Sunday, May 26, 2019

The Practice Of Mercy (2019-05-26, Easter 06 Sunday)

May 26, 2019    [6th  Sunday Easter]      ●  Acts 15:1-2,  22-29  ●   Psalm 67  ● ● Revelation 21:10-14, 22-23  ●     + John 14:23-29 ●

Title:      The Practice of Mercy.

[_01_]   I am practicing with this microphone.
          “Practice” is something we are called to do, including the practice of MERCY.
          Jesus preaches and practices MERCY toward this disciples, toward us.
          In ancient Israel, King David was the successor to the throne of Israel. David was anointed the king-to-be of Israel.
By the time that David – or King David – actually became King and sat on the throne in Jerusalem, he and the previous king – King Saul – were serious rivals.  The older and apparently less-good-looking Saul had become very jealous of  the younger and more popular David.
The very young and apparently inexperienced David, as you will recall, is our pre-eminent  biblical and cultural   “underdog” having defeated the mighty Goliath with only a   slingshot. Meanwhile, King Saul and the professional soldiers watched from the sidelines.   As time passed, David got a lot more “likes” than Saul…but Saul was still the king.
If People magazine or other tabloids had been around, they surely would have written articles to ignite fires of discontent between these 2 royal rivals … sort of like a row between Queen Elizabeth and the Prince of Wales or between Prince William and Prince Harry. Do they all get along?  We’re not really sure.

[_02_]  At one point, David has the opportunity to take Saul’s life.
          David knew very well of Saul’s jealousy.  Meanwhile, David had his own soldiers and army separate from Saul.
David could have fought Saul in battle but did not, out of respect for the king who preceded him and who was also chosen by God.    Once, David came upon Saul’s tent in the camp and found Saul sleeping. He quietly took Saul’s spear and water jug to prove to Saul how close he had been. After walking a long distance away, David called to Saul and told him that he could have killed taken his life but chose to show mercy. David preaches (shouts) and actually practices mercy.  Mercy is showing kindness even though we have the power or opportunity to hurt someone.
          Mercy is also not meant to be our last resort. Sometimes, we decide on “mercy” and forgiveness after other strategies – such as making another person conform to our wishes – does not work.
          Mercy is meant to be our first choice.

