Friday, August 26, 2011


Reading 1 Jer 20:7-9

You duped me, O LORD, and I let myself be duped;
you were too strong for me, and you triumphed.
All the day I am an object of laughter;
everyone mocks me.

Whenever I speak, I must cry out,
violence and outrage is my message;
the word of the LORD has brought me
derision and reproach all the day.

I say to myself, I will not mention him,
I will speak in his name no more.
But then it becomes like fire burning in my heart,
imprisoned in my bones;
I grow weary holding it in, I cannot endure it.

[This resembles psalm 69.  Check it out.]
I saw this today as I was preparing to direct my thoughts for the impending travel to Europe on the same day when this is going to be proposed by Our Holy Mother the Church for our edification. This is a powerful passage for many reasons, not the least of which is that it describes me so well.  How many times have I said that I would hold back.  I would not stand for the set backs in His Name any more.  I was going to be a Pew Sitter, mind my own business, shut up, make the sign of the Cross, sit there and listen and go home and watch football, or some such inanity.  Ha! Never happens.
I remember when I changed career and life-style [nothing to do with rainbows] I told a dear uncle of mine that I was tired of "working with people."  I was going to get a $10.00 an hour job, sit there and shut up.  Put my time in and leave.  Play pool three nights per week.  He looked at me and said, "Stercus Taurorum, you will never be unable to live like that.  Get used to it."  He was right.  He was doubly right when it came to Faith, Doctrine and Religion.  There is no way that I can camp out in a pew.  Like Jeremiah, and like Paul, by the way, I can't shut up.  I have to let God through.  
Is this pretentious?  I don't think so.  As the liturgy of the day implores, "My soul is thirsting for you Lord." (Psalm 63)  When we thirst, we say so.  When we thirst, we don't just sit there, we speak up.  It doesn't take much.  A glass of water is all it takes.  That is not pretentious, it is the voice of Mother Nature being communicated.  When we talk about God, it is not we talking, it is God Himself speaking through us.  No matter what it is.  It can be as simple as "Please remember me and my family in your prayers."  Just like asking for a glass of water.  At the same time it is a confession of faith.  We have just told the hearer that the action of God through us cannot be stifled.  Is that pretentious?  Of course not.  Am I out of school in this?  No.  Examples?  Plenty.  
How many efforts do we make every day to stay neutral?  "I hope all will go well."
"I'm confident that we'll be fine."  "You know, the doctors today can do miracles."  You got the picture.  Jeremiah is telling us that the fire of God's love in him cannot be stifled.  His prayer is that God fooled him into thinking that life would be easy.  He blames God for making his life "impossible" because even though it is dangerous for him to prophesy, he can't help it.  

As it turns out, Jeremiah was actually in hot water.  His life was, in fact, in danger.  There was a time in his career that Jeremiah escaped to Egypt to save his life.  He came back anyway, and he continued to make life miserable for the very same people that he was harassing with God's word before his exile. The urge is too great.  And, he says, "God, it's all your fault.  You duped me. But, look at me, " becomes like fire burning in my heart,  imprisoned in my bones; I grow weary holding it in, I cannot endure it."  

No matter who we are.  No matter what our name is.  It could be Moses, Joshua, Deborah, Samuel, Nathan, David, Solomon, Isaiah, Jonah, Amos, Ezekiel, John, Jesus, Steven, Peter, James or Paul, we cannot be simple pew sitters.  We cannot be spectators in the life of faith.  The fire of the Spirit is too hot.  We have to respond.  We cannot be neutral.  When we stand up in front of the altar, walk down the aisle and confess our belief that this is His Mission and My Mission, we are signing up for the job.  We might think, like Jonah, that we can neutralize ourselves in the hold of the boat going in the opposite direction.  No way.  God's whale has a way of swallowing us and coughing us up onto the beach in front of those who need us the most.  So, we have to stay ready.  When we walk up to the altar  to join in the Presence at the table of the Divine Sacrifice we have to know that we are accepting  the mission.  We have to know that God is going to preach through us, whether we like it or not.  Just like Jeremiah.  We often have the temptation to think, "Hey, I didn't sign up for this."  Think again, little brothers and sisters, we sure did.  We will never be able to put out the fire in our hearts.  God will always keep it stoked and we will have to speak God's truth by word or by act, do not doubt it.  Like it is written in Isaiah, chapter six, ..."the Seraphim laid a hot coal on my lips..."  

