Archive for the ‘23rd Sunday’ Category

The Killing Silence 9-6-2020

Saturday, September 5th, 2020

The silence is deafening.
Family members and friends must tiptoe around them. Spouses,
parents, children are held hostage by the silence. Not in our family, we
insist. Better to hold our tongues than set them off, we fear. It may be
alcoholism, drug addition, physical abuse that tears the family apart; or a
misunderstanding or conflict over finances, a divorce, a child’s rejection
of the family’s culture or values that creates a tension that represses the
family dynamic. It’s a silence that kills.
A student is struggling in school and doesn’t know how to ask for
help or is afraid to seek out a teacher for fear of being labeled.
A youngster is the target of bullying. He or she is miserable but is too
scared to say anything to an adult.
The project is failing; the business is going down the drain. The
company has many savvy, experienced people who know what to do –
but nothing is said, no one is consulted. This is a tough market – and
any appearance of trouble or vulnerability will sink everything. The surviving spouse is lost. The grief is more than he or she can
bear. But they don’t want to be a burden – the children have enough
going on in their lives. So the widow or widower becomes more and
more isolated.
Regardless of the cause or circumstances, fear is the controlling
agent.
Say nothing – it will just make things worse.
He won’t hear it.
She’ll never change her mind.
You’ll only get hurt.
Please, I can do this on my own. I’m fine.
And so, there is silence.
Silence – while hearts scream in agony and spirits shrivel and die.
Jesus challenges us in today’s Gospel not to tolerate the dysfunction
in our lives or allow our judgements and disappointments to isolate us
from others, but to confront those problems, misunderstandings and
issues that divide us, grieve us, and embitter us. More challenging still, Jesus says, is to face those situations in which our demands and
expectations are the cause of such turmoil and then managing to put aside those wants and needs of ours that are exacting such a heavy cost
from those we love. Christ calls us to the hard work of reconciliation, to
be committed to seeking solutions not out of indignation or self-
righteousness but out of a commitment to imitate and bring into our lives
the great love and mercy of God.

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!