Undervalued Unappreciated

Undervalued Unappreciated

Undervalued Unappreciated

Greetings on this the Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings: HAB 1:2-3; 2:2-4; PS 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9; 2 TM 1:6-8, 13-14; LK 17:5-10

Awkward Question

The Gospel reading today has the apostles in an awkward position in which they request the Lord to use his power to increase their faith.

Just what are they thinking?

The reading does comes right after the teaching about the very personal and grave impact of leading others to sin. On top of that Jesus then says you most forgive anyone who asks forgiveness even if they are the ones leading others to sin (see Luke 17:1-4).

The apostles are feeling their insufficiency. Who can possibly never lead others to sin and who can always forgive all the time!

Increase our faith

Increase our faith so we never lead others to sin and we always forgive others. Problem solved.

Not so fast.

Mustard and Mulberry (Sycamine) Tree

Jesus is rebutting this concept in a manner of speaking as to what is prohibiting the health of their faith life.

The imagery:

  • A Mustard tree – from a small seed grows the largest of trees where many find comfort and protection.
  • A Mulberry tree – is a very fruitful tree yielding fruit even living in the most difficult of environments.

Jesus is making clear that your faith as small as it is contains the potentiality of becoming a great tree where many find comfort and protection. Jesus is saying further that the fruitfulness of your faith will come even in the most difficult of places and situations. Fruitfulness can be abundant even when planted in the sea.

How can this be they are asking?

Faith in Jesus is literally this: trusting in the action of the Lord to provide the sufficiency in our insufficiency when we act.

“When we act” – This is Jesus’ point. Faith that is not put into action will never realize the potential and the power give to you.

Increase our faith

The psalmist urges us on, ‘If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.’

Harden not your hearts referring back to the journey through the desert as a part of the Exodus experience.

Harden not your hearts as at Meribah, as in the day of Massah in the desert, Where your fathers tempted me;  they tested me though they had seen my works.

  • Meribah – means place of contention.
  • Massah – means place of trial.

Thirst and fear were the trial and the contention being their lack of faith in the Lord. Yet the Lord provided water from the rock at Horeb.

The Lord acted and so should we. It was in this trial that the sanctity of the Lord is revealed (Num 20:13).

Stir [your faith] into flame

Paul’s 2nd letter to Timothy tells us we have a role in increasing our faith.

Stir it into flames!

Bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God.

It is in the acting and doing (opposite of cowardice) that hardship comes and in that hardship the sanctity of God is revealed and strengthened within us.

Do As I Do

Jesus tells us that my Father is at work until now, so I am at work (Jn 5:11). Therefore the commandment to work is not something we should brag about rather it is in participation in the work the Father does as Jesus taught us to do.

Do Faith

Do faith. Be a mustard tree. Be a mulberry tree.

And know the Lord works through you in your trials!

Peace be with you,

Deacon Gerry

Great Blindedness

Great Blindedness

Great Blindedness

Greetings on this the Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings: AM 6:1A, 4-7; PS 146:7, 8-9, 9-10; 1 TM 6:11-16; LK 16:19-31

Didn’t We Do Amos Last Week?

Yes, we did indeed. The readings on the 26th Sunday in ordinary time are taken from all the same books and letters as the readings on the 25th Sunday in ordinary time. It has the same type of theme as well which simply stated is how we act matters the most.

The Prophet Amos’s ministry was during the time of the reign of Jeroboam II, a gifted warrior and commander. It was a wealthy time. Military might was supported by Assyria powerful over-lordship and military dominance of the region. Israel focused on rooting out all foreigners and reestablishing their national boundaries (yes, their version of the Wall). Everything was great. The Northern Kingdom was very prosperous and they thought themselves the blessed of God because they possessed both material wealth and religious dominance of the Jewish people.

Amos interrupted their self-congratulations in two ways.

  1. The wealth they have amassed was from the acts of sin. They thought him crazy. He prophesized this wealth would be lost.
  2. The shrine at Bethel Amos says was contrary to God’s will because its construction was contrary to God’s will and did not produce the result of moral improvement. Bethel and Gilgal were emblematic to the sins against the light granted to her, Israel. She instead was in darkness. Their interior morality and justice did not conform to the external ritual worship professed.

