Monday Morning Offering: 7/23

Image: George Mendoza

Good morning, good God!

How I wish that yesterday, Sunday,
had been like Saturday, Lord:
bright, sunny, just warm enough and not at all humid,
as perfect a day in July as you might create
and I might enjoy...

But despite its name,
Sunday was cloudy
and rainy and muggy, too,
and not what I'd pray for in mid-July
when perfect days are what I ask,

what I hope for
and what I know you have in store!

Still, this cloudy Sunday had its moments
and for these I offer thanks and praise this morning...

I offer thanks for the rain
drenching, washing and nourishing
the plants by my front door -
they needed it...

I offer you my gratitude
for all who came to worship yesterday
and I'm well aware that rainy weather was a factor,
a detour from the beach, keeping people home
and bringing people home to you and to your table...

I offer you my thanks
for an unexpected lunch and conversation with a friend
on a lazy humid afternoon,
our lighter schedules freeing us
to talk and laugh and listen to each other
and to you...

I offer you my thanks for time to sit out on my porch
and catnap in my rocking rocker,
the clouds a shade drawn fast against the sun,
or a coverlet, wrapping me in muted grays,
lulling me to sleep and rest
and then some time for prayer...


Subscribe to A Concord Pastor Comments


Homily for July 22

Image source

Homily for the Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Scriptures for today's Mass


The scriptures this weekend are all about
shepherds who mislead and scatter their people
and the person designated to preach these scriptures is
- your shepherd.
This is what we call a conflict of interest.
I am, perhaps, the person least qualified to be objective
about these passages and yet it’s my job to preach them.
Jeremiah takes on kings, prophets and priests, Israel’s shepherds,
who have misled and scattered the people.
And in the gospel,
Jesus is moved with pity for the crowds following him
because they seem like a flock abandoned by their shepherd.

The bad news here is that shepherds, those who lead God’s people,
sometimes fail to be faithful in their work.
We have more than enough evidence of this
in stories of abuse and cover-up,
going back years and as recent as last week’s headlines.

The good news is that there’s always one Shepherd, Jesus,
who never fails the flock.
In spite of the conflict of interest homilists face here,
you can be sure that no pastor preaches this weekend
without measuring himself against the words of Jeremiah and Jesus.

And, left to his own devices,
it’s likely that each pastor will judge himself
too harshly in some areas
and more leniently than he deserves in others:
sometimes getting it right and sometimes getting it wrong.

And he will be judged by others, too.
People hearing these readings will be asking themselves,
 “Is our shepherd faithful or unfaithful
in his preaching and in his leadership?”
And the answer to that question, in every parish, will be mixed.
The percentages will vary from place to place, shepherd to shepherd,
but in every parish the same pastor
will be esteemed by some as eminently faithful
and denounced by others as scandalously unfaithful.
And both of these reactions will be based
on the same homilies, the same ministry and the same leadership.

I’ve been preaching in Concord for 24 years.
The two 2 most frequent criticisms of my preaching I’ve heard have been:
1) that my homilies are too political,
and that I often reveal my own political stance and ideas
I hear this particularly around the time for elections.
And 2) the other critique of my preaching
is that my homilies are not sufficiently - political:
that I don’t call out particular candidates or policies,
that I don’t clearly indicate which candidates or policies
Catholics should endorse.
Both of these critiques are in response to the same person,
the same homilies and the same leadership.
So then, is fidelity, like beauty, in the eye of the beholder?  No.

The shepherd’s fidelity, the preacher’s fidelity
needs to be more objectively evaluated
through three lenses, through three sets of eyes:
• First, through the eyes of faith in Jesus, God’s Word made flesh,
Christ, who is Lord, Savior, Judge and Brother of us all;
• Second, through the eyes of Christ’s Body, the Church who,
in proclaiming the scriptures, hands on our faith’s Tradition;
• and Third, through the eyes of our own experience:
our trials and joys, as we worship together, grow in faith,
serve the poor and wrestle
with how to live a Christian life in today’s world
and how to respond to and resolve the political dilemmas
that face us all.

