Since I don’t want to let one of my mentors down: Fr. Jim Healy – who begins every homily with a joke ---- or allow you to be bored by my preaching – I thought I would begin with a joke today – so I don’t know if it’s a good one, but it is my best joke about gratitude. . .
So a large dog walks into a butcher shop carrying a purse in its mouth. He puts the purse down and sits in front of the meat counter.
“What is it, boy?” the butcher jokingly asks. “Want to buy some meat?” “Woof!” barks the dog.
“Hmmm,” says the butcher. “What kind? Chicken, pork, steak. . .” “Woof!” interrupts the dog.”
“Okay,” says the butcher. “And how much steak? Half a pound, one pound. . .” “Woof!” said the dog.
Amazed the butcher wraps up the pound of steak and finds just enough money in the purse to pay for it.
As the dog leaves, the butcher decides to follow out of curiosity. The dog enters an apartment building, climbs to the third floor – and begins scratching at the door.
Immediately, a man swings open the door and starts shouting at the dog for scratching at the door.
“Hey, wait a minute,” yells the butcher. “Quit shouting at the most intelligent dog I have ever seen.”
“Intelligent?” says the man. “Intelligent? Why this is the third time I’ve sent him out this week to get something --- and he’s gone off forgetting his key!!!!”
Some people are just incapable of being grateful – even if they have an intelligent dog who occasionally forgets ---- or even if they have been cured from the most dreaded disease known in their day: leprosy.
Rightly Jesus asks: “Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine?”
Certainly they noticed they had been cleansed. . . . weren’t they grateful ??? –
or had they been separated from their families and friends and society for so long because of their leprosy – they have forgotten how to be grateful??
Just in case we have forgotten how to be grateful – I will finish with a story. . .
It’s Great to be Grateful! By Michaelene Mundy.
What it means to be grateful. Being grateful means you notice something good that has happened or is happening in your life. It might be something that just happened like someone fixing your favorite meal -- even when it’s not your birthday.
When you take time to be thankful, ordinary things can become special: a cup cake tastes better if you slow down and enjoy it. Remembering that someone took the time to bake them is another reason to be grateful.
Why be thankful? It is hard to be thankful and sad – or angry – at the same time. Being thankful can make you feel good. Paying attention to the little things we have and the little things that happen can turn a boring day into a special day or an ordinary meal into a feast.
It is important to let others know when you are thankful for something they did for you or made happen. Even GOD likes to know when you are thankful. At the end of the day you can thank God for your family, your friends, or for things like snow that you had fun in.
Being thankful is a gift. You “honor” or “show your respect” for someone when you notice them or what they do for you and then show or tell them that you are thankful with a smile or a hug and a “Thank you.”
We can also hurt people’s feelings by NOT being thankful. Did you ever do something special for someone – like holding the door open or carrying something for someone – and they didn’t even notice? Did it make you feel sad?
It feels good when others say “Thanks” to you. It is like someone giving a gift to you.
How to be Thankful. You can show your thanks with a note, an e-mail, or a text. You can even stop the fun thing you are doing for a moment and whisper a thanks to God in prayer.
It isn’t hard to be thankful. It does take a little time, though. It is a wonderful habit to notice when things are good and quietly say to yourself the feelings that are in your heart.
To whom should we give thanks? You can thank your mom and dad for the gift of your life. But you don’t have to wait until your birthday. You can thank God for all the good people you have in your life: grandparents, friends, teachers, neighbors.
It is nice to show your thanks to people who take care of you or do little things for you. A friend who pushes you on a swing, your grandparent who takes care of you when your parents are gone,
your teachers who help you learn new things, the librarian who helps you find a good book, are all people to whom we can say “thank you.”
There are so many people to thank!
What to be thankful for? There are a million things to be grateful for. Things like your family and good meals to eat together. You can be thankful for a summer breeze on a hot day or for the toys and games you have.
But your probably don’t really need more and more stuff. Instead, you can be thankful for the things and people you have in your life.
And you can be thankful that you have people who love you and watch over you. These are the best gifts and blessings in your life.
Being thankful is a choice. Being thankful sometimes just happens and is easy to show. When someone surprises you with something nice, you may smile or jump up and down or give a big hug or say, “Thanks!”
But sometimes, showing gratitude and saying “thanks” is a choice. It is something you can decide to do. Since you want to let people know you appreciate them – and what they do for you --- you just need to make showing gratitude a habit.
You may hear people say, “thank goodness we have air conditioning,” or, “thank heavens I passed that test,” or “Thank God no one got hurt.” Being thankful is such a habit with some people that they often don’t even realize they are doing it.
Getting into the habit of saying “Thank you” to God is a very good thing. And it is also a very good habit to say “thanks” for all the good and kind things people do.
When you notice someone being kind, tell them so. It can make their whole day special to know that you noticed.
Every day can be thanksgiving day! Have you ever heard someone say, “count your blessings?” People often say this when bad things happen. By looking at all the good things in your life, it makes it easier to deal with bad things that happen sometimes.