Responsorial Psalm

Again we are reminded by the psalmist that God’s work is that which we should follow.

Like the Lord, we should:

  • secure justice for the oppressed,
  • gives food to the hungry,
  • set captives free,
  • give sight to the blind,
  • raise up those who were bowed down,
  • be just,
  • protects strangers; and
  • Sustain the fatherless and the widow.

Letter to Timothy

But you, man of God, pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness.

Great Blindedness

When I talk to police officers and paramedics about car accidents they tell me the most often spoken words are:

He came out of nowhere.

He came out of nowhere is the most often said refrain when interviewing someone who had a car accident and, in particular, the one who hit another’s car.

We say things like that but in our heart we know that is not true. Nobody fell out of the sky right in front of us. Somehow, somehow, we did not see them. In driver’s education classes they talk about ‘blind spots’. They train new drivers on how to be, first, aware you cannot see everything and, secondly, how you can see everything so as to avoid an accident. It takes effort. Do you recall how? Do you practice ‘seeing’ when you cannot see at first when driving your car?

In today’s Gospel reading we learn of the great blindedness of the Rich Man. Like in Amos’s time, he was very rich. He had all the finest things. He even went to Church/Shrine to worship, externally. Yet internally he was greatly blind. He knew of Lazarus, his situation and poverty. He simply chose to be blind to it.

Even still this is not the blindedness we refer to in this Gospel. His blindedness is that he knew his religion and followed it externally but he did not know the internal truth of the Lord. He lacked the desire to be like the Lord.

He believed that it is God’s fault he was blind.

You see he dialogs well with Abraham. He knew Abraham as Father. He knows mercy and kindness (his water request). He knows of Moses and the Prophets. He even has foresight of compassion for his brothers. The 5 brothers symbolize those who follow the same teachings and ways of life the Rich Man followed and now he wants to warn them so they do not fall into his same condition. He is implying that God did not provide enough guidance to avoid this outcome!

A Better Way

He had no repentance for ignoring Lazarus. He reflected not on his refusal to do the things of God that the psalmist described for us today.

He wanted for his family the sign of a resurrected Lazarus to return and warn his brothers. Yet Abraham warns him and Jesus is telling us that even a Resurrected Lazarus/Jesus will not be convincing for some. And, Rich Man, you already had heaven within your grasp if you only followed Moses and the Prophets.

It’s not the teaching it the seeing that is the problem.

The message is clear. Know we are blind. Pray you can see what matters to God. Pray you do like God does. Avoid the accident.

Peace be with you,

Deacon Gerry

 

 

 

 

 

Follow the Bubbles

Bubbles

Follow the Bubbles

Greetings on this the Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings: AM 8:4-7; PS 113:1-2, 4-6, 7-8; 1 TM 2:1-8; LK 16:1-13

SCUBA Basics

When I was a young man as a part of the SCUBA training process they would teach this very simple lesson.

Follow the Bubbles

Unless you live in one of the Gulf Coast States you will usually be SCUBA diving in turbid waters where even sunlight doesn’t penetrate. Initially when you enter the water your orientation is no problem. As you explore and spend time twisting and turning, rising and falling, moving forward and backward, under and over you begin to get disoriented. Sometimes this causes anxiety and even panic. Where am I in relation to the surface? How do I know for sure the way back?

The Instructor would go on to say if you rely upon your instincts alone or even your intellect to reason out where you are, you will likely be in grave danger of loss of your life! Instead, as a part of your analysis, release some air! Release air and watch the direction in which it goes. Where the bubbles go, so should you. Follow the bubbles.

As any kid that drinks with a straw knows if you blow air into a straw immersed in chocolate milk you get … chocolate bubbles on the top!

(If you plan to attend the 9:00 AM Mass at Sacred Heart, Lake Worth Beach, FL you will get demonstrations of this SCUBA principle using chocolate milk. Since literally nobody reads this I am safe in this advanced notice).

Truth Bubbles Up

In our first reading today the Prophet Amos warns use that the Lord sees all of these actions we want to bury and hide like bubbles under water:

  • trample upon the needy and destroy the poor of the land;
  • diminish the ephah, add to the shekel;
  • fix our scales for cheating;
  • buy the lowly for silver (slavery);
  • buy the poor for the cost of a pair of sandals (abject slavery); and
  • even sell the useless bi-product of the wheat as wheat.

