Calling Forth Constancy to the First Commandment

29th Sunday of Ordinary Time       Reading 1 IS 45:1, 4-6 Gospel: MT 22:15-21

 The old sensibility called the Divine Right of Kings–that rulers can be instruments of God’s grace IF they choose to cooperate with it, is older than the Bible.  Cyrus of Persia did cooperate with God (knowingly or unknowingly).  Having conquered the Babylonians, he took over the Middle East Empire and allowed the Jewish people to return to their homeland, which new Emperors rarely, if ever, did. Rulers usually did not allow people to stay or return to their homelands in fear that once gathered together, they were more likely to revolt.

With Cyrus of Persia one of the rare exceptions, what was believed to be “The Divine Right of Kings” was used and abused through the centuries until finally someone shouted, “The Emperor isn’t wearing any clothes!” meaning that all too often, rulers and people in authority misuse their power.  Read the headlines in any century, any decade and there’s plenty proof. Taking Presidents and statesmen, explorers and rulers off their pedestals has been the work of historians for centuries, but when people attempt to do this in a literal way, controversy ensues.  And, although there are legitimate concerns on all sides of the issue, as always, the Gospels insist on a bigger picture: God is GOD; we are not.  People of faith are expected to put God above all others, to carefully consider God’s Will as we make our own decisions.  When people do well, praise them!  But, in our hearts, praise God, too–for nothing good is accomplished except from God.  We must believe that.  Therefore, respect positive human achievements while humbly acknowledging all human beings are flawed.  Perhaps all our monuments and tributes need to reflect that.  Meanwhile, Jesus tells us: be responsible with the things of this world for in doing so we get good practice in being responsible to heaven.

We should all know by now that the primary meaning of “repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God,” is NOT about the separation of Church and State.  For too long, Jesus’ statement has been misused to excuse a divorce between moral behavior at home and moral behavior in government and elsewhere.  If God is truly the center of our lives, then “repaying to Caesar” must mean taking on secular responsibilities to give God Glory, because, as the Bible and History teach us, all “Caesars” –be they princes or politicians, business executives or priests of bishops—fall short of leading fully God-centered lives and making consistent God-centered decisions.

To approach misunderstood passages of Scripture such as this one, it is always best to put them in conversations with other passages of Scripture that support and elucidate their meaning. Let’s look at these.

Luke 12: 29-32

As for you, do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not worry anymore. 30 All the nations of the world seek for these things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 Instead, seek his kingdom, and these other things will be given you besides. 32 Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom.

 

In other words, disciples of Jesus must view our material needs and their political implications as SECONDARY to Love 0f God, the dignity of each human person as Child of God, and love of neighbor.  God comes first! Discipleship in Jesus comes FIRST! Attentiveness to the Holy Spirit comes first! Then we have a taste of the Kingdom and everything else falls into place—a world with less hostility, less anxiety because all decisions are made for mutual benefit of all rather than advancement for some at the expense of others.  

Here’s another passage: Luke 16: 8 to 10

“For the children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.[e] I tell you, make friends for yourselves with dishonest wealth,[f] so that when it fails, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings. 10 [g]The person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones; and the person who is dishonest in very small matters is also dishonest in great ones.

 

Jesus speaks here of money in its most negative aspect:  it’s all “dishonest,” in the sense of the illusions it perpetuates:  delusions of grandeur, of inflated self-importance, celebrity, fame—all these are fleeting, transitory and distractions from the TRUTH of why we are here. The purpose and meaning of life: each person, each family, each community is responsible to GOD. Of course, it is important to be RESPONSIBLE for our worldly doings. We must apply our ethics to our material consumption, and our politics.  Indeed, wealth can be and may be used for good purposes that extend the kingdom of God, and when it does, we find signs of HEAVEN in the here and now.  But clearly in these times, more signs are needed to empower us to receive the blessings of eternity.  When few signs exist on earth, Heaven becomes disconnected, divorced from the real world in our daily consciousness; we become lax in our attentiveness to the Communion of Saints; Intercessory Prayer feels like a waste of our time—and that’s never a good thing.  We must remind ourselves that Jesus’ insisted that “the Kingdom of God is at Hand” on earth because it is intimately connected to the Kingdom of Heaven. 

