Saturday, January 23, 2016

2016/01/24 Little Toe

Did you understand that second reading about the body has many parts?  Paul can be wordy.I have an example which might help us understand it differently.

I remember as a kid Id have some sort of pain to complain about and Id go to my Dad and whine about my finger huuurrrts and put on the most pathetic face I could.  I dont know if I actually expected him to fix it or if I just wanted attention, but Id usually get one of two answers:  either come here and Ill cut it off or come here and let me stop on your toe then you wont feel your finger anymore. 

Anybody else ever experienced that?  Watch what would happen if you stomped on my toe (call altar server to pretend to stomp on my toethen jump around on one foot howling and writhing in pain).  Did you notice what happened?  Let me re-enact that for you again in slow motion:  the mouth immediately opens, the lungs immediately gasp inward, the voicebox immediately lets out a scream, the leg immediately jerks the toe out of harms way then lifts the injured toe into the air where the arms and hands immediately move into position to hold it up.  The face contorts, the neck stretches back, the eyes close tightly and water a little bit(no I wasnt crying!), the other foot and leg jump up and down as if THAT would help to alleviate the pain or something. 

In short when one part of the body hurts every other part of the body rushes to do whatever it can to alleviate that pain.  The hands dont say well WE are more important than a stupid toe, so WE are not going to lift a finger to help.  The lungs dont say well you know a body can live without a toe but a body CANT live without lungs were not going to waste our breath on such an inferior body part. 

No EVERY body part rushes to do WHATEVER it can to remove the pain. 

That is what we witnessed in our community over and over again and once again in the last two weeks Some members of our body were struck a horrible blow at their farms and when it happened it was like somebody stomped on our toe.  The whole community immediately jumped up and down willing wanting needing to do anything we could to alleviate the pain of those farmers.  Immediately prayers were going out on Facebook and emails.  Prayer services were organized.  Adoration for 6 six days in a row was organize almost overnight.  I gotta be honest, I didnt think THAT would happen but it goes to show that THIS body of Christ SINCERELY wants to do WHATEVER we can to alleviate your pain because your pain is OUR pain. 

Thats the way it is with the Body of Christand thats what Paul is talking about in that second reading.  Let me give just a little background - Paul wrote this letter about 20 years after Jesus Resurrection when he was in prison in Rome.  Its written to the church in Corinth one of the churches he started in his missionary journeys.  This church was vibrant and growing, in many ways, it was the model for how churches were to be formedbut he caught wind of some rivalries taking place in the parish and he felt the need to step-in to keep things from getting out of hand.  Apparently some of the parishioners were able to speak in tongues others had a gift of healing there were several various ministries and each person had their part in the church.  But apparently some of them thought well, I have the gift of tongues, so Im more important than the Altar Servers so I dont have to do my fair share around here.  The Lectors thought I have the gift of proclaiming the Word surely thats more important than these other people, so I shouldnt have to help wash dishes. 

Paul is quick to point out that nobody is more important than anybody else.   Just like a human body has many parts and each is necessary.likewise  EVERY person is given a gift or a ministry to build up the Body of Christ.  In other words, every person has a Charism, given by God, which is specifically to help the people of God the Church.

I like the way Fr. Eugene defines a charism a charism is the God-given ability (or talent) to do something that OTHER people consider to be WORK, but YOU actually get ENERGIZED doing it. 

What is YOUR charism?  Everybody has at least one Examples some people are really good at taking notes at meetings and actually ENJOY it!  For me, that would be almost as bad as going to the dentist.  On the other hand, a lot of people would cringe in fear at standing up here and preaching a homily but for me THIS is what ENERGIZES me. (you probably noticed that;)  Some people think cutting firewood is a drudgery, but many men would rather do that than just about anything else its fun..its in nature and its providing heat for the winter.  Some of us think cooking is akin to torture, but others have a god-given talent and theres no place theyd rather be than in the kitchen.  If you can think of a job that fires you up perhaps THAT is your Charism. 

Every Charism yes every Charism has a place in the Church.  Why?  Go back to the definition it is a God-given talent.  God gave you that Charism for the benefit of HIS churchHis people. 

We have MANY different ministries in this parish and thats what this Ministry Fair coming up is all about.  I suspect that everybody myself included will find SOMEthing at the ministry fair that we can say wow I didnt know we did that here!  That is exactly what Ive been wanting to do!  And if you DONT see it there, and you have a passion for it, by all means, put your God-given talent to use.  For example, lets say you LOVE camping theres no place youd rather be than sitting around a campfire.  Maybe you could use your Camping Charism to organize family outings or youth camp trips?  Not only would you get to do your camping, but you would be putting your experience at the service of Gods people.  Be creative just like God was creative when he made each one of us down to the last little toe.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

