That is something that simply cannot be denied. If we love, we give and give generously from our hearts from our substance and not from our surplus. God so loved the world that He gave us His only Son. Jesus so loved us that He gave us His life totally and completely. Advent of course is a time of preparation, a time to prepare ourselves to celebrate the birth of Christ. But it is more than that; it more than getting ready for a birthday party. It is about becoming more like Him so that we might be ready to celebrate an eternity with Him in Heaven. In order to do that we need to allow ourselves to grow to become people who love and who give-like He and the Father love and give. Hopefully we all have experienced the joy that giving of ourselves brings back to us. Nothing makes me feel better than when I know that I have truly sacrificed for the good of another. When we reflect on those who we respect in life, we undoubtedly bring to mind people who have given tremendously of themselves to us. No one is ever honored for how much they have taken, but many are honored for what they have given. Yet we hold ourselves back from giving. Why? Maybe it is because we are afraid. We are afraid that we can’t give anything away because then we won’t have enough for ourselves. So we hold on to everything and become misers. And misers are miserable. Or maybe we are afraid of being taken advantage of. We are afraid that if we give something to someone they will use our gift improperly so we use that as a justification for not giving. Or maybe we simply are takers. We can only think of what we can get out of a given situation. Maybe we are somewhere in between; maybe we will give if we have a reasonable assurance that we will get something of equal value back in return. A true giver does not worry about what they may or may not get back in return. They only look to help others. Folks, that’s how we make straight the way of the Lord, by making our hearts like His. Not too long ago, I was talking like this to someone right after Mass and he said, “So Father, what you are saying is that we can buy our way into Heaven.” And I said, “No, but I do think that just maybe we can give our way in.” And there is a big difference.
I often say that for a number of reasons this month presents us with a wonderful opportunity to move into a very reflective frame of mind. The change of the seasons, the colder weather, the shorter days, the celebrations of All Saints, All Souls and Thanksgiving all come together and call us to take a closer look at our relationships with the world, with those who have gone before us, with each other and with God. Today’s Solemnity of Christ the King indeed provides us with a most fitting opportunity to bring these thoughts to a fitting conclusion. As we ponder our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God and King of the Universe we can focus on His purpose and ours. Jesus was sent by God the Father to open the gates of Heaven so that we might spend eternity in Heaven with them. Indeed, we and all those who have gone before us are or will be defined by where we are on the path to Heaven. The souls in hell are those who have refused to accept the love the grace and the mercy of God and in so doing have rejected Heaven. You might argue that you don’t believe in hell because why would a loving God create it and why would He send anyone there? The answer is that He didn’t and He doesn’t. As far as the existence of hell I certainly believe in it and I can tell you why. It’s because you can see it on earth. Just look around. We don’t have to wait until we die to choose to get there. The saints (the Church Triumphant) are those souls who are in Heaven. The souls in Purgatory (the Church Suffering) are all those souls who are experiencing a purification in order to be prepared for Heaven and who depend upon our prayers to get them there. And, finally there are all of us (the Church Militant) who are striving to conform our hearts, minds and souls to the Lord so that we might share eternity in Heaven with Him. And so, as we conclude this month and prepare to begin the beginning of another liturgical year on this Christ the King Sunday, we once again ask the question, “So, how do we get to Heaven?” Well, the short answer is that we can’t and that there is nothing that we can do to get us there. Have a good day! Just kidding; sort of. But it is the truth; we can’t do any thing to get us into heaven, at least not by ourselves, and you might say that that is bad news. But there is good news. And the Good News is that we are not alone. God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, the King of the Universe, to us to make it
Now please just wait a minute before answering that question. Obviously, our first inclination would be to think that of course we would be perfectly comfortable in heaven. Why wouldn’t we be? But on the other hand, we need to remember that heaven is forever. Isn’t it true that at least sometimes before going to a social event, we try to figure out who will be there, how long will the event be, how we should be dressed whether or not we would fit in etc. etc.? But my guess is that we don’t approach the prospect of going to heaven in the same way. Remember, heaven is described as an eternal banquet. Maybe we should consider the type of souls that will be there and honestly ask ourselves just what kind of souls will be there and try to discern if we would feel comfortable with them-for an eternity. I think we get a clue of type of souls that are in heaven from the parable of the sheep and goats that we heard last week on the Feast of Christ the King. You remember that the goats were sent to eternal damnation and sheep were invited to eternal joy. But why? It always troubles me that the goats were sent to hell, even though Jesus never so much as accused them of a single wrong doing. What was so different about the sheep-why did they get to go to heaven? Actually, on this point the parable is rather clear. The sheep went to heaven because, they were generous, they were kind, they cared about others, they were givers, they demonstrated and poured out their love. They went to heaven because they were more like God than the goats. God the Father is, of course, the ultimate Lover, the ultimate Giver. Remember John 3:16: For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son. The sheep had molded and shaped their souls in such a way that they enjoyed doing what God does. Folks, that is what is heaven is advantage of enjoying the process of becoming more and more comfortable with God and like God is. The goats, who were not comfortable with giving, with being generous, with extending themselves to others were simply not able to experience the joy of heaven because heavenly joy can only be experienced by giving of our very selves. Advent, the Season which calls us to becoming more like the God who gives us His only Son, and the Son who gives us His very life, gives us a tremendous opportunity to mold ourselves into much more God like being, who would truly be comfortable in heaven. But do not delay, for we know not the day nor the hour.
