Sunday, September 24, 2017

"Resentment" (2017-09-24, Sunday-25)

SUNDAY 24 September 2017,
25th Sunday ___ • Isaiah 55:6-9 • Psalm 145  • Philippians 1:20c-24 • + Matthew 20:1-16a 

Title:  “Resentment”

[__01__]    RESENTMENT.
I like to start with something positive.
          A strong emotion is  -- RESENTMENT – or the feeling of indignation or persistent displeasure over an insult or some wrongdoing.
          Two individuals – or two countries or nations – can experience this indignation, displeasure.
          And, perhaps, the last thing we want is someone to help us. I could say that my RESENTMENT is a consolation – a comfort to me – because it proves… hey, I was right all along.
[__02__]     In the parable, there is RESENTMENT in the vineyard and among the vineyard workers.
          Why are they so steamed, so displeased?
          It´s just one day, right. Maybe they should just CHILL ..and the sun´ll come out tomorrow, right? There´ll be sun.
          What Jesus expresses in the parable is not your feeling or my feeling about one day or one paycheck or one annual salary or bonus.
          The hours of the work day represent an entire life span. And, symbolically the ¨daily wage¨ (or paycheck) is our eternal reward, our communion and community with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in heaven.
[__03__]    And, you and I are also learning to follow God´s ways so that we not only reach Heaven at some point in the future, but recognize that we are called to die to ourselves, to die to our own agendas each day.

[__04__]  In this particular reading and rendition of the parable, we are told that the workers are “envious”.  That is, the group of workers who were working all day long represent those of us who have really tried through childhood, youth, young adulthood, adulthood – our entire life – to learn the Commandments, follow the Commandments, go to church, teach our young people.
          That is, such lifelong Catholics “bore the day’s burden and the heat.”
          I am grateful to my own mother and father for our upbringing in this way. 

[__05__]      Nevertheless, when I follow one path and another person follows another path and we both reach the same destination, I might be more than a little ENVIOUS of the person.
          And, this manifestation of ENVY can be much more hurtful to both me and to others.
          There are lesser manifestations of envy. For example, one of might envy another person’s seemingly effortless and loving family. The grass is always greener.
          Or, we envy another person’s giftedness or talent or skill whether as MUSICIAN, or MIDFIELDER.
          In some cases, these milder – less dangerous forms of envy – might really be a form admiration or inspiration for us to work harder or to give thanks.
          Years ago,  a priest in confession advised me regarding a penance and prayer after my own admission of feeling envy / jealousy over another person’s material success and wealth.
          He suggested – pray for that person. Pray that his wealth may even increase, that his wealth and success will be a blessing to him, to his family, to the world.

[__06__]      In some instances, ENVY could morph into – could be amped up into – RESENTMENT.
          This is the problem of the workers in the vineyard.

[__07__]        In the parable, we learn that God has a reward, an eternal reward that is greater than any of our material possessions, paychecks, or talents.
          Moreover, this reward – our communion with God in heaven – is not based on what we deserve.
          For do we not believe that Jesus died for our sins, knowing that we would still commit them?

[__08_]       Yes, it is true some people show up later in life for their salvation or for their sacraments or for their prayers or for their fasting.
          But, the parable also tells us that these workers – not yet hired -- were just waiting around, waiting to be called, to be found.
          For those of who have known Christ’s presence in the sacraments – for our entire lives – we do not necessarily have this experience of just “waiting around”. We do not have the anxiety of the waiting around.

[__09_]                Many of us were the first to appear; and other workers are later, the last.
          Yet, our reward is the same.
Also, we might recall that our eternal reward is more of a relay race than an individual sprint to the finish line.

          You and I, by following the Commandments can help others grow closer to God by our example, love.

          We need to help each other to turn our RESENTMENT – or ENVY – into recognition of God’s ways, God’s payback to each of us.

The last shall be first.


Sunday, September 17, 2017

"Debt Ceiling" (2017-09-17, Sunday-24)

SUNDAY 17 September 2017,  24th  Sunday
• Sirach 27:30 – 28:9 • Psalm 103  • Romans 14:7-9 • + Matthew 18:21-35 

Title:  “Debt Ceiling”

[__01__]    “Sin” in the parable of the Gospel – or “sinfulness” in the Gospel today is expressed – symbolically – as a debt that is owed, a monetary amount to be repaid.
          We read that the landowner has decided to settle accounts with his servants . Some of them owe him a great deal of money. Their credit-card balances are very burdensome. They are not solvent.
          And, so to catch the attention of his listeners, to talk with them about the account history of their sins – and their A.P.R. annual percentage rate - Jesus also reminds us that God is very merciful towards us.
          And, our Savior compares God’s mercy to this very benevolent and generous landowner and ruler.
          The ruler is a symbol of Christ, our king and we owe him big-time.

