Sunday, August 27, 2017

Taken. (2017-08-27, Sunday-21)

SUNDAY 27 August 2017, 21st Sunday
• Isaiah 22:19-23 6-7  • Psalm 138 • Romans 11:33-36, •  + Matthew 16:13-20  •

Title:  “TAKEN”

[__01__]   In the 19th century, and later in the 1990’s, Les Miserables became quite the sensation, a French Revolution story of justice and heroism.
            In a famous secene from Les Miserables,   the silverware – all the knives, the forks, the spoons – are stolen by a visitor to the parish rectory in a small town in France.
            The thief is Jean Valjean, the victim of the crime is the local Catholic bishop/priest who welcomed Jean Valjean as a guest into the rectory for dinner and a night’s rest.
           
            The bishop was actually warned not to feed Jean, not to take him in. He does so anyway.
            Jean Valjean enjoys a delicious meal and then has a night’s rest in a guest room.
            The next morning, the housekeeper is searching for the basket for the silverware. The bishop is working in his garden, outside the house and says…Oh, here it is. And, he retrieved the basket from one of the flower-beds.
            And, the housekeeper is relieved at first.
            Then she asks. But this is empty, where is the silver.
            So, it’s the silver you are worrying about, I cannot help you with that.
            Then, he reminds the housekeeper, In the first place, was it really ours?

►►► When we think of possessions and property, we naturally think of ownership and rights.  Making a donation out of love, we share… In our minds and in our bank accounts, we know what belongs to us.
            In our minds, we also know – by whom – we may have been offended or hurt or “trespassed against.”
            We recognize trespassers on our front lawn. We recognize trespassers who offend us in other ways.
            The Gospel is reminding us to forgive because MERCY is a gift that we all share. It is not ours to hold on to …but to give away.   ◄◄◄
                  
[__02__]    The visitor and guest – Jean Valjean – is suspected from the beginning.  He did not stick around for breakfast but left in the middle of the night. A short time later, that morning, the police haul him into the rectory. The silverware is in his knapsack.
          At this point, the bishop says to him… why didn’t you take the candlesticks too. I told you to take it all …
          This, of course, leaves the housekeeper and the police dumbounded.
          Jean VAljean is also confused, but relieved.
          The bishop tells him, “Do not forget, do not ever forget, that you have promised me to use the money to make yourself an honest man.”
          Hugo writes further: [Jean] Valjean, who did not recall having made any promise was silent.
          It seems that another person made this promise for him.
          This also reminds us that within  FORGIVENESS and MERCY is always a challenge to the sinner – to you and to me – to convert ourselves to God’s goodness.
          Forgiveness is a challenge not a license.
►►►By word and example, promises are also made for us. Mothers and fathers not only register their children for school but also promise compliance, behavior, homework…

Mothers, fathers, godmothers, godfathers – at baptism – promise – make a profession of faith – for their children.

In this regard, when we make a promise or commitment, we are also promising to set an example, to teach others by what we say and do.
            Firefighters and emergency personnel in Texas promise to care for their community and people in the recent hurricane, storm, on the Gulf of Mexico coast.   The government may promise to care for them. But, it will take the individual witness – and teaching – of many to complete the lesson… to complete the protecti of lives, homes …and to do the homework…  ◄◄◄        

[__03__]    In the Gospel this Sunday, Jesus speaks to Peter and the apostles about the forgiveness of sins:
“whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven, whatever you bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven.”  (Matthew 16:___)

          Sometimes, we think of forgiveness in terms of a transaction, maybe similar to paying RENT, or borrowing money.
          That is, I am forgiven of my debts as long as I pay everything back.  I will own my home as long as I pay off the mortgage. Then, I will not have this burden on me.
          And, sin – and sinfulness – is also a burden.
         
[__04__]    However, isn’t it true that you and I have been “forgiven” in certain instances, even when we realized only much later our faults and failings.
          Jean Valjean is on a journey toward forgiveness and mercy.
          But, he is not yet ready to make a promise.
          Someone else has to make the promise for him.
          The person from whom he stole made the promise.

