Sunday, September 21, 2014

25th Sunday Ordinary Time - Matthew 20:1-16a - "One day in the garden of the Lord"

  • Is there a god greater than our God?  
  • Is there a god with greater love for his people than our God?
  • Is there a god who promises salvation for all his beloved children like the promise of our God?
  • Has any god who so loved his people to sacrifice his only Son to bring them to eternal life, like our God?

The Apostle Paul reminds us that:
“No eye has seenNor ear heardNor human heart conceived,What God has prepared for those who love Him”
The generosity of our God confounds the wisdom of human generosity.  The love of our God reaches beyond the capacity of human love.  His justice and judgments exceeds our human perception of justice.  Our God loves all His children with a generous heart.  He loves all His children with a complete love that reaches beyond human mercy; beyond human understanding, beyond human desire.

He calls all His scattered flock together; gathering them into the embrace of His loving arms. He sees them all – every bump and wrinkle.  He knows His creation, as only the Creator can know every facet of His handiwork.  He calls each one by name and knows the depths of every heart.

The measure of God’s love and justice for all His children is revealed in Matthew’s Gospel.  God calls all His children into His vineyard to reap the abundant harvest of His love.  

When the Master goes out in the evening; still finding workers, He asks them why they stood idle all day, they replied, “Because no one has hired us.”  

We are challenged to look into the depths of our heart to see beyond the seemingly obvious.  We ask:

  • Why are those workers still standing idle while other workers were called into the vineyard at dawn, in the morning, at the midday and in the afternoon?  
  • Who are these idle workers and where were they when the others were called?  
  • And we need to ask, “Why do the others workers resent the Master’s generosity; believing that they deserve more than what the Master promised?

Are these last, lazy workers, who sleep in – in the morning after a night of revelry and dissipation?  

  • Are they workers who shy away from work?  
  • Or are these the unwanted, the undesirable – out-casts?
  • Are they the old, the crippled, the weak and frail?  
  • Are they different, therefore marginalized: shunned, reviled?
  • Are they the forgotten, living on the edges of society, - those without voice, without power or influence? 
  • Are they the world’s least, society’s outcasts – ignored and forgotten – left idle; to languish by the wayside in despair, without hope?

And why do the others, when the Master is generous to these last, resent His generosity?  Why do they believe they deserve more?

  • Are they better workers?
  • Did their longer labors place them in advantage over these last?
  • Is their attitude born out of a social structure that believes: “The winner takes all” or “The race goes to the swift and strong” or “That he who dies with the most toys, wins!”  
  • Do they live in a society of based on inequality - where winners and losers are just a part of the natural order of things?

This is not God’s way.  This is not God’s justice.  In God’s eyes all His children are beautiful and deserving of His love.  The first, middle and last - are all His beloved – each deserving equal measure of His generosity, each inheritors in His promise of salvation and eternal life in the kingdom of heaven.

God judges with love and mercy; calling all who love Him - into His vineyard. His generosity is for all His children, not just for a select few.  

God shares his gift of Eternal Life with His beloved; it is not ‘first come – first served’ in the kingdom of heaven.  It is not the strong and the powerful who will inherit His kingdom – it is for those who are meek and humble: those who love God with a generous heart; loving others as He loves us.  For our Lord says: “Only the righteous shall inherit the kingdom of heaven.”

Whether we’re life-long ‘cradle Catholics’ or newly initiated members of the flock – we each, kings and commoners, the powerful and the weak, rich and poor, the influential and the voiceless receive equal measure: the abundance of God’s love. 
~ Amen

Deacon Don Ronning

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Exaltation of the Cross - John 3:13-17 - "Cross of Hope"

In the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

We begin all things with the sign of the cross: the enduring symbol of Christ crucified.  The reminder of God’s love for the world, 
“. . . that He gave is only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish, but have eternal life.”
This is the symbol of our Christian heritage - the Cross upon which hung Our Savior, Jesus Christ.  In the mystery of God’s love for us He uses the Cross as an everlasting reminder of His love - found in the holy sacrifice of His Son, Jesus - for the forgiveness of our sins and the salvation of the world.  

We make the Sign of the Cross as a reminder of Christ’s sacrifice - an innocent, suffering and dying to forgive the sins of the guilty.

Recently, I read an essay written by a fairly well-known and respected Catholic writer who was expressing great personal doubts about the strength of his faith. In the face of worldly crisis, - persecutions of Christians for their faith, accelerating secularism in our American culture and the rapid marginalization of the teachings of our Church and the questioning of the relevance our belief in the Risen Lord has in our society – he was despaired and disheartened.

It was not his faith or belief in God that he questioned, but an emptiness he felt in his life.  His prayer life – his worship – his faith practices were, as he described – empty.  He no longer felt the enthusiasm – that fire within – that propelled his usual faith practices.  He attended daily mass, sang the hymns and continued to teach religious instruction in the parish program, but feels he was just going through the motions. 

He feared that he was losing direction and despaired of falling away from the Church – a Church he loved – a Church that held great meaning in his life – a Church, central in the lives of his family, for it was at the very heart of his family life – not just for him, but for his wife and their children.  He feared he was losing hope.

