Words spoken in Love

Words have meaning, power, and consequences. The words today are pouring in from friends and folks across the nation, via text and email, letting us know that we are in their prayers as Irma bears down on the region. Those words of prayer are powerful indeed.

I should especially mention one email we received from the pastor at Beau Sejour, our sister parish in Haiti – wishing us well and that the whole community there was praying for our safety.

It is time such as these when people’s faith and expressions of faith rise to the fore. Maybe it is the very public nature of the crisis that brings their faith to the public forum. For I am often curious about people’s attitude towards faith and religion.  I will ask them if their faith is a personal matter – and almost always the answer is “yes, of course.”  Then I will ask if their faith is a private matter… and you can see in the hesitation, you can see it in their eyes – “Didn’t he just ask me that?”  Too easily we in the West equate the “personal” with those things that are private.  But that is not Christianity.  Christianity is a faith that is quite personal – “God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten son.” It is very personal, because it is about Jesus who loved us, each one of us, personally, individually, and held nothing back from us – not even his very life.  It’s very personal.  But it is hardly private – it communal, it is in the open, it is commanded to go the ends of the earth and “teach them all that I have commanded you.”  To get face-to-face and share the good news. Continue reading

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Sinning against you: first 10 words

If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother. If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that ‘every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church.” (Matthew 18:15-17) Continue reading

Hoodwinked

“You duped me, O LORD, and I let myself be duped” Wow…strong words from the prophet Jeremiah.  Duped, tricked, suckered, fooled, hoodwinked.  No one likes to be the unwitting tool in another’s hands, the butt of a joke, or play the part of the fool.  Not too many people are keen to say they were Bernie Maddoff’s friend.  I am sure his investors look back, knowing their money is forever gone, and think, “How could I have been duped like that?” No one likes such moments.  Jeremiah doesn’t like it at all and cries out against the circumstances.   Continue reading

This is our faith

There are weeks that are so marvelous that you want to relive them, hold them and keep them ever safe. I hope your summer had one of those weeks. A family reunion, a vacation, a solar eclipse in totality, evenings at the coast watching sunsets, the week when the all-grown-up kids were home, time with the grandchildren – a week that was by any measure, “a keeper.” Continue reading

Choosing

“You will be my people and I will be your God” Those are the words of a covenant, an oath, forever binding God and the descendants of Abraham, binding all who would believe. It is a covenant renewed some 400 years later under the leadership of Moses. It is the covenant that prophet Isaiah speaks about in the first reading – only it’s now another 700 years passed. For more than 1,000 years the people of Israel had understood that they, and they alone, were qahal Yahweh, the people of God. Understood that they, and they alone, were the inheritors of salvation and God’s justice. They were the people of the divine manifest destiny, privileged, and the chosen people. Continue reading

Choosing Hope

As we start another week, there is a lot going on that will bring us face-to-face with the choice between hope and despair. This past weekend’s events in Charlottesville only highlights an encounter with another choice. Despair by far is the easiest choice. A little over 150 years ago, a civil war ended in our nation, and the hope was that we would be a nation dedicated to the self-evident proposition and truth “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” A little over 70 year ago, men and women of the “greatest generation” arose from the ashes of a world-wide depression, went to work and war, to defeat the Nazi regime that was dedicated to their proposition that not all are created equal, not all are entitles to life, liberty or happiness. Continue reading

The Assumption of Mary

Much of our religious consciousness is affected by art; we have inherited specific images that are more artistic than biblical.  For example, we always imagine St. Paul being knocked from a horse on the Damascus Road.  There is no mention of the horse in scripture.  Is that a bid deal? Perhaps not.  But when Caravaggio placed Paul on the horse, a sign of privilege or royalty, he removed Paul from the midst of Corinth, the hard-scrabbled sea port town, from among the drunks, slackards, ner-do-wells, and people who sorely needed salvation. Continue reading

The Others: a context

canaanite-womanMatthew 15:21-28 21 Then Jesus went from that place and withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22 And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out, “Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is tormented by a demon.” 23 But he did not say a word in answer to her. His disciples came and asked him, “Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us.” 24 He said in reply, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25 But the woman came and did him homage, saying, “Lord, help me.” 26 He said in reply, “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” 27 She said, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” 28 Then Jesus said to her in reply, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed from that hour.

Between the 19th and 20th Sundays in Year A, Mt 15:1-21 are passed over. In order to provide a context let us briefly describe the events which leads us to Jesus’ encounter with the Canaanite woman. Continue reading

Promise and Hope

This gospel is pretty well-known. Here at Sacred Heart we have an entire stained-glass window depicting the scene. Every children’s bible story book seems to have the story with all manner of illustrations. There is a lot you can do with this simple gospel account. In my day, I have heard sermons that encourage us to “go outside the box” by asking us to be like Peter and be bold enough to “get out of the boat.”  The message was to take risks as individuals of faith or perhaps as a parish. Other sermons have told us to “keep our eyes on Jesus” in all that we do – good advice – with the message often an invitation to a particular piety and devotion – also good advice.  And there is something to said about the boat itself. It is a place of relative calm among the waves. It is the place where Jesus leads Peter. It is the place where the community, as the gospel says, “did him homage, saying, ‘Truly, you are the Son of God.’”  There is a lot you can preach about, inspired by this gospel. Continue reading

Keeping up

The kingdom of heaven is like…. There are lots of parables that begin with those words.  Maybe we can do a thought experiment – a kind of fill-in-the-blank thing. Keep your answers silent within your own thoughts. And since no one is listening, you can be completely honest with your answer. For you…. the kingdom of heaven is like……. What? (No hurry, I’ll wait….) Continue reading