Archive for the ‘31st Sunday’ Category

What is the best way to become a Saint? 11-5-2023

Thursday, November 2nd, 2023

I realize a lot of you will not be able to be at Mass tomorrow on the
Feast of All Saints, so I thought I would share a reflection of All Saints
with you.
Phyllis McGinley is a modern American poet. She wrote a book
called Saint Watching. In it she says:
“When I was seven years old, I wanted to be a tight-rope dancer
and broke my collarbone practicing on a child’s-size high wire. At
twelve, I planned to become an international spy. At fifteen, my
ambition was the stage. Now in my sensible declining years, I would
give anything… be a saint.”
As we celebrate the Feast of All Saints, we are reminded that every
one of us—without exception—is called to be a saint. Not one of us in
this church today is called to be anything less than a saint.
This poses a knotty question: What is the best way to become a
saint in 2023?
Is it to do what St. Anthony did in the fourth century: turn our
backs on the pleasures of this world and live apart from society?
Is it to do what St. Francis did in the thirteenth century: turn our
backs on material wealth and preach the Gospel wherever we can find a
crowd and a soapbox?
Or is it to do something like St. Elizabeth Seton did in the
nineteenth century: raise a family and spend the rest of our lives working
with societies sick and needy?
The answer to these questions is no. And the reason that its no is
You don’t become a saint by doing what God made somebody else
to do. You become a saint by doing what God made you do.
Practically speaking, this means that if you are a parent at this
moment in your life, that’s exactly the way God intends you to become a
saint: by being the best parent you can be – not perfect – just the best.
And, practically speaking, if you are a student at this moment in
your life, that’s exactly the way God intends you to become a saint: by
being the best student you can be.
Or, if you are an elderly couple or single person at this moment in
your life, that’s exactly the way God intends you to become a saint: by
being the best elderly couple or best single person you can be.
Let me illustrate what I mean with an example. Some years ago,
an elderly couple lived on a large corner lot near an elementary school.
The children from the school had the habit of cutting across the corner of
their lawn, wearing an ugly path through it. At first this merely annoyed
the couple, but after a while it angered them. The couple realized that
something had to be done. The situation was poisoning their attitude
toward the children and destroying their peace of mind. The couple hit
upon a solution. First they put crushed gravel on the path. Then they
lined it with flowers. After that they set a bench along the path. On
afternoons when school let out, the couple sat on the bench and greeted
the children as they passed by.
The response of the children was amazing. They stopped and
thanked the couple for the path. They even asked the names of the
flowers and sometimes, sat down to talk to the couple. In short, the
couple turned an unhappy situation into a happy one.
That charming little story is also a beautiful illustration of what

Jesus meant in today’s gospel when he said, “Blessed are the
peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” It means to turn a
potentially angry situation into a delightfully happy one.
And that leads us to our final point.
If you are still in doubt about what it means to be a saint in today’s
world, reread the Beatitudes in today’s gospel. The Beatitudes spell out
in simple terms the guidelines that we should use to live our lives. And
if we live out these guidelines, as the elderly couple did, Jesus will
someday say to us what he said to the people of his time in the Sermon
on the Mount:
“Blessed are you, the kingdom of God is yours!”

