Shalom! Peace to you!
The readings this weekend remind us of last week’s call to reflect on the order of our priorities but with a more urgent tone. Amos’ words “woe to the complacent” are intended to discomfort us to the point of taking action in changing our lives. Jesus’ account of Lazarus and the rich man goes even deeper because the woes that the rich man is experiencing seem to have a more intense and possibly eternal character to them while those that Amos warns of are temporal. Jesus is really encouraging us to think about the day we give our account to God. A few things about this story are important for us to understand. First, like the rich man, God has given us many good things in life and we will give an account of how we use them. Second, it appears that the greatest problem that the rich man has is his attitude toward Lazarus. From his place of torment, his attitude toward Lazarus hasn’t changed. He still seems to look down on Lazarus as an inferior to himself. We are reminded that poor people don’t have the same chances in life as the rich. Lazarus received what was bad while the rich man received what was good. Lazarus could have grown up in any one of the thousands of slums in cities across the world or he was born to addicted parents. Who knows? The possibilities are endless. Third, it isn’t clear whether the rich man’s torments are eternal or not. We don’t know whether he is eternally damned or undergoing purification from his sins. There is a ray of hope that he will suffer—that is change his attitude—and be free upon his change. Either way, it is obvious that he is suffering greatly with no escape.
We are supposed to feel concern when we hear these readings. We are concerned for ourselves and the account we will give and we are concerned with care for the poor—God cares and so do we! Paul’s letter to Timothy gives us encouragement and direction: we are people reborn in Christ, truly committed to love God and neighbor. Each day we are capable of helping another person in the name of Jesus Christ. Each day we find renewal in the grace we are given through these opportunities. The Gospel is the Good News, that when we turn from selfishness and try to serve others, God’s mercy helps us. Our efforts also help the Lazarus’ of our day share in the joy of God’s kingdom! May God’s blessings be with you all! +++ Fr. Peter
Peace and blessings to you all!
This weekend’s readings call us to reflect upon the underlying behaviors that manifest what our priorities truly are. The reading from Amos reveals that the community, although observing religious ceremony, is not putting into practice the principles of their religion. Rather, their actions in personal life are corrupt and directly opposed to the values of their religion. The poor and needy are not just neglected, they are exploited in their vulnerability! Jesus tells a story to his disciples (you and me) that shows how people are usually industrious and creative when it comes to serving themselves and their own interests but when it comes to serving God or other people, we do not make full use of all their talents and energies. Take a minute to consider your talents and gifts: your time, wealth and possessions, education, skills, your love, your relationships, especially yourself and your good name. Note them all. Recognize that ultimately, God has given all of these things to you. Plus, God has put an incredibly powerful Spirit within you to do something good. You know this because you have made sacrifices along the way to achieve your goals and desires! Now please consider what goals you want to accomplish for Jesus Christ and God’s kingdom. You and I, all of us together, have an incredible power to do great things for God! Both history and personal experience show that great things are usually accomplished one little step at a time, one prayer at a time, one heartbeat at a time. One thing that I would like you to consider is that most parishes are financed by less than half of the people who attend Mass. Your parish needs and deserves the support of everyone! Please seriously consider giving back to God through your parish. The jar of flour and the jug of oil will not run dry! God always provides! Dream of what your community can accomplish when we all work together! May God bless you always! +++ Fr. Peter
May the light of Christ fill your hearts!
The Gospel readings this weekend communicate something fundamentally important to our understanding of God’s care for the human race. In the first two stories, there is a search for something of great value that has been lost and when it is found, the owner finds cause for a joy filled celebration. The third story, popularly known as “the prodigal son,” opens a way to an enriched and endearing understanding of God’s love and solicitude for us, his children. One important component included in the story of the prodigal son is carried forward from today’s first reading from Exodus: people seem to get off track very quickly and easily and fall into sin. Some of us know this by our own personal experience or through family or friends who seem to live in a manner that is disconnected from God. One point of the story that I find particularly moving is that while en route on his return, the father sees the son “while he is still a long way off, and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him.” From the first instance of this scene we can deduce that the father watched the horizon for his son every single day. The father never forgot his son. He never stopped hoping, he never stopped loving or longing for his son. At sunrise each day, his first prayer was for his distant son and at the moment of his return all was forgiven. For those of us who are sometimes distressed about people who seem to be distant from God or the Church we find hope and encouragement knowing that God is constantly working silently and secretly in each heart to call each one home. We ourselves may get angry, frustrated or just plain give up on them but God never does. It is truly wonderful to know that God is the one who saves us and it is God who will save them. My the Father of Mercy fill you with joy and peace! +++ Fr. Peter
May God’s peace dwell within you!
Although it is true that the Gospel always calls us to change, this weekend’s readings poignantly challenge us to be open to new ways of thinking. In Paul’s letter to Philemon (beloved), the request to welcome the return of Onesimus, a slave, is directed toward the un-named master who owns Onesimus. The Apostle asks the master to regard Onesimus as Paul’s own beloved brother rather than as a slave or property possessed by the owner. To the slave owner, this is a radical change to be sure! Likewise in the Gospel, Jesus sets forth some very challenging conditions for discipleship. The use of the word “hate” in regards to one’s own life or family is strong indeed and Jesus uses it to make a definitive point. The followers of Jesus must decide that the highest priority in life is God and sharing in his work of completing God’s kingdom on earth requires unswerving commitment– it may require separation from one’s own family! To be a disciple of Jesus means to follow him not only to Church on Sunday but also into the market place on Monday.
The imagery of constructing a tower helps us visualize the reality that one can give top priority to Jesus with words and even demonstrate a certain level of commitment by religious practice. But there will be times when upholding these priorities will be challenged and choices must be made. Jesus and his disciples recognize these times as crosses because they are difficult. As difficult as some of these challenges may be, we try not to feel overwhelmed or afraid because they are also cross roads by which we grow stronger in faith, love and understanding in our relationship with God. The cross is central to new life in Christ. For disciples of Jesus, the cross is salvation from compromising ourselves in every form, it is dying to what takes us away from God, and rising to what leads us closer to God. And we see in our own little crosses marks of conversion and a share in the saving power of Christ’s cross. In what ways are you experiencing challenges to discipleship? What cross or sacrifice are you being asked to embrace? Ask Jesus and Mary for light to guide you through whatever it is. May the God of all grace preserve you in peace, health and joy! +++ Fr. Peter