Saturday, December 31, 2016

2017/01/01 What's Your ONE THING?

At the beginning of Advent, I challenged everyone to ask yourself if you were better off spiritually than you were a year ago… and more importantly – I challenged you to start a new habit NOW so that you WOULD be better off a year from now.  Most of us ‘probably’ didn’t really start a new habit, so I bought a thousand of these MASS JOURNALS (From Matthew Kelly) to pass out to everyone old enough to write.  This is a habit I’d like us ALL to start TODAY.

Imagine if every time you came to Mass, you went home inspired…  Imagine if week after week you brought this journal with you.  When you arrive in your pew, you kneel down for a minute and pray this simple prayer on the back:  “God, show me ONE way in this Mass that I can be a better person this week”.  That’s it…simple.  Then – pay attention:  to the music, the prayers, the readings, the homily…and when it hits you, write it down.  

If you do that every week for a year, you will have yourself a powerful spiritual journal.  YOUR life will be changed.

On the way home from church, talk with your family – what was YOUR one thing?  You will be amazed at the things people will pick-up on. 

Imagine what would happen if EVERYone in our Parish did this – everybody coming to church with their journal and praying to God – God show me one way in this Mass I can be a better person this week.  It would be a revolution!!!  Every one of us would be more engaged – every one of us trying to grow in our faith.  Imagine the conversations that would take place after Mass – everybody sharing their one thing – Imagine the conversations with our family, friends, co-workers.  Our PARISH would be changed.

Take it one step further – what if every Catholic in the United States came to church looking for their one thing?  This culture would be changed.  You and I can’t change the country, but we can change one person – our self.

Start today – pray the prayer – write down your one thing, then on the way home….ask someone what THEIR one thing was and how they’re going to be a better person this week – then share yours.  In fact – go on-line to our parish website and post your one-thing!  I’m serious!  Then you can scan through what other people said their one thing was… it should be inspiring to see how many different things we all hear.  I really want our college folks to do this.  It will help keep us connected with them – AND – since they go to different parishes, they’re likely hearing a DIFFERENT one-thing.

Yes, this might be a bit awkward at first – but just by asking the question, we start to change our culture to make it NORMAL to talk about what God wants from us.

2017/01/01 What's in a Name?

What’s in a name?  We call Mary the “mother of God”.  But, she’s got more names than anybody I can think of:  our Lady of Guadalupe, Our Lady of Lourdes, our Lady of Fatima, Undoer of knots, I could go on… But THIS name is key to our Faith.  If we don’t believe Mary is the Mother of God, our Faith collapses… If you don’t believe me, let’s look at some history and see what kind of arguments it started… and follow that argument it to its logical conclusion.

In the early 400’s, this was not a dogma of the Church…meaning, Mary was not yet “officially” declared to be Mother of God.  Most dogmas, in fact, are not defined until someone tries to prove it’s not true.  In this case, MANY people in the Church had started calling Mary “Theotokos” – which is Mother of God…or more literally ‘God Bearer’.  However, a guy from Syria named Nestorius thought that was demeaning to God… if God was born of a woman, then that makes God human.  So he decided to use a different term “Christokos” – which is ‘Christ Bearer’.  Seems like a simple, innocent change of a word – why should anybody care?  People DID care – in fact, Pope Celestine along with the council of Ephesus ex-communicated Nestorius over this simple, innocent change of a word.

Theologians were adamant that ‘Christ Bearer’ ended up dividing Jesus into two persons:  the human Jesus and the divine Jesus.  To deny that Mary gave birth to God is to deny the divinity of Jesus… and if Jesus wasn’t divine, then that would shake the very foundations of our Faith, because he as much as told us he was God!  Think about that yourself for a moment:  First – do you believe Jesus was/is God?  Second – do you believe He was God when he was two years old?  Third – do you believe He was God while still in the womb of Mary?  While He was in the womb is when Elizabeth declared, “Who am I that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”  Even Elizabeth recognized the fetus was God.

What we believe about Mary is important because it directly impacts what we believe about Jesus.  Actually – there’s a line in the second reading which helps us understand:
     When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son,
     born of a woman, born under the law,
     to ransom those under the law,
     so that we might receive adoption as sons.

Born of a woman – born under the law – because only someone born under the law could fulfill the law.

God sent his Son – who is the second person of the Trinity – which means He IS God!  Humanity in its fallen state could NOT fulfill the law, so God had to do it to take away the sins of the world.  Only God could adopt us into His family as sons and daughters.  If Jesus wasn’t divine, then you and I are still immersed in our sins and we’re all damned!

What’s in a name?  Everything.  No Mary, No Jesus.

Since Mary IS the mother of God – and Jesus is our brother – then Mary is OUR mother too.  Don’t be afraid to reach out to her.  A mother loves unconditionally – and she loves you and me as much as she loved our brother, Jesus.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

2016/12/18 - 4th Week Advent - Colossal Interruption


Got a few great things coming up:

First – at the doors you’ll find a wide assortment of CD’s and books – some of which are new titles you probably haven’t seen yet.  This is a great chance to pick up some Faith-filled stocking stuffers for only a $3 donation.  Check it out after Mass. 

Second – We’re starting a new Bible Study on the 1st and 3rd Thursdays of the month – first Thurs at SC, 3rd Thurs at SR.  And – we’ll offer babysitting!  More info in the bulletin, or contact me. 

Third – Everyone is encouraged to have their homes blessed.  Fr Eugene and I have left several evenings open in January and February.  Call the parish office to schedule your blessing.  More details in the bulletin (if not this week, it will be there next week)

OK – getting down to business of the day.  If you summed up today’s Gospel, this would be it:  Joseph Did as the Angel commanded.  … if that was the whole story, we could all go home now… but there is SOOO much more to the story...  So much more than you and I get in this short little snipit.  Try to put yourself into Joseph’s shoes as we listen today and we’ll talk about it in the Homily.


Every eye turned when Joseph walked into the local tavern – Joseph NEVER walks into the tavern… ESPECIALLY at 10 am!  Most lost some interest in him when he ordered a glass of kosher milk.  He sat in a dark corner – obviously in deep thought.  By evening, He was on his sixth glass of milk.  The other patrons kept glancing over at him as he sat there mostly with his eyes closed… he would mutter to himself once in a while – then shake his head and mutter NO loud enough that everyone could hear.  Then he’d take a drink and go back to thinking.  What was he thinking? 

This is bad… really bad.  My life was all planned out!  I finished my carpentry apprenticeship a few years ago; my business is starting to take off to where I could support a family:  I’ve developed a reputation for quality work at a fair price.  Speaking of reputation:  I am son of David’s line – I’m in good-standing at the synagogue   –all in all, My life’s plan was all in order!   

