Saturday, February 27, 2016

2016/02/28 - Turn around before you Fall

February 28, 2016

3rd Sunday of Lent; St. Romanus and St. Lupicinus

Before Mass:

Why do bad things happen?  Is it punishment from God?  Jesus sort-of jumps into that question in todays Gospel but in my opinion he seems to be talking out of both sides of His mouth.  See if you can decipher what Hes trying to tell us. 


When the tsunami killed a quarter million people in the area of Indonesia, some preachers claimed it was Gods wrath against the false religion of Islam.  I dont choose to believe that.

When the hurricane hit New Orleans back in 06, I heard some preachers declaring that God sent His wrath onto that city because of all of the sin in it.  I dont choose to believe that.

When the twin towers fell, some preachers pointed out that our country was getting its just payment for all of the babies that are killed in abortion.  I dont choose to believe that.

When the earthquake hit Haiti, supposedly it was Gods wrath for all of the voodoo superstitions in their culture.  Need I go on? 

This kind of thinking goes back to Old Testament beliefs that good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people.  It might be easy as a preacher to get up here and peddle my own beliefs since Im speaking for God and I can denounce WHOEVER I want and point out that I must be right, because look at what God did to THEM!!  (pound fist)   

Why dont I choose to believe that?  Well, first because if you follow that logic, youd have to say look at what happened to those people in Dubois County recently!  God sent his wrath in the form of the bird flu because of some sort of sin or other.  Youd also have to say look at the tornadoes that God sent to punish us a few years ago.  Gods obviously not happy with us.

If you believe the tsunami was Gods wrath then it would clearly follow that the bird flu was Gods wrath.  You can believe that if you WANT TO BUT I dont choose to believe that. 

The main reason is because Jesus just told us ... do you think the people who were killed in that accident when the tower of Siloam fell were more guilty than others BY NO MEANS

Jesus is making it clear that the fate that befell them was not because of their sin.  Seems to me that this would apply to our avian flu and tornadoes we may be guilty, but we are no more guilty than anybody else. 

Now if he stopped there, Id be fine thats actually a comforting thought which makes sense but then he adds but if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!  OK, Jesus which is it do our sins decide our fate or not? 

Well actually Ive always interpreted that wrong.  Pay attention to the words He uses:  if you do not repent you will perish.  Its not our sin, specifically, that condemns us it is our state of mind.  Stick with me nowThat word REPENT is the key.  Remember a couple months ago I talked about how REPENT really means METANOIA which is a complete change of mind.  REPENT has to do with our state of mindIt means we have to start thinking 180 degrees from the way we think.   Everything we THINK is true based on our earthly lives must be turned upside down in order to understand and LIVE the example that Jesus gave us.

Repent DOESNT mean to stop sinning it means to turn around

So with that in mind, lets reword what Jesus said to see if it makes more sense:

Did those people die because they were worse sinners than you?  No Way.  But you are headed in the wrong direction, and if you dont turn around, you are not going to be happy when you reach your destination. 

The actual definition of Sin is to miss the mark think of it like aiming an arrow.  If acting like Jesus is the bulls-eye, then sin is to hit anything other than the bulls-eye.  Nobody accidentally lands in heaven we have to be aiming for it.

Thats why we have to REPENT (Metanoia).  Ever since the beginning, when Adam and Eve ate that first apple, we have all wanted to be like God deciding right and wrong for ourselves.  So every decision you and I make every day is based on what WE want.  But in order to enter the Kingdom of God, we have to completely change our minds to put God at the center of our lives to make decisions based on how we can best fit into HIS will. 

Whats that look like?  To model our lives to be like Jesus and to imitate His exampleTo pick up our cross and follow, To put the needs of others ahead of our own.  While the world would say we are foolish Jesus would recognize in our hearts that we truly DO love Him and He will draw us close. 

Bad things will happen to every person here regardless of how much we sin.  Of course, some peoples behavior is self-destructive and they bring the tower down upon themselves through their bad choices.  But the true punishment of God for sin is to allow us to have what we love the most.  Think hard about that the true punishment of God is to allow us to have what we love the most.

If we love liquor the most, hell allow us to consume it until we ruin our own life.

If we love sex the most, hell allow us to follow that desire until it destroys the relationships of those we truly love.

If we love money the most, hell give us enough to keep us always wanting more and the greed will consume us.  We bring the tower down upon ourselves. 

But if we repent metanoia completely change our minds we can love God and hell give us all of himself.  We can love serving Gods people, and hell feed us with endless blessings of serving others.  We can put Gods will first in every situation, and thereby bring God into our everyday lives into every decision.   

Lets try one more analogy to help understand what Jesus said. And this gets deep so you might have to pay attention. 

Did you ever have a dream where you just kept falling and falling and falling until you woke up?  Did it ever hurt us?  They say whoever they are they say that if you hit bottom while in that dream, you would die.  Now theres no way we can know that, because if anybody ever DID hit bottom and die, they wouldnt be around to tell us! 