It’s through these eyes, these lenses,
that we view and evaluate a pastor’s fidelity
and it’s critically important to employ not just one or two
but all three of these lenses:
the lens of faith in Christ,
the lens of the Church’s tradition,
and the lens of whatever is the wisdom of our own experience.

And I probably don’t need to mention this, but I will:
what’s good for the shepherd is good for his flock.
As we consider the fidelity of preachers through these three lenses,
each of us needs to review his or her own faithfulness
as individual Christians.
• For if pastor and people see only through the eyes of personal faith,
they run the risk of becoming their own authority,
establishing and relying on their own brand of infallibility.
• Or if pastor and people see only through the eyes of Tradition,
they run the risk of loosing sight of the ongoing human struggle
for meaning and peace - which Tradition is meant to serve.
• Or if pastor and people see only through the eyes
of their own experience
their vision will be myopic, blurred and unable to focus
on the truth and holiness we’re all called to seek and to live.

Ultimately, neither beauty nor fidelity is in the eye of the beholder -
but rather in the eyes of God.
And because we have trouble seeing as God sees,
we need all three of those corrective lenses
• that we might faithfully see Christ as God among us;
• that we might faithfully live by the wisdom the Church offers;
• that we might faithfully seek, in our own circumstances,
a holy way of life,
a way to live as Christians faithful to the gospel
in the political realities of today’s world.

We thank God for giving us Jesus as our Shepherd:
for in Christ our Brother
- we see and meet our God, present among us;
and through Christ, God’s only Son
- we become God’s sons and daughters;
and with Christ’s Body, the Church,
- we see in the gifts we offer
the Body and Blood of the only truly faithful One:
Jesus, the loving Shepherd who, on the Cross,
gave his life for us, his unfaithful flock.

May Christ shepherd us, his people
and may we shepherd one another,
in fidelity to his Word, his Church and his truth.


Subscribe to A Concord Pastor Comments 


Pause for Prayer: SUNDAY 7/22

Walden Woods: photo by Chuck Clough

How peaceful this path
softly shaded from the heat,
well worn by other's steps,
a carpet made of joys and sorrows
spilled along the way
to a place deep in the woods
where you, Lord,
in your patience
wait for me...

How peaceful this path
drawing me deeper
into the forest of your myst'ry
to a quiet, hidden secret place
where you, Lord,
in your patience
wait for me...

And come the day I'm homebound
or clouds give way to rain and I am lost,
far from this secluded leafy grove,
then beat a path within me
and beckon me to join you
in a softly shaded clearing
in the forest of my heart
where you, Lord,
in your patience
wait for me...



Subscribe to A Concord Pastor Comments 

Pause for Prayer: SATURDAY 7/21

please give me the strength,
the drive,
the patience,
the trust,
the diligence,
the courage,
the balance,
the spirit,
the daring,
the tenacity,
the grit,
the confidence,
the curiosity,
the willingness to try,
the determination,
the perseverance,
the self-control,
the heart,
the steadiness,
the endurance,
the staying power
   - or whatever it takes
   and whatever I need -
to make it through the challenges
I'll meet today
and in the weeks ahead...


Subscribe to A Concord Pastor Comments


Pause for Prayer: FRIDAY 7/20

(Monday and Tuesday of this week found me in Manhattan, on a road trip with a friend to hear his son sing in "Broadway's Rising Stars" at the Town Hall Theater on West 43rd Street between 6th Avenue and Broadway.  In addition to the performance: a powerful visit to Ground Zero, dinner after the show at Tony's Di Napoli just off Times Square, breakfast the next morning at Jerry Seinfeld's TOM'S RESTAURANT and an afternoon walking around Greenwich Village and the NYU campus.  All of this became the inspiration for today's Pause for Prayer.)

Sometimes, Lord, I get a little down
when I think about being 71 years old
and I wonder, "How did I get to be this old?"

