Monday Morning Offering: 9/26

Image: George Mendoza

Good morning, good God!

I offer you the week ahead, Lord,
the week you've offered me:
seven days of opportunity,
and grace...

I offer you the days ahead
for which I'm anxious, tense and fearful:
be with me in the tough times,
by my support when I grow tired
and my strength when I am weak...

I offer you the days that will confuse me:
be me counsel, give me wisdom,
help me come to understand
when things just don't make any sense...

I offer you, ahead of time,
any disappointments I may know:
keep my spirits high, high enough
to help me move along in faith
when things don't go my way...

I offer you my pledge to live this week
as faithfully as I know how,
with your help and grace to keep me true
to you and to your word...

I offer you my desire to pray this week:
to find some time each day
to sit and share with you
my sorrows and my joys,
waiting for a word from you,
a whisper of your love...

And I offer you the days
that I anticipate with joy:
let my hope not be in vain,
my expectations not too high
and my gratitude be yours
for all the gifts that come my way...

I offer you the week ahead,
the week you've offered me, Lord:
seven days of opportunity,
of mystery,
and your grace...



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Homily for September 25

Homily for the Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Scriptures for today's Mass

Audio for homily
(Technical problems with audio - will try to post later)

The prophet Amos has his sight set on the “complacent”

who “lie on beds of ivory.”

Anyone here sleep on an ivory bed?

I didn’t think so -- even if we sleep on sheets

whose thread count is important to us,

beds bedecked with pillow shams, duvets, mattress toppers,

bed skirts and memory-foam mattresses                          

that mold themselves to our body’s contours.

I wonder what Amos would think of all that?

The prophet also had it in for those who

 “stretched comfortably on their couches.”

We do that, too, unless we’re stretching out

on our motorized, heated, vibrating

leather massage recliners.

And like the complacent in Zion we also eat the best of foods,

]the native grown, the free range-raised and the organic,

often accompanied by the finest of wines, even if domestic,

which we drink from the most appropriate of stem-ware,

large bowl glasses for reds, smaller ones for whites.

And all of this we do, as in Amos’ day,

anointed with the best oils:

scented perfumes, lotions, colognes and after shaves.

And while we might be mildly indisposed

by the collapse of the poor, the starving and the homeless,

generally speaking we’re not made ill by these realities

as we spend billions upon billions of dollars

on our own comfort and luxury.

The rich man in the gospel had the same problem.

He dressed well and dined sumptuously,

all the time ignoring the poor man, Lazarus,

who was lying at his front door!

Can you imagine

a poor, sick man collapsing at your front door

- and doing nothing about it?   Of course not. 

Even if you didn’t invite him in,

even if you didn’t go out to help him,

you’d at least call the police and get the man some help.

But the question for us is this:

how do we define “front door?”

Why are we often moved to respond only in proportion

to the proximity of those who are in need of help?

And what if we live in a community

whose front doors are sufficiently secluded

to collapse on our front steps?

Are we any less responsible

if that homeless person collapses

in the streets of Boston? 

In the gospel story both Lazarus and the rich man die

and go to their respective eternal rewards.

When the rich man asks that Lazarus be sent

to warn the man’s five brothers

to be more generous to those in need, he’s told,

 “Even if someone should rise from the dead

- they will not listen to him…”

Well, someone has risen from the dead - Jesus.

And he has come to tell us, today, that we can’t risk

‘being satisfied and complacent

in responding to the poor, to those in need -

wherever they may be!

There is no measure of distance that relieves us

of  our responsibility for those in need.

And indeed, while the poor may not fall on our doorsteps,

the poor are close to us, right here in town.

The Holy Family St. Vincent de Paul Society

is a group of parishioners who respond to calls

Holy Family Parish receives

from those in need, right here in Concord.

The calls come through the parish office and we relay them

to the St. Vincent de Paul folks.

It’s not unusual for us to get 3 or 4 calls - a week

from people in Concord who need housing assistance, food,

clothing and assistance in paying gas, electric and heating bills.

One way of assisting in this work

is to donate to St. Vincent de Paul.

There are boxes for this purpose at the doors of our church.

How much should each of us give in reaching out to the poor

and in support of those who reach out to them in our name?

We each have to make that determination on our own.

But the scriptures tell us clearly today

that determining our generosity to the poor should be measured

in proportion to our generosity to ourselves

with comfort and luxuries.       

We live in a well-protected community here in Concord.

We don’t find the poor on our doorsteps.

and even when the poor live on our own street

or around the corner,

we are often protected from knowing who they are

and what their needs might be.

What the scriptures ask of us today,

what they demand of us today,

is that we not be complacent,

that we not allow our comfort and luxury to blind us

to the needs of others in our neighborhoods, in Boston

and around the whole world.

It’s not so much our nice things on which we’ll be judged

but rather on our complacency about those in need.

What the scriptures warn us of today is this:

how easily our nice things can lead us to be complacent

when others need so much for us to be generous.

I am sure that as we come to the Lord’s Table today,

there are some among us who are in need

and others here who have the resources to help them.

