DO NOT WORRY ABOUT TOMORROW
Fr. Alex’s Corner, February 26, 2017
When a man announced that he was to walk on a high wire over Niagara Falls pushing a wheelbarrow, people thought this was insane. It’s a long walk, the winds are fierce, the drop is deep, and the rocks below don’t allow a bounce. And a wheelbarrow? They tried to talk him out of it, but when the day came, TV cameras were watching and waiting. He stepped on the wire, pushing the wheelbarrow, and slowly but surely made it to the other side. Everyone cheered. Then a friend said, “Why did they doubt? I knew you could do it. I had no doubt.” “Really? That’s great,” said the walker. “Get into the wheelbarrow, my friend, because we are going back to the other side.”
I don’t know if I’d get into that wheelbarrow, but I suspect Jesus invites us to that kind of faith. When we hear the word “faith” we may think of teachings and doctrines that we are expected to embrace. That’s part of it. But our faith is not in doctrines. Our faith is in a Person. To put your hands into God’s hands, trust Him, and get into His wheelbarrow, that’s faith! It could also cause a rumble in your stomach!
Ancient peoples knew they didn’t have the power to do everything. They concluded that there were gods somewhere who pulled the big strings. So, if you needed rain, you offered a sacrifice to ZEUS. Going to War? Offer a gift to MARS. Hoping for a good harvest? Sacrifice to SATURN. And sing to APHRODITE when you’re lookin’ for love. All nations had their gods and they revered them. But, in that ancient world, no one got a moral code from those gods, nor a promise of friendship. You placated them with sacrifices, then you left them alone and they left you alone, until you needed them again. Just like our kids’ annual letters to Santa.
The God of Israel was different. He chose a people, led them into a Promised Land where He would be their God and they would be His People. He gave them a moral code. They were given a way to live. They would embrace God’s law, and God would embrace them. This was a relationship, a Covenant.
This Sunday’s Mass readings put it in context. The history of God’s people is a story of God’s concern for His people. You know how a mother loves her child? The prophet Isaiah assures us that “even should a mother forget her infant, God will never forget us.”
Jesus confirms that. In His “do not worry” talk in today’s Gospel, Jesus says that God knows what we need and He won’t let us down. Jesus makes this practical. God will make sure we have the food and the clothes we need, and tomorrow’s needs, too. Jesus doesn’t suggest that we leave home naked and expect clothes to grow on us while we travel to work. We have to do our part, but Jesus says to avoid needless worry about tomorrow. That kind of worry just becomes another worry. We can be confident in
That’s where faith becomes a challenge. In what and in whom do you place your trust? Do you put more faith in your life insurance policy, or the warranty on your brakes, than you place in God? And how does that influence your daily commitments and how you care for others? That is no small, insignificant matter.
Lent is just a few days away. It will give us time to reflect on Jesus’ words and what it means to have such faith so as not to worry….
Ash Wednesday is coming. Have the Cross of Ashes marked on your forehead. Then get into the wheelbarrow and trust in the Lord.
An Eye For An Eye; A Tooth For A Tooth
Fr. Alex’s Corner, February 19, 2017
One morning this week I got to the chapel a little early. It was nice and quiet, sun shining outside, and I had time for a little chat with the Lord. On my mind was all the bad news in the papers: political chaos, jihads, violence, and terrorism, floods, landslides and lawsuits. And I wondered whether God is sorry that He created us and started this whole sorry mess….
Imagine my surprise when the Mass reading that morning said how “God regretted that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was grieved” (Genesis 6). Yes, I heard all this before, but never in answer to personal prayer. I take these Mass Readings very seriously. So you can imagine my relief later in the week when God assures Noah that He will never again send a flood. He doesn’t tell Noah, but we know that God won’t send a flood to destroy, but He will send His Son Jesus to
rebuild and redeem.
And so this week Jesus ends His Sermon on the Mount with big challenges: Love your enemies; be Holy as God is Holy (Matt 5).
The first two readings hint what this is about. Moses gets God’s message from a Tent in the midst of the people, not on the mountain- top. In other words, God is now among His people. St. Paul tells his parishioners in Corinth that the Word of God is in them, not in the Temple. (It was dangerous for Paul to say that, because at his writing, the Temple still stood in Jerusalem.) So, again, God is among His people, not in the Temple.
Jesus quotes Tallion Law, the Old Testament limits of retaliation: if you must punish, don’t make punishmentworse than the crime. If they pluck out your eye, don’t do anything worse to them. (Jesus does not advise plucking.)
Is Jesus suggesting that we be wusses….? Hardly! He is saying that God is in His people (the Holy Spirit within us) and He teaches through us. Thus, more is expected of us.
On June 17, 2015, nine members of Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, were shot to death during Bible Study in their church. A 21-year old self-proclaimed white supremacist came into the church that evening, dressed in jeans and sweatshirt, and sat down among them. They welcomed and accepted him. He participated in their Bible Study, and when their heads were bowed in prayer, he pulled a gun and killed nine and injured more. I can’t even imagine something like that happening in
church. But what happened next is stunning. Three days later, at the bond hearing, several family members of the victims turned to the shooter and said: “I forgive you.”
Now, did the shooter commit a sin? You bet! And he will have to answer to God for that. Was he prosecuted? Yes. He was found guilty and has been sentenced.
So what’s the point? The point is that the families of the victims did not go looking for white men in jeans and sweatshirts, even known white-supremacists, and pluck out their eyes and knock out their teeth.
Did it make a difference in the world? I don’t know. But it made a difference in Charleston, South Carolina.
Stories like this are meant to make us think. I don’t know how many of us could do that. But someone did. God, who is Holy, was
in His people, who are Holy. And God taught us a lesson through them. Yes, He did!
