Thursday, August 31, 2017

GOING HIS WAY


1. Things don’t always turn out the way we would like. Don’t bemoan, don't get angry, move on and…LET IT GO!
2.  No God, no peace. Know God, know peace. To know God, look for the good in you and in others.
3. God is in us...and we are in God. This is the truth, whether or not we realize it. We become more aware of this truth as we open our heart to one another.
4. When we are on fire with the Spirit of God...the spirit of peace and joy and love, it is the culmination of humankind.
5. To be set on fire means a new way of seeing and being.
6. Our primary work is to reflect the image of God. This week, how will you make God’s presence visible in you?
7. What do my actions say about what I believe?
8. Faith is not about behaving better; it’s about seeing reality differently.
9. God is one. Better still, we and God are one.
10. We are not alone. God is with us. God is with all whom we encounter. Pass it on. With your words. With your actions. That's our mission.
11. If we could remember (especially when tempted) that GOD IS HERE - WITH US, we could never sin.
12. Do we seek to keep God's commandments in the hope of a heavenly reward or to avoid eternal damnation, or do we do it out of love?
13. Nothing explains God’s incarnation in Jesus and his ministry as much as these words: My house is your house. He came to tell us, Mi casa es su casa!
14. More than what we do, our Good Shepherd is concerned with who we are...to become the person God has created us to be.
15. The way to God: true hospitality - ask yourself, “What do they need?”
16. God is a mystery. God is incomprehensible. Rather than seeking to understand God or prove the existence of God with our brain, let us simply be drawn to God as a baby is drawn to its mother.
17. We have won the biggest lottery! We have received a heart transplant! We have God's heart...God's spirit within us...to give us new life!
18. Why do we kill each other…with words if not guns? Because we fail to see the holy presence of God in each other.
19. Is Jesus really the Son of God who died for me? How different is my life because I know him?
20. Perhaps, nothing makes us feel fully alive as kids at play.
21. We are the unique, unrepeatable manifestation of God.
22. The altar is the well where we encounter Christ ...who quenches our thirst...and we quench his.
23. Ingratitude is the genesis of all our sins. We aren’t satisfied in what we have, and who we are.
24. Discipleship: a desire and commitment to return to our truest self. As Jesus said, “The truth will set you free.”
25. Not by accumulating riches, but by giving away that which we have, shall we become the Christ we seek.
26. Wherever we are is holy ground because God is with us wherever we are.
27. Integrity: if you have it nothing else matters; if you don't have it, nothing else matters.
28. Each day write one word - a virtue - on your palm to remind you of the person you want to be.
29. Think about a couple of words you'd want on your tombstone. Then live a day that way. Live every day that way.
30. The desire to gain wealth and the fear to lose it are the worst moral disease from which our world suffers.
31. We continue to be as one with God as we were with our mothers in their womb.
32. We are most like God when we break down the walls that separate us into "us' and "them".
33. The first step of peace, which is the most important, is to remember that God dwells within each of us.
34. Christmas expresses God's great joy of getting the Christmas present God wanted and wants...to be one with us.
35. Look for the good and you will discover God. I am convinced that the word ‘good’ is an extension of the word ‘God’.
36. Giving the best of ourselvesThat's the best present for God...and for ourselves. You cannot receive what you don't give.
37. Seek more fully the guidance of the Lord - our spiritual GPS.
38. We are pregnant with God!
39. I would like to hear God say to me, "Thank you". What would you like God to say to you…today?
40. What if God wants us all in paradise? They why be good? Why love all 'sin limites', unconditionally? Perhaps to discover and enter the kingdom...here and now.
41. We are beautiful caterpillars now. The butterflies we will become, we can only imagine.
42. Imagine if Jesus were to come to your home. And if anyone complained he'd defend you. He'd say, “She's my sister...he's my brother. I love them.”
43. When we realize that God's love and our talents are unearned, we act differently; we start giving unearned love to others.
44. What is most important in prayerAWARENESS! GOD IS WITH US! When we become aware, no words are necessary. And the best prayer: saying “Thank You” to God.
45. The ultimate test to obtain the greatest joy is love of neighbor.
46. We come to the Eucharist to be cleansed...to be healed. And we are. Just like that. What good news!
47. Christians are fine at talking, but what do we do? Christianity is not about ideas but about deeds inspired by love.
48. You should forget about knowing God, unless you are willing to love the world with great abandon.
49. The best gift you can give another is not from your own treasure but to help them discover theirs.
50. We are all stewards of God's bounty...which includes our gifts and possessions.
51. Death leaves a heartache that no one can heal...but love leaves a memory that no one can steal.
52. Home is where Mom is. Jesus came to show us the love...the way...of mothers so that we would know the way home.
53. We are all living gospels. If we could teach the world one thing, what would it be? What about seeing God everywhere?
54. The test of faith is in the storms of life. How does faith affect our storms? How do storms affect our faith?
