How is our relationship with God?

Friday of the 16th Week

Ordinary Time

Exodus 20: 1 – 17

Matthew 13:18 – 23

How is our relationship with God today? Do we feel we are close to God, or are we far away? Evidence of our answer will be played out in what we do and say this day. We come because God seeks a relationship with us, and we seek back a relationship with Him. Our readings speak about how God desires a relationship with us, and God is willing to use everything in his power to make this happen.

In the Old Testament, God always calls His people into a relationship with Him through His prophets. In our first reading, God seeks a relationship with his people by giving them the Ten Commandments through the prophet Moses. God is the author of the Ten Commandments, and they are addressed directly to the people. God wants the people to know how to live in a relationship with Him. Obedience to the Ten Commandments will bring holiness. 

In our Gospel, Jesus uses a parable to explain how God seeks a relationship with his people. The parable is of a farmer who throws seeds with great abandonment. By our standards of a farmer, this is a poor way to farm. Two things are at work here in this parable. The first is the farmer giving every kind of soil a chance to grow the seed because God is gracious. The second thing is it is up to the soil to accept the seed and grow. The parable’s point is that God gives all of us an equal chance to have the seed of his word grow in our hearts. It is up to us to receive the Word of God and to allow it to grow in our lives.

As we gather this morning, God is doing his part to have a relationship with us this day. However, the choice is all ours! There will be times that we will do his will, and there will be times when we will not. May the Eucharist strengthen us to have this relationship with God that he desires of us.

Feast of St. Mary Magdalene

Song of Songs 3:1-4

John 20:1-2, 11-18

Oh, Mary, why did you stay?

At the foot of the cross, all the others had gone, but you were the last one to leave. What were you thinking? What were you hoping would happen?

Oh, Mary, why did you stay?

On the first day of the week, while it was still dark, you rose early from bed and went to the tomb. When you arrived, you found the large stone had been rolled away, and Jesus was not in the grave. So you ran back to tell the others, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and I do not know where they have laid him?” While you and the others return to the tomb, they too discover what you saw, an empty tomb.

Oh, Mary, why did you stay?

While the others leave, you stay weeping at the tomb. Finally, Jesus appears, and you do not recognize him. When he calls you by name, you know it is the Lord.

Oh, Mary, why did you stay?

Oh, Mary, you were the last one at the foot of the cross, and you have been rewarded by being the first to see and touch our risen Lord. You have the blessed joy of proclaiming, “I have seen the Lord!”

Oh, Mary, why did you stay?

Mary Magdalen stayed to be a witness to us. When all seems lost, or when all seems impossible, we are to remain at the foot of the cross, and we will be rewarded.

Stretch out your hand!

Tuesday of the 16th week Ordinary Time

Exodus 14:21-15:1

Matthew 12:46-50

A priest stretches out his hands a lot when administering the sacraments. For example, in the Eucharist, I will stretch out my hands over the gifts. In baptism, I stretch out my hands over the parents and child and bless them in the name of God. In reconciliation, I stretch out my hands to give absolution. Finally, when someone needs the anointing of the sick, I stretch out my hands in silent prayer and ask God for his healing. To be able to stretch out my hands is an ancient symbol.

Whenever we come upon an outstretched hand in the biblical story, be ready for something to happen. God is going to show us his power. So today, we hear about outstretch hands in both readings.

In our first reading, Moses stretches out his hands out across the sea, and the Lord parts the water, and the Israelites cross the sea on dry land. Then Moses stretches hands out across the sea, and the Lord lets the water flow back, and all of Pharaoh’s army is killed. The Israelites are freed from the oppression of the Egyptians and will continue on their way to the Promised Land.

In our Gospel, Jesus is told that his mother and brothers are there to speak to him. Jesus stretches out his hands not to his family but to his disciples and those who need him.

My friends in Christ, let us be mindful of how we will use our outstretched hands. How will our outstretched hands bring about healing and comfort to those who God entrusts to us?

Do we have a date for peace?

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Jeremiah 23:1-6

Ephesians 2:13-18

Mark 6:30-34

Earlier this week, I was called to the bedside of someone I was told was actively dying. When I arrived, the person said, “Father, we need to make a date. I need some peace in my life that when I die, you will be doing the funeral!” Of course, I had many things I wanted to say, but the only thing I did say was, “Yes, I would be happy to celebrate your funeral!” How could I now refuse? As I walked out to go, she said, “Now remember, we have a date?”

