that the Gospel values will elevate us.

For example, our Savior invites us to discern light from darkness, good from evil. We need our minds to do this. But, we are also called to use our mind not only to discern light/darkness and good/evil in another, but discern this first in ourselves, the plank, the 2-by-4, the wooden beam in my eye and mind. (Matthew 7:5).

May the the words of the Gospel be on our minds.

[__05__]        Going up? This is the question for all of us and in a special way for young people, for boys and girls, young men and women by whom the values of the Gospel or Commandments might be perceived only as another rule book or textbook.

If we were only to see the commandments as rules written by someone else, or theories published for someone else, then we would also see in them only as a system of reward/punishment. Then, we would not be going up but would be crushed below under the weight of the textbook. They are pretty heavy in the backpack.

Jesus himself cautions the Pharisees and scribes about making the law heavy for people, about putting heavy burdens upon other without lifting a finger to help them. (cf. Matthew 23:4)

Jesus by going up to the cross is lifting a finger, a shoulder to help us. He is our example of suffering and sacrifice.

We are called to

  • read, listen and act on the Gospel…
  • to allow the Gospel to touch our minds, hearts and lips…
  • to seek the honest, merciful, charitable way

… so that these Commandments  will be written in our consciences, so that we may elevated with our Savior.

Jesus asks us the same question about our destinations…

Are we elevated? Are we going up? [__fin__]     

Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Social Network / 1-on-1 / 3-on-1 / more (2014-09-07)

[__01__] In this Sunday’s Gospel reading, our Lord speaks about social connections within the church-community which enable individuals to be saved, to encounter God and to avoid evil and injustice.

Don’t we rely on and trust that our “connections” will save us, help us, that these connections make us… healthy, wealthy, and wise?

[__02__]       Through personal connections, any one of us may be on the lookout for a job, for employment.

How many of us have found a job/career simply because someone knew our name or made an introduction?

Sometimes, it is all about “who you  know.”

And, wasn’t this a theme / topic of the the Hollywood film– The Social Network – about Mark Zuckerberg and his collaborators.   The 19-year old Mark Zuckerberg was a freshman at Harvard University, hanging out in the dorms and classrooms on campus and came up with an idea for a computer program or network that would become “Facebook” … “Facebook-dot-com”

In one stage of the film, one person had an idea that the network should be all about Harvard.. about having a “Harvard connection.”

At prestigious institutions, the alumni and alumnae help each other be successful.

Connections save them.

Our connections save us.

[__03__]     Through personal connections, how many of us have made friends, met our future spouse? Our connections save us.

This is the Good News about connections.

[__04__]          The other day, I was at a reunion with a few friends from college. One of the stories we told – or truly repeated and retold --- was about our first day of college, moving into campus. (We were not at Harvard).

In this case, we were moving into a room that resembled any empty apartment or home… a few things, but not much.

On that day, my father got the room number… went upstairs aheadof me… and told me …. I don’t know what’s going on..but some guy is installing a wall-to-wall carpet in your room. 

My roommate’s father owned a construction company. One of his employees had driven several hours from New York City with the carpet, with his carpet knife … for this installation.

This “connection” saved me from the cold tile floor.

[__05__]        In the Gospel of this Sunday, Jesus our Lord and Savior, speaks about other connections which are meant to save us, teaching us that we are responsible for the salvation of others.

Connections save us…not only financially, not only materially…not only with a nice floor but with a more important foundation/basis in faith and love.

Also, Jesus tells us that these connections are manifested to us in different ways.

Also, Jesus is telling us that sometime our connections are not telling us what is the most convenient or easiest path… or the most luxurious carpet style.


Jesus, rather is telling us that our connections invite us to conversion, to turn back to God.

This connection could be …

(a)  1 on 1
(b)  3 on 1
(c)   To the wider community


 [__06__]        First -  1 on 1.

Jesus talks about the 1 on 1 connection and our conversion, saying “if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.”  (Matthew 18:15)

What are your and my 1-on-1 connections? Do we listen to those who speak the truth to us…to those from whom we learn about our own selfishness …?

Perhaps, we hear what we do not want to hear.

But, we can only hear if we listen. And, just as we try to make time for peace and meditation before God, we are also called to do the same 1-on-1 with others.

Thus, our connections can save us. 1 on 1.


[__07__]      3 on 1.

Our Lord says, “where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”

Are there 2 or 3 people from whom we have been receiving the same message about our behavior, about our faults …or even about our strengths, our talents, and how to make use of them?

Our Lord is suggesting, again …listen…

Consider that you or I were on the court or the field with the ball … and we want to score. What is more effective… keep the ball to ourselves … or try to pass, make a few moves…get others on our side … and use the strength we have as a team to move the ball downfield.

Our connections save us…2 or 3 gathered in his name.

[__08__]        In this Gospel reading, Jesus is interested not only in the 1-on-1 or 3-on-1 but also in an even  wider network of connections.

