Saturday, September 24, 2016

Take care of others

26th Sunday of OT Year C 2016:
As many of you know, I’m a bit of a golf-addict.  And I usually golf with Fr. Mark Gurtner, who is the pastor of Our Lady of Good Hope.  Fr. Mark will freely admit that he is a lucky golfer.  In fact, he always says that he is the luckiest golfer in the world.  It’s true.  I’ve seen him hit it into ponds, only to have it skip the water and land on the green.  I’ve seen him shots that would go yards past the hole, only to hit the flagstick and go right in.  I like to say that he could hit it into the woods and a squirrel would bring it out for him.  I’m the opposite.  I always seem to get bad breaks, especially with cart paths.  My ball will be heading for the green, hit a cart path and go miles.  So, I always say that on the golf course, I’m Lazarus, and Fr. Mark is the rich man.  He gets all the good luck, and I get the bad.  I always tell him: this parable is about you, and it doesn’t end well for you.
Of course, that is just a joke.  But, this parable is actually quite serious, it’s also about all of us.  This parable is a powerful reminder for all of us to be thankful and generous.  The rich man in the parable ends up in the place of torment, not because he received good things in this life, but because he didn’t use these good things for the betterment of others.  Rather he spent his money on fancy clothes and expensive food.  Poor Lazarus sat by his doorstep, and the rich man didn’t even notice him.
My friends, we are all the rich man.  God has blessed us in so many ways.  But, we don’t want the story to end badly for us.  Take some time this week to reflect on the many ways that God has blessed you.  Then ask: what am I doing with all these gifts?

Sunday, September 18, 2016

You cannot serve 2 masters

25th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year C 2016:
You cannot serve both God and Mammon.  Now, you might be thinking: that’s OK, I don’t know this Mammon chap.  He might be a decent fellow but I’ve got no interest in serving him…  But, Mammon is not a person.  Mammon is the syriac word that means: wealth or riches.  So Jesus is saying you cannot serve both God and the love of money, wealth, fame, pleasure, whatever.  You cannot serve 2 masters, you will love one and hate the other.
As I was reading this passage this week, this sentence really stuck out to me.  You cannot serve two masters.  How true that is!  I can say that I only work the best when I’m focused on one thing.  I know that in these days we like to think that we can multitask.  But, I don’t think that’s true.  The more tasks we do at once, the worse we end up doing all the tasks.  Jesus is telling us something very important about our relationship to God.  It works the same way.  He has to be number 1 in our life, or he will end up being last. 
I see this as a real struggle in my own life.  I’m sure it’s a struggle in your life as well.  It boils down to this question: do I build my life around my relationship with God, or do I try to fit God into life?
I’m not saying that everyone needs to quit their jobs, leave their families behind, run off and join the monastery.  That is the vocation of some, but not all of us.  Most of you are called to family life as married persons or as devoted sons and daughters.  I’m called to priesthood.  The Sisters of Notre Dame are called to religious life.  We are also blessed with many single people who give their time and talent to further God’s kingdom.  We are all called to a unique vocation.  But, before all that, we are called to be holy.  This means we are called to be in relationship with Christ, to follow Christ, to serve Christ.  But, we cannot serve two masters.  So where do you fit?  Do you see yourself as a Christian Father, or a Father who happens to be Christians?  Do you see yourself as a Christian banker, or a banker who happens to be Christian?  Are you a Christian American, or an American who just happens to be Christian?  How you answer these questions has a huge impact.  In everything we do, we are called first to be followers of Christ.  It should affect all that we do, inform all that we do, guide all that we do. 
First of all, look at your time.  Do you build your life around prayer and the sacraments, or do you try to fit them in when you can?  It makes a huge difference.  How many families out there would like to pray as a family?  I think most of you would say that you would like to do that, maybe pray a family rosary.  But, if you say: as soon as we get 15 free minutes, then we will say the rosary, how often would you pray the rosary?  A better idea would be: as a family, we are going to get up 15 minutes earlier, get ready for work/school by 7:15, then we will pray the rosary before our life gets crazy.  If you did that every day, you would be building your life around God and not just trying to fit him in.
I read an article the other day about St. Francis University.  They have initiated something called “Sacred Time.”  Every day between 11:30 and 12:00 there is nothing allowed to be scheduled on the university.  No classes or activities.  This way faculty and students can go to Mass or have a time to connect with God.  What a great idea!  What is your sacred time?  If an entire university can carve out 30 minutes a day, I’m betting each of us can do it too.

