|LECTOR SCHEDULE||LECTOR SCHEDULE|
|SATURDAY||4:00 PM||SUNDAY||7:30 AM||10:00 AM|
|Sep 03||F. McGuire||Sep 04||C. Dougherty||M. Martella|
|Sep 10||R Lapid||Sep 11||A. Huffman||K. Law|
|Sep 17||H. Vassallo||Sep 18||W. Borek||L. Morin|
|Sep 24||W. Stanton||Sep 25||K. Shaughnessy||M. Greene|
|Oct 01||F. McGuire||Oct 02||W. Borek||M. Martella|
|Oct 08||R Lapid||Oct 09||C. Dougherty||M. Greene|
|Oct 15||D. Pasquale||Oct 16||A. Huffman||K. Law|
|Oct 22||W. Stanton||Oct 23||K. Shaughnessy||L. Morin|
|Oct 29||H. Vassallo||Oct 30||W. Borek||M. Martella|
|EUCHARISTIC MINISTERS||EUCHARISTIC MINISTERS|
|SATURDAY||4:00 PM||SUNDAY||7:30 AM||10:00 AM|
|Sep 03||D. McGuire||Sep 04||P. Powers||M. Greene|
|D. Herrmann||S. Dougherty||C. Grady|
|Sep 10||Sep 11||C. Huffman||K. Stiles|
|J. Wine||D. Huffman||W. Evanowski|
|Sep 17||W. Stanton||Sep 18||J. Hester||L. A. Branche|
|R. Lapid||B. Hester||M.Phaneuf|
|Sep 24||J. Wine||Sep 25||C. Huffman||J. Morin|
|R. Lapid||D. Huffman||K. Stiles|
|Oct 01||D. McGuire||Oct 02||P. Powers||W. Evanowski|
|S. Dougherty||M. Phaneuf|
|Oct 08||J. Wine||Oct 09||J. Hester||L. A. Branche|
|D. Pasquale||B. Hester||C. Grady|
|Oct 15||R. Lapid||Oct 16||P. Powers||M. Phaneuf|
|C. Huffman||K. Stiles|
|Oct 22||J. Wine||Oct 23||C. Dougherty||J. Morin|
|D. Pasquale||S. Dougherty||W. Evanowski|
|Oct 29||W. Stanton||Oct 30||J. Hester||M. Greene|
|R. Lapid||B. Hester||C. Grady|
In the world of Scripture Study, Abraham, Moses and the Prophets all point to Christ, and Christ points us to the Father. The Old Testament chosen ones all look to Bethlehem where the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. They rejoiced from afar in the netherworld when the first Christmas Day arrived 2000 years ago. Why would I say they rejoiced in the netherworld – some eternal holding existence- rather than rejoicing in heaven? Because no human being who lived before Jesus could enter through the gates of heaven until Jesus rose from the dead and ascended to the right hand of the Father. That was the necessary opening for souls to come to what we call the Beatific Vision, beholding the glory of God, which we pray some of our relatives now do.
But this line and connection from Abraham, Moses and the Prophets to Jesus is an unbreakable bond in Scripture and in the reality of our salvation. The movers and shakers in the Old Testament point directly to Jesus Christ, the coming of the Messiah. Which is why Jesus could say about himself in this Gospel that if the five brothers of the rich man will not listen to Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead. And he was right; many were not persuaded when it did happen.
A very fair, modern day comparison to this unbreakable bond between Abraham, Moses, the Prophets, and Jesus is the present heresy that the Church, the Bride of Christ, is not necessary for salvation. Or it’s not necessary to live out a fertile and rich faith in Jesus Christ. When the truth is that such an approach mirrors the life of Lazarus in this Gospel; poor; wanting in many respects; it’s soiled and disheveled.
But one could say, “If it looks like Lazarus, then it can’t be that bad to separate faith from the Church because Lazarus, by all appearances, ends up in heaven, becoming best friends with Abraham, the first mover and shaker in the Old Testament after Adam and Eve ruined it for all of us.” But I would respond that there’s a world of difference between a poor person and a poor faith. A poor person can have a rich faith, dismissing nothing of what God has given to us, especially his Church. While a poor faith, on the other hand, is just that, at times disguised as a good, active faith.
