Monthly Archives: September, 2013

Scripture Commentary for Upcoming Sunday: 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C

mustard seed

1st Reading — Habakkuk 1:2-3; 2:2-4

From Celebration, October 2004:

If scholars are right, Habakkuk might have been a contemporary of Jeremiah. He is probably here lamenting the destruction of Judah by King Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylonian army. He is probably also lamenting the corruption that took place in Judah before the fall. Yet, he is told that he must trust in a vision that can yet come to be. With this vision comes an assurance of God’s love and care even though there is destruction and suffering. He was told to write down this vision; in other words to make it permanent. And, it is to be in large, legible letters so that all the people may see it, read it, hold on to it – a public display of faith in the midst of tragedy. This is faith that gives life.

From Exploring the Sunday Readings, October, 2007:

Have you ever met someone with vision? What do we mean when we use that word in that way? Part of the ‘vision thing’ is to be able to see farther down the road than the rest of us. It also means perhaps that this person with vision can see the ‘big picture’ – how things go together and what the focus should be. Most importantly this idea also means a person who has a creative instinct for the future. Tomorrow does not have to be a rerun of yesterday. Visionaries imagine what doesn’t yet exist, but perhaps should. Without such visionary thinking, hope can come to a standstill along with our faith and loving actions.

2nd Reading – 2 Timothy 1: 6-8, 13-14

By the time of this writing, many have given their lives for the faith in Christ; others have endured increasing difficulties and hardships. (Some have also fallen away or fallen into heresy –see 1:15, 2:17-18 and 4:9) This writer wants to use the example of Paul’s imprisonment and suffering along with some of perhaps Paul’s own words to encourage others to use their faith to live with courage, power, love and self control.   (Celebration, October 2004)

From Exploring the Sunday Readings, October, 2007:

Fear is not the stuff of Christian living; love is. We are realists; we know that life, even the life of a Christian can and will have difficulties. But God provides us a gift of his Spirit that will enable us to act with courage and power and love despite our fears.

Does this reading stir you into flame?

The Gospel – Luke 17: 5-10

This passage sort of starts in the middle of things. Because the lectionary does not include the first part of this chapter, we do not understand why the disciples are asking for an increase in faith. Jesus had just warned them about not causing anyone to sin. In no uncertain terms Jesus tells them it would be better for the one who leads another into sin to have millstone around his neck and be thrown into the sea. Quite a vivid picture of the outcome of evil! He then goes on to say that they must be willing to forgive seven times a day. (Seven was the number symbolic of wholeness, completeness) It is no wonder that the poor disciples walking with Jesus toward Jerusalem would ask for a little more faith. But Jesus does not lessen the demands. Even a tiny bit of faith (a mustard seed) will be enough to uproot deeply rooted problems evil and hard-heartedness.  (Celebration, October, 2004)

This whole chapter in Luke’s gospel is about “the decisiveness and urgency of discipleship.” We cannot just wait (or even pray) until we have enough faith, for then we may never begin living as the servants we are called to be. A seed is small, but it is filled with potential ‘power’ for growth. Jesus wants to convince us that our faith is like this.  We must ‘burst open’ like a planted seed allowing growth and new life to begin.

“We must use what we have.” Jesus then shows us what the faithful disciple looks like – one who not only works the fields, but also serves at table. In fact, as we put this all together we see that serving at table is as great as moving trees – and other more amazing feats of faith! Jesus like many good preachers of his time loved to use hyperbole and humor to get his point across. (Living Liturgy, Cycle C, p.220)

What do you think of the phrase “unprofitable servants”?  The Greek adjective that is used here actually means “without need.” Although it is translated here as ‘unprofitable’ it seems to mean more that this servant is without the need for ‘pay.’ He is not motivated by reward or recompense.  As servants of an all-merciful and loving God we need to do everything with gratitude that we have been called to serve such a ‘master.’ We are servants that are ‘due nothing,’ because all we have has been given to us with love. (John Pilch, “Historical Cultural Context,

