Can You Hear Me Now?

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September 9, 2018 – 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time - Mark 7:31-37

My grandson looked right at me and said, “Grandpa, you’re not listening to me. I don’t want oatmeal. I want corn flakes. Aren’t you listening?”

He was only five, but he already knew how to capture my attention. Accusation of not listening will do that. Ignoring a child’s request can be a major flaw of adults in the mind of young children. They were not yet old enough to know that their elders have at times similar thoughts. Honest listening is not easy for anyone, but it is very necessary for healthy and holy living. Even at breakfast.

All human communities, the Church included, struggle with good listening. Sometimes, there is just too much noise, too many distractions, that get in the way of listening. Sometimes we may not want to hear what’s being said. We can have what’s called “selective hearing.”

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Coming Clean

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September 2, 2018 – 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

Today’s gospel begins with the Pharisees (a religious group known for their passion about following the external practice of religious laws and customs) complaining to Jesus about the behavior of some of his disciples. Apparently, they would eat without first ritually washing their hands. That was a religious custom of that time. This is not totally unlike parents today who routinely say to their young children before a meal, “Did you wash your hands? Let me see them. I want proof.”

Of course, today’s parental reminder is mostly based on health reasons. Dirty hands can contaminate foods that are eaten with hands – a practice many children seem to have. But the Pharisees were focused on other matters, namely prescribed external acts that are part of their way of being religious. “Follow all the rules,” they would say.

First, note that Jesus does not give an excuse for the behaviour of his disciples. He does not defend them and their “dirty” hands. But he is concerned about what might lie beneath the surface of the Pharisee’s complaint. And what lies beneath the surface is always the concern of Jesus. Thus, he takes that moment to teach the Pharisees about what really is important, namely their basic religious attitudes about following God’s law. He is calling for full personal honesty.

 

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Our Loving Parent

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August 26, 2018 – 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time  - John 6:60-69

Jesus was not a self-made man. He did not pick himself up by his own bootstraps. He was not self-sufficient. He was not a lone ranger. He was not his own man. All that he was and all that he did flowed to him and through him from God. And like the great mystic that he was, he was conscious of this connection.

He always went where God’s Spirit led him. He always said what that same Spirit instructed him to say. He loved and cared for others as God did. He was God’s hands and God’s heart. He was God’s message to the world. To you and me.

 

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Encountering Our Lord

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August 19, 2018 – 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time  - John 6:51-58

What was it like to have really known and been close to Jesus as he walked the dusty roads of Galilee? Or shared a meal with him at a family home in a small village? Or to have been with him on the stormy waters of Lake Galilee? Through the four gospels we learn about many of the ups and downs experienced by Jesus and with Jesus during those years that are called his public life. And those gospels were written not just to give an historical description of the more important moments of his life, but to introduce later Christians to the one who continues to be among them.

 

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The Gift of Life

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August 12, 2018 – 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time - John 6:41-51

One of the largest (and scariest) questions asked by those who are in their later years is this: Is most of my life behind me or ahead of me? To be personal for a moment, I will be celebrating my 80th birthday this year. I don’t have to be a whiz at math to calculate that my life here on earth is mostly behind me. But is there another way of thinking about this? Today’s gospel says there is.

 

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Good Food

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August 5, 2018 – 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time - John 6:24-35

People think a lot about food these day. Maybe now more than ever. And over time, our personal food preferences might change. When I was a kid, if something was labelled “organic,” you likely wouldn’t eat it – or even touch it! Anything called a health food might have required a doctor’s prescription. And items like “ancient organic Ghee” or “veggie samosas” would not likely find their way into mom’s grocery basket. Although they are all available today at a Whole Foods store.

Seriously, today’s interest in food is driven by increased awareness that being healthy includes eating the right food, food that contains only what helps our bodies to be healthy, Artificial additives are not recommended. We want our food to be “real.”

 

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Multiplication of Love

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July 29, 2018 – 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time
John 6:1-15

There are many ways to interpret today’s gospel. It’s also one of the most immediately recognized gospels when mere mention is made of “the loaves and fishes.” What an amazing miracle! From five loaves and two fish Jesus makes enough food for thousands! And there are even leftovers. Twelves baskets! (Side comment: It was at this time that Jesus invented a kind of food that has nourished an untold number of families for centuries, namely, “leftovers”!)

But seriously, there is a very important point about this gospel. This account of Jesus feeding the multitude is a sign of God’s generous love, of God’s unlimited forgiveness and mercy. And why is this important to think about? Because we often limit our calculation in human situations, especially those involving the act of giving, to what is called “zero-sum thinking.” A word about that.

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Sabbath Refreshment

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July 22, 2018 – 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mark 6:30-34

It is mid-summer. It’s a good time to recall the song, “Summertime.” Many of us can fill in the next line: “When the livin’ is easy.” Summer is often connected with the idea of holiday and vacation. Travel and leisure. A time to take it easy. Today’s gospel addressed the importance of taking a breather when needed. It’s akin to a Sabbath rest – although in this instance, there is no mention of that. Still, Jesus noticed that the disciples were busy with pressing crowds and ceaseless activities and that they needed a break. So, he said, “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest awhile.”

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Together in Mission

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July 15th, 2018 – 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Mark 6:7-13

Here are your orders for your first apostolic “sales” trip. Take one walking stick, no extra clothes, no food (you’ll be able to eat when you arrive at a welcoming destination) and travel with one other person. Two-by-two –- like Noah’s Ark.

Thus began the first venture at evangelization by the disciples of Jesus. They were also told to keep their message simple. If anyone does not want to listen to their “pitch,” they are to simply bid them adieu and move on to the next household. Mark’s gospel is disappointedly brief in this description. We’d like to know more.

 

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Holy in the Ordinary

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July 8th, 2018 – 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Mark 6:1-6

Is Jesus not the carpenter’s son? We know his family. We know where he comes from. We saw him grow up in our midst. We know his laughter and his tears. We’ve watched him day after day. He played with our children. He danced at our festivals. He helped his dad at the shop. He’s not special because he is one of us. Don’t expect more.

I am adding to the words of today’s gospel but not without purpose. I want to highlight the “problem” that those who knew him well and concluded that Jesus was in no way special. And that same reasoning can also spill over into how we think about ourselves. Let’s call it the problem or familiarity. Let’s also call it the problem of thinking about ourselves as “just ordinary” and therefore, “insignificant.”

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