[_03_]   This Sunday is Memorial Day Weekend and we certainly recall the bravery and defensive measures taken by our sisters and brothers in the military.
          Can the battlefield be a place of mercy?
In 2016, a Hollywood movie portrayed the real-life true sacrifice of a WW2 battlefield hero in HACKSAW RIDGE.
            The true-life historical film is about Desmond Doss, of the U.S. Army in the Battle of Okinawa in 1945, near the end of WW2.
            Desmond is a medic, a military-level EMT on the battlefield, responsible for first aid and frontline trauma care for injured soldiers.
            Desmond is a medic or army-EMT both because of his interest in medicine and because of his faith in God as a Seventh Day Adventist Christian. He refuses to carry a rifle. Desmond preaches and practices mercy.
            At first, young Desmond seems very na├»ve – about how the Army will treat his faith and principles. Desmond expected to be treated with dignity and respect for his values, but this does not always happen.  They do not know what to expect of him in the battle.
            In the battle, many were wounded, and Desmond himself really could have escaped himself… but Desmond is extremely daring in his ability to rescue – with absolutely no help 75 soldiers by himself in enemy territory. He receives medals for his service, including the Bronze Star and Medal of Honor.
            For Desmond Doss, every person was valuable – he seeks out every possible angle and method to save others.
            At one point, he prays – in the movie – Lord, help me get one more, help me save one more, “1 more, 1 more, 1 more … = 75”, saved not simply out of patriotism but out of love. In fact, he even rescues some wounded Japanese and sent them to U.S. Army hospitals.
[_04_]     The movie – Hacksaw Ridge – is an example of unconditional love and the desire to recognize the inherent value of a person, whether he is wounded, whether he or is your enemy, whether or not the person believes you can do something.
            At times, Desmond’s patriotism and sanity are questioned because he refuses to carry a rifle. He does not object to the use of rifles or the value of self-defense, he just will not touch a rifle.
            This is not an apparent luxury, it Desmond’s – it is also God’s abundant love to save life, to protect life whenever possible. Desmond practices mercy.
Desmond Doss of WW2 and David manifest similar values.
And, they live out what Christ taught us that we are called to a dwelling of love and peace.
But, what does it mean to dwell or live in peace?
In Proverbs we read, “rejoice not when your enemy falls and when he stumbles let not your heart exult.“  (Proverbs 24:17)
It is our Gospel value – but sometimes our struggle to believe that it is not “hatred” that drives out more hatred.  Rather, love drives out hatred.
[_05_]     Two weeks ago, we recalled one of our American saints and heroes, one who was also on in American battle, though without rifles or cannons.
            In 1864, a missionary priest – Father Damien – arrived in Hawaii to serve a community on the island of Molokai.  And, Molokai was a resort, in a way. But, it was not a holiday resort, but rather the “last resort”.
            Molokai in the 1800’s had become a leper colony, for people suffering from leprosy.
Everyone on Molokai had been sent there because they had leprosy and for leprosy there was no real cure until the mid 20th century.
            By the time Damien arrived, it seemed that the battle had been lost against not only against leprosy but also a battle against any form of community or life or peace or happiness. The people were miserable.
            The religious superiors gave advice to Damien that would be quite different from what, for example, Mother Teresa would say … As you recall, Mother Teresa and her sisters picked up the sick and they dying.  And, Damien did this as well, though his superiors told him, “Do not touch them. Do not allow them to touch you. Do not eat with them.”
            But Damien decided to visit them, treat them and inquire of their needs.
            In an article on the Word on Fire blog, I read this that Damien realized early on that he in order to show people that their lives had meaning, he also had to show them that their deaths had meaning.
            St. Paul touches on this – “in life and in death, we are the Lord’s, whether we live or die, we belong to God.”   (Bibl-Ref ___)
 On Memorial Day, we do the same to say that not only the lives – but also the deaths of those in military service have meaning.
What did Damien do on the island of Molokai?
So he built a fence around the local cemetery, which pigs and dogs regularly scavenged. He also constructed coffins and dug graves, committing that each leper, even if marginalized throughout his life, would receive a decent burial upon death. This had a remarkably uplifting effect on the community.”  (Brandon Vogt, Word on Fire,  Damien of Molokai and Solidarity, May 10, 2016)
We profess our faith in God’s mercy which is also lifts us up in this life and in the next.  [_fin_]   

Sunday, May 19, 2019

The Participation Trophy (2019-05-19, Easter Sunday 05)

May 19, 2019     [5th  Sunday Easter]       Acts 14:21-27    Psalm 145 
● Revelation 21:1-5a  ●     + John 13:31-33a, 34-35 ●

Title:     The Participation Trophy

 [_01_]       Does “participation” deserve a trophy or an award, an     honor?
            Is “participation” an honor?
Perhaps, you have been in conversations about sports or little league or travel-soccer and competitions or  on the opposite end of someone’s diatribe against  giving someone a trophy for participation.
Some people say No….
I’m quoting a psychologist now…. “For example, instead of dealing with defeat by telling our kids that “everyone’s a winner at heart,” we should praise them for how hard they hustled, what they did right and how they improved.
But it’s not just the “losers” we need to worry about; it’s the “winners” too. Phrases like “You’re a winner” or “You’re a natural” can actually be toxic to how kids deal with losing. As the work of child psychologist Carol Dweck shows us, praising kids for their innate talents (in this study’s case, their intelligence) actually makes it more difficult for them to cope when they’re actually confronted with losing.” (Psychology Today blog, Nov. 7, 2014)
So … going back to my question important is participation. Participation counts.
It may or may not need a trophy, but participation counts.
[_02_]   When I was about 13 years old, my sister and youngest sibling was born and came into our family.
          That day, my brothers and I went to our municipal/town pool – as per usual – and my mother went to the hospital and when she came home we were one more.
          The entry of my sister into the house was what I am calling a PARTICIPATION moment.
          It was not about having a PARTICIPATION trophy, but nevertheless, a PARTICIPATION question.
          Now I was 13 at the time, of course I had life all figured out.
But with a new human being, now I did not have life all figured out, how this was going to work.
          So, I watched what other people did around my sister. Was I caught up and overwhelmed also by their joy?
          Not really.
          But, nevertheless, I did learn to participate in their love, and this participation was an honor and the participation moments were moments of growth for me.
[_03_]    And, this is what I suggest what Jesus means by the commandment “love one another as I have loved you…”
          That is, will you – will I – participate?
          And, for those of us who have watched a child grow whether as a parent, grandparent, sibling, teacher, coach, family member, that this participation requires some knowledge…mayb the acquiring or learning of knowledge that we do not already have…and that are called participate in. Whether you are age 73 or 13 or 103.

