I will give them some food Myself!

20th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Proverbs 9:1-6~ Wisdom calls: “Come, eat of my food, and drink of the wine I have mixed!”

Psalm34 ~ Taste and see the goodness of the Beloved.

Ephesians 5:15-20~ Watch carefully how you live, not as foolish persons but as wise…

Gospel: John 6:51-58 ~ “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him/her on the last day. For my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him/her. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.” Jesus

The world is starving for God. There is plenty of wisdom to be given, but unfortunately, people have a spiritual eating disorder. There is an inability to thrive. We were born into this world after spending nine months in our Mother’s womb. Those nine months were incredibly important. We were being fashioned and formed into the image and likeness of God. The blood flowing through the umbilical chord from our mother nourished us. If the mother understands that the father of her child loves her, the food is pure and spectacular. More nourishment and less anxiety are passed on to the child.

If we happen to come out of the womb prematurely, we require special care and assistance. I have seen parents helplessly sit beside the incubator longing to hold and feed their child with the spiritual nourishment of love beyond all telling. The love of parents for each other is the most important food they serve to their children. But it requires discipline.

This is what God is all about in the Scripture passages today. God is portrayed as a loving mother who prepares a table of love, plenty, sacrifice and compassion. Adult pelicans have been known to peck at their breasts during times of scarce food and feed the blood to their chicks.

Beloved, there is an abundance of evil in this world, which neglects to feed the poor and hungry in this world. But there is an abundance of love that is poured out from Our Father and Mother to feed us no matter the cost. The food is their very own flesh and blood. The food is Jesus, their son.

“Come, eat of my food, and drink of the wine I have mixed! Forsake foolishness that you may live; advance in the way of understanding.”

So Jesus imitates his Father and Mother and plucks the blood from his chest. Jesus feeds us with his own body and blood. We need only stop our foolishness and come to the table of plenty. Come to the feast of heaven and earth.

Jesus calls to us, “Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.”

I am the Bread of Life
All who eat this Bread will never die
I am God’s love revealed
I am broken that you might be healed

All who eat of this heavenly Bread
All who drink this cup of the covenant
You will live forever for I will raise you up

No one who comes to Me shall ever hunger again
No one who believes shall ever thirst
All that the Father draws shall come to Me
And I will give them rest

                                      Song by John Michael Talbot

Let us share the Good News with a song to the Lord in our hearts, giving thanks always and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father.

August 19, 2018 ~ St. Monica, Palatka ~ Father Ron Moses +

Grumble, Grumble, Grumble

18th Sunday in Ordinary Time

August 5, 2018 ~ St. Monica, Palatka ~ Father Ron

Gospel: John 6:24-35 ~ Jesus answered them and said, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you are not looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled. Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him the Father, God, has set his seal.”…

So they said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”

Exodus 16:2-15~ Grumble, Grumble, Grumble

Psalm78 ~ The Lord gave them bread from heaven.

Ephesians 4:17-24~ put away the old self of your former way of life,

Manna teaches us many lessons. The Israelite community was led by Moses into the Desert of Sin. In Spanish, “sin” means without. Here were the Israelite people in a desert without much, except they did have freedom from their slavery, God’s saving hand, and a whole lot of grumble, grumble, grumble!

Manna was like bread. In the morning the people ate “manna” and in the evening they ate quail (flesh). This was the routine for 40 years. The people were directed to collect only enough for their family. If they gathered too much, it rotted and was useless. If they gathered too little, they still had enough.

However, on the 6thday they were to gather enough for the 7thday. If they tried to gather on the 7thday, there was none. And boy did they try. Remember these people loved to grumble, grumble, grumble.

The Israelites called this food manna. It was like coriander seed, but white, and it tasted like wafers made with honey.

The wafers we use for Eucharist are really bland tasting, but with faith they fill up all of our senses, emotions and souls. “Blood of Christ inebriate me!”

God teaches us about keeping the Sabbath holy and tithing the manna in the desert. Moses told the people that the Lord has commanded “Keep an omer of manna (10% of the daily amount for a family) for your descendants, that they may see what food I gave you to eat in the desert when I brought you out of the land of Egypt.” Moses then told Aaron, “Take an urn and put an omer of manna in it. Then place it before the Lord in safekeeping for you descendants.” So Aaron placed it in front of the commandments for safekeeping, as the Lord had commanded Moses. Doesn’t this remind you of our tabernacle? It is very connected.

God gives us his First Fruits on Sunday in the Eucharist… his Son.

Everyone receives the exact same portion.  Jesus is living bread kept in the tabernacle for the past 2000 years. He is adored, thanked and loved.

