Sunday, July 30, 2017

Flip this Field (2017-07-30)

SUNDAY 30  July 2017, 17th  Sunday Ordinary Time
 • 1  Kings 3:5, 7-12 • Psalm 119 • Romans 8:28-30 •  + Matthew 13:44-52 •

Title:  Flip this Field of Treasure?

[__01__]  Would you I sell all that we have, in order to own (buy, purchase) a piece of land? A piece of property?
Isn’t this one way to read or apply the lesson of the Gospel parable: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure buried in a field which a person finds and hides again and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”  (Matthew 13:44)

So, the person sells all that he has to buy the field. But, is this really a parable of property acquisition, of financing and, so to say, flipping?

We are not being called by our Savior to flip this field of treasure.
[__02__] Certainly, many of us have perhaps, put all of our savings, or a great percentage of our assets into the purchase of a home.
          And, this is logical, rational.
          But, consider this: would you sell all that you have, buy the field, and then come home and tell your spouse and family that you bought a field, because there was buried treasure?
          And, by the way, in the parable, the buyer does not go on to sell the treasure and gain a return on investment. He loves the treasure so much that he holds on to it.
          The parable is, then, not so much about REAL ESTATE but rather about a RELATIONSHIP and our RELATIONSHIPS.

[__03__]  Several years ago, the father of my college classmate suffered some serious health issues and trauma. This left him, in his later years, paralyzed and unable to walk.
 At this time, I had known him for 8 years.  However, at this point, I was now 26 and 4 years out college. We were no longer in daily and regular contact.
 However, I recall many  great times. I had been to his home - my classmate’s home - several times.  During those college years, he treated me as part of his family, as a son.
 I knew this, I experienced this. This relationship was buried treasure to me.

[__04__] At the time of his illness and decline, we were not in regular touch or contact.
 I was working and travelling. My classmate - his son - had just graduated from medical school and was doing his residency.  So, I was not so conscious of the treasure.
 When I heard that he was very ill, I was also sad.   But, I was not - at the time - moved enough to go and visit him.
 Knowing that he was now paralyzed and unable to walk, I was reluctant … scared.
 It is an ironic reminder to me that this friend of mine spent the first few months of his treatment and hospital stay at Kessler Rehabilitation Center on Pleasant Valley Way.

[__05__] I think of him when I visit there.  There was buried treasure in that hospital.
 I believe that I will see him and discover the buried treasure again, on the way to a different and much more pleasant valley.

[__06__] What is the buried treasure to you and to me?
 Perhaps, it is a relationship or friendship with someone whom others scorn or spurn.
 Perhaps, it is a task or project that brings us satisfaction and fulfillment though without any material reward.
 Perhaps, the buried treasure is an act of kindness that only you and God know about. Maybe the buried treasure if your or my forgiveness of a past injury or hurt.
 This buried treasure may require us to sell all that we have.
 To sell or abandon our fear.
 To abandon our resentment or anger. Sometimes, these seem to have great reward or value.

 To sell all that we have to find the plan God has for us.

“The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure buried in a field which a person finds and hides again and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”  (Matthew 13:44)

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Parable of the Wheat & .... (2017-07-23)

SUNDAY 23 July 2017, 16th  Sunday Ordinary Time
 • Wisdom 12:13,16-19  • Psalm 86 • Romans 8:26-27 •  + Matthew 13:24-43 •

[__01__]    The parable of the good wheat and the harmful plants – the weeds – also show that we can sometimes underestimate or misunderstand what is going to “work” or “succeed”.
          I’d like to touch on the SOURCE, the RESOURCE, the REFUGE … for the seed and for you and me.
[__02__]    In the parable of the good wheat and the harmful weeds, we read the message that the 2 seeds and the 2 plants at the very smallest and youngest stages appear to be very similar.
          Only when they grow up are we are able to distinguish the good from the bad, the good from the evil.

[__03__]    And, isn’t it true that what appears to be the same – when it is small – can be very different when it is larger or full grown.
          This is true whether we are speaking of a vine growing in our gardens or speaking of a desire growing in our hearts.
          Also, what starts out as a SOURCE, can later become a RESOURCE, a “thing” we may hold onto or desire.
          [BAMBOO example – in my brother Mike’s backyard. The bamboo was not asked for, it comes from the outside, it cannot be cut down until it grows.]

