Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ash Wednesday

Jl 2:12-18
2 Cor 5:20-6:2
Mt 6:1-6, 16-18

When we speak of God’s love and forgiveness to someone who is questioning, we all too often use big examples. Does God really love Hitler? Does God really forgive Hitler? Does God really love Charles Manson? Does God really forgive him? Does God really love and forgive Stalin? We glibly answer yes, because it is so easy to do. It’s abstract, not real. How about a more reality based question. Does God really love and forgive me? Now it’s personal. We may say yes, knowing intellectually the truth, but in our hearts the answer is no. How can God love me? I am so bad, I am so unlovable, there is no way God loves and forgives me. I don’t deserve to be loved, I don’t deserve to be forgiven. Well you’re right, you don’t deserve to be loved and forgiven, but you are nonetheless. You are because our God’s love for us is unimaginable and completely without condition. God loves us, God calls us to repentance, yes, but more importantly God calls us to relationship, to share in God’s unconditional love. We are not beyond redemption, we are not beyond salvation, we cannot escape God’s love. God wants us, the only thing holding us back is us. We are afraid to turn to God, to accept the love that is ours for the taking. As we hear in the hymn Hosea, “ Long have I waited for your coming home to me and living deeply our new life.” What are we afraid of, changing, of things getting better? It’s so good now? Again what are we afraid of? As we enter this season of Lent let us work to overcome our fear, let us strive to understand there is nothing to fear. Turn to the Lord, for as Paul tells us, “Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”
Deacon John
Ash Wednesday
Feb. 25, 2009

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Is 43:18-19, 21-22, 24b-25
2 Cor 1:18-22
Mk 2:1-12

A man is carried to Jesus so that he may be cured. Paralyzed, being borne on a mat, there is no way through the crowd, no way to reach Jesus unless they circumvent the crowd and go through the roof. The man is carried to the roof, a hole is opened in the roof, and he is lowered into the room, into the presence of the Christ. Jesus must have been taken by this novel approach and forgave the man and healed him of his illness. What faith, what courage, was shown here. A faith and a courage and a determination that led to healing, spiritual and physical. Such tremendous faith and love. I’m not speaking of the paralyzed man, but the ones who carried him to Jesus, who opened the roof, lowered him in, and made it possible for him to be aided by the Christ. What faith and what love! They had nothing to gain. No one remembers them, no one thinks of them. They are a sidebar to this story, almost forgotten. Yet without them this story does not happen. Without them the paralyzed man stays paralyzed. They are who we, who claim to believe, should be. Through their anonymous act of love they helped another reach faith and healing. We can imitate them by the way we live, by how we act, what we say and what we do. In living our faith, in striving to serve the People of God, in anonymously helping others to find Christ, we find Christ ourselves. So many are paralyzed, so many need our help. We, the Body of Christ, are called on to help them, and in helping them to help ourselves. We may be as anonymous as the men carrying the paralytic, but we are not forgotten, not by the One who matters. We may forget those four, But Jesus did not. Remember what the Scripture says, “When Jesus saw their faith…”

Deacon John
Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Feb. 22, 2009

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Lv 13:1-2, 44-46
1 Cor 10:31-11:1
Mk 1:40-45

Leprosy was a terrible thing. People who had this disease, who suffered from skin ailments, who were contagious, had to live apart from the community. People with this disease were separated from community life. They were unclean, untouchable, no longer one with their community. One with a sore or pustule had to present themselves to the priest who would declare them unclean, unfit to live with the rest of the people. Should the sore go away, should that person appear to be healed, they would cease to be unclean. They could return to the community. How did one get healed? Perhaps a miracle, perhaps a treatment worked, perhaps the sore simply went away on its own. Healing was, however, the only way back into the community.
A leper approached Jesus, seeking healing. Jesus granted the request, healing the man and instructing him to go to the priest to show that he was indeed healed, that he was no longer unclean. The former leper went away rejoicing, praising God, and telling everyone what Jesus had done. He no longer had to live apart from his neighbors, he could rejoin the community, the family of faith he had been separated from. We find ourselves in the position of the leper. We separate ourselves from the community through our disease, our leprosy, sin. Sin sets us apart, removes us from the community, makes us unclean. Through sin we cut ourselves off from our community, from God, from life. We, however, have the opportunity to do as the leper did. We can approach Jesus and seek healing from our spiritual leprosy. We ask for healing, we seek relief, and it is granted. We have no need to fear, no reason to stay apart. We need not wait for healing by chance, it will not come. We need only to turn to the Christ, to Jesus, and our healing will be complete. Our stain of leprosy is wiped away, we are restored to the community. We need not live apart, all we need to do is turn to Jesus and ask.

Deacon John
Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Feb. 15, 2009

Monday, February 02, 2009

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dt 18:15-20
1 Cor 7:32-35
Mk 1:21-28

Here in Louisville it’s been a difficult week. A major ice storm roared through the city on Tuesday night and Wednesday, coating everything with inches of ice, causing tree limbs and entire trees to topple under the weight of ice, tearing down power lines causing a massive power outage, with about 250,000 people losing power. Even as I write this on Sunday morning about 95,000 people are still without electricity. Four people have died trying to find ways to heat their homes. Personally, we lost power sometime on Wednesday morning and didn’t get it back till late Friday evening. Like most people, we were not adequately prepared for this emergency. We had been warned, all the weather forecasters told us, this is coming, it’s going to be bad, get ready. We want weather reports, but when we get them we too often fail to pay attention. Weather forecasters must, at times, feel like Old Testament prophets, speaking truth to the people, only to be ignored. Moses, speaking to the people of Israel, tells them, you asked for a prophet and one is given to you, now listen to the prophet who speaks in God’s name. Listen to the one who speaks with authority. They too often failed to listen, to heed the words of Moses and the prophets who followed. They said they wanted to know, but did not heed the warnings they were given. They continually wandered away from the path God laid out for them.
Jesus spoke in the synagogue, teaching not as the scribes, but as one having authority. Jesus spoke the word of God to those who would hear. The people were astounded, by Jesus’ words and actions. “He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.” Jesus’ fame spread, more came to hear him, and some listened, learned, heeded what he said, and followed. Jesus, the Word of God, walked among us, teaching, showing us the path we are to follow. We hear the Word, but do we listen? The path we are to take is clear, yet we too often act as many did when weather forecasters warned of this storm. The Word is with us, the way is clear. Follow the path and be ready for the storms that come.

Deacon John
The Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Feb. 1, 2009