Sunday, September 21, 2014

Homily for September 21

Homily for the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time
(Scriptures for today's Mass)

Audio for homily

We all have disagreements with others in our lives,
in our families, among friends, in our neighborhoods,
in the church and at work…

But I’m wondering: do we have any disagreements with God?
God seems to think we do. 
Listen to his words in the first scripture today:
For my thoughts are not your thoughts
and my ways are not your ways, says the Lord…

Sounds to me like some pretty solid grounds for disagreement here,
disagreement with God unless you’ve cleared all that up
and now your thoughts are God’s thoughts and
your ways are God’s ways – just about all the time.

But we know that’s not the case.
Very often, in fact, God’s take on things substantially differs from ours:
we don’t always think the way God thinks,
our ways don’t always parallel God’s ways.

In fact, sometimes the difference between God’s thoughts and ways
are as high above our own - as the sky is beyond our reach.

An example…
It seems a decent thought, a good way of doing things
to love our friends and hate our enemies.
But God disagrees with us on this point and tells us
to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us,
to love our enemies and not to curse them.
And there’s no footnote indicating any exceptions to this norm.

In fact, it’s precisely that enemy, the one I’m inclined to hate the most,
it’s that enemy whom God calls me to love and pray for.

And then there’s that business of forgiveness.

In our own lives, who’s the person has hurt us the most? 
Who has lied to me?   used me?   betrayed me?  stolen from me?
cheated me?   treated me unfairly?
Whoever that might be, that’s the first name on the list
of those the Lord calls me to forgive.
We’re not asked to condone the words or deeds of the one who hurt us,
but we are called to forgive that person – as we have been forgiven.

I’m called, we are called, to forgive as God forgives:
fully, freely and frequently.

Someone once asked Jesus how frequently: maybe 7 times?
But Jesus answered, “At least 70 X 7 times – and more if necessary.”

God’s thoughts aren’t our thoughts, God’s ways not our ways.

Consider God’s expectations of our generosity.
The Lord looks not so much at what I give away
as much as to what I keep for myself.
How much is enough?  I begin to approach that kind of giving
when I begin to feel the pinch myself,
when I find myself giving not from my surplus but from my want.

God’s thoughts aren’t our thoughts.
And often, the difference between God’s ways and our ways
is as great as the distance from the earth to the heavens.

But, here’s the good news in that first scripture today.
Yes, we have disagreements with God, but God wants to settle them..
The Lord invites us to seek him while he may be found,
to call on him while he is near.

To do that, we’ll need to leave behind
some of our own thoughts and ways
and become more faithful to God’s.

Of course, that may not be easy, but the Lord promises
to be generous and merciful in helping
all who seek him and call for his help.

The basic move here, the first step to take, is to acknowledge
that I’m at odds with God.
Things aren’t quiet right and I need to make some changes.

The Lord asks me to love not just my friends,
but my enemies, too: those who have hurt and offended me.

And the Lord asks me to forgive them as I myself am forgiven by God.
And the Lord is always looking for me to give more of myself,
my heart, my time, my resources and more of my love to others.

And to give until it hurts, until I have at least an inkling
of the depths and breadth of the love Jesus gave for me.

We could argue about the fairness of how the landowner in the gospel
paid the different shifts of workers who toiled for him.
It’s interesting to note that those who disagreed with the boss
were those who received exactly what they had been promised.

But we’d all probably do better to look into our own lives
to see our own complaints before God
and seek to settle our disagreements with the Lord
while we have the time, while we can still call on his name.

At the Lord’s Table he feeds us all with the same food:
his Body and Blood in the Eucharist.

Whether we have worked in his vineyard all our lives
or only recently come to seek him and call on his name,
let us be grateful that he offers each and all of us
all that is his to give.


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Saturday, September 20, 2014

Pause for Prayer: SUNDAY 9/21

Image source

Speak to me, Lord...

Speak a word of blessing,
speak a word of kindness,
speak a word of mercy...

Speak a word that helps,
a word that heals my hurt,
a word to make me whole...

Speak a word to wake me up,
a word to make me strong,
a word to start my day...

Speak a word of hope,
speak a word of peace,
speak a word of pardon...

Speak a word of of wisdom,
speak a word of counsel,
a word that makes things clear...

Speak a word of challenge
and speak a word of comfort
and a word of consolation...

Speak a word to help me love
my neighbor and my colleague,
a word to draw me close to you...

Speak a word to my soul's depths,
a word to gather scattered thoughts,
a word to change the way I live...

Speak a word of memories healed,
a word of new beginnings,
a word to lift me up... 

Speak any word I need to hear,
a word of love and truth, Lord,
a word of grace from you...

Image source


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Friday, September 19, 2014

Pause for Prayer: SATURDAY 9/20

It's been quite a week, Lord!

I could use some help
so here's my prayer today...