But then come days like Monday and Tuesday
and my road trip to New York City
and I remember that the simple joy of being with friends
and celebrating good times together -
well, such gifts don't fall from trees!

Such gifts are born of relationships,
friendships that take time, even decades,
to grow and mature and ripen
into moments of happiness and gratitude,
moments that make being 71
a joy in itself...

And so my prayer, Lord:
For all I have,
for all you've given me
and for all that's yet to be:
I thank you!

For Monday and Tuesday of this week
and for the years and experiences
that brought me to those days:
I thank you!

And for those gifts of love and friendship
waiting yet to blossom, to be harvested,
yet to be enjoyed,
I thank you!

For all you've been doing
through all of my life
and for all you'll do in the years still ahead:
I praise and thank you, Lord,
from the bottom of my grateful,
71 year old heart!



Subscribe to A Concord Pastor Comments 


Pause for Prayer: THURSDAY 7/19

It's been just a few days, Lord, since I was in Manhattan
where I visited the two acre-sized memorial pools
at Ground Zero...

52,000 gallons of water circulate in those two pools -
every hour, Lord, every hour!

That's 52,000 gallons of water
perpetually washing and cleansing
the gaping wound in the heart of each pool
and filling in the emptiness
in the hearts of us all...

But we need more than water, Lord,
and more than 52,000 gallons a minute of what we do need:
we need your mercy,
we need the waters of your mercy
forgiving us, cleansing us,
washing away our selfishness and sins...

We need the healing waters of your mercy, Lord,
perpetually - eternally -
purifying our hearts and minds,
healing the gaping wounds left by sin
in the depths of our souls...

Let the waters of your pardon wash over us, Lord:
call us to bathe in your mercy over and over again
until we are cleansed and healed of all our failures
and of all that marks us in need of that peace
that is yours alone to give, Jesus,
yours alone, to give...



Subscribe to A Concord Pastor Comments 

Pause for Prayer: WEDNESDAY 7/18


Subscribe to A Concord Pastor Comments 


Pause for Prayer: TUESDAY 7/17

Wake me up,
get me up,
start me up, Lord,
when I’m tired and slow to begin...

Lift me up, 
pull me up, 
raise me up, Lord,
when my get-up-and-go is all gone...

Wash me up,
clean me up,
spruce me up, Lord,
when I need to start over again...

Cheer me up,
buck me up,
buoy me up, Lord,
when my spirits are down and I'm blue...

Pump me up,
build me up,
buff me up, Lord,
when my willpower's weak, out of shape...

Size me up,
shut me up,
give me up, Lord,
when I need to be put in my place…

Help me up,
pick me up,
prop me up, Lord,
when I need to rely on your strength...

Push me up,
move me up,
boost me up, Lord,
when I’m stalling and falling behind…

Stand me up,
stir me up,
shake me up, Lord,
when I need a good kick in the butt…

Perk me up,
pep me up,
psyche me up, Lord,
when I’m moping around in self-pity… 

Free me up,
sign me up,
use me up, Lord,
when you need my talents and time...

Bear me up,
back me up,
beam me up, Lord,
to be where you call me to be…



Subscribe to A Concord Pastor Comments 


Monday Morning Offering: 7/16

Image: George Mendoza

Good morning, good God!

Today I offer you
the musings of my mind’s imagination
and I pray you’ll enlighten me
with reason, truth and prudence…

I offer you the words I speak,
the words I write and post
and I pray you'll sift them through the sieve
of charity and wisdom...

I offer you my soul's desires, 
my passions, thirsts and hungers
and I pray you'll tend and tame me
with integrity and grace…

I offer you the things I do, 
day in, day out - my deeds -
and I pray you'll teach my heart to give
with selfless generosity…

I offer you my attitude, 
all my feelings and my moods
and I pray you’ll heal and lift me up
with hope, in peace, to joy...

I offer you my weaknesses,
 my failings, faults and sins
and I pray you’ll pardon all of them
with mercy undeserved…

I offer you today, Lord,
the whole of who I am:
bend me, mold me, shape and change me
- recreate me in your love…

I offer you the week ahead, 
with all its trials and its troubles
and I pray you'll stand right by my side
to hold me fast and faithful...  