People, we are in the desert of Sin. We lack so much and we tend to grumble, grumble, grumble. But God is providing our daily bread every time we call upon God in the Lord’s Prayer. I do hope you ask every day. Every Sunday, we eat the body and blood of our Savior. He sustains us in our deserts.

We must teach our children and grandchildren to eat the flesh of Jesus and drink his blood so that they may have eternal life. Nothing else in this world is worth more than one drop of his blood or of a crumb of the Body of Christ.

Jesus pleads with us, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”

What are you looking for? What are you thirsting for? The five loaves and two fish were not the Eucharist. They merely represented the manna in the desert. Hunger returns after eating that bread. But to work for the Bread of Life requires us to come to Jesus and believe in him. Jesus is about to turn everything upside down by giving his very flesh to eat and blood to drink as real food. But first he must suffer and die.

If you are feeling like something is missing in your life, could it be a lack the Bread of life? A week without Eucharist is a truly bad week for me. How about you?  “When you eat my body and you drink my blood, I will live in you and you will live in my love.”  We are one Body, one Body in Christ.

I wrote this poem when I was in front of the tabernacle hungering for my invitation to join the seminary.

Fragments

I must be crazed

The center of my life

Fragments

Broken

Spilt on parched ground

Desperate for pieces of hope, of love

 

Plain – bland – and somewhat tasteless

bitter…sweet

No pomp, no grandiose

Simple bread

Sinful hands – holy hands

grapes of wrath – grapes of life

crushed – love

 

I must be crazed

My life centered;

Broken Bread, poured out wine

and now

I

Am

Fragmented.

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He was amazed at their lack of faith!

 

Gospel: Mark 6:1-6 ~ Jesus departed from there and came to his native place, accompanied by his disciples. When the Sabbath came he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished. They said, “Where did this man get all this?” Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house.” So he was not able to perform any mighty deed there, apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them. He was amazed at their lack of faith. 

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Jesus in some ways enjoyed his process/journey in life. He expected rejection. He would transform this rejection into life.

Often we feel rejection when our dreams do not come to fruition.

A friend fantasized about being a musician—a rock star, a phenomenal guitar player. He imagined being on stage, playing to screams of the crowd, people absolutely loosing their minds to his sweet finger-noodling glory. This fantasy kept him occupied for hours on end. It wasn’t about “if”, but “when”. It was all planned out: first he would have to bide his time, second he would finish school—making extra cash for guitar. Third he would make time to practice. Then… nothing.

Despite fantasizing half of his life, the reality didn’t come to fruition.  And it took him a long time to finally figure it out.  He didn’t actually want it.

My friend was in love with result—the image on stage, people cheering wildly, him rocking out, and pouring his heart into what he was playing… but he wasn’t in love with the process.

He failed. Actually, he didn’t even try enough to fail at it. He hardly tried at all. He never went through the daily drudgery of daily practice, logistics of finding a group and rehearsing, the pain of finding gigs and actually getting people to show up and give a hoot. He didn’t go through broken strings, the blown tube amp, hauling 40 pounds of gear to and from rehearsals with no car.

It is a mountain of a dream and a mile high climb to the top. My friend realized after a long time he didn’t like to climb much. He just liked to imagine the summit. It is like wanting to be a Marine, a teacher, or making the golf team without sweat or fear of being cut.

Beloved, it is all about process.

The truth is far less interesting. He thought he wanted something, but it turns out he didn’t. End of story.

He wanted reward without struggle, relationships or the cross.

He wanted the result without the process.

He was in love with not the fight, but the victory.

The thorn that St. Paul talks about is the fantasy of finishing the race before one barely starts. It is a God thing after all. This is not willpower or grit. It is a simple component of life. Our struggles determine our successes. Our problems birth our happiness… along with slightly better, slightly upgraded problems.

To follow Jesus is a never-ending upward spiral. There is no rest in peace. And if you think at any point we are allowed to stop climbing, I’m afraid you’re missing the point of the Gospel. This is the reason Jesus and all the true prophets are rejected. Because they tell us the joy is in the struggle and climb up the mountain and onto the Cross. And the people and his family did not want to hear that. O my!

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July 15, 2018 ~ St. Monica, Palatka ~ Father Ron

I want to be a Grandfather just like you!

11th Sunday in Ordinary Time

June 11, 2018 ~ St. Monica, Palatka ~ Father Ron

Father’s Day

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Ezekiel 17:22-24 ~ I, God, bring low the high tree, lift high the lowly tree …and make the withered tree bloom.

Psalm 92~ Lord, it is good to give thanks to you.