What is Your Mammon? Father Bob’s homily last Sunday…

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Did you see the Pope’s big interview?  It begins with a Jesuit priest asking him, “Who is Jorge Bregoglio?” He is taken aback at first.  You would think that this Pope would not be surprised that a Jesuit did not ask him a straight forward question!  He thinks and then he says the most defining thing he could say is that he is a sinner.  What a fascinating approach to one of the holiest men in the world.  He knows he cannot understand God’s mercy unless he is aware of his need for it.
In the Gospel, there is a great deal of sinning.  First, the steward squanders his master’s money, then he cuts deals with his master’s debtors so they will owe less and then take him in once he is fired for he knows, “I am not strong enough to dig and I am ashamed to beg.”  (What I like to call “The Priest’s Lament”)   The master surprisingly applauds the steward for his cleverness.
Why?  Well, it is something how a crisis focuses our attention.  The slovenly steward suddenly becomes very efficient.   Jesus would like it if we all concentrated on our salvation as much as we do in the midst of financial peril.  But he also sees what happens when we are caught up in the stuff of the world and not aware of the presence of God.
He introduces an interesting term – mammon.  Often translated as love of money or wealth, it also has the sense of that which pulls your interest in an inordinate way.  We all have a little mammon in our lives. My mammon is the New York Mets.  I think it is good to root for a team and to care for the team.  But the Mets are 21 games out of first with 8 to play.  I think we are in trouble.  Yet, I will watch every pitch of a game.  That is mammon.
And if the mammon grows significantly enough, it can truly block our vision of God.  What is the mammon in your life?  I think the real mammon grows deeply within us.  For example, this is not an atypical confession.  “I was inpatient, I was angry and I took the Lord’s name in vain.”  Really, you can do that just in two minutes in your car.  I try to see what is behind all that.  What is really the thing behind the things that move our sinful actions?  That is mammon. 
What is the Mammon in your life?  For some, it is the sense that they are never good enough.  That there is a click missing there that will always prevent them from feeling whole and worthy.  For some, it is pride, the inability to admit weakness, for surely those who know any vulnerability will only exploit it.  For many, it is fear that constricts our lives and we guide our days only by the thought of self-preservation and are moved only by our worries. 
I spent some time thinking what my personal Mammon is?  Do you know the saying, “Pray as if everything depended on God and work as if everything depended on you?”  It is pretty dumb ,but I fall into the trap.  I trust in my prayer wholly, but I feel the burden of the work and the responsibility to care for the parish that I can easily forget who the real author of the work is.  If I worked as if everything depended on God, I don’t think I would work one less hour a week.  But I would do all my work with hope, confidence and peace.
I think that is why the Pope thinks of himself first as a sinner.  He wants to know he is saved and what he is being saved from.  He wants to taste the mercy of God by knowing himself to be in such need of mercy.  He wants to know he is healed by the love of God.  Jesus says we must choose God or Mammon. It is like when Moses told the Israelites in Deuteronomy, “I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live.”  We don’t consciously want to not choose God, but Mammon has a way of sneaking up on us and blocking our vision of God.  But as soon as we know it is a choice, there is no choice at all.
Would you want to think of yourself as missing that click, as being fatally flawed, incapable of achieving your best, or would you want to know yourself as blessed by God with unique and indispensable talents and gifts needed by the world?  Choose life, choose blessing and choose God.  Would you rather be a prisoner of your pride admitting to know weakness, or allow others in so that community and humanity can develop and we can find a space in each other’s lives?  Choose life, choose blessing and choose God.  Would you rather be governed by the rule of exhausting fear or the promise of constant love?  Choose life, choose blessing and choose God. 
As Bob Dylan once sang, you have to serve somebody.  Serve God, not Mammon.

Commentary on Upcoming Sunday Readings: 26th Sunday of Ordinary Time, cycle C


The 1st Reading — Amos 6:1, 4-7

Amos is continuing to lament and grow weary of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer.  The rich are basking in the glow of their wealth, even drinking wine out of bowls!  Scholars think the reference to David is trying to be ironic.  Unlike David who used his musical talents for praising God, the wealthy of Israel were dabbling in the art simply for their own entertainment and enjoyment.  The prophecy of the rich going into exile first does occur.  In 722BC Assyria attacks the northern Kingdom (Celebration, Sept. 1998).  Their complacency did not benefit them in the end.  What happens when we become complacent and take for granted what we have?

The 2nd Reading – 1 Timothy 6: 11-16

This passage tells us clearly how and what we are to be. It is an exhortation not just for Timothy, but for every baptized person. We all need to take to these words to heart. It should help us realize that our faith is a living relationship of love – with God and with others. It perhaps would have been even better if the lectionary had included the verses just preceding this passage, verses 7-10:

            For we brought nothing into the world,

just as we shall not be able to take anything out of it.