The parable of the talents always strikes me as one that always needs another look. I say that because we often seem to fall into our own patterns of thinking and assume that God thinks like us; and we seem to continually compare ourselves with others. When we say it out loud, of course it sounds silly to ever do such a thing, but do it we do. For instance, while the parable does say that the talents were distributed to each one according to the person’s ability, we automatically assume that this means that the one who was most capable received the most talents and so on and so on. But how do we know that’s the way God distributes the talents? How do we know that God does not distribute the most “talents” to those with the least ability instead of the other way around? After all, is it not possible that perhaps, God may feel that those who have the least ability might need special help from Him? Isn’t it possible to think that God ultimately wants the same yield from each of us and so He distributes the talents accordingly? Who is to say that the Lord does not expect the same return from those among us who seem to have the least amount of talent as He expects from those with the most? Maybe He gives less talents to those who have the greatest ability because in His mind they need them less than do those who have less ability. If that is the case, what about those of us who assume, after comparing ourselves with others, that we have very little talent and therefore God is not expecting much of us, and so we bury our talents in the sand? What do we say to the Lord when He says to us, that we had much more ability in His eyes than others who used their talents to accomplish much more than we did? The truth of the matter is that God rightfully expects a bountiful yield from each of us. The greatest tragedy would be that we would compare ourselves to others and bury our God given gifts in the sand.
In today’s Gospel Jesus is continuing to hammer and pound on the scribes and Pharisees as he has been doing for the last several weeks but this time He is talking to the people about them. A challenge for us is to always understand that whatever issue He has with the Pharisees, He also has with us. His main criticism of the Pharisees is that they had turned religion into a means of elevating themselves. By virtue of their position in the Church, they were able to serve themselves instead of the people, which, of course, is exactly the opposite of what they were supposed to be doing. They turned something that was supposed to be all about God and the people into something that was totally about them and their power. Jesus is trying to teach us that the way that the Pharisees and scribes conducted themselves was diametrically opposed to the way He wants us to live. Discipleship is not about us. It is about Jesus, and if we’re honest with ourselves that is a very tough truth for us to truly accept and to live. Discipleship is not about serving ourselves. It is not about accumulating wealth or power, or position or status or favor, etc. It’s about loving God with all our hearts, minds and souls and loving our neighbors as ourselves. Selfishness has no place in the heart of a disciple. Ironically, we do indeed become the best that we can be when we realize that it is all about serving God and His people and not at all about us.
