Sunday, July 27, 2014

17th Sunday Ordinary Time - Matthew 13: 44-52 - "The Greatest Treasure"

Take a moment to think about what matters most to you in your life.  Many of us would say, it’s my family or my children or my spouse.  Some may say it’s my reputation that matters most to me, or my integrity or my standing in the community.  Others may consider that it’s their freedom and rights that matter most important or their ideology or dignity that matters most to them.  Still others may say it is God who matters most to them in their life.

Now ask yourself, “What would you sacrifice to protect and keep what matters most to you in life?  Is there anything that you would not give up or be prepared to lose or trade in exchange to keep what is most important to you?

In the Old Testament, what mattered most to Abraham in his life was God.  He was willing to unquestioningly follow God’s instruction to sacrifice his son Isaac at God’s command.  God subject Abraham to a test to measure his commitment to God, his love of God.

Today, Jesus tells a parable about finding a great treasure and what lengths, what sacrifices others made - to secure these great treasures for themselves.  Both the land speculator and the merchant realize the great value of the treasures they found, a hidden treasure (we imagine of gold, silver and jewels) or a lustrous pearl glowing in perfection.  He tells us they both made a great sacrifice to possess their treasure.  They sell everything they own; giving up all they possess, risking all they have in their life, so they may possess a treasure far greater than anything they have ever had in their lives before.  Their sacrifice, their risk is their total commitment to possessing what they consider to be their greatest treasure of all.

As Christians, what is our greatest treasure?  Is it not the love of God?  Is not God’s gift of eternal life worth more than any buried treasure we could find or pearl of perfection we might discover?  Is not Jesus’ promise of a place in God’s heavenly kingdom worth more than all the earthly treasures combined?  And, has not God already made the ultimate sacrifice of his Son to purchase for us this greatest of all treasure?

We don’t have to go out digging in the fields or searching all the markets of the world to find this great treasure.  To possess the greatest of all treasure, we only have to turn to God, the Father with love.  

To possess this great treasure: to become inheritor’s of God’s kingdom in the eternal life of heaven, God does not ask us to sacrifice everything we own, nor does he ask us to give up all our possessions.  We inherit God’s holy kingdom, as his beloved children, by loving Him above all, doing His will; loving all our brothers and sisters as He loves us.  

God’s love for us gives us a share in the greatest of treasure – Eternal Life.  It is in loving Him and doing His will that we fulfill God’s greatest desire – for us to gain His great gift, to dwell with Him in heaven, forever.  

Through His grace we come into our place in His kingdom among the angels and saints.  There is nothing we can buy or bargain for – for our place in heaven.  It is God’s desire; His grace, freely given, that secures for us what is greater than any earthly treasure found hidden in a field or sold in a market.   

Living as God’s holy children, doing God’s will, loving God and loving one another as we are loved gives us the greatest treasure of all: Life Eternal in the everlasting peace of God’s heavenly kingdom.  Amen

Deacon Don

Sunday, July 20, 2014

16th Sunday Ordinary Time - Matthew 13: 24-30 " Weeds among the Wheat"

Jesus continues the seed imagery in today’s Gospel.  Last week - seed was sown - some on fertile soil, - some on rocky soil, - some among thorns - and some on the path only to be trampled and eaten by birds – today – the evil-one sows the seeds of weeds among the good seeds of wheat – evil growing among the good.

The seeds sown by the evil one are a type called darnel - that looks like wheat in its early growth stages.  Only the learned eye can tell the difference between the good wheat and the deadly weed.  This is why the landowner does not want his servants to pull out the weeds until they mature – only then will they be able to see the evil among the good.

We, the children of God, are the soil on which the landowner (God) sows his good seed.  We are the fertile soil of God’s goodness, receiving:
- his grace, that feeds us, 
- his mercy, that waters us 
- his love, that nurtures us 
So that within each of us the good seed can grow strong - in faith and love.

In God’s good soil the evil-one plants his seeds of destruction.  The seeds of: 
Temptation – Lust – Greed – Gluttony – Sloth – Hatred – Envy - Pride – 
Seed which mature in Darkness and Desolation - separating us from the Love of God.

God’s good seeds:
Hope – Peace – Faithfulness – Charity – Compassion – Mercy - Love
Flower in Light and Life – giving off the sweet fragrance of God’s Love - The Love He has for us – the love we are called to have for all our brothers and sisters in Christ.

God allows us to nurture the seed within us – the good and the bad.  He does not interfere by ripping out the bad seed, but lets it grow among the good seed he has planted – giving us the gift of free-will, so we may decide which seed to allow to grow strong in our hearts and which seed to starve; to let wither and die.

Sometimes we cannot just starve the seed of the evil one: we must fight against its growth because its evil is so infectious that it destroys us even if we do not, ourselves participate in it.
“The greatest trick the evil-one ever played was to make people believe he does not exist!”
“The second greatest trick of the evil-one is to make us believe that the evil he sows is for our benefit.”
There is evil that is packaged as a good, evil wrapped in a blanket of acceptability or presented as a benefit - but in reality is deadly - cutting us off from the Love of God.

