Posted by: matt25 | August 31, 2014

Get Out, Pick It Up & Follow

Those who follow my blog know that my written homily and my spoken homily are not an exact match.  I hope you are blessed by it either way but, homilies are meant to be heard rather than read so I hope you will listen to it first.  You can see the scriptures for the 22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time Cycle A here.

I will foChristian Boatllow him, follow him wherever he may go
There isn’t an ocean too deep
A mountain so high it can keep me away

I bet you didn’t expect to hear the Deacon singing a Little Peggy March tune from the pulpit at mass did you?

Well I am not the only one who has ever sung to begin a homily. I was reminded of that when I went to my friend Deacon Bill Boneberg’s funeral on Thursday and heard that he started the last homily he ever gave by singing a bit from a contemporary song. In his case it was “I Wanna Hold You Hand”. He was preaching the Gospel of Matthew from Chapter 14 and how when Jesus called to him, Peter got out of the boat to walk with Jesus on the water. Of course Peter became frightened and would have drowned if Jesus had not held his hand. But the main point of Bill’s homily was that Peter got out of the boat.

Bill then talked about how we are called to get out of the boat.
When the government continues to legalize and expand abortion, we have to get out of the boat.
When the mentally ill or the elderly, are forgotten, we have to get out of the boat.
When prisoners, immigrants, and the poor are considered to be of little value, we have to get out of the boat.

Bill tried to live that message. You may have heard how last Saturday morning he was electrocuted in Westfield while responding to a call about downed power lines. But the news media didn’t have all the information. It wasn’t until the OSHA investigative report came out, that we found out the rest of the story.

Bill was a professional. He had retired after a career with the electric company and then Westfield hired him to be their electrical supervisor. He knew what he was doing. When he arrived at the scene on Saturday he was the first one there. Normally, for safety reason he would have waited for his backup to arrive before addressing the situation but he didn’t on Saturday. He didn’t wait because there was a little 4 year old boy and his grandmother on the porch whose lives were in danger.

Jesus called and Bill got out of the boat….
He followed all of the safety protocols for handling downed wires, the long pole, the heavy duty rubber gloves… But, just as he was working to save the little boy and his grandmother, more of the wire came down and it wrapped around his leg. He was killed instantly.

Bill was preaching about Matthew chapter 14 not only with his singing and his words but with his life on that day. But, I think could also have been preaching about the Gospel of John chapter 15 which starts by with Jesus telling us he is the Vine and we the branches and ends by saying that we will have the Holy Spirit to help us to testify to the truth. In the middle of the chapter, in its core it says:
11“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.
12 This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.
13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

This isn’t really a surprise to me because the whole of the scriptures has an integrity to it. It is the very word of God that was in the beginning with God and that was God. The integrity of that truth rubs off on those who pick up their cross daily and follow Jesus.

Bill was preaching about Matthew chapter 14 for that last homily but I couldn’t help but wonder how Bill would have preached about the Gospel we heard today from Matthew 16. He might have started out singing as I did. He might have talked about Peter again and said how this week he gets it wrong and is called an obstacle after just last week he got it so right and was told he was the rock on which the church would be built.
He might have talked about how Peter didn’t and we don’t always get it right but, we still have to get out of the boat. But I think he would have talked about being a disciple of Christ.

Today we hear Jesus say to his disciples,
“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.
He says we have to do 3 things:
1) we must deny ourselves
2) we must pick up our cross
3) we must follow him.

Are you like me?
Because I look at that and that first one, that self-denial thing I want to say to God,
“that is a bit tough, I think I want to warm up to that one God.
I’ll just save that for later..
Can I just set that aside for now and tackle number 2 God?
That’s okay with you God isn’t it?

Wait a minute.. Pick up my cross?
Hmmm… I am not sure I am ready for that one either.
Maybe I can start at the end and work backward.
You don’t mind do you God?
Yeah, that’s the ticket… It’ll be a last shall be first kind of thing.
I like that idea don’t you God?
After all it’s sort of almost scriptural in a way.

I know just how I’ll follow Jesus too.
He prayed, he prayed a lot, so I’ll pray.
That’s what I’ll do God I’ll pray, just like Jesus taught me.

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come, MY WILL BE DONE….

Wait that isn’t right is it.
But, it is frequently how it plays out when I pray. I tell god what I want.
I tell God I want is to be saved, preferably by a savior who doesn’t demand anything of me.
I tell God all the things I want, for myself.
I tell God all the things I want, for others.
I tell God all the things I want, for the world.
Not that any of that is a bad thing, we need to tell God those things but following the model of prayer
Jesus actually gave us, not what we wished he gave us…
Thy kingdom come, THY WILL BE DONE….

Jesus tells us, and shows us how that looks during his passion when he prays,
“My Father, if it is not possible that this cup pass without my drinking it, your will be done!”