We often associate the word “love” with some pleasant feelings, or intense and delightful emotions. But the word Jesus used for love means something much deeper. It is the word "agape" [AH-gah-pay], and it refers to the love that means desiring communion with something that is good in itself. If we say that we “love” ice cream, of course, we mean that we very much enjoy eating it. We probably do not mean that we want to enter into a spiritual communion with ice cream. If we love a person, (using Jesus’ word “agape”) it means we love spending time with them, getting to know them, and sharing the experiences of life with them. But when it comes to loving God, Jesus wants to make sure that we understand that even the word agape is not enough to completely convey the type of love we are to have for God, ourselves and our neighbor. He says that we must love God with all of our hearts, our minds and our souls. We must love Him with all our hearts; this means we must desire what God desires. We must love God with all our minds; this means we must value and understand things in the same way that He values and understands them. We must love Him with our whole souls; this means we must choose to actively live in accordance with the desires and understanding of His mind and heart. If we love God as Jesus commands us to do, than loving our neighbor as ourselves will pretty much become second nature to us. I would argue in fact that if we truly do love God with all of our hearts, minds and souls it would be virtually impossible for us to do anything but love our neighbors in the way that Jesus envisions us doing. And always remember, the love of Jesus, i.e. Christian love, is much, much more than a feeling.
“Should we pay the tax or not?” The Pharisees and scribes really thought they had Him this time. What was He going to say? (Not that they really cared about the answer He would give; all they cared about was trapping Him.) If He said that they should pay the tax, than surely the crowds that were hanging on His every word and deed would turn against Him and He would cease to have any kind of following and they wouldn’t have to worry about Him any more. If He said that the tax should not be paid, than all they had to do was hand Him over to the Romans. Either way, or so they thought, there simply was no way out for Jesus. But look what happened; Jesus asked for a coin because He didn’t have one. He didn’t have one because He did not rely on money; He was not part of the Roman system. The Roman coinage, the Roman tax had little or no bearing on Him. But who showed Him the coin with Caesar’s insignia? Of course the scribes and Pharisees did, and in so doing they exposed themselves. They exposed themselves as participating in the Roman economic system. Jesus was basically saying to them, “If you are going to play the game with the Romans, than you have to play by their rules.” In other words, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s.” The problem with the Pharisees and scribes, once again, is that they were hypocrites, and they were easily exposed as such by Jesus. Their question was insincere; they did not care about it at all. They were obsessed with defeating Jesus, and because their motive was not pure, they did not stand a chance up against the pure light of Jesus. They exposed themselves as being part and parcel of the Roman system. That’s why we need to make sure that our motives are pure, that we “Give to God what is God’s”. If they are not we can be sure that we will expose something about ourselves that we do not want the world (or ourselves) to know. Remember, they thought they had Jesus dead to rights. Instead they trapped themselves.
Ingratitude is the substance of every sin, and sin separates us from God, and from the meaningful life that comes from living close to God - it keeps us from accepting God's invitations. And so, a healthy sense of gratitude is one of the best ways to combat sin and stay close to the Lord. Today's parable shows us exactly how to grow this rare and powerful virtue of gratitude: by letting Him change our plans. If the invited guests in the parable had truly respected their king, they would have adjusted their plans for his sake, putting aside their personal preferences for a little while to show their gratitude to Him. God asks us to change our plans in many ways. Let’s talk about two of them. First, when He allows tragedy or suffering in our life. For instance, when a young married couple discovers that they can't have children, God is most definitely asking them to change their plans. This is an invitation to follow God more closely, to join Jesus on the cross, so that they can later join Him in the banquet of the resurrection. He also asks us to change our plans when it becomes risky to act like true Christians in a non-Christian world. Standing up for the rights of the unborn is not always the popular or easy thing to do. Likewise following a vocation to the priesthood or consecrated life in today’s world requires almost heroic self-sacrifice. There is a fair chance that in the week to come God will ask each of us to change our plans in some way for the sake of his Kingdom - maybe in something big, maybe in something small. When He does, let's be generous. And show Him that we truly belong to Him, that we truly do believe, as today's Psalm reminds us, that He is our shepherd, and that He will lead us to the fullness of life? Will we; can we, change our plans for Him?
