Sunday, February 16, 2014

6th Sunday Ordinary Time Matthew 5: 17-37 - "Koyaanisqatsi, Life-Out-of-Balance"

The Hopi Indians have a word, ‘Koyaanisqatsi’ which translates to ‘life-out-of-balance’ or ‘life-upside-down’.  I find this a fitting word to describe our world today.  ‘Koyaanisqatsi – life-out-of-balance’

Just as the Hopi’s world was changing from all that was familiar by the introduction of new culture influences, we too are experiencing a revolution that is working to change and redefine our world. The Hopi’s world was invaded by an external foreign culture, while we are being invaded from a newly developing culture within our own society.

The old rules and understandings are being discarded and new and untested meanings are being assigned to traditionally accepted beliefs.  We are being told to change and asked to accept a new way of life or be left behind, marginalized and condemned for holding onto our beliefs.  These new definitions are being adopted despite what a large number of people hold to be true.

We find increased pressures in the world to change our beliefs to more adhere to new age thinking.  We are called ‘old-fashioned’, ‘behind-the-times’ or ‘out-of-touch’: ridiculed and criticized for keeping true to our beliefs and understandings of the teachings of Jesus in His Church.  I have even seen an attempt to use the name of Jesus to convince us that even He would change to accept these new understandings.

In the beginning the world greeted Pope Francis with a hope that the Church was going to change, reflecting more the world’s image and modern thinking, but the world is now realizing that Francis is just a different communicator than Benedict, but the message is still the same.  The truths of the Church are the truths taught by Jesus, the Word of God not defined by one man’s opinion.

Jesus brought a new hope to the world.  He did not come to negate the Father’s covenant with the people, but to fulfill that covenant.  He did not come to abolish the laws by which they lived, but to breathe new life into them.  Jesus’ greatest commandment to love God above all and to love one another, did not throw out the commandments handed to Moses on the mountain, but brought them into focus.

The changing and changeable world is not our salvation. Jesus is our salvation which we find in His Church.  We will not attain the kingdom of heaven by conforming to newly formed social understandings of momentary convenience, but by living as disciples of Jesus, the Christ; Loving of God and loving one another.

We are made in the image of God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  We aspire to please Him in all things.  His laws will not pass away until all things have taken place.  God does not change to fit our image – He was, is and always will be – I AM.


Deacon Don Ron

Sunday, February 9, 2014

5th Sunday Ordinary Time - Matthew 5:13-16 - Salt and Light

Catholics are called to be the salt and light of the world.  Jesus, in Matthew’s Gospel tells us we are to be the salt and the light before others, so they may see our good works and glorify God.  He warns us not to let our salt lose its taste, then: good for nothing, but to trample underfoot.

In the time of Jesus, the main fuel used in the cooking ovens was camel and donkey dung, of which they had an endless supply.  The dung was mixed with salt and formed into patties to make them burn more evenly.  On the bottom of the ovens a slab of salt was placed and the salt/dung ‘patties’ were placed on the slab.  The science behind this is that salt has catalytic properties to help the dung burn more evenly and effectively.  So, mixing it with the dung and placing them on a salt slab in the bottom of the ovens made the oven more efficient and productive for cooking and baking.

After a time though, the salt slab lost it’s ‘saltiness’ thereby becoming less efficient as a fuel source catalyst, so had to be replaced with fresh salt.  The old slab, now ‘tasteless’, was tossed out onto muddy places on the roads to help dry them up; making them passable. (I think with the weather here recently, we have an understanding of how that works.)

Salt is a catalyst which, is something that “provokes or speeds change or action.”  When Jesus calls us the Salt of the Earth, He is calling us to be a people who provoke or speed change in others, thereby motivating them to seek the Kingdom of God; turning away from sinfulness.  Our ‘salty-ness’ is the catalyst by which we bring people to Jesus.  Our salt fuels the fire within us that lights our heart’s desire, Jesus, for others to see.  We are known by our actions, our lives: our faithful discipleship in Christ Jesus.  By example of Christian living we show the world Jesus within us; bringing His light into the world. 

We are called to keep these fires burning evenly, and effectively, continually renewing our salt, so our fire of discipleship may burn brightly.  If our salt loses its flavor, if we become stale, our salt must be thrown away and replaced by new salt.  We are called to continually renew our ‘salty-ness’ to keep the fires of, “our hearts burning within us” warm and bright.

On the internet there is a debate being renewed on the subject of Religious Education and the best approach to passing on the faith to others.  Some advocate throwing out the present system of formal children’s religious education to be replaced by adult religious education.  The reasons for this approach are varied, ranging from children being considered not mature enough - to “they are too busy with their other educational requirements”.  Others favor a home schooling approach where the parents teach their children about the faith.  Some argue that parents themselves are not sufficiently formed in the faith to pass it on to their children – giving birth to the reason behind the need for adult faith formation.  Others believe that parents, in addition to not being well catechized, are too busy trying to make ends meet to have the time and/or energy to pass on the faith to children or others.  A third argument follows the line of “it’s the Church’s job to educate the children, leave parents out of it altogether.”

This debate has gone on over time, occasionally erupting in impassioned flames by these and other schools of thought.  When we look at some of the statistics (I know, a dirty word, that) we see some astonishing and sad realities.
  • 85% of children Confirmed this year will stop practicing the faith within 1 year (BTW – Confirmation is not Catholic Graduation)
  • 56% of people who identify themselves as Catholic rarely attend Mass more than twice a year (other than funerals or weddings)
  • 45% of all Catholics will receive ashes on Ash Wednesday (some things appeal to even those who do not regularly attend mass), but only. . .
  • 60% of those receiving ashes will abstain from meat on Fridays in Lent
  • 1 in 3 Americans are raised in the Catholic faith, but only 1 in 4 describe themselves as Catholic in adulthood.

