Archive for the ‘20th Sunday’ Category

Human Beings Get Tired! 8-20-2023

Thursday, August 17th, 2023

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
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
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
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.

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.