Sunday, October 29, 2017

Hot. (2017-10-29, Sunday-30)

Sunday 29 October 2017, 30th (A)

● Exodus 22:20-26  ● Psalm 18 ●
● 1 Thessalonians 1:5c-10 ●● Matthew 22:34-40  ●   Title: “Hot”

[__01__]   Who is hot?  Who is not ?
          The Major League Baseball World Series is hot. And, this past Tuesday – Game 1 in Los Angeles  - the Dodgers were hot, playing very well. And, the temperature was elevated - 103°F  (39°C) at game time on Tuesday October 24th , it was the highest temperature recorded for a World Series game. And, in the game, pitcher Clayton Kershaw dominated with 11 strikeouts. He scorched the Astros earth.
          Ticket prices were also hot & high in southern California.  On Tuesday morning, the cheapest ticket available was $882.  In the metric system, that’s equivalent to $882.
          The good news – for buyers of tickets and for Houston Astros’ fans is that -  the ticket prices were cooling off as game time approached – you get a ticket for 700. And, the Dodgers themselves cooled off; the Astros won the next 2 games.
          It’s still hot in L.A.
 It is the heat and fire season

[__02__]    In the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 22, we could say that Jesus himself was on a roll, was “hot”, and becoming increasingly noticed by the media and messengers of his day.
          Last Sunday, Jesus was challenged publicly regarding TAXATION and the LEGALITY of taxation. And, his well-known endures today as a reminder of our responsibility to give ourselves God and also to give ourselves and serve the community and to do so though legal and governmental means:
          “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.”  (Matthew 22:21)

[__03_]  And, TAXES are a hot topic.  Not much has changed.
          This Sunday, the Pharisees and Scribes have a question, turning up the temperature in the room with:
          “Teacher, which commandment of the law is the greatest?” (Matthew 22:26)

[__04__]  Both the question of last Sunday and the question of this Sunday are about – VALUE.
          In other words, what and whom do you and I value?

[__05__]   Naturally, we associate LOVE with VALUE.
          Here, I do not mean only material or monetary value.  But, by analogy this applies.
          Tickets to the World Series are scarce, fans are fond of their teams.   This makes the tickets more expensive, highly prized.
          Jesus is connecting LOVE and LOVE OF GOD with LOVE OF NEIGHBOR.
          Do we “prize” and “value” those around us as our neighbors?
          This is not simple. Every one of us, at times, is difficult to love, difficult to understand.

[__06__]  And, Jesus is also connecting, uniting love of God with love of neighbor, i.e., love of the person across the table from y you at home or in the cafeteria, love of the neighbor across the street or across the school bus.
          Naturally, we associate love with value.   Here, I don’t simply mean material or monetary value. But, by analogy this applies. Some objects (or behind-the-dugout or behind-home-plate ticktets)   are highly prized because they are precious, rare and, therefore, expensive.

[__07__]  That is, we adore what is precious and rare and distinct.
          Love and value go together.
          In our relationships, one to the other, we are also called to discover this value.
          But, we do not simply love another person because of his or her market value or approval rating acceptance or appearance.
          To be blunt, we do not just love what is HOT, right now …or what is consoling or pleasing right now..
          Rather, in many of our relationships – such as mother to child or father to child – or grandparent to young person – we are called to love another person with some level of confidentiality, intimacy, secrecy and for the long term.  In other words, we may love the other person for a reason that is not known to others.
          St. Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians, chapter 13 remains us that FAITH, HOPE, and LOVE are important virtues.
          But, it is LOVE which enables us to have FAITH and HOPE. After all, I can believe something or someone is true and honest. But, I may not necessarily love him or her.
          The Pharisees, themselves, obtained the answer and printed receipt that they wanted from Jesus about the greatest commandment.  But, they did not value him personally for his own sake.
          To love another person means that we value the other person not because of a mutual gain but because of a mutual gift.
          Pope John Paul II wrote about this saying that it’s OK – and virtous – to treat another person as an object of love.
          The word “object” is highly charged and has man connotations. However, we can treat another person as the object – as  the goal and reason – for our love. But, we are called to avoid treating the other person as an object for our use or our own gain.  (Pope John Paul II, Love and Responsibility, ¨The Person and the Sexual Urge ¨,  San Francisco: Ignatius Press, p. 39)

[__08__]   God loves you and me in a similar way, not because of what we do or produce but because of who we are.
          We are also the objects of God´s love.
          When we love others simply because they are, and as they are, we are also learning not only to give God’s love but also to receive it and turn back to Him each day.