I say this not necessarily for ourselves here, but because we all know someone or some others who walk by the door of their faith, pretending as if Lazarus, the Church, isn’t sitting there. And yes, Lazarus is also a symbol of the Church. How many times has Pope Francis said he wants a poor Church and a Church for the poor? There’s Lazarus.
For those who walk by the door of faith, they have Peter, Paul and the other Apostles to listen to in the Scriptures. And if they refuse to listen to all that the pillars have to say, whether it’s on the necessity of Church, marriage, on the sanctity of human life, on works of mercy and loving God and neighbor, then the chances of the eternal separation between Abraham and the other place down there greatly increases.
Jesus tells a parable to the Pharisees that has to do with now and eternity. It’s a parable that creates an unbreakable bond between our present faith in action, and the ultimate reward of faith in action. Or, lack of reward. No one likes to be told “do this or else.” We have a little too much pride today to be “commanded what to do.” We’re alive in a time of live and let live. Let someone be who they are. There is great beauty in that, for God created us to be unique. But there is also great danger alongside of “Let someone be who they are,” because God created us to follow him.
The rich man was who he was. He had no heart for the poor; he was blind to compassion; he was full of himself; he wasn’t humbled until he realized his eternal destiny; he paid no attention to Moses and the Prophets who taught that at the heart of being Israel there must be a will to care for one another. When he failed to do this, he rejected Moses and the Prophets, was too busy living for this world, and set up his own eternal ugliness. Very simply, he chose hell. He made it easy for the Eternal Judge, but not the good sort of easy.
This parable sets up another unbreakable bond for us; that works of mercy are necessary in this life in order to arrive one day soon to the promise of the resurrection. What we do now matters for the future.
This is where Pope Francis is trying awfully hard to take us, if we’re not there yet. To not only have knowledge of our Catholic faith. The rich man was rich most likely because he was intelligent. A good business man who had a way of speaking with others in a way that increased his bank account at the Jewish National Bank. He had plenty of knowledge of the business world, which is all good. But he rejected the call of his faith in God because he didn’t do his Hebrew faith in God, and what it demanded from him. Pope Francis demands that we do our faith.
It’s one of many reasons why the Sacrament of Reconciliation is so essential. The Sacrament clears the air and opens the door for us to do our faith with works of mercy. And those who choose to break the bond between faith and Church have no capacity to know that their sins are forgiven. It turns into a guessing game as to whether their soul is soiled or clean. We can walk around thinking our soul is clean because we had our personal moment of repentance with God one on one. The Church was not needed for forgiveness. But when we leave the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we know without a doubt that God has forgiven us through the priest.
We have the Apostles to listen to. Those chosen personally by Christ. May we continue to accept all that they teach, beginning with a heart for the poor, and remaining close to the Bride of Christ, his Church. It will lead to the upper side of the chasm in the life to come.
There’s the old saying, “I’m just trying to make an honest living.” All I’m trying to do is to be forthright, show up for work each day without calling in sick when I plan on going to the beach; give an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay. But there’s always someone or something that gets in my way. It would be nice if every day was clear sailing all the way to heaven.”
We have two people running for the highest office in our land who wish it was clear sailing all the way to the house that Honest Abe Lincoln helped to build. But as we know, there are many obstacles for both of them along the way, whether self-imposed or from an outside agency. Many obstacles. And then there’s the honesty factor.
Obstacles are part of our daily living. You can find yourself in the perfect vacation spot, on the perfect weather day, as far away from the daily grind as you can get, and something – even small – will get in the way. You didn’t like the timing of that cloud blocking the sun.
The parable Jesus tells to his disciples is certainly a parable on honesty, as well as obstacles. The dishonest steward, shall we say, is not honest. He’s cheating his master out of olive oil and wheat. After his own easy position is threatened with termination, he finds other debtors who owe the same master. But instead of collecting 100 measures of olive oil, or 100 kors of wheat, he says to them, “Give me 50 and we’ll call it even.”
How about if the Church said, “Out of those 100 souls, give me 50 for salvation and we’ll call it even? The other 50 can be condemned.” If we as Church were satisfied with saving 50 souls out of 100, we would be cheating the gifts and power that God has given to his Church. We would be cheating the Master on the Cross who gave 100%. We would be a dishonest steward on behalf of the Person speaking the parable. Which is why we pray, as the universal Church, for the salvation of every human soul. We pray for 100. That doesn’t mean that 100 will be saved. God, the just Judge, will decide that. But for the Church to honestly fulfill her responsibilities toward the one true Master, we can never be satisfied with saying, “Give me 50 out of 100 souls, and we’ll call it even with the Master.” Jesus isn’t Lord of 50%. He’s Lord of all.