The last Scripture passage that I will address, (there are many more, but, well, I leave you to look them up) is the segment when Jesus focuses on the limitations of our pride in material and political accomplishments over spiritual ones:

Luke 21: 5 [b]While some people were speaking about how the temple was adorned with costly stones and votive offerings, he said, “All that you see here—the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.”

 

I.e. all human accomplishments are transitory. What remains for us are remnants of the past that must be studied and scrutinized if our histories are to add to Wisdom for the present and future. We must let our Faith determine what was truly GOOD, what was GOD-CENTERED and what was not.  We don’t often appropriate our histories in that way, but the Gospel insists that we do, addressing everything about our societies that create suffering, pain and disillusionment—and insisting on ways and means that accentuate improvements, redemption and HOPE instead.

If Jesus’ wisdom isn’t enough for us today (and alas, it often isn’t for so many), we can tell them they will find parallels in the Hebrew Prophets, in the writings of St. Paul and the Saints and those of many secular scholars, writers and poets from one century to the next.  

Reflecting on these scriptures, I recalled a poem most of us were assigned to study in high school: Percy Shelley’s “Ozymandias:

I met a traveller from an antique land

Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert… near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:

And on the pedestal these words appear:
‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.[4]

 

We can spend a lot of time and emotional energy arguing about statues, but the truth is they are all going to fall and decay like the ruins of Rome, Ephesus and Pompeii.  That we’re made for eternity is the crux of the matter. We were made for God.  And that’s the only proper tribute to anyone—the degree he or she manifest their Love of God and Neighbor. Jesus was always aware of GOD, always attentive to the Spirit and asks nothing more of his disciples that you and I do the same.  GOD is everlasting who graciously offers to share eternity with the Saints. So, attend to Caesar, engage in political thought and debate, participate in community events, in commerce, economics and industry for such are the blessings of work and proper use of our God-given talents and creativities, but engage in these always with an eye on the Love of God and neighbor.  Stay in communion with Christ Jesus – for He Alone is more eternal than Spring itself.

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7 Steps toward Forgiveness

Sunday 17 September 2017: Scripture Readings for the Day:

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/091717.cfm

We can almost grow weary by the biblical order “to forgive.”   Clearly, Judaism emphasized it–those are strong words we heard from the Book of Sirach–and Jesus insisted upon it repeatedly in words and striking parables like this one.

Don’t we realize that when we refuse to forgive, we are breaking the first and foremost Commandment: I am the Lord your God you shall have no false gods before me?

Friends, we put ourselves above God and God’s mercy when we refuse to forgive! When we refuse to enter into the process of forgiveness, we fully disengage ourselves from the Two Great Commandments: Deuteronomy 6: 4 ff: Hear, O Israel![b] The Lord is our God, the Lord alone! Therefore, you shall love the Lord, your God, with your whole heart, and with your whole being, and with your whole strength.  And we hear in Leviticus   19:18 “You shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.”

In Matthew, Mark and Luke: Paul’s Letters to the Romans and Galatians, the Epistle of James repeat and repeat the phrase.  “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”

Moreover, Jesus makes clear in today’s parable and many others that forgiveness is an extension of love. It is the essential ingredient to love, for as soon as LOVE stops being “Love-Forgiveness,” how can we trust we’re participating in the fullness of love? Friends, Dating Couples, Engaged Couples, Married Couples: Beware!  If your friend or romance interest or fiancé or spouse refuses to forgive someone, something—however warranted the righteous indignation—YOU, dear friend, dear spouse will be next on the list!  We participate in Love-Forgiveness (I preach this now as ONE WORD) or we do not.  We must cultivate Love-Forgiveness in our hearts and invite loved ones to do the same.

What’s needed for love-forgiveness to reign? Here’s the short list:

  1. Vent, Rage and Cry to the Only Fully Objective Loved One — GOD; Jesus Himself prayed psalms of lament, disappointment.
  2. Secure that God loves you in your anger, your hurt, your betrayal –that God’s love for you is the foundation of your life—pray that you are moved to PITY the one who hurt you. See in him or her a fellow human being who has fallen from grace, given into temptation of selfishness, greed, violence

 

  1. Take TIME OUT, awaiting grace to move you from hurt, and/ or rage to pity and, finally, to tenderness

 

  1. Pray Pity be transformed to TENDERNESS as you would offer tenderness to a disobedient child; everyone has a right to live, to learn, to improve, to encounter God through Love-Forgiveness – In this world of ours, it is one of the primary ways to encounter God.

