Archive for May, 2017

No Back-Up Plan 5-28-2017

Saturday, May 27th, 2017

There is an ancient legend about the ascension of Jesus into heaven. According to the legend, when Jesus reached heaven, his body still showed the wounds of his crucifixion.
His hands and feet still bore the prints from the nails. His side bore the mark from the spear. His back bore the stripes from the whip, and his head bore the wounds from the thorns.
When the people in heaven saw these marks, they were astounded to see how much he had suffered. Then the angel Gabriel rose up and said to Jesus;
“Lord, how greatly you suffered on earth! Do all the people on earth know and appreciate how much you went through for them and how much you love them?”
Jesus replied; “Oh, no! Only a handful of people in Palestine know that, the rest haven’t even heard of me.” They don’t know who I am. They don’t know how much I suffered, and how much I love them.”
Gabriel was shocked to hear this. Then he said to Jesus:
“How will the rest of the people on earth ever learn about your suffering and your love?” Jesus said; “Just before I left, I told Peter, James, and John, and a few of their friends to tell the rest of the world for me. They will tell as many people as they can. Those people in turn, will tell other people. In that way, the whole world will eventually learn about my love for them.”
Gabriel looked even more confused now. He knew how fickle people are. He knew how forgetful they are. He knew how prone to doubt they are. So he turned to Jesus and said:
“But Lord, what if Peter, James and John grow tired and frustrated? What if they forget about you? What if they begin to have doubts about you? Didn’t you take these things into account? Don’t you have a back-up plan just in case?”
Jesus answered: “I did take all these things into account, but I decided against a back-up plan. This is the only plan I have. I’m counting on Peter, James, and John not to let me down.”
Many centuries later, Jesus still has no other plan. He counted on Peter, James and John and they didn’t let him down. He counted on the people they told, and they didn’t let him down. And now Jesus counts on us.
In his book “The Song of the Bird”, Anthony de Mello tells this story. He puts it in the first person to give it added impact. He says:
On the street I saw a small girl cold and shivering in a dress,
with little hope for a decent meal. I became angry and said to
God, ‘Why did you permit this?’
For a while God said nothing. That night he replied quite
suddenly, “I certainly did something about it. I made you, I made
you!”
Let’s close with a prayer:
Lord Jesus, on this feast of your ascension into heaven,
give us new eyes to see your face
in the faces of those who are in need.

Give us new ears to hear your voice
in the voices of those who cry out in pain.
Give us new tongue to tell your story
to those who have never heard it.
Give us new hearts to share your love
with those who have not yet experienced it.
And Lord thank you for counting on us.
We will try our best!

