Sunday, February 26, 2017

Seek God First

From the Catholic Liturgy for the 8th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Last Sunday before Lent), Feb. 26, 2017. Matthew 6:24-34. Seek First the Kingdom of God. Today’s liturgy places before us an awesome truth about God that I know we all believe intellectually, but that I think we all find very hard to believe and put into practice experientially: that our God is a loving personal God who not only knows all that we need, but who will see to it that we are provided for with these necessary things in everyday life. Our God is not some impersonal energy or force in the universe nor is our God some kind of manipulator of fate or karma, utterly disinterested in us as persons with lives to live to the fullest. Now if we truly believe that the Scriptures we have heard are God’s very Word to us, and if we really believe that Jesus is God-in-the-flesh who made this promise of Fatherly care to us…then why in the world do we not live as we believe?

I think that Jesus gives us the reason right at the start of today’s Gospel where he says: “You cannot serve two masters…you cannot serve both God and money.” Now we need to recall that in the language of his times the word Jesus used for “money” meant any material possessions, anything that has value and so provides us with insurance and protection. So what Jesus is really saying here, if we put it in our modern day terms is this: “You have to make a choice as to who will be the first in your heart and life. Only one can hold this position, the other must take a lower place. It is either going to be God or it is going to be you with all your possessions as security. What I tell you is this: seek God first and make serving him your priority. In return he will provide for all you need.”

This coming Wednesday is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, and what better time for us to honestly evaluate what place God has in our hearts, in our lives as Jesus asks of us today. An important purpose of Lent is for us to re-orient ourselves to the Gospel and examine our faith relationship with God. Is he Master of my life? Do I trust him enough to allow him to have first place? If not who or what does have this place? How can I best spend the coming 40 days of Lent with this one goal in mind: To seek God first and to live in his Kingdom of righteousness?

NOTE: I forgot to hit "stop' after homily so Creed/Intercessions are recorded. Homily is first 8 minutes of recording only.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Commandments: Getting to the Heart of the Matter

From the Catholic Liturgy for the 6th Sunday of Ordinary Time. Matthew 5:17-37  This Sunday Jesus continues his famous Sermon on the Mount.   At the time of Jesus the "holy" religious leaders were known for observing the eternals (the law) of the Commandments but ignoring what they really intended to do: to turn us more and more to God and have compassion for his suffering people.  The leaders were satisfied with fulfilling the obligations of the letter of the law, with no real commitment to its purpose and meaning. They had even fine-tuned the 10 commandments into over 600 rule and regulations to be observed in everyday life!

This attitude is easy for any of us to fall into if we tend to view our religion primarily as a "Sunday thing" which has no real daily-life bearing on what we do Monday-Saturday.  It’s also easy for us Catholics to think we are being “righteous” in our Lenten Friday abstinence, for example, when we give up meat…but have lobster or gourmet pizza instead! Then we, too, become like the Scribes and Pharisees.

Jesus is calling us to live the Commandments from the inside out, from the heart, which then are manifested in our actions. True holiness, which means being a reflection of God who is love, is found in those who are one with God in body, mind and spirit, and who show love in their actions towards others. As challenging - or even impossible -  as all this sounds, the saints are living proof that is indeed possible to us by grace.  This is why the Church has the tradition of canonizing people, of declaring their sainthood and holding them up as real-life flesh and blood examples for us. It is also why many Catholics find a particular saint or two to whom they especially relate. We ask their prayers, remember their example, and strengthened by grace we seek to do the same.  

We must never forget that God's grace given to us through a dynamic personal relationship with Christ, daily prayer from the heart, reading and reflecting on the Gospels, receiving the Sacraments of Eucharist and Confession regularly, make such a super-human commitment to the commandments possible.  

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Salt and Light

FROM THE CATHOLIC LITURGY FOR THE 5TH SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME. Matthew 5:13-16  In today’s Gospel, Jesus does calls us to engage in evangelization, that is, to spreading the Gospel and inviting others to a relationship with Him, by using two things that we are all so very familiar with: salt and light.  We all know what salt does: it brings out the best in food and makes it more appealing. That’s what we are all supposed to do by our lives. Our Catholic Christian faith is meant to bring out the best in us.  It is meant to show those with whom we live and work and socialize that God is good and that a relationship with Jesus makes us the best version of ourselves that we can be.  Now what does Jesus mean when he says that we have to be careful to not lose our saltiness? He means that if we are just like everyone else in how we treat others and how we live, if the values of our secular consumer-mentality society are as much in us as in everyone else, then we have lost the spice of Christianity. Our witness will be no different than anyone else and so we are useless in carrying out the mission to evangelize.  And we all know how vital light is to our everyday living!  Among other things, it keeps us safe and helps us to avoid dangerous situations. In the same way, the more people examine our behavior and see our good choices, the clearer it becomes for them to see that the Gospel is a way of positive living that enhances our relationships. Then this might encourage them to investigate a relationship with Jesus Christ for themselves.  For today’s Gospel teaching I find inspiration in the life of one of our saints-to-be. Her name is Elizabeth Leseur and she lived in France about 100 years ago. I think you will finder her commitment to being salt and light very interesting! Let’s ask Jesus for the grace to never lose our saltiness.  For the grace to never ever be darkness for someone instead of light. Because we want them to be eternally happy, we want to see the good that we do and give praise to our Heavenly Father.