Thursday, February 14, 2019

“Will you be happy in the world’s way or in Christ’s way?”

Luke’s Sermon on the Plain and Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount closely correspond. Both start with a series of Beatitudes. There are differences in the two … but there is no question they both are a series of bombshells. It may well be that we have read and/or listened to them so often that we have forgotten how revolutionary they are.

And it would appear that they are even more contrary to our American lifestyle than ever before. Outside of Church or when reading Scripture, when in your lifetime have you ever heard anyone say, in effect: “Happy are the poor and woe to the rich?” It is so antithesis to our capitalistic style of government in the United States.

What Jesus basically saying is this, according to theologian William, Barclay: “If you set your heart and bend your whole energies to obtain the things which the world values, you will get them --- but that is all you will ever get.”

Since we all need to eat, feed our families, keep a roof over our heads and pay our bills, it is a balance that we need to strive for. Keeping us constantly aware of Jesus’ presence in and with us through prayer and receiving Him in the Eucharist, we perform whatever roles our lives have led us to … and go on one day at a time.

There was a time back in the ‘80s that I lost a great deal of focus in “Jesus’ Way” vs. the “Way of the World.” I morphed my site finding efforts for national retailers from the “brokerage” end into “developmental.” The latter has much higher rewards … but also huge financial risks. After co-developing Cranberry Crossing in Kingston at the intersection of Routes 53 & 3A, I bought out my partner and purchased a large home on the water in Duxbury’s Standish Shore.

Then the bottom fell out of the economy around 1990, and my many “mom and pop” tenants started vacating this 60,000 s.f. shopping center. And I could no longer pay my bills. I had over-extended myself on another center in Carver, and it was all over; my wife Mary and I had to file for bankruptcy, and endured having to practically give away our waterfront palace and find a rental home.

It was within a year of that when the Lord called me to apply to become a deacon … and the 5-year process of becoming one and upon receiving the grace of the Sacrament of Holy Orders at ordination turned out re-focusing me.

As weird as it may sound, my loving wife & I have each said more than once that going bankrupt was one of the best things that ever happened to us. The challenge of the Beatitudes is: “Will you be happy in the world’s way or in Christ’s way?”

Reflection by Deacon Art

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Are we worthy of holiness?

As I went through the readings for the fifth Sunday in Ordinary time, a few things were resonating with me.  I felt throughout all the readings there was this common theme of unworthiness.  I felt it when Isaiah cried out “woe is me, I am doomed, for I am an unclean man of unclean lips, living among people of unclean lips”.  I felt it from Paul in his letter to the Corinthians when he says “I am the least of the apostles, not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God”.  Lastly I noticed it in Luke’s gospel when Simon Peter falls at the knees of Jesus and says “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man”.  

I’m not sure if anyone has had the opportunity to read our parish Christmas gift “The Biggest Lie in the History of Christianity” by Matthew Kelly.  It’s a very good read and I highly recommend it.  In it Kelly explores that same theme about how unworthy or rather unholy we all might feel and how that feeling paralyzes us in our daily lives.  Kelly says, “The great majority of modern Christians don’t actually believe holiness is possible.” “This lie is diabolical in its subtlety. There is evil genius in its effectiveness.”  Why is Kelly saying this?  He is saying this because this thinking makes us feel unworthy, imperfect and therefore unable to achieve happiness in ourselves, assist our neighbors and give glory to God.  So what do we do?  Do we just throw up our hands and give up?  Do we fall at the feet of Jesus and push him away wallowing in our own imperfections?  This is not how God wants us to be.  He wants us to be happy and He wants us to love Him and love one another.  So yes we are imperfect and flawed and we sin.  But as we see in this week’s readings God has offered a kind of “exit strategy” out of this false catastrophic thinking.  In Isaiah God sends an angel with an ember from the altar that purifies Isaiah’s unclean spirit…ah salvation and relief.  Saint Paul in his infinite wisdom recognizes that yes indeed he has sinned and as he puts it “by the Grace of God I am what I am” and then he further goes on to say that God’s grace has been very effective.   Wow what a great and easy solution, grace from God and it’s so easy to get.  We receive grace in our sacraments, when we receive communion, when we go to confession it’s truly God’s gift to us.  Celebrate it! Enjoy it!  It’s there for you!

