Saturday, July 12, 2014

Three lessons from 4th grade

Today's readings somehow made me think back to fourth grade. Three things.

1.  I remember one day in fourth grade so clearly, for some reason. It was the end of the school year. The air was crisp and the temperature perfect. I remember playing soccer that day, I remember there not being a cloud in the sky. I enjoyed that whole year, but for whatever reason, that day sticks out in my mind. It was like a slice of heaven.  God gives us moments like that, moments when we know, as Isaiah says it today, that "the whole world is filled with glory." It's so true!  That God became flesh in Jesus means that Heaven and Earth were brought together in a profound way and that as a consequence glory fills the earth. Isiah's vision of that involves six-winged creatures and seraphims. That day in fourth grade wasn't quite so wild, but it was just as resplendent, just as lavish.  God's glory fills the earth--that was a lesson from fourth grade.

2.  Another lesson was that we had better do what we were asked to do, without being told to volunteer.  To volunteer on our own accord. Of course that lesson might not have been new then, but I remember that if Mrs. Smith needed something, she shouldn't even have to ask for volunteers.  "I'll do it," we learned to say. It's like Isaiah's line: "Here I am, send me!"  Isaiah, like Mary (whom we celebrate today as every Saturday), offered a full response and an immediate one. I imagine sometimes that God stands in front of thousands of people explaining what needs to be done, and everyone looks away as to avoid eye contact.  Isaiah and Mary sit in the front row and raise their hands, "Here I am, send me!"  A good guide for us.

3.  A third lesson from fourth grade.  We were taught we were special, that we have value.  Again, it wasn't a new lesson but I could tell you ways that I learned it in fourth grade in a deeper way.  As the Gospel says today, God knows even the hears of our heads and when the birds sit, and yet we are so much more special than birds.  Yet, the Gospel also tells us that, despite our great value and God's care for us, that is not a license to do whatever we want. God loves us and cares for us infinitely, but he still expects us to live well, to acknowledge him, to serve him, to say sorry when we mess up. I learned that in fourth grade, too--in my first reconciliation.

Those are the lessons: God's glory fills the earth, we must volunteer eagerly to serve God, and that God loves us but still holds us accountable.  Thanks for listening.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Sandwiched miracles

The Lord is gracious and merciful, reads our psalm today.  How can we say that isn't so?

There's so much good in this world, so many miracles.  I love today's Gospel--there we see one miracle wrapped in another.  In the course of Jesus' addressing one situation, another situation is resolved at the same time. Jesus just happened to be walking where the one with the hemorrhage was. He just happened to be in the right palace at the right time.  He could have taken another route to the official's house, but the route had been set.  Long ago it had been set.

Is this not true for us, too? We set out to do some good miracle, and end up graced with a chance to do another.  Just last week, I went to do a house visit.  I pulled up and right there was a woman with a flat tire.  The divine design put me there for a reason, I'm sure of it, at that time and place.

Our lives are sprinkled with miracles.  We meet one person and become friends, and later fall in love with his boss' cousin.  We go out to lunch when we'd rather not, only to find a friend we'd not seen in ages.  Or to make a new one.

The psalmist is right: God is gracious and merciful, indeed.  Let us be in awe of the web of sandwiched miracles we experience today.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

What rest means

"I wonder if we have any idea what Jesus is promising when he promises us rest.  We live in a culture where staring at the television or the computer screen surfing the internet for hours on end counts as 'rest.'  The more I reflect on it, the more I've come to think that Jesus' idea of rest does not mean lying around soaking in the sun. It means settling into my destiny, my vocation, and often that requires a great deal of work."

Father Denis Robinson, OSB
Our Lady of the Greenwood
Catholic Church
14th Sunday of OT
6 July 2014
(words very similar to these)

Saturday, July 5, 2014

God rebuilds

The Prophet Amos is very poetic today. He speaks of a world gone to pieces--destruction, desolation, famine.  It is in ruins.

