Archive for the ‘20th Sunday’ Category

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

Saturday, August 15th, 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.

Harry Was A Minister 8-19-2018

Thursday, August 16th, 2018

I have a special story for us. I believe there is a powerful lesson for all of us in this story:
Harry never even vaguely considered himself a minister in his church. “Come on,” he would say. “The people who give out the Eucharist, the ones who lecture, maybe they are ministers, but me…. I’m just an usher.
A young priest in Harry’s parish had given a talk on the “ministry” of a greeter, but Harry wasn’t buying that “malarkey.” He said he was just trying to “give the pastor a hand” by taking up the collection, steering people to Holy Communion and saying hello to parishioners when they came into church.
Harry believed that, until one cold March night he came home from work and his wife told him the pastor called. Harry returned the call and the pastor told him that a letter had been received at the rectory. The letter was simply addressed to “Harry the usher.”
The priest said that since he was the only usher called Harry, would he please pick up his letter. Harry, intrigued by the request, complied and on the way home ripped open the envelope and in the dim light of the car read the following:
Dear Harry, I don’t know your last name, but I guess that’s fair. You don’t know mine either. I’m Gert, Gert form the 8:00 am Mass. I am writing you for a couple of reasons, and I hope you will understand. One of the reasons is to ask a favor. I am not particularly close to any of the priests in the parish but somehow I feel close to you. I don’t even know how you got to know my first name, but every Sunday morning when I walked into Mass you smiled and greeted me and called me by my name. We would exchange a few words that were perhaps meaningless to most like how bad the weather was; how much you like my Easter hat and how late I was on a particular Sunday.
I don’t have any close family left, Harry. My husband has been dead for 16 years and the kids are scattered. Not too many people smile and greet an old lady like me, but you did.
Harry, in the little time left to me, I just wanted to say thank you. Thank you for the thoughtfulness; for remembering my name is Gert; for the smiles and little laughter; the consideration and the conversation. Now for the favor, I am dying Harry. My time is running out. It is not important that you come to my wake, but what is important to me is that when they bring me to church for Mass for the last time, you will be standing at the front entrance. It wouldn’t seem right if you weren’t standing to say “Hello Gert.” “Good to see you.”
If you are there, Harry, I will feel assured that your warm hospitality in my home parish will be duplicated by Peter, Jesus, and Mary in my new parish, my new home. I hope they will say as you always did, “Hello Gert.” “It is good to see you.”
The lady who wrote that letter recently was buried from her parish church. Harry did stand at the entrance. He smiled and said the words Gert wanted to hear as he gently touched the coffin. Harry gave Gert Eucharist.
Eucharist, when will we learn that Eucharist is so much more than the ritual, following along the missallete, an obligation, a passive congregation, a me and God experience, a place to be entertained, a how fast can I get out of here happening.
Eucharist, so much more; two sides of the same coin. Jesus present in the Bread and Wine, and Gods’ word, the flip side, Jesus present in the people. Eucharist, so much more. When will we learn.

Human Beings Get Tired! 8-20-2017

Sunday, August 20th, 2017

There are so many great stories about Jesus. Jesus curing the blind; Jesus feeding the multitude; Jesus embracing children; Jesus the consummate contemplative in prayer; Jesus sensitive to the point of knowing when someone in a crowd touches his garment; Jesus reading people’s hearts like a book. Jesus giving his life away like bread and wine.
And then we have today. How many preachers have profoundly wished this story wasn’t here. And maybe skipped it, or tried to explain it away by saying Jesus was really just joking with the lady. But when a child is sick, you don’t joke with a mother. Or when he used the word dogs, he meant “little puppies”. Or he was just pretending to be blunt and grumpy, but really that was just to elicit deeper faith and deeper seeking from the woman, or maybe from the apostles.
Possible….but it sounds like rationalization. And maybe the true sense of the scripture is the plain sense. But if that’s so, what in here is edifying or saving?
First, a detail. The Gospel doesn’t say Jesus went to the district of Tyre and Sidon. He withdrew. Withdraw is what people do when they’re tired, spent, drained. Withdraw mentally, withdraw emotionally, even downright physical withdraw. And Jesus had his reasons to withdraw. In the previous chapter, Herod beheaded John the Baptizer. The apostles reported that the Pharisees were getting shocked by Jesus’ teachings. Jesus is getting a clearer picture of what lies ahead. And he needed to withdraw, to some anonymous place so God could restore him.
Human beings get tired. Jesus’ divine nature was unlimited, but his human nature was limited. So he needed to withdraw. For us – a question. Do you have enough sense to withdraw when you’re spent? A little blue? A little tired? Let the world turn without you. Can you humbly admit it when there’s nothing more you can do right now? Do you notice when people around you are spent? Do you give them permission to withdraw? Do you help them if necessary, with some mad money, or an offer to baby-sit, or make a meal?
But there’s more here than just that. Jesus once told a story about two sons. The father says to the first son—go to the fields and work. “Yes I will”, comes the answer, but he doesn’t. So the father says to the second son, “You go to the field and work”. “No, I won’t”, comes the spontaneous first response, but after mulling it over, the second son goes and toils. Who is doing the will of his father, Jesus asks? The one who ended up doing right. It’s not your first response that counts; it’s your last and final response.
Even Jesus got tired, spent, blue…even Jesus had to struggle to make the most godly loving tender response and had to change his response when he could, to come from a deeper more loving part of him…then that’s a great lesson of challenge and hope for us.
Sometimes our first responses to a request, a situation, and unattractive person, like the response of Jesus, aren’t our best response. But we don’t have to leave things there. We can lighten up on others and on ourselves. We can give grace time to work. We can be humble enough and free of stubbornness enough, to say…well, that’s my first response. But, I’m capable, in God, of something better.
What would happen if parents always stuck with their first response to a nagging kid, in the middle of anger? We can change responses. And today, that’s what Jesus himself does.
So we can ask, “Is my response to people I’m upset at, sometimes over a long stretch of time, really my best response, my deepest response, from Christ in my heart? Is my reaction to the immigrants who come to fill our city streets and use our services really my best reaction – my most Christian reaction? Is my aversion to people who question me, contradict me, or stymie my desire for a simple uncomplicated life, really my best reply – my Christian reply? Am I so stubborn that I haven’t changed, deepened, and matured my response to things for a long time?
Jesus wasn’t like that. We don’t have to be either.