Saturday, October 25, 2014

20141025 What do we want people to say about us?

Before Mass:
Pay particular attention to the second reading today its to the Thessalonians what does it tell you about them?  What kind of people were they?  If you met a Thessalonian on the street, what would you notice about them.  And then pray about what this might tell you about how you and I should be.
Lets play a little word association game. Ill say a city you tell me the first thing that comes to mind.

            Vegas sin city gambling casinos

            Denver Rocky Mtn High mile high city

            Philadelphia brotherly love. 

See even if you havent been there, you know about these places.  Other people have told us about these places and THEIR experiences and we believe them.

I bring these up because of that second reading -
What kind of people were the Thessalonians?  In case you didnt catch it, let me point out a couple of things that Paul said here is talking to the Thessalonians:

-       you became a model for all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.

-       from you the word of the Lord has sounded in every place your faith in God has gone forth, so that we have no need to say anything. For they themselves openly declarehow you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God 

In other words, these people were apparently such awesome Christians that word ABOUT them had spread throughout the area.  Everybody knew that the Thessalonians were the role model if you want to be a good Christian go see how THEY live and try to be like them. 

Makes you wonder what do people say about OUR parish?  When people hear of St. Raphael or St. Celestine, what words or images come to mind?  Are we known for our Love of God?  Are we known for our love of neighbor? Or are we just known for the tastiest fried chicken at our parish social or shoot? 

When I was a kid in Newburgh, our pastor wanted our parish to have a different image so I can remember a homily talking about nudging other people to come to church.   Little prayer cards were passed out, we prayed it together all the time, and in time we really did become known as the nudging parish.  See what happened there?  The pastor set the vision some simple actions were put into motion and we became that vision. 

So heres the real question what do we WANT people to say about our parish?  Try something with your friends and coworkers ask THEM what they think of when they hear St. Celestine or St. Raphael.?  It would be interesting to do a survey and collect the results but my guess is that the answers would be all over the map.  Without a vision set out there, nobody is sure WHAT theyre supposed to believe about us.

I personally would like for people to say about St. Raphael/St. Celestine what Paul said about the Thessaloniansthat we are a role model for all the believers.  I want them to think of US as a Joyful, Welcoming, Compassionate, Evangelizing, Active Catholic Parish. 

Heres where it gets personal. What would you and I have to do to make that happen?  Jesus gives us an answer Love the Lord your God with our whole heart, soul, and mind and love our neighbor as ourselves. 

Jesus is giving us the priority list God first, Others second, and ourselves third.  An easy way to remember that is the acronym for JOY  - J O-Y:  Jesus, Others, Yourself. 

When we put Jesus and others first PERSONALLY then we personally become a Joyful, Welcoming, Compassionate, Evangelizing, Active Catholic person and when we all learn to love like that, then our parish becomes the role model for all and people will travel from around the world to learn from us how to live as a Christian.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

2014 October 5 - Hedge

Before Mass:
Weve got two readings today about vineyards they talk about all the steps the owner went through to build the vineyard in order to maximize the harvest.  There are a lot of great things we could say about that , but I want you to concentrate on one point in particular.  It talks about building a hedge around the vineyard. Think about that pointWhat is the hedge?  Whats it for?  The first reading TELLS us what the vineyard is but using that analogy what is the hedge?

OK Im gonna do something odd today Ill give you the punch-line FIRST, then I have a story to explain it.  So, obviously, the vineyard is the Church and you and I are the branches on the vines.   The hedge around the vineyard is Gods law.  Got that?  You could say the Hedge is the 10 commandments.  The boundaries that God has set for His people.  So given that understanding What is the purpose of the hedge?  What is the purpose of Gods law?   

When Jerry was in high school, he knew everything.  Really everything well at least everything he thought was important.  He knew how to do the absolute least he could in order to squeak by in his classes at school  He knew how to chase people away whom he didnt really want to talk to you know how teens are often theyre quiet with a scowl on their face and any attempt to make a real conversation just pushes them further into their shell.  The only response you get is a one or two syllable grunt.  Those of us who matured past that point quickly grow tired of even trying to communicate which is what the teen wants.  Just leave me alone.  Theres nothing YOU know that I need to know. 

