Saturday, December 14, 2013

2013/12/15 - Hoping beyond hope

We use a lot of words in Catholicism which – well – don’t really mean that much to us because they’re not part of our everyday language.  Today we’ve got the intersection of two of those words – ‘Advent’ and ‘Gaudete Sunday’.  The word Advent, as you probably remember from grade school, means ‘coming’ – specifically ‘the coming of something or someone important’.  ‘Gaudete’ means ‘rejoice’… so if you put it together, today we’re supposed to ‘rejoice because something big is about to happen’!!
Isaiah’s prophecy in that first reading is supposed to give us a better feel for what Advent and Gaudete mean…with imagery like the ‘Steppe flowering’ and the ‘desert blooming’.  I don’t know about you, but I only have a vague idea what a ‘Steppe’ is – and I don’t live in a desert, so this imagery doesn’t really speak to me.  So let’s look at some different images.
It’s hard to remember our fields and gardens just a couple of months ago – full of leaves and green grass – and vegetables and fruit being harvested by the bushel.   Now that the fields are covered in ice and even our hotbeds in the garden are struggling in the cold – it would be hard to imagine ANYthing green growing from that rock-hard soil.  But we KNOW it will.
Similarly, now that the sun is at its lowest, it’s hard to imagine being able to walk outside in shorts – or stay out working in the yard until 9 or 10 at night.  It’s hard to imagine the warmth and light returning to brighten our days and our spirits – but we know it will.
Isaiah’s prophecy – in fact, the whole theme of today’s liturgy is Hope.  He’s saying even the impossible – like blooming in the desert – even  THAT will be possible with God.  When things seem at their worst and most hopeless, Hope still remains…. And THAT is cause enough to Rejoice! 
We can apply this to so many areas in our own lives… I have a couple of examples.
Remember LAST summer?  The summer of 2012?  In case you forgot, we had a pretty bad drought.  It was sad to see the yards dry up – the fields wither – the trees dropping their leaves - and the gardens turning brown.  It felt pretty hopeless – especially when the rain would get ALMOST here then suddenly dissipate or go around us.  Yet every time it happened, what did we do???  We would all look at the 10 day forecast to see ‘when is that next chance of rain coming’.  It got to the point that it was hard to imagine that it would EVER rain again… but we knew it would.  We knew that God would provide in his own time.  We dared to hope even when hope was lost.
You know – I hate drought about as much as I hate anything…..  I can’t imagine why God would allow such widespread death of His beautiful creation – not to mention the suffering it causes for His people.   But  - THIS summer, I realized that the drought was apparently the best thing that could happen to my orchard.  Normally, the bugs are so bad that I don’t get any peaches – and the apples all drop in June.  This summer – the year after a drought – we had a bumper crop!  Honestly, last year I was about ready to just cut down my orchard because they hadn’t borne anything worthwhile in like 7 years.  I couldn’t imagine that I’d ever see a bumper crop again… but it came.  I didn’t cut those trees down because I dared to hope even when hope was lost.
On a more serious note, THIS summer I experienced something that gave me a new appreciation for hopelessness.  My Mom went into the hospital and frankly, we didn’t think she was going to make it.  Seemed like thing kept going from bad to worse – and the family prepared for the worst.  I remember one weekend in particular that I had my bags packed, because I was sure I would be called to the hospital at any moment to be with my family as we said goodbye to the person we love the most.  I remember that weekend, the hole in my gut and my heart.  It was a hopelessness I had not felt before.  But, that same weekend, I actually had a dream that Mom walked to her car at the hospital so she could leave.  It was a dream – nothing more – so far beyond reality, in fact, that I never dreamed that would ever happen – but by the Grace of God – it happened.  After three months of rehab, Mom went home and we’ve been able to enjoy and appreciate her presence even more.  Thanksgiving had a whole new meaning for our family this year.
I can remember during those three months that I would pray to God for a miracle, but I didn’t really believe it would happen.
The lesson I learned – which is the lesson from our readings today –
When all hope seems lost, Hope will still spring up.  It is ingrained into us as Christians… WE ARE A PEOPLE OF HOPE!!!  When one rainstorm passes, we’ll always look to the next chance of rain.  When someone we love falls ill, we always have hope that God will heal them.  I’m not naïve enough to think that we won’t experience another drought – nor am I naïve enough to think that Mom’s health will last.  But I hope we’re all wise enough to recognize that God was present thru all of it.  The drought seemed hopeless, but God used it to bring a bumper crop this year.  Mom’s health seemed hopeless, but God used it to help US appreciate her even more while we’ve still got her and not take her for granted.  God doesn’t PREVENT suffering – but he prevents our suffering from being the worst it could be.  No matter how hopeless things seem, there is always cause for Hope.
We could apply that to our parish cluster…in fact our whole Catholic Church… as we are forced to face the reality of less priests.  Yeah – it sometimes feels hopeless – as we try to find the best way to reduce our number of Masses.  But even in this seemingly hopeless situation, we can be assured that God WILL act through this to bring us Joy.  Perhaps we’ll take our parishes less for granted?!  Perhaps God will use our situation to break some of the ways we’ve always done things so that our Liturgies are more alive than ever!!!?  He could use this to bring a bumper crop of people to know Him even better!
It’s hard to imagine – but we KNOW it could happen.  So - Rejoice – something BIG is about to happen!  We are people of hope… we dare to hope even when hope seems lost.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