 [_04_]  I think we recognize that “knowledge”  is something we area always acquiring that it comes from outside of ourselves. For this reason, we are never without a device that has wi-fi or the ability to search by GPS.
          I was absolutely stunned the other day when a young person – carrying a smart phone – asked me for directions to an address on Woodside Avenue near Valley Way.  I was honored to participate in this,  and hopeful that maybe more people – than I think --- do stop to ask for directions and that we can participate by our connection to others and our guidance and charity to each other.
          And, Jesus’ command to love another as I have loved you reminds that our lives are connected ..
            Father Ronald Knox in a sermon observes it is harmonious with both our faith and reason to pray for each other … both for children yet to be born, for mothers and fathers…and for those whose lives may die and pass from this life.
            We are called to care for each other and to responsible for each other for this life and the next.
            Our lives on earth are interwoven, intertwined- the child to be born. We were not meant to be solitary units here or in the world to come. This is what it means to “love another as I have loved you.”
            All other laws are based on this law, and also calls us to be “extreme” not only in our care for the child to be born but also for the mother and father and family who must raise the child. I credit our parishioner, Professor Charles Camosy of Fordham for that sentence and his writing on the “consistent life ethic”

[_05_]     A few years after my sister was born, we were together for her wedding and wedding rehearsal at a church in southern California, in San Diego.
          This was another little lesson about participation and knowledge and love.
          I was in this church for the very first time for the rehearsal and trying to be helpful, as the priest. But, you can’t get around the fact that I am not only the priest, but also, now, the brother, the son, the kid they’ve known for decades, et cetera.
          So, who am I tell everyone where to stand and to “guide” this rehearsal. I was both a participant and a  leader.. kind of like all weddings.
          And, so at the beginning of the rehearsal, I start to tell the other “participants”  the following:
-          The bride will stand here
-          The groom will stand here.
-          The maid of honor will go here and do this…et cetera….
My sister objected to my level of detail and organization and – daresay my “labeling.”
Labeling is bad, right?
So, my sister – “why can’t we use everyone’s name?”
i.e., I am your sister, Jeff is your brother-in-law-to-be, the maid of honor you have known for 30 years.
So, I started calling everyone by their names. We were family I did not need name tags.
“Love one another as I have loved you.” Jesus loved and died for you, by name, not for people in general, but for you, for me.
He knows you and me by name.
We might recall that it is not KNOWLEDGE that enables us to participate and love another person.
Rather, love enables us to know and participate.
Love is the beginning of knowledge.  Love one another as I have loved you. Participation. It’s an honor.   [_06_]     [_fin_]

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Who You Know / Good Shepherd / Mother's Day (2019-05-12, Easter 04 Sunday)

May 12, 2019  [4th Sunday Easter, Mother’s Day]   

 Acts 13:14, 43-52    Psalm 100 
● Revelation 7:9 14b-17     
+ John 10:27-30 ●

Title:   “Good Shepherd / Who You Know.”

