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!

Homily for 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time

IMG_6409You, the beautiful people of St. Monica and St. John communities have invited me to dine with you. You have set me up with a little room with a bed, table, chair, lamp, computer, and Putnam County hospitality in order that I may stay with you. You are wonderful stewards of your community, love for the poor, faithfulness, small faith communities, thirst for wisdom, and Eucharist. All of us have been baptized into Christ Jesus. We were baptized into his death. Here, we learn to pick up our crosses and follow Jesus.

Bishop Felipe has invited me to stay awhile with this community just like Father Amar was urged to do three years ago. And so I have come to stay with you, break bread with you, and love ya’ll.

Jesus has told me that whoever receives me, receives Him. And whoever receives Jesus receives the one who sent him… God alone. Amazing!

Since I received First Communion, we have come up to this table with this short prayer on our lips. “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”

And yet we often love father or mother, son or daughter more than Jesus. We don’t always take up our crosses and follow after Jesus. We are not worthy of Jesus. I certainly am aware that I am not worthy to be your pastor. But here is the really Good News: If we give only one cup of cold water to one of God’s little ones to drink, we will not lose our reward. We are worthy because Jesus says so. His blood and love make us worthy. What a punch line!

Thank you for your cold cup of water and oh so much more. I see Jesus in you.

Once we receive the Body and Blood of Jesus we receive Jesus and God into our bodies and souls. Potential converts look at us and say, “See how they love. I want what they have!” Then we give others the opportunity to invite Jesus into their souls and give Jesus a cold cup of water. It is too easy to focus on our setbacks like our crosses, our abusive upbringings, our brokenness, our war stories, or our addictions. These are setbacks. But if we can focus on the truth that we are God’s sons and daughters, then the cross we carry becomes our joy and Good News today! We cry out, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus responds to our kindness, our cold up of water; “Today, my beloved, you will be with me in Paradise.”

As Father Amar has reminded us so often, “Why are you so stressed, if I am not? I am not attached to anything, just as long as I am with the Lord.” We are not only with the Lord, but the Lord is within us! O my!

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Looking for Christ in Christmas

Gospel St. Matthew 11:2-11 ~ When John the Baptist heard in prison of the works of the Christ, he sent his disciples to Jesus with this question, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” Jesus said to them in reply, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them. And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.

What are you looking for this Christmas?

Where are you looking?

Have you ever considered looking Christmas in Easter?

In both celebrations we are looking for something special below a tree, one an evergreen and one a cross. Below both trees the mother holds her child. Below both trees… the light shines out through the darkness.

John the Baptist was looking for the Messiah all his life. John and his disciples were looking for God in all the right places, but did not find him. It reminds me of the movie, “Finding Nemo”. The little fish was attempting to find the ocean when he was swimming in it.

Jesus began his ministry as an adult. He entered the synagogue that he grew up in. He was handed the scroll of the prophet Isaiah that he had practically memorized. The people looked for the Messiah but did not see him before their very eyes. Jesus told us his mission statement:

“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 to proclaim a year acceptable to God.”

I have been on over 12 missions to poor places like Haiti, Honduras and Africa. I was looking for Jesus in the poorest of the poor. I don’t speak the language of the peoples, but I can hear and see what Jesus is doing through wonderful and dedicated people. A Frisbee or soccer ball brings about unimaginable healing in the people I come to serve and especially in myself. The blind see the poor as equal to us. Queen of Peace missions have literally done what Jesus begs us to do. They have helped people walk again, waters to be cleansed, surgeries to give new life, devastations to restore, an attitude of gratitude, and the materially poor and spiritually poor have the good news proclaimed to them. So much more to do.dscf9317

Christmas is about receiving gifts from God, nurturing them responsibly, sharing them lovingly in justice with others. This is the gift we return with increase to God. We receive the baby at Christmas, but we return the Body of Christ in our bodies at the foot of the genuine Christmas tree. We offer our tears and our brokenness. We also return our fruit from the gifts God planted in our souls. The more we share the Gift of the Holy Spirit and our fire with others in justice; the more fruit God channels through us; fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, generosity, self-control and faithfulness. This is the best Christmas gift we could ever imagine giving to God. We give the gift every Christ Mass wrapped in our Mission Statement.

As Christians we receive God’s gifts gratefully,

cultivate them responsibly,

share them lovingly in justice with others,

and return them with increase to the Lord.