   Refresh me when I'm tired,
   rouse me when I'm drowsy,
   replenish my zest for life,
   restart my energy's engine,
   sharpen my fading focus,
   rekindle my sense of purpose,
   revive my imagination,
   rejuvenate my soul,
   lift up my drooping spirit,
   bring back my sense of humor,
   quicken my get-up-and-go,
   restore my drive to do what's right,
   renew my faith and trust in you...

    Grant me peace with yesterday,
      joy in the day at hand,
         and hope aplenty for tomorrow...

   That's what I need and all I ask,
      be generous, Lord, I pray:
         I need your help today...



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Word for the Weekend: SEPTEMBER 21

Photo by AP

(Sorry this is being posted so late in the week!)

Time to sit down with the scriptures and begin to prepare for celebrating the Lord's Day this weekend, the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time. Spend some time with the texts and background material on them and invite your kids to do the same.

This Sunday's familiar gospel story challenges American sensitivities about justice: Hey - this story just isn't FAIR!  

Some workers go out into the vineyard and at the end of the day they're all paid the same wage - what's up with that?



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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Pause for Prayer: FRIDAY 9/19

Image source

I spend too much time
   on the little stuff,
putting off  'til tomorrow
   what's really important...

Help me face and do today
   what truly matters, Lord,
and put off 'til tomorrow
   what can wait another day...

(And please, help me know the difference!)


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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Pause for Prayer: THURSDAY 9/18

To sit in silence
in God's presence,
without a word to say:
this is, sometimes,
the greatest prayer
of all...


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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Pause for Prayer: THROW BACK THURSDAY!

33 years ago at the wedding of Ellen and Greg

In our minds and in our hearts, Lord,
refresh the joys of days gone by,
the graceful ways you blessed us,
inviting us to share
the life and love of friends...

In our thoughts and in our memories
bring to life again the smiles and the laughter,
the happiness that overflowed our souls
when new beginnings promised more
than all we thought we'd ever need...

Our fondest memories, Lord,
will sometimes bring us tears of joy
and sometimes tears of sorrow:
remembering all the happy times
and sadder days as well,
help us see that you were there with us
in good times and in bad,
in plenty and in want,
in sickness and in health...

But for today, Lord, stir within us
memories of the joys of times gone by
and all the graceful ways you blessed us
with your peace...

And nurture in our hearts a hope
for happiness awaiting us
in years that lie ahead...

And nurture in our hearts a trust and hope
for happiness awaiting us
in days and years still yet to come...


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Monday, September 15, 2014

Pause for Prayer: TUESDAY 9/15

Sunrise over Quincy Bay: photo by Bob Bowers
(Click on photo for a larger version)

As your rising sun shines on a new day's path,
     break through the darkness of my nights, Lord...

Break through the darkness of my fear
      and all that keeps me from becoming who I am...

Break through the hardness of my heart
     and let me hear the word you whisper in my prayer...

Break through my blind and stubborn will
     and help me see your plan and purpose for my life...

Break through my anger and resentment:
     tame my bitterness, my temper and impatience...

Break through the clouds that dim my hope
     and give me confidence and faith and trust in you...

Break through my pretense and my pride:
     help me accept and own myself for who I am...

Break through the walls that keep me in
    and through the walls that keep my neighbor out...

Break through the fears that haunt my dreams:
     give me serenity, good rest and peace of mind...

Break through the darkness of my night, Lord,
     as your sun breaks through to light a new day's path...



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Sunday, September 14, 2014

Monday Morning Offering: 9/15

Image: George Mendoza

Good morning, good God!

So very many different things

filling my schedule, my nights and days;
commanding my attention, focusing my vision;
jamming my thoughts,
renting space in my mind and  heart... 

So many things, Lord - so many good things:
my day to day work and all the people
who email, call, come by to chat, to laugh and cry,
who cross my path by appointment, by grace,
by the Spirit's surprise...

There are deadlines for meetings and projects,
work to be done with committees and councils
and on programs and homilies,
all of these needing a share of my time...

All that's on my calendar, Lord,
while still in my soul wait my cares and concerns,
my troubles and trials: unknown to most,
shared with a few and shared with you in my prayer,
in the time that we spend in the quiet, you and I,
in church, in my prayer room, in my car, in the shower,
and at any moment, in any place, where your Spirit
nudges my mind and heart to remember you're with me,
by my side, my companion, my mentor, my help... 

Help me sort things out
to know what's important and what's not so much:
to know where you lead me beyond my own wants;
to know what you ask me to do and to do it;
to know your will before my own
and be honest in responding to your call;
to do what I must when I don't want to do it,
to say what I must say when I'd rather keep silent;
to go where you lead when I don't want to go... 

Help me sort things out, Lord:
give me patience in working with others;
let my words be gentle, my thoughts well reasoned,
my decisions grounded in your Spirit's counsel;
help me generously give of my time...

