Friday, August 26, 2011

August 28, 2011: If I had my way.... (28th Sunday Ordinary Time)

If I had my way, … things would be different.

For one thing, I’d arrange it so it would rain 1” once a week – maybe on a Monday night… get it out of the way…the roads would be dry by the time we drive to work in the morning - and then the rest of the time it would be sunny and 77 degrees.

If I was in charge… school wouldn’t go on for so long… and Saturdays would be extended to three days per week.

On a more serious note… If I had my way, parents, brothers, and sisters and friends wouldn’t die… they wouldn’t even get sick!

But… I’m not in charge.  God is the one who set this world spinning on its axis a long-long time ago.  He setup the laws of nature, the tides and seasons –Everything has its purpose – but we might not see it…yes, even the hurricanes. 

I saw a clip of a program on TV last week where they were experimenting with dropping some sort of chemical into hurricane clouds in an attempt to make them basically collapse – so they couldn’t get so strong.  On one hand, based on what’s going on in the East right now… I can see why they’d want to do that – a lot of people are really inconvenienced by having to evacuate – a lot of property is damaged – and some people even lose their lives because of hurricanes. 

But – do you think God has a purpose for hurricanes?  I remember 6 years ago, we only had rain three times from June through at least September – and all three of them were the result of tropical systems coming out of the Gulf.  Without those storms, a large swatch of the country might have gone over four months with no rain at all.  Think of all the forest fires – think of all the grain fields that would have died – not to mention the wildlife which depends on the water from heaven. 

Now – I’m not really here to argue about whether they should be messing with trying to change the weather… in fact, with what’s going on in the East right now, you could make a pretty good argument that if we could stop Hurricanes, perhaps we should.  But that’s my point…. This is an example of how we human beings sometimes think that WE know better than God.  Too often, we don’t even stop to consider what God would want. 

God setup the laws of nature – and the laws of the scripture.  Obviously, God must have a reason for each law he gave us.  In short, each law helps us to experience His will. 

Paul said in the second reading:

Do not conform yourselves to this age
but be transformed by the renewal of your mind,
that you may discern what is the will of God,

I’m as guilty as the next person – if I had been there for today’s Gospel – I would have been right there with Peter saying – Jesus – hold on – let me explain it to you – you don’t understand…you don’t have to die!

Jesus didn’t waste any time putting Peter in his place… He made it very clear that Peter was not looking at the big picture.  From his tiny little human perspective, it was silly for Jesus to throw his life away.  But from his divine seat in heaven, the Father knew this was the only way.  If Jesus hadn’t given his life for us – we would still be without hope of ever being saved. 

You and I are like Peter; we have to trust that we can’t even begin to see the big picture.  We have to SEEK God’s will.  

Now, you might ask – How DO I seek God’s will?  Well – we can start by asking the question…. Let’s practice right now… everybody say with me, “God, what do you want me to do?”..Repeat… Great… That’s the easy part – cause next – we have to Listen.  That can be especially tough as busy as we all are.  Again – I’m as guilty as anybody on this one.  I KNOW that the absolute best use of my time would be to spend an hour or more in front of the Blessed Sacrament in prayer. I KNOW it!  Yet – I just can’t seem to find the time to spend more than a few minutes at Eucharistic Adoration on Friday nights.  I’ve let Busy-ness control my life.  See – the Devil’s best weapon is busyness – because if he can keep us really busy – even doing good things – then we won’t have time for a relationship with Jesus.  We have to buck the system.  What did Paul say?   

Do not conform yourselves to this age
but be transformed by the renewal of your mind,
that you may discern what is the will of God

Think about it.  What Paul is saying is Revolutionary – counter cultural. 

Let’s do it.  Let’s start a revolution in this parish… I’m serious.  Let’s do what Paul said.  Let’s stop conforming ourselves to this age and stop letting the devil win!  I’m gonna try it.  I’m going to commit myself right now to making time for at LEAST one hour each week to spend with Jesus in silence and prayer.  You can imagine how hard it is to make that commitment, but I recognize that if I want to change things, then I  HAVE to do something different. 

You know – it’s like the prayer we pray every week – “our cluster parish is made up of people like me” – so if I want to make any positive changes to our parish, I have to start by changing the man in the mirror.  See… I am excited about being Catholic- and I am excited about being a member of this parish.  We’ve been blessed with a lot from God and we’ve got a lot of good people.  I don’t know if you know it, but we started having Eucharistic Adoration on Friday nights from 5-9 pm –every week.  We started about 5 weeks ago…. We started it with the intention of praying for our cluster parish.  It was interesting that within only 2 weeks, we had a new pastor assigned.  I think it’s a great example of how God’s will can be accomplished if we just give him our time.  I want to invite you to join us in this commitment to invest an hour each week in your relationship with Jesus and to pray for our Church.   At each door, you’ll find a sheet where you can put your name, number, and what days and times you ‘might’ be able to commit to.  We would love to expand our Adoration to all-day Friday – or maybe we need to open it up more than on day a week???  We might even get enough folks to open another chapel at St Raphael too.