          Jesus speaks about forgiveness as more than relief but rather as a relocation.
          In the Gospel of John, we read:  “In my father’s house, there are many mansions. If not, I would have told you, because I go to prepare a place for you.”  (John 14:2)
          Or, we might say that he makes the promise for us, a promise of mercy, even before we ask.

[__05__]    You and I are called to recognize those times when we are lost, alone, in need of God’s help,when we need not only to be forgiven but also to be taken back or relocated.
          The journey of Valjean in Les Miserables unfolds in many episodes of relocation and rescue
          Or we might  need to consider, to pray for, whom we might be called to forgive – take back – so that we can be the allies and apostles of our Savior extending mercy to others.
[__fin__]   

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Stealing Home (#Charlottesville) (2017-08-20, Sunday-20)

SUNDAY 20 August 2017, 20th Sunday
Ordinary Time
 • Isaiah 56:1, 6-7  • Psalm 67 • Romans 11:13-15, 29-32 •  + Matthew 15:21-28  •


Title:  “Stealing Home”

[__01__]    The 1955 baseball World Series.  In the top of the 8th inning, in Game 1 of the 1955 World Series, at Yankee Stadium, the Brooklyn Dodgers were playing the New York Yankees.
The Yankees had the lead, 6 to 4. There were two outs and the Dodgers had one runner on 3rd base. The runner on 3rd base was -- Jackie Robinson.
          The Yankee left-handed pitcher was Whitey Ford. Thus, Ford had his back turned to 3rd base and Jackie Robinson who was a fast runner and base stealer.  After Whitey Ford’s first pitch to the batter (there was 1-0 count), Jackie Robinson started running towards home plate.
          This was a risky move, i.e., to steal home. Yet, Robinson did make it safely and scored a run. Robinson had stolen home against the mighty New York Yankees and our own, catcher Yogi Berra, of Montclair.
          The Dodgers beat the Yankees in the 1955 World Series in 7 games.

[__02__]    In the years 1947 – 1955 and beyond, Jackie Robinson did more than steal home – or steal 2nd or 3rd.  His excellence earned him a place in the MLB Major League Baseball Hall of Fame.
          And, most importantly, he was the first baseball player to break the so-called “color line.”
          That is, he was the first black ballplayer, playing 2B, second base, for the Dodgers of Brooklyn and, later, of Los Angeles.

[__03__]     Jackie Robinson was one of many in our nation how stood up for equal rights, for dignity of every person, not only by what he said and did but also by what he chose not to say and chose not to do.
          In the 2013 movie, “42”, we learn about the life and legacy of Jackie Robinson. We see him enduring taunts and death threats too by those who did not want him to play – much less, succeed – in baseball, the American pastime.
          Robinson left mark by accepting that this role was to work and to struggle but to do so without REVENGE or RETALIATION.

[__04__]    Robinson’s peacefulness and tranquility enabled not only to score with home runs and runs-batted-in and but also to win over hearts and minds and respect.
          Are we not called to go and do likewise?

[__05__]    The recent tragic events in Charlottesville highlight the continued presence of rhetoric and racism and violence in our communities.
          Meanwhile, the official response -- that has been perceived by many -- by civil leadership has unleashed a nationwide debate which has created a certain moral ambiguity – or moral equivocation.
          As a Catholic and a priest, I share – I daresay we all – reject all forms of hatred, violence, white supremacy and racism.

[__06__]     Do we not believe that every human person is a child of God, created in his image and likeness and that we are all brothers and sisters, regardless of culture, regardless of nationality, regardless of race, language and way of life?

[__07__]    We also have shared beliefs about the importance of FORGIVING and SEEKING FORGIVENESS, about contrition, sorrow for our sins. After confession, in our Catholic prayer of absolution, the priest prays these words of consolation and reconciliation over you and me:  “God the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of his Son, has sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins.”  (Roman Catholic Rite of Penance)
          All of us are called to come before God to seek his FORGIVENESS and to turn away not only from RACISM and BIGOTRY but also to turn away from REVENGE and BLINDNESS rather than forgiveness?

