Inclusive Text- Readings- Daniel 3: 14-20, 91-92, 95 / Psalm: Daniel 3: 52-56 / John 8: 31-42
Friends, as I mentioned yesterday, remember at one time or another when you may not have felt welcomed. I am sure it has happened to us at one time or another. At the risk of sounding prideful, I have always felt that I can get along with anyone. However, there have been times when I was not welcomed, perhaps because of my friendliness. No matter what I thought of my actions in those moments, it was important not to take it personal and be aware of my lack of sensitivity to others needs in those situations, not my feeling of being unwelcome.
It reminds me of when two people are dating and it seems good and one party decided to break up the relationship, and states, ‘it’s not you, you are great, it’s me.’ Right away we blame ourselves for the breakup but in reality we are being called to live up to the real love of God in our lives and not blame ourselves or others and accept change.
rev. Michael Theogene
Inclusive Text Readings- Numbers 21: 4-9 / Psalm 102: 2-3, 16-21 / John 8: 21-30
Not with standing all of our faults, sisters and brothers, have you ever felt that you did not belong? Perhaps at some point in your job or among family, you may have felt that you did not belong. Sisters and brothers, when we lift up Jesus, the Son of Humanity, then and only then will we realize it is Jesus who serves at our feet. Jesus was able to accomplish this only with the help of the Father. Jesus’ willing sacrifice to suffer for all of humanity is the gift lasting forever. This gift freely given should never be taken lightly. Jesus knew who he was and whose he was. Do we see ourselves as Jesus saw himself? Do we see ourselves in the same manner as Jesus saw himself with God as part of creation? My only wish for myself is that I hope that I am living and walking as Jesus did. By being a testimony of the life and resurrection of the beauty of creation and our place in it. I hope I am living fully the gifts I have been given. For what is given freely, I give back freely to creation as best as I can to all I encounter. Are we the face of God? Are we paying it forward?
rev. Michael Theogene
The first reading from Habakkuk sounds like something we might see on TV or see in the newspaper today. Violence, discord, war, evil. Why must we look at misery. Yet throughout history, these things seem like a constant following humanity throughout the ages. Contrary to this, God gives a vision, a look at a time of fulfillment and peace. He calls for faith, but what is that? Faith is not stability or security, it is not a thing, but a call to act. It is more of a verb to do what we are supposed to do. To act and carry out and move on with our lives. It is doing what is expected of us in our commitment to Christ and living out the trust placed in us and our lives. It is doing the expected tasks without any presumption of reward. Certainly, times of darkness and feelings of being lost are possible, but the reign of God is the end and goal of our faith.
What must the Apostles today have experienced to ask for an increase of faith? Yet, Jesus told them the smallest amount of faith, compared to one of the smallest seeds of earth was sufficient to do miraculous things. Faith is doing what we are called to do in our daily lives. Yes,we are capable of great deeds, but as the parable indicates we like the servants or slaves are called to do what was our place in life. Such activity shows our trust and faith and leads us to our final vision. But let us not forget that faith or that trust God gives us is a gift, one he gives and waits for our response. His gift is a call to action on our part, and a call we should respond to each day regardless of our mood or feelings. Living each day as we are called to do is how we complete the call Christ has made to us. In return his love for us is complete.
Once again today we are reminded of wealth and poverty and our responsibilities in using worldly goods. Why, we might say, are we always talking about the poor? Poverty is a relative term and means different things in different parts of the world. Wherever we go in the world, we are going to find poverty and poor people. It is just a proven fact that no society or country can simply eliminate poverty from their midst. Even in our own country, if we recall the “War on Poverty,” we know that while it helped poor people, it did not eliminate poverty. Yet, Jesus keeps reminding us that we have a responsibility to those around us, a responsibility born out of a love of God and a love of neighbor that should fill us as we make our commitment at baptism. Not all of us are called to live a life of poverty or a religious life in some religious order. But all of us are called to be responsible to ourself and others in our daily life. How we live and how we act toward others, is certainly reflective of our beliefs and values. What are we to do, if a hungry man is before us? There is no easy answer, but have we done what we can or do we simply leave it to others? Can we really live in comfort if we can see and experience the discomfort of others? The important thing is that we try, and that we do
not forget. If we truly love our neighbor, we can’t forget that we all have needs and wants. Christ often reminds us we should not get too comfortable but to reach out to others in need, whether it be physical, psychological, or spiritual. We are called to share what many call our time or treasure or talent. It doesn’t mean we are called to invest our whole lives, but certainly at times we can give of one or more of these. In reality, it means we are giving of ourself, of what I am and what I have and can share out of love of Jesus and his love for all of us. Never forget that often it is not the grand gestures that captures the hearts and heals others, but the simple day-to-day things to bring a sense of comfort to another. Openness, loving and sharing, sometimes just presence or listening is the best formula for a loving peaceful life.
