Sunday, March 7, 2021

God's Top Ten

March 7, 2021 –  Lent ,  3rd Sunday  (Year B)

●● Exodus 20:1-17  ●●  Psalm 19 ●● 1 Corinthians 1:22-25 ●● + John 2:13-25 ●●

 Title:  God’s Top Ten.

[__01__]     God’s Top 10 are the 10 Commandments.

There are Top 10 lists for just about everything. There are lists of the top 10 most viral videos on the internet, the top 10 best songs or movies… there are even lists of the best top 10 lists.

          For many years, there was a television and late night comedian David Letterman and one of his frequent comedy bits was to do a top 10 list.

          In April 2008, because Pope Benedict was visiting NYC … Letterman imagined the Top 10 things that people said on the streets of NYC when the Pope from Rome visited which included the following:

1.     From NYPD officer: “Sir, when did you realize your Popemobile was missing”

2.     In a coffee shop, the person at the cash register says…”I don’t care who he is. He can wait for his cappuccino like everyone else.”

3.     In Madison Square Garden arena: Wanna perform a miracle? Help the NY Knicks win a basketball game…

[__02__]     This is just a reminder that top 10 lists summarize the world, they structure the world for us.

          They bring things into focus for us. Also, the number 10 is symbolic, not just symbolic in sports such as soccer or basketball, but symbolic in the Bible.

[__03__]     It is a reminder that in the symbolism of the Bible, 10 represents perfection and power.   We also rate or evaluate or rank people and things on a scale of 1 to 10.

          And, in the Bible 10 signifies perfection, not just in the 10 Commandments.  There were also 10 plagues in Egypt, representing God’s power.

          The thing is – with a top 10 list… we are waiting for who’s or what’s going to be number one, what is numero uno on that list.

          In the 10 Commandments, the person of God is number 1:  “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that place of slavery, you shall have no other gods besides me.”

          So, reminding us that all the other commandments relate that 1 commandment.

          And, that our following of the Commandments makes God known – public – to others.

[][]  [__04__]    Anybody remember the movie “Raiders of the Lost Ark” from the 1980’s with Indiana Jones.

In the movie, there was a search for the ark of the 10 Commandments. In the adventure movie, Nazi Germany was trying to capture the ark of the covenant because they had heard it had magical powers and that it would make them invincible, they would go “undefeated.”

Indiana Jones has to rescue the ark to prevent this from happening.

At the end of the movie, Indiana Jones brings the ark of the covenant back to the Pentagon or Washington D.C. and he asks to see the ark.  They tell him …no, it is now a government operation and a research project, and “government property”

          And, in the final scene, we see the ark all boxed up in a government warehouse or crated up like inventory at an AMZN warehouse and stored among countless other crates.

          But, for us, the 10 Commandments are not just any other Top 10 list, or any other “box”

          Following the Commandments brings us into relationship with God as our heavenly father.

          So, on a top 10 list, we are always waiting for who or what is going to be number 1.

          Following the Commandments is always about a language we speak and practice toward others.  We follow Commandment # 1 – we love God - by loving others. We also love others because they were created by God. We have the same Father.

          I’d like to give 2 examples, because the Commandments give us a personal reason why we do what we do.

          We love God and we love others.

          We practice in other ways.

          Let’s say you are a child and we are all children in some ways and we are all children of our parents.

          And, as a child, were you ever asked, or are you still asked to do something because your mother or father wants you to do so, or to get along with somebody that you did not like.

          And, you did it simply out of respect for your mother or father.

          Or, even today, do you or I not carry out certain ways of living out of respect for my mother/father/parents, because of the example.

          That’s an example – analogy – of why we love others, because they are loved by God, also our father.

          In a similar way, whenever we deal with someone who has a child, we praise the child and love the child, not because the child is our responsibility but because we love the person who is caring for the child.

          So, we show our love for the parent by loving the child among us.

          The 10 Commandments remind us that God is our heavenly father that he is # 1.