Dishonest wealth may work just fine in the world of labor at times, where the master receives 50% instead of 0%. What’s to prevent those other debtors from packing their bags and moving to the northeast corner of Montana where no one will find you, and never paying back what they owe? I’m sure the IRS is chasing people all over the place who owe taxes going back years. And I’m sure they would be happy collecting 50% of what is owed. So 50% is better than 0%. Such is the financial world at times.
While dishonest wealth may work at times in the world of labor, it absolutely does not work in the world of our faith in Christ. While my 5 sisters I know are presently on their way to heaven, what if I said about my 10 brothers, “If I can help to save 5 of them, that would satisfy my efforts in union with the Spirit? As far as the other 5, good luck to them. They don’t want to practice their faith, that’s their problem.”
I’ve heard these concerns time and again from Churchgoers about their family members who have either gone elsewhere and walked away from the Eucharist, or have put the brakes on their faith lives. Such concern is called being an honest steward. You’re rightly concerned about their eternal salvation, as we should be. Not just our own. But others who are near and dear to us. 50% out of 100% in relation to our faith in Jesus Christ is not half full. It is half empty. In the world of labor, it could be viewed as half full. But as Church, there’s an absence. A serious absence, where God is not satisfied where the IRS may be.
In the parable, Jesus gives an example of labor. This is why the Lord can say the dishonest steward was prudent. He got something to give to his master in order to save his own skin. Even if it was 50% of what was owed. He was pro-active and aggressive. He gained something for the boss.
But then Jesus gets to the crux and meaning of the parable; if a person is dishonest in small matters, then the same goes for big matters. This is why a white lie can turn into an all-out war between a husband and wife. “But it was only a white lie.” Small matters transfer into bigger matters. Small matters of dishonest wealth in our faith transfer into the big matters of our faith, becoming an obstacle to living our faith in Christ in truth and confidence.
In the daily course of our lives, there are numerous obstacles present today for any Christian who takes seriously the longstanding teachings of our faith. Obstacles that try to instill fear in our hearts; obstacles that label you with bad names; obstacles that attempt to water down our faith with the false belief that our progressive culture is somehow the leader of our faith, replacing Jesus as the one true mediator.
If the desire for our faith lives is to be honest stewards, we will reject outright all that takes us away from the goodness of the Church, and not be drawn into the world of labor as the standard for living. I see this all the time, where our faith in Christ is treated as a secondary component of a person’s life.
Jesus’ deeper teaching in this parable is to conduct our lives in ways that are consistent with the love of God, and not love of a passing world. To keep our eyes on the things of heaven, where life is eternal. We make a substantial difference when we pray for and desire the conversion and salvation of all people, leaving all final judgment up to God where it belongs.
Obstacles will prevent such a good undertaking. Obstacles that will make us dishonest stewards satisfied with 50%. Dishonest stewards do not represent the ways of God. There’s a lot of Catholic politicians, and some priests, who need to hear this. They’re working at 50% and think they’re representing God. If I work at 50% for you, I’ll be fortunate to make it to Purgatory. Being 50% Catholic does not work with Jesus. It may work with our boss at work, but it’s inconsistent with our faith.
“All I’m trying to do is make an honest living.” Work for the Lord at 100%, and all else will be taken care of.
Backing off from the deadly sin of anger, and not holding onto anger for years on end. It’s one of the themes for this Sunday’s readings. Backing off of anger, with some assistance from another source who sees a situation through a more peaceful set of eyes.
In the first reading today from Exodus, Moses talks God down from the anger that God has toward the Israelites for making their golden calf. The same golden calf that replaced worship of the one, true God with worship of a thing, of a molten image of a beautifully colored cow. If you’re going to replace God, at least do it with a molten image of a person, a human being, and not an oversized animal that will eat your lawn from one end to the other. No wonder God was angry!
