God Gathers Us Together

Friends, in today’s Gospel we learn of a person possessed by a demon. Jesus meets the man and drives out the demon, but then is immediately accused of being in league with Satan. Some of the witnesses said, “By the power of Beelzebul, the prince of demons, he drives out demons.”

Jesus’ response is wonderful in its logic and laconicism: “Every kingdom divided against itself will be laid waste and house will fall against house. And if Satan is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand?”

The demonic power is always one of scattering. It breaks up communion. But Jesus, as always, is the voice of communio, of one bringing things back together.

Think back to Jesus’ feeding of the five thousand. Facing a large, hungry crowd, his disciples beg him to “dismiss the crowds so that they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves.” But Jesus answers, “There is no need for them to go away; give them some food yourselves.”

Whatever drives the Church apart is an echo of this “dismiss the crowds” impulse, and a reminder of the demonic tendency to divide. In times of trial and threat, this is a very common instinct. We blame, attack, break up, and disperse. But Jesus is right: “There is no need for them to go away.”

And today he says, “Ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

Bishop Barron, Word on Fire

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What Is My Poverty

How can we embrace poverty as a way to God when everyone around us wants to become rich? Poverty has many forms. We have to ask ourselves: “What is my poverty?” Is it lack of money, lack of emotional stability, lack of a loving partner, lack of security, lack of safety, lack of self-confidence? Each human being has a place of poverty. That’s the place where God wants to dwell! “How blessed are the poor,” Jesus says (Matthew 5:3). This means that our blessing is hidden in our poverty.
We are so inclined to cover up our poverty and ignore it that we often miss the opportunity to discover God, who dwells in it. Let’s dare to see our poverty as the land where our treasure is hidden.
 Henri Nouwen

Jesus Walks On The Water, Homily

Homily, Aug 12&13, Cyc A, 19th Ord, Jesus Walks On The Water

In this part of Ordinary time we are exposed to some the Classic stories. Last week it was the Transfiguration, the week before it was the Treasure buried in a field

This weekend we have the story of Jesus walking on the water as He approaches His terrified disciples in their boat during a storm.

All throughout scripture we find water symbolizing danger. Beginning in the Creation story we have the Holy Spirit hovering over the chaotic waters to bring order. In today’s story, we have Jesus, in effect, hovering over the water to bring order and peace to His disciples.

This is the second time Jesus is involved with His disciples in a boat during a storm. Remember? The other time, He was asleep in the boat and they awakened Him pleading for Him to quiet the storm.

Both times Jesus was trying to increase their faith in Him. In today’s story, He raised the bar; He really escalated the call to faith. It’s one thing to wake Him up in the boat, it’s quite another to step out of the boat and walk toward Him on water in a storm.

When they see Him coming toward them they think He is a ghost. Why not? He is certainly out of the normal context in which they are used to experiencing Him.

Jesus calls out to them and Peter is the first to ‘kind of’ recognize Him and says, if that is really You, call me to come to You on the water. Of course, we know the rest of the story, Jesus responds with, “Come”, and Peter left the safety of the boat, stepped over the side, and walked on the water towards Jesus.

Well, at least he walked for a while until he took his eyes off the Lord and became frightened by the wind and waves and began to sink. There’s a nugget of wisdom in all of that about keeping our eyes on Jesus.

At that point, Jesus caught Peter and lifted him up and saved him. Then supposedly Jesus chided Peter saying, “Oh you of little faith, why did you doubt?” See now, I have a problem with that response.

I know it’s just me, but it sounds so stilted, like wording placed in Jesus’ mouth after the fact to make a clear point about faith, but totally not South-Georgia-ese.

Every time I read this story I am reminded of something that happened to me 70 years ago. Now, you might ask how I could remember something that happened 70 years ago when I can’t even remember what I had for breakfast. The answer is simple, because I was terrified at the time, and we store our memories along with the emotion associated with them.

I was 6 years old and sitting on the roof of our dock while my dad nailed on new roof shingles on the other side of the peak.

I was sitting on some loose shingles he hadn’t nailed yet. I began to slide down the roof and was unable to stop and slid right off the edge feet first and into the water which was way over my head.