 

  1. With patience, discern forms of accountability you may eventually offer your assailant or adversary—just as a priest offers penance to sinners in the confessional. As penance offers actions and prayers to help the penitent to both show remorse AND accept accountability for his or actions in praise of God, so, too, must we be “priests to one another,” offer opportunities for change – as you would with a child.

 

  1. Allow for Time to Pass, i.e., GOD’s Time, not “our time,”, for a person to come to a place of reviewing the situation and his or her actions calmly and honestly. Here we must trust in Jesus’ and the Psalms’ constant reminder that God allows the sun to shine on the just and unjust, good and the wicked precisely to allow people to choose to evaluate the harm they’ve done to themselves and others.

 

  1. Even if your health and safety require the relationship to be severed, distant, or irreconcilable– Forgive in your heart, so you are FREE from reliving the hurt, the pain; free to move onward toward a wiser, humbler, more hopeful future.

 

 

As we move through these stages and come to the love-forgiveness act, we are truly FREE. Forgiving another in this way frees us as much, or perhaps even more, than the ones to whom we offer forgiveness.  Not everyone appreciates cosmic grace after all.  There are people who will never admit that they’ve done something wrong. Then, let them be!  You still are free!  Ground your relationship with them on other aspects that you may have in common, change your expectations of them (be more cautious around them if you must) but move on!

This is the invitation of our Christian faith, this is the cross of responsibility in charity and true discipleship. Of course, we don’t often feel like forgiving another, but faith is and must always be more than a feeling.  It’s a decision. It’s a commitment.

Remember: it’s only love-forgiveness” that opens up the future. Through Love-Forgiveness, YOU are the future extending the mercy of God and the promises of Christ: The glorious freedom of being children of God.

 

 

Religion & Politics Must Mix

A friend asked me why, as a priest, I continue to comment on politics.  Here’s why: 

My politics aren’t limited to any one realm but they are informed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus was very critical of all peoples in power and in institutions that run without mercy just as God is mercy. Jesus would condemn terrorists, communists and greedy capitalists equally as each in their own way (terrorists most explicitly) contribute to the suffering, and yes, death of many peoples far beyond “self-defense.” It’s a social sin that governments build up armaments at the expense of fare trade food, health and education for their people. I certainly think Kim of North Korea is filled with evil and so is his nuclear tests, and he should be handled with harsh criticism and sanctions, but hasn’t our country set the example of “might makes right” long ago? Not that we shouldn’t be able to defend ourselves and innocent people–and, yes, hindsight regarding our pacifism to Hitler early on was a terrible mistake, but, all the same, if we spent an equal amount on diplomacy and support of our poorest citizens, and assist, when we can, other countries to do the same, there would be far less to criticize.  Peoples who have basic needs met are far less likely to revolt, turn to violent revolutions, racisms and the like. In the 1986 the United States Bishops Conference issued a researched paper calling for Justice in the Economy (See Below) Wall Street and Conservative Catholic Economists crucified the contents saying that religious leaders need to keep out of non-spiritual matters. However, Jesus received the same hostility when he began his public ministry (See Luke’s Gospel Chapter 4) and his criticism of established norms of state and church put him on the Cross. (He called Herod “a fox.” And “render to Caesar what is Caesars and to God what is God’s “is not about separation of Church and State but pointing out the limits of the state because, for believers, all belongs to God. All prominent Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox scholars have affirmed this for almost a century, but people still hold on to old world views and old ways of interpreting the scriptures. The point of the Cross was to put a mirror onto society and its violent, selfish aspects to forgive and transform them. Not simply forgive and let business continue as usual. Nothing should stay the way it is because it worked in the past. People forget the Bible is as much future-oriented as it informs us of the past. At any rate, that is just some of the basis for my informed, prayerful sense that religion and politics must be kept in dialogue and that religion considering Jesus is asked to take a critical stance and look at the consequences for as many people as possible, not just a few, in reviewing current trends and legislations. 

Meanwhile chick this out http://www.usccb.org/upload/economic_justice_for_all.pdf 

God bless!

