Sunday, December 26, 2010

Feast of the Holy Family

Sir 3:2-6, 12-14
Col 3:12-21

Mt 2:13-15, 19-23

Perfection, as parents that is something we all want for our children. We want their lives to be perfect, we want them to be perfect. At first, of course, they are. That tiny bundle that comes home from the hospital, should we be fortunate, is indeed perfect. Even if the child isn’t perfect by some societal standard, as far as you are concerned the child is, perfect. Perfect, for a while, then things begin to change. We try, we teach, we guide, we try to mold and shape, but we discover to our great dismay that our child, our progeny, that reflection of you, is more of a reflection than you would like, because the child is not perfect. The kid makes mistakes, does things wrong, makes bad decisions, yet you keep loving that child, you keep trying with that child, because, after all, it is your child, and you love that kid, no matter what. No, you have to accept that the kid isn’t perfect, never was, never will be, but you love anyway, sometimes in fact not in spite of the kid’s imperfections, but because of them. At the end of the day, your children’s imperfections are what make them like you. Loving one another, warts and all, is what family is. We are certainly not perfect beings, not by any stretch of the imagination, yet we are loved. We are loved despite our imperfections, and maybe even because of them. When God created us, God knew we would not be perfect, that we would fail in oh so many ways. Yet, despite our imperfections we are still loved, loved enough that God came to us, as one of us, and became part of a family just like ours. Jesus came to be part of a family that loved one another, sacrificed for the good of one another, just as Joseph took his new family and fled to Egypt to save them. Love, despite imperfection, hardship, pain, suffering, illness that is the heart of family. Through the Holy Family, we are invited to join a family, a family where God demonstrates God’s great love for us, despite our imperfections, maybe because of them, a family where we are loved, warts and all.

Deacon John
Feast of the Holy Family
Dec. 26, 2010

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Day

Is 62:11-12
Ti 3:4-7

Lk 2:15-20

You are not forsaken. I want to assure that you are not forsaken, forgotten, abandoned. How many times in your life have you felt just that way, forsaken, lost, abandoned, nowhere to turn and no one to turn to? We have all felt it, we have all at some time no doubt believed it. We were totally forsaken, and nothing, no thing or no one could help you, would help you. But, it’s not true. None of us are forsaken. None of us are forgotten. None of us are abandoned or unloved. Today we celebrate that knowledge, today we celebrate the greatness of our God who has assured us that we are indeed loved, cared for, and certainly not forsaken. We have a place to go, we have someone we can turn to. Today God sends a savior, one who redeems the people of God. Angels came to shepherds and proclaimed the Good News. The shepherds in turn ran to see this child, this redeemer who came from Heaven to live with us, to be one of us, to save us. The shepherds ran to see this salvation, then ran to tell all they could see about this child. Let us join that band of shepherds this glorious day, let us go to this child, embrace this child, accept this child, then proclaim this child. For this child is God’s assurance to us, we are not forsaken.

Deacon John
Christmas Day

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Fourth Sunday of Advent

Is 7:10-14
Rom 1:1-7

Mt 1:18-24

Joseph was a righteous man. To be called a righteous man in Joseph’s world was high praise indeed. A righteous man, one who could be counted on to do the right thing, no matter what. So here is this righteous man, betrothed to a young woman, a child really by our standards, and he discovers she is with child. What’s a righteous man to do? He would be well within his rights to condemn her, walk away and let her face whatever punishment may come. Yet he decides to quietly divorce her, giving her, and the child a chance at life. Before he can act, however, an angel appears to him in a dream telling him not to worry, that the child his betrothed is carrying is the child of God, in so many words, the Messiah, and you will be entrusted with his care. I can’t imagine what Joseph’s initial reaction must have been. Today, we would probably seek out a psychiatrist, convinced we had gone round the bend altogether. If you told someone that this had happened, you would be seeing a psychiatrist, the one assigned to the asylum you would find yourself in. Thankfully for Joseph in his time the appearance of an angel was not a sign of mental illness, but a sign that God has something for you to do, something important. Joseph accepted the words of the angel, took Mary into his home, and reared the Messiah as his own son. He did not have to do this, he could have walked away. He could have not believed that an angel really appeared to him, or he could have simply refused the responsibility. But Joseph was a righteous man, he would do what God asked, despite the sacrifice. He had a choice, he chose God. As we approach the celebration of our salvation, the entrance of God in the person of a baby into our world, we have a choice to make. Will we choose the one who came and will come again, or do we walk away? Do we follow the example of Joseph? Can we be righteous?

