Archive for the ‘23rd Sunday’ Category

Pedal 9-8-2019

Sunday, September 8th, 2019

When we start talking about being disciples of Jesus we usually
hear stories about super stars. Some time ago the Christopher News
Notes carried three stories of three regular people, each answering the
call of discipleship.
The first story concerned a youth minister in California. He built
an extra hour or two into his weekly shopping schedule to talk with his
young flock at the town’s mall. When asked about his “mall ministry,”
the youth minister said:
“Jesus went where the people were, and that’s where I must go,
too. The kids are at the mall, so that’s where I must go.”
The second story concerned a woman in Minneapolis. She ran a
downtown shelter for the city’s homeless and abandoned. When asked
about her “shelter ministry,” she said:
“I’m simply trying to do what Jesus said to do. He said we should
love everyone, especially those most in need.”
The third and final story concerned a group of Harvard law
students who were getting ready to graduate. To court them a group of
the nation’s most prestigious law firms invited the students to a lavish
banquet in a plush downtown hotel.
After receiving the invitation, the students made this request to the
law firms: “Could you hold the banquet in a more modest hotel and
serve a more modest meal?”
When asked about this unusual request, the students simply said,
“We’d like the money saved to be given to the poor.”
These three stories illustrate the first point that Jesus makes in
today’s gospel. He says:
“If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife
and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be
my disciple.”
These words are not to be taken literally yet these words of Jesus
are a provocative way of saying three things:
1. That our priority in life must be to Jesus and to his work of
completing God’s kingdom on earth.
2. That as followers of Jesus, our responsibility extends beyond
our flesh-and-blood family to the entire human family.
3. That if we want to follow Jesus, we must follow him not only
into church on Sunday morning but also into the marketplace of
our lives on Monday morning.
They are people who realize that they are going to make only a
microscopic dent in the problems of our world. But they are also
people who realize that the worse evil is to do nothing because they
can only do little. They are people who have committed themselves
to Jesus and to his work, and are living it out.
They are people whose commitment makes us ask ourselves,
1. What are the top three priorities in my life right now and are
they in the right order?
2. What am I doing for Jesus right now?
Let’s close with a poem. Perhaps you are familiar with it. It sums
up the message and the invitation of today’s liturgy. It compares our
commitment to Jesus and to his work to two people riding on a
tandem bicycle. The poem goes something like this “At first, I sat in front; Jesus in the rear. I couldn’t see him, but I
knew he was there. I could feel his help when the road got steep.
“Then, one day, Jesus changed seats with me. Suddenly
everything went topsy-turvy. When I was in control, the ride was
predictable – even boring. But when Jesus took over, it got wild! I
could hardly hold on. ‘This is madness!’ I cried out. But Jesus just
smiled – and said, ‘Pedal!’
“And so I learned to shut up and pedal – and trust my bike
companion. Oh, there are still times when I get scared and I’m ready
to give up. But then Jesus turns around, touches my hand, smiles, and
says, ‘Pedal!’”
I’m so blessed that over these past 40 years I have done some
pedaling with so many of you.