20160102 - Epiphany: Real Wise Men Seek Directions

What we don’t hear about in today’s Gospel is the fact that all three of the wise men were married.  What we don’t hear about is the fact the three wise men had wandered around in the desert for two years trying to find Jesus….and all the while, Belthazar’s wife Sheila kept insisting – ‘Why don’t you just stop at the next Oasis and ask for directions’.
I need to drive to Tuskaloocha…does anybody here know directions on how to get there?  Where is that, you say?  I don’t know, that ‘s why I’m asking you.  How can I find out?  I can google it, pull up mapquest, put it into my Garmin navigational doohickey, I might even try to watch the stars like the wise men…four different ways to find out how to get to Tuskaloocha.
Now, what if I need directions for how to get to Jesus?  What would you say?  Seriously think about that a minute… Can you tell me how to get to Jesus?  Honestly, I don’t know that I’d have a ready-to-give answer to that question myself – but I really think we ALL should have that answer.  How could I find out the best way to find Jesus?  If I google Jesus, I’ll find thousands – literally tens of thousands of churches who claim that THEY have the one and ONLY way to get to Jesus.
How can that be?  How is it that one guy named Jesus was here – a book called the Bible was written about him – and now 10’s of thousands of different churches have different interpretations? 
As Catholics, we believe that Jesus started ONE Church – a church we call the Catholic Church…and within it he gave authority to teach, baptize, and forgive sins.  He endowed it with the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  He graced it with the seven Sacraments so that he could continue to reach out and touch his people through the hand of His ministers.  He inspired its leaders to write the Bible…that’s right, the New Testament writers were Catholics!  Why would Jesus start a Church?  To help people find him.  The Church is the Garmin navigational doohickey  for finding Jesus.
Now that doesn’t mean we have a corner on the market for getting to Jesus – and that’s what today’s feast is about.  You see, there were two important groups of people who came to see Jesus when he was an infant:  the shepherds and the magi.  We don’t have a special feast for the shepherds, but today’s Feast of the Epiphany celebrates the fact that three pagan wise men came to know Jesus.  That should shake us up!  These guys weren’t Catholic, they weren’t Christian, they weren’t even Jewish!  They tried to find God by reading the signs in the stars.  Most of us today don’t use the stars to navigate…– yet, they came to know Jesus through this method….so is it all bad?  The shepherds, on the other hand, found out about Jesus through direct revelation – when an angel appeared to them.  We don’t seem to have a problem with that, do we?  And yet, if I stood here and told you that an angel appeared to me last night, you’d think I was a little off my rocker.  Yet, we accept it as perfectly normal for these guys 2000 years ago to receive a vision from an angel. 
But there was a third group who came to know that Jesus was born.  Who?  Think through the story:
Ø  The shepherds came to know through a direct vision of angels.
Ø  The magi knew through a reading of the stars.
Ø  And King Herod’s scribes came to know through searching the scriptures.
Visions, stars, scriptures -- different ways of arriving at the same truth. Of course this doesn’t mean that ANY method of finding Jesus is just as good as the other. Notice how Matthew indicates that when the guiding star got to Jerusalem its light failed and the magi HAD to stop and ask for directions… They were forced to consult the scriptures to direct them to Bethlehem. Obviously, since they were not familiar with the prophecies in the Jewish books, they had to get the help from the scribes in Jerusalem.  That is an important point:  Over and above the natural light of the star the magi still needed the SUPERNATURAL light of scripture to finally get to Jesus.
Yet the crucial question in the story remains: Who actually FOUND Jesus? Herod and his scribes who were the scripture “experts” FAILED to find Jesus, but the magi, who followed the natural light of the stars, WERE able to find him. Why? Because the Jewish authorities, even though they possessed the shining truth of revealed scriptures,…didn’t follow it. They did not walk in the light of the scriptures. The magi, on the other hand, who enjoyed only star light, followed its guidance. See - It is not the possession of the truth that matters, it is how prepared we are to walk in the light of the truth that we DO possess. It is better to have the dim light of the stars and follow it than to have the bright light of the holy scriptures and neglect it.  Ouch – I’m preaching to myself here – we can’t just relax knowing that we possess the fullness of truth – we have to actually act on it in order to find Jesus.
Let me give you one more example – what if you were having money troubles and somebody who knows a lot about money told you how to handle money God’s way… that it would help you get out of debt and to lead a happier life…  Would you follow their instructions?
Or like driving to Tusckaloocha:  If I googled directions and printed them out for you, would you follow them?  If we punched it into your Garmin, would you turn when it tells you to turn?  Or – would you see a road that looks pretty and say – I’ll bet I can still get there from here….I’ll just go up a ways and see where it takes me.  Since we don’t even know where Tusckaloocha is, wouldn’t that be pretty silly to try to find our own path to get there?
We, as Catholics, have been given the most direct route to Jesus – in the Church that He established.  But what does that benefit us if we don’t follow the directions?  Nature worshipers and even non-believers who try to find God through the dim light of natural reason might actually find Jesus before some of us Christians who have been given all the revealed truths about God …because we failed to look at the map… REAL wise men will turn to the scriptures for directions.