Deacon John
Fourth Sunday of Advent
Dec. 19, 2010

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Second Sunday of Advent

Is 11:1-10

Rom 15:4-9

Mt 3:1-12

Half of life is just showing up. I’ve heard this saying in various places, and I’m not sure who to attribute it to, if anyone. Half of life is just showing up. It’s an interesting idea, and when you think about it possibly true. After all, you can’t benefit from things if you never show up. The saying is true in that showing up is half of life, but only half. Once you show up, you have to do something. No, I can’t learn anything if I never show up for school, but I can’t learn just by showing up, I have to put an effort into learning. Am I really a student if I never study? John, a voice crying out in the wilderness, prepare the way of the Lord. He baptized people with water for the repentance of sin. His baptism, his voice crying in the wilderness, drew many from all around. Many came to hear the call to repentance, to acknowledge their sins, and to receive baptism. Among those who began to appear were Pharisees and Sadducees, the religious leaders, the interpreters of the Law. They came and John turned to them to ask why. They showed up, right? Yes, they came but showing up is just half of life. You have to do something once you get there. John wouldn’t even permit them to claim that they were safe because they were the children of Abraham. Saying you are a follower and being one are not the same thing. In this Advent season that voice of one crying in the wilderness calls to us, calls to us to prepare the way of the Lord. Do we truly prepare the way of the Lord? Or are we just showing up? Showing up is good, it is half the battle, but only half. To say we believe is not enough. Showing up for Church is not enough. We have to act on what we profess to believe. Show up, by all means, show up, but do something once you get there.

Deacon John

Second Sunday of Advent

Dec. 5, 2010

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Hab 1:2-3; 2:2-4
2 Tm 1:6-8, 13-14
Lk 17:5-10

Why does everything take so long? Problems abound, in the world, in my life, everywhere, and solutions seem to be non-existent. After all, they can solve a murder on TV in one hour, less commercials, so why can't all of my problems, all of society's problems, be worked out just as easily? We put a man on the moon, why can't we solve our problems here on earth? Well, putting that man on the moon took a bit more than one hour, less commercials. It took years of planning, it did not happen overnight. We live now in a time that seems to have lost a sense of patience. Instant solutions on TV, 24 hour news cycles, everything has to happen and happen now. We cry out and there seems to be no answer, and we refuse to think that anything may take time. We call to heaven, but seem to get no reply. Maybe, we think, our faith isn't strong enough. Maybe we just need more, as if faith were a commodity, quantifiable, measureable. Jesus tells his followers in answer to their cry to increase their faith, that faith the size of a mustard seed is enough. More faith won't make things happen, more faith won't make everything better. What we must have is faith that what needs to happen will happen. As the Lord says to Habakkuk, "For the vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint; if it delays, wait for it, it will surely come, it will not be late." We have to keep faith and do the one thing we seem to find the most difficult, be patient. Trust me, I am no one to lecture anyone else about being patient. Patience is surely a virtue, and for me a life-long struggle. I try, I fail, but I try again. I must, as we all must, try to understand that the vision has its time, and that time is God's, not ours. We must all learn to wait, to have patience, and realize that all things are in God's hands. Easy to say, hard to do, but we must try. For if we can wait, if we can be patient, we will understand that, the vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint.
Deacon John
Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Oct. 3, 2010

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Ok, it's been a while since I posted here. It's partly due to illness, partly due to being tired, and maybe a little laziness as well. I will try to do better, after all, I need the stimulation of thinking.

