Sunday, September 30, 2007

Twenty-SIx Sunday in Ordinary Time

This weekend, we hear the parable of the Rich man and Lazarus. This, by the way, is the only parable that Jesus tells that has a character named, and perhaps that name is the key to opening the mind to understand. Lazarus means "God is my Help", and beside God, who helped this poor man? The dogs licked his wounds, but the rich man would not even recognize him and his dignity. In death, Jesus suggests that he wasn't even buried - just that he was taken to the bosom of Abraham - the image of heaven akin to our understanding of St. Peter! There, he is comforted.

The rich man dies and is buried, and is sent to hell. From there, he starts to make demands, finally recognizing Lazarus. He asks that Lazarus be sent into the heat of hell to quench his parched thirst. But the chasm between heaven and hell is too wide. The rich man persists - send him to my family, that they may be warned. Abraham responds that they should know - after all, they have the Law and the Prophets. The rich man relied on his own wealth, his own understanding. Of course, it was shattered. Now, he wants to warn others.

While some might preach on the chasm between the rich and the poor, or the need for social justice, which admittedly are needed, the parable calls us to more. It is calling us to repentance, to be aware of the consequences of our actions, consequences which may be eternal. It calls us to respect all persons and to rely on God alone, not on our wealth (whatever that might be - riches, intelligence, security, etc.). In the end, all of these will be stripped away.

In discerning our vocations, ask God to help us to rely on Him alone. We ask Him to help us to live with our eyes on eternity, and to be aware of how our actions have eternal consequences.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

We cannot serve two masters. When we try to discern God's will for our lives, if we think that we can serve God and yet live in the world without any conflict, we are mistaken. In this weekend's parable, Jesus uses the image of the dishonest servant who reduced the debt load of his master's debtors, so that he would have something to fall back on when he was 'fired' from his position as head steward. Jesus seems to praise him for his dishonesty, after all it is bearing false witness (the Master never gave permission) and in a way stealing. Setting the moral question aside though, one can see the kernel of truth - that we must lose the things that belong to us of this world, but also to be honest in all matters, especially the matters of eternity.

Priests are stewards of the mysteries of God, and as such we will be called to an accounting of our service. Have we been honest with the things of God, not simply dispensing them to make friends in this world? Have we been free to give those gifts to others who not only need them, but God desires them to be given?

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

The parable of the prodigal son is a classic parable that so often is simply dismissed as "yeah, I know that story." This weekend the Church presents us with the parable again, and provides an opportunity to listen again.

Then familial seen is a key part - two brothers and a (supposedly) elderly father. The youngest son asks for an inheritance, akin to asking his father to simply die. The father freely gives it. The son takes off, squandering his gift, and ending in the last place a good Jewish boy should be - feeding swine, and longing for their food. Coming to his senses, he returns home with a planned apology.

The Father, however, is waiting for him, and seeing him rushes out and asks that the his servants restore his son's dignity and rank. They throw a party. Meanwhile the older and more 'dutiful' son returns to hear the party. Standing outside, he refuses to go into the party. The father again goes out and speaks with him. He is left the choice - either he can stay outside in the dark, or he can go in and celebrate.

Isn't it amazing - one son wandered and lost everything, but came back. The other son stayed and thinking his father a harsh man, did not ask him for anything, and was more distant from his father than his younger sibling.

That is the point for us. When we respond to God's call, are we in reality distant and out of relationship to God? Have we wandered and allowed God to embrace us in His love and restore us to our original dignity which we last in our sinful wandering? Are we able to let God lavish His love on us, letting him be the truly prodigal One?

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

No one can follow Christ without first counting the cost, and then willing to sacrifice that for the sake of the kingdom. We need to be aware of what we leave behind in order to truly leave it, in order to be detached. This is the 'hard to translate' meaning of the word that we have here with "hate". It is not that we actively hate, despise, and hold in contempt parents, siblings, spouse, and children, but that we have a healthy detachment from them, that we see them as second to our own response to Christ. In fact, with Christ leading, many have found holiness in serving their families.

Our own Cross is Christ's individual call to each one of us. Our cross is our vocation, not a thing of torture, but rather a means of transformation, that will lead us outside ourselves to live for Him, and as such to serve others. Are we willing to let all else go?

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Jesus gives us the rules of Christian etiquette, especially when attending weddings and banquets, in today's Gospel passage. He tells those gathered for the feast to take the lower places at the table versus the seats of honor. He noticed the guests clamoring for the positions. We should be humble enough to take a lower seat, to think of ourselves as less. If the host wishes, he or she can invite us to move up to a place of honor.

But Jesus also teaches that one one has a celebration, one should not expect to be returned, in fact the guest list should be filled with those that would not be able to return the favor. Again, this takes humility to be able to invite people for who they are, not for what they can do for us.

Those considering a vocation to the priesthood or consecrated life need to reflect on this need for humility, to know one's true status. We should be empty of our own clamoring for honor, and instead be aware of our duty. We should be able to 'socialize' with the weak, disabled, and poor. We are to serve those in need, not those who can met our needs. Nothing is more evil than a would-be servant of God that seeks accolades and social status, especially at the expense of meeting the needs of those who are 'little'. It is more righteous to be humble and to serve without expecting return.