At night, before you sleep, when all is quiet (except for maybe your little brother or sister or puppy!) remember to tell God how thankful you are. . . thankful for all that ways, all that is, and all that will be. AMEN!
My name is Dives – or at least that’s the name people have given me over the years --- because notice I am not named in the parable that Jesus tells today – more about that later.
They call me Dives because it is simply the Latin word for RICH – and yes, I was that – filthy rich – without a care in the world ---- as long as we are only talking money.
You may remember hearing a story about my brother, Ashar, in the Gospel a few weeks ago. He was the one who built bigger barns to store up all his wealth. . . he could have shared it, but did not – let’s just say some things run in families. . .
They call him Ashar because it is the Hebrew word for “to be rich and wealthy” or simply, “to be flat out prosperous.”
We were obviously cut from the same mold: all my brothers and I -- were wealthy, prosperous, and stuck on ourselves – because we would never think of sharing any of our wealth with those less fortunate --- let them fend for themselves. . . and that is the thinking that landed me in a very unpleasant place after my life on earth – but let’s get back to Jesus’ parable. . .
You may not realize this, but in all the 30 or so stories or parables Jesus tells in the Gospel – only once does he call someone by name –
and that is Lazarus. Usually Jesus says things like, “ a rich man had a steward,” or “what man among you having a hundred sheep,” or “what woman having ten coins and losing one” or “when you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet.” -- Parables you have heard in recent weeks – and not one name used among them.
But Jesus calls this poor man lying at my door by name – Lazarus – perhaps just to indicate that learning a person’s name – is the first way to begin to break down the barriers that separate people. . . Lazarus --- which in Hebrew means “God has helped” -- a name I don’t use until after both of us are dead and gone –
and only then because I want Lazarus to do something for me – to be my servant – to dip the tip of his finger in water to cool my tongue.
Now when both of us were alive – I had no use for him, and therefore walked by him day after day – not even noticing him – and so certainly would have no need to know his name.
If only I could have been a bit more like this man Jesus in my life – but I certainly had no use for the values he was proclaiming: “to bring glad tidings to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives, and to let the oppressed go free.” He obviously did not know the poor, the captives, and the oppressed were part of the problem in our society –
if not the whole problem of our society: out of sight, out of mind is my philosophy. . . or I should say WAS my philosophy – if only I could go back and relive my life. . . things would be a bit different. . .
And that’s why I want Abraham, our father in faith, yes, I was a Jew – just not a very good one --- I want Abraham to let Lazarus go back to warn my brothers to put the poor, the captive, and the oppressed into their sight and into their minds – and to reach out to them in compassion.
But Abraham simply says, “they have Moses and the prophets – let them listen to them.”
If only I had listened. . .
For Moses, who we Jews thought wrote the Pentateuch, or the first five books of the Bible, said in the book of Deuteronomy, “treat the poor with open hands, rather than with tight fists.” My fist could not have been more tight, holding on even to the very first denarius I had ever earned – it was framed and hanging in my office!
Or in Leviticus, Moses said, “When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your fields --- leave it for the poor and the foreigner.” I think my brother with the bigger barns needed to pay attention to that one, and maybe he would not have needed his bigger barns!
Or, again, in Deuteronomy, “there should be no poor among you, for in the land the Lord your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, God will richly bless you.” God did indeed bless me – but I kept it all to myself, failing to be a good steward:
one who realized everything I had was a gift from God – and I was called to be a responsible care-taker and dispenser of God’s property. Oh, if only I had listened and lived my life differently!
The prophets are the ones who really cut loose on the care and concern for the poor. . .
Like the Prophet Amos you have been hearing from – who told you last week that God is not happy with those who trample upon the needy and destroy the poor of the land.
And who continues this week – woe to you complacent [which means those who are marked by self-satisfaction and who are unconcerned about anyone or anything except maybe where the next banquet is to be held!] Woe to you complacent – you shall be the 1st to go into exile!
I guess it is safe to say among my brothers – I am the first to go into exile: into this netherworld where I am in torment. . .
It was all right there, laid out in our sacred texts – to watch out not only for yourself, but for those who were less fortunate than you are. If only I had listened. If only I could have thought of someone besides myself. If only I could do it all over again and be a good steward of all that I was blessed with – I would not be begging for that drop of water to cool my tongue!
So, I am Dives – the rich man dressed in purple garments and fine linen ---- and I guess the point I really want to make – is for you to pay attention to how you live --- learn from my mistakes. Live your life with gentleness, with graciousness, and with generosity.
Have concern for the poor, the captives, the oppressed – and don’t forget about the widow, the orphan, and foreigner. . .
And be sure to take to heart the words this Jesus says elsewhere in the Gospel and repeats often with the hope that it will sink in:
Where your treasure is, there your heart shall be.
All that you possess will never set you free.
Seek the things that last – come and learn from me:
Where your treasure is your heart shall be.
The author, C.S. Lewis writes in his book, Mere Christianity,:
“Every faculty you have: your power of thinking or moving your limbs from moment to moment – is given to you by God. If you devoted every moment of your whole life exclusively to His service – you could not give Him anything that was not in a sense His own already.”