But Moses pulls off the seemingly impossible; he talks God down from his righteous, divine anger at this stiff-necked people. Are we sure this story isn’t taking place in Ireland? God is 100% right to want to wipe them out. What they’re doing is an abomination. It remains still. Golden calves are all over our culture where God is replaced with a thing, from possessions to money to power to sexuality. God is cast aside. If God were to get angry today about certain things we see as normal, the same way the Israelites saw the golden calf as normal, would his anger be righteous? Of course it would!
Do we have a Moses to talk down his anger? Well, we have Pope Francis. That’s pretty close. He’s always calling us to conversion, reaching for our hearts, directing our worship toward the good things of God.
On a personal level, can we be Moses rather than all the stiff-necked people? Can we, or are we willing to talk down someone’s anger at another person, or even at God? Are willing to fill the breach Moses left behind when he died on Mt. Nebo, and help turn a person’s anger into a deeper sense of peace? It’s a good question to ask ourselves as Disciples of Christ, because we all know someone who is angry, besides ourselves. Stand in for Moses, and talk down someone’s anger.
In the 2nd reading, Paul, in his Letter to Timothy, is quite honest about his former anger. “I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and arrogant,” he writes. At one time there was no holding back Paul when it came to persecuting Christians. He gladly jumped on his horse and rode many miles through the countryside if on the other end of his ride there was only one Christian to be taken down. He expended much energy in his anger and arrogance. This is happening every day in Syria. Christians are persecuted and wiped out by terrorists. Why? For doing the same thing we do; for worshipping Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Our country is not there…yet. But we are on that path.
Is there any person who can talk down those Middle Easterners? That’s a tough assignment if there ever was one.
Paul continues, “I have been mercifully treated because I acted out of ignorance in my unbelief.” Truth be told about Paul, if God didn’t mercifully, directly intervene with him, he would have continued persecuting. He never would have stopped. It was God’s mercy that directly stopped his irrational anger and intentional violence. We need to pray for such direct intervention in Syria, because presently there is no Moses among world leaders to lead those poor people to the Promised Land.
On a more personal level, are we extending mercy to those we know to be angry? Paul was mercifully treated by God. Can we mercifully treat someone else and take the courageous step of being different from the rest of creation? Can we break the mindset that the response to anger is anger? If God’s reaction to Paul was anger, today we wouldn’t know who he is. He’s a great Apostle because God treated him mercifully. Help to make someone else great in the eyes of God.
Speaking of making someone great, how would you like a father who, after having part of his inheritance squandered in the ways of dissipation, react by giving you the finest robe, put a ring on your finger, slaughter the fattened calf, (not the golden one…the fattened one with lots of meat), and call everyone within 10 square miles to celebrate your return? What’s that guy been smoking? He’s been smoking the mercy of God….in his peace pipe.
He has every reason and every right to be angry, just like God with the Israelites. But he backed down from his anger at his son. The son treated his father like he wanted his father to be dead and buried, which is why he asked for his inheritance. “You’re not dying soon enough for me, so give me my inheritance now!”
Has anyone ever wished you were dead? Could there be any greater insult? Yet, the father talks down his own anger. Why? Because he is a person of mercy and peace, which is more human and more rational. Jesus tells this story because that’s what he wants for us; mercy and peace. Being a person of mercy and peace is a choice we have. We have control over this choice, as the father did.
Being merciful and peaceful is not some abstract wishful thing that is up in the sky, or in some far-off land. This choice is within us, where the Spirit of God resides. Choose to be merciful and peaceful, even when making hard decisions, and allow these Godly virtues to be at the heart of our relationships. The alternative is to sit and wallow in anger, frustration, and arrogance. The alternative is revenge and lawsuits. Secular courts are busy enough.
These readings speak to each of us on a personal level, which is the beauty of Scripture. Scripture will always speak to our human nature, which all the science in the world cannot change. Our Christian nature is to talk down anger, and to seek the ways mercy and peace. They are choices we have control over, in union with the Holy Spirit.
Committed to the faith.
I hear these words spoken often, even by myself. To be a committed Christian. A committed Catholic who is willing, ready and able to bring forth the words of Jesus Christ that are not burdensome.