At home, it seemed he and his Mom were always fighting.  She just wouldnt leave him alone.  For example, she kept nagging at him for leaving all the dirty dishes and clothes all-over his bedroom.  It was so bad, that she sometimes had to go get all the dishes herself, because there were no more cups or spoons left in the kitchen.  Jerrys Dad tried to reason with himbut Jerry wouldnt listen . So Dad made a rule:  Every day before you can have the car keys, you have to bring all of the dishes from your room and put them in the dishwasher.  But Jerry just rolled his eyes whatever
Another constant issue was video games If Jerry had his way, hed waste just about every evening and most weekends in front of the TV in his room playing those video games.  His parents had to make a rule that there would be no video games until homework was done and no more than 1 hour per day.  Jerry couldnt believe they could be such tyrants!!!. Im not a 5-year-old!  Its not fair!  So hed lie saying he was heading to the library to study but instead hed go over to Pauls house to play on his X-box.  Jerry wanted the newest X-box but it was expensive.  He didnt have a job and even if he did have a job hed probably never go to it anyway because he was SO BUSYbusy doing what? - playing video games.  One day, he saw his Moms purse open on the kitchen table and right there was her credit card.  He slowly snatched it up and headed up to his computer where he ordered the x-box system on-line.  He was sly he had it delivered to Pauls house so maybe he could keep his Mom from seeing it.  But the next day, when Mom was trying to pay for gas at the gas station, her credit card was rejected.  So she called the company and found out that somebody had used her card to buy something expensive from Best-Buy online.  She knew immediately who it was 

When she confronted Jerry, he rolled his eyes again whatever you never treat me like an adult.  Youre always getting on my case.  You never let me have anything I want!  Im leaving!!!

Mom didnt think it would escalate to THIS level, but maybe it was for the best.  Maybe it was time for him to learn just how good he has it at home.  He stomped upstairs and slammed his door. 

Mom and Dad met him at the front door 10 minutes later.  Jerry we love you we want you to stay.  Jerry just rolled his eyes whatever you guys dont love me you dont understand me and youre just always on my case with all of your stupid rules!!  Im outta here!!

He grabbed his dufflebag and the keys to the car and reached for the door handle.  Dad stuck out his foot to block the door.  Jerry you can leave if thats what you want but you can only take what is yours.  Jerry was like thats what Ive got all MY stuff here in this bag and my x-box is already in my car.

It took all the nerve Dad could muster to say the next thing son I love you.  In fact, I love you so much that All that stuff in that bag I bought for you to usebut it is not yours.  That x-box is paid for with money your mother and I earned.  It has to go back to the store for a refund so we can afford to pay the house payment this month.  This house which we want you to live in with us this is OUR home not your house.  I work everyday to get money to pay for it for the electricity which runs your games for the food for the car and the insurance and all the other stuff here at home.  You can leave if you want to, but realize that none of this stuff is yours.  We sure hope youll stay, but as long as you live under our roof, you will follow our rules.  You look at rules as something we come up with to keep you from doing or having what YOU want, but someday youll learn that rules are there to protect you.  As long as you follow the rules, life is much easier.  Think of it practically.When you follow the rules, theres no reason for Mom and I to yell at you.  :) 

Then Dad did something which surprised his wife.  Son you are free to make this decision on your own.  None of this stuff belongs to you but as of now I am giving you this car.  You can choose to take it and drive as far away from us as you want to go but remember - youll always be our son.  You can always come home.  Just please be careful you are a new driver. be safe follow the traffic laws and dont speed. 

Jerry rolled his eyes, there he goes again more rules he grabbed the keys, slammed the door, hopped in the car and headed for town.  There was a hill just before you got to town where it was impossible to see over.  Jerry got behind an old grandma driving 25 miles per hour as they approached the hill.  He stomped his foot impatiently on the floorboard.  And even though he could hear his Dad in his head reminding him to be safe and saw the sign that it was a no-passing zone on the hill, Jerry figured he had enough room to make it so he gunned it and pulled into the other lane. Just then a furniture truck came popping over the top.  With only inches to spare, Jerry swerved back into his lane so quickly that his wheels went off the other side of the road before he regained control. 

Jerrys heart was beating so hard it nearly burst out of his chest.  He pulled over and shut the engine off and without realizing it, tears started coming from his eyes.  Suddenly, like a light shining through the fog he understood what Dad had said: Rules are there to protect you.  I might think I can pass safely on a hill, but the law is very clear that it is a no-passing zone, because you cant see whats coming at you.  The rules are not random boundaries put in place to keep us from being happy but they are the very KEY to living life to the fullest.

Sooner or later, we all come to realize that WE have been planted in the choicest soil in Gods vineyard and that HE has given us everything even His law so that we can flourish and bear great fruit.