2 Corinthians 5:6-10~ We are always courageous…

Gospel: Mark 4:26-34 ~ Jesus said to the crowds, “Of its own accord the land yields fruit, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once, for the harvest has come.”

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            A dad told me that he and his little boy were having a real man-to-man conversation as they were playing in their back yard. The boy said, “Dad, I know what I want to be when I grow up.” My friend, the dad, thinking his son would say, “Spiderman,” or some such thing, asked, “What do you want to be son…a fireman?” The child said, “No daddy, I want to be just like you.” You mean you want to be a doctor?” The boy said, “No, I want to be a father.”

Not all of us have had the best or most pleasant experiences with our fathers. The fruit of fatherhood often takes time to grow… first the blade, then the ear, and then the full grain in the ear. And sometimes fatherhood doesn’t bear fruit until long after the father dies.

The Gospel reminds me of a true story about a young man who left his native Italy and family just about five years after the 1918 flu epidemic. Antonio served in the medical corps back in Italy, during World War I. He came through Ellis Island past the Statue of Liberty on the S/S Bella Italiana with $50 in his pocket. Although he thought he was just visiting America, Antonio, only 27 years old, met a woman in Boston, Teresina, widowed with five children ranging from 14 to 5 years old. Antonio was both moved and pressured to marry her. After all, she spoke Italian and was beautiful.

The two grew as a couple saving up enough money to get all the children back from orphanages within a year. Together they had two daughters and then a son who died at birth.  Then a year later they had one more son, Matthew. Antonio worked with his stepsons and son in construction. Teresina invested the money earned into real estate. You could say that Teresina and Antonio’s family grew, put forth branches and bore much fruit, wealth and grandchildren. Only Matthew and his six sons could carry his father’s name, they had a respectful, sincere but cold relationship.

Teresina and Antonio often argued loudly and dramatically as many Italians do, but they loved each other. No one doubted that love until Teresina died after 55 years of marriage. She managed the money and her will seemed to say to Antonio, “I neva lova you, I only lova my first husband!”

            For the next five years, Antonio alienated just about every grandchild. One grandson who was 19 when Teresina died, would visit, but left as soon as his grandfather badmouthed his deceased grandmother in Italian. He usually left within 5 minutes. During the next five years, the visits got longer and longer until the grandson only left because he had to get back to school. He even took walks on the beach with his grandfather.

One day Matthew called his son who was in the seminary. This was before cell phones. “Son, last night, Grandpa was having a great time at his 89thbirthday party with the great grandkids.  I brought Grandpa back to his apartment and was putting his food in the refrigerator when he insisted I come to him. He was in his chair. ‘Ya Pa, what do you want?’ He said, ‘Mateo, I lova you.’ I told him I loved him too.” A sigh, “But Son, your grandfather had never said those words to me before.” Matthew took a breath and told his son,  “Your grandpa died some time last night. He never left that chair.”

Gifted by God to keep Going & Giving

Third Sunday in Advent

A woman by the name of Bette Nash has been a flight attendant for 60 years when flights were just $12 and you didn’t need a reservation. She says, “My favorite part of flying over the years has been greeting my passengers as they board and deplane. People really are fascinating and it’s truly been a joy.”

With all those miles logged, Bette could fly any route she wants. She chooses to fly the shuttle between Washington D.C. and Boston so this single mom can be home in time to care for her son, who as Down syndrome and attention deficit hyperactivity. One recent afternoon, that meant taking him to see Santa Claus near their home. In whatever hours she has left, she volunteers at the food pantry at her local Catholic parish of Sacred Heart. The C.E.O. of American Airlines made a $10,000 donation to the pantry in honor of Bette Nash’s 60th milestone.

While the famous and the infamous garner the headlines, it’s people like Bette Nash who actually run the world.

I believe that Bette Nash could claim to say many of the words that we have heard in today’s proclamation of the Word.

The prophet Isaiah says “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the broken hearted.” Mary, the mother of Jesus cries out in our psalm today, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked upon his lowly servant. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.” John the Baptist knows he is not the Christ, but he does admit, “I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, ‘make straight the way of the Lord.” And “I am not worthy loosen his sandal strap.”

After all these years, Bette has learned something. The passengers might not listen to everything she says at 30,000 feet—and her son might not listen to everything she says on the ground. But Bette, as she approaches her 82nd birthday on New Years Eve, says she has found something that seems universal and true. “People want a little love. And I don’t mean a lot of hugging and everything, even though we might do that. But this is the big thing: People need attention. You can’t buy love. You can’t buy attention. But people need this.” She says, “And it’s free. You can give this to people for free.” Jesus once said, “Without cost you have received, without cost you need to give.”

