Sunday, February 26, 2017

One Foot in Tomorrow and One Foot in Yesterday...

8 Sun OT Yr A - 2017
Ss. Peter & Paul, Danville

I have this problem that I think most of us share.  I heard it described once very well by a very wise man.  It’s not quite fit for public consumption, so we’ll have to massage it a bit.  It goes like this:  If you’ve got one foot stuck in tomorrow and one foot stuck in yesterday, you’ll… Well…you’ll do something gross, and messy – all over today.  Poopoo.  Can we say poopoo in Church? If we’ve got one foot stuck in tomorrow and one foot stuck in yesterday, we’ll poopoo all over today.  

Funny as it is…we do it all the time, don’t we?  

I’ve been trying to get on the treadmill more regularly.  Here’s a typical conversation in my head when I start thinking about exercising: ‘Gosh – I wish I hadn’t gone so long without exercising – if only I’d started doing this months or years ago, I could be so much stronger, so much fitter.  If I’d started drinking my NutriBullet shakes and eating better in my 30’s, it wouldn’t be so hard to walk two miles.’  Often, that gets me so bummed out that when it’s time to get on the treadmill, I start having a different conversation in my head: ‘Golly – looking at my calendar, there won’t be any time to exercise again for another 10 days or so – there’s so much to do!  Maybe I’m better off just giving this treadmill thing a go after we get Lent off to a good start…’  And you know what happens, right – between all that worrying about yesterday and worrying about tomorrow – I don’t get on the treadmill today.  

I’m not alone in that, am I?  We do it with fitness and finances and faith.  We do it with relationships.  We do it with confession.  Go ahead – we’re family – raise your hand if you’ve ever done that with confession…  Over and over again, we struggle with this pattern… If we’ve got one foot stuck in yesterday, and one foot stuck in tomorrow, we’ll poopoo all over today…


Jesus invites us to do it differently…actually, he invites us to be different.


‘Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life,” he says.  There’s so much more to this life, He says, than the things we’re always worrying about.  That thing we call worry is hardly ever about this present moment; worry almost always sends us to regret over yesterday and paralyzing concern over tomorrow, eating up the only moments we can use to do anything about it: right now.  

And what’s the key to living this moment – each present moment – in a way that will fill our lives with peace?  “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you besides…”


Isn’t it funny – when I shut up all my internal chatter about what I wish I had done and what I’m worried about that’s coming – when I shut all that up and say to myself, ‘Who does God want me to be right now?’ – every single time I’ve done that, I’ve put on my walking shoes and hit the treadmill. Every. Single. Time.  Every single time I stop regretting that I haven’t prayed as much as I should have, and stop predicting that I won’t pray tomorrow as well as I need to – every single time, I’ve grabbed my breviary or rosary beads or journal and spent quality time with the Lord.  Every. Every. Single. Time. Every single time I stop beating myself up for the sins I’ve committed, stopped shaming myself for not being a perfect Christian, and stopped wondering whether or not I might commit the same sin again even after I go and confess it and stop playing the ridiculous game of ‘I’ll go to confession after I figure out how to stop sinning’ – every single time, I’ve gone to a priest and made my confession, and found peace in the mercy of Jesus who sees growth and healing in me. Every. Single. Time.  

If we’ve got one foot stuck in yesterday, and one foot stuck in tomorrow, we’ll poopoo all over today…But if we’ve got both feet in today, in each present moment, and if we look to God who loves us enough to save us one moment at a time, then we’ll get somewhere…and we’ll be as at peace as the birds of the air and the flowers of the field, because, like them, we’ll live each moment in the hands of love.


We have to practice this way of living, friends.  This way of knowing and trusting Jesus enough to let go of our anchors in yesterday and tomorrow and live in today.  That comes from experiencing His love, experiencing His friendship, and experiencing His divinity – because if we experience that the all-powerful Creator loves us enough to be our friend, we can trust our lives one moment at a time to Him.

Together as a parish family, I want us to try something together this Lent.  Something that will help us all experience more deeply the love of Christ.  Something that will help us all know Jesus better as a real person and the realest friend around.  I want us to spend time with Jesus.  Specifically, I want us to spend time with Jesus like we would any friend…by coming to where He is… where He waits patiently for us to visit Him…hidden in simple bread.

If you’ve got a friend or acquaintance you want to get closer to, what do you do?  You spend time with them.  Face to face.  You see them.  And you see them seeing you.  You talk with them, and you stop talking and listen to them talk to you.  You laugh and cry together.  You’re honest with each other.  And – you do it face to face as often as you can.  Right?  

This Lent, I want you to ‘come and see’ what happens if you do that with Jesus here in the Church, here on the altar, here in Eucharistic Adoration.  As a family of faith, together as a family, let’s visit with Jesus this Lent.  Each Friday, between the noon Mass and 5pm Stations of the Cross, there will be adoration right here in the Church.  Our parish staff has made the first commitment – for every hour of adoration, one member of our parish staff will be here praying for and with you as we seek to be closer to Jesus ourselves.  And I’ve asked our Parish Council and those involved in each of our parish Committees to lead us as well, by being a routine part of this Adoration effort.  If you’re on the Council or a Committee and haven’t yet heard from your leaders about this, please get in touch with them.