          The 10

[__07__]      The Commandments are a top 10 list in which we are called recognize that # 2 through # 9 are all connected with the # 1. Who is God. Who is love, who wishes to memorize this list, to do whatever we have to do to memorize it, save it on your phone, put on your refrigerator, on your mirror, above your desk. There are at least 10 places to keep them…. …or in the ancient language of Moses:

Lay up these my words in your hearts and minds, and hang them for a sign on your hands, and place them between your eyes.  (Deuteronomy 11:18)

[__END__]

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Recognition / Transfiguration (2021-02-28, Lent Sunday-02)

February 28, 2021 –  Lent , 2nd Sunday  (Year B)

●● Genesis 22:1-2,9a, 10-13,15-18  ●●  Psalm 116 ●● Romans 8:31b-34 ●● + Mark 9:2-10 ●●

 Reaction. Recognition. Reconnection.

 [__01__]     Part 1a. Recognition. “Tested”

          A few years ago, I happened to see someone I grew up with in high grade school and school. I had not seen him in 20+ years. At this social event, he was standing right next to 2 of my friends ...first I saw him from about 12 feet away. He was on the other side of the kitchen. I did not recognize him.

          Then I walked right up to him …I still did not recognize him.  Because I still looked confused… I actually needed someone to introduce me to him, to tell me his name….

          Or … I needed some facial recognition software

          I was really surprised when I realized this was someone I knew quite well.

VOICE - RECOGNITITION       

What was also interesting to me …in that example.. as soon as my old friend started talking… then I recognized him…… I recognized his voice actually more than I recognized his appearance.

RECOGNITION – when we are in dispute. Listen !

          Talk / Listen. This is also a reminder to us that when we feel that we are separated from someone, or upset with someone…or judging someone only by appearance, one of the hardest things to to do..but most important things to do is to talk… to them…to really listen to them. By talking – by really listening – we come to know the whole person, and we can see and understand something we did not see at a distance.

Part 1b. Recognition. Technology

I read this by a technology writer about smartphones:

A year ago, when Apple rolled out the iPhone X, one of their most touted features was facial ID. You no longer needed to press a home button or use a passcode. You could unlock your phone with your face. It was the first time I’d really seen facial recognition software being practically used. You probably use something every day with facial recognition software even if you don’t realize it—I’m looking at you Snapchat and Instagram face filters.

 Facial recognition is actually becoming a usable reality and not in the scary way we’ve seen in sci-fi movies. It’s now in several consumer tech devices. Almost every major phone company has a phone with some form of facial recognition built in. Companies are even pitching it for ideas from policing to retail.

 

          One thing that is kind of scary – at least to me – is that you can upload a group photo to Instagram and you do not have to figure out who you are friends are…Instagram will label your friends for you. Instagram etc. has facial recognition software.

  Part 2. Recognition. “Transfiguration”

          In this episode of the Transfiguration, the disciples are dazzled by Jesus’ bright white appearance… with clothes brighter than any fuller or dry cleaner could bleach them.

          But, they are really told to recognize him by his voice…not simply by his appearance.

          Do we trust a person only by his or voice? Wouldn’t we prefer to see up close in person? Or at least on a screen with Zoom or Facetime?

 

Part 3. Recognition. “The Resurrection”

Just before this particular Gospel episode, there was real “face time” and face-to-face contact between Jesus and Peter and the apostles, and in this face-to-face episode, it was revealed that Jesus is the Messiah.

Peter himself identified Jesus by face and name…and as Jesus said… it was not flesh or blood – or Google or Instagram – that enabled you – Peter  to know this, but it has been revealed to you by God.

In other words, Peter heard God speak to him.

So, that “facial recognition” of the Messiah happened right before this episode on the mountain.

In this episode, the disciples are told – again that Jesus must suffer and die …but now also that he would rise from the dead.

They leave the mountain confused – they are not sure what “rising from the dead meant”.

