19th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Two readings today, one from the book of Kings and one from Matthew’s Gospel speak about wind. In the first the Lord tells Elijah to go outside and stand on the mountain. “The Lord will be passing by.” Elijah was taking shelter in a cave from a heavy wind. From the description this wasn’t just a little breeze. This wind was rending mountains and crushing rocks. But Elijah knew that the Lord wasn’t in the wind.

 

There was also an earthquake and then a fire but the Lord wasn’t there either. But then Elijah heard a tiny whispering sound and hid his face in his cloak because he knew that that was the Lord.

 

We’ve heard this story a hundred times. We could almost repeat it from memory. But what does it mean to us today? The wind and the earthquake and the fire represent all the things the secular world throws at us. Television, movies, the Internet—these are all things represented by the wind, the earthquake, and the fire. They’re loud. They’re intrusive. If we let them they drown out the voice of God.

 

If we’re going to be disciples, and remember disciple means student, then we have to find a way to drown out all the distractions. We have to take time to listen to that tiny, whispering voice.

One way to do that is what most of us are doing right now. We come into God’s house to listen to his word. I say most of us because some of us have our minds a hundred miles away. We’re distracted by a lot of different things and we need to learn to focus on what’s right here in front of us. This hour is God’s time. “This is my beloved Son! Listen to Him!”

 

The chapel is usually open at 4:00. If you need some quiet time in the presence of God come early. Sit and pray on whatever’s bothering you or just reflect on the lives of the saints depicted in our statues. There are more than forty of them so you’ll have material for a lot of Saturdays. The rest of promise to be as quiet as we can.

 

Then we have to make quiet time the other six days to listen to His Voice. Set aside time each day to pray. And when you pray, don’t treat God like some supernatural Santa Clause. “Give me this! Give me that! Give me patience and do it NOW!” Sometimes we have to shut up and listen. Remember that Jesus taught us to ask God to “give us this day our daily bread and deliver us from evil.” The rest of Jesus’ prayer focuses on God, not on stuff.

 

In Matthew’s Gospel we find the wind analogy used in another way. The Apostles are in a boat and the wind is tossing it one way and then another. The men were afraid just like you and would be in the same situation. Picture yourself in that boat and imagine how afraid you would be.

 

But, then, here comes Jesus strolling across the water. That scared the Apostles even more. They thought He was a ghost. Remember that every time Jesus did something amazing it was something that had never been done before. So again, put yourself in that boat. There’s a raging storm and some guy is walking across the water toward you. Who wouldn’t think it was a ghost? But Jesus calls out to them, “Hey, guys! It’s Me Jesus, not a ghost.”

 

So then Peter, good old goofy Peter says, “Lord, if it’s really you, command me to walk on the water, too.” Jesus tells him to come on, and he actually does walk on the water for a little while. But then he gets scared and starts to sink. He calls out to Jesus to save him. “Jesus stretched out His hand and caught Peter and said to him, “O you of little faith why did you doubt”

 

He’s talking to you and me. With Jesus’ help we can do anything. But aren’t we like Peter sometimes? We know we can do something with God’s help but we get scared and wimp out. Faith is belief in something when we have no proof. We have faith in God. At least we say we do. But when we’re faced with a challenge, do we have faith that He’ll see us through or do our doubts and get the better of us, like poor Peter.

 

Alcoholics Anonymous has cured millions of hopeless drunks with their twelve step program based on faith. Face it, when most people show up at AA’s door they’re not carrying a Bible and quoting scripture. They’ve hit bottom and may think God has abandoned them. But AA has shown over the years that the person most likely to help an alcoholic is another alcoholic. And no matter how little faith the new person may have in God, the evidence of his or her sponsor will eventually lead them to faith. For many AAs, the road to a cure is like walking on water. With faith it can be done.

 

Some of us have more faith in the local baseball team than we do in God. Weren’t we all sure when the Cardinals were struggling that they’d find a way to come back? Now they’re just a game out of first place. Was it Rally Cat? Maybe. A few years ago it was a squirrel. Don’t we sometimes put our faith in the strangest things?

 

Put your faith in God and you can do anything, even walk on water.

Advertisements

40 Reasons Why It’s Cool to be Catholic #6 Bishops

The Archbishop and the Cardinal. Archbishop Robert Carlson and Fredbird

If priests are cool then bishops must be cooler.  Right?  Again, this is not a scholarly dissertation on these men who are directly descended from the twelve Apostles.  There are plenty of places to find that kind of material.  This is about why bishops are cool and we’re lucky to have them.  However, I am going to throw one big word at you:  subsidiarity.  It means that the Church has determined that the best place to make decisions is as close to the people as possible.  The really big stuff, the stuff that affects all Catholics all over the world, is decided in Rome.  The things that affect the local diocese are decided by our bishops.

