Quote for Today - June 28, 2013 "Most preaching is answering questions people are not asking." Anonymous 2 Questions: How does the preacher know what questions people are asking? Do people know what questions they are asking - and if they do how to they get them to the preacher? Picture: In case you were asking, the above is a posed preaching picture from around 1968 in the big pulpit at my first assignment as a priest: Most Holy Redeemer Church, East 3rd Street, Manhattan, East Village, New York City.
The title of my homily for this 12 Tuesday in Ordinary Time
is, “Where Do You Want to Live?”
If you could live anywhere in the world - anywhere - where
would you choose to live?
Today’s first reading - Genesis 13:2, 5-18 - we’re back to
Genesis - triggers that question.
Abram says to Lot, “Your
move! Go right. Go left. Your move. Your choice. Whatever you want? You choose
So Lot chooses green
pastures! Abram gets the rest - the dust.
WHERE DO YOU WANT TO LIVE?
That’s one of those questions.
It’s not a roll of the dice. It’s not Monopoly - where the
smart players want to own Boardwalk and Park Place with a hotel on each - just
waiting for visitors.
Nope! Sometimes we have a voice in the choice where we live.
However, the choice depends on lots of things: work, money, where spouse wants
to live, weather, family, location, location, location, circumstances,
Would it be Annapolis?
Would it be the AmalfiCoast? Would it be San Diego or Hawaii?
There was a piece on the evening news a few weeks back about some place, I
think it was in Ecuador,
where lots of Americans have settled. It has everything. Then with cell phones, Skype, and a great
supermarket and good stores and an airport not that far away - and the cost of
living is great - it’s a no brainer for some.
Where do you want to live?
It’s one of those questions that gets people to consider their values.
ATTITUDE: AN OLD STORY
I think it’s also a good question - because it gets folks to
look at their attitudes.
The following story I found very helpful. It’s an old story.
I’m sure some of you might have heard it somewhere along the line.
A man was raking some grass from his lawn. He sees a
stranger with a pack coming up the road towards where he’s working. The
stranger stops and asks the man with the rake, “What’s it like around here?
What’s this town like? I just left my
last town. I’ve been walking around and I’m planning on resettling - and maybe
The man with the rake asks, “Well what was it like in the town where you came
The man answered, “Well, the folks there
were selfish - greedy - gossipy - mean - and out for themselves.”
Well, the man with the rake said, “Those are the kind of folks you’ll probably
find around here.”
And the man with the pack said, “Oh thanks. I’m heading elsewhere.”
About 20 minutes later another man comes down the road - sees the man with the
rake and says, “Mister I’m a stranger here - looking for a place to settle. I
lost my job in the last place I was. What’s it like around here?”
The man with the rake said, “Well, what was it like in the last place you
“Oh,” the man said, “it was great. People were neighborly - sweet and neat.”
“Okay,” said the man with the rake. “Well, those are the folks you’ll find
The man said, “Oh great. Thanks. I’ll check it out.”
Where do you want to live?
The obvious answer to that question is an earlier question: “What’s
it like to live inside your mind?”
Enter that narrow gate and ask yourself serious questions
like what’s it like in inside you.
The answer to that effects and affects wherever you live -
whatever conversations or coffee breaks you’re at - whatever bench you’re in
here in church - whatever waiter or waitress you get in the restaurant - and
how you deal with nurses and attendants when you’re in the hospital - and what
they’ll say about you at your funeral.