These evil seeds can lead us away from loving our brothers and sisters in Christ, - turning our back on God’s love for us.  When we ignore the evil or accept it as “necessary or the new way of the world” – we participate in that evil; allowing it to exist: allowing it to destroy us; cutting us off from God and His promise of Life Eternal.  
Among these evils are:
Indifference toward and disregard for all life at all stages
Exploitation and enslavement of God’s children
Cruelty, mistreatment and torture of God’s beloved 
Abuse of the weak and innocent by the strong and powerful
Misusing God’s gifts for selfish gain
A redefining of the natural laws, especially of life, marriage and family

These and other evils reduce our dignity as children of God and separate us from His Love.  They can never be justified. They are always wrong.  They are always evil. 

We are called by our Baptism (death to sin and rising to new life in Christ) to live a Life of Love – with mercy and peace for all our brothers and sisters. To love one another as we are loved, completely.
We cannot allow the seeds of evil to grow in our hearts; the seeds of the evil-one chokes off life; leading us to death and eternal damnation in the fires of Gehenna.  

Through our Lord, Jesus, we have the strength to follow the path of righteousness that leads to heaven.  He shows us the Way to Life Eternal - through the Love of God:
who hears the cries of the poor, 
who comforts the sorrowful, 
who fills the hungry with good things, 
who eases the burden of the oppressed 
And brings peace to all His people.

Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life – who leads us to life everlasting.  Through Him we will yield the good fruit of the good seed – life eternal – life everlasting - in the Peace of God’s Kingdom.  – 

~ Mother of Mercy – Pray for Us! ~ Amen

Deacon Don

Sunday, July 13, 2014

15th Sunday Ordinary Time - Matthew 13:1-23 - "Seeds"

“Teaching religious education is like planting seeds in the minds of our children.”  We pray the lessons take root; hoping their faith grows – by the mystery of God – at some later time in life.  And that when it does, we again hope and pray they will return to the church of their youth.”  Does this approach to Religious Education sound familiar? 

We hear the farmer, seed and planting metaphor several times throughout the New Testament.  In Mark 4:27, the passage refers to plants growing from seeds while the farmer sleeps, but the farmer knows not how it’s done, except through the mystery of the Divine.  And here today’s Gospel tells us about seeds being scattered on good and thin soil, among thorns and on rocky ground.  The seed grow well only in the good soil, but withers and dies on the thin soil or is choked and overwhelmed by the thorns and fails to take root at all, among the rocks.

So, how well does that first statement about religious education being like ‘planting seeds in the minds of our children’ - work when we hear that there is a three-fourths chance of the seed falling not in the good soil?

What do we do to increase the odds, so that more seed fall on the good soil, take root and grow strong?  

And remember – these odds are not just some impersonal numbers, - they are the souls and eternal lives of those we love – our children, sons and daughters,  our grand-children, - our nieces and nephews - our husbands and wives, - our brothers and sisters – all those people NOT sitting in the pew next to you that you wish and pray were.

If we believe what we profess – if we believe in God, the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit and His promise of eternal life in His heavenly kingdom – if we believe that Jesus is the Word of God made Flesh and if we believe that He died on the cross, so we may eternal life – then we need to take a more cooperative stance in the planting of the seeds of faith in the minds and hearts of all God’s children.

The world, - domain of the evil-one, - is filled with messages designed to separate us from the love of God.  Each of us is bombarded by over 3,000 messages a day - designed to form or change our opinion on everything - from what car to buy, what soap to use and more importantly on how we are to view life and death - marriage and family – and care for the poor and those suffering children of God in most need - even on the very existence of God.  

And, unless you listen to Catholic radio or watch Catholic television (and we know how few of these channels exist) – how often, in mass media do you hear messages positively speaking about God, Jesus, the Catholic Church or faithful Christian living?  I’ll save you the research – ZERO - NADA – NOTHING! 

The Holy Spirit works within each one of us - urging us to use our gifts to work in cooperation with God in bringing about the salvation of the world.  We do this by living faithful Christian lives, everywhere we go: in the home, at the office, in school, at play, among friends and strangers - and especially among family.  We should be living examples of Christian living that shows and teaches others about Jesus and how important He is in our lives and how strong our faith is in God’s promise.

The journey of discipleship in Christ Jesus is not always an easy journey, but it is best made among family and friends, fellow disciples, who support one another in their faith; helping to make saints of one another, lifting up and carrying one another to the gates of heaven.

So, while through the mystery of God, seeds may grow, it is with the cooperation of the farmer that the seeds find and take root in the good soil.  
It is the farmer who tills the soil and the farmer who pulls up the weeds; ensuring the seed has the best opportunity for life and strong growth.  For the world is full of thorns, and rocks and thin soil – seed should not be left unattended to fend for itself in such a scary place.

Pray for us, O’ Mother of Mercy, pray for us.

Deacon Don