Archive for the ‘19th Sunday’ Category

BE IMITATORS OF GOD 8-12-2018

Sunday, August 12th, 2018

I. As I read through the Scriptures – each week – certain words, phrases – just seem to pop out at me and cause me to wrestle with them and see how they speak to my everyday life.
A. An example of this came in the Second Reading of Paul to the Ephesians, “Be Imitators of God.”
How can I do that I thought? I started thinking about people in my life experience that had impressed me by the way they were trying to imitate this Compassionate God that we talk so much about.
I have a very powerful memory of some people of faith just like those of us here, putting flesh and blood, hands and eyes, a heart on the Compassion of God.
II. Some years back, I had the opportunity to attend a convention near Stanford University on Parish Life Today. A lot of people from 4 or 5 different states – very practical workshops on various aspects of Parish Ministry.
I chose to attend one workshop entitled, “Ministering to Persons with AIDS and their Loved Ones.” The speaker was Fr. Tony Maguire, at that time the pastor of Most Holy Redeemer in San Francisco’s Castro District, the heart of the gay community.
The description of the workshop went like this:
How a parish of “gays and gray” became a healing presence to a community ravaged by AIDS? This was done by means of growth in prayer, (liturgical, personal, devotional) and by developing service programs inspired by unconditional love and by opening the parish to the real needs of local community.
Fr. Maguire began to explain how all this took place.
A. The parish leadership began to realize there was a problem. Many young gay men dying all around them. What was the parish doing to minister to these people, children of God. The leadership believed all people deserve to die with dignity and with support and care of people around them.
B. The first thing the parish began to do was to pray – the petitions at Mass often mentioned the names of people with AIDS and their families. They reframed an old church practice called the 40 hour devotion and prayed for healing. What they found was that the more they prayed as a parish – the more their hearts become open – more sensitive.
C. What happened next was a process of education. Through lectures by doctors, nurses and psychologists they started dealing with the prejudices – phobias – questions/fears people had. This was a very slow process – which is ongoing. What all this did was to build some bridges of understanding between people.
D. They developed and trained working groups, 60 home care volunteers, (regular people like you and me), who made personal visits to people who were dying of AIDS. They brought them to Church, gave them attention, and listened to them. 80 support volunteers sent letters, cards, and hot meals to the families.
Maria Sorentino, an 80 year old Italian Nonna had been in the parish for 50 years; her ministry, hugging people in wheel chairs. When someone would question her she would say “MA!” They are people – just like me and you.
E. Fr. Maguire made it very clear that there were limits to the parish’s involvement. There was a clear moral line, anything and everything was not okay. That line however never got in the way of compassion.
Some real miracles began taking place; — people became more open to the Church that they had been away from for years. They experienced a more compassionate and hopeful and sensitive church.
Grieving parents found a place where they could come and express themselves. One lady said, “I come here each week from San Jose, (50 miles away) to find the support I need to cope with my son who is dying of AIDS. I can’t say anything in my own parish.
F. Fr. Maguire ended his presentation by quoting a male prostitute who was dying of AIDS, whom the parish was ministering to: –“In this death bed – I have finally found human love that I spent so long looking for. In this death bed through these people, I have finally found my God.”
Be imitators of God – Be compassionate, love one another. It does not say love one another (if) they are healthy – young – good looking – get good grades – agree with your moral standards – live like we think they should live.
It simply says: LOVE ONE ANOTHER.
Thank you people of Most Holy Redeemer for being Imitators of God.
Thank you people of San Carlos for also being Imitators of God.

God Is Stretching 8-13-2017

Sunday, August 13th, 2017

Probably the most famous picture of God ever painted was done on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome. Michelangelo did it, and I’ll bet most of you have seen pictures of it at one time or another. Is it a picture of God resting on a heavenly throne? No. Does it show God relaxing on a cloud? No.
The painting shows God in a very painful position. Off to one side of the ceiling is Adam, just created out of mud. His hand and finger are reaching weakly toward God.
And God? God is stretching his finger, his arm, his body–God’s whole being towards Adam.
God stretched totally, in a most uncomfortable and painful way. Ribs on one side are crunching together. Bones on the other side are pulling apart. God’s muscles are straining. God’s eyes are intent. God is stretching and stretching.
It is the faith of Michelangelo and the faith of our church, that this is the permanent posture of God.
God is stretching…God’s whole heart, whole mind, whole will, and whole love stretching toward all of us, to every sinner.
God is not reaching. Reaching is simple. Effortless. Someone reaches for a cup of coffee in the morning. God is stretching.
This is how the people in the New Testament knew that Jesus was God. He does what God does. He stretches. When Peter was wet and drowning, today’s Gospel says, Jesus stretched out his hand immediately.
Jesus was always stretching out his hands…to the blind, to the deaf, to the paralyzed, to the sinners, to the poor, to the lepers, to everyone.
Finally, he allowed his out-stretched hands to be nailed to the cross…to show us that’s how his hands and arms always are…stretching out in love to us.
In ancient times, if you were a beggar in a crowd, and you were starving and the King and Queen were traveling by and saw you, they would hold out their golden scepter…what joy you would feel. You would receive a coin for bread.
But in Jesus we see that God stretches out to us not a scepter but the bruised and battered body of his own son, on a cross. I close with this. How do we know that we’re the real church? How do we know if we’re really following Jesus? The answer is simple. The church is true to itself when, like Jesus… it stretches. Stretches towards the poor…stretches towards the people with aids…stretches towards the jobless…stretches towards the depressed and the sick…stretches towards families in pain. This is the test, to see if we’re the church and if we’re Christians. There should always be an element of discomfort, or its not true stretching.
Remember this…Stretching is inconvenient, uncomfortable, costly, and painful. And yet, we’re never more like God, and never more like Jesus, as when we’re stretching…Lord help us.

Have Faith 8-7-2016

Sunday, August 7th, 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.