Sunday, October 30, 2011

A Reflection of What's Within

Am I a liar? Frustration. I have much work to do. I know I'm not perfect.

In reflection upon this week's Gospel, these are some of the thoughts that came to my mind. I share these thoughts not because of need for sympathy or pity but by way of honesty.

In a very direct and forward way, through an analysis of the Pharisees talks about the importance of practicing what we preach. However, is the our first reaction to think about the person in our life that does not practice what he or she preaches? The truth is that there are genuinely people that we encounter whose words and actions, whose words and faith, just don't seem to match up.

Sometimes though, when we are so inclined to point the finger, perhaps what we need to point to is ourselves. If we are honest with ourselves when we point to a fault of another person, could it really be a fault within that we are hitting upon or don't want to acknowledge ourselves?

Practicing what we preach, practicing the faith we profess, requires a sense of introspection. In other, words working to improve the short comings and points for improvement within; for the only person any of us can truly change is ourselves.

The pathway to change though, is not about creating a laundry list of what we don't like about ourselves or what we know to be a fault because I'm sure that if I passed out a paper and pen to everyone here, we could all make our own list of points of improvement. Although it is important to be aware of our points for growth in a real and honest way. The pathway of change Jesus calls us to is not by a list of changes but rather a change of heart. The Lord calls us to place ourselves at the service of others and to conduct ourselves with humility.

If we have a change of heart to infuse our lives with humility and place others before us, the changes that need to happen to bring our words, faith, and actions in accord with each other as one consistent entity, will fall into line automatically. A better way to look at this is to say, that we must take on the servant heart of Christ. To lead with the same servant leadership Jesus shows us in the Gospel.

We also know that when this change of heart takes place great potential for true and lasting change within ourselves and in our world increases all the more. For who among us has not or would not be touched, and in some way changed, by someone reaching out to us, helping us, or encouraging us? Would we not be different in some way?

Therefore, where is it that we are called to cultivate the servant heart of Christ? Where can we better place others before ourselves and allow the Lord's call to help our words, actions, and faith be of one accord?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Who is my neighbor?

Imagine a neighbor from your street came to you asking for your help to feed his or her family. Would you help?

Imagine a neighbor from a few streets away came to you in need of someone to talk to. Would you be there to listen and to help?

Imagine a neighbor from the next town over asked you for some help in the yard. Would you help this neighbor?

Who is my neighbor?

In a very direct way the Lord puts before us the true testament of love as He tells us that not just some but the whole law and the prophets, in other words our very life, depends upon the commandments to love God with our whole being and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Our ability to dedicate ourselves and love God with our whole hearts, souls, and minds, may come easy to us, for all we have to do is drop to our knees or drop into Merici Chapel for some time in Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. But to love our neighbor as ourselves can challenge us. In this call to love we must go beyond ourselves, at times beyond our comfort zones, we must let our walls fall down and see things we’d rather not see, and recognize and respond to the needs of others on and beyond the corner of our street.

Four years ago I had an experience that helped me to gain a deeper realization of what it means to love my neighbor as myself. In June of 2007 I joined the CRS (Catholic Relief Services) Global Fellows program. Global Fellows is a program that trains priests and deacons to share the story and the way to new life for our neighbors around the world. After receiving training at Catholic Relief Services headquarters in Baltimore, I boarded a plane bound for Cambodia. Cambodia, is a nation of about 14.5 million people and the size of the state of Missouri that is struggling with poverty and illness due to years of civil unrest and dictatorship and yet a country whose future is bright and rich in possibility and potential.

One day after traveling by jeep through bumpy dusty dirt roads which seemed to take forever, I encountered a health initiative project that trains volunteers from local villages to diagnose and treat tuberculosis and other illnesses. Because of this training many people who would otherwise die of disease are treated and survive and communities are strengthened. Also, I remember clearly one of the local health care volunteers saying that because of the training she received and what she now can do for her village that she sees her own self worth, she has experienced new purpose and meaning, she has a new life.

