Archive for August, 2022

God You Are the Source 8-28-2022

Sunday, August 28th, 2022

I think Jesus was a first-class people watcher. One day he was
invited to be a guest in the home of a Pharisee. When it came time for
dinner, he began watching closely the other guests’ behavior. He
watched all the jockeying for position to be number 1. When all were
seated, Jesus gave them a piece of his mind. What he had to say was
much more than a lesson about table manners. In essence Jesus said,
“It’s a foolish thing to waste your time and energy trying to look
In thinking about this statement, I believe there are a couple of
important considerations to keep in mind:
A. Jesus never discouraged the desire for greatness . . . He
encouraged it. It was never human littleness that Jesus stressed,
but human grandeur. “You are the light of the world; you are
the salt of the earth.”
B. His philosophy was: try hard to achieve. Do something
significant with your gifts; be the best person that you can
possibly become.
Where then do we get out of focus in this area? Let me suggest this:
1. Most of us don’t make a big fuss about the seating arrangements at
banquets, but we are still masters in the gentle art of self promotion. We
have these neat tricks that we use to elbow our way up to the head table
of life.
(a.) One of them is criticism of others; fault finding in others is
almost always an attempt to cover up some weaknesses in ourselves. If
we can’t climb to the top, we can accomplish something of the same
result by pulling others down. We need to remember that we can never
promote ourselves by putting down other people. Invariably the
opposite happens. Life just moves us down to a lower seat and we gain
the reputation of a small minded, critical, jealous person.
2. Another common means of self-promotion is boastfulness. What a
waste of time. No person is as boring and unconvincing as the one who
continually talks about his or her achievements. There is something
about arrogance that just doesn’t make sense, and we all know it.
Whatever we are and whatever we’ve accomplished, it has required the
love and help of God and a lot of people. Our best posture should be
gratitude. (Sports personality, thank you God)
Let me close with this statement: If you really want to be
important, stop worrying about where you are seated at the Banquet of
Life and just get up and start waiting on tables. God, you are the source
of all we have . . . thank you!
Now, that’s where true humility starts!

The Narrow Door 8-21-2022

Thursday, August 18th, 2022

A young man wrote a letter to a priest. He told the priest he could
use the letter any way he wished. Except for a few minor changes,
here’s what the young man wrote: “I was one of the top swimmers in my
category in Canada. Then one day I let my friends talk me into
experimenting with drugs. I got hooked, and soon my mental, physical,
and spiritual health deteriorated badly…I knew I was all screwed up. I
became lonely and terribly frightened. There was no one I could talk to.
To make matters worse, I was in debt to drug dealers for over $3,000. I
figured my only way out was suicide, so I went home and wrote this
note: ‘Dear Mom and Dad, I am sorry to cause you this pain…
please don’t grieve too much. If I had stayed alive, I would have caused
you a lot more grief than by what I just did…I love you and the whole
family. (signed) Christopher”
“I began to drink to overcome fear as I prepared to take my life.
Then at the last minute something made me stop; I grabbed the phone
and called a crisis center. I didn’t know it then, but my mother was
praying like mad for me. A few days later I entered a drug rehabilitation
program. Soon I regained my physical and psychological health. It was
then that I started reading the Bible. The more I read it, the more peace
and joy I felt. This led me to put all my trust in God.”
“Meanwhile, there developed in me this growing desire to learn
more about Jesus and to get to know him better. It’s kind of funny. I
must have prayed on my knees at least ten times – asking Jesus to come
into my life – before I realized that he was already in my life…”
“All this happened about five years ago. Since then, God has
blessed me greatly. I teach in a Catholic high school and I’m active in
my parish community…I’m also still trying to learn how to open myself
more and more to the love and mercy of God. Sincerely yours, Chris”
That letter illustrates one of the points in today’s gospel: The
door to God’s kingdom is, indeed, narrow. But that didn’t stop Chris
from trying to enter. He struggled and struggled until he did. I wonder
how many people (like you & me), would have had the courage to
struggle as Christopher did.
Someone said there are three kinds of Christians: Tug-boat
Christians, sail-boat Christians, and raft Christians. Tug-boat Christians
are people who follow Jesus not only in sunny weather but also in
stormy weather. They are people who follow Jesus not only when the
wind and the tide serve them but also when the wind and the tide oppose
them. They are people who go to Mass not because they have to but
because Jesus said at the Last Supper, “Do this in memory of me.” (Luke
22:19) They are people who help other people not because they feel like
it but because Jesus said, “Love one another as I love you.” (John 15:12)
Sail-boat Christians, on the other hand, are people who follow
Jesus when the wind and the tide serve them. But when the wind and
the tide oppose them, they tend to go in the direction they are blown.
They are people who go to Mass when family and friends go. But left to
themselves, they often miss. They are the people who ask, “How far can
I go before I sin?” Rather than, “How much more can I do because I
love?” They are people who tend to follow the crowd more then they
follow the Gospel. Finally, there are the raft Christians. They are Christians in name
only. They don’t really follow Jesus, even when the wind and the tide
serve them. If they do go in his direction, it’s only because someone
pulls or pushes them. They are people who do Christian things not
because they want to but because they have to. In short, they are
Christians in name but not in deed.
The question set before us is this: Are we a tug-boat Christian, a
sail-boat Christian, or a raft Christian? Are we tug-boat Christians? Do
we follow Jesus in good times and in bad? Do we go with him not only
through the wide door but also through the narrow door? Or are we sail-
boat Christians? Do we follow Jesus only in good times? Or are we raft
Christians? Are we Christians in name only?
These are some of the growth questions today’s readings set before
us. No one can answer them for us. We must do that ourselves.

