Archive for the ‘15th Sunday’ Category

The Prison Angel 7-16-2023

Thursday, July 13th, 2023

She rises each day at 5 A.M. in her tiny prison cell. She spends the
first hour in quiet prayer; then, fueled by countless cups of coffee, she
begins her rounds of the cell blocks, distributing clothing, blankets and
soap to prisoners. She visits the prison hospital, counsels new inmates,
and meets with families. She has diffused tensions between desperate
inmates and nervous guards; she has made the most hardened con accept
responsibility for his crimes and seek forgiveness from his victims.
She is not the warden. She is not a guard. She is a 78-year-old
nun known as Mother Antonia. Her “home” is Tijuana’s La Mesa
prison, just across the border from San Diego. For 28 years, she has
lived among the 6,000 inmates of what was once one of Mexico’s most
dangerous prisons.
The only member of her order allowed to live inside the prison,
Mother Antonia spends ten hours a day among the prisoners. Sisters in
her community work in Tijuana’s neighborhoods providing support for
families of both inmates and guards, counseling mothers separated from
children, even helping arrange funerals for those who die in prison.
Mother Antonia’s own life and upbringing could not have been
more different. Born Mary Clarke, she was the daughter of a wealthy
Los Angeles businessman. A striking beauty, Mary grew up in a
Beverly Hills mansion with Hollywood stars Dinah Shore and Cary
Grant for neighbors. Twice married, she raised seven children who
adore her. Mary’s many hours of charity work became a source of
tension in her second marriage and eventually led to divorce. In 1977,
with her marriage over and her children all grown, Mary felt a powerful
pull to do more.
With the support of her children, she sold her belongings and drove
to Tijuana, where she had been making church-sponsored relief visits,
and began religious life. She convinced the warden to let her stay and
began the dangerous task of winning inmates over with small acts of
(Her journey from Beverly Hills to the barrios of Tijuana is
chronicled in the book The Prison Angel, by Mary Jordan and Kevin
“I wanted to dedicate my life to the poor,” she says. “I didn’t want
to just pity them. I wanted to become a significant part of their lives…I
guess you might say I’m in love with these people who the rest of the
world finds unlovable.”
The warden believes that Mother Antonia is the most important
person at La Mesa. “Mother Antonia brings hope to men and women
here. And they find hope in themselves. She spreads the love of God.”
Beloved by the guards, her presence has made their jobs safer and more
What drives her, she says, is her faith. “[My faith] is what makes
my heart beat. That’s who I am.” Of her work among the prisoners of
La Mesa, she says: “Like a mother, I always search for the best in my
Mother Antonia models the sower of today’s Gospel, who sows
seeds of encouragement, joy and reconciliation regardless of the “ground” on which it is scattered, and who is willing to do the hard work
necessary to realize the harvest that Christ has promised.
I close: The reign of God is like a seed. That seed is the kindness
we do, the worship we share in, the conversation around the dinner table,
the soup to the sick neighbor, the decisions to put the family first. The
seed is being sensitive to minorities. The seed is making your children
bring back the little things they’ve stolen, and apologize. The seed is
having them catch you at prayer. The seed is your being here.
I like the seed symbol, mostly, I guess, because it fits me. I can
handle a seed. We seldom have the opportunity, or even the courage, to
do the big things, the really big, heroic things. But everyday, like
Mother Antonia, we all have the opportunity to do the small ones that
display our values and the values of Jesus; values, perhaps, small as a
seed, but seeds that will bear fruit thirty, forty, fifty years from now.
Remember this: do the little things well and let God do the rest.

The Good Samaritan 7-10-2022

Thursday, July 7th, 2022

The Pries “Ah, Yaweh, the Temple! What a glorious weekend it was! I can’t wait
to tell my wife and neighbors tonight. Praise you! Thank you for
choosing me as your priest, unworthy as I am! I felt so humble within
the awesome splendor of your temple! And when the high priest, Ol’
Annas, went into the Holy of Holies, oh, I almost swooned for I felt my
very soul being drawn within that inner sanctuary…to be one with you!!
Uh oh, what’s that on the roadside? Looks like a body…It is a body!
That’s the third one I’ve seen this year on this road. Poor soul! Curse
those thieves, Yahweh, they not only rob a man but murder him as well!
Hmmm, maybe I should go over to that ditch and see? NO! If that Levite
sees me too near that body, he’ll report me. Then I’ll be unable ever
again to share in the temple services. I hope that the other stranger
coming up the road doesn’t think I am calloused and cowardly. I am a
priest, I am simply following the law. How come, then Yaweh, I don’t
feel justified….”
The Levite
As he turned to the form on the road, he immediately noticed that there
was a Samaritan not far behind him. “I know what’s going on”, he
thought, “because it happened to friends of mine on this very same
road.” The body is a plant. A perfectly healthy man who is to draw me
to the side of the road and attack me. Then with the help of the
Samaritan, they will rob me, strip me, and leave me half dead. “Praise
the Holy name for the glance over my shoulder and the wisdom that
Yahweh gave me for protection! This day, life has been spared in
Israel.” He hurried quickly along the road and even as he continued he
noticed the Samaritan stop to speak with his accomplice lying at the side of
the road:
The Samaritan
“Oh, poor man. What in the world has happened to him? Have people just
passed him by all day? There are lots of people who travel this path, and no
one has stopped to help him. I’d better stop to see what I can do for him. What a mess he is in: bleeding, bruises, black eyes, and he has been robbed!
I’d better do something with him, I just can’t leave him here. I know what it
is like to be neglected, to be left for dead, that is how people treat me so
much of the time. I can see why people neglect me, I am a Samaritan, but
why have they neglected this poor man. What is happening to people? I have
really felt that neglect, and I know how terrible it is to be left for dead. I am
not going to let that happen to him. I will clean and dress his wounds, put him
on my donkey and take him to the Inn down the road. I am not a rich man,
but I have a little money. That should take care of him for a day or so. I can’t
believe that people just pass him over. Maybe they should be in the position
of desertion and aloneness once in a while, so they really know that it means
to be down and out.” People are just too concerned about what others are
going to think if they do something out of the ordinary.”
The Unfortunate Victim
“What’s happening to me?” I was walking along, minding my own business
and now this: abandoned, rejected, left to die. Why don’t these people help
me? Oh! They’re coming over (priest & Levite)… Now they’re leaving! They were only curious, not really interested or concerned. Death would be
better than just lying here in pain, watching people pass me by. Wait, who is
this guy (Samaritan). Is he going to be like the others and treat me like I don’t
exist? Wait, he is bending over! He must be up to something. I don’t trust
him! He is helping me. Oh, how different life looks.”