INTRODUCTION The title of my homily is today’s psalm response, “I Praise You, For I Am Wonderfully Made.” As I read today’s readings for this feast of the Birth of St. John The Baptist - I was wondering what to preach a short homily on. It has lots of threads to pull, themes to look at. The psalm response from Psalm 139 grabbed me: “I Praise You, For I Am Wonderfully Made.” BABIES Babies - seeing a new born baby - brings automatic prayers - prayers of wonder and surprise, awesomeness and wow: “Praise you God!” How many people seeing a baby’s face, smile, eyes, ears, nose, fingers, toes praise God for new life. Awesome. How many people spontaneously say a prayer when they see a pregnant woman? I picture a pregnant woman knitting a blanket for her upcoming baby and composing Psalm 139 - especially these words, “Truly you have formed by inmost being. You knit me in my mother’s womb. I give you thanks that I am fearfully, wonderfully, made….” In the gospel accounts of Mary and Elizabeth in both their pregnancies as well as their bringing forth new babies, we hear two women praying and praising God. I did two baptisms on the weekend and as I stood there I saw both babies staring into space or somewhere and I thought to myself, “Where are they? What’s going on in their minds?” They won’t remember their baby years and baptism - but when they have kids or see kids - they will be getting a glimpse of what they experienced as a baby. Thinking about that, touch your hands and your face and ears and nose and say in prayer, “I Praise You, For I Am Wonderfully made.” NAME In today’s first reading from Isaiah we heard that God has a name for us, “… from my mother’s womb he gave me my name.” I’ve been on several retreats when the retreat master asked us to take a ballpoint pen and jot down God’s name for us. Then if we wanted to announce them out loud, with eyes closed, people said names like, “Beloved …. Precious …. Wonderful …. Selected …. Beautiful…. Grace …. Gift …. Sacred …. Unique!” So we have two names - God’s name for us - and our parents name for us - and many people pick up a third name - a nick name from friends - from life - or the name our beloved gives us. Then there are all those varities of sounds for grandparents. Jot down the ones you have had - recall them - and bring them to prayer. Say again today’s Psalm Response: “I Praise You, For I Am Wonderfully made.” OUR LIFE Next we can look at our life - and we can answer the question we heard in today’s gospel, “What, then, will this child be?” At the birth of a baby, at the baptism of a baby, at the first steps of a child, the first words, the first personality expressions, parents and others look at the child and ask that same question, “What, then, will this child be?” In prayer we can just sit there and look at how our life has unfolded since our first words, our first steps, our first adventures outside our home, then school, dates, marriage, children, life. In prayer and in time, we can answer for ourselves the lifetime question, “What, then, will this child be?” And then we can thank God and say for ourselves, today’s psalm response, “I Praise You, For I Am Wonderfully Made.”
The title of my homily for this 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time C is, “But Who Do You Say That I Am?” Jesus asks his disciples that question in today’s gospel. The question shows up in Matthew and Mark as well - so we hear this question and sermons on this question many times through the years. SOLITUDE: TAKE IT TO PRAYER Luke begins today’s gospel with Jesus praying in solitude. Yesterday Bishop Mitch Rozanski confirmed 142 of our young people in our Catholic Christian faith in a ceremony here at 9 AM and another at 1 PM. I was telling someone about this after a baptism yesterday evening and the parent of this teenager present said to their kid, “We got to get you into the religious education program so you can make your confirmation.” And the teenager said, “I want the right to choose my own faith.” Last night - after the day - I found myself thinking about those two moments. Bishop Mitch said to the young people that most of you were just little babies - when someone - your parents and god-parents - stood up for you - and pronounced the promises of baptism for you. Then he said clearly, “Today you are making that decision on your own.” Bishop Mitch had 4 points in his sermon - 4 things Christians do. The first was prayer. He even used the word “solitude” - the word we heard in the first sentence in today’s gospel. “Once when Jesus was praying in solitude, and the disciples were with him, he asked them, ‘Who do the crowds say that I am?’” I had a great seat right over there [point] and I could watch the Bishop preaching as well as the faces of the young people to be confirmed as well as the faces of their sponsors. Yesterday, as I sat there in solitude - in the midst of a 4/5 full church - I too was asking questions. What was going on in the minds of these young people right now? What were their parents and sponsors thinking? Do these young people ever turn it all off - and just sit there in solitude? What would it be like if their mom or dad walked into a room and their kid was just sitting there in the semi-darkness - and their parent said, “Oh, oops, I’m sorry. I didn’t know you were here by yourself. [Pause for a second thought and question.] What are you doing?” And the kid simply says, “Oh just thinking. Just