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Archive for the ‘Ordinary Time C’ Category

27th Sunday – Year C

Late one afternoon

archaeologist Gene Savoy and his companion

became lost in a jungle in Peru.

 

A sickening feeling came over them.

They Knew

that if they did not reach camp by sundown,

they would never reach it alive.

 

They began to run about feverishly,

searching for the trail

that brought them into the jungle.

 

Suddenly they realized

that this feverish running

was only making matters worse.

Then they stopped and stood perfectly still.

 

As they did,

a thought passed through Gene’s mind.

 

God is in the jungle; it is God’s house.

 

 

When Gene was a boy in Oregon,

his parents had taught him that God

created the universe,

sustains it

and lives in it.

 

Instantly,

Gene relaxed and put all his faith in God.

He said later,

“I looked up into the beautiful world

of wild orchids, and fragrant blossoms

where hummingbirds hovered.

Yes, God was here, too. My heart quieted.”

 

Then, as I stood and stared,

something within me seemed to say:

“Walk a few paces to the left.

As I did, there was a tiny trail!”

 

Gene said later,

“I am proud of all of my discoveries.

But my greatest discovery, I believe,

was in recognizing God’s presence everywhere.”

 

That story fits beautifully

with today’s Scripture readings.

First, It illustrates the prophet Habakkuk’s words

in the first reading, when he says,

“The just man, because of his faith

shall live.”

 

And second, it illustrates

Jesus’ words in the gospel reading,

when he says,

“If you have faith the size of a mustard seed,

you would say to this mulberry tree,

‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’

and it would obey you.”

 

This brings us to an important point

about faith.

It’s a point we tend to forget –

one that can cause unnecessary worry.

The point is this:

 

Even the strongest faith in God

tends to go in and out of focus.

What is clear to us one day

becomes cloudy the next.

 

Like the sun,

our faith sometimes hides behind a cloud

and disappears for a while.

We’ve all experienced this in our lives.

How do we explain it?

 

These times of darkness are usually caused

by one of three things:

human nature, ourselves, or God.

 

First,

they may be caused by our human nature,

which has “highs” and “lows.”

 

In other words, our faith simply reflects

the natural mood swings of everyday life.

 

Commenting on these swings,

one writer says:

 

“On one day, life is beautiful. . .

we appreciate everything and everyone. . .

on such a day it is difficult to know

why we ever thought life was difficult.

 

 

On another day, however, nothing is right. . .

it is a time

when we count more enemies than we have

and find fault with every friend.

 

On such a day, it is difficult to know

why we ever thought life was easy.”

 

Our faith is like that.

This simply goes with the territory of being human.

 

Second, the periods of darkness of faith

may be caused by ourselves.

We can bring them on by neglecting our faith.

That is,

we can let our faith grow weak from sin

or from lack of spiritual nourishment.

 

In other words,

just as our body grows weak from abuse

or lack of physical nourishment,

so our soul grows weak from sin

or spiritual nourishment.

 

Third and finally,

these periods of darkness may be caused by God.

That is,

God allows them to happen

in order to strengthen and deepen our faith.

 

God uses them to help us to mature in our faith,

just as God helped Abraham mature in his faith.

Abraham was thrown into darkness

when God asked him to sacrifice his son Isaac. (Genesis 22:1-12)

 

Regardless of the cause

of these periods of darkness,

the agony they can produce is great.

 

In his novel The Devil’s Advocate,

Morris West describes the agony of a person

experiencing a long period of faith darkness.

The person says:

 

“I groped for God and could not find God.

I prayed to God. . .and God did not answer.

I wept at night for the loss of God. . .

Then one day, God was there again. . .

I had a parent. . .God knew me. . .

I had never understood till this moment

the meaning of the words ‘gift of faith,’ ”

 

And so we come back to our original point.

At times in our lives,

our faith seems to go behind a cloud

for a while.

This creates a period of faith darkness.

 

Sometimes this is simply a reflection

of our human mood swings.

Sometimes it is caused by a neglect of faith:

either though sin

or a lack of spiritual nourishment.