Are We on God’s List? 7-11-2021

Sunday, July 11th, 2021

Have you ever wanted to give God suggestions about how God
ought to do things? Not earth-shattering suggestions, perhaps. Just
simple things…like the foods we eat. Why not put all the vitamins and
minerals in the tasty foods? Save all the fat and cholesterol for spinach
and brussel sprouts.
God could also use some advice about the kind of people God calls
to do his work. God seems to have this thing about calling very
imperfect people. Certainly Abraham was imperfect. Why he once tried
to pass off his wife as his sister. And Moses was imperfect. He once
killed a man in a fit of anger. Then there was Samson. Look how easily
he let a woman lead him. And then David. Adulterer. Murderer. Surely
God could have done better. And Jonah – fleeing from God because he
hated the people of Nineveh.
For that matter, I probably would not have chosen Simon Peter.
Sure he ended up as a rock, but before that he was a wishy washy
coward. And James and John. Always jockeying for a place of
prominence. Can you imagine a church board interviewing the prophet Amos!
“Now, Mr. Amos, let’s have a look at your credentials.”
“Yes, your credentials. Where did you go to school? What major
theologian has influenced your thinking? Where were you first
“Theologian?” “Ordained? Well you see, I’m a shepherd by
background. I really haven’t had much formal training. I did work for
awhile dressing sycamore trees, if that counts for anything. As for
theology, I don’t know that any one person has influenced my thinking.
But I’ve seen people cheated in the market place. I’ve seen widows
thrown out of their homes. I’ve seen children sold for a pair of shoes.
And God has told me it’s not right. God has called me to confront the
doers of injustice in society and to proclaim God’s righteousness.”
“Sycamore trees? Righteousness? Well, Mr. Amos, Hmmm…we really
were looking for someone with a doctorate. And we would prefer a
ministry that was not confrontational.” Poor Amos. He wouldn’t have made it past the first interview. God just isn’t very good at choosing the
kind of people who represent God…”Hum” – I wonder? Pastor Jim Moore recalls when he took a course in pastoral care as
a part of his seminary training. One day he was asked to visit a woman
in the hospital who had lost her will to live; she had no cards or flowers,
and she sat all day in a darkened room. But Jim was terrified. He felt
that he was too inexperienced, and that he wouldn’t know what to do.
And his nervousness affected his visit.
First he pushed the door open too hard and it slammed against the
wall. Next he walked over and accidentally kicked the bed. He
stammered, stuttered and said all the wrong things in between long
periods of embarrassed silence. Finally he tried to say a prayer, but even
that didn’t come out right. He left the room that day with tears in his
eyes, ready to quit the ministry. He felt ashamed that this patient had
needed him, and he had failed her.
But a few days later Jim went courageously back. Imagine his
surprise when he found the woman sitting up in bed writing letters.
Flowers and cards were everywhere. She recognized him at once, and
began thanking him over and over for the visit he had paid her.Jim was confused, because he knew he had botched the visit. He had
done everything painfully wrong, and he confessed as much to her.“But that’s just it,” she replied. “I felt so sorry for you! It was the
first time I had felt anything but self-pity for months. And that little
spark of compassion for you gave me the will to live. As followers, as
disciples of Jesus our weaknesses are often blessings in disguise.
Former professional baseball player Roy Campanella, who was
confined to a wheelchair following an accident, found an important
resource in his faith. He had felt only anguish and despair immediately
following the accident, and he spent many nights crying himself to sleep.
He healed poorly in those first few months, and one day his physician
came in and told him frankly that if he didn’t become responsible for his
own healing, he would never recover.
Campanella knew that he would never leave his wheelchair. He
knew that he would never play ball again. But he also knew that the
doctor was right. All his life he had found help in his faith. And now,
from the depths of his despair, he turned once more to the Lord. He had
a nurse read him the Twenty-third Psalm, and from that moment,
Campanella improved. He knew that God was on his side. Sometime later Roy Campanella had an encounter with an elderly
woman in Florida. He was sitting in his wheelchair at a ball park when he noticed a crippled, elderly woman working her way slowly up a steep
ramp. She had braces on both legs and a crutch, but she struggled up the
ramp until she reached him. Then panting from her exertion, she looked
at him, and then took his hand in hers. And she thanked him for her life.
She had been a patient in the same New Your hospital when he was
recovering form his accident. A stroke had left her paralyzed on one
side of her entire body, and she had lost her will to live. But the doctors
told her about Campanella and his courage and faith in the face of
overwhelming adversity. She had been so inspired by the story that she
determined to make the effort to live. And now she had traveled over a
thousand miles to meet him in person and thank him.
Time after time we have seen people who were physically weak
develop such spiritual strength that they have inspired others.
I close:
God seems to have this thing calling imperfect weak people – to be
messengers. I believe God knows what God is doing! I wonder if any
of us are on God’s list.