I am sure that a good number of us might find ourselves a little bit unsettled by Jesus’ rather strong language in the Gospel this Sunday.  Many of us probably would not be expecting Jesus to say that He has come to set the earth on fire or that He was coming to establish division rather than peace, but that is exactly what He says today.  On the other hand we probably simply expect Him to be full of mercy and love and forgiveness, and certainly He is just that. We have become so very accustomed to the stories of His miracles and His many mighty deeds as well as His teachings, His parables, and His proclamation of the Good News, that the language of today’s Gospel may be a bit startling. But, then again, that is perfectly Ok if His word does jolt us a bit because that is exactly what it is supposed to do. Today’s Gospel reminds us that Jesus did not come into the world because everything was just fine with the world, but precisely because every thing was not. If everything was the way it was supposed to be, there would have been no need for Him to come into the world at all. He came into the world to change it, to make things right and to confront and challenge what was not right with it. Of course, whenever the status quo is challenged, there is discord. Let’s face it, we do not like change. We can tend to lull ourselves into thinking that Jesus never did intend to bring anything like fire or brimstone because He was just an all around “nice” guy. But that kind of understanding of Jesus would not be correct. Not that there is anything wrong with being nice-being nice can be a nice thing to be. But, if all we are is “nice” in the face of sin and injustice, I don’t think we will do as well as we would like on Judgment Day.  Sometimes we have to confront evil; sometimes we have to breakout of our own comfort zones and disturb the comfort of others. And sometimes, Jesus’ words and teachings will be at odds with our own practice and put us in opposition to others, perhaps even our own family members, etc.  There is no Beatitude that says “Blessed are the nice.” While we should always approach life with a pleasant disposition, we cannot be “nice” no matter what. Like, Jesus, every now and then, we likely will have to set a fire on the Earth for the sake of the kingdom.

 

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AuthorCathy Remick

This might seem a little strange to some of you but the readings for today make me think of Disney’s movie, “The Lion King.”   There is a particular scene in the original production that has always been a point of reflection for me ever since I first saw it.  I will try to recreate it for you, and hopefully a good number of you will remember it.  I’m sure you will remember in the movie when young Simba has to flee the kingdom of his father and run for his life into the jungle.  Eventually he meets up with his soon-to-be new friends, Timone and Pumbaa, and at least for a while has a rollicking good time.  He was almost able to forget about his father’s death and the terrible evil forces that were controlling his homeland. Almost; but not quite. Right in the middle of his time of “Hakuna Matata,” the messenger from his father’s Kingdom, (Zazu, I believe) finds him and tells him how bad things have become and calls him to come back and fulfill his rightful role as the Lion King. At this point we have the scene of the nearly full grown Simba  looking into the oasis, and seeing his father’s face as his own reflection.  Simba realizes in this solemn moment that as much as he would love to stay and continue to enjoy the “good life” with his fun-loving friends, the only real life for him was to fulfill the mission for which he was born. In fact the “good life” was not really life at all but only an illusion-like the illusion spoken about in today’s first reading and by Jesus in the Gospel about the folly of spending so much time building up treasure for oneself on earth only to come to life’s end without ever being able to use it. We need to try to make sure that we are not living by such foolish values, especially because it is so easy for us today to get caught up in the illusion of living the good life. Ironically it is the one who spends himself hoarding earthly treasure who ends up with nothing. By the same token the only way that we can be sure that we can keep all that we have been blessed with on earth through all eternity is to give it away before it’s too late.

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AuthorCathy Remick

Many things about my father (may he rest in peace) used to drive me absolutely crazy.  One of those things was the way he prayed and forced us to pray.  Every night during May and October he would drag all 11 of us into the living room to pray the rosary, without ever really giving us a reason why.  It’s amazing how many of us would be asleep by the time we were finished.  And many, many times throughout the year he would force us to come together to pray for things that he thought we needed, but what really got the best of me was the way he would always begin the prayer. He would always start out by saying, “Lord, if it be Your will, we ask that …,”and finish by saying, “…please give us what we need to accomplish your will.”  To me that just did not make any sense.  Isn’t the whole point of prayer to ask God for what we want and need and not what He wants?  Why would we ask Him for His will to be done? Usually I didn’t say anything because I was a little bit afraid of him, but his manner of prayer did cause me to stew in frustration. Then one day during the summer when I was about 12 years old I had enough and I had to say something. He had called us together to pray for our crops (we were farmers).  He prayed as follows, “Lord, if it be your will, could you provide us with rain so that our corn might grow and sun so that our freshly cut hay might be dry for baling?”  To me just that did not make any sense. He was asking for sun and rain at the same time for adjoining fields. I got my nerve up and said, “Dad that does not make any sense! You asked for it to rain and to be sunny at the very same time!”  In response he said something that I will never forget. He said, “But son, that is exactly what we need. We need rain for the corn and sun for the hay.  What would you have asked for?”  At that moment and to this day, I have no response and have learned a great lesson from his wisdom. And you know what else?  When we pray the Our Father, we are basically praying in the same way that my father always prayed. We are praying that God’s will may be done and that we may have what we need to accomplish His will. My father was right again. It’s still enough to drive me crazy…sometimes!