Jesus talked a lot about stewardship. He used parables, such as the one he tells today, to teach deeper principles about discipleship --- and he reminds his followers that our hearts --- follow our treasure. . .
In Jesus time, the steward was the manager of a wealthy person’s household. The steward was not the owner of the assets: the house, the servants, the barns and the things they stored – but was to be a responsible care-taker and dispenser of the owner’s property: he was the one that kept things running.
So the steward, a good steward, was someone who had to be trustworthy, honest, loyal, hardworking, and respected and respectful. They needed to be able to view each thing - and especially each person – as a precious and vital resource of great potential for the owner.
The parable Jesus tells today is of a steward who failed miserably at being good at what he was called to do. This steward was reported to his master for SQUANDERING his property.
SQUANDER means to waste something – especially money or time – in a reckless and foolish manner. Synonyms include: misspend, misuse, throw away, dissipate, fritter away, and make poor use of ------------ not someone, I think, any of us ------would want handling our assets.
And so the master calls him on the carpet – and tells him he can no longer be his steward.
But then - -something happens. This steward becomes very cunning in making sure he has friends after his dismissal.
He becomes very creative in doctoring the invoices and cutting deals – and regains so much of the owners loans – that his master “commends him for acting prudently.” Meaning he praised him formally or officially for acting with or showing care and thought for the future --------- but it doesn’t mean he got his job back!
Whenever I hear this parable and think about it and pray about it --- I always wonder – why did the steward not just do the job he was entrusted with doing in the first place???
Why did he wait until he was called on the carpet before he started acting prudently – which he should have been doing all along??? Why was this man re-active, rather than pro-active – in being a responsible care-taker and dispenser of the owner’s property?
And then I can’t help but think the same thing about the Bishops in our Church. . .
No doubt we live in a very different, and very safer – church than we lived in and had 17 years ago before the Boston Globe first broke the story of the abuse of children and cover ups that had occurred for years. . .
We now have what is called the Dallas Charter – so called because it came out of the Bishops’ meeting in June of 2002, which met in Dallas that year. The Charter which gives the Church a comprehensive set of procedures to address sexual abuse of minors by Catholic Clergy – one of which is to simply cooperate with civil authorities when a suspected crime has been committed – what a novel idea!!!!!!
This, and the other procedures put in place – are signs of being a good steward – of being a responsible care-taker of the most important assets, our children, entrusted to the Church by God -------------- but why did it take getting caught in a cover up --- and getting called on the carpet for this to happen?
Those of us who do ministry in the Church with children– know that these days we just can’t show up and do something – we have to undergo a criminal background check, take Virtus training on creating and maintaining safe environments and boundaries, and keep current on our training. Since 2004 – I have done two live trainings, been through 4 versions of on-line training and have read 227 training bulletins. .
Yes, we are better stewards of our children these days – but why did we have to be re-active, rather than pro-active?
Many priests have been removed from ministry and have gone to prison for their misdeeds -----and rightly so!
But when is someone finally going to hold the Bishops accountable for moving abusive priests from parish to parish --- and covering up their actions?
Like the dishonest steward in the parable who lost the confidence of his master --- I think the church has certainly lost the confidence of those who strive to be faithful followers of Christ – and who have not had good role-models of stewardship – many in leadership positions have failed to be responsible care-takers of the souls that were entrusted to them by God: have failed to view each person, especially the most vulnerable – as a precious and vital resource of great potential for the glory of God and God’s kingdom.
BUT, just because we have not had good role-models in stewardshp doesn’t mean that we should become wasteful, reckless, or foolish in what God has entrusted to us – which truly is everything that we have and own.
As C.S. Lewis said: “every faculty you have, your power of thinking or of moving your limbs form moment to moment, is given you by God. And if you devoted every moment of your whole life exclusively to His service, you could not give Him anything that was not in a sense His own already.”
We need to be faithful stewards of all God has given us. We need to use each and every opportunity given to us as a gift by God --- to glorify God, to serve the common good, and to help build the Kingdom of God in our midst. . .
Crazy: Absolutely crazy. That’s what we should think about the 3 parables Jesus tells in Chapter 15 of St. Luke’s Gospel – the so called “LOST” chapter ---because it has the story of the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, and the Lost Son – also known as the Prodigal Son
– which we did NOT read about today and I won’t talk about – since we had the story back in Lent ----- but I still do like this picture of the Father racing toward his son – so I put it out as a reminder. . .
Anyway, three parables which challenge our very logical, human, way of thinking: because they are quirky and describe doing things that WE most likely would NOT do.
Who would do what the shepherd does or the woman with the lost coin does – they just don’t make too much sense to us. . . they are just crazy.
But that is the most fundamental point Jesus is trying to make: God’s love for us isn’t logical – it is just plain “crazy”: because it stretches the limits of our human thinking.
Because who really does understand unlimited and unconditional love? Who can really grasp the depths of God’s mercy?
God’s grace is absolutely amazing in that it goes completely beyond our ability to comprehend.
It transcends merely human concepts. Thank God! For if God were like us – we’d all be in trouble when it came to mercy, love, and forgiveness!