And yet the prophet announces that God will rebuild.  Here's some lines I really like:
The juice of grapes shall drip down the mountains,
and all the hills shall run with it.
I will bring about the restoration of my people Israel;
they shall rebuild and inhabit their ruined cities,
Plant vineyards and drink the wine,
set out gardens and eat the fruits.
How about our world today?  It has also gone to pieces.  Problems abound still in Iraq, Syria, Nigeria--and plenty other places.  And here on our streets.  And probably in our own hearts, too, there is something of what the prophet speaks about.

But God will bring that peace that the psalmist sings about in our psalm today and which the prophet Amos prophesies.  God will do it.  He will restore.  He will rebuild.  Which means the world has not gone to hell, is not totally corrupt and beyond repair.  In fact, there is much good in it.  Sometimes we see it dripping down the mountains, like the juice of grapes.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Feast of St Thomas - tears and doubts

It's funny...the gospel today is the same gospel that was assigned for the day that I was to give my first homily. I thought I said everything about this gospel then, but today two new things struck me. Two thoughts about Thomas' line, "My Lord and my God."  It's the most beautiful creed I've heard. In Guatemala folks cry out at the elevation of the host and chalice, "seƱor milo, Dios mio". My lord my God.

First, that line--Thomas cried it out.  When confronted with the wounds of Christ, Thomas cried. He saw the suffering, the blood, the pain, the brokenness. And he cried.  What about us?  Do we cry at all the brokenness we see, and the wounds we see?  Pope Francis said this in March: "Tell me: Do you weep? Or have we lost our tears? ... how many of us weep before the suffering of a child, before the breakup of a family, before so many people who do not find the path?... The weeping of a [Christian].... Do you weep? Or...have we lost all tears?"

Thomas, today's gospel says,  had not lost tears.  He cried at the wounds of Jesus. He cried at the brokenness he saw. He cried happy tears, too, at knowing that Jesus had not abandoned him. He cried at knowing, like the first reading says, that he belonged to Jesus. And so he cried.  Do we cry happy and sad tears when we see Christ's wounds and their effects?

My second thought also has to do with that phrase Thomas cried out, "My Lord and my God." Thomas may have doubted (we remember him for that) but he also became the first to make the certain proclamation of faith: "my Lord and my God."  Funny, isn't it, that the one who doubted the most became the most faith-filled?  Doubt very often leads to faith, and has the power to expand it. Doubt is not the opposite of faith.  The question for us, then, is: how can I let my doubts (we all have some doubts) lead me to greater faith?

Thomas will help us answer that.  And he'll help us find those tears.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Faith or fear?

I remember one night before I went to seminary. I couldn't sleep. I didn't know if I should just give the seminary thing a try or back out of it. At about 2:30, I turned on the television. It was an episode of "House," a show I'd never seen before.

It was a very religious episode. Probably the only religious episode they ever aired. I stopped on the channel because when I landed there, one of the doctors was speaking with a patient who was a nun. The nun, as it turns out, was approaching the end of her life. She was afraid. Perhaps she heard haunting words from Amos that have become so popular and which we read today, "Prepare to meet your God." She was terrified of dying, she said, and embarrassed about that fear.  The doctor looked her in the eye and said, "You have a test: faith or fear."

The doctor told the nun that he had been a seminarian, though never ordained. She asked why he left.  He said, "That test, faith or fear. You passed. I failed."  (It was quite a God-thing that this episode should air just while I was wondering and worrying about my own vocation!)

Through today's Gospel, Jesus is asking us that same question to those terrified disciples in the boat: faith or fear? In life's storms, will it be faith or fear? In disappointments and failures, will it be faith or fear? In the journeys that lie ahead, will it be faith or fear? When it comes to our death, will it be faith or fear?

Today we celebrate the feast day of St. Junipero Serra, a man from Spain who became a Franciscan and traveled all over the place setting up missions.  Usually he faced political trouble, or medical trouble, or a dozen other kinds of trouble.  In the midst of that all, he carried on his work.  When faced with the question--as he was each day--of faith or fear, he answered faith each time.

May we, like him, know how to answer that question when it is asked of us: faith or fear?

Let us pray today for greater faith.