Animated by God

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July 7, 2019 – 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Luke 10:1-12, 17-20

I have a small file folder where I keep newspaper clippings that mention someone in our family, especially their accomplishments, however small they may be. For instance, my dad was a good athlete, so I have yellowed accounts of his winning a decathlon championship in his twenties and a golf tournament in his forties. I also have more recent clippings of our children winning races or contests. I keep these because like most of us, I like to think of the successes of those I know, especially if they involve members of our own family.

In today’s gospel we read about Jesus sending out a rather large contingent of followers, seventy-two in all, who were tasked with letting others know that God’s kingdom is at hand. The hoped-for era of God’s presence and power among them had begun. So, expect change. And apparently change was occurring.

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Opportunity Knocks

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June 30, 201913th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Luke 9:51-72

I think that there’s a bit of a procrastinator in all of us. It’s certainly there in our children. I make a simple request of them like clean the garage, pick up the mess in the yard, straighten your room, set the table or do the dishes and I expect immediate action. In the history of our family immediate response to my requests happened maybe twice – or even less. Of course, when I look in the mirror, I see the face of a convicted procrastinator. My annual, monthly, weekly or daily “to do list,” rarely gets immediate attention, if at all. Important matters almost always intervene, easily becoming excellent excuses for me to delay what I was supposed to do. Sound familiar?

In today’s gospel Jesus calls his disciples to follow him – right away. Let’s get going, he says. Don’t make excuses. The Kingdom of God is now in play. The game is on. Its demands are there right now. So, let’s get going. Don’t waste the precious time being given right now. Opportunity knocks.

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Body of Christ

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June 23, 2019 – The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi)
Luke 9:11-17

Last summer our family from near and far gathered at our home in Montana for my birthday. We were celebrating a major mile-marker, the one somewhere between sixty-five and eighty-one. You can guess which one. The central celebratory event was quite naturally a meal to which were invited family and a few friends. The actual meal was preceded by relaxing beverages and it culminated with a huge cake covered with flaming candles and the usual song. It would be hard to imagine such a gathering without food and drink. And mostly, of course, family.

Today’s gospel recounts one of the many meals Jesus celebrated with his close friends and anyone who had interest in him – or he in them. This one was perhaps the largest, a cast of thousands. There are eleven communal meals described in Luke’s gospel. His opponents (and he certainly had some) criticized him because he ate with known outsiders and sinners (according to their judgment). Even they knew the power of sharing food with others.

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Holy Trinity: Love Alive

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June 16, 2019 – The Most Holy Trinity - John 16:12-15

While it is surely a challenge for us to attempt to understand God as a Trinity, there are some wonderful matters worthy of our thought as we try to grasp this, perhaps the most profound of the truths of our Christian faith. In fact, as soon as we think we fully understand God we are surely wrong. Still, let’s float a few ideas which, while not “the last word,” they can serve as a few first words of partial understanding.

Let’s begin with the thought that there is diversity yet unity within God. And in that diversity, there is total agreement, complicity and cooperation. An early heresy in the church claimed that there were two gods, a harsh and fearful god of the Old Testament and a loving God of the New Testament. This erroneous belief about God might have contributed to the spread of anti-Semitism, even among Christians. In response to this error, while there are certainly a variety of descriptions of the divine scattered through Holy Scripture, there is no foundation to believe that they describe the actions of two different deities. God is One.

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We Are Not Alone

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June 9, 2019 – Pentecost - John 20:19-23

Last month, I mentioned that one of the greatest of human fears is that of feeling totally alone. Even for those living alone, they are helped by the idea that they have family and friends who are thinking of them. Thus, they are not totally alone. Of course, that feeling of physical separation can be lessened by an occasional call, a letter, a card, and in our time, by a text.

This fear of aloneness even affected the first followers of Jesus. They wanted to remain with him. And even though he occasionally appeared to them after his Resurrection, they longed for a presence that was more constant. In a sense, closer. And they were not to be disappointed in this desire.

One of the dangers of celebrating the feast of Pentecost is to shorten or abbreviate its impact. We may think of it as a “one-time event” which, once it ended, it was over. We fail to think about its deeper, more timeless meaning. In other words, the fact is that God’s Spiritual presence is not an “up and down and back up again” affair.

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Christ Is Present

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June 2, 2019 – Ascension of the Lord - Luke 24:46-53

Family departures can often be difficult. Usually they initiate spatial separation from loved ones. “Children” leave home for school, a new job or military service. Most of the time, sadness comes to the surface. But not always. When our children left home to study (hopefully) at schools far from home or when they “left” for a new job, I felt a mixture of joy and sorrow. Joy arose from thoughts of their going to better places for them, settings where they would enjoy new people and places, new opportunities for personal and spiritual growth. But I would miss them, so if I was deeply affected as they moved out of sight - my tears were a mix of joy and sorrow. Good to see you go into newness for you and why do you have to leave? Typical reactions in families.

