Sunday, October 28, 2018

Where Are You ? (2018-10-28, Sunday-30)

28 October 2018   /  30th Sunday Ordinary Time, Year B

•  Jeremiah 31:7-9  • Psalm 126 •Hebrews 5:1-6 •  + Mark 10:46-52 
••       Title:   Where Are You ? (Faith)

[__01_]   In the Gospel, Jesus said to the disciples – regarding Bartmaeus, the blind man, “Call him” which means, “Call him over…”
          And, by calling Bartimaeus, they – Jesus and Bartimaeus are connected. The call is a connection, a personal and also specific geographic connection in a particular place.
          By calling Bartimaeus, Jesus knew where he was. By Bartimaeus calling out – vocally  – to Jesus, Bartimaeus knew where Jesus was. It used to be that way for us.
[__02_]    At one time, when you or I called 973.325.0110, that is the number of the parish rectory-office, and someone answered, you knew that you were connected to someone at One Eagle Rock Avenue, West Orange, New Jersey 07052.
          Now, with call forwarding, mobile – cellular phones, it’s not so simple. It’s different.
          Someone observed to me recently that now we ask something on the phone that we never used to ask. We ask, “Where are you?”
          You called your sister, your mother– in 1985 – you knew where she was.   “Where are you?” meant ‘what room are you in?’ or ‘are you in the kitchen or upstairs?’
          Now, ‘where are you’  could mean: are you in New York or Colorado?
[__02_]   It used to be scientifically verifiable where a person was – where you or I were – based on the phone number.
          Now,  ‘where-are-you’ is an act of faith. You are trusting the other person is really going to tell you where he is, where she is.
          It’s like the VERIZON telephone advertisement in which the young college student is foolish enough to take a picture of himself  (a.k.a.,selfie) on the beach, a picture that has a date and time stamp and send it to his mother and father, but he’s supposed to be at his final exams.
          “Where are you?” The response is an act of faith.
[__04_]   It’s a question we might say to begin our prayers. “Where are you, Lord?   Where are you, Jesus … Where are you, God  …” in my life?
          Where are you in the difficulty or distress I have?
          On the other hand, in moments of great joy and celebration, we might also ask the same thing, giving thanks not for my own – your own – achievement and talent, but where were you, God – in helping me to reach this point?
[__05_]    Where are you? Where R U ?
          The disciples know exactly where Jesus is. They have been following him. They have been on this route. They know exactly where Jesus is and they are trying to protect him, like the Secret Service or like State Troopers.
          They are staying in lockstep with him and trying to keep people away from him.
          Jesus is given permission by his “handlers” to talk to some and not others. In the Gospel of next Sunday – notably – there is no objection because Jesus is being approached by a learned, distinguished scribe. The disciples – it seems do not usually – intervene when Jesus is approached by someone of importance or reputation.  The disciples are OK with the reputable folks.
          But, Bartimaues – he’s much simpler, less important.
          Ironically – the paradox – is that the disciples – who can see – are not really recognizing who Jesus is. Bartimaeus – who is blind – recognizes Jesus.

[__06_]    Bartimaeus is crying out in prayer, in petition, “where are you?”
          Or,  “where have you been?”
          Bartimaeus has positioned himself strategically on this Jerusalem-Jericho marathon route. It’s not quite a marathon, only 16.7 miles, but he is on that route and by his location, he finds Jesus because of where he is.

[__07_]      “Where are you?”  is a way to begin our prayer, to be in Jesus’ presence.
          The same question is asked by God to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden – “where are you?” After the eat from the Tree of Knowledge, God does not come after them with a threatening statement, but just the question “where are you”.
          He knows where they are, but asks anyway.
          And, this is a way for us to begin or continue our relationships, to ask the question – where are you?

[__08_]   ”Where are you?” is an act of faith, not simply if you are wondering where a family member or friend has gone …
          But it’s an act of faith to ask “where are you, God” … before I admit that I am wrong. In other words, I ask where is God, where is God’s mercy.
          It is an act of faith to admit that I am wrong, that I have a fault or sin to be forgiven, and an act of faith to admit that God is someplace nearby and will forgive me.
[__08.01_]    To admit that I am right…that is not an act of faith, that is scientifically verifiable. That’s my attempt at humor.

