Saturday, November 25, 2017

2017/11/26 - Thy Kingdom Come

Before Mass:

There’s a connection between the first reading and the Gospel which might not be evident to us, so I want to point it out ahead of time:  Notice in the first reading how many times God says “I will” do this and “I will” do that.  God makes all of these promises, saying he personally will make a bunch of things happen.  Then in the Gospel, Jesus says we will be judged based on whether WE did those things that God promised to do.  If God said he’ll do it, why should WE have to do anything?


We ask for it every time we pray the Our Father…. ‘thy kingdom come’.  Do we mean it?  Do we really want Jesus as our King?  Are we helping to bring about that kingdom?

We’re stuck in the middle of “already but not yet”, where the kingdom of God IS present – and yet not fully present.  How do we know the kingdom is not yet fully established?  Just look at the headlines.  The powerful use and abuse the weak.  Homelessness and drug use and crime keep escalating.  Mass shootings seem to be an almost daily occurrence – even in church.  The world is divided in so many ways:  Men vs women;  Black vs White;  Liberal vs Conservative;  Catholic vs Protestant;  Christian vs Muslim;  Pro-Life vs Pro-Death.  No – the kingdom of God will not be fully present until we are all ONE.  One body of Christ.  Obviously, we ain’t there yet.  Thy Kingdom come.

But – there are signs of hope.  How do we know the kingdom IS already partially present?  We can see Christians doing all of those things Jesus mentioned in the Gospel:  feeding the hungry, water for the thirsty, ministering to the sick and imprisoned.  Let’s just look at one example of each of those:

Feed the Hungry:  our Grace Co-Op has delivered thousands of meals to folks in need over the last several years – many thanks to Sander Catering and the many volunteers who do the deliveries – and also to Denise Hohler for coordinating that for such a long time. 

Water for the Thirsty:  one of the things Gary and Cathy Boice have done in Jeremie, Haiti is to build water purification systems at 5 schools in the area.  The children then have clean water while at school and they’re allowed to take home 2 gallons per day so their family can also have clean water.  And just this week we got pictures from Dupity – a group came in and trained thirty ladies how to use a bucket filter to filter water for 90 families.

Ministering to the sick:  you don’t have to look far to see people visiting, taking food to the sick, taking communion to our parishioners at home, sending cards, visiting in the hospital and nursing homes.  It’s such an easy way to bring the Love of Christ into their lives.

Visiting those in prison:  Honestly, I’ve never felt called to prison ministry – but there’s a ministry called Kairos which is amazing.  It is a retreat that is held in the state and federal prisons to let the offenders know they are not forgotten – and that somebody on the outside loves them – and that they are not beyond the reach of God’s forgiveness.  Many lives have been changed inside the walls of prison.  The men I know who go into the prison to put on these retreats inspire me.  They’re not priests – they’re just ordinary men from the pews – doing an extraordinary service. 
We could talk all day about how Christ’s Kingdom is already being established – but you get the idea.  Whenever we do any of these things, we do it for Christ.

Today, we are invited to be part of the story…. We are called to participate in the kingdom of King Jesus.  Remember in that first reading how God said ‘I will’ so many times…. I will tend my sheep.  I will rescue them; I myself will pasture my sheep; I myself will give them rest; The lost I will seek out, the strayed I will bring back, the injured I will bind up, the sick I will heal.  GOD himself is doing all of these things… so where do you and I come in?

WE don’t do anything.. . but Christ works THROUGH us.  When we’re open to the Spirit, God can use us to do these kinds of works.  Notice again, we don’t do these things to earn our right to enter the kingdom… we do these things to ESTABLISH the kingdom.

I think it’s interesting that in the Gospel, both the sheep and the goats seem surprised.  Lord, when did we see you and minister to you?  They hadn’t done those works as a way to earn Jesus’ Love – they did it BECAUSE they were loved.  Doing those corporal works of mercy were just part of who they were.

That’s how we know we’re in the kingdom – when we visit the lonely – when we comfort the mourning – when we reach out to the least of these – who ARE the least of these anyway?  Anyone who cannot pay us back.  Anyone who has no prestige.  Anyone who doesn’t bring honor to me… they are the least of these.  We don’t help others because of who THEY are or what we can earn… we do it because of who WE are.  We are the ones Blessed by the Father.

