Sunday, September 24, 2017

September 24, 2017

Pew Forum: 27% claim to be spiritual, not religious

Trend is noticeable—one indicator is declining Mass attendance;

We can come up with reasons and solutions: The Church needs to do this….. If only the Church did this….

Here’s the problem: 


Meaning, any Church reform is useless unless it begins with each of us.

Also, St. Paul will refer to the Church as the Body of Christ.  It is the mechanism through which Christ continues to work in the world. This means we need to seek His will, His truth if we are to live as the Body of Christ.

This is the reason why there is a problem with being spiritual not religious.  It seeks to separate what cannot be separated.

Religion comes from the latin word, religare, meaning to bind to.

We as imperfect beings, made in the image and likeness of God, can only attain perfect by ‘binding’ ourselves to the one who is perfection, God.  We don’t use the word bind, we say uniting ourselves mind and heart to God. 

This union allows us to live true to our ourselves, our true nature. It allows us to experience joy and love, not just temporarily, but for the long haul.

Spirituality involves those practices that allow us to be aware of the intersection of the divine with our everyday lives.  Spirituality is how we unite or bind ourselves to God.

One without the other makes no sense because they are incomplete.

The ‘spiritual but not religious’ isn’t something to be mocked or criticized. Rather, we should recognize what is being said. It reveals a longing within the person for something more; for truth and love and goodness. 

It is our role as Christian disciples to help them recognize that they will find what they are looking for in Jesus Christ.

That role is one we are not comfortable with, but I think that is because we are stuck on the image of what that looks like.

We need to look at the model St. Paul offers today:

“Christ will be magnified in my body.”

What does he that mean? St. Paul is saying that he will strive to give glory to God in his thoughts, words and actions. 

His faith isn’t going to be just showing up for Church, it will be that and more; it will be living in love with Jesus Christ.

Christianity can’t be anything less than lived relationship with Christ. If we keep our faith in the head, or just to our actions, we’ve missed the whole point.

  Last week we heard Jesus say in the Gospel that we need to forgive others ‘from the heart’.  This is more than tolerance, it is an act of love.

Love involves not just part of us, but the entire person.  Living in love with Christ changes us, hence the reason why if we want to change the Church, we need to change, we need to strengthen our love of Christ.

This commitment is more than just how we act towards others. 

For example, think of the person who drives you absolutely crazy. It could be a classmate or coworker, a neighbor or somebody you see or hear on TV or in the news.

Every time you hear this person you feel your jaw tense up, your fists clench, you feel anxious, annoyed, frustrated or angry.

Here is the thing: Nowhere in the Gospel does Jesus say: “Blessed are they who are driven crazy.”

In those situations, the others person’s faults, sins, weaknesses are not the issue. 

The issue is the anxiety, stress, frustration and anger we experience; these are indicators that I am focused on me, my way, my wants, myself.

Further problem:  I justify it.

“That person is so annoying!”  “He doesn’t know what he is talking about.” “Someone needs to straighten her out.”

A couple of weeks ago Jesus spoke about correcting others; but if you recall, our posture was to be one of love, mercy and patience—well actually more than that.  It was to be limitless love, mercy and patience.

Those are the characteristics of living in love with Christ.  They are actions that give glory to God. 

The reason why we can remain hopeful and joyful despire our failure at being Christ like: God’s mercy and love.

The Church is a collection of saints and sinners.  The saints are those in heaven, living in perfect love with God.

That leaves us, the sinners. All of us.  Oscar Wilde said “every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.”

We have a future because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He offers us redemption, forgiveness of our sins and the graces to be drawn into the divine life itself: if we accept what he offers.  These are a gift of God to be received freely, not forced upon us.

We give God glory not just by living the Gospel virtues, but also when we recognize our failures and our brokenness and turn to the Lord for His healing and graces to overcome our weaknesses.

It is our confidence in the Lord’s generous mercy and love and our persistence in discerning and seeking to live His will that provides a witness to the others.

We don’t justify or excuse our sins, but we don’t allow them to paralyze us. We continually turn to God, receive His forgiveness and seek to bind ourselves to Him

The fruit of these efforts: Joy, peace of heart and inner strength that allows us to persevere as children of God despite the chaos we have to sometimes deal with in life.
Let this joy and peace be how we extol God as well as what attracts others to Him.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

September 9, 2017

The funeral scene mentioned in Luke's passage this morning would not have gone unnoticed. In fact, it would probably have been impossible not to notice. it.  There would have been 'professional' mourners that would have accompanied the poor widow as the procession made its way through the city streets. As they went along, others would have joined the procession and the wailing.

In many respects, things haven't changed too much.  You have heard the phrase 'misery loves company'. Well, that seems to be the case in times of death. We come together, which is a good thing. Our gathering with others isn't to make us all feel miserable, but rather to strengthen hope, to provide love and support to the family and to give them the strength they need to get through the shock of losing a loved one.  It is after all one of the corporal works of mercy (bury the dead).

