Are We There, Yet?

32nd Sunday in O.T.; November 12, 2017

Wis 2:12-16   Ps 63   1 Thes 4:13-18   Mt 25:1-13

Deacon Jim McFadden; SJB C.C.

 

         We are a hyper-stimulated, impatient people. Carrie Fisher, in her auto-biography once opined that “Instant gratification isn’t fast enough!” And, the electronic, digital age we now live in has only exacerbated this.   We have fast food, instant replay, 24/7 news bites. We become anxious when we have to stand in line at a checkout counter. We grip the steering wheel in a white-knuckled strangle-hold when we have to wait for a stop light. We complain when the homilist goes beyond 10 minutes.

As we approach the end of the liturgical calendar, we are reminded that the unfolding of time is not in our hands, but is in God’s. We know how the story ends—Jesus has conquered sin, death, and the power of Satan through his death and resurrection. We know that we have a secure and eternally life-giving future, when we stay connected to Jesus and proclaim that he is the Risen Lord. Despite what may be happening around us—the chaos, divisiveness, degradation of human beings—Jesus has promised us a blessing: namely, “Peace be with you” as he breathes upon us. God promises us peace—not merely the absence of war or conflict, but the life that is shared within the mystery of the triune God. That kind of communion and fellowship gives us everything we need to be happy and joyful, regardless of what our external circumstances may be.

When we gaze upon human history through the prism of Sacred Scripture, we see that human sinfulness can get in the way of God’s plans. So, the people waited anxiously for the time of fulfillment, which became known as the endtime. The Greeks have a word for this unique time: namely, kairos or God’s time. It stands by itself; it’s totally unique that is so different from the ongoing, ordinary time or chronos (chronological time). Amazing, transformative events occur in kairos. There, God’s promises are fulfilled.

As Christians, we believe that our Lord Jesus has inaugurated this time of fulfillment through the Mystery of Faith, the Paschal Mystery. At the same time, we have one foot planted in the world of ordinary time, in chronos. By virtue of our Baptism, we’re called to be missionary disciples as we live the extraordinary Way of Jesus in this ordinary time. As we do so, we enter into the time of fulfillment.

Today’s Gospel reading employs the metaphor of marriage to convey this awesome time of fulfillment. The virgins are part of a wedding party that is bursting at the seams. The point of the parable is to be always prepared “for you know neither the day or the hour” (Mt 25:13). All of the virgins were ready for the immediate arrival of the bridegroom, but only half of them came prepared for the long wait.

Brothers and sisters, we know that life is very precarious. We do not know when our time will come. But, like the wise virgins, we must always be prepared, having enough oil to get us through the night. We cannot presume that we’ll be able to purchase the oil when we need it. We cannot live as if the end is going to happen tomorrow—though it might. Yet, we must live as if the end is imminent. The question is, how are we to do this?

The mysterious figure of Woman Wisdom in the first reading offers us a guide for such thoughtful and intentional living.   Echoing New Testament themes, we’re called to watch through the night, to be vigilant. We’re told that Wisdom will teach us how to live in this very complex and murky time.

This Wisdom is much more than practical knowledge as to how to get through the day with street smarts. She comes from God and is “perfection of prudence.” What does that mean? To seek wisdom is to seek God, in which we live his Way in our ordinary experience. That is, we take our Gospel values and apply them prudently in this concrete situation. While it seems that we are seeking her, we hear that “She makes her own rounds, seeking” us. That’s right, Wisdom seeks us. Our job is to be open to her invitation and to live accordingly.

The challenge put before us is very straightforward. We have been invited by God to the celebration of the fulfillment of His promise of peace. It’s right there. Do we want it or are we still clinging to the goods of the world as our source of happiness? This peace is what we will be enjoying in Heaven for eternity. We now live in the in-between time, a time of already-but-not-yet. Through grace, we already live in kairos inaugurated by Jesus, but it has not been completely fulfilled. So, we move through time, we must “stay awake,” be always prepared, for we do not know when it will be fulfilled. We are not alone in our waiting. We have, as our loyal companions, the Communion of Saints on earth, and the Wisdom that comes from God.