I couldn’t swim yet, but instinctively I held my breath. About the time I reached the bottom and was beginning to look around in a panic, my dad hit the water right beside me in a column of bubbles.  Cecil B. Demille would be proud. Cinematically, it was like magic…

He gathered me to his chest, smiled and pushed us off the bottom and back to the surface. He saved me. The first words from his mouth were, “You know I wouldn’t let anything happen to you.”

See, with that background, I’d feel a lot better if Jesus had said something like that to Peter.

But, again, that’s just me. The Pope hasn’t called yet to get my thoughts on the story.

Sometimes it’s hard to see ourselves in these stories. I mean, it’s difficult imagining us getting out of a boat to walk toward Jesus on the water as a demonstration of faith in Him.

But, the truth is, we do very similar things all the time at a lower level of intensity. It’s like Elijah in the first reading, the fire, wind, and storm didn’t faze him, but he knew God was present in the small whispering sound.

For instance, do you ever wake up in the morning and while you are still in the bed, clicking into consciousness, do a quick review of the day ahead, see something difficult scheduled and say, “Oh no Lord, I really don’t want to start this day”.

Yet, something changes inside us and after a few minutes we roll over the side of the bed/boat and off we go. We just don’t see that action as walking toward Jesus. We see it more as obligation, part of the job, or just what is on our plate. We forget we cried out softly to the Lord for help.

We get to work, park the car, gather our stuff, and mumble something like, “I really don’t want to go in – Lord help me”. Something changes inside of us. Then we open the door, roll off the seat/boat and off we go.

Even here in Church: When communion time arrives, we’re sitting in the pew doing a quick examination of conscience which we missed during the penitential rite, and hesitate because maybe we haven’t been very nice to others lately.

But, then not being able to identify a specific sin that would keep us in our place, we stand up in faith and walk out of the pew/boat and off we go to communion.

And, you know, Jesus is right there waiting for us in all those examples and many more. When we get out of the bed, get out of the car, or get out of the pew, and come forward, Jesus is right there waiting for us just like He waited for Peter.

When we walk up the aisle to receive Him we are walking up on the waters, in faith, to receive Him into ourselves, with the belief in our heart that it will make us better and closer to the Lord, more able to see Him in our lives, His being there.

That’s His promise, to be there with us. He didn’t promise a rose garden, He promised to be there with us. In John 10, 10 He said, “He came that we might have life, and have it to the fullest” which implies to me that He is quite aware bad things sometimes happen to good people, but He’s there with us as we go through it.

And, when we falter, and oh yes, we do falter, He reaches out to help us, maybe through circumstances, or maybe through other people, or maybe through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit giving us actual grace and the necessary boost.

And, if we could hear Him at those times, I believe He would be saying, “I’m here with you, you know I wouldn’t let anything happen to you”.

Leaving Father and Mother

A Man must leave his Father and His Mother

This scriptural verse is truer today than ever. Indeed, the lack of utilizing its wisdom causes much grief in families in this 21st century.

Husbands and wives argue over decisions and it leads to much pain and suffering. They often cannot agree on the right answer. Inevitably, one or the other will reach outside of the marriage for support of their own personal view of the situation. If both resort to this option then they can end up being the in person advocate for other people who have no real interest in the outcome.

That is a recipe for disaster, because talk is cheap but living out the result of the cheap talk is very pricey for those who own the argument in the first place. Long story short – keep it between the two of you. Remember to talk to one another and not other people, especially parents. Parents have a strong tendency to support their offspring and enjoy being part of that process.

To begin with we must learn to argue civilly. We must learn to express ourselves in a low intensity and calm way that lacks hostile expression or accusations or even threats. We must also learn to recognize when ego is involved and do our best to eliminate its influence. In this day and age that is often asking a lot, but if we cannot be successful in this facet then we are not likely to be successful in a thoughtful resolution that is acceptable to all concerned.

Next, we must understand that it is normal to not always agree. The longer we live together the more we begin to think alike and therefore we will agree more often. We must also understand that it ok to disagree, the disagreement can actually lead to working our way through the decision and make each person feel more comfortable with the final decision.

