Sunday, February 19, 2017

You Got To Be Kidding


It was such a nice break from the winter cold and ice. Many people skipped Mass to take in the warmth on a 50-plus degree day with sunshine. Last year, we were clearing two feet of snow from a storm. What you missed was perhaps the hardest lesson Jesus ever taught. In a nutshell, “love your enemies.”

Most of us don’t have to look very far to find someone we can’t stand; someone who never listens, and over time we grow to even hate. Our “enemies” are in our hometowns, and they’re even members of our own families. Hatred and revenge cut across all boundaries—they are tragically rooted in our nature. We all know people who have been terribly hurt by others. Where anger got out of control; where a simple innocent encounter turns into a yelling match and a shoving contest; where two family members can no longer be in the same place at the same time; where something awful was done to another person; where the one person feels like Swiss cheese when ganged up on by their fellow neighbors or co-workers, and the worst of human behavior is exposed.

Along comes Jesus who teaches that there is to be no retaliation of any kind, not even measured or proportionate. When someone harms you or tries to take advantage of you, return it with a blessing. And we are to love our neighbor. And by neighbor Jesus means our families, our friends, our fellow parishioners, the strangers, and the illegal immigrants, those we can’t bear to look at or be with. All of them. And after he has laid down all these principles, he adds one more—be holy and love like God loves.

Very few of us think of ourselves as being holy. Oh, we strive for holiness, pray for holiness, and occasionally do holy things. But to be holy, well that’s reserved for the saints. But let me help you understand what it means to be holy.  It means that we will be more compassionate; more forgiving. It means going beyond justice and standing not on rights but responsibility; it means giving more, maybe even so much that it hurts; it surrendering your need to be “right” all the time, it means letting go of your “ego”, it means walking away from confrontation even when the blame is someone else’s; it means responding in silence when to utter even a single word would be to escalate an argument; it means not having to win; not having to get the better of another in any circumstance; and it means re-thinking our basic attitudes in situation where I think I have all the answers.

You got to be kidding, Lord. Impossible you say, beyond our abilities?

Holy and Christ-like?—Yes. No doubt, this is difficult and it’s risky.

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends that we humbly admit that we can’t do it without your help.  Lord, help us to be holy, as you are holy. Help us to love our neighbor as you do—the stranger, the outcast, the lost, the broken, and the enemy, those close to us and those far away from us. Give us all that we need and hold us up whenever we fall short. We know that you will never give up on us as long as we keep trying.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

All You Need Is Love


“All you need is love,” familiar lyrics from days long ago, but this Sunday takes the cake. In the front pew, Chris and Trisha have brought their baby son Ethan Christopher to be baptized. This little one was making cute sounds during the service that led me to say to the congregation, “Ethan has lots to say, maybe it was the salt.” Note, in this Catholic tradition they still use salt in the ceremony as a sign of being preserved by Christ from sin.

This was a “Childrens' Sunday Liturgy” so our young students read the scriptures followed by an invitation to bring all the kids up to the sanctuary for a story about St. Valentine. Remember, “all you need is love” so I share the tradition about St. Valentine curing a little girl of blindness and asked the children for a sign of love. A young voice said that we should give people cards and then a darling “little one” no more than three years old whispered “heart.’ She meant put a heart in the card. Not a dry eye in the congregation.

We continued with the baptism of Ethan, mom and dad, grandparents and godparents were all smiles. The kids joined me around the altar as we said our prayers, but after communion the people were in for a surprise. Gannon, our choir director, had been rehearsing a song with the children for several weeks and what did he choose: “ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE.”

After their song, Miss Molly, our religious education coordinator, shared that the children would be passing out a heart sticker to put in your shoe. So our photo shows one of the kids giving a sticker to the family of Ethan Christopher. The symbolism behind the heart sticker is that as we go about our work, we know that Jesus walks with us throughout our day and that we follow in his footsteps. Nice way to end a perfect baptism on another cold, freezing rainy day in North Java. 

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends who feel left out in the cold by their faith community. Sometimes the rules and regulations get in the way of the love that Jesus brought into our lives. Forgive them, whomever hurt you, and let Jesus embrace you back with open arms and a warm heart.

BREAKING NEWS: Holy Family has NEW Facebook page. Please take a moment and join our facebook page and share your comments:
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