Just a thought...or two

 

SEPTEMBER 24, 2017

At first glance Jesus' parable of the workers who come late to the field and receive a full day's pay seems "unjust"...why should those who didn't work a full day be paid a full day's wages...especially when those who worked a full day receive the same pay? God's mercy and love falls, like a gentle rain, on the just and the unjust! No one is left out of God's Reign, no one is left unloved! While that sounds all warm and fuzzy the truth is that a whole lot of "Christians" don't buy it and don't like it!

I believe that if we really understood this parable, and Jesus' point, we would be having a very different debate on many social and political issues like, immigration reform, refugees, universal access to healthcare, the national budget, war, a just wage....and the list goes on. We are called to love as Jesus loved us...to build up the Reign of God...and in the Reign of God even the latecomer gets the same...as Christians we are called to try and look at these issues through the lens of God's justice....not human justice.

God's justice challenges our own sense of what is fair, while we know we are not to live by "an eye for an eye", in fact far too often it is very much how we indeed define "justice". Far too often we seek retribution, not justice. Throughout the Gospels Jesus shows us that justice is about repairing damaged relationships, about making sure that the poor, the immigrant, the marginalized, and all those who are left out, are included...regardless of when they arrive.

What is my own sense of what is "just" or "fair" in light of this Gospel? How "just" are my relationships? What does this Gospel call me to do on issues such as immigration, refugees, DACA, healthcare and the national budget debate?

Blessings,
Fr Tim

SEPTEMBER 17, 2017

There is no "Just a Thought" column this week.

SEPTEMBER 10, 2017

In the Gospel this weekend Jesus is essentially talking about mending relationships, about restoring that which has been broken. And when I think about broken relationships I tend to think about "shalom". The Hebrew word "shalom" we often translate into English as "peace" but as so often happens in translation, so much is lost! "Shalom" means so very much more than just peace, so much more than the absence of war. Shalom means happiness, good health, prosperity, friendship, and wellbeing, and right-relationship with God and with your neighbor...so much more!

In today's Gospel, in a very real way Jesus is talking about shalom, about working to restore the ancient roots of our relationships with one another, recognizing that we are sister and brother, that we are bound to each other. Jesus recognizes that we hurt one another and that we must seek to repair the injuries and to offer forgiveness. We must work to forgive and to restore what was taken or destroyed as well as being willing to be healed of the hurt and the suffering that was inflicted upon us. We must be willing to be SHALOM for the world...not for ourselves, but for the sake of the world! How can I BE SHALOM in my family, my work, my school, my community, my country?

Blessings,
Fr Tim

SEPTEMBER 3, 2017

The message in today's scripture may appear rather grim...it all focuses on suffering and the reality that as followers of Jesus Christ we are going to have to sacrifice something. The cost of discipleship means not avoiding the tough issues of life. Jesus tells the disciples that they will need to carry their own crosses. We can't avoid it.... like Peter wanted Jesus to do. We will have to "carry" the problems and difficulties of our lives...all of the sorrows, illnesses and losses that come our way. We are not "protected" from suffering as disciples of Jesus...rather we are accompanied by Jesus in our sufferings! And that reality makes all the difference! Having faith that our God does not abandon us in our times of darkness helps us get through the darkness. It becomes a light "in" the darkness...in the midst of the suffering. Jesus didn't walk away from suffering, he accepted it, and even in the midst of dying he reached out to one suffering next to him and offered comfort. Jesus does not say that suffering in and of itself is good...but rather warns us that in choosing to follow him we will be called to sacrifice...to give of ourselves for the sake of the other. We will have to let go of our self-centeredness and open ourselves to the sacrifices required in building up the Reign of God. It's a radical call...how radical is my response? Part of that radical response must be standing up for the voiceless and those whose voices are ignored and disregarded. Part of my radical response to the call of discipleship is to be willing to give up some aspects of my comfort for the sake of the Gospel, for the sake of needs of poor, the immigrant and those marginalized by hatred, racism and bigotry. What sacrifices for others am I being called to make as a disciple of Jesus Christ? What might I be asked to let go of in my life that I might be able to better help to carry "the crosses" of the poor and marginalized? To what action is my discipleship calling me this week?

