Monthly Archives: October 2016

31st Sunday C: Mercy Goes Everywhere

Audio homily here:

Luke’s gospel talks about God’s mercy, not in definitions but in stories. Today at Mass it’s the story of Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector in Jericho. He was a wealthy man who climbed a tree to see Jesus as he was passing by through his town, and Jesus called him and stayed with him in his house on his way to Jerusalem. In many ways, his story is an interesting lesson that shows how God’s mercy works. It works everywhere. (Luke 19, 1-10)

Zacchaeus was the chief tax collector in Jericho, which means he was an agent for Herod Antipas, who ruled Galilee and Perea in Jesus’ day. Archeologists have uncovered the ruins of many of Herod’s building projects in Galilee and elsewhere, and it’s evident he built on a grand scale and built lavishly, to impress his allies the Romans.

You needed money for this kind of building, of course, and that’s where tax-collectors came in. There was no dialogue or voting on government spending then. Herod told his army of tax-collectors, “Here’s how much I need; you go out and get it. Go to the fishermen along the Sea of Galilee and the farmers around Nazareth and the shepherds in the Jordan Valley and the merchants in Jericho and get what I need; I don’t care how you get it out of them.”

And so the tax collectors went out and got the money, keeping some for themselves too. That was the way the system worked. You needed to be tough and relentless for that job, and it had to leave you hard headed and hard hearted. An unsavory profession. People thoroughly resented them. They wanted nothing to do with them.

Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector in Jericho, was the one whom Jesus called and the one he stayed with on his way to Jerusalem. God wanted to do something for him.

The only thing Jesus says in the tax collector’s house, a place into which others wouldn’t go, is: “Today salvation has come to this house because this man too is a descendant of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.” No thunderous warnings, no stern corrections. Salvation has come and they sit down for a feast. You can hear in the story echoes of the Parable of the Prodigal Son, also from Luke’s gospel.

It’s interesting to note, too, that Jesus doesn’t call Zacchaeus to follow him, as he told another tax-collector, Matthew. He doesn’t tell him to give up his job and get out of that dirty, complicated situation. No, as far as we can tell Zacchaeus was still chief tax-collector in Jericho after Jesus left, still taking orders from Herod Antipas, still part of a sinful world. But that’s where Zacchaeus will experience salvation, even there.

That might be one of the interesting lessons about God’s mercy. It works in the real world and in real life. God’s mercy works in the difficult, complicated situations that people experience in life. It’s not always easy to get away from life as it is. Yes, surely Zacchaeus was a changed man from his meeting with Jesus. God reached out to him, God came to his house, God called him to change, and he did. “Behold, I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone, I’ll return it fourfold.” He was changed by his experience of the mercy of God.

We hope we are too.

3 Comments

Filed under Inspiration, Passionists, Religion, spirituality

Friday Thoughts: Innocence Itself

saint-joseph-and-child-jesus

.

A small, beautiful child.

What could be more innocent?

The tiny face of one born a few days before.

What could be more pure?

At what age does that stop?

When is it that we no longer see an innocent child, but instead, just one more man or woman walking the crowded streets?

If the child is our own, probably never.

Parenthood is a gift.

A gift beyond telling.

Yet every person we shall see this day was once a child.

Every person we shall see this day is still a child.

A small, beautiful child.

What could be more innocent?

The tiny face of one born a few days before.

———

Can you imagine what Saint Joseph felt?

What it was like to hold Jesus in the crook of his arm?

To present Innocence Itself to the world?

———

True humility has little to do with wanting to be humble.

It has nothing to do with wanting to look small, tiny, and somewhat sad.

True humility comes through grace.

The grace of knowing that no matter what you do, no matter how hard you try, you on your own cannot stop innocence from being slaughtered.

———

Somewhere, right now, the infant Jesus is being rejected.

Saint Joseph can hardly believe it:

Here He is. The Son of Man. Please don’t do anything, don’t say anything, don’t even think anything that offends His dignity.”

———

The next time we are tempted to judge anyone perhaps we should remember that.

Perhaps we should use our imagination, our faith, our hope, our love—all the gifts and talents that come from God, that return to God, but that God Himself lends us for the time being—to find a child.

For wasn’t that very person, the one who is about to be judged, once too only a few days old?

