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.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

2013/07/07 - Ite Missa est 72

The Lord be with you...   Awesome... Did you hear that line in the last sentence of the 2nd reading?  Thats how Paul ended his letter to the Galatians. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit,brothers and sisters'
It's been like 20 months now since we changed the words we say at Mass, and most of us have grown accustomed to saying, "and with your spirit" instead of and also with you.  This is a perfect example of how the words we say at Mass match exactly to scripture.
Lets look now at that Gospel look at that first line:  At that time the Lord appointed seventy-two others whom he sent ahead of him in pairs.  Now, if you're paying attention, you gotta wonder...Who were these others?  I had always figured these were the elite of Jesus followers the apostles but there were only 12 of them so who were the 72?  They were disciples.  They were part of the crowd they were ordinary people who had decided that living for Jesus was the most important thing they could do.  Theres no proof but theres a good chance that Luke, the gospel writer, was one of these 72, because he was the only one who specifically mentioned the 72.  Luke was a doctor...
Luke and all these other people gave up their normal jobs to travel to other towns to prepare the way for Jesus. To tell people about Jesus
Who are the 72 today?  Hopefully thats obvious theyre not the apostles so theyre not the Bishops.  Theyre not the priests or deacons.  They are the farmers and doctors and students and housewives and accountants and house builders and stone workers in short WE are the 72.  Would you give up your livelihood to live for Jesus?
Just like then, Jesus gives us our marching orders the harvest is abundant, but the laborers are few.  At the end of every Mass, WE are sent forth just like that.  In fact, youve heard it before, but the name of the Mass comes from the Latin ite missa est which was the last thing said in the old Latin Mass and it means it is sent.  it refers to the congregation the people of God have come together to get our marching orders to be sent ahead of Jesus.  THAT is our purpose for gathering.
THIS is what is means to be a Christian.  We have been sent out to work the harvest... and that means making disciples for Christ.  But Mike, this reading is from 2000 years ago... before the world knew about Jesus.... surely WE aren't supposed to be evangelizing....Wrong.  If we AREN'T doing that, we are not fulfilling our mission. Who are WE supposed to tell about Jesus?  the harvest is abundant”…. Really!  Let that sink in...  the harvest IS abundant.  People NEED and WANT To hear the good news.  The world NEEDS our Christian example to keep it from falling completely into anarchy and immorality.  Im blown away by how people act with total disregard for others...the way they act makes it obvious they dont know Jesus.  Many people...right here in our area, need to SEE what it means to be Christian. This area used to be overwhelmingly Christian and most of that was Catholic.  Now people have walked away for one reason or another.   Many people have never had a personal experience of Jesus and it is OUR job to bring it to them.  You know, some so-called churches, although their theology is way off-base, they take this command from Jesus so serious that if you go six months without bringing somebody into the church, you are considered lapsed!
Pope Benedict spoke often of the new evangelization.  Throughout the history of the Church, it was a given that our role as disciples was to go out to the world to tell them about Christ and to provide Catholic education for our Children.  Today too many people dont really know Christ.  Those of us who DO know him have to share that experience with others.  Not me and Fr. Eugene but each person sitting here.  YOU are the ones with the personal relationships which allow you to influence the people in your life. 
How?  Good question.  First, by sharing our joy and our hope.  Imagine if we didn't have God to turn to when tragedies hit our life.  Where would our hope come from... That is huge.  Just by us SHOWING our faith in small ways, we are changing the world around us.  Even small things like praying before meals at a restaurant, we impact people around us.  Often when you do that, people will step up to you and thank you for doing it!  It's not an in your face sorta thing... It is just doing what we always do... Giving thanks to God before enjoying the blessings he gave us.  What is normal to you?  You may have seen Duck Dynasty on TV.... Part of what makes it such a good show is that every show ends with them sitting down to a meal... And EVERY meal starts with a blessing.  Prayer!  Right there on prime-time, nationwide TV!  It is my hope that this will help prayer to become normal to more people.  What is normal to you?  I know growing up, my mom and dad would sit on the couch every night praying the liturgy of the hours together... And than... Dad would go kneel by the bed to say his personal prayers.  My prayer life ain't as good as theirs, but because of their example, THAT seems normal to me.  I wonder... what is NORMAL to OUR kids?  What example have we set?
Notice too that Jesus sent them out two by two.  We were not meant to do this alone.  In fact, if we try to do it alone, we will fail.  An isolated Christian is a dead Christian.  We need like-minded Christians to encourage us, to bolster us when we hit a rough patch, and to hold us accountable when we stray from the way.
It reminds me of a flock of geese...Surely youve noticed they always fly as a group almost NEVER flying alone.  There are some great lessons that WE can learn from them lessons that Jesus already knew about when he sent us all out in pairs.  First geese fly in a V formation because by flying right behind another bird, the flock can fly up to 70% farther than they could if they flew alone.  Something about the flap of the wings of the bird in front creates a updraft so the birds behind take less energy to fly.  If one bird falls out of formation, he quickly feels the drag of the air and moves to get back into formation as quick as possible. 
For us as Christians we are sent out as a group not alone.  Were not MEANT to do it alone, we need a small group.... we help each other make it farther and easier by creating momentum.  Its much easier for one of us to pray at our meal at McDonalds if several of us do it together.  Its much easier for us to say no to the crowd if several of us say no together.  Its easier for us to give up our personal free time to study scripture, if we have likeminded friends to discuss it with and who challenge us to take an extra step.
Also in the flock the birds encourage each other honking to the bird up front to encourage them on and let them know were still here.  As one bird gets tired from leading, they drop back and another bird takes the lead for a while thereby sharing the load of the toughest job.  As Christians, we all are leaders at some point.  Maybe its in our family or in our circle of friends.  Maybe its just how we act when were in public but OUR actions make it easier for others to live their Christian lives as well.  Our joy and hope rub off on people.  People should LIKE to be around us, because...well We're not like everybody else.
Finally the flock follows one leader headed unswervingly in one direction.  They have a goal to make it south or north, depending on the time of year.  Likewise as Christians, we received our marching order from Jesus in the Gospel today go out and make disciples!!!  That is our primary goal!  If were not doing that, were headed in the wrong direction.
Theres a bunch more we can learn from geese but let this be enough for today:  next time you see a flock of geese overhead, just imagine that each honk is saying . and with your spirit"