You cannot serve two masters.  So who will you serve?  I know that I want to serve God and to do his will.  But, I know that I need to do a better job of building my day and my life around God as opposed to trying to fit in prayer and devotion.  One thing I’ve learned over the years, I never regret giving time and attention to God.  It always makes my life better.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Mother Theresa Carried Her Crosses

23rd Sunday of OT Year C 2016:
Interesting message from Jesus today.  He wants to make sure that we know what we are getting into.  If we want to be followers of Jesus, that means that we have to place him before all else.  Nothing can come before our relationship with Christ.  Not our families, not our possessions, not even ourselves: we have to deny ourselves and take up our crosses.
Now we all know that we are supposed to follow Jesus.  But, why?  Why would we go through all this?  Sometimes it’s really good to remind ourselves just why we are getting into this in the first place. 
Remember, Jesus came to be our savior.  He wants to give us new life.  Jesus did not come to say that the life we have now is just fine.  Right now we experience pain and suffering; we mourn and grieve; we sin and we experience the sins of others.  Jesus came to us because he wants to give us ever so much more.  He wants to make our lives better, not worse.  He did not come to be a part of our broken world.  Rather, he came to remake this broken world.  The path to this new life is the cross.  So, if we want this new life, we have to pick up our crosses.
I don’t think many of us have to look very far to know what our crosses are do we?  I know that in my own life, it’s been a crazy few weeks.  We had the broken water main in school and the AC hasn’t been working in Church since April.  We have had an unusually high number of funerals.  I’ve had 9 funerals in the past 2 weeks.  So, I’ve been meeting people who are experiencing a great deal of grief and pain.  Plus, there are a number of families that I know are going through tough times.  There are families dealing with sickness.  Some families with marital difficulties.  There are families with financial difficulties.  Even in my own family, my grandpa is struggling with dementia.  I’m sure that each and every one of us could list something in our life that qualifies as a cross.  Jesus tells us to pick up our cross and follow him.  But, he never said it would be easy.  In fact, in today’s gospel he goes out of his way to tell us just how hard it will be.
But, if we don’t remember why we are doing it, we won’t be successful.  As I just mentioned, Jesus tells us to pick up our cross and follow him because he wants to give us new life, he wants to heal us and fix our brokenness.  So, we know why Jesus is calling us.  But, why do we follow him?  What is going to make you pick up your cross and follow Jesus?  Will we do it simply because we know it is the right thing to do?  Maybe sometimes, but probably not all the times.  If following Christ is just a duty, it will be like following the speed limit.  You know you SHOULD do it.  But, if you are running late…  who knows.  It doesn’t work like that for Christ.  If we are going to follow him, we need to follow him all the time, not just when it is convenient.  So, what enables us to carry our crosses?  The answer is love.
Jesus gives us the greatest example.  He was the first one to lift the cross, to carry it for us.  He gave his life as a ransom.  He picked up his cross and laid down his life.  Why?  Because he loved us so much.  Think about other examples of courage.  Why does a mother get up in the middle of the night to sit with a sick child?  Love.  Why does a soldier jump on a grenade to shield his fellow-soldiers?  Love.  Why did Mother Teresa pick up the poor, the sick, the lonely, the untouchables and take care of them?  Love.  As I’m sure you all know, Mother Teresa is being canonized this weekend in Rome.  Her life is a great example of picking up the cross and following Jesus.  The things she did were amazing.  But, the reason she did them was simple: her love for God and her love and respect for human persons. 

So, where are you at when it comes to carrying your cross?  Are you able to do it every day, or do you treat it like the speed limit?  Look to the example of Mother Teresa.  For her, carrying the cross was not some abstract rule, or sterile duty.  For her, carrying the cross was an act of love of Jesus Christ.  And now she is a great saint and she is living with God forever.  The same thing can happen to us.  So, let’s ask St Mother Theresa to pray for us.  That we might be filled with love like she is.  Love for God, and love for those who are most in need.  One little woman did great things because of love.  Imagine what could happen if the whole church was filled with disciples of Christ who were filled with that same kind of love.