OPEN-SAYS-AH-ME!

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Greetings on this the Tuesday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time
Readings: Gn 13:2, 5-18; PS 15:2-3a, 3bc-4ab, 5; Mt 7:6, 12-14
Notes: Most Jewish theologians are very uncomfortable with the ways in which we use this first reading. The most ordinary way it is taught (in Christianity) is to cast Abram and Lot as making distinctly different decisions, one good and one evil.

This part is good:

  • Abram – deferred to Lot as to making a choice.
  • Abram – trusted the Lord that whatever was to be for him would be sufficient.
  • Abram – was generous.
  • Lot – made the choice, a responsibility he was given.
  • Both wanted to keep the peace.
  • Abram looked to heaven for aid.
  • Lot used his natural discernment to choose.

It is reasonable to say we should trust the Lord in all our decisions and that our natural decisions based on the senses is wrong sometimes. Yet either way, troubles come. Yet either way, spiritual growth is necessary.

The part not so good:

  • Lot made his decision with tolerance for evil.
  • Lot made his choice on selfish criteria.

It is not reasonable to say Lot was evil or of an inferior righteousness, per se. The discomfort comes in how this story is leveraged going forward and the tragedy of Sodom and Gomorrah and beyond, the Moabites and Ammonites, in sacred Scripture.

First reading
Abram looked to heaven for his future.
Once he settled in, there he built an altar to the LORD.

Wherever you land.
Wherever you are.

Build an altar unto the Lord.
Be right with Him.

Responsorial Psalm
He who does justice will live in the presence of the Lord.

Alleluia Verse
I am the light of the world, says the Lord;
whoever follows me will have the light of life.

Gospel Portion
I get allergy shots weekly.

The front door to the building has an electric sensor and will open automatically as you approach. After years of passing through these doors I have perfected a skit that delights all who witness it.

Just as I approach the doors, I spread my arms and in my best Charlton Heston I project:

OPEN-SAYS-AH-ME!

I get lots of giggles by everyone.
Given this is a medical services building for many the only giggle of the day.

Gates (and doors) have lots of functions but first among them is to make a choice.
We can choose to pass through a gate or choose to not pass through a gate.

There are many types of gates:

  • Wide
  • Narrow
  • Tall
  • Short

They have many different qualities:

  • Opaque
  • Transparent
  • Heavy
  • Light

They have two states:

  • Open
  • Closed

They can be accessible:

  • Locked
  • Unlocked

Key among all of these facts it whether we want to go through the gate or not.

In regards to how we live our lives there are really two choices available:

  • Live Rightly (righteous)
  • Live Selfishly

The scripture selected today talks to Light and Pearls.
Recognize the Light that is Christ and the Pearls which is the Gospel.

Don’t squander them.
But here is the really hard part:

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Do not give what is holy to dogs, or throw your pearls before swine,
lest they trample them underfoot, and turn and tear you to pieces.

“Do to others whatever you would have them do to you.
This is the Law and the Prophets.

Who is the DOG? Who is the SWINE?
Note: contemporary descriptors for contemptable Gentiles.
If you were a DOG what would you want them to ignore your situation?

Jesus sets a high bar in the discernment of the treatment of people.

Wherever you land.
Wherever you are.

Build an altar unto the Lord.
Be right with Him.

OPEN-SAYS-AH-ME!

Peace be with you,
Deacon Gerry

Start Over

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Greetings on this the Memorial of Saint Aloysius Gonzaga, Religious
Readings: Gn 12:1-9; PS 33:12-13, 18-19, 20 and 22; Mt 7:1-5

Remember: God doesn’t call the qualified. He qualifies the called.

First Reading
Abram was seventy-five years old when he left Haran.
I am sure Abram was a naturally good man.

But Abram was 75 then he was called and started this very long journey on the promise of the benevolence of the Lord.

Difficult times:

  • Fear of the Egyptians even so far as to abandon his wife to them.
  • Difficulty with the clan and the separation from his nephew Lot.
  • The war of the four Kings.
  • Unhappy wife.
  • Unhappy wife and servant wife.
  • And this is just the beginning!

But Abram dusted off the mistakes and miscalculations and kept moving forward.
Forward in faith and forward in the growth of moral character.

Responsorial Psalm
Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.

It is always important to remember the Lord has chosen you.
The Creator of the Universe has picked you to be loved, to love and to work together with Him to bring consolation to the world.

Alleluia Verse
The word of God is living and effective,
able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart.

In the secret of your heart, speak to the Lord and share your worries.

Gospel Portion
Jesus said to his disciples, that is, speaking to all of us:
“Stop judging, that you may not be judged.
For as you judge, so will you be judged,
and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you.

You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first;
then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye.