55. Life is full of blessings, but at times it can also be one battle after another. Our greatest blessing and weapon is God within us.
56. When we let our light shine, we transform the world.
57. God (like beauty) is in the eye of the beholder. What we see determines how we live.
58. Living based on having is less free than lives based on doing and being.
59. Living without passion is no life at all. FALL IN LOVE!
60. How we walk with the broken speaks louder than how we sit with the great.
61. Giving is not just about making a donation; it's about making a difference.
62. Whoever takes life, kills self; whoever gives life, gives life to self.
63. We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.
64. More important than whether we receive Holy Communion is how we live holy communion.
65. Prayer - talking to God heart-to-heart - can move God and make miracles happen. 
66. The key to happiness: "Thank you".
67. Jesus Christ, Prince of Peace and King of Kings, doesn't want followers. He wants imitators!
68. The question is not whether God is real, but whether belief in God makes a real difference in our lives.
69. Reach out to help another, and bring out the best in both.
70. Live most fully and give life; give life and live most fully.
71. The best medicine for an ailing relationship: an attitude of gratitude. Find the good in you and the other, and give thanks. Guaranteed to soothe and heal.
72. What people say about us, or do to us, often says more about them than about us. Be careful before you change your self-image or behavior.
73. Discover and affirm the best in yourself. Don't let anyone or anything change you from being that person.
74. The miracle of our transformation into the Body of Christ requires our full and active commitment.
75. Jesus did not come to change bread and wine into his body and blood; he came to change us!
76. “Take and eat”…become what you receive, and transform yourself and this world.
77. What makes us most like him? Loving. Loving as he loved…loving especially those who are not lovable. It is these who need our love most.
78. The best way to be the Body of Christ is to be so transparent that Jesus is visible in us.
79. Every step in imitating Jesus, makes us more and more the Body of Christ. 
80. The three golden rules for encountering God - AWARENESS, AWARENESS, AWARENESS.
81. There is a hunger in all of us for authenticity!
82. We are loved…by God. Period. Nothing in life is more important than this.
83. Our call to be socially responsible is about opening our heart to those who hurt. Thus, the question for us is, To whom do I give my heart?
84. There is a mysterious connection, it seems, between the will of God and our own heart’s desire. We discover who we are only by becoming conscious of the most authentic desires, loves, and longings of our heart.
85. To dine with others is to be in solidarity with them…to say to them, I want to be friends with you.
86. “Be not afraid.” The most spoken words in the Bible – 365 times – by God, no less. We are very precious to God.
87. If Jesus were sitting in your living room, asking, “What do you want?” What would you say?
88. And if you were invited in Church to Come on down! to renew your total commitmentwould you?
89. Jesus said, “I go to my Father and your Father”. In other words, “You are what I am.” We have God’s life within us.
90. If you want to hear God's voice, listen to the cry of the poor.
91. The reality of the world is this: 20% have more than they need, while 80% lack what they need. 
92. God says to us, "I have no hands but yours."
93. We were created to make music - to be in harmony with each other, and with all creation.
94. Jesus says to us, "If you want to follow me...if you want to be like me, just do as I do. Give your all."
95. The key of life is to be one with him. All our burdens and tribulations are lifted.
96. “The Church has always venerated the Divine Scriptures just as she venerates the Body and Blood of Christ.” In the Word it is God who is speaking to us personally.
97. Lest we judge ourselves, or others, as weeds, let us remember that God's loving eyes see us as flowers in God’s flower garden.
98. The treasure which is God is found in the soil of our being; the great pearl, which is also God, is in the midst of the challenges and hum-drum, routineness of our day.
99. We are like Superman, who came from another world with super powers to eradicate evil. We came from God, with even greater powers and with the same mission. Why do we choose to act like Clark Kent?
100. As we sail through the storms of life, let us invite Jesus into our boat - our life - and we'll discover the peace that only he can give.   
101. We have, running through our body and soul, a life force that is God's own life. We are Church - called together by Jesus to discover and manifest God's love and presence.
102. More than love...more than faith...the best way to be Christ-like is to be "moved with pity".
103. Like twins or triplets in a mother’s womb, we are all in God’s womb.
104. In silence God speaks to us…and in silence we also encounter ourselves.
105. Whatever you do, do it because of who you are…who you want to be.
106.  Mercy and forgiveness begin with the recognition of our own failings.
107. The true path of life: do no harm; help as many, as often as you can; and take time for self-knowledge and self-improvement.
108. Life is measured not by its duration, but its donation.
109. The measure of discipleship is not how much we give, but how much we hold back.
110. Happiness doesn’t result from what we give, but from why we give.
111. The way to holiness is kindness – loving people more than they deserve.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