Ex 32:7-11, 13-14
1 Tm 1:12-17
Lk 15:1-32

So there you stand, thinking to yourself, this is a long Gospel. A lost sheep is found, a misplaced coin turns up, the goofy son realizes his foolishness and comes home. You've heard it all before, a hundred times, maybe a thousand. That could be the problem. We've heard is all before, so many times that we don't hear it anymore. We need to stop, listen, and hear this Gospel, hear what it really says. A shepherd loses a sheep, one out of one hundred. He drops everything, leaves the ninety-nine unattended, to search for the one lost sheep. Really? Would a responsible shepherd risk his investment that way? Still, he searches for the one until it is found. A woman loses a coin, one of ten. Rather than sit back, figuring that the coin will turn up in the normal course of cleaning, she rips her house apart, searching for that coin. This is exactly how God is with us. As represented by the shepherd and the woman, God searches for us, seeks us out, wants us, more than we can know or understand. God's love for us is so all-powerful that god will do anything, absolutely anything, to get us to turn to God. After all, hasn't God already demonstrated this love in the person of Jesus? The Christ came to earth, lived as one of us, died for us, and rose that we might live, that we might have a relationship with God. What more does God need to do? Yet God will do anything to bring us home. We are surrounded by grace, relentless grace that calls us to God. God wants us, provides the graces and means to turn to God, but ultimately we must choose. Just as the Prodigal chose to go home, we must choose. We are called, but we have to answer. God does everything to make it as easy for us to turn to God as possible. We make it hard, we make it difficult. God's love and grace is there for the taking, all we have to do is choose.
Deacon John
Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Sept. 12, 2010

Monday, June 21, 2010

Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Zec 12:10-11; 13:1
Gal 3:26-29
Lk 9:18-24

Jesus asked his followers who do people say that I am? There were a variety of answers, Elijah, John the Baptist, one of the ancient prophets. Then Jesus asked who do you say that I am? Peter gave the answer, the Christ, the Son of God. No one apparently dissented from that answer, an answer that said much more than who Jesus is, but said who they, Christ's followers were, and are. Christ warned of dire things to come, suffering, persecution, death. Christ also spoke of great things, resurrection. Christ told them that in order to follow him they must take up their cross, deny themselves, give themselves to God and to others. Answering by saying that Jesus is the Christ, defines them as they strive to take up crosses and follow. How do we, today, answer that simple question, who do you say that I am? There are still a variety of answers, those who claim there was no Jesus, no actual person, just a myth. There are those who claim that Jesus was a simple itinerant preacher, a wise man who said great things, but not God. Then there is us, we who gather to celebrate, who proclaim the answer that Peter gave, you are the Christ of God. The basic statement of our faith, the kerygma, Jesus is Lord. We proclaim it, we believe it, we say who Jesus is, and at the same time we say who we are. We, as a people, are defined by this acknowledgement of Christ. Who we are, what we do, should be defined by our belief in that statement. When we say who Jesus is, we say who we are. We are a people striving to e compassionate, a people striving to be loving, a people striving to live the belief of that kerygmatic statement, Jesus is Lord. Of course we do not always succeed. We fall short, often, not always accepting the crosses that come our way, not always denying ourselves, not always loving as we should. Yet we strive, we reach we try, imperfect as we may be, to reach that ideal, to live as Christ asks. We strive, and in that attempt should someone look at us and ask who are they, one can truly and honestly say they are Christians.
Deacon John
The Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time
June 20, 2010

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

2 Sm 12:7-10, 13
Gal 2:16, 19-21
Lk 7:36—8:3

There is a song by Don Henley entitled The Heart of the Matter. One line of the song says, "I've been trying to get down to the heart of the matter, but my will gets weak and my thoughts seem to scatter, but I think it's about forgiveness, even if you don't love me anymore..."
It's about forgiveness. All of us have need for forgiveness. All of us need to forgive. This is just a simple fact of human relationships. We will find a way to do something to someone that requires seeking forgiveness. We will all find a time we need to forgive. Neither of these is an easy thing to do. To look at someone who has hurt you in some way, done something to you, and to forgive them, well that's not easy. To swallow your pride, and go to someone you have hurt and ask for forgiveness, not an easy thing. The possibility of rejection is huge. Which, however, is more difficult, living with the pain caused you by another, nursing it, holding on to it, having it infect the rest of your life, or looking past the pain, past the hurt, and acting in love by forgiving. Maybe this person doesn't want your forgiveness, maybe they don't think they need it. Which is more difficult, living with the knowledge that you harmed another in some way, perhaps feeling guilty, and having that infect the rest of your life, or seeking forgiveness, trying to make amends, to atone for your transgression. Maybe the person you need forgiveness from is in no mood to give it, maybe they never will be. Both forgiving or seeking forgiveness are scary. If you really want peace in your life these are your only options. Yes, what was done to you may seem so awful that you can't forgive, what you have done may seem to you to be unforgiveable. David committed murder, cold blooded, calculated murder, so he could marry another man's wife. Murder, the intentional taking of another person's life, what act could be more heinous? Yet when confronted with his sin by Nathan, David admitted his sin and God forgave him. Jesus, eating at the house of Simon the Pharisee, is approached by a woman, a sinner, a public sinner, known to all there as a sinner. The other guests are aghast as she weeps on Christ's feet, bathing them with her tears, drying them with her hair. She anoints Christ's feet with oil and this is just about too much for Simon. How could Christ let this sinful woman touch him? He confronts Christ, but is told that this woman has shown great love. She has also shown great courage. She knew her presence would disturb those at the dinner. She could not be completely sure Christ would not send her away. She had faith, she had love, and she trusted that she could be forgiven, no matter what her sins might be. Just like David, she was forgiven. God's love for us is absolute and unconditional. God's forgiveness is there for the asking. We don't deserve it, we can't earn it, but it is ours because of love. We have all been hurt, we have all caused hurt, we all need forgiveness, we all need to grant forgiveness. It is hard, but e must remember that God forgives, no matter the sin. How can we refuse to forgive if God does? Are we better than God?
Deacon John
The Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
June 13, 2010