Until a few months ago – as my parents were arranging the marriage to a young girl from town, I was excited.  I knew who she was… pretty… smart… and very devoted to God, which will be good for my reputation as well.  But before she would agree to marry, she asked to talk with me and she explained that she had taken a perpetual vow of chastity. 

Say WHAT?  As you can expect, that set me back a bit… OK, more than a bit.  I mean – what man marries a woman who has made a vow like that?!  I almost walked out immediately, but she kept talking… there was something DIFFERENT about her:  the way she talked about God was so sincere and heart-felt and convincing, that I knew regardless of that vow, this is the woman I need to spend my life with.  THIS woman was going to bring me closer to God.  For the first time in my life, I found something so precious, I’d do anything to be with her – including throwing out my own life plans of a family and taking my own vow of chastity.  So the betrothal was completed and we started making marriage plans.   

After that little roadbump – everything was going according to plan – until…. this morning.  She tells me she’s going to have A BABY!!  You can imagine how I felt… I was Angry!  She convinced me to take the vow of chastity with her and then she goes with another man?!!?!  Anger doesn’t describe it… more than anything, I was hurt…. I felt like a fool…This woman had me truly convinced that she was a Godly woman, and I was really looking forward to our life together… but she was a fake… a liar… a cheat.  Not only that, but what will the people think of me?  My reputation is going to be ruined.  I might even have to move to another town and start over.  What’s worse, Mary is going to be stoned and her entire family’s reputation will be destroyed.  Once I make it public that this child is not mine, she’ll be taken into the public square and stoned to death.  It’s God’s LAW that we should do so… but still… there’s reason to doubt.  See – she told me – she INSISTED… that she had NOT been with another man – but – (shakes head) – I almost can’t say it with a straight face – she CLAIMS that the Holy Spirit impregnated her.  (shakes head)  I thought she was so young and innocent and truthful and Godly, but she expects me to believe THAT?   

No …That’s too much to believe…. No… the right thing would be to take her to the public square –
Shakes head…. but I can’t do that… she’s just an innocent young girl.   Instead, I’ll just quietly end the betrothal – then she’ll be free to marry the real father.  It’s her only chance of avoiding being stoned. 

What a colossal mess!  He laid his head down on the table – not even realizing how tired he was from agonizing about this all day.  Next thing he knew an angel appeared to him… he was scared to death!!!  The angel sat down at the same table with a glass of kosher milk and talked in a low, steady voice:  Joseph – you are a righteous son of David.  God sent me here so that you would understand what Mary told you is true…. The Baby to be born IS the Son of God – conceived by the Holy Spirit.  Mary did not lie… she has remained faithful to her vow and to you.  Do not be afraid, Joseph.  If you will accept the job, God wants you to be part of His plan.  You will be the protector of the Messiah and His mother. 

Suddenly Joseph woke up, feeling a mix of fear and excitement:  It was true!  Mary really WAS the Godly woman he thought she was!  What’s more, did he understand that right???  HE had been chosen to play a role in God’s plan of salvation?!  What had started as the worst day of his life suddenly turned around and he saw this colossal interruption by God as the source for the greatest blessing of his life and for that matter, it was bigger than that:  This was the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy…this was huge for the life of Israel.. this was colossal! 

See what I mean?  Joseph did what the angel commanded… but there is SOOO much more to the story.  Joseph was human – and he had to struggle with all of the emotions and decisions that you and I would have to deal with in that situation. 

God wants to invade your life plans with a colossal interruption.  God has chosen you and me to play a role in bringing His salvation to the world!  And how will you and I react?  

No way – doesn’t fit into MY plans for MY life. 

See we all have our plans – and anything that gets in the way of OUR plans we get rid of as soon as possible:  we get a headache, we take a pill.  Our wife doesn’t give us the respect we deserve, so we get rid of her and get a new one.  A baby shows up by surprise… we run over to Planned Parenthood to have that little mess cleaned up…. 
In the 21st Century, we are in so much control of our lives that anytime God tries to invade our plans with His Grace, we stop it as quickly as we can… because it’s not in OUR plan. 

Imagine the blessings God could dump on the earth if, like Joseph, we would throw our plans out the window and let God make our life plans.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

2016/11/27 - Stop. What's that sound?

Before Mass:

There’s a song from 1967 from a group called Buffalo Springfield which captures the theme of today’s readings.  Stop.  What’s that sound?  Everybody look what’s going down.  Stop.  What’s that sound?  Everybody look what’s going down.  Every one of us once in a while needs to stop what we’re doing – raise our head up and notice where we are, where we’ve been, and where we’re headed.  Only when we do that can we make a course correction so we can end up where we WANT to be.  So as you listen today, think about three questions:  Where am I now?  Where do I want to go?  And What do I need to do different to get there?


Jerry thought he was in pretty good health.  He jogged once in a while, usually watched what he ate, although he would binge on Ice Cream once in a while.  I say he ‘thought’ he was in pretty good health…that is… until a series of events happened a couple of years ago.

First, his employer wanted to do something to limit Insurance costs.  The way they chose to do that was to pass out these little things… step counters or pedometers.  It was actually a stroke of genius – by giving folks these step counters and challenging them to average at LEAST 10,000 steps per day, they could improve the well-being of employees, which in turn should reduce insurance costs.  See this is based on the principle in business that you can only improve what you can measure.  Up to that point, the only measures they had of employee health was the number of sick days and the dollars spent on healthcare.  Step counts made it personal…THIS was something each person could individually control.

Jerry accepted the challenge and put on his step counter that first day – going about his normal daily routine – but at the end of the workday, he only had like 4000 steps!  He had spent most of that day at his computer.  Yikes – this isn’t going to be as easy as I thought!  He went for a jog that afternoon managed to beat the 10,000 steps that day – but then came the next day.  He wasn’t in the habit of jogging EVERY day, so how was he going to make up the steps he needed?  He got creative.  He parked his car at the far end of the parking lot so that he’d have to walk further to and from his desk.  He started hitting a local park once a day just to go for a 30 minute walk while praying his rosary.  By changing his HABITS, he was able to start averaging 15,000 steps per day… which he felt really good about.  Not only that, but he noticed he had more energy during the day and actually LOOKED FORWARD to his exercise time.  Jerry’s life changed because of that little device.  Our lives change when our habits change.

