“The Good Samaritan”

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“A man is seen lying on the ground a short distance from you. He’s bleeding, in great pain and cannot move. Left for dead on a narrow path traveling on his twelves mile trek from one town to the next. Mountains surround the small road, so bandits have easy spaces and places to hide and rob. Who keeps walking on for common sense, selfish purposes? And who stops and offers the most Godlike/human response?” Before you know it, you’ll be entering ‘The Twilight Zone’ of Gospel stories.”

You may not know this, but there are many others who passed this hurting person. The first passerby is always our U.S. illusion of independence, so often wrongly defined and selfishly lived. The second passerby is the best of our country and more importantly the best of our beautiful Christian faith. The first says each time, “I’ll shoot for personal happiness,” and the second says each time, “No, I’ll shoot for meaning and moral joy.” Which one are you and which one can you be?

(Adapted from “The Second Mountain,” by David Brooks.)

The first says, “Celebrate independence,” when the second comes by and says, “I will celebrate interdependence. I will celebrate the chance to become dependent on those I care for and for them to become dependent on me.”

Next first guy celebrates autonomy, the second sees the wounded and “celebrates relation.”

First guy yells out where the nearest hospitals and soup kitchens are in a self-assured voice. Second guy stops to “listen and respond, communicating in the voice of intimate exchange.”

First guy boosts to himself (who else could or can he boost to?), “No one’s watching, so what do I care,” second guy whispers this is an “enchanted world, a moral and emotional drama.”

First guy doesn’t see much self-interest, turns away. Second one “says that a wold view that focuses on self-interest doesn’t account for the full amplitude of the human person.”

(First guy isn’t doing too well, is he?)

Again with this first guy, “I’m only interested in buying and selling.” Second believes and feels, the “main activity of life is giving. Human beings at their best are givers of gifts.”

First guy, “There’s a Sheraton not too far away. If I keep him there for three night, I’ll get American Airlines miles. Then when he’s better, I can coax him into the ‘Refer a Fiend’ program. I get 30,000 more free miles, and he’ll get 10,000 miles. It’s a ‘win-win.’ Who says, ‘I’m not a nice guy’?” Second guy, “There’s a Sheraton a short distance from here.” Period.

First guy once again, “You have to love yourself first before you can love others. Second steps up and says, “You have to be loved first so you can understand love, and you have to see yourself actively loving others so that you know you are worthy of love.”

Poor first guy … last one folks, “A person makes individual choices and keeps their options open.” Number two guy, Life is “a vale of promise making” and promise keeping. “It is about making commitments, tying oneself down, and giving oneself away. It is about surrendering the self to making the kind of commitment that, in the Bible, Ruth made to Naomi: ‘Where you go, I will go, and where you stay, I will stay. Your people shall be my people, and you’re God my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried.’”

We’ve heard this gospel story too many times to not complete it with our response.

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Jesus says, “Follow me”

After talking to an AT&T representative, a recorded voice says, “Please stay on the line for one, simple question.”

“Ummm,” I think to myself. Alright. The voice returns, “If you owned a company, would you hire the person you just spoke to? Press 1 for ‘Yes,’ or 2 for ’No.’”

What an absolutely great way to rate someone. I love that. Jesus loves it too. Instead of asking a question, Jesus gives a mandate, “Follow me.” He doesn’t ask if you want to or not. He smiles at all the excuses we sometimes give him. “Yada, yadda, yadda,” Jesus thinks to himself while we rattle off all the reasons we can’t…

Oh wait. Reasons? There is nothing reasonable about following him and being a Christian. If you’re only concern is getting to heaven then I guess you have a reason, but I also feel sorry for you. Because you will never know the why of that smile in the eyes of someone receiving assistance from St. Vincent de Paul….listening to stories of past failures with your eyes of hope staring back…volunteering when you could be watching “The Guiding Light”…bringing communion to someone who wanted to be here but can’t…should I list fifteen more examples or do you get the picture?

There’s nothing reasonable about being a Christian. Just because your parents were ones doesn’t make you one. St. Paul calls us, “Fools for Christ,” witnessing in our own day and age, the “folly of the Cross.” A fool doesn’t know why he/she does crazy stuff but a Christian fool does.

In the examples I gave, it was all about doing when a Christian is all about being. By being a Christian, you are empowered to do in the name of Christ; only good, only holy, only worthy of his Father.

I guess in some ways, ours is a reasonable religion. Just ask Thomas Aquinas. But he also points out that without the feeling of Christ within our hearts and souls, it’s all meaningless words and dogmas.

