Saturday, February 23, 2019

2019/02/24 - Unexpected

Before Mass:
There’s some back-story to the first reading which we all need to have in mind – Saul was the anointed King of Israel – but he was doing a bad job of it, so Samuel anointed David as the next king.  It’s an odd situation where two can rightfully claim the throne.  Saul was threatened by David – he was popular – a great warrior – and everybody loved him.  Saul was afraid he’d take his throne, so he set out to kill him.  David was on the run for like 15-20 years – living in the wilderness with a ragtag group of supporters – basically waiting for Saul to die so he could step into the throne.  Today’s Gospel picks up somewhere during that time when David was on the run.  The important thing to note is that by every right – David could have killed Saul – remember that.  He was anointed by God to be the king, Saul tried to kill him, and apparently God delivered Saul directly into David’s hand… any sane person would agree that David had EVERY right to kill Saul. 

Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 81
READING 1 1 SM 26:2, 7-9, 12-13, 22-23
RESPONSORIAL PSALM PS 103:1-2, 3-4, 8, 10, 12-13
READING 2 1 COR 15:45-49
GOSPEL LK 6:27-38

We all have someone in our lives who has done us wrong.  Picture that person in your mind right now. 

Amanda’s Ex cheated on her for over a year before she found out – then he blamed her for the marriage falling apart and in a messy divorce, he left her with almost nothing.

George’s boss has a bad attitude – he constantly demeans him and gives him the least desirable jobs…. Passing him up for promotions and raises.

Don’s classmate bullied him for years – and spread rumors about him so that nobody in the school wanted to be friends with him anymore.

Clare’s mom told her years ago that when she died, she wanted Clare to have her wedding ring – but her sister took it – claiming she had a right to it since she was older.

A drunk driver ran over Jerry’s youngest kid on her bike – leaving her crippled for life.  Every day Jerry has to help his daughter deal with the aftermath.  Jerry is bitter and angry and simply cannot forgive the man who did this to his daughter.

In all of these scenarios, and the one in your own life, you have every RIGHT to be mad – to hold a grudge – to wish that they would rot in hell.  Nobody would blame you one bit for being bitter and withholding forgiveness…. They don’t DESERVE forgiveness.

David was in that kind of situation.  He had every right to kill Saul and, in fact, when he passed up the chance, I’m sure the other men were making fun of him for passing up this chance:  Besides, maybe this WAS God’s plan that David should kill Saul so he could take his rightful throne.  But David did the unexpected:  he showed mercy.

Jesus says – “love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,
bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”
Forgive and you will be forgiven.”

We’ve heard these phrases throughout our lives – they’re nice Christians sayings - - but do we live them?  Don’t read them as some general ‘love everybody’ statements – let them touch you specifically.  Love your enemies – yes – even that person you thought of a few minutes ago – your ex, your classmate, your boss or co-worker, your brother or sister – let this teaching get personal.

You, no doubt, have every right to be angry at that person – they hurt you – and likely are not even remorseful about it.  They don’t DESERVE your forgiveness.  You have every right to wish them harm – to curse them.  Seriously, nobody is going to blame you for striking back at them – because that’s what any other person would do.
But – we aren’t just any other person, we are Christian.  Christians do the unexpected.
See – we are called to be Holy – which is simply to try to live like God – to try to act like Jesus.  When Jesus met the woman at the well, he could have condemned her as a sinner – but instead he loved her and she became one of the first evangelists.  When Jesus met the woman caught in adultery – by every right of the law, he could have joined in stoning her – but he did something unexpected and refused to condemn her.

When you and I sin – and we do that every day – by every right, God can smite us – but God does the unexpected – he shows mercy continually.  If God can forgive us, we can forgive others.  In fact, if we don’t forgive others, not only are we not reflecting God to the world, but we will live in misery.

Think of a time you had harsh words with someone close to you – how did you feel afterward?  Many people feel a pit in their stomache as long as there is unforgiveness.  The obvious cure to that stomache pain would be to forgive and move on – but instead – we hold a grudge, don’t we?  I know families who have been torn apart for decades because nobody will make the first move to forgive.  In our righteous indignation, we conjure up unforgiveness by recalling how RIGHT we are and how wrong they are – ‘well she said this or he did this and they never even felt sorry about it and if they think I’m just gonna forgive them for that then they got another thing coming!’…..and the pit in our stomache grows – and we’re miserable – and people around us are miserable because of us.  I heard somewhere that unforgiveness is like drinking poison in hopes that the other person dies.