Today we recall the Ascension of Jesus into heaven. When I first learned about this event, I was a youngster. Being a student in a Catholic School, the day when we celebrated the Ascension was on a Thursday. It was a Holy Day of Obligation. Mass attendance was required of all Catholics. So, the day began with the whole student body of St. Joseph Catholic School gathered for eight-o’clock Mass. And then we were dismissed. We were free to roam the whole world while our public-school friends were kept all-day in school. This added to my experience of the day, which was already “interesting” as I thought about Jesus rising into the clouds. ...

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God with Us

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May 26, 2019 – Sixth Sunday of Easter - John 14:23-29

Parents know that one of the greatest fears of young children is that of being “left alone.” But that’s not just true of the young. Fear of being all alone haunts everyone at times. To be without help when we need it, to be forgotten by family and friends, to be all alone in a strange place is not only scary, it can be a cause for great concern. Products are now available especially to the elderly which create a call for help when no one is around. That’s important.

And Jesus knew about this fear and that’s why he assured his followers toward the end of his life that he would never leave them alone. After his resurrection he would return and enter their presence with God’s Holy Spirit. And while we may forget about God’s continuous presence with us and in us, it’s not because God in Christ is gone. Rather, it’s because we forget about God. In that sense, we leave God.

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Neighbor Love

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May 19, 2019 – Fifth Sunday of Easter - John 13:31-35

A Commandment Quiz: How many commandments did God give to us though Moses? This is not hard to answer, especially if you are a movie buff because a movie was made many years back about this. Ten commandments, of course. Now to advance to the next level of our quiz, you must answer the following question: How many commandments did Jesus give us? Hint. The answer is found in today’s gospel. He called it “a new commandment.” And it turns out that it is the hardest commandment of all to follow.

Jesus said that we are to love each other as he loves us. And how much does he love us? To put it in simple (yet very challenging) words, he gave his life for us. He lived in service to us. And not just to some of us, but to all of us. His love was without limit. One way to describe his love was to call it “unconditional.” And it is that same kind of love that Jesus invites us to have for each other.

It is interesting that there is no mention of “loving God” in his commandment. That’s because the way we show our love for God the most is when we love our neighbor. In formulating this commandment, no one can say that Jesus is soft. Or that his demands are minimal. In fact, if you understand the nature of neighbor love through the actions of Jesus, you get a sense of how difficult this is. When encountering need in anyone, he responded with a full and generous heart.

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Divine Love

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May 12, 2019 – Fourth Sunday of Easter - John 10:27-30

To his contemporaries, Jesus appeared as an ordinary man. Historians note that people in those days were a bit shorter than we are now. They suggest he might have been just a shade over five feet tall. Being middle-eastern, he would have had dark hair and skin. Beyond that, there is not much else we can say about his looks. But we can say a lot about his identity. And some of what we can say is found in this Sunday’s very brief gospel. Especially since it ends with Jesus saying that “the Father and I are one.”

When Jesus speaks of his father, he is referring to God. It is important to know that the word he uses to address God is “Abba.” It is a word drawn from family life and as many know, it can be roughly translated as “Dad.” It is an address of familiarity, closeness and, of course, love. Jesus is the first to address God in this unique way. Using that “name” for God would have been shocking to some. It might seem to lack a certain respect or reverence for the divine. Too much familiarity, even casualness.

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Focus on Mission

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May 5, 2019 – Third Sunday of Easter - John 21:1-19

Today’s gospel reading has the disciples of Jesus doing what they did before they met Jesus a while back. Peter was a fisherman and although he (and others) has seen and followed Jesus, including all those events that led to his death, they were acting as if nothing significant had changed. Of course, they experienced the change in Jesus with his resurrection, but for them, it was all back to normal. For Peter, that meant getting back into his fishing boat and heading back on the water. Others joined him.

Apparently, Jesus saw a need for reminding them of their new role and responsibilities in continuing his work in establishing God’s kingdom on earth. Like us at times, the disciples were perhaps unclear about their role. Or afraid to take it on. So, Jesus appeared to them after they were in the middle of a night of fishing where they experienced a common thing among those who fish - nothing! To capture their attention, Jesus gave them some advice and we know the rest of the story. One-hundred and fifty large fish were caught. Then he prepared breakfast for them using some of the fish they had caught.

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