[_01_]   I’d like to reflect this Gospel of the Good Shepherd – and on each of our mothers – with this phrase –
            “it’s who you know.”
            My mother can still recall the person & schoolyard friend that I made on my first day of school. I was more focused on what I was supposed to know.
            My mother was more concerned about “who I knew” not what I knew…and I was still in kindergarten.
[_02_]  And, is not our faith – our confidence – in another person not simply based on what is being said (or not said) but also on who the person is, who is saying it?
            EXAMPLE: Several months ago, I did what I do – what perhaps we all do – several – several hundred times ? – a day – I looked at my phone to see what was coming next or what I needed to know…or what need to respond to …and at that moment I knew that I was meeting some people in a little while.
            I received this message: “we will be there in 19 minutes.”
            Given that the appointment was with a known person – someone I knew – I found the precision to be curious. That is, I did not really need to know exactly that number…I knew the person was coming …but I appreciated the reminder. Later, she told me that she meant to type “10”  (one-zero) …rather than one-nine …. but I realized in this example, that my trust was not based on what was being said..but who was saying it And, in this case, the person had an extra nine minutes to make it on time!
[_03_]   It’s who you know.
The Good Shepherd Gospel, John Chapter 10.
          And, we are reminded to know Jesus personally. Now, I will admit that sometimes we take this expression “it’s not what you know it’s who you know” to an unhealthy place or extreme.
          Consider the famous Broadway musical/play with the title “How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying.”
          One commentator (Psychology Today blog, Fredric Neuman, M.D. June 11, 2014) – reflected that the story of the play resonates because…  “It was a prescription for what an ambitious person without skills or talent or brains needs to do to succeed. It was a matter of being in the right place at the right time and saying the right things to the right people. It was amusing because it alluded to certain aspects of business that we all recognize. People sometimes fail their way up the corporate ladder.”
That’s an extreme case…
But …is that extreme not the “so-called”  bad shepherd? What does Jesus say about them…
We should not trust someone just because we are paying the other person or for some material reward… someone who works only for pay, only for the money… is not someone who is going to be very committed to the team, or to any long-term goal.
[_04_]    Jesus is aware that trust and love and lasting friendship is based on who you know, rather than what you know.
          2 spouses – husband and wife – may say each one knows everything about the other person. Actually, that’s impossible. I do not even know everything about myself
          It’s who you know, not what you know.
[_05_]   Consider – in our lives – we rely on good shepherding of our mothers and our fathers… and that even as we age, we turn to our parents not only because of what the know …and, sometimes, our parents know more than we think they do… but we turn to them because they know us personally.
[_06_]  And, who are we? In this month of May, we honor or Blessed Mother Mary and our own mothers whose trust was not based on what they knew, but on who they knew.
          Mary trusted in God even before she could see what Jesus could do, and trusted in him even in his fragility as a child, for who he was already and would become.
[_07_]    Trusting in who we know is the foundation of faith and love.
          An example.
          In 1977, Jimmy Carter became the president of the United States…and one person who was a favorite of the media during his presidency was his mother, Mrs. Lillian Carter, a.k.a. Miss Lillian.
          Miss Lillian even lived at the White House, 1600 Pennyslvania Avenue. It must have made Mother’s Day dinner get-together so much easier.
          I recall this lesson learned about not only “what we do”  but also “who we are.” (Source: Jimmy Carter, An Hour Before Daylight (memoir / book))
          Now, Jimmy Carter grew up in Georgia, the deep South, as we say, in the 1930’s, during the Great Depression. At this time, his family had a working farm so they were relatively well-off.
          Meanwhile, there many individuals and families wandering the countryside, searching for food, for work, for shelter.
          They were like sheep without a shepherd.
          Some of them came to the Carter home and farmhouse. And, his mother – Miss Lillian – fed them.
          One day, Miss Lillian was at a neighbor’s house and was talking about these visitors and the food they asked for.
          Her neighbor responded, “Well I am glad they do not come here, because I would not feed them.”
          This caused Miss Lillian to wonder why the Carter house received so many visitors so she asked some of them.
          They told her about the signal and sign of which the Carters had no knowledge. The visitors explained that the at roadside, where the mailbox was. In this area, the mailbox was not at your front door, but on a wooden post at the road. And, the visitors had intentionally scratched the post to indicate as a friendly home.
          It is our imperfections, even our faults and our desire to love God and neighbor that makes us who we are … who we are may be better known by others and by God than we know, And, is it not true that Jesus is recognized after the Resurrection not only his face but also by his wounds? We also have some rough edges and scratches…and falls.
          In order to be sure that the sign would remain, Miss Lillian told her family never to paint over the wooden post or to remove the scratches.   [_fin_]

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Revelation and Reversal (2019-05-05, Sunday 03 Easter)

May 5, 2019   [3rd Sunday Easter]  Acts 5:27-32 Psalm 30 ● Revelation 5:11-14 ● + John 21:1-19 ●

[_01_]   A special welcome this morning to our children, of First Holy Communion, those who made First Holy Communion last Sunday.

[_02_]  We are pleased to have our children´s choir with us at this Mass as we also sing today as we honor the Blessed Virgin Mary with a profession of flowers in a few minutes.