Second, Jerry didn’t like to go to the doctor… in fact; he hadn’t been for a Physical in 5 years or more.  When he caught the Flu that year, he went to the doctor who twisted his arm into scheduling a physical. So, he went through the normal blood tests and poking and prodding which nobody enjoys…  and as he went home he thought, Great – done with THAT for another 5 years…  Until the phone rang the next day.  There were some abnormalities in one of the tests, and they were sending him to get a couple of follow-up tests.  As you can imagine, THAT got him worried… what did they find?  Was he going to die?  His mind went to the worst-case scenarios, and by the time the results of the second test came back, he had worked himself into a tizzy.  The doctor explained that it was SERIOUS, but He could probably control it by changing his eating habits. 

A DIET!?  Yuck, Jerry thought, my life is over… if I can’t eat what I want, I won’t be happy.  But, like any good wife would do, his wife Brenda jumped on board with the doctor’s orders and helped Jerry to change his eating habits.  Jerry was surprised to find how much he LIKED salads and Kale… things he avoided at all costs before the diet.  He missed the ice cream, but soon found that Sherbet was a decent substitute.  He noticed that he was sleeping better and had less head-aches than he used to have.  Who’d have believed that he could improve how he felt by changing what he ate!?  Jerry’s life changed because of his diet.  "Our lives change when our habits change." (special thanks to Matthew Kelly for this phrase)

What’s all this have to do with the readings today?  The first line in Paul’s letter:  “Now is the hour for you to awake from your sleep”.  Jesus’ words in the Gospel:  “Stay Awake” and “So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”

The theme for today is to wake up.  It is sooo easy for us to get in a rut – to let the routine of our lives carry us along so that we don’t even realize where we are slipping.  We don’t even realize we have unhealthy habits.  We need something to trigger us to stop, look around, and make a course correction.
So the Church gives us Advent – a time to do a spiritual health check-up.  Ask ourselves:  am I better off than I was a year ago…?  Do we have any way to actually KNOW we’re better or worse?  I mean – how do you measure SPIRITUAL health?  I guess you COULD measure how many times per week you go to Mass, how many times you pray a rosary, meal prayers, Eucharistic adoration, how many Catholic books you’ve read, how many Catholic CD’s.  Those aren’t necessarily a good measure of spiritual health, but like taking your temperature tells us if there is an infection in our body, our prayer life might be a good indicator of how healthy we are spiritually.
WAKE UP!  Are you in a rut?  ARE you closer to Jesus than you were a year ago?  Regardless of the answer to that question, what can you and I PLAN to do start TODAY so next year we CAN honestly say we’re growing spiritually.  I Mean, if I just keeping doing whatever I have been doing, can I honestly expect to GROW in spiritual health?  If we’re not growing, we’re dying.  So what can we do this Advent?  What habits can we start NOW that will change OUR lives?
I have several ideas:
1)      Get yourself a Journal and every day write down what God did for you that day

2)      Bring it Mass and write down the one thing that God shows you that you can do better this week

3)      Schedule a prayer time:  for example, Get out of bed 5 minutes earlier and start your day in prayer

a.      You can read the readings of the day

b.      Read a reflection – sort-of a 1 minute homily  - there are many ways to get these:  email, internet, an app on your phone, and actual books like the Magnificat

c.       You could do an examination of conscience:  walk through your day looking for what went well, where you need to thank God, and recognize where you could have done better… then think through the day ahead and ask for God’s Grace

d.      Or follow the prayer process – these little cards are at all of the doors for Free.  It’s a simple outline to help you to hit the key points of prayer…to start to build a personal relationship with God.

4)      Pick up a Catholic book and read one per month. 

5)      Listen to a Catholic CD each week

6)      Join a Bible study… we’re going to start one on Tuesday nights in January… more info to come

7)      Make a Cursillo – it is a short course to learn what it really means to be a Disciple of Jesus

8)      Join a faith sharing group – we have several meeting weekly.  Catch me if you’re interested.

9)      Come to Eucharistic Adoration:  Wed at SR, Fri at SC – or stop in either church…we’re blessed that we have our churches open 24 hours a day.  Stop in for 5 minutes on your way to or from work.

10)  Pray a rosary together as a family – once a week – or even every day.  Or go for a walk and pray a rosary – thereby exercising your body and your spirit at the same time.

11)  If you’re not praying at meals, start now

12)  Read the Sunday readings together as a family one evening – maybe even discuss what YOU think the homily will be about

13)  Sign up to have your house blessed:  There will be more information in the next few weeks, but Father and I would love to come Bless your house.  We’re going to leave some nights open in January and February and you can sign up.  Then – invite your neighbors to do the same:  as long as we’re in the neighborhood, we may as well bless a bunch of houses the same day/night.

Obviously, these are just some random ideas to help all of us get off the starting block… to WAKE UP… to push ourselves out of our every-day routines and form new habits, to do a spiritual check-up… Am I closer to Jesus that I was a year ago?  Am I satisfied with my spirituality?  If I ask Jesus about my prayer life, would HE be satisfied? 
Start a new habit today…Our lives change when our habits change. 


Saturday, November 5, 2016

Homily 2016/11/06 - God of the Living

Before Mass:
Pay attention to that first reading – it’s kind of gruesome… but don’t think of it as a story from 3000 years ago.  This story could just as easily have been written about Mexico just a century ago – or – it could be happening this very day in the Middle East.  Martyrdom has been a part of the Jewish and Christian faiths since the beginning.  You and I may very well see the day where this story continues in our own country.  It’s a disturbing thought… but… there is good news here.  Listen today for the GOOD news.

Now – at first glance, that Gospel might seem like it’s about marriage.  But that’s really just a side-issue.  See the Sadducees don’t believe in the Resurrection, so they were trying to prove to Jesus that it’s not possible – and their approach was actually quite logical.  See – in Jewish law, if your brother died, you had to take his wife as your own and raise up heirs in his name.  This was the law.   So they presented this hypothetical, yet realistic scenario of the woman who married seven brothers…  Jesus – don’t you see what kind of problem this creates?  If they’re all resurrected, there’s gonna be a big fight on the other side because all of them will claim her as his wife!

Jesus sees through their thinly veiled tactics and kinda brushes off the side issue.  He drills straight to the point:  look guys, there IS a resurrection… even Moses, whom you consider to be possibly your greatest fore- father of your faith – even he knew there was a resurrection.   The Sadducees would have been very familiar with the name Moses used for God “the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob”.  In fact, these Sadducees would have used the very same name for God DAILY in their own prayers.  Jesus was quite brilliant to use their own words against them:  In spite of the fact that these patriarchs have died, God continues being their God, their protector, their friend. Death hasn’t been able to destroy God’s love and fidelity toward them.  We don’t refer to God in the past tense… God IS.