 

And sometimes it may be allowed by God,

in the sense that he uses it

to strengthen and deepen our faith.

 

Jesus teaches us that faith starts with humility.

The beginning of true faith

is accepting that Jesus is the creative Word of God,

Who brought everything out of nothing.                                          

 

As we seek to strengthen our faith,

it would be wise to do everything out of our love of God.

Learning to know, love and serve God better,

may seem to have no immediate reward,

except peace in our hearts

and the knowledge that though trusting in him

we will be granted a share in his everlasting glory.

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Our liturgical remembrance of the saints

and of the souls of the dead

in the month of November

is a reminder of the transitional nature

of life and death.

The readings today remind us

of the shortness of life on earth,

but also of our ‘passing on’ to a new life.

 One day a mother conceived twins.

One child was a girl,

the other a boy.

As the months passed

they rejoiced that they were alive.

They said, “How great that our mother

shares her life with us!”

Soon they began to change drastically.

“What does this mean?” asked the boy.

“It means that our life here is coming to an end”

said the girl.

“But I don’t want to leave.” said the boy.

“I want to stay here forever.”

“We have no choice,” said the girl.

“Maybe there is life after birth.”

But the last days in the womb

were filled with deep questioning and fear.

Finally, the moment of birth arrived.

The twins cried with joy

when what they saw

exceeded their wildest dreams.

That story is a parable, of course.

It compares life in this world

to life in a womb.

Just as life after birth

exceeded the dreams of the twins

so life after death will exceed our dreams.

in the words of St Paul:

“Eye has not seen, ear has not heard,

nor has it so much as dawned

on the human heart

what God has prepared

for those who love him.”   1 Corinthians 2:9

And so we might ask the question:

How can a busy person in this world,

live his or her life in such a way

as to be assured of eternal life?

This question is addressed in a book

by Doris McCoy called Megatraits:

Twelve Traits of Successful People.

 

One of the people interviewed

while the book was being researched

was Peter Coors,

President of the Brewing Division

of the Adolph Coors Company.

Adolph Coors entered the United States

as a stowaway on a ship from Germany.

He came to America with no passport,

no papers, and no money.

From this unlikely beginning,

he founded one of the most successful

and prestigious companies in America.

Peter Coors is Adolph Coors grandson.

When he was asked

what his idea of success was,

he responded in this way:

“Success for me is pretty basic.

First, when my life is completed,

success would be standing in front of God

and feeling that

although I’ve made some mistakes,

I’ve always had God at the center of my life.

“Second, success for me

is having a good family and

a successful marriage.

That’s a very important part of my life.

“Third, success to me is,

after my time with the company is complete,

being able to say that I helped

not only the company

but also the individual employee.””

Those three observations by Peter Coors

contain the answer to our question:

How can a busy person live in this world

live in such a way

that when we stand before God after death,

we will do so with the assurance that God

was at the center of our life on earth.

Second, we should live in such a way

that, next to love for God,

love for the family that God entrusted to us

was our top priority in life.

Finally, we should live out our chosen career

in such a way

that we will make a positive contribution

not only to our chosen field and work

but also to the people with whom we worked. 

If we can do that,

we will have indeed lived our lives in a way

that will assure us of St Paul’s promise:

“Eye has not seen, ear has not heard,

nor has it so much as dawned

on the human heart

what God has prepared

for those who love him.”

Let me conclude with a poem.

It gives a practical conclusion

to what we have just said.

The poem is entitled ‘Anyway’

The author is anonymous.

“People are unreasonable, illogical,

and self-centered. Love them anyway!

 “If you do good, people will accuse you

of selfish ulterior motives. Do good anyway.!

“If you are successful, you will make false friends

and true enemies. Succeed anyway!

“The good you do today

will be forgotten tomorrow. Do it anyway!

“Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.

Be honest and frank anyway!

“The biggest person with the biggest ideas

can be shot down by the smallest people

with the smallest minds. Think big anyway!

“People favour underdogs

but follow only top dogs.

fight for some underdogs anyway!

“What you spend years building

may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway!

 “People really need help, but may attack you

if you help them. Help people anyway!