Jesus’ audience could easily identify with the story about an absentee landlord and his not-so-good tenants. It was quite common for the owners to rent out their estates to tenants. Their wealth allowed them to travel and own houses in other places. Jesus’ story, however, was unsettling to some. Why did the scribes and Pharisees in particular feel offended? Jesus’ parable contained both a prophetic message and a warning to the religious community and its leaders. Isaiah had spoken of the house of Israel as “the vineyard of the Lord.” Isaiah warned his people that their unfaithfulness would yield bad fruit if they did not repent and change. Jesus’ listeners understood this parable as a reminder that God will in due time root out bad fruit and put an end to rebellion. What does Jesus’ parable tell us about God? First, it tells us of His generosity and trust. The vineyard is well equipped with everything the tenants need. The owner went away and left the vineyard in the hands of the tenants. God, likewise trusts us enough to give us freedom to live life as we choose. It also tells us of God’s patience and justice. Not one, but many times He forgives the tenants their debts. But while the tenants take advantage of the owner’s patience, His judgment and justice prevail in the end. Jesus foretold both His death and His ultimate triumph. He knew he would be rejected by His own people and be killed, but He also knew that would not be the end. After rejection would come the glory of Resurrection and Ascension to the right hand of the Father. The Lord continues to bless us with the gift of His Kingdom. And He promises that we will bear much fruit if we abide in Him and remain faithful. He entrusts us with His gifts and grace and gives us a particular work to do in His vineyard. He promises that our labor will not be in vain if we persevere with faith to the end. We can expect trials and difficulties as we labor for the Lord, and even persecution from those who oppose His Kingdom. But in the end we will see triumph. Do you labor for the Lord with joyful hope and with confidence in His victory?
Sincerity is a basic human virtue that we love to find in other people, but may find it hard to live ourselves. Hypocrisy makes us blind to God's presence in our lives. We need to be sincere especially in three key areas of our lives. First of all, we need to build up sincerity in our relationship with God. We should never try to impress Him or put on a show for Him. We need to open our hearts to Him completely (He knows them thoroughly already), like little children, so that He can touch our hearts with His transforming grace. Secondly we must be sincere in our relationship with ourselves. We sometimes are less than honest with God about the reasons we do things, making excuses or falling into the habit of quick rationalization. We must take responsibility for our actions, good and bad, confident that God can fix whatever we may break. As Christ said, the truth will set us free. Last but not least, we need to develop sincerity in our words. Sometimes we distort the truth when we talk, we like to flatter people, or make them admire us, so we say things that aren't really true. While we don't have an obligation to tell everyone everything, we do have an obligation to be truthful in what we choose to say. Of course, we know that we have the opportunity to receive Holy Communion virtually every day of our lives. The Eucharist can serve to strengthen our resolve to be people of sincerity with hearts open to God's grace. The pure, white, unleavened bread that is transformed into Christ's body can be an image of sincerity for us. The host itself is indeed beautiful in its simplicity – in its sincerity. As we walk up to receive the Eucharist and return to our pews, let’s pray that we might strive to truly become a sincere person. That indeed would be simply beautiful.
It’s NOT FAIR but is it ‘just’.
It's not fair. How many times have we said it or heard it about things that occur in our life. Today's gospel is certainly an example of that. In fact, that's probably your first reaction when you read it or heard it proclaimed, certainly has been mine for many years until I was pointed in a slightly different direction until thinking about this homily.
The words fair, just, fairness and justice are often used interchangeably. Their application is most important as to determine their definition. Using an example helped me to acquire a better understanding of the two words and how something may not be seen as fair but is viewed just.
Using this example – there are two individuals who have a contract of which they have a dispute. The dispute is resolved by compromise in a manner which is satisfactory to both. We can say that the contract was resolved in a fair manner exhibiting fairness to both parties. In the second instance one party/individual is favored over the other in the settlement leaving one dissatisfied. In this second instance a principle of law, policy or procedure was applied to resolve the issue in a just manner.
Justice comes when an application of morals, policy, procedure, law or other is applied to the resolution while fairness arises when things are resolved in a manner in which we emotional satisfied.
In this week’s gospel we might all agree to some extent that the treatment doesn't seem between the ‘early in’ and ‘late arrivals’. After all they both came, delivered their best, did what was expected in the manner expected and were paid for their services as the landowner had agreed. Yet there is the feeling of unfairness – one must ask why – because the early in workers labored longer. Remember they agreed to the daily wage for the day. The landowner acted properly paying wages not based on time of labor but as agreed.
This parable makes me think of those folks – maybe a family member, friend or person in the pew next to you who were not born into Catholicism but at some time in their life discerned and were part of a program of formation which took them to their election and acceptance into full communion in the Catholic Church. Such individuals are in our very midst.