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AuthorCathy Remick

Jesus said to Martha, “Mary has chosen the better part, and it will not be taken from her.”  I am sure we can all relate to how Martha must have felt as she saw Mary relaxing with Jesus. We might think, at first glance, that Jesus’ response demonstrated a lack of appreciation for Martha’s legitimate efforts, but it would be good for us to look at this situation from Jesus’ perspective.  Martha indeed was presenting him with a wonderful gift in preparing his meal for Him, but Mary was also presenting him with a wonderful gift. She was listening to Him. Martha could have chosen to sit with Him and listen to Him as well, but she did not, and although Jesus was grateful to her, He was also grateful for the choice that Mary had made.  Imagine how Jesus must have felt after speaking to so many people so much of the time. He must have often wondered if any one ever really listened to Him or if any one ever truly understood what He was saying.  How often does it feel like, although we have to talk to a lot of people, we have truly been listened to?  And how do we feel when we have actually had the experience of truly being listened to?  I think that we would pretty much all agree that the experience of being listened to is one of the most positive experiences that any one can ever have.  And so, here was Mary, listening to Jesus.  Of course, Jesus was not going to deny her of this opportunity. Nor was he going to deny Himself of the gift she was giving to Him. He probably needed to be listened to as much as he needed to have nourishment-and so do we, and so do the people we love, and the people who are around us.  Jesus needed someone to listen to Him, He needed Mary to listen to Him, He needs us to listen to Him and we need to listen to Him.  That is one of the main lessons of today’s Gospel: to listen to another human being is no small matter; it is a command of Jesus. To listen is to give a rare gift, to listen is to validate, to listen is to show someone that they matter, to listen is to show that we care, to listen is to heal, to listen is to love. 

 

In Christ,

Fr. Joseph L. Maloney

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AuthorCathy Remick

The feast of Corpus Christi, which we celebrate today, reminds me of a lesson I learned from a First Communicant about 25 years ago.  It was a Sunday morning right after Mass; the day after he had received his First Communion.  During the Mass that day I had encouraged all the First Communicants to come back to Church on Sunday in their First Communion attire to receive their “Second” Communion and to allow the entire parish to celebrate with them.  I was very happy that many of them did indeed come back in all their finery.  Right after one of the Masses, as I was going to the sacristy, I saw one of the First Communicants, dressed in his white suit kneeling so reverently with hands prayerfully folded in front of the tabernacle.  It was such a wonderful sight to see that I stood and watched from a distance for a few minutes.  But, after a while, I went up to him, tapped him on the shoulder, and said, “Daniel it is so wonderful for me to see you, just after receiving your “Second” Communion praying to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament!  You have made my day.”  He then looked up at me from the kneeler and with the simple, blunt honesty of a child said, “Yea, well, my Mom’s still back there talking, so I really don’t have anything better to do.”  Perhaps it might sound like a typical response that a child would give but he was absolutely correct.  He taught me a lesson that I try not to ever forget.  He didn’t have anything better to do.  I don’t have anything better to do.  You don’t have anything better to do.  It is a lesson that we all need to learn, to believe and to put into practice: When we have the opportunity to pray before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament there simply is nothing better to do.

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AuthorCathy Remick

They thought they had Him this time. Here was a woman caught in the act of adultery. The law demanded that she be stoned to death.  But what about Jesus’ message of mercy? Note how the Pharisees did not care at all about the woman or the sin. They only cared about putting an end to Him.   And this time they thought they had Him dead to rights. If He let her go, He was clearly breaking the Mosaic Law. But if He did not let her go, then what about all of His talk about mercy and forgiveness? They thought for sure there was no way out for Him. So what does Jesus do? Well, basically He turned the law on them.  The law also called for two witnesses who were known to be free from any suspicion of wrong doing to make the official accusation. They did not have two such witnesses. Therefore there was no one to cast the first stone at her.  They could not fulfill the prescriptions of their own law so the woman was not condemned; she was off the hook on a technicality.  But what about the law-it called for death?  Where was the justice? The woman would not die for her sin but the story was not over. Jesus knew that when He saved this woman’s life and let her go free that He had sealed His own fate. He knew He had not seen the last of the Pharisees. He knew that they would be back in force, especially after this latest humiliation and would not stop until He was gone. He knew that because of His action He would most definitely die. But He saved her life anyway and upheld the Law by choosing to die in her place. What He did for her, He does for us.  We commit sin, and because of our sin He dies and sets us free, urging us to sin no more. We might wonder about the woman in this story. Did she turn away from her sin? But really we should wonder about us. Will we ever turn away from ours? 