Blessings,
Fr Tim

 

AUGUST 27, 2017

In today's Gospel Jesus asks the disciples "who do you say that I am?"...Peter proclaims that he is "the Christ"...the Messiah! And from this declaration, Jesus proclaims that "Simon" is blessed and that he has come to this insight, not by human knowledge, but Divine inspiration. In the Gospel of Matthew this is another pivotal moment. Jesus acknowledges that he is more than a prophet, more than a messenger...He is the "Son of God"! From this moment forward Jesus' public ministry takes on cosmic proportions...from now on his mission is to the whole world...not just the People of Israel.

But what does this mean for me? Who do people say I am? ....when I am not there to hear? Who do "I" say I am?....by my life... by my words and by my actions? The American educator, Parker Palmer, once proclaimed, "Let my life speak"....but speak of what? Can people tell that I am a disciple of Jesus Christ by how I live my life? Is the message of God's deep and passionate love for all people and the call to love and care for others evidenced in the way I live my life?

As a Christian, a disciple of Jesus Christ I am called to love God with my whole being and to love and care for my neighbor as if they were myself! And yet down through history to this very moment in time Christians have perpetrated sins of racism, bigotry, antisemitism and outright hatred of their neighbor whom Jesus has commanded they love. And yet we call ourselves followers of Jesus. We cannot, hate our neighbor, act with racist and bigoted hearts and believe that we are living as Christ has called us to live.

We must ask ourselves; do I harbor hatred, distrust or ill will towards my neighbor? We must name and call out the sins of racism, bigotry, anti-Semitism when and where we see them! It is in this way that "our lives will speak" to the world the truth of who Jesus Christ is! What witness will I give today to who Jesus is?

Blessings,
Fr Tim

AUGUST 20, 2017

Today's readings overturn our presumptions about the relationships between "insiders" and "outsiders". From the Prophet Isaiah to Psalm 67, from Paul's letter to the Romans to the Gospel of Matthew....we are treated to God's vision of who is "in" and who is "out".

Some of us may feel a bit disconcerted by what we encounter in today's readings. It seems there is something innately human about drawing boundaries between those who are like us and those who are different..."insiders and outsiders". Down through the centuries wars have been fought, nations destroyed and societies pulled apart in efforts to protect social boundaries that delineate who are the insiders and who are the outsiders. Slavery would be a perfect example of a social construct that delineated between peoples and that destroyed individual human lives, families and entire nations! All based on social constructs of what made a human life matter and be of value.

Today's readings call on us to reflect on our own social constructs...who we treat as insiders and who we treat as outsiders...whose lives we believe matter and whose lives we believe don't matter! What scripture makes clear is that we are called by God to work to eradicate all social structures and attitudes that exclude and marginalize "the other". In today's Gospel we see that even Jesus is challenged, by the Canaanite woman, to "re-vision" his mission and to proclaim the Reign of God, so that it goes beyond the People of Israel and includes absolutely everyone! Because each one is a child of God and yes, even the Canaanites are included!

There is no place for racism or bigotry or xenophobia in the Reign of God because we are all God's children, and racism, bigotry, anti- Semitism and xenophobia are all sins against the Reign of God! Everyone is invited and as St. Paul reminds us "the gifts and the call are irrevocable"! The Word has gone out...all are invited to be part of the Reign of God...and the Word of God once spoken cannot be called back!

I believe that all of us who call ourselves Christians do well to reflect on all of this in light of the racism, bigotry, anti-Semitism and outright hatred displayed in the violence in Charlottesville. Is there anyone I exclude? How could I be more inclusive in my life? What socio-political and religious structures does the Gospel call me to work to change to be more inclusive, so that everyone is included? In order to more faithfully follow the call of Jesus Christ, what idols to slavery, exclusion, hatred, marginalization and war do I need to work to pull down in my life, in this nation and in the world?

Blessings,
Fr Tim

AUGUST 13, 2017

An eerie and frightening scene unfolds in today's Gospel. While Jesus is quietly off at prayer the disciples, asleep in a boat in the sea of Galilee, are suddenly set upon by a mighty storm. Their tiny boat is tossed about and nearly swamped and the disciples fear for their lives. Jesus arrives on the scene and calmly walks, on the water, towards the boat, a figure of serenity in the midst of chaos. But the disciples in the grip of fear are unable to accept the serenity he brings to the chaos swirling around them, threating their very lives. What is so interesting is that Jesus invites Peter to venture into the tumultuous waters, and meets him in the midst of the storm.

