Saturday of the Thirty-second Week of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

You know, this Gospel reading is filled with all sorts of off-putting comments, isn’t it?  I don’t know about you, but I bristle at the thought of comparing God to a dishonest judge!  But that’s not the point here.  Of course, Jesus means that God is so much greater than the dishonest judge, that if the dishonest judge will finally relent to someone pestering him, how much more will God, who love us beyond anything we can imagine, how much more will he grant the needs of this children who come to him in faith?

But people have trouble with this very issue all the time.  Because I am sure that almost all of us have been in the situation where we have prayed and prayed and prayed and nothing seems to happen.  But we can never know the reason for God’s delay.  Maybe what we ask isn’t right for us right now.  Maybe something better is going to come our way at some time.  Maybe the right answer will position itself in time, through the grace of God at work in so many situations.  Maybe we just don’t have the big picture.

But whatever the reason, the last line of the Gospel today is our key: “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”  Our faith is what leads us to continue the prayer until it is finally answered.  Maybe the situation will come to a peaceful resolution, or maybe it is we who will be changed.  But if we approach it all in faith, then we know we have to approach it all with the long haul in mind, because our faith tells us that God answers in God’s time and in God’s way.

A delay could either bring us closer to God as we continue to pray in faith, or it can fracture our relationship with God when we give in to despair.  But let that not be so for us.  When the Son of Man comes, may he find us faithful ones busy in prayer.

Friday of the Twenty-second Week of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings: 2 John 4-9; John 13:34-35

[This was Mass for the Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grade school children.]

Today we celebrate a Mass in honor of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  We celebrate Jesus’ Sacred Heard because we always think of love as coming from the heart, and we know that Jesus, our God, is love.

Last week, I read our Kindergarteners a story about how God loves us.  The Wemmicks were a little village of wooden people, kind of like puppets.  They used to give each other stickers.  The really talented, beautiful, special people used to get pretty star stickers.  The ones who had trouble doing anything good, or who weren’t so nice to look at, they got gray dot stickers.

Punchinello used to get lots of gray dots because he was really clumsy, and his paint was chipped and scratched.  He would often say silly things or make mistakes, and so he got lots and lots of gray dots.  He was very sad about that until he met a wooden girl who didn’t have any stickers at all.  She didn’t have stickers because the stickers wouldn’t stick to her.  Punchinello asked her about that, and she said she used to get a lot of stickers until she met the puppet maker.

Punchinello went to meet the puppet maker too.  He explained to Punchinello that the stickers only stick if you let them.  The puppet maker didn’t care what other people thought about Punchinello because he loved him no matter what he looked like, or what he said, or what he did.  When Punchinello started to understand that, one of his dot stickers fell off.

The Church teaches us that God loves us very much, just like the puppet maker.  He loves us because he made us.  So when he looks at us, he doesn’t see if we’re beautiful or not.  He doesn’t see how high we can jump, or how nicely we dance, or how beautiful our clothes are or how smart we are.  He sees us for what we are: wonderful people who were made by God, and are special just because God made us.

That kind of love is really wonderful.  It’s the kind of love that lets us know that we can live our lives in happiness because God loves us.  It lets us know that we can do anything God calls us to do.  It lets us know that no matter what other people think of us, we are wonderful in God’s eyes.

But love like that can’t be kept.  Just like the wooden girl who told Punchinello about the puppet maker, we have to tell other people how much God loves them.  We have to take God’s love and spread it around.  The really wonderful thing is that no matter how much we share God’s love, we’ll never run out of it.

So today we’re going to ask all of you children to spread that love around.  After Communion, you are all going to come forward to receive a blessing.  We’ll say “God loves you.”  And you’ll say, “Amen.”  Then we will give you the name of someone in your class.  You then have to find a way to spread God’s love to that person.  Maybe you can help that person if they’re having trouble one day.  Maybe you can sit next to them at lunch.  Maybe you can invite them to play with you and your friends at recess.  Maybe you can just tell them they are wonderful and that you love them just like God loves them.