          Example of attitude --

[__04__]           Let’s say, for example, I am inspired to do something – whether it is a small favor – or a big project to helps someone.       This is good.
          On the other hand, I may also – simultaneously – have a desire for RECOGNITION. The RECOGNITION could become my RESOURCE, my thing. As a good resource, it could be help me… then again, it could also be a harmful tendency or attitude if it’s too strong.
          Are they the same? In the beginning, the desire for “LOVE” and “RECOGNITION” appear to be the same.
          In fact, a small child could hardly tell the difference. As a child, we see that people who love us also recognize us and people who recognize us love us.  Similarly, a small child easily learns to love those he or she recognizes and to recognize those he or she loves.

[__05__]           As we grow up, however, we see that we could – at times – be called to love or care for someone who does not recognize us, who might even reject us.
          So, in this regard, the full-blown – or full-grown – desire for recognition could be troublesome and harmful plant.
          When it is small – the desire for recognition, is no trouble at all.
          When it is full grown, it could be trouble.
          For example, our Savior challenges us to love even those who do not love us…to love those whom we may not like… and to love those who may reject us.
          “Pray for your enemies, pray for those who persecute you.”
          In fact living this way is risky but it does increase our connectivity and sense of community and communion.
          It is the Good News in real time.

[__06__]    What Jesus asks is that we recognize him as our source of our being that we turn to him to discern what is truly good and what may be harmful – as a resource – so that he also may be our refuge and shelter each day. 


Sunday, July 16, 2017

Parable of the Sower (2017-07-16, 15th Sunday)

SUNDAY 16 July 2017, 15th  Sunday Ordinary Time
 • Isaiah 55:10-11 • Psalm 65 • Romans 8:18-23 •  + Matthew 13:1-23 •

Title:  “Parable of the Sower. Daring. Discouragement. Demand”

[__01__]   What we read in the Gospel this Sunday is the parable of the sower.  This is a setting of agriculture, of farming, of the soil and the earth, of planting and growing wheat or grain.
          The sower went out to sow.
          And, the parable of the sower is one we might consider in the  3 ways, in a parable of …
[►  1st  DARING]
[►  3rd DEMAND ]

          [* * * pause * * *]

[__02__]     [►  1st  DARING]   If you or were on a dare, we would then be crossing a boundary in some way.  To accept a dare or a risk is not only something we do out of dishonesty or greed.
          It is also daring,  risky, to spread the Word of God as widely and completely as the sower does in the parable. It may be daring – or it may seem risky – if we let other people know – even in subtle ways of our faith in Jesus Christ and in the Church.
          I recall one time, several years ago, when I was staying with some family members for a week and the subject of going to  Sunday Mass never came up the entire week. Whether I went to church or did not go to church, they really had no idea. I must admit that I did not – in this case – dare to bring it up.
          In the Gospel, Jesus is the sower. He goes within his town, he goes out of town, he goes, at times, beyond the borders of Judaism and Israel to sow the seed.
          He sows the seed everywhere, resembling the planter or landscaper who wants to cover every patch of earth with the plants or the grass. Yes, some will end up on the path. Some will be rejected, or eaten by the birds.
          He pushes the border,  the boundary, even if it gets him into trouble.
          But he also does not force the Word on anyone, his Gospel on anyone.
          He is taking the risk, he is not forcing anyone else to take a risk or do something they do not want to do.
          This is his dare, his daring. It is also ours … refer to 2 Corinthians 4 _ à

[* * * pause * * *]

[__03__]     [ 2nd DISCOURAGEMENT]
Jesus, as the sower of the seed, also indicates that there will be discouraging moments, disappointments that we  will face.
          And, in this case, he is not simply referring to the discouragement of poor performance, or the discouragement of a particular failure.
          Rather, we might consider how we interpret, how we think about such setbacks or discouragements. And, how do we receive the discouragement we encounter from another person.