This point is, I believe, very important for us today, that Jesus comes in the midst of storm and reaches out to us, not after the storm has been calmed. And even though we may doubt, as Peter did, Jesus still extends his hand to raise us up, to assure us that indeed it is he! Today we may need this Gospel message more than ever with the sickening threat of possible armed military action swirling all around us. It has been 62 years since the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, and still we threaten with "fire and fury". It seems that we have learned nothing! Clearly the horrid storm of war is not the answer to the troubles of this world. Let us pray, listening for that still small voice of God within us, calling us all to work for peace and reconciliation, in our lives, in our country and in the world! May the SHALOM of God be upon us all!

Blessings,
Fr. Tim

AUGUST 6, 2017

This Sunday we hear Matthew's account of the Transfiguration of Jesus...right before the eyes of three of the disciples, Jesus' true identity bursts forth and in one brief luminous moment. Peter, James and John are themselves forever changed...."transfigured" with a growing awareness of who Jesus really is!

I believe that each one of us have our own "moments of transfiguration"....moments in which we see or feel the very presence of God. They are moments when, "deep inside" we come to know with certainty that God is present....that God is real. These moments of awareness hold the potential to transfigure our lives into something new...something wonderful. The challenge is to learn "to live out of" these moments... keeping these moments alive in our hearts and minds allow them to deepen our understanding that we are all formed in the image and likeness of God.

Each one of us carries within us experiences of the tenderness, mercy and love of God. So often it is the chaos of our lives that "dim" the luminous moments of encounter with our God...we forget we ever had them in the midst of the rush and busyness of our daily lives. This Gospel calls us to step back and reengage those moments of grace when we realized God's ever-presence in our lives...when we realize that we are not alone...that there is something more to life...more than what we can see or touch...more than we can imagine..."God moments"! When was my last "God moment"? How was I transfigured by that moment, how does it impact my discipleship and what does it call me to in the world?

Blessings,
Fr Tim

JULY 30, 2017

In today's Gospel Jesus compares the Reign of God to an immense treasure...a pearl of great price. Who among us has not dreamt of finding such a treasure? Imagine the impact it would have upon your life. How would you use it? What would you do differently within your life? That is exactly what Jesus is challenging us to do...to think of how different our lives would be if we "lived" in the Reign of God...all the time!

Usually when we think of finding a treasure we immediately think of financial gain and how that would change our lives and the lives of our family. But in this case we are challenged to think about how our lives would change from the point of view of how we love one another, how we care for each other...how we live the Gospel in our day to day lives. Finding and falling in love with the Reign of God is the whole point of the parables we hear today. Pedro Arrupe, SJ, the former Superior General of the Jesuits, once wrote: "Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in love in a quite absolute way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you will do with your evenings, how you will spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love and it will decide everything."

What is at the center of my life? What motivates what I read? What gets me out of bed in the morning? How might my life be different if I were totally and completely in love with the Reign of God, if building up the Reign of God came first before everything else?

Blessings,
Fr Tim

JULY 23, 2017

Once again this week Jesus speaks to us in parables... multifaceted gems that once tumbled around in our hearts and ruminated upon yield unbelievable insights into the Reign of God. While the disciples certainly preferred straightforward answers, Jesus obviously preferred parables.

Of the comparisons of the reign of God to a field, a mustard seed and the leaven in bread, I have always liked the comparison of the mustard seed and the Reign of God. This tiny, tiny little seed grows into a great bush...so large that the birds of the air make their nests in it. If you take the parable at its face value it all seems quite lovely. However there is a dark side...farmers know well...the mustard bush is an invasive plant, it grows wildly and rapidly, quickly overtaking a garden...ruining the plants that had been planted with care...reducing their yield, if not completely choking them out. Mustard bushes are uncontrollable and rapidly spread across a farm if not quickly uprooted before going to seed. Surely this reality was not lost on Jesus...nor on those who heard him tell the parable.