Let’s consider the parable of the lost sheep ---
So Jesus speaks of a shepherd who leaves 99 sheep to search for ONE who is lost. Would a shepherd really do this?? Probably not! Perhaps if the lost sheep was close by he might venture over the fence or hedgerow to retrieve it.
But the average human shepherd would cut his losses and stay with the 99. Many of us might even consider it irresponsible to leave 99 to search for the one.
The point of the parable is that God’s love is extravagant, personal – and at times, a bit puzzling.
In the end, it would seem that God loves us for “no good reason.” God seems to love us even “more” when we stray -- for God’s focus intensifies on the one who strays.
To us this is not only crazy, it is dangerous, and most likely - reckless. But don’t try to figure it out. Don’t analyze it too much. Just be astonished, be amazed. Yes, this is crazy: for God’s great love for us is unexplainable. . .
For God rejoices when the lost is found.
Every wayward sheep that is homeward bound.
More than all the other sheep that stayed in town.
God rejoices when the lost is found!
A woman loses a drachma – it’s a small coin. Not worth that much really, perhaps one day’s wages for an agricultural worker of the time.
In modern terms – it’s less than $100. Not insignificant – but not really a huge amount either.
She sweeps diligently looking for it. So far, this all seems reasonable. . . I know I would look around for a lost $100 bill.
But then it gets crazy ---- the woman finds the coin – and rejoices to such an extent that she spends most, if not all of it – on a party celebrating the lost coin that has been found --- illogical --- crazy!
But that’s exactly the point. God doesn’t count the cost. God doesn’t try to figure out whether or not we are worth it – God doesn’t calculate the cost of loving us. . .
Some commentators try to explain the craziness away by suggesting that perhaps the coin had sentimental value as part of her dowry, or was part of a ceremonial head-dress of the day that contained 10 coins. . .
But, over analyzing and trying to explain or make sense of it ----- may well miss the point.
This woman is crazy because God is crazy. God’s love for us is extravagant beyond what is humanly reasonable or explainable. Don’t try to figure it out. Don’t analyze it too much ---- just be astonished, be amazed.
Yes, this is crazy. That God loves us this much is unexplainable.
For God rejoices when the lost is found
Every wayward soul come to holy ground.
Like the silver drachma when it rolls around.
God rejoices when the lost is found!
Let’s face it – God loves differently than we do – and thank God this is so --- because if God were like us – we’d all be in trouble when it came to mercy, love and forgiveness.
BUT --- even though God loves differently than we do – God does expect us to do our best to love in the same way God loves --- God sets the standard – we don’t.
So yes, God’s love for us is extravagant – and ours for others must strive to be as extravagant.
God’s love of us is not reasonable or explainable – and our love for others must strive to be as unreasonable and illogical.
But don’t analyze it too much. Just be astonished, be amazed. Yes, this is crazy – and as follower of Christ, we are called to be just a bit off our rockers when it comes to our mercy, love, and forgiveness. . .
For God rejoices when the lost is found.
Every wayward soul come to holy ground.
Every humble sinner that is turned around.
God rejoices when the lost is found.
What’s in it for me?
I ask myself that question a lot. Maybe you do too. Oh, maybe not explicitly – or maybe not in these exact words. And I definitely don’t say them out loud in the presence of others.
But the question is there nonetheless: in the back of my mind, shaping and influencing my decisions: what’s in it for me?
I ask that question when a friend calls me and wants to go to dinner or out for the evening – when all I really want to do is go home and do nothing. . .
I ask that question when the Bishop or someone else from the Chancery calls me to be on another committee – do I really want to give up even more of my time to sit in meetings?
I ask that question when someone calls me to give a talk or a presentation somewhere – especially if it is out of town: do I really want to commit to the preparation I’ll have to do – and then the time in the car?
What’s in it for me?
Yes, that simple question seems to play a pretty significant role in many of the decisions I make.
And sometimes – that’s okay. After all, God probably doesn’t care too strongly whether or not I go out to dinner – even if a friend might be slightly disappointed by my lack of enthusiasm.
And I suppose there is nothing wrong with turning down a speaking engagement, if it really isn’t something that grabs my interest.
And none of us needs to take on every single bit of work that comes our way – especially if it means that it will stretch us too thin to the point of NOT being able to meet our other responsibilities. . .
But I use these examples simply to show that the decisions we make in life RARELY are the product of pure motives. . . The truth is – a little bit of “what’s in it for me?” or “What am I getting out of this?” or “How do I benefit?” is often lurking somewhere in our decision-making process – whether we are aware of it or not. And sometimes that’s okay. It really is. But, as you can imagine – sometimes it’s not. . .
“Rather when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you.”
So says Jesus in today’s Gospel. . . In a parable told in the house of a leading Pharisee – Jesus talks about the importance of NOT taking a seat of honor at a wedding banquet, but taking the lowest place instead.
Jesus then goes on to encourage his listeners to be humble--- and not to exalt themselves. He then caps off the story with the broad invitation we should give to the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind --- precisely because they can’t return the favor, can’t pay us back. This kind of giving is truly a selfless act – because there is NOTHING in it for the giver.
