Homily – August 17, 2014

August 17th, 2014

Jesus was a person of his time molded by the society in which he was raised. He believed in God’s promise to Abraham; I will be your God and you will be my people. The Jewish people, his people, were special to God above all others. As a Jew Jesus was to avoid any dealings with non-Jews lest he be tempted to be influenced by their way of thinking and living. Jesus saw nothing strange about the way women were treated in the home or in the community. The restrictions on the social life of women were just normal and right. As he grew older he knew he had to learn a trade so as not to be a burden on the community and be able to support a wife and family. To Jesus’ way of thinking everything about how life was lived and how people treated one another was perfectly normal.

When he entered adulthood at the age of twelve and showed a bit of independence by staying in Jerusalem after the feast to listen to the teachers in the temple. We are told that after being scolded by Mary, Jesus went back to the boring life of Nazareth but that he grew in wisdom and grace before God and man.

Threw his public ministry we can see occasions of that growth. When he sent the first disciples out to proclaim the good news that the kingdom of God was at hand he told them not to go near to the Samaritans because he was raised in a society that held a great hostility to the Samaritans whom they saw as heretics and unfaithful to the Law. Later Jesus moved beyond that narrow minded opinion of Samaritans and we have his great conversation with the Samaritan women at the well and his willingness to stay several days with the Samaritan people teaching them of the kingdom. He came to admire the integrity of these people and often used Samaritans as example of how people should live out their religious convictions.

Today’s gospel is a perfect example of how Jesus could grow beyond the mentality in which he was raised. He saw himself as sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel and that it would be right to waste him time with non-Jews, especially this noisy woman. It wouldn’t be fair to take the children’s, the Jews, food and throw it to dogs –people not deserving of God’s love and mercy. But the mother’s response, ‘even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the master’s table’ challenged Jesus’ opinion of foreigners. He admired her spunk, her challenge to his opinion of her kind and cured her daughter instantly. Jesus showed us his ability and his willingness to change.

In one way or another we are all set in our ways. We don’t particularly like it when we have to change. We’ve all been conditioned by the likes and dislikes of our upbringing. We hold back from accepting and respecting the faith and cultures of others. We just have to look at the conflicts plaguing the world today, conflicting arising from a need to impose on others the way we believe and live, conflicts arising from people’s unwillingness to share the good of the earth with others.

In our own lives we are challenged to question our own willingness to accept other people as they are, what they believe, how they live out their relationships or express their faith and culture. This is what we ask of others, should we not do the same for them? May all of us continue to grow in a willingness to accept other people as they are.

Homily – August 10, 2014

August 10th, 2014

Last week’s gospel told of how Jesus fed over 5000 people with five loaves and two fish. By his simple action of being willing to share the little food he had with this large crowd he challenged the crowd to share whatever food they had with them with those around them. As we know there was plenty of food left over.

After all this excitement Jesus wanted to be alone so he sent the crowd away and told the disciples to go too. Jesus needed some peace and quiet.

The weather this summer has been pretty unsettled. We can start out with a beautiful day and then be caught in a heavy down pour. Imagine the number of boaters who head out on the water and everything is fine and then out of nowhere they are caught in a violent wind and pouring rain and they really are at the mercy of the elements. It’s the same with golfers. I’ve been caught twice this year in real downpours, thunder and lightning and all. And no umbrella.

A number of years ago I went with some friends to Port Dover to sail in a friends new sail boat. There were five of us and the owner of the sailboat was a beginner. We set sail in beautiful weather. Within the hour the sky darkened and a strong wind seem to come out of nowhere and we knew we were in trouble. The boat owner said,’ this is beyond me’ and we pulled down the sails and turned on the motor and headed for shore. It was an anxious, ever a frightening ride home as the wind grew stronger and the waves grew higher and the rain never stopped. I’m sure we all made our own acts of contrition as we made for the safety of land. The wharf at Port Dover never looked so good.

Peter and his friends were seasoned fishermen. They’d been through storms like this before and they appreciated the danger there were in. One of them saw something strange – a form, a ghost walking over the waves. They cried out their fear but this form, this ghost identified himself as their friend with the encouraging words,’ take heart, it is I, don’t be afraid.’ We have no idea whatever possessed Peter to say what he said,’ Lord if it is you bid me come to you on the water.’ Was he showing off, did he want to look braver than the others?’ Jesus took up Peter’s challenge and bade him come to him. We know the rest. When he took his eyes of Jesus and realized the mess he was in and how helpless he was Peter began to sink. Naturally Jesus reached out and caught him and got him into the boat and the wind and waves ceased and there was a calm.