2013 November 24 - Christ the King

You know how at the end of a symphony, usually every instrument is playing loudly, and they build and build into a great CRESCENDO of sound just as the music comes to a climax at the end?   That is like today's feast... The Feast of Christ the King.  We end our church year this week with the recognition that all Jesus went thru on earth was a preparation for him to rule forever as King in heaven...and in our hearts.  Is that what we want though?  Do we really WANT Jesus to be our King?  Hang on to that question well come back to it. 

Our first reading makes more sense if you know some of the background:  You all know there were twelve tribes of Israel – but for a time the country of Israel actually used to be two separate kingdoms.  Israel was in the north – made of 11 tribes, but the tribe of Judah had split off and became a separate country.  David first became king of Judah or Judea for 6.5 years – and that’s when today’s story in the First Reading comes in.  The people of Israel just lost their king Saul, and they came to David saying – look, we are the same as you – we’re all children of Abraham – please, come be OUR king too!  So – David became the king that re-united the two kingdoms into one country of Israel.  The next 33 years were the Glory days of Israel, and ever since that time, they always looked forward to the day when a new king would come and re-build Israel back to its former glory. 

Now David was a good King but that was not how things normally turned out.  Any idea what it is like to live under the rule of a King?  Sometimes, it might get too romanticized, because living under a king could sometimes be the worst thing that could happen to you.  Just think of movies like Braveheart.  The King has the final say on EVERYTHING.  He holds your life in his hand.  If the King comes to your town and wants to stay at your house, you will just have to find another place to live for the night/week.  If the King wants to send your son off to war, you might have 1 minute to say your good-byes.  If the King thinks your daughter or wife is beautiful and wants her to come live in the castle, kiss her goodbye.  The King tells you what crops youre allowed to grow, where youre allowed to live, and how much taxes you owe.  If the King wants ANYthing that belongs to you, you will give it up or die trying to keep it.  When the King makes the rules, we are not free to live our own lives.  

No man should have that kind of power over us. 

The trouble with an earthly King is that He only has one persons interest at heart his own.  Anybody under his rule is merely a pawn to help him get what he wants.

No Man should have that kind of power over us. 

Even if we dont live under the rule of a king, we still live in danger of being ruled by someone who doesnt have our best interest at heart our SELVES our Egos.  We kid ourselves into believing that what we want IS the best thing and everybody and everything is merely a pawn to help ME get what I want. It is good to be King!... or at least we think until we ruin our lives through using people and things until all joy is driven away. 
All of us sooner or later come to realize that by letting my ego be my king is the wrong path... If we allow our desires to set the rules for our life, we end up in misery. No man should have that kind of power over us.not even our selves. 

So we have a choice to make:  We can choose an earthly King which inevitably leads to abuse of power and we end up in a kind of slavery to His will.  OR - We can choose our EGO as our king and end up as a slave to our vices and addictions.  

On the other hand, we have a choice of another King who is not just a Man He is God.  Christ the King.  Instead of having the final say on everything, he gives us the choice.  He never forces his will upon us!  He shows us the best fact he already did that in How he lived his life and in showing us the path to the cross and he gave us his supreme command to love one another... but the choice is still ours.   