 “Give the world the best you have

and you’ll get kicked in the teeth.

Give the world the best you’ve got anyway!”

 And so, we celebrate God’s steadfast presence among us.

He is the GOD OF LIFE,

who pours out his life through us.

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5th Sunday, Ordinary Time – Year C

A lady named Dorothy Melford

tells this story about herself.

One day she bought a potted gardenia

and put it in her living room.

She faithfully watered and fertilized it.

The leaves turned a rich green

and the plant began to bud.

But for some reason

the buds died one after the other.

For six weeks Dorothy tended the plant,

hoping that at least one bud would make it

and burst into bloom.

but none did.

Discouraged, she put the gardenia outside.

As she did she regretted

wasting so much time and money on it.

In the days ahead,

Dorothy ran into a series of problems:

a serious illness in the family,

a financial problem,

and a misunderstanding with a friend.

The more she struggled with these problems,

the worse they got.

Nothing seemed to go right for her anymore.

She began to indulge in self-pity.

Then one day,

when her depression hit an all-time low,

she got together a basket of laundry.

At least she could wash clothes.

As she shut the door

and descended the steps,

she noticed a lovely fragrance filling the air.

It was so lovely that she looked around

to see where it was coming from.

What she saw amazed her.

The gardenia

that she had given up on

and had put outside

had just produced a magnificent white flower.

It was as large as it was fragrant.

All the watering and care

that she had given the plant in the house

was not enough to make it bloom.

What it needed

was to be exposed to the fullness of the sun.

She stopped and thought for a minute.

Then it hit her.

What was true of her gardenia

was also true of her life.

All her efforts to deal with her problems

had not produced a solution.

Those efforts on her part

had been necessary, but they were not enough.

Like the gardenia, something was missing.

Something more was needed.

She needed God,

just as the gardenia had needed the sun.

Dorothy’s story of her gardenia and herself

bears a striking resemblance

to the story of Peter in today’s gospel.

Peter and his companions had worked all night

and had caught nothing.

All their work had been useless.

They had done everything they could,

but it was not enough.

Something was missing.

Then Jesus entered the picture

and everything changed.

Like the gardenia discovering the sun,

and Dorothy discovering God,

Peter and his companions

discovered the answer to their problems.

They had been missing

the most important ingredient of all.

They had been missing

the help and the power of God.

They had been missing

the help and the power of Jesus.

Consider another story.

It is told by Olive Bradshaw.

She had a friend

whose wife had died suddenly and tragically.

Her friend nearly went out of his mind

with grief and anguish.

Instead of time healing the wound,

time only made it worse.

Finally, the doctors suggested

that the man take a trip far away.

But travel was not the answer.

One day, while in Italy,

he climbed up on a cliff

with one thing on his mind: suicide.

As he stood on the edge of the cliff,

ready to leap to his death,

he suddenly heard music.

It was so pure that it startled him.

He looked around

to see where it was coming from.

What he saw amazed him.

There at the entrance to a cave

appeared a barefoot boy playing a harmonica.

The sound of the harmonica and the sight of the boy

penetrated the depths of his grieving heart.

Suddenly he realized how much beauty

was still left in the world.

He realized how selfish and self-pitying

he had been.

He said later

that the barefoot boy playing the harmonica

was a gift from God.

It was much more.

It was the very presence and power of God

entering his life to help him,

at a time when he could no longer help himself.

The story of Dorothy,

the story of Peter,

and the story of the grieving man –

these three stories

all contain the same important lesson.

We all need God in our lives.

All our human efforts

to cope with our problems are necessary.

But they are not enough.

We need something more.

We need the help and the power of God, for this.

The practical application

of all this to our life

is as clear as it is important.

If we are experiencing problems

and are making no headway

in dealing with them,

perhaps the reason is the same one

that plagued the woman,

Peter, and the grieving man.

We have been trying to do everything ourselves.

We have forgotten

that our human efforts alone are not enough.

We have forgotten

that we need God’s help as well.

The answer

is to involve God in our lives.

When we do that,

our lives will turn around 180 degrees,

just as did the lives

of those people I described today.