Or is there?
Jesus ends his story by saying: “For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
In one sense, the story seems to be encouraging us to purify our motives – to do good things simply for the good of others. Jesus seems to be saying, “Don’t simply love someone because they can love you in return – or be generous with someone because they will then be obligated to be generous with you – or do a favor for someone so that they will have to do a favor for you at some other time: An I’ll scratch your back – you scratch mine type of thing. . .
NO – Jesus wants us to do good simply because it is the right thing to do ---not because there is anything in it for us.
But then what about the ending: about being “repaid at the resurrection of the righteous?” Can’t that taint our motives? Doesn’t that sort of imply that we should do good things ----- so that God owes us??
Not quite. . .
I think one of the greatest challenges of faith is believing that God owes us nothing. After all, most of our human interactions are almost the complete opposite – they are all about transactions – I am getting this so I owe you that. . .
But our relationship with God isn’t like that. We can’t earn God’s love – nor do we have to. God gives everything freely, purely, and unconditionally.
And that’s the key to this Gospel. . . when Jesus calls us to invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind – he is simply asking us to do what he has already done and is continuing to do:
The poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind – aren’t just OTHER people – they are you and me – God has already invited us to the feast. God has welcomed us in through our Baptisms and the life of this community. God feeds us and nourishes us at this sacred table. God has forgiven and healed us and consoled us time and time again. AND MOST IMPORTANTLY: God has already won a great victory for us through the death and resurrection of his son – a victory which holds out the promise for each of us to be united with God for all eternity!!
And so God’s “repayment” to us is NOT because God owes us anything – but rather because God has already saved us --- saved us in this moment – in this life – and in the life to come. It’s NOT a repayment at all ---- IT’S A GIFT – the perfect gift. The victory has already been won. The wedding feast has begun – and we are sharing in that feast this very day!
And so God calls us to love others because God has first loved us. God asks us to forgive because God has already forgiven us. God wants us to shower others with kindness and mercy – because God does the same for us each and every day!
And the best way to say thank you to God – is to live our lives in gratitude and service.
Two weeks ago, we had a Gospel Reading in which Jesus said:
“Gird your loins and light your lamps and be like servants who await their master’s return. . .” At the Masses Deacon Jim preached at – he referred to this as the “Boy Scout” Gospel – as we are always supposed to be prepared for Jesus’ return. . .
With that in mind, I decided today’s Gospel should be called the “Indiana Jones” Gospel. . .
Although the movie, “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” is 20 years old – many of us may recall its final scenes.
Indiana is paired up with his father against the Nazi’s to be the first to find the Holy Grail – the cup used by Jesus at the last supper.
To get to it, Indy must overcome three challenges: The breath of God, the Word of God, and the Wrath of God – it is the final challenge which concerns us. . .
After getting through the razor sharp wheels and escaping from falling into a pit --- Indy goes through a narrow door and encounters a deep canyon which he must cross.
According to his father’s guide book – only a leap from the lion’s head will get one safely across
– but no one, Indy concludes, can leap such a great distance.
He finally discerns that it is a leap of faith that is called for and after taking a few deep breathes, he steps off the edge of the cliff – only to find there is a camouflaged bridge of rock which safely gets him across the canyon, into the cave, and to the cup of Christ.
A leap of faith – not only gets Indiana Jones to the Holy Grail – but it gets us through the narrow gate and on the narrow road that leads to eternal life – which Jesus talks about in today’s Gospel.
Today’s world is filled with a multitude of enticing distractions.
Megamalls, megaplexes, massive sports venues, super centers and endless cable channels that can easily occupy every moment of our day.
The world is only as far away as our fingertips via the internet and social media has brought us to another level of communication that can occupy unhealthy amounts of our time.
Materialism, secularism, humanism, and relativism are ever present and vying for our attention and hopeful submission.
The world offers a wide path for us filled with endless entertainment venues, indulgences of every kind, and abundant frivolity while ignoring God’s laws in favor of its own.
However, followers of Jesus Christ are called to traverse a different route, joining him instead on the road less traveled. Jesus clearly stated this when he said, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.”
Jesus was and is fully aware that the narrow gate and the narrow road on which he invites us to journey with him – is not an easy one – but it is the sure and steady path which leads to the kingdom of God.
It is often fraught with suffering, thorns, thickets, and the accusation that we are a little odd. It is a road upon which we may stumble and fall from time to time or perhaps even stray from – only to find that the path the world has laid out for us has led to a dead end cul-de-sac which ultimately fails to satisfy.
Entering the narrow gate and staying on the narrow path to eternal life – is a choice we make every day. It requires prayer, faith, grace, focus, and discipline – all the while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus.
There is no greater example than Christ himself as he walked bloodied, bruised, and whipped along the way to the cross. Christ has provided us with the ultimate example of entering through the narrow gate and embarking on the narrow road while embracing his cross with love. By his example, we too are called to follow him in lovingly carrying crosses that are uniquely our own.