[__08__]     Is it not easy for us to rush toward – or simply slip and fall our way into – REVENGE or RETALIATION?
          Is it not easy for REVENGE or RETALIATION to enter your heart or my heart to cause DARKNESS, to impair our VISION, our HEARING, indeed our ability to see and hear?
          Jesus sent the Holy Spirit among us so that we will not only recognize the power of goodness but also the power and presence of evil.

[__09__]    St. Augustine in his Confessions observes that he can see – in the smallest child – small examples of selfishness or sinfulness.  He is making an observation of the choices that small children will make when they do not get their way.
          And, moms & dads & teachers, do you not endeavor strenuously to correct your children, to teach them the virtues of respect, of honesty, of sacrifice, because you know this will help them to lead lives of virtue and love?
          As we read in the parable: “Well done, good and faithful servant, because thou hast been faithful over a few (small) things, I will place thee over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.”  (Matthew 25:12)

[__10__]    We teach them these ways of love. And, we also teach – and learn ourselves – that love is not always easy. Love is sometimes difficult.  Love not only calls us to console the other person but also to challenge the other person.  And, to love myself, I am called to accept the challenge of conversion, and to remember that God’s ways are not my ways. 
          The boundaries of love call us to let both our YES mean YES and our NO mean NO. (cf. Matthew 5:37).
            Love is the higher road, the road less traveled and may call us to do things that do not get noticed or rewarded.
           
[__11__]    The cornerstone of love is the choice to forgive and to seek forgiveness.
          With love in our hearts, we can do so. That is, we can forgive and seek forgiveness. Thus, we have harmony, we are in tune, loving God and neighbor.
          But, when there is hatred, resentment, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal. (cf. 1 Corinthians 13).
          It is very had to forgive and ask forgiveness with hatred or resentment in our hearts.
          St. John of the Cross writes: where there is no love, put love and you will draw out love = donde no hay amor, pon amor, y sacarĂ¡s amor.
          We can – and we are called to – beg for mercy for those who sin against us, for our enemies, for those we dislike, for those who may dislike us.  where there is no love, put love and you will draw out love = donde no hay amor, pon amor, y sacarĂ¡s amor.
          Thus, putting love there, this helps us to choose repentance rather than revenge, and to … avoid whatever leads us to sin.

[__12__]  With our attention on Charlottesville, we see there are individuals and groups with contrary beliefs, contrary creeds.
          The violence and reactions in the streets around the University of Virginia, led to the injury of many and the death of …
► Heather Heyer…
And of 2 Virginia State Troopers:
Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen,
Trooper Berke M. M. Bates of

[__13__]  The Catholic Church is one big parish family with many benches, many people and many countries and nationalities and cultures.
          The strength of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish is in our diversity, our respect for the other, and our welcome to everyone.
          They need not STEAL HOME to gain entry. It is through God´s steadfast love that we all are in his presence and united.
          In the Gospel this Sundya, the woman of Tyre and Sidon – of a culture separate and apart from Jesus of Galilee – does not “steal home.”  The woman symbolizes you and me in those moments when we do not get our way or when the God seems distant. She perseveres, praying, asking more questions.
          It is through God’s unyielding love that she is welcomed.

[__14__]   In ancient letter of the 2nd century, St. Justin Martyr writes about the life of people in the Mediterranean region and about how their prayerful attention to the Gospel brought them together:
Saint Justin Martyr, writing at a time when Christians were
persecuted in the 2nd century, that we grow in love of God and neighbor by our respect for the person whom we do not understand.  St. Justin Martyr writes: “we who hated and destroyed one another, and on account of their different manners would not live  with men of a different tribe, now, since the coming of Christ, live familiarly with them, and pray for our enemies, and endeavour to persuade those who hate us unjustly to live conformably to the good precepts of Christ, to the end that they may become partakers with us of the same joyful hope of a reward from God the ruler of all.”  (St. Justin Martyr, The First Apology, Ch. 14.)    [__fin__]    

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

OK to Assume ? Yes. (2017-08-15, Assumption)

ASSUMPTION 15 August 2017,
 • Revelation 11:19a, 12:1-6a, 10ab  • Psalm 45 • 1 Corinthians 15:20-27 •  + Luke 1:39-56  •

Title:  “OK to Assume ? Yes.”


