Lord, What Must We Do? 10-14-2018

October 13th, 2018

I. Let me tell you a little more about the young man in the Gospel story.
This young man who came to Jesus was no teenager. He was a successful young businessman—a sales rep for his company living in a large all-brick home in one of the fashionable subdivisions on the growing edge of town, one with underground utilities, a neighborhood pool and tennis courts. In his garage are a two-year-old Jeep Cherokee and a new Lexus. He’s proud of his attractive wife and two active children. But still he’s searching.
He is well-schooled in manners and morality. When Jesus tells him to keep the commandments, “Do not kill, do not commit adultery, do not steel…” he answers that he has kept the commandments from his youth. He has everything going for him. He is smart, he is responsible, and he is on his way up in the world. Why, then, does he feel so empty? Maybe he should start his own business, try skydiving, and learn karate. He isn’t sure what he needs. But he needs something. His heart is a shell. He feels restless, unfulfilled, as if it is all a meaningless game. Maybe this itinerant teacher could give him the answer, What must I do?” asks the young man with great earnestness, “to inherit eternal life?”
This young man is being challenged by Jesus to do some serious soul searching. To ask some very hard questions about his life and what fills his life. What gives him meaning?
This Gospel is about Priorities.
II. A. What or Who is at the Center of our lives?
What or Who is first and foremost in our lives?
What or Who ranks number one in our value system?
What or Who do we turn to in our quest for fulfillment, our search for happiness, or desire for peace of mind and heart and soul?
What or Who?
B. For the man in the Gospel, money was the answer to most of these questions. And that is why he went away so sad.
C. What would I answer? What would you answer? I guess because I am a priest you would expect my answer to be God. Sometimes it is, sometime it isn’t. When it isn’t, there is that empty feeling inside me—just like this young man I introduced you to, had in his heart.
III. I don’t think that Jesus meant that money—possessions were evil in themselves. Rightly used, money and things can be a blessing. But when they give us a false sense of security, they become dangerous. When our possessions possess us—we are headed for trouble.
Some few years ago, the world mourned the death of Mother Teresa. She had devoted most of her life to helping the poorest of the poor. The people of Calcutta called her “the Saint of the Gutters.” Money meant nothing to Mother Teresa except a chance to help. A pope once gave her a nearly new Lincoln Continental. She never got in it. Instead, she sold it and used the money to start a leper colony in West Bengal. In 1970, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. That included a large amount of money. She gave every penny of it to feed the poor.
Fr. Andrew Greely wrote an article about Mother Teresa for Newsweek magazine. He told of riding in a cab with her one hot day in June. The ride lasted an hour. And the two of them just chatted about various things. Looking back on that hour, his most vivid memory is the radiance and glow of Mother Teresa. He said: “She was the happiest human being I had ever met.” Who says you can’t buy happiness? It all depends on how you spend the money.
A question for this week: Who or What is the Center of our lives? Who or What?

Divorce 10-7-2018

October 6th, 2018

I. Our Gospel speaks very bluntly about Divorce (Easy to skip over it) – I am going to try to share with you a few points of reflection that have helped me understand the scripture better.
A. It is very important to hear these words of Jesus in their historical context and not as applied directly to anyone’s present day situation. These words do not apply to all people who have ever had a marriage fail –it was the Pharisees that raised the issue of divorce in order to trick Jesus – to get him in trouble.
1. You see many of the people were already married when they became followers of Jesus. In some cases a husband or a wife became a follower of Jesus while their spouse did not. Somewhat misguided some of the followers of Jesus felt compelled to get away from their non-Christian partner – so they divorced them. This became a scandal in the Church, people divorcing otherwise devoted partners over religion and feeling righteous about it. Now, apply the words of Jesus to the situation and you get something different from what we thought we were hearing. I hear it now as a challenge to misguided piety – a self-righteous attitude – Jesus says is has to STOP!
II. There will always be a gap between the ideals of following Christ and our everyday human reality. There is Tension!
A. What do we do about it?
1. Do we throw out the ideal that the marriage commitment is forever especially when it gets too hard – too difficult? I think Jesus’s answer would be NO.
2. On the other hand, do we treat people who get divorced like dirt, like second class citizens? I think the answer of Jesus would again be NO.
We try our best each day, as Pope Francis says, to offer compassion, support, and create an environment where all people feel like they belong, even when we do not get to the ideal.

I want to thank you. Those of you that have struggled and battled to stay married, to keep the different commitments you have made. I look at all you go through. I hear your stories. You inspire me to keep striving towards the ideal in the midst of my human weakness.
I want to apologize to any of you that have gone through a divorce as a couple or as a family, if our Church or any Church person has treated you rude or has slammed the door in your face.
For those of you who have experienced a divorce, and have kept your commitment to Christ and the Church, I sincerely thank you. You have not given up on God and the Church, even if you felt that the Church & God may have given up on you.
I close:
Hear this, the door is open, you are welcome here. I extend to you a personal invitation and ask you to pass this invitation on to others. Let’s sit down and talk. It’s time to heal. We sing about it – Our God is a God of Second Chances. We must together try to make that message come alive in this place in this time.

God Looks at You! 9-30-2018

October 6th, 2018

I have found in coaching Football – sometimes the players get a little apathetic – get the blazes, go through the motion, seem to be doing everything in slow motion. It becomes necessary for the coach (so to speak) to jump-start those players to light a fire under them; to get them going again in full speed.
To do this, you must get their attention. It may take a glare -some loud words, an appropriate tirade, and as one Southern Coach said; you may have to “pitch a fit” to get the players focused again and moving in the right direction.
I believe someone in the 2nd Scripture reading is trying to get our attention, – to get us focused. They use some very strong language. Woe to you rich, your fine clothes have grown moth eaten, – your gold and silver have corroded and their corrosion shall be a testimony against you. Weep and wail over your impending miseries.
Some of us here – might be quick to say to ourselves – that does not apply to me. I am not rich. I have trouble paying my bills. I can’t save any money. I am on a fixed income.
I believe there is a challenge in this Scripture for all of us no matter what our economic status in life is.
I would like to lay that challenge out – in just a few well chosen words and allow each one of us the opportunity to think about it for ourselves this week.
1. Does whatever amount of money we have; a lot or a little, – whatever possessions we have acquired, are they controlling us?
2. Do we have certain possessions, clothes, money, cars, CD’s, DVD’s, TiVo, smart phones, objects, – that we treat with more tenderness, care and concern than we do people (even our own family?)
3. Have we sometimes forgotten the saying:
“The world uses people and loves things;
Christians love people and use things.”

I close with this story: –
Once upon a time there was a little rich boy. His grandparents made millions of dollars in constructing big machinery.

His parents were bright, beautiful, and wealthy. The little rich boy grew up in an 88-room mansion with pools, a tennis court, a basketball court and a nine- hole golf course in the back yard. There were cooks to cook, butlers to serve, nurses to supervise, maids to clean up afterward – chauffeurs to drive the little rich boy to school.

But the little rich boy was ashamed, embarrassed – he couldn’t handle his family’s wealth. He ran away from home; he never invited any of his friends or classmates to visit; and he dirtied up new shoes or clothes – so he could be just like everybody else.

The little rich boy didn’t find out until he grew up that it isn’t how much you have but what you do with it, that a lot of middle-class people are more hung up with money than the rich, that real wealth is freedom from self-centeredness and real poverty is being so attached to whatever you have – lots or a little – that it controls your life.

We need to remember:

God doesn’t look at your bank accounts.

God looks at us.

What will God see?