For the past 41 years Nash has been a parishioner of Sacred Heart Church in Manassas, VA. She has given of her hospitality, the gift of her son, the gift of her volunteerism, and the gift of her love. For 30 years, Bette served as an “envelope counter,” but now she volunteers at the food pantry. It’s something she and her son, Christian, who has Down syndrome, can do together. The pantry gives out food to 40-50 families every Saturday morning. Bette hopes the money can be used to buy food when supplies are running low, as they often do during the summer. But she leaves the final decision up to Diane and her pastor Father Michael. “I’m’ a worker bee and I never want to be a queen bee,” she said. How fortunate we are here at St. Monica’s and St John’s with so many worker bees for Jesus. There is desperate need for more workers. Are some of you game?

The prophet Isaiah, Our Blessed Mother Mary, and John the Baptist believed that they received wonderful gifts from God. They are grateful and share them with us today. Bette Nash is grateful for the support of her friends and her employer who have helped her stay in the skies all these years.  She recently said, “I feel like I’ve been given a gift from God that I can keep going and giving.”

As full Catholics, we are all like flight attendants who have been hard at work for many years. Even though Bette is 81, she must still be able to pass the annual test for emergencies including knocking out a heavy window or throw open a large door. If there is an emergency, the passengers are Bette’s responsibility, with dozens of souls in her hands. In our ministry as confirmed Catholics, we must sometimes throw open the large heavy doors that block so many people from a deeper relationship of love with Jesus and God. Hundreds of souls are depending on our hospitality, mercy and smiles.

Wouldn’t it be great news if each of us could say the same at Christmas? “I feel like I’ve been given a gift from God that I can keep going and giving. The spirit of the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. My soul proclaims the greatness of God and my spirit rejoices in God my savior.”

Isaiah 61:1-11 ~ I rejoice heartily in the Lord, in my God is the joy of my soul;

Psalm (Luke 1:46-54) ~ My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior, Thessalonians 5:16-24 ~ May the God of peace make you perfectly holy and may you entirely, spirit, soul, and body, be preserved blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ

Gospel: John 1:6-28 John answered them, “I baptize with water; but there is one among you whom you do not recognize, the one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.” ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

 

Come share your Master’s joy!

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

November 18 & 19, 2017 ~ St. Monica, Palatka ~ Father Ron

Come share your master’s joy!

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Proverbs 31:10-31 ~ When one finds a worthy wife, her value is far beyond pearls. Her husband, entrusting his heart to her, has an unfailing prize. (We, the Church of Jesus Christ are the worthy wife.)

Psalm 128 ~ Blessed are you who fear the Lord, who walk in his ways!

Thessalonians 5:1-6 ~ For all of you are children of the light and children of the day.

Gospel: Matthew 25: 14-30 ~ Jesus told his disciples this parable: “A man going on a journey called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them. To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one—to each according to his ability. Then he went away.”

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Jesus is the husband. We have the opportunity to be the worthy wife.

It is sometimes difficult to accept that Jesus has been looking for each and every one of us.

Basically, Jesus is seeking out people who will accept his gifts and multiply them. What is the gift we receive? His Body and his Blood. What have we done this week with the gift we have received?

Each week we fill up with the love of Jesus in Eucharist. We give thanks for the gift we receive, and then we increase the love by sharing our talents. I understand that sometimes, one week seems like a long time like the man who entrusted his talents and went off. The week is really long when one of our loved ones is suffering from cancer, or our job security is anything but secure. Sometimes the week feels like forever when our children are not thriving or when our marriage is on quite rocky grounds. But still, Jesus has given each of us talents according to our abilities.

Jesus is counting on us to go out and increase his love in the world. Will you be a partner with Jesus? Will you work as a team? I am sure your answer is yes, but remember it is a lifelong commitment.

I Ron, take you, the people of God to be my beloved. I promise to be faithful to you in good times and in bad times, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honor you all the days of my life… or more!

Greedy Sons

There was once a hard-working and generous farmer who had several idle and greedy sons. On his deathbed, he told them that they would find his treasure if they were to dig in a certain field. As soon as the old man was dead, the sons hurried to the field and proceeded to dig it up from one end to another in search of the treasure. The longer they worked, the more desperate they became. Yet, they did not find a single ounce of gold.

Surveying the field, they reasoned that in his generosity their father must have given his gold away during his lifetime. Just as they abandoned their search, it occurred to them that since the land had been prepared they might as well sow a crop. They planted wheat, which produced an abundant yield. When it matured they sold their crop and prospered.

After the harvest was in, the sons thought again about the rare possibility that they might have missed the buried gold. Once again they dug up their fields, with the same result.

