All posts for the month June, 2019

June 30, 2019 at St. Peter & St. William Churches in Naples, FL

1 Kings 19, 16-21 + Psalm 16 + Galatians 5, 1, 13-18 + Luke 9, 51-62

8:00am Sunday Mass St. Peter the Apostle

Now begins the “Journey to Jerusalem” for Jesus and those of us who would be his companions. It is not just a journey for Jesus. It is a journey for every one of us who have begun to call Jesus our brother, our teacher, and our savior. Before he has even spent a day on the road, he casts out the demon of violence from among us. There will be no “fire from heaven” to consume those who oppose or are hostile to his presence. We will just move on. Perhaps, given some time and some good example those who are hostile at first might come around. Conversion is always possible. Who are we to take away their chance at conversion by destroying them? The whole incident raises a challenge for the healing of cultural, historical, and religious divisions. Hospitality must replace hostility.

This journey has nothing to do with maps reading or chronology, but everything to do with following Jesus Christ in our own time and place. Three encounters come up in these verses today. We hear the request. We hear the response of Jesus, but we know nothing of the outcome from those three meetings. It’s as though Luke wants us to resolve those issues for ourselves.

The first one comes up very confident needing to be tested. Can this one live powerless, homeless, and rejected if that comes with following Jesus? In the reply of Jesus there is the suggestion that as long as the Romans occupy Israel, no true Israelite is at home.  For us, it isn’t the Romans, but it is an oppressive secularism that occupies our homeland. It will reject us.

Then comes the second encounter, and this time Jesus takes the initiative calling this one to follow. It’s easy to have sympathy with someone who wants to bury a parent first. There is a cultural issue here that puts the comment of Jesus in another light. There is no indication that the father is dead. He could be quite fit and still young. Even though the culture in which this encounter takes place might suggest that a son postpone his own life until a father has died, Jesus proposes that sometimes following him may mean a contradiction of cultural expectations. In no way does Jesus deny here love and respect for parents. This is about cultural expectations, not family life.

Then the last one comes with conditions that seem reasonable, but following the way of Jesus Christ does not work conditionally. It’s all or nothing. Working a field with a plow in those days demanded great concentration and skill. If you took your eyes off the plow for just a second or two, it could be shattered by a rock hidden under the soil, and that would mean a disaster. So, with Jesus, there can be no distractions. The eyes, the mind, the heart are all focused on one thing only, making the field of this world ready for God’s harvest. Dedication and Commitment are required of us all if we are going follow Christ Jesus.

We proclaim this Gospel today in the age of “drop out”. We all know people who are dropping out: dropping out of a church that struggles to be purified from sin and the disgrace of broken leadership that has never needed us more, dropping out of politics at time when we need public servants of noble integrity like never before. Sometimes we drop out by simply being cowardly silent when we should speak up in the face of selfishness, injustice, and cruelty.

Today it might a good idea to ask the question: “Why is Jesus going to Jerusalem to begin with?” The answer is simple. Jesus goes and Jesus is found where ever salvation and hope are needed most. He is here among us today for those very reasons, and that is a cause for joy and hope.

June 23, 2019 at St. Peter & St. William Churches in Naples, FL

Genesis 14, 18-20 = Psalm 110 + 1 Corinthians 11, 23-26 + Luke 9, 11-17

5:30pm Mass Saturday at Saint Peter Parish

“Do this in remembrance of me.” We shall hear those words again in just about ten minutes, but before we repeat that command, it might be a good idea to think about and reconsider that “this” is. What is it we are commanded to do in memory of Jesus? Some might like to think that “this” refers to consecrating bread and wine and receiving communion. If that is all there is to it, if that’s all Jesus Christ asks us to in his memory, there sure isn’t much to this faith, and there isn’t much to do that would require much faith, take time or ask much of us.

“Do this in remembrance of me” was important enough for Saint Paul that he repeats what Jesus says to the Corinthians today.  He wants them, and anyone who reads his letter to ask the question: “What?” What are we to do? What does God want of us? How are we to remember Jesus Christ so that in doing so, he remains present to us and can continue his mission within and through us. If you think for one minute that grabbing a consecrated host and heading out the door is fulfilling the command of Jesus, you are getting it all wrong, and while you may not want or like to hear this, this feast gives us reason to ask the big question: “What is it we are to do to remember Jesus?”