WE ARE - CHURCH


Who am I? Jesus asks his disciples. We might ask him the same question, Who are we? Before we even ask, he tells us, You are my church! 

Jesus used this very word in today's gospel, "church". He will do so again two chapters later, which we'll hear in two weeks. These are the only two times in the gospels when Jesus uses this word, although it is used in other books of the New Testament.

The whole New Testament was written in Greek, and the Greek word that we translate as "church" means "people called together". That is worth thinking about. Often, when we hear the word "church" we tend to think of an institution or a building. But that's not what the word means. It means people...people who are called to come together in faith.

Next week I go to visit a part of the world that I do not know. I like to think of it as visiting part of my family that I do not know. And I wondered what it would be like if someone from another part of the world visited us, someone who may have never heard of Christians. What would they see in us? What would they report back to their family and friends?

Perhaps, it might go something like this:

We found this group of people at Our Lady of Good Counsel, in St. Augustine, Florida, who, believe it or not, can trace themselves all the way back to Jesus Christ! They go back that far, and are direct descendants of Jesus and his disciples.

After Jesus died, his disciples continued on as a group, and they invited others to join them. They explained to new members who Jesus was and how he lived and what he taught. As they died off, all this was passed on to others, who passed it on and on from one generation to the next. And this group in St. Augustine can trace itself all the way back to the beginning.

Besides that, they have writings from the first century about Jesus and about the early disciples. It's remarkable. They go all the way back.

Moreover, this group of people in St. Augustine have a real sense of being called by no less than Jesus himself. Imagine. After all these years they still feel that Jesus is here on earth calling disciples.

There's more. These people experience some kind of 'life force' within them that is more than human lifeThey say that they have, running through their body and soul, a life force that is God's own life. Can you believe that? Human beings who claim to have God's own life coursing through them! You see they believe that Jesus is still alive, and that Jesus has breathed his own Spirit upon them as he did upon his first disciples.

This 'life force' is what most of all binds them together as a group. They say that it is stronger than ties of blood or race or country. It goes far deeper, and they are joined together in a way that goes far beyond any human bonds.