Some worthwhile notes from the NABRE

  • The governing thought is the correspondence between conduct toward one’s fellows and God’s conduct toward the one so acting.
  • Jesus is against passing judgment in a spirit of arrogance, being forgetful of one’s own faults.
  • Hypocrite: the designation previously given to the scribes and Pharisees is here given to the Christian disciple who is concerned with the faults of another and ignores his own more serious offenses.

But thanks be to God, we are chosen and we can…

Start over.

Peace be with you,
Deacon Gerry

Extreme Fear

Greetings on this the Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Readings: Jb 38:1, 8-11; PS 107:23-24, 25-26, 28-29, 30-31; 2 Cor 5:14-17; Mk 4:35-41
Note: The rainy season was delayed this year. It did come and with it a massive pollen release by every plant species! My face and eyes are so swollen I am unable to attend Mass today. So my reflection is what I offer you alone.

Note 2: Happy Father’s Day!!!

If you recall yesterday, Saturday, the reflection He knows. He knows our needs. Today we plumb how deeply he knows and how deep our afflictions (even terror, even death). He knows.

As Osner would say, “Jesus knows, Jesus knows.

Guest sermon from a favorite: Even Though He Sleeps, Christ Is in the Boat: My Sermon on Mark 4:35-41

First Reading
Then the LORD answered Job out of the storm and said:

  • Where were you on the day of creation?
  • Have you ever in your lifetime commanded the morning and shown the dawn its place? (v12).
  • (I am) taking hold of the ends of the earth, till the wicked are shaken from it? (v13).

We have limits on what we know and what we can do.

God has limits that are self imposed:

  • He will not remove our free will. This is a gift he shall not take back.
  • He will not remember confessed sin.
  • He will never abandon us even at the hour of our death.

Responsorial Psalm
Give thanks to the Lord, his love is everlasting.
This account of sailors being rescued at sea is a presage of the disciples adrift in a raging sea.

They cried to the LORD in their distress;
from their straits he rescued them,
He hushed the storm to a gentle breeze,
and the billows of the sea were stilled

From this morning’s Liturgy of the Hours, Antphon of Cantical of Zechariah:

Help us, O Lord, for we are troubled; give the command, O God, and bring us peace.

Second Reading
So whoever is in Christ is a new creation:
the old things have passed away;
behold, new things have come.

A real part of that is our approach to the fear of death and our response to terrifying things.

While residual fear exists, we are not yet perfect, we are no longer fearful of death because Jesus has overcome the grave.

Alleluia Verse
A great prophet has risen in our midst
God has visited his people.

Jesus proves himself by the works themselves, the miracles and the power over all things.
From the gospel portion: Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?

Gospel Portion
Then he asked them, “Why are you terrified?
Do you not yet have faith?”

Jesus exerts his power over the raging sea to reassure us he is present with us. No difficulty escapes his constant care for us. Still we remain.

I am not asking You to take them out of the world, but to keep them away from the evil one (Jn 17:15). (protect us from terror).

What rages in you?
What casues you to feel completely unable to control the world around you?

We live in a world filled with outrage and terror (extreme fear):

  • Indignation.
  • Feigned Indignation.
  • Transference.
  • Beyond frustrated, enraged.
  • Beyond hurt, deeply wounded.

But the most profound lose of all is losing faith. Like the story of Job and the gospel portion of the disciples in the boat on the sea, our faith can be shaken to its core.

In all our difficulties, some too hurtful even to repeat them, we must never forget this Jesus who knows. Jesus is present, even in the hour of our terror.

Peace be with you,
Deacon Gerry

He Knows

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Greetings on this the Saturday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time
Readings: 2 Cor 12:1-10; PS 34:8-9, 10-11, 12-13; Mt 6:24-34
Note: W leave the letter Corinthians after today in the weekly readings. Next week Genesis.
First reading
My grace is sufficient for you,
for power is made perfect in weakness.

Paul reflects on the thorn in the flesh he suffers. We don’t know what that is exactly. Since he has been tormented by the SuperApostles in this letter possibly the person or persons they are.

Paul accepts the ‘No” of the Lord because the malady has a divine purpose derived from it. The divine doesn’t cause it but makes use of it. This is specific to Paul. It could be instructive to the rest of us, depending, but not a requirement for us to see our suffering the same way.

Paul responds:

Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults,
hardships, persecutions, and constraints,
for the sake of Christ;
for when I am weak, then I am strong.

Responsorial Psalm
Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.

Alleluia Verse
Jesus Christ became poor although he was rich,
so that by his poverty you might become rich.

Gospel Portion
Needs

  • Food
  • Drink
  • Illness/health
  • Clothing
  • Shelter

Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.
But seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness,
and all these things will be given you besides.