The Blessed Mothers says, “My being proclaims the glory of the Lord.” She doesn’t mention her deeds but we know that her deeds flowed from her inner being, from her soul.

That AT&T gal was rated. Jesus doesn’t rate us with a 1 or 2 press of a button. Jesus says, “Follow me and then watch and see what happens to both your life and the lives of those you touch, in my name.”

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Communion: Reward or Grace, II

A Christian’s lifelong question – rarely answered to our satisfaction – but eternally inquired about: How does God participate in my life? What do I do in my life in relation to God. The Catholic Church has all kinds of debatable prayers that that causes us to think that we’re a little more in charge of our faith than we are. Indulgences is one example. We need to be careful to remember who the Creator is and who the created are. Clay cannot make itself. Clay needs a skillful Potter, a well built pottery wheel and a durable kiln…and heaps load of patience.

June’s special Sunday is Corpus Christi, honoring the body and blood of Christ.  But is receiving communion a reward or is it grace?  Is it about our past behavior or about our future actions and deeds? Is communion intended to be a type of treat for those who are doing a good job or is it intended to be a source of efficacious grace.  (I love the word efficacious although there are not many opportunities to use in daily conversation.) Although saying, “efficacious grace” is redundant.

Grace only produces the desired holy result that defines efficacious. Grace is the Potter’s wheel.Careful, wet hands creating a holy person and assisting those who wish to be holy. The Potter’s kiln is the spiritual heat that shapes the grace deeply inside the clay.

I offer this to you today for your personal reflection. Sinners and those slightly off the path need the Eucharist more than anyone. Instead of denying politicians communion, the bishops should be saying “You need to receive communion much more frequently than you presently are.  You need the grace of the sacrament to help you in your discernment and judgments.” That’s why, in second grade, confessions precedes communion. (Seven years old is still the age of reason. I don’t know about you but I’ve never talked to a reasonable seven year old? I hold out for thirty years old.)

Is it our attitude and preparation toward the Eucharist that makes it grace-filled or is it the reception that prompts better behavior and closer links to God, Jesus and Spirit? In other words, is it God working within us or is receiving the eucharist a bonus, a reward?
Receiving communion once a day was intended to make it special and not abused by hoping from the church to church. Again, the focus was on our thinking, that we can do something, like somehow blacktopping our way to eternal life, when that is solely reserved for the Potter.

It’s Tuesday and this is what happens. We receive communion at a morning Mass for that occasion. You then attend a funeral at Noon and receive communion honoring a good friend. The evening wedding reception of communion wishes the newlywed blessings in patience and perseverance. Three special occasions in one day asking God to bless each with that redundant efficacious grace.

Before receiving we admit that we are not worthy and then pray that the Potter continues to spin that grace within and through us.

We enter church and humbly admit that we are clay. We gather, as the Body of Christ receiving the Body of Christ, to honor the Potter. We open our hands or mouth and receive the Potter’s Son filling us up with all the graces we need to be the people the Potter created and hoped we would be.

And, if you have your Pick N’ Save card handy, you get three hours off of purgatory. (I’m kidding.)

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A Millenial’s Decision Time, Or Not

confused-teenage-boy

“Okay, so I’m kinda, pretty close at that decision I can see directly in front of me. However, at some point, it seems that some of those other options are also attractive to me. I’m not sure but I think that sometimes making a decision is to be decisive. In a manner of speaking, it seems that multiple choices only prolongs decisive decisions, but that’s only how it appears; I’m not sure. Sometimes, but not always, I feel a sway leading me from one of them to one of the other ones that I’m still not sure about yet.

It appears that time is a factor but don’t hold me to it, at least all the time. In a manner of speaking, I suspect that a fashion of my decision depends a little (or a lot) on what I know and what I don’t know.

If my behavior bothers you, I apologize even though it sometimes, rarely happens. There’s a slight chance that I may be nearing a decision very soon, if not later. In a way, I strongly believe that a slight pause may assist me in my deliberations.

(Is my childhood bicycle helmet the result of my waverings? If I fell off my bike a time or two, would it have taught me a lesson? Was mom calling me a snowflake every morning, the unique person that I am, the cause of my “mights” and “sometimes’?)

I’m not sure but I sometimes and often times, wonder. Well, I’m done for now. I think or confidently hold that this treatise is close enough.”

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Sun, Moon & Lovers

(A friend challenged me to write a short story using the words, “sun, moon and lovers.” How did I do?)