We will discover what Peter did.

We will discover

that God wishes not only to bless us,

but to bless us beyond our wildest dreams.

God wishes to give to our lives

a power and a fullness

that exceeds anything we can imagine.

All we have to do

is to open our hearts to God’s love,

to listen for God’s music,

and to lower our nets.

God will do the rest.

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27th Sunday – year C

There is a legend of a small town
in which there were no liquor stores
or nightclubs.
Eventually however,
a nightclub was built right on Main Street.

One of the churches in the area
was so disturbed
that they conducted several
all-night prayer meetings
and asked the Lord
to burn down the nightclub.

Lightning struck the nightclub
a short time later
and it was completely destroyed by fire.

The owner
knowing how the believers had prayed,
sued the church for damages.

His attorney claimed
that their prayers had caused
the lightning and fire.

The church people on the other hand,
hired a lawyer
and contested the charges.

During the trial
the judge declared,
“It’s the opinion of this court
that the owner of the nightclub
is the one who really believes in prayer
while the church members do not!

Today’s liturgy
offers a reflection on faith.
And it offers three distinct perspectives,
each of which is enlightening.

First, in Luke’s gospel
Jesus makes the point
that we should expect
faith to make a difference in our lives
and in our world.

At the very least,
it changes the way we view the world.
At the very most it can redistribute
the energy of the planet.

But we shouldn’t miss the real point
Jesus is trying to make.

He is not trying to make his disciples feel guilty
because of their lack of faith.

He is trying to tell them
they need to expect amazing things to happen
when they do live in faith.
Faith can and does
change the way the world operates.

St Paul adds a second perspective.
He says to his friend Timothy:
“Stir into flame the gift of God that you have.”
He is reminding us that faith
is sometimes like a dying wood fire.

It sometimes needs to be fanned back into flame.
You don’t have to feel bad about that.
That is the nature of faith.
It ebbs and it flows.
It flames sometimes
and sometimes it’s barely a flicker.

The Jesuit poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins,
in speaking of his relationship with God,
wrote:
“I greet him on the days I meet him,
and bless him when I understand.”

The clear implication is that some days
we may neither meet nor greet God.

Living in faith is a lot more difficult
than just holding on to certain beliefs.
It is a way of seeing and living life.

In today’s first reading
the prophet complains to the Lord,
because of the violence and decay
he sees all around him.

In a daring but respectful way
he asks God to explain
his strange way of governing the world.

As a man of faith, the prophet
did not become skeptical or unbelieving.
The vitality of his faith is not lost.

Our faith increases
as we continue to serve God and others
no matter what the hardships.
Why?

Because in serving others
we grow more in the likeness of Jesus
who constantly prayed to his Father
as he helped everyone he met
walking through the towns.

Today’s first reading tells us
faith is the vision in God’s eye
that can uproot trees,
that can move mountains
and that can burst into flame
at the most unexpected times.

God responded
to the prophet’s cry to heaven
and said “Write this vision;
make it plain on tablets of stone
so that those going by may see it.

And write it in a book,
so that it may be kept as a witness forever.”

In his message God had said:
I still give you a vision of the appointed time;
it speaks of the end and it does not lie.
If it seems to tarry,
wait for it;
it will surely come.
The prophet later explained
that during his vision
the nations shook
as God approached.

He saw that the evil people would perish
as a result of their own doings.
And those who were steadfast in faith
would know God’s grace.

God assured the prophet
that this was a prophecy
that would be read again in the future
when its fulfillment had come to pass.

During today’s gospel
we heard the apostles ask Jesus
“Increase our faith!”

True faith is unselfish.
Living faith is unselfish.
It seeks to give rather than receive.
And it seeks to obey God.

Let us close with this prayer:

Lord, open our ears to your word,
even when it challenges us
more than we want to be challenged.

Lord, open our minds to your word,
even when it disturbs us
more than we want to be disturbed.

Lord, help us to put your word into practice,
even when it means changing our lives
more than we want to change.

Above all Lord, help us realize that
you want to achieve great things
through us
and that we can achieve great things for you
if we but open our hearts to you.
Amen.