So, People of God at SJB, how prepared are you for the unfolding of God’s plan in your life? Where do you look for the Wisdom that comes from God?

 

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Practicing and Repenting

31st Sunday in O.T.; November 5, 2017

Mal 1:14b-2:2b,8-10   Ps 131 1Thes 2:7b-9,13   Mt 23:1-12

Deacon Jim McFadden; (New) Folsom Prison

 

         Before we look at today’s Gospel reading in which Jesus denounces the Scribes and the Pharisees—the religious establishment of his time—it’s good to pay attention to what Paul said in his First Letter to the Thessalonians: namely, as we draw near to the Gospel, let us do so “not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God” (1 Thes 2:13). When we do so, we can accept with faith the warning Jesus is offering in today’s Gospel, which is directed not only to the religious establishment, but to us as well as we strive to conform the way we live to the Good News.

In today’s passage Jesus gets in the face of the scribes and Pharisees, who were the teachers of the community, because their conduct was flagrantly at odds with the teaching they so rigorously taught others. Jesus put it simply that they “preach, but do not practice” (Mt 23:3); instead, “they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and to lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with their finger” (v. 24).   Good teaching must always be received, but it loses its power to motivate when it is contradicted by inconsistent behavior.

Saint Charles Borromeo, a 16th century reformer, put it succinctly:

Be sure that you first preach by the way you live. If you do not, people will notice that you say one thing, but live otherwise, and your words will bring only cynical laughter and a derisive shake of the head” (From a sermon given during the last synod he attended.)

Why the disconnect? Enjoying positions of authority, sometimes teachers of the faith can assume a paternalistic role with the faithful. I am the “professional religious,” I am here to take care of you, so receive what I am dispensing. Or, it can take the form of authoritarianism: do as I say, not because it is comprehensible, convincing, and compelling, but because I say so. Such paternalism and authoritarianism is usually accompanied by clericalism: that is, clerical privilege in which the ordain enjoyed their status, privilege, and perks associated with their office. In the past, it could take the form of cardinals adorned in long, flowing red robes trimmed in ermin and popes being carried into papal audiences on a portable throne.

These attitudes and behaviors remind us we must be ever vigilant in resisting clericalism, which is not good for the ordained, nor for the Church as a whole. With Jesus, we acknowledge the leadership role of the ordained and that the Church is hierarchically governed. At the same time, he says: “practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do” (v. 3).

Jesus’ attitude is exactly the opposite: he is the first to practice the Great Commandment which he teaches to everyone. Indeed, there is a one-to-one correspondence to what Jesus preaches and how he relates to us. That’s why he can say that his burden is light and easy because he helps us carry it (cf. Mt 11:29-30).

But, why do we fall short? Why don’t are lives consistently conform to what we profess? One reason is obvious: we’re all sinners; so, its just not possible to practice everything we preach. To be sure, we can envision a future in which the Church is radically living the Good News in every corner of the human enterprise. We can have deep inner revelations that powerfully show us the way we should live our life.

But, when we try to live them out, we bump into the harsh reality of who we are existentially. Our preaching/teaching is conditioned by our personality, our lifelong habits, our character, and our history of being too accommodating to secular culture with its emphasis on individualism, self-promotion, and consumerism.

So, practicing what we preach is a goal which we have to strive to attain. But, if that is going to become a reality we have to repent of our practice—the way we live. There is the Good News and there is the way we go about our lives. There is a disparity and we have to own up to it. But we’re not going to throw in the towel. Rather, we go back to the drawing board, which means we purify ourselves of the stuff that keeps us from living the truth we profess embracing the vision of Jesus that is before us. Being repentant is not a stigma, branding us as failed Christians. No, it just comes with the territory of following something that we on occasion betray. That’s why Christ has blessed us with the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

So, when we preach and teach the Good News, when we promote a community of love and solidarity, let us also be realistic and keep the sackcloth and ashes handy. Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Practicing and Repenting