  • The Cross, this Roman device of shame and degradation, this cruel and painful suffering, this horrid death – God uses to bring joy into our lives; endowing us with faith in the promise of the resurrection.  
  • On this Cross, Jesus’ suffering sacrifice for the salvation of God’s beloved children secures for us something greater than we have ever imagined, - nor can we possibly imagine in our present lives.
  • In this Cross, where our Christ hung in expiation of our sins, we are freely given God’s grace – Divine Hope.

This is not a hope found in optimism - where we pray for good weather for a parish festival or that if we get to the bakery early enough we hope they will still have those bagels we and everyone else likes best or even hope that our favorite team will make it to the play-offs.  

  • In the Cross we have a Hope that gives us a courage, a joy and an anticipation of something greater than we presently know.  
  • This is the Hope of Christians, disciples of Jesus – the Son of God who came into the world as one of us.  
  • It is the Hope of knowing that Christ lived among us experiencing all we experience – joys and sufferings – all human experience, but sin. 
  • It is the Hope we have in Jesus taking our human sinfulness upon his shoulders as he was raised up on the Cross – dying – once, for all - in sacrifice to the Father in His great love of us. 

“What eye has not seen, and ear has not heard,and what has not entered the human heart,what God has prepared for those who love him,” 1 Cor. 2:9

This is God’s gift of the Cross – His grace of Hope.  Our Hope in God’s promise of something beyond the joys and sufferings of this life.  The Hope of what is to be.  The Cross is the Hope of Christians, the Hope of the Resurrection.  The Hope of coming into God’s promise of His heavenly Kingdom and abundant life - forever and ever. ~ Amen

Deacon Don

Saturday, September 6, 2014

23rd Sunday Ordinary Time - Matthew 18: 15-20 - "Making Saints"

Our faith is a relational faith.  We are in a loving relationship with God through His Son Jesus and His Holy Spirit.  Together we form one body: this community of faithful believers in Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  We each are in a relationship with God, the Father and are filled with His love.  It is through God’s Holy Spirit that comes to us, in His eternal love; filling us with his grace, so we may come into an ever closer relationship with Him. 

We are a people filled with God’s love: sons and daughters of the Father whose Spirit fills us with a burning desire to be with Him in that place he has prepared for us.  

In His divine love, God, the Father sent his Son to save us.  Jesus became flesh, like us, sharing with us the sorrows and joys of human existence.  He suffered the pains of persecution and death to bring us the Good News of the Father’s love; leading us into the peace and joy of the Father’s heavenly kingdom.  

Through the suffering and death of Jesus on the cross, the sins of man were expiated.  His sacrifice for our sins was a sacrifice once, and for all time.  His resurrection; opening the gates of heaven, so we may rise up with Him to eternal life in the Father love.

All this wonder was accomplished for us, God’s creation, His children, so we may enjoy the mutual love of the Father in relationship with and through Him with one another.  We are not a people created in isolation: to be alone.  God, when He created Adam, the first human, said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suited to him.” (Gen 2:18).  By His divine hand we are made to be in relationship with Him and with one another.

God created the world for man and placed us in dominion over His work, not to conquer, for he has given us this gift, but as stewards, caretakers of His gift - for all mankind throughout the generations.  By this He has brought us into relationship with all peoples: past and future generations until the end of time.

As God loves us and cares for us, He calls us to love and care for one another.  We are not only stewards of the gift of this world, but also caregivers to one another.  Our relationship with God is made manifest in the loving relationship we live with our sisters and brothers in Christ.  

As we are called to bring the Good News of God’s love and salvation to all the nation’s we are called to continually instruct and counsel all, so they may come to know God’s love and encouraged to live in relationship with Him.  

  • We are to admonish our brothers and sisters when they stray from God’s love; causing a harm to their life in God and among the community of faithful.
  • As imperfect beings, we may be wounded by others.  In God’s love we are to bear these wrongs with love and patience: never letting anger to cause us to sin, so that we fall into the hands of the evil-one.
  • We are called to forgive offenses and ask forgiveness of God and one another when we offend.  In doing so, we return to our right relationship with God and community.
For sin is never personal or private, but as we are created for God and for one another, sin separates us; placing us outside the peaceful harmony of God’s loving relationship in Him and among His children.

In His humanness, Christ came to know our suffering.  His love and compassion for the sorrowful and suffering is our model for sharing God’s love with all our sisters and brothers who suffer.  As we are loved, we show God’s love to one another in the comfort and consolation we receive, as we comfort and console those who suffer.  

God’s sharing of our human condition through Jesus, brings us the knowledge that God is not distant and uncaring, but desires to share with us His eternal being.

In life, all our relationships require work to refresh and renew them.  “Out of sight – out of mind” diminishes and dissipates relationships.  So it is with our relationship with God and one another.  Through prayer, our relationship with God is strengthened and increased.  We also strengthen and increase our relationship with one another, living and dead through prayer.  We pray for the good of others, so they may enjoy the fruits of God’s love in this life and we pray for those who have gone before us, that they may rest in the joy and peace of God’s ultimate love - eternal life with Him

Jesus, in the Gospel of Matthew, shows us that we are our brother and sister’s keeper.  As children of our Loving God, we, the community of believers, are called to stay in right loving relationship with God and with one another.  As disciples of Jesus, it is our duty to help bring all our brothers and sisters to come to know God’s love for us, as we share His love with one another.   

God makes saints through His love found in His children: shared with all who live in His love. ~ Amen 

Deacon Don