Today, the readings talk about wealth and power. I think many believers feel that Jesus was opposed to wealth and the wealthy and to those who rule and have power. I think the first thing we must realize is Jesus did not condemn the wealthy or the rulers who had power, but was most concerned about how the wealth and power was used. The prophet Amos today tells us how much the Lord abhors those who take advantage of the poor, or even cheats them. The Lord will never forget them or their lack of love and abuse of fellow creatures. Every person is valuable to him.
In the gospel, many become confused that the owner praises the servant who takes measures to insure his future by granting discounts in his master’s name. Like a two edge sword, the servant curries favor and some security while at the same time presenting his master as generous and giving and caring. What seeming praise he gets, is that yes he somehow solves the immediate problem, but, and there always is a but, what of the future and his relationship to God. Can a truly dishonest person have a loving relationship with God. It is interesting that Luke uses the word Mammon. Mammon is an Aramaic word which means trust or believe. A word we use frequently comes from the same root and also means trust or believe. That word is “Amen” which we use to affirm “I believe” or trust. So ultimately, we see that Jesus is asking us where we place our trust, our belief. Are we children of the present time or place, looking out for ourselves or are we Children of God looking to the future? That choice certainly defines us in how we look at ourselves, at authority, at wealth and how we use them and act.
Yes, Amen is a powerful word, and an ever-present way to affirm our love and relationship with God and all of his creation. It at the same time is a powerful prayer as God all ready know all our thoughts and desires and asks only that we be honest with ourself and with Him.
24th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year c, 9-11-16 Exodus32:7-14, Ps 51, 1Tim 1:12-17, Luke 15: 1-10
I had my desk piled high with books & commentaries about the Book of Exodus, looking for ideas for today. Then I read today’s opening prayer. Let me read it again: “Let us pray for the peace which is born of faith and hope. Father in heaven, you alone are the source of our peace. Bring us to the dignity which distinguishes the poor in spirit and show us how great is the call to serve, that we may share in the peace of Christ who offered his life in the service of all.”
Well, this week Mother Theresa of Kolkata was canonized as a Saint, and today we have a Day of Remembrance for the attack on September 11th. How much more clearly could the Holy Spirit have urged me to talk today about peace and service?
Moses was God’s servant bringing the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. The people all had been born in slavery, as had their parents. It was the only life they had ever experienced. Freedom was new, and difficult. They were accustomed to being dependent, to having decisions made for them. They escaped from Egypt only 3 months before, and now Moses had been up on Mount Sinai for 6 weeks with God; they were afraid he wouldn’t return. They fell back on their experiences from Egypt; they made and worshiped a golden cow, and their behavior became wild & uncontrolled. Worshiping something they made did not bring them peace.
The people still thought of God as being made in their image, like an idol. So God is described as having a human fit of rage. They expect God will destroy them, just as their Egyptian masters would have done. But in the next chapter, Moses presents the 10 commandments to the people, and they promise to do their part of the covenant with God. This is actually the high point of the Old Testament story. The people commit to worshiping only God and God commits to protecting and loving the people. Their worship space is filled with the Ark of the Covenant and they work together the make the space ornate and beautiful. The Glory of God fills the meeting tent & peace returns to the people.
So, I think we can say this: that service is to bring the word of God to one other. And peace comes from God’s word and from trust and obedience to God’s word.
Our Psalm is the confession of King David after he broke God’s law and took Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah. David was God’s servant, making the nation of Israel a strong and great nation, leading the people into a time of peace, ensuring the people were faithful to their covenant with God. But there would be no peace for David until he confessed his sin.
