Fr. Tim’s Homily for Sunday, Sept 29, 2019

 

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time-C

September 29, 2019

Weekend One: Introduction to Stewardship Renewal

Readings for Sunday click here

Amos 6: 1a, 4-7

1 Timothy 6: 11-16

Luke 16: 19-31

        

This weekend we begin our Annual Stewardship Renewal with its theme, “Formed in the Heart.”

Didn’t we just do this? Yes we did, exactly one year ago.

Why do we do this every year? Because we remember things that are important to us every year, like birthdays and anniversaries. They deserve our notice.

As a steward of God’s bountiful blessings, I acknowledge that all that I have is a gift from God: my very life itself, my time, my talents and my treasure. God wants me to receive these gifts from Him gratefully, to develop them with an increase and, because of my gratitude, to share them generously with others, so that each person gives as they have been blessed and each person receives as they need.

Stewardship as a way of life is all about becoming even better disciples of Jesus: being “Formed in the Heart” by Him and being ready to say “yes” to Him as we notice opportunities before us.

         This week you will be receiving a stewardship packet in the mail. It contains: (1) a letter from me;   (2) a “Ministries Catalog” which describes each of the current ministries in our Saint Joseph and Nativity Parishes as well as listing a contact person; most of the ministries are available for members of both of our parishes to participate in; (3) and a “2019 Commitment Card” specially marked for each parish that enables each household to check off ministry involvements that they would like to renew for another year or that they would like to join for one year.

         If your stewardship packet does not arrive this week, please let us know in the parish offices because we want every household to have one.

         Next weekend, 5-6 October, at all the Masses I will offer a very short homily and it will be followed by a fellow parishioner who will give a witness talk about how they are implementing stewardship more fully in their personal lives.

Also next weekend, you are invited and encouraged to come to our Ministries Fairs which will be held after each Mass in Saint Joseph School Gymnasium and in Nativity Social Hall. Our ministry leaders will be there to answer questions you might have. There will be no sign-ups at the Ministry Fairs, no pressure to join. Just a chance to find out more about ministries here in our parishes.

The following weekend, 12-13 October, is our annual Commitment Sunday. You will be asked to bring your completed commitment cards to Mass with your one-year commitments of your time, talent and treasure. And we will place them in the Offertory basket together.

 

And now a little reflection on today’s Gospel.

         I am going to begin with a little quiz about two items made of glass. If you look in a mirror, what do you see? Yourself, of course. But if you look through a window, what might you see? Other people and opportunities out there.

         Some people care only about themselves. They are “mirror people.” Other people care about other people. They are “window people.” And this sounds like the story that Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel, which is often called “The Rich Man and Lazarus.” Or, for those of you who are about my age and older, you may remember it being called “The Parable of Dives and Lazarus. “Dives” is the Latin word for “the rich man.”

Someone [William Barclay] has entitled this story, “The Punishment of the Man Who Failed to Notice.” And this parable is packed with meaning and with feeling.

         There are two characters. Notice how Jesus describes the first one: “There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen.” What does this mean?

         In the Jewish Temple, when the High Priest was going to offer sacrifice on one of the High Holy Days, he wore purple garments and fine linen. This rich man wore purple garments and fine linen all the time.

         And the story goes on: Jesus says that this rich man “dined sumptuously.” What an expression – “dined sumptuously.” In other words, he ate gourmet. And then Jesus adds that he “dined sumptuously every day.”   

Contrast that with the common folk in Jesus’ day – they were lucky to eat meat once a week.

         And so here is the rich man, dressed in purple garments and fine linen, and dining sumptuously every day.

         The story then introduces the second character: “At his door was a poor man named Lazarus … who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table.” What is this all about?

In Jesus’ time, people didn’t use knives and forks and spoons and napkins. They ate with their hands. There were chunks of bread on the table that they would use to wipe their hands. Then they would throw those scraps down to the family pets. Those scraps were what the poor man Lazarus longed to eat.

         This is the only parable that Jesus told where one of the characters is given a name: “Lazarus,” which means “God is my help.” He was poor, he was hungry, he was ignored and his body was covered with sores. But Lazarus knew that God was his help.

         And then the story says that they both died, and Lazarus the poor man went to heaven and was with Father Abraham. The rich man went to hell and was being tormented by the flames.

