Saturday, September 24, 2011
FROM ONE ANOTHER
FROM ONE ANOTHER
Quote for Today - October 6, 2011
"In Genesis it says that it is not good for a man to be alone, but sometimes it's a great relief."
John Barrymore [1882-1942]
Who drains you?
Who energizes you?
Have you ever lived with a dysfunctional person? How long did it take to discover their pain in the drain characteristics?
HANDWRITINGQuote for Today September 26, 2011
IS ON THE BALL
IS ON THE BALL
"There are books in which the footnotes or comments scrawled by some reader's hand in the margins are more interesting than the text. The world is one of these books."
George Santayana, Recalled on his death, September 26, 1952
Quote for Today September 24, 2011
"The essence of tragedy is to know the end."
Charles W. Ferguson, Naked to Mine Enemies: The Life of Cardinal Wolsey, Little Brown, 1958
P.S. Check the quote for the day for September 23, 2011
Friday, September 23, 2011
Thursday, September 22, 2011
As you stand there on the lumpy,
clumpy green grass of a cemetery -
may the prayers and blessings of this
sacred place resonate and remind you
of both the boundaries and slipping
through those boundaries into eternal life.
May your tears become holy water falling
on the grave or graves of your loved ones.
May your loved ones come back once again -
if just for a moment -
just for a few sacred moments
in this here and this now.
May you see them come running towards you.
May you see scenes of eating bread, drinking wine,
beer, toasting one another with clinking glasses.
May memories of playing cards - walking,
talking, holding hands with them, hearing
sounds of laughter and song again
from the days of your youth.
May these graveyard moments bring you to pray -
bring you into the presence of God.
“O God because you are everlasting,
may we trust that You will bring all of us,
sinners and saints, into Your everlasting embrace.
“O Christ because you are resurrection -
bless us now with the hope to know
that nobody is here in this sacred cemetery,
only sorrows and sadness and solid stone
memories - fading names and dates
on so many aging tombstones.”
May we then be blessed to move our eyes
from looking down at green grass and white stones
and look up to see blue skies above - but to know
that the sky is just a blue ceiling underneath
a great, big, wide, polished wooden dance
floor of the place called, “Heaven!”
May we be blessed to hear the pounding sounds
coming down to earth
from that great big shellacked wooden floor -
the moving feet
of a hundred million Irish step dancers -
dancing in tune with a hundred thousand
fiddlers, pipers and drummers,
inviting everyone else into the Eternal Dance of God
the Trinity of Music, Smile and Dance and All. Amen.
© 101 And Then Some More Irish Blessings and Prayers, Andy Costello
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Quote for Today - September 21, 2011
"I didn't know what she was saying when she moved her lips in a Baptist church or a Catholic cathedral or, less often, in a synagogue, but it was obvious that God could be found anywhere."
Lillian Hellman, An Unfinished Woman, 1969
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
Monday, September 19, 2011
Quote for Today - September 18, 2011
"My father died
many years ago,
and yet when something special
happens to me,
I talk to him secretly
not really knowing
whether he hears,
but it makes me feel better
to half believe it."
Natasha Josefowitz, Is This Where I Was Going?, Warner 1983
Sunday, September 18, 2011
IT’S NOT FAIR!
The title of my homily or reflection for this 25 Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year A - is, “It’s Not Fair.”
I assume that a lot of preachers this weekend will preach about this basic message from today’s readings.
“It’s Not Fair!”
I assume that we need to hear and reflect upon this basic message on a regular basis - because on a regular basis - we scream, “It’s not fair!” inside our hearts and minds - stress on “inside”.
At least that’s what I’m thinking about this weekend.
“It’s Not Fair!”
My brother used to love to say, “Who said life is fair?” to kids who screamed, “It’s not fair!”
And they would look at him with a strange look - with an inner doubt and an outer defiance on their face that said, “Well I think it should be fair!”
Don’t we all?
Or to jump to another level, when people brought up the Problem of Evil question to the philosopher Jacques Maritain - as in, “How come cancer hit so and so at such a young age?”, he would bring up the Problem of Good. “How come there is so much good in the world?”
I always liked that answer and when I thought about what was good, I would think of ice cream as one of life’s great gifts. I like to watch the faces of people in downtown Annapolis - walking around in the evening licking ice cream cones. It’s a beautiful sight. Then I got diabetes. It’s not fair.
