Archive for September, 2023

Entering the Kingdom of God 10-1-2023

Thursday, September 28th, 2023

It’s been a long day. She sits in her dimly lit living room. It’s after
11pm; her day started before six. At the office, it was one crisis after
another; then the school called: her eight-year-old she is raising alone
came down with a fever, so she had to go and bring him home and
arrange for her mother to come over so she could get back to the office.
After getting him to bed, she took on the monthly challenge of making
her salary cover all the bills (managed to make it again for another
month)! She’s tired but can’t sleep just yet. She needs a few minutes
just to be thankful for the beautiful boy snoring up a storm in the next
room who makes her life as a mom more than worth it all.
He drives a truck for a package delivery service – and these are busy
days. He takes a couple of extra shifts when he can because his family
could use the money – the oldest is starting to look at colleges. But one
night a week he manages to get home in time to gulp down some supper
and head to the community center where he coaches a team of nine and
ten-year-olds in the city’s youth basketball league. He first started
coaching his son’s team – and kept at it long after his son moved on.
Yeah, there are other things he could be doing that, frankly, would make
life a lot easier, but he knows that for some of these kids, this team is the
best thing in their lives. So, one night a week he continues to run, push
and coach these kids for the good of his own soul.
He helps her with her coat and makes sure she has a good, steady grip
on her cane. He then puts her arm in his and they walk the same path
they walk every afternoon in the park across the street from their
apartment. He points to a cardinal lying on a tree branch overhead. He
cheers a great catch made by a player in a pick-up football game. He
talks about last night’s call from their son and the latest doings of the
grandchildren. But none of it registers with her. She is lost in a fog of
dementia. All she recognizes is him, her husband of 63 years. And
that’s more than enough. He’s thankful that they can walk arm-in-arm
together for another day.
Throughout the Gospels, Jesus upholds the sacred dignity of all men
and women in the eyes of God: the struggling, the poor, the powerless,
the ignored, the forgotten, the vulnerable, those pushed to the margins
and peripheries of society. Every life is open to the “way of
righteousness”: simple humility, faithfulness and gratitude are the entries
to the Kingdom of God. Our standing in demographic and marketing
profiles, our net worth, whatever labels society applies to us do not
determine the “holiness” of our lives or the measure of God’s love in our
days. Christ invites us to realize the Kingdom of God in our lives by our
commitment to the selfless generosity and faithful gratitude; God calls
us to look beyond the designations and stereotypes like “tax collector”
and “prostitute” and recognize, instead, the holiness that resides within
the soul of every person – including ourselves.

A Perspective of Gratitude 9-24-2023

Thursday, September 21st, 2023

Life is not easy right now – for some of us, things could not get any
worse. Our frustrations and impatience get the better of us. We avoid
confrontation for the most part, but we quietly seethe at being
disrespected or dismissed or overlooked.
Gratitude is a much more difficult attitude to embrace – it demands a
total recalibration of how we look at our life and world.
In his book, “The Lord Is My Shepherd: Healing Wisdom of the
Twenty-Third Psalm, Harold S. Kushner reflects on the importance and
blessings of gratitude:
“I read of a person who had formed the habit of writing Thank you on
the lower left corner of every check he wrote. When he paid his electric
bill or his phone bill, he would write Thank you to express his gratitude
to the companies that made those services available to him at the press
of a button. Even when he paid his taxes, he would write Thank you on
the check as a way of reminding himself (he didn’t think the Internal
Revenue Service would notice it) that his taxes were the price he
willingly paid for living in the United States with all of its benefits…..”
“Each night as I prepare for bed, I put drops in my eyes to fend off the
threat of glaucoma that would rob me of my sight and take from me the
pleasure of reading. Each morning at breakfast, I take a pill to control
my blood pressure, and each evening at dinner I take another to lower
my cholesterol level. But instead of lamenting the ailments that come
with growing older, instead of wishing I were as young and fit as I once
was, I take my medicine with a prayer of thanks that modern science has
found ways to help me cope with these ailments. I think of all my
ancestors who didn’t live long enough to develop the complications of
old age, and did not have pills to take when they did”.
The kingdom of God that Jesus proclaims is centered in a spirit of
gratitude for what we have received and the humility to seek to share
those blessings with others – and in that spirit of gratitude, we discover
the happiness that is centered in the Spirit of God. The workers in
today’s Gospel feel cheated by the vineyard owner’s generosity – their
resentment at their coworkers’ good fortune diminishes them and clouds
any satisfaction in being able to provide for their families. Jesus calls us
to a change in perspective: to look beyond what we do not have and
realize and rejoice in all that we have been given, including the love of
family and friends, good health, opportunities to learn and grow, the
freedom and resources to live lives of fulfillment and meaning.

Forgiven, Forgotten, Forever 9-17-2023

Thursday, September 14th, 2023

When I was doing research for this homily on forgiveness I came
across a very interesting story about Abraham Lincoln.
When Mr. Lincoln was campaigning for the presidency, one of his
arch-enemies was a man named Edwin Stanton. For some reason
Stanton hated Lincoln. He used every ounce of his energy to degrade
Lincoln in the eyes of the public. So deep-rooted was Stanton’s hate for
Lincoln that he uttered unkind words about his physical appearance, and
sought to embarrass him at every point. But in spite of this, Lincoln was
elected the sixteenth president of the United States of America.
Then came the period when Lincoln had to select his cabinet,
which would consist of the persons who would be his most intimate
associates in implementing his programs. He started choosing men here
and there for the various positions.
The day finally came for Lincoln to select the all-important post of
Secretary of War. Can you imagine whom Lincoln chose to fill this
post? None other than the man named Stanton. There was an immediate
uproar in the president’s inner circle when the news began to spread.
Advisor after advisor was heard saying, “Mr. President, you are making
a mistake. Do you know this man Stanton? Are you familiar with all the
ugly things he said about you? He is your enemy. He will seek to
sabotage your programs. Have you thought this through, Mr. President??
Mr. Lincoln’s answer was terse and to the point: “Yes, I know Mr.
Stanton. I am aware of all the terrible things he has said about me. But
after looking over the nation, I find he is the best man for the job.” So
Stanton became Abraham Lincoln’s Secretary of War and rendered an
invaluable service to his nation and his president.
Not many years later Lincoln was assassinated. Many laudable
things were said about him. But of all the great statements made about
Abraham Lincoln, the words of Stanton remain among the greatest.
Standing near the dead body of the man he once hated, Stanton referred
to him as one of the greatest men who ever lived and said, “He now
belongs to the ages.”
If Lincoln had hated Stanton both men would have gone to their
graves as bitter enemies. But through the power of forgiveness Lincoln
transformed an enemy into a friend. One simple act of forgiveness can
change people’s lives. Are there any Stanton’s in your life right now?
Some years ago, a pastor in Boston was being harassed by a
woman in his congregation. She started false rumors about him. She
wrote vicious letters about him to his bishop and others. She initiated
petitions to have him removed. After several months of this, the woman
moved to another city and not long afterward was converted to Christ.
Part of the process of her conversion was to realize the terrible wrong
she had done and all the pain and suffering she had inflicted on her
pastor in Boston. Consequently, she wrote him a long letter explaining
what had happened to her and how deeply she regretted what she had
done to him. The pastor immediately sent her a telegram with three
words on it: Forgiven, Forgotten, Forever.
Is there someone we/you/me need to say those words to and mean
them? Forgiven, Forgotten, Forever or do we want to live life like that
trapped rattlesnake filled with resentment and bitterness and bite
ourselves to death! I hope not.