         What was the sin of the rich man? The story doesn’t say that he had Lazarus removed from his porch or that he did cruel things to him.

So why was the rich man condemned? For the good that he could have done but failed to do: his were sins not of commission but of omission. It is the story of “The Punishment of the Man Who Failed to Notice.” He was a “mirror person,” totally absorbed with himself.

         A woman wrote a story called, “How Rich I Am.” She describes a knock at the door and finds two children outside, a brother and a sister. It is raining and cold. And they ask her, “Lady, do you have any old newspapers?” They were poor and were collecting them and selling them for a few cents on the pound.

         She was ready to not be bothered and just say no – when she noticed their wet shoes. It was cold outside, so she invited them in. She sat them down by the fireplace to warm up and she served them hot cocoa and some fresh chocolate chip cookies. And then she gathered up her old newspapers.

         When she came back into the room, she saw the little girl looking at the cup and the saucer. And the little boy asked, “Lady, are you rich?” “Oh, heavens no!” she said as she looked around at all the slip-covered furniture in her living room. And the little girl said, “But lady, this cup and saucer – they match!”

When the children left, she was in the kitchen washing those cups and saucers. And she noticed that they were pretty plain, but they DID match.

         She went over to the stove and checked on the potatoes and stirred the gravy and thought to herself: “How rich I am! I’ve got potatoes and gravy on the stove and a roast with carrots and onions in the oven. I’ve got a roof over my head. I’ve got a husband who loves me and we have great kids.

“The unexpected visit of those two children reminded me just how rich I am and how much I have to share.”

         And so are we, and so do we – if we regularly and gratefully take the time to notice – by being, not “mirror people,” but “window people” who look beyond ourselves to look out for others.

         Happy Annual Stewardship Renewal, fellow disciples of Jesus, being “Formed in the Heart,” and fellow grateful stewards of God’s awesome and bountiful blessings!

Fr. Tim’s Homily for Sunday, Sept 22, 2019

 

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time-C

September 22, 2019

Readings for Sunday click here

Amos 8: 4-7
1 Timothy 2: 1-8
Luke 16: 1-13

There was a farmer who owed a large sum of money to the village moneylender, who also fancied the farmer’s beautiful daughter. The moneylender proposed a deal: he would forgive the farmer’s debt if he could marry the farmer’s daughter.
Both the farmer and the daughter were horrified. But the cunning moneylender proposed a clever scheme. He would put a black pebble and a white pebble into an empty money bag. If the girl picked the black pebble, she would become his wife and her father’s debt would be forgiven. If she picked the white pebble, she would not have to marry him and her father’s debt would still be forgiven. If she refused to pick a pebble, her father would be thrown into prison until the debt was paid.
They were standing in a pebble-strewn path in the farmer’s field. As the moneylender bent down to pick up two pebbles, the sharp-eyed girl saw him put two black pebbles into the bag.
What could she do? 1) She could refuse to take a pebble, and her father would go to prison. 2) She could pick a black pebble and sacrifice herself. 3) She could pull out both black pebbles from the bag and expose the moneylender as a cheat, and likely incite his immediate revenge.
So here is what the clever girl did. She reached into the bag and pulled out a pebble. But without looking at it she let it fall onto the pebble-strewn path where it became lost among the other black and white stones.
“How clumsy of me,” she said. “But never mind, if you look into the bag for the one that is left, you will be able to tell which pebble I picked.”
Since the remaining pebble was also black, it would be assumed that she had picked the white pebble. And since the moneylender did not dare to admit his dishonesty, the girl changed what seemed to be a hopeless situation into an extremely advantageous one.