This is REALLY good news.  This is direct words from Jesus which confirm for us that there IS a resurrection… that THIS life ain’t all there is.  Now – don’t let that thought go by you:  this life ain’t all there is.  Do we really believe it?  Do we live like we believe it?

Do we believe it enough that we could be like the 20 Christians beheaded by ISIS last year?  Could we kneel down and refuse to deny our faith in Jesus because we KNOW this is not the end?
Could we be like Saint José Luis Sánchez del Río – our NEWEST official saint in the Catholic Church – canonized on Oct 16th by Pope Francis.  He died 88 years ago at the age of 14, and his story should be memorized by every man, woman, and child in the Americas… because his story is our story.

In 1914, A VERY anti-Catholic government came to power in Mexico. The church opposed some of the things they wanted to do, so they did everything they could to abolish Catholicism. They closed churches and demolished them.  It became illegal for the Church to run a school…which by-the-way is still true in Mexico.  The priests went into hiding. In some places the Mass was outlawed altogether and priests and nuns were forbidden to wear their religious garb.  A resistance rose up and among them was Jose Luis – he was an altar boy before the priest in his town was hung in the church.  He aided the Cristeros – the resistance fighters – until he was taken hostage and tortured.  Finally, they filleted his feet and made him walk several miles on gravel to stand by his open grave.  One last time, he was given the chance to renounce his faith… but he replied, “VIVA CRISTO REY”…long live Christ the King… and he was then martyred.

What gives people like him the courage to withstand that kind of torture and pressure?  Only FAITH can do that – faith that this life is just a shadow of what is to come.  It’s a kind of hope that drives them on to the end.

That same hope lives in every one of us – doesn’t it?  Most of us have lost a loved one in our life.  Can we even imagine facing that death or our own death if we DIDN’T have that faith in a resurrection? 

Particularly in this month of November, when we just celebrated the feast of all Souls, We take great comfort in knowing that God is the God of the LIVING, not the dead .  So when we say “the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob”, we can also say the God of Tim, the God of Tom, the God of every one of those people represented in the book of rememberence.  We WILL see them again, because
…God is not the God of the Dead – but the God of the Living.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Homily 2016/10/23 - Re-ad-JUST

Before Mass:
Of all the people in here today, Who’s prayer does God listen to?  … is it Father Eugene’s prayers?  Is it the people sitting in the front row?  The people in the back row?  Is it the people who follow all the rules and DESERVE to be heard by God?  Is it people who kneel to pray – or those who stand with their hands in the air?  Who’s prayer does God hear best?  The answer to that question is in every reading – so listen to the answer…- AND listen for where YOU are in these readings….so you can answer the real question:  Does God hear MY prayer?

Before I get back to the question of whose prayers God hears, we need to talk about that one word at the end of the Gospel.  Jesus used a word here which may not mean anything to us:  He said the tax collector went home ‘JUSTIFIED’.  What’s that mean, and why is that important?  Justified means to be set right.  So in this case, it means his relationship with God was set right. 
Let me use an example:  Deer season is upon us – and all of us hunters take out our crossbows or guns and take a few practice shots aiming directly at the center of a target.  What do you do after you take a shot?  You check where you hit.  Then you take another shot to see where it hits – and once you realize how far off your shot is, you adjust your sights.  On the side of the scope is an adjustment where you can click it a couple of times to move the scope up or down or right or left… the goal of that is so when you take a shot with the scope pointed directly at the center of the target, the arrow or bullet hits that target.
So – what if you buy the best gun and the best ammo, even buy the best targets in the world… then took your practice shot, and didn’t even LOOK at where the arrow landed?  Or – what if you looked at it and said – yeah, I’m way off, but it doesn’t matter.  What’s gonna happen when you take a shot at that 22 point buck that swaggers up to your deer stand?  The arrow will fly past the target and the buck will get away.  If we don’t look at our shot and adjust our sights, then taking practice shots is a waste of time and ammunition…and we’ll go hungry this winter.
In our spiritual life, we do the same thing… it’s called prayer.  When we pray, it’s not about looking at everything that WE have done.  It’s not about what sacrifices WE made or how many prayers WE did… Prayer is about looking at our shots and honestly recognizing where we are off…where we need to adjust our sights.  For example, in my prayer I might walk through my day – thanking God for the blessings I received along the way – but also recognizing where I blew it.  Maybe I lost my temper and said some things I shouldn’t have.  Maybe I gave into temptation.  Maybe God put someone in my path who needed help, but I chose to look the other way.  When I see those points where my arrow missed the mark, then I need to adjust my scope.  Obviously, my scope must not be pointed directly at God.  Now – how do I adjust the scope?  Prayer:  I can’t do it alone… I must beg God for his mercy for missing the mark, then ask Him to help me readjust my sights. 
Notice I said – “readjust” my sights…. “Adjust” comes from the same word that Jesus used… “Justified”.  When my scope is pointed directly at God, then my scope is JUSTIFIED… it is set right… pointed in the right direction.  When it points away from God, even just a little, I miss the mark… and literally, the word ‘sin’ means ‘ missed the mark’.  Prayer is about adjusting our hearts to point to God.  If prayer doesn’t change us, it’s not really prayer!  If we’re not re-aiming our thoughts and hearts toward God, if we’re not justifying our sights… then God won’t hear our prayer because it’s not really a prayer!
Back to our question: Who’s prayer does God hear the best?  We heard several answers in the readings:  “he hears the cry of the oppressed”, He is “not deaf to the wail of the orphan, nor to the widow”…”The one who serves God willingly is heard”, “The prayer of the lowly pierces the clouds”, the one who humbles himself will be exalted, and of course, our psalm “the lord hears the cry of the poor”.
You could sum all of that up with the phrase that Jesus used in the Beatitudes… Blessed are the Poor in Spirit.  See, Jesus chose his words carefully – he could have chosen a word for poor which means – someone who has a home – but has trouble making ends meet.  Instead he chose the word for someone who is destitute… implying that they have no home – no job – no way to live - their only recourse is to beg.  So, we could reword the psalm to say “the Lord hears the cry of the Beggars”
Think about what that means to be a beggar:  you have no means to take care of yourself.  You are COMPLETELY at the mercy of the person to whom you are begging.  If they don’t feel gracious that day, you or your kids might go to bed hungry.  From that perspective, that makes it REALLY good news that “The lord hears the cry of the beggars.”
Which takes us to the Gospel – Jesus implies that the Tax Collector’s prayer was heard.  Why?  First look at the Pharisee:  what made his prayer NOT be heard?  Was it because he sat in the front row?  Because he dared to approach God without fear?  Was it his words?  Nothing he said was untrue… but they give us a view into his heart.  See – he thought that by doing all of these RELIGIOUS things, he could earn his own salvation.  That’s an important point, so don’t miss it:  He thought all of his fasting and tithing and outward religiousness made him RICH in spirit, so that he already possessed the mercy of God… because he deserved it.  The Pharisees were the goodest of the good people… in today’s terms, they went to church every day, they fasted twice a week (even though the requirement is only to fast on Fridays during Lent), they gave their full 10 percent to the church.  If anybody DESERVED the mercy of God, these guys did.  But Jesus says that his prayer wasn’t answered.  Now hopefully you’re feeling the same thing his hearers did that day, “What?  If THESE guys’ prayers aren’t heard, then there is NO hope for us!”
The Tax Collector, on the other hand.  In today’s terms, this guy is from ISIS… the baddest of the bad.  What made HIS prayer be heard?  Was it because he stood at a distance?  Was it because he wouldn’t raise his eyes to God?  Was it his words?  None of the above – although they all give us a clue about why he was heard:  it’s because he was poor in spirit.  He recognized that HE could do nothing to gain the favor of God.  He was destitute when it came to spiritual matters, and all he could do was BEG.  The lord hears the cry of the Beggar.
So each of us can enter into our own prayer every day in one of two ways – we can swagger in and list off for God all of OUR accomplishments in order to REMIND him that He OWES us something – or we can look honestly at where we’ve missed the target and recognize that we are destitute – that we are beggars… we don’t deserve our next breath!  Much less, do we deserve any mercy or other favors from God. 
Prayer that does not change us or re-set our sights is not prayer. 