Both Luke and Paul give us a clue about what we are to do. The clue is the verbs: Take, Bless, Break, Give. That’s it. This is how we remember. This is what he asked us to do: take what we are given, bless it, break it, and give it away. Which is what he did with that crowd and what he did at that supper. We do it in this church so that we might remember what to do outside of this church.

We have all be given many gifts, and in a ritual way they will be taken and someone on your behalf will walk up this aisle with them. They will be taken. Then they will be blessed which simply means we will acknowledge the one has given these gifts. This is what Blessing means. Sometimes you hear in the prayer: “Blessed are you Lord God of all creation, for through your goodness we have received”. Then we break it, not to destroy it, but to complete the actions we do in memory of Jesus, we give it away, and in some ways, we give it back to God as we do with the Body of Christ. Yet, we imitate the one in whose image we are made when we give it to others who then can take, bless, break, and give again and again. Brothers and Sister, by the power of the Holy Spirit and the power of our faith together, we must continue to remember Jesus as he asked of us. It is nothing to simply do the ritual here if we fail to do the remembering tomorrow and the days after where ever we are. Luke tells us that there were 5,000 waiting for Jesus to take, bless, break, and give. Around us in these times, there are far more waiting alone, waiting hungry, waiting homeless, waiting in refugee camps, waiting for love, forgiveness, understanding, and respect. God speaks to us today in this Gospel giving us a clear command about what we are to do in response to the request of his Son. There is no excuse for a failure to remember  Jesus. All we need to do is look at what he did and do the same. This takes no divine omnipotent power. It simply takes compassion, mercy, generosity, and a desire to remember Jesus not just in consecrated bread and wine, but in the human flesh and blood through which he revealed himself to begin with. So, take, bless, break, and give.

June 16, 2019 at St. Peter & St. William Churches in Naples, FL

Proverbs 8, 22-31 + Psalm 8 + Romans 5, 1-5 + John 16, 12-15

4:30 pm Saturday St. William Church, Naples, FL

I have never cared for the custom of calling the Sunday after Pentecost, “Trinity Sunday.” In more recent years someone decided that the title for the Sunday after Pentecost is the “Most Holy Trinity” as though there was a “Least Holy Trinity” or a “More Holy Trinity”. Too many words! When God puts me in charge, we will call the Sunday after Pentecost “Love Sunday”, because that gets to the heart of the matter, and doesn’t seem nearly as complicated the “Trinity.” My friends, Trinity is the destiny of our lives, because Trinity is Love, the love of God, the love God has for us, revealed in the love God has for Jesus Christ.

In most of our lives, we do not reveal ourselves at any depth to those we do not love, and we reveal ourselves in proportion to the love we feel. The Trinity is nothing more than God’s total self-revelation to us. It reveals Gods very nature and God’s most intimate life as nothing more than total, unconditional love. Just as we do with people we meet along the way; our self-revelation is gradual and progressive. The first time we meet someone, we don’t tell them our deepest dreams and hopes, our needs, wants, and most intimate secrets. If someone does that to me, I run! This is a progressive experience, and what is shared depends upon our capacity and need. You know what it’s like when someone tells you something about themselves that crosses a line. You begin to think: “I didn’t need to know that.” With God it has been the same. What has been revealed is gradual.

It all began with Abraham and God’s self-revelation with the truth that there is only one God followed by the gradual understanding and faithful response of Abraham’s descendants. Then, in a sense, when God felt confident that we had accepted that measure of revelation, more came in the form of God’s only Son, who revealed more of God’s nature as loving mercy. Then to those who did not refuse this revelation, more came with the gift of the Spirit finally revealing the most intimate and intense nature of God that can only be called: “love.”

In this place, we are exactly like the disciples in that room around a table, and Jesus speaks to us today with a message that should leave us stunned as the implication slowly sinks in. “The Father will take what is mine and declare it yours.” Everything that Jesus has is given to us by this Spirit. Think what that means! We are drawn into the relationship Jesus has with his Father. Whether we deserve it or not is irrelevant. By the power of God’s Spirit given to us, we can relate to God just as did Jesus. The essence of the Trinity is personal relationship of love between the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. When that Spirit enters us, we are in that relationship.

The Trinity then is the destiny of our lives. It gives us something to look forward to. The next life will not be like summer re-runs of TV. “Eye has not seen nor ear heard what God as ready for those how love him”. However, just as in this life, the consummation of love is union as with a husband and wife, so too in the next life the consummation of love will be in union, but not with a creature, but with the Creator. That union with God is our destiny, and so, love and the union it brings is our mission and our purpose in this life: to heal whatever is broken, to reveal the forgiving mercy of the Father and the patient love of God. The more we realize who we are and what has happened to us with the Spirit, God’s very breath in us, we will a people truly holy, truly blessed, and fully restored to the way we were created to be in the beginning. Everything we do and everything we say will give, as our prayer goes, Glory to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy as it was in the beginning is now ever shall be.