Our God is a happy God and he wants us to be happy.  We never hear God say, “I’ll be happy when…”  He never says I’ll be happy when my people worship me or I’ll be happy when my people reject evil in the world and so on.  By that same philosophy, we shouldn’t be caught up in the “I’ll be happy when” game either.  I’ll be happy when I pay off my debt, I’ll be happy when I lose weight, I’ll be happy when I pass that test or complete that project etc.  No, God wants you to be happy now and he wants you to live and love one another joyfully.  You are worthy of his grace, you can be holy, and you can live out the gospel joyfully.

Now I don’t know about you but I don’t think I’m as bad as Saint Paul was during his persecuting days.  He certainly abused and persecuted Christians and yet today he is called a Saint.  Paul didn’t even think he was worthy of the title apostle imagine what he’d think of himself being known as saint today.  If that’s not grace in action, I don’t know what is.  We may not go through such a transformation as Paul and people in the future may not call us “saint” but we can certainly do our small part to create holy moments that show our love for one another, our love of our “happy” God and our worthiness of his gift of grace.

Reflection by Mary Juliano Hayes

Friday, February 1, 2019

A prophet is not welcome in his hometown

As the Mom of three children, I have often said that I have enjoyed my children at each age and stage of their lives.  Every stage has challenges and blessings and I continue to see that in our family’s current stage.  My children are 9, 12, and 13 and I call it a sweet spot.  They are independent, free from nap time and diapers, but still not driving and spending large amounts of time away from my husband and I.   I know the clock is ticking and although I am sure that I will enjoy the next stage as well, I worry about launching these three into the world out of the cocoon of our home and where they will need to make decisions on their own.  Will they live as we have taught them?  Will love conquer all?  Have I loved them well enough and given them the tools to prosper in the world? While I worry about these things, each day I feel a little more like Jesus in today’s Gospel.  “ prophet is accepted in his native place.”  Just a few years ago my kids turned to me with every questions concern and decision and my word was uncontestable.  But little by little the uncontestability of my word is waning.  Jesus' statement that no prophet is accepted in his home town reminds us that it is often difficult to hear a challenging message from those who know us best, even if it is true. Perhaps we remember and even regret this aspect of our own adolescence. It’s my job to teach my children values and right from wrong and how to make decisions but I know I did exactly the opposite of my parents’ advice on more than one occasion and of course I regretted it.  I try to convince myself that this developmental stage is a natural part of life!  Unfortunately, that doesn’t make it any easier and often drives me to frustration where I try to force my kids to hear me and hear my perspective the way they did in earlier stages of life.    But I know as time goes on my voice is only one among many and it may not be the coolest or the most current way of thinking in their opinion.    I will continue to offer a perspective that is often in contrast to the culture.  Despite my frustration, I know I will never give up trying. I will continue to try to be a prophet in my native land. Not surprisingly, unlike me, Jesus responds with calm and grace and the folks “rose up, drove him out of town…”  Jesus wasn’t the Messiah they expected.  They were not going to accept teaching on a new way of life from the son of a carpenter. They were challenging him.  They wanted to expel him from town and potentially kill him if necessary.  I like to think of myself as above this.  I assure myself that obviously I would recognize Jesus as the Messiah if I were there and soaked in his teachings… But would I? Have I changed that much from my adolescent ways of assuming my parents didn’t know best? How different am I from my children?  Do I soak in Jesus’ teachings in all areas of life?  How many times have I considered the way of life Jesus has presented in the Gospels to me and done it my way instead?  How many times have I pushed Jesus away so I don’t have to struggle to follow His way?  I know better! I expel him from my heart and mind at times because it is easier! We call it sin… we expel Jesus from the town of our hearts and minds… luckily like a loving parent our Messiah never gives up.  He “calmly passes through” and continues to offer us chance after chance to accept his invitation and take his words into our hearts!  Luckily Jesus’ love is like the love of a parent.  It is patient and kind.  The second reading is all about Love and how true love wants the best for the other above ourselves.  It is that love that keeps me from giving up on my children despite their rejection and keeps Jesus from giving up on me (or us) when I reject him and true Gospel Living!

Reflection by Jeanne Cregan

“Will you be happy in the world’s way or in Christ’s way?”

Luke’s Sermon on the Plain and Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount closely correspond. Both start with a series of Beatitudes. There are differ...