Archive for July, 2016

The Richest Man in the Valley 7-31-2016

Sunday, July 31st, 2016

There was a wealthy lord who lived in the Scottish Highlands. He was more then richly endowed with this world’s goods and amongst his vast possessions was a mansion overlooking a beautiful valley. But there was a basic emptiness in his life. He had no religious belief, he lived alone, possessed by his possessions.
In the gate lodge at the entrance to his estate lived John, his herdsman. John was a man of simple faith and deep religious commitment. With his family he was a regular churchgoer. God’s presence was a reality in his home and often at night when he opened the gate to admit his employer, the Scottish lord noticed the family in prayer.
One morning the lord was looking out on the valley resplendent in the rising sun. As he gazed on the beautiful scene, he said to himself, “It is all mine.” Just then the door bell rang. Going down, he found John on the door step. “What’s the matter, John?” he asked. “Are the horses alright?”
John looked embarrassed. “Yes, sir,” he replied. “Sir, could I have a word with you?” He was invited onto the plush carpet, and his presence there pointed up the striking contrast between their lifestyles.
“Sir,” said John hesitantly, “last night I had a dream, and in it God told me that the richest man in the valley would die tonight at midnight. I felt I should tell you. I hope, sir that you don’t mind.”
“I don’t believe in dreams. Go on back to your work and forget it.”
John still looked uneasy. “The dream was very vivid, sir, and the message was that the richest man in the valley would die at midnight tonight. I just had to come to you, sir, as I felt that you should know.”
The lord dismissed him, but John’s words bothered him so much that he finally took out his care and went to the local doctor for a check-up. The doctor examined him, pronounced him fit and said he’d give him another twenty years.
The lord was relieved but a lingering doubt caused him to invite the doctor around for dinner and a few drinks that evening. They enjoyed a meal together and shortly after eleven-thirty, the doctor got up to leave. When the lord asked him to remain on for a few nightcaps, he agreed.
Eventually, when midnight passed and he was still in the land of the living, the rich man saw the doctor to the door, and then went up stairs muttering, “Silly old John…upset my whole day…him and his dreams.”
No sooner was he in bed than he heard the door-bell ringing. It was twelve-thirty. Going down he found a grief-stricken girl at the door whom he recognized instantly as John’s teenage daughter.
“Sir,” she said, looking at him through her tears, “Mummy sent me to tell you that Daddy died at midnight.”
The lord froze. It was suddenly made clear to him who was the richest man in the valley. The richest man in the valley.

Lord, Teach Us to Pray 7-24-2016

Sunday, July 24th, 2016

I’ve had a very rough week this week and I have found myself spending extra time in prayer. The Gospel this Sunday triggered some things about prayer that I had not thought about for a while, and I would briefly like to share them with you.
The first thing is that it is important that when we pray we must be honest and completely open with God; we must use real words that express how we feel and what is going on in our lives. Our relationship with God should be one place where we can let it all hang out – no safe and appropriate roles to play – no masks to hide behind.

The second thing I was reminded about through the Gospel was that when I say I am too busy to pray (which I do at times), I may really be saying I am afraid to pray. Also, if I am so busy with what I want from God, I may miss what God really has to give me.
The third thing is, if we are to take prayer seriously we must dispel from our minds the notion that it is some kind of magic. Prayer is not an “Aladdin’s Lamp” which, if properly rubbed, will grant our every wish.
A student, rather lazily inclined, noticed that a classmate always recited her Spanish lessons well. One day he asked her, “How is it that you always recite your lessons so perfectly?”
“Before I study,” she told him, “I always pray that I may remember my lessons and repeat them well.”
“Do you?” asked the boy, somewhat surprised. “So that’s her secret method,” he thought. “Well, then, I’ll pray too.”
That night he prayed up a storm, recalling as many prayers as he could remember. However, the next day he could not even repeat one phrase of the lesson. Quite perplexed he looked for his friend, and, finding her, confronted her for being deceitful.
“I prayed,” he told her, “but I could not repeat a single phrase from yesterday’s homework.”
“Perhaps,” she told him, “you took no pains to learn the lesson!”
“Of course not,” said the boy. “I didn’t study at all. I had no reason to study. You told me to pray that I might remember the lesson.”
“There’s your problem,” she said, “I told you I prayed before, not instead of, studying.”
I close with a final thought on prayer: A friend of mine used to drop by his Church every evening around 5 PM, for an hour of meditation before supper. Every evening he noticed the same old man sitting in one of the back pews. The man was always there when he arrived and still there when he left. It began to haunt him.
One evening curiosity got the better of him and he approached the man, greeted him, and hoped he wasn’t praying: “I have seen you here for several months now, and I really admire your constant devotion. But I was wondering . . . I notice that you are always just sitting here quietly, never using a prayer book, Bible, or rosary . . . still obviously praying…I just wondered, when you pray to God, what do you say; what do you talk about . . . ?
The old man looked up at my friend calmly and gently: “I don’t talk to God; God talks to me.”
A lot of people think prayer (or meditation or religion or spirituality) is supposed to be like Alka Seltzers in a glass of water: non-stop, bubbly, effervescent, supernatural excitement. Wrong! Sometimes, maybe. But most of the time prayer is like any love relationship: it involves a lot of giving and listening. It’s like learning to talk: first, you have to listen, in the sure peace of God’s presence.