Finally, we should agree on which one will be responsible for living out the decision, that is, which one will face the most impact from the decision. That person should be given more latitude in the overall process.

Once that final decision is made, both should work hard to make it come to fruition, and no reverting to the original arguing process to prove themselves ‘correct’ if difficulties arise.

God understands human beings completely. He knows they will not always agree and hopes the process of resolving the issue will flesh it out in a way that both can live with.

The Experience Bias

Deep within the heart of man is a desire to be normal, at least most of the time. While there are exceptions for those who celebrate being different, most prefer seeing themselves as normal compared to the larger grouping.

In counseling sessions, it is not uncommon to literally hear that question, “Am I normal?”.  Which usually means please tell me I am not too far off the grid that others inhabit; or, tell me I don’t have to change too much; or, tell me there is not something really wrong with me.

These questions presuppose that the person being asked these questions is a trusted person that is someone “normal” themselves and therefore, likely knows what normal is. There is a comfort in being told by such a person, that we are, indeed, normal because a respected normal person says so.

Hmmm, but what if they aren’t. What if they have biases themselves and their advice for us is based on those biases.

It would not be uncommon to choose someone who, we know, has experienced the same things that bring us to them for help. Surely that would-be a plus, wouldn’t it? Logically, yes it would. But, what if you are a person who celebrates your different-ness and they are not. Wouldn’t their solution be different from a solution that would work for us?

Isn’t it normal to hear someone explain a problem they want help with and the counselor filter that experience through their own experience?  Yes, it would. So, the real question for us is, “How do we know we have chosen a counselor who is right for us and hopefully, free of biases and capable of giving us good, solid direction”?

Ultimately, we must have faith that the good Lord has led us to the right person. Scripture reminds us that ‘we live by faith and not by sight’. But, if after a few sessions we find ourselves unpeaceful or unsettled in the presence of the counselor then it may be time to look elsewhere.

God is good, and wants us to feel good about ourselves. Our faith in Him will sooner or later come to fruition and we will end up with the correct person for us. Just remember He paints our path to Him with jagged lines that lead us straight. We must be willing to walk those jagged lines in faith and with the courage to stand up for ourselves to move on to another counselor if need be.

Precious in the Eyes of the God, Homily

Homily, May 13&14, Cyc A, 5th Sun of Easter, Mother’s Day: Precious in the Eyes of the God

On behalf of Msgr Kenneally and his staff here at St William, I’d like to wish all the mothers here today (a day early) a Happy Mother’s Day! I know he has a blessing planned for each of you later in the Mass.

As his famous saying goes, none of us would be here if it weren’t for our mothers.  And, this being the month of May, I have to wonder if the Church itself would have endured for so long without the influence of our Heavenly Mother Mary.

Our First Reading is near and dear to my own heart because it describes where the role of Deacons came from. I would like to tell you that the creation of the Diaconate was a burning bush experience, where God came down and said, “Let there be Deacons”.

I would like to tell you that, but I can’t. It was more low-tech than that. It appears they were called into being to solve the problem of complaints against the Apostles for perceived neglect of the daily distribution of food to certain segments of the community.

With tongue in cheek, I could say, not a lot has changed over 2000 years. Squeaking wheels still get greased even today.

If you remember the homily last weekend, Msgr painted a great picture of God’s desire for our abundance. I’d like to continue that emphasis this week.

The reading that really struck me is the Second Reading taken from the First Letter of Peter.  In this Epistle we hear reassuring verses and phrases such as…

We are called living cornerstones of the Church,

We are to be built into a holy priesthood.

We are called a chosen race, a holy nation, a people the Lord claims for his own to proclaim the glorious works of the one who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light.

And, we are called “precious in the eyes of God”.  Apparently, we are more valuable than we thought we were.  We are cherished, highly esteemed, and loved in abundance.

With all of that, we must ask why? Why does God love us so much? Is it because of something that we have done?  No…

Well, to answer a question with a question, why do we love our children so much?  Why are our children so precious to us? Is it because of what they do?  No…  Sure, there are times that we are proud of our children’s accomplishments.