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It was in a restaurant and, of course, I was late. A friend of a friend set us up and told me to look for a guy in a red sport coat. (I guess red isn’t that popular, hence…)

I spotted him and noticed he already had a glass of wine. I didn’t mind. I smiled as we shook hands. (Forget the pre-wine, he held the chair for me. That goes miles for me.) It’s weird, but it didn’t take long into our conversation, waiting for the food, that I began to notice my reflection in his face. In talking about my struggles at work, he was affirming but not in the first-date sort of way. He truly listened to me and even offered some helpful tips about perspective and not taking myself too seriously. It was a delightful meal, as though we had many meals like that. But that was the first.

On our fiftieth anniversary, the card he gave me said that his life with me reflected back to him all the good he was able to do. Then he quoted Jerry MacQuire saying, “You complete me.” Yes, I cried. Our five children and grandchildren attended our family party, and I was able to see in all of them, the reflections back and forth between their father and me.

I look at the sun in the morning and feel its warmth throughout the day. The moon, with all its phases, has influenced me uncountable times. The union of these illuminating, celestial beams had truly made us lovers.

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“Ink”

(A friend challenged me to write something that used the word, “ink.”)

I signed it. It is finished. I thought I wouldn’t have the nerve to make it happen, but I did. It’s funny how you go back and back before making a definitive decision, and yet you know that this is what you want.

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I need to now abide by it. It said that I have thirty days to withdraw, yet why would I, after all my deliberations with family and friends. Some friends said that I was “Crazy” to do it. I think that’s because they were speaking about themselves more than my resolve. My family had a hesitant agreement with me, but that’s because they know about my history of indecision.

Yet, I signed it. It is finished.

The word “permanent” came to my mind, which made my mind turn fuzzy. Permanent? You’ve got to be kidding! Me? Thirty-five years old and I haven’t done anything near to honor that word.

It’s not my problem. What’s permanent in our lives these days? A friend told me that the destruction of society was the invention of the Styrofoam cup. You’re able to throw it away after using. Once. So the domino-effect continues throughout our lives as though we have no control over them. Marriage? Give it a few years even I stated “for life” in front of a lot of people. Fetus? Only if it’s the financially right for my husband and me. Cable? I think I’ve had and canceled them all. And, do you ever think I’ll have a job as my father did for forty years? You already know that answer.

But today, I signed it. It is finished.

It’s not large, but it’s able to give me space for my garden along with a small patio to entertain friends. I liked it the first and only time I saw it. It just felt right. It just felt like home. It just felt like me.

I signed it. At first, I wanted to use a pencil as though I could erase it as quickly as I wrote it. But then I thought, “No.” It needs to be signed in ink. Permanent. Lasting. Unending. I can afford the apartment, it’s now mine. Because you can’t erase ink.

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Bart & Us

I don’t follow sports but I love the characters they present to us about their lives and how it relates to our lives – even if in smaller ways. (Gleaned from The New York Times)

2008-bart-starr-op77-2732-midVince Lombardi worried that the young man might be “too polite and maybe just a little self-effacing to be a real bold, tough quarterback that a quarterback must be in the National Football League.”

50 years later, the annual N.F.L. award is given to a play, and voted on by players, for outstanding character and leadership on and off the field…it’s called the “Bart Starr Award.”

Bart’s father seemed to favor his older brother as the better athlete, he dies, at 11 years old, after stepping on a dog bone of tetanus, barefoot.

With Lombardi writing the script, Starr directed the offense. Another comment said, “Lombardi directed during the week and Starr for the game.”

The last day of the year, 1967, Dallas Cowboys…13 degrees below zero with a wind chill -49…new heating system beneath the turf failed and only made the field an ice pond… 17-14 Dallas, with 70 far yards toward victory…16 remaining seconds…time-out called by Starr and he confers with Lombardi, Starr thought he could sneak the ball across the line himself…Lombardi doesn’t think the fans could stay an extra period in that cold, he tells Starr, “Then run it! And let’s get the hell out of here.” Final score 21-17, Packers.

Chooses a lesser school to marry his sweetheart, Cherry in 1954.

The Packers selected Starr out of the University of Alabama with the 200th pick in the 1956 draft.

“Mr. Nice Guy” label that frustrated him but he never contradicted. Founds Rawhide Boys Ranch, faith-based nonprofit residential care center for at-risk youth.

37 years old, he retires from football. Returns to the Packers in 1975 to coach for eight seasons but is fired even though he jersey number “15” was respectfully retired, but not him. (Cue Kenny Rogers’ song, “You got to know when to hold them, know when to fold them…”)

His son struggles with drug addiction and dies at a waaay-to-early age.

Packers president and CEO, Mark Murphy, “A champion on and off the field, Bart epitomized class and was beloved by generations of Packers fans. A clutch player who led his team to five NFL titles, Bart could still fill Lambeau Field with electricity decades later during his many visits.”