I know that you will find a way to spread that love around.  We don’t need to be giving people gray dots or shiny stars.  We don’t need to say bad things about people.  We just need to let them know God loves them.  And we can do that, because God loves us first and best.

St. Frances Xavier Cabrini

Today’s readings

St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, who was called “Mother Cabrini” during her life, was a humble woman of great faith and fortitude, who stayed with her mission. She was refused entrance to the religious order that had educated her. So she began working at an orphanage, eventually becoming a sister in the religious order that ran it. She later became their prioress. She went to New York intending to found an orphanage there. The house they were to use turned out not to be available, and the bishop advised her to return to Italy. But she stayed, and eventually founded not only that one orphanage, but 67 institutions dedicated to caring for the poor, the abandoned, the uneducated and the sick. She died at Columbus hospital in Chicago, which she also founded. She was the first American citizen to be canonized a saint.

Like St. Paul, Mother Cabrini would never have given up on someone like Onesimus.  She would see his potential and nurture his faith, as St. Paul did for Onesimus.  What a joy it is when a person like that who has been so beautifully nurtured in faith turns out to be a blessing to people.  That kind of thing happens all the time when teachers and catechists and parents nurture children and call forth their giftedness.  How many young people have grown up to bless their corner of the world because some adult in their lives saw something special in them.

This is the kind of ministry of teaching and healing that was always so special to Mother Cabrini.  She was known to be a tough lady who got things done, obviously so based on all the institutions she birthed into existence.  As the Psalmist reminds us today, the Lord secures justice for the oppressed, lets captives go free, gives sight to the blind, raises up those bent low, and all the rest.  So we are called to echo that action in what we do.  We may not found 67 institutions, but we can certainly affect those entrusted to our care right here in this little corner of the world.

Mother Cabrini, pray for us.

St. Martin of Tours / Veterans’ Day

Today’s readings

“The salvation of the just comes from the Lord.”

St. Martin of Tours is a fitting saint to intercede for veterans today. He himself was a soldier and served his country faithfully. After a time, he asked for and received release from military service. He had become a catechumen, and said to his superiors, “I have served you as a soldier; now let me serve Christ. Give the bounty to those who are going to fight. But I am a soldier of Christ and it is not lawful for me to fight.” Having received his release, he became a monk and served God faithfully. As a soldier of Christianity now, he fought valiantly against paganism and appealed for mercy to those accused of heresy. He was made a bishop, albeit reluctantly, and served faithfully in that post. He was a man of whom the psalmist says today, “The salvation of the just comes from the Lord.”

On this Veterans Day, we honor and pray for veterans of our armed forces who have given of themselves in order to protect our country and its freedoms. We pray especially for those who have died in battle, as well as for those who have been injured physically or mentally during their military service. We pray in thanksgiving for all of our freedoms, gained at a price, and pray that those freedoms will always be part of our way of life.

I received this prayer for Veterans Day. As I pray it, think of someone you know who may be a veteran, or perhaps is currently serving in the armed forces. Maybe that veteran is even you. If you don’t have anyone particular to pray for, ask God to hear this prayer on behalf of a veteran who has no one to pray for them. So let us pray:

We ask for blessings on all those who have served their country in the armed forces.
We ask for healing for the veterans who have been wounded, in body and soul, in conflicts around the globe.
We pray especially for the young men and women, in the thousands,
Who are coming home from Iraq with injured bodies and traumatized spirits.
Bring solace to them, O Lord; may we pray for them when they cannot pray.

Have mercy on all our veterans from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq,
Bring peace to their hearts and peace to the regions they fought in.
Bless all the soldiers who served in non-combative posts;
May their calling to service continue in their lives in many positive ways.

Give us all the creative vision to see a world which, grown weary with fighting,
Moves to affirming the life of every human being and so moves beyond war.
Hear our prayer, O Prince of Peace, hear our prayer.