We all know the word swamped. How many times in our lives have we felt swamped, overwhelmed by something that was going on in our lives? We don’t know what to do; we don’t know where to turn. We feel helpless as we try to sort things out with a spouse who just doesn’t see the problem, who just doesn’t want to talk about it. We feel swamped by unwillingness of an aging mother or father to accept our help or advice as how to make difficult decisions. We are confused as to what to do with young sons and daughters who are so confused themselves but don’t want advice. We know young adults who struggle with depression as they face their reality that after all their years of study and hard work it means nothing in today’s market. We can be tempted to give up as we try to fit into a new job, a new neighbourhood, a new parish and meet coldness and disinterest. We know that sinking feeling as we face our own weaknesses in areas of our lives knowing we have not kept our promises and good resolutions. We feel we can be overcome by the waves of disbelief as we sense an emptiness in our prayer life and the absence of God. We find it hard to stay afloat as we wonder if it is all worthwhile. How many times in our stormy lives have we called out in fright and doubt ‘save me Lord?’

In those confusing and painful times Jesus chides us for our lack of trust in his love and care for us. Why do we doubt? Didn’t He tell us he will always be with us? Didn’t he warn us that following him would not be easy? Didn’t he say, come to me all you who are weary and find life burdensome and I will refresh you? Finally, didn’t Jesus die on the cross for each one of us? Jesus is our personal Lord, Jesus is our personal savior. Each one of us means something to him, each one of us is important to him. If we can hold on to that conviction then we will not be swamped by the storms that come out of nowhere in all our lives and we will answer the invitation he gave to Peter as he called to him over the waves ‘come’ and he will stretch out his hand and catch us and hold us and see us through our storm. May we always trust his words, ‘take heart, it is I, do not be afraid.’

Homily – August 3, 2014

August 3rd, 2014

Maybe the event told in today’s gospel was meant to be a reminder to the people present of how God fed the Israelites with manna from heaven and water from a rock while they struggled their way to their land of promise. Jesus’ wonderful act of care and kindness for the wellbeing of this great crowd can be a reminder to all of us that we are constantly in the mind of God even though we are often unmindful of God. Jesus tells us that we are of greater value than the lilies of the field in all their beauty and we are of greater value than the birds of the air for whom he provides so generously. In a wondrous way Jesus fed this great crowd with five loaves of bread and two fish with plenty of food left over to teach us of the Father’s constant care and concern for each of us. He told us that the very hairs of our head are numbered.

There can be another way of looking at this gospel. This feeding of the multitude can prefigure Jesus feeding us, as he does at this Mass, with his own body and blood strengthening us as we make our own way through life.

But here’s something else we might find in today’s gospel. Everything Jesus said or did was meant to invite people to grow, to move just one step, even a baby step beyond where they are into a deeper relationship with God.

The people who followed Jesus that day were not dumb. They probably all brought something with them to eat. In taking his five loaves and two fish and offering it to those around him Jesus challenged them all to do the same. In following his example of generosity, his willingness to share the little he had with others, the people were willing to share and mix with those around them and their lives were better for it. He invited them in to imitate the generosity of God.

The news reports we see every day make us wonder what is happening to human kind. The hatred and brutality of people toward those different than themselves is beyond belief. It is the little people, the women and children caught in the middle of power struggles who suffer the most. We look; we wonder and maybe even despair. What can we do? Realistically we can’t do anything to change things in Gaza or Israel or the Ukraine, or in the conflicts going on in Africa.

What can we do? How can we make the world a better place? We can start with the person or persons who are in our face. Our husband, wife, son, daughter, grandchildren, our lonely shut in neighbour, people with whom you work, people you meet in an elevator or in the supermarket, people at the checkout counter, people on the street.

What can we do? Be kind, be respectful, be aware, and be concerned. The person in your face is a child of God, as you are. The person in your face is you brother or sister in Christ. The person in your face is a person for whom Christ died on the cross. How we treat them, speak to them, help them in anyway can make a difference in their lives and in ours.

There was a movie out a few years ago titled ‘The Ark’. The ark meant an act of random kindness. It could be as simple as holding a door open for someone or letting someone through in traffic or complimenting someone on how good they look – it could be so many other little gestures of kindness or recognition – but they do make a difference, they do make the world a little more human.

The life of Jesus was filled with acts of random kindness as in today’s gospel he takes the little he has and shares it with others and that act sent ripples through the crowd and people became concerned with those around them.

Jesus shares his life with us today as he invites – take and eat, take and drink – an act of random kindness. May his generosity to us inspire and motivate us to bring light and love and healing into the lives of those who are in our face by our own acts of random kindness.

Homily – July 27, 2014

July 27th, 2014

Our first reading tells of the time when the Lord God came in a dream to the young and inexperienced King Solomon, a new king of Israel who probably had many a sleepless night wondering how he could live up to the example of his famous father King David. Solomon knew his limitations. He saw himself as a child burdened with inexperience. He did not know how to go out or come in.

