Sunday, July 28, 2013

17th Sunday Ordinary Time - Luke 11:1-13 - "Let us pray. . ."

A Parable for Today
“One day on the journey of life… - I was sitting in a diner having lunch.  A few tables away were two women, one with an infant in a carrier and the other with a small boy about 2 years old.  The women were chatting away seemingly oblivious of the world around them.  The young boy, bored with the conversation and finished playing with the French fries on his plate, was looking out of the window and spied something that held his attention. He was excited by what he saw and wanted to share it with his Mom. 

And so it began… we’ve all heard it at one time or another - that ever persistent and increasing in volume - “Mom!”  “Mom!”  “Mommy look!”  “Mom!”  “Momeeeeeeeee, look!” “Mom!” “Mommy!” “Mooooommmmmeeeee”
This went on for what seemed hours, but was probably only a few (ten or twenty) minutes.  Finally, and much to the relief of all the other diners and staff, Mommy turn her attention to the boy.”

Both Abraham and Jesus teach us of the need for persistence in prayer.  Both teach us that God, the Father, to whom we pray, is not some distant deity – uncaring and unconcerned with the lives of his people, but a real living God who is loving and compassionate. 
  •          He is a God who is involved in the lives and anxieties of his people. 
  •          He is a God who listens to our wants and needs; giving us the good things we ask for.
  •          He is a God who has come to live among us, who knows our joys and sorrows, understands our frailties and weaknesses, has witnessed the turmoil and struggles in our lives and wraps us in His embrace with mercy and love.

Both Abraham and Jesus speak with God, the Father on familiar terms in a close open relationship.  Their prayers are a part of their continual relationship – a constant communication with God, - as members of one family.  This is the experience of persistence in prayer – speaking to and - listening to God, - not just when we want something, but all the time. 

We are God’s beloved children, blood brothers and sisters - in the blood of Jesus Christ – one family - Father to daughter - son to Father – with a God, who loves us completely.  He is truly our Father - concerned about our lives, - and sharing in our worries and joys.  He is “The Father” - completely involved with us in a loving constant relationship.  He knows our lives and all our needs.  He desires us to turn to him in prayer, to speak with and listen to Him as our loving Father.

Both Abraham and Jesus teach us that our prayer is not just for ourselves, but is for the good of all people.  Abraham petitions God on behalf of the righteous that live among the sinful – the wheat among the weeds.  He asks God to spare all the people for the sake of these faithful few.  Without realizing it, these faithful few bear the burden of petitioning for all people.  God looks upon their faith and constancy with mercy and love for all.  Through their cries - God hears the cries of all His people.

Jesus, when he teaches the disciples how to pray, does not start with “My Father,” but with “Our Father” and continues with, “Give us our daily bread, - forgive us - our sins, - as we forgive and do not subject us - to the final test.”  Jesus teaches that we are one people, one family – living for the common good of one another.  We, together - are the people of God.  We together are the Body of Christ, the Church.  We are a communal people: we worship and pray in together as one - in community - to God, who is “Our Father.”

In explicitly praying for our personal needs - we implicitly pray for the needs of all people and receive God’s grace.  Our prayer, - our communication with God - opens us up to His love; giving us His grace, - so we may know and do His will - in bringing about His kingdom - by loving all our brothers and sisters - as we are loved.

So, pray as Jesus taught us, - his disciples – for our prayers open our hearts to God, give us grace and bring us into an ever closer – always loving relationship with God, who is our Father – forever and ever.
~ Amen.


Deacon Don Ron 

Sunday, July 21, 2013

16th Sunday Ordinary Time - "The nail that sticks up. . ." - Luke 10: 38-42

Being a Christian is to be a radical.  Discipleship in Christ Jesus is a call to disregard the accepted order in pursuit of higher things.  Followers of “The Way” of Jesus are those who seek things - not of this world, but of God’s Holy Kingdom, God’s love, God’s justice and God’s peace – the better part.

In Luke’s Gospel of Mary and Martha, Jesus breaks with accepted tradition, a cause for scandal, by his unconventional behaviors.  In his mission to make the Kingdom of God known to all people, Jesus demonstrates which is more important – knowledge of the Word of God or adherence to social convention.

The glaring social taboos in this passage that break with accepted social conventions are:
  •          Jesus being welcomed into the home by Martha
  •          Jesus being in a room alone with women, Mary and Martha, who were not his relatives
  •          Jesus speaking with women, Mary and Martha
  •          Mary not working in the kitchen preparing the meal – doing women’s work

There is no mention of Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha being present in the house or that he was the owner of the house, just Martha alone.  Luke uses this scenario of Jesus - alone with women - to show the importance of listening to the Word of God over all other things, especially the great taboos of social interaction, - knowing one’s place in society.