Lets look at two examples which reveal the extremes.  One man, well call him Gestas, who thinks that the world is his for the taking he has few friends, because he just uses them for his will.  He makes his own rules...and he says I hate anybody who tells me what I can and can't do... Ive met this man and he lives his life perpetually mad at the world...why?  Because he doesnt get his way.  He is the King who makes all the rules but it aint working too well for him.  As he hung upon the cross, he only saw Jesus as a means to getting off the cross.  He didnt see the need for repentance. 

The other extreme is the person who well call Dismas.  He may have lived the same life as Gestas up to this moment, living just for himself, but as HE hung upon the cross, he saw in Jesus the path to freedom.  Freedom from vices and sin.  Freedom from guilt and shame.  He recognized that Jesus was different as a King because HE HAS OUR BEST INTEREST AT HEART.  So he begged Jesus, please, be MY king too!  He is often referred to as the Thief who Stole heaven gaining salvation directly from Jesus at the last moment of his life.

You and I dont have to wait to be hanging on a cross to make that decision though  

We can choose today... In fact...we HAVE to choose.  We all have a king, because we all let somebody set the rules for how we live.  Who will be your king? 

One last thing when we built our log home theres something about it that gives a good example for todays homily.  You have your vertical walls with a beam going across, then there is the roof angling up like this (show with hands).  Right in the middle is a post that goes up to the peak of the roof it is there to keep the roof from sagging and pushing the walls out.  I bring it up, because that post is called a King Post.  Without that post at the center of your house, the house will collapse. 

Same goes for our lives if we dont have Christ as our Kingpost our lives cannot stand.  Ask Christ to be your King put Christ at the center of your marriage, at the center of your career choices, at the center of every decision you make and every friendship.  Only with a King Post will anything be able to stand.

Only one King, who is NOT a MAN, has our best interest at heart.  Approach Jesus like the thief on the cross and beg him, Jesus, please be MY king too!


Saturday, November 2, 2013

2013/11/03 Short Man in the Tree

Luke 19:1–10

You may not realize it – but the story of Zacchaeus is our story – It’s a story about the Grace of God… but it’s also a story about: YOU and ME.
Everybody pick up a missalette and turn to the Gospel, because we’re going to try to put ourselves into this story.
It’s not so hard to do – "Now a man there named Zacchaeus" – you just - insert your name here.  …"who was a" – in this case, "a chief tax collector", which almost makes the next phrase redundant… "and also, a wealthy man".  Of course he was rich… tax collectors were all rich – especially the CHIEF tax collector.  In order to be theChief, he would have had to prove himself to be the friend of the Romans… he would have extorted money from a lot of people – and that’s WHY he was rich…. And that’s why the people looked down their noses at him…. Well, that’s not the ONLY reason they looked down on him – but also because he was …as the reading tells us… "short".

So – go ahead put yourself – a description of you - into that story.  “now a man there name Jerry – a woman named Brenda, who was a farmer – an accountant, a housewife, a coal miner, a therapist, a student…  how would you want to be described?  For Zacc, it describes him as wealthy and short…What is the main characteristic that describes who you are?  Wealthy?  Happy?  Cantankerous?  Party-animal?  Holy?  

Next comes the most important parts:  
Notice it says Zacchaeus was “seeking to see who Jesus was”.  Don’t let that line pass you by – it’s probably the most important line in the whole reading.  Zacc was looking for Jesus.  Here’s the second most important line… why couldn’t Zacc see Jesus?  “but he could not see Him because of the crowd”.  Why?  “because of the crowd”… important points which we need to consider more deeply.