We’re doing all of this for you – each and every one of you – young and old alike.  We’re trying to experience Jesus ourselves as leaders in the parish so that we know him more deeply and can serve you more perfectly.  But we’re also making this commitment so that you can have the opportunity to spend time with Jesus this way, too.  I want to ask each and every one of you to spend one hour with Jesus, here at the Church, in Eucharistic Adoration, over the course of this Lent.  Take a long lunch; leave work early; change your plans just once to make this happen.  I’m not asking you to do anything more than what you’d do for a good friend who wants to make plans to see you…  One hour over the next six weeks…and just see what happens…come and see…


If we’ve got one foot stuck in yesterday, and one foot stuck in tomorrow, we’ll poopoo all over today…But if we’ve got both feet in today, because we’ve spent time with Jesus face to face and have grown in knowing Jesus as the God who loves us enough to save us one moment at a time, then we’ll be as at peace as the birds of the air and marvelous to the world around us as the flowers of the field, because, like them, we’ll live each moment in the hands of love.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

It All Seems So Simple, Doesn't It?

6 Sun OT Yr A (2017)
Ss. Peter & Paul/Danville

It all seems so simple, doesn’t it?  What’s the big deal, right?  Choose and trust. If you choose to keep the commandments, they will save you.  Simple.  If you trust in God, you too shall live.  No big deal…


Except – well, except apparently it is a big deal.  Because from our first parents thousands of years ago until now, who among us has been able to just choose to keep the commandments?  You can eat any fruit you want – except this one – this one tree over here, leave it alone.  If you eat this fruit you will surely die.  Simple.  Don’t lie, cheat, or steal.  Don’t murder – the unborn or the elderly or even the criminal.  Don’t take their life – and don’t be angry either.  Simple.  Don’t use the gift of your sexuality however feels good – it’s powerful and meant for a purpose; use it only in a forever union of man and woman.  Physically and mentally, preserve this gift of sexuality for what is true marriage.  Simple.

If you choose to keep the commandments, they will save you.  Simple, right?  Wrong.  This fruit looks good to eat, surely it won’t kill me.  This pregnancy is inconvenient to me, surely it’s my body so it’s my choice.  He killed her so surely we should kill him.  It seems like marriage should be between whoever wants to be married for as long – and only as long – as they want to be.  Who is God to tell me what I can do with my anger, my sexuality, my love?  


Is it a choice problem, or a trust problem?

For as long as there have been people, we’ve had difficulty choosing to follow God’s commandments.  And I think that’s because we have a trust problem.  We don’t trust God to know whether a fruit is good for us or not.  Surely the one who eats know better than the one who plants the fruit what is good for the belly.  Who is God to tell me what to do with my body and mind – they’re mine aren’t they?  I’ll love who I love however I want to love – because I know better than anyone else what’s good for me.  Trust God?  Sure – when He tells me what I want to hear.  But trust that He knows better than me?  Nah – I’ll pass…


If we believed about God what we say week after week we believe about Him, we’d solve both our trust problem and our choice problem.  “I believe in one God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth…”  

Wait…what?  Creator.  Creator?  


Maybe – just maybe all those “commands” are something other than arbitrary boundaries imposed on us to make us live lives a certain way.  “You can eat any fruit you like but this one.”  Was that a command designed to keep us from some pleasure that would make us very happy?  Was God trying to save the best fruit for Himself, and keep it from us?  Was it just a trick question – a test for His amusement?  When He said if we ate the fruit of that tree we’d surely die, was it a cruel punishment that He was going to exact on us for having the audacity to displease Him? “Do as I say or I’ll have your hide?”  Or is it possible that, being the Creator, God knew us and knew the garden so well that His command was a protection spoken out of love?

Don’t touch the stove when it’s hot; don’t run down the stairs.  Are the burnt fingers and bruises punishment?  Don’t eat the fruit; don’t kill; don’t commit adultery; don’t lie.


It all seems so simple, doesn’t it? If you choose to keep the commandments, they will save you.  If you trust in God, you too shall live.  Simple, right?  Well – it would be, if we trusted God at His word… But we have difficulty with that.  It is simple – but far from easy.

That’s why Jesus came friends – that’s why He comes here again today on this altar.  God created us to be with Him forever – He created us to be like Him – but the difference in our vantage point seemed too difficult for us to overcome.  Created so much like the Creator Himself, from the very beginning we struggle to remember that we are creature, not creator.  And we attempt to substitute our wisdom for His; we mistake the love expressed in His commands for artificial boundaries; we misunderstand freedom to be an absence of any boundary instead of the authentic freedom which listens to the voice of God and hears the caution of a loving parent:  don’t touch that, it’ll burn…

What we understand instinctively about parenting children we reject in our relationship with God…because we forget that He always has been and will be our Father; we struggle with the idea of forever being His children…

We struggle to hear care and concern in His commands, we’re unable to see God’s love written in our very existence…so Jesus came to show us once and for all the depth and breadth of His love.  I will die for you to make up for all you’ve misunderstood and ignored, if you’ll just believe that I’ve done it.  I’ll hang on this cross for you, and hide in the bread and wine forever for you, if you’ll just see my love in the completeness of my gift for you. 

