Inclusive Text- Readings- Ezekiel 37: 21-28 / Psalm: Jeremiah 31: 10-12ABCD, 13 / John 11: 45-56
Think back to a time when you coordinated a project, knew something was wrong but could have gone right, messed up by others, but decided to take the blame and fall on the sword. You may have been involved to some degree knowing that everyone contributed their best but no other course could have been taken. It didn’t mean you had to suffer and die for it but perhaps you avoided going to the end because of fear. Something so minor in that sense, but what would happen, we would get through it, right?
On the other hand, as we know, Jesus had to go through it. Jesus in essence had to fall on the sword because so much was at stake. The soul of humanity was at hand. Jesus could have turned back and leave God, but he knew deep down inside it had to be done.
What were the times in our lives when we could not turn back? What forced us to make the decisions that we had made when it came to others? Could we have turned back? If we did, why? When we didn’t, what gave us the courage to speak up for the cause?
rev. Michael Theogene
Inclusive Text- Readings- Jeremiah 20: 10-13 / Psalm 18: 2-3ABC, 4-7 / John 10: 31-42
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- Hosea 14: 2-10 / Psalm 81: 6C-8ABC, 9-11AB, 14 & 17 / Mark 12: 28-34
Sisters and brothers, I don’t know about you but I find it very difficult at times to follow one of the instructions of St. Benedict. St. Benedict says, “Welcome all as if they were the Christ”. (Paraphrased) Without sounding as if I am bragging, I could honestly say that I would give the shirt on my back to anybody. I am sure, as we all have in one way or another done this. However, there are the times when I have said those words but have not carried them out. Our actions always speak louder than words. I have learned from my own experience and from what others have mentioned to me, that it is not so much what people say that has an effect on me but by who they are and how they live that really speaks volumes?
rev. Michael Theogene
Inclusive Text- Reading- Deuteronomy 4: 1, 5-9 / Psalm 147: 12-13, 15-16, 19-20 / Matthew 5: 17-19
Friends, we have a responsibility, no in fact it is our duty and obligation to ensure that we do not fool ourselves when trying to be honest with others. Let us not fool ourselves when it comes to specific care and instruction of those who are placed in our paths. I think we need to be careful, knowing our own boundaries, when interacting with others. Yes, love is a risk, relationships are a risk, and yes, unfortunately love leaves a scare.
We know what we have seen and heard. We believe and yet I find that at times I don’t need to defend God. God is more than capable in defending God’s self. If we stay and remain faithful to the conversation, than more is revealed as we journey further in the conversation. It is the same with others. Look at the times when you might have been so influenced by someone and how you reacted. Look at the times when you might have influenced someone, were we careful with that person? Did we provide adequate care and instruction? If in a position of authority, did I abuse my position over a subordinate at work or in church?
We sometimes can be so easily influenced by others as well as us impacting others. Through personal counseling or spiritual direction, let us always take the opportunity to take a step back, reexamine the situation and become mindful of how we can hurt others in our lives hopefully before it’s too late.
rev. Michael Theogene
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.
Today’s readings seem to be rather harsh and divisive. Jeremiah the prophet is thrown into a cistern and left to die. Jesus talks today of fire and division as opposed to peace on earth. Both Jeremiah and Jesus knew that in carrying out their mission, there would be opposition, oppression, exile for Jeremiah and Jesus knew he was to die. More than anything Jesus knew that his preaching and teaching would meet opposition and be attacked by the authorities because he challenged them and their interpretation of what the law meant and how it was oppressing the people. Certainly, the authorities had made peace with the Romans and had made themselves comfortable in a bad situation for the people. Jesus concern wasn’t the authorities and their laws, but the people and their lives and relationships and most especially their relationship with God. The fire he speaks of is the fire within the heart, like the fire that cooks and purifies our food. It is meant to come from the baptism of his death to purify and bring God’s embracing love to all. That love doesn’t always mean peace, it rather is to bring a union of our heart to God. That certainly means at times there will be discussion, and even conflict. The poor, the marginalized, the ones Jesus always reached out to seem to be always present in every age and time. What peace and contentment is there on earth if any are hungry, displaced or uncared for. To follow Christ doesn’t mean we should feel at peace or comfortable. Christ called us to love, an unconditional love. But if we truly love, we should constantly inquire is it enough. None of us is perfect, all of us fall short at times in one way or another. Institutions and laws and rules don’t protect us from failing in seeking out our brother or sister in need. I think at times, we think the institution or the state or the laws of church or state protect or shield us, when Jesus’ call to love, to forgive, to have mercy can be put aside. Sure this can bring division about, but such love brings peace, a peace beyond what many can understand.