Later in the week, I talked to a family member of the woman who is actively dying, as she called and wanted to make sure I was available to do the funeral. The family member said, “I know she does not have very long. Are you available next Tuesday for the funeral?” I said, “Yes!” The woman told my sister will be very happy that the two of you have a date.” Later that day, the family member called me back and said, I went to my sister, and I told her that the date of her funeral would be on Tuesday. She smiled, raised thumbs-up, and passed away! The woman wanted to make sure she had a date for peace. Our readings today ask the question, “Do we have a date for peace in our lives?” We do not need to be dying to have this peace.

In our second reading, Paul says, “You who were once far off have been drawn nearer to Christ by his blood because Jesus is always about peace.” So when we are struggling and feel “far off,” do we know that God is already making a date for us to know his peace?

In our Gospel, the apostles are returning from their first mission trip. Jesus can see how hard they have worked and how tired they are from all they have done in his name. His first concern is for their rest and peace, so Jesus says, “Come along with me to a deserted place to find peace.” Although the people keep coming, Jesus’s number one concern is the rest and peace of his apostles. Jesus is making a date with them of peace.

However, we see also that Jesus is very concerned for the rest and peace of those who keep coming to him. He never gives up on them also. 

My friends in Christ, “Do we have a date for the peace of Christ in our lives?” In this Eucharist, I will say, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you.” It is not my peace but the peace of Jesus Christ himself. It is not what we do but what we have become that brings us peace.

Something greater is happening!

Friday of the 15th Week

Ordinary Time

Exodus 11: 10-12:14

Matthew 12:1-8

Something greater is happening here! Do we realize this in our time together here today?

In our first reading from Exodus, something greater is happening as the people are preparing Passover. The people were to procure an unblemished lamb for the slaughter. So during this celebration of the Eucharist, I will raise the Lamb of God and say, “Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world.”

The people were to take some of the lamb’s blood and put it on the doorposts, so the angel of death would pass them by. I will take simple wine, and with proclaiming the ancient words, the wine will become the blood of Christ, to help us know that death does not have a sting over us.

The Passover is the celebration of God delivering the Jewish people from the bondage of slavery. Likewise, because of Jesus Christ, our celebration of the Eucharist is our deliverance over sin and death.

In our Gospel, greater is happening as Jesus is establishing himself as Lord of the Sabbath. The disciples were starving as they cross a field, so Jesus gives them permission to take the heads of grain off the wheat and eat it. The Pharisees object to working on the Sabbath, but there is something greater happening here. Do we know that “Sunday service” leads to “Service the rest of the week?”

My friends in Christ, do we realize that something greater is happening here because as we gather, God is filling us with His grace to be something greater than what we once were?

May we know the joy of Christ!

Come to me and you will find rest!

Thursday Fifteenth Week of Ordinary Time

Exodus 3:3-20

Matthew 11:28-30

St. Bonaventure

On Tuesday after morning Mass, I was called to the hospital to anoint someone I know actively dying. When I arrived, her breathing was very rapid, and her sister was doing everything she could to get her to slow her breathing. After a short explanation of what I was going to do in the Sacrament of the sick, I began with the prayers. When I got to the scripture reading and recited:  

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart, and you will find rest for yourselves, for my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”

When I finished reciting from today’s Gospel, the woman’s breathing slowed down, and you could see her whole demeanor had changed.

I read these words at every anointing that I celebrate because I find them comforting, especially when we are struggling to make sense of things. When a person is actively dying, there have to be so many things going through the person’s mind, and I find these words to bring much comfort.

How do we hear these words today? I hope it relieves some of our worries and helps us to do our best.

What is done in secret is shown in the light!

Tuesday of the 15th Week

Exodus 2:1-15

Matthew 11:20-24

How is your sinful life going? My sinful life is going about par! There are those sins that some people do see, but the majority of my sins you do not know. I keep them private. What may we be hiding from others but God sees?

In our first reading, Moses tries to hide his sin of killing an Egyptian man who was abusing a Hebrew man. Moses buries the dead man, but later his deadly sin would be exposed.

In our Gospel, Jesus knows very well the sins of Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum. Jesus spent the majority of his ministry in these towns. Bethsaida was the home of Peter, Andrew, and Philip, and Capernaum became the home base for Jesus and his followers. Jesus did many mighty deeds in these towns, but the people’s hearts were not converted. The people may have thought their sins were being done in secret, but Jesus knew of their lack of faith.  