If we have food and clothing, we shall be content with that.

Those who want to be rich are falling into temptation

and into a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires,

which plunge them into ruin and destruction (Celebration, Sept. 2001).

What wisdom do you find in this passage?  What do you make of the writer saying we should, “Compete well for the faith,”?

The Gospel — Luke 16: 19 – 31

This gospel reading is challenging us to open our eyes and minds and hearts to those around us. Let not our possessions and comforts blind us and deaden us. Perhaps the saddest aspect of this parable comes when the rich man, suffering now himself, raised his eyes and saw Lazarus. But even then he only saw him as someone who could meet his needs — not as a person in his own right with needs. The rich man has no name (although he is sometimes called Dives, a Latin word for rich); the poor man is given a name and an identity: Lazarus, which means the one God helps or loves. (Celebration, Sept. 2001)

St. John Chrysostom, “Thoughts from the Early Church,”

Have you thought about why the rich man saw Lazarus in Abraham’s arms? Abraham was not only our ‘father-in-faith,’ but he was also known for his hospitality. Abraham did not begrudgingly help strangers; he would sit in his doorway and catch all who passed by – to offer them friendship and food.

He did not know that these strangers would bring the tangible presence of God and new life to him and to his wife as they did (Genesis 18:1 – 8).

From William Barclay, The Gospel of Luke, 221-222:

The details in this parable are very important. The rich man had great luxury: garments of purple and fine linen.  The word that is used for feasting is one that is used for a glutton who feeds on exotic and costly dishes – everyday. His self-indulgence seemed to give him no time for work while his servants must have slaved to keep him fed. Also, in these days food was eaten with the hands. In very wealthy houses, the hands were cleaned by wiping them on chunks of bread. The bread was then thrown away. These were the ‘crumbs’ that Lazarus longed to be allowed to eat. The rich man was not deliberately cruel; nor was he accused of being the reason for Lazarus’ poverty. His sin is his blindnesshis lack of even noticing another’s need. That lack of human concern for anyone outside of himself was a great chasm that separated him from love, life.

From Richard Rohr, The Good News According to Luke, 169-170:

Hades is the abode of the dead. It does not necessarily coincide with our term of hell. In this story there is a big chasm separating those who respond to and with God’s love and those who do not. The ‘hell side’ is the state of being where you don’t love – where you find yourself cut off and where non-life is chosen. This parable is not suppose to convince us that God’s justice is served by physically punishing people: God’s justice cannot be served by “burning people’s behinds.” The story is suppose to open us to the true way of life – to listening to God’s Word and letting it guide our life and our choices. We are to choose life – love – sharing – communion. We need to choose the good because it is good – it leads to life. Such choice leads to dignity and goodness. There is as Abraham says in the story a ‘great chasm’ between heaven and hell – between fear and faith, between death and life. This story was meant to help us overcome the chasm – not to deepen it.

This Sacrament. This Word, This People

Check out Father Bob’s homily from this past Sunday…


24th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Let’s ask the question that Jesus asks.   “Which one of you would leave the 99 to pursue the one sheep?”  Yeah, not that many.  It does not make a great deal of economic sense, does it?  What if something were to happen to the other 99?  Who would be there left to protect them?  What are the odds of finding one sheep that has wandered into the desert?  Why would you take that risk for a 1% return?

Yet, that is what Jesus claims a good shepherd would choose.  For him, it makes the only sense.  After all, if you let one leave, and then another and then another you are talking about 98,97, 90 then 80 sheep, and suddenly no one is calling you a good shepherd.  And think about the rest of the flock.  They have been told that this is where…

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Commentary for Upcoming Sunday Readings: 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, cycle C