We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

St. Martin of Tours, pray for us.

The Dedication of Saint John Lateran

Today’s readings

I’m often amazed by the flurry of activity that goes on around this place.  I’d only been here a couple of months, and I became convinced that if I strolled over to church at three in the morning, I’d see six or seven cars in the parking lot and a meeting going on somewhere.  In a typical day here, there are a handful of meetings, a full day of classes in the school, several people stopping by the parish office to schedule Masses, or pick up baptismal certificates, or coming for appointments with us priests or other staff people.  We have people come in for financial and other assistance, perhaps to plan a funeral for a loved one, or pick up lesson plans and supplies for a religious education class.  People come in for daily Mass, or to decorate the church, or come for ministry training.  And all these things have to be supported by people cleaning the church or watering plants, staff members repairing broken furniture, cleaning bathrooms, or changing light bulbs.  We have around fifty staff members involved in every kind of ministry and function here, as well as countless volunteers who support the work of the church in so many ways.

Today we celebrate the feast of the dedication of the St. John Lateran basilica in Rome.  That might seem like a strange feast to celebrate, since few of us have probably ever been there.  But St. John Lateran is a very important church for us Catholics.  It is the “mother church” of all Catholics around the world.  It is the Pope’s parish church, the cathedral of Rome. It’s an enormous basilica built over three hundred years ago on the site of a former church built in the fourth century.  Within the building are representations of the popes going all the way back to Peter.  Over time the churches on this site have been subject to fire, earthquakes and war, and have had to be rebuilt several times.  But a church has always been there. It is a visual reminder, inside and out, of our connection to our tradition and the fact that the Church has survived a lot over the centuries–from both within and without. The building attracts many tourists.  They can’t help but admire this grand edifice, much like the Jews of Jesus’ time strolled the Temple precincts and admired its splendor.

While it is a solid structure, and probably needs constant upkeep, it is a reminder of another edifice, the real Temple Jesus laid the foundation for and Paul and subsequent preachers carefully built upon, and that temple is God’s people.  This structure also requires constant upkeep, that’s what we are about in our celebration today, remembering who we are and “tending to the Temple.”

This church that is ourselves, this temple of the Holy Spirit that we are, needs constant upkeep and maintenance – just like this building where we worship, and just like old St. John Lateran.  Because we often fall into the disrepair of sin or the neglect that is spiritual laziness.  And often the repairs can seem daunting.  But they are certainly possible because of the love of God and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, that spirit that brings us back to the Church and helps us with the sacraments.

And that’s the point of today’s celebration.  We remember that we are connected as Catholics throughout the world by our connection to the Pope.  We remember that we ourselves are the temple of God, as St. Paul tells us today, built on the rock-solid foundation of Jesus Christ, built up with the teaching of the apostles, the proclamation of the Holy Scriptures, and the guidance of the Church’s tradition.

The Scriptures today paint the picture of a Church that is not just a building, but is a living thing that goes forth and makes the whole world new.  Just as Ezekiel’s vision painted the picture of water flowing forth from the temple, cleansing and renewing the earth, so the waters of baptism flow forth from the Church of God, taking with it the many ministries of the parishes and the myriad of giftedness possessed by all the baptized believers in all the churches of the world, and flowing out into the world to make a real difference.  This is how the lost come to find salvation.  This is how the poor are fed.  This is how the unborn and the elderly sick are protected.  This is how the world, dark in sin and lost in the disrepair of apathy is bound up and made new and washed clean and healed.  Saint Paul makes it very clear today: we are the temple of God, and we are filled with the Spirit to make a difference in the world.  The Church that is us, we baptized ones, goes forth into a world aching for renewal and brings it all back to the God who made everything, and makes everything new.

