Reflections

Homily Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Image result for bulgaria city buildings

Sofia, Bulgaria (shutterstock.com)

As you may or may not know, Nissa and I adopted two children from Bulgaria about a year ago.  As part of the adoption process, we visited with the children in Bulgaria two different times.  The first was in a very small village in the far distant region of the country.  And the second was in the capital city Sofia.  We got an opportunity to see much of the country.

Bulgaria is a former republic of the Soviet Union, who recently became an independent nation.  No matter where we were, the country looked like pictures you’ve probably seen, all the buildings are the same color, the same architecture.  Almost all are what we would consider run down, walls cracked, plaster and paint falling off.  Inside, they were not any better.  Even the national museums were obviously in disrepair.  The roads were terrible, torn up and patched together.

By our standards, Bulgaria is a third world country.  The thing that really stood out was within that environment of poverty, everyone was wearing designer clothes, everyone sported their own smart phone, everyone drove expensive cars. 

And there we were, traveling 5000 miles to rescue two children abandoned in an orphanage, minimally cared for, while everyone around them was more concerned with pretending to be wealthy than loving their neighbor.

Everyone was focused on the wrong thing.

And that is exactly what today’s Scripture readings are trying to save us from.  We must stop and reflect on what God is telling us!

The first reading is from the Prophet Zephaniah telling us how to follow the Lord:  do no wrong and tell no lies!  What a wonderful world this would be if everyone lived that way! 

Even when we fail, we need to keep striving to live that way.  The challenge of course is that our present world no longer knows what is good and what is wrong.  The world does not know truth from lies. 

We are surrounded on every side with values that are so different from the values given to us by Jesus that we can become confused.  Far too often, whatever the present cultures wants to call good is accepted as good and whatever it wants to call bad is accepted as bad. 

Yet, we who follow the Lord Jesus, have the Word of God to form us and to guide us into all truth.

The second reading is from a Letter from St Paul to the Corinthians.  This letter reminds us that if we actually do choose to follow the Word of God and to follow Jesus as our Savior, we will be considered fools.  And this is still true for us today. 

But we are told in this reading:  “God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise.”  It is our foolishness in following Jesus that can actually bring light to the world and perhaps even draw the world back to God. 

The early Christians knew that to live in Christ was to fight against the values of their world.  The early Christians even knew that they might have to die to proclaim the truth given to us in Christ Jesus.

Today, we like to be comfortable and to be well off.  There is nothing wrong with that by itself, but when we are willing to water down the Word of God in order to maintain a comfortable life style, then we must recognize that we are betraying Jesus as our Lord. 

We must be able to stand up for the truth of the teachings of Scripture and of our Catholic Church.  When we find ourselves compromising because we don’t want to bother others, then we are guilty of passing on the lies of our current culture.

Today’s Gospel reading gives us what is called the Beatitudes.  These are the all important teachings of Jesus that tell us how to follow the Lord:  poor in spirit, mourning, meek, hungering and thirsting for righteousness, merciful, clean of heart, peacemakers, persecuted for the sake of righteousness, insulted for Christ, persecuted for Christ, and evil spoken about us because of Christ.  This is a pretty strong list of characteristics for us!

The implication today is that we must give our whole being to God.  We must follow Jesus with all of our strength.  When we fail, we must get up and start again.  Compromising with anything less than Jesus simply means following the world and its values and not following our Lord.

Today we are invited us to renew our commitment to the follow the Lord.  We should walk in His ways and accept all the suffering that may bring us.  That way we can walk in His kingdom but now and forever.

Some content from Homily by Abbott Philip OSB

Homily – Solemnity of Mary, Holy Mother of God, 2017

motherofgod

Mary has many titles.  We are familiar with a good number of them. The Immaculate Conception, Queen of the Holy Rosary, Our Lady of Perpetual Help and Our Lady of Mt. Carmel to name a few. 

There are probably hundreds if not thousands of others that have special meaning. However, the one title that surpasses all others, the one that we celebrate today is Mary, the Holy Mother of God.

This feast reminds us of a reality that is very easy for us to forget, that God came to us, became one of us, and he did so as a baby. He did not just appear, which God could have done, but He chose to come through a woman. We can lose sight of the fact that Mary conceived a child, though not in the usual way. She carried Him in her body, nourishing Him from within for nine months with all that entails.

This most blessed of all women was and is indeed, the Mother of the second person of the Trinity, a person, a baby that is consubstantial – of the same substance – as the Father, yet lying in her arms, dependent upon her. She is the Mother of God.