By his actions, Jesus breaks the bonds of slavery to convention and liberates us to live - truly - a life in God’s peace, justice and love.  He does away with adherence to the established order, questions the traditional way of viewing the world; opening us up to the wonders of God’s Kingdom.  He calls us to follow a new way, a way that leads to an everlasting life of love, peace and justice in God’s kingdom.

Jesus calls us to listen to the Word of God.  Hear God’s voice in our hearts calling us to:
  •          Love one another as we are loved,
  •          Care for one another with the compassion we receive,
  •          Give mercy as we receive God’s mercy,
  •          Bringing God’s justice to all our brothers and sisters, and
  •          Treating one another other for who we are - beloved children of the one Father.

Living in the freedom of God’s love; not worrying about the things of this world: we too break the bonds of slavery to convention and adherence to the unimportant, trivial and finite matters of this world that fail to bring us to life everlasting in the peace of God’s kingdom. 

God’s Word:
·         Frees us from fear – fear of going against the norms of the day to bring about God’s justice to the world
·         Liberates us from worry – worry of our ability to the necessary things to bring about God’s peace
·         Releases us from bondage of sin – slavery to the desires of the evil one, who wants to separate us from the love of God and keep us from his Kingdom

In hearing the Word of God inspires us to action:
  •          Action that helps to bring about God’s kingdom through His love
  •          Action in doing the will of God; working for His justice and peace
  •          Action in spreading His Good News to all people, bringing hope to the world
  •          Action to living lives in Christ,

So all people may recognize us as followers of “The Way,” disciples of Jesus, so they too may come to hear the Word of God and be brought into everlasting life.

There is a Japanese proverb, “The nail that sticks out is hammered down.” This proverb sums up the idea of being just one in the crowd; going along with the established order, adhering to the status quo.  But Christ calls us to be outstanding: to live a new life, a different life, a radical life, a life away from the crowd, away from this world to a life of “the better part”.  He calls us to listen and hear the Word of God and live lives that bring about His Kingdom.

We may think that life is too busy, too complicated, and too complex to listen to the Word of God.  And that acting on His Word is an impossible task in today’s hectic world.  It is a task only for the few, the select, the holy, chosen ones of God.  But we must remember that:
  •          We are all special
  •          We are all outstanding,
  •          We are all chosen,
  •          We are all beloved children of Go
  •      We are all created by Him, made holy in His image and likeness, endowed with talents uniquely selected for us by Him so that we may do His will and come to live in peace, love and justice in His Kingdom for ever and ever. ~ Amen

      Deacon Don Ron

Saturday, July 13, 2013

15th Sunday Ordinary Time - "Two Questions" - Luke 10:25-37

“You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength and with all your mind, (Deuteronomy 6:4-5) and your neighbor as yourself.” (Leviticus 19:18)

So easily does the young legal scholar answer Jesus with what is written in the Law.  He is recalling two parts of the Torah, the Old Testament. 

The first: Love of God is from Deuteronomy and the second: Love of Neighbor is found in Leviticus. Both these passages were very familiar to the Jews, especially the religious scholars and leaders of the time.  In fact, the first part on loving God is recited by Jews in their daily prayer known as the Schema, which begins:

“Hear, O’ Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One You shall love the Lord, your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might. And these words which I command you today shall be (written) upon your heart. You shall teach them thoroughly to your children, and you shall speak of them when you sit in your house and when you walk on the road, when you lie down and when you rise

The words from Leviticus, “Love your neighbor as yourself” has been called “the greatest principle of Judaism” and forms what is commonly known across most civilizations as the “Golden Rule.” 

Both of these passages were deeply-rooted in the daily life and culture of the time, - as they should be today.  In the First Reading we saw that the laws of God were easily accessible and commonly known– these commandments of God were not things out of reach of the people.  They were - and still are - not impossible to know, understand or obey.

When Jesus summed up all the Law and the Prophets with the Two Greatest Commandments:
‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’  This is the greatest and the most important commandment. The second most important commandment is, ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’ 

He was only repeating what was already known and understood among the people - and all of which continues to be foundational and true today, though they seem to have taken a back seat to popular culture and secularism.

Most of us are familiar with the parable of the Good Samaritan.  Here is a story the exemplifies God’s abundant love, God’s compassion, God’s mercy, God’s endless, infinite and everlasting desire to care for us, his creation, his people, his beloved children.