Jesus could say to them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see in my followers:

They were blind but now they see, they were paralyzed in fear but now they walk in truth, they were impure with sin, but now forgiven, love has broken through their deafness, and they now breath in… hungering and thirsting for more.”

 

My gift to Jesus this year is an instrument… an instrument of peace.

What is your Good News? What is your Gift? You still have time.

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What seems to be a myth by which I personally live?

Writing for Theological Anthropology

Me so pretty

Before the journey of the cross

Thomas Moore wrote Care of the Soul (1992) just two years after I was ordained a Catholic priest. I believed back then that I was caring for my soul and growing in wisdom. In reality, I was living a myth. However, that may be a good thing in the long run. The ritual of crossing myself every day of my life is what allows my soul to be full of life and grow. According to Moore, a myth is a sacred story set in a time and place outside history. It describes in fictional form the fundamental truths of nature and human life. (p. 220)

Love God

Since I was in my mother’s womb, I have lived the myth of the cross that was passed on to me by my parents and church. My grandmothers came from Sicily and Ireland in the same year and at 15 years of age. I am sure at the time; they didn’t want to leave their families while so young and cross the ocean. It seems that I am always being asked to pick up my cross and go where I do not want to go. Once I get through the crossing and recognize my good fortune, I am baffled as to why I resisted the cross so vehemently. While living this myth, I have not always been aware of its attempt to teach me to fathom the indescribable, but it has guided me to be more soulful and more appreciative of the human experience. Sometimes I came to the ritual of the cross after slugging it out with my brothers and sisters in the back seat of the station wagon. At other times the sacred ritual seemed dead until I needed to feed my grieving soul with the same dull liturgy…and it helped get me through the impasse. I held on to my cross as I begged God to heal my family of alcoholism, middle class poverty and everyday crosses we all must manage.

Heart

soul mind

and strength

During the too many memorial services for marines, sailors and soldiers killed in action, I braced for the barking out of the names, the silent response from the dead, and the parade forward of those present. More than my heart was breaking. My myth of the cross and the memorial service were indistinguishable. Those who were not Christian seamlessly joined in the same procession. I never saw the dead soldier’s boots, dog tags, rifle and helmet as we all approached and kneeled. But my soul revealed each one’s cross, even the cross of the Muslim and Atheist. Yes, I know the fundamental truths of nature and human life didn’t change. However, my life was remolded like clay in a potter’s hands. If I become rigid and fundamental in my religion, my myth will shatter. All faiths and denominations are welcome to the dance. The adoration of the cross on Good Friday will never be the same for me, even though the traditional ritual remains intact.
This is what makes my myth so soulful and sacred. All people have to encounter death and not be consumed by the fear of it in order to function in this world. As the cross feeds my soul and brings me to a greater spiritual depth, I am more apt to sit pastorally with another in the throes of their own crosses. Even if the human experiences seem incomparable at first, the simple sharing of our stories reveals the commonality of our human experiences and myths.
William Barry, SJ inspired me in God’s Passionate Desire…and our Response (1993). My response has been a mixture of complaining, playfulness and compassion. My retreat before being ordained a deacon was given by a Jesuit. He asked me to meditate on the passion of Jesus in the four Gospels and on the liturgy of ordination. While meditating, I realized that the bishop would ask the vocation director if he judged me worthy to be a priest. I was aghast. I truly and deeply felt I was not worthy or even up to the task. I packed my belongings into my car and informed the Jesuit retreat director that I was grateful for my five years of formation and that I was leaving because I was not worthy and didn’t want my life to be a lie.
As I started the engine to my car, he banged on my window and asked me to get out. He told me that now I was ‘ready’. I shrugged him off. He then proceeded to tell me that when one can admit that they are unworthy, then God has someone to work with.
The following year, a month before my ordination, I went on a weeklong retreat during Holy Week at the Jesuit Campion Renewal Center in Worcester, MA. The Church mandates this retreat. This time I meditated on the writings of Teilhard de Chardin. Humans (including me) tend to get out of synch, psyche and soul. I journeyed into the woods and celebrated Mass with nothing but my story and all of creation. Thomas Moore gave me the impression that my lifelong need of ritual along with my need to go reverently (and occasionally irreverently) beyond the rubrics (and myth) is essential to being soulful.

The Tree of Life

My way, life and truth

Joy and Hope

Love God