Sunday, August 30, 2009

Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dt 4:1-2, 6-8
Jas 1:17-18, 21b-22, 27
Mk 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

"We have met the enemy... and he is us"
Tradition is a wonderful thing. Tradition provides continuity, a way of passing truths and practices down through the generations. Laws are also good things, they provide order and stability. Both tradition and law are good and important things, right up until the time we become enslaved to them. Then we have to re-examine what may be an unhealthy relationship between us as believers in Christ and the traditions and laws we follow. In today’s Gospel the Pharisees excoriate the followers of Jesus for failing to observe the tradition of the elders. They ate a meal without washing their hands. Now, hand washing is not a bad thing, it is indeed a good, common sense practice. The problem is when does hand washing go from a way of honoring God to a practice more important than God? The Gospel writer goes on to list other ways that the Jews practiced these traditions, various ritual cleansings of self and objects. Again, there is nothing wrong with them; indeed they are good sanitary practices. Yet these practices can be come so ritualized, so common, their original purpose, honoring God, is forgotten. Jesus turns on the Pharisees, letting them know that their rituals are empty when they fail to keep the meaning of the ritual in their hearts. They are merely lip service, meaningless gestures. The object you use may be clean, but is the intent with which you use it clean? Using a clean cup, or eating with clean hands does not make you clean within.
We can’t look at the Pharisees too haughtily, because we encounter the same difficulty. When do we become slaves to tradition, to ritual, making them empty and meaningless gestures? Does it really matter to God if I say the prayer at 11:01 and not 10:59? Does it really matter to God if my prayer is in English or Spanish or Greek or Latin or Sanskrit? When I read Scripture am I reading the words, or reading the Word? We are in danger of worshiping not God, but the tradition. We are in danger of worshipping not God, but the institution. The Scripture, the prayers, the traditions are a way to God, the Church is a way to God, they are not God. We can be so enamored of Scripture that we are worshipping the words, not the Word. We become our own worst enemy. Conversion of the heart comes from the grace of God working within. The traditions and laws can enhance that action of grace, they cannot replace it. Tradition is a wonderful thing. Tradition provides continuity, a way of passing truths and practices down through the generations. Laws are also good things, they provide order and stability. Good things when we use them to use them to lead us to God, not to replace God.

Deacon John
Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Aug. 30, 2009

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time

Jos 24:1-2a, 15-17, 18b
Eph 5:21-32 or 5:2a, 25-32
Jn 6:60-69

Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go?
You have the words of eternal life.
The Christ had frightened them. He spoke words that were hard to hear, even harder to understand. Many could not, would not accept what Christ had spoken to them. Many turned and walked away. Many abandoned Christ, unable to accept that Christ is indeed the bread come down from heaven, that Christ is the bread of life, that Christ is life. Jesus turns to those closest to him, to that core group of followers and asks them if they too will leave. Simon Peter replies for the group, “Master, to whom shall we go?” To whom shall we go? It’s confusing out there. Things change, often at a pace we can’t keep up with. Changes come that may or may not be to our liking. Changes come that turn our worlds upside down. Things that we believed stable, unchanging, change. Confusing, frightening, anger-inducing, all of this and much more. Even things in our Church change. Change isn’t necessarily bad, after all change is a sign of life. Yet the words can be hard to hear, the change can be hard to make. Through all the changes in our lives, in our homes in our jobs in our Church there is one constant. There remains one unchanging truth. We have been given the words of eternal life. We have been given the Word, the Word that comes to us as we hear it proclaimed, the Word that come to us as we eat the bread of life. Through all the changes, changes that for us may be good, bad or indifferent one thing remains the same. One thing gives us hope, gives us a home, gives us life beyond all measure. When the changes you face start to become overwhelming keep in mind the words of Simon Peter, “Master, to whom shall we go?
You have the words of eternal life.
Deacon John
The Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time
Aug. 23, 2009

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Prv 9:1-6
Eph 5:15-20
Jn 6:51-58

Bread. An ordinary, simple part of daily life. It can take a few different forms. In my part of the world it can be a biscuit for breakfast, a roll with dinner, or slices of bread for a sandwich at lunch. How many times a day do we eat bread and how often do we really think about it? Maybe when we run out of it. It’s just there, ordinary, simple, a ubiquitous part of life. When Christ chose a way to be with us, to remain with us, why not choose bread? Christ chose bread as the way to stay with us because it is such an important, yet ordinary part of life. Christ didn’t have to explain the importance of bread to people. Yet he took this simple, ordinary item and raised it to sacredness.
“I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”
Christ becomes our bread, becomes the staple of life that we need more than we realize. The ordinary, the simple, becomes Christ, becomes sacred, becomes a way for us to encounter the sacred. We gather at the Eucharistic celebration and we eat the sacred bread that is no longer bread. We take Christ into ourselves, and we who are ordinary, we who are simple, are elevated. We take God within us and we are lifted to the sacred, we become more than what we were, we become one, truly one in Christ. We leave, carrying that oneness with us, to invite the world to join with us, with us as one in Christ.