The important aspects of the life of Mary such as her own Immaculate Conception and her Perpetual Virginity are the direct consequences of God’s decision to make her the mother of his Son.

From an earthly perspective, from a human perspective, there is no title that can conjure up more feelings than that of “mother”. For most of us it is a name given to a person dear to us, one who embodies a type of love for us that words fail to describe.

The name Mother of God describes the Virgin Mary, who conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, the Person of Jesus Christ.

But why do we celebrate a day by that name in the Church?

We celebrate it because it confirms and solidifies something that we have just finished celebrating. The Solemnity of Mary, Holy Mother of God sets in our hearts the essential truth of Christmas.

The Title, the use of the words Mother of God speaks to the truth of the incarnation…..of God becoming completely united with our humanity. The very purpose of the title and for its celebration is to leave no doubt in our hearts and minds that Jesus was fully human and fully God.

It is not correct to think of Jesus as someone who is a split person, part God and part man. That maybe it was the God part of Him that worked miracles and the human part of Him that slept in the boat or even died on the cross.

By declaring Mary to be the Mother of God, it makes clear to us that Jesus did not simply put on human flesh. He is not God imitating a man, but both God and Man, like us in all things but sin.

This is essential since it is only because he is truly God that Jesus can be the source of forgiveness for us and only because he is truly man that our humanity can be redeemed.

The dignity Jesus bestows upon women and motherhood is also beyond compare. Jesus subjected himself, was obedient to His Mother Mary and to Joseph, His Earthy father.

Jesus, God, The Creator of the Universe willed to learn how to nail a board from Joseph. Jesus, God himself, learned to say His prayers from Mary. What does that say about the dignity of work, the value of learning, and the importance of prayer?

The One God that has been revealed to us as the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, by a Mystery of Mercy, willed that the Second Person, the Son unite Himself with humanity not just for a little while, but for all eternity.

And while we do not diminish the role of Mary, today is really not about her, but about what God did through her obedient and willing heart.

Paul states this truth very eloquently in our second reading:

When the fullness of time had come,
(not the nick of time or the best time, or even the right time, but the fullness of time)
(God did what?) God sent his Son,
(how?) born of a woman, born under the law,
(why?) to ransom those under the law, (that’s us you and me),
(to what end?) so that we might receive adoption as sons and daughters
(of who?) the Father.

And if we are sons and daughters of God the Father, then we are heirs of that same God through the incarnation of God.  And to be an heir is to inherit everything!

So it is good to celebrate the name of Mary, because by a singular grace, she is indeed, the Mother of God. But we primarily celebrate what God did, through Mary.

And this day is our celebration as well, for through the incarnation, by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ we have been made heirs to the Kingdom of Heaven. That is our dignity, that is our destiny, that is our greatest hope and that is the source of our joy.

Content taken from Homily by Deacon Bill O’Donnell

On Being a Child of God

Pettiness is a luxury we cannot afford to indulge in.  There is too much to do that is of real import.  Small, everyday things that are radical and profound despite their smallness.  We need to hold a hand, smile at a stranger. Say “Hello” and “How are you today?” and really want to know the answer.  We need to teach our children to speak gently to each other, to apologize for wrongs.  We need to perform everyday acts of love.

©Nissa Gadbois
Life is too precious to squander even a passing thought on whether a designer ought to accept or refuse the commission of creating a dress for the new First Lady; or to be offended by what an actor said at the close of a performance.  Our world has become so vast that we too often fail to see the one right in our own homes.  And it is dying for lack of care.  And if the family dies, so goes the world.

When we do pay attention to things outside our own circles, we must listen with our whole hearts and minds, we must look through the eyes of love and mercy.  We must try to understand the sentiment and the true meaning of people’s words.  We must not instantly react because reacting before consideration leads us nowhere.  It doesn’t advance our understanding of each other.  It leads to two people (or two groups) reacting to each other – reacting to the other person’s reactions.  And that is a waste of time and energy that is much better spent giving hope, making peace, spreading joy, and loving.

Let this be our mantra: Hope, Peace, Joy, Love.  Next Sunday is the first in the season of Advent.  It is a time of reflection and renewal as we prepare to welcome the Christ Child.  May we recognize Him and serve Him in the least of His people.  The Poor, The Lonely, The Lost, The Sick.

Homily for 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C

This is the Homily I gave this past weekend.  (Readings)

Today we celebrate the 33rd Sunday in ordinary time.  Next weekend will mark the end of the Liturgical year as we again prepare for the coming of the Lord at Advent.  So as we end our year – today we focus on the End of Times – death, judgement, heaven, and hell.