I therefore leave you all with these final words.  The Sacred Scriptures are full of stories about humans who carry the Truth to the world because they carry the Flame of the Spirit of God in their hearts.    We who are brave enough to listen to the written, spoken and lived Word are among those Priests, Prophets and Kings who do God's work every day.  That is not pretentious, that is God's Mission at work in us.  When we have lived a life full of this mission, then we will be ready for the moment when God reaches out His Hand for us to take us with Him to the Everlastingly lush Garden of Heaven.  When that happens to me, be sure that I will not be expecting any of you to cry at my funeral.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Allow me some comments about life and some of the lessons that God teaches us through it.
Winning isn't all it's cracked up to be.  I am not making this up.  I used to think that winning was "the ONLY thing."  Then I lost a few.  The first ones were always because the other guys had been lucky.  There were some when the other guys caught us on a bad day.  Then, there were always the cheaters on the other side.  I was glad that for the most part, growing up I won more than I lost.  I never was "lucky" though.  Not me.  I was good.  Better than most of the rest.  Then I moved away from the warm confines of my small home town.  Then I really had to prove to myself that I was in fact, better.  It wasn't easy.  Nevertheless, I did manage to win more than I lost.  None of this .500, break-even bull for me.  I would wonder how some people could go through life at .500.  I still do.
If there is one important thing that I have learned it's that winning is not everything.  Sometimes you have to be able to be satisfied with survival.  As I've grown older, I have come to learn that sometimes even survival isn't anything to brag about.  I think of the 9/11 survivors.  I think of the Great Tsunami survivors.  What about the Chilean miners?  The Japanese tsunami/nuclear survivors. The prisoners of war who survive.  Escapees from concentration camps.  Do any of these humans ever regain what they had before surviving?  I often think about the soccer players who survived a plane crash in the Peruvian Andes.  They survived in large part because they ate the remains of those who had died.  You call that winning?  Do you even call that true survival?  Surely, they are alive.  I wonder if call it "being alive," boldly..  And they were athletes.  Competitive sorts.  They had to be good since they were on their way to an international match.
The Bible has some really great examples of Chosen Ones who were successful at what they did, but were never really totally fulfilled as long as they were alive.  I think of Joseph, the son of Jacob who despite everything became a powerful person in Egypt.  Thanks to his success and his rise to power he was able to provide God's people with a good life.  But before he died he won it all.  He was able to forgive his brothers.  He therefore lightened their burden by cleaning their conscience.  Then to make his survival complete, he made his brothers swear that they would bring his bones back to be buried next to his ancestors in Canaan. (Genesis, chapter 50)
The reality that shakes me the most is the one in which a person survives bad habits that are self destructive.  You'd think that this is the most exalted victory of them all.  If that is true, why do the ones that I know suffer so much from their "victory?"  I know people who have "survived" different things.  Drug abuse; alcohol abuse; the practice of violence towards others; prostitution; mental aberrations, etc.  All of the ones with whom I am familiar are happier than before.  True.  It is also true that the residue is "killing" them.  The Gospel stories and parables have strong lessons in them. They all have a "punch line."  They also have a mission attached to the punch line.  You know, easy stuff, like, "...Sin no more."
I could go on for quite a while about this.  Be that as it may, I leave you with the story the way it is.  I leave you to your own devices.  After all, I do not have the answer[s], as neither do you.  It is a mystery with which we all have to live.  I can only wish that the reward for winning was always pure and absolute happiness.  It isn't.  No matter how much you win, or how much you survive, happiness will never be distilled to its purest form.  We have to get used to it.  Sadly, some of us never do.  I hope that those of you who follow this series can handle living with this mystery.  Plus, I sincerely hope that you will win more than you short, survive.  I'm still convinced that it is better than the alternative.
Do I need to give you any more reasons why you should not cry at my funeral?