Remember, we have a Code of Canon Law that directs everything that goes on in the Church, but there’s still plenty of wiggle room for the local ordinary (the bishop) to put his personal touch on his diocese.  More important, part of the bishop’s responsibility is to deal with the secular world on our behalf.  The current kerfuffle about the government’s birth control mandate is a good example.  The Pope could jump into the middle of this issue, and at some point he may.  But for now, the United States bishops are at the forefront, both as a group and individually.  The vast majority of our bishops have written pastoral letters to their flock urging us to oppose this violation of our Constitution.

For most young Catholics, it’s quite a thrill at confirmation time when they get to meet the bishop, either at their own parish or at the Cathedral.  While the bishop is a local cleric, most of us associate him with the universal Church.  He’s our direct line to the Vatican.  While we most often see our bishop performing on the big stage with all the pomp and pageantry that the office deserves, most of them are very down-go-earth guys who would rather sit down with you one-on-one and have a cup of coffee.  Unfortunately for us, they’re so busy that they don’t get to do that very often.

I don’t think I can finish a post on bishops without mentioning the president of the United States bishops, Timothy Cardinal Dolan.

Cardinal Dolan distributes food to the poor in New York City.

This Health and Human Services fiasco has brought His Eminence into the national spotlight and we should all be glad it has.  I could be wrong, but I’ve always pictured Jesus as man very much like Cardinal Dolan.  I believe Jesus had a sense of humor (otherwise I wouldn’t be a deacon), I believe He was friendly and outgoing, and I believe that when it was necessary, He was tough as a bulldog.  (Remember the moneychangers?)  Isn’t that how we’d like all our bishops (and priests and deacons) to be?

Face it, most of us are lost sheep and we need a shepherd.  Our parish priests fill that role most of the time, but they do it on behalf of the bishop.  When you go to mass this weekend and the priest prays for our Benedict our Pope, and for our bishop and for all the bishops, say a quiet prayer of thanks for your local shepherd.  As I said yesterday concerning priests, our bishops have been under attack in recent years.  Did some of them mess up?  Clearly they did.  Did they do it out of malice, or a desire to break the law?  No, I don’t think so.

Remember on the very night that Jesus created the presbytery one of His bishops sold him out for a few pieces and another, the one who would become the first Pope, denied that he knew Him, not once but three times.  Bishops are human, just like you and me.  They’re subject to the same faults and failings as we all are.  I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

My archbishop, Robert Carlson, and your bishop, whoever he may be, is way cool!

Transfiguration of the Lord

“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; Listen to Him!”

Today we celebrate the Transfiguration of the Lord.  Jesus goes to the top of the mountain with Peter, John, and James.  They, and we, get a small glimpse of what God has in store for His Son, and for us.  His garments become white as the sun and Moses and Elijah appear with Him.

The three Apostles have fallen asleep.  I guess the climb was too much for them.  These guys do have a bad habit of dozing off at crucial times.  Remember the Garden of Gesthemani?  Fortunately, they wake up in time to see what’s going on.

Of course Peter, in his enthusiasm wants to build tents so the people can come and see Jesus and the other two.  But the sky suddenly gets dark and God’s voice booms out from the clouds:  “This is my beloved Son.  Listen to Him.” The Apostles fell silent and didn’t tell anyone at the time what they had seen.

Of course, what they had seen was very important.  It was a rare look into the future.  Jesus was transfigured, just as He was and you and I will be when we enter into God’s kingdom.

What they hear was even more important.  It’s the second time God has spoken directly to human beings about His Son.  The first time was at the River Jordan as He was baptized by John.  He IS my Son.  Listen to Him.

The message is no less important today than it was way back then.  That’s why we have an annual feast to remind us.  When He says “Listen to Him” He doesn’t mean sometimes.  He doesn’t mean when it’s convenient or when it won’t separate us from our friends.  He means always.  Every day.  In every circumstance.  His words are truth.  Anyone who speaks against His words is a liar.  That’s it.  End of story.

I don’t think they do so much anymore, but for a while it was a fad for kids to wear bracelets and T-shirts that said WWJD?, What would Jesus do?   But that’s not really the point.  Jesus walked on the water to get to his friends in the boat.  We can’t do that.

A better slogan might be WDJS?  What did Jesus say?  There’s no situation we can run into where the answer doesn’t lie in Jesus’ words.

“This is my beloved Son.  Listen to Him.”