31st Sunday in O.T.; November 5, 2017

Mal 1:14b-2:2b,8-10   Ps 131 1Thes 2:7b-9,13   Mt 23:1-12

Deacon Jim McFadden; (New) Folsom Prison

 

         Before we look at today’s Gospel reading in which Jesus denounces the Scribes and the Pharisees—the religious establishment of his time—it’s good to pay attention to what Paul said in his First Letter to the Thessalonians: namely, as we draw near to the Gospel, let us do so “not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God” (1 Thes 2:13). When we do so, we can accept with faith the warning Jesus is offering in today’s Gospel, which is directed not only to the religious establishment, but to us as well as we strive to conform the way we live to the Good News.

In today’s passage Jesus gets in the face of the scribes and Pharisees, who were the teachers of the community, because their conduct was flagrantly at odds with the teaching they so rigorously taught others. Jesus put it simply that they “preach, but do not practice” (Mt 23:3); instead, “they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and to lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with their finger” (v. 24).   Good teaching must always be received, but it loses its power to motivate when it is contradicted by inconsistent behavior.

Saint Charles Borromeo, a 16th century reformer, put it succinctly:

Be sure that you first preach by the way you live. If you do not, people will notice that you say one thing, but live otherwise, and your words will bring only cynical laughter and a derisive shake of the head” (From a sermon given during the last synod he attended.)

Why the disconnect? Enjoying positions of authority, sometimes teachers of the faith can assume a paternalistic role with the faithful. I am the “professional religious,” I am here to take care of you, so receive what I am dispensing. Or, it can take the form of authoritarianism: do as I say, not because it is comprehensible, convincing, and compelling, but because I say so. Such paternalism and authoritarianism is usually accompanied by clericalism: that is, clerical privilege in which the ordain enjoyed their status, privilege, and perks associated with their office. In the past, it could take the form of cardinals adorned in long, flowing red robes trimmed in ermin and popes being carried into papal audiences on a portable throne.

These attitudes and behaviors remind us we must be ever vigilant in resisting clericalism, which is not good for the ordained, nor for the Church as a whole. With Jesus, we acknowledge the leadership role of the ordained and that the Church is hierarchically governed. At the same time, he says: “practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do” (v. 3).

Jesus’ attitude is exactly the opposite: he is the first to practice the Great Commandment which he teaches to everyone. Indeed, there is a one-to-one correspondence to what Jesus preaches and how he relates to us. That’s why he can say that his burden is light and easy because he helps us carry it (cf. Mt 11:29-30).

But, why do we fall short? Why don’t are lives consistently conform to what we profess? One reason is obvious: we’re all sinners; so, its just not possible to practice everything we preach. To be sure, we can envision a future in which the Church is radically living the Good News in every corner of the human enterprise. We can have deep inner revelations that powerfully show us the way we should live our life.

But, when we try to live them out, we bump into the harsh reality of who we are existentially. Our preaching/teaching is conditioned by our personality, our lifelong habits, our character, and our history of being too accommodating to secular culture with its emphasis on individualism, self-promotion, and consumerism.

So, practicing what we preach is a goal which we have to strive to attain. But, if that is going to become a reality we have to repent of our practice—the way we live. There is the Good News and there is the way we go about our lives. There is a disparity and we have to own up to it. But we’re not going to throw in the towel. Rather, we go back to the drawing board, which means we purify ourselves of the stuff that keeps us from living the truth we profess embracing the vision of Jesus that is before us. Being repentant is not a stigma, branding us as failed Christians. No, it just comes with the territory of following something that we on occasion betray. That’s why Christ has blessed us with the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

So, when we preach and teach the Good News, when we promote a community of love and solidarity, let us also be realistic and keep the sackcloth and ashes handy. Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We are Family–in Jesus!

            Riffing off of Sister Sledge, We Are Family—the community of St. Francis High School.   But, as we gather in worship, we know that we are part of a greater family: the community of All Saints!