[__09_]    To admit I am wrong, is an act of faith.
          To give myself away, to give away some of my time, to surrender my talent or ability for the good of someone else, this is also an act of faith.
          And, this invites to ask – Where you, God this talent or ability that I am called to use, to serve, to help someone else? Where are you leading me?
[__10_]    Or, if someone tells us the truth or tells us something we do not want to hear, we might also ask – where are you?
          We might ask the other person – where are you coming from?
          But,  we might also ask in the silence of our own hearts, when we hear something we do not want to hear, “where are you?”
          And, if we are not sure if it is true, or if we think some it might be true or an invitation for us to change, we ask – where are you God – in this?
          So, I can draw closer to you each  day, as Bartimaeus does on the road from Jericho to Jerusalem.


Sunday, October 21, 2018

Loyalty. Rewarded (2018-10-21, Sunday-29)

21 October 2018   //  29th Sunday Ordinary Time, Year B

•Isaiah 53:10-11•Psalm 33•Hebrews 4:14-16 •+ Mark 10:35-45 

••       Title:   Loyalty. Rewarded

          You and I expect our loyalty to be recognized and rewarded.
          This is the logic of loyalty.
          And, it also works this way in the marketplace, in monetary and material things.
          For example, at one point in the history of AIRLINE TRAVEL, a new device was invented to get more people to buy more airline tickets and go further.
          This ‘device’ may makes us feel more comfortable and – in some cases – reduce the FEAR OF FLYING.
          What is this great device?
          It’s not on the plane exactly. It’s the frequent-flyer miles program that is also known as the LOYALTY program.
          So, if you fly, say, 6 or 7 times from New York to Florida or California you can receive - be rewarded - a free ticket – for your LOYALTY.
          At one point, in my flying history, I received an upgrade to 1st Class on a plane and felt particularly proud of myself because the NBA basketball star, Patrick Ewing formerly of the New York Knicks, was on the same flight, also in 1st Class.
          We did not sit together, but it was enough for me to tell family and friends about it. I was told to “get over it” because this was only a 32 minute flight from Newark to Washington DC, hardly long enough to enjoy anything in 1st Class.  Talk to us when you go to Europe or something.

[__02_WHAT-WHO? (J+J)…]  
          LOYALTY is a big deal, not only to Jesus, but also to James and John in the Gospel.
          The apostles – the 2 brothers and sons of Zebedee – have been travelling all these years with Jesus.
          And, recently they have come to understand – and keep track of 2 things –
1.    REWARD
          [REWARD] There is a reward being offered to the disciples, a reward described by Jesus in the Gospel – earlier in Mark Chapter 10  of last Sunday … “Amen, I say to you,  there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come."  (Mark 10: 29- 30)
          There is also an expiration date of which James and John are very aware.
          [EXPIRATION DATE] And, they are also looking at their calendars, recalling what Jesus said in Mark, Chapter 8.
          Regarding “expiration”,
the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days.”  (Mark 8: ___)
          And, if there is an EXPIRATION DATE for a reward, this motivates us right.  I don’t have any frequent flyer miles anymore…and, if I fly with Patrick Ewing today,  no one would care. I would have to tell you I was on the plane with Steph Curry or LeBron James.
          As a result, they want to collect their reward NOW.  They have been loyal. Now, they want to get paid.

[__03_WHAT-WHO? (tĂș y yo)…]  
          You and I also expect that LOYALTY will be rewarded, or will have a reward.
          But, in the reward in relationships is different than the reward at the United Airlines ticket counter.
          For example, the reward of being a mother, father, grandparent,
calls us to focus on a person(s) each of whom may require a different type of loyalty or affection.
          Nevertheless, this loyalty helps us to continue a journey, to remain committed to the journey.
          And, as we receive rewards – or rack up miles, spiritually – we are not simply called to bank them or hoard them, but to use them.