And that newness is exactly what Jesus meant when he upturned the moneychangers’ tables and scattered the doves.  Because the doves were needed for the sacrifice, and the money which bore the inscription of pagan deities had to be changed for money that could be brought into the temple treasury – they weren’t doing anything wrong.  But Jesus’ message here is completely different than we might think at first – what he means by all of this is that there is a new temple, the temple that is he himself – that temple which will be torn down by disbelievers but restored in the Resurrection.  There is a new temple, and so that old one with all its dove-sellers and moneychangers isn’t really necessary any more, so take it all and go home, or come to worship rightly, in the temple that is Christ, that temple that will never ever fall into disrepair.

We very much need the church buildings we have among us.  We need St. John Lateran to be a symbol of the Catholic faith that has withstood persecution of every sort and remained standing to give witness to Christ.  We need St. Raphael’s church so that we can come and worship and find our Lord in Word and Sacrament.  But all of that pales in comparison to the importance of the Church that is you and me, and all the baptized ones of every time and place, filled and inspired and breathed forth with the Holy Spirit, gifted beyond imagining, flooding the earth with the torrent of God’s grace, making everything new, and bringing it all back to God who made it all possible.

The task is daunting, but we cannot be afraid to be Church to one another and Church to the world.  As our Psalmist tells us today, “The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold!”

Saturday of the Thirty-first Week of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

“The love of money is the root of all evil.”  “Money can’t buy happiness.”  We have all sorts of proverbs that aim to keep us at right relationship not just with our financial resources, but really with all the many gifts that we have.  Today’s Liturgy of the Word gives us some humble pointers too on this important issue.

St. Paul, in thanking his friends in Philippi for their generous support of his ministry, tells them: “I know indeed how to live in humble circumstances; I know also how to live with abundance.  In every circumstance and in all things I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry, of living in abundance and of being in need.”  His gratitude isn’t so much that their gift to him filled him with plenty, but instead that their gift was a testament to their faith, and their love for the Gospel he preached to them.  He was able to use that gift to further his ministry elsewhere, making Christ known to others who longed to hear of him.

Jesus today speaks to the Pharisees, who, as the Gospel today tells us, “loved money.”  He tells them that their love of money was not going to lead them to God.  Instead, it leads them to dishonest transactions with dishonest people.  Just as a servant cannot serve two masters, so they could not expect to serve both God and mammon, the so-called god of material wealth and greed.

We live in times where the love of money has led us to considerable evil.  Greed and the desire for instant gratification has led people to be overspent and overextended.  Major corporations, greedy for more wealth, playing off the misguided desires of so many people, have defaulted, causing the government to have to step in and save them, for fear their downfall would take the entire world economy with it.  In these days, it may be well for us to hear that we cannot serve both God and mammon.  It may be well for us to come to the conclusion that we can live in both abundance and need.  And it’s never a bad time to hear that we need to make God our only God, yet again.

The Feast of St. John Lateran

Today’s readings

[Celebrating Sunday’s feast today for the school children.]

Have you ever heard the story of the three pigs?  If you have, then you remember that one of them built his house out of straw, and the wolf was able to come along and huff and puff and blow his house down.  The second pig built his house out of sticks, and again, the wolf came along and huffed and puffed and blew the house down.  But the third pig was smarter.  He built his house out of bricks.  So when the wolf came along and huffed and puffed, he wasn’t able to blow the house down and that third pig was able to live safely.

That can be a very scary story when we hear it; the wolf is devious and wants to hurt the little pigs.  But because that third pig was smart and built his house out of the right kind of material, he didn’t have to be afraid.  His house stood up to the wolf and kept the pig safe.  I thought about that story when I read today’s readings.

In our first reading today, Saint Paul talks about us being the temple of God.  We are the temple of God when God dwells in us; when he lives within our hearts.  The foundation of that temple is Jesus.  He gives us a rock solid base for our lives.   We have to be smart and build our temples with the right kinds of things.  What are those things?  Well, they are things like prayer and love and being of service to those in need – feeding the poor, teaching other people about Jesus, going to Church for Mass every week – these are the things that build a good solid temple where God can live and guide us through our lives.

