“You Changed My Life”

Sometimes we have such an impact on others that they will tell us, literally, that we have saved their life.  We tend to consider that comment a gross overstatement of reality and often don’t take it seriously.

A number of years ago a 69-year-old widow used that phrase when describing his soon to be second wife.  He had gone through two years of abject loneliness and finally stumbled into a relationship with a nice lady who was in similar circumstances and equally lonely.  Their friendship led to marriage and lasted 27 years before the elderly gentleman died at the grand old age of 96.

On the morning of their marriage he and I were tasked with cleaning up the last minute items on the to-do list.  We spent several hours going here and going there, picking up this and that along the way.  Finally, on the way home, while stopped at a traffic light, I heard a sniffle and turned to see a single tear sliding down his cheek.  He sensed my glance and apparently felt he had to explain.

He said, “Two of the loneliest people in town found one another.  She has saved me by her bright life-giving outlook on life, her happiness, and her joy.  I’m not sure where I would have ended up without her coming into my life.”  Wow, what a testimony.  Indeed, she did save his life.  He lived another 27 years, and the quality of his life was very much improved.

If we want meaning in our own lives nothing brings it like being there for another person.  It is like Jesus shows up to help us serve & save that other person.  Let us look for others that we can be there for, serving them, loving them, letting them know that their life matters.  In return we will often feel the glow of life ourselves.

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A Time For Everything

God has much to say about timing if you look in scripture. Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.

Everyone learned many of the next 7 verses because of the Birds popular song from 1965, “Turn, Turn, Turn”.  The song starts out with a time to be born and a time to die, and ends up with a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace. Most everything else of significance is contained in verses 3 through 7.

Often we want our lives to be smooth and relatively uneventful. We are not comfortable with the list given in Ecclesiastes because the list of seasons are presented as pairs of extremes, living – dying, finding – losing, tearing – mending.  These are definitely not smooth and uneventful.  Indeed, they are anything but.

The list does make a point that life should not to be expected to be smooth.  It is the seasonal changes in our lives that drive us forward toward maturity.  They show us that life is, in fact, filled with diversity and that is by God’s design for our overall good as we endure those swings and mature.  If we are successful in coping with changes then we will approach our old age much more at peace, because we have survived, and change loses its ability to strike fear in our hearts.

Timing … nothing just happens. God’s timing is always involved … that should cause us to ponder our lives from a new perspective.

From my friend Randall

The Bread Of Life, a homily

Homily, Aug 11&12, Cyc B, 19th Sun of Ordinary time (Bread Of  Life)

For two weeks now, our Gospels have been taken sequentially from the 6th chapter of John.  This is the place in the Gospels where Jesus is telling His followers that He is the Bread of Life, come down from heaven. This theme will continue next weekend as well.

So, we will have three weeks devoted to this very important topic.

The first week, the people merely commented that they wanted the bread for themselves.  Because, Jesus had recently fed 5000 with 5 barley loaves & 2 fish & they thought he was referring to feeding them again.

This week, they see that there is more to His comments than feeding them, and the original acceptance changes to them questioning His identity.  They said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph?  Do we not know his father & mother?  How can He say He came down from heaven?”

In other words, He is not special enough to come down from heaven with this message – He has been here all along.  We know where He lives.  Msgr uses the term “Unexpected Messenger” to describe the situation.  Yes, the Jews have been waiting on the Messiah, but Jesus doesn’t seem to them to be what they expected.

And, don’t we all have that same tendency today to reject the unexpected messenger – the seemingly ordinary person who brings extraordinary news?  We would much rather listen to an out-of-town expert.  BTW, do you know the definition of Expert?  Ex means a Has Been and Spurt is a Drip under Pressure.  Maybe we shouldn’t be so impressed with experts…

It’s hard to take seriously, an important message from someone who we know well enough to consider them ordinary, someone we see every day.  Someone that we know well enough to think we know their flaws – real or imagined flaws, and in Jesus’ case, imagined of course.

Young people feel that way about their parents. They have a hard time listening to a parent council them to gentle peaceful behavior with their peers when they have seen mom or dad lose it.

Fortunately, as they grow older they will come to understand that mom & dad know a thing or two about the world even if they aren’t perfect.

Mark Twain captured that thought when he said, “When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But, when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.”