———

Think of Saint Joseph holding Innocence Itself.

Think of Saint Joseph humbly holding a tiny child, a tiny innocent child reaching out to all mankind with outstretched arms—so innocent that it’s hard to even imagine that all the world, that each and every one of us doesn’t immediately reach back with all our might to tenderly embrace this most precious gift—the most precious gift that a guilty world could receive.

Innocence Itself.


.

—Howard Hain

.

Leave a comment

Filed under Inspiration, Motivational, Religion, spirituality

Saints Simon and Jude

Simon Rubens

St. Jude LaTourSaints Simon and Jude, whose feast we celebrate today, are mentioned only a few times in the New Testament list of apostles,  tenth and eleventh respectively. (Mark 3,13-19, Luke 6,12-16)

Simon is called  `the Zealot,’ either because he was zealous for the Jewish law or because he was a member of the Zealot party, which in the time of Jesus sought to overthrow Roman domination by force.

Some of Jesus’ followers,  the Gospels indicate, were hardly pacifists. Peter was ready to use his sword in the garden of Gethsemani when the temple guards came to seize Jesus, and James and John told Jesus to call down fire from heaven on the hostile Samaritans whom they met on their journey to Jerusalem.

Simon, therefore, may thought of revolution when he answered Jesus’ call .

Jude, called `Thaddeus’ to distinguish him from Judas Iscariot, may be the brother of James, the son of Alphaeus, some interpreters of the Gospel say. If that’s so, he’s also a relative of Jesus. He may be the author of the Epistle of Jude in the New Testament.

Early Christian traditions – all difficult to prove historically – locate the ministry of these apostles in places as far apart as Britain and Persia; one important legend from 3rd century Syria says they were apostles to Syria. If so, we ask their intercession for that troubled place today.

Knowing little  about  Simon and Jude may be a good thing, because then we have to look to their mission to know them –they were apostles.

The mission of the apostles was to follow Jesus. “ ‘As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ Jesus says in the Gospel of John. He also said “I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me.”

God made his will known to the apostles  in due time. They didn’t decide what to do and where to go by themselves. They knew God’s will day by day, as we do.  So often, it was unexpected, and perhaps not what they planned.

“Your will be done,” we say in the Lord’s Prayer. That’s an apostle’s prayer. We try to make it our prayer too.

1 Comment

Filed under art, Passionists, Religion

Mercy

I wrote this prayer after hearing Wednesday’s Gospel (Luke 13: 22-30). 

Our Lord says: ” Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough. After the master of the house has arisen and locked the door then will you stand outside knocking and saying, ‘ Lord open the door for us.’ He will say to you in reply, ‘ I do not know where you are from.’ ” (Luke 13:24-25)

    Beloved Lord. I kneel before Your narrow gate and pray that it not close. I know I have no right, but I beg for myself and for all those who refused to know You: the arrogant, the violent, the ones who “set their mouths against the heavens” (Ps 73), the evildoers. ” How suddenly they are devastated; utterly undone by disaster ! They are like a dream after waking, Lord, dismissed like shadows when you arise.” (Ps 73).
   I accept Your will, dear Lord, and throw myself at Your wisdom and mercy. Will the day come when You no longer know us? As we wail and grind our teeth and realize the error of our ways, will You look upon us one more time and have pity on us, and let us taste the scraps from that blessed table of Your Kingdom ?
Are You, Yourself, bleeding upon the cross, the narrow gate to our salvation? Is there a limit or an end to Your Love for those who don’t deserve it? Today I want to love You, but I kneel in the company of those ” who will be last”. Forgive me. Please forgive us.

Orlando Hernandez

2 Comments

Filed under Religion

Morning Thoughts: Arriving in Hope

 

Camille Pissarro Entree du village de Voisins 1872.jpg

Camille Pissarro, “Entrée du village de Voisins”, 1872

.

Waiting and waiting, for exactly what I’m not sure.

The sun to rise.

The day to end.

The water to boil.

Mass to begin.

The cock to crow.

Christ to return.

———

A new day is here.

———

Father, thank You.

Jesus, I love You.

Holy Spirit, have Your way.


.

.

—Howard Hain

 .

