Archive for the ‘4th Sunday’ Category

The Good Shepherd 4-22-2018

Sunday, April 22nd, 2018

For most of us I think it is safe to say this image of the Shepherd is not something we see very much everyday. It was a very common scene in the early Church: – it is a common scene in the Middle East. People in the early Church could really understand what was involved in being a shepherd. It was very real and earthy to them. The Biblical figure of the Shepherd – has been romanticized a lot in paintings, pictures, Holy Cards, “rosy cheeked young men – among pure white fluffy sheep on beautiful green hillsides – very serene and peaceful.”

I did a little research into what Shepherds were like in the Time of Jesus. It was a very lonely, dirty, dangerous job – that could not be managed from a distance. Shepherds lived among the sheep in the filth and stench – the lives of the sheep were their primary concern. A sheep sometimes wandered far off from the others – when it got lost and could not find it’s way back, it would simply lie down where it was and refuse to budge – the shepherd would search out for the lost sheep – carefully pick it up and carry it home. There was a personal relationship between the Shepherd and each individual sheep. They were not just numbers.

I believe this image of the Shepherd points us to God. God is not squeamish; God will not run away when things get messy in our lives; – God’s hands are dirty (not lily white); God’s clothes are stained with waste, mud and blood – the waste, mud and blood of our roller coaster lives. This God gets in the middle of the mess with us.
Does the mess magically disappear? Not most of the time; but there is a sense we are not alone and that helps us get through it. A key question for us; Are we afraid to share our messes with God?

How does this shepherding image of God come alive? Become real to people – Today –
I believe most of the time thru people – we are called to be shepherds for each other. We are responsible to pick each other up when we are down.
“I thought just priests and ministers were shepherds – no we all are if we call ourselves Christian and mean it.”

“Don’t we need special skill and talents – training to do this? No! We need a caring heart, a little common sense and a few less excuses.

“What about when you don’t have the answers or solutions to people’s problems? You don’t know what to say or do. Just listen and just be there for them.

I close with a story I am sure we all have heard;
A man dreamed he died and went to heaven and there was met by Jesus. The man had lived a long Christian life, but it had not been without some time of great trial and tribulation as well as those times of joy and victory. As he met with Christ, the man was given a panoramic review of his life – all the highlights and low periods. In the review of his life one of the things that continued throughout were his footsteps along the sands of time.
The man noticed that at those times in his life when it had really been rough there was only one set of footprints – not two as in the good times. The man turned to the Lord and said, “Lord, I don’t understand. You promised to be with me always. But when I look back now, I see that in those really rough times there was only one set of footprints. Lord, why did you leave me then?”

The Lord looked at him, smiled and said, ‘Leave you? I didn’t leave you at all. Dear friend, if you look at the one set of footprints carefully, you’ll notice they are a little deeper than the others. Those were the time I was carrying you.”

Lightning Strikes 3-11-2018

Sunday, March 11th, 2018

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.

Leave Us Alone 1-28-2018

Sunday, January 28th, 2018

As Jesus was preaching in the synagogue at Capernaum, a poor crazy man created a scene. He cried out, “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us?” In effect what the man was saying was, “Leave me alone! I’m no good. I’m evil. I’m not worthy of love or care.”
It’s a cry we hear more than once in the Gospel from people who believed they were possessed by devils. “Don’t meddle with us. Leave us alone. Don’t try to change us”. They recognized that change is painful. Whether they were actually possessed by devils we do not know. But what we do know is that they were sick, broken, isolated, unloved people, who had no dignity and whose self-worth was nil.
There are many such people in our world today – in our prisons, in our psychiatric hospitals, and on the street. Any of us can be caught in some desperate situation. At least the man in the synagogue didn’t try to hide how he was. He came to Jesus. Jesus wasn’t put off by his desperate cry. In the cry, “Leave me alone!” Jesus heard a cry for help. And he cured him. People find it hard to admit that they can’t manage their problems. Pride tells them: I should be able to handle my own problems. Recognition that there is a problem is the first step towards rehabilitation. The acknowledgement of our weakness and need would open the way to recovery. It’s the courageous ones that ask for help.
Psychologists tell us that sometimes people don’t really want to be cured. Why is this? Because a cure can be painful – it involves a process which requires a lot of change, and all change is painful. The idea of recovery can even be terrifying.
Often we are afraid to talk about something that is hurting us. We keep it locked up inside us where it festers. We may not say, “Leave me alone”, but that is what it amounts to: “You wouldn’t know, you couldn’t possibly understand.” Unvoiced suffering is more harrowing than suffering that cries aloud.
Shortly after the birth of her son a young mother discovered that he was blind. She called her family together and said, “I don’t want my child to know that he is blind.” She insisted that from that point on everyone should avoid using words such as ‘light’, ‘color’, and ‘sight’. The child grew up believing that he was like everyone else until one day a strange girl jumped over the garden wall and used all the forbidden words.
The story symbolizes much of our behavior. Many of us seek to hide what is strange and painful, and to act as if things are normal. We act as if we had no problems, no abnormalities, no pains, no wounds, no failures. The urge to hide is very powerful, and can be more harmful than what it tries to conceal.
I close, when we have the courage to face our problems, new creative energies became available to us. Fear, shame, and guilt often make us stay in isolation. It is by showing our wounds, by allowing ourselves to touch and be touched that we are healed. It is in our brokenness, our woundedness, that God the Holy can heal us – if we give God a chance. Will we give God a chance?