[__01__]    Originally, and academically, the word “assume” refers to the action of receiving or taking someone  or something.
            In other words, one could say – in an old-school fashion – that we assume a message or a call. Or, we assume a guest into our own home.
            There is no button on your phone or electronic device for [ASSUME].
            Rather we read, [ANSWER] on the screen.
            That is, we either [ANSWER] the call or we [IGNORE] the call.
            To [ANSWER] is to [ASSUME].

[__02__]     And, the beautiful Good News in the life of the Blessed Virgin Mary is her [ANSWER], her affirmation and YES to God.
          And, in God’s time, and at the end of Mary’s earthly life she is received, assumed into heaven, body and soul.
          This assumption is God’s answer to our Blessed Mother.

[__03__]    In the autumn and fall semester of 1986, I began a college semester in England, in the U.K.
          I would spend the first few days in London.
          My grandmother, very much alive and active at the time had a sister who lived in London.
          There was no need to arrange a hotel room. I was told where I would be staying. I was assumed directly into their home and given lodging, food, shelter for me and any friend who might want to join me.

[__04__]    I had a connection, a privileged connection, and an inexpensive connection.
          College students are told not to make too many assumptions, but this one was certainly to my benefit.
          My aunt and uncle took me in, received me, assumed me into their lives, though they had never met me before. This was based on my connection to my grandmother.

[__05__]   A personal connection made the difference for me and make the difference in many of our travels when we go to a new place.
          It makes the difference to Elizabeth and to Mary of the Gospel of Luke, chapter 1.
          While Mary is the one racking up the miles on the road, we could say that both are on a surprising and miraculous journey to a new destination, with Elizabeth as the mother of John the Baptist and Mary as the mother of God, mother of Jesus.
         
 [__06__]    And, we also observe today that the Blessed Virgin Mary, our Blessed Mother, Our Lady of Lourdes, is our earthly connection, our first and foremost ground connection, to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

 [__07__]    Jesus, as the Son of God, remains our King and God. Yet, Mary is our connection to him.
          When we say the Hail Mary or pray the Rosary, we are meditating on her example, her yes, to God’s will.
          So, in our own times of challenge or confusion, we might consider her example.
Is the upcoming school year going to be unfamiliar, uncharted territory …
… pray for us, sinners.

Is an upcoming challenge of our health or stamina causing us concern.
… pray for us, sinners.

Is the apparent crisis of diplomacy between North America and North Korea stretching our patience, our confidence?
… pray for us, sinners.

In the events and breakdown of public order in Charlottesville (Virginia) and the clash of protestors that resulted in 3 deaths. For the people of Charlottesville and for our country.
… pray for us, sinners.

We are all sinners in need of God’s grace.

 [__08__]    Elizabeth recognizes this, first of all.
          John the Baptist, in his role as prophet makes the connection for us also to Jesus Christ.
          Behold the Lamb of God, Behold him who takes away the sin of the world.
          John Henry Newman writes that an essential characteristic of our Christian prayer is Petition, or Intercession. That is, we are called not only to pray for ourselves but also to pray for others.  (Parochial and Plain Sermons, Book III, Sermon 24, “Intercession.”)
          In this regard, we also imitate the Blessed Virgin Mary (BVM) by praying both for ourselves and for others.

[__08__]    Mary is our connection to Jesus in heaven, our intercessor. She has been assumed into heaven so that we also may be connected there and recognized and helped by God’s grace.

[__fin__]  


Sunday, August 13, 2017

Walking on Water (2017-08-13, Sunday-19)

SUNDAY 13 August 2017, 19th  Sunday Ordinary Time
 • 1  Kings 19:9a, 11-13a • Psalm 85 • Romans 9:1-5 •  + Matthew 14:22-33 •

Title:  “Walking on Water.”

