Monday, October 27, 2014

Homily for the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time - 2014

Exodus 22: 20-26
1 Thessalonians 1: 5c-10
Matthew 22: 34-40

In today’s Gospel, we have one of those rare encounters with the Pharisees, where they were not trying to trap Jesus.  We see a scholar of the Jewish Law asking Jesus which is the greatest commandment in the Law.  This is a traditional rabbinic practice, to ask a question about the Torah, and then debate over the answer.  If you go into a school that trains Jewish rabbis, you may see a room of students, one on one, debating about the meaning of some passage of Scripture.  Sometimes, the debate is quite vigorous.  Now keep in mind, the rabbis of Jesus’ time counted 613 commandments in the Law.  Out of all those commandments, Jesus picks one as the greatest, and also describes the second greatest commandment.

“You shall love the Lord, your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.”  How many of us squirm just a little when we hear Jesus say to us what it means to be in a relationship with the Lord Our God, the depth of the commitment that is being demanded of us:  all of our hearts, all of our souls, all of our minds.  It is not enough just to come here to church every week, to take a few minutes every day to say a prayer, or read some Scripture.  As good and important those actions are.  No, we are to strive to be present to God every second of every day of our lives.  We are called to live lives that give praise to the goodness of God, that offer thanks for God’s gifts to us. We are called to be in an intimate, personal relationship with the Father. 

Now, we all have to acknowledge that for many of us, this may not be easy.  We know from our own personal relationships with others, that we can fall short of the mark, that at times we will stumble, make mistakes, and not be fully present to the other.  However, the Father offers us the grace to overcome our faults and weaknesses.  Especially here, right now, He seeks to inspire us through His Word, and to strengthen us through the Eucharist.  We need only to open our hearts, our souls totally to the transformative power of the Father’s love.  We can then, in turn, be able to return that love.

And this is where the second greatest commandment that Jesus declared comes into play.  “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  Now, let me repeat that, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  In order to love others, we need to first be able to love ourselves..  In other words, we need to be able to accept ourselves, with all our strengths, our gifts, our talents, and our weaknesses, our faults, and our failings.  And for some of us, maybe all of us, that may not be such an easy thing.  But if we accept the fact that God loves us, no matter how good or how bad we are, if we have experienced that wonderful love, then we can learn to love ourselves.  And if the God, who loves us, also created and loves all the people around us; how can we not care for them also.  And I am not just talking about loving our family members, our friends, and acquaintances; we are called to love everyone, the strangers, people that do not fit in our communities, the social outcasts, the “aliens” in our midst.  We are called to love those who are not nice to us, to those who have done us harm.  If we are followers of Jesus Christ, we cannot make distinctions; everyone is a brother and sister, everyone deserves our care and concern. 

“You shall love the Lord, your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  Jesus describes these as the greatest of the commandments; that must be the foundation of all those other rules, laws, commandments, and as we have seen, the most challenging.  How well we strive to live these commandments to love can be an example to the rest of society around us.  That from us, the Good News of Lord will sound forth, and can, and will be a beacon of light to the world.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Reading the Good News, Living the Good News

"Secular Franciscans should devote themselves especially to careful reading of the gospel, going from gospel to life and life to the gospel". (Art. 4, OFS Rule)

In a recent talk, Pope Francis encourage everyone to carry a small book of the Gospels with them.  And more than that, to reflect daily on a passage from the Gospels. It is through the Gospels, that we can encounter Christ, be guided by him, be inspired by him.

I have my copy; do you have yours?

(PS: This is my first selfie!)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

"Cry Havoc!"

On September 11, 2014, President Barack Obama stood before the nation, and declared that the war on terror has entered a new phase, with a more dangerous adversary.  The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, is proving to be the most vicious, and powerful terrorists group in the Middle East.  They have been able to defeat a regular army, and seize huge swaths of Iraqi territory; determined to restore the Islamic empire of ancient times; and impose their version of Islam on everyone, by the point of the sword or by the barrel of a gun.  They have slaughtered prisoners of war, non-Moslem Iraqi citizens, brutally executed two Americans and a British citizen. 