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AuthorCathy Remick

As we journey through this season of Lent, I think it is very important that we reflect on what I have come to see as perhaps the most important one.   I believe that it stands before and provides a foundation for all the others. It comes from the Latin word “humilitas,” which means “ground.”  We can say that one who lives by this virtue is well “grounded.”  The virtue that I am talking about is humility. Being humble is very hard for us even when we want to be and are trying to be humble, and let’s face it, there are lots of times that being humble is the last thing we want to try to be. We see humility as presenting weakness or a low or even negative opinion of ourselves. We see it as a sign that we have very little or no ambition and therefore not much hope of achieving or accomplishing much in our lives.  But that is not what it means at all. To be humble does not mean to see ourselves negatively, it means to see ourselves clearly, too see ourselves as God sees us and for us to see God as He truly is. In the brief moment of the Transfiguration that is exactly what happened. Peter, James and John saw Jesus clearly, exactly as God the Father saw Him. If we truly live by the virtue of humility, we would see ourselves and others as God sees them, as His children, as we and others truly are. The humble person does not lack ambition or leadership ability. Indeed studies have shown that the most successful leaders are those who practice true and sincere humility but who are able to channel their great strength and ambition onto their mission or those they are leading. Please pray for me as I strive to learn, apply and live this virtue. We need to learn to channel our strength and our ambition onto something greater than ourselves. One of the major lessons of God’s relationship with the Israelites is that without God, they were nothing and nowhere. That needs to be our starting point. We need to see humility as a starting point to success and as strength because that is what it is. Scripture clearly teaches that success with God rests on humility. He exalts the humble and scatters the proud. It grounds us in the reality that there is a God and that we are not Him, that everything that we achieve and everything that we are gifts from Him. It also teaches us the reality that we need others; that we are made for relationships. It helps us to be kind, merciful, forgiving, compassionate. It might be hard to be humble, but it is much harder to exercise these other wonderful virtues if we are not humble first. Humility makes us attractive to others. Just ask yourselves, who is it easier for you to be with, someone who is humble or someone who is proud? Yet we find ourselves moving away from humility so very often! The humble person recognizes as Peter did that when we see ourselves and God and others clearly, it is indeed “…good for us to be here.” Let’s strive to get and stay there.  Remember, it is not that humble people think less of themselves. They just think of God and others more.

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AuthorCathy Remick

It is good for us, while we are still in the early weeks of the season of Ordinary time (or, as I like to call it, the “season of real life”) to contemplate and reflect on the Beatitudes, which we hear today from the Gospel of St. Matthew, since of course they are the centerpiece of Jesus’ teaching for us and for all people of all time.  If we read them with fresh eyes, listen to them, with fresh ears, and receive them with a newly opened mind and heart, we will indeed be better able to live these days of Ordinary Time in an extraordinarily good way.  First, it is probably good for us to remember the context in which they were given and to whom they were spoken.  The crowd to which Jesus spoke was made up precisely of those who were poor, who were suffering, who were mourning, who were persecuted, who were hungering and thirsting for justice, etc. and He told them that they were blessed for heaven would be theirs. Imagine what His words must have felt like to people who were seen and treated as the outcasts of society and realize that in hearing them we should feel the same way.  However, He is not saying that we should strive to be financially poor, or to be in a state of mourning or that we should want to be persecuted.  He is saying that if we are wealthy by worldly standards, if we are not  hungering for Him, if it does not sadden us if our loved ones are not following Him, and if the world thinks well of us, than we face the ominous peril of being cursed to an eternity without Him because we perceive no need of Him. However, if we recognize our dependence on Him, and not for the things of the world, if we hunger for His justice and mercy, if we mourn for those who do not realize their dependence on the Lord or hunger for His kingdom, and if we stand up for the kingdom in the face of persecution than we are truly blessed. Why?  Because if we live as people who are fully aware of our need for Him, of our true poverty, than the kingdom of heaven is indeed ours.