Don’t we all love stories where the good guys use their cunning and wit to bring down the villain? It disturbs us, though, when villains use their cunning and wit to bring down the good guys. And yet Jesus tells His disciples a parable about a dishonest steward who did just that.
As stewardship parishes, pay special attention to that word “steward.” He was not the owner but the manager, the steward, of his master’s property and goods. And we are the stewards, the managers, of all the blessings that God has entrusted to us. And one day we will all have to account to God for our stewardship

What are we to learn from this parable about the dishonest steward? On his own authority, he reduced the debts that others owed his master so that they would treat him favorably after he was dismissed from his job.
Jesus is not praising the steward for his dishonesty. The steward had rationalized his poor behavior as people still do today: “My boss has lots of money. He drives a Mercedes and always flies first class. I bring in a lot of business to this company and my boss gets the lion’s share of the profits. So I am just taking some of what should really be mine.” And so the rationalization goes.
I read about neighbors talking after a severe storm had occurred. One asks, “What are you going to claim with the insurance company?”
“Nothing,” the other replies. “Fortunately I don’t have any damage.”
To which the first neighbor says, “Are you crazy? Claim something. After all, you have been paying the premiums all these years.”
Many people have grown numb to ethics and honesty. They believe that “the end justifies the means” and that rationalization is the way to accomplish this.

In this parable, Jesus is not commending the steward for his dishonesty. Rather, he is praising him for his drive and ingenuity. The fellow did not just sit back and feel sorry for himself. No, he used his imagination and devised a grand plan.
And, by way of contrast, Jesus says, “The children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.”
This means that, if the Christian were as eager to attain goodness as the person of this world is to attain profit and comfort, the Christian would be a much better person. If people would give as much attention to things that concern their souls as they do to the things that concern their worldly activities, they would be much better people.
So, get busy! Use your drive and ingenuity as “children of light” to be a follower of Jesus, and to do what is good – in amazing ways!

There was a story in “The Saturday Evening Post” some time ago. It was about a church where the sermon had been overly long. At the last verse of the final hymn, the people stampeded out … all except for Abigail. She had been quite taken with what she had heard that day and so she stayed behind to reflect – and Abigail got trampled by the rest of the congregation.
The attorney for the church ran this argument: “The church is a not-for-profit organization, made up largely of volunteers. We can’t expect the church to run with the same efficiency as a business.”

That argument got to me: “The church is a not-for-profit organization, made up largely of volunteers. We can’t expect the church to run with the same efficiency as a business.”
We can’t? Look at what McDonalds does so well: advertising burgers and fries and other fast foods. And look what we have been entrusted with by God: the Gospel of Jesus Christ, His Body and Blood in the Eucharist, forgiveness for our sins, the opportunity to live forever with God in heaven. Shouldn’t we as a Church expend at least as much drive and ingenuity – as much time, talent and treasure – as does McDonald’s?

When you leave church today after the last line of the final hymn, I hope that you will not stampede! But I also hope that you will carry a question in your heart to consider this week: as a grateful steward of God’s bountiful blessings, as a disciple of Jesus, am I fully living my Christian life with drive and ingenuity?
I hope that your answer is an energetic “yes.” For we are graced and blessed by God, with cunning and wit, to live as “children of light.”

Fr. Tim’s Homily for Sunday, September 15, 2019

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time-C

September 15, 2019

Readings for Sunday click here

Exodus 32: 7-11, 13-14

1 Timothy 1: 12-17

Luke 15: 1-10

         This weekend we remember the nearly 3,000 people who lost their lives as victims of the terrorist attacks on our country on 11 September 2001, eighteen years ago this past Wednesday. We pray for all of our men and women in military service, our police, our firefighters and our first-responders. We pray for all who died, and we remember their families and friends who love them.

         We also pray for those who have lost their lives, their loved ones, their homes and their jobs after being hit by Hurricane Dorian especially in the northern islands of the Bahamas. The population of this 700-island nation is about 370,000 people. Of these about 52,000 are Catholics. And the current reports are saying that at least 50 people are dead and another 1,300 are still missing. The Bahamas government estimates that Dorian affected 70,000 people and 60% of these may have lost their homes.

         I have known the Archbishop of Nassau, Archbishop Patrick Pinder, for about 30 years, since he was a young priest at Saint Francis Xavier Cathedral in Nassau. When I was the pastor at Saint Joseph Parish in Avon Lake we formed a partnership with the Archdiocese of Nassau and its cathedral, as well as with the smallest and poorest of the Catholic schools on the island.

Perhaps you have visited the Bahamas. The pictures of the devastation caused by Dorian break my heart. And I am sure they do to yours too. So many of us, I know, would like to help.

         So next weekend, at Saint Joseph and Nativity Parishes, we will take up a second collection for the Archdiocese of Nassau to help them minister to so many people who now must rebuild their lives.      

