Sunday, October 1, 2017

God extends mercy to those we'd least suspect to show us the way – Matt 21:28-32

Twenty-sixth Sunday of OT, Year C; Holy Infant parish.

“Tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you.”  What would be your reaction to that?  Imagine you’re a chief priest, you’re standing in the Temple, your home base, the place you feel most grounded in the presence of the God who called you into his service, into leadership in his service, and this odd, homeless, wandering preaching who had just shown up in Jerusalem to great acclaim from the people has the nerve to say to you: “Tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you.”  I’m sure we can imagine various responses, and, knowing how the story ends, we know that their reaction culminated in plotting to have this wandering preacher killed.  I think the first thing we should notice is that if someone else is entering the kingdom before us, then we’re entering the kingdom! And maybe if I was a better person, I’d be entirely fine with that. But, I do have to admit that I think in their shoes, I’d feel a little stung by Jesus’ throwing shade. I think there’s somewhere that sting is meant to lead us. I don’t think we’re meant to just concentrate on the fact that we’re en route to the kingdom of heaven and ignore the tax collectors and prostitutes ahead of us that cause that sting. But the response to them is to convert that sting into gratitude.  Gratitude followed by conversion of heart.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

God invites all to join the work and receive the reward – Matt 20:1-16

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C; Holy Infant parish

We don’t know why those men were standing around the market place at the eleventh hour, about five o’clock in the afternoon.  The vineyard owner doesn’t know either, so he asks them, and they give almost a non-response, “because no-one has hired us.”  I call it almost a non-response, because it’s patently obvious: if anyone had hired them, they’d be at work in someone’s field or someone’s barn and not standing around a market place!  Maybe a more probing question might have been, “and why has no-one hired you?”  But the master doesn’t ask this, and so we can’t get to know.  We don’t know if they were seen as too old to be able to labor, or too young to know what they were doing, or too odd to be able to get on with the other workers, or if they looked sickly, or threatening, or if they slept in and showed up to the market place late, or if they were just unlucky.  All we know is that the master called, and they followed.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

God clears away what keeps us distant – Matt 18:21-35

Year A, Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time; Holy Infant

This gospel passage is powerful, capable of communicating something wondrous and awesome (in the true sense). But, like anything powerful, it’s also dangerous. Powerful things are rarely safe. One of the dangers is, in using this financial imagery for sin and forgiveness, it can encourage us to think of sin in those terms, in a kind of mechanical accounting – “Well, I gossiped four times today, and I was kind of judgmental, so five Hail Marys in this other column will offset that, and one good deed to round them off will put me in the black!” And if that kind of thinking leads people to do good, then great, as a first step. But, its danger is that it prevents us from seeing what sin is holding us back from.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

God appoints us as watchmen to bring us forgiveness – Ezek 33:7-9, Matt 18:15-20

Twenty-third Sunday of Ordinary Time; Holy Infant parish.

Ezekiel was an exile, a displaced person.  He was an Israelite living in Babylon, because the Babylonians had come to Jerusalem, destroyed it, destroyed God’s house, the Temple, in its midst and forced them on the long march East to Babylon.  The people were bereft of the only ways they’d known God: the Temple, the kingship, the Land.  But, God did not desert them.  The people would discover that in their exile, God was in their midst too.  Just as, centuries later, the Church, bereft of Christ’s humane presence, would discover that wherever two or three gathered in his name, he was there. 

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Christ leads us through suffering to eternal life – Matt 16:21-27, Rom 12:1-2

22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time; Holy Infant parish.

One year at Notre Dame’s baccalaureate Mass, I was the person tasked with purifying the vessels after communion. As I was purifying the main, celebrants’ chalice, I noticed whose it was.  It was Fr. Sorin’s chalice, the chalice of the priest who my community’s founder had sent on the arduous trip across the ocean from France to the mission territory of Indiana to found a school.  It wasn’t the chalice he’d received at his ordination, but one he’d been given on one of his ordination anniversaries by a benefactor.  The precious metal alone must have been worth a pretty penny, the craftsmanship and artistry more, and the history behind it probably made it the most expensive thing I’d ever held, and certainly the most expensive thing I’d ever swilled water around in and drunk out of.  The most expensive thing I’d ever held, but not the most valuable: for a little while before I’d embraced fellow Christians in the sign of peace, and a shortly after that I’d held the body of my Lord briefly in my hand, before I consumed it.  “What could we give in exchange for our life, or the life of anyone?”  Jesus asked.  Nothing, we could give nothing so valuable as a life.  What would he give for our life?  Everything.  He would give his clothing, his blood, his body, his very life, to lead us into eternal life.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Jesus welcomes us in earth-shattering embrace – Luke 1:39-56 (Assumption)

Feast of the Assumption; Holy Infant parish.

Today is a feast of embrace. What the feast centrally is about is Jesus’ embrace of Mary, but our Gospel speaks to us of Mary’s embrace of Jesus. What we celebrate today is Jesus’ assumption, taking up, embracing, his Mother, lifting her, body and soul, directly into heaven at the moment of her death. We celebrate Christ’s embrace. We celebrate that Jesus, who came to show us what love looks like, showed a fully human love, a love that includes children’s love for their mother, without thereby excluding anyone else from that. But, Christ’s love being divine love doesn’t make it any less human, and fully human love isn’t impersonal, generalized beneficence, but full-hearted fully-particular affection. And, in this feast, we celebrate one way Christ loved his mother.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

God gives us good news to proclaim – Rom 5:12-15, Matt 10:20-33

12th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A; Mission Appeal at St. Augusta's, Lake Village, IN

When St. Paul talks about a gift over-flowing, he doesn’t just mean a benign trickle. He knew what it was like to be bawled over by a torrent of over-flowing gift, Jesus Christ’s gift of self, an act of love that changes the world. The gift of the resurrection is that Jesus gives everything to show us that God’s love for us is so intense that not even death, death at our hands, could keep him from being with us. It’s a gift that finds its first installment in God’s own Spirit, dwelling to closer to us than we are to ourselves, praying in us; a gift that will find its perfect fulfillment when it leads us to live forever lives of such love ourselves, standing shoulder to shoulder with the saints in heaven. It’s a gift, as we heard Jesus say, that’s spoken into the darkest parts of our world, and of ourselves, daring to go to places we’d balk to reveal, and lovingly transforming them. It’s a gift that compels us to speak of it, wherever there is light, Jesus says. And God has bathed his whole world in light.