1st Reading – Amos 8: 4-7

Amos was a native of the village of Tekoa located 6 miles south of Bethlehem on the edge of the Judean wilderness. He made his living as a shepherd and dresser of sycamore trees. What is translated as sycamore is probably a type of mulberry that produced a type of fig-like fruit. They had to be punctured or pinched at exactly the right moment in its growth cycle so as to release the insects that infested it. Insect-free fruit would then grow to ripeness so that the poor, for whom the fruit provided some meager sustenance, could gather it up and be fed. Although Amos thought he was not suitable to be the prophet God called him to be, perhaps his job with these trees had actually prepared him well to pinch and puncture the greed and dishonesty that infested the hearts of some of the rich at that time. The greedy rich did not even like the Sabbath rest for it kept them from their unscrupulous business practices. These heartless and disreputable merchants actually sold the poor into lives of slavery because of their greed. Amos understood the lives of the poor; he spoke out vehemently with condemnation toward those whose greed continued to force the poor into more and more difficulties. We need to allow Amos’ words to pinch and puncture us so we too are open to God’s ways of love and truth, not selfish greed. God still hears the cry of the poor; he is not fooled by superficial piety. (Celebration, Sept. 2001 and Exploring the Sunday Readings, Sept. 1998)  What do you think of this reading?

2nd Reading — 1 Timothy2: 1-8

As we said last week, most scholarship theorizes that this letter wasn’t actually written by Paul but a disciple of his.  Some in the community were succumbing to Gnosticism, and so the letter is countering that.  Gnosis is Greek for knowledge.  Gnostics thought they possessed special, mystical knowledge that they received because they were an elite group.  They believed all matter is evil, so our bodies are evil and our spirits must escape them.  In order to be liberated from our bodies, a spiritual messenger must come and awaken us from our sleep.  This messenger brings gnosis.  For Christian Gnostics, that messenger was Jesus.  But because they believed bodies were evil, they rejected the idea that Christ had a body like ours  (appeared to be human but not).  So there were theories about Jesus’ birth, incarnation and resurrection that threatened Christian doctrine  (Gonzalez, JL, The Story of Christianity Vol I, pgs 58-61).  In this letter to Timothy, “Paul” writes how EVERYONE is to be saved, there is ONE mediator and he is a ransom for ALL.  What do you make of this in our world today?

The Gospel – Luke 16: 1-13

This whole section is tied together by the theme of wealth and the danger it poses for disciples. Luke is always very concerned about this problem.  Don’t you wonder why Jesus advises that we should make friends with dishonest wealth?

Jesus’ audience (and Luke’s audience) would have expected the steward to be jailed immediately.  When this didn’t happen in the parable, their imagination was captured.  The underdog seems to be getting the better of the person in power!  In actuality, the master is a man of mercy.  The steward knew that, since he wasn’t jailed, and decided to capitalize on that.  When he lowered the renters’ ransom notes (connect this ransom with the one in the previous reading!), the renters believed it was with the master’s approval and so he is a hero.  It would look bad if the master changed this.  The steward hoped that even if the master did not reinstate him, he would be welcomed and employed by others in the community.  The steward relies heavily on the fact that the master is generous and merciful.  God is the master, and we are God’s stewards.  We are completely dependent on God for life itself.  Only God can save  (Birmingham, M, Word and Worship, p. 481).

As disciples, we need prudent decisiveness. We must take our identity so seriously that it defines how we live. We are not going to live in this world forever. We or our profits are not the source and security of our lives; God is. We had better take his priorities seriously. We need to realize that all our choices in daily living are actually choices for eternal life. And, our Christian way of living – our Paschal Mystery living – isn’t simply a matter of surrendering to the self-sacrificing possibilities that come our way in the normal course of living. We must be clever and smart about searching out such opportunities to live Jesus’ proactive way of love. This passage in Luke’s gospel is really challenging us with the question: How smart  are you? We need to know who and what we are. We need to face our gifts and shortcomings honestly. It does not do ourselves or anyone else any good to live in fantasy. We need to face our abilities and the real situation with clarity. Such realism is an asset in many a crises. It enables us to come up with real solutions to the problems. It is only practical, real-life wisdom that brings true insight.  (Pheme Perkins, Hearing the Parables of Jesus, 165-171, & Living Liturgy, Cycle C, 2004)

Commentary for this Upcoming Sunday Readings: 24th Sunday of Ordinary Time, cycle C

1st Reading – Exodus 32: 7-11, 13-14

In this story we find Moses foreshadowing the role of Jesus as a mediator before God on our behalf. Jesus like Moses prays on the cross: “Father, forgive them.” Here is a God who is willing to forgive even though his anger is great at the evil that has been done. And, of course, we believe that Jesus shows us the fullness of the real God – the visible image of the invisible God.  (Reginald Fuller, “ Scripture in Depth,” )

This event is an example of how religions can confuse the voice of the people with the voice of God.  Any religion has the capacity to produce a “calf” to meet the needs of the people who are in opposition to the will of God.  In the Israelites’ case, all it resulted in was a compromise that threatened the integrity of their relationship with God  (Word & Worship, Birmingham, p. 472).  How often do we place our needs in the way of God’s will?  Maybe more often than we think.  Yet our God listens to us.  Moses intercedes for his people, and God hears.