They need a spiritual-software upgrade…that will be coming as they learn and travel more with Jesus as their Savior. They do not learn everything all at once. Nor do we.

Part 4. Recognition. “Abraham and Isaac”

In the Book of Genesis, a request is made of the ancient patriarch: Abraham.   Abraham shows steadfastness and perseverance of Abraham, though Abraham is asked to do what we think is impossible, unfair, or both.

In the online Bible study – “The Bible In a Year” (Father Mike Schmitz), I heard an excellent explanation of this episode and why it is such a foundation of our faith. This particular episode was Day 11.

It may be hard to put ourselves in Abraham’s shoes, because we cannot imagine God asking us to surrender to him – intentionally – the most valuable thing in our lives – in this case, Abraham’s son, Isaac.

Here’s the thing about the Apple iPhone X or Instagram or any other example of facial recognition software. It works – really only works – when we allow ourselves to be seen, when we reveal ourselves to God, to the Father Son and Holy Spirit.

In the Book of Genesis, we see Abraham trusting and revealing himself to God … as part of this very significant episode of sacrificing his Son.

In this regard, the episode is pre-figures and predicts what happens on Calvary. God the Father also gives up his Son.      

But, in the case of Jesus, the Son, he goes willingly, voluntarily.

He also knows that death is not the end of the story.       

This is Abraham’s faith as well.

On his way to the sacrifice asked by God, Abraham says to his 2 hired workers who have traveled with him and Isaac. Abraham says, “You 2 wait here while Isaac and I go over there and then we will come back to you.”

It’s almost like Jesus at the Last Supper: “and if I go, I go to prepare a place for you, to come back and take you to myself.”

Abraham trusts that even if Isaac’s life should be taken, even if Isaac dies, they will be together again one day. That God can and will restore Isaac’s life.

And, this is the message for you and for me.

When we are asked to give up something or someone of value, or give up our time or energy or money, as a sacrifice to God, we are called to trust that we are going to get back, 30, 60 or hundred fold, if not in this life then in the next.

 Part 5. Recognition. “Death of a child”

When have I seen this? Why do I believe this? I have seen this at Abraham and Isaac type of moments for the parents and grandparents who have suffered the death – the dying – of a child who predeceases them.     

There is no greater sorrow. Truly, such a mother or father, grandfather or grandmother has now suffered a separation from themselves.

But, I have also seen such inspiring hope and perseverance that God will restore their beloved child to them.

It is not because they can see. There is no facial recognition software, but there is a type of – shall we say – Caller I.D. that they trust in God. They hear Him. They do as the disciples are asked to put their attention and trust in our savior at a time of uncertainty and great sorrow

This is my beloved son, listen to him. [_fin_]


Sunday, February 21, 2021

Into the Wild (2021-02-21, Lent, 1st Sunday)

February 21, 2021 –  Lent , 1st Sunday  (Year B)

●● Genesis 9:8-15  ●●  Psalm 25 ●●

1 Peter 3:18-22 ●● + Mark 1:12-15 ●●


 [__01__]   There is a particular detail about the Genesis reading this Sunday and a particular detail about the Gospel this Sunday that are related.

          In both readings, particular mention is being made of wild animals, even birds, and animals that are considered “tame” (like cats and dogs) and animals that are truly wild in the wilderness (like bears).

          We read in the book of Genesis that Noah had taken the animals with him on the ark to preserve and save them as a part of creation.  

          And, in the Gospel, Jesus goes out into the wild, and he is among the wild animals.

 

[__02__]   What can we learn here about our faith and about God’s love for us …through the importance of animals.

          I’d like to touch on 3 ideas that we learn about  “RESPECTING”, about “RECEIVING”  and about “REDEEMING”.

          Jesus is our REDEEMER, but he is also one who respects us and receives us.

          I’d like to touch on some things we know about animals and the mind of animals and why God would respect and care so much about making his covenant to include both the animals and you and me.

[__03__]     1st. RESPECT. 

