My family and I recently took a trip to the Adirondacks and found a small, out-of-the-way place to hike called Moose Pond. It is entirely on state land, so there were no houses to take away from the wilderness we were in. Everywhere we looked was blue, green or brown – water, sky, grass, trees and dirt.
The trail was not marked and not clear. It would go off in different directions. Sometimes they would come back together. Sometimes there were low branches in the way. Or a collection of rocks to maneuver. There had been a lot of rain, so parts were muddy. We would try to balance on rocks and roots to get around the mud patches, but our dog Benny would just plow through. None of this was a big problem because we could figure out how to get back by staying near the pond.
Every so often, there would be a clearing so we could take in the vista. Few people were around, so we would mostly be looking out at pristine nature. When we neared the end, we stopped at a lookout to take off our shoes and socks and cool our feet. It was absolutely quiet except for dragonfly interruptions.
It made me think that this is what prayer is like. Our life is the trail: unclear, different directions, obstacles, mud. People who care about us walk along with us. Some tread carefully and others barrel through. Some enjoy the scenery while others focus on the task at hand. All of it may seem endless and confusing if it weren’t for the clearings. Clearings are the prayer. They are a chance to check out the vista. A pause, a breath. A time to consider. An opportunity for clarity. Or a course correction. Prayer is getting off the trail, taking a good look around, and remembering there is something greater happening than what is right in front of us. There is a deeper truth, and we are a part of that truth. We just need a clearing to see it.
What’s your trail like? Can you find a clearing?
Fr. Bob’s homily last Sunday…
16th Sunday in Ordinary Time A 2017
In the old comic strip for children – Goofus and Gallant – Gallant was the character to did everything right, always polite and kind. Goofus on the other hand was a disaster of manners and consequences. Each week the strip compared the failed exploits of Goofus and the triumph of Gallant. To understand today’s Gospel, let us understand two more characters. Dour and Hope.
Dour bases his life on cynicism. He is content to expect the worse so that he may never be disappointed. He lives a quiet and small life, keeping himself closed off. He applauds himself when things go badly and congratulates himself for knowing it first. Dour does not love, less he be heartbroken; does not befriend less he be betrayed; does not hope, less he be crushed. His greatest prize is smugness.
Hope live differently for Hope is…
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1st Reading – Isaiah 55: 10-11
In this ‘biblical world’ rain is precious. The total rainfall averages 20-24 inches (Mobile, Alabama, gets about 65 inches.) Certainly then rain was eagerly awaited as a vitally necessary commodity. It was seen as a ‘gift of God.’ Isaiah saw the idea of rain as a far greater reality, as an image of the loving, creative, redeeming Word of God whose utterances could transform even the most hardened heart. The rain of grace could soften and bring life. (Celebration, July 14, 2002) We must be open to receive this grace so that it can transform our life. How do you know and feel this to be true in your life?
Thomas Merton had no religion growing up. His father was an artist that travelled extensively, although a spiritual man. His mother was a Quaker who died when he was still little. He lived for himself, had fun…yet little nudgings from God would occur in him. He finally made a decision to go to a Catholic church, he began spiritual reading, spoke to Catholics about their faith and before you know it-he wanted to be baptized into the faith. It was only a couple years after that he wanted to become a priest. In his book, The Seven Storey Mountain, he speaks of the peace that came over him as he got to know the Lord. This is ‘giving seed to the one who sows’. Not that we should all become priests, but what is it that God is planting in YOU?
2nd Reading – Romans 8: 18-23
Paul is not a ‘pie-in-the-sky-when-we-die’ kind of guy. On the contrary, Paul regarded the struggles of Christian living as productive, necessary and inherent part of the process whereby we are saved and even all creation is transformed. We are a part of the struggle, but we are also people of hope who live with a joy-filled anticipation of the fullness of life to come. Even in the world of nature we see transformation and struggle as part of the whole process: Butterflies strain to use their new wings as they emerge from their tomb-like cocoons. Salmon swim incredibly long distances in order to spawn and bring forth life. Seeds must crack open and trust the ‘earth-grave’ around them to sprout forth with growth. (Celebration, July 14, 2002) Brene Brown says hope is a function of struggle.
“Hope is realistic…Hope simply does its thing, like that spider in the corner of my bookshelf. She will make a new web again and again, as often as my feather duster swooshes it away – without self-pity, without self-congratulations, without expectations, without fear…On my level the stakes are higher. But I bow to that spider,” said by Brother David Steindl-Rast. To learn a little more about this hope and being open to the unimaginable, watch this 6 minute clip of him: Spirituality for the Future series.
The Gospel – Matthew 13: 1-23
When we hear this parable, we often focus on ourselves as the various types of soil. Are we rocky, hard soil? Are we choked by the weeds of our life? How do we become good soil, receptive to God’s planting and bountiful care? Things to think about . . .
- What if we focus on ourselves as the sower? As the seed?
- Parables are certainly open-ended. They invite us to sit with mystery awhile – to allow time for its secrets and power to penetrate our minds and hearts. Isn’t it true that sometimes we are not sure we have much – or even that there isn’t much there? As Louie Armstrong said once: “There are some people that if they don’t know, you can’t tell ‘em.” Perhaps, Jesus was trying to say something similar: “To anyone who has, more will be given . . . from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” (Exploring the Sunday Readings, July, 2011, & Living Liturgy, Year A, 2002, p. 197)
- Imagine! Our God is willing to put up with a 75% failure rate! This parable certainly asserts that the kingdom will not be found by those who are afraid to waste – to ‘waste’ their time, energy, and love. God’s reign is fostered not by carefulness but by openhandedness – not by scrupulously measuring but by generously giving – not by the small gesture of micro-management but by large motion which allows seed to fly from our hands and to land where it will. If we give freely and love generously, a lot of our effort will be wasted. But the few things that do work will more than compensate for our losses. The harvest is worth the waste! God assures us. Jesus promises us that the growing seed will produce a harvest of 30, 60, and a 100 fold. (Living w/ Christ, 7/11, p. 4-5)
Fr. Bob’s homily July 2nd…
13th Sunday in Ordinary Time A
It seems clear from the readings this week that what we are offered in the Christian life is identity with Jesus Christ. St. Paul says, “If, then, we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him.” And Jesus himself promises “”Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.” This is what St. Irenaeus called participation in Christ that, for believers, our lives are a mirror of Jesus. And I promise you that if you choose to live the life of Christ, you will be more satisfied, complete, purposeful and loving than you could ever imagine. Which leaves me with one question, “Do want to live as Christ did?”
One does not have to look too far as to why you may not. To say yes to Christ’s life is to say…
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Fr. Bob’s homily last Sunday…
Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ A
It was over 25 years ago and I had told my friends that I was thinking of entering the seminary when my friend Alissa gave me a book by the German write Ranier Marie Rilke. I was startled by the challenge to think of what you would die for, and then live for it. It is the kind of answer that you cannot think about. It needs to come to you in a flash and my answer surprised me. The Eucharist. Until that moment I had never known just how deeply I have been penetrated by the Eucharist. How Christ’s body and blood had formed me and moved me.
I have been extra reflective this weekend because John Cronin was ordained a priest in our diocese and every ordination encourages you to recall the heady…
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