Long before Jesus said these words, David set the example for us – instead of grasping at what was his right – he waited for God to deliver the throne to him.  Vengeance belongs to God.  Notice – there's something else about David we can learn from:  if there’s somebody that is dangerous to us or our children -somebody who is toxic to us – be like David and get out of there.  We may not be able to have a relationship with everyone – but we can still do the unexpected… we can forgive them.  It may seem hard or impossible for any normal person to forgive…
...but we’re not just any normal person – we are Christians.  We do the unexpected. 

Saturday, February 2, 2019

2019/02/01 - What's Love Got to do with it?

Before Mass

For our homily today - I met with the Junior Religious Ed class to help me get ideas.
I’ll warn you the homily is mainly going to focus on the 2nd reading-  and it’s one most of us have probably heard many times in our lives – and mainly at weddings.  So often, perhaps, that as soon as we hear ‘love is patient’, we either can finish the reading in our heads, or our minds immediately turn to focus on something else.  It’s a great reading about love and yes – it does fit very well with weddings – but, that’s not why it was written…. Paul wasn’t intending to write to newly married couples.  He was writing this for you and me – and the message is a lot stronger than any of us might remember after hearing it several times.

So I invite you to listen with fresh ears.  Ask yourself as Paul speaks – how does this apply to me?  How should this impact my DAILY life?  In fact, how should this impact every moment of my life, including this very second?

Some people complain that religion is too black and white – that life is made up of a lot of gray area and religion is just too strict and becomes pious, irrelevant babble.
On the other hand, a lot of people complain that religion is too wishy-washy – that so many things are a ‘mystery’ and we can’t really KNOW anything, so religion is TOO gray to provide answers in the hard questions of life.

And to those people, I’d say, “you’re right!”… and I’d like to apologize if that has frustrated you and pushed you away from Christianity.  See, a lot of Christians just kind-of go to church on Sunday and religion doesn’t really impact the rest of their week.  In fact, you might not even KNOW they were Christian.  The outspoken Christians – the ones you KNOW are Christian – usually fall into one of two sterotypes:  there’s the staunch doctrinal self-righteous finger pointer who declares everything is black and white and to hell with anyone who steps out of line!  At the other end are the nice guys who always have a smile and never have answers and anything goes because God is all about Love, so why can’t we all just get along.  Again – these are just sterotypes – doesn’t describe anybody in here - but these are how much of the world views us!

Given those two options, is it any wonder so many people reject Christianity?
Jesus was about more than doctrines and butterflies.  He came not just to teach us, but to SHOW us how to Love.  That is the heart of Christianity.  The purpose of our religion – the purpose of our LIVES, is to become more like God – and God is Love, so the more we Love, the more we’re like God.  They’ll know we are Christians by our …Love, so the song goes.  It’s not just a catchy tune or phrase, this is the heart of what it means to LIVE as a Christian.  It’s more than doing Christian things, it’s about being the hands and feet of Love.

Paul gives several one-liners about how we fail in that.  If I speak without Love, I am a noisy gong.  If I do anything to boast, but don’t have love, I gain nothing.  This reading is not just a nice reading for weddings… it instructs us how to live as Christians.
This is VERY practical advice here…   if I speak without love, I am a noisy gong.  How many people do we know who keep beating their drums without love and we just stop listening to them?

Know anybody who does great things, but they only do it so they can brag about it?  Paul says, if I give away everything but don’t do it for love – it gains me nothing!
Let this scripture instruct you personally… An easy way to do that is to change-out the word Love with YOUR name.

So, instead of Love is Patient, Love is Kind….   Bill is Patient.  Susan is kind.  Greg is not Jealous.  Eugene is not pompous.  Maggie is not rude.  Cayden is not quick-tempered.  Dave does not brood over injury.  Tammy does not rejoice over wrongdoing.  Keep going… this is an instruction booklet for how we should live!  Hmmm… we could also use this as an examination of conscience.  When we’re preparing for reconciliation, read it and think – when was I NOT kind…NOT patient…when did I speak without love?

Hopefully you can see that Christianity is way more than finger pointing and way more than “let’s all get along”.  The early Christians were known for one thing:  “See how they love one another”.  That love was – and continues to be – a magnet, drawing people to Christ. 

In all things we do… in ALL things we do… let Love be our guide.  Love never fails.