Monthly Archives: August 2014

22st Sunday of the Year. A. Thinking Like Human Beings

 

To listen to this weeks homily just select the audio below:

Last week in the gospel Jesus called Peter the rock on which he would build his church. Today he calls him “Satan” and tells him to get away from him.

In the gospels Peter is usually the voice of common sense. That’s what you would expect from a fisherman making his living on the sea. When storms come, get out of their way and head for port.

And so when Jesus speaks of the storms of suffering and death he will face on his journey to Jerusalem, Peter advises him to turn away. “God forbid, Lord, no such thing shall ever happen to you.” The voice of common sense.

But Jesus reminds Peter (and us along with him) that he is thinking “as human beings do.” He even calls him “Satan.” He tells Peter, and all of us, to think as God thinks.

Our readings today remind us of the limitations of human thinking. Jeremiah the prophet says to God in our first reading “You have deceived me.” “You have let me down; you don’t love me; you don’t care.” We only see so far as human beings. When the mystery of the cross casts shadows of sickness, failure and disappointment over us, it’s hard for us to say “I see, I understand, your will be done.”

We’re limited in the way we think. How, then can we think as God wishes us to think? Certainly we can’t know all that God knows. God’s thoughts, God’s mind is infinitely beyond ours.

Thinking like God means knowing the world God made and living in it as God wants us to.

I wonder if the signs of the bread and the wine we bring to the altar can help us see what it means to know the world God made and live in it as God wishes us to live in it.

As we offer the bread to God at Mass we say: “Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation. Through your goodness we have this bread to offer, fruit of the earth and work of human hands, it will become for us the bread of life.”

The bread is a sign of everything, of all creation, we say, creation as it has been given to us by God and creation our hands have fashioned.

Scientists say that our universe came into existence about 15 billion years ago.

About 3.5 billion years ago life began on our planet. The universe is represented in this bread; it holds the story of the universe.

About 200,000 years ago human life emerged on our planet. 200,000 years of human life are represented in this bread. Our lives are part of the human story.

We believe that God created our world and it’s is good. The Book of Genesis tells us that. God has a plan for this universe. The scriptures say there’s wisdom and love in that plan. His kingdom will come.

We all have to care for this world, each of us has a part to play in that greater plan.

But we also know the mystery of evil is at work in our world and the mystery of evil is also represented in this bread.

When Jesus took bread into his hands at the Last Supper we have to see the magnitude of that action. He took all created reality, all human existence, the goodness and evil of life in his hands. He was a sign of God’s love and care for all of it. He took it in his hands and gives it to us, in turn, blessed by his presence.

“This is my body.” “This is my blood.”

How significant it is that he gives himself to us in bread and wine. It’s an invitation to live in this world, depending on his wisdom and power. He will show us the way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Augustine

Augustine

The Word of God, maker of time, becoming flesh was born in time.

Born today, he made all days.

Ageless with the Father, he was born of a mother, entering our years.

Man’s maker became man; the ruler of the stars sucked at a mother’s breasts,

Bread hungered,

the Fountain thirsted,

the way was wearied by the journey,

the truth stood accused by false witnesses,

the life slept,

the judge of the living and the dead was judged by a human judge,

justice was condemned by injustice,

the righteous was beaten by whips,

the cluster of grapes was crowned with thorns,

the upholder of all hung from a tree,

strength became weak,

health was stricken with wounds,

life died.

He humbled himself that we might be raised up.

He suffered evil that we might receive good,

Son of God before all days, son of man these last days,

from the mother he made, from the woman who would never be, unless he made

her.  (Augustine, Sermon 191, 1; PL 38, 1010)

21st Sunday of the Year: Listen to the Prayers

 

To listen to the audio for the Homily, please select the link below:

One of the most important things we do as Catholics is to come to Mass and pray. I’d like to reflect on the prayers of the Mass, in particular the Eucharistic Prayer. They’re good guides to prayer at Mass, but before reflecting on the prayers themselves I want to say something that has to be said today.

Praying at Mass begins with us being there. Praying at Mass begins with us showing up.

Someone once said “Most of life is showing up.” I don’t think we realize how much we need each other “showing up” in church. Suppose the music ministers didn’t show up, the readers, the ministers of communion, the altar servers, the ushers, the deacon, the priest didn’t show up?

