Monday, August 1, 2016

There's an "I" in "Rich Man"

In yesterday's Gospel, we heard about the Parable of the Rich Fool.  As I listened to it, I realized how many times the word "I" was repeated.

Then he told them a parable. “There was a rich man whose land produced a bountiful harvest. He asked himself, ‘What shall I do, for I do not have space to store my harvest?’ And he said, ‘This is what I shall do: I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones. There I shall store all my grain and other goods and I shall say to myself, “Now as for you, you have so many good things stored up for many years, rest, eat, drink, be merry!”’
Likely not a coincidence, of course.  Jesus is telling us that when we focus too much on ourselves, and not enough on others, we run the risk of being spiritually foolish.  

But, He is also telling us that this man thought and acted alone.  He did not seem to consult others (which was common back in those days).  He did not pray for guidance, or ask the religious leaders.  Any of those could have reminded him to share some of his wealth.

But this man, in his richness, has seemingly isolated himself.  

True, there is no "I" in team ... but there is one in "Rich Man".

God Bless you. 

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Are we Really The Good Samaritan?

I was quite moved this week after hearing the first reading about Abraham's servitude again.

I know times were different back then, but could you imagine someone jumping to such generosity today?  I mean, Abraham did not even have a conversation with the three men standing near his tent before requesting that they stay and let him serve them.  

Today, sadly, most of us would probably keep our heads down or continue about our business, hoping we were not interrupted by someone we did not know.  

Abraham's actions also rekindled a thought that was burning inside me since last week's Gospel.  I've heard the famous Good Samaritan reading many times in my life, but as I read it last week, I realized  that I generally see myself - and most Christians - as the Good Samaritan.  

I reflected on that a lot this week.  

I kept asking myself ... in that story, am I really most like the Good Samaritan?  I came to the conclusion that most of the time, I am not.  Instead, on average, I am more like the man on the side of the road.  

Jesus is the Good Samaritan, and I need Him to come carry me.

He is, after all, the one that has paid our tab for eternity!

God Bless you.     

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Weighed Down

In today's Gospel, Jesus tells the 72 to go out to the surrounding towns - but to carry nothing.  

No money bag, no sandals, no sack, no food.  

I've heard two explanations for why Jesus might have done this.

The first, and more obvious, is that these possessions might weigh down the disciples.  Literally and figuratively.  Yes, they would be quicker afoot if they weren't carrying lots of stuff.  But their minds would also be lighter without having to worry about it as well.

(Mental note: how weighed-down are we with all the possessions and worries we have?)

The second, and less obvious, is that perhaps Jesus knew that if the disciples had to ask for everything, it would force interactions with people.  Instead of camping out and eating amongst themselves, they would be forced to dine with people from the town.  

(Mental note:  how many new people do we interact with every day, that might be open to the words of Christ?)

I hope you all have a blessed week!

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Reflection on the Times

I visited a local parish for mass last weekend, and the priest was reflecting on the fact that at Easter, they had to have two simultaneous masses because of the crowds - one in the church, and one in the auditorium next door.  

He wondered, however - as he looked at a half full church last week - where all the crowds went.

Just when I thought that was the low point for his homily, he told us that they surveyed the people at that Easter Mass.  And only 36% of them could correctly identify what we were celebrating at Easter.  

This troubled me greatly. 

Ironically, I read bible readings and reflections each day through the Laudate app, and a recent reflection read:

In our times, some Christians claim they are the "moral majority," yet a few people have been able to defeat millions of Christians in legalizing abortion, promoting euthanasia, removing prayer from public schools, promoting homosexual acts, etc. Masses of Christians are being defeated by a few non-Christians because we have lost our first love (Rv 2:4). We "are caught up and overcome in" the pollution of the world once more (2 Pt 2:20). Possibly a parent, pastor, or Christian friend has helped us fix our eyes on Jesus. Now that is no longer the case. So we have fallen away, backslid, and have been defeated by even the weakest enemies.