ALL Saints: Troubies, do you get that?   There can only be a communion of Saints in “heaven” if there is one here and now on earth.   And, what I want to know, ARE WE A COMMUNION OF SAINTS @ St. Francis High School!   I hope so because if we’re not, we’re nothing more than a noisy gong.   Our goal in life, the very reason we were created in the first place, is to be friends with God—to share in his love now and forever!   St. Augustine so wisely intoned 1,700 years ago, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in him.”

At a very deep level, we are family! As Lucian of Antioch (240-312) an early Christian theologian and martyr, once said that “a Christian’s only relatives are saints.” Those who follow Jesus Christ and who seek to do the Father’s will enter into a new family, a family of saints here on earth and in heaven.   Jesus changes the order of relationships and how we look upon family because he teaches us that kinship is more than flesh and blood. Our adaption as God’s beloved daughters and sons, transforms all of our relationships; I look at the vast sea of red jerseys and I see my sisters in faith! Such an awareness requires a new order of loyalty—we have duties and responsibilities to God and his Kingdom.

DO YOU HUNGER TO BE GOD’S FRIEND? DO YOU WANT TO BE A SAINT? Do you? Then the question is HOW?

The answer to this question, is JESUS. Our faith is not primarily about doctrines, rules, rituals, devotions. While all of those are very important, they are secondary to the fact that our Faith is about a person: Jesus! And, when we say along with Peter that “Jesus is the Son of the living God,” everything changes because the Way to becoming a Saint, the Way to attain our destiny, the Way to be fully in communion with God and in fellowship with each other is through Jesus, Who is God among us! Given that, how can we come to know Jesus?

First, to become friends with Jesus means being close to him, which means we abide in our Lord’s presence and let ourselves be lead by him. I ask you: how do you abide in the presence of Jesus? When you go into the chapel or the quiet of your room, what do you do? You probably speak, offer petitions, give thanks—those are good prayers. But, do you let yourselves be gazed upon by the Lord? When you enter his presence, you dwell within His very being. So, let him look at you and, as you do, you will know that he gazes upon you with love.   This will warm your heart, which will ignite the fire of friendship with Jesus, making you feel that he sees your True Self, that he is close to you, and that he loves you. And, you will gradually begin to fall in love with Jesus.

Second, to become friends with Jesus means to know Him through Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. In your four years at St. Francis H.S., you have the tremendous opportunity of immersing yourself in the Word of God and Tradition, in which Jesus speaks to us directly. Know your Bible—become Scripturally literate and know your Catechism.

Both the will teach us many things about Jesus, and we should study and learn from them because the deposit of faith is transformative because it’s grounded in the Word of God made flesh.

Thirdly, participate in the Sacraments, especially in Reconciliation and the Eucharist, which is the “fount and summit of our worship.” As we celebrate the Eucharist we enter into the sacred mysteries; we “fully, actively, and consciously” enter into the Paschal Mystery in which Jesus gave His life for you so that you may enjoy eternal life—now and forever. When you receive Communion, you are receiving Jesus’ very Body and Blood. His soul and divinity enters into your humanity, which is transformative to the very core of our existence.

Lastly, there is a fourth way to become friends with Jesus: imitate him by leaving yourself behind and going out to encounter others, especially those on the margins. As you know from Christian Service, this is a beautiful experience. Because when we put Christ in the center of our life, we ourselves don’t become the center!   The more you unite yourself with Jesus, the more he will lead you out of yourself, which leads you to serve others, especially those who are in most need.   God’s dynamism is self-gifting—God is love who gives himself away. And, when we do that we become Saints as we remain united in Christ.

Therefore, to become a Saint means to know Jesus. We do so, by speaking to him in prayer, letting him gaze upon us.   It means to know what Scripture and the Church tells us about him. We can encounter and engage Him sacramentally . It means to walk along his path of self-giving. This is the road to Sainthood. Everyone in this assembly has a decision to make. DO WE WANT TO BECOME SAINTS? DO WE WANT TO BECOME FRIENDS WITH JESUS?