Tag Archives: life and death

14TH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR, 2017

A man by the undistinguished name of Robert Kent, who had worked for the same company for 33 years, was given several years ago a grand dinner party upon his retirement. At that celebration, several of his co-workers noted that what they loved and admired most about him was his optimism. In an article in a Connecticut newspaper he wrote, “If indeed I am optimistic, I got to wondering where that sense of optimism came from.”

After noting that the firm had gone through some very difficult times, he went on to say, “I finally concluded that whatever sense of optimism I have comes from my Christian faith. Christianity, at least as I understand it, is rooted in optimism. We are optimistic that God is with us and loves us; we are optimistic about life after death; and we are optimistic that God will be with us in good times and in bad. It seems to me that having a life based in faith leads to an optimistic attitude. Without faith, I don’t know how anyone can be optimistic. One of the reasons I like to go to church is that I meet the most wonderful people there. By and large, they are optimistic and caring people, filled with love and concern for their fellow humans. Each Sunday our faith and optimism are renewed through our liturgy…”

It was the enthusiastic exhortation of this Sunday’s first reading, those few lines from the Hebrew prophet Zechariah, that inspired this homiletic approach and the following commentary.

We celebrate Mass every Sunday not to make installments on a spiritual insurance policy, not to beg God to forgive our sins and wrong-doing, and not because we are required by Church law to do so.

No, Sunday Mass is is simply our time-honored way of thanking God for what we are and what we have, of being renewed & strengthened for the next lap of our earthly journey, and, as St. Augustine so well put it, of receiving more of what we already are.

But what are we? We are the body of Christ in the world of our time & place. Jesus said, “As the Father has sent me, so do I send you.”

When we receive Holy Communion, it is not to be understood as reward for good behavior; it is not essentially an act of adoration we are performing. We are receiving into our hearts, minds, and entire lives more of what we already are – nothing less than the body of Christ! We receive his person, his Spirit.

The question arises then: What does my being the presence of Christ demand of me, do for me? It demands of us that we act in all circumstances as he would have us act. It requires us to be open to the direction and empowerment of the same Spirit that directed and empowered Jesus.

Think about that, please. Let it obsess you. Can you imagine how peaceful, how loving, how beautiful our homes and our lives would be if we were increasingly acting according to his example?

Let’s pray that a wave of change pass through our community, transforming every heart and every home precisely as needed!

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28TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, 2016

Some of us have had life-threatening experiences that brought us to death’s door. Many such persons work at not losing the gratitude they felt when they escaped death. We speak of a child’s limited attention span, but we have to admit that that’s a characteristic we carry with us all our lives. When we lose the capacity to be grateful or let it whither, we are candidates for the disorder of consumerism, the need to keep adding more & more new things to our lives because we have lost the ability to appreciate what we already have. We can be like babies or little children, who grow tired of their toys and playthings and need to have them constantly replaced.

A Benedictine brother by the name of David Steindl-Rast is the author of a practical book entitled Gratefulness: the Heart of Prayer. I read it many years ago when I was having trouble praying. Prayer had become a chore for me, very mechanical, rote, too formal, too pietistic, so regulated that it had become downright boring and thoroughly unsatisfying. It seemed more like a religious duty than personal conversation with God. Brother David explained in his little masterpiece that prayer to God should be basically gratitude. In fact, he wrote, it can be entirely — only — gratitude. It is essentially our acknowledgement that we are creatures of the ultimate source of all being that we call God. We did not bring ourselves into being, nor can we prevent our inevitable deaths. We are creatures who have been made by a power, an intelligence, a love that is other than ourselves. Prayer is simply expressing our thanks to the Creative Spirit for the gift of life. After all, we need not have been, but we are.

Prayerful persons extend that thankfulness to take in every detail of their lives, especially all those other persons with whom they enjoy relationships of love and friendship. Hell, the theologians tell us, is not a distant, fiery place; it’s not a place at all. Hell is the condition of that human being who is totally alone, has no one to relate to. The spiritual person lives in unceasing gratitude for that, above all: that we are created to enjoy community, relationship. Jesus’ prayer, as we know from the Scriptures, was always formed around gratitude to the Creator, whom he called “Father.” He was very sensitive to that primary duty and privilege of the human being, to be grateful for his or her very existence. He could be terribly disappointed by the behavior of those who recognized their blessings yet were not thankful. We sensed that disappointment in his comments about the ten lepers who had been cured, although only one had the thoughtfulness to be grateful.

The word “Eucharist,” as you know, comes from the Greek word for gratitude — “thanksgiving,” giving thanks. What we do here at Sunday Mass is basically an act of communal gratitude. While each of us brings special reasons to make that kind of prayer, we mustn’t let it end there. Rather, what we do in Eucharistic liturgy should inspire us to live always in gratitude. It’s really so easy and natural; it makes life so much happier and more peaceful for ourselves and those whose lives are connected to our own.