Homily for 22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time

Homily for 22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time

Jeremiah 20: 7-9; Psalm 63; Romans 12: 1-2; Matthew 16:21-27

Fr. James DiLuzio C.S.P.

 “You duped me, O Lord, and I let myself be duped!”  I’ve always loved those lines from Jeremiah, finding comfort in them whenever I feel let down, overwhelmed, or just plain sad about my life or what’s going on in the world.  What good has all my preaching accomplished–who remembers homilies, anyway?  To what effect all these Eucharists?  People still hate one another, misinterpret Scripture to bully people, justify their prejudices, and, particularly this week, ask why God does not intervene in Nature’s devastations in Texas and elsewhere.

As we pray Psalm 63 this morning, aren’t we thirsting for God to show up?  Wouldn’t it have been inspiring had God whisked Hurricane Harvey out to sea in the same way Jesus calmed the storms 2,000 years ago?  Of course, the Holy Spirit will inspire people to respond to Hurricane Relief.  In solidarity with those who lost homes and livelihood, Catholic Charities and other noble organizations will solicit contributions from us all.  Indeed, with eyes of faith, we expect the milk of human kindness to be in strong evidence once again.  God is and will always be part of these grace-filled endeavors.   Still, we may be haunted by the age-old mystery as to why God allows tragedies to play themselves out as readily as God enhances goodness to breed goodness, grace to build upon grace.

What hope do we have other than to trust in this mystery?  Jeremiah, despite his desire to run from God and live without faith, without prayer and rituals, acknowledged that, ultimately, God’s Spirit became “like fire burning” in his heart, his faith in God somehow “imprisoned” in his bones.  Jeremiah’s faith in God conquered his disillusionment and fear.  How?

Jesus tells us by “picking up our cross,” he strengthens us to live within faith’s paradox, to embrace mystery, to trust in eternal truths.  Because our past informs our present, we know that we have, we can and we will overcome hatred, prejudice and even natural disasters because of faith’s common denominator: we are all children of God on a journey unto eternity.  Of course, like Saint Peter on that day, we would have preferred an invincible Messiah who would establish a suffering-free universe. Yet, from the beginning death was part of God’s plan—our human bodies as we experience them were destined to be but a prologue to a transcendent way of life with body and soul beyond the grave (yes) but not without some dying and rising from day to day to day. Along with hundreds of events from the past, Houston invites us, once again, to review our attachments to material things and to scrutinize the degree to which we honor our relationships with God and others and live each day as if it were our last.

What are our expectations of life?  Why are our capacities for mystery so limited?  In part, because we’ve kept our faith rooted in what we learned as children—neglecting to nurture it into adulthood.  We continue to change with the times regarding science, medicine and technology, even morality and ethics, but not in fundamental aspects of faith. Meanwhile, change has occurred in the ways the Church interprets the Bible and appropriates the Sacraments.

Considering the floods in Houston and environs –and with more on the horizon—who among us has not thought of Genesis and Noah and the Flood?  Does God still punish us with natural disasters?  What other insights from childhood continue to echo in our adult brains?  But here’s an example of how biblical scholarship has changed:  We now understand that the ancient biblical writers used a tragic event – a flood – into a lesson on morality and faith, revealing, at the same time, a very narrow, limited understanding of God.  Believing as the ancients did that to be all-powerful was to be responsible for all activity on earth, they understood everything that happens as either a reward or punishment from God. Thus, the story of a flood-to-end-all-floods was presented as God’s weariness with the sins of humanity. Perhaps fed-up themselves with the evil within human nature, the biblical writers projected their disgust as coming from God as they tried to make sense of a catastrophic phenomenon. As centuries passed, however, their own experiences of God, coupled with burgeoning revelations from JOB and the prophets and ongoing prayer empowered the faithful to conclude that God’s all-powerful dimension comprises a greater mystery: God lets Nature evolve and interact with itself (ant that includes humanity) within its own limitations, just as God permits humanity’s free will to make of ourselves and our world what we will—guiding and supporting always, but interfering only rarely. Therefore, today, we acknowledge our childhood understanding of Noah and the Ark is found wanting. And yet, the story remains part of the inerrant dynamic of the Bible–not for what it says about God, but for what it reveals about the power of faith (Noah and his family) and a deeper truth that God supports the faithful through the tragedies of life, promising hope and redemption symbolized by a rainbow. Today, considering Hurricane Harvey, that rainbow symbolizes a whole lot more.  The value of our homes and personal luxuries pale in the presence of a helping hand—no matter the color of the skin, the ethnicity it represents, its age or size, its nation of origin. The Good News is that God works primarily (although NOT exclusively) through US.  We are not alone unless we choose to be.  We never need be afraid.