God the Cheerleader 5-21-2017

Sunday, May 21st, 2017

Most people like to get gifts. In today’s Gospel Jesus says that he’ll ask the Father and the Father will give us a gift, something called a paraclete. You are now the proud owner of a paraclete. However, sometimes you get a gift from a friend and you’re not sure of what it is, even after you open it, one might rightly wonder (what this paraclete is).
Breaking the word down into its parts helps. “Paraclete” is a Greek word and the “clete” part of it means to call out or yell. The “para” means vigorously. So “paraclete” means to call out vigorously. Now in some Bibles the word paraclete is translated into advocate or consoler. Those words are good, but somewhat churchy and really not earthy, the way that paraclete is in the original language. I think the closest English word we have for paraclete is “cheerleader.”
If you’ve ever played on a basketball or football team, you know that there’s such a thing as home field or court advantage – when you are on your home turf and when the stands are full of your fans cheering and screaming for you, you’re much more likely to play your best game and give it your best shot.
Today’s Gospel presents a stunning and delicious picture of God – God the cheerleader. Your biggest fan, according to scripture, is God. God shouting for you; God standing up and cheering when you do something well; God going into agony when you fall into the mud or get beaten; God calling and pushing onward; God telling you – you can do it – God the cheerleader.
There’s an important difference between God the cheerleader and human cheerleaders. When you and I are cheering for people from the stands, we might get so caught up in the excitement of the game we wish we could go right down there on the field and do something concrete to help. When I’m at a 49’er game and the 49’ers are behind I sometimes get carried away and would love a chance to stand next to whatever quarterback they have and help him throw the football. Well, you and I can’t do that, but God can. God does not remain an impassive observer in the stands while you and I make our way through the game of life. God gets so carried away that in a fit of enthusiasm he leaves the stands and becomes a member of the team. That’s the mystery of Jesus – Jesus our brother, Jesus a member of the human race, Jesus walking with us toward eternal life.
And as if that weren’t enough, Jesus says that he’s going to ask the Father and we’ll be given still another paraclete, still another cheerleader –the Holy Spirit, a little energy, something inside us that urges us on. Imagine it! Three cheerleaders totally full of love and concern for you, cheering you onward—God the Creator, cheering you from the distance, calling you forward; God the Son, cheering you as your brother; walking next to you; and God the Holy Spirit, cheering you from inside, kicking you in the rear when you need it, pulling you, pushing you, tugging you, congratulating you, forgiving you, telling you to keep on going and you can do it.
And if we believe in this cheerleading God, there’s only one thing for us to do – and that is to become cheerleaders ourselves. The vision of Jesus is for husbands to cheer wives and wives to cheer husbands; for old people to cheer young people and young people to cheer old people; for single people to cheer their friends and friends to cheer single people; for parishioners to sometimes cheer their Pastor, for all of us to cheer each other and forgive each other and lift each other up into new life.
I close. Today the scripture invites you to consider the delicious picture of God the cheerleader, God who is your best fan, God who is the one urging you onward. There are already enough boos in this world – that’s the voice of the world telling you, you can’t be any better, you’re just you. You’re stuck in that rut and that’s it. The world telling you to lie down and die. But stronger than the voice of the world, strong enough to bounce from one side of the galaxy to the other, is the strong and silent word of God coming to you from the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The voice of the cheerleader that says “You’re Terrific. I know you can do it. Get up – you’ll make it. HALLELUJHA!!”

Living Tabernacles 5-14-2017

Sunday, May 14th, 2017

As I read the second reading today, some words stay with me. “You too” (that means all of us). You too – are living stones built as an edifice of spirit.
These words reminded me that we are the church – not this fantastic building that many of you and others worked so hard to create. This building is a very special place for the church to gather. We are very different people, with different backgrounds, talents, personalities, life experiences, and cultures. We are the church. Words we have heard before. Fairly simple words, but they need to be said over and over again. They need to be believed and lived.
I have been in some beautiful churches and cathedrals and have found many of them cold and lifeless. I have been in a parish church that was an old barn (their church building had burned down). In that barn there was life, spirit, energy, variety and warmth. There was real church because of the people – the living stones.
When we come to this building that houses us the church – most of us get very reverent. We genuflect, bow to the Blessed Sacrament in the Tabernacle as a sign of our respect. I believe this is a good thing to do. It is part of who we are. But my question to all of us as church tonight/today is this.
How reverent are we, how respectful are we to the living tabernacles right next to us? This tabernacle is made of some type of metal. It holds for us Catholics the Eucharistic Presence of Jesus. I believe and respect that, but I also believe that every human being is a living flesh and blood container of God – a human tabernacle.
That person in our family that we find very difficult right now (you know that person) has God in them. That person that drives everyone crazy at school or work has God in them.
That person, who is homeless, who is from another country and taking some of our jobs, who is dying of AIDS, whose values are totally opposite of mine, has God living in them.
How respectful? How reverent are we to these living tabernacles – these containers of God – that we rub elbows with everyday. A little respect, a little reverence, can do some pretty powerful things.
A businessman in a hurry plunked down a dollar into the cup of a man selling flowers and rapidly went his way. Half a block down the street, he turned around and made his way back to the poor flower seller. “I’m sorry,” he said picking out his favorite flower. “In my haste I failed to make my purchase. After all, you are a businessman just like myself. Your flowers are fairly priced and of good quality. I trust you won’t be upset with my forgetting to pick out my purchase.” With that he smiled and quickly went on his way again.
A few weeks later, while at lunch, a neatly dressed, handsome man approached the businessman’s table and introduced himself. “I’m sure you don’t remember me, and I don’t even know your name, but your face I will never forget. You are the man who inspired me to make something of myself. I was a vagrant selling flowers on a street corner until you gave me back my self-respect and a sense of dignity. Now I believe I am a businessman, too.”
A little respect, a little reverence for the living tabernacles all around us can do some pretty powerful things.