Think about it!
HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY
Fr. Alex’s Corner, February 12, 2017
For all the attention he gets, very little is known about the real Saint Valentine. He was a priest in Rome arrested for assisting martyrs during the persecutions. He refused to renounce the faith that inspired his love and concern for others and so he was beaten and beheaded in 269 A.D. By offering his heart, he proved himself a true devotee of the God of Love. Our celebration of Valentine’s Day may have begun in England where Chaucer observed that birds began to pair and mate around the feast of St. Valentine, that is, mid-February.
Let’s not forget the man who asked for the most beautiful Valentine card in stock, no matter what the cost. The merchant found an exquisite card, covered with ribbons and lace, pleasantly scented, with a tender poem dedicated to “my one and only love.” The man said, “That’s perfect. Give me FIVE of them.”
So, my friend, before you respond to your one and only, be sure you aretheone and only.
LAW AND ORDER
In our Sunday Gospel (Matt 5), Jesus continues his Sermon on the Mount, proclaiming that He has not come to abolish the Old Law. Hesays that love is the basis of His New Law (just in time for Valentine’s Day!) and it is our motives that count. If our motives are good, our actions will be expressions of love.
Those of us able to attend daily Mass heard this past week the creation story from the Book of Genesis. The meaning of “creation” in the bible is to make something out of nothing. But the way the story reads, one could argue that biblical creation was making order out of chaos. More than once the narrative says that. God’s word put all things in their place and made a
place for all things. When every ”thing” was in place, life began to form and develop. And it was good!
Ever since then, God has been trying to bring order out of chaos. There is a lot of anger in our world today, and anger causes chaos.
Anger and chaos are not novelties of our times. It goes way back. My Bible has 1500 pages. The first murder is recorded on page 7. A brother killed his brother, would you believe!
I suspect the Bible was written to explain the causes and nature of anger and hatred and their chaotic effects on human life. And then, the Bible introduces God’s solution.
There is a sense today that if you and I disagree on something, you are my enemy and I should hate you. That thinking has to go. Even if we disagree, each of us still has been created in the image and likeness of God, and we deserve respect, even reverence.
The Prophets of the Old Testament reminded the people that we have to respect each other, and help one another when necessary.
Then God sent Jesus, God’s Word Made Flesh. The mission of Jesus is to save us from our sins, but also to save us from each other. His healing miracles were a relief from the chaos of illness, but also a sign of God’s compassion and mercy. He expects us to show similar compassion and mercy, even if we disagree. Are we listening?
As I write this article there is a technician walking on our roof trying to point our satellite dish so we can get a clearer picture on our TV. Maybe we need to aim our ears – and our hearts – more precisely to Jesus, to get a clearer picture of who we are, what God expects of us, and how He helps us to accomplish that. Let’s turn to Jesus and listen. God bless.
YOU ARE THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD
Fr. Alex’s Corner, February 5, 2017
Like any other Saturday afternoon, I went into the church to post the Bulletins and prepare for the evening Vigil Mass. Four boys of middle-school age were sitting in one of the pews. None looked familiar. They huddled together so closely, it looked like one wide, four-headed kid. I thought to myself, oh, boy, this doesn’t look good. Something is going on. Are they carving their initials into the wooden pews? Or, maybe they will set the Missalettes on fire. I did my work, walking into and out of the church, watching as they just sat there.
Finally, I went up to them with my friendliest, “Hi, how ‘ya doin”?” “Hi,” one or the other answered. “Can I do anything for you?”
“Do you give confession?” one asked. “Sure,” I answered, and I entered the confessional, thinking: they may murder me right here.
One boy came in. He knew the prayers and made a regular kid’s confession. Same with the second and third. Nothing dramatic – so far.
Finally, the fourth boy came in and sat down. He looked around the confessional, then at me. Not a word! So I offered my usual, “Is there anything you want to tell God you are sorry for?” “What?” he answered. I repeated my line and he did his. I asked if he had been to confession before. “I’m not Catholic,” he said….
OK, the picture was getting clearer. I asked why he was here. “My friends and I were walking and we saw the church and they told me about the church and about God. They said that God wants you to be a good person. And there are ten bad things you cannot do. If you do them, you have to tell a priest or you will go to hell forever and ever.” “Have you done any of those ten things,” I asked. He answered, “They didn’t tell me what they were.”
So, comforted that this was not juvenile delinquency in the making, I told him how nice it was that his friends brought him here. That God loves all of us, including him, and that God wants us to be kind and nice to each other, and no bullying! He said “Ok.” When I leaned over to make the Sign of the Cross on his forehead, he bolted, and when I left the confessional, they were all gone. Never saw them again!
Sometime later I told this story to our Bishop. He smiled and said, “Halleluja! The light overcomes darkness.”
I think of this story when Jesus, the Light of the World, tells us we must be lights in the world.
Thinking about that afternoon, I realized that this was just as “Holy Spirit” as was the wind and fire in the Upper Room on Pentecost. These boys were neither theologians nor catechists, but just kids who were enlightened by someone about good and evil, and God’s forgiveness. Like the first apostles, they brought their friend to Jesus! If they were living in Galilee two thousand years ago, Jesus might have made them His apostles.
These kids were God’s lights in a dark world.
And I wondered: suppose the church doors were locked that day. What if I had told them to leave the church? I didn’t recognize them as parishioners, so maybe they didn’t belong.
You think that might be the eleventh bad thing?
Jesus said it: “YOU are the light of the world.” Let it shine, baby, let it shine!
A little light overcomes darkness. Don’t worry about your wattage or your voltage. With your slightest light, darkness doesn’t stand a chance!
HALLELUJA! The light overcomes darkness!