Today’s readings are given to us to remind us of a certain reality.  The reality is that Jesus will return, there will be a Final Judgement when He will administer true Justice and – that there is a Heaven and a Hell.

And while today’s readings are more to-the-point on the topic, we are reminded of the return of Jesus at every Mass.

In our Creed we say: He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.

In the Mystery of our Faith: When we eat this Bread and drink this Cup, we proclaim your Death, O Lord, until you come again.

In the Lord’s Prayer: Thy Kingdom come.

Jesus talks often of the end of time.  He cautions us that there will be signs that point to His coming, but no one really can really know exactly when He will come again.

Have any of you had the “opportunity” to watch the show “Doomsday Preppers”?  I had the unfortunate privilege to watch one of these episodes while I up late at night caring for a sick child a few years ago as parents do.  It came on the channel I was watching and I was too tired to find something else.  It was about a family who had taken extreme measures to plan for a forthcoming apocalypse.  One they thought was coming at any time.  They were storing up huge amounts of food, which seems praiseworthy enough, but they are also purchasing all kinds of deadly weapons to protect their stores.

The problem behind all this, of course, is the modern day belief that the greatest good is life – my life, to be exact – my survival at any cost. Through the periscope of my bunker I will watch you and your children starve and then shoot you if you approach my storehouse of food and drink.

What they don’t seem to realize is that even before there is a catastrophe,  they have already retreated into their bunkers, already they are pointing guns at me, already I am a threat to their survival, already I am their enemy and already their survival is more important than mine.  They are already at war.

So how does Jesus tell us to prepare?  Do not be frightened.

Faced with the reality of wars, revolutions, great earthquakes, plagues, famines, fearful sights and great signs from heaven and even betrayal, persecution and death Jesus tells us: do not prepare your defense.  I myself shall give you what you need to survive.

The critical difference, of course, between the preppers and Jesus is that they are wanting to keep their human life safe while Jesus wants us to keep our eternal life safe. This is what he means when he foretells that the Temple (everything) will be destroyed but: not a hair on your head will be destroyed.

Jesus does not advise us to build bunkers or store food or turn our backs on our neighbors. Jesus’ wants us to understand one unchangeable truth which is that: everything will be destroyed; but not those who listen to and keep his words.

For those who believe in the Good News all these terrible things are not the real enemy; in fact, they are a unique opportunity to give witness to faith in Christ.

By living fully with God and for God at every moment of every day – Then, no matter when the end arrives, we will be more than ready. We will meet Jesus not as strangers but as dear and intimate friends who know each other well.

 

Content from Fr John Speekman, Fr Alex McAllister and Deacon Bill’s Blog

Remain in Me

[Chosen Lady:]
I rejoiced greatly to find some of your children walking in the truth
just as we were commanded by the Father.
But now, Lady, I ask you,
not as though I were writing a new commandment
but the one we have had from the beginning:
let us love one another.
For this is love, that we walk according to his commandments;
this is the commandment, as you heard from the beginning,
in which you should walk.

Many deceivers have gone out into the world,
those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh;
such is the deceitful one and the antichrist.
Look to yourselves that you do not lose what we worked for
but may receive a full recompense.
Anyone who is so “progressive”
as not to remain in the teaching of the Christ does not have God;
whoever remains in the teaching has the Father and the Son. – 2 John 4-9

©Nissa Gadbois
Although I’m here in my little bubble, I am not unaware of the violence and upheaval going on around the country. I know about the ugliness being meted out between friends and families. 

Two salient points from yesterday’s first reading from the Mass leapt out at me. Perhaps they will speak to you as well.

First – we must love one another.  We must will the good of one another even if we don’t have affection for one another.

Second – it is not love to preach that which is outside of accepted Church teaching.  We must not modify or innovate the Gospel,we mustn’t torture it to seem to support viewpoints or behaviours that are either explicitly contradicted by scripture and/or tradition.

We must love the person.  That doesn’t mean we can’t abhor the words, thoughts, or actions of another. But always we must love.  We must take care of each other.  We mustn’t do harm in body, mind, spirit, nor to that which belongs to another person.  We defeat evil by filling that vacuum with good… with love.

Anyway, that’s what I try to teach my children. I guess that’s what you try to teach yours.  I guess that’s what nearly all of us were taught and what we want to teach.  Perhaps we could try to channel that anger, disappointment, entitlement, braggadocio into something constructive, something to build everyone up.  I wonder what that world would look like? I suspect it would look a lot like Heaven on earth.

“If we have no peace it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” – St. Teresa of Calcutta

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