I am grateful to Catholic Relief Services because of not only what it taught me but what Catholic Relief Services does for our neighbors around the world. For us Catholics in the United States, Catholic Relief Services is our main outreach to those in need across the globe. CRS provides immediate aid in times of need, for example the earthquake in Haiti or most recently the famine in East Africa; but also the CRS difference is that it also helps people in the areas of healthcare, farming and food security, community building, fair trade, obtaining fair loans, advocacy for the poor, and many other areas that help our neighbors in this world to live to their fullest potential, which is something we all hope and long for and do our best to fulfill.

My time in Cambodia showed me, and demonstrates for all of us, what is possible when we challenge ourselves to open our eyes, recognize and respond to the needs of our neighbors both across our street and across the world.

This week may we challenge ourselves to recognize and love our neighbor as God has called us to.

For some of us that means reconciling what we allow to get in the way of loving others as ourselves. For someone of us that may mean pitching in and helping a neighbor with an immediate need. For some us this may mean encouraging a neighbor to use his or her gifts and talents to the best of their abilities, to live to their fullest potential. For some of us that means learning more about the needs of our neighbors that we cannot see. For example logging on to and becoming more informed or writing our representatives in congress to assist those most in need; because our voice must be heard, no matter how long it takes.

As Blessed John Paul II once said, "Do not be afraid. Do not be satisfied with mediocrity. Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch." As we seek to love God with our whole heart, soul, and mind may we cast our nets to love all our neighbors as ourselves and in doing be caught up in arms of God's mercy and love.



A special word of thanks to Fr. Chris Trenta, a fellow CRS Global Fellow, and parochial vicar at St. Mary Parish in Wooster for his inspiration which made this homily possible.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

pushing further... a discerning process

Building upon "Give us this day, our daily bread," in today's gospel from Luke we hear:

"And I tell you, ask and you will receive;
seek and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened to you.
For everyone who asks, receives;
and the one who seeks, finds;
and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

What we are called to consider is that in being receptive to the food that sustains us, our daily bread, it is also a matter of discernment. What I mean is that, have you ever found yourself going back to prayer time and time again and it just seems like there are no answers, or maybe like your prayers are going unanswered or that maybe, just maybe God isn't listening? But then! You hit that point, the "Ah-ha" moment where things make sense, the light bulb goes on, and you realize what you really need or what God really is trying to say to you, something other than what you want and that you did not hear at first. At times it all becomes crystal clear.

This reminds us that as our lives change, what we need changes and as all this unfolds we must remember that as we ask, seek, and knock in order to find we must listen and discern. Listen and discern. Listen and discern.

This process takes time and will require much persistence and patience on our behalf because we all know full too well that God is not going to text us back right away. We need to invite that daily bread in - the scripture, the Eucharist, our daily prayer - allow it to nourish us, become one with us, and enlighten us or bring us a step further than where we were before.

May we be persistent and patient in cultivating a discerning heart.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Want or Need?

"When you get what you want, but not what you need
When you feel so tired, but you can't sleep
Stuck in reverse"
-"Fix You" by Coldplay

This week we hear the story of Jonah play out in the daily Mass readings, Today it seems in some ways, in his desire and his attempt to escape God's will, he got what he wanted but not what he needed, nothing quite worked out, and in the end he was no happier; perhaps stuck in reverse? Which brings us to the Gospel for today in which we hear St. Luke's account of Jesus instructing His disciples to pray which over time has became for us The Lord's Prayer or The Our Father, one of, if not the most common prayer amongst Christians.

When we think of, "Give us this day, our daily bread," what do we truly think of? In this request, this prayer of supplication to the Lord, do we assume this to mean what we think we want or do we acknowledge and humbly ask God to sustain us with what we truly need?

What we want and what we truly need can at times be two different things. Could it be that we can see the brush stroke but God sees the picture? I remember a field education assignment in the seminary some years back, it wasn't what I wanted and at first I was upset and frustrated but now on the flip side of that experience and some years later, it truly was what I needed. Sort of like, we want the burger and fries but really we need the fruits and veggies.

Today, may we humbly, openly, and honestly pray the Lord's Prayer and when we get to the line, "Give us this day, our daily bread," with love and trust, accept what the Lord gives to us to nourish and sustain us, knowing that is what we truly need.