[__02__]      Peter, the Apostle, on the other hand, has a debt ceiling. The U.S. government has a debt ceiling, a maximum amount that the government can borrow.
          Peter also has a debt-ceiling or maximum number of times that he will forgive someone.  What’s the number? He says “seven” but seems more comfortable at six or five, maybe lower.
          The Gospel is inviting us to consider the magnitude of God’s mercy already in our lives rather than the magnitude of a person’s offense against us.
[__03__]       What is your or my DEBT CEILING: the maximum frequency of forgiveness?
          Is it 6, 7,  70 (seventy) ?
          It may seem hard to imagine that we would have to forgive the same person 6, 7, or 70 times.
          However, consider that if you were hurt and were troubled and began to think it over every day for a month, or two months, you are now at 60 -- 77 is around the corner.

[__04__] At the end my freshman year in college, one of my classmates and residence-hall neighbors down the corridor, approached to ask me a question.
            “I really want to buy a car this summer. Can I borrow two hundred dollars?  I’ll pay you back.”
            The academic semester had just finished and we were all moving out of the residence hall to return to our respective hometowns. I would return to New Jersey, he was returning to New York.
            I thought about it, wondering if this was a good idea, to make this loan to another kid whom I would not see for the rest of May, June, July, August.  I would see him, September, at the earliest.

[__05__]     I made the loan and gave him (classmate) the two hundred dollars ($200).  Over the next several weeks – during the summer – I realized this, maybe, had not been a great idea.
            Would I ever see this money again? Would I be paid back? Would he even return to campus in the autumn, in September?

[__06__]     Was forgiveness an option? In fact, I came to realize it was my only option.   I suggest that FORGIVENESS is not impossible, not the impossible dream. It may seem difficult or expensive, but I suggest it is the only option we can really afford.   I considered 2 aspects of the situation:   (a) PERSONAL and…. (b) PASSING OF TIME.
            First, the PERSONAL. The debt only existed on a balance sheet – as a personal effect between him and me. It was one-on-one.  And, while concerned about repayment, I wanted to keep this one-on-one.
            That is, I did not want the advice of my mother, father or my friends.
            In fact, I did not even tell my parents about this until last week.
            But, the issue was one-on-one, personal.  Revealing the issue to others was not going to be helpful. Either they would blow it out of proportion or just blow me off and see the issue as random-repayment that may or not happen. Forget about it.
            I did not want to forget. I wanted to FORGIVE.
            And, this was person-to-person. It helps to pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

            Yes, over the summer, I thought about the 200-dollar loan at least 7 times, probably more like 77 or 107 times.
            However, time was also on my side. And, time is on your side when you are asked to forgive.
            Time was on my side because I had time to think. Time was on my side because I was young. And, when you are 19 or 9 or younger, four months – a summer – is a long time. As we grow older, time moves more quickly.
            But, at every age – as grown-ups, we are called to remember that a lot can happen, spiritually – personally – in a few months.
            The hurt or injury that we might believe that we cannot forgive today… we maybe able to forgive tomorrow, or in a little while.

[__07__]       Forgiveness is, at times, expensive. But even if we are trying to turn the other cheek, this does not mean that we should always look the other way.
            I believe that we can forgive and still challenge another person to change.
            When we admit our faults – or confess our sins – we are seeking forgiveness, not permissiveness or permission.
            Forgiveness does not mean that we become an “enabler” …but rather that with compassion we enable the person to “become”  … to grow, to change, to love and to know that he or she is loved.

[__08_]      During the summer of my two-hundred dollars, I came to the realization that I could and would forgive the debt.
          It was, perhaps, also one of my first “adult” decisions about forgiveness.
          So, I decided to forgive to not expect repayment. It was in September that Pete returned to campus.
          I did not ask about the money, but he remembered and gave me the 200 and even acknowledged my generosity.
          Receiving the 200, I felt I had received much more, I felt wealthy.
          Mercy makes us rich.


Sunday, September 10, 2017

"One on One" (2017-09-10. Sunday-23)

SUNDAY 10 September 2017, 23rd Sunday
• Ezekiel 33:7-9  • Psalm 95  • Romans 13:8-10  • 
+ Matthew 18:15-20  •

Title:  “One on One.”

