Lightning Strikes 3-26-2017

March 26th, 2017

Years ago, a boy was collecting berries in the woods near his Southern home. He was concentrating on filling his bucket – and mouth –with the delicious fruit and not paying attention to how deep he was going into the forest. The boy didn’t notice the dark clouds forming on the horizon. Then he heard crashes of thunder. Suddenly he realized that he was lost. Darkness enveloped the woods. The terrified youngster started to run with no sense of where he was going.
Then he remembered what his parents had taught him: When you’re lost, stop and be still, look around, and listen. So the boy stopped running and stood still. And he observed the lightning strikes illuminating the forest landscape. With each lightning flash he was able to see a bit farther ahead and walk a little closer to his destination until he found his way home, guided by the storm that had, at first, frightened him.
“Seeing” and “light” are key images of today’s Gospel for this Sunday in mid-Lent. Jesus cures a man born blind – but the greater miracle is opening the eyes of those around him to “see” the presence of God in their midst. Terrified of the storm, the little boy remembers his parents’ wise advice: Stop and look. See the light and make your way towards it. The Christ of Lent is that light that illuminates those times and places in which we can realize the love of God in our midst. Like the Jewish leaders and the temple officials, we sometimes become so obsessed trying to find God where God is not that we fail to see God where God actually is. We desperately want to know where God is when tragedy befalls us; we live our lives taking comfort in the erroneous notion that God is found only at certain times, in the rituals and pious practices our religion specifies. The reality is that God is most profoundly present in the simple, ordinary doings of life, in the kindness and love of others, in life itself and the gifts of the earth to sustain that life. May God grant us the vision that the blind man receives in today’s Gospel: to see the love of God present in all things.

Breaking Down Barriers 3-19-2017

March 18th, 2017

INTRODUCTION
I. The Gospel story points us to one of the main works of Jesus – something we are called to do-
Breaking down barriers that divided the human family.
Some of these barriers are very real today.
II. First Barrier – was a Racial Barrier.
This woman was a Samaritan – Samaritans were regarded as an inferior race; scum of the earth. Jews had no respect for them; only distrust.
Jesus walked right through the Barrier like it did not exist. He saw a person made in the image of God. Centuries of History said they were adversaries. But Jesus paid no attention.
She was a Human being hurting and needing some help.
That’s all He saw!
III. The Second Barrier – was a Social Barrier.
He was talking to a woman – they could not believe it. This was an extremely male dominated society. Women were definitely 2nd class citizens and worse.
To Jesus – Each and every person was important. He shared some of his deepest spiritual insights with women; this woman was important to Him.
IV. The Third & Final Barrier – was the Barrier of Religion
People were fighting over where the proper place of worship was supposed to be. My mountain versus your mountain; my temple is better than yours.
A Religious Tug a War!
This battle was not bringing people closer together. Jesus emphasized that no one has exclusive claim to God – God cannot be contained in one place or controlled by a group of people. We cannot box up God in any one set of Doctrines.
With Jesus the important thing was not where or so much how you worship. But does worship connect to our hearts?
V. In Closing –
If we really want to follow Jesus – if we want to be the church, we need to ask ourselves some hard questions regarding these barriers that Jesus tried so hard to break down.
1. Do we label people – this or that because of their nationality or skin color. Because they speak a different language. Because they are not like us – labels that prevent us from getting to know them as human beings.
2. A good question for us to ask as Church – Do we still treat women as second-class citizens?
3. Do we use our religious beliefs as a club to beat up other religions?
4. What barriers do we need to break down right now in our families, in this parish that are dividing us?
May our prayer this week – be this:
Lord, give us the courage to look at what divides us and the strength to do something about these Barriers with your help. AMEN.

The Desert & the Mountain 3-12-2017

March 10th, 2017

This Sunday’s gospel and next Sunday’s gospel speak to us about two geographical spots: the desert and the mountain.
We need to stand in both spots during Lent, the desert and the mountain.
In the desert, we encounter the devil, we face our guilt and the evil that abounds in our world. The Christian life is impossible without the desert.
But it is also impossible without the mountain top where we can breathe fresh air and see everything in a new light. It is good for us to be on the mountain, where we can see and listen to God in a new way.
Let me share with you a true desert/mountain top story.
They had just moved into their new house in a residential section of Syracuse, New York. That morning, Mom left early to take her teenage son to work. She backed out of the garage and pressed the remote to bring down the door. “What’s THAT?” the teenager cried out as the door closed. She turned around and faced the door. There, in foot-high, hot pink letters, someone had spray painted: KKK. DIE NIGGER.
They sat there stunned. She called her husband, who was out of town on business. “Honey, you have to report this.”
The sheriff came over immediately. He was surprised at how calm she was. “You should be taking this more seriously,” the sheriff advised.
“I take it very seriously,” she told the sheriff. “But I’m not going to get hysterical, and I’m not going to be afraid.”
While her teenage son understood the hate behind the words, the two younger children did not. “Why did someone write this on our house? What does it mean? Whoever did this doesn’t even know us! How can they be so mean?”
Torn between anger and sadness, she wished she could shield her young sons from prejudice forever. But she knew she couldn’t. “We mustn’t return the hate. It’s not up to us to judge them. We’re called to love others despite them. Whoever did this wants us to be upset. Well, we’re not going to be. We’re going to pray for them so that maybe they’ll come to know God too.”
Not five minutes later, a newspaper reporter came with a photographer. Then a television crew arrived. They were mystified as she told them what she told her boys: “I don’t hold anything against whoever did this. God teaches us to forgive.”
The family’s new neighbors started to stop by to offer their support and express their anger and regret at what had happened. Someone brought flowers, another brought a cake. Not only were they meeting their new neighbors, but they were hugging them.
Later in the afternoon, a young man and woman arrived in work clothes and carrying paint, soap and buckets. “We heard about what happened here,” they said. “Is it okay if we help clean things up?”
Before long, everyone was involved in the project. Buckets were filled with soapy water, sandpaper was applied – and as the hate-filled words were washed away, a spirit of community and friendship blossomed in their place.
The power of the Good News- Our God is greater than any evil we can imagine. Before long everyone was involved in the project.