Sunday, October 22, 2017

What is Amazon? (2017-10-22, Sunday-29)

Sunday 22 October 2017, 29th (A)
● Isaiah 45:1, 14-6 ● Psalm 96 ●
●1 Thessalonians 1:1-5b ●● Matthew 22:15-21  ●Title: “Tax Deadline”

Sunday 22 October 2017, 29th (A)

● Isaiah 45:1, 14-6 ● Psalm 96 ●
●1 Thessalonians 1:1-5b ●● Matthew 22:15-21  ●Title: “Tax Deadline”

[__01__]  Recently, I visited some family members who live in the Bronx and who do not, apparently, use a computer.  There was no sign of a laptop or a router anywhere.
          What is Amazon?
          “What is Amazon?”, I was asked.
          I was going to suggest that Amazon is similar to a bookstore, but Amazon sells many more items than books. I settled on the idea that Amazon is similar to a catalog store where there is no physical store and you order everything and it gets delivered.

[__02__]   You and I know that AMAZON is a multi-national company with thousands of items for sale online.        
          We do not have to define these days what AMAZON is. It’s perhaps easier to say what is NOT available on AMAZON rather than what is available on AMAZON.
[__03_What is CAESAR?
          In the Gospel today, we read about paying taxes to CAESAR?
          Who or what is CAESAR?
          Caesar was the family name that applied to – or was simply adopted by -- several Roman Emperors. So, governmentally, politically, Caesar was the emperor and in charge because the government in Rome – on the Italian peninsula had conquered and colonized many other nations in the Mediterranean region.
          Israel was under Roman authority and control.
          And, just as the 13 colonies on our Atlantic coast in the 1770’s did not want to be under the control of a king in London, Israel would have favored independence. They also were distressed over taxation without representation.
          Caesar was like AMAZON.
          In other words, it was easier to define what did not belong to Caeasar than what did belong to Caesar.
          As the conquering government, Caesar controlled almost everything, all the laws,  the currency, the money, the army.
          And, it was also a wireless remote connection.  Israel was in the east of the Mediterranean.
          Caesar and Rome had their headquarters in the West of the Mediterranean.  The difference, of course, you would not want Caesar to open a 2nd headquarters and create more jobs in your neighborhood.
          Caesar and Caeasar’s army was going to come to your neighborhood whether you placed an order or not.

[__04__]  We could say that in recent Gospel passages and parables, their have been both ORDERS and there have been DEADLINES.
          In the parable of the tenants in the vineyard, the tenants are working in the soil, taking care of the vines, the grapes. These tenants did not own the land but were given the land with the expectation – the ORDER – that the grapes be returned, either in person or via UPS or FedEx to the owner. This is God the Father and Creator.
          And, there was a deadline.
          We learn that these workers miss their “April 15”tax deadline  and the vineyard is taken away from them.
          We are also part of a vineyard. The vineyard is, for example, represented by your home and family and taking care of them – the vineyard could be your classroom. Young people, your vineyard includes not only your house work, chores at home, but also your presence and diligence at school, your responsibility to be a good classmate, teammate, to listen to your teachers, coaches and to do so at the proper time.
[*** P_A_U_S_E ***]
[__05__]  In the Gospel this Sunday, Jesus is presented with a question – an online order. Actually, we could say that there are 2 simultaneous orders arriving at the exact same time.
          I suggest this because both the Pharisees and the Herodians are asking the question about taxes, taxes being paid to Caesar.
          And, the question is a trap, a trick, and trouble.

[__06__]  In frustration and resentment, the Pharisees and others in the  Jewish community had been paying the government. But, we know – from the example of Zacchaeus and others – that tax collectors and taxes were very unpopular. Not much has changed?
          The Herodians, on the other hand, favored the tax.
          However, the Pharisees and the Herodians agreed on one point. That is, their distaste, their rejection of Jesus as rabbi and leader.
          So, mutually, they had a deadline, an objective, to trap him, have him arrested, charged, and taken off the street.
          It is it legally required to pay the tax?