Monday, June 07, 2010

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

OK, so I'm a day late. Actually I suppose I'm two and a half months late. I haven't posted a homily since March 20, just before I went into the hospital. During this time I just didn't have the energy, physical or mental, to concentrate on any task for very long. But things are improving, and I am slowly regaining strength, and the ability to comncentrate. So, for the moment, I'm back. No promises, but I will try to post every week. Thanks for your prayers.

Gn 14:18-20
1 Cor 11:23-26
Lk 9:11b-17
The average adult human being can survive for approximately 4 to 6 weeks without food, with no caloric intake. This depends, of course, on many factors such as weight and the individual's overall health. Still, even the best conditioned person, or as too many of us Americans are, the largest person, cannot survive much beyond 6 weeks.
We need to regularly replenish our bodies with food, calories of some kind, in order to survive. This drive to survive, this need to insure a steady supply of calories, led humanity to hunt, fish, eventually to settle into agricultural communities, growing food, struggling to survive. Maintaining a steady food supply was a struggle, and for far too may still is. It is no surprise, then, that Christ comes filling this most basic need. Bread, wine, important sources of calories for the people of Christ's time. Christ comes to us, as food, but food not for the body only. If the average adult can survive without physical food for 4 to 6 weeks, how long can the average person survive without the spiritual nourishment that Christ provides in the Eucharist? The soul must be fed, the spirit replenished, else we fall victim to spiritual starvation. Many who die from physical starvation succumb not just to the lack of food, but to other factors that spring up when the body is weakened by the lack of nourishment. The starving person become susceptible to a host of illnesses, given the opportunity to flourish by the weakness of the body. Our spirits, our souls, are no different. No nourishment for the soul leads to weakness, weakness that can kill just as surely as physical starvation. The sad part is we don't have to struggle to receive this spiritual nourishment. Christ comes to us, is present to us, as bread, as wine, as food. Many of our ancestors struggled to survive, struggled to feed their families. To receive Christ we don't need to struggle at all, all we need to do is show up.
Deacon John
The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ
June 6, 2010

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Fifth Sunday of Lent

Is 43:16-21
Phil 3:8-14
Jn 8:1-11

In an old Bugs Bunny cartoon the rascally rabbit cons someone, then walks away saying, what an idiot, what a maroon. Even when I saw this as a child I recognized the mistake, using the wrong word, and understanding that maybe the wrong person, if Bugs can be considered a person, was the maroon. The scribes and Pharisees bring a woman to Jesus, a woman caught in adultery. I doubt they really cared much about this woman or her sin, cynically they hoped to trap Jesus, forcing him to choose to either stick with the letter of the law or to let her go despite the law. A neat trap, one they could spring and walk away saying what an idiot, what a maroon. Instead Jesus questions them. Who among you is without sin, who among you is perfect? If you are sinful, imperfect, how can you cast judgment on another imperfect being? Slowly they begin to walk away, realizing that maybe the wrong person, or persons, were the maroon. Far too often in my own life I have lashed out, judging someone, someone I thought, someone I knew, was wrong. How could they do that? How could they be that way? They deserve their fate and worse, what an idiot, what a maroon. Then, later I learn more about that person, their circumstances, and see how foolishly harsh I was in my judgment. I look at myself and realize many could look at me, at things I have done, and be just as harsh in judgment against me, despite not knowing me or my circumstances. We must understand that in our own imperfection, we cannot judge others. The only one who can is the one who is perfect. When I try to judge, to point out another’s faults, just who is the maroon?
Deacon John
The Fifth Sunday of Lent
March 21, 2010

