Keeping Thanksgiving Spirit-filled

Suggestions for a Prayerful Thanksgiving (Revised 2017)

by Paulist Father James DiLuzio

I          BEFORE THE DAY BEGINS:  

  • Set DVR to pre-record Thanksgiving Day parade(s) and Football Games; pre-record or purchase/rent CHARLIE BROWN THANKSIVING or other cartoons. These will be handy for intervals such as between main meal and desert or as stand-by for Alternate After-Meal Activities.
  • Book or Paper Copy of OVER THE RIVER & THROUGH THE WOODS by Lydia Maria Child * and other Autumn / Thanksgiving Poems such as The MIST & ALL (Keep aside until DESERT COURSE)  OVER THE RIVER and the poem’s history may be found at: http://www.wikiwand.com/en/Over_the_River_and_Through_the_Wood
  • Author’s Information: http://www.wikiwand.com/en/Lydia_Maria_Child
  • The Mist and All may be found at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dixie_Willson
  • Community Games to Have on Hand: Charades, Pictionary, Balderdash
  • Music via CD, Spotify, Pandora, YouTube (See item IX below)
  • A Card Table with Index Cards & pens/pencils, a Small Basket or Shoebox and One Sheet of Paper with these 2 “Treasured Gifts” Questions printed:

“What experience this year do I most treasure?”

“What gift have I received from last Birthday or Christmas to date that I still enjoy?”

 II   DURING ARRIVALS and /or Hors D’oeuvres: Invite everyone to print on an index card or post-it their response to this question: “What experience have I treasured most this year?”  and /or “What gift have I received from last Thanksgiving or Christmas to date that I still enjoy?” (Elder siblings or adults scribe for younger children).  No signatures on the papers!  Place these “Treasured Gifts” papers in a small basket and place the basket on or near the dining table. During the first course, guests will try to guess who wrote what.

 

III TRADITIONAL GRACE “PLUS”: Once everyone is seated, invite each person to say in ONE WORD, what they are feeling—with 2 qualifications: 1. NO EXPLANATIONS AS TO WHY they feel this way (you’ll give them examples below) 2. NO ONE MAY COMMENT or on another person’s feelings. There are no “right or wrongs” feelings.  Therefore, comments like “How can you feel that on this day of all days?” are forbidden!  God loves us and understands all our feelings whatever they may be. It’s Important that you give example that include a full spectrum of feelings: “happy,” “sad,” “worried,” “thankful,” “frustrated,” “loving,” “frustrated,” “hungry,” “pleased,” “anxious,” “grieving,” “peaceful.”  ALSO:  GUESTS MUST BE FREE “TO PASS.” After each person states his or her feeling   Start Grace with these words (Read/ Pray SLOWLY): “Dear God, Here We Are–Our family and friends–and these are the feelings we bring to this Thanksgiving Day.  Helps us understand the beautiful way You accept each us as we are. Make us confident in your love so that we may be at peace and feel your presence among us.  Help us to make the most of this meal, this day, and our time together.”  Then invite everyone to join in the Traditional Grace before Meals, OR if your company is of mixed religions, substitute the Christian Grace with this: “Blessed are YOU, Source of Life, God known by so many names, help us to experience GRATITUDE, for gratefulness is the pathway to mutual affection and the road to peace. Bless our Meal and our Conversation. Amen.” 

III         FIRST COURSE ACTIVITY (Soup/Salad/Antipasto): Treasured Gifts: After everyone is served, pass the basket around with “Treasured Gift” papers. Each person takes a paper and reads it aloud. Guests try to guess who wrote it—i.e. match the statement with its author.  Once guessed, invite the person to share why he or she is thankful for this gift and/or event.

IV         DURING THE MAIN MEAL: Invite each Guest to share his or her memories of the best Thanksgiving OR ANY SPECIAL MEAL that they have ever experienced and why it is an important memory for him or her. (E.g. when they were 7 or 8; a night out with friends; an engagement dinner, baby announcement, etc.) TRY TO KEEP THE MEAL AS LEASURELY AND UN-RUSHED AS POSSILBE.  The previous activities should have helped. If time allows: Invite Guests to share a Bible Story, Book or Event that impressed them.

