Archive for February, 2018

The Desert & the Mountain 2-25-2018

Sunday, February 25th, 2018

This Sunday’s gospel and last Sunday’s gospel speak to us about two geographical spots: the desert and the mountain.
We need to stand in both spots during Lent, the desert and the mountain.
In the desert, we encounter the devil, we face our guilt and the evil that abounds in our world. The Christian life is impossible without the desert.
But it is also impossible without the mountain top where we can breathe fresh air and see everything in a new light. It is good for us to be on the mountain, where we can see and listen to God in a new way.
Let me share with you a true desert/mountain top story.
They had just moved into their new house in a residential section of Syracuse, New York. That morning, Mom left early to take her teenage son to work. She backed out of the garage and pressed the remote to bring down the door. “What’s THAT?” the teenager cried out as the door closed. She turned around and faced the door. There, in foot-high, hot pink letters, someone had spray painted: KKK. DIE NIGGER.
They sat there stunned. She called her husband, who was out of town on business. “Honey, you have to report this.”
The sheriff came over immediately. He was surprised at how calm she was. “You should be taking this more seriously,” the sheriff advised.
“I take it very seriously,” she told the sheriff. “But I’m not going to get hysterical, and I’m not going to be afraid.”
While her teenage son understood the hate behind the words, the two younger children did not. “Why did someone write this on our house? What does it mean? Whoever did this doesn’t even know us! How can they be so mean?”
Torn between anger and sadness, she wished she could shield her young sons from prejudice forever. But she knew she couldn’t. “We mustn’t return the hate. It’s not up to us to judge them. We’re called to love others despite them. Whoever did this wants us to be upset. Well, we’re not going to be. We’re going to pray for them so that maybe they’ll come to know God too.”
Not five minutes later, a newspaper reporter came with a photographer. Then a television crew arrived. They were mystified as she told them what she told her boys: “I don’t hold anything against whoever did this. God teaches us to forgive.”
The family’s new neighbors started to stop by to offer their support and express their anger and regret at what had happened. Someone brought flowers, another brought a cake. Not only were they meeting their new neighbors, but they were hugging them.
Later in the afternoon, a young man and woman arrived in work clothes and carrying paint, soap and buckets. “We heard about what happened here,” they said. “Is it okay if we help clean things up?”
Before long, everyone was involved in the project. Buckets were filled with soapy water, sandpaper was applied – and as the hate-filled words were washed away, a spirit of community and friendship blossomed in their place.
The power of the Good News- Our God is greater than any evil we can imagine. Before long everyone was involved in the project.

First Sunday of Lent 2-18-2018

Sunday, February 18th, 2018

On T.V. today, we see a lot of political debates. Reporters usually interview the winners and losers. To the losers, the reporters often ask very blunt and often irritating questions.
I would like to take you to one of those interviews—except the participants are not politicians.
They are Jesus and the Devil. The Devil, like in the gospel, has just lost very badly in his debate with Jesus over such things as power, prestige, values. I believe it would go like this—let’s listen:
“Mr. Devil – How are you feeling after the debate?” “Terrible, lousy – how would you feel if you just got your _____ kicked by Jesus?
“Do you plan on a rematch — A second debate?”
“You can count on it, but next time, I am going to develop a new strategy, a new plan of attack! I’ll tell you one thing, Mr. Reporter, the next time I won’t be wearing a red outfit with horns and a tail. That outfit is too obvious. I must come up with some new outfits, with some new temptations, and remember this—you can count on one thing—I am not going away!” shouted the Devil.
Till the day we die, we are going to be tempted to do or say things that hurt ourselves—hurt others—and damage our relationship with God. We are going to wrestle on a regular basis with how to keep things like food, work, relationships, sex, money, computers, sports, the list goes on—how do I keep them in a healthy perspective and not abuse them, not allow them to get out of balance.
In these areas of our life and in many others, we are gong to be under attack. We are in a Giant Tug of War with Mr. Devil.
It’s OK to tell little lies, your wife will never find out. Cheating in school doesn’t hurt anyone. You don’t need God, look out for number 1. Church is for hypocrites—you’re a virgin—everyone does it—a couple of pills won’t hurt at all—come on—just one drink. “A Tug of War”.
The Good News is that we are not in this “Tug of War” alone. Our God has said over and over—I am with you. It won’t be easy, but no matter how dark it gets—you are not alone. I want to be your partner!
In closing, I have one final and very important point to make.
What happens when we blow it, when we give into temptations that get us into trouble, cause us to sin, leave us with a lot of guilt?
Do we pretend like it’s no big deal? I hope not.
Do we beat ourselves up over and over again with tons of unhealthy guilt? I hope not.
Or, do we take responsibility for our actions—stop blaming other people, sincerely ask for forgiveness and healing and move on trusting in a God of second chances? A God who says, start over – try again. I hope so.
“I am not going away”, proclaims the Devil.
“I am with you always, through it all”, shouts the Lord of Hope. “Don’t forget, we will win the battle together—Believe it!”