And someday I want to write about the Problem of the Disaster - what a neighborhood looks like after a tornado or a fire or a flood - and contrast that with the Problem of the Beautiful - saying, “When was the last time you checked out the Grand Canyon or the Grand Cayman Islands?”
QUESTIONS - QUESTIONS - QUESTIONS???
Is the fairness question, life’s biggest question?”
I don’t know.
I was trying to think of what other questions might be in competition for being the most basic life question.
Could it be: How come? Why did it happen? How could you be so stupid? How could I be so stupid to do what I did? Dumb, dumber, dumbest!!!
Or would the question be one that is more simple and more basic like: What’s to eat? How much does it cost? What do you want? Can I help you?
When it comes to God, what are the questions? Is there a God? How does God work? Does God have a plan for how life should work?
The more I looked at other questions, the more I could hear the fairness question clinging to these other questions. I wondered if down deep these other questions are all singed and tinged by the fairness question.
I don’t know.
Down deep I then ask: “Do I really know God?”
I believe in God, but do I really know God - how God thinks - how God is?
In last week’s Sunday Gospel, we found out from Jesus that God forgives big mistakes - big bankruptcies of soul - and we are to do likewise - forgiving not 7 times but 77 times. [Cf. Matthew 18:21-35]
However, we then found out that too often we are not like God. We don’t even forgive the petty crimes and debts and loans of love, we owe each other each day.
And I suspect that’s why today’s first reading from Isaiah 55 is paired with today’s gospel. It says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.”
Then Isaiah 55 doubles that by having God saying, “As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts.”
We heard today’s gospel - Matthew 20: 1-16. Don’t we identify with the workers who spent most of the day working in the hot sun - but peaking out the corner of our imagination and watching those standing around street corners and plazas doing nothing but tossing pizza crusts into the street instead of into trash buckets?
We wish they would see us - working. Look at me I’m working!
And at the end of the day we become really hot and bothered with those who only worked an hour and got the same pay as we did.
Jesus wants us to revisit his Parable of the Vineyard. Jesus wants us to imagine ourselves as this last group. We might be working up a storm, but inwardly - if we’re going to be one of the complainers - then we’re still not in the Lord’s Vineyard. We’re still not in the Lord’s attitude. We still haven’t entered into the Lord’s way of thinking and seeing.
And if we're still petty, there’s hope for us - because Jesus is telling us it’s not too late. It might be your last hour, but come into the Vineyard now. Come into my way of thinking now - at the last hour. Try it, you’ll like it.
I’m not sure, but I think God likes the sound of “at last!”
Maybe the biggest question is: “When do I at last realize that God thinks differently than I think?”
Today’s parable of the Generous Landowner is hinting - hinting - hinting - that God thinks differently than we think.
Hopefully, the longer we live, the more we grow; the more we grow, the more we start to know how God thinks.
I think the way we discover how God thinks is to first discover that others think differently than we do. Then we might make the leap to God. “Maybe God thinks differently than I think.”
Maybe the way life works is. There are 3 stages: me, me, me; then you, you, you; then God, God, God.
The child is into me, me, me. The teenager starts to change when he or she meets, you, you, you. Then the adult, when they have that first child says, God, God, God.
Does it work that way?
Or do we move from self-centeredness to other-centeredness and then to God-centeredness more from rejections and hurts and disasters?
Or do we meet someone who is genuinely happy - someone whom we notice and then observe having a great attitude towards life - a great way of thinking - and being human? Then we get the grace to realize that they are in the Vineyard. They are not showing off. They are into God’s way of thinking. It’s an invisible vineyard. It’s also called “The Kingdom.” It’s also called, “God’s Will.” It’s what the Church is about - not itself - but for the Kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven.
Hopefully, we get the grace to say at some hour in our life, “I want that!” and we enter the Vineyard - at 3 o’clock or 5 o’clock - the last hour.
And surprise: we find out that the grapes are delicious in the vineyard. And on top of that, we get the big pay off too: the laughter, joy, peace, and wisdom of God.
In today’s gospel, I’m sure those who were paid a full day's wage for just working an hour - had a great smile on their face.
I wonder if they heard the grumble of the others.
If they did, what happened next?
Sometimes some church people - some kingdom people - some followers of God’s will people - miss the whole message of Jesus.
