Just a thought...or two

 

MAY 21, 2017

Pretty much everyone has felt lonely, abandoned by friends or loved ones at some point in their lives. Most of us have felt fearful, wondering how we will make it through rough times with our children or parents or siblings. We suffered personal loss or illness and wonder if we will be able to go on. Today's Gospel tells us that in the midst of our "lost-ness"...in the midst of our suffering... in the midst of fear or sense of abandon that we are never truly alone, we are not abandoned, we are not orphans....for the Risen Christ remains with us.

When I was little I used to think that Christ was with me....but only when I was doing something good....or only in holy or sacred places. Oh...how wrong I was! Jesus tries to help his disciples understand that no matter what they "feel"....no matter where they go, he will be with them...and even more....the Holy Spirit will be given to them and find a resting place within them. We are the inheritors of this same promise. We are never alone, never abandoned! Our God is always with us...even when we can't feel that presence or sense it...God is with us. Even in the midst of our worst moments, our most selfish actions...even in the midst of our greatest sin... God is present and loving us through that dark moment.

And of course that means that God too is present in and with "the other" in their worst moments, in the midst of their most selfish actions! God's presence is not dependent on our actions, we do not control God's presence! No matter how desperate our situation is, God is with us....loving us in the midst of it all.

The real question then seems to be...so what will my response to that loving presence be? How do I respond to "the other", who also, is so deeply and passionately loved by God? How do I share God's love with the immigrant, the refugee, marginalized, the one who is "other" to me? What is the Holy Spirit calling me to...or away from?

Easter Blessings,
Fr Tim

MAY 14, 2017

Happy Mother's Day to all our mothers and to all the women who mentor and care for us and create opportunities for us to grow into the fullness of our potential, may God's most abundant blessings be upon you today and all the days of your lives! Thank you for all you do for us!

In today's readings, in the First Letter of Peter we are reminded that we are chosen and precious in the sight of God and in the Gospel Jesus tells us not to let our hearts be troubled, to have faith in him and in God, that he goes to prepare a place for us and will return to take us to him so that we might be where he is! These readings today offer us a wonderful opportunity to reflect on God's love for all of us, thus a diversity of dwelling places for us, a place for each one of us, no one is excluded by God, because indeed every child, woman and man is precious to God.

Jesus tells the disciples that he is the way, the truth and the life, and we know God and see God through him. Pope Francis reminds us that "Jesus is the face of the Father's mercy". So in seeing Jesus' merciful words and actions the disciples were seeing God's mercy in action. Jesus tells his disciples that through their belief in him they will be able to do what he has done and even greater!

Perhaps what is "even greater" is that Jesus talks about allowing the risen Christ, who dwells within us, to transform us into the presence of God's mercy in the midst of a wounded and suffering world. Perhaps the call of the Gospel is to allow ourselves to become "the face of the Father's mercy", to take on the mantel of mercy as Jesus' disciples. To be willing to make meaningful changes to our lives in order that we might better show forth God's mercy in our words and actions.

As a nation, what role should "mercy" play in our response to our immigration and refugee crisis, criminal justice reform and to our other national debates currently raging? Is mercy even a value being discussed? How can I be more merciful in my words? What specifically can I do to be more merciful in my actions? Who in my life right now is most in need of being shown mercy?

Easter Blessings,
Fr. Tim

MAY 7, 2017

This weekend is traditionally known as "Good Shepherd Weekend". And so we might ask ourselves how good are we at recognizing the voice of the "Good Shepherd" in our lives? Does it come through loud and clear, or is it distorted by the noise and frantic-ness of our lives? Are there too many other competing voices...of work, anxiety and worry or family and commitments for us to hear God's voice speaking to us? Or are we able to hear those whispered words of God in and through our work and family and daily living?

In today's gospel, Jesus, the Good Shepherd, says his sheep know his voice and follow him. They are not fooled by the voices of strangers, with bad intentions, calling out to his sheep...but listen only to his voice and seek to follow him. But this takes attention and listening, one thing that often seems in short supply in our modern stressed out life.