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AuthorCathy Remick

Those words from Isaiah haunt me till this very day. I remember when I first felt the call to the priesthood, I could not get the words of the hymn “Here I am, Lord” out of my mind. What I remember so clearly during that time was the sobering realization that I/we only have one shot at life.  We only get one life.  We need to make the very best of it- we need to get our vocation right.  We need to serve God in every aspect of our lives. Some of you might be asking yourselves, as I often ask myself, “Am I good enough to serve God in the way that He wants me to serve Him?” All three readings this week answer that question.   Isaiah was not good enough at first.  Then an angel touched Isaiah’s mouth with the ember from the fire.  He was made clean.  In the second reading Paul reminds us that he started off by persecuting Christians. He was mean. He would round up men, women and children and bring them to the Jewish authorities in Jerusalem.  He watched and approved as an innocent and meek Stephen was stoned to death by a mob.  Paul was a spectator at the lynching, but he cheered on the mob and left excited to find the mob’s next victims. But despite all this Jesus transformed Paul into an apostle.  “I am who I am,” St. Paul says, “through the Grace of God.”  In the Gospel, Peter wants Jesus to leave him because he is so aware of his own sin.  Jesus basically says, “No way.  I have work for you, you will be catching men.” And Jesus says to you and to me, “Stop hiding behind your human failures.  How dare you say that I cannot send you?  I am God.  I have work for you to do.  I will cleanse you.  I will send you.”  I remember when I left home to go to the seminary, my pastor, the priest who inspired me said to me that the priesthood is the life. I do believe that over the years I have come to a deeper understanding of what he meant when he spoke those words but I have also learned something else: when it comes right down to it the only life worth living is the life into which the Lord sends us. Therefore, our response to Him should always be, “Here I am Lord, send me.

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AuthorCathy Remick

Although it is very hard for me to believe this, it has been over 25 years ago now, that I, while as a seminarian on break,  can remember visiting with parishioners one Sunday after Mass at my home parish, Sacred Heart in Oxford, PA.  As I was greeting many people whom I had not seen for a while, a young man of about 13 or 14 who I knew from the parish CYO came up to me to say “Hi” I said “Louie, It’s great to see you, how are you?” He said “OK” in a less than an enthusiastic manner to which I responded, “Are you sure; is there something wrong?” “No,” he said, “it’s just that I have to go to CCD class.” (CCD is what we in Oxford used to call religious education classes for children who did not attend Catholic School). “That’s not so bad is it?” I asked. “I guess not,” he said,” except for the fact that they keep on talking about the same old things, things I already know all about.” “Oh,” I said, “can you give me an example of something that they keep on talking about of which you already know?” He said “you know, Love.” Now, it is very true that I am not so sure that young Louie’s understanding of love would match that which is displayed in the words of St. Paul in our second reading which are as follows: “Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, it is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never fails.” However, it did show me that there was something very valuable that he did understand; there was a connection that he had made. He may not have known all about Catholic Education, but he definitely had a sense that it always pointed to love.  As we conclude Catholic Schools Week that is indeed a connection of which we need to be aware. All the wonderful learning that we experience in all of the different grade levels and all of the different subjects and activities is always about helping us to know, to understand, to experience and to share the love of God. That is what it is always about. We learn about the truths of God’s universe so that we can better receive and share His love.  And this education does not stop. We never ever get to the point, even though Louie thought he had done so, where we can say that we know all about love. And that is what makes our lives so adventurous and exciting. So, my young friend Louie does have a lesson that remains valid and valuable to each and every one of us to the present day and throughout eternity: Catholic Education is indeed always meant to be all about love. That’s what Louie knew.

