Archive for November, 2019

Long Live the King 11-24-2019

Thursday, November 21st, 2019

I mentioned before today is the feast of Christ the King, what does
this feast mean? What can we do to appreciate Jesus as King?
I have an idea I’d like you to think about. Bear with me because
you’ll think I’m a little crazy as I develop it, but eventually I think you’ll
see the point I want to make. Let’s spend a little time thinking about
how we use the word “king” in our conversations. We speak of the lion
as the king of the beasts and we have all heard of King Kong, a powerful
but much maligned oversized gorilla. And the Schlitz people boast that
theirs is the king of beer. If you want a great burger you go to Burger
King. A few years ago a Nike commercial declared Michael Jordan the
king of the court. Then there’s that old cowboy, Roy Rogers, king of the
cowboys, and there’s a lesser known king, the polka king, Frankie
Yankovitch. But enough is enough! What is the point in rattling off a list of kings as varied as the hamburger king and the polka king?
As we listen to the list, we realize that however diverse, all these
kings share something in common – they excel at what they do. They all
have some crowning achievement. For example, the lion has a roar that would frighten anyone, and King Kong made the earth tremble when he
beat his hairy chest. Schlitz claimed it had the best beer and Burger
King the best burgers in the land. Nike declared that Michael Jordan
could sky higher than anyone else.
Today we celebrate Christ as a king. What does he excel at?
What’s his crowning achievement? Well, we know what he wasn’t the
best at. He wasn’t the best liked, certainly not by the Scribes or
Pharisees; the best dressed (a one-piece tunic and that was it); the best
looking (nowhere do we read he looked like Charleton Heston); the best
likely to succeed (the cross did not hold the sweet smell of success); the
best behaved (sweet, simple Jesus he was not).
Well, then how did he excel? What was he best at? He excelled at
being human. If you want to know what it is to be a powerful gorilla,
you look to King Kong; if you want to know what it is to be the king of
the court, you look to Michael Jordan; if you want to know what it is like to be human, you look to Jesus.
But what does Jesus excelling at being human mean? I’d say it
means three things: You count!
I’m for you!
Come to the party!
“You count!” We know what it means not to count. It means to
be: looked through, overlooked, under looked, nobody, a no account,
nothing.
“You count!” This means: all the runny noses matter, all the
overweight’s matter, all the underweight’s matter, all the just-so’s matter,
all the wallflowers, confused, questioning, dropouts matter.
Jesus made everybody feel they counted. He made little
Zacchaeus feel ten feet tall. He named Simple Simon “the rock.” He
turned the prostitute into Dulcinea.
Secondly, Jesus let everybody know, “I’m for you!” Period! Not, “I’m for you…”
…if you pass a test,
…if you get your hair cut and your nails cleaned,
…if you get smart and well-mannered,
…if you get the earring removed …if you’re tops in everything.
No, “I’m for you” as you are, warts and all, neuroses and all. You
can rely on me, lean on me, trust me. I’m no fair-weather friend. I
believe in you!
Thirdly, Jesus invited everybody to the party. No one was to be:
rejected, turned back, cast out, sent on their way, refused
admittance.
His parties were not: mutual admiration societies, elitist
gatherings, old boy’s club meetings.
“Come to the party”: whites, blacks, browns, polka dots, men
women, poor, rich, tall, short, old, young, suburbanites, city folk,
country dwellers! You are all welcome!
Christ’s message was and is: “You count, I’m for you, and come
to the party.” But what about his crowning achievement? The touch of
glory? His crowning achievement was and is the cross. No big roar. No
polka. No razzle-dazzle on the basketball court. Just the cross.
Certainly the cross represents others’ attempts to cut short and put an end to Jesus’ message. But it is also Jesus’ way of saying you can’t stop a winner, a king. He went all the way to put himself on the line for
us, and he made his point most eloquently on the cross. Because on that
cross he said to another reject: “You count; I’m for you; this day you
will be with me at the party in everlasting life!
Long live the king!

