Archive for the ‘Easter’ Category

The Good Shepherd 4-22-2018

Thursday, April 19th, 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.”

The Teens Who Knew Where To Stand 4-15-2018

Thursday, April 12th, 2018

In a local church community, some of the teens complained that the only time it seemed that they were needed or noticed was when there was cleanup after social events. Their wise youth ministry coordinator challenged them to come up with a solution. Their solution changed their community.
For five weeks in a row, at the same time and same door, the same pair of teens would gather at the three entrances of the church. As some of the “regulars” and others would arrive, the teens would extend their hands with a smile and announce, “Welcome to our church”. After dismissal, the faithful would leave by the same route, being greeted again by the same teens, who thanked them for their attendance.
By the third week, smiles appeared on the faces of the adults and families who were greeted by these teens with their familiar chant. This continued for two more weeks, with pats on the back, more smiles, and much feedback to the pastor.
The sixth week, the teens did not show up at their assigned spots. They were still at church, but in the pews with their own families. What do you think the question was in the pews that morning? Where are those teens?
Parishioners soon found out as they walked to their cars in the parking lot after Mass. They discovered printed invitations on their car windshields that simply read, “Did you miss us? Come to the hall?” Curious now, many parishioners went back into the building, where they passed between two rows of teens giving them a standing ovation.
That church community hasn’t been the same since. Many creative ministries are happening there now, all kick-started by the teens who knew where to stand.

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!!”