Archive for the ‘20th Sunday’ Category

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.

The Assumption of Mary 8-15-2021

Sunday, August 15th, 2021

I have been doing a lot of moving this past month. During this
process I found things in my closets, in boxes, in drawers – that I had
misplaced. Some of the things I found, I throw away again. But other
things I put them in a more visible place because I realized these things
had some real value for me.
I feel as a Catholic I have misplaced Mary, the mother of Jesus. I
put her on a back shelf of my life because she seemed old fashioned,
pre-Vatican II, not relevant in my life.
Recently, I realized the mistake I made. As I took Mary off the
back shelf of my life and began to dust her off, I began to notice some
very valuable insights. I would like to share my new appreciation of
Mary in the form of a reflection about the Assumption of our Lady.
We know the story well. Young Mary, pregnant with Jesus
hastened over the Judean hills and valleys to be with Elizabeth, pregnant
in her old age. Mary went quickly. She hurried to go to be with
someone who needed her. Mary had a good excuse not to go on that

journey; her own health and preparation for birth. But she risked the
road. She took the time. She spent the energy. All of Mary’s life was
guided by the Spirit of God. Mary knew Elizabeth needed her, and so
she went.
Mary’s Assumption, a triumph over death, celebrates a woman
who lived her life bringing goodness to others. Mary is a wonderful
model of faith for us. In our world of hurry and worry, we can very
legitimately have plenty to do just to care for ourselves and our families.
But there are Elizabeth’s everywhere who need our visits. What a
difference a phone call, a letter, or a “stopping by” can make to a lonely,
ill or aged person. What joy can we bring to children by paying full
attention to them? What happiness we offer family, friends, and
colleagues when we affirm their successes and celebrations. We need
only to look and we will easily find an Elizabeth today.
Mary, delight of God’s heart
May the joy your visit brought to Elizabeth
Be the joy that our presence brings
To those whom we take time to “visit” today.

It’s Not Easy On The Outside… 8-16-2020

Sunday, August 16th, 2020

Joe had done his time. After ten years, he left the prison and
stepped out into the real world, the free world. His cell mate and
buddies on the inside envied Joe, of course, but were happy for
him and wished him well as he went home.
But before long, Joe was back behind bars, not for another
crime but for a “technical violation” of his release—he flunked a
drug test. When he saw Joe again, his old cell mate “gritted” at
him—a sign of disapproval and disappointment in prison-speak.
How could Joe mess up the chance to get out of this place?! To
guys still on the inside, to come back to prison was the worst
crime imaginable. Joe explained what had happened and his
friend uttered a noncommittal grunt. That’s when Joe’s face crumpled in despair. “I was just so
damn lonely out there,” he said with a sigh. “I had a good job; I
was doing fine. But there was no one to talk to. Dude, all I know
is prison; I didn’t know what to say to those people out there.
So, I started hanging out with the old crowd. At least they could
understand where I was coming from. And then one thing led to
another…” The cell mate grunted. Yeah, he understood.
Christ calls us to make places in our society, in our
communities, in our hearts for the Joes in our midst: those souls
struggling to make something of their lives, who are trying to
put the pieces of their broken selves back together despite the
ostracism, rejection and ridicule they encounter.
The Canaanite woman in today’s Gospel is just such a soul: She
was despised by the Jewish community because of her race, ridiculed as a “dog” by the “righteous” who mistakenly found some sense of superiority in her inferiority. Jesus’ compassion
for her and his healing of her daughter breaks down the wall
between Gentile and Jew; the prophet’s vision of a single human
family, bound by what is good and just, begins to be realized
(today’s first reading). May our eyes and spirits be open to see
every man, woman and child as God sees them: as God’s
beloved children, brothers and sisters to one another, all made in
the image of God, all embraced within the heart of God.