Did Bart represent only himself or something or someone else? Can we do any less in our commitments, beliefs and representations?

Initiation (Baptized into all of life’s circumstances), Testing (early years, school) Called “Formation” in churchy terms, Profession (Are you who you represent yourself to be), Personal developments but performed publicly (the Sacraments), Setbacks, tragedies (the Cross), Resolve and fortitude (the Resurrection).

All never accomplished alone but in sport’s term, it’s called teamwork. In the Church, it’s called the Body of Christ.

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Love One Another

Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and God will glorify him at once. My children, I will be with you only a little while longer. I give you a new commandment: love one another. As  I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

istock_000010229813_smallPresumably, you are here today to hear something inspiring from me. You hope they are words to take home with you. You pray it doesn’t linger on forever.

If it’s clarity you want from your local cable channel, then good luck with that. If it’s about an enduring relationship, listen up. Just compare the two of them.

“It’s allegedly been reported that a possible major car accident happened today but it could be slight. Stay tuned for complete information.”

I love you. (It’s only three words.)

“Those familiar with the situation have stated, although off the record because they have no authority to speak on the record, have firmly stated that they think…”

I love you. (It’s just eight letters with a period at the end.)

“We interrupt this program for this ‘Breaking News.’ ‘Heather, it’s all yours.’ ‘Thanks Dave. Nice tie, by the way. Here’s what we know, right now. A gunman supposedly fired shots at a group of unknown victims somewhere around here with a gun bought from some store and we believe he lives somewhere else than here. That’s the most accurate, latest update I have for you Dave, now back to you.’ ‘Wow, thanks Heather for that in-depth, up-to-date update on something we still know absolutely nothing about. Now here’s an advertisement about a pharmaceutical product that you truly do not need with possible side effects of dizziness and diarrhea, the two favorites of drug use.”

Love one another. (It can easily be said in one breath.)

(And my favorite of them all) “Tomorrow’s weather is partly cloudy with a twenty percent chance of rain with the highs in the mid-50’s. If you’re planning on going to the Brewer game, you may wish to take along a light jacket since the dome will be open.”
The next day the dome was closed and we got five inches of snow.

(Three simple words.) I love you.

“At a future date, the president is expected to release an unmapped resolution that may have devastating effects on the economy. As least according to anonymous sources.”

Love one another. It just flows from our hearts through our mouths. No modifiers or qualifies.

Speculation has it that eating butter (no wait), eating more than one egg a week (no wait), sitting too close to the TV (no wait), making that face at six years old (no wait).”

Love one another. Three words with a space between two and said through sincere eyes.

“Congress said today that it suspects that undisclosed officials may reveal their undecided votes on a measure that may affect millions of Americans.”

I love you.

The reply to, “I love you” is never, “I love you too,” because that can be a knee-jerk response to a genuine, true proclamation. You got to say it on your own.

“Well, that’s the complete news that you need for shock value and to keep you watching, out of fear, while they continue to use vague, uncommitted words to foolishly convince you that you are now informed.”

Or, you can turn to the person watching TV with you and say, “I love you” or to remember the one who now lives within your heart with those three profound, never-to-be-outdone words, “I love you.”

“And, that’s the news.”

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Deacon Carlos First Sermon

First Homily.
Deacon Carlos Londono.
Studying for the priesthood, Archdiocese of Milwaukee
Ministering at Queen of Apostles Catholic Church, Pewakee, WI.

April 28th, 2019.

26229815_2062153010733537_7972690073184852346_n(1)Today, I get to preach for the first time. And I am grateful to God that my first homily ever will be on His Mercy since today is Divine Mercy Sunday! And I am so grateful because I know that if I can stand in front of you this morning and preach it is because of his Mercy, because he had mercy on me. So, as I said, it is very fitting to preach on God’s mercy this morning.

So, here we go, the Mercy of God.

One day I was visiting my friend’s parents, the Colles. They own a farm where they have cattle and sheep. They day I was visiting they also had newborn lamb and, of course, I wanted to see the them! When I got to the farm, I was told three of them had lost their mother and they had to be bottle fed and so I asked if I could help out feeding them. When these little lambs saw me approaching, bottle in hand, they began crying because they knew they were going to get fed. And then I thought: thank God someone hears their cries of these lamb and comes to feed them every day.

This is the best image I’ve gotten so far to describe God’s mercy: He hears the cries of the poor. He truly hears the cries of the poor. And He wants us to do the same.