We notice people at Mass week after week, year after year. We encourage each other. I often feel in awe watching someone coming into church in a wheelchair or on oxygen support, or mothers and fathers dragging their kids in. Showing up together is a key to praying at Mass.

We’re at Mass to give thanks. “Let us give thanks to the Lord our God,” the priest says at the beginning of the Eucharistic Prayer. When we celebrate Mass, the Sacrament of the Eucharist, we give thanks to God together.

What does it mean to thank God? The English writer, C.S. Lewis, has a wonderful reflection on thanking God in a little book he wrote on the psalms. (Reflections on the Psalms) Lewis turned away from God for awhile. When he returned and began to pray again he was bothered by the way our prayers urge us again and again to thank God. Why do we keep on praising God, he wondered? Was God a “prima donna” or a dictator looking for our adulation?

After thinking about it, Lewis said he realized that thanksgiving and praise are embedded in ordinary human life. To be thankful and to praise are actually signs of a healthy life. Ordinary life rings with praise and thanksgiving, he wrote:

There’s “…praise of weather, wines, dishes, actors, motors, horses, colleges, countries, historical personages, children, flowers, mountains, rare stamps, rare beetles, even sometimes politicians and scholars.”

Healthy people praised most, Lewis noticed; cranks and malcontents praise least. He came to the conclusion that praise and thanksgiving are indications of an “inner health made visible.”

That’s true, isn’t it? People who are inwardly healthful praise most; cranks and discontented people praise least. The self-absorbed see only themselves and their little world. Those who lose an appreciation of life because of hurt, loss, or disappointment can lose the ability to enjoy and give thanks and praise.

When we come to Mass, it seems to me, we’re looking for the inner health God wants us to have. It’s so easy to sink in smallmindedness, self-absorption. It’s so easy to let the hurts and sufferings of life get us down. We need to be lifted up to a higher vision of things.

That’s what happens in the mystery of the Eucharist. Do you remember the prayers at beginning of our Eucharistic prayer, the little dialogue that introduces the prayer?

“The Lord be with you.” “And with your spirit.”

“Lift up your hearts.” “We have lifted them up to the Lord.”

“Let us give thanks to the Lord, our God.” “It is right and just.”

The Lord is with us, lifting up our hearts and minds to a greater world that God wants us to see. Like the water poured into the wine, we enter the prayer and vision of Jesus Christ and are lifted up into another, higher world, the world of God’s creation. We give thanks to the Lord, our God in that world, and it’s the right thing to do.

In the Eucharistic Prayer we give thanks for the special gift of the God of Creation: Jesus Christ, who came into the world as God’s Son. Remembering the mysteries of his birth, his life, his death and resurrection, we give thanks for him. And he blesses us with the blessings of his birth, his life, his death and resurrection.

He refreshes us by these mysteries. We’re fed by them. They’re food from heaven that gives us a heavenly vision.

Listen carefully to the prayers of the Mass and make them your own

Water and Wine

A woman at the church where I go on weekends stopped me recently and asked for the pope’s address; she wanted to write him about something. I was curious and enquired what it was about.

 “The prayers at the offertory of the Mass are so beautiful,” she said, “and I want him to tell all the priests to recite those prayers out loud so we can hear them.”

 I’ve heard comments like hers lately; people are listening to the prayers at Mass and elsewhere and want to know more about them. There’s criticism of the present translations of our Mass texts, of course, but still the prayers and actions of the Mass remain the best ways we have to understand the mystery we celebrate.

The woman was especially touched by the mingling of water with the wine that takes place after they’re brought to the altar. As he pours a little water into the wine, the priest says:

“By the mystery of this water and wine

may we come to share in the divinity of Christ

who humbled himself to share in our humanity.”

The wine represents the humble Christ who comes into our world that we may share in his life. The water, so insignificant, represents us who become sharers in his divinity in this mystery.

A priest I know helped out in one of Mother Teresa’s missions in India for awhile and when he was leaving, he told her he was going to pray for her and her sisters. “Just remember us when you put the little drops of water into the chalice at Mass,” she told him.

We’re the water mixed with wine.