But, we love them even without their accomplishments. Shhhh, don’t tell them.

When you first held your children as infants, looked into that small face, you fell head over heels in love with that child. You could not believe you had so much love welling up in you.

And, that’s not just the moms, but also the dads, and others who may have never had a child of their own. Yet, the baby did not do anything to elicit that outpouring of love.

Why, then did you love that baby?  Why do you love your children – at every stage?  Even when they try our souls. You love them for who they are, not for what they do.  Your child is a unique person loving you back in their own way.  You see God’s love in your child.  You see yourself, your spouse, you see a reflection of God’s beauty in your child.

Now, back to the original question. Why does God love us?  Why are we so precious to Him?  He loves us for the same reason, for who we are, unique reflections of His love in the world.  He loves us because He sees in each of us the love He has for His Son, Jesus.

He loves us because each of us is a unique reflection of the Love that became flesh in Jesus Christ.

So, let us reflect on who Jesus is? Jesus is the rock that has been rejected by the world, but has become the cornerstone of that world.  We are the living cornerstones, too, and as such, we are the Church, built by the spirit of God.

Jesus is the great high priest who was rejected by the elites of His day, thrown out of the Temple, and crucified outside the city.  We are rejected by the intellectually arrogant of our day who control so much of our lives and how we see the world.

We too, are thrown out and laughed at as naive remnants of an ignorant age.  But, we remain here anyway.  We are a holy priesthood, people carrying on the priestly ministry by making God present to others and others present to God. We do that daily by being who we are, without a lot of hoopla or credit.

Jesus is the Light of the World, the one who dispels the darkness of sin.  We are the people of the light.  We are called to bring hope and light to a world living in fear and darkness and confusion.

Yes. We are precious to God because He sees His Son at work in us, and that work takes place gradually over our lifetime as our Pope recently pointed out.

Therefore, let us be aware of, and attuned to, our dignity as children of God.  Let us treat ourselves and each other with the respect a child of God deserves. Let us lay down our poor opinions of ourselves, our feelings of failure, our feelings of not doing enough, and unworthiness in the face of God’s overwhelming.

We teach our children to respect themselves.  We need to respect ourselves as well at every age. There are times that we are tempted to go along with a philosophy of life that calls for actions that do not encourage us to be our best selves.

Out of respect for ourselves, out of respect for the dignity that God has given us in calling us to be children of God, out of respect for the precious image of His Son that you and I have been called to bring to the world, we must keep our eyes focused on Jesus.

Yes again. We are precious to the Lord.  We should hold our heads up above the everyday life around us.  We should have enough self-respect to avoid what everyone else says is acceptable in this modern-day, but we know is unacceptable in any day.

In the Southern colloquialism, we should stand tall with the Lord.  For we are the Church, we are the royal priesthood, we are the people whom God has chosen to bring light to all who live in darkness in all its forms.

May the choices we make in life be only those that reflect the dignity we have been ‘gifted’ with by the Lord of life.

On this Mother’s Day let us remember our moms and how precious they are in our eyes for their love and care of us.

Let us also remember, “We are precious in the eyes of God”.

Jesus Went All The Way

Your daily Gospel reflection…   April 22, 2017

SATURDAY IN THE OCTAVE OF EASTER, YEAR I,  (MARK 16:9-15)

Friends, in today’s passage Jesus commissions his disciples to proclaim the Gospel to all. A great lesson of the Resurrection is that the path of salvation has been opened to everyone. Paul told us that “though he was in the form of God, Jesus did not deem equality with God something to be grasped. Rather he emptied himself and took the form of slave…accepting even death, death on a cross.”

In a word, Jesus went all the way down, journeying into pain, despair, alienation, even ‘godforsakenness’. Why? In order to reach all of those who had wandered from God. Then, in light of the Resurrection, the first Christians came to know that, even as we run as fast as we can away from the Father, all the way to ‘godforsakenness’, we are running into the arms of the Son. The Resurrection shows that Christ can gather back to the Father everyone whom he has embraced through his suffering love.

So let us not domesticate the still stunning and disturbing message of Resurrection. Rather, let us allow it to unnerve us, change us, and set us on fire.