There is an attrition rate of about 10% of Catholics leaving the Church, but more importantly, leaving the practice of their faith altogether.  This is a constant concern for the Church.  Those who say they are Catholic, but don’t attend Church or participate in any organized religion, make a rapid decent away from all faith practices.

Faith needs to be encouraged through lived experiences.  It is not an academic pursuit, but a way of living that is handed down to others by example, especially within families.  Faith thrives in support of family and in their faith community.  Families that live their faith and teach the faith to their children have a higher retention rate of practice; passing those good works and faith practices on generation after generation.  Communities too, that worship together as one, displaying the ideals of faith, hope and charity are more vibrant and attract more people to become disciples of Jesus, especially those from other faiths or no faith at all.

We all need to be the salt, the catalyst that ‘provokes and speeds the change and action’ in others – among our family, our children, our community of faithful and all the world - to live in discipleship of Christ Jesus.  The fire produced by our ‘salty-ness’ is the light by which others see the good actions of God in our lives.  We are called by Jesus himself - to be this catalyst that brings His light into the world.  We are to set His light on the hilltop of living faith for others to see.  It is by our lives in Christ that we bring others to God’s gift of salvation and the peace of His heavenly kingdom through His Son, Jesus Christ. ~Amen

Deacon Don Ron

Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Presentation of the Lord - Luke 2:22-40 - Faith

Today we celebrate faith. 
  • The faith of Mary and Joseph to the Law and Jewish tradition by traveling to Jerusalem to present their first born son in the Temple; consecrating him to the Lord.
  • The faith of Simeon - who lived in hope in the promise of the Holy Spirit that he would see the Christ of God before he passed 0n.
  • The faith of Anna - who kept true to her vows and holy life of prayer and fasting: blessed by God’s revelation to her of His promise to bring salvation to His people through the child, Jesus.

In these persons, Mary, Joseph, Simeon and Anna we have wonderful models of faith – faith in God and in the traditions of Judaism and obedience to the Law.  In them we see faith to the church and its teachings and traditions – faith in the word of God – faith in the revealed truth of God and faith in God’s fulfilment of His promises.

Mary and Joseph are faithful servants of the Lord.  Obedient to God’s truth through the Law of Moses.  In consecrating their first born son to the Lord they continue the traditions of their faith: traditions that were passed down to them from generation to generation.  In keeping true to the tenants of faith they help keep God’s covenant alive in their hearts and in His people.

Simeon and Anna, each holds onto their faith in the Lord and His promise of salvation.  They do not question how long it will be, but live patiently, in faith and hope.  Each lives under the Law; obedient servants preparing themselves for the fulfillment of God’s promise and waiting in quiet expectation for the Messiah.  They do not know when He will come, but know that what God has promised, - will be.

Simeon encounters the Spirit of God who brings him the message that he will see God’s promise of a Messiah.  To Anna is revealed by God the uniqueness of the child Jesus.  Both proclaim the wonder of God to bring Light into the world.

Their faithfulness is our foundation in remaining true to God and his promise of salvation for his people.  We live by faith and expectation awaiting the return of Jesus so He may bring all God’s children into the peace of the Kingdom of Heaven.  By his sacrifice we have gained, through grace, God’s promise of eternal life because we are His beloved.

In our faith we stand on the faith of past generations who waited patiently in hopeful anticipation of the Lord’s return and the fulfillment of God’s promise.  We learned, through the example of those who saw and believed before us, the stories and traditions passed down from the Apostles. 

Today we continue telling those same stories to all we meet in the world; spreading the Truth of the Gospel, keeping faith in God’s promise.  It is our faith that keeps the Light of Christ burning brightly in our hearts for the world to see; living as disciples of Jesus – being Christ to all and seeing Christ in all.  Our discipleship in Christ, living as Jesus taught us is how we keep alive our faith in God’s promise.  Our faith makes us strong; giving us courage to wait patiently for its fulfillment.

Our faith is not a dry dusty, time-worn tradition.  We are not faithful keepers of artefacts in a museum of-what-was.  Our faith is a faith of the future – the faith of what-will-be.  Our faith is a faith of joy, a faith alive with expectation for the coming glory of God’s promise of the kingdom of heaven.  We believe in the Resurrection: the conquering of sin and death and life everlasting!

In our faith, we live as Christ taught us – loving one another: anticipating our entry into God’s kingdom of peace and justice.   Ours is a faith of the future.  We are a people looking forward, with great and joyful expectation to the coming of the Lord.  We are a people seeing beyond the horizons of this world; living in faith that of the fulfillment of God’s promise of salvation and Eternal Life.

Our faith today is as strong as the faith of the Apostles built upon the foundations of faith.  Our belief in Jesus, His Resurrection and God’s promise of salvation is a continuing story passed on to us, not to keep within, but to share with the whole world.  We owe the strength of our faith to those who have gone before us: the faithfulness of each generation in keeping the Light of Christ burning brightly in our hearts.  

It is the faithfulness of all the disciples who have gone before us; living in the hope of the Resurrection who have kept the lamps of faith lit, patiently waiting for the Lord to come.  As they did, we too, in our faith, keep Christ’s Light burning brightly in our hearts and sharing that Light with the whole world for today and forever. ~Amen


Deacon Don Ron