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AuthorCathy Remick

There are many lessons in the story of the Wedding Feast of Cana. Today I will mention a few of them.  First Jesus needs to be invited into our lives just like He was invited to the wedding feast. He would not have gone if He were not invited. He will not come into our lives, our minds, our hearts, or souls if we don’t invite Him in. He simply does not force Himself upon us. So, do we want Him in our lives? Do we invite Him in? How so? If we want to be open to miracles in our lives, it would be best if we do our best to clearly let Him know that we want Him to be part of them. Second, we should be sensitive to the needs of others. Mary’s sensitivity to the needs of others is the reason why this miracle happened. If she was oblivious Jesus would never have been called upon.  Our sensitivity to the needs of others creates the possibility for miracles to happen. Third, we need to bring our needs to Jesus. I bet there are a lot of needs that we have of which we aren’t aware, or that we simply haven’t brought them to Him. Jesus is especially open to prayers that place the needs of others ahead of ourselves and, yes, He is particularly moved when His mother intercedes for us. Fourth, it is indeed when we obey His commands that miracles happen. I actually wonder if it isn’t our obedience to Him that is in fact the greatest miracle of all. Remember, scripture, continually reminds us that the Lord looks for obedience much more than He looks for sacrifice. Fifth, we need to give Him something or do something that shows Him that we are cooperating with Him if we hope that He will provide a miracle for us. Remember the five loaves and two fish that the young boy brought to Jesus that fed over 5000 people?  In this story, the people brought Him the six water jars that He transformed into approximately 900 bottles of wine! We must be active participants in the miracles we seek. We need to bring Him something, we need to act, we need to do something so that Jesus has “stuff” from us to perform the miracle. We can’t simply be a bystander, nor can we throw up our hands and say we don’t have anything to offer, we need to give Him what we have and show that we have a stake in what we are asking for. Jesus can do amazing things with just a little bit of faith but we have to show it to Him. Lastly the wedding feast of Cana reminds us that our whole faith journey is about a union, indeed a wedding, between God and us that begins with us inviting Him into our lives, being sensitive to the needs of others, bringing our needs to Him, doing whatever He tells us and ends with us actively demonstrating our faith in Him.

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AuthorCathy Remick

Every time I am about to celebrate Mass for the Feast of the Holy Family, I always very carefully scan the congregation. Why, you may ask?  Well to make sure that none of my immediate family members are there in Church, of course!  You see, almost twenty years ago now, as I came to the center of the sanctuary to preach the homily, this little two year old young lady came running up the aisle and stopped short about two pews away from me gleaming at me with a big smile on her face. Sure enough, it was my niece Katie and I quickly saw that my brother, his wife and family were there a little ways back; they had come up to pay me a surprise visit. Looking down at her, I said  “Well hello there little Miss Katie, it certainly is wonderful to see you, your Mom, your Dad and your two brothers, Donny and baby David here today! But now I am in a bit of a tight spot; do you know why? Because since today is the Feast of the Holy Family, I was, and still am, going to spend the next few minutes talking about you and them.  Family. You never know when they are going to turn up, do you?  It’s no wonder that we celebrate the Feast of the Holy family just a few days after Christmas. It’s right around this time of course that so many of us had a chance to see them again and spend time with them again. And therefore it’s also right around now that so many of us are also thanking God for already doing so or begging Him to send them home.  Yes this time of year reconnects us with our families, warts and all; the good, the great, the bad and the ugly.  For me it reminds me of so many things, and perhaps most of all of how important forgiveness is in a family. Forgiveness that I must humbly seek.  Forgiveness that I must readily give.  And why is it so important?  Because a major part of the Christmas message is that the Father chose to send His son into the world as part of a family. A specific family-Jesus’ family was not chosen randomly, but handpicked by the Father.  The same is true with each and every one of us. God chose us to be part of His creation, but He didn’t just do so randomly. He handpicked our family, just like He handpicked Jesus, Mary and Joseph.  Yes. As Jesus’ family is holy, so your family is Holy. Happy Feast everyone!

 

 

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AuthorCathy Remick

A baby does change everything, doesn’t it?  I have seen it many times. Being the 2nd of nine children I remember some of my younger brothers and sisters coming home as newborns. The house, the home, the family was never the same after the arrival of the newest little one. Not ever. From the moment they came on the scene they became the center of attention and affection etc.  I’ve seen it several times as with my brothers and sisters as they over the years have welcomed my 15 nieces and nephews into their homes. Indeed each of those new little ones immediately transformed their lives in the most dramatic fashion. All mothers and fathers and can testify and witness to the radical changes they experienced in their lives and their very character as a result of the appearance of that new little human being, who cannot do anything for him or herself.  And that’s what we celebrate at Christmas- the coming of a new born baby.  But this baby is different than all other babies that we’ve been talking about so far. When a baby breaks into the world of a family, real change is inevitable; it can’t help but happen. The baby demands it. But what’s different about the Baby Jesus is that He doesn’t demand it. He invites us to enter in. He invites us to let Him in-to our hearts, our lives, our minds, our souls. That’s what Advent was about, preparing our lives to make room for the coming of the Lord.

We have brought ourselves to Church to celebrate the birth of this new baby, and that is indeed a wonderful thing.  The challenge for us is to take the baby with us and invite him into our lives as if He is our own, or actually as if we are His, because we are. I think that many parents will agree that once our children came into our lives we developed into people that we would have never imagined that we could have become. Just imagine for a moment the people we might become if we truly invite the Christ child into our lives as we did with our own flesh and blood. Allowing Christ in our lives, through His invitation, will transform us in ways we cannot imagine. Let’s take the baby home with us.