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Fourth Sunday of Lent

Jos 5:9a, 10-12
2 Cor 5:17-21
Lk 15:1-3, 11-32

The movie A Christmas Story, set in Northern Indiana in the late 1940’s, is primarily about the quest of young Ralphie to get a particular present for Christmas, a Red Ryder BB gun. Yet the story also deals a lot with everyday life, and with other preoccupations of our young hero. One thing Ralphie is looking for is a Little Orphan Annie secret decoder ring, an absolute necessity if he is to be able to decipher the coded message given at the end of the Little Orphan Annie radio show. He saved Ovaltine labels, drank the stuff in mass quantities, and dutifully mailed everything in to obtain the ring. Diligently Ralphie checks the mail each day on the way home from school, anxiously awaiting the arrival of the coveted ring. Finally the ring arrives, and Ralphie is overjoyed. At last he can decode the message! When he does, however, he discovers the message is nothing more than a commercial for Ovaltine, the drink he has consumed gallons of to obtain the ring. Greatly disappointed, he never mentions the ring again. What he watched for, waited for, longed for, has done nothing but let him down. A young man demands his share of his inheritance, takes the money and proceeds to throw it all away living a dissolute life. His father, who acquiesced in his son’s demand for the money, watches and waits, waits for the return of his son. Surely this man is disappointed in his son, in his son’s behavior, in his foolishness, in his wasted life. He watches, and when he sees his lost son on the road home, he runs to him. He runs to him not to berate him for his foolishness, but to bring him back into the warmth and the love of his family. No one would blame the man for being angry, no one would fault him for exacting some sort of punishment on his son. Make him work, make him pay the money back, demand some sort of restitution. Instead the father celebrates, joyous that his son has returned. He accepts his son despite his faults and failings. Will the son disappoint again? Probably, he learned a valuable lesson, but being human, he will need at times to be reminded. He learned, but he still isn’t perfect. Our God watches and waits for us, watching diligently to see if we are on the way home. Just like young Ralphie he checks everyday to see if we have made it back yet. Unlike Ralphie, God knows what to expect. We have squandered the inheritance we were given, thrown away the gift that Christ obtained for us, yet God watches and waits. Even when we do return, repentant and pledging to live differently, God knows we will still disappoint. We learn lessons, but we are not perfect, not yet. Just like the decoder ring, we will find a way to be less than we could be, less than we want to be, we will fail again. God knows this, God knows that we will disappoint, again and again. Still God watches and waits, and welcomes us back with joy, every time.

Deacon John
Fourth Sunday of Lent
March 14, 2010

Sunday, February 21, 2010

First Sunday of Lent

Dt 26:4-10
Rom 10:8-13
Lk 4:1-13

What do we want, and what do we need? How often do we confuse those things? There are a lot of things I want, there are a lot of things I have, but I should ask myself, do I need them? We all have a lot of things now, things we consider necessities, that just a few years ago were if not luxuries, at least not something that you could do without. Cell phones, all of us have one, and perhaps they have become necessities, but you could survive without it. The same can be said for computers, internet access, and a lot of new technology. Sixty years ago television was a luxury, and not something that was a necessity. The same can be said about radio if we go back 70 or 80 years. There are a lot of things we have or want that maybe we could do without, a lot of stuff that tempts us to believe we can’t live without it. Jesus was in the desert, hungry, tired, and tempted to turn stones into bread. He refused. Just as he refused to worship the tempter, just as he refused to tempt the Creator. What did he want, what did he need? Jesus managed to separate those two things. Yes he was hungry, he wanted bread, but how much bread did he actually need? He didn’t need the power and glory offered to him. His faith was strong enough he did not need to test it by tempting God. In this season let us examine our own lives and try to determine what we need, as opposed to what we want. How much stuff is enough? Who, or what, do I worship? Do I need proof of God’s existence, or do I have faith? Now is the time task these questions, now is the time to seek the answers, now as we prepare.

