Archive for the ‘7th Sunday’ Category

A Difficult Challenge! 2-20-2022

Friday, February 18th, 2022

I find this Gospel very difficult. I say to myself – what a
difficult challenge! What helped me were these two stories. Listen.
When Abraham Lincoln was campaigning for the presidency, one
of his arch-enemies was a man named Edwin Stanton. For some reason
Stanton hated Lincoln. He used every ounce of his energy to degrade
Lincoln in the eyes of the public. So deep rooted was Stanton’s hate for
Lincoln that he uttered unkind words about his physical appearance and
sought to embarrass him at every point. But, in spite of this, Lincoln
was elected the sixteenth president of the United States.
Then came the period when Lincoln had to select his cabinet,
which would consist of persons who would be his most intimate
associates in implementing his programs. He started choosing men here
and there for the various positions.
The day finally came for Lincoln to select the all-important post of
Secretary of War. Can you imagine who Lincoln chose to fill this post?
None other than the man named Stanton. There was an immediate
uproar in the president’s inner circle when the news began to spread.
Advisor after advisor was heard saying, “Mr. President, you are making
a mistake. Do you know this man Stanton? Are you familiar with all
the ugly things he said about you? He is your enemy. He will seek to
sabotage your programs. Have you thought this through, Mr.
President?”
Mr. Lincoln’s answer was terse and to the point: “Yes, I know Mr.
Stanton. I am aware of all the terrible things he said about me. But after
looking over the nation, I find he is the best man for the job.” So,
Stanton became Abraham Lincoln’s Secretary of War and rendered an
invaluable service to his nation and his president.
Not many years later Lincoln was assassinated. Many laudable
things were said about him. But of all the great statements made about
Abraham Lincoln, the words of Stanton remain among the greatest.
Standing near the dead body of the man he once hated, Stanton referred
to him as one of the greatest men who ever lived and said, “He now
belongs to the ages.”
If Lincoln had hated Stanton both men would have gone to their
graves as bitter enemies. But through the power of forgiveness Lincoln
transformed an enemy into a friend. One simple act of forgiveness can
change people’s lives. Are there any Stanton’s in your life right now?
Some years ago, a pastor in Boston was being harassed by a
woman in his congregation. She started false rumors about him. She
wrote vicious letters about him to his bishop and others. She initiated
petitions to have him removed. After several months of this, the woman
moved to another city and not long afterward was converted to Christ.
Part of the process of her conversion was to realize the terrible wrong
she had done and all the pain and suffering she had inflicted on her
pastor in Boston. Consequently, she wrote him a long letter explaining
what had happened to her and how deeply she regretted what she had
done to him. The pastor immediately sent her a telegram with three
words on it: “Forgiven, forgotten, forever!”
Is there someone we/you/me need to say those words to and mean
them? Forgiven, Forgotten, Forever or do we want to live life like that
trapped rattlesnake filled with resentment and bitterness and bite
ourselves to death! I hope not. Lord help us!

Feast of the Ascension 5-24-2020

Sunday, May 24th, 2020

Jesus spent a good part of the night wrapping the packages. Each
had a carefully tied bow and a name tag attached. When his last earthly
task was completed, he packaged his bags and went to sleep for what
little time was left of the night.
The next morning he gathered his disciples around him in one of
his favorite garden spots. He surprised them by telling them he as
leaving them for good. They were shocked! There was no time to say
all they wanted to express. Even more, there was no time to figure out
what they would do without him. He resolved the latter by handing out
the gift packages, each with the instruction, “Do not open until after my
ascension.”
When the last gift was handed over, Jesus bade farewell and
disappeared into the clouds. When he arrived in heaven, God gave him
a welcoming hug and led Jesus to his room.
“Looks like you left them kind of bewildered down there”, God
said, glancing down at the outstretched necks “They’re a bit scared, but I had to leave sometime. The longer I
stayed, the longer I delayed them getting into action.”
“Do they know the meaning of your leaving? What they’re
supposed to be doing?”
“Sure, I gave them each a gift that would give them the clue.”
“Tell me what you gave them”, God urged.
“A mirror on a chain to be hung around their necks”.
“That’s supposed to be a clue to getting over you?”
“Absolutely”, Jesus insisted.
“How do you figure that?” God asked.
“Each time they ask one another, who’s going to feed the hungry,
visit the sick or help the lonely, they won’t see me, but the reflection of
themselves! Then they can get right to work!

Those People 2-23-2020

Sunday, February 23rd, 2020

A school had organized a food drive. A teacher was looking at all
that had been collected. Not just the usual mac-and-cheese donations,
but some pretty high-end items filled the bins: gluten-free crackers, rice
pasta, artichoke hearts packed with seasoned oil, and quinoa.
Another woman walked by, and seeing the items that had been donated,
smiled and said, “Too bad they won’t know what to do with most of it”.
The teacher asked, “What do you mean?”
“Those people won’t know what most of that stuff is. I mean,
really, Quinoa?” The teacher had heard correctly: “Those people”.
The teacher knew “those people.” Eight months before she had
been one of “those people”. It had been eight months since the last time
she had gotten groceries at the local food pantry. Eight months since the
long-overdue child support from her ex-husband kicked in. Even though
it wasn’t much, it made the difference between being able to buy enough
food for her and her family to make it through the week–and for that she
was grateful. “Those people.”
She remembered the first time she had gone to the food pantry.
She drove by several times before working up the courage to pull into
the parking lot. “I can’t” she whispered and went home – to the empty
refrigerator and kitchen cupboards. Finally, desperation overshadowed
pride.
“Those people.”
She finally walked through the door. She could feel the heat on
her cheeks as she filled out the paperwork, telling complete strangers her
life history, how much money she earned, and what she spent it on.
“Those people.”
She quickly learned that food pantries are hit-or-miss. Some days
the shelves are full, and with really good things – and other days you can
barely pull a few meals together from the dented cans and spoiled
produce. But beggars can’t be choosers, right?
“Those people”.
She made five trips to the pantry over eleven months. When she
told her kids, she expected them to laugh or get angry or be embarrassed. Instead, they helped her put the groceries away, quietly. She remembers
all the meals she made with the food pantry items. Oven-roasted
chicken with quartered rosemary potatoes. Turkey chili. French toast.
More mac-and-cheese that she cared to admit. One of her favorites was
an organic risotto, flavored with mushrooms and olive oil.
“Those people”.
She wanted to walk up to that woman in the hallway, grab her by
the shoulders, and shake her: You don’t know a thing about how it feels
to walk into one of “those” places and be one of “those” people.
You’ve never looked at your kids and had to hide your tears because you
had no idea how you were going to feed them”. But she didn’t. All she
could muster was: “I like quinoa”.
If only she knew.
It’s not that we “hate” others: it’s our attitude of superiority over
those who don’t measure up to our “standards” of what is good and right
and correct, it’s that lack of respect and empathy for the poor that Jesus
condemns. The Kingdom of God is first realized when we can see “those people” as our brothers and sisters, worthy not only of our help
and understanding but of our respect; that, in their perseverance and
courage as they struggle to make lives for themselves and their families,
the love of God dwells in their midst, as well as ours. The Kingdom of
God begins when we realize that “those people” are us.