While the legal scholar was trying to trap Jesus into a narrow definition of “Who is our neighbor?”, so he could justify setting limitations to his actions, like the priest and the Levite in the story, Jesus’ response, with the story of the Good Samaritan, reflects God’s love for all his children.  Like God’s endless, infinite and everlasting love – our neighbor is all His people, His beloved children – all our brothers and sister in the world.

As Christians, followers of Jesus Christ,
·         when we see suffering in the world,
·         when we hear our neighbors are oppressed,
·         denied their humanity, starved, homeless,
·         cast aside - uncared for and unloved -

Our response is exemplified in this quote of Louis Pasteur,

One does not ask one who suffers: ‘What is your country?’ and ‘What is your religion?’  One merely says, ‘You suffer, that is enough for me’.”

  • ·         This is the Good Samaritan’s response to suffering.
  • ·         This is Jesus’ response to suffering.
  • ·         This is God’s love.

God does not ask us to make sacrifices in our love for one another, but to give as freely as we receive.  We are not to count the cost in coming to the aid of our neighbor, especially those who suffer the most, but to do so with – the same love, - the same care - and the same compassion we receive from our heavenly Father.  For He has made the sacrifice of love for all time: Jesus Christ.

Jesus’ death on the cross freed us forever from the bonds of sin and division.  In His sacrifice - we are united – we are members of one family, - we are all brothers and sisters - with one Father, -

  • ·         who loves us without limitation, -
  • ·         without hesitation, -
  • ·         without misgivings, -
  • ·         without condition. 

He is a Father who asks us to love one another as He loves us, completely and forever.

In our love of God and in His command to His children to love one another as we are loved: Jesus has inscribed on our hearts forever - the answer to the scholar’s two questions: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” and “Who is my neighbor?”  ~ Amen


Deacon Don Ron

13th Sunday Ordinary Time - "Surrender" - Luke 9:51-62

Christians live in this world, but we are called to be - not of this world.  The things of this world are not of the Spirit, they are of this world, this finite, decaying world

“. . . Where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal” Matthew 6:19

We are called to be children of the Light, children led by the Spirit - who brings the light of Christ into the world.  We are children of God, his beloved - for whom he has given his only Son, so that we might be free – free from sin and corruption- free from the trappings of this world – free to live in peace and love in His heavenly kingdom – forever and ever.

The life of discipleship into which we are called is not what we think is “the good life” - a life of ease, - a life free from strife, or heartache or disappointment.  We are not called as disciples into a life free of suffering or struggle.  There is no promise of “the good life” here, in this world. “The Good Life” we seek is “The Eternal Life” waiting for us in the Kingdom of God.

Today’s readings speak of our journey of discipleship to which we are called.  We are told what it is we can expect – when we listen to and hear - the call of the Spirit in our hearts; moving us toward – a closer, more intimate relationship with God through His son, Jesus Christ.

As we hear in today’s readings, there is resistance and hesitation – Elisha wants to kiss his mother and father before he follows God’s call.  Two of the disciples that Jesus calls - want to return home to take care of unfinished business before taking up their journey with Christ. 

The allures of this world are strong.  We are weak and frail human beings, who, - left to our own devices, - would succumb to the temptations of this world, - the “desires of the flesh”, -- to hesitate or remain in a world ruled by the “evil one” - who delights in our corruption – taking us away from our call of the Spirit - into the Kingdom of God. But the Spirit encourages us to take heart: - to believe in the power of God to make all things possible.  So we can do amazing things – in His name - things we may believe are well beyond us.

Those who “. . . hear the Word of God and act on It.” are Mother and brothers of our Lord, Jesus.  When we hear our call, we are not to look back – like Lot’s wife - with regret or desire for the things of this world.  Even our family - in this world - must not turn us away from our call to discipleship.  We, like Jesus, must turn our “face toward Jerusalem” and surrender to our new Life in Christ. 

When Jesus says, “Follow me.” we cannot hesitate - or wait for a better or more convenient moment in our life - to take up our cross - to follow in His footsteps.  We are to be like the first disciples, - who, at the lakeshore - when Jesus called them to “become fishers of men” - drop our nets, or whatever we are doing - to follow Him; leaving this world we know behind.  Trusting in the Lord and believing completely in our hearts, so we may follow in His Way.

Surrendering ourselves to the Spirit; - hearing the call of God in our hearts – begins our new Life in Christ.  We leave behind our old selves – subject to the temptations of this world of sin and corruption.  We put on Christ; - continuing his mission of bringing the Good News to the poor, - making disciples of all nations and baptizing in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. 