After several years they became accustomed to labor and to the cycle of seasons, something which they had not understood before. Finally they understood that their father had been training them to become hard-working farmers. As time passed they became wealthy through the work of their hands and no longer wondered about the hidden hoard.

 

If we think about who the parable is addressed to, Jesus is telling it to the servant who buried the talent in hope that he would become a hard-working disciple who does not depend on miracles, quick fixes or get rich quick schemes on the internet. Jesus is the hard-working and generous farmer. The harvest is great, but laborers are few. Wisdom is required to obtain the treasure of Wisdom.

 

God has given us great and wonderful talents… what will you do with them to become Good News?

God calls us to work in God’s vineyard

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time

24 September 2017 ~ St. Monica, Palatka & St. John Interlachen~ Father Ron

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Isaiah 55:6-9 ~ For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways says the Lord.

Psalm 145 ~ The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness.

Philippians 1:20-27 ~ Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death.

Gospel: Matthew 20:1-16~ Jesus told his disciples this parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. Going out about nine o’clock, the landowner saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and he said to them, ‘You too go out into my vineyard, and I will give you what is just.’ So they went off. And he went out again around noon, and around three o’clock, and did likewise. Going out about five o’clock, the landowner found others standing around, and said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ They answered, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard.’… The landowner said to one of them in reply to their grumbling, ‘My friend, I am not cheating you. Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what is yours and go. What if I wish to give this last one the same as you? Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?’ Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

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God owns everything, and that is a lot! Without God we have nothing. The real good news is that God is really generous. In fact, it is difficult to comprehend how generous, merciful, forgiving and kind God is with us. Every week we come to Mass, God gives us his Body and Blood to everyone of us. “Take this all of you and eat of it. This is my Body which will be given up for you.”

When were you called by God to work in the Kingdom of God? How wonderful was it? How old were you? Are you like St. Paul who says, “If I go on living in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me.”

Many of us here are “cradle” Catholics. We have been working in the vineyard of God for as long as we can remember. Jesus cautions us today to not judge others, bur rather focus on the generosity of God. If we truly take on the mind and heart of Jesus, then we too will give all we have, including our lives, to those we love and are friends with.

I am reminded of a story about two dogs, Brownie and Big Red. They had just finished eating and decided to lay in the shade to take a nap. “I have no finer friend than you,” Brownie said to his companion. “How fortunate I am to be able to run and sleep with someone like you.”

            “I agree,” Red Dog said as he scratched himself. “Others argue and fight and are envious. But you and I are content just to have each other.”

            “The two continued to speak of the joys of friendship until a cook opened the back door and threw a bone onto the grass. The two friends then leaped to their feet and raced to the bone. Each claimed the fragment for himself, and soon a fight broke out between the two dogs. (19th-century Russian writer Ivan Kriloff)

Beloved, when we talk about money, like bones, often causes friendships to go to the dogs.

Jesus is very clear in this parable. God has given us everything, including his life. Where is our compassion for those who were hired late and would not be able to feed their family that night with one hour of pay? If we lack compassion, we will be very uncomfortable in heaven.

God’s ways are not our ways. Let us change ourselves without attempting to change others. Let us use the gifts we have without being envious of others. That would be Good News!

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Generous with Forgiveness

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time

17 September 2017 ~ St. Monica, Palatka & St. John Interlachen~ Father Ron

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Sirach 27:30-28:9 ~ Forgive your neighbor’s injustice; then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven.

Psalm 103 ~ The Lord is kind and merciful, slow to anger, and rich in compassion.!

Romans 14:7-9 ~ None of us lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself. For if we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord; so then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s..

Gospel: Matthew 18:21-35~ Jesus completed his story, “His master summoned him and said to him, ’You wicked servant! I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to. Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?’ Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt. So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives your brother or sister from your heart.”

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When Father David arrived at his first parish several years ago, he discovered the little town had a fascination for nicknames. He learned that the pharmacist O. R. Carlson is called “Wolf” because when he was a boy he called the police to report a wolf roaming the neighborhood. It turned out to be a large cat, but the name stuck. George, the fire chief, who was credited with saving the horse farm is called “Blazing Saddles.” Eleanor Duffy who owns the local body shop, is know as “Crash,” and Wayne Monson, a 6-foot-7-inch giant who runs a fix-it business, “Tinker.”

Sometimes entire families, such as the Crowleys, have interesting names. August Crowley was chair of the pastoral counsel. He also had the reputation of being a fine biblical scholar. August had attended seminary for a while and had a masters degree in Scripture. Father David thought nothing of August’s name until he met the three Crowley sisters, all members of the church. Their names—April, May, and June. Surely, Fr. David thought, this must be a family with a great sense of humor. In fact, the four Crowley’s had seemed to be a jolly group, until about three years ago when their mother Tillie died. The events surrounding Tillie Crowley’s death had caused a painful split in the family.