Little Prayers

Little prayers are just that–the small, taken-for-granted prayers we use all the time. Like “Amen.” How many times do we say that word in prayer? Usually we end all our prayers with it.

What does it mean? I suppose we could say it means “yes” in English. “Si” in Spanish or Italian. “Ya” in German. If you look it up in the dictionary, you find it traced back into the Greek and then to the Hebrew. Amen means “so be it”; a strong “yes,” and it’s been part of the language of our faith for centuries.

Here we are in the 21st century using a word generations before us have used; we draw on the faith of generations before us to say “Yes, I believe,” “Amen” to God’s word to us and our word to God.

“The Lord be with you,” “And with your spirit.” Another little prayer, wishing that God be with us and bring us together in faith. We can trace that little prayer back generations too.

Little prayers can give us a way to express what we can hardly put into words or understand. Besides words, they can also be simple gestures, like the Sign of the Cross; they can be moments of listening or seeing and waiting in silent attention before God.

Psalm 23 describes a servant waiting and watching before her mistress.

“To you I lift up my eyes,

you who dwell in the heavens.

My eyes like the eyes of slaves

On the hand of their lords.

Like the eyes of a servant

On the hand of her mistress,

So our eyes are on the Lord our God

Till he show us his mercy.”

 

Little prayers can be a cry or even tears.

“I cried to you, Lord, and you heard me,” the psalmist says in Psalm 30.

Remember the simply cry of the Canaanite woman: “Have pity on my, Son of David…Please Lord.” (Matthew 15,21)

Little prayers are important, they’re not little at all.

20th Sunday A: Scraps from the Table

 For an audio of the homily:

My mother (God rest her) used to sneak food under the table regularly to her beloved cocker spaniel, Buffy. Sometimes, when I visited home after becoming a priest I’d say to her–in a losing attempt to keep Buffy’s weight down– “Mom, you shouldn’t feed that dog scraps from the table.”

She’d reply, “You don’t live here. Besides, I’m not feeding him scraps from the table. He’s eating the same food we eat.”

I could never understand the logic of her answer, but I gradually gave up trying to stop her. And I remember her every time I hear this gospel,

Jews and gentiles didn’t mix in Jesus’ time and as an observant Jew from Nazareth, Jesus usually avoided eating with them and entering their homes. After his baptism in the Jordan he saw himself sent first “to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But then, gentiles like the Roman centurion from Capernaum and this Canaanite woman from Tyre and Sidon came to him.

Matthew’s gospel says the woman was “calling out” to him from a distance, asking him to cure her daughter, but Jesus doesn’t answer. She keeps calling out in spite of his silence. “Send her away,” his disciples say, but the woman persists and even draws nearer.

“It’s not right to take the food of children and throw it to the dogs,” Jesus finally says. But the woman’s answer has a logic of its own. “Please Lord, even the dogs eat the scraps that come from their master’s table.” “ Let it be done for you as you wish,” he says and God fed her from the table.

Jesus’ answer to the woman sounds hard, doesn’t it? But sometimes doesn’t the silence of God seem just like that? A daughter’s sick, a wife is dying of cancer, a child is taken away so young. Is the woman calling out to Jesus an example that persistent prayer is always heard, even if God seems silent, even when God seems not to care?

Now and at the Hour of our Death

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In the Hail Mary we ask Mary to pray for us sinners, “now and at the hour of our death.” These are the two most important moments in life. We have the past and the future, for sure, but they’re far less important than now and the hour of our death.

“Now” is the time we live in, the present moment. Whether it’s a time of joy or sorrow, a time of satisfaction or disappointment, a time of sickness or health, it’s the time we have to love, to give, to endure, to act, to live.

“The hour of death” is God’s time, when God brings us from this life to the next. It may be instantaneous or prolonged, but it’s the time when God who gave us life takes this life away.

Both of those moments benefit from faith. Mary, the Mother of Jesus, was a believer who trusted in the power and presence of God through these same moments of life. They’re challenging moments.

After the angel left Mary in Nazareth, no other angel came; she walked by faith from the Child’s birth to the death and resurrection of her Son. As we face the mysteries of life, we ask her in our weakness to be with us as a believer and a mother, who knows the goodness and power of God as it is revealed in Jesus Christ her Son.

“Pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.”