          There is a college professor and researcher that you may have heard of called Dr. Temple Grandin.

          Temple Grandin has been working in the field of animal science and animal psychology for many decades and has spoken a lot about the importance of respect for animals. In fact, she is an authority on the humane treatment – and respect we are called to have for animals. And, she once gave a lecture called: “Animals Make Us Human”.

          Certainly, in our own families and homes, many of learn about loyalty and responsibility and dedication by taking care of a family dog or family cat or both.

          Moreover, many of us who live on our own rely on the companionship of a beloved animal in the midst of solitude.

          Animals teach us something about RESPECT for all life and for life which is defenseless against human agency and human decisions.

          Certainly, what we learn about caring for animals can teach us much about the importance of caring for the defenseless person who is sick among us, the defenseless elderly person …or the defenseless unborn.

          Jesus goes among the animals to among the defenseless.

          And, we can learn about his decision to be vulnerable in this way as a mark of his respect for all of us.

          That’s my “RESPECTING” section.

          I’d like to talk about “RECEIVING“

 [__04__]    2nd.  RECEIVING.

          In the life of the animals among us, we learn something about receiving and perceiving of others.

          One of things that makes Temple Grandin such a distinct and exceptional researcher is not only her scholarship but also her background.        Temple Grandin, today a Ph.D. and college professor and acclaimed expert in the field, is also on the autistic spectrum, having been born with and lived with autism her entire life. 

          But, it is her autism – she attests – that also gives her a gift of receiving and perceiving that others miss out on.

          One of Temple Grandin’s messages to the world is that “The World Needs All Kinds of Minds” (TED talk, video).

          Temple Grandin observers a connection between children who are on the autistic spectrum and their ability to understand animals. Temple herself experienced this and finds that parents come up to her with the same observation.

          Temple says, “Sometimes parents tell me that their nonverbal child – their child who is not yet speaking – has an almost telepathic ability to connect with the family dog.”

          Temple explains to such parents it’s not that your child is choosing to communicate with the dog rather than with you, but rather that many nonverbal children are observing subtle body postures and changes in the dog’s behavior that other people do not notice.

          In other words, the person with the autistic mind can receive and perceive what others cannot.

          And, part of this is the ability to think and perceive in pictures – without words.

          Jesus goes among the animals, makes his covenant with those who are without words, as well as with those who have words. He receives all of us.

 

[__05__]    3rd. REDEEMING.

          Jesus comes among us to teach us about respecting, about receiving and also about redeeming.

          He comes us as our redeemer, our savior.  What does that word “redeem” mean? We use it often associated with gift certificates or credit card points, we “redeem”  what we have, meaning that we “buy back” something of value.

          Jesus is our redeemer because he gives his life to buy us back, bring us back.

          And, he does this – first and foremost – by becoming one us, becoming defenseless.

          He is the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, the lamb who substitutes himself for us.

          He receives us.

          He redeems us.

He goes into the wild, the desert, among the wild animals to renew the covenant with all of us. The Kingdom of God is at hand, Repent and believe in the Gospel.

[_fin_]

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Ash Wednesday (2021-02-17)

 2021-02-17 – ASH WEDNESDAY

__ Joel 2:12-18 __ Psalm 51 __  2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2  __ +Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18 _

Title:   Lent. Instruction. Intention.

 [_01_]   A few years ago, I  got 2 speeding tickets – in one year – and found myself with the unfortunate status of having “points” on my license.

          I was younger than I am now at the time… perhaps, it was the errors and inexperience of youth.

          At the time, I was driving my father’s Honda Civic around town. I noticed that that particular car seemed to drive very fast at very comfortable speeds, and I was not really aware of how fast I was going.

          I blamed my infractions – my speeding violations on the car.

I told myself I would never ever drive a Honda because they just go too quickly..and I can’t be trusted behind the wheel of such a car.  I have never driven a Honda vehicle since.

          I am not sure that my reasoning is really sound.

 [_02_]   It’s Ash Wednesday. And, fasting is a topic of the Gospel.