[__01__]   At around 7:00 am, seven o’clock in the morning, on August 7, 1974 (Wednesday), at  over 1,000 feet and 400 meters above the ground, Philippe Petit began to walk on a high-wire tightrope from the top of the South Tower to the North Tower of the World Trade Center.  A few hours earlier, he and his team had shot an arrow, a crossbow with a rope and pulled – for hours, the heavy tightrope (cable) – into place between the North Tower and South Tower of the World Trade Center.
            For 45 minutes – forty-five minutes – Monsieur Petit was on his high-wire. The NYPD Police Department finally ordered him off the wire, arrested him …and he went to jail for a brief stay for his stunt.
            For those 45 minutes – and perhaps much longer – everyone was focused on Philippe Petit in the sky. Everyone had a connection to him, a one-on-one connection.
            Though you and I could not – and would not – walk on such a wire, with such a dramatic performance, we sense and perceive a connection to the performer, to the place …and, even, perhaps, to his arrest and punishment.
            Well, that was of course only a stunt, a high-wire act and it lasted only 45 minutes.
            The towers themselves stood for much longer, for years, decades.

[__02__]     Years later, now years after September 11, 2001, many of us still have a connection – a visual connection – in the sky and skyline to the location of the Twin Towers, the north and south towers,  One World Trade and Two World Trade.
          And, on the anniversary of 9/11, 2 bright blue lights are visible from the ground and into the atmosphere as a reminder of towers that were there.

Of course, today, 2017, the area has been repaired, restored and new One World Trade Center tower stands, along with a memorial to the many heroes and victims of the day.
          Yet, many of us have personal memories and one-on-one connections to the day, to the event.
          Many of can recall in great detail things that happened in the morning of September 11, 2001, conversations we had that day, things that happened later the same day. I can recall the professor, the philosophy class, the building, the classroom at Seton Hall, the window I looked out after hearing about the Twin Towers.  There was a one-on-one personal connection.

[__03__]    In the Gospel, this Sunday, Jesus speaks about the importance of 1-on-1 peacemaking, reconciliation.
          When you and I have difficulty, conflict with someone, we may hope/wish/pray that someone would intervene with a solution.
          Or, if we have caused a difficulty with someone else, we are often relieved if someone else tells us about it, warns us about what happened…so that we can “repair” or make up for the fault in some other way.
          It’s nice if this happens.
[__04__]    But, sometimes one-on-one is the better way and the only way.
          And, in this sense, Jesus is outlining and emphasizing certain things for us to consider.

[__05__]     First, WORDS.
If there is a conflict or difficulty – if I have trespassed against you or someone. I am called to put into words, in factual terms what has happened.
          And, in this case, the word does not mean that I am adding in my excuse for what happened … or my feeling about what happened.
          You and I have told – or heard – many personal accounts of where a person was on 9/11. And, while there is often great emotion in the telling, there is also great specificity, detail, precision.
          And, if we are to admit our faults to another person – or to God – or if we are to forgive another person, we might strive for the same precision, exactness.
          Consider – you have probably forgiven someone who has apologized to you. And, when you do, you simply state the fact of your forgiveness.
          That is, we strive to forgive without a reminder or recall of the hurt. Just the facts. The fact of forgiveness. One on one.
          It does not require the GOVERNMENT to intervene.
          It’s the Gospel.
          The Good News of Jesus himself is intervening.

[__06__]    Many lives were lost at Ground Zero as the towers came down.
          Yet, thousands of lives were also saved. This was not because there was anticipation or the perfect disaster recovery plan.  But, lives were saved because of the heroic actions and presence of so many NYPD, Port Authority, New York City Firefighters.
          People who did not have to be on the front line left their desks in midtown to be downtown, to be down n the trenches.
          And, it was because of many individual one-on-one decisions by firefighters, police, emergency responders, by co-workers, by bosses, by assistants, by executives and ordinary workers, by neighbors, and by perfect strangers who came together one-on-one for the good of all
          Our Lady, Queen of Peace, Pray for Us.
[__08__]    [__09__]      [__10__]       [__11_]       [__fin__]    

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Back to School. (2017-09-03, Sunday-22)

SUNDAY 3 September August 2017, 22nd Sunday
• Jeremiah 20:7-9  • Psalm 63 • Romans 12:1-2 •  + Matthew 16:21-27  

Title:  “Back to School”

[__01__]   Back to school. Going back to school is different from summer.  But, we have this one PAUSE  [ ▌▌] button of Labor Day before the PLAY [ ►] (or FAST FORWARD [ ►►] of September.

Peter is back to school this Sunday, being educated on meaning, on the mission, and on the Messiah.

Last Sunday – when it was still summertime – Peter had the correct answer to our Savior’s question of “Who do you say that I am?”  (Matthew 16:15). This was Part One.

