Archive for October, 2022

Jesus came to See and to Save those who were Lost 10-30-2022

Friday, October 28th, 2022

The first Sunday after All Saints Day we have saints fresh
on our minds. Today the Gospel lesson tells the story of one
such saint. He is curiously and obviously flawed. In fact, his sins
and failures are so plain that his acceptance by God is somewhat
a scandal. But in the end he becomes an example of Gods
gracious work. And his inclusion in the circle of God gives
ordinary people like us great hope. His name is Zacchaeus.
His is the story of a little, lonely, sinful man who has an
encounter with Jesus while Zacchaeus was hiding in a tree.
Quite a ridiculous place for a grown man, don’t you think? But
that encounter with Jesus changed his life in a very big way.
What lessons can this curious story teach us today?
CAN. Zacchaeus was a tax collector. Even worse, he was a chief tax collector. Do not think IRS here, think Mafia or drug dealer.
In the world of the New Testament, tax collectors were local
Jews who purchased their tax collection job from the Romans,
and then collected the hated taxes for the hated Romans from
their neighbors, plus whatever extra they could squeeze on top
for themselves. Tax collectors had to be greedy enough to sell
their own soul for a shekel, and be willing to turn against their
own family and friends to turn a profit.
As you might imagine, tax collectors were invariably
wealthy, and invariably friendless. They were outcast from the
Jewish synagogue, and every other gathering of Jews in town.
So despised were tax collectors in the first century, that the
phrases “tax collector” and “sinner” were considered
synonymous. And yet Jesus sought out Zacchaeus. Like a
hunted animal hiding in a tree, Zacchaeus found himself trapped
in the scope of grace. And when Jesus offered a kind word of
acceptance instead of a fire and brimstone sermon, Zacchaeus
fell from the tree with wide-eyed amazement. How long had it
been since someone from the “good side of town” wanted to eat
with Zacchaeus?
The point for us is plain; Jesus has come to seek and to
save those who are lost. Even before sinners are seeking God,
God is seeking them. And sinners do not have to clean up their
act before God will love them; rather it is Gods love offered first
that causes a sinner to want to clean up his or her act. Every
saint has a past, and every sinner has a future. That is the hope
that keeps us all humble, and gives each of us the chance we do
not deserve to be acceptable by God.
GOD. What makes Zacchaeus a saint if it is not his moral purity
or good deeds? It is the way God uses his story to instruct us all
in the way of the gospel. Zacchaeus gives us all hope, precisely
because he is so unworthy. And this story reminds the Church of
our mission to embody the gracious initiative of Gods welcome.
Does it bother you that the sinners who were so drawn to
Jesus in the New Testament are often so uncomfortable today in
His Church? God does not only use lives that are pure and clean,
like unbroken shiny glass windows. Sure the light of Gospel can
shine through such clear lives, and thanks be to God for moral
and godly people today like that. But God can also use broken,
stained lives. Like odd shaped pieces of broken and stained
glass, God can assemble these into a beautiful picture of the
gospel too. The Church is a mosaic of stained glass lives,
assembled in a way that only God could conceive. Stained glass
can tell the story of the gospel too, can it not? Thanks be to God!
Zacchaeus was a new man after the meal with Jesus. He
lost his Midas touch, gave away half of his money to the poor,
and paid back every person he had cheated (which was the entire
town!) four fold. He gave away his wealth, but gained a
community of faith and friendship. And what is more, he
foreshadowed the cross that would come only one week later for
Jesus, when he would be again in the presence of thieves up a
tree. And again, with his last breath, Jesus would be welcoming
every crook who would accept a chance to sit at the banquet
table of Paradise. Why? Because he had come to seek and to
save those who were lost. People like you and me. People who
call ourselves Church. If nothing else Church and Church
people like Zacchaeus must be about seeking and welcoming
those who are lost.
I close by asking that when you approach the table of the
Lord today, think about that. Come humbly. Come gratefully
and leave walking a bit taller than before.