[_03_]  I´d like to refer in this Gospel to 2 moments of Jesus, our Lord.
          That is, Jesus
[►does a REVELATION to the disciples …]     Then, Jesus …
[►does a REVERSAL of the denials of Peter …]

1st. [►The REVELATION to the disciples …]
          “Revelations” are important.
          Awards and reputations seems to be made or to be lost based on a revelation – positive or negative.
          We are hyper-connected online to check up on people´s reputations and status.
The revelation attracts attention with, for example, the small envelope at, the Oscars/Academy Awards.  ¨And, the envelope please- ¨
          Your reputation is made or lost if you are the Best Director or Best Picture.
          In the Book of the Gospel of John, this Sunday, it is not Jesus’ name that is revealed or his name that is read.
          Rather, Jesus appears in person, just as last Sunday’s Gospel reported Jesus appearing to Thomas the Apostle in person to say…
          …”put your fingers here and see my hands and bring your hand and put into my side but do not be unbelieving but believe.” (John 20:27)
          So, there is a disclosure that Jesus is real…. that his death was real and, now, more importantly, his life is real.
          That is the [►The REVEAL to the disciples …]
[*** pause ***]
           And, Jesus comes also to speak with Peter.

[_04_]   This is the [►the  REVERSAL of the denials of Peter …]
          Peter was a “near-miss” we might say on the night before Jesus died. How did Peter nearly miss?
          Peter followed Jesus after Jesus was arrested, followed him into the Temple area,  and then as people started asking Peter  “do you know this ‘prime suspect’ Jesus?”   or  “didn’t I see you with him?” . And, Peter says – 3x three times – ‘No I don’t know him… who? That man …never seen him before… ’
          And, denies Jesus 3x.
          Peter had a “near-miss”, he was so close, but missed his connection to Jesus at the moment of his Passion.
          Nevertheless, Peter was not totally lost. There was hope for Peter.
          And, in a very deliberate way, Jesus now asks Peter three times:  “do you love me…?”
          The 3 x question “do you love me?” is [►the  REVERSAL of the denials of Peter …].
[_05_]   I’d like to give some examples of this REVERSAL and “near miss” and our need for God and each other.
          The first is a world-history example; the second a personal example.
1st The world-history example.
          In 1940, the people of Great Britain and the people of London had reason to fear and worry because Nazi Germany was on the march and the British government feared a German attack from the air, airplanes, bombs.
          So much fear that the evacuation of London was starting to be planned and considered to be an absolute foregone conclusion.  
          So, all sorts of hospitals and buildings were constructed so that after the bombing people could live there because surely people would leave London.
          Because, would the Londoners not be demoralized after the bombing?
          And, in fact, over 40,000 people died, many were injured, but the vast majority in a city of 8 million were unharmed and was an experience that emboldened the British people.
          A sign of British strength and stoicism in face of great distress.
          In a book about underdogs and how they will “battle giants” (David and Goliath, Malcolm Gladwell)
Malcolm Gladwell wrote that the favorite in this war was certainly Germany and the Nazis. They wanted to win the war and perhaps would have won if they had not “messed with” Britain.
          Because, Britain became even bolder and braver as a result of this experience.

[_06_]    And, Peter is invited this new boldness and bravery – a new strength born of adversity that will make a him a better disciple, a priest … in fact, a better follower. But, do we believe the same about adversity and forgiveness from sin?
          Because when we have adversity we are also called to repentance, to forgiveness, and sometimes to go in REVERSE…the REVERSAL OF OUR OWN DENIALS.
          Going in reverse helps us to go forward.
          This is my 2nd closing personal example …personal…
          Many years ago, I was crossing a busy street in the city, in New York.  As I approached the curb, I recall looking to see if there were any cars coming down the street. No cars… I’m good… And,there were no cars coming down the street. I was correct.
But, as I walked out from behind a parked van,  there was a bicycle messenger coming down the street at that very moment. And, those guys travel fast!.
          We collided. Fortunately, neither of us was hurt. To show you how long ago this was, I recall having to pick up my pager and put the batteries back into the pager in that stone-age time before cell phones.
          I was shaken up and scared ..but fortunately I was not hurt and the bicycle messenger was long gone.
          I remember that I was on my way to see some people I worked with at the time.
          I remember how important it was for me to tell them what had happened … even though I was embarrassed at what had happened and I was not completely in the right.
          And, I recall how important their questions – are you ok – were to me at the time.  And, sharing their own experience with bicycle messengers…
          It was important for me to know their care.
          An experience in which I had to go in REVERSE to recover.
          I had to go back on the sidewalk and dust myself off. Sometimes, we have to go in reverse in order to go forward.
          Or, to go in reverse as Peter did, to reverse the denials and to hear Jesus’ words revealed to us:  “Follow me”.  [_fin_