Likewise, our 2nd reading is a confession by St. Paul about murdering Christians prior to his conversion to Christianity. Paul had been a Pharisee, proud & arrogant. He had actively and violently worked to stop the followers of Jesus after the resurrection. But then Jesus appeared to Paul, and asked, “Why do you persecute me?” So Paul became a servant of God, taking the Word of the Risen Christ into the world. He helped form the faith as we know it. His peace came from not from hatred and violence; instead he found peace even as he became the subject of violence and hatred. He was beaten and jailed, all in service of the God he praised and worshiped.
Finally, in our Gospel, Jesus, the ultimate servant of God, tells us two parables of not only peace, but heavenly joy. The Pharisees, like the Israelites led by Moses, wanted God to be in their image. They were angry and disgusted that Jesus didn’t put people in their place – mainly the people who didn’t make a great pretense of being holy, people who didn’t or couldn’t afford to follow all the complex rules the Pharisees helped create to set themselves above other people. So Jesus says, “What if a woman looses a tenth of all her money? Won’t she tear the house apart, frantically looking for it, not stopping until she finds it? And won’t her happiness in finding it be known to everyone? The angels in heaven, Jesus says, are the same way over just a single person who repents of their sin.” Like the woman who found her coin, the repentant one will find peace and joy in finding forgiveness.
The shepherd likewise finds his lost sheep, and rejoices, telling all his neighbors and friends. He finds relief and peace, just as there is joy in heaven over a single sinner who comes to repent and find forgiveness. I always have thought this has a touch of sarcasm from Jesus. Did Jesus suggest that the Pharisees see themselves as the 99 righteous people, when really their pride and their prejudice creates a barrier to the so-called sinners finding peace? But still I hear of churches refusing sacraments to people.
My neighbor has a bumper sticker that reads, “We need a Department of Peace.” Peace, like charity, begins at home. Peace, like service, is a choice. I don’t plan to move to India to pick up the dying off the streets there. I have found enough abused and forgotten people dying in sub-standard nursing homes right here at home. There are enough hungry children at our local Elementary school and enough refugees and immigrants in the housing development within walking distance of this church; there are enough social agencies, church charities and social justice groups crying for volunteers and donations to keep us all busy all day every day.
Every death, every injury, every mourner from 9-11 deserves our prayerful remembrance today. As does every one of the hundreds of thousands of innocent children and adults who still now continue to die from hunger and acts of war and hatred. We know the one source of peace, and we know a life of service to be the Christian life. I suggest to you, as well as to myself, to make our act of remembrance in the coming days by finding new ways to be of service, and new openings to bring peace in our own families, our own neighborhoods. Surely the Holy Spirit whispers in your ears chances to do this service, so let us encourage each other to do it.
All the readings today talk of sin, forgiveness and God’s love. In the first, we see the people setting up an idol as Moses and Yahweh were together on the mountain. Only Moses’ interceding and pleading spared some of God’s anger. Paul acknowledges in the second reading that he had a checkered past and actually was a terror to the Christians, but Jesus interceded and forgave and presented him with a new mission. In the gospel, we see Jesus enraged the scribes and pharisees by his eating around with all different segments of the society and the people he encountered. One of the problems of the scribes and pharisees of Jesus time was that they were only able to see things strictly in terms of black and white. Love, mercy and forgiveness were not part of their vocabulary unless of course it pertained to themselves. So many then saw the law in terms of absolutes directing humanity, rather than seeing it in term as a way to serve and help humanity to relate and serve God. The parables of the lost coin and the lost sheep were meant to point out the importance of what we have, that a possession, or thing or person, were meant to be kept, to be sought out to be kept near and dear.
The story of the Father and the 2 sons points out not only forgiveness, but the encompassing love that God has and is always extending. This story shows that both sons were at fault and misread the Father’s love. The one who left tested it most by moving on and losing sight of it until he returned. The other son in his feeling of superiority and desire of exclusivity of the Father’s love and care, missed out on what that love and care was and how he was too much wrapped up in his own care and concern. After all a father’s love is not meant to be exclusive but is inclusive of all his children. So it is with God that his love is for all his creation, and it extends to those who also need his forgiveness. All God asks is that we seek him out, ask for his forgiveness and love. Every human ever born must seek out this forgiveness and love except for Jesus Himself, who took on all of humankind faults and sins as mediator before His Father. Thus, today our message is threefold: mercy, forgiveness, love.