Count On It 11-17-2019

Sunday, November 17th, 2019

One night in 1983, over 100 million television viewers saw the
movie The Day After. Filmed in Lawrence, Kansas, it portrayed what
that city would be like after a nuclear attack.
Just before the film began, a warning flashed on the screen, saying,
“Because of graphic portrayal of nuclear war, this film may be
unsuitable for children. Parental discretion is advised.”
The warning was well given. For during the next 128 minutes, the
movie showed shocking scenes of death and destruction. The script, too,
was shocking and disturbing. It made us realize that the possibility of a
nuclear attack was greater than we had ever imagined.
The words and images of today’s gospel are reminiscent of the
words and images of that film.
Jesus portrays for us, graphically, the destruction of Jerusalem and
the Temple. For Jews, the destruction of these two things was equivalent to the end of the world. Precisely for this reason, the Church uses this gospel passage as
one of its readings for the end of the liturgical year. It wants us to reflect
on the end of the world.
It wants us to reflect on that moment when the world, as we know
it, will pass away.
It wants us to ask ourselves, “How prepared will we be for that
moment when it comes?”
A few stories to help us reflect…
John was a building contractor for a construction company. His
specialty was large luxury homes.
To increase his income, John routinely cheated on the materials
that went into the homes. He was so clever at concealing these shortcuts
that he joked to a close friend that even he couldn’t detect his own
shortcuts.
Sometimes his cheating reached such a proportion that the homeowners were in fairly serious danger because of the under
constructed electrical systems and the like. The building contractor’s shortcuts were especially dangerous in
the final home he built. Even he worried about some of the things he did
in that home.
You can imagine his utter consternation, therefore, when the
company gave the contractor this home as a retirement gift. It would be
the home in which he and his wife would spend the rest of their years.
How is this story a parable of life? What corners are we cutting in
our life, figuring nobody will be the wiser for it? Speak to God about
the shortcuts in our life.
In April 1987, Hall of Famer Mickey Mantle was returning by
plane to his home in Dallas. Suddenly he began to sweat and have
difficulty breathing. The thought flashed into his mind: “I’m having a
heart attack!” He summoned a flight attendant and was given oxygen.
When the plane landed, he was rushed to a hospital.
Later, Mantle told an Associated Press correspondent about dream he had while he was in the hospital. “I dreamed I died and went to heaven. Saint Peter greeted me. I
said, ‘I’m Mickey Mantle.’ He said, ‘Really? Come in, God wants to
see you.’
“I went to see God, and he said, ‘We can’t keep you here because
of the way you acted. But do me a favor and sign six dozen baseballs.’”
When the humor of Mantle’s dream subsides, truth emerges: No
one will escape God’s judgment, and no one will get VIP treatment in
that judgment.
What frightens us most about standing before God in judgment?
Speak to God about this fear, and ask God how we can overcome it.
I would like to close with these few words, think of them when you
start worrying too much about anything. Especially about when the end
of the world might happen.
If God were to drop us a postcard today, I think he might write,
“My dear sons and daughters I love you in Jesus more than you can ever
know. Through the human nature of my son I share all of your life with
you – even the sickness and failure and pain, even the final cross and the knowledge of death. Not all, or even many, of the crosses you will put up with in life are of my making. Believe me, I grieve over them just as
much as you do. But in the midst of it all, I will be there. I will be there
with you. I will be there for you. And a relationship will be forged
between us that earth and time and heaven and hell will never be able to
break. I love you. True, bad things are bound to happen – but never the
worst. I will always have you, and you will always have me. Count on
it!”

Worshiping at our own altars 11-10-2019

Sunday, November 10th, 2019

A writer had a dream in which she visited hell.
To her surprise, this hell had no infinite fire or bottomless burning
chasms of tormented souls. It was not like the hell she had pictured at
all; in fact, it was rather “church-like.” She was led through some dark
passages lined with the doors to many cells. Each cell she passed was
identical. The central piece of furniture in each cell was an altar and
before each altar knelt a sickly, weak, greenish-gray, ghostly figure in
intense prayer and adoration.
“But whom are they worshiping?” the visitor asked her guide.
“Themselves,” was the reply. “This is pure self-worship. In their
worship of their own beings, in placing their hopes and dependence on
themselves and their own dreams alone, they are feeding on themselves
and exhausting their own spirits. That is why they look so sickly and
emaciated.”
The writer was appalled and saddened by row upon row of cells,
small prisons for their pathetic, non-communicating inmates, who were doomed to spend eternity in solitary confinement, themselves their first,
last and only object of worship.
God, as revealed by Christ, is not the vengeful Judge or cosmic
Tyrant who takes cruel delight in our failures; the God taught by Jesus in
our Gospel is the God of life, a God whose limitless love put us and all
of creation in motion. God will love us for all eternity – but there
always exists the possibility that we will refuse that love. That refusal to
accept God’s love, the refusal to respond to God’s love, is precisely the
meaning of hell. Hell is not a place where God puts us – it’s a place
where we put ourselves. But to become “children of the God of life” is
to dismantle the hells we create and set in their places the justice, peace
and forgiveness that are the building stones of the kingdom of God.
Worshiping at our own altars. Lord have mercy!