Deacon John
Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Aug. 16, 2009

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Feast of St. Lawrence

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

You reap what you sow. An old cliché perhaps, but clichés are clichés for a reason. Often there is truth behind the words of a cliché. How we choose to live our lives, what we choose to give away and what we choose to keep from others, can be the measure of what we receive. Do we choose to give generously of what we have, or do we jealously guard our possessions, our time? Our faith calls us to be generous, to give all we have all we are. We are called to kenosis, self-emptying, pouring out of ourselves in imitation of Christ. Christ’s giving to us was kenotic, a complete self-emptying, a self-emptying we are called to as well. No, it is not easy. Yes it can be difficult, very difficult, but the reward is beyond measure. St. Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr, shows us an example of this kenotic giving. He emptied himself completely, even giving his life. I doubt that any of us will be called to give in that same measure, but we are called. When we do give, when we attempt this kenosis, we will find what seems to be a contradiction, it is in the self-emptying that we become full. In giving we gain more than we were.

Deacon John
Feast of St. Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr
Aug. 10, 2009

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

1 Kgs 19:4-8
Eph 4:30—5:2
Jn 6:41-51

“Get up and eat, else the journey will be too long for you!”
Life is tough. Let’s face it. I don’t care who you are, what you have or don’t have, what you believe or don’t believe, life is tough. All of us will face difficulty, no one escapes problems. For some the difficulties of life are merely a burden to be borne. For others life’s hardships can be overwhelming. We face these hard times and feel alone, adrift in a world that cares nothing for you, a place where your problems are just one more set of difficulties that are everywhere. It is far too easy to become despondent and give up. The journey through life requires strength, strength that on our own we do not have. That strength is available to us, available in the bread come down from heaven, the bread of life that can sustain us on this difficult journey. Christ feeds us, gives us strength, strength in Christ’s presence in the word we hear, strength in Christ’s presence in the bread and wine we share. The strength we need is there, available to us, if we simply get up and partake of it. We must choose to accept the life giving strength that is granted to us, we must get up and eat.
“Get up and eat, else the journey will be too long for you!”

Deacon John
Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Aug. 9, 2009

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord

Dn 7:9-10, 13-14
2 Pt 1:16-19
Mk 9:2-10

About 25 years ago there was a documentary series on television called The Day the Universe Changed. Science historian James Burke would take an event in history, an event that seemingly was somewhat innocuous, and show how that event or idea or discovery changed the way we see the universe. These events were transformational events, because we were never the same after they occurred. They did indeed change the universe. These transformational events aren’t just great historic things, they also occur in our own lives. The day you become a parent, the world changes, you change. You will never see the universe the same way again. You have been transformed forever.
Jesus takes Peter James and John to the mountaintop. They have no idea why they are there, but for them the universe is about to change. Before their eyes Jesus changes, he is transfigured, he becomes so bright they can’t even look at him. They fall to the ground in terror. Then Moses and Elijah appear and speak to the transfigured Christ. Peter, James and John are terrified, they don’t understand what is happening or what they are seeing. They look up and everything is back to normal. But how can they ever see Jesus the same way again? Something happened, and because of it their universe is changed. As the undoubtedly confused disciples walk away with Jesus he tells them to keep this to themselves, tell no one until the Son of Man has risen from the dead. What does that mean? Only later, after witnessing the events of the Passion, death and resurrection of Christ do they realize what they saw. Only later do they realize they have been witness to the glory of God. Like the events described by James Burke, only later did they realize the universe-altering event they witnessed. We have the opportunity to participate in this universe-altering event. Through the Sacraments, through particularly the Eucharist, we have the opportunity to see the glory of God. We have the chance to share in that glory. We can be transformed. When we receive Christ, how can we ever be the same again? We are changed. When we receive Christ, when we accept Christ, the universe is changed.

Deacon John
The Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord
Aug. 6, 2009

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Ex 16:2-4, 12-15
Eph 4:17, 20-24
Jn 6:24-35

“This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.”
What does it mean to believe in the one God sent? Is it a simple act of affirmation, or is there more involved? Belief in the one sent by God is more than affirmation, it is immersion, immersion into the person of Christ. When one enters a profession it is not simply a matter of saying I’m a doctor or a lawyer or a plumber or an electrician. To be one of those requires immersion into the subject, study, practice, and the realization that you will never know everything there is to know about your field. You have to keep up with the advances in your chosen field, continually learning and re-learning, consulting books and others in your field so that you can continue to do the work you have chosen and to do it well.
So it is when we choose to do the work of God. We declare our belief, we affirm that we are followers of Jesus Christ, but we cannot stop there. We must keep up, we must immerse ourselves into the subject, into the body of Christ. We gather on this day and we hear the word of God. We take in that word, seeking to make it a part of us, applying that word to our lives. We then consume the bread become the Body of Christ, we consume the wine become Christ’s blood. We take in that Word, and in that taking in of the Body, we become what we receive. We receive the Body of Christ and become the Body of Christ. We are immersed in Christ as we act on our belief that Christ is indeed the one sent by God. We are immersed in Christ as we prepare to do the work of God.
“This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.”

Deacon John
Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Aug. 2, 2009