The anxiety over these things is unnecessary and actually makes us a slave to them. Anxiety over things is a mammon god. These are necessary and abundant on the Earth. Anxiety is normal under extreme circumstances and there are such circumstances for people. For the most part though not so. Jesus noted the ineffective nature of persistent anxiety. Even then, the extreme, trust his faithfulness to you under extreme circumstances as he is present helping in ways we cannot measure.

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.

Faith (trust that the Lord is faithful in his promise to you).

Peace be with you,
Deacon Gerry

Eye and Heart

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Greetings on this the Friday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time
Readings: 2 Cor 11:18, 21-30; PS 34:2-3, 4-5, 6-7; Mt 6:19-23

First Reading
Paul continues his contrasting with the SuperApostles. In part the similarities and in part the differences. Perhaps we can express Paul in a quip to shorten the reflection?

What is the difference between bacon and eggs?
The Chick is committed, the Pig is “All In”.

Quip digested
Chickens produce eggs so they contribute, true.
But the pig becomes bacon, there is nothing left to give.

Responsorial Psalm
From all their distress God rescues the just.

Alleluia Verse
Blessed are the poor in spirit;
for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.

Gospel Portion
Eye (not eyes) is the focus of the person. Your eye focuses on this or that. Beyond simply eyesight, our Eye focuses on what we want it to focus on.

Heart (not muscle) is the reason we focus the eye. The Eye will focus on what the heart tells it to focus on (set aside the conflict between body and spirit for a minute).

Light (not sunlight) is the character of the personal being. The soul is filled with light and of what sort of light is the question.

Eye and Heart Corollaries

The astute see an evil and hide, while the naïve continue on and pay the penalty (Prov 22:3).

The heart changes one’s face, either for good or for evil (Sir 13:25).

Misers are evil people, they turn away and disregard others. The eye of the miserly is rapacious for food, but there is none of it on their own table (Sir 14:8, 10).

Gospel Focus

“The lamp of the body is the eye.
If your eye is sound, your whole body will be filled with light;
but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be in darkness.
And if the light in you is darkness, how great will the darkness be.”

Peace be with you,
Deacon Gerry

Pray Forgive

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Greetings on this the Thursday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time
Readings: 2 Cor 11:1-11; PS 111:1b-2, 3-4, 7-8; Mt 6:7-15

First Reading
Paul warns about SuperApostles, who are most likely false apostles, for even Satan masquerades as an angel of light (v14). It is important to see the differences.

For if someone comes and preaches another Jesus than the one we preached,
or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received
or a different gospel from the one you accepted.

Paul’s summary of his work in Corinth:

  • I am jealous of you with the jealousy of God.
  • I betrothed you to one husband to present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.
  • I helped you form a sincere and pure commitment to Christ.
  • I took no money.
  • My aid comes from others, from you I took nothing.
  • The truth of Christ is in me.
  • I love you.

Paul is saying:

  • I preached Jesus and the gospel message.
  • I have the Spirit of God upon me.
  • Evaluate based upon my actions.

Responsorial Psalm
Your works, O Lord, are justice and truth.

Alleluia Verse
You have received a spirit of adoption as sons
through which we cry: Abba! Father!

Gospel Portion
Foremost: Pray & Forgive.

This is how you are to pray:

‘Our Father who art in heaven,
    hallowed be thy name,
    thy Kingdom come,
thy will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
    and forgive us our trespasses,
    as we forgive those who trespass against us;
    and lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from evil.’

Peace be with you,
Deacon Gerry

Lavish or Check List

Greetings on this the Wednesday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time
Readings: 2 Cor 9:6-11; PS 112:1bc-2, 3-4, 9; Mt 6:1-6, 16-18

First Reading
You are being enriched in every way for all generosity,
which through us produces thanksgiving to God.

When you consider the meaning of this sacred word it is quite humbling.

For followers of Christ, we are being changed to be generous in all ways. Imagine or can we even imagine the breadth and depth of this type of generosity?

Such generosity through and in us produces thanksgiving to God.

Not sparingly does one give who follows the Lord.

Lavishly he gives to the poor;
his generosity shall endure forever;
his horn shall be exalted in glory (PS 112:9)

Lavishly – in an extravagant manner; in profusion.

Responsorial Psalm
Blessed the man who fears the Lord.

Alleluia Verse
Whoever loves me will keep my word,
and my Father will love him
and we will come to him.

Gospel Portion
Being perfect is reflected in a new way in the gospel of Matthew chapter 6 by way of comparison.

Today’s gospel portion is often associated with the season of Lent. In Lent we reintroduce the practices of Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving. The reading contrasts true practice with the hypocritical actions of the Pharisees.

While outwardly they appear to be the same action, inwardly they are not.

