Monthly Archives: August 2014

23rd Sunday of the Year – Speaking and Listening

speaking and listening

Study:  When was a time when I failed to speak up?  When was a time I failed to listen?

Pray:  Call upon the Lord for the wisdom to know when to speak and when to take heart to the words of another.

Serve:  Is there someone in my life right now that I am called to speak to?  Or listen to?

23rd Sunday of the Year Readings

Do you remember the Aesop’s fable “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” that we used to hear as children? It is a simple yet profound tale. A young boy is given the responsibility to watch over the animals in the event of an attack from the wolves. Bored of his duties he calls out “Wolf!” and laughs as the area villagers come running.

Delighted with his game the boy cries “Wolf!” a few more times, each time getting the attention of the people. Finally disgusted with his actions they no longer respond, even when a real wolf shows up and attacks the child; his failure to keep watch prevented his message from being heard.

In the first reading today Ezekiel says that being a prophet is a lot like being a watchman. The watchman was responsible for protecting the people from bandits and wild animals. The watchman was required to stay alert, remaining vigilant and ready to call out in a moment’s notice should danger arise.

If danger came, and the watchman failed to alert the people, then the watchman was at fault. But if the watchman called the alarm and no one came, then the people were at fault. Simply put, if the watchman does his duty and no one comes, then those who hear the warning and fail to respond are held accountable.

Likewise, anyone who hears a word of encouragement or guidance and fails to respond is also accountable. Ezekiel, the Psalm, and the Gospel today all point out that there are times when we must open our hearts to messages that we may not want to hear. We may be tempted to “harden our hearts.”

Let’s face it. No one wants to be told what to do. No one wants to be disciplined or chastised; we love our freedom and independence too much for that! Yet there are times when the Church is empowered to keep watch, lest members of the community drift into choices and actions which are harmful and destructive.

This is not easy! The scriptures today alert us to the fact that there are moments when we may be asked to either give or receive a hard word out of love. We might have to give it – to help another from making a mistake. We might have to receive it – and allow another to help us from falling into trouble. Keeping watch is never easy, but without the support of each other, we run the risk of a far greater harm.


22nd Sunday of the Year – Suffering

Station - Jesus in Crucified

Study:  Recall a moment when you encountered personal suffering.  What gave you strength to continue?

Pray:  Many people are suffering right now in our world.  Pray for those in need and join your heart with them to God.

Serve:  Where is the suffering face of Christ in your life right now?  How can you help another who is in need?

22nd Sunday of the Year Readings

Some of the toughest questions I routinely encounter as a priest occur during sickness or untimely death. In the midst of great suffering and pain, a loved one comes up to me and asks, “Father, why did this have to happen? Why do they have to suffer? Why doesn’t God take the pain away?”

In the anguish of the moment no answer is adequate; the pain hurts too much, and seeing another suffering is often too hard to describe with words. Our hearts feel more than we can say, and the emotions overflow the limits of our soul.

We encounter suffering in many ways: at the graves of loved ones; in hospital and nursing home rooms; at the bedsides and wheel chairs of homebound; through news stories of tragedy; and in quiet moments all alone. Many of us are familiar with the grief and pain of suffering, and we are quick to recognize its presence in those around us.

In the Old Testament and Gospel readings today we encounter suffering. Both Jeremiah and Jesus raise two crucial points:
1. The pain is real.
2. The suffering is part of their witness.

First, neither Jeremiah nor Jesus deny that suffering is part of their lives. They do not hide from it, repress it, pretend it is not there, or run away out of fear. Their suffering is real; they acknowledge the truth of what they must face and confront it.

Second, the pain they face is part of their ministry. Simply put, they suffer because they have remained faithful to God. Jeremiah burns with the fire of a prophet; to remain silent would destroy him and deny God’s word. Jesus knows that only through his death and resurrection can he fulfill his Father’s will; to run away would deny God’s plan for salvation history.

From the example of Jeremiah and Jesus we discover that our suffering is part of a much larger picture. We know that suffering is an element of life, mixed with the joy and beauty we encounter daily. We know that it will come in difficult and sometimes unexpected ways.

Yet God is present in our suffering. Just as Jeremiah and Jesus knew that God was present with them, so too we can see that the Lord is near, giving us strength and hope. Thus suffering may be a way that we draw closer to God, mindful of our need.


21st Sunday of the Year – Keys

Keys

Study:  Recall a time when you were entrusted with power.  How did you use it?

Pray:  Ask the Lord for guidance over the things and situations in your control right now.

Serve:  How can you help someone who is struggling with a decision of leadership?  How can you offer solid support?

21st Sunday of the Year Readings

Fr. Andrew’s Homily

Take a look at the keys in your pocket.  As you hold them, think about what they do:

  • The doors they open
  • The cars they open & start
  • The authority and power they reveal

Keys allow us access and empower us with authority.  Keys give us control over our physical world and they help us to use resources wisely and well.  They are also symbols that speak to identity and purpose – just think about what happens when our keys are lost or taken from us….

In the first reading and the Gospel today we discover the power of God’s keys:

  • Key of the House of David
  • Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven

These promises to Eliakim and St. Peter are mighty – they will receive the power, authority,and  responsibility from God lead and guide.  Consider these three points:

Power: they receive the strength and ability to carry out the work entrusted to them.  Power gives them resources and skills to accomplish great things.  Without power they are weak; with God’s power they can do more than they ever dreamed possible.