[__01__]   In 1991, I was taking a trip, traveling. I recall it was a bright sunny Sunday afternoon. What could go wrong? I was on my mountain bike – a bicycle – and travelling through an intersection.
            I did not look both ways. Fortunately, the bicycle was the only injured victim. If that bicycle had an air-bag, it would have inflated. The front fork was the, so to say, crumple zone. This absorbed the collision from the moving car. The front fork was easily replaced. I was fortunate.
            Picking myself up after the accident, I knew that I had been foolish, in the wrong, at fault and in the wrong place at the wrong time.
            And, while I walked / pushed / wheeled this “vehicle” home – on its one good wheel – I was also displeased at my own poor choice, though feeling fortunate that nothing worse had happened.
         
[__02__]    After an incident of some fault or failure, we may wonder or question what to do next.
          Peter, the Apostle, is at an intersection, though the intersection is not between two streets, two avenues or at a corner.
          Peter is at the intersection, the crossover between the boat (barque or barca) and the water.

[__03__]    Peter does not lack any [►SPEED] or [►SUGGESTION],

[►SPEED] – with velocity, and rapidly, Peter – with speed – disembarks and gets out of the boat.

Peter also does not lack

[►SUGGESTION] Peter comes up with the idea himself. Peter is calling the shots, telling Jesus not only what to do, but also what to say, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” (Matthew 14:28)


[__04__]    It’s daring, it’s risky what Peter does. And, you and I take risks, dares too. It’s daring, it’s risk to say, “I love you.” And, then, to show the person ”I Love you.”
For example, is  not daring, risk to show to tell someone,
“I love you”.
It is daring, risk, a walk on water to show or tell someone. ►”I disagree with you.”
► forgive someone.
► give up our anger.
► ask forgiveness.
► suggest that a  person needs to change.
►admit to ourselves we need to change a particular attitude.
          At first, this may leave us feeling alone, isolated, with a rising tide – or rising sea level – of  uncertainty, doubt.
          However, as Peter learns and we learn, this RISKS and DARES are possible with the help of our Savior whom we are called to keep in our sight, in our telescope, on our screen, as our destination. 

[__05__]   Peter had the [►SPEED] and the [►SUGGESTION], which were good, but not in themselves sufficient.
          Peter does not have his complete [►SALVATION] without his focus on Christ, without Jesus on his side.

[__06__]    St. Augustine observes that when Peter is out on the water and away from the boat. Peter is saying to the other apostles. Peter is saying to the others, “I got this.” Or “I’ll be me .. you be you.”  This is my [►SPEED] my [►SUGGESTION].

[__07__]    Peter experiences, however distance in 2 ways.
            Peter has his distance and doubt about Jesus. And, sometimes this happens to us. We have made a promise, a commitment, but we lose our way, our focus.
          Peter also experiences distance from the other apostles.
          I would add that as I traveled through an intersection without looking both ways, I had also lost focus and forgotten about who was around me or the precious gift of my own life. So, contrary to the old saying, I had forgotten how to ride a bicycle.
          This was an  example of doubt, distance.
          I had speed, but that was not enough.

[__08__]   It was Peter’s idea to disembark, to get out of the boat, to walk on water. However, the storm is calmed after Peter returns to the boat.
          St. Augustine, in a sermon observes that the boat symbolizes connection, Church, family.
          And, what will keep us aflot is not only our speed – how fast we can travel or hover over the water – but also how connected we are to our community, our family and our church, where our Savior is also present.

          He is present as a familiar friend, so familiar that he introduces himself to us with the simple “It’s me”….
“It is I do not be afraid.” He meets us at the crossroad. We could slow down to encounter him.  [
__fin__]   

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Transfiguration. "E.E.E." (2017-08-06)

SUNDAY 6 August 2017, Transfiguration
 • Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14 • Psalm 97 • 2 Peter 1:16-19 •  + Matthew 17:1-9 •

Title:  “Eavesdropping. Entertaining. Emulating.”


[__00 - lexicon__]   
►  eavesdrop” = listen secretly to what is said in private.◄ alt: “drop in” ”crash a party”

►  entertain” = keep, hold, maintain in the mind. ◄ alt: “consider”

 “emulate” = imitate, follow as a pattern, model, example. ◄ alt: “focus”

[__01__]   What we read in the Gospel this Sunday is the parable of the Transfiguration.
          Jesus has climbed the mountain with his disciples. In this Gospel, Jesus is also teaching us about listening, listening to him.
          Listening is a skill, a technique. “Hearing” on the other hand is a physical, bodily sense, the ability to perceive sounds.
          We might lament, at times, our ability to hear, or the changes that come with age or illness to our hearing.
          However, the ability to listen can, actually, be amped up (“improved”) with experience, with practice and with age. It’s good news for listeners.