The truth of these activities bubbles up to the Lord.

Universality of the Warning

Second reading: In the letter to Timothy the writer makes clear although the actions noted by the Prophet Amos are truthful realities there is yet another buried truth. We fail to pray for those who are the perpetrators of these offenses. The bubble up is that we sharing in the responsibility of those who fail in these ways. We own them our prayers for them because:

This is good and pleasing to God our savior, who wills everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth.

It is a mistake to mock the bubbles of another while we offer no help in finding another way. Pray for President Trump and his troupe even if you hate him. Pray for the resistance even if you disagree with them and their sometimes quite objectionable ways.

Gospel Bubble Story

A rich man comes to understand a steward of his is stealing from him. He demands an accounting and informs of the stewards dismissal.

The steward attempts to bury more dishonest acts by making more deals:

  • Here is your promissory note. Sit down and quickly write one for fifty; and
  • Here is your promissory note; write one for eighty.

He desperately wants to bury more things because he is not strong enough to dig and he is ashamed to beg.

But the truth bubbles up and it gets even more interesting here.

The master commended that dishonest steward for acting prudently.

Imagine that will you? Why did he say this and what does this bubble reveal?

The Master (rich man) is revealing HIS OWN METHODS and BURIED TRUTH of how he amassed his own fortune.

Even this Master has the bubble effect of truth. The Master and the Steward are of the same thinking mode.

The Master only objects to stealing from him not from stealing from others.

Honesty in Profane Things – Worthy of Profound Things

Jesus goes on to explain that our honesty in small things is a pathway forward in the profound things. Dishonesty is disastrous.

He goes on to say the possession of your future in this life and for eternal life does not even belong to you if you trade it for ill-gotten gain and dishonest.

Literally he is saying you risk the mastery of your own life path following the logic of the Master and Steward.

It is the Choice

No servant can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other.

You cannot serve both God and mammon.

You are best served by following the bubble logic. Follow the bubble of truth and find the liberation of God’s love!

Blessings,

Deacon Gerry

Behave Yourself

Behave

Behave Yourself

Greetings on this the Wednesday of the Twenty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

Readings: 1 TM 3:14-16; PS 111:1-2, 3-4, 5-6; LK 7:31-35

Sign of the Times

Usually I do not write in the middle of the week.

Yesterday’s testimony from the congressional hearings urges a dialog. Corey Lewandowski says,

I have no obligation to speak truthfully.

Those of you who support the President will come quickly to his aid and protest the trim of his statement.

To which I reply, you have been selectively trimming the teachings of Jesus Christ for years now and suddenly you have a problem with selective quotes?

You should know how to behave in the household of God, which is the Church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of truth. 1 TIM 3:15b

Lewandowski went on to say:

  • to the Press Lewandowski has no obligation to tell the truth (the fourth estate enshrined in the constitution);
  • but under oath Lewandowski tells the truth or the conditions under which he was truthful (immunity);
  • but today Lewandowski refuse to tell the truth because the President exerts an imaginary Executive Privilege in regards to Lewandowski conversations with President Trump (campaign strategy is not under any such protections nor is any criminal actions or plans).

Such difficult and twisted logic!

They are like children who sit in the marketplace and call to one another LK 7:32

This Administration and his friends are deliberately misleading the public, you.

We played the flute for you, but you did not dance. We sang a dirge, but you did not weep. Lk 7:32b

Simply, truth is unimportant to them. Trust is not a factor in their thinking, their actions, and their performance as public servants.

When it is time to Dance – you refuse. When it is time to sin a Dirge – you don’t care.

Do you need examples? Do you really need examples?

Wisdom will be Vindicated

Jesus reminds us that wisdom is vindicated by all her children LK 7:35.

John the Baptizer called us to repentance for how we think, what we do and what the performance of public servants should be.

Read Luke 3:10-14. It’s pretty clear.

Jesus called us to re-imagine what it means to Love God.

Wisdom, the presence of the Holy Spirit, vindicates and illuminates. The list, the very long list, of those who would lie and deflect on behalf and in deference to the President will find the burning light of Christ bringing to light their thinking, actions and performance.