It seems that perhaps Jesus is presenting an image of the expansion of the Reign of God as something uncontrollable, invasive and fast growing! Looking through the lens of this image...the Reign of God is not something that can be domesticated or controlled... by its very nature it grows uncontrollably and burst forth offering refuge.

I believe that most of us though would prefer something that we could contain and control... domesticate! But the truth is that the Reign of God is just that..."God's Reign"...not ours. We are part of it by our baptism and we are called to help water it so that it continues to grow and "invade" every crevice and furrow of this planet... but we don't get to tame it.

Two thousand years ago Jesus' vision of the bursting forth of the Reign of God was nothing less than radical ....and it still is today. We are called to be part of that radical vision...to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless visit the sick and imprisoned...to love one another as Christ loves us and to reach out and to care for "the other." To proclaim the deep and passionate love of God for all peoples! And wasn't it just this radical vision of the reign of God that Jesus preached that got him crucified?

As his disciple just how radical of a life am I willing live? In a world that proclaims a "gospel of personal prosperity"...tax cuts for the rich at the cost of healthcare cuts for the poor...to what lengths am I willing to go in building up this radical vision of the Reign of God that Jesus preached? What concrete action can I take today to "water" the Reign of God? Where and how do I see the Reign of God bursting forth in imaginative and radical ways?

Blessings,
Fr Tim

JULY 16, 2017

In today's Gospel Jesus once again instructs the crowds with a parable, about a sower and the seed. But this parable raises as many questions as it seems to have answers. One such as: who sows costly seeds among the weeds and the thorns, and why? The good farmer, the successful farmer, sows seeds on good rich soil that has been prepared, fertilized and tilled, and yields a rich and abundant harvest! So why does Jesus tell the parable of the farmer who scatters seeds on bad soil, indiscriminately, wasting it among the weeds and the thorns...why sow it there? What is his point?

Parables are meant to get us thinking...just as we think we understand the point of the story, upon further reflection another layer is revealed. Like a fine gemstone, as we mull it over and turn it around in our minds, we discover more and more facets of the story that at first glance may not have been so obvious. That is the amazing quality of the parable. In this parable, some interpret the sower as God and the indiscriminate sowing of the seeds as an example of God's all-inclusive love for all peoples. The seed sown is "the Word" offered to everyone, regardless of the potential that they will actually accept it and allow it to grow within them. Perhaps God sees possibilities of growth and abundant harvest amongst the thorns and rocky soil that we cannot even as yet imagine!

What are the "thorny or stony parts" of my life where the seeds of the Gospel have yet to yield an abundant harvest? Where in the world is the rocky soil on which God has sown seed from which is springing new growth at this moment, that both surprises and de-lights? Where am I being called to tend to "new Gospel growth", that needs to be cultivated and nurtured?

Blessings,
Fr Tim

JULY 9, 2017

Today's Gospel invites us to "rest in Jesus"...to turn our burdens over to Jesus and allow the power of the Spirit, dwelling within us, to empower us to push on...ever forward...knowing that we do so not alone but with the presence of the very one who created us and loved us into being.

Jesus does not dismiss the burdens of life. On the contrary, Jesus recognizes just how heavy they are and in the midst of the struggles of our lives he offers to be with us and help us. We are not asked to set our burdens down at the door of the church as we enter...but rather we are invited to bring them to the altar and place them side by side with the bread and wine which we offer to be blessed and broken, transformed and shared.

This Jesus, the Christ, knows first hand of our human burdens and understands our suffering....we need not fear that our God does not understand, or does not care...the message of all of Jesus' preaching and teaching was just the opposite... our God knows us and deeply loves us and walks with us in the midst of our sufferings...our God weeps with us when we weep and suffers with us when we suffer. And as the Body of Christ, we are invited to reach out to others whose burdens and pain overwhelm them...to be the compassion of Christ to them...to help carry their burdens and to walk with them in the midst of their suffering.

Welcoming the stranger, the immigrant, the one who is "other", is an authentic living out of our discipleship...it incarnates the Gospel in the midst of our community. Ironically in our reaching out to others, often our burdens are lightened, our wounds begin to heal and we become more and more the living Body of Christ. Do I have burdens or old wounds that I am holding on to and not giving over to Jesus, that getting rid of might allow me to be more available to my sisters and brothers in need? Whose burden or pain am I being called to help carry, how might I do that?