Three Minutes a Day 7-17-2016

Sunday, July 17th, 2016

One night a father came to a parent-teacher conference in a Chicago high school. During a talk with one of his son’s teachers, the father broke down and began to cry. After he regained his composure, the father apologized, saying, “My son no longer lives with me.” “But I still love him, and I want to know how he’s doing in school.” The father then told the teacher how his wife and four children left him that afternoon. He was a building contractor and sometimes worked 16 hours a day. Naturally, he saw a little of his family, and they slowly grew farther and farther apart. Then the father said something sad. He said: “I wanted to buy my wife and kids all those things I had dreamed of giving them.” “But in the process I got so involved in working that I forgot about what they needed most; a father who was around at nights to give them love and support.”
This story and our gospel today illustrates the same point. We can get so involved in what we are doing that we forget why we are doing it. We can get so involved in living that we forget the purpose of living. We can get so involved in pursuing the things money can buy that we forget about the things money can’t buy. It’s this kind of mistake that Martha made in today’s gospel. She got so involved in cooking a meal for Jesus that she forgot why Jesus had come. He didn’t come for a free meal. He came to be with friends. You and I live in a very fast-paced world. It’s so easy to lose our balance. It’s so easy to lose our perspective; it’s so easy to get our priorities mixed up. It’s so easy to lose sight of what we are doing and why we are doing it.
During the World War II, a young soldier was stationed on the island of Saipan in the South Pacific. He said that during this time he and his friends used to go for swims in a secluded spot, just off the steep cliffs of the island. It was a lovely place surrounded by rocks. When they arrived, the water was so clear they could see fish ten feet below the surface. After they had swam for an hour, however the water became so clouded with sand, churned up from the bottom, that they couldn’t see a foot below the surface. But the next day when they returned for another swim the sand had settled. The water was crystal clear again. Our mind is like that water. It too can get so clouded up from the turmoil of everyday living that it’s hard for us to see clearly. We lose sight of everything; our perspective gets clouded; our priorities get confused; our balance gets destroyed. What we need to do when this happens is to pause and let the murky waters of the mind become clear again.
We need to do what Mary did in today’s gospel. We need to sit at the feet of Jesus in quiet prayer. We need to let him teach us what is important and what is not. How do we do this? Practically, let me share with you a simple method of prayer. Each night before falling asleep, we take three minutes to do three things. During the first minute, we pause and do a mental replay of our day. We pick out the day’s high point, something we are happy about, like getting a letter from an old friend. Then, we speak to Jesus about it very sincerely. Finally, we conclude by giving thanks to Jesus for the letter and the friend. During the second minute, we do a second mental replay or our day. Only this time we pick out the low point in it, something we’re sorry about, like yelling at a parent, a spouse, or a child. We speak to Jesus about this weakness and ask him to forgive us and to heal us. Finally, during the third minute, we look ahead to tomorrow, to a critical point. We think of some difficult thing we must do, like talking to a parent, a spouse, or a child about a problem that has arisen. We speak to Jesus about it and ask his light and his strength in handling it. No matter how busy we are, three (3) minutes a day can put us in touch with life and in touch with Jesus.
I close with a prayer for us busy people; Lord, Keep us from getting so involved in life that we forget why you gave us life. Keep us from getting so involved in living that we forget the purpose of living. Keep us from getting so involved in pursuing the things money can buy that we forget about the things money can’t buy.