Merry Christmas to all of you!

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AuthorCathy Remick

Because of Mary’s eternal “yes” to God, all His love is poured out and made available to us. The great wonder of it all is that in Jesus Christ, who is at once both God and Mary’s son, each one of us can be another Mary. Each one of us is now a temple not only of God’s love but God’s very life living within us. Each one of us is a sacred space. In each one of us others can sense the presence of the Living God. Like Mary, the living presence of God the Son abides within us, not just for our own sakes, but so that we, like Mary, can give Him to the world around us.  Each one of you, and I along with you, can make an infinitely significant response to God’s offer of love. When we are told that we are loved, and we respond with a “yes”, our lives are changed. Something is placed within our hearts that never goes away.  This Christmas give God a most precious gift – some of your time. Give Him your undivided attention, a period of time in which you do nothing but open yourself up to His presence. Even if you think that nothing happens, something will happen. We are all so concerned about what we must do, particularly at a time when we’re so caught up in doing things. The best thing we can do is to do nothing – do nothing but simply be in God’s presence.  Think of three good things about you, three really good things. Then thank God individually and specifically those three good things. They are God’s gifts of love to you. Wouldn’t it be a nice gift to give Him your gratitude? Wouldn’t that be a nice gift to give Him for this Christmas? There’s a hidden benefit for you in doing that. If you have an attitude of gratitude you cannot at the same time have a sour or negative disposition. Also you could ask God what He wants for you. Ask God to reveal what He wants to say to you, what He wants to show you or give you. That’s another wonderful, precious gift to give God.  He so very much is longing for you simply give Him your undivided, loving attention.  When you’re with a friend, what do you want? Isn’t it simply to be with your friend? We all know that being is more important than doing; that it’s who we are that’s more important to those who care for us than what we accomplish. Well, that’s true with God, as well.  God has gone to great lengths, unreasonable lengths, to be our Friend. This Christmas, why not let Him?

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AuthorCathy Remick

No, I did not make a mistake, at least not with this title; it was not a victim of autocorrect.  The Baptist certainly was and is one whose intent is to disturb us, to jar us out of our “comfortability” this time of year and all year. John rather abruptly reminds us that our Gospel is one with a social conscience. For him and for Jesus it is not merely a question of God and me but rather God, me, and others. This is especially so when the others are in need.  John is indeed very explicit about the way he answers the three questions put to him in today’s Gospel passage. In answer to the question of his audience, he says: "If anyone has two overcoats, he must share with the man who has none, and the one with an extra loaf of bread must do the same." John the Disturber commands them and us to give out of our surplus to those who do not have.  To the tax collectors he says that they must not take more than the fair share from anyone and he commands the soldiers against practicing, extortion, falsely accusing anyone and grumbling about their wages.  John basically gives us the flip side of the same coin that St. Paul gives to the Philippians when he said, “Let your generosity be manifest to all.”  Both of these men, spoke on behalf of our social consciousness and they are determined to not let us become complacent in the service of justice or extending a hand to those in need- and without judging why that is the case. John reminds us that the message of Advent is designed to give a bit of jolt to one's spiritual nervous system. It is true that Jesus cannot be born again, but we can be. And that really is what Advent is all about. It is actually a very demanding season in which John the Disturber helps us to see that we give birth to our best selves once again.

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AuthorCathy Remick

Last week, I was saying that in order to truly experience and live the season of Advent we must intentionally strive to cultivate an attitude of gratitude.  We said that ingratitude is absolutely incompatible with happiness yet it remains a trap into which we are very susceptible to fall. We fall into it even though we know that cultivating an attitude of gratitude is a much better way to live. There are all kinds of reasons why we fall into this trap but perhaps one of them is that we are try to do too much too fast perhaps especially during this time of year. When we do this the trials and tribulations that are always seem to become more and more difficult to navigate and this makes it very difficult to focus on the goal that lies ahead-if we can even remember what that might be. The goal of this Advent/Christmas season needs to be positioning ourselves and our families etc. in the best way we can to receive all the blessings that God has for us during this wonderful season. If we are practicing gratitude we come to realize that just as God has continually blessed us in the past and in the present, He will only continue to do so in the future.  We come to know that there are blessings behind every burden and this knowledge inspires and encourages us to go forward, to keep moving toward the blessings and to even thank God for them before we receive them. That is what faith is. Faith is gratitude in advance of the blessings that lay beyond the burdens. On this Second Sunday of Advent St. John the Baptist offers us the great hope that one day our path to the salvation which God offers will be made level and straight. We can help to straighten our own paths by thanking God in advance for the blessings to which they lead. In so doing, even the burdens begin to look a bit less burdensome we might even find ourselves focusing even more on the Lord than the blessings that He has for us. We come to understand more clearly what we are looking for.  And what we are looking for we tend to see.