Saturday, October 1, 2016

2016/10/02 - Exercising Faith

Notice it was the apostles who asked to have their faith increased… the APOSTLES…the inner circle… if anybody in the world would have faith, surely it would be them.  They walked with Jesus – heard him speak – they SAW HIS MIRACLES.  They spent 24 hours a day in His presence….and yet, THEY asked for more faith???  If you and I sometimes doubt our faith, we can take comfort in the fact that these super-Christians, these first Bishops of the Church, were also having doubts.  Most of us would echo their request, “Lord, Increase our Faith”.

What’s confusing is Jesus’ response to that request.  First – he tells them that if you had just the smallest amount of faith, you would do the impossible.  In other words, he’s kinda telling them they don’t even have faith yet!  Then he jumps into that parable of the unprofitable servant…and if you’re like me, you wonder, what does THAT have to do with increasing our faith?!

If you learn nothing else, hear this definition of faith which I heard from Bishop Robert Barron:  “Faith is an attitude of Trust and confidence in God.”  (repeat)

How DO we get more faith…How do we learn to Trust God more?  Is faith something you get when you’re young and carry with you the rest of your life?  Or is it something you grow out of?  You don’t grow out of it – but like a muscle – if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it.  I may have had good arm muscles in high school, but since I went into computers, they didn’t continue to get exercised…so they went back to the arms of a 90 pound weakling.

Faith is like a muscle – it only grows when it is fed and exercised.  Think about that metaphor, because I think it’s really a good one.

Like a muscle, Faith is something we originally receive from God when we’re first created.  God plants a homing device in each of us which guides us back to Him. But it’s our choice whether we want our Faith Muscle to grow.  We can’t just ask Jesus to “increase our faith”… WE have to exercise it.  Building our Faith is like building Muscle.

It might be easier to understand if we substitute Faith with the word Trust, as Bishop Barron pointed out.

How do we build trust in God – how do we exercise our own faith muscle?
- I can trust in my wealth, or I can choose to trust that God will provide.
- I can place my trust in my abilities. (strength, brain, understanding) – or I can trust that God make it happen
- I can trust my own life’s plan – so God doesn’t have a place to make His presence known.  If I don’t give him the chance to take credit, I’ll never recognize His presence …and only in recognizing His miracles will my trust in Him grow.

-Most of us fill our day with one thing after another and we fill-in any gaps with technology like phones, ipad, TV, video games – or I can schedule in time for God – time to pray – time to be silent - time to do something for someone – time to read a good Christian book… in short – schedule time for God to speak to me.

No matter what I do, I shouldn’t expect ‘thanks’ or some sort of payback…. That’s part of the entitlement mentality of our American culture of today… If I do ‘this’, I deserve ‘that’.  If I spend 10 minutes in prayer to God, he owes me more faith.  If I do a good job today working for the parish at the social, I deserve something in return from God.

That’s the point, I think, of the parable of the unprofitable servant.  We should concentrate on the job in front of us – doing what we are obliged to do – and not expect any special recognition or thanks.  I should just trust that in doing my job, I am fulfilling the will of God.

I’m sure every one of us has someone we can look up to that was a person of faith…someone who seemed to automatically put their trust in God.  For example, My mom was a woman of faith.  What’s that mean, she was a “woman of faith”?  It means She Trusted God.  How did she get to that point – and more importantly – how can we get the faith that she had?  Let’s look a little bit at her life.

She was born into a poor family with a dozen brothers and sisters.  Immediately, church was a central part of their lives – daily prayers – rosaries – going to Mass together.  These actions helped to build a foundation of Faith that would carry her through the rest of her life.

She married Dad when she was 19 and went on to have eleven kids herself.  Two of them died before age three, which had to make her heart heavy.  Money was tight and they lived in the bad part of town.  Many months they weren’t sure how they would make it to the next paycheck.  They learned to make do with what they had.  She could pinch a penny so tight it would squeeze out dimes.  She would cut coupons, run to every store to find bargains like double-coupon days.  The kids would wear the same clothes until they were thread-bare – then we’d get some “new” clothes either as hand-me-downs from cousins or from a yard sale.  People in the community recognized the need, and they would just drop-off clothes or food.  It never even occurred to me (until writing this homily) that this was charity… it was simply what people did… anybody who has excess of something would share it with somebody else.  Looking back, I can see how Mom had to swallow her pride to accept that charity…. But she never showed it.

She ran her kids everywhere, cooked meals, cleaned the house, did the shopping, cut hair, baked cakes to bring in some extra money, helped kids with homework, bathed them – all the things a stay-at-home Mom would do… and never expected a thanks.  As if that wasn’t enough, she took care of foster children for many years and even adopted my youngest sister… one more person to share the love with.  Mom’s only reward was watching her kids grow. 