Blessings,
Fr Tim

JULY 2, 2017

Jesus asks for total loyalty from his disciples! Allegiance to what ends? As we celebrate the birth of our nation we naturally think of things like the "pledge of allegiance", the oath we make to our nation, to defend her and to stand by her...and we recall the many brave women and men down through almost two and a half centuries who have risked and given their lives so that we may enjoy the freedoms that we do.

Jesus was clear that he expected his followers to "be all in", to choose him over their mothers and fathers, over their sisters and brothers and even over their daughters and sons. This must have sounded absurd! Who could do that, they must have asked? To choose Jesus over your family was to make a choice that would mean that you would lose the ones who would care for you in old age, or in the event of illness, choosing Jesus would mean your future would immediately become much more precarious!

What was Jesus asking of his followers? It seems that Jesus was asking his disciples to put him at the center of their lives and from this center to move outward to others. These words of Jesus' taken in the context of the fullness of his message to love God with our whole selves and our neighbor as ourselves gives us insight into what he is suggesting. If indeed we are able to place Christ at the center of our lives we will be less self-absorbed, less harsh towards others and more kind, generous and loving. By consciously and reflectively living Christ centered lives we become more and more rooted in our relationship with Christ and ultimately our relationships with our sisters and brothers can blossom and become fuller and deeper, more authentic human encounters with our sisters and brothers.

By placing Christ at the center of my life I prioritize my life in such a way that the priorities of the Gospel become the priorities of my life, that Gospel values of justice, peace and the integrity of creation are no longer simply "nice ideals to work for" but rather "fundamental imperatives" around which I build my life, create family and live out my relationship with God and others.

Am I putting anything or anyone ahead of Christ and my relationship with God that I need to reconsider so as to live a more Christ centered life....so as to re-center my life! How does my relationship with God impact my relationship with my family and with others? How might strengthening or deepening my relationship with God impact my relationship with my family and others?

Blessings,
Fr Tim

JUNE 25, 2017

In this weekend's Gospel Jesus warns against fear. Fear has been the cause of the destruction of entire peoples and cultures, the cause of one war after another and still we do not learn just how disastrous for humanity fearmongering can be. Poets, philosophers and mystics alike all have warned that it ultimately leads to the deadening of the soul and disconnection from the human family.

Last November, Pope Francis warned that wherever there is fear, there will always be someone who will manipulate it to their own good. "Because fear, besides being good business for merchants of weapons and death, weakens and destabilizes us, destroying our psychological and spiritual defenses, anesthetizing us to the suffering of others and, in the end, making us cruel."

We find ourselves in the midst of a fear-ridden country, people all around us shouting of "the coming end" that is about to beset us all, and yet Jesus who found himself in a not too dissimilar geopolitical situation (think the Roman occupation of his native country) called his followers not to fear but to have faith....to not give into fear!

We too are called to not allow ourselves to be ruled by fear and allow it to turn us into cruel people who think of ourselves first and only, and leave the less fortunate to fend for themselves. Pope Francis has said that mercy is the "best antidote" to fear! And in the same speech, called for us to partner that mercy with courage. We need courage to do the right thing in the face of fear which causes communities to want to build walls instead of bridges and makes peoples choose open conflict rather to embrace the differences of others.

In a very real way we are called to "walk towards our fears" and not run from them. Walking towards our fears takes courage, but we must not forget that we do not walk that journey alone, we walk with Christ! What fears am I being called to walk towards with Jesus in my life? How might I show courage in the face of fear?

Blessings,
Fr Tim

JUNE 18, 2017

The Body and Blood of Christ are not only something we "get" at every celebration of the Eucharist...it is what we become! We believe in the "real presence" of Christ in the Eucharist and while we will never fully understand how this is, we gather each Sunday, around the "the table of the Lord" to be nourished...and to be changed...changed, ever more fully, into the Body of Christ. Through our receiving the Body and Blood of Christ...Christ lives in us and we in Christ and thus we become the Body of Christ.