If you choose to keep the commandments, they will save you.  It’s simple really, I love you.  If you trust in God, you too shall live.  It’s simple, really – I died for you…why would I lie to you?  

“Before you are life and death, good and evil; whichever you choose I’ll give to you.” 

Because I love you…  

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Make Me a Crisis Person...

5 Sun OT Yr A (2017)
Ss. Peter & Paul/Danville

“Father, make me a crisis man.  Bring those I contact to decision. Make me a fork in the road, that men must turn one way or another in facing Christ in me.”

In 1952 a man in his early twenties arrived in Ecuador with a heart to be a missionary of the Gospel.  He felt called to witness to a tribe of warrior peoples who had never heard the Gospel, and began to fly a small aircraft near their village to communicate with them.  After a couple of months, he and some friends made camp just a short distance from their village.

On January 5, 1956, after finally making some face to face contact, the missionaries sat down to prepare a small lunch.  As they prepared their meal, ten of the warriors ambushed them and speared them to death – a difficult, painful, violent death.  Death for the sake of the Gospel…

Jim Elliot was his name – just days before his death he wrote those words in his journal.  He and his friends understood that the life of a Christian is lived most especially for the purpose of proclaiming the Gospel in the world.  In season, and out of season, our job as Christians is to be salt and light in the world.  Jim Elliot and his friends lived their lives doing that; they literally gave their lives to be salt and light in the world.

What would it be like to live life the way Jim and his friends did?  Whether we venture into the untouched jungles of the world, or into the jungles of our schools and workplaces, the jungles of our neighborhoods or the jungles of the political and social debates of our times – what would it be like to live life trying to be salt and light for a dark and bland world?  I’ll tell you what it would be like – it would be like living life as a Great Adventure – exactly what it is meant to be!


That’s what Jesus did – isn’t it?  Jesus was a crisis man; He brought those He encountered to a moment of decision – He was a fork in the road to all He met.  The woman caught in adultery.  The rich young ruler.  The woman at the well.  Saint Peter and Saint Paul.  Mary Magdalene.  Pilot and Herod.  Pharisees and Sadducees and Scribes and the Sanhedrin.  Tax collectors. Zacchaeus. Jesus was a crisis man – He brought those He came in contact with to a point of decision.  “Do you have faith?  Will you repent and believe in the Good News of this Gospel, that God loves you – that you are made for more than this?  Will you follow me.  Go and do likewise.  Come and see.”


An encounter with Jesus was – and is – a turning point. Jesus was a crisis man; He brought those He encountered to a moment of decision.  But it is also important to notice how He did that.  The moment of crisis He created – the moment of decision – always left open the possibility of relationship and conversion.  He didn’t call the rich young ruler an idiot.  He didn’t demonize anyone around Him except for the demons, whether they agreed with Him or not.  Some He called a brood of vipers; but then He invited them to conversion.  He always left open the possibility of relationship, dialogue, and conversion.  And He spoke with love – even in His anger, He spoke with love.


We’ve forgotten how to be women and men of crisis – at least the way Jesus was.  Friends – we’re called to be salt and light in the world.  But we’ll never accomplish that if our real goal is to be right, instead of witnessing to the truth in a way that actually invites a new way of seeing things.  No – we can’t lose our flavor. But – we must do this together as a community of faith, embracing one another across our disagreements, guided by Truth that isn’t a rational construct, but rather a person – Love Himself.


I have a confession.  I’ve never shared this from the ambo before.  I hope it doesn’t make you uncomfortable.  Are you ready?  Here goes:  I love mashed potatoes.  LOVE THEM!  But I can’t stand them without some salt.  No salt – yuck.  Too much salt, though – too much salt poured on without any regard for how much is needed at the moment – that can just ruin some good mashed potatoes.  And too much light shone directly in the eyes at midnight will blind rather than illumine.  

We’ve been entrusted with the task of being salt and light in the world – it is worth giving our lives to that Great Adventure.  But we have to let Love Himself guide how much and when, or we’ll spoil it all – for ourselves and those we’re called to play a part in saving.

Our calling is not an easy one – but God is faithful to His promise.  If we share our bread with the hungry, if we shelter the oppressed and homeless, if we clothe the naked, if we refuse to turn our backs on our own – no matter who they voted for – then our light will break forth like the dawn, and the darkness of the world will be overcome.  If we remove oppression, false accusation and malicious speech from our efforts to be salt and light in this world, the gloom of this world will give way to the bright light of Truth and Love as radiant as the noonday sun.  I’m willing to bet there isn’t a single one of us here today who doesn’t need to adjust their approach based on this.

Be salt and light – be crisis women and men – do it like Jesus did – and start with the plank in your own eye…and see, just see, where Jesus takes us.