Sunday, April 30, 2017

They Recognized Him in the Breaking of the Bread...

Easter 3rd Sunday 2017 (Yr A)
Ss. Peter & Paul, Danville, KY

They were distracted from the most important things, and that had them headed in exactly the wrong direction…

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Though you and I are now two weeks from the resurrection, today’s Gospel takes place later that same day.  Cleopas and his friend were followers of Jesus – they’d been in Jerusalem when He’d been arrested, tried, crucified, died, and was buried.  They’d heard the crazy news that the body of Jesus was missing – and they’d even heard the crazy story that some believed He had risen from the dead.  And later that same day they were…well, they were headed the wrong direction…  They were headed to Perryville when they were supposed to be staying in Danville. Biblical scholars suggest they were distracted, confused, and afraid – and headed in the wrong direction…

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But – Father – how can you say they were distracted and had their minds on the wrong thing?  They were talking about Jesus.  Doesn’t that mean their minds were on the right stuff?  

Well – I don’t know – you tell me.  While they were discussing what seems to be all the right things, Jesus Himself showed up and started walking with them – and they didn’t recognize Him. They were even talking with Him, talking about all that happened to Him – and they didn’t recognize Him when He showed up!  That suggests they were a bit distracted – a bit confused – and their eyes and hearts were turned to other things, regardless of the words that were coming out of their mouths.

We’re on the road to Emmaus sometimes too, aren’t we?  The words coming out of our mouths seem to be about all the right things, but sometimes we’re not really seeing or recognizing Jesus when He comes up alongside of us.

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Now – the good news is – Jesus still comes!  He still comes to us, journeys with us, listens to us, loves us.  And there’s more good news – there’s something that always reveals Jesus to us, sets our hearts and minds in the right direction, eliminates our distraction, and gets us focused on Jesus.  They recognized Him in the breaking of the bread...!

That’s why the Eucharist is so important – that’s why coming to Mass is so important, especially when we’re feeling distracted or lost, or are trying to make sure Jesus is as the center of something important going on in our lives.  Because if we turn our eyes and hearts and minds to the breaking of the bread, we’ll recognize Jesus, we’ll see and experience Him with us.  The Eucharist is our compass, our north star, our guiding light.  Just like Cleopas and his friend, we’ll recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread, adjust our destination, and begin to head in the right direction – toward the miracle He has in store for us.

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We’re on the road as a parish family right now, aren’t we?  We’re on the road of discernment, trying to figure out what the next right step is for our family of faith regarding our building project.  We know we need an elevator.  We’ve talked for a long time about a bell tower.  We’ve also talked about important maintenance to our historic building to preserve and protect it, and dreamed about updates to our worship space.  Each of us has a different perspective on the priorities; a different story to tell about why we invested or didn’t invest in the capital campaign.  But we learned just before Easter that we can’t do it all – at least not all right now.

And so here we are on the road.  I don’t know about you – but there are times on this road that I feel like the disciples on the day of the resurrection.  Sometimes confused.  Sometimes scared. Wondering which direction to go.  Doing the best I can to find Jesus in this journey – to hear and see Him – to understand His guidance and direction.  Because nothing matters if we’re not following His lead.  “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.”

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When we’re heading down this road of discernment for our parish building project – any time we’re on the road – together or individually – in difficulty and struggle, in times of loneliness, sickness, or hardship – even in times of plenty and consolation – any time we’re on the road, the only sure way to recognize Jesus and let Him point us in the right direction is to focus first and foremost on recognizing Him in the breaking of the bread.  To focus on gathering together – even among our disagreements and differences of opinion – to be walking together and focused on the Eucharist, to see and encounter Jesus in the Eucharist – so that we can recognize him in the breaking of the bread and let Him point us in the right direction.

There is nothing – nothing – more important that we do as a community of faith than turn toward Him at this altar, set everything else aside, recognize, see, hear, and respond to Jesus in the breaking of the bread, and let that communicate to us where and how we go forward.

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Every registered member of the parish has a voice in our discernment regarding the construction project – we’ve heard already from about 150 of our families, and we’ve extended our time for response to noon on Monday.  Place your response forms in the collection basket or bring them to the parish office.  If you didn’t receive a form, contact Cindy in the office and she’ll get one to you.  The Parish Council has met, the Finance Council and Construction Committee will meet this week – and we’ll do the best we can to hear the voice of the whole parish and discern how to proceed.  But that only matters – it can only happen – if we keep what is most important actually most important to us:  that is, Jesus Christ – recognizing Him and responding to Him – and we do that by focusing together on Him in the breaking of the bread at the Eucharist.

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They were distracted from the most important things, focused on worldly things, and that had them headed in exactly the wrong direction…  We find ourselves on that same road together and individually in all kinds of situations and circumstances.  Sometimes we’re headed in the right direction – sometimes we’re not.  Sometimes we’re distracted – sometimes we’re not.  The story of Cleopas and his friend give us a sure compass as we walk – we’ll recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread.  