If this story is really about you and me, first we gotta ask– are WE seeking to see Jesus?  If we’re not seeking to see – we won’t see.  Like Zacc, if we don’t climb up that sycamore tree, all we’ll be able to see is peoples’ backsides.  Second question:what is it that is keeping us from seeing Jesus?  Is it the crowd, like it was forZacc?  Do the people around us block us from seeing Jesus?  Think about that – your friends and family and co-workers… Do they influence us to see the dark side of life instead of the bright side?  Do they apply peer pressure on us to avoid climbing the sycamore tree so we can see Jesus?  Do they keep dragging us down to their level so they don’t feel back about what THEY are doing?  
The other way we might be part of the story is a little more disturbing… are WE part of the crowd in the story?  Are we blocking other people from seeing Jesus?  How we act in public should scream out that we are Christian – but too often, our actions look so much like everyone else that we actually BLOCK the world’s view of Jesus.  Instead of helping others to see Jesus, we block their view with our language, our negativity, our selfishness, and our priorities.
Even here at church, we are here to help each other to CELEBRATE the liturgy –we come here in order to SEE Jesus in His Word, His Body and Blood, and in each other.  How I act impacts the people around me.  I’m not going to sing along – so the person next to me feels too self-conscious about singing – so they don’t sing – so nobody in that pew sings… so nobody in that SECTION sings… except the few people who are brave enough to climb out on a limb of that sycamore tree.  Instead of helping each other to SEE Jesus, we help put each other to sleep.  If anybody starts to climb that sycamore tree, we grab their leg and pull them back down.

Third way that we might be in the story… maybe WE are the ones who are short.  We may not be physically short like Zacc, but We ALL have our ‘short-comings!’  We might be short on patience, short on compassion, short on integrity, or short on humility, or short on will-power.  
But regardless of how low we are - there’s one more line in the story we need to pay attention to:  “When he reached the place where Zacc was – he stopped and called him”.  You see that?  If we just make an effort to see Jesus – no matter where we are, no matter how short we are – if we climb up just a bit – Jesus will come to THAT place and call to us.  Today – I must stay at your house!  Sound too good to be true?

Actually, this should sound familiar – we say it every time we come to Mass:  Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof.”  Every time we come to Mass, it’s like we’ve taken one step up the tree – and Jesus offers to comestay with us.  Our first response is to recognize that we’re not worthy… “I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof”.  None of us is worthy – and neither was Zacc.  But notice what he did next.

His response was to give away half of his possessions and to make up for anybody he ever cheated.  That’s huge – why would he give away all of that stuff?  Once Jesus has come under our roof, we have no choice but to change our lives – to set things straight – Jesus came to seek the lost…he came to seek you and me.  
That is Amazing Grace.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