We also heard in the 2nd reading what that looks like. We are to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice.
That means we live our lives only for God, not for ourselves.
That means we spend our time the way God wants us to, not the way we want.
That mean we use our abilities and talents the way God wants…
That means we spend our money on what God wants us to…

So it isn’t about us and what we want.
It is about surrendering our will and asking what God wants,
and then rather than conforming ourselves to worldly logic and morality,
we are transformed by the renewal of our minds,
and seek to discern what is the will of God.

We seek hear God’s call and how we are to deny ourselves, carry the cross, and follow Him:
By reading and reflecting on the holy scriptures to learn what God has already revealed to us.
By praying and about how God is calling us live every day.
By getting out of the boat when we know we should.
By frequent reception of the sacraments.

It isn’t easy to deny ourselves, carry the cross, and follow Him.
Sometimes picking up the cross means pain and suffering.
Sometimes it means that, for reasons that we cannot understand we have illnesses or even death.
Can God miraculously heal? Can God send angels to protect us from physical harm? Yes!
But sometimes he chooses not to.
Like last Saturday when in my thoughts Deacon Bill died much too soon.

But it was God’s will to call him home.
Sue told me that. Sue is Bill’s wife, and she told me that we have to remember the Word of God spoken by the prophet Isaiah (55:8-9) For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways—(oracle of the LORD). For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, my thoughts higher than your thoughts.

Sometimes denying myself, carrying the cross, and following Him is hard.
But it is worth it.
Sometimes we don’t want to get out of the boat. But if we do, we won’t be sorry.

“For … whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” and
“the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory…and
repay all according to their (his) conduct.”

I must follow him, ever since he touched my hand I knew
That near him I always must be
And nothing can keep him from me
He is my destiny

Posted by: matt25 | July 9, 2014

Working Against Myself

Sometimes we choose to do what we know is wrong because we see some benefit in it for us.  The trurh is, that by doing so we are responsible for undermining what is best for us, for others, and for the greater good of society.  It is ironic that such a focus on self-interest is its own worst enemy.

Posted by: matt25 | July 3, 2014

Let’s work and pray together for people

Let’s work and pray together for people who are suffering and dying from lack of basic health care. http://ow.ly/yK7Yt

How important is your faith to you? Are you willing to be laughed at, or lose “friends” because of your faithfulness to God, or do you keep your faith hidden to avoid these and other unpleasant issues?

We do not exist as solitary creatures only. In fact, we empower or undermine the ability of others to live in freedom by the choices we make. If we strive to live our faith “out loud” in the marketplace we give permission and courage to others to do the same.

Christians have always known this and looked to the lives of Jesus and the Saints for inspiration. Today is a a day to draw strength from the example of St Charles Lwanga and his companions who were martyred, some by the machete and some by being wrapped in kindling and burned.

I am blessed to have been able to visit the shrine to these young men of faith in Uganda just about 2 years ago and the reality of their deaths, and even more so their lives has become a touchstone of faith for me. I pray that it shall ever be so.

Draw strength from those who have lived lives of heroic virtue and be a light for virtue to your family, friends, and acquaintances. Make a difference in their lives and your own.

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From AmericanCatholic.org “Saint of the Day”

One of 22 Ugandan martyrs, Charles Lwanga is the patron of youth and Catholic action in most of tropical Africa. He protected his fellow pages (aged 13 to 30) from the homosexual demands of the Bagandan ruler, Mwanga, and encouraged and instructed them in the Catholic faith during their imprisonment for refusing the ruler’s demands. For his own unwillingness to submit to the immoral acts and his efforts to safeguard the faith of his friends, Charles was burned to death at Namugongo on June 3, 1886, by Mwanga’s order.

Charles first learned of Christ’s teachings from two retainers in the court of Chief Mawulugungu. While a catechumen, he entered the royal household as assistant to Joseph Mukaso, head of the court pages. On the night of Mukaso’s martyrdom for encouraging the African youths to resist Mwanga, Charles requested and received Baptism. Imprisoned with his friends, Charles’s courage and belief in God inspired them to remain chaste and faithful.

When Pope Paul VI canonized these 22 martyrs on October 18, 1964, he referred to the Anglican pages martyred for the same reason.

Comment:
Like Charles Lwanga, we are all teachers and witnesses to Christian living by the examples of our own lives. We are all called upon to spread the word of God, whether by word or deed. By remaining courageous and unshakable in our faith during times of great moral and physical temptation, we live as Christ lived.

Quote:
On his African tour in 1969, Pope Paul VI told 22 young Ugandan converts that “being a Christian is a fine thing but not always an easy one.”

TUESDAY, JUNE 03, 2014
Saint of the Day for 6/2/2014

Posted by: matt25 | May 30, 2014

What Are You Waiting For?

If you are a normal type of person, there is something inside you. A quiet voice calling you to be better. But, day after day you say hello to that voice and then choose to drown it out with distractions and habits that bring you momentary pleasure, not caring that they erode your future well being.

Don’t wait. Quiet your distractions at least once a day. Make a standing appointment at the same time(s) every day to talk to your still small voice within. Consider creating an electronics free sitting area in your home where you can do this. At first you may find it difficult but it should get easier as it becomes a habit.