This Easter vigil those newly accepted neophytes will be, without any limitation or inequity, ‘fully’ catholic just like many of us born into Catholicism. Those newly accepted neophytes will not labor/be challenged by sin ‘as long’ through their lives as we all striving for the eternal kingdom. Are they not entitled to the same benefits as we who were born into Catholicism and worked so many years? Some may say not fair but nevertheless the reward is just.
So fair and just make me stop and think before I speak.
Cheryl McGuinness learned this secret of mercy at the foot of a strange and terrible cross. She is the widow of the co-pilot of American Airlines Flight 11, which was hijacked and smashed into the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. That morning, she and her two teenage children cried and suffered at the horrible loss of Tom, her husband. In the midst of her tears, she remembered something that her husband, knowing that a pilot's job is risky, had told her long before: "If anything ever happens to me, you have to trust God. God will get you through it…” She took that to heart, but it wasn't easy. A turning point in the process came almost a year after the attack, when she went to Ground Zero to participate in the Victim Compensation Fund. When she arrived to Ground Zero, emotionally stunned, she looked into the pit where the buildings had once stood. As she looked at the remains, her eyes fixed on the only steel structure left standing. It was in the shape of a cross. She kept looking from the pit to the cross and her eyes focused on the cross. She prayed in the silence of her heart, "Lord, they killed my husband." Then she seemed to see herself at the foot of Cross, Christ's cross, on Calvary. She heard God in her heart, inviting her to forgive the terrorists who had committed this atrocity. She asked Him why, and the answer that came into her soul was: "Because I forgave you." It was a moment of grace and of spiritual clarity for Cheryl, in which she saw that although she had never committed horrible acts of terrorism, she had indeed committed sins - she had done evil. And Jesus had forgiven her. It was that she felt the inner strength she hadn't felt before, the strength to forgive her husband's murderers, `and it changed the direction of her life. God doesn't ask us to forgive on our own, but He gives us the strength to forgive by: that's the secret to learning Christian mercy.
[Information for this Illustration was garnered from
The Gospel reading we have for today is a very interesting one indeed, especially if we truly listen to what Jesus is saying to us. Of course, we know that what He is doing in this passage is explaining to us a set of procedures we should follow if someone sins against us. At first glance it might seem like He is about to explain to us how we are to go about the process of getting retribution and justice for the wrong that was done to us. But that’s not what Jesus does at all. The end goal of the instructions He gives to us today, is not aimed at the injured party receiving any kind of retribution at all. Jesus’ primary goal when any kind of sin has been committed is that the sinner who committed the sin be restored to the community. Everything He tells us to do has to do with reconciling the sinner with the faith community once again. To Him, the problem that is created when a sin has been committed is that now the sinner has separated himself/herself from the faith community. To Him it is the problem of the one who has been sinned against and the faith community as a whole to do everything that can be done to try to bring the sinner back into right relationship with the community. Basically, we are called to treat the sinner as the Good Shepherd would treat a lost sheep. That’s a little bit different than how we think isn’t it? When someone wrongs us, do we find ourselves concerned with the poor soul who has now separated himself from the community, or do we find ourselves concerned with ourselves? Yet Jesus says that’s the way it’s supposed to be. Part of following His command of loving one another as He loves us means that our utmost concern has to be with doing everything we can to make sure that all members of the community are reconciled with each other-even when we are the one who has been wronged by another. It means realizing, understanding and living out the truth that even when someone wrongs us, the biggest problem is that the one who has sinned is now faced with the possibility of living a life outside of the faith community, and that this problem is ours.
If we put last Sunday’s Gospel together with today’s Gospel (which is very reasonable to do since today’s verses immediately follow last week’s), we see that we have quite a conversation going on between Jesus and Peter. Within the same conversation Jesus first says the following to Peter: "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church,” but then later He says: “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do." We know of course, that the first statement was made after Peter had correctly identified Jesus as the Messiah, and that the second was made after Peter expressed his dismay at the thought of Jesus being crucified, so Jesus words are understandable. However, I think there is something else going on here as well. Jesus is being a true friend to Peter. He affirms him when Peter makes a correct choice, but lovingly scolds him when he begins to head in the wrong direction. That is what friends do. Jesus loves Peter and He loves us too much to do anything but to tell us the truth with love. Do we do this? With Jesus? With our friends? Are we totally honest with Jesus when we pray to Him? Do we try to have a real heart to heart conversation? Are we totally honest with our friends when we know they are going down a destructive path or do we shy away from saying the hard things? Being a true friend means truly loving our friend, it means risking our friend’s love for us in order to demonstrate our love for him/her. That’s what Jesus did in this conversation with Peter. That’s what Jesus does for us. The best way for us to thank Jesus for His friendship to us is by being totally honest with Him in our prayer, and by being a true friend to those He gives to us.