Her greatest heart-ache was also her kids.  Somebody was always picking a fight over some silly thing. Like most kids….we all made some bad choices as we grew, and it would tear at her heart.  She prayed for us daily that God would show us the way, and I’m sure she cried herself to sleep at night wondering if God would ever intervene.  I learned yesterday that she actually carried a rosary in her pocket to pray for her kids, and she and Dad had a special parent’s prayer they’d pray daily.

In the end, every one of her kids grew into strong Christians –active in their Churches spread across the country.  Her lifelong mission was to get her kids to heaven – and it seems she successfully passed on the Faith to the next generation…. Which is remarkable in our society today.

What gave her such faith?  She was forced to exercise it.  I’m sure she asked God many times, “How Long, O Lord”.  But she continued to do the job in front of her.  That’s a key point:  when she couldn’t make sense of what was happening, she simply trusted that God would work it out – and she turned her attention to the job at hand:  raising her family.  She couldn’t place her trust in money, but had to trust that God would show her how to make it through or send angels would deliver hand-me-down clothes and day-old donuts to fill the gap in the budget.  She couldn’t plan her kids’ lives for them, but had to trust that the foundation of faith she had given them would one day carry them into an adult faith.

And when she approached the throne of God a year ago today, I’m sure God was smiling down at her for being the faithful servant – but – as with the servant in the Gospel, I’m sure her response was:
                          …“I merely did what I was obliged to do”

Saturday, September 10, 2016

2016/09/11 - Value of Junk

One thing always bugs me… OK… a lot of things bug me about these readings – but the one I want to point out is the woman who lost the coin. When she found the coin she threw a party!!! Don’t you think she spent more on the party than the coin was worth?? Seriously – it would be like – if I had 10 dollars to pay for my meals one day – and I lost one of the dollars. First of all – is a dollar really all that worth getting excited about? C’mon, I’m not gonna tear the house about and actually CLEAN the house just trying to find that one dollar. Secondly – if I found it, I’m sure not gonna jump up and down and buy everybody in the restaurant lunch… that would cost a lot more than the dollar I found. Instead – I’d just buy myself some ice cream with the extra dollar. 

Oh – and then – what shepherd in his right mind would leave 99 perfectly good sheep in the wilderness where wolves could attack them to go look for one stupid lost sheep! NONE…

As with every other case, if something in the Bible doesn’t make sense or SEEMS like a contradiction, then we either don’t understand.. or…the lesson being taught is hidden in the senselessness.

Jerry had a 1965 Ford Mustang he had picked up for next to nothing as a teen-ager. Next to nothing, because it was basically a junker. It had been wrecked. The engine didn’t run. It was rusty. Anybody in their right mind would have turned away from this heap of rusty metal… but not Jerry. He saw past the rust to the possibilities. He envisioned spending hours in the garage with his Dad rebuilding this car from the ground up. He envisioned driving it to school and all the girls’ eyes lighting up at his bright red Mustang as he pulled into the high school parking lot and revved the engine. He would dream of that day… he could SEE it… but nobody else could. It was junk.

He and his Dad tore into it – filling the garage with pieces and parts. Seemed like every evening and every weekend, they’d spend hours working on it – paying close attention to every detail – cause like his dad always said, “any job worth doing is worth doing right”. Progress was slow – and Jerry reached that age where it wasn’t a priority anymore. He had to get a job to pay for all the parts he was having shipped in. Girls entered the picture. School work and sports took priority… Dad kept trying to schedule some time to spend with him in the garage, but Jerry was “busy”. Before he knew it, MONTHS had gone by and he hadn’t touch a wrench. Then his Dad got really sick… it was stage 4 before they caught the cancer– and within a month, Jerry was burying Dad.

After that, Jerry couldn’t even go into the garage. It reminded him of all the time he’d spent with his Dad. The car sat in the garage – and Jerry collected up the pieces and parts and stacked them all in the seats of the car just in case SOME day he’d come back to it. But one thing led to another… jobs, girls, college, marriage, kids. Somewhere around the age of 42, living in a different house, Jerry went back to Mom’s house and into the garage and instead of seeing that car as something sad, he once again had the vision of working for hours on the car with his Dad. Suddenly, he wanted more than anything to finish that car – for Dad’s sake. Each hour he spent in the garage he would reminisce about those days with Dad... sometimes it brought tears to his eyes… but mainly it brought a smile. This car was his connection with his Dad. He spent his vacation that year and every other weekend in that garage. Finally the day came to start the engine, and it roared to life! After 30 years of being silent, this car was restored to its former glory. Jerry invited all his family and friends – including the ones from high school who had made fun of him for buying the pile of rusted metal. He threw a party with food, music, fireworks… but the highlight of the night was when Jerry opened the garage and drove the mustang into the yard.

A tear streamed down his cheek as he thought again of his Dad – and how he wished so much he was here to see this….THEIR completed project.

What’s my point? The value of the coin in that gospel story is not that important. What matters is the value it has to that woman. Perhaps it has sentimental value? Perhaps, as some scholars say, it is part of her dowry and she couldn’t get married until she found it. The point is – for HER, this coin is priceless… worth tearing the house apart… worth celebrating when she found it.

Likewise the Mustang was junk to anybody else, but to Jerry, it was the center of his life with his Dad and you couldn’t put a price tag on that car. It was worth any amount of time and trouble and expense to finish that car – because the value was… at least to Jerry – priceless.

To the rest of the world, you and I might look like junk. Why waste your time on some hillbilly from Dubois County? But our heavenly Father has dreamed about YOU since the world began… enjoying every moment of time he spent making you, forming you, teaching you through trials, lavishing you with gifts…. God is CRAZY about you. He would tear the house apart to find you. He would spend every moment of eternity looking for you and trying to get just another moment to spend with you. He will spare no trouble, spare no amount of time, spare no expense to win you back… NO AMOUNT OF MERCY… YOU ARE NOT JUNK. Like a lost cell phone that has all of your personal photos on it, God has put HIS image on YOU. You are irreplaceable.

God would even hang on a cross if that’s what it took to get you back. And when you do come back… “there will be more rejoicing in heaven…”

Saturday, August 20, 2016

2016/08/21 - Strive

Before Mass:
Today’s culture would tell us that EVERYbody goes to heaven… as long as I live a good life – or at least better than average – maybe go to church a couple times per month… I’m IN!  What do you think?  Is that true?  In the Gospel, somebody asked Jesus basically that question…  We hear what might sound like two opposing answers to that question – the first reading and psalm – and even the end of the Gospel indicate that the road to heaven is wide and everyone is welcome.  On the other hand, Jesus makes it very clear in the Gospel that the road to heaven is very narrow, and hard to enter.
Which is it?  How many of us sitting here today WILL enter the kingdom of heaven?  How DO we enter?  Listen closely for the answers to those questions.