The life that Jesus calls us to is by its very nature countercultural, it runs against the grain of much of what our modern society values. While, as Americans we love to wrap ourselves in our flag and the bible...we rarely actually follow Jesus' clarion call to create a loving, inclusive, peaceful and just society...at all costs...and to be single-mindedly focused on building up the Reign of God. While many in our society are quick to call us to war against "the godless," are we really building a society that actually follows the call of the "Good Shepherd" to bind up the wounds of the poor and discarded, to reach out and heal those injured by injustice and indifference, to stand up against racism, bigotry and all forms of decimation that demean the dignity of the human person? Whose voices are we listening to in our national discussions on topics like care for the earth, civil rights, education reform...and as we debate healthcare reform, whose voices are we really listening to...the Good Shepherds? Would Jesus recognize us, as his disciples, from the fruit this work?

How do I listen for God's voice in my life? What do I need to do to make more time to listen to the words God speaks to me in and through the people, places and events of my daily life? When was the last time I heard God calling me to something...and to what was it?

Easter Blessings,
Fr. Tim

APRIL 30, 2017

The Gospels walk us along a journey with Jesus that ultimately leads to Jerusalem, to his torture, crucifixion and death.... but ultimately to the glory of his resurrection. Today's Gospel begins with two disciples leaving Jerusalem, their hopes dashed and their hearts broken...they sadly say..."we had hoped"... they encounter a stranger with whom they share their story and their own doubt at the testimony of the women who had encountered an angel with glad tidings of the resurrection and all the ensuing confusion amongst their group. Their faith seems gone...their hope vanquished.

But Jesus will not allow them to continue in their despair....he goes after them in an attempt to turn them around...to restore their hope and their faith...ultimately giving them a new purpose in life...the proclamation of the Good News of the resurrection! As they walk along the road their hearts are set afire and burn with in them... their hope and faith in this Jesus Christ is rekindled. Jesus reveals himself to them in the breaking of the bread...they dared not even speak the question of who this stranger might be...for they knew! And even though he vanished from their midst...he remained with them in their trembling hands that held the bread that had been broken and blessed...he remained in their burning hearts. In his absence they felt his real presence and they were forever changed.

Regardless of how many times we may turn away and walk down a different road...Jesus comes after us...he seeks us out and set our hearts afire once again. Each time we gather to bless, to break and to share the bread, Christ is present and invites us to share of his very self. And in this sharing we are more and more transformed into the Risen Body of Christ...not for ourselves but for the sake of the life of the world! We are sent, just like to the original disciples, to carry forth "The Presence" into a broken world so desperately in need of healing...we are called to be the stranger who walks with those whose hearts are breaking, whose hopes are dashed...we are called to be bread broken and shared for the sake of the world.

Like the breaking of the bread moment for the disciples, what moments have I had when I felt the presence of the Risen Christ in my life? How did it affect me? How can I be "the Presence" to others in my life? Who has been the least likely "Presence" to me...what did I learn from the encounter?

Easter Blessings,
Fr. Tim

APRIL 23, 2017

The amazing stories of encounter and of resurrection continue and more and more of his followers claim to have seen and talked to him, but it is all so strange, it is all just too much to believe so Thomas proclaims that not until he sees, not until he touches, will he believe this outrageous resurrection story! Can you blame him? Imagine being there at the very beginning, being amongst the first to whom Jesus appeared and whom were told about Jesus' appearances! It must have all been so frightening and bewildering.

Thomas and others must have felt overwhelmed by it all, and so no wonder he doubted and demanded to see and touch for himself! And Jesus appears and offers Thomas his hands and his side to touch and see, that yes, indeed, it is he, he has risen and he is alive! How even more disorienting THAT must have been! And when Jesus appears to the disciples even though most of them had deserted him and some had even disowned him, Jesus shows no anger or resentment but only offers his peace and forgiveness...his mercy!

And as we celebrate the resurrection, God's gift to us of eternal life, we celebrate too, God's mercy; God's love and forgiveness which falls upon us as gently as the rain, neither earned nor measured, freely given, for us to take and receive. For or from what in my life might I need forgiveness? Is there someone I need to offer forgiveness to? How is God's mercy present in my life?