[__07__]   Saying YES, Jesus was in big trouble with the Pharisees and his own people. He would be, in a way, saying yes to taxation without representation.
          “No” would defy the government.
          The choice is, it seems: religious blasphemy or political treason.
          Perhaps, Jesus would like help … as they said on the quiz show Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?, can I phone a friend?

[__08__]  And, we now have the famous response:
          “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caeasar’s and render unto God the things that are God’s”  (Matthew ___)
          But, one might object and say – Jesus, you did not answer the question. We were not asking you about God. We were only asking you about Caeasar.
          Jesus wants you and me to think about God …just as much as we think about Caeasar, or we think about the government, or the president or Congress or AMAZON, who might or might not win the World Series.
          In other words, Jesus gives the greenlight, says “swing away” regarding the payment of taxes. Go ahead, pay.
          In other words, you and I have an obligation to support legitimate civil authority. But this obligation does not begin and end on or about April 15 with form 1040, with your CPA, or with TurboTax (version number?)
          That is, you and I may be tempted to seek loopholes – or deductions -- in our obligations as citizens. Sometimes, we are also seek loopholes or deductions (or reductions) in our obligations as Christians.
          But, Jesus is not asking us to put citizenship and Christianity on different devices, hard drives or to-do lists.

[__09__]  This is not only an obligation to pay taxes but also to…
-   Vote in elections
-   Express our opinions and faith to public officials
-   Speak / faith for sanctity of human life at all stages. à as we read in the prophet Jeremiah “before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I consecrated you…”
-   Protest legitimately when the government does not protect the vulnerable or legitimate freedom such as freedom of religion.

[__10__] I.e., we do not render unto Caesar simply by rolling over and playing dead but also by professing our faith according to certain demands and deadlines.
    We owe this not only to God but also to Caeasar and to our friends and neighbors and fellow citizens.

[__11__] Temporarily does Jesus escape prosecution, arrest, punishment, indictment for his vies.
          Saying … “Render unto Caesar”
          This is a way for him to live another day….to extend the series to a full 7 games with his opponents.
          Nevertheless, there is a deadline that will come on Good Friday when he is arrested and put to death for his views.
          From from the deadline, however, there is a lifeline of Easter Sunday and resurrection that remind us that he is risen and that he is really the king, really in charge and will give us all new life. [__fin__]

Sunday, October 15, 2017

"Dress Code" (2017-10-15, Sunday-28)

SUNDAY 15th October 2017, 28th Sunday Ordinary Time
 • Isaiah 25:6-10a • Psalm 23 •
•  Philippians 4:12-14, 19-20 • Matthew 22:1-14  •

Title:  “Dress Code”

[__01__]  / [__02__ In 2008, I arrived at the Cathedral in Newark for a Mass during Holy Week known as the Chrism Mass. It is a celebration similar to our own Holy Thursday Mass, in which the priests of the Archdiocese of Newark renew their vows of ordination, the vows of priesthood.  There are usually 700 deacons and priests present, 700 deacons and priests and together with the Archbishop of Newark.
          And, similar to every Catholic Mass, there are the expected vestments for the deacons and priests. However, because there are 700-plus, we are expected to bring our own vestments.  On that particular day, I brought my vestments, but forgot, neglected to bring one particular item – the stole (stola) that is worn around the neck. This was noticeable to several others.
          Monsignor Joe Petrillo and I reconnected on the sidewalk outside the cathedral before the Mass started. He greeted me warmly and asked matter-of-factly, where is your stole? He was not stunned, only smiling.
          I was asked this question at least 15-20 times that evening. The answer was that it was in this sacristy here in West Orange. I was in Newark at the time and I was not in full compliance with the dress code.
[__03__]   In the parable this Sunday, we read about the planning, the invitations, the seating arrangements, catering and finally the dress code … of a large wedding feast.
          A king has decided to celebrate the wedding of his son. He has printed out, engraved the invitations. The parable, however, is not an allegory about the consequences of violating the dress code.
          This would appear to the message of the parable.
          It seems that if you are not properly dressed – in proper attire -- you are removed from the church, from the Wilshire Grand – Mayfair – The Manor – or the cathedral or wherever your wedding is.
          However, in this case, the garment does not represent a code of dress, or a coat of arms, but rather a code of behavior and a connection to good works.        
          That is, you and I are called to be clothed in good works. This is not a garment we can purchase, but it is something that we invest in each day.
          People notice..