There’s a quote Glenda has on her emails which speaks volumes…
We don't serve people because they are Catholic or we expect them to be Catholic. We serve them because we are Catholic.

Long Live Christ the King!  Thy Kingdom Come!

Sunday, November 19, 2017

2017/11/19 - It's not about the Money

Before Mass
We’ve got another one of those parables from Jesus to stretch our brains today.  This is the one about the Talents.  Remember – the Master gave 5 talents to one guy, 2 to another, and 1 to another.  I’m sure you all know that a ‘talent’ was a measure of weight – for example pounds.  It was somewhere between 75 and 125 pounds – so for argument sake we’ll say 100 pounds… so assuming the Talent they’re talking about was in gold, it would be worth over $2 million at today’s price for gold.  The thing is – this parable is not really about money.  I give you the value of a talent just to help us all realize that even the guy who only gets one Talent STILL is given a fortune…don’t think of him as mistreated.  The question for all of us to ponder as we listen is:  if it’s not about money, what’s Jesus trying to tell US with this story?  You might also focus on “what did the last servant do wrong”?

Homily –
Everybody understand what Jesus was trying to say?  It’s not about money – so what IS it about?

We know the Talent was a way to measure wealth – so if the parable ain’t about money, It must be a metaphor for something… but What does the Talent represent?  What is it that we can invest and immediately double – but if we fail to invest it, it is taken from us?

How about Love… Love only grows if it is given away.  Here’s an over-simplified example:   if I GIVE a hug, I RECEIVE a hug… so one hug becomes two.  If instead, I bury my hugs in the ground… I actually have no hug at all.  If I don’t give my love away, then none comes back to me.  If I smile, it increases the smiles around me… but if I bury my smile in the ground, then not only have I missed a chance to bring joy to the world, but I have lost my own joy.  Love only grows when it is given away.  It also applies to our Faith – if we never actually USE our faith – if we never actually put our trust in God – then it’s like a muscle that never gets exercised… it withers.  Faith only grows in the measure in which it is exercised.  So my suggestion is that the Talent represents everything God gave us – our life, faith, abilities, charisms – and the parable implies that God wants us to invest it into something – but what are we investing in? 

What is this “Master’s Joy” we're invited to share in?
Think about that – what gave Joy to the master in the parable?  To see his kingdom growing…  Same for God – his Joy comes from seeing His kingdom of Love growing.  That is the joy of the Master which we are invited to share in… so when we HELP to spread the kingdom, we feel good about it…seriously… that is how we “share the master’s joy”.  Notice, it’s not a reward … it’s not something we EARN… it’s simply an invitation to join the Mission that Jesus gave us to ‘share the good news with the whole world’.  When we invest ourselves in that Mission, it gives purpose to our lives… it gives meaning to suffering… it energizes us and makes life worth living. 
What did the final servant do to deserve being thrown into the darkness where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth?

Nothing – he did nothing wrong… but that’s the trouble:  he did nothing.  The master in the parable calls the servant lazy – and that’s why he lost his Talent and ended up in darkness.  Laziness…another word is Slothfulness, which is one of the seven deadly sins.  You’ll recall, there are two kinds of sin:  sins of COMMISSION, where we do something wrong and sins of OMMISSION where we fail to do what is required.

What is this place of darkness where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth?
I think at the end of our lives, we’ll look back and see all the opportunities we missed to share the love of Christ with others – we’ll recognize the joy we passed up and the harm we caused to the kingdom of God – and our regret will be so intense that we will wail and gnash our teeth, because we regret that when given the opportunity to spread love… we did nothing….we failed to invest ourselves… we failed to give it away.  Now it’s very important to notice that this is NOT a punishment!  God doesn’t THROW us into that darkness… we choose to go there by burying what He gave us.

Here’s how I would summarize this parable – we have a choice:  we can share everything God gave us to spread his kingdom of Love – and thereby share in our Master’s Joy… or we can bury our Love and continue to live in darkness.