Saturday, August 3, 2013

Getting Close to the Fire. Getting close to the teachings of Christ.

In a few weeks we will be having our annual garage sale.  We’ve all been asked to perhaps offer some gently used things that we have been hoarding in our garages. I’ve wondered how our dear sisters and brothers in Guatemala, especially the communities that our mission serves would react to how much stuff we all accumulate and throw away. I’m sure some would ask “what is that, or what is it for”?, but I think many more would be scandalized at how much we accumulate based on how much we throw away.  I’m sure some of our foreign students might feel the same.  We are a people who do collect many things. I might even venture that some things we collect are not that necessary. But if we can have them, why not?   

Pope Francis has been very consistent in his message since elected to the papacy.  He has called all Catholics, especially we who are leaders in the Church to be aware of the poor in our midst.  But this is nothing new; the document of the second Vatican council; “Gaudium Et Spes”- “Constitution of the Church in the Modern World” states:  “The joys and hopes, the grief and anguish of the people of our time, especially of those who are poor or afflicted, are the joys and hopes, the grief and anguish of the followers of Christ”  Pope Francis cautions us to avoid greed and its consequences.  As does Jesus when he says in the gospel “Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.”

This gospel is not about making money, nor even having things; but it is about worshipping anything else apart from God. Which we all can do sometimes without even knowing it. However a true disciple will know the difference. A good disciple is one who is not afraid to get close to the fire. Not afraid to not just know, but to live the teachings of Jesus. That is the difference between having many things with gratitude and a desire to offer in thanksgiving; and worshiping many things without a spirit of gratitude.  This is all too often a part of our lives as well.  We may all say we are Catholic Christians but have not been open to receive the grace that Christ offers, especially in the sacraments and in particular in the Eucharist. We can all receive the “character” of the sacrament, but not always the grace. And grace can only be received to the measure of one’s faith. A hungering for Christ and a desire to truly follow him is necessary for the reception of the grace.  In particular, the Eucharist should provide the graces necessary to be good stewards.  To imitate Christ in our own breaking and pouring our love for the other out of our love and desire for Him.  However without faith and desire, little grace can be received’ little repentance or conversion can occur.

Good stewards acknowledge that the money and possessions entrusted to them are to be used to further the mission of Jesus Christ. This week let us reflect on our own daily consumption habits. Do we spend money on articles that make us better ambassadors of Christ?  Does our personal lifestyle bring “good news to the poor”  If we can struggle to attain this goal, very few will go hungry, very few will be in need. And we will all be rich in Christ!

Time to talk?

Has anyone noticed the paving of the access roads of the Tailgate section at Bobcat Stadium?  Why?  Well while we know the more fans that come in spend money in many ways, Bobcat Athletics included. It also provides hospitality. Tailgate parties can and do cultivate friendships, provide opportunities for reconciliations between friends, neighbors, and family members.  Hospitality is at the heart of today’s readings.  We begin with the hospitality of Abraham.  This is what this icon represents, the hospitality of Abraham manifested in the Holy  Trinity.  It calls us to mutually accept and receive all as we would Christ. (a little Benedictine spirituality as well)   It is also symbolic of Eucharistic Hospitality; note the table, that invites us all to share in each others lives by our sharing in the Eucharistic feast.  Like Martha and Mary in the gospel; rather than hastily be busied with tasks, to take the time to rest in the Lord’s presence, so to know him better.

Recently the president of the United States made a unscripted speech about race.  He did not ask anything of the government, but asked all of us to have a serious discussion about race; beginning with our nations’ churches.  Since racism is considered an intrinsic evil in the Catholic Church, and yes this president is mixed race and like many like him has no doubt endured subtle racism over the years, an honest assessment of our own attitudes may be in order. In reviewing my own homilies, I have not spoken on this topic for a few years now so it is appropriate in the light of faith and the “signs of the times’ to examine this topic at this time from a Catholic perspective. I believe a lack of Eucharistic Hospitality, that we as Catholics are invited to share each week; allows for the fostering of division, suspicions, and fear. The results are all too often tragic. Of race, as a young man living in California, I had friends of many races and cultures.  I too often remember when as a group out for an evening at a concert, ballgame at Dodger stadium; all too often my friends who were black would be asked to show an extra ID, or their bag subject to more scrutiny and searches that me.  Getting a table in a restaurant always took longer with a mixed group. I assure you that not one of them was ever or has ever been arrested or has come from a family with a criminal background.  It was a perception based on fear, lacking the time to even acknowledge the human person.  Lacking the possession of a hospitality that I and we as Catholics call Eucharistic.

Hospitality that is Eucharistic leads to actions that nourish each person’s potential, providing affirmation and care. That we could recognize in each other, what we would like others to see in us. A simple, even syrupy idea but one that is at times most difficult to undertake.  For it requires time not in doing, but resting in the Lord’s presence.  It is the mass lived. Time to bring to the Lord all our prejudices and fears, sacrificing them on the altar to receive the Lord’s presence.  Perhaps that could be our post communion reflection today in the silence of our hearts.  That we may welcome Christ in all through the spirit of Eucharistic hospitality.

Welcoming Jesus.  After all as Deacon Steve said a few weeks earlier in his homily on the God Samaritan that Christ is our neighbor!  And Our neighbor is therefore every person of this planet. What may be lacking is our willingness to see God’s presence in all. If we could see each as cherished guest, as we all are in God’s eyes, we will be blessed abundantly in the amazing presence of Christ we will find in all.  There is room for more at that table, room to be in the presence of the Lord who dwells in all. My question to us is whom will we invite?