Deacon John
First Sunday of Lent
Feb. 21, 2010

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ash Wednesday

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

It’s Lent? Already, it’s Lent? Didn’t we just celebrate Christmas yesterday? I have to tell you, I am not ready for it to be Lent. I need more time to get ready, to prepare myself, mentally, to take on the challenge that is Lent. This can’t happen yet. Could we put it off for another week, maybe two, just to give me more time to get ready? The real problem is, if we are willing to admit it to ourselves, is that we will never be ready. Lent can start today, tomorrow, next week, next month it really doesn’t matter, we will never be ready. We don’t want to face ourselves and admit that we are indeed imperfect beings. We definitely don’t want to face God knowing that we are imperfect, that we are indeed sinners. The admission to ourselves that we fall short makes it hard for us to face God, because we are afraid. We’re afraid because we know we don’t look good to ourselves, so how can we stand how we must look to God. We’re afraid, but we fear without cause. God calls to us, just as the prophet Joel says, because God is full of mercy and compassion, full of kindness and slow to anger. God calls to us because we are loved. This call to accept the compassion of God is ongoing, all day, every day. But being human, being limited, and being afraid, we need a push, a nudge, a reminder that God is calling us, and that we should not be afraid to heed that call. Thus we have Lent. Lent, which is our push, our nudge, our reminder that God loves us more than we can ever comprehend. Lent, a reminder of the great love demonstrated for us forty days from now.

Deacon John
Ash Wednesday
Feb. 17, 2010

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Is 6:1-2a, 3-8
1 Cor 15:1-11
Lk 5:1-11

Blessings, we all have them, no matter what we might think of our circumstances. Perhaps we think we have more than we will ever need. More likely, we don’t think we have nearly enough. We could always use more we think, more money, more space, more time, more something. If we are honest with ourselves, however, we are blessed in some way, no matter how meager we may think our circumstances are. My associate always starts off our non-denominational services for our residents and staff by singing a song that goes, “We’re blessed, we’re blessed, we’re blessed. We have shelter, clothing and strength, we are blessed, we don’t deserve it but yet we are blessed.” We tend to discount the blessings we have perhaps because we don’t believe we deserve them. Well, we don’t. We don’t deserve whatever blessings we have, so we are skeptical, and we are afraid. We know we are not worthy, we know that we can never earn those blessings that God has granted us. We fear for no reason, the blessings we have are a gift, God’s grace is a gift, freely given despite the fact we don’t deserve it. In the first reading the writer proclaims;
“Woe is me, I am doomed! For I am a man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips;” but despite his fear the next thing that happens is amazing, it is a gift, God’s grace granted freely as, “one of the seraphim flew to me,
holding an ember that he had taken with tongs from the altar. He touched my mouth with it, and said, ‘See, now that this has touched your lips, your wickedness is removed, your sin purged.’”
In the Gospel reading today Jesus asks Peter to set out from the shore so that Jesus could teach the crowd without being crushed or pushed into the sea. Peter does as he was asked, then when Jesus finishes teaching he tells Peter to set out for deep water and lower his nets for a catch. Peter tells Jesus that they had fished all night unsuccessfully, but he would do as Jesus asked. Now Peter was a fisherman, a rough-hewn, straight talking, hard-minded businessman. He was probably skeptical about the possibility of catching anything, but he did as Jesus asked. He did as Jesus asked and was blessed with a harvest of fish so bountiful it nearly sank his boat and another. Peter knew he did not deserve this blessing, he knew that by the standard of his day he may have been a good guy, a hale fellow well-met sort, but not a holy man. This gift frightened him, because he knew he did not deserve it. He looked to Jesus and said, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.”
Each of us fits in that same place, the place where the writer of the first reading was, the place where Peter was. When confronted with the greatness of God, when facing the grace and the almost unbearable love that God showers upon us, we are terrified. We don’t deserve this, we are a people of unclean lips, a people who are good by some standard, but surely nor holy, surely not worthy of God’s attention much less God’s boundless love. We are so programmed to think we have to earn things, we have a hard time believing that this great gift is ours, with no way we can reciprocate, no way we can earn it. We can’t earn it but we still feel a need to do something, we do have to respond somehow, don’t we? We can respond, first by accepting the gift, by not being afraid of the gift. Then, knowing that we are not working to earn this gift of love, of grace, we look around and offer it, undeserved, without reservation or expectation, to the rest of the world.
“Here I am,” I said; “send me!”
Deacon John
Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Feb. 7, 2010