Peace be with you,

Deacon Gerry

 

 

 

 

Lost Sheep – Finding Victims

No More Secrets - Women No More Secrets

The Gospel message this Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time is usually understood to address the perpetrators. Sinners having become lost by word, thought, action or inaction are now beyond ordinary recovery but requiring the action of a loving God to find them. We often do not see what is in plain sight: love for the victim.

The Gospel of Luke chapter 15 is comprehensive about being lost.

  1. One of One-Hundred Sheep.
  2. One of Ten Coins.
  3. One of Two Brothers.

When one is a victim of a crime or of personal abuse it may be difficult to read this Gospel reading with any sense of relief or consolation. The reassurance a victim needs is distinctly different from the perpetrator. Today let us take the victim perspective. Victim suffering is first and foremost private and personal. It is specific to the individual.

Suffering (examples):

  • Lose of good and virtue (innocence, health, bruising of dignity, loss of autonomy, being marginalized and invalidated).
  • Lose of future well-being (health, mobility, forming loving marriage, forming trusted friendships, attaining employment).

Recovery path:

  • Knowing and expressing how they are in a state of needing something necessary to their integration to the rest of society. I have lost something I need back!
  • Validation of feelings, experience, sense of loss and isolation.
  • Engage a search for a path or navigating the future so as to recoup or regain that which is lost or build similar necessities to satisfy the needed components.
  • Find within their friendships the needed support for their journey.

Our Ordinary Help:

  • Listen. Actively listen to the story as narrated by the victim.
  • Listen to the movement within. Pain sometimes makes speaking impossible. Rather a victim speaks with heart, body, odor and aura. Listen for that non-verbal communication.
  • Advocate for them. Render aid and assistance. I am sure we don’t explain asphyxiation medicine to a drowning person rather address their difficulty.

Gospel Message on Sunday…

  1. One of One-Hundred Sheep – Did you ever wonder how a Shepherd finds a lost sheep? The sheep didn’t do anything wrong. S/he simply is lost. The Shepherd only need listen for the sound of pain. The mournful pain of feeling lost and unaccounted for. The sheep didn’t rationalize h/er situation rather bodily bleated out painful sounds. H/er loving Shepherd heard and found, carried, and returned with Joy and Celebration.

    Your restoration to Joy is an imperative of God.

  2. One of Ten Coins – a little more abstract then the last parable. A coin knows nothing of its value. In a analogous way a person loses appreciation and existence of their human dignity when victimized. The familiar places of home can even become a place of disorder. Note in this parable the woman turns the house ‘inside out’ sweeping and searching and illuminating every darkness until the coin is found! Even the Angels rejoice and praise the God who gets on his hands and knees to find the one who lost all sense of self.

    Your restoration of Self is an imperative of God.

  3. One of Two Brothers – so much written on this parable! Here the complete complexity of perpetrator and victim relations exist. It’s a hot mess.This post is already too long but let me express it this way. The Lord searches the horizons of your person-hood for anything and everything that needs attending. Ring, Robe and sandals – symbols of kinship, dignity and reason. Note: while the Lord will not force or enforce peace between perpetrator and victim, He will encourage it after a restoration has been initiated in the person-hood of victim.

    Your restoration of your kinship, dignity and reason is an imperative of God.

In conclusion, those who are victim are the sheep, the coin and the brother that a worried and resourceful God seeks with all the power at His command and when found all creation rejoices with you!

Please visit my other page for excellent readings: Abuse Recovery Readings

Blessings,

Deacon Gerry

Thanks to / references from:

James F. Keenan, S. J. from his book titled Moral Wisdom

Recommend:

The Return of the Prodigal Son (A Story of Homecoming) by Henri J.M. Nouwne.

 

 

Insurance Rich – Premium Poor

"We'll keep you poor throughout your life, but at least you'll be rich after you die."

Insurance Rich – Premium Poor

Greetings on this the Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings: WS 9:13-18B; PS 90:3-6, 12-14, 17; PHMN 9-10, 12-17; LK 14:25-33

Modern Parable

When I was a young man and establishing my life outside of the family, in a conversation with my Mom I made mention of the different insurances being sold out in the marketplace. Car insurance, renters insurance, health insurance, life insurance, on and on the list went. She listened carefully to my descriptions of each and the relative merits each provides. When I was done she answered simply,

“You don’t want to be Insurance Rich and Premium Poor”.