This is the Church, the Catholic Church, manifested here as Our Lady of Lourdes, for which we celebrate 100 years of faith and worship in 2014.

[__09__]      This church, however, of Lourdes is not only a building of brick, tile, wood, marble, glass.

The Church is our connection, our center, which enables us to feed the hungry, to pray for peace, to carry out acts of faith and charity.

These actions are not only a “correction” and penance for our own sinfulness… but they are also a correction and a contribution to help the marginalized.

These actions not need not be well known or even rewarded. Jesus says, in fact, the simpler the better … the less well known, the better… saying ..

“do not let your left hand know what your right is doing” (Matthew 6:3)

[__10__]         In a few weeks, for example, on the weekend of October 4-5, our Rosary Altar Society  will have a baby shower and clothing and goods drive to assist mothers in crisis pregnancy and desperate situations.

Our offering – as the Church – helps to correct a fault, a deficit, both financially and spiritually in the lives others.

Our worship also reminds us that we are not alone in our own  sinfulness, need for grace, and our needs.

St. Paul writes that God makes us alive through the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus…even though we were dead in sinfulness. (Ephesians 2:4-5)

God desire that we are joined with him, in communion with him….that we can relate to him through others and through Holy Spirit … in the Church community, or 1 on 1,  or 3 on 1.

In every case, our connections save us.


Monday, September 1, 2014

Clearing Roadblocks (2014-08-31)

SUNDAY August 31, 2014   / 22nd Sunday, Year A
Readings:  1 Kings 19:9a, 11-13a | Psalm 85 | Romans 9:1-5 | Matthew 14:22-23

Title:   Clearing Roadblocks

[__01__] What we have just read in this Gospel was the conversation between Jesus, our Savior, and Peter, the Apostle.

The conversation just came to a sudden halt, a break in the action. There was a roadblock.

In last Sunday’s Gospel – part 1 of the conversation – Peter had been moving rapidly forward to the head of the class, answering the question about our Savior’s identity. The question was: “who do you say that I am?”  (Matthew 16:15)

With the correct answer, Peter had the equivalent of the positive momentum of a good grade on a test, early in the fall semester.

In this Sunday’s Gospel, we observe Peter at a slower pace. He is really stationary.

And, there is apparently a disruption – a break – in the trust, the confidence – between Jesus and Peter.

Peter was the roadblock; Peter had a roadblock. This roadblock disrupted the trust between them.

[__02__]       Relationships are based on trust and confidence, are they not?

Every relationship whether the personal relationship between parent and child or the political relationship between senator and citizen is based on trust.

Therefore, all of these relationships are vulnerable to a disruption, a rupture due to some scandalous behavior or scandal.

[__03__]     In late 2013, a big news story in Trenton, New Jersey …and Fort Lee, New Jersey and New York City was about a roadblock, a scandal, and for some, a loss of public trust.

The George Washington Bridge Lane closure.

Thus, it is not just that a scandal can cause a roadblock or be the obstacle. Sometimes, the roadblock itself is the scandal.

And, this was the accusation against Peter.

Peter permitted himself to become a roadblock in the fast lane to Jerusalem, in the road to salvation.

Peter does not want Jesus to suffer and die. Thus, he is told – “Get behind me,  Satan.”  (Matthew 16:23)

Or, in the terminology of the State Police, please pull over, license, insurance, and registration, please.

[__04__]          Peter was not actually being sent to the Principal’s office or being punished or fined. He is simply being warned. And, isn’t it better for us also when we are let go with a warning…?

Peter was the roadblock… and was warned about this.

In some situations, you or I could become the roadblock to the goodness or good will of someone else or the goodness or good will of God.

[__05__]       For example, you or I could become a roadblock due to our …

[__05(a)__]       SELF PITY – of course, we might have real sorrows and difficulties which slow us down. But, do you and I  sometimes add even more weight, even more baggage to the compartment or fuel to the fire… by a refusal to accept any difficulty, any cross?

For example, you or I could become a roadblock due to our …

[__05(b)__]     DESIRE FOR MATERIAL PERFECTION – excessive attention to perfection or correctness could slow us down.

In our New Testament, 2nd reading, today, St. Paul writes to the Romans –

Romans 12:1-2 I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship.  Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.”

This reminds us of spiritual perfection, of repentance of our sins. This helps us to remove roadblocks.

However, sometimes, we get caught up in what is materially or superficially perfect.

What solves or removes roadblocks?

What we usually rely on for roadblocks might not actually work ….

[__06__]        For example, do we not often rely on the POLICE + FIRE DEPARTMENT + EMERGENCY SERVICES to remove roadblocks?

A car would be pulled out of the road… then traffic could flow again. Call 9-1-1.

But, this did does not work for Peter.  The police showed up, the Roman imperial guards showed up and arrested Jesus, took him away… Pontius Pilate – a government official intervened..but this did not convince Peter.

Peter remained a roadblock.

What other solution could there be?