Jesus uses physical contrast to make his point – so one can see what he is referring to, such as:

  • standing on the street corner (flamboyance).
  • blowing one’s horn (bragging).
  • looking gloomy (starving).
  • failing to wash one’s face (lack of self care).

It is the difference between inner driven to profusion and a check list mentality.

Inner Driven

  • is from a fount of love (love as God loves).
  • reliance upon God (all is from Him).
  • fidelity to God (all as he did).
  • is being enriched by God to be generous (transformative for self and others).

Check List Mentality

  • ritualistic, bound to periodicity (not to actual needs).
  • compliance to law, external requirement.
  • obligation needing confirmation (Greek verb apechō, a commercial term for giving a receipt).
  • self sufficiency, from one’s excess not from one’s poverty.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You pay tithes of mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier things of the law: judgment and mercy and fidelity. [But] these you should have done, without neglecting the others (Matt 23:23).

I think everyone bounces between being lavish or having a check list mentality.

The issue is to be self-aware and when you can allow the Lord to help you become generous. It is a key sign of conversion and for our highest joy to praise God and have God praised because of us.

Peace be with you,
Deacon Gerry

Concern For Others

Greetings on this the Tuesday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time
Readings: 2 Cor 8:1-9; PS 146:2, 5-6ab, 6c- 7, 8-9a; Mt 5:43-48

First Reading
Paul recounts the generosity of the churches of Macedonia in imitation of Christ.

Macedonia
for in a severe test of affliction,
the abundance of their joy and their profound poverty
overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part.

Christ
For you know the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ,
that for your sake he became poor although he was rich,
so that by his poverty you might become rich.

Responsorial Psalm
Praise the Lord, my soul!

Alleluia Verse
I give you a new commandment:
love one another as I have loved you.

Gospel Portion
We complete chapter 5 of the gospel of Matthew today and move onto chapter 6 tomorrow.
Wednesday and Thursday continue about how we “be perfect”.

Be Perfect
Here Jesus tells us to be perfect as the heavenly father is perfect.

God the Father:

  • God loves everyone.
  • Sun and rain are given to all.
  • Love is given all.

For Us:

  • Pray for everyone including those who persecute you.
  • Greet everyone.
  • Be perfect like the Father.

I say this not by way of command,
but to test the genuineness of your love
by your concern for others
(2 Cor 8:8).

Peace be with you,
Deacon Gerry

Unfeigned Love, Truthful Speech

Greetings on this the Monday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time
Readings: 2 Cor 6:1-10; PS 98:1, 2b, 3ab, 3cd-4; Mt 5:38-42
Note: Summertime reflections will use various formats. I hope you enjoy them.

First reading
In this one sentence (2 Cor 6:1-10) is a sentence worthy of a lifetime of study so magnificent it is and containing within the ways of the spiritual life with Jesus. Paul certainly exhibits the characteristics of unfeigned love and truthful speech.

In this reading Paul brings forward three distinct themes:

  • Ministry
  • Hardship
  • Trinity (although not identified as such)

It is useful for us to list them here in a more readable form for study.
I’ll use this elsewhere and in other writings.
For today, we shall say true apostolic following is identifiable as someone who is “All In“.

(you may quibble with some items, no problem)

Responsorial Psalm
The Lord has made known his salvation.

Alleluia Verse
A lamp to my feet is your word,
a light to my path
.

Gospel Portion
This portion of the gospel of Matthew, is the collection of “You have heard it said

  • About Anger
  • About Adultery
  • About Divorce
  • About Oaths
  • About Retaliation
  • About Hating Enemies

Which are always paired with an antithesis of “But I say“. Some modifying/deepen the commandments and some outright rejected old testament commandments as they were practiced.

In today’s gospel portion, Jesus rejects the old testament commandment of moderating vengeance of proportionate retaliation (Ex 21:24, related Lev 24:19-20). Rather he proposes his follower a new response.

Jesus said to his disciples:
“You have heard that it was said,
An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. (Ex 21:24, related Lev 24:19-20)

But I say to you:

  • Do not return violence for violence – your instincts/emotions
  • Do not protect your tunic and cloak – possessions (more on this)
  • Do not resist forced labor – your energy/time (2x the required distance of Roman Law)
  • Give generously – your almsgiving
  • Do not fail to lend your possessions – your community living/friendship.

It is a radical departure and Paul in the first reading lived exactly this way.

How can we ever live like this? IMPOSSIBLE!!

No, not impossible!

The person of Jesus speaking and the witness of Paul living life gives us the answer:

It is possible to do as Jesus commands (“but I say”) in the:

  • Unfeigned Love/Truthful Speech of Jesus
  • Inspiration of the Holy Spirit
  • and in the power of God.

We really can do these things well and the wellspring of strength is Jesus.

(Summer is here in seven more days).

Peace be with you,
Deacon Gerry