[__04__]    For example. An example of people – or a person – taking notice.
          Several years ago, I took over the repair, maintenance and responsibility for my father’s car. He got a new car and allowed me to use his car… as long as I could keep it on the road and repaired.
          As the owner, I continued to take the vehicle to the same mechanic where my father took the car.  Every time I took the car there, the mechanic would ask me about my father.  And, he would tell me how fond he was of my father. I had no objection, but I also had no prior knowledge that my father had made such a positive impression.  I also thought to myself: “You only see my father once every 3,000 miles … a few times a year. ”
          In some way, my father had been consistently kind, friendly, although I also know that every repair of this car was particular troublesome and occasionally expensive.
          Nevertheless, my father’s kindness – every 3,000 miles – was remembered very well.

[__05__]    I use this as an example of how we are called to manifest – demonstrate – and be clear in our loving actions, deeds towards others.
          Yes, we are called not only to be good – internally – but also to be present – to make a gift of our goodness each day, externally, visibly towards others that others can see.
[__06__]   The person is removed from the wedding because he has not made this clear, made this visible in his life.

          Every time that we do something honest, kind. Every time that we forgive another person, or seek forgiveness, we are putting on a garment, so that we will be recognized and ready to go when God's call or invitation arrives in the mail or in person. [__fin__]    

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Good News ? (2017-10-08, Sunday-27)


Start:       Finish:

SUNDAY 8th October 2017, 27th Sunday Ordinary Time
 • Isaiah 5:1-7 • Psalm 80 • Philippians 4:6-9 •  + Matthew 21:33-43 •

Title:  “Good News?”

[__01__]   Being left back, being asked to repeat a grade may not be perceived or received as good news.
          Not knowing any better, I had the audacity to ask my elementary school principal why one of my classmates was not promoted from first grade to second grade. I figured he would know.
          So, right there in the parking lot, I asked him about the situation of why this young person – my classmate – was not in second grade. Why was he left back?
[__02__]   To be honest, I only recall the situation because my parents were embarrassed that I would ask such a question to such a person at such a place and time.
          Could any good come of this? Could there be any good news?

[__03__]   I suggest that the parable of the tenants in the vineyard is a reminder that we are being taught the good news each day.
          That is, we are taught about the virtue of forgiveness, just at the moment we are tempted to surrender to resentment or retaliation.
          We are taught about the virtue of honesty, just at the moment we are tempted to lie or be dishonest.
          We are taught about the virtue of self-sacrifice just at the moment we are seeking our own comfort or consolation.
          Now, we may not receive the message of these virtues at the exact same moment. But, they sometimes at around the same time, or at approximately the same time.
          And, in this regard, the parable of the vineyard workers and the tenants applies to you and me.
          What happens in the parable is that the vineyard workers/tenants want to eject or eliminate the prophets and preachers of God’s word to them.
          Or, in the language of the Church and Christians, we could say that they do not want to be evangelized. They do not want to hear the Good News.

[__04__]   Sometimes, we do not want to hear the Good News. And, at times, we may feel immersed in sad or bad news that we assume that there is no good news.
[__05__]   Our Savior is trying to teach us, through this parable about God’s patience with each of us.
          He is patient because He forgives our sins. On the other hand, we can behave like the wicked tenants who believe that they have no sins or that they cannot be forgiven.
          God is patient, believing in the talents we all have to share. And, though we may -- at times  -- reject even the compliments that come our way, the Lord is sending us the Good News that each of us has something to give.
          This is the good news of God’s patience.

[__06__]   Could anything good come from being left back? Could anything good come from my question?
          What good came of it, according to my parents, was the care and gentleness and compassion with which the principal endeavored to answer my question.
          I don’t remember what he said, but I do recall that my mother was impressed with both his competence and compassion,  not only toward the young boy who was not promoted but also toward me who was a bit out of line in my questioning.
          “None of your business” could have been his response.
          He did not try to remove me from the vineyard or from the conversation.
[__07__]    The Lord also desires that we would remain and be part of his vineyard.


Sunday, October 1, 2017

"New Message: Save?" (2017-10-01, Sunday - 26)

SUNDAY 1st  October 2017, 26th Sunday Ordinary Time
 • Ezekiel 18:25-28 • Psalm 25 • Philippians 2:1-11 •  + Matthew 21:28-32 •

Title:  “New Message: Save?”

