Archive for the ‘21st Sunday’ Category

Commitment 8-22-2021

Friday, August 20th, 2021

At the Olympic Games in Paris in 1924, the sport of canoe racing
was added to the list of international competitions for the first time.
The favorite team in the four-man canoe race was the United States
team. One member of the U.S. team was a young man by the name of
Bill Havens.
As the time for the Olympics neared, it became clear that Bill’s
wife would give birth to their first child about the time that Bill would
be competing in the Paris games.
In 1924 there were no jet airliners from Paris to the United States,
only slow-moving, oceangoing ships.
And so Bill found himself in a dilemma. Should he go to Paris and
risk not being at his wife’s side when their first child was born? Or
should he withdraw from the team and remain behind?
Bill’s wife insisted that he go to Paris. After all, he had been
working toward this for all these years. It was the culmination of a
lifelong dream.
Clearly, the decision was not easy for Bill to make.
Finally, after much soul searching, Bill decided to withdraw from
the competition and remain behind with his wife so that he could be
with her when their first child arrived.
Bill considered being at her side a higher priority than going to
Paris to fulfill a lifelong dream.
To make a long story short, the United States four-man canoe team
won the gold medal at the Paris Olympics. And Bill’s wife was late
in giving birth to her first child. She was so late that Bill could have
competed in the event and returned home in time to be with his wife.
People said, “What a shame!”
But Bill said he had no regrets. After all, his commitment to his
wife was more important then, and it still was now.
The story of Bill Havens is a story of how one man paid a high
price to fulfill a commitment to someone he loved. It makes an
especially fitting introduction to today’s Scripture readings. For each
of those three readings deals with the subject of commitment.
The first reading deals with the commitment of the people of Israel
to God and the difficulty they found living it out.
The gospel reading deals with the commitment of the disciples to
Jesus and the difficulty they had living it out.
Finally, the second reading deals with the commitment of two
people in marriage and the difficulty they encountered living it out.
And the story of Bill Havens fits in here best.
But Bill’s story reveals something important about commitment.
The temptation we most frequently face in our commitments is not
to break them or fail to fulfill them. Rather, it is the temptation not to
live them out as fully as we could.
In other words, we keep our commitments but live them out only
50 to 70 percent, instead of 100 percent.
The story of Bill Havens is the story of a person who lived out his
commitment 100 percent. It also inspires us to live out our
commitments as generously as he lived out his.
There’s a sequel to the story of Bill Havens. And the sequel reveals
a second important point about commitments.
The generosity with which we live out our commitments will have
a powerful impact not only on the one to whom we are committed but
also on those around us – and often on people we don’t even know.
The child eventually born to Bill and his wife was a boy, whom
they named Frank.
Twenty-eight years later, in 1952, Bill received a cablegram from
Frank. It was sent from Helsinki, Finland, where the 1952 Olympics
were being held. The cablegram read, and I quote it exactly:
“Dad, I won. I’m bringing home the gold medal you lost while
waiting for me to be born.”
Frank Havens had just won the gold medal for the United States in
the canoe-racing event, a medal his father had dreamed of winning
but never did.
Bill Havens commitment, 28 years earlier, became the inspiration
for his son. Frank made it the model for a commitment of his own:
to show his deep appreciation to his dad and his generous
commitment to his mother and to himself.
And that’s the important point that parents often don’t think about.
The generosity with which they live out their commitment to one
another is carefully observed by their children. And their children
will often use it as the model for their own commitments in life.
I close with this. We might compare our commitment to a stone
thrown into a lake. It does more than impact the lake at the point of
entry. It ripples out and impacts the lake far beyond the point of entry
– sometimes even to distant parts of the lake. Only God knows the
full impact that our actions have on others.
And so when we come to die, and appear before God in judgment,
we will be amazed at the far-reaching impact of our actions – just as
Bill Havens would be amazed at the far-reaching impact that his
commitment to his wife has had, inspiring hundreds of thousands of
people he never knew.