And even if no one in need is with us at this Mass,

the poor of the world come in spirit to this altar

in the person of Jesus

who made himself poor that we might be rich in his grace.

In a few moments, we will share in a banquet

 (not the feast Amos decried,

nor the table of gospel’s rich man)

but rather, the banquet which is the life of Christ given for us

first on the Cross

and shared with us now, again,

in the Bread and Cup of the Eucharist on this altar.

May the nourishment we receive here

in Communion with Christ, with one another

and with all those in need, make us quick to be generous

from the bottom of our hearts.


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Pause for Prayer: SUNDAY 9/25

In Monument Square, Concord: photo by CP

Was it in the dead of night, Lord,
or just before dawn?

Did you walk down my street
and climb a few trees
or reach down from heaven,
your brush in hand?

Is rusty orange your favorite hue
or just the first on this year's palette?

Will you soon return with other colors
or wait awhile to see if I keep vigil
for the secret ways you paint the trees
while I am fast asleep?

Your artistry's a gift to me and all
whose eyes are open for the hints you leave
in branches touched by gentle brushes
with divinity and grace...

In the dead of night or just before dawn
reach down, Lord, brush in hand,
to touch my soul and leave upon it
traces of your visit and your peace...



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WORD for THIS weekend!

Image from Christian Art (Click for larger version!)

(Apologies for this coming to you so late in the week!)

Looking at the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time, we're faced with very strong scripture texts that stand as judgment on our lives and our lifestyles. You'll find the hard sayings of this Sunday's readings here along with commentary on them. Escorting children to Mass this weekend? Check here for hints on helping children prepare to the the Word of the Lord.

The first lesson, from the prophet Amos, gets right to the point: "Woe to you who are complacent, stretched out comfortably on your sofas, eating well, listening to music, having a few drinks and dousing yourself in expensive perfumes, lotions and after-shave! Your good times are about to end and after that..."

Gulp!  That's us!

The gospel, from Luke, is the familiar and riveting story of the rich man and the beggar, Lazarus, who begged for scraps from the wealthy man's table. If that's not enough to stir your memory of this tale then either you're not familiar with the gospels or you're in denial! What becomes of Lazarus and the rich man in eternity should be enough to make most of us squirm in discomfort.

The second lesson is another passage from Paul's first letter to Timothy. The tone is more positive here, as Paul instructs Timothy to "compete well for the faith, to keep the Lord's word without stain or reproach, to lay hold of the life to which we have been called." Strong language here but more challenging than judgmental.

There's really no wriggling out of the bare truth of these scriptures. Follow the links, read the texts and be prepared to hear them at the Lord's table where we, sinners, are fed the richest banquet possible.

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Pause for Prayer: SATURDAY 9/24

Source unknown

I visited a friend in prison, Lord,
and while driving home I thought:
in some ways Rich is freer than I...

He's facing three years time and yet
he lives in the moment,
day by day, hour by hour,
mindful of his circumstances,
freely taking responsibility
for why he's where he is...

He's grateful for what he has
- not much in terms of things -
his greatest possessions, he told me:
his integrity and loyalty to friends...

His time is structured for him,
his movement always monitored
but he flies beyond his confines
reading everything he can
and writing letters and a journal,
a chronicle of time he spends -

In some ways, Lord, my friend in prison
is freer than I with all my freedom
to come and go as I please
and yet so often find myself
locked in, locked up, locked down...

So help me break the bonds of yesterday
and let no fears imprison me
or keep me from the freedom
of knowing and accepting
the day which I am living... 

Make me mindful of my circumstances
day by day and hour by hour,
taking full responsibility
for why I am where I am,
how I got here
and where I'm going...

Give me freedom just to know my best possessions:
the real, the important, the lasting gifts
that count as treasure of more value
than all else that I might own...
Let me spend my time productively,
wasting not a moment,
as I chronicle the journey of my life
and spend my days,
waiting for the freedom
I'll only find in you...


(An older, related post)

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Pause for Prayer: FRIDAY 9/23

With yesterday's equinox,
Lord of all creation,
the summer of your grace gave way
to the autumn of a new grace...

And what, in my life,
might that new grace be?
Days begin to shorten and nighttimes lengthen,
day by day, night by longer night,
robbing us of daytime's light and warmth
until the winter bows
and hope of spring returns...

Lead me through life's changes, Lord,
as you walk me through the seasons' changes...

Help me treasure each day's light
as autumn sunsets swallow up the warmth...

Teach me patience with the seasons of creation
and the seasons of my life...

Let the falling leaves caress my steps
until the trees green once again
and peace returns to bless my mind and heart
with the grace of change,
the grace of that unfailing peace
that's only yours to give...



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Pause for Prayer: THURSDAY 9/22

Too easily and much too often, Lord,
I take you for granted...

I take for granted your Spirit,
always moving in my mind and heart
and stirring me to do what's right and true...

And when I do what's wrong and fail the truth
I often take for granted your mercy,
offered when I turn to seek your pardon...

I take for granted that you're always with me,
day and night, night and day:
before me, behind me, beside me...

