Sunday, August 26, 2007

Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time

Is 66:18-21
Heb 12:5-7, 11-13
Lk 13:22-30

We human beings are an odd lot. We claim we don't want to work hard. Wouldn't life be grand if everything came to us easily, with little or no effort? We may say it, but we don't really mean it. The things in life we appreciate the most are the things we have to work for. Indeed, the more effort expended in achieving a goal, the more we treasure the accomplishment. That need to work for something before we appreciate it is at the heart of the Gospel today. Jesus tells us to strive to enter through the narrow gate, the more difficult way. Yes, God's grace is a freely given gift, and nothing we can do will earn it. We must take this gift and use it. Last week we spoke of making a radical commitment to follow Jesus, today we learn more about just what that commitment means. Jesus wants to set us on fire with faith. Jesus gives us that fire, but we must use it. The path is not easy, there are countless distractions and pitfalls along the way. When we accept the gift of faith, the blazing fire of Christ's love, that fire can become for us a torch, a torch that guides our steps along that narrow path. It's not an easy journey. We will stumble, fall and lose our way. But when we let it, that blazing torch of faith can lead us to a goal that we will appreciate more than we can now imagine.
Deacon John
21st Sunday in Ordinary Time
Aug. 26, 2007

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Jer 38:4-6, 8-10
Heb 12:1-4
Lk 12:49-53

As you may have seen, the United States Marine Corps has a new advertising campaign built around the slogan, “We don’t accept applications, just commitments.” The obvious implication is that being a Marine is not just a job, or something that ends, but a complete way of life, a world view, a way of being that affects everything you do for the rest of your life. The Marine Corps says that there are no ex-Marines, only former Marines. I was not in the Marine Corps, but I have the privilege of knowing several people who are former Marines, and from what I can see this is absolutely true. Service in the Marines informs their entire lives, it is truly a commitment. This kind of commitment has an affect on your relationship with others. No matter what, you are always a Marine. It is a commitment that burns like fire. This kind of total commitment is what Jesus is talking about in the Gospel reading today. Jesus seeks to set the world on fire, on fire with a radical commitment to faith, to belief in God, belief in Jesus, and total commitment to living as a Christian. This commitment should burn like fire, this commitment should be the driving force of your life. Everything you say, do or think should be rooted in this commitment to radically follow Jesus. The problem is not everyone can accept this commitment for themselves, or accept it in others. Jesus did not seek to cause division, he knew, however, the divisions this radical commitment would cause. It will cause divisions, it can bring great pain. One needs only to look at the lives of some saints to see this division brought on by a radical commitment to Christ. When Francis of Assisi committed to radically following Jesus, his father disinherited him. Yet Francis burned with faith, on fire with his commitment to radically follow Jesus. His life demonstrates one of the properties of fire, unchecked it will spread. The fire that burned in Francis may have turned some away, but that fire was caught by others, who began to burn themselves with faith, with the commitment to live for Christ. It is that faith, that commitment, that fire that we are called to. When we burn with faith some will turn away. Some, however, will catch fire and begin to burn as well, spreading the fire of faith and commitment. But it must be on our part a radical change in how we view the world, ourselves and others. Not just an application, but a commitment.

Deacon John
20th Sunday in Ordinary Time
August 19, 2007

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Rv 11:19a; 12:1-6a, 10ab
1 Cor 15:20-27
Lk 1:39-56

Mary knew. She knew what God had done for her, she knew what God was asking her to do. She knew. Despite what misgivings she must have had, despite the difficulties and sorrows she undoubtedly knew she would face, she said yes. Each day in Evening Prayer we repeat the words of the great prayer from the Gospel of Luke, "My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my savior, for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant." Mary knew, and said yes, she was indeed full of grace. No wonder that Wordsworth calls he "Our tainted nature's solitary boast." Her Assumption is a foreshadowing of what we pray will be for us. We must look to her, our example, her life, her yes, a statement of what our tainted nature can be.
Ave, Regina caelorum,
ave, Domina angelorum,
salve, radix, salve, porta,
ex qua mundo lux est orta.
Gaude, Virgo gloriosa,
super omnes speciosa;
vale, o valde decora,
et pro nobis Christum exora.
On this Feast of Mary I ask that you pray for Archbishop Joseph Kurz, the new Archbishop of Louisville as he begins his tenure. His task is a difficult one, please keep him and us in your prayers.
Holy Mary, Mother of God
Pray for us.
Deacon John
Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Aug. 15, 2007

Monday, August 13, 2007

Ninteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

OK, OK, I'm a day late....