Insurance Rich and Premium Poor

She went on to explain that there are many insurance products out there. Many more, in fact, than I listed above. But only some do you really need. And even then only in restrained quantities. You don’t want fear to be the primary motivator of your actions. You don’t want preservation of material goods to be your principle concern. Moms can be smart that way.

Rather the focus should be on loftier and more valuable things: relationships and behavior. Jesus offers discipleship that has us not focus on insurance of what we have and how to retain it but rather on that which we can share and bring the Kingdom of God to all in need.

Today’s Gospel Parables are the same message

Jesus compares three things (or four depending on how you count).

  1. Love of God and Bearing Your Cross
  2. Building a Tower
  3. Fighting a War

Jesus makes clear that loving God and bearing your cross is ‘The Way’. Building a Tower and Marching off to war are illusions of insurance. They are really impossible tasks that lead to no good outcome.

Choose – choose wisely. Choose to carry a cross for the Kingdom and the wellbeing of not just your own but for all.

Blessings,

Deacon Gerry

Spiritual Negligence

Leaking Cup

Spiritual Negligence

Greetings on this the Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings: IS 66:18-21; PS 117:1, 2; HEB 12:5-7, 11-13; LK 13:22-30

The Gospel reading for today has Jesus speaking of the narrow gate (or narrow way). In the Gospel of Matthew version the narrow gate is evaluated or realized by the fruits of the works of the person. In the Luke version the narrow gate is determined by the effort or striving one attempts. Heaven it seems in not merely a creed or profession but a reflection on how we think and what we do.

Traffic Control

I am not sure if this is common where you live but here we use off duty policeofficer to perform traffic control at our local houses of worship. The efficient movement of many vehicles into and out of a given house of worship requires an authoritative traffic control person and who better than a police officer.

Usually this work is pretty straight forward. Maybe a 15-20 minute effort in total and it can be done without a great deal of effort. But this one Sunday there were many, many cars. The traffic control policeman really struggled to keep up with the volume and the duration of the traffic control effort. We knew it would be a more difficult day so after it was over we walked over to the police officer to thank him. Before we could say a word he blurted out: ‘Father, you must tell me in advance when you are going to have a big event! This was much too hard to do all alone and I should have had help.’ Father responded, ‘Are you Christian’ The police officer replied, ‘Yes.’ Father said, ‘Today is Easter.’

Worried People

Back to the Gospel story.

The people were clearly worried. Seeing and hearing the differences between the leadership and their teaching and Jesus and his teaching would naturally create some serious thinking: ‘Lord, will only a few be saved?’ Spiritual neglect (we used to call it lukewarm) is a reasonable understanding of this teaching of Jesus. What exactly do we need to think/do/say? Is wealth a sign of God’s approval or a product of sin?

Jesus instead points to the contrast – the opposite of a life of salvation. In other words, Jesus does not answer the question directly. Instead he offers the example of exactly what we should NOT be like.

In the dialog of arriving at the narrow gate and wanting access some are turned away, ‘I do not know where you are from.’

To which they reply: ‘We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets.’

Jesus repeats his statement, ‘I do not know where you are from.’

The ‘ate and drink’ statement needs to be unpack. Jesus deliberately wants us to do that. The statement is concerned with the worldly good of life and is missing the spiritual good of life. It contains the three basic forms of obsession for worldly good and becomes the evidence about those who are denied entry.

The three are:

  1. Pleasures of Life (Flesh) – Food and drink even the Sign of the Multiplication of the Bread is to be taken for the body alone.
  2. Pleasures of the Eye (Possessions) – Riches of the world. Our city, you were invited to our city. We possess this place.
  3. Pride of Life (Honor) –They want to possess honor, be given honor and not give God the honor.

Narrow Gate

Jesus’ warning is that worldly good can have such a powerful influence over us as to put our eternal soul at risk of eternal exclusion.

Depart from me, all you evildoers, he said. Doing evil is the problem. Attending to your spiritual good is the way to the narrow gate.

Jesus is the gate. Following in his path, making your way to your personal Jerusalem is a truly fulfilling life with eternal benefits.

Peace be with you,

Deacon Gerry