          It’s an INSTRUCTION also about what we can control and what we cannot control.

          Recently, I read this in an article about fasting and the reason we might give up – or forego – something such as sweets or chocolate or coffee … or that we might limit our consumption of some other food.

          We fast in order to get a grip on our lives and to regain control of those things which have gotten out of control.

          While I had no desire to get another speeding ticket…and I did watch my speed more carefully, I was also not completely ready to take responsibility, to take control: blame it on the car!

          So, why do we fast – in order to gain control of things that we can actually control.

          There are so many things we cannot control… fasting does not make each of us a slave to Lenten practice..but makes aware of our own human freedom and decision making power.

[_03_]     Why do we fast? Why do we receive instructions to fast? The nurse or doctor advises us to fast so that she may give us a medical test or check-up or read our  “chart”.

          A nurse or doctor wants to observe your body or my body in a rested, slowed-down, tranquil condition.

          So we fast – according to instructions.

          Because we associate “fasting” with the instructions of a nurse or doctor, instructions that for the sake of surgery or testing – may be very exact or explicit or stringent, we may try to impose the same structure or strictness on ourselves.   

          But, is not true that moderation in fasting can also be g a good thing?

          One example of this.

          A while back, there was a birthday celebration in our office at which there was delicious leftover cake.

          I told everyone not to leave it for me. So, they did not. They gave the cake to the electrician who was working in our office that day. The cake was wrapped up for him and he left it, temporarily, along with his papers on my desk.

          I actually had to restrain myself from asking him … hey, is that your package, your cake?

          So, in this case, the “fast” was not even from the cake itself ….. but just from making it a topic of conversation.

          Moderation is best.

 [_04_]     Finally, I suggest we also remember the spirit of fasting and the spirit of the Friday abstinence from meat.

          In our traditional 5-day work week, FRIDAY often is a day of celebration or T-G-I-F in one way or another.

          Friday is also the day of our Lord’s Passion.

          I’m not suggesting you cannot go out to eat on Friday.

          But, I just remind you – and need to remind myself – that the practice of the Friday abstaining from meat is not to eat everything except meat.

          The point of fasting is not only to avoid certain foods but also to avoid the control food may have over us.

          And also to recognize what we can fast from small things, even things other people will never notice, because by doing so, we are sure that we are doing so in secret and the father who sees in secret will repay us.  [_fin_]   

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Healing / World Marriage Sunday (2014-02-14, Sunday-06)

February 14, 2021 –  6th  (Year B)

●● Leviticus 13:1-2, 44-46  ●●  Psalm 32 ●● 1st Corinthians 10:31-11:1  ●●

+ Mark 1:40-45 ●●

  

[__01__]   In the Gospel, this Sunday, we read about a surrender going on – the surrender of a man with leprosy to Jesus.

          I’d like to compare – to make an analogy – that the man with leprosy is like a suspect. Of course, he is not a criminal by our standards and statutes, but in his own day, he is very much ostracized and marginalized and living at the mercy of others.

          And, Jesus represents “Law and Order”.

[__02__]      On the televised and fictional “Law and Order” type TV shows, the search for the criminal and the search for the criminal’s confession / surrender is very popular these days, perhaps, it has a certain timeless and universal appeal.

          They often show confession and mercy and surrender. Why so popular? One thing we observe is that a favorite setting and scene in these TV shows is the interview room where the police and perpetrator face off, one on one.

          In one example, there was a British TV show– in the 1990’s – “Prime Suspect” in which the highly intelligent Helen Mirren places the investigator / inspector facing down criminals who are not quite sure of themselves or they are quite desperate for a deal and to disconnect themselves from the crime.

          And, sometimes, the detective found some way to make a deal with them as long as there was some confession by the suspect.

          “Prime Suspect” was very influential on later TV shows of its kind such as “Law and Order.”