Deacon's Corner by Deacon George S. Harmansky
This Sunday's Gospel is chocked full of information to think about, to sort and all worthy of reflection. It's not one of those Gospels where it's a bullseye topic. What stands out to me is ‘upon this rock I will build my Church’. It’s not just about Peter – It’s about you and me.
What I do think about when I read that is that it takes more than a rock to build a foundation for a building – the foundation for a building is constructed of many ‘rocks’ bound together forming the foundation. From the foundation rises the building. The building is only as strong as each of the ‘rocks’ while additional strength is found in their binding/uniting together to form one.
Christ isn't talking about a building, a structure or literally the building where we most often find ourselves worshiping. He is talking about the Church, capital ‘C’ meaning us, comprising the Body of Christ. Just as it takes more than a single rock to build the foundation to support a building consequently it takes all of us inclusively to make the Church.
In baptism the newly baptized whether infant, young adult or adult person is commissioned as a disciple of Christ, a ‘rock’ in the Church of Christ, in a long line of succession from Christ to Peter ‘upon this rock’.
Often at the baptism I relate to them a story using a chain as an example. A chain is made of links, individually they’re nothing but links, but connected together we have a chain.
Christ’s command is directed to each of us individually. He, commanded that each of us individually contribute to the collective Church, the Body of Christ. As Peter received his commission we likewise receive that (com)mission at baptism and are further strengthened in that at confirmation and nourished during life’s journey with the Eucharist.
We are the Church. We are the ‘rocks’ that comprise the Church, and upon which the Church is further built.
Jesus’ response to the Canaanite woman might, at least initially seem very cold and callous: “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” How could He say something like that to this poor woman who is pleading for mercy for her daughter? What is she supposed to do after hearing those words? What are we supposed to do when it seems like we are not getting the response that we think we should get from Jesus? The woman does give us a couple lessons. First we should never give up. If our plea is pure, if it is not selfish, than there is no reason to stop trying. We should never forget what Jesus has done for us and that He is absolutely about our greater good. We also should understand that we need to be willing to make our case, and that Jesus has the right to expect us to do so. We also need to be able to see that Jesus will always provide an opening for us and give us the opportunity to take it. The woman recognized her opening in the word that Jesus used for “dog.” He used the word that referred to a dog that was a household pet, not a stray that roamed the streets. She knew then that she could say: “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters,” and perhaps get a favorable response. The Lord always has a gift for us, but He wants us to fight for it, He wants us to have a sense that we earned it. The Canaanite woman left Jesus, not only knowing that her daughter was healed, but also knowing that she had something to do with it. She did not give up on her plea to the Lord, she made her case to Him, and walked away stronger because of it. Jesus uses every opportunity He can to teach us and to empower us, and to enable us to grow. We come to Him with our narrow pleas, but there is so much more that He wants to give us. Only thing is; to get it we must be willing to fight for it. If not, it’s not happening.
It might sound like a strange question, but are you? I think that maybe, just maybe, you just might be. Afraid of the quiet, that is. And if you’re not, well then you are quite rare, and I am quite confident that so many of your human colleagues are. Oh, they might try to deny it, but how often do they let themselves truly become still and quiet? How often, do we let ourselves truly become quiet? Don’t we pretty much always want to have some background noise blaring, i.e. the TV, the radio, etc., etc.? Isn’t it difficult to truly allow ourselves to become completely still? Why? Wouldn’t all the noise get to us at least once in a while? But it does not seem like that is the case. Silence really can be much more frightening than thunder, can’t it? Why? Because when we actually are able to hear ourselves think, we have to deal with issues from which we’d rather stay away. Elijah, went to the mountain of the Lord, in search of the Lord’s voice but he discovered that the voice of the Lord was not in the noise but in the quiet. In order to hear the Lord, in order to get to know the Lord, in order to be in a real relationship with Him we must bring ourselves to stillness and quiet on a very regular basis. And that is much easier said than done in a world of so much noise. Couple that with the fact that the quiet makes us uncomfortable and we truly have a challenge on our hands. Our best hope is that we know that we will never truly be at peace until we are able to hear that still small voice that is the Lord. A very prudent prayer for us is that our fear of the quiet is not more powerful than our longing to hear the Lord. If that is the case, we should rejoice and be glad, because we will hear His voice.