That's not all. Listen to this. They believe that they are in touch with the dead. They really do. These people believe that dead people aren't really dead. People go through death sort of like through a doorway and they're still alive - different, but still alive. These people in St. Augustine still include the dead as part of their community. They call it something like 'communion of saints'. They can talk to them, pray for them, and those who are dead can pray for those who are still here on earth. In other words, the dead are still considered part of this group they call 'church'.

There's more, and this next part may be the strangest of all. These people in St. Augustine have a different way of life - in some cases, really different. For example, they believe that instead of hating our enemies, killing them...we're supposed to love them, forgive them, and do good to them. They talk about 'turning the other cheek' when someone slaps you. It makes you wonder how a group like this could have survived all these years.

They also believe that this world, this universe, and everything in it, belongs to God. So what they're supposed to do is share what they have, especially with people who don't have much. They remember all sorts of quotes from Jesus about this, and they consider themselves as 'stewards' - managers - of what really belongs to God.

There's lots more, but this is the one that we found most startling. These people in St. Augustine come together once a week for a meal - a banquet - and they believe that Jesus is the host of this banquet. They believe that Jesus is right there with them. They actually get together around a table (they call it an 'altar') and Jesus, as the host, speaks to them, and eats with them.

Now, understand...they believe that they're not simply imitating what Jesus once did with his disciples, or remembering what Jesus did. They believe that Jesus is right there, really there, and having a meal with them. It's all 'live' - really happening.

But, not only that (and here's the part we couldn't figure out) they believe that Jesus gives himself to them as food. They call it the 'bread of life'. They say that they receive Jesus into themselves and that because of this they are shaped more and more into the likeness of Jesus Christ himself. 

They do this every week and for them it's the most powerful, awesome, wonderful thing that they do. Every week they do this! We watched them do it. They sing, and pray, and listen to the words of Jesus, and join with him in giving themselves entirely into God's hands as he did in his own life and especially in dying on the cross. This is the heart of their life as a group called together by God.

Well, that's how we might look to people who visit us. And do you know what? They'd be right. That is who we are. And it all goes back to Jesus himself. 

In these 2,000 years we've had a great mixture of success and failure, holiness and sin. Why, right from the beginning, Peter denied Jesus three times - under oath. And all the disciples abandoned Jesus when he was arrested. And not too many years later, Peter and Paul got into a public disagreement, and people took different sides. 

Oh, we can look from the early days to our day and find plenty of evidence of how human we are. We're not a perfect group of people. 

But our faith is not in ourselves. Our faith is in Jesus Christ who promised to be with us all days, even to the end of the world. The Church isn't the only place he said he would ever be. It's the only place he said he would always be.

What a gift to be part of this gathering we call "Church". It's a cause for celebration. And celebrate we will.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

PRAYER THAT MOVES GOD


Lay people make up about 99% of the Church. The pope, bishops, priests, deacons and religious make up the rest. Now, God reveals Self and speaks to all of us. The Church officially recognizes this, calling it sensus fidelium. So today, instead of a homily, I thought we would take a few minutes of silence to see what God wants to say to each of us. What do you think? [Pause]

OK, I’ll give you my take. There are two key themes in today’s readings: first that we are called to be inclusive, and secondly the power of prayer. Is there's anything our country needs more today than prayer and to be united?

A leading politician dies and goes to heaven. As St. Peter escorts him in, he is shocked to see members of the other political party. They, in turn, stare at him and are speechless. He asks St. Peter, Why are they speechless? St. Peter replies, Because you're the last person they expected to see you here.

If there’s anything Jesus taught us, it is that we are called to be inclusive – to be one - not "us" and "them". Indeed that was his last prayer…not just to be kind in church, but to change our way of thinking...our way of living.  

Let’s look at today’s readings. From Isaiah, Foreigners will worship in my temple…for my house shall be a house of prayer for all. In our Responsorial Psalm we sang, Let all the nations praise you. In the Letter to the Romans, St. Paul speaks of God’s mercy upon all.