Jesus came to See and to Save those who were Lost 10-30-2022

Friday, October 28th, 2022

The first Sunday after All Saints Day we have saints fresh
on our minds. Today the Gospel lesson tells the story of one
such saint. He is curiously and obviously flawed. In fact, his sins
and failures are so plain that his acceptance by God is somewhat
a scandal. But in the end he becomes an example of Gods
gracious work. And his inclusion in the circle of God gives
ordinary people like us great hope. His name is Zacchaeus.
His is the story of a little, lonely, sinful man who has an
encounter with Jesus while Zacchaeus was hiding in a tree.
Quite a ridiculous place for a grown man, don’t you think? But
that encounter with Jesus changed his life in a very big way.
What lessons can this curious story teach us today?
CAN. Zacchaeus was a tax collector. Even worse, he was a chief tax collector. Do not think IRS here, think Mafia or drug dealer.
In the world of the New Testament, tax collectors were local
Jews who purchased their tax collection job from the Romans,
and then collected the hated taxes for the hated Romans from
their neighbors, plus whatever extra they could squeeze on top
for themselves. Tax collectors had to be greedy enough to sell
their own soul for a shekel, and be willing to turn against their
own family and friends to turn a profit.
As you might imagine, tax collectors were invariably
wealthy, and invariably friendless. They were outcast from the
Jewish synagogue, and every other gathering of Jews in town.
So despised were tax collectors in the first century, that the
phrases “tax collector” and “sinner” were considered
synonymous. And yet Jesus sought out Zacchaeus. Like a
hunted animal hiding in a tree, Zacchaeus found himself trapped
in the scope of grace. And when Jesus offered a kind word of
acceptance instead of a fire and brimstone sermon, Zacchaeus
fell from the tree with wide-eyed amazement. How long had it
been since someone from the “good side of town” wanted to eat
with Zacchaeus?
The point for us is plain; Jesus has come to seek and to
save those who are lost. Even before sinners are seeking God,
God is seeking them. And sinners do not have to clean up their
act before God will love them; rather it is Gods love offered first
that causes a sinner to want to clean up his or her act. Every
saint has a past, and every sinner has a future. That is the hope
that keeps us all humble, and gives each of us the chance we do
not deserve to be acceptable by God.
GOD. What makes Zacchaeus a saint if it is not his moral purity
or good deeds? It is the way God uses his story to instruct us all
in the way of the gospel. Zacchaeus gives us all hope, precisely
because he is so unworthy. And this story reminds the Church of
our mission to embody the gracious initiative of Gods welcome.
Does it bother you that the sinners who were so drawn to
Jesus in the New Testament are often so uncomfortable today in
His Church? God does not only use lives that are pure and clean,
like unbroken shiny glass windows. Sure the light of Gospel can
shine through such clear lives, and thanks be to God for moral
and godly people today like that. But God can also use broken,
stained lives. Like odd shaped pieces of broken and stained
glass, God can assemble these into a beautiful picture of the
gospel too. The Church is a mosaic of stained glass lives,
assembled in a way that only God could conceive. Stained glass
can tell the story of the gospel too, can it not? Thanks be to God!
Zacchaeus was a new man after the meal with Jesus. He
lost his Midas touch, gave away half of his money to the poor,
and paid back every person he had cheated (which was the entire
town!) four fold. He gave away his wealth, but gained a
community of faith and friendship. And what is more, he
foreshadowed the cross that would come only one week later for
Jesus, when he would be again in the presence of thieves up a
tree. And again, with his last breath, Jesus would be welcoming
every crook who would accept a chance to sit at the banquet
table of Paradise. Why? Because he had come to seek and to
save those who were lost. People like you and me. People who
call ourselves Church. If nothing else Church and Church
people like Zacchaeus must be about seeking and welcoming
those who are lost.
I close by asking that when you approach the table of the
Lord today, think about that. Come humbly. Come gratefully
and leave walking a bit taller than before.

A Conversation 10-31-2021

Sunday, October 31st, 2021

One day God and Jesus were having a conversation with each
Jesus: “You know our book has been out a long time and we have never
made any revisions. Don’t you think we ought to consider some?”
God: “I’ve been rather pleased with it; why change a good thing?”
Jesus: “Well, we are in the age of computers and satellites. Lots of
things have happened since Moses and the commandments and my
sermon on the mountain. I’m not sure we’re communicating with
people the way we ought in this modern era.”
God: “What would you suggest? Starting over?”
Jesus: “No, just modernizing. People don’t read a lot anymore.
They’re TV watchers. The Bible scares them because it’s quite wordy,”
God: “Are you trying to tell me we ought to condense it?”
Jesus: “Reader’s Digest tried that already, but that didn’t help our
God asked: “Well, what’s the solution then?” Jesus: “Brevity.”
God: “You mean like commercials?”
Jesus: ‘Yes, but not as boring as commercials. People stopped watching
commercials with the invention of remote control. They just switch
God: “How brief can we get?”
Jesus: “‘Love God’ and ‘Love your neighbor.’”
God: “Then what?”
Jesus: “Rent advertising space and time.”
God: “That’s too expensive.”
Jesus: “Then re-do nature. Print the message on every cloud and on
every leaf.”
God: “That’s too time consuming. We’d have to re-do it with every
change of season.”
Jesus: “Print it on the hands of every newborn, ‘Love God’ on the right
and ‘Love neighbor’ on the left. They go Hand in Hand; you can’t have
one without the other.” God: “I already did something like that, but I wrote it on their hearts.” Jesus: “How were people supposed to read it hidden there?”
God: “I guess I was a little naïve, I didn’t expect it to remain hidden. I
thought it would be quite obvious in the way people loved me and one