[__05_NOW WHAT]    I suggest this based on the writing of John Henry Newman about this Gospel in which he reminds us that all of us are called not to GUARANTEES of faith, but to the RISKS / VENTURES of faith. (Book IV, Sermon 20, “The Ventures of Faith”, Parochial & Plain Sermons).
               In the letter to the Hebrews also, we read that faith is a venture because it is the “realizing of things hoped for the warrant of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1).

[__06_]  For example, while we might say that ¨HONESTY IS THE BEST POLICY¨  and that following God´s commandments are a safe boundary, does not such loyalty and truthfulness also call us to take risks?
          For example, to speak the truth – today about the sanctity of human life and how this calls us to regard not only  the life we can see around us, but also the life we cannot see, the child waiting to be born or the elderly person who may be very infirm.

          Loyalty is a risk. The truth is a risk.

          As another example of truth and loyalty being risky, consider that we are called to avoid condemnation or rash judgment.

          St. Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Jesuits wrote it this way, that when we avoid rash judgment – or condemnation – we are living in the truth, we are loyal to Christ and to the commandments of truthfulness in ¨Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness¨ --

          ¨ Every good Christian ought to be more ready to give a favorable interpretation to another's statement than to condemn it. But if he cannot do so, let him ask how the other understands it. And if the latter understands it badly, let the former correct him with love. If that does not suffice, let the Christian try all suitable ways to bring the other to a correct interpretation so that he may be saved.¨  (St. Ignatius of Loyola, Spiritual Exercises, 22.)

          That´s loyalty. The journey of loyalty, of many miles, both risk and reward.         [__fin_]   

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Fugitive or Follower? (2018-10-14, Sunday-28)

 14 October 2018    /   28th Sunday Ordinary Time, Year B

••   Wisdom 7:7-11  • Psalm 90   •• Hebrews 4:12-13 •• •• + Mark 10:17-30  ••

••       Title:   Laws. Love

[__00_]  In the Gospel this Sunday, there is a man who is running. He is on the run. What does it mean to be on the run, or on the run from the  law? One example of this…I read in an article recently.

[Bibliographic  Source: Esquire Magazine Online, January 31, 2017, by SONIA WEISER  ]

[__01_]   Apparently … going on the lam – or going on the run - is harder than it looks, and a CBS reality show of last year – HUNTED – set out to prove exactly that starting last year in 2017. HUNTED was on the air.

ESQUIRE (JANUARY 31, 2017) magazine online reported – the show …. pits nine teams of two "fugitives" against an elite squad of investigative professionals as they attempt to evade capture for 28 days. The prize? $250,000 per team.

Even if CBS passed on your application to join the fun, or a stint as a hardened criminal isn't on your bucket list, you can still learn a little from the members of the show's Command Center about how to fly under the radar.
          You know, for the next time you're buying a gift for Secret Santa or don't want your boss to find out about what you did on your "sick day."

          And, in the Gospel this Sunday, the man of the Gospel is flying under the radar….  Relative to Jesus Christ, he wants credit for his compliance but he also does not want to get too close.

Regarding “HUNTED”,  1st tip -- Don't Talk to Anyone.   It doesn't matter whether you and your buddy from work go out for drinks on the regular and play on the same intramural co-ed after-work bowling team: You still shouldn't trust him or her to keep your secrets ..same goes for your family and other friends…

One expert “fugitive hunter” explained -- "The less people you include in your circle of trust, the easier it is for you to not get caught. It's so easy to want to involve other people."

[Bibliographic  Source: Esquire Magazine Online, January 31, 2017, by SONIA WEISER  ]

[__02_]  This TV reality show does prove one thing. It’s not a Christian thing.  Some people run when they are in trouble with the law or law enforcement… or in this case, just pretending to be in trouble.

[__03_]   There is a man running in the Gospel today. He has his own AMAZING RACE – to see our Lord and Savior.
          Paradoxically – ironically – he has not BROKEN the law, but rather was running to show Jesus how compliant and correct he has been all these years.
          And, strangely – perhaps sadly to him -- Jesus does not give him a gold star or EZ Pass tag for his vehicle to get through all of Homeland Security into heaven.
          Jesus is inviting him to do more than keep the commandments.