Notice too how God tells Moses they are “your people”, like an angry mother telling a father what happened with the children while he was away at work.  Does the angry mother’s love ever diminish for her children?  She is there for them anyway and loves them completely, no matter what they do.  How much more God is.

2nd Reading – 1 Timothy 1: 12-17

“Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”  What does this personally mean to you?

The Pauline authorship of this letter and the rest of the so-called pastoral letters (2 Timothy, Titus) have been disputed since the 19th century. The pseudonymous author for these letters wrote as if he were Paul and included valuable information about the apostle and his ministry. It is emphasizing that Saul-Paul was like the elder brother of the gospel story who had been desirous of punishing the ‘brothers’ he deemed to be unfaithful and heretical. By the glorious grace of the God he found in the Risen Christ, he recognized the error of his ways. He began knowing God in an entirely new way, a way that leads to new life, not judgment and death.  (Celebration, Sept. 2001)

How does this passage lead us into the parables of lost sheep, lost coin, lost son?

“There is something good in the worst of us and something bad in the best of us.” We may not be Paul, a former blasphemer and ‘thug’ – we may not be worshipping molten calves in a frenzy – but we can all be overwhelmingly grateful for the merciful love of God revealed to us in Jesus Christ.  Repentance is always the start of good news.  (Kavanaugh, “The Word Engaged”

The Gospel – Luke 15: 1-32

Here is the whole chapter from Luke on the ‘lost and found’. It is sometimes called ‘the gospel within the gospel’ because it so profoundly shows us the essence of the good news we find in Christ Jesus.  What do find good in these parables? What do you find challenging?

From Living Liturgy, 2004:

This parable reveals the dying and rising of the paschal mystery at work. The prodigal son is brought to repentance because he is in dire need; he is “dying from hunger.” There is nothing he does to deserve the father’s response except return. Yet, his decision to repent (turn from death) is met with warm welcoming love and feasting – at least from the father. For all of us, the invitation to repent is always there – to turn from dying-ways to new life and feasting.  What can bring us – and the elder son – to the feasting?

Notice also, that sin is ‘going away to a distant land’ – it is about losing who and where we are called to be. Repentance is about ‘coming back to our senses.’  Sin is an alienation from ourselves, like the son who no longer deserves to be called his father’s son.  Sin affects our relationships – with the father – and with others (the elder son). But in the father, we find a love that bridges the gap.

From John Pilch, “Historical Cultural Context”, :

In this culture fathers were greatly discouraged from distributing inheritance before their death. The younger son acts very shamefully by effectively wishing his father dead. The elder son is no better. He makes no effort to reconcile his father and brother as the culture demanded. When he ‘comes back to himself’ and repents, the younger son is willing to become a servant and take the rejection and physical abuse that the village will heap on him for his shameful behavior. In this, he does show some measure of honor. But then the father acts totally out of cultural character. He runs (very inappropriate for an elder) the gauntlet the village has prepared for the wayward son. He publicly forgives the son by kissing him, giving him the best robe (which certainly would be the father’s), putting a ring on his finger (a sign of trust), and sandals on his feet (a sign of a free man not a slave). Killing the fatted calf means that the whole village will be invited to come and accept this son and celebrate. (This size calf could feed 100 people.) And then, what does the elder son do? Instead of honoring his father’s wishes, he publicly insults and humiliates his father. Yet, the father also goes out to him (another shameful thing for the father to do). The parable ends here with the father pleading with his son . . . what did the elder son do? What would you do? 

In Honor of Grandparents’ Day By: Maureen McGuinness

It’s been said that a grandparent’s love is the nearest we’ll come to experiencing God’s love on earth.  I have reason to believe that’s true. While I can’t yet know how God feels for us, I do know that my grandparents loved me in a way no other person has.