Come Lord Jesus – show us your presence – let us hear your voice – point us in the direction we should go – and walk with us – so that all we do might bring glory and honor to you, and serve the spread of the Gospel and the salvation of souls.  Amen.  Amen.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Man, Does It Feel Good To Come Out of the Desert!

Palm Sunday (Yr A) 2017
Ss. Peter & Paul, Danville
Man does it ever feel good to be coming out of the desert!

Six weeks ago, we got out of the boat and into the desert – remember?  We went into the hot, dry, barren desert with Jesus – leaving behind all the things that try to leave us dead in the desert.  And as soon as we got into the desert, Jesus took us up a high mountain. Why?  So that we could be transformed – seeing Jesus more clearly for who He is transformed us so we could complete the rest of the journey through the desert of Lent to new life at Easter!  

And then we went on an adventure. Jesus found us thirsty at the well, and gave us the water of life.  Jesus found us blind from birth, and restored our spiritual sight. He found us dead – dead in our sin – dead and locked away – He found us dead, and restored us to life.  And all of that – all of that to bring us here…to the precipice of Holy Week – to the celebration of the great days.  In Lent, we got out of the boat and into the desert, where we were transformed, we found living water and began to see, and we are being brought back to life.  

Man – does it ever feel good to be coming out of the desert…

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Coming out of the desert we hang our banners high, the music greets us once again, we march around town and around the Church celebrating the arrival of the King – our King!!  All Glory Laud and honor to You Redeemer King!! We’re excited – we’ve made it out of the desert – we’ve found our king – He is triumphant – we are SAVED!!!!  

And…that lasts about 15 minutes.  As quickly as the children of Israel turned on God and Moses after being delivered from Pharaoh – more quickly, actually – we turn on Jesus.  In the space of 15 minutes we go from all glory laud and honor to Crucify Him!  Crucify Him!  

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Like all the worst stories in human history, our celebration of friendship with Jesus becomes a brutal betrayal.  The first time I ever really paid attention to the parts I read in the pews on Palm Sunday, I was overwhelmed by confusion. He’s my friend – He’s my king – I love Him – I’ll follow Him anywhere!  Kill Him!  Destroy Him! Murder Him!  CRUCIFY HIM!

The enormity of it used to bring me to tears – but nothing quite like the sorrow that settled into my soul the first time I realized that, truly, in my life, I actually do and say things that line up with our speaking parts on Palm Sunday.  We come easy to the palms and procession of this glorious day, dismissing or disconnecting from the part we play in the Passion.  But the truth is, friends, if we take an honest look at our days, at what we do and say, if we’re honest with ourselves we can recognize that the Church gives us these lines in the Palm Sunday drama because we’ve earned them.  Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde.  All Glory, Laud, and Honor and Crucify Him!

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We come to Mass on Sunday; we trust Jesus in prayer; we share what we have with the needy; we love even when it hurts; we carry our burdens courageously; we worthily receive His Body and Blood from this altar, and focus ourselves on offering the true worship of joyful, contrite, open and loving hearts.  Hosanna to the King of Kings!!!

But what about those times we miss Mass out of simple unwillingness to be inconvenienced?  We cling to more than we need and leave others in desperate want.  We love as long as it feels good or reject the teachings of the Church the moment it asks something of us that we don’t like.  We hide our sin from Confession, spiting in the face of Love Himself when we receive His sacred Body and Blood unworthily.  We sit at Mass the way we sit in a movie theater, passively going through the motions, overlooking the divine realities taking place.  Crucify Him!  Crucify Him!

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Is it any wonder that at the end of it all – in His divine mind able to see the entirety of human experience – aware of the ways you and I would ignore, resist, and work against the very love His pain and agony offers us – is it any wonder that in His last breaths He felt abandoned and alone?  “…why have you forsaken me?”

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Friends – we are all joined together in the hypocrisy of Palm Sunday.  We are all guilty.  Thank God – THANK GOD – this is a story, this is a day, this is a celebration of who Jesus is and not who we are!  Because, the story doesn’t end with our hypocrisy – the story doesn’t end with our fickle, two-faced transformation.  The story, the celebration, the Good News is that the pain and agony of the Cross, the humiliation and betrayal or our “Crucify Him” – the story we tell today – this story, this celebration, this Good News is that Love wins!

Day after day, if we let ourselves be pierced by the Mercy that flows from the Passion and Death of the Lord, our sin is overcome and the crucifixion pierces us with Love and earns for us a place in that kingdom where we become wholly, completely and forever among the parade of faithful witnesses ringing out Hosanna to the King!  

The story isn’t our betrayal.  The story is this:  Jesus wins!! Jesus wins in our lives!  Love wins in our lives! Even our own hypocrisy can’t destroy the power of this King’s love and mercy!  Hosanna to the King!