[__04_]   Nevertheless, I am not suggesting that keeping God’s Word in the Commandments is not important.  But, keeping the Commandments is the beginning of a journey.
          Pope John Paul II wrote about this encounter and the man’s urgency and understanding:
          “We do not know how clearly the young man in the Gospel understood … Jesus' first reply: "If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments". But it is certain that the young man's commitment to respect all the moral demands of the commandments represents the absolutely essential ground in which the desire for perfection can take root and mature.” (John Paul II, Veritatis Splendour, n. 17, 6 August 1993)

[__05_]  Jesus, however, is teaching us that our discipleship is based not only on the LAW – on the statutory law -   but also on our LOVE – our true acts of compassion and charity and the decisions we make to give ourselves generously.
          And, you and I are also called to SELL ALL THAT WE HAVE. That is a tall order – to sell “all that you you have.”
          Of course… going back to CBS Reality TV show “HUNTED”, we might say that the FUGITVES “sell all that that they have..”…they give up everything to get away from the LAW …to have autonomy,a and to gain an even more valuable prize.
          Jesus, on the other hand, is not not asking us to become a FUGITIVE by selling all that we have but to be his follower…

[__06_]   The Gospel encounter of Jesus and the young man exemplifies the call of Jesus to consider that we are called to sacrifice, to follow him.
          But, this does not mean that we are going to impoverished or isolated.
          There are different ways in which we sell all that we have.

[__07_]  Consider that in the Sacrament of Matrimony – in marriage – each of the husband and wife (fathers and mothers too) – are called to give up something of their own autonomy and independence to have a shared mind, a shared conscience, a common view.
          They die to each other so that they can rise to new life.
          They do this not to escape from the world – not to be on an escape route -- but to live in the world as one newly united couple, as one new person.

[__08_] This is challenging – it means “selling all that one has” …giving up one’s time, energy to understand another person.  
          Yet, does not a husband do this or a wife (and mother and father) do this..not as an imposition of the law, but as invitation and exemplification of love?
          Selling all that we have brings new gifts, blessings.

[__09_]   Yes, Jesus is asking us to follow the commandments. They represent a foundation and boundary – an essential foundation and boundary.
          But, the Commandments – e.g., Thou  Shalt Not Steal – does not describe explicitly every single way in which we are called to protect the good name of another person – whether online or in person.
          And, to do so whether or not someone is watching.
          Nnot to harm someone’s reputation, let alone his or her property…. And to recognize that we protect the good name and reputation of those we love not because a law enforcer is watching us. We do so because of the law written in our hearts and also because it is the law of love of God and neighbor.
          Jesus does not want us to run from the law …but also does not want us to run simply around within the law to prove our value.
          He does not want us to keep running. Rather, to walk with him. He wants us to follow him.  As he says today, “Follow me.”   [__fin_]  

Sunday, October 7, 2018

December Weddings (2018-10-07, Sun-27)

7 October 2018     /   27th Sunday Ordinary Time, Year B

••   Genesis 2:18-24  • Psalm 128    •• Hebrews 2:9-11 •• + Mark 10:2-16

••       Title:   December Weddings.

[__01__]    In late December 1998, I was getting ready to go out – from home – to a wedding – from Hoboken out here in Union County (New Jersey) – and the driving and route were unfamiliar to me, it was dark and had just recently stopped snowing. And, I had never been to the particular church where the wedding was. There were about 24 inches of snow.
            My friend and I were determined to go, feeling adventurous and drove most of the way on what felt like packed powder rather than paved asphalt.
            Arriving at the church, we saw and heard a wedding with a bride, groom, priest. But there were far fewer guests as Newark Airport, JFK were closed, flights cancelled. People could not get there.
            Nevertheless, the wedding took place between 2 of the tallest people I have ever known – he was six-four and she was every bit his equal.
            That’s not really critical to the story.
            There was a doubt in my mind that we would make it.
            Would we make it? Or would we get stranded? Persevering…
            It is a question of perseverance and faith in marriage – not just on the wedding day but many days thereafter to persevere, to the finish line.
            Married people need our prayers.
            And, we are called to pray for all those who are alone or may feel alone.
            We are called to make our church for those who might feel alone.
            We read in the Book of Genesis that the man is alone and God makes a partner for him.
            We are called to be in community with others and to pray for others, to pray for married couples.