Division 8-14-2022

Thursday, August 11th, 2022

My initial response to today’s Gospel reading is to resist it. I find
it very difficult to think of Jesus as a divisive person. It is much easier
for me to regard him as a healer of human relationships. I have seen too
many fragmented families and felt their pain. When fathers and sons
cannot even be civil to one another, it is very sad. And when mothers
and daughters stop speaking to each other, it is heartbreaking. How can
we believe that Jesus is the source of such division?
In most cases, it is clear that he is not. Something else is ripping
the family apart. My sense is that, if given the chance, Jesus would heal
the alienation in such a home. And I am sure that he is not pleased with
the division of the people involved. A little three-year-old girl, who
could not yet pronounce her “r” sounds, said to a friend, “My mommy
and daddy ah sepawated.” Do you think our Lord caused that? Do you
think he is pleased with that? Not a chance in the world. I have no
doubt that he weeps with that child. Still the words of today’s Reading cannot be denied. Jesus clearly
said: “Do you think I have come to establish peace on earth? I assure
you the contrary is true. I have come for division.”
What then, is the meaning of these strange words about division?
It is obvious that Jesus did not get along with everybody. He did
not walk around with a smile plastered on his face, spreading the good
will everywhere. Otherwise, how did he manage to get himself
crucified? Why did he tell his disciples that the world would hate them,
just as it had hated him?
He was often in conflict. And almost always, the dividing line was
the sacredness of human person. The people of his own home town
wanted to kill him. What was the source of that conflict? It was his
insistence that God cared for Gentiles just as he did for Jews. He often
clashed with the Pharisees about healing on the Sabbath. The issue that
drove them apart was his conviction that helping people was more
important than keeping the law. He came to the rescue of a woman who
had been caught in adultery. The guardians of public morality were
ready to stone her to death. Again, the issue was keeping the law or
helping people. And he always came down on the side of helping
Jesus resisted abuse of others with all the intensity of his soul. He
even died for it. Robert Louis Stevenson put it like this: “It is our cheek
that we are to turn. But when another’s face is struck, perhaps a bit of
the lion would become us best.”
You and I have no right to stand by and watch the strong trample
on the weak. We are to take a stand, even if the abuser is a member of
our own family. People have done that. And it has driven a wedge
between them and the ones they love. A young man was making a
determined effort to live out his Christian faith. His father was a
member of the Ku Klux Klan. The son confronted him and said: “What
you are doing is wrong. And I must resist it.” His father ordered him
out of the house and never spoke to him again.
Something like that is what Jesus had in mind, when he said, “I
have come for division.” The sacredness of the human person is the
only issue I can conceive of where it is wrong to compromise.
In closing, it is easy to talk of “Jesus meek and mild,” and to
portray the infant in the crib as lovable, and the Crucified One as
forgiving. It is easy to criticize and oppose evildoers on the other side of
the world, people like Hitler and Saddam Hussein. It is by no means so
easy to take a stand on moral issues right at home which divide our
society. But we cannot avoid the cutting edge of the gospel or the
commitment that goes along with our baptism. We cannot accept, nor
should we live by, a cushioned Christianity, a velvet cross, a vertical
expression of faith concerned only with “God and myself.” Nor can we
exclude those neighbors we don’t like. Christian life and witness is
difficult. In fact, it would be impossible without the example of Jesus,
and the grace of God.
Lord, give us the courage to follow you – even though it causes us
to struggle – even though it causes us to be persecuted – even though,
sometimes, it sets us in opposition to our families & friends & society –
let us never forget that there is actually one thing worse than evil itself,
and that is indifference to evil. Amen.