          For example, I recall a difficult class that I took in college  in which I started  out with a score of 56 on the first test.
          This was discouraging. This was not because the teacher said or did anything. He just wrote 56 and handed me the test. He did not write … good job … or you can do better or anything.
          It was just a number.
          I was, at that moment, ready to pack it in.
          When I told my parents about it, I was simply told… “we are already paying  the tuition, we are not paying for you go to summer school.”  This was also discouraging.
          I was kind of getting psyched out.
          Finally, a friend of mine urged me to go and see the professor for extra help. This was the encouragement that I needed  amid the thorns, and amid the very shallow roots of my own confidence about the situation.
          This is just an example. I am suggesting, then, that the thorns that hinder us are not the failure …but our reactions to the failures…or, at times, what other people communicate to us – intentionally or unintentionally.
          Discouragements will happen.  They are thorns, they grow naturally, sometimes in abundance.
[__04__]    [►  3rd DEMAND ]
          Every commitment we make will involve some daring (some risk) and some discouragement.
          Knowing this about our lives, Jesus – as our Savior and Lord – also makes a DEMAND, a REQUEST of us.
That is, we are called to immerse ourselves, to bury ourselves in his word.
          What enables the seed to grow?  The environment of the earth and soil enables the seed to grow.
          Yes, there will be discouragements, disappointments. There  will be thorns.
          However, because the seed is buried in the earth, it can grow.
          Families, mothers, fathers, are the soil for their children.
          And, throughout our lives, we need the love of both God and neighbor as this soil.
          In this regard, we can also dare to be generous as Jesus was, to forgive as Jesus did, even to dare and risk to lay down our lives for each other.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

"My Yoke is Easy" (2017-07-09, 14th Sunday)

Sunday July 9, 2017

14th Sunday, Year A

Zechariah 9:9:10   ● Psalm 145 ● Romans 8:9, 11-13 ● +Matthew 11:25-30

Title: "My Yoke is Easy. Structure. Silence. Simplicity"

[_01_]  My yoke is easy, my burden is light. Jesus describes our Christina method and Christian way as “easy” and “light.”

Do we not favor – prefer – what is easy, what is light, not heavy?

Now, what is easy? What makes something easy?

If we observe a person who is successful – whether playing tennis at Wimbledon or playing the cello – he or she often makes what is complex appear to be easy or simple.

In fact, the apparent achievement is so easy and simple that we are astounded when such a professional makes an error, a double fault, goes out of bounds or out of tune.

It takes practice to be as “simple” and “successful”  as Serena Williams or Tom Brady or Yo-Yo Ma.

[_02_] Jesus is speaking about simplicity to you and to me. And, he invites us to this simplicity through daily prayer, meditation, practice.

 [_03_]   In addition to SIMPLICITY, I’d like to touch on STRUCTURE and SILENCE in our lives.

[_04_]   STRUCTURE.   Every day, following Jesus, we are asked to follow certain virtues, to purify ourselves.

And, sometimes, we may read these as prohibitions.

In fact, we do the same thing when we think of the STRUCTURE of the natural world or environment. Purity of the water or the ocean is defined by what is NOT present.

And, so for you and I to be purified of sinfulness or evil or injustice, we are also called to avoid certain temptations, certain occasions, certain places. We may are also called to avoid excesses… excess that can hinder our success in the spiritual life.

Certain things that are good – in excess – can be harmful. Certain things that entertain or distract us … could, in excess, not only distract but destroy or break us.

[_05_]  STRUCTURE  reminds us of our identity.

For example:  consider a husband and wife in marriage. They are called to love and serve each other, not only because they love each other but also because they love being married to each other.

They do things for the good of the other. They do things for the good of the relationship.

Some days, they may not like each other … but they will still be identified by a certain structure.

Similarly, is it not true that sometimes we are called to listen to our mother, our father, simply because this is my mother or my father.

Structure.  The way of simplicity.

It is is not always easy. It takes practice.

[_06_]  SILENCE. Silence is the simple way. Do I choose it?

For example, I hear or experience something troubling, my first instinct may be to tell someone.

But, in some cases, I may not be able to tell anyone, or at least not immediately.  This silence, however, invites us into a relationship with our Savior who always wants to hear and to listen.

In a similar way, if someone wants us to keep a secret, we can do so for the same reason that we do not boast about our GPA, or wealth, or intelligence. Modesty. Simplicity.

[_07_]   By following Jesus’ way of structure, silence, and simplicity, we also gain a new freedom, liberty, with his help,

Praying that God will continue to bless our our lives, our country, our world.