And in our gospel, Jesus goes to pagan territory and there encounters a Canaanite - ancient enemies of Israel. Why did Jesus go to Tyre and Sidon? Perhaps, down deep he knew, as he says to his disciples at the end, Go to all nations and proclaim the Good News of God’s great love for all.

One thing we know for sure is that Jesus was not exclusive. He ate with all kinds of sinners: Pharisees, prostitutes, and tax collectors. He loved all. Still does.

We know this, and we seek to be most welcoming and inclusive at Our Lady of Good Counsel. But does this carry over into the rest of the week?

We are called Christians because we are his disciples …we want to follow him…to have that same attitude…especially when we gather to pray and break bread in God’s house.

But even more important than whether we receive Holy Communion is how we live holy communion.

Now regarding the second theme, we all love our children and know what’s best for them. We know what we need to do for their best interest. Still, at times, they have a way of changing our minds.

Does that also happen with God? Well, amazingly, that is what happened in our gospel passage. The Canaanite woman spoke up to Jesus and caused him to change his mind. 

Jesus said he was not there to cure Gentiles, but when he saw the faith of this mother, he was moved to do it. He saw things differently and did something he hadn't intended to do. The Canaanite woman caused him to change his mind, and make a miracle happen.

The first thing to bear in mind is that today's gospel passage is not just some historical story, but rather it is the Word of God speaking to us live today. What is God saying to us?

Perhaps that we shouldn't be all that surprised that our prayer can move God, just as Jesus was moved to change his mind. In part, this was because Jesus was a human being, like us in all things but sin. Though we may not think of him that way. 

We must remember that Jesus accepted human limitations - he got hungry and thirsty, just as we get hungry and thirsty. He had to learn to read. He had to die, as you and I have to die. And, like us, he sometimes changed his mind.

But perhaps there’s more. Perhaps, since we are made in the image and likeness of God, our willingness to change our mind also reflects God’s willingness to do so as well.

This has great implications for prayer. Some people say, Why should I ask God for this or that? God already knows everything and God knows what I'm going to ask before I ask it. Besides, God is changeless.

Let’s not be so quick. Remember God is a mystery. Let us not pigeon-hole God as if we know all about God and how God behaves. More importantly, we’ve all experienced the power of prayer. Perhaps our prayer does indeed influence God.

By “prayer” we mean not just going through the motions. There is a real conversation going on, as there was with the woman in today's gospel passage. Which means that prayer is nothing more than simple conversation...and we all know how to converse...we talk and we listen...heart-to-heart.

The Canaanite woman reminds me of another resourceful and witty woman - St. Teresa of Avila, who lived 500 years ago. She had a very special relationship with God, and she wrote a great deal, describing her experiences with God. One of the famous stories about her is the time she was riding in a donkey cart and it was overturned, throwing her into the mud. She said to Jesus, If this is how you treat your friends, no wonder you have so few of them!

In one of her books, Teresa gives us some advice on prayer: Remain in the Lord's presence continually, and speak to him, pray to him in your necessities, and complain to him about your troubles; be merry with him in your joys. All this you can do without set prayers, but with words that come from the heart. 

In another place she simply says, Avoid being bashful with God, as some people are. 

That's a refreshing thought. We need to give that a try... perhaps today, this week. I suspect that few of us really talk to Jesus that way. We can learn from the Canaanite woman and from St. Teresa. 

We might discover how close Jesus really is to us, and how close we are to him. We might discover how easy it is to pray. After all, Jesus is our brother. And we can talk to him as one of the family.

We might also discover that prayer can move God and make miracles happen. 

Saturday, August 12, 2017

SAILING WITH JESUS


Storms. We're used to them in Florida. And we have one in today's gospel. Let's look at it.

First, let's set the scene. It takes place in the Sea of Galilee, which is about seven miles by 13 miles, and over 150 feet deep. It's a large body of water.