The President is now finalizing a strategy to fight ISIL, hoping to use American airpower, and Middle Eastern soldiers; and not have to send US troops back on Iraqi soil.  Again, we are hearing a US President, calling the nation to action, but promising that our involvement will be limited and quick.  I cannot help but recall these lines from William Shakespeare, in his play, Julius Caesar; “Cry ‘Havoc!’ and let slip the dogs of war.”  A president may wish to control the situation, but once the “dogs of war,” are set free, often circumstances beyond a leaders’ control takes over. 

I have no idea what is the right course of action.  The pacifist in me mourns the amount of blood that will be spilled; both from foe and innocent alike.  The realist in me, knows that some action, some military action is needed to curtail the advance of this group, and protect the innocent who are in ISIL’s way.  I fear we are entering a new dark and violent period, where brave men and women must once again go into harm’s way.

All that many of us can do, is pray; pray for the suffering innocents, pray for those who are going into combat, and pray that the Holy Spirit break through hard hearts, shine a new light on our violent world, and guide us to peace.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

9/11 - Remembering

Today is a day to remember the terrible events that happened thirteen years ago.  St. Anthony Shrine in downtown Boston, has created a banner listing the names of the all the victims.  The Franciscan Friars have it hung in front of the Shrine, making    It a wall of rememberance.  I have watched people stop, read the names; some stop at a particular name, and offer a prayer.  I have gone up and touched the wall, and feel different; feel the presence of the Spirit, as I offer my prayer for the victims and their families.

"Enternal rest unto them all, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them."

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Franciscans in the Marketplace

What made St. Francis of Assisi, and the early Franciscan friars different from the other religious orders of their day, was that unlike the monks who remained in their monasteries, Francis, and his friars were walking the streets and marketplaces.

Recently, the Catholic News Service website posted a story about two Conventual Franciscan friars (Black robes), who are carrying on the tradition.  During the summer days in Rome, along the shore of the River Tiber, during the annual Summer Festival, they set up an information stall, amongst the other stalls, restaurants, and shops.  There, they pass out information about the Franciscans missions and services, to the residents, and tourists who come for the festival.  Amidst all hustle and bustle of the festival, they bring a touch of Franciscan joy to all they come in contact with.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Sad News for Pope Francis

The BBC World News has been reporting that a nephew of Pope Francis, was involved in a car accident in Argentina.  Emanuel Horacio Bergoglio, son of the Pope's late brother, was critically injured in the accident.  Tragically, his wife and his two young sons, who were passengers in the car, died in the crash.  Pope Francis is asking for prayers for his nephew; and for the souls of his great nephews and their mother.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Feast of St. Clare of Assisi - 2014

“Look upon Him Who became contemptible for you, and follow Him, making yourself contemptible in the world for Him.  Your spouse, though more beautiful than the children of men (Ps 44:3), became, for your salvation, the lowest of men, despised, struck, scourged untold times throughout His whole body, and then died amid the sufferings of the Cross.  O most noble Queen, gaze upon Him, consider Him, contemplate Him, as you desire to imitate Him.”   (St. Clare of Assisi, The Second Letter to Blessed Agnes of Prague)

Sometime ago I attended a workshop, presented by Sherry A. Weddell, author of the book “Forming Intentional Disciples, The Path to Knowing and Following Jesus.”  In her presentation, she shared the story of interviewing a Catholic woman, who was very active in her parish, and was asked to describe her lived relationship with God.  The woman responded by saying that she did not have a relationship with God.  This shocking response from someone who was doing the works of charity, who was an important contributor to the life of her parish, shocked Ms. Weddell.  And it shocked me when I heard it, and saddens me.  It makes me wonder many others are in a similar situation with their faith life.

When people look at Franciscans, they see friars and sisters actively serving the poor, the outcasts; comforting the sorrowful, the grieving.  And sometimes, this active face of Franciscanism is all people see.  However, it is when the Feast day for St. Clare of Assisi comes around, that we are made aware of another aspect of the Franciscan way of life.  And that is, like Francis and Clare, we are called to enter into an intimate relationship with the God who loves us.  Through a life of prayer, and contemplation, we become more aware of the Presence of the Lord, within us, within all those we meet, within all of God’s Creation. 

Clare and her Poor Ladies served, and continues to serve as a reminder to the rest of the Franciscan Family, that without a personal relationship with our Triune God, our good works will eventually dry up, unless we remain connected to the source of all Love, through Jesus Christ.