Easter Blessings,
Fr. Tim

APRIL 16, 2017

On that first day of the week, while it was still dark...Mary went to the tomb only to discover it empty....then she ran to Simon Peter and the other disciple. She was in a hurry to share what she had found; and by her sharing, a small community took up the search for Jesus...only to eventually discover "The Christ"..."The Risen One".

Though we know well the Easter story, do we ever fully grasp its meaning? The stone has been rolled away...the tomb is empty for resurrected life cannot be contained! Like the first believers, we so often must continue to live even with our dashed hopes, our suffering and our misunderstanding of God's mysterious power. Like the first believers, we come to the tomb and expect to find death, but instead we find signs of a new life that we cannot even begin to comprehend. Like the first believers, we do not realize that all of history has been broken open and is now filled with the resurrected presence of the Risen One!

This is the day the Lord has made... let us rejoice and be glad!!! Like the disciples let us actively seek the risen One in our midst...in the ordinary of our daily lives...for as surely as Christ appeared to the disciples, Christ now appears to us in our lives, even in the midst of death, sorrow and pain, Christ is present and this is what helps us carry on! Let us keep our eyes, ears and hearts open to the presence of the Risen One. Let us, like Mary, run forth to share the good news of Jesus Christ with all the world!

I pray you all, God's most abundant Easter blessings,

Fr. Tim

APRIL 9, 2017

Palm Sunday begins with joyful Hosannas and then we, so quickly, move to the suffering and death of Jesus. It is all so emotionally overwhelming. But the joyfulness of the Hosannas still ring out even after we enter into the Passion. Why?...because, even as absurd as it sounds, our God loves us so much, that God was willing to pour out, to empty of self, even unto suffering and death, so that we would see once and for all that there is no length to which God will not go to prove how much we are "the beloved"!

The whole of the message of the suffering and death of Christ is bound up in this reality...we are deeply and passionately loved by God...just as we are! God continues to love us even in the midst of our brokenness and sinfulness. So much so, that God's very self, in the flesh, was willing to suffer and die to show forth that love and to pour forth forgiveness upon the face of the all the earth. The Passion story is ultimately a love story...there is none greater than this!

Am I able to accept God's love and forgiveness as freely as it is offered to me? Is there someone I need to share that love and forgiveness with? As we careen toward Easter...what will my resurrection story be? What will I be "resurrected" from?

Palm Sunday Blessings,
Fr Tim

APRIL 2, 2017

In today's Gospel Jesus raises his good friend, Lazarus, from the dead. The retelling of this event is meant to show forth the power Jesus has, even over death. Embedded in the story is also a story of love, Jesus' love for Martha, Mary and Lazarus. This is not an amorphous love...a wishy-washy love of all people... but a particular love of particular persons. Perhaps it is meant to try and tell us of the particular love that God has for us...each one of us...a love which is uniquely for us individually. God knows us as individuals and loves us just as we are! Even in the midst of our brokenness, even in the midst of our sinfulness...God loves us! And it is that love for us that holds the power to raise us from the death of sin to new life.

As much as Lent is a penitential time, so too it is meant to be a time of healing...a time of preparation for our own resurrection. What will my resurrection story be this Easter? From what, is the love of God trying to raise me up? In the Gospel Jesus asked the people to "roll away the stone" so Lazarus could come out, what stone am I being called to "roll away" so others may come out from their "tombs"?

Lenten blessings,
Fr Tim

MARCH 26, 2017

This Sunday's Gospel tells the story of the man born blind...familiar enough to most of us. But have we heard it so often that we miss the underlying themes, the story between the lines of the text? We could focus on the miracle of "new sight" in the physical sense but could go deeper and explore Jesus' insistence that sin has nothing to do with physical sickness, disability or human tragedy...and in fact, that it is in the midst of tragedy and human suffering that God is present.