2013/09/29 The Rich seem to be Doomed

OK – what do YOU think the main theme of the readings is today?
At first glance, that message seems to be that being Rich is bad – you’re going to hell… and being Poor is good – you’re going to heaven.  Did anybody else get that same message?  The first reading certainly seems to say that:  ‘woe to you, the complacent in zion… lying on your beds of ivory, eating fine foods..’  And then there’s the Gospel – the rich man goes to a place of torment:  that sounds like it represents hell.  And then this POOR guy goes to the bosom of Abraham, which represents heaven.  I noticed there’s nothing in the reading that either of these men did anything to deserve their eternal reward/punishment… so Jesus must be telling us that the rich will go to hell and the poor will go to heaven.  Would you agree?
But – if that is the message – let’s follow that line of thought a little bit.  If being poor gets people into heaven, then WE should not help the poor – right?  Because if we give them money to pull them out of their poverty, then they won’t be poor anymore and they WON’T go to heaven.  See what I mean?  If Jesus is telling us that the POOR go to heaven, then the LAST thing we should do is help them.
That obviously can’t be the message, because the Bible is full of instructions to HELP the poor.
So – what IS the message?  As always, Jesus is teaching more than one message with his parable.  To help us understand, I want to share a story:
Larry had inherited the family farm… some of the best land around, with rich, dark soil – and it was near the river so it seemed to always have plenty of moisture.  Larry was proud of his farm and he worked it hard….so it seemed everything he did flourished.   He planted crops,  raised cattle and chickens… and every year, the crop was so big he would add another grain bin to the farm.  He also knew how to play the grain market so that each year he sold his grain at a profit at just the right time – AND he always kept enough of his own seed back to plant the next year’s crop.
 After a few years, Larry had saved up enough money that he could live very comfortably.  In fact, he was so well-off that one spring he decided not to bother planting his seed.  He left it in the grain bin and he went on vacation for several months. 
That Fall, he returned from vacation and found that there had been a drought that year – and only the farmers with bottom land had any crop to speak of.  While he might have felt sorry for the people around him who were going hungry because of the drought, he shrugged it off… HE had plenty of money in the bank – AND he had two silos of grain so he could eat this winter and still have plenty to plant next year.
Winter arrived with a vengeance – when the third blizzard in 2 weeks rolled into the valley, the roads became impassible.  If it keeps this up, Larry thought, I won’t get to town again until spring!  No problem, He thought – I didn’t want to go into town anyway, with all those hungry people looking at me with empty eyes.  I’ll just hunker down here in my cabin until spring.  But when Larry went to his Silo to get some grain to eat, the stench coming from the silo made him slam the door in disgust.  Apparently an early Spring storm has torn a hole in the silo shortly after he had left for vacation so that water poured into the silo.  In the following 7 months, the grain had rotted.  Mold, mildew and Rats were all that was left.  Larry was struck with terror… he had no food… and no way to get to town – even if there WAS food to buy.  All that money in his bank account meant nothing as Larry died a slow death by starvation.
Why did Larry die?  Because he was rich?  No – other farmers around him were just as rich.  It was his COMPLACENCY that was his downfall.  Just like the first reading said, “Woe to the complacent in zion”.  Larry became so comfortable with his riches that he stopped working.  Had he planted seed that year, the bottomland would have supplied enough food to feed the whole town – but instead the seed sat there and rotted…. And half the town starved.
Jesus is pointing out that you and I have been given blessing upon blessing.  Not to make us comfortable, but in order to give us something to share with others.  God also wants to give blessing upon blessing to the less fortunate people – but how does He do it?  …By giving it to you and me so WE can give it to them.  What WE have been given doesn’t belong to us – it belongs to the poor.  God just allows US to distribute it.
The second point – and maybe even more important – is that God puts the needy on our doorstep for OUR benefit.  See – if we want to experience the love and grace that God wants to give us, we experience that by helping someone.  Like St. Francis said, “It is in giving that we receive”.   So – by us stepping over the poor man on our doorstep, we are ignoring the very means by which God is wanting to give us the ultimate blessing.  You get that?  Our very purpose as Christians is to Love like our Father loves – and our whole life here on earth is given to us to PRACTICE love so that we can BE more like God.  God gives us the life, he gives us the blessings, AND he puts the poor on our doorstep so that we can practice loving. I couldn’t find the quote – but some saint said that the Poor are the greatest gift God has given us!
Who are WE stepping over?  Who is on our doorstep – possibly someone we don’t even see…?  How about the Hispanics in our community?  How about Haiti, which is closer to Miami than we are… right on our doorstep?   What about closer to home… our elderly… our homebound folks.   What about the kid sitting all alone at the next table over during lunch hour?
God puts them all on OUR doorstep.  He begs us to help them so that He can bless us even more.  It is in giving that we receive.
That kind of explains what our Grace Co-Op is all about.  We try to FIND the people in need and then give our parishioners an opportunity to help.  Some people deliver meals every Sunday.  Some help sit with the homebound.  Some help with firewood – or like next weekend we’re having our first annual Grace Co-Op Work camp.  By working together, we experience God’s grace.
When we hoard the blessings and/or ignore the poor on our doorstep, not only are our blessings wasted – like grain rotting in a silo – but we miss out on the Grace that comes from loving others. 
So – to sum it all up:  It is not our MONEY that is a problem… it is our ATTITUDE about money that is a problem.  “Woe to the COMPLACENT in Zion”.  It is our complacency which threatens our soul.  When we think God has given us all these comforts so that we can simply live in luxury and ignore those around us, then we’ve missed the point of why God gave us our riches. 
God does not comfort us to make us Comfortable – but to make us Comforters!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

