Monday, August 18, 2008

Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

It's a day late but...
Is 56:1, 6-7
Rom 11:13-15, 29-32
Mt 15:21-28

In an episode of the old television series M*A*S*H, Hawkeye pierce and his cronies are involved in a marathon poker game. The ever-present and ever-hungry Radar comes in to deliver a message and sees a tray of sandwiches on a table in the tent. “Are these sandwiches for anybody,” he asks. The weary poker players tell him to take all he wants, so he does. The readings today brought this scene to mind. In the Gospel Jesus and his disciples are followed by a Canaanite woman begging Jesus to drive a demon out of her daughter. Jesus, in a seemingly uncharacteristic manner, sharply rebukes her, much to the delight of his followers. They would just as soon this Gentile woman go away and stop bothering them and the Master. Doesn’t she realize that salvation belongs to the Chosen People alone? Jesus seems to agree with his followers when he says, “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” Jesus is however, making a point to his followers. The woman replies, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” Jesus then praises her faith and grants her request. Faith has saved her daughter and her as well. Jesus showed his followers that who you are is not what will bring you to God. Believing, having faith that is what one must have. We too often fall into that same trap, the belief that salvation belongs to us, not to anyone else. It is ours because of who we are. It is not possible for us to be any more wrong. We do not have favor with God simply by virtue of ethnicity, social status, denomination, or anything else. Faith is what we need. That faith, which is God’s gift to all of us, is what brings us into the reign of God. We must accept that gift, live it and believe it. We must also rejoice in the fact that that gift of faith is for all people. All people, all people, are the children of God. God excludes no one, how can we? Do we know better than God? No, of course we do not, we cannot. We must simply accept the gift given to us and understand that the sandwiches are indeed for anybody.
Deacon John
Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Aug. 17, 2008

This may be my last post for a few weeks. I will enter the hospital on Friday August 22 to begin a new phase in the treatment of my cancer, Multiple Myeloma. I will not be able to post, because I won't have access to a computer and I may simply be too sick. I am confident that this treatment will work, and ask that you peay for me as I pray for you.
St. Peregrine, Pray for us
Deacon John
Aug. 18, 2008

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

1 Kgs 19:9a, 11-13a
Rom 9:1-5
Mt 14:22-33

Many people would argue that we, as human beings, are very much afraid of failure. We hate to fail, no doubt about it. Fear of failing can indeed keep us from trying things. I believe, however, that there is one thing we fear even more. Mare than being afraid of failure, we are afraid of success. If we succeed at something, anything, we suddenly find ourselves bearing the burden of expectation. We start to succeed, and suddenly people start to expect things from us. There’s no hiding, no running away, so our best defense against these expectations is to either fail, or not try at all. Jesus, having sent his disciples on ahead of him, begins to approach them walking on the water. Terrified, the disciples are sure it is a ghost. Jesus reassures them, saying it’s me, don’t be afraid. Peter calls to Jesus, “Lord, if it is you command me to come to you on the water.” Peter steps out of the boat and begins to walk to Jesus on the wave tops. Peter is fine until he realizes what he is doing, until he realizes he can’t walk on water, no one can. As sinks into the waves Jesus saves him and takes him to the boat. Jesus says to Peter, “Oh you of little faith, why did you doubt?” Peter was succeeding, doing well, until fear took over. His success ended when he forgot why he was succeeding at all. It was only in Jesus, in the help that Jesus gave, in the reliance on faith in Jesus, that Peter was successful. Jesus asks each of us to do but one thing, love. Love God, love our fellow human beings. This is not an easy task. We can, when we choose to be quite unlovable, and quite willing to not love. It can seem to be a lot like walking on water. We step out of the boat, start of pretty well, then realize what we are doing. I can’t do this. Why should I? Hardly anyone else seems to. So we start to sink, sink into the abyss of separation, of loneliness, of not loving or being loved, until we remember, remember that like Peter we can’t walk on this water alone. Faith in Jesus, reliance on God, these lift us up out of the swirling depths, into the boat, safe and secure in the love of Christ. Then, and only then, do we have a chance to overcome our fear of success.
Deacon John
Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Aug. 10, 2008

Monday, August 04, 2008

Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Is 55:1-3
Rom 8:35, 37-39
Mt 14:13-21

If you have ever seriously cooked, you have come across the concept of developing a foundation of flavors. This is done by putting together small amounts of various ingredients, which together provide a deep, rich flavor for the dish you are preparing. The dish would most likely be fine if one of these ingredients was missing, but it wouldn’t be quite the same. The depth of flavor, the richness would be compromised. Take something as simple as an omelet. A lot of different things can be added, each changing the dish just a bit, each adding to the depth of the flavor, each giving the dish a richness it would otherwise lack. You could add onions to the omelet, giving the omelet a certain depth and richness. Without the onions it is still a fine omelet, but it is a better omelet with them.
Jesus went off in a futile attempt to be alone when he heard of the death of John the Baptizer. Crowds followed him, and stayed until it was late, too late for them to find food. The disciples of Jesus asked him to dismiss the crowds, send them off to find food. Jesus tells them to give them some food yourselves. I am sure they were a bit flabbergasted. Give them what food? All they had were five loaves of bread and two fish, barely enough to feed themselves. Jesus instructed them to bring him the loaves and the fish, and to have the crowd sit. Jesus blessed and broke the bread, then gave it to his disciples to distribute to the crowd. All ate and were satisfied, and there were twelve wicker baskets of food left over. Five loaves and two fish were more than enough to feed the crowd.
All of us, each one, has a gift that God has given us, a gift that we can share with the world, a gift that in some way makes the world a better place. Too often we are reluctant to share that gift, certain that we are inadequate, the gift is so small that it can’t matter. No one will notice if our gift is missing. The world will almost undoubtedly continue, with or without the contribution we can make. Yet like the onions in the omelet, it won’t be quite as good as it could have been. Our gift may seem to be small and inconsequential to us, but it is indispensable. Our gift adds to the depth and the richness of life, of the world. It doesn’t matter how small we think it is. It is enough to make a difference. How do I know? Jesus said give them some food yourselves. They gave him five loaves and two fish. He blessed them and gave them to the people, and there were twelve baskets of fragments left over.

Deacon John
Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Aug. 3, 2008