For me this time is prayer and that quiet voice is the Holy Spirit. I have found that if I do not set aside time for prayer early in the morning, if I choose distractions instead and put it off until later, my chances of neglecting my discipline of prayer for the day rise exponentially.

What are you waiting for? Establish a discipline that works for you and implement it. Begin listening in your inmost being and allow yourself to grow and evolve into a better version of yourself. Become the person you are meant to be.

Peace

…you should put away the old self of your former way of life, corrupted through deceitful desires, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth.

Ephesians 4:22-24 NABRE

Posted by: matt25 | May 29, 2014

Ascension and Doubt

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Do you have complete and perfect belief in the faith that has been handed on to you, or do you occasionally have some reservations? Can followers of Jesus have doubts and still really be his followers?

Yes, they can. Let’s take a look at the Gospel for the celebration of the Ascension of the Lord:

A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew
Matt 28:16-20

The eleven disciples went to Galilee,
to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them.
When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted.
Then Jesus approached and said to them,
“All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father,
and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,
teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.
And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

They worshiped, but they doubted. So even these, the eleven disciples who walked with him and experienced his miracles, who shared meals and conversation with Jesus after he rose from the dead, experienced doubt. So don’t be too hard on yourself. Rather, do what they did. Gather together in prayer and wait for the Holy Spirit to give you that gift of faith. Use all of your mind, heart and strength to prepare yourself for the coming of the Holy Spirit that we will celebrate at Pentecost, knowing that faith is a gift, not something that can be secured on the strength of anything that we can do on our own.

Be encouraged that the path that you are on has been walked by sinner saints for over two thousand years. Continue to worship, and whenever you have doubts, pray the fervent prayer of the boy’s father in Mark Chapter 9, “I do believe, help my unbelief!”.

Posted by: matt25 | May 26, 2014

A Facebook Birthday Post For My Bride

It was midnight and I wanted to post a birthday wish for Mary Jane’s birthday but, i struggled with what I wanted to say. In fact I had to go to bed and wait for morning to find the last line.

Once there was a time when I learned of love
Of its gentle bond
Holding me a willing captive
As though with chains of iron

Once there was a time when I learned of love
Of its other name freedom
Calling me to choose and decide
Demanding hard work if I would stay

Once there was a time when I learned of love
Of its richness without bounds
Discovered only by the giving of my life
Revealing new shades with each day’s smile

Once there was a time when I learned of love
Of its secret making
Forged in each act of kindness and sacrifice
Humbly given, humbly received

Once there was a time when I learned of love
Of its life completing unction
Joining what was divided into one
Rippling outward
Helping others to learn of love

Posted by: matt25 | May 25, 2014

How Do We Measure Time?

I choose to measure time with love.

The love of each year collects and is never lost. The moments are like grains of sand added to the hourglass of our hearts. We can turn it over in our mind and remember as we look back, but also forward to the loving memories yet to be.

I am blessed to share so many of mine with my bride. This weekend we celebrate Mary Jane’s birthday. It is, was, and will be a celebration of love, of life, and of thanksgiving.

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Posted by: matt25 | May 23, 2014

Living in Style

I never really understood the Stylite movement. I am humbled by their response to God because I do so little in comparison. I have trouble simply praying the Divine Office with the regularity and devotion that I should. But these guys, starting with Simeon Stylites the Elder, lived a life radically devoted to God. In so doing they were like stones thrown into the pond of life from which the ripples continue to travel outward until even our modern era.

Today there is a monk living in this tradition atop a natural pillar, praying for you and I and giving advice to the troubled souls that seek him out.

20140523-074902-28142501.jpgTwice a week he takes a break from his prayerful solitude and makes a 20 minute climb down the ladder from his lofty perch. When he reaches the bottom, he joins in communal prayer in the chapel there and he then climbs back up. Talk about a life that takes literally the words of 1 Thessalonians 5:17 on how to pray!

Follow the links above in this story for amazing photos and a glimpse into both the modern and historical life of this spiritual calling.

Posted by: matt25 | May 20, 2014

Half Dreams of Angels

Do you have half dreams? You know, thoughts and ideas that come to you as you are between the world of sleep and the world of “I guess I better put my feet on the floor and get going”. Well, I had one this morning.

I had this blessed thought/reminder that my guardian angel could help me make better choices in all I do, including how I use my time, if I was willing to pray and listen. I also felt a bit ashamed that I mostly ignore my relationship with my spiritual companion. I want to change that and hope that I persevere in my resolution to do so. To that end, I would like to share a small part of the reflection and prayer I found on the blog “We Believe And Share”

There is a beautiful Hasidic saying that goes, “Behind every blade of grass is an angel telling it to grow.” What message of growth and goodness is your guardian angel giving you today?

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The image is under copyright. You can download it with permission from: http://go.sadlier.com/wbas-reflection-on-an-angel-prayer-0?&__hssc=&__hstc&hsCtaTracking=ecb46af1-a0d7-4a01-a9b3-089419afc366%7C10ba3957-fe0f-4d20-946e-c0b808d0d600

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