Jesus' words and actions help us to see what the blind man saw...the presence of the Living God! It is easy enough to just "see" the physical blindness of the man in the Gospel and "lose sight" of the spiritual darkness of his parents who, because of fear, fail to speak the truth on their son's behalf. Fear of speaking out and failure to stand up for truth and justice makes us blind and keeps us in spiritual darkness, as individuals and as a nation. In the midst of wars and famine and international and national crises for refugees and immigrants, we are called to be a people who look, and see, who do not turn away from the suffering of our sisters and brothers.

When I look at the world around me, at all the suffering, can I see God's presence too? Am I called to be there to be used by God like the "man born blind" to show forth God's glory in the midst of a suffering world? When have I felt God's presence in the midst of suffering? Do I have "blind spots" in my life where I need to ask Jesus for sight, so I may see more clearly my sisters and brothers, as God sees them?

Lenten blessings,
Fr. Tim

MARCH 19, 2017

Today's Gospel tells the story of a woman who goes to a well for a jug of water and is promised water with properties far beyond her wildest imagining. In the context of the Gospel this woman is perhaps the last person to whom "living water" should be given. At least that is what we are supposed to think. After all, she is a woman who, in a male-preferred society, is undeserving of any special privileges. Furthermore, she is a Samaritan, a member of the group that observant Jews considered fallenaway from the true religion of Israel. On top of that, she is a woman of questionable virtue even within her own community (many scholars believe that is the reason she came all alone in the heat of the day to draw water from the well, rather than in the company of the other women in the cool of the morning, is that she may well have been an outsider in her own village.)

In the first reading along with the Israelites we are told that God will quench our thirst. In the Gospel we discover that Jesus is the source of "living water." In all of this there is no talk of our meriting this life-giving water. The Israelites were undeserving; the Samaritan woman was undeserving; and we too, it seems, are undeserving. It is from God's lavish love that this water flows and our thirst is slaked. What matters is whether or not we know that we are thirsty.

The readings over the next few Sundays offer wonderful Lenten opportunities to look deeply into our own hearts. Have they hardened like the Israelites who took God's goodness for granted? Do we test God, even though we have seen and experienced God's marvelous deeds in our lives? Or are we more like the Samaritan woman, caught in the complexities of life, yet open to new insights, to conversions of mind and heart. How thirsty for God am I...? What parts of my life need conversion? Am I gaining any new insights through my Lenten practice...is my heart any softer?

Lenten blessings,
Fr. Tim

MARCH 12, 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 has 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 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 allowing them to continually transfigure us more and more into the image and likeness of God. As we reach out to the poor and the marginalized, the immigrant and the refugee we are transfigured by the experience as well. For in "the encounter with the other, we encounter God" and we are changed! As Jesus' true identity shown forth on the side of that mountain, so may ours burst forth during this Lenten sojourn into the desert. What "transfigurantion moments" have I recently experienced? Where have I seen the face of God revealed? Where is God calling me to this Lent?

Lenten blessings,
Fr Tim

MARCH 5, 2017

In this Sunday's Gospel we encounter Jesus being tempted by the devil with temptations to power, fame and pride. Some Scripture scholars have argued that it was through his experience of forty days of fasting and prayer in the desert that Jesus came to a deeper understanding of his true identity and his mission.

As we begin Lent it is appropriate for us to reflect a bit on our own lives, our own desert experiences and our own temptations. Most all of us, as humans, are tempted by pride, arrogance, selfishness, anger and greed...the real question is whether or not we give in to those temptations. For some, who give in, they are led to disgraceful acts of greed and ego with catastrophic results. All we need to do is to read the headlines in the newspapers or listen to the nightly news...we know who they are and are able to judge the seriousness of their acts. For most of us, sins are somewhat more contained... a white lie here and there... perhaps a small theft once in a while... a few carelessly chosen harsh words that wound. Most of us are basically good people, trying to live as God has called us to live. In the recesses of our hearts we know we've been tempted... we've stood on the precipice of surrender to our baser desires... enticed by money, recognition, or power to take advantage of situations or people, neglect of our responsibilities towards others, or treated ourselves or others with disregard and disrespect.