It's all about Wisdom

Once again, I find myself scratching my head after that last statement from Jesus. On the surface, it’s not obvious –at least to me - how his parables have anything to do with what he is teaching. What does a carpenter building a tower and a King going to war have to do with that last statement: “In the same way, anyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple. Does not computeI had to think long and hard before it finally made sense to me. This reading is about Wisdom… which is also the theme of the first reading.
What Jesus is saying is that the carpenter needs to be WISE enough to make sure he can complete his project before he starts it. The King needs to be WISE enough to make sure he has sufficient troops and the support of the people before taking his country to war. Taking it in THAT context, the last statement would mean – anybody who wants to be a disciple of Jesus must be WISE enough to get rid of ANYthing that stands between us and Jesus…. Any possessions… any thing – or any ONE. Not that we have to disown our family – but if our family is keeping us from Jesus – we have to have the wisdom to put Jesus first.
It’s all about Wisdom. What is the difference between KNOWLEDGE and WISDOM?
Somebody once said that knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit – not a vegetable. But wisdom is knowing not to put the tomato in a fruit salad.
How do we gain wisdom?
If youre like me, we learn from our mistakes. I made a couple of big mistakes this week one that just about gave a future bride a heart attack and another that may have cost me a friendship. I hate making mistakes they wrench my gut and stress me outbut I learn from them. I guarantee you I have gained some wisdom about how to handle these situations in the future.. because that pit in my stomache is a powerful teacher of wisdom.
Most of us learn because we have to for example most of us have a little bit of knowledge of cancer and treatment of cancer but its really only when we are forced to take care of a family member who is suffering through cancer THAT is when we gain the wisdom of how to help them cope the wisdom of how to deal with the doctors and yes the wisdom of how to deal with our own emotions. These painful situations are some of the best teachers given to us. The Holy Spirit, given from God, is so much more visible and so much more able to teach us when our hearts are torn open by grief.
As the readings so clearly tell us we would have No wisdom at all, if it had not been given to us from above. To paraphrase the first reading we have trouble figuring out ANYTHING with our human perspective.We have trouble figuring out our spouse... We say things that others completely misinterpret... We can only GUESS at why many things happen the way they do in our world. If we are so clueless about the things that are right here in front of us, How can we possibly understand Gods plan?
We can only understand or START to understand if the Holy Spirit gives us wisdom.
How does the Spirit give YOU wisdom? Is it through reading and contemplating scripture? Is it through thinking hard about our mistakes and what were supposed to learn from them? Maybe the Spirit teaches you wisdom by putting you into situations that stretch your emotions by giving you that hole in your heart or that pit in your stomache perhaps for you, THAT is when the Holy spirit goes into overdrive to teach wisdom.
Reminds me of Larry… in the eighth grade, he was an 85 pound weakling. The bullies at school would push him around and throw his books on the ground all the time. He prayed one night as he cried himself to sleep God please give me strength! In his dreams that night, he heard God tell him to clear all the rocks out of the pasture behind his house. So the next day, he went about carrying rocks out of the pasture and dropping them in the fence row. After about three days of this, he was done but there was one big rock right in the middle of the pasture which he couldnt budge. He figured he did what he was supposed to, so he left that rock there. That night again in a dream, God told him to keep pushing against that rock. Although it didnt make sense to him, for the next week, he would spend all his free time after school pushing on that rock. Again he was about to give up, when God reminded him to keep pushing. This went on for almost a year, until, exasperated, he cried to God you told me to move this rock a year ago and I haven’t moved it an inch!  I KNOW I’m weak – that’s why I asked for strength!  God said I never told you to MOVE that rock I just told you to push against it. A year ago you prayed for strength look at your arms and legs youre stronger than anyone in your class now. I was merely giving you what you prayed for. 
Larry gained strength by pushing against the rock that God put in front of him.
WE gain wisdom by pushing against the rocks that God puts in front of us we learn from all the painful situations that come our way.and we will keep learning
…. as long as we keep pushing

Saturday, July 13, 2013

2013/07/14 - The Guy in the Ditch

Alright So the obvious message in the gospel today is that even the total fact, even somebody who might be our our neighbor.  And if we want to inherit eternal life, we are supposed to love our neighbor as ourselves.  The bottom line is this...we cannot ignore the man in the ditch.

If that was all there was to the message, we'd be done... But Jesus always teaches more than one thing at a time.  But rather than me TELLING you what the other underlying message is, I want to tell you my own parable... Instead of the Good Samaritan... I want to tell you the parable of the Good American.
Larry worked hard every day.  He took a lot of pride in how hard he worked, in fact, so he tried to be the first one to arrive each day and to stay as long or longer than anyone else.  He also took great pride in the relationship he had with his customers... going out of his way to do everything he could for them.  They often remarked how HE was the person they could count on.  That made him feel good.  Oh... and he tried to be a true friend to his coworkers... offering to drop them off at the car repair... or join them for a drink a night or two each week to socialize and keep up on their family lives.  These relationships were important to him...  In fact, he was known to be a great guy who would help ANYbody.  He would never walk past the salvation army bucket at the entrance of Walmart without throwing in some change. 