Today we acknowledge that the Scriptures are both past, present and FUTURE ORIENTED. They inform us about the past as they illuminate HERE and NOW and beckon us onto the FUTURE.  So, too, our current events. It’s clear that the earth has entered a warming phase with erratic temperatures and winds, caused, in part, through ice melts from the poles.  No one refutes that any longer.  What still is debated, however, is the extent the human footprint accelerates this phenomenon. But who could argue this: From the beginning, the Holy Spirit has nurtured Wisdom in human hearts and that centuries ago, the Spirit moved humanity to acknowledge a universal, common sense adage “An Ounce of Prevention is worth a Pound of Cure.” As Catholics and others throughout the nation this weekend (and in the months to come) contribute and volunteer to Catholic Charities’ appeals to rebuild homes and refortify Texas Gulf cities and surroundings, we must prayerfully consider the bigger picture, engage in more preventative endeavors, more precautions, more safety measures, more environmentally sound uses of power and fuel, however costly—locally and nationally–these may be. The future of Texas as well as our children’s future and the entire earth’s future depend upon it. Whatever our political sensibilities we must defer to the Cross of Jesus Christ that insists we, too, sacrifice for a greater good. And then, because of God’s design, goodness will increase.

Today’s Eucharist is a preventative measure, too. Assuring Christ’s presence within us, around us, our Eucharist cultivates true faith–adult faith, inviting us to attend to our relationships with God and others with patience, awe and reverence and, yes, even patience with God until, ultimately, all shall be on earth as it is in heaven.

Reading 1 Jer 20:7-9

You duped me, O LORD, and I let myself be duped;
you were too strong for me, and you triumphed.
All the day I am an object of laughter;
everyone mocks me.

Whenever I speak, I must cry out,
violence and outrage is my message;
the word of the LORD has brought me
derision and reproach all the day.

I say to myself, I will not mention him,
I will speak in his name no more.
But then it becomes like fire burning in my heart,
imprisoned in my bones;
I grow weary holding it in, I cannot endure it.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 63:2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9

  1. (2b) My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.
    O God, you are my God whom I seek;
    for you my flesh pines and my soul thirsts
    like the earth, parched, lifeless and without water.
    R. My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.
    Thus have I gazed toward you in the sanctuary
    to see your power and your glory,
    for your kindness is a greater good than life;
    my lips shall glorify you.
    R. My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.
    Thus will I bless you while I live;
    lifting up my hands, I will call upon your name.
    As with the riches of a banquet shall my soul be satisfied,
    and with exultant lips my mouth shall praise you.
    R. My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.
    You are my help,
    and in the shadow of your wings I shout for joy.
    My soul clings fast to you;
    your right hand upholds me.
    R. My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.

Reading 2 Rom 12:1-2

I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God,
to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice,
holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship.
Do not conform yourselves to this age
but be transformed by the renewal of your mind,
that you may discern what is the will of God,
what is good and pleasing and perfect.

Alleluia cf. Eph 1:17-18

  1. Alleluia, alleluia.
    May the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ
    enlighten the eyes of our hearts,
    that we may know what is the hope
    that belongs to our call.
    R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel Mt 16:21-27

Jesus began to show his disciples
that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly
from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes,
and be killed and on the third day be raised.
Then Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him,
“God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.”
He turned and said to Peter,
“Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me.
You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”

Then Jesus said to his disciples,
“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself,
take up his cross, and follow me.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world
and forfeit his life?
Or what can one give in exchange for his life?
For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory,
and then he will repay all according to his conduct.”

 

Sunday Homily 9 July 2017

Fourteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time:

Zechariah 9: 9-10; Romans 8: 9, 11-13; Matthew 11:25-30

What is humility? It is GRATITUDE for life itself! JOY in being alive. Humility is Gratefulness for the gift of work—whether fulfilling in the moment or not. It sees every opportunity as a stepping stone to cherish, an opportunity to learn. “What is” – is enough to be good for each day.