So which road are you on? It is often during times of trial, when the rubber meets the road that we might be tempted to veer off and go our own way. So with all of today’s distractions, distortions, and difficulties, let’s pray for the grace to remain on the narrow thoroughfare of this life – so that we may be with Christ in the life to come.
So we heed the advice of the writer of Hebrews:
“strengthen your drooping hands and your weak knees. Make straight paths for your feet.”
Like Indiana Jones – we need to take the leap of faith to enter the narrow gate and with the help of our faith --- stay on the narrow road that leads to eternal life.
We had just finished celebrating the Easter season, and the feasts of the Holy Trinity and the Body and Blood of the Lord.
We were just getting back into the routine of methodically reading St. Luke’s Gospel Sunday after Sunday when, on the 13th Sunday of Ordinary time – June 30th – we heard that Jesus was “resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem.”
There, in Jerusalem, Jesus knows that he will suffer and die. He knows that from here on out, on that journey to Jerusalem, his life is going to be far from a picnic in the park.
And he wants his followers, which includes all of us, to know that if we choose to follow him, life can get a little messy for us, too.
The Catholic author Flannery O’Connor has a saying that kind of captures the spirit of this Gospel. She says: “The truth – will make you odd.” The truth, will make you odd – make you stick out, make you different, make you unlike those around you. . .
Jesus knows that what he preaches – and asks of his followers --- will cause division. Not everyone is going to be willing to eat with tax collectors and those known as sinners.
Not everyone is going to want to love the unlovable – address injustice – suspend judgement of others – and forgive those who have done them wrong.
Jesus message of love of God and neighbor WILL separate family and friends. For those who follow the truth – Jesus, who is the way the truth and the life – the truth will make us odd.
Now, as then, it is often easier to ignore the truth of the Gospel. Temptations to do that can surface as simply as this:
-Just go along with it, don’t make any waves.
-Those people live half-way around the world – why should I care about them?
-Don’t bother telling him why you are angry – he’s a jerk and won’t listen anyway.
- Let them spend our tax dollars on abortions, and executions, and fighter jets – there isn’t a thing we can do about it.
-Why not gossip at the card party – we’re only talking, we’re not hurting anyone.
-Let the kids play Dead Space and Mortal Combat – it will keep them quiet and give them something to do and certainly won’t harm them – they’re just games.
-Why shouldn’t I pick on him at recess – everyone else does.
-Sure I cut corners on getting the job done – how else am I supposed to make any money?
-Don’t give her credit for getting it done -- just let everyone think it was you who did it.
All of these statements reveal values that ignore the Gospel message of Jesus. And to challenge these values – would involve speaking a truth that counters the culture and demands commitment to the Gospel.
To challenge these values – means struggling to sort out the complexities we face daily – figuring out what Gospel truth requires – and then speaking and living that truth with compassion --- even IF it means a division between family members and friends. . .
For you see – Jesus never intends on those divisions lasting very long. For he also says in the Gospel:
If the same person sins against you 7 times 70 times – and asks for forgiveness – you must forgive them.
And he tells us to “do good to those who hate you and bless those who curse you.”
Compassion, forgiveness, understanding, and mercy – are all Gospel values. And the work of the Gospel always invites dialogue – to reconcile differences – so as to witness to the power of God’s healing love.
May we be blessed with the courage and the faith to do this – whatever the cost. Even if it does make us a little odd.
This is a story about a parable Jesus told and about a brother and sister named Will and Jessica.
One day Jessica and Will came home from school hungry and wanted a snack. Their mother had baked a pie earlier in the week and there was just enough left for each of them to have a slice.
“Let’s have a piece of pie,” suggested Will.
“I’ll get the pie while you get us each a glass of milk,” he said to his sister.
When Will sliced the pie, it turned out that one piece was slightly larger than the other piece. . .
Jessica poured each of them a glass of milk and sat down at the table. When Will brought the two pieces of pie over from the counter, he placed the smaller piece in front of Jessica and kept the larger piece for himself.
“Wait a minute,” cried Jessica. “Look what you’ve done – you gave me the smaller slice of pie and kept the larger piece for yourself. I don’t think that’s very fair.”
“Well how would you have done it?” Will asked.
“If I were serving the pie,” said Jessica, “I would have been generous and given you the larger slice and kept the smaller one for myself.”
“Well, what are you complaining about then?” Will said. “That’s exactly what just happened – you got the smaller piece, and I got the larger piece – so thank you for your generosity!”
They both kind of looked at each other and then began to giggle . . . but most of all, they began to dig into their piece of pie!
We might think the story rather funny ourselves – but selfishness and greed and being generous and sharing – are all very serious topics. . . Every day, we see people who not only want the biggest slice of pie for themselves – they want it all!! And that’s what Jesus told a story about, a parable about – in today’s Gospel.
The man in Jesus’s story was very rich. He had a large, fertile farm which produced very good crops.
“What should I do?” The man asked himself. “I have such a large harvest that I don’t have room in my barns to store all of it.”
So what did the man do? You know he could have shared some of what he had with those who did not have very much. . . but is that what he did??
