Friday, July 24, 2015

O.T. XVII [B] (July 29): 2 Kings 4:42-44, Eph 4:1-6, John 6:1-15
A man received a special pre- Christmas gift from his rich brother. It was a beautiful new car - fully loaded and ready to go. On Christmas Eve, when he came out of his office, a street kid was walking around the shiny new car, admiring it.  "Is this your car, mister?” the kid   asked. When he replied that it was and that his brother had given it to him for Christmas, the boy said, "You mean your brother gave it to you, and it didn't cost you anything? Free? For nothing? Gosh, I wish..." The boy hesitated, and the man knew what he was about to say.  He had heard it many times over the past few days. He was going to wish he had a brother like that. But what the boy said shocked the man.  ”I wish", the boy said, "I wish I could be a brother like that." We can be a brother like that or a sister like that. All it takes is that we offer ourselves and what we have, to God.  All it takes is that we cease to worry about how little we have and begin instead to think about what it is that we can offer to others, as the little boy in today’s gospel story did by sharing his bread and fish with the multitude through Jesus.

 The first reading tells us how the prophet Elisha, by invoking God’s power, fed one hundred men with twenty barley loaves. This miracle foreshadowed the gospel account of Jesus' miraculous feeding of the crowd who followed him to hear his words. This is the only miracle, other than the resurrection, that is told in all the gospels, a fact that speaks of its importance to the early Church. The reaction of the people was immediate and unanimous; they interpreted the miracle as a messianic sign and gave Jesus two Messianic titles: "The prophet” and "the one who is to come." This miracle teaches us that God works marvels through ordinary people. Elisha’s servant and Jesus’ disciples distributed the bread, provided by God. Thus, God meets the needs of the people through the services provided by the members of His community.  

 One of the greatest tragedies of our time is the fact that millions of people are reduced to starvation throughout the world.  In the Asian, African and Latin American countries, well over 500 million people are living in what the World Bank has called "absolute poverty". Every year 15 million children die of hunger. For the price of one missile, a school full of hungry children could eat lunch every day for 5 years. 100 million deaths could be prevented for the price of ten Stealth bombers, or what the world spends on its military in two days! The Indian subcontinent has nearly half the world's hungry people. Africa and the rest of Asia together have approximately 40%, and the remaining hungry people are found in Latin America and other parts of the world. Nearly one in four people, ie.1.3 billion, live on less than $1 per day, while the world's 358 billionaires have assets exceeding the combined annual incomes of countries with 45 percent of the world's people.

God has arranged the world in such a way, that every person may have the food he or she needs. God continues to work thousands and millions of miracles in nature to provide food for his children: the power to sprout which a seed contains, the way a grain grows and the way nature takes care of the crops. Food in the world should suffice to feed God's children but it will never suffice to fill the greed of men. Those of us who live in an industrialized society place a high priority on comfort and convenience. Our standard of living places a significant strain on the world economy. Certainly this is something Christians must consider in terms of their own economic lifestyle. At a time when people are not getting enough to eat, we are living a lifestyle far beyond what many could even imagine. We have a great challenge before us. We must not only consider what we can do to feed the hungry, but we must also consider what we should do to limit our indulgent lifestyle.

God blesses those who share their talents, with loving commitment. This is illustrated by Mother Teresa who went to serve the slum dwellers of Calcutta with just twenty cents in her pocket. When she died forty-nine years later, God had turned those original twenty cents into eighty schools, three hundred mobile dispensaries, seventy leprosy clinics, thirty homes for the dying, thirty homes for abandoned children and forty thousand volunteers from all over the world to help her. We can begin our own humble efforts at "sharing" right in our parish by participating in the works of charity done by organizations like the St. Vincent De Paul Society, Foresters, the Knights of Columbus and other volunteer groups. We may say, “I do not have enough money or talent to make any difference”.  But we need to remember that the small boy in the story had only five barley loaves and two dried fish. The Bible guarantees that every believer has at least one gift from the Holy Spirit. This is our one “tiny fish”. Perhaps our “fish” is not money, but a talent or an ability that God has given us. We all have something. If you have never trusted God with your time, or your talent, or your treasure...all your resources...this is the time to start.  Let us offer ourselves and whatever we have to God saying, “Here is what I am and what I have Lord; use me; use it.” And He will bless us and bless our offering, amplifying it beyond our expectations. When we give what we have to God, and we ask Him to bless it, it is then the miracle happens. And we can be distributors of God’s blessings to others.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

OT XIV [B] (July 5) Ez 2: 2-5; II Cor 12: 7-10; Mark 6: 1-6

 There is a funny story about a bishop who was interviewing a senior seminarian before his ordination as deacon, and asked him where he would like to be assigned as a deacon for pastoral training. The seminarian said, somewhat boldly, "Oh, my bishop, anywhere but New Canaan!" "Why not there," the bishop asked? "You know," the seminarian answered, "That’s my hometown -- and we all know that ‘a prophet is not without honor except in his native place.’” The bishop replied, "Don't worry my friend! Nobody in your hometown is going to confuse you with a prophet."
 Today’s readings introduce Jesus as a prophet and explain how prophets and other messengers from God inevitably suffer rejection. The readings challenge us to face rejection and hardship with prophetic courage. 