 V          AFTER THE MAIN MEAL:  Before anyone leaves the table for a Post-Meal Walk and/ or Pre-Cleanup Break (See VI) Invite the following Participatory Prayer: “Thanksgiving is a Day of Gratitude which is a Day of Prayer. Before we take a break, I invite us to share our prayers for one another and others:”

  1. “For whom and for what do we need to pray this year?” Give each person a chance to say his or her prayer. Remember the victims of recent violence and tragedies.
  2. Close with Psalm 121. (Link below), an Our Father and Glory Be.

VI         AFTER MEAL WALKS & PRE-DESSERT CLEAN UPS: Postpone desert and encourage guests to go for a walk outdoors if possible.  If weather does not permit, engage everyone in a Pre-Desert Clean UP tidying up the kitchen and the table prior to serving dessert. Football fans can catch up on the game.[1]  If there are not football fans and the kitchen is too crowded for everyone to help, access your DVR for the recorded PARADE(s) or Cartoons and/or arrange one of the Participation Gamesa as in section IX below.

VII        DURING DESERT: 

  1. Together recall the Thanksgiving Poem: Over the River and Through the Woods – Ask, “Who Knows the Author?” and “Who can remember the most verses?” Have a copy of the complete poem handy. After everyone has had a try reciting or singing a verse, pass around the copy (or copies for everyone) and ask each person to read a couplet or an entire verse depending on the number of guests. (There are 12 verses including 24 couplets) You can find the poem (and its author) at

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Over_the_River_and_Through_the_Wood

  1. Afterwards, ask “Does anyone know another poem about Fall?” and have them share it. It’s probable that no one will have another poem.  In any case, conclude by reading this short poem: THE MIST & ALL by Dixie Wilson. Some people may remember it from school:  http://holyjoe.org/poetry/willson.htm
  2. Invite guests to share any favorite poems, rhymes, riddles or Autumn memories.

VIII       EVERYONE JOINS IN FOR CLEAN UP (OR, if space limitations in the kitchen, create Two Teams:  Those who remain at table or go for walks and/or into the living room; and those who help in the Kitchen.  Try to have each team mixed with all ages, both men/woman/boys/girls if possible.  Spend the clean-up /walking time memorizing OVER THE RIVER as Teams. Afterwards, gather together and see which Team remembers the most.  NOTE: The Purpose of the Game: Poetry opens us up to the spiritual and to appreciation of ritual: memory, context and associations.

 IX         After-Clean Up Options:

o   Community Games to Have on Hand:  Charades, Pictionary, Balderdash

o   Dancing: Access Music via CD, Spotify, Pandora, YouTube

  • Old Fashioned WALTZ; I recommend “O Mio Babbino Caro” sung by Kiri Tekanawa (CD: Kiri Te Kanawa Sings Verdi & Puccini Arias; for YouTube search “o mio babbino caro kiri te kanawa””
  • Celebrate Married Couples with “I Dreamed of You” by Barbra Streisand: (CD Barbra Streisand: A Love Like Ours; for YouTube: Search “I’ve dreamed of you Barbra Streisand””

X          Farewells As each person prepares to leave, ask if they would like a final Thanksgiving

Blessing.  If no, simply offer the usual hug or handshake.   If yes, the Hosts may place

their hands on each guest’s head or shoulders and pray the PRIESTLY BLESSING from the

Book of Numbers, Chapter 6: 24-26:

24 The Lord bless you and keep you!

25 The Lord let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you!

26 The Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace!

Conclude with “Safe home!  Godspeed!  God bless!”