We are all very familiar with the story of the Transfiguration-and that could be a problem. The fact that it is so familiar might prevent us from hearing it anew as it is proclaimed over and over again. We might tend to “click it off” and let our minds wander, since we feel like we know it through and through. We live in a world of sound bytes, text messaging, and web and channel surfing. Everything and everyone gets about 3 seconds of our time, because, if someone or something is too familiar to us we feel like we have “been there” and “done that” and immediately want to move on because there are so many other people to see and things to do. This extremely worldly pattern of behavior does not sit well with pondering Sacred Scripture. Scripture really does not lend itself to being packaged as a sound byte. It is meant to be studied, prayed and reflected upon. It is always new, but we have to spend time with it in order to realize that the insights it gives us are never ending and always fresh. For instance, with the story of the Transfiguration, if we spend time with it, we just might come to see that it is much more than a story explaining how one day Jesus’ clothes turned dazzlingly white one day. We might come to see that it is as story that shows us that if we spend time with Jesus, as Peter, James and John did, we just might receive a wonderful gift. We might just be given the opportunity, if but for a brief moment, to see Jesus as His Father sees Him. Of course, to see Jesus as the Father sees Him is to see Him as He truly is. Now, wouldn’t that be something? But there’s more. What if we could see everyone and everything with the Father’s eyes-our loved ones; and our not so loved ones? Don’t you think your life would be different if you could see as the Father sees-if you could see God’s world and His people as they truly are? The message of the Transfiguration is that you can do just that, that you can see as the Father sees, but in order to do so you have to go to the mountaintop with Jesus in prayer to do it. And you can’t be too fast with the clicker.
By Deacon George S. Harmansky
So here we are now in the Dog Days Of Summer, pretty much through the dog days, as they officially extend from July 3rd to August 11th. These dog days occur between those dates because according to astronomy with input from the meteorology folks and as tradition has it these are the hottest, most unbearable days of our summer season. Originally, the phrase actually had nothing to do with dogs, or even with the lazy days of summer. Instead, it turns out, the dog days refer to the dog star, Sirius, and its position in the heavens.
To the Greeks and Romans, the “dog days” occurred around the day when Sirius appeared to rise just before the sun, in late July. They referred to these days as the hottest time of the year, a period that could bring fever, or even catastrophe. We associate the dog days of summer, especially with the dogs that are lying around, sluggish, more or less lifeless because of the oppressive summer heat. While this may sometimes be true meteorologically and evidenced in the behavior especially of the dogs I believe it can even be true for us. Don't we find ourselves sluggish, more apt to take those mid-day rests, more desirous of those times for a siesta. We become slower, sluggish, looking to more ‘vegging’ time, maybe inclined to procrastinate to a better time another more suited to our energy level, even cooler for the task.
The question presents - do we take a siesta from our spirituality during the dog days of summer? Just lay back and coast? Let things grow that shouldn’t similar to the weeds in our flower beds and gardens.
Liturgically we are in the midst of ordinary time, between Pentecost and the beginning of Advent. This time should be one of growth focused on a spiritual harvest.
Are we exhibiting spiritual boredom, allowing the lazy feeling of the summer, the Dog Days effect our prayer, our Sunday worship?
In this Sunday’s Gospel we read parables about treasure and valuables, the reaction of the possessors to their found treasure. Their actions are not marked with lethargy and indecisiveness. Unaffected by outside influences they take action. Moving forward with little or no effect from the ‘climate’ of their time. They could have sat back enjoying their new found wealth – doing nothing more. So in the heat of the season do we push forward continuing to cultivate our relationship with the Creator, growing spiritually, or do we lay back, sluggish as the dogs, overcome and waiting for a new season, a better time.