So, it’s part of the human failing to miss out on wisdom from others because of our expectations or our opinions of them.  Which is really a shame, because we hear God speak to us through others, which is one of the three external sources:

His words in scripture (Crystallized words of God, written down, albeit filtered by man)

Life circumstances (Cause & effect situations, door closes & another opens, where we see what we think are God’s hand)

Words of others (Our most normal source, what others tell us)

So, we need to listen & react positively to others, but others who are trustworthy.  Therein lies the rub.  The Jews did not consider Jesus trustworthy, because of contradictions they perceived in his comments.

Well, how did they react to Jesus’ words when He told them He was the bread of life come down from heaven?  Today’s Gospel says they “Murmured”, they Grumbled, they became Negative.

And, of course, we act just like them.  We murmur.  We grumble.  Perhaps we grumble over our jobs, our neighbors, or our children, our spouses, our relatives our government & politics.  The danger is, if we grumble enough, we will see negativity everywhere we look, including the Church or even see it in God Himself.

Besides being obnoxious and others not wanting to be around us, the real danger is that the negativity will distract us from the really important things, even blind us to important things that are often hidden in the subtleties of life.

When we come to Mass, we can miss the importance of the consecration making Jesus present to us in the bread & wine.

We can miss His presence in His people gathered with us in His name.

And, when our minds are all tangled up in negativity it is difficult to discern His presence in His Word.  We can miss it.

Any reward that we may extract from our negativity comes at a very high cost.  We miss Jesus!  Because of it…

In our 2nd reading today, Ephesians chapter 4, we are told to not grieve the Holy Spirit.  Then we are given a list of negative things that will grieve Him: bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, all malice.  Sounds a lot like the current political scene.

Instead, we are told to be kind, compassionate, forgiving, imitators of God, and to live in love as Christ loved us.

We forget that we have been gifted with the Eternal Positive.  The Eternal Word has become one of us.  He who for all eternity is in intimate union with the Father, shares His life with us.

We, the grafted-on people of the promise, the people of God’s choice, have to fight the contagion of negativity.

Sure, life has challenges, huge challenges.  All of us will be confronted with pain, fear and suffering if we are not confronted with those reminders of our humanity right now.

But, we have no reason to murmur, no reason to grumble, no reason to complain, nor to be negative.  No matter how life has treated us – we of all people, should be an optimistic people. There is a simple reason for our optimism.  We belong to Jesus Christ.

We come to Church, we receive Communion, not because of a Church rule but because our journey through life is difficult, but the goal of the journey is wonderful.  The goal of the journey is eternal union with God.

We receive communion because we need food for this journey just like Elijah in the 1st reading today.  The angel fed him and he was so strengthened by the meal that he walked 40 days & 40 nights, a symbolic term, to the mountain of God.

We all have a journey before us from the time we are born, we have a journey from this day forward, and we need the food that Jesus offers to fuel us on our journey.

The Lord gives us this food. He is our food. He is the Bread of Life.

Deacon George

 

Hard Times Are Used As A Tool By The Creator

God is amazing, He meters out the hard times in just the right doses to affect the changes He has in mind for us.  He knows our limits and tendencies and choreographs our lives if we will let Him.

Overcoming Negativity is Not Easy.

One of the characteristics of the ancient Israelites was their tendency to grumble when things did not go their way.  The old testament said that they ‘murmured’ against God Himself.  The word murmur is a member of a group of words that  sound like what they mean.  Words like fizz, or hiss, or murmur are called onomatopoeia words.  

Anyway, we have the same problem today as the Israelites.  We, too, tend to murmur when things don’t go our way.  Before you know it the negativity becomes contagious and we find ourselves surrounded by our friends who learned from us how to be negative and the whole tone of our environment escalates.  It is one of the curses of mankind.

How do we combat that tendency?  How do we stop ourselves from being negative and infecting others?

Distraction works somewhat.  We make ourselves get busy with a task that demands our full attention.  Or, we can seek out positive people and let them influence us.  But, nothing works like the grand obsession.  We can allow ourselves to become so focused on the person of our Lord Jesus Christ and trying to imitate Him that we can’t help but be positive in the face of His goodness.

The old saying is still true today, “Keep your eyes on Jesus”!