[__02.01_]  Marriage –is a high ideal, a high standard and this is not measured by how tall you are, how rich you are, how healthy you are.
          It’s a high ideal for everyone.
          Paradoxically – the paradox of marriage is that we are made for both community and solitude.

[__02.02_]    John Paul II pointed out – the human person – you and I are -  are alone because he is "different" from the visible world, from the world of living beings, all other creatures made by God.
          And, in the discernment of the call to marriage – in courtship and dating and selection of one’s spouse, we realize that we are also selecting not someone so that we will never be alone…but someone with whom we can be alone, and feel in touch with God’s presence through this one person.
          It’s a high ideal, it’s a tall order, marriage. Getting married is an act of faith, of trust in the other person, in oneself, and in God who made us to love and be loved.
          Marriage, then, does not cure or eliminate loneliness …but enables us to be alone, and to know not only another person better, but know ourselves better.
          There are also times in which the spouses in marriage will experience solitude – even distance from each other.
          This solitude may be a great cross – at times – and for this reason – married couples need us, they need our prayers and support.

[__03___]   Solitude, however, reminds that we are call connected … and alike.
          Because no human person can completely fulfill or supply the demands of the another person in every possible way.
          But, this is not limited to marriage.  Mothers and fathers pray for their children – and grandparents for their grandchildren – also because they cannot satisfy every need in real time. 
          Moreover, neither can any human child fulfill every need of a parent.  Boys and girls – you too – are called to pray for your mothers and mothers and teachers and grandparents – to pray for the Sisters of Charity of Lourdes who love, to pray for the priests who say Mass and serve you here, to pray for the grown-ups who sometimes are not perfect in giving you what you need.
          In solitude – paradoxically – we are joined.

[__04_] Unfortunately, in our lives, we know that separation and divorce are not uncommon.
          And, those who have been divorced also need our prayers, they also need to know that they are loved by God, by neighbor, by the church.
          And, to recall that while you and I may judge such a separation or divorce by appearances, it is God who looks into the heart, who knows your heart, my heart.
          It is also my role as pastor – whenever possible – to help you with questions you may have about the Church’s teaching on marriage.

[__05_]  After the wedding at the church in Union County, we got into our cars / snowmobiles and made our way to the reception at the Short Hills Hilton.        
          Fewer guests, many empty seats or half-full tables. Nevertheless, it was a joyful reception for all those who could attend this late-December wedding.
          While at the Hilton, we learned that there was another wedding reception in another banquet hall. This was not unusual, because the Hilton is a big place.
          But, that other wedding reception was not supposed to be at the Hilton in Short Hills.  It had been scheduled – months earlier – for another smaller venue which I am sure is quite charming. But the venue was so petite and cute that they could not dig themselves out of the snow. And, so on the morning of their wedding, the bride and groom were contacted that they were not able to have a wedding reception at their scheduled location.
          The Hilton took them in on  a few hours’ notice.
          That was salvation…that was also mercy… [*** PAUSE ***]  

[__06__] Look, you and I may think we do not have the “salvation” or the “mercy” or the alternate sources of renewable-energy necessary to help a married couple who is in trouble.
          Maybe, the couple whom you know has had years of acrimony or fighting, financial difficulties, communication issues, perhaps infidelity as well.
          And, on top of all this, none of us is perfect. And, for this reason, we may fear to try and help or even listen to someone else’s crisis or to assist someone in such a trial or to encourage someone in the high ideal of marriage. It’s a challenge. It’s a tall order. It’s also the Gospel.
          Yes, none of us is perfect. But, all of us are striving for holiness, for salvation and for God’s mercy.
          Look – I do not live my own Christian discipleship and priesthood and ministry to the degree that God calls me to…or even to the degree that I may know I am capable.
          We all can lose our way.
          We all can feel we do not have all the answers.
          But, we just have to recall that Jesus is the Savior, not  you or me.
          But, when the couple- or the married friend of yours calls – and is in trouble, in a storm, without resources, we can listen, we can encourage or we can even pick up the phone, go and see them, not matter how bad the storm is or what the road conditions are.   [__fin__]