No, instead he said, “I will just build bigger barns so I can keep everything for myself.” Then he kicked back, thinking he had plenty of everything. He ate, drank, and was merry. . .
And much like the Grinch who tried to steal Christmas many years ago – the man’s heart shrunk in size. . .
And God had other plans, for this man with the small heart: God said to the rich man, “You fool! You will die this very night - -then who is going to get everything??”
God is certainly good and has given most of us --- more than we need.
The question is: what will we do with what God has given us?
Will we share it with those who don’t have as much as we do – allowing our hearts to grow in size --- or will we greedily keep it for ourselves – so that our hearts shrivel up to the size of a peanut?
Remember the warning that Jesus gave to the listeners of his story: “Watch out! Be on you guard against all kinds of greed.”
So are we going to just have bigger barns in our lives – or are we going to have bigger hearts: hearts that grow and expand – because of our generosity??
Generosity may well be the most natural outward sign of an inner attitude of compassion and loving kindness.
And, as the rich man in Jesus’ story shows us – we cannot do an act of kindness too soon – because we never know when it will be too late. . .
And so we pray: Loving God, you have blessed most of us with more than we need. Help us to be generous and to share with those who may not have as much. This we ask through Christ our Lord. AMEN!
My name is Samuel. But most people just call me Sam.
Like Don Coreleone in the Godfather movies – I was named for the place where I was born. . . I am from SAMARIA — so I am Sam, the Samaritan.
Now certainly you have heard of Samaria and Samaritans – and my bet is, if you have, your impressions aren’t that great. . .
Why just a couple of Sundays ago, you heard of some Samaritans being inhospitable to your man Jesus – the Gospel said, “On the way, some messengers of Jesus entered a Samaritan village to prepare for his reception there, but they would not welcome him because the destination of his journey was Jerusalem.”
And when two of his disciples, James and John, heard of the incident they wanted to call down fire from heaven to consume them – not exactly something you want to do to people you like. . .
So why the bad blood? To make a long story short, once close kinsmen, Samaritans were regarded as not being proper Jews — by the time of Jesus. They were not orthodox, or good enough, so to speak. . . They came from a mixed background having inter-married with the local folks — so were seen as ethnically impure.
Since they were seen as outcasts and despised by the Jews in Israel, they were not allowed to worship at the Temple in Jerusalem, so the Samaritans built their own temple in their capital city of Shechem – which widened the gap between these two groups even more. . .
And that’s what gives the use of a Samaritan in perhaps one of the greatest stories ever told by Jesus – such force.
This Samaritan made good – because he was able to rise above the bigotry and prejudices of centuries and showed mercy and compassion for an injured man – after his own countrymen – a priest and a Levite – pass him by – this was shocking news to those who originally heard the story.
Remember when your preacher-man told you a couple of weeks ago that St. Luke’s Gospel is written for the underdogs of this world?? Those who are always finding themselves at the bottom of the pile, who never seem to get a break, and who always fall behind in some way?
Well, this “Good” Samaritan is a case in point – Jesus elevates this lowly one, and sets as his code of conduct the embracing of all, and the forsaking of no one – AND YOU – YOU— ARE TO GO AND DO LIKEWISE – but I am getting ahead of myself!
I’m here to confront you quite bluntly with the inconvenient truth of this story: ARE YOU CAPABLE OF BEING A GOOD SAMARITAN?? Before you answer the question, let’s consider a few things. . .
How often do you see people in need – and pass by on the other side?
Do you heed Christ’s calling to serve others, when you encounter soul after soul, day after day, everywhere you go. . . or do you pass up the opportunities way too often?
Do you selfishly justify your own agenda? Being so rushed and so distracted. Or worse, do you deem the needy unworthy of your time and effort?
Is your life bound in comfort and safety – and are those boundaries drawn to limit you from seeing the other side of the road, keeping you from going there?
It’s so easy to keep to ourselves, to our lives, to our people – isn’t it??? So are you uncomfortable yet? That’s the whole point of this parable – -to shake you up a bit. . . But I’m not finished yet. . .
Haven’t we all become somewhat blind to those barriers that have slowly been built – surrounding our sacred world of plenty, of selfish demands, of foregoing the dirty work with our clean hands?
The irony is we always looked on the priest and Levite with such disdain, using our punishing critical voice of “how could you just pass by and do nothing??”
Don’t you see yourself? Even just a tiny bit of yourself – often doing the same thing???
“Love thy neighbor” doesn’t mean: Help when you have the time. Help when your heart is in the right place. Help when you have energy. Help when it’s convenient. Help when it’s someone you are comfortable with and love.
“Love thy neighbor” doesn’t mean — Help only those you agree with and understand. Help only the people you deem lovable and worthy of help. Help only those who believe the same things you believe.
NO, it means so much more. . .
LOVE: Sacrificially. Selflessly. Enduringly. Unconditionally. Generously. Compassionately. These are words that describe Christian ministry. . .
Our neighbor, as in love they neighbor — is broadly defined, not narrowly construed.