From Bishop Robert Barron

Death Is A Painful Loss

Dying is a gradual diminishing and final vanishing over the horizon of life. When we watch a sailboat leaving port and moving toward the horizon, it becomes smaller and smaller until we can no longer see it. But we must trust that someone is standing on a faraway shore seeing that same sailboat become larger and larger until it reaches its new harbor. Death is a painful loss. When we return to our homes after a burial, our hearts are in grief. But when we think about the One standing at the other shore eagerly waiting to welcome our beloved friend into a new home, a smile can break through our tears.
Henri Nouwen

The Transfiguration, Homily

Homily, Mar 11&12, Cyc A, 2nd Lent, The Transfiguration

Well, we’re moving right along on our journey through Lent. By now we should have decided and implemented what we are going to give up for Lent. Right? In my day things were a lot simpler: We gave up sweets, Cokes, caffeine or hitting our younger brother. But, we’re a lot more sophisticated today.

For instance, we can take Father Jim’s suggestion and give up texting on our cell phones. When I asked him several days ago, if I could use his name in vain with his suggestion, he said sure, in fact you can add giving up cell phones altogether.

I said, wow, that’s a little harsh, Father. So help me, the very next day, there was an article on the international news cycle about Pope Francis suggesting we all give up our phones and start carrying and reading our bibles.

I’m not sure who is following who, the Pope – Father Jim or Father Jim – the Pope.

In today’s Gospel of the Transfiguration, Peter, James, and John are actually exposed to another epiphany of Jesus. They see Him in a different way, a different context. In that mysterious meeting on the mountain with Moses and Elijah Peter, James, and John are shown Jesus’ place in the overall mix of Salvation History.

We often hear the phrase, “The Law and the Prophets” used to describe God’s relationship with His people in the OT. In the Transfiguration, we have Moses representing the Law, and Elijah representing the Prophets. Jesus is shown to be the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets. He is shown discussing with Moses and Elijah the foundations of Israel’s faith.

Jesus trusted completely in His Father’s plan for mankind with a faith that recognized His dependence on His Father. And, by the way, that is the same sort of faith we are called to embrace, recognizing our dependence on the goodness and mercy of God.

Jesus believed the scriptures that the Messiah would suffer, die and rise, and He knew they referred to Him. The Transfiguration event, especially His Father speaking to him from the cloud, strengthened His resolve to let God’s plan take effect in Him. We are called to have faith to do the same thing with our lives, to let God’s plan take effect in us.

No matter what we achieve in this life, we will never be our best selves without recognizing our need for a relationship with our creator.

Looking at our First Reading today from Genesis, we see God calling Abraham to that same faith in Him. Can you imagine God calling an elderly man with no children and a barren wife to leave the land of his kinsfolk and move to a distant place?

Then sweetening the pot, we hear God promising to make of him a great nation and assuring him that He would bless him. It must have taken a great deal of faith to pass that information along to his kin.

To put that into today’s world, that would be like Msgr showing up one Sunday and announcing that he heard from God and we are to trust him and move to the north end of the Island. It’s that drastic.

So, this first reading gives us a clear picture that God has been calling His creation to this level of faith for a long, long time, thousands of years.

The first reading concludes with an interesting final verse. God tells Abram, “I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you”. I think within that verse we can find a nugget of truth to use during this Lenten season.

If you will allow me a little fundamentalism for the sake of Lent, we can use that thought for something to curtail during this season.

Let me paraphrase that verse. When God says, “I will bless those who bless you”, He is saying, “I will be good to those who are good to you”. When He says, “I will curse those who curse you”, He is saying, “I will not be good to those who are not good to you”.

If we can get a grip on that idea, then it frees us from retaliating against those who have treated us poorly. It frees us from the internal feeling that rises up within us that we must ‘get even’ with someone who has done us harm.

We can assure ourselves that we don’t have to restore justice in our small part of the universe because God has said He will handle it.

It is an automatic promise from God to Abraham to Jesus to us. The only way we can stop that promise from happening is to tell God to forego the promise as Jesus did while hanging on the cross when he said, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do”.