GOD’s Absolute Love 2-11-2018

Sunday, February 11th, 2018

I remember some years ago Bishop Fulton had a prime time TV show opposite Milton Berle every Wednesday night. One night he told about his visit to an African leper colony. He had brought along a supply of little silver crucifixes so he would have something special to give to each of the 500 lepers in the camp. The first leper he met had only the stumps of his left arm. And his right arm and hand were covered with ugly, open sores. Sheen took one of the little crucifixes, held it a few inches above the leper’s hand, and then let it drop into his palm.
In a flash, he was struck by what he’d done. “All at once”, he said, “I realized there were 501 lepers in the camp, and the most leprous of them all was myself. I had given a crucifix—the symbol of God’s absolute love for all of us—but then I had pulled back and closed my eyes to what the symbol implied for me. So I looked again very hard at that little crucifix, and I knew what I had to do. I pressed by hand to the leper’s hand with the symbol of love between us, and then I proceeded to do that for all of the remaining 499 lepers”!
None of us, thank God, are lepers. But there’s not one of us, if we are honest, whose heart hasn’t been wounded or even broken many times, not one of us who doesn’t need healing. So it is to all of us that Jesus is speaking by his actions in Sunday’s gospel. In stretching out his hand, touching that leper and healing him, Jesus is telling us—once again—that God does love us all no matter how damaged or broken we are. He’s telling us that no matter how bad we have been, our God will always be there for us, always be waiting for us to open our hearts so God can heal us.
That’s the first half of Jesus’ message, but there’s more. In addition to what God wants to do for us, there’s the matter of what God wants us to do for one another. And it turns out to be exactly the same thing; we are to become healers too, healers of one another. That sounds wonderful, but how do ordinary, wounded people like us become healers? Very simply by remembering how our own wounds feel and remembering what we need when we are broken. What we would like, of course, is a quick fix for our wounds, but what we need is a friend who will reach out just as Jesus did, take us by the hand, when our hand isn’t looking so good, and walk through the darkness with us and not let go of us halfway!
If that is what we need as we try to walk through our hurts and losses, it is also exactly what our brothers and sisters need. And it is something each of us can give.
Here is a real life example of what I am talking about.
Some years ago, an old man collapsed on a busy street corner in downtown Brooklyn. Within minutes an ambulance rushed him to Kings County Hospital. There he kept calling his son.
A nurse found a dog-eared letter in the man’s wallet. From it she learned that his son was a marine stationed in North Carolina.
That night an anxious marine showed up at the hospital. Immediately, the nurse took him to the old man’s bedside.
The man was heavily sedated. And so the nurse had to tell him several times, “Your son is here! Your son is here!”
Finally, the old man opened his eyes. He could barely make out his son, but he recognized his marine uniform. At that point, the son took his father’s hand and held it lovingly.
For the rest of that night, the marine sat at the man’s bedside. Occasionally, he patted the man’s hand and spoke to him tenderly.
Several times the nurse urged the marine to take a break and get something to eat or drink. But he refused.
Toward dawn, the old man died.
When the nurse extended her sympathy to the young man, the marine said, “Who was that man?”
“Wasn’t he your father?” the nurse asked.
“No, he wasn’t”, said the marine. “I never saw him before in my life”.
“Why didn’t you say something?” said the nurse.
“I would have”, said the marine, “but I could see that he was too sick to realize I wasn’t his son. I could also see that he was slipping fast and needed a son. So, I decided to become that son”.
Ordinary—wounded people can do things like this marine did for the old man. Extend a hand of friendship and help someone walk through the darkness to a new day.
Jesus did it—this marine did—we are asked to do the same.
Lord Help Us!