The sibling squabble broke out over the disposition of Tillie’s property. It was as one local wit said, spring against summer. April and May were on one side, June and August on the other.

During his first visit to the house after his mother died, August found messages under three antique lamps and on the backside of several pictures. The messages read, “This is for April,” or “This is for May.”

All four children had long believed that Tillie never completed a will. When they opened their mother’s safety deposit box, however, they discovered that she left a detailed will which included a list of what every child was to receive, down to the silverware. Her list and the names on the backs of the lamps and pictures did not match. It was pretty clear to June and August that the messages were written not by their mother, but by their sisters. World War III broke out in the Crowley family.

In the weeks that followed, each pair threatened the other with a lawsuit. Hardly a day passed when some juicy tidbit wasn’t released into the town’s gossip mill. One-week people were buzzing over what August did to April, and the next week over what May did to June.

Father David, as the pastor of the Fighting Irish, I mean Crowleys, preferred not to get involved in this family feud, yet found it increasingly difficult to avoid it. All four Crowleys attended church every Sunday, and April and August never missed the Sunday morning Bible class right before Mass. Neither was willing to let the other prevent them from attending, but the minute they arrived their icy stares seemed to make the temperature in the room drop. The family feud made everyone in the church uncomfortable.

Father David knew something had to be done and he took it to prayer. During the following Sunday Bible study, the pastor announced that next month they would focus on the gospel for the next week. He said, “I’m going to ask some of you to do a little homework for that class. I’ll call you this week.”

The first week the group studied Matthew 18:15-20. “In this passage Jesus gives us instructions on how to deal with grievances between believers,” Father said, “I’ll read just a section. ‘If your brother or sister sins against you, go to them and show them their fault. Do it privately. If they listen you have won your brother or sister back.’”

Although there was a lot of discussion, neither August nor April, normally quite vocal, took part. In conclusion David said, “The purpose of these instructions is to help us win back those we love. It grows out of conviction that we are to forgive the way we are forgiven.”

The following week Fr David made separate phone calls to April and August to ask them to write a brief paragraph for next Sunday’s class. After hesitating, each agreed. Unknown to the other, David gave them both the same assignment. “I’d like you to write 50 to 100 words on the “unforgivable sin,” he said.

At the next Bible study, Father David shared how Jesus wants forgiveness to overflow, he says ‘seventy times seven times.’ In other words, forgiveness without limits.

“In today’s Gospel Jesus underlines his message. A king had a servant who owed him millions of dollars, and there was no way the servant could ever repay that amount. Out of compassion the king forgave him.”

David saw April and August staring at the floor. “Next, the man who was forgiven insisted that a friend repay him 100 denarii, which may have been worth about $30. When his friend pleaded for mercy, the man refused and threw him into jail. When the king heard what happened, he arrested the first servant. The story ends with these words, ‘So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart. ‘” Father David concluded, “I think we may have another unforgiveable sin.”

There was an awkward silence until one of the women in the front row responded, “I don’t understand,” she said. “This story and your point aren’t clear to me.”

Father resisted saying anything more. He let the words hang in the air. Finally a man’s voice broke the silence. “It is painfully clear to me.” It was August, the biblical scholar.

“God is like the king,” he said slowly, without looking up. “God looks at the dark hearts of his servants, the debt people like you and me owe. There is no way we can repay him. We cry out, “Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy.’ And in Christ’s death on the cross God forgives our massive debt to him, a debt worth millions. But when we meet a sister who owes us a few lousy bucks, we refuse to forgive that sister.” August glanced across the room briefly catching April’s eye. “We refuse to pass on the very forgiveness of the king, a forgiveness that allows us to walk free and live clear. The unforgivable sin is refusing to forgive as we have been forgiven. I’m afraid it is all too clear.”

When August finished, no one else spoke. The only sounds were a nervous cough and the noise of people changing positions on their hard metal chairs. Finally August stood up and walked out of the room. No one moved until the bell rang, calling people to Mass. August was not in his usual spot when the service began.

Father David thought about August during the entire service, and again on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. He continually second-guessed his decision to go public with their family feud. At the time, he had decided it would take a terrible jolt to make them see. He also knew that their division was not private, but had touched the lives of the entire congregation.

David thought about visiting his friend, but decided to wait for August to make the first move. On Friday, August did. David looked up from his desk and saw him standing silently in the doorway. David wordlessly invited him in. For several minutes the two men sat looking at each other without speaking.