Well, there IS another way to stop it. We can do what we normally do, retaliate ourselves, which in effect is telling God, “Don’t worry, I’ve got this one”. The truth is we should want God to handle it, He does it so much better than we do, and when He does, His actions are also redemptive for the other person. Our actions are almost always, not so much.

When you think about it, we already lean in that direction anyway when we refer to Karma. When someone finally gets what is coming to them, we say, “Karma is a tough force”. Or, we use phrases like, “What goes around comes around”. Both of those are a generic forms of, “We reap what we sow”, which is also scriptural.

Let me suggest adding this concept to our list of traditional things to give up for Lent. We can take Father Jim’s suggestion and give up texting on our cell phones, or the Pope’s suggestion to give up cell phones altogether. We can throw in a few random acts of kindness, and give up retaliating against those who do us harm.

On this Second Sunday of Lent, we call out to Jesus for the courage to have faith and trust in God. We don’t know exactly how He is going to answer that, but we do know that if we trust in Him, He will find a way to use us to reflect His image in the world and thereby include us in a small way in His plan of salvation in our world.

 

Stop Just Reading Your Bible

“Give me understanding and I will obey your instructions; I will put them into practice with all my heart.” Psalm 119:34 (NLT)

I have a request today: Stop reading your Bible. Does that shock you? Relieve you? Make you angry at worst? Curious at best?

Read on, and see what I mean by this request.

There have been many days in my Christian journey when God was reduced to something on my to-do list. Somewhere along the way, I picked up an unwritten checklist of sorts explaining what “good Christians” are supposed to do:

Pray.

Read your Bible.

Go to church.

Don’t cuss.

Be nice.

Being the rule-following girl I am, I subscribed to the good things on that list and waited with great expectations to receive the zap of contentment and happiness good Christian girls are supposed to exude.

But then something felt wrong with me. I still felt restless. I still reacted in anger. I still felt a bit hollow.

I was going through all the motions but didn’t feel connected to Jesus. Others around me seemed very connected. They would talk of being “moved by the Spirit.” They would hear from God Himself. They would clap their hands and shout “Amen” in the middle of a sermon that sounded like Greek to me.

I often felt like a weightless soul grasping at the air, hoping to somehow snag this Jesus that was just out of reach. Have you ever been there?

This nagging sense creeps in that you’ll never get it — that you don’t have what it takes to be a Christian. That’s where I was. I lived there for a long time until someone challenged me to stop simply reading my Bible because it was a thing on my Christian checklist. Instead, they challenged me to experience God. To know God.

In other words, I needed to look at the words in the Bible as a love letter. God’s love letter to a broken-down girl. A love letter not meant to simply be read … but a love letter meant to be lived.

I won’t lie. It took a while.

It took many days of sitting down with my Bible while praying gut-honest prayers. I told God I wasn’t connecting. I told Him I wanted to understand, just like the psalmist in our key verse, Psalm 119:34.

I asked Him to help me. I begged Him to help me. Finally, one verse came alive to me. I literally felt moved when I read it. I memorized it and thought about it all day long. All week long. Maybe all month long.

I was overjoyed. I had a verse. A verse where Jesus spoke tenderly and clearly and specifically to me. It was Jeremiah 29:11, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” (NIV)

Slowly, I added more verses. Day by day. Chapter by chapter. And eventually my Bible became my greatest treasure, my love letter.

Now, every day I open up God’s Word with great expectation and intentionally look for my verse for that day. Usually one verse among the many I read during my devotion time grabs my heart, and I know it’s meant just for the day ahead. And then I attempt to live that verse out in some way, that very day.

When I make the connection between what happens in my life that day and why I need that verse, I experience God. I see Him active in my life, and I become even more deeply aware of His constant presence.

I’m sure some Bible scholars would probably take issue with my simplistic approach, but it sure has helped me.

So, back to my original statement. Stop reading your Bible. In other words, stop simply reading it because you have to cross it off the Christian checklist.

Instead, read it with great expectations of connecting more deeply and living more authentically with God.

© 2017 LYSA TERKEURST ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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