praying.” If a kid said that, what would happen next in the mind of that mom or dad? Would they mention the surprise of it to their spouse that night when alone? Would one say to someone else on the phone, “You’re not going to believe this. I walked into the garage or back porch or cellar or living room and my daughter or son was just sitting there - all alone - quiet - and I asked her or him - what they were doing and they said, ‘Oh just praying!’” The bishop asked those 142 kids to practice solitude or quiet - and to pray - in the midst of this noisy and busy world. He also talked about service and witness and practicing our faith. I found myself only thinking about that first message - that of taking time out from time to time - to be quiet, - to experience solitude, to just quietly be in that space - to pray. I wondered if any of those 142 kids heard that - would do that - of if they already do that. Or do we all do that all the time - maybe not specifically - as in saying to ourselves, “Now I’m going to sit here in the living room - in this quiet corner - and think and pray.” But do we all go into ourselves - and do some deep thinking - in some quiet corner in our mind - while being in the midst of noise and family dinners or boring church services or car rides - or while watching or playing a game? IF WE DO THAT - WE COME UP WITH BIG QUESTIONS >
If we do that, we come up with questions - sometimes big questions. I noticed that teenager - who when his parent said, “We got to get into a confirmation program - so you can do that next year,” - the one who said, “I want the right to choose my faith.” I noticed him sitting off to the side last evening - by himself - just looking into the sky - seeing the big moon rising. What was he thinking? What was going on in his solitude? What were his questions? Jesus asks two questions in today’s gospels: First, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” Second, “But who do you say that I am?” In solitude I began wondering about those 2 questions. Did I ever ask and try to answer them of myself? Did I ever ask and try to answer them of others? Did I ever ask and answer them of Jesus? Did I ever ask and try to answer to them of God? For starters I’ve asked those two questions of others - many times. On Friday someone told me that I have to read a big long article in Sunday’s New York Times Magazine about last year’s presidential election. I looked it up this morning. It’s entitled, “Is Selling a President Any Different from Selling a Pizza?” I plan to read that article this afternoon. I have always been fascinated and wonder about perception and reality. I have often found myself getting frustrated when some says what another person is like. I’m of the: “Other people are complicated” school. I think we all need to start with ourselves - and in the meanwhile - with others - trying to calmly figure ourselves out - as well as our parents and spouse if married - as well as family members. We can begin with the first question. How am I coming across? Who am I? The first American question is: Where are you from? As we drive along or are at boring meetings or long lines or in traffic jams, we can ponder about how where we come from has made us who we are. City, rural, big family, little family, only child, oldest, youngest, middle child, divorce, deaths, money, lack of money, schooling, friendships, interests, marks, what have you. The next American question after “Where are you from?” is “What do you do?” Mom, dad, student, engineer, nurse, mechanic, gardener, sailor, waiter, waitress…. Those questions and answers are out there questions and answers, but Jesus’ second question is the deeper one: “But who do you say I am?” Ginny Dauses on many St. Mary’s High School retreats asks the kids to answer that question - the identity question - in a dozen different ways. She wants kids to see that they are not their masks or their externals. Who’s the me inside me? he best suggestion I have heard for this second question is the 25 I AM statement test. Simply get 25 pieces of paper or use your computer and list 25 answers to that the I AM ______ [fill in the blank] questionnaire. It used to be 10 - but I have found that after 15 we might start to put down some answers that are close to the vest. The beauty of this 25 I AM statement test is that we can revise it - add and change it. If married, it’s a great move to ask each other to come up with 25 You Are statements - and that can be a great eye opener. For example: what would a person think if they read, “You Are Angry most of the time…..” or “You are great at parties with adult neighbors - but lost in yourself when it comes to our kids…..” Wooooo! CONCLUSION I am someone who holds that the best way to go is to go from the known to the unknown. So I am someone who thinks if we do this for ourselves and each other first, it will be much more productive faith wise then when we do this to answer Jesus’ 2 questions. Who do others say I am? Who do you say I am? For homework then: do the 25 I AM self first, then the 25 You Are test second and then third, do this for Jesus - who others say he is and then who I say he is.
Quote for Today - June 23, 2013 "And then last night I tiptoed up To my daughter's room and heard her Talking to someone, and when I opened The door, there was no one there ... Only she on her knees, peeking into Her own clasped hands." Amiri Baraka [LeRoi Jones] [1934- ]