[__03__]   In each case, there is a psychological drama between the suspect and the detective …

One reviewer pointed out that interrogation dramas show popular interest in audiences wanting to know every detail. That is, we want to know what goes into – or what causes – a surrender or confession. And, we

, the “perpetrator” is totally dependent on the “police”  for some type of redemption or rescue or deal.

          There is a surrender, to something even beyond the police officer. That is, there is a surrender to “Law and Order” as a value,  to justice as a virtue.

          And, we watch the show to see if they are really conforming to an objective standard of justice. And, what is that objective standard of justice?

 [__03__]   Jesus seems not be following the objective standard of justice in this Gospel episode.

          The law about leprosy in Leviticus may make us think that the effect on this man – with leprosy – is not salvation – but a smackdown by God and the Temple – stay away from the unclean man.                                         We might wonder – then – is the only way to help this man – is it to break the law?

          Jesus goes out of his way and the to the people of his day, he is breaking the law, as a devout Jewish rabbi, he is not supposed to be going near a man with leprosy.

          Then, he goes further and touches the man with leprosy.

          Is it possible to go beyond the law?

          Should we go beyond the law?

 

[__04__]  Jesus does not heal the man as the requirement of an existing law but as the fulfillment of a new law, a new law of mercy.

 

[__05__]     This Sunday in the Church is World Marriage Sunday, observed in the church as World Marriage Sunday.

          There are, of course, laws and traditions surrounding marriage in both a civil and civilized sense but also spiritual Christian sense.

          The marriage vows which are pronounced at the altar of Our Lady of Lourdes and in every Catholic church and Catholic chapel.

          It’s also good to remember that we use the term vocation – or a calling to refer to married persons, to every wife and husband, to every mother and father. These are vocations.

          Traditionally, we use the term vocation to refer to religious sisters and brothers, members of religious orders (Franciscan, Jesuit, Sisters of Charity) or to the deacons and priests of our parish.

          Because they are called by God.

          But, every wife and husband and mother and father are also called by God. And,  their calling is equal in solemnity and seriousness to that of a priest. Parents, for example, make vows and godparents make vows on the day of baptism to raise their children in the Catholic faith. These are solemn vows.

          And, they are challenging to live  out.

 

 [__06__]   In marriage and family not only to follow human law but also the divine law.

          In marriage, we pronounce vows of “I Do”  not only for the “until-death” connection of wife and husband, but also because this “until-death”  connection is a reflection of Jesus Christ’s love for you and for me.

He loves us until death.

          As the Church, we are his spouse. Jesus gave himself up for us and is married to us. We are healed by his presence.


[__07__]           One of the great trials for a married person is to discover that he or she is committed willingly and intimately bound to a spouse, he or she can also feel alone or adrift at times.

          Such aloneness begs a question. What shall I do to fill the void, the emptiness? What relationships or conversations am I having to fill this void?

          Here, I’m not suggesting that every such sensation of aloneness is a springboard to outright infidelity or separation. But, I also suggest that every married person has sensed that in a one-on-one partnership there can be a feeling of instability.

          And, this instability is not immediately solved by the settling of a disagreement or any 1 conversation.

There may be a feeling of instability that I cannot fully please my spouse or that my spouse does not please me.

          In such a situation, we may turn to – at least temporarily – a trusted friend to help us. There may be a need for counseling or spiritual direction. All of this is good, but I suggest that none of this is substitute for friendship with Jesus as our advocate, and with the Holy Spirit who is given to help us live and love “until death do us part” which in the Gospel which for Jesus involved loving and living through

·        Betrayal by his intimate friends

·        Loving those who did not always listen to him.

·        Loving those who were his adversaries.

But, also loving those who were at least trying to love Him in return. Jesus loves us in our attempts. Do we love each other for the attempts?

          In this regard, Jesus is our standard not only of justice but also of love and mercy. He is the friend, the advocate, the third person is not a third wheel on date night, but the third person who can fill the void and he is the one who reaches out to touch us with his new love of love, so that we may be healed and made whole.   [_fin_]