2 Comments

Filed under art, Inspiration, Motivational, Religion, spirituality

30th Sunday C: Be Merciful to Me a Sinner

 

To listen to this week’s homily, please select the audio file below:

Luke’s gospel, which we’re reading on the Sunday’s of this year, is a “gospel of prayer.” It sees prayer as central to the life of Jesus and central to our lives too.

In the gospels we’ve read the last few Sundays at Mass Jesus teaches us how to pray, but also touches on some of the difficulties we face when we pray. In last week’s gospel, the parable of the poor widow and the unjust judge, Jesus pointed to one difficulty. He tells us that we can grow tired of praying. For one reason or another, we give it up or it becomes occasional. Maybe we don’t think praying is doing any good. God isn’t listening, or we’re not good enough to speak to God.  Maybe we think we can take care of ourselves. We don’t need the help of God. For these and other reasons we can lose our appreciation of prayer; we think it’s really not necessary, and we give it up.

Jesus offers the example of the poor widow who keeps knocking at the door of the unjust judge. She looks like she doesn’t have a chance in the world getting what she wants, but she doesn’t give up, she keeps going until the unjust judge gives her what’s coming to her. In the parable Jesus is also telling us: “God is the very opposite of the unjust judge. Don’t you think God, who made you and cares for you and loves you, hears your prayers? But–and here’s what’s often behind our difficulty– his answer comes on his time and now ours.

In today’s reading, the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican praying in the temple, Jesus points to another difficulty we can experience in prayer. Prayer is meant to bring us before God, but the Pharisee in today’s gospel seems more interested in himself than in God. His prayer sounds more like an exercise in positive thinking. He’s telling us how good he feels about himself.

“I’m not like the rest of humanity,” he says, as he runs through his credits. “I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.” He’s kept all the laws a good Jew should keep. He rates himself especially high as he looks at the publican standing at a distance, not even raising his eyes to heaven. “A disgrace!” he says to himself.

Prayer isn’t talking to yourself; it’s not speculating about life; it’s not getting away from things that bother you; it’s certainly not an exercise for feeling good about yourself. Prayer is going before God, “Our Father in heaven,” God who is beyond us, yet who invites us to come like a child, his own child, to speak to him.

Jesus says the publican–a “sinner” in Jewish public opinion at the time – prays well with his simple prayer: “O God, be merciful to me a sinner.” He’s heard by God and goes from the temple justified.

There’s no long analysis of himself and his sins in the publican’s prayer. He’s more intent on throwing himself on the mercy of God. Humble before God, God raises him up.

That’s what prayer is, humbly approaching God. Like Moses on Sinai, we take off our shoes before God who is all holy, but not distance. He is merciful, a God welcomes us and speaks what he wants in simple words we can understand, and gives us gifts we can’t measure.

Listen again to the words from our first reading:

The LORD is a God of justice,
who knows no favorites.
Though not unduly partial toward the weak,
yet he hears the cry of the oppressed.
The Lord is not deaf to the wail of the orphan,
nor to the widow when she pours out her complaint.
The one who serves God willingly is heard;
his petition reaches the heavens.
The prayer of the lowly pierces the clouds;
it does not rest till it reaches its goal,
nor will it withdraw till the Most High responds,
judges justly and affirms the right,
and the Lord will not delay.”

 

The Lord hears the cry of the poor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

1 Comment

Filed under Religion

Friday Thoughts: Tobias and the Angel

 

thomas-wilmer-dewing-tobias-and-the-angel-1887

Thomas Wilmer Dewing, “Tobias and the Angel”, 1887 (The Met)

.

Since my daughter’s earliest days, we have played this little game:

.

I look at her and say, “Sometimes you love someone so much...”

And she softly responds, “…it makes you cry.”

.

We both get glassy eyed and gently smile.

.

Love

.

What is it?

.

“It” is a person

His name is Jesus

His skin is many colors

He is 33 years old, and also 7, and also 84, and also 40…

.

He is God. He is alive. He lives in you and me.

.

Tell Him that you love Him.

It is Jesus.

.


.

Sometimes you love someone so much…it makes you cry.”

.


.

—Howard Hain

.

http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/10749

.

2 Comments

Filed under art, Inspiration, Motivational, Religion, spirituality