Blessed Are You 8-23-2020

Saturday, August 22nd, 2020

They were surrounding him. They were simple people:
his disciples, fishermen, people who did not think very much
of themselves. People nobody thought very much of.
Nobody ever asked their opinions. Nobody ever paid much
attention to what they thought or felt. The people who
mattered looked down on them. They smelled of fish. The
smell came out of their hair and out of their clothing.
And now Jesus whom they had followed as their model,
whom they had imitated like children, whom they were
surprised to be allowed to follow, asked them, “What name
would you give me? Who do you people say that I am?”
They could not believe their ears. It was impossible that
he was asking for their opinion. That is why they started
telling him what the scribes, the priests, the Pharisees, the
political leaders, and the important ones were saying. They answered, “They say, those other ones say that you are John
the Baptizer, others say Jeremiah, others Elijah, and again
others, one of the prophets.”
Then he said, “But you, who do you say I am?” They
looked at one another. Was he really going to pay attention
to what they thought? Again they looked at one another.
They nudged Peter, who was obviously their leader, and he
said, “I know who you are, we know who you are. You are
the Messiah, you are the Son of the Living God.”
And then Jesus said something strange. He said, “Peter,
how blessed you are because you do not say that of yourself.
What you said came from God, God in you.”
What Jesus said of Peter, he also said to us. I pray that we
believe that Jesus is the Messiah. I pray that we believe that
Jesus is the Son of God. I hope that is the reason we come
together today. That same God who was in Peter must be in us. We are
charged with God’s spirit. We are full of the Son’s spirit.
God is in us.
A lot of us have the bad habit of thinking of ourselves as
totally negative, as non-participants in so many affairs, as in
a sense, good-for-nothing. Just like the early disciples
thought of themselves.
Others are important – others are leading the world. We
forget the good in us – we forget God in us. We overlook our
potential – our dignity.
I read about an African Bishop, who was described as a
contemporary saint by TIME magazine. He was from
Tanzania. Bishop Christopher said we need two types of
confessional boxes in our churches, some at the right side and
some at the left side. In the left ones, you confess your sins,
getting as a penance to go to the right side with the obligation
to confess honestly the good you did, the good in you, the God in you. That is what Jesus said of Peter. Blessed are you, Peter. God is with you. That is what I say to you. God
is with you – in you. Don’t forget it! Live like you believe
it. Blessed are you!

The Narrow Door 8-25-2019

Sunday, August 25th, 2019

A young man wrote a letter to a priest. He told the priest he could
use the letter any way he wished. Except for a few minor changes,
here’s what the young man wrote: “I was one of the top swimmers in my
category in Canada. Then one day I let my friends talk me into
experimenting with drugs. I got hooked, and soon my mental, physical,
and spiritual health deteriorated badly…I knew I was all screwed up. I
became lonely and terribly frightened. There was no one I could talk to.
To make matters worse, I was in debt to drug dealers for over $3,000. I
figured my only way out was suicide, so I went home and wrote this
note: ‘Dear Mom and Dad, I am sorry to cause you this pain…
please don’t grieve too much. If I had stayed alive, I would have caused
you a lot more grief than by what I just did…I love you and the whole
family. (signed) Christopher”
“I began to drink to overcome fear as I prepared to take my life.
Then at the last minute something made me stop; I grabbed the phone
and called a crisis center. I didn’t know it then, but my mother was
praying like mad for me. A few days later I entered a drug rehabilitation
program. Soon I regained my physical and psychological health. It was
then that I started reading the Bible. The more I read it, the more peace
and joy I felt. This led me to put all my trust in God.”
“Meanwhile, there developed in me this growing desire to learn
more about Jesus and to get to know him better. It’s kind of funny. I
must have prayed on my knees at least ten times – asking Jesus to come
into my life – before I realized that he was already in my life…”
“All this happened about five years ago. Since then, God has
blessed me greatly. I teach in a Catholic high school and I’m active in
my parish community…I’m also still trying to learn how to open myself
more and more to the love and mercy of God. Sincerely your, Chris”
That letter illustrates one of the points in today’s gospel: The
door to God’s kingdom is, indeed, narrow. But that didn’t stop Chris
from trying to enter. He struggled and struggled until he did. I wonder
how many people (like you & me), would have had the courage to
struggle as Christopher did.
Someone said there are three kinds of Christians: Tug-boat
Christians, sail-boat Christians, and raft Christians. Tug-boat Christians
are people who follow Jesus not only in sunny weather but also in
stormy weather. They are people who follow Jesus not only when the
wind and the tide serve them but also when the wind and the tide oppose
them. They are people who go to Mass not because they have to but
because Jesus said at the Last Supper, “Do this in memory of me.” (Luke
22:19) They are people who help other people not because they feel like
it but because Jesus said, “Love one another as I love you.” (John 15:12)
Sail-boat Christians, on the other hand, are people who follow
Jesus when the wind and the tide serve them. But when the wind and
the tide oppose them, they tend to go in the direction they are blown.
They are people who go to Mass when family and friends go. But left to
themselves, they often miss. They are the people who ask, “How far can
I go before I sin?” Rather than, “How much more can I do because I
love?” They are people who tend to follow the crowd more then they
follow the Gospel.
Finally, there are the raft Christians. They are Christians in name
only. They don’t really follow Jesus, even when the wind and the tide
serve them. If they do go in his direction, it’s only because someone
pulls or pushes them. They are people who do Christian things not
because they want to but because they have to. In short, they are
Christians in name but not in deed.
The question set before us is this: Are we a tug-boat Christian, a
sail-boat Christian, or a raft Christian? Are we tug-boat Christians? Do
we follow Jesus in good times and in bad? Do we go with him not only
through the wide door but also through the narrow door? Or are we sail-
boat Christians? Do we follow Jesus only in good times? Or are we raft
Christians? Are we Christians in name only?
These are some of the growth questions today’s readings set before
us. No one can answer them for us. We must do that ourselves.