Sunday, July 2, 2017

Hope. Hospitality. Honesty. (13th Sunday, 2017-07-02)

Sunday July 2, 2017 /    13th Sunday

Title: “Hope. Hospitality. Honesty”

Readings:  [• 2 Kings 4:8-11, 14-16a • Psalm 89 • Romans 6:3-4, 8-11 • Matthew 10:37-42 • ]

[__00__]     In the Gospel, Jesus touches on what his disciples will experience, and what are the conditions of discipleship of following him. He touches on

[__01__]   Recently, a high school senior appeared at EWR Newark airport and at the doorstep of my mother and father in New Jersey. This was their granddaughter and my brother’s eldest child who is about to start her 4th year, senior year, of high school in the autumn.
          She was visiting New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts with her parents and siblings and was visiting because she is applying to college.
[__02__]    When we apply to, or go to God for help, we also expect to be heard.
          In the Gospel, Jesus touches on what his disciples will experience, and what are the conditions of discipleship of following him. He touches on

[__03__]    1st . HOPE. What is your hope?  I can tell you the hope of this particular high-school senior – my brother’s daughter – is an acceptance with decent financial aid at Barnard College of Columbia University in New York. At this point, there is no substitute for this hope.
          Sometimes, we put our hope in some definite and predetermined outcome or result.
          “I must make the soccer team.”
          “I must get into Columbia or …  ”
          “I must make a certain amount of money.”
          None of these is a bad result. Each is good.
          Yet, our true hope is in someone even greater than an admissions officer or boss or coach. Our true hope is in God, in God’s help which does not come in the form of an acceptance letter.
          But, there is wisdom in studying his ways, in listening, praying. He is also giving us a scholarship, a path.

[__04__]    2nd . HOSPITALITY. Jesus touches on the experience of hospitality, the importance of HOSPITALITY, generosity, as an expression of Christian virtue.
          What we read in this Sunday’s Gospel, Matthew Chapter 10, is about the gift of nourishing another person in a very simple way:  “whoever gives only a cup of cold water
to one of these little ones to drink because the little one is a disciple— amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward.” (Matthew 10: ___)
          Hospitality is also a measure, a yardstick, of our hope or trust.
          If we go back to school and back to the material world of tuition and room and board, we are evaluating colleges not only for their ACADEMICS, their KNOWLEDGE, but also for the experience of hospitality. How was I treated when I visited the campus? How was my daughter or son regarded? How was the food?
          Of course, some of this is pure marketing and advertising.
          Nevertheless, hospitality is a virtue for all of us . This does not mean that we are equally affectionate to every person or that we disclose ourselves to everyone we meet.
          Nevertheless, we are called to hospitality to cordiality.
          As St. Paul summarizes in the letter to Romans: “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:15)[1]
          Taking up your cross – my cross – each day can simply mean being cheerful and punctual.
          Hospitality is a virtue of the disciple.

[__05__]  3rd. HONESTY. For a high school senior to stand out and be recognized, he or she is not only called to EXCELLENCE, but also to AUTHENTICITY, to TRANSPARENCY.
          Or, to say another way, to HONESTY.
          Jesus is asking for nothing less in his acceptance criteria and in his interview of prayer with you, with me, each day.
          Do you ever look in the mirror and not recognize your own face?  Of course, we recognize our own faces. This is the beginning of honesty and the mirror – literally or symbolically – is test of honesty. Can I look at myself? Can I look you in the eye? Can I look myself in the eye?
          The letter of James has a similar caution: “For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his own face in a mirror. He sees himself, then goes off and promptly forgets what he looked like.  But the one who peers into the perfect law of freedom and perseveres, and is not a hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, such a one shall be blessed in what he does.”  (James 1:23-25)
          Honesty also requires courage, bravery, heroic action.
          It is not easy, for example, to be honest about our weaknesses, our brokenness, our sinfulness.
          It is not easy to love someone with whom we disagree or by whom we have been hurt due to his or her brokenness or sinfulness.
          Honesty invites us to consider that we are all sinners in need of God’s grace.
          And, that we are all disciples in need of the home and hospitality of Jesus’s body and blood  in Holy Communion, and that that through his life, we have hope.  [__fin__]  

[1] Also à  “And hospitality do not forget; for by this some, being not aware of it, have entertained angels.”   (Hebrews 13:2)