All posts for the month July, 2015

Exodus 16, 2-4, 12-15 + Psalm 78 + Ephesians 4, 17, 20-24 + John 6, 24-35

St Joseph Old Cathedral, Oklahoma City

Recently I was listening to talk during which the speaker expressed his wonder about how God treated Moses after Moses disobeyed God’s instructions about striking a rock. Just because Moses struck the rock twice instead of once as God instructed, he did not get to cross into the Promised Land. Like the speaker, I have always that this was extraordinarily harsh treatment for a man who had accomplished so much as God’s servant. The speaker went to on propose something I had never thought of. The “Promised Land” was not really a geographical location, a parcel of land; but rather it was a personal relationship with God. What probably happened that day Moses parted company from the Israelites was that Moses waved good bye and then danced jig in the presence of the Lord singing: “Free at Last, Thank God, I’m free at last”. Meanwhile the Israelites who grumbled their way reluctantly forward day after day had never gotten the point of their journey, and they went on to that piece of land still a long way from having experienced a real living relationship with God.

That idea stayed in my mind as I listened once again to these all too familiar words of John’s Gospel about Jesus being the “Bread of Life.” For way too many people, the Holy Eucharist is something, an object that while Holy and most Sacred is still an object. It’s like the Israelites always thinking of the “Promised Land” in terms of a parcel of land.

When Jesus announces that he is the Bread of Life, that his Body and Blood are the gift he gives us, he is not speaking about some THING. He is speaking of himself. He is the gift. He is the bread. He is the blood. He is the gift he gives. What he leaves with us is so much more than an object that once we begin to understand it, what the gift looks like is unimportant. If it’s brown or white, thick or thin, round or square means nothing. In fact, noticing these things is a good sign that we have not gone far enough into the mystery. What we must come to experience in the Eucharist is Communion: first of all Communion through, with, and in the living Christ. Then because of it, and even within it, we come into communion with one another in a new way and in such a way that we see and believe the very life of God in each other.

We do not come here to get something. We come here to become something, friends and disciples of Jesus Christ and brothers and sisters to each other. So to approach the Eucharist as we all shall in a just a few moments is not to simply touch something, even something as precious as the body and blood of Jesus. It is rather to encounter someone. To come face to face with the one who has called us here, revealed to us love and mercy, and instructed us about what to do in his name.

What is being said and revealed in this Gospel is very simple yet very profound. To approach Christ in the Eucharist, is to really be ready to enter into communion, a holy communion of friendship, love, and discipleship with the very person of our Lord Jesus Christ. If you’re not ready for that and all it will ask of you, think twice about walking this aisle, and perhaps back up a bit to the first encounter with Christ that can prepare you for this great mystery. For the first encounter with Christ’s body and blood is really the Sacred Scripture, God’s teaching. The great saint of the Sacred Scriptures, Saint Jerome probably speaking from his own experience with translating the Scriptures said this: “When we approach the Eucharistic Mystery, if a crumb falls to the ground we are troubled. Yet when we are listening to the word of God, and God’s Word and Christ’s flesh and blood are being poured into our ears, and we pay no heed, what great peril should we not feel?”

The bread that Jesus speaks of is meant to open us to a living relationship of trust not in the bread itself but in the person giving that bread. At the same time, what is given is not ultimately bread, but the word of his teaching, his preaching of the kingdom way, and his revelation of the Father. When we say that the Word was made flesh, we announce to ourselves and others that we believe that this bread and the giver of bread and the teaching word are not simply interrelated but are one in Jesus who waits to welcome us in an intimate, personal, and life giving relationship of love.

Saint Joseph Old Cathedral Oklahoma City

2 Kings 4, 42-44 + Psalm 145 + Ephesians 4, 1-5 + John 6, 1-15

This multiplication of the loaves is the only miracle of Jesus that is recorded in all four Gospels. That fact alone should signal to us that there is something essential to faith here. Philip and Andrew are introduced by John as players in this drama. The people are tired and hungry. Jesus looks up and sees them. Philip expresses a kind of helplessness – a sense of inadequacy or lack of resources. It is a feeling we have all known too often in the face of the enormous challenges life can throw at us. A sense that there just isn’t enough to go around, that we don’t have what it takes, that what we need to face the challenge is greater than we could ever imagine. The figure that Philip comes up with is like that. It is really big. Then there is Andrew, the one who introduces people to Jesus. Remember, it is Andrew who first began to follow Jesus after hanging around John the Baptist. It is Andrew who went to Peter and said, “Come and meet this one I have found.” Today it is Andrew who introduces that boy to Jesus, and by doing so, shifts all attention to Jesus.

The images John uses here can hardly be ignored. Going up the mountain evokes the memory of Moses, and if the mountain doesn’t bring Moses to mind, John mentions the Passover with deep memories of the manna God provided there. With that instruction to sit down on the grass there should spring to mind the images of the Psalm 23 and the Good Shepherd who prepares a table. So here, in John’s version of this moment, it is Jesus who distributes the abundant bread himself. In the other Gospel versions Jesus tells the disciples to feed the people. Here it is Jesus alone, the shepherd, who feeds his flock. In sharp contrast to a mentality of scarcity suggested by Philip and Andrew, there is Jesus and the abundance of life that faith opens to the human person.

Andrew introduces us today to this Jesus of abundance and fullness of life. This is more than a miracle that raises wonder and amazement. It is, with John’s presentation, a Sign that points to Jesus, the Bread of Life, the one for whom we hunger and thirst. It is a sign written that may lead us to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God and that through him we may have life in his name.

We tell this story today and proclaim this Gospel because hunger still drives our lives. We tell this story today because a mentality of scarcity still influences our decisions and motivates our hoarding and possessiveness. These deep hungers drive us in too many different directions. If we are not conscious of them, or if we leave them unattended, they can drive us in many harmful and destructive ways. Attempting to fill the infinite longing of the human heart, people over eat, overwork, grasp greedily for more of everything. We consume others and use others in a desperate effort to satisfy those hungers. From that deepest of all longings, the longing to be loved, lovers demand too much of the other becoming bitter when the other is not able to fulfill the need for absolute love giving rise to jealousy, and sometimes violence. Even the great disparity in our world between those who have too much and those who have far too little flows from the unchecked hungers for satisfaction that shape so much of our economics. Advertising spends billions of dollars to fan into flame these hungers with promises to satisfy them all the while deeply invested in their growth and amplification not their satisfaction. The culture of this economy aims for instability, never for satisfaction that allows us to say: “enough.”

Jesus Christ seeks to satisfy the deepest hungers of our lives in contrast and sometimes in conflict with a consumer society that promises to fill us with what is finite and only leave us wanting more and more never finally coming to satisfy our longing for true bread.

So here we are, drawn together again by our hunger having discovered that nothing else will satisfy. The Passover is near. It is as near as the prayer and action at this altar. Introduced here to Jesus, we come to know the God who provides for the deepest hunger and thirst of our hearts. To discover Jesus here is to know the truth about those hungers in our spirits and to come to know the one who alone can satisfy them. In coming to know what is revealed, we come to know ourselves caught up in this sacred action as chosen ones, forgiven, loved, and fed on the very flesh and blood poured out for us once and for all.

Jeremiah 23, 1-6 + Psalm 23 + Ephesians 2, 13-18 + Mark 6, 30-34   +   St Francis of Assisi Parish, Castle Rock, Colorado

The Gospel of Saint Mark is in many ways an instruction manual for disciples of Jesus Christ. Every detail of the Gospel; the stories, parables, exorcisms, healings, and everything Jesus says is preparation for what he will say at the end: “GO!” Last week he sent the twelve out on a practice run, so to speak. After making sure that they took nothing, were focused on their mission, trusting only him he gave them power and authority. I always like to think it was the power of love and the authority of humility. Unlike the kind of power and authority we find abused by too many on this earth, love and authority are effective, and so the apostles come back reporting success with the consequence that people were coming and going in great numbers.

Now it’s back to more instructions because going out to teach, to heal, and to confront evil is not all they must do. In fact, if they do these things well, something more will then be very necessary to remember, and we get that today. There seems to be four parts to what Jesus says to us here: 1) Come away, 2) Deserted Place, 3) By yourself, 4) Rest. These are important for a disciple’s balanced life.

Jesus does not say, “Go away”, he says, “Come away.” The difference is that he will come with him. He is not sending away, but calling them to himself. This is the Jesus who refreshes our souls, the Jesus whose burden light. This relationship is important, and just as parents sometimes need their time together as loving spouses away from the children, so do we all need to make sometime away with Jesus Christ.

It is a deserted place that he suggests, a place where no one else is to be found. In a deserted place there is no WI FI, no texting. There is no email, voice mail, radio, tv, or Facebook. There is nothing to make noise, or fill the space. It is deserted. By yourself means exactly that. It is 1 on 1 time with Christ who has called you to be his own.

Resting for a while is not laziness. It does not take all day. It is temporary. It’s for a while. But, for that while, it is about rest. You do not do something else for a change, you do nothing. I often call it “staring” either at the inside of your eye lids, or just at the sky. When we do not rest, we cannot take care of others because resting is taking care of ourselves. Do that first. Not all the time, just “for a while.” If we do not slowdown in this life, it will be over before we know it, and we will be of no use to anyone, especially God.

Even God has done this reports the writer of Genesis. Later it was called “Sabbath” for in God’s wisdom it became part of the covenant as one of the commandments. Divine wisdom is revealed through the Word, Jesus Christ who is forming not just the twelve, but any of us who have been called to be his presence and continue his work on earth.

The Wedding of Hilary Nixon and Robert Dehn

St John the Evangelist Catholic Church in Loveland, CO

17 July 2015 Sirach 2, 1-11 + Psalm + Colossians 3, 12-17 + Luke 9, 1-6

Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sarah, Jacob and Rachel, Ruth and Boaz, Hosea and Gomer, Elizabeth and Zachariah, Mary and Joseph, the list goes on and on. It can include others like Peter and Paul, Andrew and James, Timothy and Mark who teamed up with Paul. People like Sylvia and Bob, Ruth and Ted, Betty and Nick, Bob and Betty, Robert and Debra, Norma and David all the way down to this day when the list will include Hilary and Robert. For you see, when it comes to the lives of people who are rooted in the life and mission of Jesus Christ, people whose lives are touched by the Divine, there is no going it alone.
Sent out two by two there is no “doing your own thing”, nor doing it “my way.” That is what got Adam and Eve in trouble and continues to haunt the human family in every age. Each of these holy men and women teach us much about fidelity and love. Even Adam and Eve as they are imagined for us were the perfect couple until they traded something created for the creator. Abraham and Sarah teach us how to wait without losing faith. Jacob and Rachel teach us about devotion and perseverance as Jacob works and slaves for fourteen years just to have Rachel as his bride. The love story of Ruth reveals not just admirable loyalty that attracts Boaz, but reveals the passion of God for his people. The love story of Hosea is a lesson on the power of forgiveness. to heal what is broken. The stories of these lives go on through every age to reveal something to us of the God whose love draws us to this place today. We are intended by our Creator/God to be together. No one is alone, and to those who face that fear there is even a promise made: “I will not leave you
The Wedding of Hilary Nixon and Robert Dehn St John the Evangelist Catholic Church in Loveland, CO 17 November 2015 Sirach 2, 1-11 + Psalm + Colossians 3, 12-17 + Luke 9, 1-6
orphans. I will be with you until the end of time.” This is the promise fulfilled that we celebrate in this church today with gratitude and joy.
To those who take up a life of faith in Christ simple instructions are given by Jesus to support and sustain the partnership we have as Christ’s own. What we need is one another. All we need is one another. Everything else is going to get in the way. We have only one house and one home, God’s holy church. We need not look anywhere else. To the extent that God’s Holy Church is rooted in our homes, we will always find peace, healing, and forgiveness there.
And so Robert and Hilary, in this place Christ sends you forth today as he has countless others faithful ones. Your mission is clear: live and proclaim by the goodness of your lives and the public practice of your faith the presence of the Kingdom of God. Bind up and heal, hold up and encourage anyone who seems alone, broken, or lost. In as much as you do so, you will arrive back before the Lord as did those apostles full of joy, and full of peace for your names will be written in heaven.

Amos 7, 12-15 + Psalm 85 + Ephesians 1, 3-14 + Mark 6, 7-13

It is on only the sixth chapter of Mark’s Gospel, and the disciples have not been with Jesus for very long, just long enough for them to see what he is doing, and long enough for us to know that they are not too sure of themselves and not too dependable. None the less, before they seem to be ready, he sends them out with power and authority. Given the conditions of the world we live in, those two things spell danger. I don’t know about you, but I am cautious around people with power and authority, and the scandals of the last few years give us all reason to on guard. I suspect that before Jesus invests any more of his energy and time in this group, he wants to see what they can do with power and authority. Judging from the report they bring back, they did rather well. There is no report or indication that they used their power for themselves and abused authority to get more power. On the contrary, they followed the example of their master and used the power they had to relive the suffering of others, and that in turn reinforced the authority of the master.

When Jesus sends them out with power and authority, they take nothing, and that is exactly how they return. In other words, having relied only on the master, they took nothing along and they took nothing from those they served. They did not move around always looking for a better deal, and they did not waste time with people who did not welcome them. There was a sense of urgency that kept them focused without wondering what was in it for them. This power and authority Jesus gave to these apostles was the power of love and the authority of humility. This kind of power never corrupts, and the authority of humility is always credible. Would that our society and culture had leaders with this kind of power and authority.

If you are nodding your head in agreement with me, you are in trouble right now, because I believe that this Gospel suggests that the world does have that kind of people with this kind of power and authority, and you are one of them. The trouble is, none of us feel ready, while we have spent way too long thinking that this about someone else. Too many people act as though this is all a matter of study and learning. Too many people are sitting in the bleachers or the pews and not enough are giving this power and authority a try. Love and Humility are powerful tools in the hands of real disciples of Jesus Christ.

It is important to notice that the major part of learning for these apostles was experience related. It cannot be any different for us. Academic studies are always idealistic and superficial to some extent. Until you do something you don’t really learn anything, you just know about it. Too many people in this world know about Jesus, but they’ve met him! The knowledge just stays in the head. Life puts us in all kinds of situations from which we learn great truths. However, if the truth were known, we would never have learned them at all; because if it were up to us, we would have avoided the learning experience. “It’s too hard.” “I’m not ready.” “I have to get a couple of others things done first.” There are as many excuses as there are people, but it does not change the fact that we are a people of faith called by God as disciples of Jesus to so something as much as be something.

In the end, I suppose the biggest excuse is fear, but fear of what? Being alone? We are not sent out alone. He sent them two by two. Fear of what? Making a mistake? That may also be why they are out in pairs, but what’s wrong with making a mistake with the intention of following God’s will? The only real mistake is doing nothing. Next Sunday we are going to hear about their return and see what shape they are in after exercising the power of love with humility. A remarkable thing happens to them, and it is something we all long for.

This week, today, the call goes out again from Jesus Christ for disciples to take to the streets with love and humility, confident that Jesus Christ will give you all you need to touch someone with kindness, to heal a broken heart, and to confront with courage any evil that you see or hear. Discipleship is not all about prayers, novenas, and holy hours. Those things come later as we see next week. They come after you’re worn out from the mission. Discipleship is also about learning, and the teaching style of Jesus is about action and doing things in his name. Remember. Pay attention. The last thing said at the end of this gathering in his name is: GO.

Saint Andrew Church in Moore, OK

Ezekiel 2, 2-15 + Psalm 123 + 2 Corinthians 12, 7-10 + Mark 6, 1-6

The ministry of Jesus in Galilee is over. Having set a possessed man free, calmed the raging sea storm, raised up the daughter of Jarius, and cured the woman who touched him, he turns back to his own region of the country, and we find him at what Mark calls, “His own native place.” The mood is different, and it is not friendly. The startling report from Mark is that apart from curing a few sick people, “he was not able to perform any mighty deeds”. The implications of this report ought to leave us stunned. Is there a limit to the power of God? Is there something that can interfere with and stop mighty deeds?

It would be simple to say that where there is no faith, God’s mighty deeds are ineffective. However, there is more to this than a lack of faith. These people are not simply faithless, they are arrogant, proud, and very full of themselves. So sure of their opinion, and so confident that they know everything, the gift they might have found in Jesus is refused. Consequently, they have no share in the signs that point to God’s presence among them. Blinded by their certitude they cannot see who stands before them in their synagogue. Deaf to everything but the sound of their own voices, they cannot hear the good news being offered and proclaimed to them. Instead of engaging in conversation with the one who calls for their conversion, they talk to themselves and seal their fate: no mighty deeds!

Mark would have us see that there is a direct connection between faith and mighty deeds, but even before faith is formed and acknowledged there must be an openness that allows faith to find a home. These people in Nazareth are not open to anything new, to anyone who goes beyond their narrow minded, self-protecting expectations. They reject the whole idea that someone can change, grow, and become an instrument of God’s mercy and love. In doing so they cannot change. They do not grow, and God will do nothing with them: no might deeds!

It is a powerful lesson and message for all of us whose conversion and growth in faith must be a continual way of life. At no point in our lives may we entertain the idea that we know everything, and a refusal to listen and explore ideas contrary to our own is a hint that pride is at work, and it is a deadly sin when left unchallenged. These people are incapable of change and growth, and so they deny it and refuse to acknowledge it in others. Deadly.

An open heart and an open mind is the seed-bed of faith. People who stop learning and cease to wonder and study about faith, revelation, and God’s mighty deeds will not see them. Worse than the tragedy of indifference is the haughty and smug attitude of a closed heart and a made-up mind that judges others and their ideas with presumptions and assumptions that come from within rather than from without. The Gospel and the faith it nourishes must be fed by wonder and awe, curiosity and a desire for life which always means growth and change. This is what feeds conversion and ultimately repentance which is essential for the Kingdom of God. The mighty deeds worked by Jesus were always signs that Kingdom of God was near; but for those in that place, it was a long way off.