OPTIONAL CHARITABLE COMPONENT TO THANKSGIVING DAY: INVTIE GUESTS TO BRING A SINGLE $ 1. BILL for each member of his or her family or party to participated in a PLEASE & THANK YOU GAME. Designate a charity and let them know what the dollars are for in advance OR have everyone vote on one of two or three choices before Grace (E.G, Catholic Charities for Puerto Rico Relief or Catholic Relief Services or Unicef.) Have some extra $1. bills around for those who forget.). The FIRST TIME anyone forgets to say Please” or “Thank You,” from the beginning of the Meal (after Grace) to end of dinner (i.e. “please pass the potatoes; thank you), he or she gets a WARNING.  The SECOND TIME he or she must surrender their dollar into a basket. Proceeds go to the previously announced charity. At the end of the day, people may contribute the Remaining Dollars or additional $ if they wish to the cause.

FOOTBALL FANS OPTION:  If your guest list comprises a majority of Football fans, CONSIDER planning your meal and activities around them. Here’s the Game Schedule:

  1. Minnesota Vikings @ Detroit Lions                          12:30 PM Ford Field           Channel: FOX
  2. Los Angeles Chargers @ Dallas Cowboys             4:30 PM    AT&T Stadium  Channel: CBS
  3. New York Giants @ Washington Redskins             8:30 PM FedEx Field          Channel: NBC

 Begin gathering for your meal @ 2:30 (after or near the end of Game 1)

  1. Let the fans know you have DVR recorded Games 2 & 3 so during breaks between courses, people can review game and fast-forward commercials.
  2. Allow fans to opt-out of activities without judgment or rancor on your part We can invite, but we must not try to force intimacy or familial bonding.
  3. Here’s a game for the Football fans: Invite them to name Thanksgiving Day Teams and Winners from the past.  Who has the best football memory?   Here’s the list:

http://www.profootballhof.com/football-history/thanksgiving-day-game-results/

Over the River and Through the Woods by Lydia Maria Child *The original piece had six verses:

Over the river, and through the wood,

To Grandfather’s house we go;

the horse knows the way to carry the sleigh

through the white and drifted snow.

 

Over the river, and through the wood,

to Grandfather’s house away!

We would not stop for doll or top,

for ’tis Thanksgiving Day.

 

Over the river, and through the wood—

oh, how the wind does blow!

It stings the toes and bites the nose

as over the ground we go.

 

Over the river, and through the wood—

and straight through the barnyard gate,

We seem to go extremely slow,

it is so hard to wait!

 

Over the river, and through the wood—

When Grandmother sees us come,

She will say, “O, dear, the children are here,

bring pie for everyone.”

 

Over the river, and through the wood—

now Grandmother’s cap I spy!

Hurrah for the fun! Is the pudding done?

Hurrah for the pumpkin pie!

 

Suggestions prepared by Fr. James DiLuzio CSP                              November 2017

Follow me at http://www.LukeLive.com   Also on Facebook: LukeLive

and Twitter: @DiLuzioJames

 

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All Saints Day

Today on All Saints Day, November 1, 2017, the Church commemorates Saints in Heaven – those officially canonized AND those Known to God Alone. To address ongoing misunderstanding toward Catholic and Orthodox Christianity regarding our veneration of Saints – in some denominations judged as “idolatry,” I offer these explanations:

  1. All Christians recognize “Christ With Us,” in and through Believers in Jesus. Christ is expressed in every age in and through all the Baptized as they live out their faith. I.e., Christ, by God’s design has Many Faces. (An equivalent understanding for non-Christians, we believe and us the name “Christ” to express what others often refer to as “Heart of God,” moreover, “the Spirit of God united to humanity in Faith, Word and Blessed Deeds.”) [1]
  2. To honor goodness in any Christian is to recognize Christ’s presence.
  3. To remember a “Saint” is to remember how Christ was made present through his or her lifetime and the ways they embodied of faith, hope and charity because of their Christian Faith.  It is fitting to offer gratitude for their witness. These Saints also extend an understanding of “What Would Jesus Do” in different cultures, societies and time frames. [2]
  4. To venerate the Saints as we do on All SAINTS DAY is to witness to the world that we believe in:
    1. a. Life after death for all the faithful who live lives true to their Baptism and to all whose Faith is known to God Alone and All Who Die in Your Friendship” (i.e. we no longer hold heaven is reserved for only recognized, canonized Saints, nor for Christians alone.)[3] 
    2. There is a vital connection between Heaven and Earth – a unity of Spirit moving humanity to goodness, kindness, truth, love and shared beyond the grave through prayer and adoration of the one, true God.
    3. the efficacy of Prayer that unites us to God in Christ who shares His Spirit with all believers.  I.e., one prayer to Jesus Christ is united to all prayer and adoration of Jesus Christ –no one’s prayer is separate or divorced from others.
    4. Jesus is ever present to and through all who unite with Him as disciples; “The Body, i.e. “The Body of Christ = Christian Community” not only on earth but extended  into heaven.
  5. We build on Scripture when Jesus assures the faithful “37 That the dead will rise even Moses made known in the passage about the bush, when he called ‘Lord’ the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; 38 and he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.”  Luke 20: 37-38
  6. There is comfort in the faith that Discipleship in Jesus continues from the first Apostles to us and through us onward toward eternity.
  7. Christ’s Body is extensive and inclusive, not separate from those who believe in Him. See John 15: 5: “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.”

[1] Ephesians 4: 1-6:  Ï, then, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to9 preserve the unity o9f the spirit through the bond of peace; one body and one Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”

[2] 2 Thessalonians 1: 11-12  11 To this end, we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and powerfully bring to fulfillment every good purpose and every effort of faith, 12 [d]that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, in accord with the grace of our God and Lord Jesus Christ.

[3] Our Liturgy (Mass) includes this phrase in our Eucharistic Prayer.

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.

Short Homily for Today

The World’s Shadow advises: “Compare” (.i.e. Yourself With Others), “Covet” (What Others Are & What Others Have), “Compete” (Outshine others and Get Ahead of Them). The Scriptures counter that with “Appreciate” (Who God Made in You), “Accelerate” (To be the best you can be) and “Affirm” (All that is good in you and others to Give God Glory!”) That’s the heart of Today’s Homily on Isaiah 55 and Matthew 20.

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.”

 

Hospitality and the Cross – A Sunday Homily

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time 2 July 2017

Reading 1 2 Kgs 4:8-11, 14-16a

Responsorial Psalm Ps 89:2-3, 16-17, 18-19

Reading 2 Rom 6:3-4, 8-11

Gospel Mt 10:37-42

HOMILY

Fr. James DiLuzio C.S.P.

What would you say to the priest who announced from the pulpit, that he, personally, needs you to come to mass?  What would you say if he told you his life dependent on you, your active participation at Mass AND that you would wound him greatly if ever you should miss Mass, regular confession or one of his many religious education seminars?

 

What would you say if that same priest saw you on the street and burst into to tears, telling you how happy he is to know that you are alive and asking, “What on earth could have happened to prevent you from hearing last Sunday’s sermon?”

 

And what would you say if that priest called you on the phone to say, “Congratulations on your new car,” AND “Oh, how I would like a new car and, that, if you were a true Catholic, you would buy one for me at your next available opportunity?”

 

I think you would say, “Send for the ambulance! This priest is MAD! The man has lost his marbles!”

 

Even without such drastic, inappropriate behavior, human relationships can easily become disordered, unbalanced, yes, even crazy. Sometimes unawares we move from genuine enjoyment of another, from acceptance of another’s abilities and failings, to neediness, manipulation, jealousy and resentments.

 

For example: A marriage filled with reciprocity and mutuality can suddenly dissolve into insecurities that make unreasonable demands, devolve into disrespect for changes that occur naturally over time; alterations in likes and dislikes, comforts and discomforts. A model couple in their youth becomes a monstrosity when the two don’t mature together, with one or the other or both insisting their relationship remain as if they were still high school sweethearts, having never advanced in education or career paths or developed new interests.

 

Similarly, what happens in our family dynamics when parents of adult children (or adult children toward their parents) insist on weekly phone calls or birthday presents or visits to such a degree as to convey that their love for their children / parents is contingent on these and these alone? Suddenly, spontaneity, mutual respect, generosity of spirit–fly out the window.  Through these and perhaps more subtle examples than that of our crazy priest, we know something is wrong when one family member or friend becomes needy, suspicious, demanding and greedy and the other feels resentments without any idea as to what to do with them.