Now in reality — we don’t know what the priest and Levite had in their minds or on their hearts — when they chose to ignore the wounded man. . . Perhaps they did not want to get their holy hands dirty, or their sacred lives messy.
It could be that they were so distracted with their own pious mission, they simply did not think to look up so did not even see the man.
Or even worse? They may have believed someone so broken and beaten down was surely not worthy of their precious time and attention. . .
Were their deceiving beliefs keeping them from serving their Lord, hidden in the person of their neighbor? Oh, this fundamental hypocrisy lays the groundwork for so many people. . .
Whatever the reasons, no matter their intentions, two prestigious and religious people failed in God’s greatest purpose for our lives. God calls us all — to care for his children: There are no boundaries, no rules, nor qualifiers that limits this command: go, and do likewise. . .
And the one man, who was hated among the Jews. . . did what was right. A Samaritan. A Good Samaritan. He cared for a broken and beaten human being who was in desperate need of help.
What is so great about this story, I think, is that God chose a Samaritan – one of my people – to exemplify doing the work of building the kingdom of God. A task many thought all Samaritans were incapable of doing. . .
Someone whom people despised back in that day.
Christ honors HIS heart, HIS choice, HIS service – and condemns the others for neglecting what is most important to the Lord – caring for his children – all of his children.
Oh how this truth is powerful, and the message is clear. May we all stop our busy distracted lives to lift the wounded, tend to the weak, love the unlovable, and serve those in need.
NO MATTER WHO THEY ARE, no matter how ugly the situation, or how broken and beaten down they appear.
Jesus is calling all of us to get our holy hands dirty and our sacred lives messy. We need to feel this call of the Lord deep within us, so we can open our eyes to see the broken and the wounded, the weak and the lost. We need to stretch out of our comfortable places, and remove our fears, our judgements, and our daily distractions —- AND CROSS THE ROAD!
So, my good friends of St. Patrick, take it from Sam the Samaritan – open your eyes and your hearts, open your holy hands, and your sacred lives --
For Christ is calling you to cross the road –
Because one thing is for sure – there is plenty of work to be done there.
So just to end on a lighter note. . .
Why did the Christian cross the road?? Because there was a person in the ditch on the other side. . . and they were going to help. . .
Sister Melannie Svoboda, a school sister of Notre Dame, tells the following story in her book, Rummaging for God – a rather appropriate title as many of you will be rummaging at our garage sale this week. . . Anyway – Sister Melannie writes:
Beth and Cora, twin girls were born twelve weeks early. As was standard hospital practice at the time – the little girls were place in separate incubators in the PICU: the pediatric intensive care unit.Cora, the larger twin at two pounds three ounces, quickly began to gain weight.
But little Beth, weighing only two pounds, had breathing and heart problems. Two weeks after birth, Beth’s condition became critical.
The doctors and nurses did everything they could to stabilize Beth. They suctioned her airway, and increased her flow of oxygen. But Beth just squirmed restlessly and her heartbeat soared. It was then that one of the nurses remembered reading about a procedure common in parts of Europe – that called for putting newborn twins in the same incubator.
The nurse secured the permission of the twins’ parents to try the procedure.
She placed little Beth alongside her sister Cora.
No sooner had she closed the door to the incubator than Beth snuggled up to Cora. Immediately she calmed down. Within minutes her blood-oxygen level was the best it had been since her birth. Within days, Beth was gaining weight. Eventually both babies were healthy and strong enough to go home. Today, more and more hospitals are adopting the practice of the double-bedding of premature twins. . .
In the Gospel, Jesus appoints 72 people to carry the Good News of the Gospel to every town and place he intended to visit – and he sends them out not alone — but in pairs: two by two he sends them. . .
I want to strongly suggest that Jesus knew we draw great strength and support from those
with whom we share a common journey. . .
And I think that’s why the Church, in its wisdom, requires us to have godparents at Baptism, a sponsor for Confirmation, why a couple wanting to get married in the Church is sent to a lead couple as part of their preparation and why newly ordained priests spend a year or two in a parish with a seasoned pastor – because the Church also knows we draw great strength and support from those with whom we share a common journey.
During these Sundays of Ordinary Time – as we journey with Jesus to Jerusalem— making his mission our mission: bringing glad tidings to the poor, proclaiming liberty to captives, recovery of sight to the blind and allowing the oppressed to go free:
We have to stay focused on Jesus – and not on the things of the world —– and we have to remember that we do not journey alone – in fact, we cannot journey alone – we need the care and support of one another.
Perhaps that is just another way of reminding us that because we are created in the image and likeness of the God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – we long to be in love, to be in relationship, and to be in community. We are who we are because God is – who God is. . .
So let’s be ever thankful for our families – who more than likely first gave us the gift of faith — be thankful for this community of St. Patrick that surrounds us Sunday after Sunday and with whom we get to worship — and be thankful for those special people — spouses, friends, pastors, religious and relatives, godparents and sponsors — who God has sent to be our traveling companions in faith —- as we journey to Jerusalem together.
St Patrick School
1401 NE 42nd Ter
Kansas City, Missouri
Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament:
devloped by United Ventures llc