[__01__]   In the parable of this Sunday, two different numbers – and two different individuals – are with the same To-Do List.  The owner of the vineyard – and the father of the 2 sons – enters 2 new new numbers, sent a message to the 2 sons.
          Each responds, picks up differently.

[__02.01__]   The first [RESPONDS], engages his father and says YES, “No Problem”  [N.P.] and c-u-@-vineyard.  It’s on his to-do list. However, he is a no-show.
          Jesus cautions us about such an attitude. For example, I say [YES] to some future task or project. It seems so easy. But, I can think of instances when this “easy” task was completely forgotten.  I forgot to show up.
          (Years ago, I recall that I had a commitment to visit some friends at a reunion on a particular Saturday-Sunday, a weekend, in Michigan. On Friday evening, I was noticing that I had no plane reservations. So, I had failed to follow through. While I made it there, finally, this was due to some extra effort and use of frequent-flyer miles to make a last-minute reservation.)
          Or, there are instances when something appears easy or convenient but then has some difficult aspect. I don’t want to persevere or appear unpopular.
          This is also the attitude of the Pharisees and others.

[__02.02__]   Then there is the second son. When the call comes to his phone, he refuses the invitation, drops the call. He will not add this vineyard work to his to-do list. We might imagine the call is dropped or lost. And, he does not call back.
          Nevertheless, he re-thinks (repents) of his decision and shows up at the vineyard.
          Something happens – spiritually – and in the silence – between the dropped call and his appearance at the vineyard.
          There is no 2nd call, there is just silence.
          You and I benefit from time, prayer, in order to DISCERN and know what is the right thing to do.
          Just as our human relationships are strengthened by not only by one I-Do or or one To-Do but by a series of sacrifices, even by doing what we thought was distasteful, difficult, demanding, so also our communion and conversation with God.

[__02__]  Every day, you and I are challenged to consider what messages we will keep and what we may avoid and what may have to go to voice mail.
          That is, we are called to discern, to decided because we could – if we wanted to – hold on to absolutely every message we receive, get.
          It is a mystery why the first son says YES but then does not go. Apparently, he received the message. He has the message saved. Maybe he did not write it down?
          However, having the message and hearing the message are not the same.
          Acknowledging the message and acting on the message are not the same.
          Now, electronically, we have the luxury of holding on to nearly every message we have every received. We have lots of archive space, disk storage, and cloud storage. It seems, then, that we can keep everything as a [SAVED] message as an item to be done.
          This allows us to keep an archive, a life story consisting of every text, email we have ever received.
          Who needs a diary or paper journal or an attic full of letters when you have all of this on your phone or PC?   
          And, is not beautiful – at times – to re-read and reconsider messages of the past, receive the word, the message of affection or something significant of the past.
          It’s part of our the Good News of the Gospel, our spiritual journey as well. The Blessed Mother gives us an example as one who retains, receives the infinite value of God’s word in Jesus Christ and shares this with us. Jesus, however, reminds that discernment means saying both YES and NO, as he says, “let your Yes mean Yes and your No mean No.“  (Matthew 5:37)
          When we receive Holy Communion, we also receive the infinite value of God’s word in Christ’s body and blood.
          We give thanks today for the women of our Rosary Altar Society for their devotion to the Blessed Mother, their meditation on the mysteries of the Rosary to know and receive God’s word each day.

[__03__]   All of this storage space – in the cloud or in our closets – enables us to hang on to many messages and things.
          However, do we really need to hang on to everything?   Or, do we need DISTANCE and, occasionally, DELETION ?

          I’d like to make an analogy – just a little comparison – between this and our spiritual lives and how we can be troubled by the past or by old messages or by sinfulness, by our own sinfulness and that of others.
          Do we seek forgiveness?
          Because forgiveness means God takes our sins away from us as far as the east is from the west.
          However, this happens with our free and willing cooperation.
          No one forces us to confess our sins. No one can force us to forgive another person.
          But, these days, neither does anyone force us to delete old texts. 
(By the way, I can recall a time when we were routinely forced to delete old e-mails. Now, it seems that we can store an unlimited number for an unlimited duration / time. )

[__04__]    Repentance. Confession. Also a free choice, so that you and I can have more space, more silence with God, more room for his message, his mercy.  And, we can trust that he always has something planned for us, something for us to do.