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Jer 1:4-5, 17-19
1 Cor 12:31—13:13
Lk 4:21-30

Walking is supposed to be a good way of maintaining you health. A good brisk walk can help keep your heart in shape, help maintain your weight, and just generally make you feel better. The good people of Jesus’ native town, shortly after services in the synagogue, invited Jesus to take a short walk, though I doubt it would have done much for his health. It was, indeed a very short walk, just one step, albeit one very long step. They were just a bit upset with him, when he pointed out that a prophet is generally not well received in that prophet’s native place. He pointed out how miracles had been worked, but for outsiders like Naaman. They were upset, ostensibly because Jesus failed to do mighty works for them as he had done for others. Deep inside though, I think they understood that he was right. They didn’t turn to Jesus in faith, they wanted parlor tricks. It wasn’t faith that drove them, but superstition. Do this and I’ll believe. Prove to me you are who you seem to be. After all, we know you, we know your family, why should we accept you? Make this easy for us, tell us what to do and say and think after you work a couple of miracles so we’ll know you are legitimate. Without special signs they could not, would not, believe. That is not faith, that is superstition. I am not denigrating the idea of miracles, miracles have happened, miracles continue to happen, everyday. Miracles don’t happen just to bring about faith, they happen because of faith. How many times did Jesus tell someone that faith had saved them, that faith had cured them? The miracle came about because that person believed. A miracle may lead others to faith, but it only leads there, it is not a substitute for faith. Faith is a gift that God gives each of us, a gift that requires no proof.

Deacon John
Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jan. 31, 2010

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Is 62:1-5
1 Cor 12:4-11
Jn 2:1-11

There was a wedding feast in a place called Cana, and the wine was running low, real low. Mary turns to her son, tells him of this predicament, and he, after initially balking, does as his mother asks. Even in the face of his refusal, Mary turns to the servers and tells them, “Do whatever he tells you.” Mary gives what may be the best advice in all the Scripture, “Do whatever he tells you.” Jesus instructs the servers to fill the jugs meant to hold water for ceremonial washing to the brim with water. They do, and then again follow Jesus’ instructions and draw out the water now made wine, take it to the chief steward, who proclaims it the best wine yet. Those servers did what was asked of them without knowing the outcome of their actions, without knowing if what they were doing would matter, make any difference. They simply followed Mary’s advice and did whatever Jesus told them. Mary started this whole chain of events by asking Jesus for help, and then telling the servers to follow him. The servers had no idea what would happen, but trusted that following Jesus would lead to good. That advice that Mary gave then is good for us as well. “Do whatever he tells you.” What the Christ tells us is to love, to care about the other, to live unselfishly, to give. We may not always know the outcome of following that advice. We may give of ourselves and not see the results, but that doesn’t mean what we do has no effect. We may never see the results of the good we attempt to do, but we must do it anyway. When we love, when we live as Christ asks, we touch people, we make a difference though that difference may never be known to us. The servers followed Mary’s advice and did as Jesus asked even though they did not know what would happen. We may never see the results of what we do, but we should listen and follow Mary’s advice as well, and do whatever he asks.
Deacon John
Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jan 17, 2010

Sunday, January 03, 2010

The Epiphany of the Lord

Is 60:1-6
Eph 3:2-3a, 5-6
Mt 2:1-12

Today’s Gospel starts with this statement, When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews?
We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.” Which leads to the question, why? Why did Magi, Wiseman, kings, come from a distant land to the east to pay homage to the newborn king of the Jews? Why would they care? Were they just being polite?
This time of year we see the return of light, physical light, to the world. In our hemisphere days are getting longer, the sun rises a bit earlier and sets a bit later. When the sun shines it does not shine only on a particular place, or a particular people, the sun shines for everyone. At Christmas we celebrated the rising of the Son, the dawn of a new light, a light not meant only for a few, but for all. The Magi came to pay homage to the Christ, not because he was the newborn king of the Jews, but because he is the newborn king of all. They were drawn by the light, the light of the Son, a light that, just as the physical sun does, shines on everyone. They came to make known to the world that this newborn king is king of all, they came to open the eyes of all people to the light of the Son, the light that clears away the darkness and guides us home.
Deacon John
The Epiphany of the Lord
Jan. 3, 2010