When he got home from work, dinner was usually on the table, and often, the rest of the family had already eaten, since the kids can't wait that late to eat.  The kids came up immediately wanting to tell him about their day at school and what the puppy did that they were training.  He explained he would have to talk to them later, since he had such a long day and needed to eat his supper.  His wife also wanted to talk about her day... being that she had spent most of the day with the kids and craved an adult conversation.  He sat down to eat with the newspaper in front of him and once in a while said, umhm... But basically didn't hear most of what she said.  After supper, the kids wanted to play some x-box with him, but he remembered that the garage door opener was acting up and he needed to work on it.  So he headed to the garage where he quickly lost himself in cleaning off the work bench while drinking a highball.  Twice, the kids came out wanting to play, but he sternly told them he was busy and they should go clean their room or read a book... 

The next night was much the same, but this time he got home a little earlier, because he needed to get the grass cut.  The next night he didn't come home for supper at all, because he had his K of C meeting at church.  His wife made a comment about him never being home, but he spouted back indignantly... Do you want me to give up my night at church?  Most wives would love to have a husband that gets involved at church.  She asked if he would be home the next night, but he explained that Bob from worked needed help rebuilding his carburetor....  

This was a normal week for the good American. 
As weeks turned into months turned into years, his wife became more frustrated and the more she tried to change things the more he got indignant about doing the best he could to provide for the family.  I don't have time to sit around and waste... 

The next night, his son asked
"Daddy, may I ask you a question?"
DAD: "Yeah sure, what is it?"
SON: "Daddy, how much do you make an hour?"
DAD: "That's none of your business. Why do you ask such a thing?"
SON: "I just need to know. Please tell me, how much do you make an hour?"
DAD: "If you must know, I make about $40 an hour."
SON: "Oh! and his head drooped.  He thought for a minute then lit up with an idea:
SON: "Daddy, may I please borrow $20?"
Larry was immediately furious.

DAD: "If the only reason you asked how much I make is so you can borrow some money to buy a silly toy or some other nonsense, then you march yourself straight to your room and go to bed. Think about why you are being so selfish. I work hard every day for that money."

The little boy quietly went to his room and shut the door.
Larry sat down and stewed getting even angrier about his sons questions. How dare he ask such questions only to get some money?

After about an hour or so though, Larry had calmed down a bit, and started to think:
You know, I really didnt give him a chance to answerMaybe there WAS something he really needed to buy with that $ 20 and he really didn't ask for money very often. So he went to the door of his sons room and opened the door.
DAD: "Are you asleep, son?"
SON: "No daddy, I'm awake".
DAD: "I've been thinking, maybe I was too hard on you earlier. It's been a long day and I took out my aggravation on you. Here's the $20 you asked for."

The little boys face lit-up, and he sat straight up, smiling.
SON: "Oh, thank you daddy!"
Then, reaching under his pillow he pulled out some crumpled up bills. Larry - seeing that his sone already had money, started to get angry again. The little boy slowly counted out his money, and then looked up at his father.

DAD: "Why do you want more money if you already have some?"
SON: "Because I didn't have enough, but now I do.
"Daddy, I have $40 now. Can I buy an hour of your time? Please come home early tomorrow. I would like to have dinner with you." 

The priest and the Levite in the Gospel ignored the man in the ditch – but they did it for a good reason!  If they had touched this man who was probably dead, they would have become unclean, and according to the law of God, they would not be able to perform their ministry at the temple.  Larry too made good decisions, like any good American… but it’s too easy to concentrate on certain things that we THINK are important… and completely ignore the MOST important things.

I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know… let me go back to the first reading to summarize:

For this command that I enjoin on you today is not too mysterious and remote for you. It is not up in the sky, that you should say, Who will go up in the sky to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may carry it out? Nor is it across the sea, that you should say, Who will cross the sea to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may carry it out? No, it is something very near to you, already in your mouths and in your hearts; you have only to carry it out.

In other words... We already KNOW what to do, so I can stop preaching.

But our challenge is thisLook around at home... And this goes for everyone... This story is about a man, but applies equally to everyone... Teens, kids, wives and husbandseven a certain permanent deacon I know who has a wife. We often show more respect to a stranger than we do to the people closest to us....Look around home and pay close attention to who YOU are ignoring in the ditch.