The first reading, taken from the book of the prophet Ezekiel, tells us about his call from God to be a prophet. Yahweh warns Ezekiel that he is being sent to obstinate and rebellious Israelites in exile in Babylon. Hence, as God’s prophet, he will have to face rejection and persecution for giving God’s message. In the second reading, St. Paul gives us the same warning from his experience that not only the prophets, but the apostles and missionaries also, will have to encounter hardships and rejection in their preaching mission. Paul confesses that God gave him a share in Christ’s suffering – a chronic illness which gave him pain, a “thorn in the flesh" – so that he might rely on God’s grace and might glory in the power of a strengthening God.
The story of Jesus' rejection in his own town is a story that we can identify with, because it is a story that has happened to most of us.  Often our friends, families, or childhood companions fail to listen to, and refuse to accept, the words of grace, love and encouragement that we offer to them, because they are too familiar with us. Hence, they are unable to see us as God's appointed instruments, the agents of God’s healing and saving grace. 

The father of a family introduced his children this way to his friend: 'This is Pete. He's the clumsy one of the lot.' 'That's Kathy coming in with mud on her shoes. She's the sloppy one.' 'As always, Mike is last. He'll be late for his own funeral, I promise you.' The dad did a thorough job of gluing his children to their faults and mistakes. People do it to us all the time. They remind us of our failures, our errors, our sins, and they won't let us live them down.
The Wright Brothers workshop in Dayton, Ohio, was restored in 1988. Years ago, no one believed that they would ever get their flying machine off the ground, especially their father who was a minister. He said that if God wanted people to fly he would have given them wings. Wilbur and Orville, looking to the future, not the past, went to North Carolina, where they would not be treated as the local boys, to test their dream.

But Sometimes we Need the Thorn to bring out the best in us. Someone once asked Abraham Lincoln why he wouldn't replace a cabinet member who constantly opposed him. Lincoln told the story about the farmer who was trying to plow with a very old and decrepit horse. Lincoln noticed on the flank of the animal a big thistle caught in the animal's hair. Lincoln started to pull it off and the farmer said, "Don't remove that thistle, Abe! If it wasn't for the sticker, this old horse wouldn't move an inch!" That means, treat your problems as challenges. People who are difficult to work with, problems that seem insurmountable - notice how they keep you digging inside yourself for greater strength. In the end, you accomplish great feats, not in spite of, but because of your problems.

We need to handle rejection in the right spirit: We need to avoid magnifying the rejection. We need to avoid allowing rejection to derail our dreams. Every rejection can be a lesson if we stay open to new possibilities and new opportunities. Someone has said that plants grow best in the darkness of night just before dawn. Our failures can be the door to a new success.

Let us check also the other side of the coin. How often do we discount God’s agents through prejudice? How often do we fail to see God’s image in them because of our own hard heartedness? We must realize that God's power is always available to transform even the most unlikely people.

 There is a story about an old monastery which was down to just three monks. Years had passed since anyone joined the order. Its time had passed and these three monks figured they would be the last. The abbot in charge shared his sadness with a friend, the neighboring rabbi. The rabbi looked surprised. "Oh no," he said. "Your order will not die. Your monastery will not close. I have had a revelation that the Messiah is among you. So, no, you will not close." The Abbot returned to the other monks scratching his head, and told his two colleagues. They were all astonished. And suddenly, they began to see each other in an entirely new light. They began to take care of each other as never before, as if they were taking care of the Messiah. They listened to each other as they had never listened before, as if they were listening to the Messiah. They blessed one another as they had never blessed one another before, as if they were blessing the Messiah. Visitors to the monastery noticed the quality of the monks’ care for one another. It was beautiful. And it was contagious. People wanted to experience what they experienced. People wanted to join, and when they did, they were told the secret: "Sh-h-h-h-h! The Messiah is here among us!" And each met the Messiah in the other until all were drawn close in the love of God. The messiah is among you, in this parish, in your family.