Be Opened 9-9-2018

Sunday, September 9th, 2018

The Gospel of Mark is the oldest Gospel we have. There are many special things about it. One of the most special things is that it contains several original words of Jesus. Words in Jesus own language – Aramaic – that he must have spoken himself.
We have one of these words today, a very powerful word: Ephatha, which means “Be Opened.” Say it with me: EPHATHA!
Being opened is the opposite of being shut, of being clenched.
Do me a favor, will you. Clench your hands. Clench your hands as hard as you can and make fists. Keep it like that for just a few minutes, until I tell you.
A clenched fist gives a person a sense of power. We clench our fists when we get really mad, really frustrated, really full of hate.
A clenched fist is an ugly thing.
But not nearly as ugly as a clenched face. We clench our faces when we criticize too harshly, when we judge harshly, when we look down on someone or put out an arrogant attitude.
A clenched face is an ugly thing … but not nearly as ugly as a clenched heart. Our hearts get clenched when we are full of hatred and vengeance. Other things that can clench the heart are greed, envy, jealousy, or rage when we don’t get our own way.
(Keep your fist clenched a little bit longer)
Sometimes whole families can be clenched, whole parishes, whole communities.
And to the clenched community, the clenched family, the clenched heart, the clenched face, the clenched hand, the clenched ears, the clenched tongue, Jesus comes and says EPHATHA! BE OPENED!
I hope those of you who have clenched your hands are getting really tired. You should be. Now I’ll ask you to slowly, slowly unclench your hands: EPHATHA! BE OPENED!
Isn’t that better?
One day you will be completely unclenched. On the day when we rise to glory, it will be wonderful. We will be holding on to God completely and fully … because we won’t be holding anything else.
In the meantime, we Christians try to let go, little by little, of pains and wounds and regrets and resentment and anger. And Jesus is here helping us.
I close with this:
Jesus came to me. He saw that my mind was clenched. I can’t stand them. Those groups. Those people. That person. EPHATHA, he said BE OPENED! But I replied, Lord they hurt me. They threaten me. They violate me.
“I know, he said. Like the people who were cruel to me on Good Friday. My mind wanted to clench shut. The thought of them was like a crown of thorns tightening around my temples. But I opened myself up and God raised me, making me the Savior.”
Jesus came. He saw my hands were clenched. I’m not going to help another person. I’m not going to help the church anymore. I’m not going to reach out to my neighbor again. No one appreciates it.
“I know, Jesus said. Like the people who didn’t appreciate me. Sometimes when I opened my hands it felt like they were hammering nails through it. But I opened myself, and God raised me, making me the Savior of the world.”
Jesus came. He saw that my heart was clenched. So full of anger, so bitter, so jealous. Ephatha, he said. Be opened! I’m so tired of loving people. Often they don’t love me back. And when I opened my heart it feels sometimes like a great spear pierces me to my very soul.
“I know, said Jesus. Believe me, I understand. But when the spear pierced my heart, I opened myself to it, to the world, to the father … and God has raised me up.”
Ephatha! Be Opened! God will raise you up also!
Close your eyes; clench your fists – what else in your life is clenched?
EPHATHA! I am going to help you, says Jesus!

Let It Go 9-10-2017

Saturday, September 9th, 2017

All of us at times get hurt by other people. The question is, how
do we react when we are wronged, especially be someone we love,
someone very close to us. I see three pretty common reactions. I have
done them all.
A. I call it the Clam Reaction. We clam up. We refuse to discuss
it. We give the other person the cold, icy treatment. Our body language
gives it away–our arms wrapped around us. Anything wrong? No!
Psychologist’s call this passive hostility. When a person finally lets
things out there is, many times, an awful explosion. This explosion goes
B. The “Grumble and Complain” reaction. We grumble, we
complain. We gossip about the injustice that has been done to us, to
everyone else except the person involved. We bask in the sympathy we
milk out of people. We tell them what awful things that awful old so and
so did to a wonderful person like me.
C.. The Blow the Person Away Reaction. We demolish the other
person. We launch a frontal attack. How he/she wronged us and we let
everyone know that when it comes to hurting another human being, we
are number 1. We show the other person we can be more unjust,
bigoted, inflexible and hostile than they were to us.
I think our gospel today offers us an alternative reaction:
Someone wrongs us. Go to that person. Talk with them. Point out the
fault. Deal with it. Keep it between the two of you.
If that doesn’t work, call in someone with some wisdom and sensitivity
and let them help, if that relationship is important, we don’t want to lose
If that doesn’t work, stop thinking about it. Let it go. Stop giving
it power over us, to destroy, to mess up your life. Sounds simple..hard to
do, oh yes.
I close with a real life example of what I am talking about.
One day a seven year old was riding in the back seat of the family
car. He was sitting between his older brother and sister. His mother was
On this day the mother was feeling especially distraught over
recently being abandoned by their father. Suddenly in a fit of anger she
spun around and slapped the seven year old across the face. “And you, I
never wanted you. The only reason I had you was to keep your father.
But then he left anyway.”
The scene branded itself on the boy’s memory. Over the years his
mother reinforced her feelings toward him by constantly finding fault
with him. Years later the son was able to tell his counselor, “I can’t tell
you how many times in the last twenty-three years I relived that
experience. Probably thousands.”
He continued, “but recently I put myself in my mother’s shoes.
Here she was, a high school graduate with no skills, no job, no money
and a family to support. I realized how lonely and depressed she must
have felt.
“I thought of the anger and the pain that must have been there.
And I thought of how much I reminded her of the failure of her young
hopes. And so one day I decided to visit her and talk to her. I told her
that I understood her feelings and that I loved her just the same.
“She broke down and we wept in each other’s arms for what
seemed like hours. It was the beginning of a new life for me, for her—
for both of us.”
Let it go! Sounds simple, hard to do, oh yes, but oh so healthy. Lord
help us.