In this new life in Christ, - we are not promised an easy journey in discipleship.  In fact, we are told - that there is suffering and hardship – even torture and death.  When we recognize Jesus as the Messiah, - like Peter in last week’s Gospel, - Jesus tells us that we, - like him, - must endure many sufferings and that, “Whoever would save his life will lose it and whoever loses his life, for my sake will save it.”

The call to discipleship is a call of surrender - surrendering our life - out of this world - to a new life – a life in Christ - a life free from our slavery to the sin and corruption - to a life of freedom – a life of peace, joy and everlasting love – in the Kingdom of God, forever and ever – Amen.


Deacon Don Ron

12th Sunday Ordinary Time - "Who do you say I am?" Luke 9:18-24

I’ve observe a lot of people in the street in Newark wearing a Rosary around their necks, like jewelry.  I’m not sure what the significance is, but I don’t think there has been a great upsurge in conversions in the Arch-Diocese.   And based on other outward signs I see displayed along with the Rosary, I doubt they are declaring their great love of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  More likely, the Rosary has become just another fashion fad, like big - bling - crosses. 

We Christians should be known, not by the large crosses we wear or by the Rosaries the hang around our necks or from our car mirrors, but by the lives we live in Christ.  Living Gospel lives of love, peace and God’s justice; living as children of God, brothers and sisters of our Lord, Jesus Christ. 

In the early Church, writers remarked on the extraordinary behaviors of the members of a new cult – Christians, followers of “The Way”.  How they lived together in peace and harmony – following the teachings of this Jesus, - living according to the words he spoke – sharing with, caring for and loving others.  They worshipped together in communities, sharing their goods with everyone, caring for those in most need: widows and orphans – all the most vulnerable in society.  It was remarked how they welcomed strangers into their communities; looking after their needs with hospitality and grace, never asking for anything in return. 

These were the outward signs of their faith in Christ Jesus – living as He lived:
W  treating everyone with dignity and respect,
W  caring for those in most need,
W  seeking justice for the oppressed,
W  bringing peace and healing to the troubled
W  inviting the lost into shelter and comfort
W  feeding the hungry
W  comforting the sorrowful

Just as Jesus attracted followers through his teachings – in word and action, so too did his disciples – building up their new communities, spreading the Word of God, putting into practice his message of peace, love and justice, for all God’s beloved children. 

“Who do the crowds say I am?” asks Jesus.  He is answered, “John the Baptist, Elijah or one of the prophets.”  Jesus understands that the crowds who come to see and hear him know he is someone special.  He understands they recognize him as someone sent by God.

“Who do you say I am?” Jesus then asks his disciples.  Peter answers, “You are the Christ of God.” 
His disciples have been with Jesus, listening to his words, watching him heal the sick, cast out demons and raise the dead.  They know by his words and by his actions that he is from God – ‘The Messiah, the Holy One of God’ of whom the prophets spoke.  By his life they know him.

If we were to ask someone who we are – what would they say?  Would they call us Christians? 
W  Would they know that we are disciples of Jesus Christ?
W  Do our words and our actions speak of our belief in the teachings of Jesus? 
W  Do our lives reflect our life in Christ – the life we put on in baptism? 
W  Would someone answer, “You are a disciple of Jesus, living in His Way, His Truth and His Life?”

Living as a disciple of Jesus is not easy.   Jesus says: “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.  For whoever wishes to save his life - will lose it, but whoever loses his life - for my sake - will save it.”

A life in Christ – being known as a disciple of Jesus is as radical and revolutionary now - as it was then and just as dangerous.  Discipleship in Christ is completely counter-cultural in our increasingly secular world.

Jesus dwells in the hearts of all who live the truth of his Word.  He is seen in the face of all people who work, - with great love, - for peace, life and justice.  All who live in God’s love of all his children – live a life where we:
W  Treat each stranger as our brother or sister – in Christ
W  Feed the hungry, - Care for the sick, - Clothe the naked
W  See in sufferings of others as our own suffering – the suffering of Christ
W  Where we work for the common good of all people and never count the cost
W  Give a preferential seat at the table to the poor the marginalized,
W  Be a voice to the voiceless,
W  Stand up for the suffering and the oppressed,
W  Be caring stewards of our world –  our gift from God
W  Using our talents of God’s grace to bring Jesus’ message of – Peace, Life and Justice to all the world

St. Francis reminds disciples to, “Preach the Gospel at all times, - use words, if necessary.”

Let our lives in Christ be our answer to the question, “Who do you say I am?” - Amen

Deacon Don Ron