God told Solomon to ask for whatever he wanted to fulfil his new task as King. Solomon asked for an understanding mind, a listening heart to be able to know good from evil. Solomon knew the mistakes his father David made in his life, his will to power and wealth, his infidelity and betrayal of friends, so he asked for the ability to discern good from evil, love from lust and justice from injustice. All things came to Solomon in and through his understanding mind, his listening heart.

In the gospel we hear of a great treasure and a pearl of great price, things for which someone would give everything they have just to have as their own. There are people who would, as the saying goes, sell their souls to get to be the CEO of their company, sell their souls and compromise their personal integrity to close this business deal, sell their souls, their wife, their husband, their sons and daughters for a new partner, a new life. Such people are convinced that once they’ve done these things they’ll have it all, they’ll have their priceless pearl.

For us the discovered treasure, the pearl of great price is our relationship with Jesus Christ in the community of the church and our faithfulness to living by his example. This not a one shot deal, like winning the lottery. Relationships are meant to grow, to deepen. All through life we are lured by the trinkets of life, money, power, pleasure. It is not easy to keep these things in perspective. Every day of life we are bombarded with promises our lives will be fulfilled if we live in this condo, if we drive this car, is we use this cosmetic, join this heath club, go to this resort. We know these are empty promises but still they sound good. An international corporation has even mounted an entire advertising campaign on the celebration of pleasure: “We are all basically hedonists. That’s what makes us human. And we all want. All we’ve ever wanted is to have a good time. If it feels good, then just do it.” What tragic, selfish advice yet many people believe it to be true.

We are wise to remember the teaching of Jesus, ’what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose himself?’

Our pearl of great price is our relationship with Jesus Christ, who loved us and gave his life for us. This was St.Paul’s experience when he said, “I have accepted the loss of everything in order to gain Christ.” “Everything” means the fame and fortune that could have been his. To gain Christ refers to the one pearl of great price, his deep relationship with the crucified Christ.

Our personal relationship with Christ in and through our life in the church deepens day by day as we try to live as he taught us to life, as we try to love and forgive as Christ loves and forgives us, as we try to be open and accepting of others as Christ is open and accepting of us with all our faults and failings. As we try to be present to the poor, the homeless, the stranger and the lonely as was the Christ.

As we continue to celebrate this Mass we pray for ourselves and for each other that we find our pearl of great price, Jesus the Christ.

Homily – July 13, 2014

July 13th, 2014

Even though Jesus was teaching from a boat he used imagery that was familiar to all who listened. In the planting season the farmers would be in the plowed fields throwing the seed onto the soil. Sometimes the wind would carry the seed to places the farmer didn’t intend. Jesus tells about the fate of seeds that landed in different places – the pathway, on rocky ground, in among the weeds and the good ground soil on which most of the seed fell. The rest was up to Mother Nature – the watered earth bringing forth the seed sprung to life. Jesus is teaching about the different ways people accept and respond to the life and love of God their lives.

I’d like to ask you a question. Where do you see yourself in today’s parable? Well you certainly are not on the pathway nor on the rocky ground, otherwise you wouldn’t be here. You, like me are probably among the weeds trying to survive, trying to live the life to which God calls us, and trying to be as Christ-like as possible. We get caught up in the cares of the world and our energies are focused on family issues, job security issues, career issues, health and aging issues – you name it. We get around to God when these issues become too much for us to handle.

But that is not all that bad. Jesus told another parable about a farmer planting grain and of jealous neighbour sneaking in at night and sowing weeds among the grain. When this was discovered the farmer’s laborers wanted to root out the weeds but the farmed stopped them saying by doing that they might damage the grain. His advice was to let both grow together til the harvest and then they could sort it all out.

The farmer sensed that the grain’s struggle to overcome the weeds could provide a better crop of grain. His advice was wise; let both grow together til the harvest.’ We are all good seed but we find ourselves struggling with weeds in our lives, the cares of the world and our own personal issues with anger or resentment toward others, with our narrow-mindedness toward people of other nationalities, other cultures, other life styles. We find ourselves struggling with being accepting of the ‘different’. But these very struggles that call us to be more Christ like in our relationships with others remind us that we need the grace, the help of God in our lives, remind of the words of Christ, ’without me you can do nothing.’

St. Paul is a great example of a person who struggled with weeds. There was one in particular that plagued him. He referred to it as a ‘thorn in the flesh’ and three times he begged Christ to pluck it out and three times Christ refused. Paul resigned himself to living with this weed saying,’ gladly will glory with this weed that the strength of Christ may dwell in me.’

Our weeds, the cares of our world, won’t go away. They will challenge us all our lives but remember the strength of Christ dwells in us. May we trust the truth that our weeds will help us, with God’s grace, to yield a harvest of a hundred fold.