This "indwelling" of Christ in us both as individuals and as community has enormous implications for our lives....individually and communally. We become "the Body of Christ", present in the world...called to be the visible compassion and love of Christ reaching out to the immigrant, the refugee, to those discriminated against and treated unjustly, "to be for" all those who suffer and who are in need.

As Christ was "for the world" so too we are to be "for the world". Our daily action, our work, our relationships all of them must reflect Christ. Our lives should be a living witness to the words, actions, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We are called to live our lives in such a way that we become visible, tangible signs of God's love for all people, and the Eucharist emboldens and strengthens us to be able to do this.

How does my life reflect my being part of the Body of Christ? When I leave Mass what do I take with me into the world? What am I being called to "pick up" or "lay down" in my life that I might, more fully, live as a member of the Body of Christ?

Blessings,
Fr Tim

JUNE 11, 2017

Each year as we celebrate the feast of Holy Trinity my mind always returns to an 8th grade classroom and a tall red haired nun named Sister Mary Janelle. I recall her patiently helping me and my classmates as we wrestled with the concept of the Trinity -- three Persons who were at the same time individual, but yet one. As she went through theological gymnastics trying to help us understand, ultimately she conceded that it was a mystery...mystery with a capital "M".

At the time my classmates and I felt it was a bit of a "cop-out" on her part...but now over 40 years have passed and I have come to see her wisdom, and have come to be comfortable with, and truly enjoy, the concept of mystery. We live in a society that thinks it can know all things, that demands to have concrete explanations for everything. But the reality is that ultimately God is beyond our understanding. Today I realize that I am part of a religious tradition that has passed on a faith...a faith filled with mystery and awe in our God. There is a consensus of our ancestors that embraces revealed truths that are essentials of our faith that will always lay just beyond our capacity to fully understand.

The Holy Spirit has been sent into our hearts to lead us headlong into "The Mystery"...to live out in concrete terms what we say we believe even though we do not fully understand. Our lack of understanding has no impact on The Mystery itself...The Mystery desires us and loves us just as we are...conflicted and wrestling with our faith. One of the most important realities is that we remain engaged in our spiritual journey...wrestling with our faith...wrestling with God! How comfortable am I with the concept of "mystery"? How do I engage in living out my faith? What am I wrestling with at this point in my faith journey?

Blessings,
Fr Tim

JUNE 4, 2017

St. Augustine said that the Spirit blows where the Spirit wills...not exactly comforting if you are someone who likes things neat and orderly or if you prefer to have life all figured out and neatly packaged. Most of us would prefer to see life's decisions as right or wrong, good or bad...as if everything in life were black and white. The problem with life is that most of the time we are living in the grey, everything is not black and white! This is where the Holy Spirit offers counsel, the challenge is to be open to Her counsel! The Holy Spirit blows where She wills and inspires and guides whomever She chooses, whenever and wherever She chooses.

Most of us get used to a particular routine and we find comfort in doing things in particular way and we find discomfort when our routine gets changed by outside influences or when we are forced to do things in a different or new way. It is no different in the church, we all get comfortable in the way we worship, in the way we pray, in the way we sing, in what we sing, and then when change comes we suddenly are set off center and we feel "off balance" at the change or new ways.

I am sure that many in the church today see the Pope's challenge to live a radically gospel-centered life as a change from what they were used to. In answering the Gospel's call, Pope Francis has called us out of the church buildings and into the streets to be a "field hospital" where binding up the wounds of the poor and brokenhearted is a priority. The Pope is following the call of Christ, who calls us to be a welcoming presence to immigrants and refugees, to seek out the lost and forsaken and to "be" the word of peace in the presence of war, to "be" the word of love spoken to the lonely and marginalized of the world, to "be" the word of justice and equality spoken in the midst of injustice, racism and exclusion. As well, we are called to be caretakers of creation, to take responsibility for the way we live on the planet personally, communally, nationally and internationally.

While all of this can all seem overwhelming, we need to remember that we are not called to do all this by ourselves but rather it is in and through the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit within us that we that we are able to do all good things! As we celebrate the great feast of Pentecost let each of us ask ourselves to where and to what is the Holy Spirit calling me?

Easter Blessings,
Fr Tim

 

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