This weekend we celebrate the feast of the dedication of the Cathedral of St. John Lateran in Rome.  This is the Pope’s church, where he serves as bishop.  Because of that, it is called the mother church of all Christianity.  Because it is the Pope’s church, it is like the parish church for all of us Catholics.  The first church was built on that site way back in the fourth century.  Over time, the church and its successors suffered from fire, earthquakes, and war, but there has always been a church there.  The current St. John Lateran was built in the seventeenth century.

The Cathedral of St. John Lateran is more than just a church building.  It’s a symbol of the Catholic faith that has stood the test of time, surviving just like the building survived all those fires and earthquakes and wars.  Just the same way, this building we are worshipping in right now is more than just a building for us.  It’s a symbol of the faith of all of our parishioners, all the people who gave money to have it built because they loved the Lord and loved our parish, and all the people who continue to support the church with their time, talent and treasure.

But even more than that, this church we worship in is a symbol of our relationship with God.  We build a house for worship because we want to be with our God and pray to our God and celebrate our God who gave everything to be with us.

Because Jesus, when he walked on the earth, was a temple too.  In the Gospel he says “destroy this temple and in three days I will build it again!”  He wasn’t talking about the temple in Jerusalem, where the whole thing was taking place.  He was talking about the temple of his body.  What he meant is that he would die – he would be destroyed by those who thought he was dangerous – and in three days he would rise again, destroying death in the process.

So we have to take care of and celebrate all these temples we have.  We have to take care of the church building so that it is always a good place for people to come and pray and find God.  We have to take care of the temple that is the Church in the world, so that it will always be a symbol of our faith and will always lead people to the Lord.  And we have to take care of the temple of our own bodies so that we can be a strong and beautiful place for our Lord to live.

God wants to live with us and in us forever.  We have the strongest foundation we could possibly have – Jesus himself, the son of God.  We just have to build that temple up with the right kinds of things – with prayer, and good works, and holy living.  We have to stay away from things that are bad for us, like drugs, and the wrong kinds of movies and TV, and so-called friends who try to get us to do bad things.   When we do all that, we will have built a strong temple that can lead us through all the good times and especially all the bad times in life.  We all need that kind of faith in our lives.  And when we build our lives up around it, we will never be alone, because God will always be with us.

Thursday of the Thirty-first Week of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

It’s all a matter of perspective – that’s true in most things, but most especially true in our relationship with God.  Today’s Gospel gives us a glimpse at that.  Jesus asks, ““What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it?”  Well, those men he talked to were shepherds, or had shepherds in their family, so they would have responded “nobody would do that!”  Why on earth would they risk losing the other ninety-nine sheep to find the lost one?

And as far as the coin goes, I guess it depends on what the coin is worth.  If it’s a denarius – a day’s wage – then yes, it would be worth staying up all night and searching carefully.  But if it’s just a small coin, why bother?  Who of us doesn’t have a junk drawer with a small collection of pennies in it?  If we lost one of them, we’d hardly even notice, let alone give up a night’s sleep to find it.

But here’s the perspective part: God is not like us.  Every sheep among us is important, and he will relentlessly pursue us individually until he has us all in the sheepfold.  And there are those among us who don’t see themselves as worth much.  Maybe we’re just simple laborers and not an influential businessperson, or maybe our own self-image is so poor that we think we are dirt.  But God does not; and if we’re lost, he’s going to light a lamp and stay up all night until he has us back.  For him, one of us is every bit as important as the other ninety-nine.  Every simple laborer is as important as the influential ones among us.  Even if our own self-image is poor, we are a treasure in God’s eyes.

And so that’s what the Kingdom of heaven is like.  It’s a relentless pursuit and a fury of activity until we are all back where we belong.  Once we are all with God, the joyful celebration can continue, knowing that we are all back where we were always meant to be.

Proudly powered by WordPress | Theme: Baskerville 2 by Anders Noren.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: