All posts for the month February, 2019

24 February 2019 at St. Peter & St. William Churches in Naples, Fl

Samuel 26, 7-9, 12-13, 22-23 + Psalm 103

1 Corinthians 15, 45-49 + Luke 6, 27-38

Saint Peter Parish 3:30pm February 23, 2019

For most of my 51 years as a priest, I have been involved in the lives of young people through Youth Ministry and through the Catholic Schools at parishes where I served. One thing I learned early on, and nothing ever contradicted it was that children resemble their parents. In my own family, I watch the children of my sister and brother-in-law, and it’s amazing how they reproduce again and again not just the things their parents have said, but how they act. My sister and I often would begin to laugh when one of us sounded like or reacted like our parents. Every now and then, my sister would say something just like Mom, and I would say: “Watch out! She’s back.”

That reality goes even beyond family systems and genes. The truth of the matter is that when we call ourselves “Children of God” we are expressing not just a fact of faith, but an expectation about our mind, our hearts, and our behavior. Today’s verses from Luke’s Gospel follow the Sermon of last week with a further description of the “Blessed” as Jesus continues to lay out the life-style of those who want to call themselves “Children of God” or “Christian.” What Jesus puts before us is an ethic that leads us quite beyond what is normal, civil, or reasonable. In fact, if we are going to understand this and shape our lives around, we have to accept the fact that there is nothing “normal”, “civil” or “reasonable” about this. Catholic Christianity is not primarily a moral teaching. It is the way to salvation. It is a way of sharing the power and freedom of God giving us resources to move deeply into the life of God himself.  In other words, when we begin to understand and act like God, we are going to begin to become extravagant, almost unreasonable, and by some judgement, mad, because God’s ways make no sense in this world.

It does not make any sense to do good to those who harm you. They will just harm you again. It makes no sense to turn the cheek and accept another slap once you’ve been hit. What sense is there in giving your cloak and your underwear. Now you’ll be cold. What we discover is what runs in our family: extravagant generosity. It shows itself in a simple formula Luke develops in these verses: Love, Do good to, Bless, and Pray for. We are going nowhere in terms of faith, spiritual life, discipleship, or salvation until we get serious about this. Luke is running a school of discipleship that is intent on changing the way we think as well as the way we act.

We can live without retaliation. We can be extravagant with everything we have including forgiveness. We can surrender our rights, and we can stop judging others all because God can. This is the source of our spiritual power and the model after which we shape our lives. For real disciples of Christ, these are not just performances done out of obligation. They will be a visible concrete manifestation of a deep inner reality: the transformation that has taken place in our lives as we die to self and rise in Christ. God’s plan and God’s ways will be our plan and our only way.

17 February 2019 at St. Peter & St. William Churches in Naples, Fl

Jeremiah 17, 5-8 + Psalm 1 + 1 Corinthians 15, 12, 16-20 + Luke 6, 17, 20-26

St Peter the Apostle Parish Naples, FL

In Luke’s Gospel, and in this church and every other church where it is proclaimed today, the challenge of faith is unfolded, and there is no hiding from it or playing word games to water it down. These holy scriptures, the very Word of God, are given to us as the plan and program of a life lived in faith. We do not inherit these scriptures to provide or empower us to condemn someone else. We are the only ones who can convict ourselves of living the truth in faith. What God says to us simply and directly today is that we may not do what we want with what we have, because everything we own we hold in trust. Anyone who does not believe that can try to take it all with them when they die. We are stewards in this part of our lives, and we have to get that right in spite of every advertisement and temptation that passes in front of us.

The second part of these verses today are really more important than the first part, because these “Woes” rightly understood make it possible to be “Blessed.” We have to stop thinking that “Blessed” is something you get, because it isn’t. Blessedness is not some Thing, it is some One. To be Blessed is to be like God. So, when we are “Blessed” we have the mind of God or the heart of Christ. That is Blessedness – being like God. In which case, we can say: “Blessed are you who are rich in money, in power, in talent, or time, because you can do so much for the poor and lift them out of oppression. It means using power for peace, wisdom to reconcile, knowledge to open horizons, and compassion to heal, and hope to destroy despair.

Blessed are you full now, who are sleek and well-fed, because you are strong enough to feed the hungry, touch empty stomachs with compassion. But, only if you have the mind of the hungry not taking food for granted, and always uncomfortable when your brother or sister cries in vain for bread, or justice, or love. Only when we experience our own emptiness can be know the hungry.

Blessed are you who laugh now, because you can bring the joy of Christ to others, to those whose days and nights are filled with tears. But only if you laugh at yourself and do not take yourself seriously knowing that the whole world does not revolve around you, your needs, and your fantasies. Only if you take delight in God’s creation, in the sun and shade, the flowers and the birds, the clouds and the sea can you have real and lasting joy to share. It means letting go of yesterday, dead hopes and disappointments that keep you from discovering what tomorrow will bring.

In the end, what all means is the Blessed are the free; free enough to be alive, to be in love, to experience the gift of mercy, and the richness of our faith. And Jesus raised his eyes not to heaven, but to us, his disciples, and he said: “Blessed are you”.

10 February 2019 at St. Peter & St. William Churches in Naples, Fl

Isaiah 6, 1-2, 3-8 + Psalm 138 + 1 Corinthians 15, 1-11 + Luke 5, 1-11

2:45pm Saturday, February 9, 2019 St. William Church

All three of the people put before us today are reluctant: Isaiah, Paul, and Peter. Yet, they are all chosen by God. Each of them acknowledges their unworthiness and inadequacy, and from a spiritual point of view, this is a good starting point. God knew of their sinfulness, and God chose them in spite of it. Jesus knew Peter was no good as a fisherman. They caught nothing all night long, but Jesus chose him anyway showing him what he could accomplish when he did what Jesus asked of him. Isaiah, Paul and Peter eventually went on to do great things because they accepted God’s call, and did what Jesus asked. None of them excused themselves or used their sinfulness and weakness as a cop-out.

In this world today, most people who run for public office put themselves forward. They are not slow to advertise their qualifications, and it’s my opinion that such people are more likely to do more harm than good, because they rely upon their own resources usually out for their own glory and advancement. Pride and self-sufficiency are like sand, and a house built on them is sure to fall. On the other hand, when we meet someone who is fearful and hesitant in allowing their name to be put forward, we often find that person believable and more human. This reluctance is the essence of the matter. This is kind of people that God looks for.

We can all sit here today and listen to the story of these three and go home thinking it was all about them as though this is not about us, but we do not proclaim this Word of God to tell stories about the past. To do so is foolishness and faithless. We tell it to reveal the plan of God for today. Anyone called to faith, anyone who believes in the Lord, Jesus Christ is called to do something, called to live and serve in such a way that others are drawn to Christ, invited into faith, and inspired to seek the Kingdom of God in service and sacrifice. Excuses won’t do. Jesus will have nothing to do with Peter’s claims that because he is a sinner he can’t do what is asked of him. God ignores Isaiah’s claims that he is a man of unclean lips living among a people of unclean lips. As St. Paul says, it is precisely because he is a sinner that he is called. There is no excuse for doing nothing.

There is a great contrast between the call of Isaiah and Peter. With Isaiah’s call, there is a sense that something extraordinary is taking place. The Lord is seated on a high and lofty throne with the train of his garment filling the Temple. There is great shaking and house was filled with smoke, but in the time of Peter, our time, it is very different. The Incarnation has taken place, and now God is not on a lofty throne with flowing robes, but rather speaking through the Son of Man to people at work, doing what they do every day, people like you and me.

We must not miss the fact that Jesus began his mission and chose as his followers these fishermen, working people. He did not call priests from the Temple, or the rich and famous. He did not build this church on people who were somehow especially gifted, powerful, or special in any way. He chose real people, simple workers who were not even especially great at what they were doing. After all, they had fished all night and caught nothing. He still chooses sinners. He chooses you and me. There is no time to look around and see if he is looking for someone else. He is not. We all need someone who accepts us for what we are, but believes we can do more and challenges us to realize it. This is exactly what Jesus Christ does for us: accepts just as we are right now, and he asks more. In the end, the quality of our lives is not measured by what is given to us as much as it is measured by what is asked of us.

Jeremiah 1, 4-5, 17-19 + Psalm 71 + 1 Corinthians 12, 31-13,13 + Luke 4, 21-30

3 February 2019 at St. Peter & St. William Churches in Naples, Fl

This episode in Luke’s Gospel is tragic and sad leaving us to ponder what went wrong, and how we keep that from happening to us. Think of it, and think what it means for those people in that synagogue and town. “Jesus passed through the midst of them and went away.” Luke is not proposing some disappearing act, he leaving us with the impression that God abandoned those people. They were left without Jesus. Now, I don’t know how that strikes you, but for me life without Jesus would be a terrible and sad way of life.

What led the people in that synagogue into conflict was the message of Jesus that suggested to them that they were a failure when it came to caring for one another, especially for the needy. Then came the challenging suggestion that God’s first concern was not them, but rather those they had left behind. This “son of Joseph” was suggesting that they, the Israelites, were not the real chosen people, but rather it was the poor made poor and left in poverty by the Israelites who thought that they were so special. That made them angry. Instead of being open to the message and accepting that challenge as a reason for repentance and change, they rose up, and Jesus left them.

At the heart of this conflict is the truth Jesus is revealing: God never called the chosen people for their own sake. God called them to be a sign to all the nations of what it means to live God’s plan for the world. Suddenly those people in that synagogue were face to face with the question of “Why?” Why were they chosen? Why did God protect, forgive, restore, and favor them? What were they supposed to do with all this favor? They thought it was all for themselves, that they were special, blessed, and privileged without asking why and what for. When they did, because of the comments of Jesus that day, the answer did not sit well. It meant that they were failing to live up to and become what God expected of them.

With the words of this living Gospel still fresh in our minds, its message is just as real and just as timely as ever before. We have to wonder why we call ourselves Christian and what it means. It certainly is not for our benefit or a reason to feel special, privileged, or somehow honored that God has given us the gift of faith. If we are called to be the presence of God or called to reflect the God who created us all in the divine image, we will be restless and more motived than ever to care for those no one else cares for, to protect those who are defenseless, to feed those who are hungry, and clothe those who are naked. There is no other way for us, and no excuse for delay. Thinking for one minute that somehow, we are the center of God’s focus and God’s favored ones runs the risk of Jesus passing through and leaving us. Our lives, our faith, our gifts are all given and entrusted to us for one thing, to accomplish the work in God serving the needs of others. When they said “no” that message in that synagogue, Jesus left. We can’t make that mistake.