We hear these words of Jesus and think nothing of them, yet they are meant for us! Would our loved ones be glorified or mortified if they had to go through our personal belongings?

The Eucharist is given to us to provide us with the grace to change. Therefore, let us set aside every evil inclination and turn toward God.

We are sent to be missionaries!

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Amos 7:12-15

Ephesians 1:-14

Mark 6: 7-13

I am going on a fishing trip later this month, and I have been making a list of all the things I need to bring. I need your help to make sure I have everything I need. What shall I bring? Have assembly give me their ideas of what to bring. All this stuff is what I will need for my trip, but today’s readings are about knowing what to bring on our trip of faith. 

In our first reading, Amos is sent on a journey to be a prophet to the people.  Amos says he never wanted to be a prophet.  He was happy and content minding his sheep and sitting under a sycamore tree. Finally, Amos says God claimed him to be a prophet, and he has to do what God wants him to do. 

The writer of Ephesians reminds the people that they are on a journey of faith.  The writer says that God has chosen them and has given them every spiritual blessing in the heavens, and they are to be holy.” 

In our Gospel, Jesus is preparing his apostles for a journey. Here are few things that I find interesting. First, we are not even halfway through Mark’s Gospel, and Jesus is sending them out two by two. The apostles could have said, “We are not ready to go yet!” The other thing is that the apostles are flawed men. None of them are biblical scholars or the leading religious men of their communities. One might assume to prepare these flawed men that Jesus would give them a caravan of things to bring, and he only tells them to bring a walking stick. Why? Because Jesus wants them to learn to trust him and believe that he will take care of them.

As we gather today, we are called to be on a journey as God’s disciples.  We, too, need to be like Amos, who listens to God calling him to places that may be uncomfortable, but he knows that God is with him.  We need to be like the people in our second reading, knowing they have been given every spiritual gift under heaven. But, we also need to be like the apostles, praying every day and placing our trust and faith in God. 

What will bring you peace today?

Thursday of the 14th Week

Ordinary Time

Gen 44: 18-21, 23-29; 45:1-5

Matthew 10:7-15

How peaceful are we today? Do we know what brings us peace? Will the peace that we are given in this Eucharist last all day? Our readings challenge us to be people of peace!

In our Gospel, Jesus is preparing his apostles for a missionary trip. He tells them, “As you enter a home, wish it peace. Let your peace come upon it.” According to the rules for itinerant preachers, you could stay two days at a person’s home. If you stayed three days, you were considered a false preacher. The apostles were to point out peace but to be “peace.” Being “peace” is only possible by doing what he told them to do, leaving anything that might be a distraction to him behind. The apostles were to focus entirely on Jesus, and they would be given peace. What might be distracting us from peace today?

In our first reading, we were given another insight into knowing peace through the gift of reconciliation. Joseph reveals himself to his brothers, and he seeks reconciliation with them. Thus, the peace of God is restored to Isaac’s family.

Once again, my friends in Christ, God’s Word, and His sacrament are given to us to be peaceful people. May we carry this peace to all we meet today!

When we are troubled or abandoned!

Tuesday of the Fourteenth

Week Ordinary Time

Genesis 32: 23-33

Matthew 9:32-38

The task of Jesus Christ is to set free those hearts that are troubled or abandoned. Many of us have a heart that is troubled by dreams or expectations that have not been met or failures in our lives. Some of us know the feeling of being abandoned by a loved one. Life is hard, but help is on the way!

In our first reading, Jacob is on his way back to his brother Esau after many years of estranged because Jacob is troubled and feeling abandoned. On his way to visit his brother, Jacob encounters an angel, of which they have a wrestling match all night long until Jacob asks for a blessing from him in the morning. We may feel we are in a wrestling match with God when we are feeling troubled and abandoned.

In our Gospel, some feel troubled and abandoned. The first one to feel troubled and abandoned is the man processed by a demon. Jesus expels the demon from the man, and he is restored to health. The other person feeling troubled and abandoned is Jesus himself. Jesus is troubled by what he sees and has pity on the people and pleads for more people to join him in spreading the good news. Jesus knows what it feels like to be abandoned and does not want others to know this pain.

By this Eucharist, may we be set free from all of our troubles and from the feeling of being abandoned!