Monday, August 22, 2016

Hail Holy Queen

Feast of the Queenship of Mary
Gospel: Matthew 23:13-22 
August 21st -- the Olympics ended yesterday.
The United States won more bronze medals than anyone else.

The United States won more silver medals than anyone else.
The United States won more GOLD medals than anyone else.
The United States won more medals than anyone else: 121
That’s almost twice as many as the next runner up.
So what?

I fear the implicit message by that statistic goes something like this:
- we are the greatest, the best, and the most powerful
- we are first, we rank higher than anyone else in the world
- all other countries and their peoples are beneath us
- all others must strive to be like us
- we dominate, and we will dominate again.
Sounds like the very people Jesus was so angry about in today’s Gospel: blind guides, those who swear by the gold of the temple, hypocrites.

Let’s see ...  what was the last line of yesterday’s Gospel? Oh:  

 behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”

August 22 – thank goodness today we celebrate the Queenship of Mary.
Her image and her feast celebrate a different message. The message she delivers as queen is more appropriate for the Christian life:
- mother of mercy, life, sweetness, hope.
- virgin of virgins
- sorrowful mother who walks with the poor
- faithful mother who never abandoned the Cross
- the first disciple and follower of Christ 

Mary serves as a leader and high priority not because she can outdo everyone else, but because she is a model of humility, service, and compassion.

As Jesus began his ministry and delivered the sermon on the mount, the beatitudes, blessed are the poor, the peacemakers, where do you think he learned all that?
Who do you think was his model for those who are meek, those who mourn, the pure of heart.
  Mary, Queen of Heaven.
In this coming Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus will announce:  "For every one who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted."

Blessed is the Queen of Peace, who rewards us not with gold, but with her immaculate model for leadership.  Humility, fidelity, and grace.                      
Hail Mary, full of grace, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Devil In Her Heart

Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year C
Isaiah 66:18-21    Hebrews 12:5-7, 11-13,   Luke 13:22-30
For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life.”

I am not sure if I have ever preached on hell before.  Fire and brimstone.
Do you believe in hell?  Does our culture believe in hell?  We need to keep asking that because our culture keeps denying it.  Nothing is really wrong.  It all depends.  Relativism run rampant!

Does the Church still teach about hell? Yes indeed! Would you be able to talk about intelligently?  The Catholic Catechism teaches five basics about hell:
     1.  We must choose God. (“We cannot be united with God unless we freely choose to love him.”)
     2. Jesus described hell as fire and eternal separation from God.  Scriptural passages about hell are instructions, images, parables about separation from God.  Jesus is a no-nonsense Man who tells it like it is. This Gospel reveals that His favorite sport is not softball but hard ball.
     3. The Church agrees with Jesus.
     4. The teachings on hell are ultimately a call to responsibility / conversion.

So what is the main purpose of our believing in hell?  It’s similar to taking on the responsibilities of driving.  Traffic laws are serious (and scary) reminders that you are the one driving.  You were given keys / instructions / power / and a destination.  Same with your spiritual journey.  There is such a thing as spiritually wrecking your car (soul).

In Luke’s Gospel, this is serious matter for the disciples:
  Don’t forget that they are on the road to Jerusalem here.  Their destination is Jerusalem.  Scary but Glorious.  God’s people have always been on the road: For example, look at the imagery in the 1st reading:  I come to gather nations of every language on horses and in chariots, in carts, upon mules and dromedaries to Jerusalem, my holy mountain, says the LORD,

For us,
we are on the road to something better. A better life.  Greater freedom.  Deeper satisfaction in life.  What is that for you?  Which road signs have you been ignoring.  If you picked up your road map, can you put your finger on where it is you want to go?  If you could make a turn off the wrong road and get back on the highway, how many miles will your drive before you turn the wheel?  In many ways, the lord urges us to turn now!

Why is this Gospel given to us on this day?  Because today is the day for conversion. Right now.  And we celebrate that wonderful choice by announcing Amen when we behold what Christ did, he broke himself, took the hard way and give it up for us.  Before we receive the Eucharist, we beg God’s mercy in the words of the Eucharistic prayer.  God’s desire is to save us from something that is a real threat – hell.

Oh, and for those who like to focus more on judgement than mercy, God predestines no one to go to hell.  God’s desire is for repentance and a contrite heart.  For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life.”

We have no greater modern example than Mother Teresa, who is to be canonized a saint in about three weeks.  As we know from her writings, Mother had doubts about God and His presence in her life, in this world.  Despite her doubts, she still chose to work hard.  One commentator put it this way.  “The greatness of Mother Teresa is that even when she was deprived of the spiritual satisfactions of feeling God's presence in her life, she did not waver, she soldiered on. She was not deterred in her mission. And what she didn't have by way of feeling, she compensated for by way of will. In doing so she teaches us all something about love: it is not merely a sentiment, to be set aside when feelings come and go, but rather a decision of the will.”

Perhaps the coming weeks might be a good time to reflect in the spirit of Mother Teresa and ask the Lord to show you the right path.  He has trusted you with the car keys.  May we drive with the Light as our guide and Christ as our destination.