Posted
AuthorCathy Remick

This year I am going to do something that I have thought about for a few years now but have not yet done. We all know that traditionally in the secular world the beginning of the Christmas season has been associated with Thanksgiving and the appearance of Santa Claus at the end of the Thanksgiving Day parade.  Not to give in to the secular world, but I do think that the Thanksgiving spirit, leads wonderfully into the season of Advent. I think that to experience and even celebrate the season of Advent as it should be celebrated we must practice gratitude. So many times, and we know it is true; we live in a way that displays ingratitude even though ingratitude is absolutely incompatible with happiness.  So why do we do it? My guess is that there are many reasons. Maybe we have unfair expectations of other people or of the world. Maybe we are too proud. Maybe we have a sense of entitlement or maybe we are so wounded that we can’t see any good possibilities around the corner. Or maybe we allow ourselves to fall into laziness and slothfulness. On the other hand there is no practice that is more effective in leading us to feeling better about ourselves than practicing gratitude. And we really do have a choice- we can go one way or the other. There was a study done in which two groups of people were given opposite tasks for period of 10 weeks. One group was asked to list everything for which they were grateful every day. The other group was asked to list everything that was bothersome or annoying to them. Guess what happened? In both groups, the lists became longer and longer as the weeks went on. Each group became either more and more aware of their blessings or more and more aware of things that made them unhappy. So, it really is true that we find what we are looking for. We need to look for our blessings and count them. Writing them down would not be a bad idea. And this Season of Advent is a perfect time to do just that. Through these coming weeks we will be given the opportunity to reflect on the blessings that God has given us through salvation history. By recognizing and counting our gifts and blessings our attention will be refocused from the gift to the Giver, who is, of course God Himself. GK Chesterton once said that the worst thing about being an atheist is that you have no one to thank. Our attitude of gratitude leads to a deeper relationship with the Lord and to a greater desire to give of ourselves in ways that we might never have imagined. It is very true that life is not always wonderful. But it is always true that cultivating an attitude of gratitude is a wonderful way to live. Happy Advent, everyone!

 

Posted
AuthorCathy Remick

Well folks, I feel like I must continue with my message from last week for a couple of reasons, but especially because I feel like I left you hanging out there on a limb.   Actually, I know I left you hanging and I did so purposely. You might remember that last week we heard of the story of  the Rich Young Man- the man who came up to Jesus to ask Him what he had to do gain eternal life.  We are told that in response to the man’s question, Jesus looked at Him, loved Him and said “There is one thing that you lack. Go sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor. Then come and follow Me.”  At Jesus’ words the rich young man “went away sad for He had many possessions.”  So what about us, we who also have many possessions?  Of course it is true that probably the large majority of us would not describe ourselves as rich, and perhaps we are not by today’s standards, but I am not so sure where we are by Jesus’ standards. I do feel pretty confident, however, that Jesus would consider many of us to be rich who do not consider ourselves to be. So, is that it for us; is the “game over?”  I think the Apostles must have feared so. “Then who can be saved?” they asked. Is there something else that we can do; is there another course that the rich young man could have taken, another course that we can take?  I think there is, and I am calling it the “gamechanger.”  There is something that we can do that will point us in the direction of Jesus and eternal life that will help us to become a better person a better follower of Jesus and a better disciple.  First of all we need to be honest with ourselves and admit that for many of us our money and possessions do get between us and the Lord. They can become the scorecard, how we measure ourselves and others and we allow it to compete with God for our hearts. Changing this dynamic is the gamechanger.  Money and wealth are indeed blessings from God, but that’s just it-they are from God.  What we tend to do is emphasize the gift, and forget about the Giver. I am convinced that there is much about discipleship and life that we will not get right until we get this right.  We begin to trust the gift more than the Giver.  God is the giver and we need trust Him more than the gift. The only way to do that is to become true givers ourselves. That is how we build up our trust in Him rather than becoming slaves to the gift. Of course the biblical answer is tithing-giving away 10% of our income to God and to the poor. The problem with tithing is that it even that seems so unattainable for us, so like the rich young man we give up. But we don’t have to-and there is no reason for us to do so. We can begin by changing our philosophy around giving and tithing by practicing the “four P’s of giving.”  First we make sure that our giving is planned, that it is intentional-we don’t just good to God and the poor randomly and haphazardly, we incorporate it into our budget.  Second, we make giving to God and the poor a priority- we make sure that giving comes first not after everything else. Third, we make our giving a percentage of our income; we need to start somewhere, anywhere, even if we start at 1/2% or one percent or 2%- as long as it is more than what we are giving now. We don’t have to start out at 10% but we need to start somewhere and then promise that our giving will be progressive (our fourth) step until we get there.  Moving in this direction can and will indeed change our lives. It will open our hearts to more authentic worship and will build our faith. It will serve as an investment toward eternal life-it will build up treasure in heaven and all the while it will help us to become the people God wants us to be. Jesus offers the rich young man and James and John the path to true greatness. I am convinced that this where we start. Remember, you make a living off of what you get. You build a life by virtue of what you give.