 

When we insist that love must be justified, proved and actualized to our personal satisfactions, as if to say: “If you love me, you will agree with me;” “If you love me, you will always take my side, right or wrong,” — What kind of love are we falling into these days?  Thankfully, there is an antidote to this fallible human condition of ours—The antidote, of course, is Jesus.  Jesus who tells us we must love HIM first, honor God first above all, including family members and friends. Only then, with the Holy Spirit at the center of our lives, can we love one another modestly, with generosity and patience, free from the fears, demands and insecurities to which human love is prone.

 

The Cross we pick up as disciples insists we love others beyond our wants and needs–not to our neglect (Only God can be the True All-Giving Tree if you might be thinking of that popular children’s book) but to our mutual benefit that puts the relationship above all else.  Whether relations among spouses, friends or business associates, faith invites us to cultivate the kind of give-and-take that will keep our families, friendships and businesses healthy and holy.  Just as the Trinity – Father, Son and Spirit – is in perfect balance, all relationships that aspire to holiness require the time and effort to find a balance between what I need, what you need and what we both enjoy together and not without considerable sacrifice either –just as the Sacrifice of Christ offered freely to the World for the Father’s glory remains part of our redemption.

 

Counseling couples and families in crises I urge them to clarify each decision they make.  Each need to state clearly any one of the following:

  1. I choose this because it is clear to me that we both want / like this choice equally. 2. I go along with this choice as a gift to you because it’s not my personal preference, but I give it freely and with joy. 3. I go along with this choice as a sacrifice because I’m against it but I can live with it for your sake. 4. I cannot go along with this and I need for us to look at alternatives / a compromise. There needs to be a balanced use of all four of these tools in every kind of relationship. That’s the human cross, the recognition of our fallibilities as we try to help relationships mirror the perfection of Father, Son and Spirit as much as possible.

 

We find an example of Healthy and Holy relationship mirrored in the spirit of outrageous hospitality that the woman of Shunem offers the prophet Elisha–a spirit of complete enjoyment of the other, generously giving without asking anything in return except for the sheer pleasure of his company.  She makes no conditions. Her house is opened. In fact, she’ll expand it. Ultimately, this kind of unconditional love is rewarded: for the one who receives such generous love (if he/she like Elisha keeps God at the center of his /her life as Elisha does), is bound to offer reciprocity—in this case the promise of a much longed-for child. And even if they don’t bestow upon us something miraculous, or anything at all, the rewards are still ours: peace of mind, contentment in Christ’s love, and, yes, belief, that there are, indeed, the rewards of heaven. The truth is that in God’s time, wonderful surprises abound when two or more love one another as God loves us, when we see what God sees in others. “Go ahead, mother, go to your office and practice your violin, write the next great American novel!  I’m happy to fix my supper myself for all the meals you’ve offered me in time.”  In brief, we learn to say to others: “Be who God wants you to be; not what I need you to be.”  This healthy, holy dynamic is meant to engage every Christian within and beyond family, Church and Nation. In Christ and through Christ we are invited to take any and every opportunity to cultivate mutual respect, joy in diversity and reconciliation-as needed- in every encounter, in all situations.

 

Our misguided priest thought his life and ministry was about him and him alone.  He represents the shadow within all of us that must come into the light of Jesus.  Thankfully, in Word and Sacrament, Jesus offers his hospitality to us—unconditionally, freely. His is the Glory of the Cross expanding from the family to the stranger, the immigrant, to a holy world view.  Thank you, Jesus, for the faith that draws us to you. May we experience your nurturing, unconditional love in this Mass today and come to appreciate the extent of your patience with us until we fully place YOUR LOVE FOR US at the center of our lives, in the heart of our families, at the table with friends and strangers, alike.  Yes, Jesus, today we understand: Eucharist is more than something we share in Church.

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.