Humility levels the playing field. It looks beyond position, social influence, prestige or income. It doesn’t judge. Humility defers to Hope. It keeps its sights on God — eschewing evaluation, judgement and critique on the mortal soul for the sake of the immortal soul. Saint Paul says, “abandon the flesh!” What he means by “flesh” is “self-interest above all other concerns.” His Letter to the Romans insists that this self-absorption constitutes hostility toward God. To live in selfishness is to refuse to accept why God made us and why we are here. Humility is the ability to see ourselves and others beyond our wants, our needs and preferences, beyond our assessment of “friend” or “foe.” To be humble, as Saint Paul says, is to “thrive in the Spirit!”

Sometimes it takes tragedies to bring us humility. War and conflict can make us bitter, but in faith, they humble us—making us ever mindful of human weakness, cruelty and sin with a desire to be done with it, once for all. Humility thinks not of the past but of the future. It releases us from the hell of hate and fear. During a time of civil and religious violence in India, a Hindu cried to Gandhi, “I’m going to Hell! I killed a child!” Gandhi asked, “Why did you do this?” He replied, “Because they killed my son! The Muslims killed my son!” “I know a way out of Hell,” said Gandhi. “Find a child, a child whose mother and father have been killed and raise him as your own. Only be sure that he is a Muslim and that you raise him as one.”

Examples of this kind of humility can be found in our recent history when, in the 1990’s, Churches and Synagogues sponsored refugee Muslim and Orthodox Christian families fleeing the genocide of the Bosnian/Herzegovina/Croatian/Serbia wars fueled by the atrocities of racist Serbian President Slobodan Milošević. Just as today, even amidst our cantankerous Immigration Policy debate, Churches and Synagogues are welcoming Serbian and Middle Eastern refugees with teams of faithful people offering room and board, language and technical skills to resettle here. And what have Americans in common with these families—neither language nor faith nor customs– except our common humanity? This is humility in action; evidence of grace.

Gandhi knew that humility is seeing another as a human being, and nothing more. Zechariah knew it.  Jesus knows it. Then, and only then, do we begin to respect what makes us different. But the difference remains secondary to the knowledge that because of the sins we have in common, we must transcend them lest we perpetuate them. Humility offers hope for the future. In the Second World War, two individuals from warring nations, decided to initiate a new beginning:

“A soldier wrote to a German mother: ‘As a member of a Commando unit raiding a village in France, it became my duty to kill your son… I earnestly ask your forgiveness, for I am, after all, called to be a Christian. . . I hope I may, some day after the war is over, talk with you face to face.’ The German mother received the note several months later, and she wrote to the English soldier in turn: ‘I find it in my heart to forgive you, even you who killed my son, for I too am a Christian . . . If we are living after the war is over I hope you will come to Germany to visit me, that you may take the place in my home, if only for a time, of my son whom you killed.’’

Indeed, Humility is seeing another as a human being, and nothing more. This is the only way the Vision of Zechariah, which is also Jesus’ vision, becomes a reality: when “the warrior’s bow is banished, and (the King) proclaims peace to the nations; his dominion stretching from sea to shining sea. Jesus invites us to accept this vision as our own. It’s a cross, but he bears the weight. And the Good News is we don’t need to wait for a war or tragedy to take it up. All we need be is humble.

Jesus doesn’t offer us the Eucharist because we deserve it. He looks beyond our pasts–good, bad and indifferent as they are—and sees human beings in need of Saving. Jesus knows our human hearts are prone to self-interests–be it our own, our families’, our nation’s or that of our Church. So, he invites us to come “down to earth,” offering us spiritual food that our bodies must digest. His Eucharistic meal invites us to keep our sights on the horizon. Only an honest, humble stance will create the gratitude needed for this meal to have its full effect. Otherwise we tend to relive the past, the blame, the regrets, or indulge today without any thought of tomorrow. As recipients of His Eucharist he asks us to see ourselves and to see others in the same way: dependent on God and one another. “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”

Pentecost 2017

Photos of Young Adults smiling, cheering in cap and gown. A great day for them and for their families.  Celebration!  Degrees earned, lessons learned, friendships fostered others abandoned for good or ill -yet, hopefully insights gained about self, others, the reality of relationships. There is a lot to cheer about. And there’s Hope and excitement: What’s next? What’s new? Onward and Forward to the challenges ahead—ready or not!

