Saturday, June 27, 2015

“Only in love can I find you, my God.
In love the gates of my soul spring open,
allowing me to breathe a new air of freedom
and forget my own petty self.

In love my whole being streams forth out of
the rigid confines of narrowness and anxious self-assertion,
which make me a prisoner of my own poverty emptiness.

In love all the powers of my soul flow out toward you,
wanting never more to return, but to lose themselves completely in you,
since by your love you are the inmost center of my heart,
closer to me than I am to myself.”

― Karl Rahner, Encounters With Silence

Thursday, June 18, 2015

We are all curious about the Kingdom of God. That’s why we come to church ... right?

In today’s gospel, Jesus deliberately equates the kingdom of God with small and unimpressive things. Today Jesus says the Kingdom of God is like a small seed planted in the ground. Once planted you don’t see it, it grows slowly, invisibly; but despite its small beginning, it can become something very big.

Why do you suppose he uses these small things as metaphors for the mighty Kingdom of God?  What do you think he is trying to tell us?  He seems to be saying that God is building His Kingdom in ways nearly imperceptible to the world.                                                                    
St. Paul says it a bit differently.  He says those of us who are a part of God’s kingdom “walk by faith, not by sight.”  The work of God is invisible to a world that walks by sight and not by faith. Jesus’ parables tell us there is a mystery to life that is beyond our viewing.   And thus, to a world that celebrates showy success, and believes bigger-is-better; to a world that likes to think it can figure everything out, Jesus is saying:

God doesn’t work that way!
He is telling us that God works in small things, and patience in the unseen workings of God is essential. In God's kingdom things that appear to be small and unimpressive are treasured by the One who matters most ... our God.

The whole Christian story supports this idea, this teaching.  Like the tiny mustard seed the Kingdom of God entered the world in a nearly imperceptible, humble form; that at the time was virtually unnoticed.  A baby in a manger – an animal feeding trough of all things – is the way God chose to come into the world.  Jesus’ ministry lasted only three short years. He taught in a small, rural, out of the way community.  The men he chose as apostles came from the ranks of the common, ordinary people

One day he demonstrated graphically this message of how God works in small things. He took a few small barley loaves, the bread of common people, along with a couple of fish and fed thousands. Showing us what God can do with our tiny gifts. When teaching at the Temple one day he praised a humble poor widow, who gave a single coin as an offering, over the grand, attention getting, presentations of the rich.

So often we think the little bit that we have to offer will make little or no impact. But Jesus says - that’s not true! In the kingdom of God little things matter, the unimpressive are central, and the history of our Church tells us how true that is. Just look at the people in our church’s history who have made a big impact beginning with one small act.

When Francis of Assisi, as a young man, began to repair a small, old church by himself; he had no clue it would lead to the founding of a large religious order of men and women who would impact the world enormously.

Vincent de Paul, one day was preparing for Sunday Mass, and one of his parishioners told him that someone in the parish was ill and their family was destitute. He preached on their need at that Mass and that afternoon, and the people responded overwhelmingly. He never imagined that simple sermon would lead to one day his name being associated with the charitable works of virtually every parish in the world.

When Mother Therese hopped off a bus to help one dying man in the streets of Calcutta, she never imagined her Missionaries of Charity would one day number 5,000 sisters and be active in 133 countries. All of us are called to play our small part in building the Kingdom of God.

But this message isn’t just about the history of the Church. It’s also about each of our own experiences of God. Perhaps today your own faith feels small. Jesus says – that’s OK. That tiny seed of faith in our hearts, if we nourish it, can eventually grow into something beautiful.

I don’t know each of your stories but mine certainly reflects this teaching. When my wife Linda and I married, I’m a bit embarrassed to tell you, we were not married in the Church; and at the time our faith seemed small. But we came to Church on Sundays because something in our hearts simply told us to.  The seed of faith was in us, planted by our parents.  The story of that journey is too long for this homily but clearly from that small beginning God eventually brought me to this pulpit, and gave me the great gift of being part of this amazing parish community. The seed of faith that started so small grew in us over the years.

Jesus is also telling each one of us, we too can plant seeds and be surprised by how God uses our little seed. We must never underestimate God’s ability to take our small acts of loving service to others, our simple words of faith, and greatly impact the lives of others. The everyday kingdom of God is built on small moments of servant-hood, thoughtfulness and kindness.

God can take any small offering, any little seed we plant: a kind word, a brief visit to a sick friend, a quick apology, a short thank you note – and in the 21st century we have to say – a Facebook posting, text message, Instagram, email ... or ... even just a smile, and turn it into something big.  A simple conversation with someone at work might plant the seed of the Kingdom in them that one day blossoms forth.