What happens afterwards? Everyone returns to life, their daily tasks and responsibilities.  This is a particularly difficult time for the widow or the one who now left alone.  The harsh reality of hits that life is for the living and life goes on without the loved one.

If you recall, at the Mass of the Lord's Supper on Holy Thursday, Jesus tells us "I have given you a model to follow. As I have done, so you must do."  Looking to Jesus' example we are reminded that in addition to the corporal works of mercy, there are the spiritual works of mercy. Among them is "comfort the sorrowful".

As Christians, we have an obligation not to forget those mourning the loss of a loved one after the funeral rites.  Obviously we do need to return to work and our daily responsibilities. However, we still need to be Christ to others. We need to be sure that we 'check in' with those who have recently experienced a loss, keep them in our prayers and remind them that they are not alone.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Monday September 18, 2017

In recent weeks we have heard of our need to share God’s love and mercy with others. We have been reminded that this is part of the mission that the Lord entrusted to us at our Baptism: to proclaim the Gospel to the world.

Today, St. Paul teaches us that the first step in carrying out this mission is our prayers “for every one, for kings and for all in authority.” (1Tm 2:1-2)

First, this is intercessory prayer; we are seeking their good and that they may grow and live in wisdom and understanding. 

In addition, we asking the Holy Spirit to be with them and to open their minds and hearts to God’s mercy and love.

Finally, our prayer is an encounter and communion with God. The result is that it transforms us and helps us to see with the eyes of faith and to recognize others as being loved by God and made in His image and likeness.  This changes our ways of looking at others and how we interact with them. It changes the tone of our disagreements.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

September 10, 2017 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time Homily

I have been speaking a lot recently about ‘missionary disciples’, the term given to us by Pope Francis to describe what the Christian life is supposed to look like. It may make us a little uncomfortable. Perhaps we have images of standing in the middle of the mall or on a street corner calling people to repentance, or going door to door to get converts.

While this is not what Pope Francis, nor the Church, has in mind in regards to ‘missionary disciples’, we are called to share our faith and to proclaim the Gospel by the way we live our lives. The Holy Father and this weekend’s liturgy are teaching us that being Catholic is more than just showing up; it is about living our identity.

In this morning’s Collect, a reference was made to our baptism when we ‘received adoption’ by God. Baptism wasn’t just a ritual to bring us into the club, it was an encounter with Jesus Christ that changed our very identity. Our souls were configured to Christ; we became sons and daughters of God.

To discover who we are, to live a life that flourishes we need to seek God and live according to our identity. The spiritual writers in our tradition refer to this as the false self v. true self; living how the world expects us or as we think we should versus living according to our identity.

Prayer is necessary. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that the Christian life and prayer are inseparable. Why? Prayer connects us to God, to our inner selves.

To live our identity as a child of God, we must love.

One of the greatest struggles in the Christian life is when we spend a lot of energy on what we do and don’t do, debating whether this action is sinful or not. We end up sounding more like the Pharisees than the children of God.

St. Paul gives us the key today: The commandments can be summed up by this saying, he says, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

This is part of the ‘Greatest Commandment’ (which we will hear in a few weeks): “You shall love the Lord your God, with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind (AND) you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

To understand what is being taught here, we need to remember St. John’s simple statement in his First Letter: God is Love. 

Love is part of God’s identity; as a daughter or son of God, love is part of our identity.

The Lord is telling us today in the reading from Ezekiel and Matthew that love comes with responsibility.

Pope Francis in Evangelii Gaudium wrote “…if we have received the love which restores meaning in our lives, how can we fail to share that love with others?...We have to reach out to others and seek their good.”

This is how we grow in love, by engaging others.

Sometimes, Jesus tells us today, that means correction. However, that correction must be from a place of love so that it doesn’t become accusing or condemning.

Jesus also emphasizes the need for patience and love. The purpose in correction is to help the other become more loving, to help them strengthen their relationship with God, the one who is love.

By the Way, Jesus is not presenting or condoning a three strike, you’re out policy here, “Treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector” does not mean treat them like the rest of society does, with disdain and disrespect. Rather, he is telling us to treat them as He would treat a Gentile and tax collector: with love, compassion, mercy and forgiveness.

If then the person refuses, we are to treat them with love, compassion, mercy and forgiveness…

Being a Christian can be tough. Without a loving relationship with Christ it is impossible.

Being a Christian means being another Christ to others in all that we do.

That is the mission of the disciples of Christ; we are not meant to be spectators. We are meant to share Christ’s love and invite others into relationship with that love.

We are meant to be other Christ’s in all that we do. To do so we must nurture our relationship with Christ and allow His love to transform us.