[* * * pause * * *]

[__02__]     I’d like to reflect on the journey we walk on the way to become LISTENERS. The disciples also walk this walk.

 [__03__]      Sometimes, what we hear is not real. Or not what we think we hear.
          Rob Mueller, percussionist drummer example and the A-440 tuner.    I once had a neighbor and  friend who was afraid of having his car stolen. Rather than buying an expensive car alarm or renting a garage, he just put a loud beeping device – it also had a bright red light – in his car. And, he just left the beeper turned on permanently.
          So, for the cost of the one 9-volt battery which was cheap, he had what he thought was a anti-theft device. But, it was not an anti-theft device. It was a musical tuning device that produced a certain frequency . So, he turned it to 440 megahertz “A”  -- “A 440” . I believe that his car was not stolen. In this case, he fooled a few listeners.

[__04__]     Our Savior and the Son of God, however, is not trying to deceive us with his words or actions. He is just asking us to listen and not only to listen but also to imitiate or to EMULATE and follow him.
          And, the disciples on the mountain are also called to listen and emulate our Savior.
          However, in the early stages, they are not quite emulating him but rather ..
[►  1st  EAVESDROPPING]
[►  2nd ENTERTAINING]
..then, finally…
[►  3rd EMULATING]

 [__05__]    [►  1st  EAVESDROPPING]
Eavesdropping means that we “listen secretly to what is said in private” … or that we hang around trying to hear what someone else is saying.
          Of course, “eavesdropping” might take on an entirely different perspective – or paranoia. That is, my phone could be wiretapped, the FBI could be eavesdropping on my conversation. Or, spies eavesdrop on each other. 
          Then again, “eavesdropping” takes place in less threatening circumstances also.
          A mother – or father – eavesdrops on his or her children to hear what they are saying.
          Children might eavesdrop on their parents.
          In either case, the listener is not fully engaged.
          Peter, James, and John are eavesdropping on the encounter of Jesus with Moses and Elijah.
          They heard something about Jesus suffering, dying, rising from the dead and being glorified. They heard it. Were they really listening?
          The Transfiguration reminds them that this is really going to happen. Thus, the Transfiguration anticipates Jesus’ resurrection.
          Sometimes, we are only eavesdropping in our prayer. But, this is also a start for us.
          For we come to church to Sunday Mass not only with our own prayers but also to hear the prayers of the whole community – the prayers of the faithful – to be reminded of the needs of others.
          Being in the presence of others who are praying helps our listening skills, helps us on our journey.
[__06__]   After eavesdropping, the disciples do some “entertaining”, some considering I their own mind of a notion, of a project.
          They are entertaining the notion and project of the 3 tents, 3 monuments on the mountain.
          Hey, Jesus, this is cool, it will be just like Mount Rushmore or the Lincoln Memorial. We need to remember this.
          But, Jesus is saying they are off the mark, off target.
          Sometimes, you and I are off the mark, off target. We are entertaining notions of what we must do materially or visibly or financially in order to show our love of God and neighbor.
          You know the old saying: “if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.”
          This does not mean that we should never plan, but only that we are called to be open to God’s will and God’s ideas in our plans.

[__07__]     Finally, after  [►  1st  EAVESDROPPING] and
[►  2nd ENTERTAINING]     ..they are …   [►  3rd EMULATING],

imitating, following Christ by focusing on him, paying attention, listening.
          Sometimes, we walk away from a conversation and, later, we realize what the person really said. Sometimes, we walk away from a conversation and we realize what we really said.
          Listening to others more closely is a skill.  You and I are called to engage, not just eavesdrop. We are also called to listen to our own voices, not just entertain ourselves.

          And, finally, to listen to our Savior so that we might follow him and emulate him, imitating his ways.  [__fin__]