June 9, 2019 at St. Peter & St. William Churches in Naples, FL

Acts 2, 1-11 + Psalm 104 + Romans 8, 8-17 + John 14, 15-16, 23-26

A couple of years ago, I was on a plane off to give a talk somewhere. I was wearing my clerical suit because the person picking me up did not know me. I had taken my aisle seat on the plane, and a lady came along and moved into the seat next to me. I opened a book in which I was intending to hide when she turned and asked, “Are you saved?” My toes curled as every possible motive for asking me that question raced through my mind. I glanced at her hands. Seeing a wedding ring, I asked: “Are you married?” She looked around for a moment. I began to fear she might think I was proposing something, but suddenly she said: “Yes, I am for thirty-eight years.” I said: “I’ll bet you are a lot more married today than you were on your wedding day, and I am a lot more saved than I was at my Baptism. I am also a lot more of a priest than I was on the day of my ordination.” With that, she pulled out emergency evacuation card and began to study it while I opened my book.

I have often said to couples who came to the office to plan a wedding that their marriage began the moment they decided to spend the rest of their lives together. The Sacrament they were preparing for was a celebration of a love that was already there. I would go to reminded them that the love they had for each had been there growing slowly but steadily from the day they met. Sometimes people ask me when I decided to become a priest, and I always say the same thing: “This morning when I got up.” Isn’t it true for you? The marriages you lived and celebrated happened every time you faced a problem and decided to make it work. Parents know this. When a child is born, parenting begins, but you are lot more of parent by the time they move out on their own. At the birth of a child you begin to spend the rest of your days making parenthood come true through your relationship with your children. Any of us who have made a commitment in a moment pass through a life-time of growth and development that grows deeper and more real day by day.

It is the same with Pentecost and the coming of the Holy Spirit. In reality, the action and power of the Holy Spirit started when those disciples first met Jesus and moved them to follow him. It only deepened each time they acted in the name of Jesus. That event on the 50th day did not start something in them, it revealed and made obvious what they already had and what they could become because of it. As we gather here to celebrate Pentecost, beware of thinking this is just a day or a time to remember what happened to those people in some “upper room” of Jerusalem. Doing that, misses not just the point, but distracts us from thinking about and realizing that we too have had the same experience. Perhaps there was no wind or fire, but you would not be here if the Spirit was not already stirring in your hearts and souls.

On the day Christ rose from the dead and became present in their midst, the disciples were struggling to take in the fact that death was not what they thought it was. because there was Jesus offering them peace. Uninterested in how slow they were to believe, he took them as they were, breathed his very Spirit on them, and gave them his mission: “Forgive.”

The consequence of forgiveness is oneness or the unity for which Jesus prayed so passionately the night before he died. It is the healing of whatever is broken whether it be hearts, lives, or relationships. As Luke describes the growing courage and awaked awareness of those disciples, Pentecost functions like a movement that breaks down the boundaries of time and culture, and most of all, our stubborn attitudes of privilege and power, of wealth and prestige which too often set us apart from another. That symbol of multiple languages represents all that divides us keeping us from understanding one another. Sadly, and painfully, I saw this in action just last week as I was standing the check-out line of store here in town. The person behind me turned to a family behind them who were speaking another language. She said hatefully: “Speak English, you are in America.” You should have seen the look on the faces of the children standing there with their parents. I looked at her thinking she needed a good lesson in geography, because America is a continent shared by several nations, but I just looked at her and said: “Come Holy Spirit”. You don’t have to be able to speak many languages to express love and respect.

We are here today to celebrate, nurture, and awaken the Spirit that is already stirring among us and within us. It is that Spirit making us uncomfortable in the face of easy but unfair judgements about others. It is that Spirit making us uncomfortable about enforcing divisions and separations that keep us apart. It is that Spirit making us uncomfortable and about walls and boundaries when people are desperate, frightened, and hungry. It is also that Spirit that makes our hopes sail and sets our hearts on fire dreaming of peace and justice.

So, with great trepidation should be have sung that Psalm verse today. “Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.” May God take us at our word, and when God does, hang on, we’re in for a wild ride, a new heaven, and new earth, a new life with a new mission.