When it comes to forgiveness and generosity, they still haven’t caught what being God-like is like. It’s being Jesus like. It’s practicing God’s funny over generous unfair crazy like generosity. Love your enemies. Turn the other cheek. Welcome home Bad Boy or Prodigal brothers. Put down the rocks. Stop complaining about those who are last minute church goers. Be happy they made it by communion time.
Try God’s way of doing life. Try it. You’ll like it. Taste it. You’ll find out you'll like yourself and others a lot more.
So if you find yourself saying to all this: “It’s not fair!” then get back into the Vineyard. You haven’t tasted enough of Jesus’ grapes and wine and life yet. You're still tasting just gripes.
I think the operative word in today’s readings is the verb to think!
I think the operative message in today’s readings is to think differently - think how God thinks.
Get a ball point pen and write on the palm of your hand what we heard in today’s first reading: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways, my ways, says the Lord.” If you don’t like too much ink on your palm, simply write, “Isaiah 55:8.” Or use your palm pilot - if you can do that with a palm pilot.
The title of my homily is, “It’s Not Fair.”
Let me make one more sweep of that issue and then get to my conclusion.
["That’s not fair! You got the microphone."]
We see the, “It’s not fair” reality in kids the easiest.
It’s good to start with ourselves. As a kid, what was I like?
I’m the youngest of 4 - and I remember that a family up the street had a train set - and it came out a week before Christmas. I loved standing there looking down and watching those Lionel trains going around and around their Christmas tree. And every year they would get a new train car - one with logs - or one that sent up smoke - or one that had automobiles on it - that could roll off and there was a button that made the train go “Toot Toot!”
We never did get a set of trains growing up. And we never did get our Christmas tree till Christmas eve - when they cost practically nothing.
I’ve heard my two sisters, Peggy and Mary, say at different times, “We were poor, but we didn’t know it.”
Looking back I didn’t know we were poor most of the time.
As a kid I did wonder at times what the phrase “making ends meet” meant. I complicated it a bit, because all through my childhood I thought the “meet” in “ends meet” was spelled “meat” - and I’d wonder what kind of meat the bigger folks were talking about. I guess I was too young to get abstractions.
So I agree with my sisters that we didn’t know we were poor - except for that secret desire I had that we would have a train set. I don’t remember ever saying, “That’s not fair!” but looking back I think I felt that a bit.
My sister Mary also says as an adult, “Our parents had 4 only kids.”
Thinking about that, I realize that’s a “yes” and “no” as well. I’m very happy we were 4 kids and I’m very, very, very happy that they had that fourth kid.
I didn’t discover till my 30’s that I spent a lot of time comparing myself to my brother - who was the oldest.
And after that realization, I think I realize that’s the way it works. Does a larger family provide greater “itch” and “rub” and “it ain’t fair” questions than a small family - and as a result it gives the kids in a bigger family a better chance to be stretched and grow?
Or can the issue of comparisons be taken care of in the classroom or on teams or in dating or liking or disliking our first and last name - or that other kids' parents were easier with rules and regulations or what have you?
I wonder at times how much does childhood experiences like “Hand me downs!” or being the smallest kid - effect people’s behavior on how many kids they want or how they hope Christmas will be or how they want to raise their kids?
So I assume that we need the “It’s not fair!” thought or feeling to challenge us to get us to where we need to get?
I think it gets us thinking. I think it gets us to ask, "Does God really have a plan for everyone?"
If God does have such a plan or “will” how specific is it?
Next: if God has plans and blueprints for all of us and one is less than another, would God do that to us? How fair is that?
Is it God’s plan that there are always poor people?
Didn't Jesus say, “The poor we always have with us”? [Cf. Matthew 26:11; Mark 14: 7; John 12:8]
So is it fair to be born poor? Is it fair to be born where and when we are born - with the genes we have - even though they are hand me down genes and DNA?
Is it God’s hope that we're blessed when we realize we’re all poor - rich and poor alike? [Cf. Matthew 5:3]
The need is to get into the Vineyard. Some get in there ahead of others - but it's their loss of spirit if they become Pharisaical about it.
The call for all is to we realize we can enter the Vineyard - no matter how late or how early - and to realize and celebrate how generous our God is.
By the way, that's why we're here right now and that's what we're celebrating. Hint. Hint. Hint. Amen.