Homily for July 15

Homily for the Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Scriptures for today's Mass


One prophet in today’s scriptures, Amos, got run out of town.
And in the gospel, Jesus instructs his followers on what to do
if they find themselves about to be booted  from a place
where their message a call to repentance,
is rejected and not welcomed.
They’re to “shake the dust off their feet.”
That’s an ancient equivalent of saying,
 “I wash my hands of this. I’ve done all I can and now I’m moving on.
I’m not even taking the dust of your streets with me.”

Like the prophets in Israel, these pairs of disciples missioned by Jesus
were sent to preach repentance, to preach a change of heart.
That’s not a message everyone wants to hear.
Most folks don’t want to be told by someone else:
 “Hey!  You need a change of heart!”
And, keep in mind that  prophets don’t so much predict the future
as much as they comment on and critique the present moment-
reminding their listeners of what the Lord has spoken to them
and what the Lord expects of them.
My overall mission as a preacher is to speak prophetically,
that is, to call of us to repentance.
So, I’ve been thinking about some
prophetic words I might preach in a homily
and I’ve come up with 8  contemporary prophetic statements
calling us to repentance - and here they are:

1) The planet on which we live was given to humankind as its first home    
and entrusted to our care.
We have a moral obligation to protect and preserve this gift
and we will be judged on our having succeeded or failed in doing so.

2) The virtue of justice is much more than a process
for getting what’s rightfully ours
or punishing those who have offended us.
Christian justice is the work of ensuring a right and just balance
between selfishness and selflessness.
The scriptures and the Church call us to exercise
a demonstrable preference for serving first
those poor and powerless on the margins of society.
As long as some of us have more than we need
and others have less than they need,
we OWE our neighbors in need
a generous share in the surplus that is ours.

3) Because human marriage
is intended to be a mirror of God’s love for his people,
Jesus raised it to the dignity of a sacrament
which should be entered only by those
ready to pledge and to keep a life-long union
promising to be faithful in good times and in bad,
in sickness and in health, until death.

4) Without denying governments the right to legitimate self-defense,
the scriptures and the Church condemn the horror of war
and summon us to secure a peace based on justice and love.

5) Whether a pregnancy is desired and welcomed - or not -
there is no degree of difference in the reality, sacredness,
nobility and quality of human life found in any womb.

6) Nothing another person does or fails to do, no matter how heinous,
nothing excuses us from the commandment to love our neighbor
and in particular, to love that person who is the least lovable.
Nothing another person does or fails to do
gives us license to hate, demean, curse or condemn that person.
The command to love one’s neighbor has no exceptions.          

7) We should strive to live as if this life were an introduction,
a proving ground, a practice session for a life that is yet to come
because that’s exactly what this life is:
a dress rehearsal for our life after death.
It’s upon the evidence of how we lived this life that we will be judged
and given our place, forever, in the next life.

(If these first 7 prophetic statements have been daunting,
we will all appreciate the eighth.)

8) The mercy of God is without limit and is given freely to all:
to all who freely acknowledge and confess their sins,
who do penance and who pledge, with God’s grace,
to change their hearts, turn away from sin,
and be faithful to the gospel.

Prophetic statements, of their nature, address matters that are
problematic, personal and political.
It’s precisely in these areas where we might need
to be called to repentance, to a change of heart.

The most demanding, compelling prophetic word or deed,
even spoken or done, is found in the person of Jesus
calling us to repent, calling us to a change of heart,
through the gift of his life for us on the Cross.

On the night before he died he offered at the table of the Last Supper
what he would offer the next day on the altar of the Cross:
the gift of his Body broken for us, his Blood poured out for us.

May the Eucharist we celebrate nourish us
with the grace and strength we need:
to repent, to turn away from sin,
to be faithful to the gospel,
to have a change of heart.


Subscribe to A Concord Pastor Comments