Jesus came walking on that water, the gospel says, during the fourth watch of the night. That would be between three and six a.m. - the darkest part of the night.

The apostles are in a storm. A bad one. We've all seen them. Been in them. Perhaps while driving. We know the fear. But in a boat, in the darkest part of the night, in 150 feet of water? That is terrifying.

Speaking of the boat, it was probably about seven feet by 25 feet. Not a very large boat to be sailing on a body of water that large and that deep, but it's what they had back then.

So that's the scene, during the darkest part of the night, a storm is blowing, and the disciples are in a small boat. And where's Jesus? Not in the boat with them. At the beginning of this passage he was up on a mountain. Then he appears at some distance, walking on the sea.

You know the rest of the story. What do we learn from this scene?

The Sea of Galilee represents our world. You and I were born into this time and place. This is the piece of history on which we sail...where we spend our lives. It wasn't our choice, but here we are, and we can't escape into the past or the future. This is the sea we sail.

The darkest part of the night - the fourth watch. That represents whatever darkness there is in our life. May not know why. Part of our life is dark, not bright. We've all got those dark places.

The storm represents the problems in our life, problems great and small, which we can't seem to control, any more that the disciples could control that storm. Some are on the world scale. We worry these days about terrorism and the threat of nuclear war, 65 million displaced people - refugees - driven from their homes, alternative truth, health care for the poor and elderly, the ever-growing divisiveness in our country, and more. You and I can't seem to do much about these.

There are also problems in our Church. We seem to be just as divided here as well. Something that bothers all of us very much is that we haven't been able to inspire many of our youth and young adults to follow us in the path of faith that we were given by our parents. They don't go to Church regularly, if at all. We haven't been able to pass on our faith very well.

Then there are the storms in our personal lives. I can't list these for you, but we all have them. They churn in our stomach, and they're with us every day, and like the storm on the Sea of Galilee, we can't seem to control these either. Each of us has our own.

What about the small boat? That represents each of us. We face all these things and we feel small. We're tossed about by them, like that small boat on the Sea of Galilee. We're just trying to make it through the storm.

And Jesus, where is he? Of course, we believe in Jesus. That's why we come here to be with him in the Eucharist, but in these dark places and stormy places in our lives - he just doesn't seem to be part of them. He seems one step removed, looking at them from the outside. He can seem as far away as on that mountain, or nearby as he was on the sea, close to the boat, but not in it.

So what do we do? Well, I think we can learn something very, very helpful from this passage. We do what the disciples did. We cry out to him, and we bring him into our darkness, into the storm. We bring him into the boat! That's the key. And indeed that's what we do when we receive his Body in ours.

That dark place in my life? The storms in my life? Sometimes, I sit and talk to Jesus who may seem far away. Sometimes, I try to run from them and go somewhere to find Jesus, rather than bringing Jesus into the boat. That's the mistake Peter made. Jesus is willing to come here. He wants to come here. We have to let him in. But too often, we talk to him as though he were one step removed from us as we face the darkness and the storms.

Another thing. When we call the Lord into our boat, no need for some long-winded prayer. We need straight talk. Direct talk. Peter, when he was sinking didn't say, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, and I praise you and thank you for your goodness, and I was wondering if you would please turn toward me and be with me. No, Peter yelled, Lord, save me!

We need to talk straight to the Lord about the problems in our world, our Church, our personal lives. We need to speak clearly, emotionally.

What happens when we do that? Well, all the problems don't evaporate. But the storm inside me calms down. And the darkness in me brightens. And when the Lord gets into my boat - my life - I feel deep peace. In this gospel passage, when Jesus got into the boat the wind and sea became calm...and the twelve did too.

Today as you receive the Eucharist, feel the presence of our Lord in you, and this week as you think about the storms in our world, our Church, and in your own personal life, remember you're not sailing alone. He's with you... in your boat. Feel his peace.