When blessed with joy, let my heart open wide
to receive and to share it, to rejoice in such grace;
when sadness fills the day (my own or others')
open my heart to healing, to peace,
to the comfort your presence offers
and to any way to lighten the load
of the burdens that others might carry... 

When I'm too busy, Lord, then just slow me down;
when I'm lazy, please kick my butt;
when I don't know what to do or do next, show me
and give me the wisdom I need to know your plans for me
and the plans that I need to make... 

So very many different things
filling my schedule, my nights and days;
commanding my attention, focusing my vision;
jamming my thoughts,
renting space in my mind and  heart... 

Let me not forget how much I need you:
without your help, Lord, I will certainly fail; 
without your inspiration, my words will be empty; 
without your grace I'll turn in on myself; 
without your presence, I'll be empty;
without your Spirit, I have no compass; 
without your mercy, I have no hope;
without your love I'll be lost and alone... 

Let me not forget how much I need you, Lord... 

So I offer you this morning,
my day and the week that lies ahead: 
walk ahead of me and show me the way; 
walk beside me and be my friend; 
walk behind me and keep me safe... 

Occupy my mind and purify my thoughts; 
settle in my heart and make it your home; 
calm my soul with the healing and peace 
that only you can give... 

I offer you, Lord, my day, my week and my heart: 
make of me and my time an instrument of your peace, 
keep me faithful to you, your word and your love...


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Homily for September 14

by Phillip Ratner

Homily for the Feast of the Exultation of the Cross

(Scriptures for today's Mass)

Audio for homily

(This week's audio begins with the reading of the day's gospel.)

The scene in the first reading may seem primitive to us.
People lost in the desert gazing up at a bronze serpent,
hoisted on a pole, and finding life in doing so.

Evidently Jesus didn’t find this too primitive for his taste
since he saw fit to use the same image to refer to himself
and how he would be lifted up on the pole of the Cross
so that we might find life in the deserts of our lives.

And something of this primitive practice perdures in our own times.

• Every weekend I see many of you look up to the Cross over the altar
as you genuflect or bow before entering a pew and taking a seat.

• I see you before Mass begins gazing up at the Cross in the sanctuary.

• At Communion time,
I see many of you glance up at the Cross
or make the sign of the Cross
just before or just after you receive the Body of Christ.

• I often see parents speaking with their young ones,
pointing up to the Cross to tell a child
how the Cross is a sign of God’s mercy.

• Many of us wear a small cross or crucifix around our neck.

• Some of us have the Cross tattooed into our flesh!

• On Good Friday, I watch you come forward
to venerate the Cross:
to gaze upon it; to bow or kneel before it;
to touch it - even to kiss it.

• Perhaps you have a Cross at home
where it reminds you of the Lord each time you see it.

• The Cross over our sanctuary is probably out of proportion
to the relatively small space over which it hovers
- and yet no one has ever complained that it is too large.
We are drawn to it.
It draws us to its presence and power.

As the Israelites were drawn to gaze on the bronze image
of a serpent that was death for them
– and found life in doing so -
so are we are drawn to that image of death
that brings God’s healing promise of life forever. 

“Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert,
so must the Son of Man be lifted up
so that all who believe in him may have eternal life.” 

The Israelites gazed upon the image of the serpent
that was their death.

We gaze upon the death our sins have caused,
upon the One whose shoulders bear the burden of our guilt,
that we might be forgiven, healed and saved.

Ultimately, the Cross is an image of victory, not defeat.
But how can we celebrate Christ’s victory
if we do not know what is our share in it?

And how can we know our share in the victory of the Cross
if we fail to look to our own sins
and acknowledge our need for mercy,
the mercy the Cross offers us.

The Israelites brought their grumbling, hunger, anger and fear
to the bronze serpent lifted up on a pole.

To the foot of the Cross we bring our sin:
our complacency, our selfishness and pride,
our greed, our carelessness and lies,
our jealousies, injustices and infidelities.

And how can we celebrate this feast
without a great, sick ache in our hearts
for our brothers and sisters in the Middle East
who are suffering torture, death and even crucifixion 
all because they choose to gaze on the Cross of Jesus
and believe in its promise?

We look to the Cross, lifted up before us:
to see the wounded Jesus who is our healing Lord;
the thorn-crowned Jesus who is our mighty sovereign;
the suffering Jesus who is our hope,
the victorious Jesus who is our promise of life forever.

Jesus, lifted up for us,
lifts us from death to share in his life forever.

We gather, now, at the table  where Jesus,
on the night before he was lifted up on the Cross,
shared his life with us in the Bread and Cup of the Eucharist
at the Last Supper.

We gather in the shadow of his Cross
upon which he first offered the life that nourishes us.

So, let us gaze upon the image
of the One who is lifted up for our sakes,
who is our Lord and Redeemer,
our healer and our hope. 

Image source


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