One of the larger issues with the words “Committed to the faith” today is what St. Paul calls the “lukewarm” faith of those who profess to be followers of Jesus Christ. “Yes, I’m a Catholic, but I don’t go to Church. What do I need that for? I deal with Jesus one on one. I say my prayers every night. God and I have a private relationship. That’s good enough.” It’s good enough for anyone who speak those words and believe such things. But it would harder to string together a flow of words that insult God more than these words. Every time such words are spoken, what’s being said is that Jesus could care less about his Body, which is the Church, the community of faithful. Not a building only. But hearts gathered as one in union with the Spirit.
A second larger issue today pertaining to the words “committed to the faith,” in our widely secular culture – and this hits closer to home for some of us here – is saying “I’m Catholic and proud of it. But I just can’t accept the Church’s teaching on marriage, on abortion, or the male-only priesthood.” Just to name a few. “I stand up strong against my faith, because my faith is wrong and I am right. And, this old, antiquated Church needs to wake up and come around to my contemporary way of thinking. God is on my side. I know he is.”
That, my friends, is an erroneous, lukewarm faith disguised as a committed faith. Very simply, but very importantly, we are the ones in need of coming around, not the Body of Christ, which is the Church. A spiritual imbalance is set up when we stand ourselves against the teachings of the Apostles, originated in Jesus Christ our Lord. We get crazy. God doesn’t get crazy and change his ways according to the spirit of the times. Avoid that spiritual imbalance grounded in pride.
An excellent example of this is today’s 2nd reading. Paul is writing to Philemon, a fellow Christian and someone he knows and respects. The letter is dated to the late 50’s, early 60’s, a short 25 years after the Resurrection of Jesus. I remember 25 years ago like it was yesterday. Putting on the brown uniform, working hard from sun up to sundown for Buster Brown, waiting for the weekend to arrive, going on a date with my then fiancée, whose still mad at me to this day because I didn’t marry her. God had other plans. Thankfully, God won instead of yours truly.
Anyway, Paul writes to Philemon, who has a slave named Onesimus. Onesimus is presently serving Paul while Paul is in prison for preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which happens to be the very same road our beloved United States of America is traveling in relation to religious liberty. Or better said, religious lesser-liberty. These are the times we live in. Onesimus, who is also a Christian even though he is a slave, is such a great asset to Paul in Paul’s imprisonment that the Apostle sends a letter to Philemon, the master of Onesimus, asking Philemon if he, Paul, could maintain the service of Onesimus.
But here’s the rub; Paul doesn’t want to maintain the services of Onesimus without the consent of Philemon. Paul does not want to force Philemon the master into allowing Onesimus the slave to serve his needs in prison. Paul wants it to be voluntary, agreed to out of the goodness of Philemon’s heart. In other words, don’t force someone to do a good act. An act of love, an act of charity, is to be done in freedom. What I would add is this; we are not to force our personal disagreements with Christian teaching onto others. Why? Because it spreads division. It breaks apart the Body of Christ.
Paul sees Onesimus the slave as his equal in Christ. He is a Christina brother. They have the same dignity before Christ, even though one is an Apostle and the other is a slave. Paul sees Philemon the slave owner as his equal in Christ. Paul sees every fellow Christian – man, woman, children – as his equal in Christ. Paul is humbly committed to his faith. He promotes unity, not seeking division, inviting others to charity by way of freedom, and not being forced into charity.
This leads to the Gospel and the words of Jesus: calculate the cost when constructing a tower off faith to ensure that the job gets finished. We don’t want to construct a faith that is going to fall apart, do we? Yet, there are many good people “committed to the faith” who have a faith crisis. We don’t want a tower of faith that cannot be completed, do we? Yet, there are many good-hearted folks who arrive at a certain point in their faith lives and say, “I can’t finish this job. I don’t love the tower that teaches this on marriage, or teaches that on the sanctity of all human life. I can’t commit myself fully to this institution called the Body of Christ.”
Jesus turns this on its head. “If anyone comes to me without hating father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” This is the strongest statement in Scripture of being a false and non-committed representative of the faith. Jesus wants total commitment to him, first. He doesn’t desire a lukewarm, divisive relationship with his Church. He wants our total commitment to him and to his teachings, and he wants it freely.
Like Paul and Philemon, Jesus will never force on us our commitment to him. A committed faith is grounded in freedom. Where freedom is lacking, there is less than putting the Lord first.
Committed to the faith. Famous last words? With the Lord, these words are a radical way of choosing to live. Radical in the sense of being committed to Christ, and not a wayward culture.