I’m not looking for people to fill timeslots… I’m looking for people who honestly believe that Christ is still alive in our Church….our cluster parish is NOT dead, and we don’t want it to die.  I’m looking for people who to want to make a positive change.  Please join me in seeking God’s will for our lives and our parish.

You don’t have to do this… but I do.  I have to stop seeking my own will, because if I had my way, things would be different … but not for the better.  For example, if I had my way and it only rained on Monday night – then we would never get the chance to see a rainbow.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Salt water - 18th Sunday Ordinary Time A

“Let all who thirst come to the water!” This time of the year, it's easy to imagine what it's like to be thirsty. We watch the storms pass by our county as our gardens and yards turn crispy brown. While just a few months ago, we would have gladly passed on some of the rain that came our way, this time of year, we recognize how precious water is.
66 years ago TODAY the Battleship USS Indianapolis was torpedoed and sank in the South Pacific. There were 1200 men on board. A couple hundred of them died in the initial attack… and the other 900 or so were dumped into the shark-infested sea....most without rafts. If that wasn’t bad enough, communications were fumbled, and the Sos was ignored...they thought it was a prank, it was four days before anybody even noticed they were missing! In that time, the survivors were picked off one by one …either from injuries, exposure, shark attacks, or from their worst enemy: dehydration. Can you imagine that? Here they were surrounded by water – but dying of dehydration. Some got so desperate, they started gulping the sea water to try to quench their thirst… which for a few minutes felt good – but quickly turned into a painful death and it kills from the inside. They were so desperate for water that when the first boat got to them, the captain asked if they had any water for them. When they said, No, he told the to leave...they were of no use to him. In the end, only 316 survived. In an interview of the survivors 50 years later, a reporter noted that this man was NEVER without a glass of ice water within arm’s reach.
That man knows what REAL thirst is – he realized the value of water and he will do whatever it takes to keep that thirst quenched!!
“Let all who thirst come to the water!”
In one way you and I are like the men in the ocean. Whether we realize it or not, we are thirsty for God. Now, that might sound like mumbo jumbo talk .."that only a saint can really recognize his or her thirst for God...but let me assure you that real men and women like you and me do recognize our need for God...and when we do, we'll do whatever we can to quench that thirst. How can we do that?
Let's look at the Gospel to try and understand that… Most of the time when we hear this reading, we concentrate on the miracle that Jesus fed 5000… but there’s one line in there that you probably didn’t even notice, it’s so insignificant… it says, Jesus went to a deserted place… it means he went out into the middle of nowhere… and some translations even imply that it might have been a real desert… which means it was dry and uninhabitable… but the people followed him there anyway.
What would have happened if Jesus had decided to feed the 5000 in the middle of town? Well – for one thing, that’s not much of a miracle is it? I mean, everybody could just step into McDonald’s or Happy Hour and grab themselves a bite. In fact, they could just swing over a couple of blocks to their house or the house of a friend to raid the refrigerator. But no – Jesus chose this deserted place to perform this miracle… can you see why? Because the people were in the middle of nowhere and had NO way to fend for themselves, THAT made it OBVIOUS that this MUST be a miracle. The people had to be HUNGRY and they had to recognize that they had no way to feed themselves…. And THAT is what made them recognize this miracle.
I think you and I can apply this to our spiritual lives. If we stay at home or work or within our circle of friends, we’ll be comfortable…when we’re comfortable, we don’t need God. Most of us like to stay that way. We go from day to day and may never dig deep into our souls to think about what we need to change in our lives… to realize the deep thirst we have for God. Instead, we’re surrounded by salt-water – all the things in our lives that we think will quench our thirst for God, but in the end will only kill us from the inside.
Jesus went to a deserted place. The miracle of the 5000 happened in a deserted place. You and I cannot recognize our thirst for God if we remain surrounded by our salt-water lives. We have to step away. I strongly believe that EVERY Catholic should go to a desert place at least once a year. Every one of us should step out of our comfort zones – step out of our normal daily lives – and go somewhere away from the phones and computers and ball practices and work…. Away from all the distractions and lists of things to do – just to give Jesus a chance to show us how thirsty we really are. Jesus WANTS to give us a huge gulp of sweet water, but we keep ourselves so busy, we never even realize we’re thirsty.
Our adult formation team will be publishing some options for retreats, so watch for that in the bulletin. Also, we are considering offering a retreat right here for the parish. So if anybody wants to take me seriously and would be interested, let me know so we can figure out what the best format and timing would be.
Have you ever been working out in the hot sun in the yard or in the garden maybe...and suddenly you realize, man, I'm thirsty! You step into the shade for a second and grab the water jug and raise it to your wet! Water never tasted so good as when we are really thirsty!
God wants to do that for us. He is waiting to quench our spiritual thirst...but first...we gotta learn to appreciate the water...and then we have to stop drinking the salt water.