 

Have they, do we, acknowledge what all events like these encompass?  Or do we just go through the motions, eager to enjoy the dinners planned for the evening or anxiously anticipate getting back to work, or addressing the problems at home in the days ahead?

 

In these, and in each of our lives’ celebrations, faith demands that we ask: Where is God in all of this?  To what extend are we, are they, our families and friends conscious of the spiritual potentials in these and other events that comprise the moments of our lives?  To what extent can we / might we surrender to the moment, be attentive to the present and allow the events of the past these events evoke bring us Wisdom, give us humility and insights into who we are and who we want to be in the days and years ahead?

 

In truth, Graduations, like Confirmations, Weddings, Job promotions / transfers, moving into new apartments/ new homes/ new neighborhoods have the potential to echo the realities of that first Pentecost – a culmination of life experiences with Jesus that give an ordinary celebration profound effects as it did centuries ago for Peter, John, James, the Blessed Mother, Mary Magdalene, Mary (Mother of James) and other disciples—deepening our understanding of who we were, who we are and what we are becoming.  Yes, they have the potential, but what do we do to bring their potentials to fulfillment?

 

On that first Christian Pentecost, the disciples were gathering for the Jewish Feast of Pentecost: The Second Harvest Festival 50 days after the Barley Harvest Festival of Passover–a day of Thanksgiving, rest and celebration.  It may or may not, at that time, have merged the festival with the commemoration of Moses presenting the people with Ten Commandment from Mount Sinai—perhaps a different Feast Day that was combined with that one.  Nevertheless, the disciples had gathered to pray and focus on Thanksgiving –for the simple gifts of life and nourishment, and, for them, gratitude for the Resurrected Jesus and his pledge to be with them always and strengthen them with the Holy Spirit.

 

On that day, as in other days, the disciples hoped for further clarification of Jesus’ story and how they would / could / should understand His Story as foundational to their own.  They didn’t have a guarantee that this would be the day; Jesus hadn’t told them the date.  They had to be present to the Feast they came to celebrate and simply be conscious that God’s Spirit is alive in all good things, and in all times and places.  Do we enter our celebrations—Graduations and otherwise–in the same way?

 

Whether conscious of it or not, our graduates have benefited from the Gifts of the Holy Spirit since birth.  They, like us, were endowed with the Spirit at Baptism and strengthened in the Spirit through Confirmation and every reception of the Eucharist in between and beyond.  Yes, Gifts of the Holy Spirit: Wisdom, Understanding, Awe of God, Wonder in God’s Creation, Courage, Fortitude, Aptitude for Mercy, Justice with Compassion.

 

The lesson here: How much more could they, could we engage in life’s challenges and struggles if we more consciously and deliberately attend to the Holy Spirit?   All we must do is connect our stresses with those of Jesus and the disciples, relate our vacillating between fear and hope with Israelites in the desert, the peoples of the Scriptures and the Saints who’ve come after, continually learning from them, and, like them, acknowledging our conscious dependence upon God.

 

On this Pentecost, we can take comfort that God’s grace is active in us and our world whether we pay attention to the Spirit or not. Despite ourselves. Jesus walks with us whether we know it or not.  But Scripture, Prayer and Sacrament connect us to the bigger picture, the better picture: our lives are not our own but belong to God and for the service of God. In Churches and in Homes we are the people called to a great awakening in our consciousness for charity toward ourselves and others in all things, to make this a better world, more caring world, a world where others see that discipleship in Jesus does and can make a difference—for everyone.  All for the greater glory of God.

 

Celebrate Saint Luke the Evangelist Today!

Catholic and Orthodox Christianity celebrate Saint Luke, the Evangelist today, October 18.  He is the author of Luke’s Gospel and Acts of the Apostles in what I like to call “the Second Testament” (because the Hebrew Scriptures are certainly “the First Testament.”) If you would like to hear selections from my Luke Live! ministry, go to:

http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/revjamesmdiluziocsp