Again, this was very troubling to me.  However, I took some solace in a second reflection from that same app:

The queen mother, Athaliah, killed off the whole royal family, with the exception of one infant, Joash (2 Kgs 11:1-2). Seven years later, Joash and the priest, Jehoiada, were the central figures in overturning the wicked, idolatrous reign of Athaliah.
This pattern is often repeated throughout God's plan of salvation. An evil system dominates society and destroys so many people that only a few believers survive. Eventually, though, this remnant, by God's power, overturns the forces of evil.
Right now, new Athaliahs are killing off God's royal family. In the USA, one out of three babies in the womb are slaughtered before birth. Many who escape the womb are emotionally and spiritually destroyed by abuse and neglect. Many more become "spiritually brain-dead" after carelessly exposing themselves to the brainwashing from our secular society. They lose their minds, hearts, freedom, and objectivity. Nonetheless, a few Joashes make it through the mine-field of abortion, abuse, neglect, secularization, and brainwashing. The Lord will raise up these people to bring down the strongholds of the evil one (see 2 Cor 10:4) and lead the world to Christ.

I don't know God's plan, of course.  And I likely wouldn't fully comprehend it if I did.  But I trust in Him.  And pray that more people come back to His loving grace.

God Bless you. 

Monday, May 30, 2016

Memorial Day Gospel

Today is Memorial Day in the United States - a day where we reflect and remember those who died serving this country.  

Ironically, today's Gospel reading also focuses on death and serving, albeit in a slightly different way.  In today's reading, Jesus tells the parable of a man who built a wine tower and then leased it out to tenant farmers.  He sends servant after servant to collect the produce from them, but each servant is either beaten or killed.  

Finally the man sends his beloved son.  He thinks "surely they will respect my son".  

But of course, the tenants kill him as well.

This parable, of course, speaks to the fact that God also sent many servants (prophets) to speak to the world, but many were beaten and killed.

God then decided to send his only Son.  

However, unlike the man in the parable, God knew that His Son would be tortured and killed.

What a sacrifice the Lord gave for us!  And how hard it must have been to not only send His Son, but to watch what we did to Him.  

So today, on this national holiday, I not only thank all those who served our country, but also their parents who endured such trying times.  But most of all, I thank Jesus for his sacrifice and His Father for an equally unfathomable one.

God Bless you.

Monday, May 16, 2016

How do we describe the Holy Spirit?

This weekend we celebrated the beautiful Feast of the Pentecost.  

I, like most people, have a harder time talking about (or imagining) the Holy Spirit versus the other two persons of the Holy Trinity.  

Jesus walked the Earth as one of us, so He is the easiest to imagine.  

The Bible tells us that God created us in His likeness, so again, we have some direction there as well. 

But it dawned on me this weekend how different the Holy Spirit is.  In various Bible passages, The Spirit is mentioned as "like a Dove" or "as Tongues of Fire" or as a "wind".  I realized that these varied references probably add to my difficulty in describing the Spirit as easily as the Son.  

But upon hearing the readings at mass, I realized that the easiest way to envision - and describe - the Holy Ghost is how the Spirit works through people.   Think about the Apostles and their drastic change once they were strengthened with the Spirit.  The most powerful description of the Holy Spirit in that story, in my opinion, isn't fire ... it is the change we saw in the followers of Jesus!  They were more confident, had more skills, and went on to change the world!

What are your thoughts?

I pray that you are strengthened in the same way by the Holy Spirit.  God Bless you.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Overturning Tables and Loving One Another

My church is celebrating First Holy Communions this month.  Since we have a relatively smaller church, each mass has about 10 children receive their first Eucharist.  This goes on for about 3 weeks or so.  

I must admit, these masses bring out the best in me, and, unfortunately, the worst in me. 

On the bright side, seeing these little children of God receiving Christ for the first time is such a beautiful, and promising, thing.

On the other hand, events like these fill the church with lots of visitors.  Visitors who park their cars in fire lanes or the middle of our exits so they can make a quick getaway as soon as Mass ends.  Visitors who talk so loudly before mass that the congregation cannot hear the greeter (who is using a microphone) welcome everyone.  Visitors who do not show any kind of respect for the Eucharist, other than getting close enough to it so they can take a photo.

This frustrates me.  

Part of me thanks God for bringing these people to Mass to begin with.  And I often pray that some of them return based on their experience.  

The other part wonders what Jesus would do in these situations.  

Would He "overturn the tables", as He did in Jerusalem, and tell them that His Father's House should be a House of Prayer?

Or would he softly remind me of what He said in today's Gospel, namely that we should love each other as He loves us?

What do you think?

God Bless you.