Wis 18:6-9
Heb 11:1-2, 8-19
Lk 12:32-48

In a former lifetime, at least it seems that way, I worked as a branch manager for a small savings and loan institution. Occasionally the president of the company would get out and visit the branches. As you might guess, there was a sophisticated early warning system that alerted branches that he was coming. If he came to your branch, you waited until he left, then called all the others in the area to let them know where he was. One day he stopped in the branch I was working, without any warning. Fortunately, we were busy, and not involved in a rousing game of over the counter volleyball, so we managed to look pretty good. As he was leaving he said “Don’t call anyone and warn them.” I didn’t. This did point out to me, however, the great value in being prepared. The best way to be prepared was to simply do the right thing. In the Gospel today that is what we are being called to do, to be prepared by simply doing the right thing. That is what is expected of us. We know what to do, all we have to do is do it. The catch is, there is no early warning system. We can’t wait around and hope to be doing the right thing at the right time. We don’t know in advance what the “right” time will be. So we can take our chances, or we can do what is expected of us. That day the president of the company came unexpectedly, I was cured, I didn’t want to get caught. We behaved professionally all of the time. That’s all Jesus is asking of us, behave like we believe, and not just at the “right” time. Indeed, the right time is all of the time.

Deacon John
Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Aug. 12, 2007

Friday, August 10, 2007

The Feast of St. Lawrence

2 Cor 9:6-10
Jn 12:24-26

The example had been set. The example of self-emptying love, a love so self-emptying that he would die for his friends, for us. The example was set defining the life of service that is diaconal ministry. Jesus gave us this perfect example of diakonia. Some 250 years later, Lawrence followed that example, to the point of surrendering his life, an example himself of the self-giving that should be the hallmark of the service of the deacon. Yes, much of the story of Lawrence is legend, but that doesn't mean it isn't true. It carries a great truth, a truth about service, about love of God and man, a great truth about being a deacon. The story was preserved for a reason. It shows us the call that the deacon has to be self-sacrificing, to live a life of kenotic, self-emptying love. I doubt that many of us will be called upon to live our ministry out to this full measure. Yet we are called to empty ourselves for the sake of Christ. In honesty I must admit that I too often fail to be as self-emptying as I should, and I would surmise that I am not alone. Kenosis, self-emptying, is what we are called to. The example is there, it can be done. the example is there in Jesus, mirrored in Lawrence, and in many others. As we work to be examples of kenotic love, let us keep our focus on these examples. St. Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr, pray for us!
Deacon John
The Feast of St. Lawrence
Aug. 10, 2007

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Ecc 1:2; 2:21-23
Col 3:1-5, 9-11
Lk 12:13-21

Vanity of vanities, says Qoheleth,vanity of vanities! All things are vanity!
The readings today reminded me of an old joke. A wealthy man was about to die, and as he lay on his deathbed he called for his doctor, his lawyer, and his priest. He spoke to them and said, “I know they say you can’t take it with you, but I am and you are going to help me.” He gave each of them a bag containing 2 million dollars in cash, all of his wealth. He told them, “When my coffin is lowered into the grave, just before the grave is filled in, drop the money into the grave with me.” Soon after he died, and at graveside the doctor, the lawyer and priest stood, preparing to fulfill the man’s request. Then the doctor admitted, “I know it was wrong, but the hospital needed a new x-ray machine, so I used some of the money to buy it.” With that he tossed in the remainder. The priest then sheepishly confessed to using some of the money to put a new roof on the church. The church was leaking badly and the money, after all, was just going to waste. The lawyer looked at both of them, shook his head and said, “I am ashamed of you,” as he dropped a check for the full amount into the open grave.
No, you really can’t take it with you. I have yet to see a hearse with a luggage rack. Qoheleth bemoans that one struggles through life amassing things that still do not bring peace. The wealthy man in the Gospel has accumulated enough to live a life of ease, but will never benefit from his labor. So is it wrong to accumulate earthy wealth and goods? I hope not, I, like most of us, tend to like my stuff and my comfortable lifestyle. We work hard to earn what we need to take care of our families and ourselves, to get the things we need, and with a bit of luck, some of the things we want as well. There is nothing wrong with that, as long as we understand that at the end of the day it truly is just vanity. We can invest in pensions, 401K’s houses, cars, anything else, and buy ourselves a temporary bit of peace of mind. Yet you may as well do as our friend in the joke did, and have it all tossed into the grave. That is, finally, all it is really worth. We work hard to take care of the needs of this world; we need to work just as hard to take care of the needs of the next. We spend hours at work, how much time do we spend at prayer? We spend hours at work, how much time do we spend with our families, our children? We spend great amounts of money on clothing, cars, vacations, how much do we spend to aid those who aren’t as fortunate as we are? My goal here is not to make you feel guilty, or to tell you that your earthy things are evil. None of you could be more guilty than me. We have an obligation to take care of our families so we work to get what we need, and if we’re lucky, some of the things we want. Just remember that as we struggle to meet these earthly needs we cannot ignore the needs that, in the end, are the only ones that count.
Vanity of vanities, says Qoheleth, vanity of vanities! All things are vanity!

Deacon John
18th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Aug. 5, 2007