Thursday, November 23, 2017

Our Passport to Heaven


We need to give away some of our own possessions in order to be healthy. Wealth that is hoarded always corrupts those who possess it. Any gift that is not shared turns sour. If we are not generous with our gifts we will be bitterly envied and will eventually turn bitter and envious ourselves.

These are all axioms with the same warning, we can only be healthy if we are giving away some of our riches to others. Among other things, this should remind us that we need to give to the poor, not simply because they need it, though they do, but because unless we give to the poor we cannot be healthy ourselves. When we give to the poor both charity and justice are served, but some healthy self-interest is served as well, namely, we cannot be healthy or happy unless we share our riches, of every kind, with the poor. That truth is written inside human experience and inside every authentic ethical and faith tradition.

In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus warns us that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, nevertheless praises the rich who are generous, condemning only the rich who are stingy. For Luke, generosity is the key to health and heaven.

In the Gospel of Matthew, when Jesus reveals what will be great test for the final judgment, his single set of criteria have entirely to do with how we gave to the poor: Did you feed the hungry? Give drink to the thirsty? Cloth the naked? Finally, even more strongly, in the story of the widow who gives her last two pennies away, Jesus challenges us to not only give of our surplus to the poor, but to also give away some of what we need to live on.  The Gospels, and the rest of the Christian scriptures, strongly challenge us to give to the poor.

On Black Friday, while people were online buying gifts for their loved one. I received a letter from a daughter whose dad had died this Fall. To show her appreciation, her family donated FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS ($5,000) to the Charlotte Comfort Home ministry, the future hospice for Wyoming County that will be located in Holy Family’s former rectory.

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends, that we continue to give some of our possessions away in order to be healthy. The poor do need us, but we also need them. They are, as Jesus puts it so clearly when he tells us we will be judged by how we gave to the poor, our passports to heaven. And they are also our passports to health. Our health depends upon sharing our riches.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Don't Let Go

There is a Norwegian proverb that reads: Heroism consists of hanging on one minute longer.

The story is about a young boy who had fallen through the ice while skating and was left clinging, cold and alone, to the edge of the ice with no help in sight. As he hung on in this seemingly hopeless situation he was tempted many times to simply let go since no one was going to come along to rescue him. But he held on, despite all odds. Finally, when everything seemed beyond hope, he clung on one minute longer and after that extra minute help arrived.

The story was simple and its moral was simple: This young boy lived because he had the courage and strength to hang on one minute longer. Rescue comes just after you have given up on it, so extend your courage and wait one minute longer.

St. Paul preached: You must never grow weary of doing what is right (2 Thes 3:13). And in his letter to the Galatians, Paul virtually repeats the Norwegian proverb: “Let us not become weary of doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up (Gal 6:9).

This sounds so simple and yet it cuts to the heart of many of our moral struggles. We give up too soon.

All of us experience tension in our lives: tension in our families, tension in our friendships, tension in our places of work, tension in our churches, tension in our communities, and tension within our conversations with other people, politics, and current events. Good-hearted people carry that tension with patience, respect, graciousness, and tolerance—for a while! Then, at a certain point when we feel stretched to our limit, we grow weary of doing what is right, feel something snap inside, and hear some inner-voice say: Enough! I’ve put up with this too long! I won’t tolerate this anymore! And we let go, unlike the little boy clinging to the ice and waiting for rescue. We let go of patience, respect, graciousness, and tolerance, either by venting our frustrations, giving a piece of our mind or simply flee the situation with an attitude of good riddance. We refuse to carry the tension any longer.

Of course, carrying tension is never easy. But, if you persevere and never grown weary of doing what is right, at your funeral, those who knew you will be blessed and grateful that you continued to believe in them even when for a time they had stopped believing in themselves.

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends that we have to courage to hang on when tension stretches us to our limits and persevere with patience, respect, graciousness, and tolerance.

Sunday, November 05, 2017


There’s a Jewish folk-tale which runs something like this: There once was a young man who aspired to great holiness. After some time at working to achieve it, he went to see his Rabbi.
I think I have achieved sanctity. I’ve been practicing virtue and discipline for some time now and I have grown quite proficient at them. From the time, the sun rises until it sets, I take no food or water. All day long, I do all l do all kinds of hard work for others and I never expect to be thanked. If I have temptations of the flesh, I roll in the snow or in thorn bushes until they go away, and then at night, before bed, I practice the ancient monastic discipline and administer lashes to my bare back. I have disciplined myself so as to become holy.
The Rabbi was silent for a time. Then he took the young man by the arm and led him to a window and pointed to an old horse which was just being led away by its master.
I have been observing that horse for some time and I’ve noticed that it doesn’t get fed or watered from morning to night. All day long it has to do work for people and it never gets thanked. I often see it rolling around in snow or in bushes, as horses are prone to do, and frequently I see it get whipped. I ask you: Is that a saint or a horse?
This is a good parable because it shows how simplistic it is to simply identity sanctity and virtue with self-renunciation and the capacity to do what’s difficult. In popular thought, there’s a common spiritual equation: saint=horse. What’s more difficult is always better. But that can be wrong.

To be a saint is to be motivated by gratitude, nothing more and nothing less. Scripture, everywhere and always, makes this point.
For example, our bishop needed surgery that he knew he had only a 11% chance of survival. When I visited him in the hospital last Sunday, he joked that when the doctors look into his brain they won’t find anything. This bishop has a wonderful sense of humor and he appreciates all the love of his family and friends. Every time a nurse came into his room for a procedure, he thanked her.
Today, he is recovering from the surgery and once again he winked at me and said I was right, “they looked inside and couldn’t find a thing.” His sister as at his bedside said that he had been naughty trying to pull out all the tubes. Now he wears mittens to keep his hands and the tubes safe.
This humble bishop needs your prayers since the doctors found cancer and they are waiting the biopsy results to see what treatment will help this humble saint get better.
Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends in thanksgiving for sharing their gifts of time and talent to make your love, compassion and mercy presence. Bless them all with your grace of healing, strength and gratitude.