I take for granted all the ways
your wisdom whispers in my thoughts
and your counsel echoes in my conscience,
moving me to live as your word calls me...

And I take for granted, Lord,
that though I've said a thousand times,
"I will!  I promise!  Really!"
you offer yet another chance
each time I fail to follow through...

I take for granted all the people in my life,
(each one a gift from you)
who hold me up when I'm bowed down,
who are my strength when I am weak,
who give me hope when times are hard,
who love me more than I deserve...

I take for granted that you always hear
my stumbling, mumbled prayer;
that you listen to my problems,
wipe my tears away
and share my every joy...

I take for granted that you love me as I am,
and wait, patiently, as I become
all you created me to be...

I take for granted, Lord,
your faithful and abiding generous love
and how there's no end to your kindness,
understanding and compassion...

And I take for granted, Lord,
how you never take me for granted...

Help me take these words to heart, Lord,
and never for a moment take for granted
the simple grace of living in your presence,
knowing that you love me
and trusting that you hear my every prayer...


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Pause for Prayer: WEDNESDAY 9/21

Too much stuff on your plate?
Can't get to the bottom of your to-do list?
Feeling like everybody wants a piece of you?
Lots of shoulda-coulda-woulda going down?

It will all be there tomorrow
so for now, just slow down
and sit with the Lord
who gets it,
who understands,
who understands you,
who wants to be with you...

And the time to slow down and pray
is now...

Texting with God

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Pause for Prayer: TUESDAY 9/20

Walden Pond: photo by Winslow Pettingell

The shadows of four visitors stretch along the shore of Walden Pond in Concord, MA. Though the pond's depth is always in flux, it's now at its lowest level since Henry David Thoreau first recorded its depth in 1846.  It's been a dry, dry, summer...

Sometimes, Lord, there's a drought in my soul,
draining my heart and my spirit
and leaving me dry, parched and thirsting
for a drink, a taste, a sip of the joy
of the water of life 
that flows from your grace...

The dryness scrapes my soul
and lays bare its barren shores athirst
for just a drop of that sweet joy for which I pine:
a taste of you, Lord,
to quench the longing deep within the well
my empty heart can be...

Send your rains, O Lord,
drenching downpours of your grace:
to wash my face and cleanse my heart,
to prime the well of my soul's depths,
to bathe my arid spirit's ache
in waters flowing from your heart -
sweet, refreshing waters
offering healing, peace and joy...

I lift a cup to you and pray
for just one drink, a taste, a sip
of life that's yours to give...



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Image: George Mendoza

Good morning, good God!

I have so much, Lord!
All my basic needs are provided for:
I have shelter and warmth, health care and medicine,
food and drink, clean water and power,
family and friends, satisfying work and compensation,
safety and security, freedom and liberty…

I have freedom to believe and worship and pray.
I have freedom to think and express my thoughts.
I have freedom to move about, to travel and explore.
I have freedom to join with others and freedom to stay apart.
I have freedom to love, to serve in love and to fall in love…

I have so much, Lord,
and above all, Lord, I have you…

I have your love and the promise of your peace.
I have your presence in my heart and in my prayer.
I have the wisdom of your Word in the scriptures
and the help of your grace in the sacraments…

I have the gift of your mercy, pardon for my sins.
I have power of your Spirit to strengthen and guide me.
I have the Church and communion with all who believe in you…

And I have Communion with you in the Eucharist,
in the gift of your Body and Blood,
offered in mercy, given in love, shared as a sacrifice of praise…

I have so much, Lord!

Perhaps it’s because I have so much
that I focus so much on what I don’t have…

Perhaps it's all I have in full
that makes me jealous
for what I might still lack…
Make me grateful, Lord, for all I have,
all I’ve been given, all I’ve received,
and all I have to share…

In light of all I have, help me see more clearly
what I truly need, not just what I want,
and help me balance what’s wanting
with what I have in hand...

And even as I pray, Lord,
the words, "Yeah, but..."
jump from my heart in defense of my hurt,
to plead my case for what I miss, what I want,
what I don't have...

And it's right there, Lord, that I need you
to help me see this truth:
if I fail to give thanks each day for all that I have
I may miss what I long for even when it comes,
when my prayer is answered and my hope fulfilled...
So, give me a grateful heart, Lord,
lest I lose myself in grief
for needs not met,
for pain within,
for healing yet to come…

Give me a grateful heart, Lord,
lest I lose sight of what abounds
while dwelling on what’s absent still…

Give me a grateful heart, Lord,
for all the simple gifts that mark me
blessed and rich in so many ways…

This morning, then, I offer you my praise and thanks
for all I have, for all you’ve given me,
for all I have to work with, for all that gives me comfort,
for all that sets me free, for all that brings me peace,
for all that gives me life and keeps me in your grace…

Give me a grateful heart, Lord, for all I have to share
with all whose paths cross mine
who may need from me a portion
of the gifts I take for granted…

Even in my need and want I know, Lord,
how much I have, how blessed I am...
Let my prayer remind me of your gifts
and make me grateful all this day
and through this week…



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