         We love and serve a merciful and compassionate God.   But we can wonder, “Where is the mercy and compassion of God today?”

I thought perhaps a Charlie Brown story might help us.

         Charlie Brown is leaning against a tree talking with Lucy. She asks, “What do you think security is, Charlie Brown?”

         Charlie answers, “Security is sleeping on the back seat of the car at night when you’re a little kid, and you’ve been somewhere with your mom and dad. You don’t have to worry about a thing. They will get you home safely and tuck you in your bed.”

         Lucy smiles and says. “That’s real neat.”

         Then Charlie Brown, who never seems to know when to stop, gets a serious look on his face and says, “But it doesn’t last. Suddenly you’re all grown up and it can never be that way again. You’ll never get to sleep on the back seat again. Never!”

         Lucy gets a frightened look on her face and asks, “Never?”

         And Charlie Brown replies, “Never!”

         They stand there, sensing the terrible loneliness. And Lucy reaches out and says, “Hold my hand, Charlie Brown.”

         A writer adds: “A bittersweet comic strip that registers so true today. ‘We’ll never get to sleep on the back seat anymore. Never.’ Our old securities have been shattered. War abroad with difficult enemies, war at home with biological terror stalking our steps, the heightened fear of nuclear war, checkpoints, baggage searches, latex gloves, air marshals, long lines.

         “We are learning the uncomfortable stance of always looking over our shoulders. We’ve suddenly become a nation of Lucys: ‘Hold my hand, Charlie Brown.’”

Or, as we might pray here today, “Take my hand, Precious Lord.”

         The Scriptures this weekend all speak of God’s mercy and compassion.

In the first reading from the Book of Exodus we heard Moses pleading with God for the Chosen People. They had sinned seriously. But God in His mercy and compassion listens to Moses and withholds punishing His people.

         The Responsorial Psalm that we sang was Psalm 51, and here is the opening verse: “Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness. In the greatness of your compassion, wipe out my offense.”

         In the second reading, Paul’s Letter to Timothy, Paul says: “I am the foremost (of sinners) but I have been mercifully treated.”

         In the Gospel according to Luke, Jesus tells parables about a lost sheep and a lost coin that were found. And Jesus says: “There will be rejoicing among the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

We do love and serve a merciful and compassionate God. And we do see evidence of His mercy and compassion if we take the time to notice.

         My final story:

         One day a very wealthy city man took his privileged son on a trip to the country, supposedly to visit some distant relatives who lived on a farm.

         What the father really had in mind was to show his son the way country folks live so that his son might be more grateful for what he had in the city.

         On their way back home, the father asked, “Well son, what did you think of the trip?”

         The son replied thoughtfully, “Very nice, Dad.”

         The father continued, “What did you learn?”

         The son responded, “Well, I learned that we have one dog in our house, but they have four.

         “Also, I know we have a fountain in our garden filled with goldfish, but they have a whole trout stream that goes on and on.

         “And, you know, Dad, we have those fancy outdoor lights that turn on and off with timers, but they have the stars!

         “And while our yard goes to the edge of our neighbor’s fence, they have the whole sky in their back yard!”

         At the end of the son’s reply, the father was speechless.

         Then the son added, “Thanks, Dad, for showing me just how poor we really are.”

         The writer adds: “God removed that father’s illusions. But not, of course, the son’s: he was still too innocent to have any.

         “God wants to break in and run off with all the self-centered preoccupations that prevent us from being merciful and compassionate and, most of all, from sharing our time with our families, with our friends, with the poor and needy – and our time with our God.”

         Our world today is very different from the one that we left when we went to bed eighteen years ago on 10 September 2001. “Suddenly we can never sleep on the back seat anymore.”

         Life in the Bahamas radically changed on 1 September for so many people because of Hurricane Dorian.

         But one thing has not changed, and will never change: we love and serve a merciful God, and we see evidence of God’s compassion all around us, if we take the time to notice: in our parishes, in our communities, in our families, and in our neighbors near and far.

         As we reach out to others who need us, it is Jesus who takes hold of our hands. For He taught us that “whatever you do for the least of my brothers and sisters, you do for me.”

         “Hold my hand, Jesus. Take my hand, Precious Lord. Take my hand.”