As we reflect on our own personal sins let us not forget the structural sins of our society... greed, arrogance, pride and vengeance feebly masked as justice. As Jesus came forth from the wilderness of the desert proclaiming the coming of the Reign of God bursting forth in the world through the preaching of the Gospel, he forever linked the "Gospel imperatives" to the Reign of God. To the extent that we live out the imperatives of Jesus; to love one another as he has loved us, to love our enemies, to actively seek to alleviate the suffering of the poor... to that same extent we participate in the building up of the Reign of God.

Lent is meant to be a time of reflection and of action! We are called to a conversion of heart... to turn away from selfishness and sin and all that gets in the way of our living as true disciples of Jesus Christ. What can I do, or stop doing, in order to become a more faithful disciple of Jesus Christ? What acts of alms-giving, prayer and fasting can I commit to this Lent that will help build up the Reign of God in the midst of a suffering world?

Blessings,
Fr Tim

FEBRUARY 26, 2017

In the readings this weekend the palmist calls us to trust in God, to allow God to be our rock, our foundation, our strength, our safety, our refuge and even our glory! And Jesus called the disciples to recognize that they cannot serve two masters, that they must choose. He calls them to be single minded and to not divide their loyalties between seeking to build up the things of this world and building up the reign of God. Jesus says, we cannot serve both God and mammon. I believe that Jesus is really asking the crowds who follow him around to examine their hearts to see what is first in their hearts, what is most important in their lives....what do they live for?

And yet Jesus recognizes the many worries and anxieties of providing for the needs of everyday life: food, clothing, shelter, healthcare, work, safety. And, while he recognizes the centrality of these things for life he does so in the context of our connectedness to God and challenges us to keep God at the center of our lives. For disciples living in a society that values the attainment of wealth at almost any cost, this message is surely counter cultural and poses a challenge for us to live out each day. Chasing wealth can often lead to losing touch with what is really important in our lives and we can find that all the "stuff" we buy doesn't really make us happy or feel fulfilled in life. So, back to the psalmist, it is in God that we find our strength and safety, our refuge and even our glory!

As we move toward Lent, what am I chasing in my life? Do I struggle with letting money be my strength and safety, my refuge and glory or do I struggle to let God be that for me?

Blessings,
Fr Tim

FEBRUARY 19, 2017

"You have heard that it was said, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you, offer no resistance to the one who is evil." Jesus is not calling the disciples to become "door mats" but rather he is using common 1st century Middle Eastern hyperbole attempting to make a key paradigm shift from violence to nonviolence. He is challenging his followers to be willing to go beyond the letter of the law and embrace something much more difficult, to embrace the other! He calls us to be holy as God is holy, to love our enemies, to give to whoever asks of us.

How is all of this humanly possible? It seems too much! God's goodness is so great, how can any human act as good as God? Some theologians say that God's goodness comes down to "generosity", a generosity so grand that it created all known reality, that even the incarnation is as self-giving as was Jesus' death as was his resurrection and as is our salvation. So then this "generosity", this "out pouring" of God's self into the world empowers us, fills us, emboldens us and ultimately changes us to become more generous, less violent, less bent on getting even and more moved to be kind.

So we begin to work for ways in which our society makes room for the immigrant and the refugee rather than ways to keep them out. This spirit of generosity calls us to let go of racist and bigoted attitudes towards others and to work for justice and peace in our nation and in our world. Perhaps though this generosity of spirit grows from first finding our own gratitude for being loved so deeply and passionately by God, just as we are. And from that gratitude grows our ability to be generous towards "the other". For what am I grateful for today? To whom will I be generous towards today? How will I show that generosity of heart?

Blessings,
Fr Tim

FEBRUARY 12, 2017

With Jesus "The Law" doesn't get smaller, it gets bigger...it's about much more than just keeping the rules....it is about growing in our love of God and our love for our neighbor. When Jesus says "The Law says....but I say," he expands the original law in order to get to the spirit that is behind The Law. It seems that Jesus is ultimately most concerned not about a slavish external keeping of The Law, but rather he desires an internal change of our heart. He tells the disciples that their righteousness must surpass that of the religious leaders in order for them to get into heaven!