The Gospel reading is aimed at the Jews who thought all they had to do to be on God’s good side was be a descendent of Abraham… we’ve heard this theme many times recently because Jesus knew that this was what most people thought.  Hey – I was born into this religion… I go to the synagogue most of the time… I keep most of the 10 commandments… Surely I’ve got it covered.  Jesus clearly blows that out of the water over and over:  just because we are blood relations does not mean you have a relationship with me.  How blunt can he be… “I don’t know where you are from”.

See – religion is about relationship.  Specifically – our relationship with God and His people.  If we don’t have a relationship with Jesus, we won’t know Him – and He won’t know us.
There’s a song on the radio by Kelly Clarkson – where the father leaves his wife and kids and doesn’t contact them for years – then, when she had made a name for herself, he comes back, wanting to re-establish that relationship. 

This is a good picture of what the Gospel is telling us.  Heaven is about a relationship with God. We have our whole lives to build that relationship so that Jesus will take us home to be with him.  But many of us walk away from him and then after we die we go knocking on heaven’s door, Jesus will say, I don’t know you….   But Jesus, you’re my brother!  We’re from the same hometown!  We went to school together!  I was baptized and confirmed as a Catholic!   I even went to St. Isidore parish most weekends…..   “I tell you, I don’t know you.”

Sounds so cold – so unfair.  But that’s because we don’t really understand heaven…  I mean – what happened to “everybody is welcome”?  Doesn’t EVERYBODY go to heaven when we die?
Heaven is to be with God forever – but we’ll only be with Him if we know Him and He knows us.

Religion is about relationship  with God and His people.  How do we build that relationship with him?  Think about that in human terms… How do we build relationships with friends?  We talk to each other – we spend time together – we share our inner thoughts with each other.  If we don’t do that, we’re not very good friends.  If we never make it a priority to spend time together, our relationship will fall apart.   Marriage is the perfect example.  Ask any married couple and they’ll tell you:  maintaining a relationship takes WORK!  You don’t accidentally stay married for 50 years.

This is where the second reading comes in – Paul talks about Discipline.  What father doesn’t discipline his children?  Think of what a kid would grow up to be like if he doesn’t learn discipline as a child.  They don’t learn right from wrong.  They think everything in the world is about ME me ME…. They take what they want, they won’t have friends because they USE people, and likely end up in jail or murdered at an early age.  If I don’t teach my kid treat other people as HE wants to be treated, then he will end up being hated by people and he will live a lonely, miserable life. 

As Paul says, “At the time, all discipline seems a cause not for joy but for pain,
yet later it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by it.”

We NEED discipline in order to grow socially, so we really WILL have a more joyful life.  I think all of us can understand that – If we really love our kids, we’ll discipline them so they can live a more joyful life.

Well  - that applies to Religion as well.  Religion is a set of disciplines which we try to live by in order to build our relationship with God…  prayer, Mass, confession, studying scripture, follow the Golden Rule.  This discipline is not always easy.  Just like in a marriage, it requires a daily – even hourly – re-commitment to Love… to live like Jesus…who is the narrow gate.  THIS is the discipline which Paul tells us that leads to the ‘peaceful fruit of righteousness’.

One analogy would be driving a car.  On one hand, we should be able to drive our car wherever we want…and at whatever speed we want, right?  BUT – there’s all those do’s and don’ts – rules of the road.  We have to drive on the right side of the road – but instead of restricting our freedom – it actually FREES us to confidently drive on our side and know the guy in the other lane is NOT going to hit us head-on.  Speed limits may seem to restrict us and slow us down, but it actually keeps us from spinning out of control going around curves – and keeps us from accidentally running into someone else… which would be hard to live with.  Then there’s those white lines on the side of the road… do we really need those?  How often on a dark, rainy or foggy night is that white line the only thing that keeps us on the road?  If we didn’t keep it between the lines, we’d end up in a ditch real quick… heck… as muddy as it has been this year, we might even get stuck in the mud BEFORE we get to the ditch.

Following the rules – accepting the discipline – leads to a better driving experience.

Following the rules of the Church – accepting the discipline of Jesus – leads to a better LIVING experience….both in this life and the next.  We don’t accidentally end up in heaven… we must STRIVE for it.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

2016/08/07 - Reason when God seems un-Reasonable

Wis 18:6-9
Ps 33:1, 12, 18-19, 20-22
Heb 11:1-2, 8-19
Lk 12:32-48 

"Much will be required of the person entrusted with much,
and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.”

I think this is the punchline of the day – but – in order to understand it, we have to understand a bit more about the purpose of all three readings.

In the first reading, the slaves in Egypt were given a promise that they’d be delivered from slavery – but to get there, if you remember, there were the 10 plaques that God sent on Egypt – and the last one was the killing of all first-born. In order to protect their own families, Moses had instructed them to slaughter a lamb and eat it and put the blood on the doorpost. That doesn’t seem like much, does it? God didn’t ask them too much – and I think that was by design: See – they had been slaves for 400 years. Can we even imagine that? 400 years of praying for deliverance… where WAS God in all that time? You and I – we pray for healing of someone on Tuesday and today is Sunday and we start to question God, where are you?! 400 years…that seems un-reasonable. It is amazing these people had any faith at all! That’s perhaps why little was required of them… Moses told them of the promise God made to deliver them and gave them a simple act of a meal and smearing of blood. They could have said – whatever – God doesn’t exist – or if He does, He obviously doesn’t answer OUR prayers. But look - God was able to work with that small seed of faith they had and He stepped onto the world scene in such a huge way that 3000 years later, you and I still talk about it.

The second reading was written to the Jewish Christians who would have been quite familiar with the Old Testament. Paul gives two examples of faith from the life of Abraham. First – God told him to leave home – leave all of his friends, business partners, family – his entire sphere of influence – leave it all and go …go where? He wasn’t told. You’re kidding, God, right? I’m 75 years old – I’ve got my life all set-up here and you want me to leave? And you’re not even going to tell me WHERE I’m going?!! Obviously, this is an un-reasonable request from God. Yet, somehow Abraham had enough faith to believe in the promise and he went.

That faith was tested again when God told Abraham to offer his only son, Isaac as a sacrifice. This is where any sane person would have drawn the line. This is BEYOND REASON. God had promised to give Abraham descendants as numerous as the stars – but how could He do that if He wanted to kill Abraham’s only offspring!?! Here is where we’re given a key insight into Faith which we might have missed… Abraham had so much faith that even though it didn’t make sense, he reasoned that God must be able to raise Isaac from the dead in order fulfill His promise. Did you catch that? His faith was so strong that He trusted God even when it SEEMED like God was asking him to do something un-reasonable. Faith supplied the reason when reason failed.