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22nd Sunday – year C

In the early middle ages
there lived a great Christian ruler
named Charlemagne.

After his death,
a tremendous funeral procession
left his castle for the cathedral.

When the royal casket arrived,
with a lot of pomp and circumstance,
it was met by the local bishop,
who barred the cathedral door.

As was the custom in those days,
the bishop asked, “Who comes?”
The Emporer’s proud herald proclaimed,
“Charlemagne,
Lord and King of the Holy Roman Empire.”

“I know him not,” the bishop replied.
He asked again “Who comes?’

The herald, a bit shaken, replied,
“Charles the Great,
a good and honest man of the earth.”

“I know him not,” said the bishop.
and again he asked, “Who comes?”

The herald,
Now completely crushed, responded,
“Charles, a lowly sinner,
who begs the gift of Christ”
to which the bishop replied,
“Enter!
Receive Christ’s gift of life!”

The point is of course,
that in God’s eyes,
we’re all equally needy:
Charlemagne, Mother Teresa, you and me.

That raises a question.
Just what is humility?
What does it mean to be humble?

Does it mean to put ourselves down?
Does it mean to deny our true worth,
or to belittle ourselves?

Those types of behaviour
are only window dressing.
As one theology professor explained
to our class:
“Always be careful not to become proud,
of being humble!”

Humility is something far more profound
and far more beautiful.
Humility means not thinking of ourselves at all.
It means forgetting about ourselves
so that we can think of others.

It means to be like Jesus, who said,
“The Son of Man did not come to be served,
but to serve.”

Humility means to live as Jesus lived,
not for ourselves, but for others.
It means to use our talents
to meet the needs of others.

Here is a real life example.

The cartoonist, Charles Schultz
made the Peanuts comic strip character
Charlie Brown, a household word.

Few people know
that Charlie Brown was based on a real person.
The real Charlie Brown
worked with Charles Schulz
in a company in Minneapolis.

Eventually both men left that company.
Schulz became a cartoonist.
Charlie Brown became a counselor
for convicted juvenile delinquents,
often housing them in his own home.

After Charlie Brown’s death a co-worker wrote:

“Charlie was my boss for three years
at the Detention Center.
Charlie was a devout Roman Catholic.
He saw the purpose of his own life,
as doing the daily works of charity
in imitation of Christ and the saints.”

The co-worker went on to say
that often the doorbell and the phone
at the Detention Center rang late at night.
It was usually some boy asking,
“Is Charlie Brown there?”

The co-worker also said
that during his stay at the Detention Center
not one young man who lived with Charlie,
ever returned to prison.
And this was one of the reasons
why Charlie was often asked
to give workshops for professionals
and to lecture at the University.

Charlie Brown and Charles Schulz
remained close friends to the end.
Schulz occasionally offered Charlie
a share in the profits
from some Charlie Brown spin-off,
like T-shirts or toys.
but Charlie never accepted a dollar.
Nor did Charlie ever volunteer to tell anyone
that he was the real Charlie Brown.

And so to this day,
many of the kids who rang the doorbell
of the Detention Center late at night,
asking “Is Charlie Brown there?”
had no idea whom they were asking for.

That story is a living example
of what Jesus means when he says,
“Learn from me,
for I am meek and humble of heart.”

It is a living example
of what Jesus means when he says:

“The Son of Man did not come to be served
but to serve.”

It is a living example of the power
and the beauty of the virtue of humility
when lived out courageously
in a truly Christian life.

It is a living example of the invitation
that Jesus holds out to you and to me
here today.

Let us close by recalling the inspiring words
of today’s first reading:

My sons and daughters,
“conduct your affairs with humility,
and you will be loved more
than a giver of gifts.

The greater you are,
the more you must humble yourself;
so you will find favor
in the sight of the Lord.”

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Sixth Sunday – Year C

Today’s gospel spells out for us
the beatitudes,
which Jesus gave his followers
by the sea of Galilee.

A key to the meaning of the beatitudes
is found in the first reading
from the prophet Jeremiah,
where he compares a just man
to a tree planted beside the water
which is rooted in a stream.