Your Halo is on too Tight 10-23-2022

Thursday, October 20th, 2022

I would like to do a little replay of this Gospel to understand it
better. I would like the people on the right side of the church to be
sinners and the people on the left side to be Pharisees. I am going to
tell a story, the gospel story again, using different words. When I ask
you to stand, one side at a time, please stand.
One time Jesus told this story about those who considered
themselves better than anyone else and were always comparing
themselves. One time two people came to the church to pray. One
was a Pharisee and the other was a public sinner. The Pharisee came
to the front of the church, genuflected and then prayed to God this
way (will everyone on this side of the church please stand today in
this play you are the Pharisees). The Pharisees prayed in this way, “O
Lord I give you thanks that I am not like everyone else. I give you
thanks that I am a Catholic, that I come to Mass on Sunday, and that I
am better than others. I give you thanks that I am a registered
member and I am better than others. Especially I give you thanks that
I am better than those sinners on the other side of the church. (Now
look at those sinners on the other side of the church.) Pharisees
please sit down.
Time for the sinners to pray (will everyone on this side of the
church please stand), without even raising their eyes to heaven they
said, “Lord have mercy on me, a sinner.” Jesus said, “It is a shame,
but the Pharisees return to their homes without grace while the
sinners return to their homes full of God’s mercy.” Please be seated.
A question for us is, what was the sin of the Pharisees? There are
probably good people, they are involved in the church, they go to
meetings, they abstain from serious sin, but they do one thing that is
very wrong. The sin they committed is that they compared
themselves to others.
In a large family sorrows and heartbreak come when the children
begin comparing themselves to one another. One says, “I am better
than the rest of my brothers and sisters.” Or one says, “I am not as
good as my brothers and sisters.” God loves and respects each one of
us. God does not compare people one to another, and in the parable
today Jesus asks us not to compare ourselves. Problems come when
religion says, “my religion is better. I am better than you are because
I belong to this religion.”
On my hand there are five fingers. Each finger is a different shape.
Each finger has different strengths. Each finger has a different size.
My thumb is stronger than my little finger. One of my fingers is
longer than the others, yet every finger is important on my hand.
What foolishness, if my fingers have a fight amongst themselves,
comparing themselves to each other and trying to decide who is better
or who is worse. All of them are needed. We are all fingers on God’s
hand. God needs each one of us. Each person has gifts and
weaknesses. Some of the fingers on God’s hands are full of sins and
troubles. Some of the fingers on God’s hands might have diseases,
but each finger is important and God loves each finger equally.
We are all supposed to fit together. Let us respect each other, let
us accept each other and let us not give in to the temptation of
comparing ourselves to one another.
I close with this story about a person who thought he was better than
anyone else.
A modern-day, self-righteous, self-appointed saint went to the
doctor for a check-up. “I’m not feeling very well these day,” he said.
“Please examine me thoroughly, and tell me what’s wrong.”
Whereupon, the doctor began with a few questions…
“Do you drink a lot?”
“No, I never touch the stuff. I’m a teetotaler, and proud of it.”
“Do you smoke?”
“No. I’ve never gone near tobacco, and I’m proud of it.”
“What about your sleeping habits?”
“I go to bed early. While others are out carousing late at night, I’m
in bed by 10:30, and I’m proud of it.”
“Well, what is your complaint at this time?”
“I have terrible pains in my head.”
“Aha! That’s your trouble. Your halo is on too tight!”

What Church is Really About! 10-16-2022

Thursday, October 13th, 2022

Many times, for me the first reading in our Mass is hard to
understand. The images, the language, the symbols are often very
foreign to me; today is different. We can’t allow this powerful image in
the Old Testament to be missed.
It is an image that should be put on a stained-glass window in
every church. To me it is one of the most powerful images of what
CHURCH is really about.
Let’s create a stained-glass window of our own today – I need
some of you to help (Call one person to be Moses). Visualize with me –
“Moses” with his arms held out in prayer: praying for his friends, things
go well as long as he is praying. But he becomes weary, tired,
discouraged, fatigued. His arms start to drop and his friends jump in
(Bring up 2 more people). Aaron and Hur support his arms. They hold
them up for him, so he can keep going.
Being CHURCH to me is not just buildings, not just dogma’s and
doctrines. Being CHURCH is both giving and receiving support and
When we go through tragedies, crises, family problems, sickness,
death. When we get very discouraged because of the struggles and
storms of life: we need to hold each other up (Call 3 or 4 other people
up to help – different ages – a kid or two). We need to stand with each
other. We are all at times in our lives, like Moses, too weak to do it all
by ourselves, but we can get by with a little help from our friends.
Maybe it was a time you faced the death of a loved one and found
support in family or friends who came to comfort you and who took care
of a thousand little tasks for you. Maybe it was time when your child
was seriously ill and your spouse or a friend seemed like a pillar of
strength you could lean on. Maybe it was a time your marriage was in
trouble and a good friend gave you a shoulder to cry on, along with a
few gentle words of helpful advice. Maybe it was a time you had a
broken heart from breaking up with someone special, and your mother
or father couldn’t take away the hurt but reminded you that you were
still loved deeply. Maybe it was a time when you were out of work or
didn’t get a promotion or had flubbed a big project, and somebody took
the time to let you know they had confidence in you and were there for
you. Maybe it was a time when you were depressed and lonely and a
friend made the effort to call and brighten your day.
Let me close with this:
If we believe we are truly the Body of Christ, The Church, then we
belong to one another. We need each other and have responsibility for
one another. Please remember the image of Moses this week.
Remember this image of CHURCH before you, and then go look for
someone who could use a supportive, encouraging arm to hold on to.
Maybe the place to start is to look in our own families FIRST, or right
outside those doors! The mass never ends – it must be lived!