Do you and I have that kind of faith? Do we really believe that God will fulfill his promises? Do we ACT like people who expect God to fulfill His promises?

When I talk to the confirmation students, I use an example of Rappelling to explain faith – and it fits well with today’s topic, so let me give you the very short version.

You know what rappelling is, don’t you? Where you tie a rope to a tree and lower yourself off the side of a cliff. Anybody ever done that? Well – many people would say that’s a stupid thing to do… it’s unreasonable to step off of a perfectly good cliff! How do you know if you can trust the rope? Let’s say that this rope represents God – how do we know we can trust Him? I propose there are three ways:

First, Do we know what the rope is for? Example – Which of these two ropes would you trust? This one I got in the clearance aisle at Rural King – now, I LOVE Rural King – but given a choice, I would rather use this rope which was MADE for rope rescue. Well – you and I are connected to this rope at Baptism. God ties himself to us and as long as we want, we stay connected to him. It’s our choice.(hold up ropes)

Second, Have we seen anybody else use this rope? I mean – if we’re at the top of the cliff and somebody else has already gone down the cliff using this rope, that’s a really good indication that this rope is going to hold my weight. Do we know anybody who has used their Faith in God? Look around! We’re surrounded by others who rely on their faith every day – and if that’s not enough – we have the saints and the examples in the scripture. If this rope can hold 1.2 billion Catholics on the planet, surely it can hold me!

But Third, the really the only way we’re really going to know if we can trust the rope is to put our own weight on it and step off the cliff. It isn’t until you’re hanging half-way down the cliff with nothing else to hold-onto that you know for sure that you can trust that rope. Likewise, it isn’t until God asks us to do something un-reasonable – and we step off that cliff trusting that he’ll catch us – that’s when we KNOW we can trust God.

You see – we NEED that kind of test of our Faith. Because it’s only when He tests our limits that we grow.

What is God asking you to do? Is He asking the un-reasonable? Does He wait long stretches when it seems that He is not listening? These readings today are here to encourage us – to bolster our faith – so that we can persevere. And if you feel like God is testing you beyond your limits – then go back to the last line of the Gospel:

"Much will be required of the person entrusted with much,
and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.”

In other words – the more faith you have, the more your faith will be tested. Step off the cliff and Hang on… Let faith supply reason when God seems to ask the un-reasonable.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

2016/07/31 - Vanity of vanities

IN the70’s, Carly Simon had a song called “You’re so vain”… us old people could probably sing it… “you’re so vain, you probably think this song is about you… don’t you?”
That might be where some of us learned what vanity is…. Vanity is self-centeredness or conceit.  Imagine a guy who is constantly checking his reflection in the mirror – we can him ‘vain’ – thinking the world revolves around him.
That’s kinda like another meaning of vanity which may be familiar to us… the little counter in your bathroom or bedroom where you wash your face and fix your make-up…. Again – it’s vanity – all about looking at your SELF.  self-centeredness.
But when I hear this reading, I get the impression he’s saying everything is useless – worthless – a waste of time  - a futile effort.  Isn’t that how it hits most of us?  So which is it?  Conceit or Worthless?
Let’s do a little scripture study.  See – when St. Jerome translated the original Hebrew text into Latin, he translated the Hebrew word ‘hebel’ as ‘vanitas’… and ‘vanitas’ was later translated to English as ‘vanity’. 
But the original word ‘hebel’ would typically be used to represent vapor, fog, steam, breeze or breath. Notice – every one of those things is passing… non-permanent… picture opening a pot of boiling water and all the steam comes out – but 10 seconds later, that steam is gone.  So – ‘hebel’ really is implying something that comes and goes… it lacks substance or permanence…
So – the writer of that reading is saying – everything we do on this earth is vanity – it is without substance – it is non-permanent….it’s here then it’s gone.  Why waste your life working for stuff that is like vapor?
That matches up with what Jesus says in the  Gospel… You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you;  and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’
Why waste our time in our brief life concentrating on building wealth which will just be left to somebody else who didn’t work for it?  It occurs to me, that by leaving a large inheritance to our kids, we also deprive them of learning the value of a dollar and the value of hard-work.  Don’t get me wrong – an inheritance is a good thing – in fact, the Bible says in another place that a wise man leaves an inheritance for his children.  But today’s reading puts a cap on that… why spend your whole life working so that your kids and grandkids can sit in the lap of luxury and waste their lives away??
Is money bad – no – it’s a necessary means of supporting yourself and your family.
Is working a bad thing – no – in fact, to work hard at a job worth doing is one of the greatest gifts that life offers… but… if work becomes our goal and we focus all of our life, effort, attention to it – then it becomes our god.  I know this is a real danger especially for Men, but some for women as well.  It is in working hard that we feel like we’re fulfilling our purpose in life.  We get such a good feeling out of it that we can easily become work-a-holics and center our lives around work.  This is exactly what the reading is warning us about.  It is vanity for us to invest all of our time and energy into building wealth when it will all be left to somebody who didn’t earn it.  Not only are we wasting our effort, but we’re depriving our next generation of the good feeling from working hard.  God gave us the ability to build wealth… but is that the purpose he gave it for?? 
That goes for everything in life – our possessions, how we spend our time, what we read or watch or think about.  All of this is passing.. it is like vapor.  In the big picture, it is insignificant and unimportant.   And that really fits both of our definitions of vanity… it is all passing or worthless….and it’s all self-centered….  All is vanity.
So – what are we SUPPOSED to do?  The last line of the Gospel gives us a good clue: Thus will it be for all who store up treasure for themselves but are not rich in what matters to God.”
How can we be “rich in what matters to God”?  I could give you some answers right now – but you probably wouldn’t really listen.  None of us wants to be told what to do.  Instead – each of us has to answer that question for ourselves.  Every moment of every day, we have to ask – is this helping me become rich in what matters to God?  Add that to your prayer – what IS it that matters in life?  What is my goal?  What is my purpose?  See – until we decide that the most important thing is to live for God, then all of the other stuff in life will continue to block out God – like fog blinding us from seeing our true destination.  Here’s the point of the readings:  All of our ‘stuff’ is fog – and one day when we die, the fog will lift – and we’ll be left standing face to face with God – and realize that everything else has been in vain.
(I can just imagine God singing Carly Simon’s song to me – with slightly different words – “You’re so vain, you prob-ly think that LIFE is about you……don’t you”.  )