                                          Notice – Care – Take Action

This morning, I would like to propose a way for us to be merciful, to hear the cries of the poor. Three steps: notice, care and take action. In other words, notice the cries of others, care about them and do something about them.

Let’s see how this three steps are played out in the Word of God that we just heard proclaimed. In the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles we heard that some people that had just become Christians were taking the sick out into the streets so that when Peter passed by, he could see them and heal them by the power of the Holy Spirit. These first Christians noticed the pain of these sick people, cared about it and did something to heal that pain. Had these sick men and women remained unknown, had their pain not been noticed by these new Christians, their cries would have not been heard at least in the way the first reading describes it.

So, I would like to ask a question: do we notice? Do we notice well? Do I notice the family member that is sad or in difficulty? do I notice my friend’s or my spouses’ pain?
When we notice, God notices as well!

Now, noticing should be accompanied by caring! I can notice things going on around me and not take the extra step of caring. The easy way out would be: “well, someone else will do something… or “well, life is hard anyways!” This might be the easy way out but it is not the Christian way.

Here is a second question: How much do I care about the things that I notice? How much do I care about my son’s or daughter’s bad day at school or my neighbor that has been sick for a few days now? Do I let these things affect me? Do I let them get to my heart and move me to compassion, to action?

Now, the action part. Yes, the work of mercy is also that, work. The first Christians from the first reading took the time and the effort to bring the sick people out into the streets, they laid them on cots and mats and as you can imagine this takes time, energy and resources.

One final question: am I willing to let go of my time, energy and resources to do the work of mercy? Am I willing to invest in doing something about the things I notice and hopefully care about?

Brothers and sisters, doing this kind of work might leave us wounded sometimes. Look at the Heart of Jesus: it was pierced! If we live out mercy, if we notice, if we care and are moved to action: to feeding the hungry, to consoling the sad, to visiting the sick and the lonely, to being kind! If we do all these things we might get our hearts pierced as well. We might run out of energy, or confront people’s ingratitude or standoffishness and get called “weird” maybe.

If that ever happens to you, I invite you to come to this altar. Here, God not only asks us to be merciful but He provides us with the means to be so! And what are these means? His flesh, his blood: Himself! He feeds us with himself so that we may be so full with his life, that we may do the things that He does: like noticing well, caring deeply and doing the work of mercy.

This is quiet the challenge for all of us but it is also quiet the joy! Jesus promised happiness to those who are merciful! “Blessed [happy] the merciful, for the will be shown mercy.” (Matthew 5:7). So, do we want to be happy, brothers and sisters? Here is the secret: notice, care and be moved to action.

 

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“Grandparent’s Day” Prayer

thYou received a prefix to your first title because your children now have several of their own. If you live long enough, another prefix will be added that is greater than “grand.”

Those who now exist and who earned you that first prefix wishes to ask you what the Great Flood was like and if the Garden of Eden is as lovely as people say it was.

Those who now exist wonder why many of your sentences often begin with “Back.” (“Back in my day,” “Back when I was your age,” “Back before you were born,” My back is killing me.”) Those who now exist will forever remember the scents of your home. Uniquely yours. Old furniture? Old Spice? Who knows but the redolence remains.

Spending an overnight with you was a real treat during those grade school years. Only I was chosen to spend the evening and morning hours with you. We went to bed waaay too early, and you snored, but I didn’t mind because it meant that you were still alive. You provided treats that parents would never have permitted which only made you more special to young mouths. You wear outdated clothes, but I guess it matches your hundred of years older than me. Also, thanks for upstaging my parents every year with your Christmas gift. You sure know how to shop.

You tell stories that seem to go on forever. I don’t always understand your stories, but I love watching how intently you tell them. Hearing your accounts for the third or fourth time helps me know what you’re trying to say. I don’t mind.

You never get angry at me, only at my parents. I like that about you. I can’t get too mad at my parents. There’s no “time out” given to you after an argument. You’ve said that you especially love us because you get to spend fun time with us, and then we go home. I understand it’s that early bedtime thing again. (Although, I remember one time when I said, “Sh_t” to you and I discovered the delightful taste of Ivory soap.) You had me do chores for you like picking raspberries in your garden when the grocery store is full of them and hedging the lawn which just seemed dumb.

You can’t seem to stop complimenting us. Whether it’s the oversized purple elephant picture or the “I don’t know what it is” picture on the refrigerator door, you smile and always say, “Wow, look at that!”

You could ease up on the hugs and kisses, but I guess our being alive means that you are too.

Thank you, grandma and grandpa, or in our family, it was Oma and Opa. Either way, it’s grand to have known you as we extend the length of your life with grand thoughts and great memories.

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