In a drought,
the tree’s leaves stay green
because it is connected to the stream.

Maybe you remember a tree from your childhood
that has withstood the years.
It is strong and enduring
because its roots go deep beneath the surface.

When Jesus refers to the poor and suffering
as “blessed”
he is not idealizing their life circumstances.
He is saying that they have
a source of strength that they don’t realize.
Within the tragedy of their lives
is hidden grace.

When the Lord says “Woe”
to those who are rich, popular and healthy,
he is saying that there is
a hidden danger in their lives.

It is one thing to seek God
through his creation.
It is another thing to substitute
created things and people
for God.

When the circumstances of our lives break apart,
we discover the truth of human life,
that our real anchor
is not material but spiritual.

Sometimes we get the feeling
in today’s computer-driven world
that we are unimportant.
We get the feeling
that we are just another consumer
listed on somebody’s computer printout.

In spite of all messages to the contrary
that the world is sending us,
Jesus reassures us that
we are made in God’s image
and we are destined to live with God forever.

The reason the Sermon on the Mount
is so important –
especially for us today –
is precisely because it sends us a message
so totally different
from the one the world sends us.

The world tells us that we are disposable,
recyclable and expendable.
After awhile we tend to believe
what the world says.

Here’s an old legend about a little Indian boy.
One day a little Indian boy found an eagle’s egg.
He placed it in a nest with chicken eggs.
Before long, a little eagle hatched
along with a brood of chicks.

The little eagle grew up with the chickens.
It scratched in the dirt for seeds
the way that the chickens did.

It cackled the way the chickens did.

And it thrashed its wings
and flew a few feet off the ground
the way the chickens did.

Then one day
the little eagle looked up into the clear blue sky.
There it saw a most marvelous sight.
It saw a magnificent bird
soaring majestically through the sky
on two big beautiful wings.

The little eagle’s breath was taken away.
Excitedly, it called out to an older chicken,
“What kind of bird is that?”

“That’s an eagle,” said the older chicken.
“But forget about it!
You could never soar like that
in a million years.”

This is the same disheartening message
the world gives us today.

It tells us:

“Forget about Jesus Christ and his teachings.
He is the Son of God.
His world was totally different from our world.
You could never be like him.
You could never soar the way he did –
not in a million years.”

But Jesus gives us a completely different message.
He says in John’s gospel:

“Amen, amen, I say to you,
whoever believes in me
will do the works that I do,
and will do greater than these.” John 14:12

St Paul had these words of Jesus in mind
when he wrote to the Christians at Corinth:

“God chose the foolish of the world
to shame the wise,
and God chose the weak of the world
to shame the strong,
and God chose the lowly of the world. . .
to reduce to nothing,
those who think they are something.” 1 Corinthians 1:27-28

And this brings us right back
to the Sermon on the Mount in today’s gospel.

To the hundreds of poor people
sitting on the slope of that mountain –
whom the world considered disposable –
Jesus said, “Blessed are you who are poor;
for the kingdom of God is yours.”

To the hundreds of hungry people
sitting on the slope of that mountain –
whom the world considered recyclable –
Jesus said,
“Blessed are you who are now hungry,
for you will be satisfied.”

And to the hundreds of sorrowing people
sitting on the slope of that mountain –
whom the world considered to be expendable –
Jesus said, “Blessed are you
who are now weeping, for you shall laugh.”

And so, to all those
whom the world shuns,
Jesus says: “Rejoice. . .
The kingdom of God is yours.”

Let us close with this poem
which contrasts
the message of the world
with the message of Jesus
in the Sermon on the Mount.

“The world told me I was only a spark
but Jesus taught me that I am a fire.
The world told me that I am only a string
but Jesus taught me that I am a harp.

The world told me I was only an anthill
but Jesus taught me that I am a mountain.
The world told me that I was only a drop,
but Jesus taught me that I am a fountain.

The world told me I was only a feather,
but Jesus taught me that I am a wing.
The world told me that I was only a beggar,
but Jesus taught me that I am a king.”

Inspired by Amado Nervo.

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