Finally August’s eyes narrowed. “That was a dirty trick you pulled on me Sunday,” he said. Then there was a long pause. “But I deserved it. This has been a long week. It has been a time of soul searching. You said nothing new, nothing I didn’t know. I knew all about forgiveness as a concept, an idea. For mercy sakes, I’ve led classes on the subject. My problem is that I knew little of forgiveness as an experience.”

August thought for a moment before he continued. “I visited my sisters last night. I told them I had been a fool. I told them their friendship was worth more than trinkets, whether those trinkets be new or antique. I asked them to pray for me. We all cried a lot before I left.”

Tears flowed down August’s wrinkled cheeks. “Father, I have sinned. Pray for me,” he cried.

Father David walked over to his friend and asked, “Is this your confession?” August nodded.

Father David put his hands on the old man’s head and spoke lovingly, “God the Father of all mercies, through the death and resurrection of his Son, sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins. Through the ministry of the Church, may God grant you pardon and peace. And let me be Jesus for you. I forgive you of all your sins, seventy times seven times. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”

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Homily Story adapted extensively from Stories for the Gathering: A Treasury for Christian Storytellers by William R. White, 1997, Augusburg Fortress, Minneapolis, MN ~ Family Feud, pp 78-82

Evacuation Route to Heaven

Ezekiel the prophet warns of us of hurricanes. If we fail to heed the warnings, he is not held accountable. If we see that our brother or sister is heading into harms way, but do not warn them, we will be held accountable. Sometimes we complain that we were evacuated for no reason at all. Many didn’t listen to these warnings and died or were injured or caused first responders to be harmed. But what about the internal storms we harbor for others? How have we prepared for them? Are we warning others?

Yes, the storms are brewing. We tell people that we love them. We clean up our yards so that our junk doesn’t harm our neighbors as flying debris. We stock up on water and gas. We begrudgingly heed mandatory evacuation orders. Sometimes we share what we have with others even if we know there will not be enough. We trust God. We share our evacuation plans so that we can reunite once the storm passes or lessen the worry.

But Jesus asks us to do more than the law of preparedness. Jesus asks us not only to warn our neighbor of the impending dangers, but also to love them and help them to avoid the impending doom. Jesus loves both me, and my neighbor who has sinned against me. Period! If we warn our loved ones to evacuate and they end up dying, part of us also dies. This is a law of love.

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Why are you terrified?

There are many hurricanes in this world with far deeper and catastrophic consequences. These are the hurricanes of poverty, war, indifference, addiction, family discord and selfishness to name a few.

Jesus warns us of the consequences of family hurricanes and infighting. Here is the evacuation route Jesus proposes:

  1. If your brother or sister sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. Simple but seldom done.
  2. If he doesn’t listen, bring one or two along with you. In other words, if the road you are taking toward love is blocked, change course and find another way. Don’t give up!
  3. If he refuses to listen still, then tell the church. So often people come to confession and tell me the sins of others. It is my job to gently invite them to look at the part they played in the sin and love them.
  4. If that evacuation route is blocked, then Jesus tells us to treat the person as you would a Gentile (refugee) or tax collector. Following the law we would treat the offender with constitutional justice. But how did Jesus treat the Gentile or tax collector?
  5. If you cannot evacuate, have a hurricane emergency kit. Be prepared.
  6. If you bind judgment, racism and unforgiveness on earth, you will bring a surge of judgment, racism and unforgiveness into heaven.
  7. But if you loose or forgive the debt of others on earth, then God will let loose an abundance of love. Pack love, mercy, forgiveness and joy.
  8. Many of us are inconvenienced this week. We complain about losing things like electricity, possessions, running water, and abundant food that we have often wasted. Insurance, government help and citizenship help restore us quickly. God is asking us to consider the poorest of poor who lack basic essentials, insurance or even citizenship. They literally live the aftermath of a hurricane or some other natural disaster perpetually. Pack a cross.
  9. In our hurricane emergency kit, we need a very strong flashlight that requires no juice. The Body and Blood of Jesus is essential for our survival. Jesus is our Light in the darkness. Bring along Jesus.

This next couple of days could be an opportunity for us to connect with the eye of the storm. This time can be savored if we have faith.

A tiger was chasing a man. A cliff blocked his evacuation from the jaws of the tiger. But he saw a vine that he climbed down. When he looked down, he saw another tiger below. Then looking up, he saw two mice chewing on the vine. He felt his anxieties and despair rising. Then he saw a strawberry on the side of the cliff. He reached out and plucked it. He then placed the strawberry in his mouth and savored the taste of the delicious strawberry.