I had three grandparents in my life; my maternal grandparents, and my paternal grandmother.  My paternal grandfather died when my father was a child and my paternal step grandfather died before I was born. While the idea of the Trinity is perplexing to me, having three grandparents on earth made it easier to understand. There were three people in my life who were separate and distinct, yet they were all part of one loving unit called grandparent.

I had the privilege of having all of my grandparents until I was 38 years old.  My maternal grandmother, Mary Zipko was the first to die in 2005. Granny was a home maker. She had many jobs in her life:  wrapping sticks of gum in the Wrigley’s gum factory in Chicago, she was a barmaid in Brooklyn, and a department store clerk in Cleveland. I’m sure she was good at all of those things, but from her I learned what home was.  The smell of roast beef, the sound of potatoes boiling in a pot, and the dining room table set for a big Sunday dinner are all things that remind me of Granny.

My sister and I loved to go to Granny’s house. There were treats waiting for us that were unavailable at home. Coke a cola, chips and dip, and late night movies were some of the thrills of being at Granny’s. Nothing will ever be as comforting to me as being tucked in the bed in her guest room under a big quilt.  Perhaps I’m wrong, but it really seemed to me that Granny loved having us around. She had a big smile when she saw us and there were always big hugs.  She had a great laugh and at times she was known to laugh until she cried, which made her, and us, laugh even harder.

Granny died in her sleep. While we knew that each day with our grandparents was a gift, it was a shock to get the call that she had died.

Ninety days later my paternal grandmother Margaret Walsh died. While I learned what a home was from Granny I learned what strength and character was from Grandma. Grandma’s life was filled with challenges. Her prom date died at the prom picnic, she was held at knife point while a nursing student, her first husband died when she was 30-years-old leaving her with 3 children under the age of 6 to raise, her second husband died when she was 45 and had a 9-year-old to raise.

Despite these challenges she served others.  Her vocation was nursing.  She was a dedicated nurse in a Catholic hospital, she visited sick people in their homes, and she nursed in a steel  factory. She cared for her ailing parents in her own home allowing them to die surrounded by family,  I remember being with her at Church and the woman in front of us fainted. There was no question that she was up and out of her seat taking care of the woman.

Despite having a career that was life and death, her house was filled with life and joy. When her family was over there was singing, piano playing, chocolate, and fun. She encouraged her granddaughters to perform, play, and dream.  Because of this there were many “shows” put on in front of the bay window of her living room.

I don’t remember ever seeing Grandma dressed down. She wore skirts and suits. I don’t think she ever wore pants.

I learned from Grandma to use the “good” china and crystal. If a guest wanted tea at her house, she brewed a pot in a good china tea pot and served it in a good tea cup. If her grandchildren wanted to pretend to drink high balls, they too got to drink out of the good crystal.

Papa, Stanley Zipko, lived an amazing life. A coal miner after he finished eighth grade, he worked in the mines until he was 30. At that point he developed “black lung” and there wasn’t much hope that he would live a long life with this condition. The condition kept him out of the military during World War II. He found himself in the shipyards of Cleveland building war ships, a job he said was his favorite because he could work as much as he wanted.

After the war he became a pipe fitter and worked hard putting his three daughters through Catholic school and college, despite being told educating girls was a waste of time.

By the time he entered his 60’s he was ready to retire. He embraced retirement learning how to reupholster furniture, bake bread, and make wine and beer. Despite living in an urban area his yard was filled with flowers and a large vegetable garden.

Papa was loud, liked beer, and horse racing and singing. He would sing to my sister and I “Who’s the cream in my coffee? Who’s the salt in my stew?” We knew we were.

This man who started life as an impoverished child of Lithuanian immigrants ended up traveling the world visiting the Holy Land, Rome, New Guinea, India, Portugal, and many parts of the United States.
Papa lived a full, long life and died in his home.

When Granny died we started finding dimes all over the place. My sister even found one in her bed that night. When Grandma died the dime was joined by a penny. So many times we would find a penny and a dime together; during happy moments like birthdays or as we stood watching my parents’ house burn to the ground. When Papa died my sister said quietly at the cemetery “Ok Papa’s sign to us will be the nickel.”

Sure enough we began finding the trio of coins. My sister got a call from one of Papa’s neighbors a few weeks after he died. The neighbor expressed how much she missed our grandfather and shared “I’m not sure what’s going on but ever since Stanley died we’ve been finding nickels everywhere.”