Friday, August 12, 2011


It is always interesting to see Jesus being tough on someone.  For so many of us Jesus is a nice, gentle, forever merciful person.  So many of us do not bother to go beyond our acceptance of the stereotypical Jesus of the sweet holy card art.  So many of us gloss over the parts of the Jesus story that show Him exercising His Father's Justice and living out His Father's decisions.  So often we forget that Jesus had been taught The Law by his parents.  They were Temple People.  His Uncle Zechariah was a priest and Jesus' mother was close to the family.  Remember Elizabeth?  Jesus also knew the Writings and the Prophets.  He knew who the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were.  He knew who the descendants of Cain, Ham, Ishmael and Esau were.  He knew it much more than we do.
When we hear Canaanite, Edomite, Amorite, Samaritan we, if we have any idea, think of a corner of the world.  A region.  We relate to Canadians, Mexicans, Chinese and Japanese, English and French as coming from somewhere.
When Jesus saw Canaanites, Edomites, Amorites, Jebusites and Samaritans He related to them as coming from someone.  That's who the Canaanite woman is.  She comes from Ham, who came from Noah, who came from Seth, the third son of Adam and Eve.  Jesus did not even have to look it up in Google.  Jesus knew that Ham was a pariah son for having disrespected his father and invited his brothers to do the same. [Gen. 9; 18 ff]  Ham was then cursed, personally as well as in his descendants, as Cain had been after his crime.  The Canaanite woman then, as so many others whom Jesus meets along the way, are the fruit of those who sinned and turned away from the righteousness of God.  Jesus, and his followers, know who they are from whom they come.  They knew that these were not the people of Moses.  They knew that these were not the people who were the children of those who suffered in Egypt for 400 years and walked through the desert for 40 more. No.  These were the people who were alive only because God had cut them some slack, big slack.  They were in the Promised Land because they, or their forebears had survived the onslaught of the Chosen People who were conquering the land in the name of God and His promise to His people.  
Jesus then has a moment, and there are many in the Gospel, when He reminds His People that His Mission is to them.  That's priority red.  Then, after the strong words fail to weaken the woman, comes the BIG lesson.  "O woman, great is your faith!  Let it be done as you wish."   Faith. Faith in a son of Shem, the good and respectful brother of Ham.  Faith in a son of David.  Faith in the Son of God, the Messiah, who is not afraid to get outside of His "comfort zone" to bring comfort and solace to everyone, no matter from whom they come.  
Jesus did not follow the advice of His disciples to "send her away."  He had something to say to them, and He was going to make sure that they not only heard it, but would see it too.  He knew that she had to be undergoing strong inner turmoil because her people, her brothers and sisters from Ham, must have been emotionally disturbed by her outrageous behavior before this Jew.  The cultural clash contributes to the power of this story.  At the reading of the first words out of the mouth of Jesus, we can easily jump to the conclusion that this is a die-hard "red neck."  The full story shows us that like His Father, Jesus is at the command of the needs of everyone. In this story we have the introduction to the "Servant King" with the towel around His waist.  
Finally, there is something very important about the life of Jesus.  It is something about which we do not think enough.  It is the fact that Galilee, then as now, was not a very deeply religious region of the Promised Land.  It was, and is, a region of commerce, a region of economic stability, a region of ethnic and national diversity.  It was, and is to this day, a region that is not appreciated by the true, deeply religious Jew.  It is the region where secular action takes place.  It is the region of political dialectics.  Strength versus strength, weakness against weakness, all mixed in with ideologies, religions, politics and economics.  Look at the map.  You'll get an idea.  Then look at a New Testament map, and you'll see the connection.  Jesus lived and preached at least 80 percent of His life in the Galilee.  It is 100 miles from Nazareth to Jerusalem.  It is at least one day's walk from Capharnaum to Tyre and Sidon.  Was Jesus going to the beach?  He had it right there in Galilee.  He and His disciples had reasons to go there.  It is an area where fishing was an important part of the economy.  So He and His "buddies" were going "fishing."  Along the way, He "caught the big one."  It does not seem to be recorded what His professional fishermen friends thought about the "catch."  
So, what do you say?  Care to go fishing?  That's not what Jesus says.  He says, "Go fishing.  Throw your net over all oceans.  Take everything you catch on board and bring it to me."
By the way, no need to dry at my funeral.  I've gone fishing.