Jesus expects more from his disciples...he expects them to love one another as he has loved them. So just refraining from killing someone is not enough...we have to love them and show that love by how we treat them! That doesn't mean that there is no place for righteous indignation at injustices and violations of God's call to care for and look after the lost, the last and the least amongst us. Jesus understood "The Law" to be a guide that lead to a good and faithful life, one that contributed to the building up of the Reign of God, that cared for and valued all God's children.

Many of our "spiritual heroines", like St. Thérèse of Lisieux, challenge us to love our sisters and brothers with even just little acts of love on a daily basis, especially the least of our sisters and brothers...we don't always have to look for the "big bang" of loving our sisters and brothers, sometimes it's the little things that make all the difference. How am I doing keeping Jesus' laws of love...to love my neighbor and even those who don't like me... or those have hurt me? What does Jesus call me to today?

Blessings,
Fr Tim

FEBRUARY 5, 2017

In the first reading the prophet Isaiah proclaims: "Thus says the Lord: share your bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and the homeless" ...and Psalm 112 says that the just person is a light in the darkness! In the Gospel, Jesus challenges his disciples to let their light shine, to be like beacons lighting a city on a hillside! And by allowing their light to shine they will lead others to see their good deeds and thus see the glory of God. So that through doing good we both give glory to God and show forth the glory of God.

Jesus also uses the metaphor of salt for the lives of the disciples and challenges them to be sure to not let their lives "lose their flavor" and become tasteless. It is interesting to note that in the ancient world, a world without refrigeration, salt was the only way to preserve fish and meat. Just as light is essential for life to exist, so too salt was crucial for survival! So comparing the disciple's lives to salt had multiple layers of understanding and significance.

What is clear is that Jesus is calling the disciples to be on guard to make sure that the manner in which they live their lives "shine" with the "light of the values of the Gospel", that their lives are lived in such a manner that they have the "flavor of the Gospel." So we too, as disciples of Jesus, are called to the same, to let our lives "shine" and to be sure that our lives "taste" of values of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

As so often said, the call to discipleship is no easy call, it is difficult and challenging but we do not respond alone because by virtue of our Baptism we are strengthened with the Holy Spirit. It is this Spirit, the Spirit of God, that emboldens us and impels us to go forth into the darkness to let our light shine, to share our bread with the hungry and to shelter the oppressed, the immigrant and refugee! How will I let my light shine this week? What areas of my life most "taste" like the Gospel?

Blessings,
Fr Tim

JANUARY 29, 2017

This Sunday we hear Matthew's account of Jesus' famous "Sermon on the Mount". We've heard it over and over since we were children and are hardly shocked by Jesus' description of the reign of God. Undoubtedly some of those who gathered on that slope to listen to Jesus were shocked by the picture he painted of the Reign of God...it made no sense and ran contrary to the sociopolitical reality of their lives. What was he thinking...the meek will inherit the land...we all know that it is the powerful who control the land...and the "peace-makers"...well they usually get run over by the armies! And what was he saying about the "poor in spirit"...theirs is the Kingdom of God...wait a minute, I thought the Kingdom belonged to the righteous and those who followed the letter of the law.

Well the truth is that Jesus had a different take on the whole matter. The beatitudes name the ways in which peoples' lives and wellbeing are threatened: grinding poverty, grief, landlessness, hunger, war and persecution. Jesus does not advise that those so afflicted simply wait for a reversal of fortune in the hereafter, though the final verse does speak of great reward in heaven. Jesus calls for attitudes and actions that will more fully bring about the reign of God. The poor in spirit are the humble whose wealth is found in God and not in gold...their wealth is to be shared with the materially poor. The meek are not to be "shrinking violets" who accept injustice, but rather, those who know their proper place as children of God, and who stand up to insure that all people are treated with dignity and as full heirs to God's reign.

The beatitudes are really "Be-Attitudes"...they call us to holiness through reaching out to all who suffer in this world, and promise us that to the extent that we reach out to and work on behalf of the suffering we will become more fully the "blessed of God" and help to build up the Reign of God! As we take time this week to reflect on this Gospel, let's focus on one or more of the beatitudes and ask ourselves: in what concrete ways will I live out the "Be-Attitudes" today?

Blessings,
Fr Tim

 

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