God You Are the Source 8-28-2016

August 6th, 2016

I think Jesus was a first class people watcher. One day he was invited to be a guest in the home of a Pharisee. When it came time for dinner, he began watching closely the other guests’ behavior. He watched all the jockeying for position to be number 1. When all were seated, Jesus gave them a piece of his mind. What he had to say was much more than a lesson about table manners. In essence Jesus said, “It’s a foolish thing to waste your time and energy trying to look important.”
In thinking about this statement, I believe there are a couple of important considerations to keep in mind:
A. Jesus never discouraged the desire for greatness . . . He encouraged it. It was never human littleness that Jesus stressed, but human grandeur. “You are the light of the world; you are the salt of the earth.”
B. His philosophy was: try hard to achieve. Do something significant with your gifts; be the best person that you can possibly become.
Where then do we get out of focus in this area? Let me suggest this:
1. Most of us don’t make a big fuss about the seating arrangements at banquets, but we are still masters in the gentle art of self promotion. We have these neat tricks that we use to elbow our way up to the head table of life.
(a.) One of them is criticism of others; fault finding in others is almost always an attempt to cover up some weaknesses in ourselves. If we can’t climb to the top, we can accomplish something of the same result by pulling others down. We need to remember that we can never promote ourselves by putting down other people. Invariably the opposite happens. Life just moves us down to a lower seat and we gain the reputation of a small minded, critical, jealous person.
2. Another common means of self-promotion is boastfulness. What a waste of time. No person is as boring and unconvincing as the one who continually talks about his or her achievements. There is something about arrogance that just doesn’t make sense, and we all know it. Whatever we are and whatever we’ve accomplished, it has required the love and help of God and a lot of people. Our best posture should be gratitude. (Sports personality, thank you God)
Let me close with this statement: If you really want to be important, stop worrying about where you are seated at the Banquet of Life and just get up and start waiting on tables. God, you are the source of all we have . . . thank you!
Now, that’s where true humility starts!

The Narrow Door 8-21-2016

August 6th, 2016

A young man wrote a letter to a priest. He told the priest he could use the letter any way he wished. Except for a few minor changes, here’s what the young man wrote: “I was one of the top swimmers in my category in Canada. Then one day I let my friends talk me into experimenting with drugs. I got hooked, and soon my mental, physical, and spiritual health deteriorated badly…I knew I was all screwed up. I became lonely and terribly frightened. There was no one I could talk to. To make matters worse, I was in debt to drug dealers for over $3,000. I figured my only way out was suicide, so I went home and wrote this note: ‘Dear Mom and Dad, I am sorry to cause you this pain…please don’t grieve too much. If I had stayed alive, I would have caused you a lot more grief than by what I just did…I love you and the whole family. (signed) Christopher”
“I began to drink to overcome fear as I prepared to take my life. Then at the last minute something made me stop; I grabbed the phone and called a crisis center. I didn’t know it then, but my mother was praying like mad for me. A few days later I entered a drug rehabilitation program. Soon I regained my physical and psychological health. It was then that I started reading the Bible. The more I read it, the more peace and joy I felt. This led me to put all my trust in God.”
“Meanwhile, there developed in me this growing desire to learn more about Jesus and to get to know him better. It’s kind of funny. I must have prayed on my knees at least ten times – asking Jesus to come into my life – before I realized that he was already in my life…”
“All this happened about five years ago. Since then, God has blessed me greatly. I teach in a Catholic high school and I’m active in my parish community…I’m also still trying to learn how to open myself more and more to the love and mercy of God. Sincerely your, Chris”
That letter illustrates one of the points in today’s gospel: The door to God’s kingdom is, indeed, narrow. But that didn’t stop Chris from trying to enter. He struggled and struggled until he did. I wonder how many people (like you & me), would have had the courage to struggle as Christopher did.
Someone said there are three kinds of Christians: Tug-boat Christians, sail-boat Christians, and raft Christians. Tug-boat Christians are people who follow Jesus not only in sunny weather but also in stormy weather. They are people who follow Jesus not only when the wind and the tide serve them but also when the wind and the tide oppose them. They are people who go to Mass not because they have to but because Jesus said at the Last Supper, “Do this in memory of me.” (Luke 22:19) They are people who help other people not because they feel like it but because Jesus said, “Love one another as I love you.” (John 15:12)
Sail-boat Christians, on the other hand, are people who follow Jesus when the wind and the tide serve them. But when the wind and the tide oppose them, they tend to go in the direction they are blown. They are people who go to Mass when family and friends go. But left to themselves, they often miss. They are the people who ask, “How far can I go before I sin?” Rather than, “How much more can I do because I love?” They are people who tend to follow the crowd more then they follow the Gospel.
Finally, there are the raft Christians. They are Christians in name only. They don’t really follow Jesus, even when the wind and the tide serve them. If they do go in his direction, it’s only because someone pulls or pushes them. They are people who do Christian things not because they want to but because they have to. In short, they are Christians in name but not in deed.
The question set before us is this: Are we a tug-boat Christian, a sail-boat Christian, or a raft Christian? Are we tug-boat Christians? Do we follow Jesus in good times and in bad? Do we go with him not only through the wide door but also through the narrow door? Or are we sail-boat Christians? Do we follow Jesus only in good times? Or are we raft Christians? Are we Christians in name only?
These are some of the growth questions today’s readings set before us. No one can answer them for us. We must do that ourselves.

Have Faith 8-7-2016

August 6th, 2016

It was an hour you did not expect. In fact, it was in the middle of a dream that you are led to a huge hall, like a place for medieval banquets. All along the beautiful carved panel walls are…large oil paintings of your ancestors.
“Wow”, you say. I had no idea anyone like this was in my family”.
“Take a look at your grandfather, Abraham”, whispers your companion. “What a man! When God told him to travel, he didn’t even wait to be told where. He packed up everything he owned, and the people he loved…and just started walking. He knew God would tell him where he was supposed to arrive when the time came. He didn’t need to know details. He had faith.
“And blow a kiss to your grandmother Sarah. (point) No children for the first sixty years of marriage, with a womb as dry as the Sahara. God asked her to open her brittle body one last time to your grandfather, because there’d be a surprise. Nine months later she was nursing a beautiful baby boy.
You look down the hall, and there are hundreds of paintings of other ancestors in faith. Noah, Samson, David, Samuel from the Old Testament, Mother Mary, Peter, Paul, Martha, Mary of Bethany…from the New, followed by Francis, Clare, Benedict, Elizabeth Seaton, Mother Teresa, and on and on.
Your companion sighs. “Yes, you come from quite a family. They had their sins, their problems, every kind of physical or emotional or spiritual ailment you could think of…but they were people of faith. They all lived by the conviction that somehow things would turn out. They didn’t cave in. They trusted God. They trusted life…even when things looked impossible.”
Your companion’s voice grows louder. “You come from good people—the best—and now it’s your turn to live by faith. It’s your turn to trust God and live according to God’s direction even when it appears unworkable, irrational, nonsensical, unrealistic or even impossible. Good lives, holy lives, always appear like that at times.”
You start to stutter. “I…I don’t know if I’m up to it.”
Your companion smiles, “You may not be up to it. But God is. God will help you. God always does. Faith is confident assurance regarding God’s promise.”
You look into the eyes of this companion and realize it is, and always has been, Jesus.
He pats you on the back. “Do not be afraid any longer. Don’t let fear rule your life. Have faith – the conviction that no matter what – in this life or the next – things will work out.