[__07__]      Do we not also rely on other people, maybe a crowd of people or a team of people to clear a roadblock?

Some roadblocks are cleared in this way. After Hurricane Sandy in 2012, we witnessed many individuals, volunteers re-building houses, boardwalks, streets. Roadblocks were cleared.

And, at the time of the Passion, there was also a crowd surrounding Peter. They asked him, were you not with Jesus the Nazorean?  Your accent is similar to his, we saw you with him… Peter denies. The crowd does not convince Peter either.

[__08__]        What finally clears the roadblock for Peter is not the POLICE / LAW or the CROWD.

What clears the road for Peter is the awareness that Jesus rose from the grave, that Jesus lived after his suffering, death, resurrection.  This made our Lord’s Passion and Death worthwhile.

This is a message to us as well, to clear the way of our own brokenness, our own tendency toward self-pity or excessive attention to perfection… so that our heart may be changed from within and the way to be cleared.


Strength in Numbers (2014-08-24)

HOMILY FOR AUGUST 24, 2014 BASED ON..  Friday, June 28, 2013

Strength in Numbers (2013-06-23)

[__01__]    In many every day matters, we seek to be productive and profitable, avoiding large numbers.    Some of us might avoid large numbers by not doing mathematics .... MEANWHILE .... some of us avoid large numbers by avoiding crowds.

·         We travel more happily and efficiently outside rush hour.
         We live more happily – and peacefully – if we can avoid panic and chaos that might originate in crowd.  Financial advisers tell us to avoid following the herd or crowd.

[__02__]     In this section of the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 9, and on other occasions, Jesus separates himself from the crowd.
This separation is manifested/demonstrated in …

[__02(a)__]      TOTAL ATTENDANCE – That is, this encounter occurs when …
Jesus was praying in solitude and his disciples were with him.”  (Luke 9:18)
Our Savior had gone away from and separated the disciples from the crowd. 

[__02(b)__]       This separation is manifested/demonstrated in this Gospel in 2-part question …
The question, part 1  --  Jesus had asked the disciples,  “Who do the crowds say that I am?” (Luke 9:18)
We hear the analytical and data-driven answers of the disciples, based on the current Nielsen ratings, based on Jesus’ reputation and identity.

The disciples have asked around, learning that Jesus is known by his association to others – to Elijah, John the Baptist, one of the prophets.
The question, part 2 --  is not based on analysis or data, but rather is personal question .    “Who do you say that I am?” (Luke 9:20)
Jesus separates himself from the crowed.  And, sometimes we are invited to do the same.

[__03__]       In matters of morality and ethics, a classmate or friend may invite us to do something we recognize as dishonest.

To do the right thing might mean a separation, a distance from the crowd, or a challenge to the friend from whom we have been invited down the wrong path.

This is not easy.

[__04__]    In more public settings or even in legal situations, we may encounter this.
We find ourselves, in RECEENT YEARS, as a Catholic community praying for religious freedom.
For example - the “crowd” and our country may sign up for legislation, choices, technologies … which are contrary to our faith.

Also, we recognize that that many people will be helped by technology, by access to regular examinations, to prescriptions, to hospitals.

At the same time, we as Catholics have reservations about a path that seems to include the greatest number of the choices, the greatest number of permissions …without sufficient regard for  religious freedom.
Having freedom means exercising our values, our conscience… not simply doing what is permitted.

In this regard, some separation from the crowd is Good News, for our religious faith and civil freedom.

[__05__]       In our own quieter moments of prayer, we also ask for the Lord’s guidance.

For example, we can sit before Jesus, present in the tabernacle, in church, asking his guidance during a crisis or sorrow.

We may separate ourselves from the crowd for a while to do so.  We can also ask his guidance during a time of joy. 

Or, we might remind a family member for whom “faith” or “church” might seem a distant reality about this.  

Such a person might not have the continuity of religious practice in their lives.   Such a person could be reminded to come to church, to pray before the tabernacle, to ask God – in solitude –for the word or words today.

Jesus speaks to us in our solitude away from the crowd. God speaks to us each day.

[__06__]        This conversation of prayer does not only happen at times of sorrow or crisis.
For example, you might say to yourself…or I might say to myself …. “given my gifts, talents, how shall I take up my cross each day?”

This could also be a prayer this summer, after graduation, or as we approach graduation from high school or college.  How shall each of us give back?

[__07__]       For now, Jesus is separated, away from the crowd.

Yet, it is also true that he and his disciples will return to the crowd as we also will. He will return to Jerusalem, to the big city.

This return is part of the prediction of his passion and death.
And, we will also return to our equivalent of “Jerusalem,” the big city, to the tasks and activities of our lives.
We will return to our lives, to our tasks.

[__08__]       It is Good News also to be back in the crowd.  For we are called to seek God’s will and presence everywhere. And, thus in making choices – and seeking the good – we are reminded of the question directed individually to each of us from our Savior –

“who do you say that I am?” (Luke 9:20)                [__fin__]