But the truth remains that if you are falling, the fall itself doesnt hurt you its that sudden stop at the bottom.  Thats the best analogy Ive been able to come up with to explain what Jesus is saying.  Stick with me and hopefully this will be helpful.  Sin is like falling off a cliff.  If we allow the culture and our human nature to guide us, well all aim in the wrong direction and step off the cliff and head straight to the bottom.

Sin, like falling, wont kill us.  But Sin points us in the wrong directionstraight down And GOD will allow us to keep falling in that same direction for eternity and well only hit bottom when what we love most has destroyed us.but if we REPENTif we love Jesus most, He will be there to catch us.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

2016/02/07 Where is your net?

Before Mass:
The readings fit together so well, I almost don’t even need to explain.  In each case, somebody is called by God to bring the Good News to His people.  All three readings – watch for that common thread.  The other undeniable thread is the fact that in all three cases, the person jumps in with both feet.  God asks for help – and they devoted their lives to it.
Pay particular attention to that Gospel…. We all fit into that story in at least two ways… pay close attention to see if you can identify where YOU are.  Remember – we are all at least two different characters. 

Jerry went with his kids on a field trip at their school one beautiful spring day.  The kids we all excited – mainly because they got to get OUT of school for a whole afternoon – and they were going to get to eat at McDonalds – but also because their science teacher was taking them an hour from home to see and catch fish.  Every year on that day, the Salmon would make a run through the area toward their spawning grounds almost a thousand miles up-river.
The problem was – there had been a drought that year and between them and their spawning grounds, the river had gone dry in a couple of places.  There was NO water running down the stream for almost 100 miles.  The fear was that if the fish could not make it to their spawning grounds, they wouldn’t be able to spawn, and the entire population of these salmon would be lost.
So the plan was to catch as many salmon as they could and load them into a huge tanker truck to transport across the next state where the water was still flowing.  It was important they catch every salmon they possible could – because any that get by will likely die. 
The kids were split into groups of about a dozen and given a net about 20 feet long.  They were instructed to hold the nets in the water to catch the fish as they came upstream – then they would pick up the fish and drop them into a bucket – then other kids would carry the full buckets to the truck to dump in.  There must have been 1000 kids convening on this section of river that day.
Jerry didn’t have a job other than to be chaperone and run errands if anybody needed anything.  So, he had time to just watch the process:  The air was filled excitement as kids would squeal when a feisty fish would try to jump out of their hands as they scooped them into the bucket.  He noticed the cooperation and teamwork the kids were learning by working together for a common goal.  He noticed how some of the kids were just born leaders – seeming to fill the role as Head fisherman where adults normally would have filled that role.  Jerry couldn’t help but smile watching them all working so intently on this one goal – to save the salmon.
Once in a while, a fish would get by the nets, and the back-up team would swoop in with their dip nets to bag the lone fish.  This was important – remember- any fish that gets by is likely going to die.  It was for their own good that the kids were catching them.  But the fish didn’t understand… they just knew that somebody was trying to take them out of their element.  They were quite comfortable in the water – oblivious to the impending doom that lay ahead – and they struggled with all their might to escape the hands of the captors.  Some of the kids even got cut by the fins of the fish as they flopped around.
Some of the kids got frustrated by that… why didn’t the fish understand that we were there to HELP?!  So for a while, they let their nets loose – or lying on the shore – and hundreds of fish swam by without being caught.   On the edge of tears, the kids would sit on a rock – not sure what to do.   Should they continue to enforce THEIR will on these fish for their own good – or leave them to their fate?
Where are you and I in this story?
Are we the fish?  Sitting in our comfort zone of the lives we’ve built around ourselves – oblivious to the doom that is coming upon us?  Do we readily accept help when it is given, or struggle to avoid any helping hand?  Many have attempted to preach the Gospel to us to help us understand what lies ahead, but we’d rather just stay here in the warm water where we’re comfortable.  Yeah – I’d say every one of us is the fish at some point in our lives.  Somebody mentions a book or a retreat or a parish Mission – and well – that’s good for some people – but I really don’t have time for that.  Besides, I’m quite comfortable here in the water.
Where ELSE are you and I in the story?  Are we the fishermen?  Have we taken seriously Christ’s call to be fishers of Men?  In the Gospel he was talking to Cephas, but he really was talking to you and me.  Have we ANSWERED that call to put out our nets for a catch?  Do we work tirelessly with others in our community to reach out to all of the fish who come our way – or do we leave that work for others?  Do we get discouraged when our efforts fail and they flop back into the water?  Do we let them slip by us, or do we go to where they are in order to bring them to Christ?
Look around - Where are your nets?  Are they dry – on the shore… think about that:  When WAS the last time we actually cast into the deep to TRY to bring someone to know Jesus?
Two challenges for today – depending on where you found yourself in this story:
First – allow yourself to be caught – if Jesus has sent someone to pursue you – jump INTO the net.
Second – pick up your net and get back in the water….. go where the fish are – and save them.