Sunday, July 29, 2007

Reflection on the 17th Sunday of Ordinary Time

In our readings for Mass on this Sunday, we hear of the power of prayer, especially intercessory prayer. As Abraham interceded for the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, he pleads with God for a people that most likely he does not know. He, like Moses does, stands in the breach. He begs for mercy for those in those towns, if God could find some good people there. We know, though, that God did not find the ten people, so God warned Lot and his wife and daughters and sons-in-laws (six total).

In the Gospel, we hear Luke's account of the giving of the Our Father. Due to its shorter length, it is thought by some that this is an early 'edition' of the prayer of the community. Such a teaching, though, is not a necessary conclusion. Perhaps it was an early or purposefully shorter form from Jesus Christ Himself. All the same, the passage speaks of the importance of prayer and persistence in that prayer. Prayer is not the mumbling of words, but rather about communication with God. The disciples ask for Jesus to teach them to pray, having just seen him praying. He responds. In the Lord's prayer, we have a perfect example of this communication, as well as the perfect prayer itself. It invites us into a relationship with God as Father - the giver and protector of life. It invites us to honor, literally to make holy, God's name. We ask that His Kingdom would be established, and that He would provide for all our needs. We ask for forgiveness, knowing that we ourselves must forgive. And we ask to be spared from the final test. Jesus uses this as a opportunity to tell them about the need for persistence. God hears the prayers of those who ask, seek, and knock.

When we are praying and discerning God's will for our lives, we must be persistent. God is good and hears our prayers, but sometimes His answer is delayed or overlooked. By being persistent, by asking that our will be purified by His will for our lives, we will come receive the answer, find the path, and have the door opened to our vocation.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Reflection on the 16th Sunday of Ordinary Time

This weekend, we hear of the episode of Martha and Mary hosting Jesus in their home. Martha is busy about the details of hospitality, while Mary is busy about being hospitable by being with Jesus.

Some might suggest that there is a dichotomy between the doing and the being, but to reduce this episode to such a false dichotomy is ridiculous. After all, it is assumed that even Martha had to take a break every once and a while to listen to Jesus (how did she meet him, otherwise). Mary, too, had to have helped out at least once and a while. No, the point of this is finding the balance between the two.

So often, the complaint is leveled against those that are attracted to Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament as being lazy or wasteful, especially when there are hungry or hurting people in the world. Some would suggest that spending time in prayer is not as valuable as working. But to 'update' an old adage, all work and no pray makes one a poor witness. No, the better part is to spend time in pray, to get to know Jesus Christ, and then from that encounter to go out and serve the needs of others. Think of Blessed Theresa of Calcutta who spent hours in Adoration every day, and went out and served the people, able to see the same face of Christ in the people she served as in the Eucharist she adored and received! Or think of Mary Jo Copeland, a local heroine of the poor and downtrodden, who reportedly spends hours in prayer and Mass every morning, and then literally washes the feet of those that come to her meal site. The time these great women spent in prayer bears fruit in their activities. There is no division - both are necessary, both are goods. But it is finding the balance.

As one discerns a vocation, it is this balance that becomes part of the question. Aware that both prayer (being with Jesus) and activity (working for Jesus) are a part of every vocation, it is the proportion that God has invited us to that helps us discern between religious life and diocesan priesthood, and between one religious community or the other. Paying attention to our desire for communion with Christ ought to deepen our desire to serve Him in the needs of our brothers and sisters. May we choose the better part!

Monday, July 16, 2007

SQPN » That Catholic Show #6 : You Are A Priest Forever

In a post at SPQN, they have posted a video podcast on the priesthood entitled You Are A Priest Forever. It's opening is a little tongue-in-cheek, but is well done. No iPod is required, just view it online or download it into iTunes.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Reflection on the 15th Sunday of Ordinary Time

This weekend's Gospel reading contains perhaps one of the most famous of parables - the Good Samaritan. The parable is told as a response to the question "Who is my neighbor that I am to love?". Jesus tells the story that would have stung the minds and hearts of the Jewish listeners. A man falls victim to robbers while traveling down the treacherous road to Jericho. He is left for dead. The fact that the priest and Levite pass by was not necessarily because they did not care, but rather did not wish to become 'unclean' by touching blood at the least or perhaps even a dead man. If they did, they would not be able to participate in the activities in the Temple area. But the third passerby was Samaritan - the descendant of the remainder of the Jewish people left in the land during the Babylonian exile who intermarried the pagans in the area, thus in the eyes of the Jews who eventually returned, half-breeds who polluted and diluted the Jewish law and practice. This Samaritan sees the man and tends to the wounds with the medicines of the time (wine as an acid/alcohol would cleanse the wound, while oil would have a salve quality to keep air out of the wound). He takes the man, on his own beast, to Jericho, and checks him into the inn and vowing to pay anything that is left on his return. So Jesus asks who was the neighbor - it is the one who helped, despite political/geographic/cultural/religious differences.

One of my favorite interpretations of this by an early Church Father (but I cannot remember who at this time) tells us that Jesus is the Samaritan, who comes to us and rescues us from the ravages of the world. He heals us, and carries us on the cross, and will return!

So what does this tell about a vocation? We are not sent just to people around us, but to all in need. We are called to bring the healing of Jesus Christ to everyone, even those that would not naturally be our neighbor. We need to move out of our comfort zones to care for others - to get dirt under our fingernails, as a friend put it. The days of pampered priests is over (if it ever existed). I am overwhelmed by the stories of the pioneer priests who labored in our country, even giving their lives, for the people they were called to serve. Are we willing to become a neighbor?

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Reflection on the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Our Gospel Passage today is of course very obvious as to its connection to vocations, as we hear of Jesus sending the disciples out in twos. There are a few points that we should ponder, though, that will deepen our understanding. First, when Jesus sends us, he does not send us out alone. As a priest, most of our life could be lived alone in the rectory (especially in the Diocese of New Ulm), we are even then in community with our Bishop and brother priests. There is an urgency in the message - if they do not hear the message, they will soon be lost like over-ripened wheat. The disciples are instructed not to take anything with them - nothing is to way them down as the Internet traveling preachers they were to be. In their return, they are rejoicing in all that God had done for them. Jesus tells them that they should rejoice instead in the fact that their names are written in heaven. So it is with those who respond to their vocations - God will do great things through them, but the joy should come from knowing that we have done the will of God and our names are written in heaven.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Moving Day

I apologize for the lateness of the last post. I meant to post earlier, but was in the midst of moving and did not have internet connections. I am now 'almost' moved - with a few things to find a home for. Moving as a priest is difficult - it means learning the customs and histories of the parish and parishioners, learning the new patterns and rhythms of the parish. This move should be relatively easier for me - not only is this the third move as pastor (already in my 8 years of priesthood), but I am now pastor of my home town, and area. I know many of the people and most of the relevant histories. But moving, the emotional and physical part, has been difficult.
I have to admit that I would have never envisioned being here - it is unusual (though not unheard of), that a priest be assigned in his home town. I do not have immediate family here, and of the 2nd cousins, I have more of all over!

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Reflection on the 13th Sunday of Ordinary Time

In our Gospel Passage, Jesus displays a particular trait of forthrightness. While He calls many, He also warns them of the costs - He does not have a place even to lay his head. He warns them that no one who starts the task of follow, yet looks back to what was, is worthy. No, it is the one who starts and keeps his gaze fixed on the goal who will find it. As a farmer who has raised livestock could tell you, animals easily wander off the path and without redirection are prone to wandering.
When we decide to follow Christ, we must keep our eyes on him. He will lead us to truth, and will keep us safe.