Jesus says that’s how the Kingdom of God grows.

There may be people who come to St. Brigid parish on a Sunday, like Linda and I did in those early years of our marriage, not certain what drew them here. And your smile, a kind hello, can make them feel welcome.  That’s how we can help God’s Kingdom grow. Your small act of kindness, your welcoming smile, might change someone’s life forever.  Jesus asks us today to trust that God is at work even in the smallest of moments, occurrences and encounters.
This week let’s all commit to doing some ... small thing. 
You never know how God might use it to do ... something big.    

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

......................... The Holy Spirit - The Gift of Pentecost .........................

Pentecost is a word from Ancient Greek that means the 50th Day. Christians were not the first to use this word. They borrowed it from Greek-speaking Jews who used the phrase to refer to a Jewish holiday  This holiday was known as the Festival of Weeks, or more simply “Weeks” (Shavuot in Hebrew). The Jews were instructed to have a holiday seven weeks, or “fifty days,” from the end of Passover, set aside to celebrate the wheat harvest .and the giving of the Law to Moses on Mount Sinai.  That is why so many people were in Jerusalem on Pentecost, people from all over the Jewish world Parthians, Medes, Elamites, et al where there for the Festival of Weeks.                                                            
For Christians, Pentecost is the holiday on which we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit on the early followers of Jesus as we hear in the second chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. Before Pentecost the followers of Jesus were hidden away unsure of what to do next.  There was no movement that could be meaningfully called “the church.” Because of this Pentecost is often referred to as the church’s birthday.

The Holy Spirit, who came so profoundly that day, we call "The Third Person of the Trinity." This title can make it sound as if he is a lesser being than the Father and Son; but nothing could be further from the truth.  Jesus revealed to us a God who is a Trinity, a communion of three divine persons in love:  Father, Son and Spirit. When we say that God is a Trinity we do not mean that we believe in three gods.  It does not mean that there are three "modes,” or ways, that God expresses himself.  To say that God is a Trinity is to say that there are three, real, distinct persons within the unity of the one God. It is a mystery best described by a single word, as the apostle John did: "God is ... love." Saint Augustine would later say: “In truth to see the Trinity is to see love."

So how does that work?  How is God three persons?

The Father, as John said, is love; and, he pours himself out in love fathering the Son.  The Son receives himself as a gift of the Father's love, and offers himself back completely to the Father in love. The Holy Spirit is that love, the love they share; a love that gives life, proceeding from the total gift of Father to Son and Son to Father. The love in the Trinity is like the love we experience on earth. Love is always about a lover, the beloved, and the bond of their love.

This Holy Spirit, this Spirit of love, is said to be the one that empowers our faith in Jesus; as Paul says in the second reading, “No one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.”  The Holy Spirit, this love of God, inspires people to know the truth; the truth that Jesus came to die for each one of us as an act of love.  All of us who embrace this core belief of the Christian faith have been led to this faith through the help – the inspiration – of the Holy Spirit.  All Catholics receive the Holy Spirit through the sacraments of the Church.  This Spirit of God entered your life just as he did the Apostles that day, and he will never leave you!

Kind of an awesome thought ... isn’t it?

Today is a feast day where we are called to embrace this gift that each of us has been given – His presence in our life. Many of us struggle with feeling this presences, or rather, recognizing it. But it’s there. Paul said that each of us have some individual manifestation of the Spirit given to us for some benefit.  What an exciting thought!  In many ways being a Christian is like a treasure hunt, we should all spend our lives discovering our gifts that we can share them!

This idea, that we have undiscovered gifts, reminds me of something Charles Schulz the creator of the Peanuts cartoon once said. He said: “Life is like a ten-speed bicycle. Most of us have gears we never use.”  Many of us undoubtedly have gifts of the Spirit we’ve never tried to use, spiritual gifts ... lying dormant in our lives.  And the whole church is poorer because of it.

The Holy Spirit is simply God’s love in action. The love of God bringing each of us different kinds of spiritual gifts, different opportunities for service, different works given to us by God to benefit others. The Christian experience is all about the discovery of what our gifts to give are. But the truth is we will never find out, if we don’t explore our talents, if we don’t try.

In baptism every one of us received the gift of the Holy Spirit; a Spirit that is with us for life, dwelling within our hearts always.    
Do we really believe this?                                                                                          

Pentecost reminds us that this is an opportune moment to ask ourselves:

• What do I believe about the Holy Spirt?
• What is my image of the Spirit?
• Who is the Spirit for me?
• How do we experience the Holy Spirit at work in my life?                                              
• With what particular gifts of the Spirit have I been blessed?