Authority: these keys are a sign of leadership and respect.  The keys they possess allow them to direct and command others.  Those who hold the keys are followed; those who hold the keys stand before us and provide wisdom, insight, and vision.

Responsibility: “From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.” (Luke 12:48b)  With great power comes great responsibility, and those who have been given strength and ability are required to use it with wisdom.  Indeed, having the keys of Authority are a burden to demonstrate transparency, accountability, and trust.

Again, look at the keys in your pocket.  How do we use them?  Today we might consider the gifts and talents God has given us: we have an opportunity at this moment to exercise our own power and authority with God’s guidance, knowing that one day the Lord will seek an accounting with what we have done.

May our own keys inspire us to live with conviction and direction – using the resources we have received with the insights offered by our faith in Jesus Christ.  The Lord is the source of all keys, may we call upon him to help us use them!


20th Sunday – Welcoming the Stranger

Welcome

Study:  Recall a time when you were a stranger – at school, work, or in a new community.  How did it feel?  What was it like when someone welcomed you?

Pray:  Seek the Lord for guidance, especially to recognize and respond to those in search of a place to fit in.

Serve:  Who do you know right now who would benefit from a simple welcome?  How can you practice hospitality to someone today?

20th Sunday of the Year Readings

Fr. Andrew’s Homily

One of the things I enjoy whenever I go on vacation is the opportunity to pray at other parishes as a parishioner.  I put on a pair of slacks, a button down shirt, and I walk in as a stranger.  Nobody knows that I am a priest, and so I have the privilege to see a parish firsthand – like an ordinary visitor.

I find many insights when I walk in.  I try to keep my ears and eyes open, observing how people react to one another.  Do they smile?  Do they go out of their way to welcome?  Do they take the time to greet and help one another in their need?

As a stranger in these parishes I am an outsider, unknown without history or recognition.  I have no connections to families, businesses, or authority.  In other words, hospitality is often the only reason why anyone would speak to me; they have no other practical reason to do so.  Sure, they might want a new parishioner, but you can usually distinguish between sincerity and a sales pitch:  one comes from the heart, the other goes for the wallet.

When I encounter a welcoming parish, I always take mental notes.  What can I bring back to the Cathedral?  What actions already affirm what we do?  I usually scribble my notes on a piece of paper, saving them for a special opportunity to put them into practice.

Hospitality is a central part of the Christian life.  We reach out to strangers, visitors, and guests, because throughout time people of faith have discovered God’s presence whenever they have reached out to others.

The readings today have a common theme.  While God has spoken through a particular people (namely Israel), God calls all people – even strangers and foreigners – through faith to prayer and worship.  The gift and call to the Jewish people is “irrevocable” as Paul writes today.  Yet through this call people have seen the saving power of Christ and responded with life and joy as they welcome family, friends, and strangers to fellowship.

Practically, we live this theme whenever we reach out to one another.  When we recognize that God calls all people, we discover that we are part of a vast and rich family – fellow inhabitants on this rock we call planet Earth.

This is why we go out of our way to welcome one another.  This is why we take the time to introduce ourselves, greeting and meeting fellow members of a much larger family.  Whenever we take the time to reach out to one another, we live out our most basic call – welcoming one another with the hospitality of a people of faith.


19th Sunday of the Year – Walking on Water

Walking on Water

Study:  Recall a moment in life when you were doubtful or afraid.  How did you face it?

Pray:  Ask the Lord for the strength and wisdom to face doubts and fears.

Serve:  Is there someone in your life who is struggling with doubts or fears?  How might you help them?

19th Sunday of the Year Readings

Fr. Andrew’s Homily

This Gospel story (Matthew 14:22-33) follows immediately after the reading from last week.  Here’s a quick recap:

* Jesus hears of the death of John the Baptist
* Jesus seeks solitude in a deserted place
* The crowds find Jesus; he ministers to them
* Jesus feeds the hungry with fishes & bread

After the people have eaten, the Lord makes the disciples get into a boat while he dismisses the crowd.  The following events occur:
1.  The disciples are in the boat on the water
2.  Jesus goes up the mountain to pray alone
3.  The wind and the waves are getting strong
4.  Late at night Jesus comes on the water
5.  Seeing Jesus, the disciples are terrified
6.  Jesus, “Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid!”
7.  Peter to Jesus “Command me to come to you.”
8.  Peter goes to Jesus, is frightened and sinks
9.  Jesus rescues Peter “Why did you doubt?”
10. The disciples:  “Truly you are the Son of God!”

Note that Matthew’s Gospel differs from Mark’s account (6:45-52) in three ways:
1.  The dialogue between Jesus and Peter
2.  Peter walking (sort of) on the water
3.  Confession of faith – Jesus the Son of God

The story speaks of Peter’s desire to follow Jesus, even as it clearly shows his human weakness.  Peter tries, fails, and calls upon Jesus to save him in his need.  As a result, the disciples recognize the Son of God in their midst.

The early Church took this passage to heart.  Like the boat tossed on the waters, early Christians knew all too well the dangers of faith – risking their lives to follow Jesus.  Like Peter, they had their moments of weakness; like Peter, they called upon the Lord in their need.

We can see ourselves in this situation as well.  There are times when we desperately want a strong and steadfast faith; we seek the Lord and desire to follow His path for our lives.  Yet we are also aware of our limitations, failures, and fears.  May we, like Peter, call upon Jesus in our need; may we trust in the Lord’s strength and love to save us.