Peter answers correctly on Part One:  “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”  (Matthew 16:16)

Peter is singled out and is distinguished from the other apostles because of his inspired answer, being told: “Flesh and blood have not revealed this to you [or, we might say… that Peter – you did not come up with this purely through your own study and intellect], but my Heavenly Father.”  (Matthew 16:17)

[__02__]     This Sunday, Peter is back to school.  It’s Part Two (2). It’s a different story. And, Peter has pressed an incorrect key.
          That is, he is told that in addition to success and salvation through Jesus Christ, there will also be suffering.
          Back to school always involves suffering. And, Jesus is trying to caution us – and also console us – that suffering, testing, sorrow, difficulty is universal. It will affect all of us.
[__03__]    Back to school.
In my junior year of college, I had the fortunate Fall / Autumn experience to study at a university in England. This was a study group for American students, from the United States.
          All of us were American citizens and from various colleges around the country. We were of different backgrounds.
          What seemed to be a universal experience, a common denominator for all of us was the adjustment to the language and accent of England the U.K.
          It is an old saying that we are “two countries separated by a common language.”  One example is that if you say something is “quite good” in  West Orange, you are giving praise, affirmation, stating the excellence.  If you say a the entrĂ©e or appetizer is “quite good” in Westminster and London, you mean it’s really not that good. It’s not a compliment to the chef.
          So, among all of us as students, there was a universal confusion about many things.
          And, there was a universal adjustment not only to vocabulary and slang (idiomatic expressions) but also to the accent.
          The same thing happens to a British person coming to the U.S. Universally, they lose some of the their British accent and gain some of the American accent.
          And, we changed the way that we spoke, because we were listening and speaking to teachers with a British accent.
[__04__]    I noticed that my own speaking changed and endured as a change for several months after I returned to the States.
          This was somewhat annoying to family and friends in New Jersey.  It did not happen overnight. The accent took a while to acquire…and took a while to disappear. It is now gone, I assure you.
[__05__]     However, one of my classmates somehow managed to pick up the British accent within 2 days of arriving.  But, she was constantly addressing everyone around her with British slang.  I’m not sure how this happened so fast. Maybe she was smarter than the rest of us… or was hers a superficial demonstration?
          Everyone knew she still had a U.S. passport.

[__06__]    Back to school. It was a universal and commonly shared experience.  And, the only way to avoid this was to stay in your dorm room for several months and not go to class which is always an option in college and watch lots of sports, movies and television from the States.
          It was a universal experience.

[__07__]    Learning a language is something we do, not in isolation, but in community, in relationships with others.
          It is universally shared.
          I’d like to suggest that our understanding – and learning – about suffering and sorrow is also a common experience, universally shared. It also takes time, often more than one semester or school year.
[__08__]    Peter the Apostle is not so sure. He wants to dismiss the role of suffering and the cross.
          By the way, Peter is not seeking an exemption – or free pass – for himself. Rather, he is saying that Jesus – as Messiah – should not have to suffer.
          But, suffering is universally and often universally shared and known.

[__09__]     As a country, we are back to school, learning about suffering. Profoundly and particularly does this apply to the police, the firefighters, rescue works and emergency workers of Texas, Louisiana and the Gulf Coast after Hurricane/Tropical Storm Harvey.
          It also applies to the victims and the homeless individuals and families of Harvey.
          Suffering, at times, reminds us not only of our own personal vulnerability but of the vulnerability and fragility of everyone. 
          Many a firefighter and rescue worker have taken risks with their own lives and health.
          Sergeant Steve Perez, Houston Police Department, gave up his life trying get to work in a flood condition.
          Meanwhile, many adults and families have had to wait while children and elderly people were rescued.
          And, while you and I might not suffer the loss of our home today, we are called to give back perhaps simply by our own prayer and sacrifice.
          When we sit back to our next meal, or turn the key in our front door, could we not surrender a petition for our brothers and sisters? Or, in the spirit of a Lenten sacrifice, maybe we could offer up – or give up – something by fasting or eating less over the next few days. We can take up our cross not only by giving money or making statements publicly but also by what we do in private. Suffering is universal.

[__10__]      Telling us about the cross and about suffering, Jesus is also reminding us that we are not alone.
          And, rather than asking “why me”, I might ask… “why not me ?”
          Jesus is reminding us that suffering – and sorrow – bring us closer to him.
          But we do believe that the heroic actions of many rescue workers are inspired by God. They take us back to school and teach us by their actions that God is love.

[__11_]      Several years – maybe 10 or 12 years after my year in England, I was in touch with a friend of mine from that time. 
          I received an email and he had been living in London for several years, married and working for a British company.  Like a native, he wrote to me with all the British spellings, spelling, e.g., COLOR = C-O-L-O-U-R …
Outwardly, his accent had not really changed that much over the years. But, in his mind, he had certainly acquired the language, the facility, the ease with everything British.

          Outwardly, you and I may appear to be the same to others, But, internally – spiritually – we are changed and also learning the language of the cross, the Word of salvation, as we go back to school each day.  [__fin__]