The hurricane is on both sides of our state of mind. Anxieties and worry have paralyzed us. It is time to turn on the Light of the World. Turn the hurricanes of your life with love for one another and prayers united.

My life flows on in endless song

Above earth’s lamentations,

I hear the real, though far-off hymn

That hails a new creation

 

Through all the tumult and the strife

I hear it’s music ringing,

It sounds an echo in my soul.

How can I keep from singing?

 

No storm can shake my inmost calm,

While to that rock I’m clinging.

Since love is Lord of heaven and earth,

How can I keep from singing?

 

When tyrants tremble in their fear

And hear their death knell ringing,

When friends rejoice both far and near

How can I keep from singing?

 

In prison cell and dungeon vile

Our thoughts to them are winging,

When friends by shame are undefiled

How can I keep from singing?

Words of this song first published by Robert Lowry, a Baptist Minister in the 1869 songbook, Bright Jewels for the Sunday School. Lowry most likely wrote the music but the words are anonymous and public domain.

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

10 September 2017 ~ St. Monica, Palatka & St. John Interlachen~ Father Ron

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Ezekiel 33:7-9 ~ When you hear me say anything, you shall warn them for me.

Psalm 95 ~ Come, worship the Lord, for we are his people, the flock that he shepherds…Alleluia!

Romans 13:8-10 ~ Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law…Love does no evil to the neighbor; hence, love is the fulfillment of the law.

Gospel: Matthew 18:15-20~ Jesus said to his disciples: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother.  

Donkeys for Christ!!!

22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

3 September 2017 ~ St. Monica, Palatka & St. John Interlachen~

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Jeremiah 20:1-9 ~ The word of God has brought me derision and reproach all the day…

Psalm 63 ~ My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God!

Romans 12:1-2 ~ I urge you brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship.

Gospel: Matthew 16:21-27~ Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised. Then Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him, “God forbid Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you!” Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”

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An Aesop fable goes like this: A lion, a fox and donkey became partners and successfully acquired a large amount of food. The lion asked the donkey to divide the prize. Carefully, the donkey divided the spoil into three equal shares. The lion was offended, burst into a rage, and devoured the donkey.

            Then the lion asked the fox to make a division. The fox accumulated all they had killed into one large heap and left but a small morsel for himself. The lion said, “This is perfect. Who taught you how to divide so well?”

            The fox replied, “I just recently learned it from the donkey.”

They say that wise people learn from the misfortunes of others.

Last week, many of us would have loved to be Peter who got the right answer when Jesus asked his disciples, “But who do you say that I am?” But this week we hear Jesus say to Peter, “Get behind me Satan! You are an obstacle to me!” In Marine terms, we would say that the drill sergeant ate the private for lunch!

Was Peter that wrong? Peter believed that Jesus was the Christ and that things would be Great. But for Jesus, things would be great, but not in the way the world thinks.

Jesus has a mission. He said at the beginning of his ministry in his home town, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. God sent me to proclaim liberty to captives, recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free and proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.” At first the people thought this was wonderful, until it meant they had to change. Jesus added, “No prophet is accepted in his own native place.” Then they tried to kill him. Jesus was telling us that the inequality in our towns, even Palatka, is unacceptable. No one is better than anyone else. We are all equal.

The world believes we can get away with being self-serving like the lion or fearful of the bullies like the fox. We believe that we can go on in this world without accepting our cross. Jesus minces no words to his disciples and us. We must deny self, take up our cross, and lose our life. So who in the world would choose to follow Jesus? No wonder Peter rebukes Jesus!

Jesus is the donkey, meek and humble but fair. That means we are all called to be donkeys! All are welcome. He died for all. We tend to be more like the fox by living in fear and conforming to the lions and the racists in the world. We defend our rights and amendments, and our securities while we close our doors and wall up our ability to hear the cry of the poor. We fail to offer first fruits to God.

Jesus not only learned from the prophets, but he became one. Jeremiah the prophet chose to accept his calling and be the one prophet out of 100. Jesus tells us, “There are 99 false prophets for every true prophet.”   Jeremiah simply told the truth, but he was ready to quit because he knew he would be killed if he kept speaking the Word of God. Jesus never quits on anyone, especially the poor, immigrants and refugees. Jesus is asking each of us today for a radical conversion. He knows we will be rejected, but he knows we will gain eternal life.

What we bring to this altar is nothing less than our entire body and soul. “Pray my brothers and sisters that my sacrifice and yours will be acceptable to our loving God.” It really has nothing to do with the money. “Do not be afraid,” Jesus tells us. If the worldly lion eats us for lunch, God will raise us up on this altar today!