These three amazing people loved me and my cousins fiercely. They celebrated our triumphs and calmed our parents down each time we made mistakes. Thinking of them gives me an idea of what God must be like: celebrating with us, cheering us, and providing support to us in our darkest moments.

Choose the Right God


22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time C

Every year, statistics tell us that there are more and more self-declared atheists and agnostics. And we certainly do not need to look hard to prove that there are fewer people who identify with the Church. While it is troubling for sure, today I am here to say that I do not blame them. Although these trends are a real threat to my job security, I do not blame these newly minted atheists and agnostics because the God most of these people, especially our young people, fail to believe in I don’t believe in either.
They see God as distant, far removed and uncaring of their cares and concerns. They see an angry God anxious and threatened by diversity; a God who will not be satisfied until we all conformed to one predetermined mold. The judging God they reject rejects others. And the God…

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Scripture Commentary for 23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle C

take up cross

1st Reading – Wisdom 9: 13-18b

From Word & Worship, Birmingham, p. 465:  It was a popularly held belief that this book was written by Solomon, but scholarship maintain that it was written long after his reign by an anonymous writer.  The most we can ascertain is that the writer was a learned Greek-speaking Jew and probably a teacher, and that he was familiar with Hellenistic philosophy, rhetoric and culture.  A burning issue of those times was how is it that the just suffer and the wicked prosper?  Skepticism and individualism were rampant.

Sound familiar?  It is so hard to discern God’s will for us.  There are no billboards.  We wrestle with what we think is right for us vs. what God may think is right for us.  We also wrestle when bad things happen, and we try to wrap our minds around how that can be.  In the end, the Holy Spirit imparts wisdom to us when we allow Spirit in.  Margaret Silf from Inner Compass (p. 92) says, “God’s will – his desire for me – and my own deepest desire (when I am really living true) are one and the same thing!”  Yet we are so burdened by our “earthen shelter”.  How does this reading speak to you in where you are in your life right now?

2nd Reading – Philemon 9b-10, 12-17

This is the only personal letter of Paul that has survived. Onesimus was a slave who had run away from his master, Philemon, a Christian of Colossae. He had joined Paul in prison and under Paul’s influence Onesimus became Christian. Paul is sending him back as “no longer a slave but a brother.” Paul does not abolish slavery, it is true. That would have been impossible in the ancient world. But, rather,  Paul transforms the relationship between master and slave with faith in Christ Jesus.  (Reginald Fuller, )

In a way, Paul is asking Philemon to forego his legal rights, ownership and cultural understandings in favor of God’s way of wisdom and love. Right in the middle of this Sunday’s readings, this passage is a powerful example of what the 1stReading is saying and what Jesus will be asking of us in the Gospel.

What understandings do you have to overcome in order truly be Jesus’ disciple?  Do you have a friend with whom you can share your heart like Paul and Onesimus?

The Gospel – Luke 14: 25-33

This gospel consists of a string of sayings on the cost of discipleship, followed by two parables to help illustrate what Jesus meant. “Hate’ is a very harsh word. Exaggeration was a common technique for preachers in Jesus’ day; in an oral culture one had to make important points with strength. The original Aramaic (Jesus’ language) might have meant simply to “love less than.” But no matter the translation, the meaning is clear: following Jesus means the surrender of the whole of one’s life. (Reginald Fuller, )  How does this challenging gospel speak to you? Why not talk it over with Jesus?

There is a poem on a wall in the children’s home started by Mother Teresa in Calcutta.

Anyway, Never Give Up!

Discipleship is an unusual undertaking;

The better you become at it,

the more difficult and challenging it will be.

Be a disciple anyway; never give up!

The people you are called to serve may be unlikable,

ungrateful and unimpressed by your dedication.

Love and serve them anyway; never give up!

If you do good, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.

Do good anyway; never give up!

The good you do for Christ will be forgotten tomorrow.

Do good anyway; never give up!

Honesty, humility and simplicity may make you vulnerable.

Be honest, humble and simple anyway, never give up!

What you spend years building may seem

insignificant in the eyes of others.

Build anyway; never give up!

People really need help but may attack you if you help them.

Help them anyway; never give up!

Give the world the best you have

and you may get kicked in the teeth.

Give the world your best anyway; never give up! 

(From Celebration, September, 2001)