Posted
AuthorCathy Remick

And so we come upon him in today’s Gospel, the Rich Young Man. And we find that the rich young man is us.  He asks the question that we all ask: “What do I have to do to gain eternal life?”  Don’t we all want to have that opportunity, to ask Jesus straight up and point blank what we have to do to get to Heaven, because of course, if we only had a clear straight answer, we would do whatever we had to do to assure ourselves a spot there. Or would we?  Do we really want to know what it will take for us to get to Heaven?   Did the rich young man really want to know?  Did he really want Jesus to answer his question? Or would he have been happier if he did not get such a straight answer from Jesus? You see a part of me wonders that maybe he really did not want the answer.  Maybe he wanted to stay in the realm of the intellectual exercise. Maybe deep down there was a fear that Jesus was going to say exactly what He eventually did say but at the same time could not believe that Jesus was going to ask him to sell all His possessions and give them to the poor. Yet, he needed to know. He had everything else that he wanted, what did he have to do to “attain” eternal life?  So when he had the chance, he could not stand it any longer and asked the question.  And Jesus looked at him, loved him and answered his question.  But the rich young man went away sad for he had many possessions. Would he have been happier if he hadn’t asked, or if Jesus gave him an answer that would only prolong his line of questioning as he went away? But now he knows what he has to do-sell all his possessions and give them to the poor- but he cannot do that.  So what about us?  If we ask Jesus the question, Jesus would give us the same response. He would look at us, love us and tell us to sell our possessions. And we would probably walk away sad too. So what should we do?  Only we can decide. But if we are not ready to follow Jesus’ answer, then we’d better be ready to live our lives knowing that it is only the love and mercy of God that will get us into heaven and that we cannot attain it for ourselves.

Posted
AuthorCathy Remick

I do not mean to shock any one by writing this but speaking about marriage and divorce is not on any short list-or long list for that matter-of my favorite things to do. And I believe my sentiment is rather typical of other priests as well. But Jesus taught about marriage and divorce and what He teaches is the truth and His truth sets us free. So here we go.  First of all we can be sure that if Jesus is teaching us about anything, it is aimed at our own good and our freedom.  In the case of divorce, Jesus is looking out for the well-being of the women and mothers of His day.  Did you notice that at the end of this Gospel St. Mark tells us that “people were bringing children to Him that He might touch them?” Who do you think those people were? Bet your bottom dollar they were the children’s mothers.  Jesus, in His teaching against divorce was standing up for them. In His time a husband could cast aside His wife on a whim-for virtually no reason at all. Jesus was saying that this practice was wrong because the “two are to become one flesh.”  The love that exists between a husband and wife is meant to mirror the love that exists between Christ and His Church. Marriage is not a relationship that is meant to be easily cast aside. You might say “Get real, Father, look around you. It’s just not working out that way.”  It is true that some studies document that nearly half of all marriages will end up in divorce-but that doesn’t mean that it is supposed to be that way or that we or our children are better off because of it. Actually that is why we so much need to hear Christ’s teaching on this subject.  Also we should know that if a couple goes to Church together every Sunday, there is less than a 2% chance that they will be divorced and that if they study scripture and pray together that chance drops to less than one in 500.  God’s teaching works because His teaching is true. I will close with some words of advice from an unknown author for husbands and wives as they strive to live out the vows of their marriage to the fullest degree: "I will do more than belong, I will participate. I will do more than care, I will help. I will do more than believe, I will practice. I will do more than be fair, I will be kind. I will do more than be friendly, I will be a friend. I will do more than forgive, I will love."

 

Posted
AuthorCathy Remick