“Imitation of Christ,” 30th Sunday

My neighbor’s two-year old son carries around the doll named Sheriff Woody. Just try taking Woody away from him. How often is Marlon Brando mentioned by actors as a model. Either to meet his standards or surpass them?

How many saints looked to Jesus Christ as a model. Meeting his standards may prove a difficult feat but attempting to meet them is the call of the saints. And, I may suggest, to all of us budding saints.

St. Paul uses the word “imitators” today and it caught my eye. Girls walking around in mom’s big high heels shoes and boys holding a pretend cigar (at least during my youth). Thinking about the neighbor kid, his dad told me that he’s absorbing stronger than a sponge and observing every movement of mom and dad. What his growing brain does with all that information is anybody’s guess but it’s all resting and living up there.

Jesus gives us the greatest challenge of our earthly lives in a short, succinct declaration. A loving declaration about love. There’s our life’s bar. Repeating, it’s not to reach that Christ bar because failing and fail again we will, yet our attempts, our daily efforts is well worth imitating.

We read and hear often about being Christ-like. It’s almost admitting missing the bar from the start. Still, time to time it also implies that that “like” is possible. It’s like the teenager who uses the word “like” six times in one sentence trying to describe what is difficult to accurately describe.

I’m in a store small talking with the clerk waiting for my bill. He looks at me and says, “You look like Fred MacMurray.” I said, “Fred MacMurray!” I was holding out for Brad Pitt. However, Fred’s earlier photos do bear a resemblance. 

Ezekiel hits us hard this weekend saying we were all aliens at some point. A good message for our nation these days. Lend money and ask for no interest. Compassion, anyone? Returning his cloak before sunset because the owner only owns one. Kindness, anyone? And, I know a lot of widows but no orphans. After hearing Ezekiel, I hope no wrong ever comes from me to hurt them.

“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery that mediocrity can pay to greatness.” Oscar is partly correct. Nevertheless, and all the more, we are not mediocre. Our baptism in dying to ourselves and rising with Christ is our homage paid “to greatness.” No one can flatter the Son of God. You know, sometimes it is okay to copy someone’s work. Go ahead and peek over to the next desk where the smartest kid sits. We look to Christ through his words and in his sacrifice to copy from his test of life modeling the test for ours. For he was found worthy, this sacrificial lamb. Found worthy to be imitated, again, again and again, and declared out loud once more, “again.”

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Unsaid But Felt Words

Here’s two words you’ve never used in sentences your entire life. You’ve surely felt and experienced them but never having them leave your lips. They are St. Paul words. “Yearning and groaning.”

Today it’s the tension between Caesar’s tax and giving to God what belongs to God. Jesus cleverly wins another argument by making that distinction. “Nary the two shall meet!”

We groan and yearn so very often for Divine intervention and spiritual support. Yet, I’ve not heard anyone say, “I yearn for April 15!”

This is the temporal, earthly escapade versus the Divine, spiritual ecstasy. Our timely time here and the timeless bliss of life eternal.

“Nary the two shall meet?” Here’s a good way remember the dissimilarity of the two. In the “Here and Now,” you have the threesome, “Me, Myself, and I.” Selfishly stated, how often we think to ourselves, “What’s in it for ‘me?’” Then drilled into our heads since childhood is the equally uncaring “Myself.” We’re taught to be Clint Eastwoods’ in our supposed independence and freedom. Yet don’t touch my Medicare, or my pension, and never call me on Tuesday mornings because of Walgreen’s discounts for seniors. The “I” is the simplest. Just recall how many of your daily sentences begin with that one, miserly letter. That’s the temporal, earthly version.

The Divine spiritual version also has three. They are the names we gesture at the beginning and ending of each Mass.

So, there’s the difference. Or, is there a difference? I was wrong, as usual. The three Divine names are relied upon especially during our difficult, trying times. We yearn and groan for patience and joy during that time. Now that’s a union. Also, during tranquil times in our earthly lives we generously lift up praise and thanksgiving to those heavenly three. Those heavenly three who touch every inch of our temporary, fleeting time.

This union also works in reverse. Our earthly adventure finds its purpose and meaning in spiritual thoughts. And, especially in human actions prompted by Divine inspiration and spiritual interaction. This union of the two softens and makes sense of our dwindling time aiming toward that time without end.

Speaking of ending. You may be now groaning trying to make sense of what I’m saying. You also may be yearning for a conclusion. Well, being the spiritual person that I am and aware of your time, I happily grant your two wishes.

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Opening Three Gifts for God

“A feast of rich food and choice wines” may very well be the hopeful thoughts of those on dialysis three times a week.

“On this mountain, he will destroy the veil that veils all peoples,” may very well be the revelation that you do not know everything about everything just because you watch cable news every night.

“The Lord God will wipe away the tears from every face,” might very well be a year after the death of someone you love. You still tear, but at that time, that time is accompanied by a smile for having known that person.

Finally, in the last of my Isaiah excerpts is “let us rejoice and be glad that he has saved us.” That may very well mean that salvation is given us as a gift—the gift of God’s Son. 

Dare we open that gift? (I feel like Monty Hall.) Gift number one. Do you rip the wrappings off and quickly look inside? Or, gift number two, do we carefully unwrap this precious gift because grandmother is watching and wants to reuse the wrapping next year? One more “or.” Or, gift number three, do we put the gift aside and wait for some setback or disappointment to occur before we slyly peek inside?

Those are my three questions for us fellow faith travelers on our way to Matthew’s Gospel of the great wedding feast. The wedding feast of life eternal. The wedding feast that doesn’t need to wait. For it can also be celebrated every single day here and now. 

The first is the ripoff. It’s someone else’s faith that you fool yourself into living. Faith passed on? Yes. Faith owned? No. Two of my sisters were nuns, and my brother was a Christian Brother. All three quit. When I was in eighth grade, the undertone from my parents said, “Not are you going to the seminary, but which seminary are you attending?” It worked for me because of question number two. My three siblings are all spiritual but uncovered and lived in their own discovery.

Most three questions save the correct or best answer for last. This time I sandwiched the best one in the middle. It’s the number two method for opening this magnificent gift we call faith. (Forget grandma, she’ll get the wrapping.) It’s the slow exploration of faith – questioning/learning, doubting/accepting, struggling like Jacob and the angel while knowing that angels always win. That’s the carful and deliberate formula for revealing religious mystery after religious mystery to us. Wondering about some of them, cherishing and holding on others, and smiling at the rest. 

Folks, this faithful journey of life, is truly the number two gift. “Walking in the mystery of life,” a pastor friend told me years ago, and she was right. It’s not always complete acceptance, as though God is the only One in charge or that we’re solely in charge. It is always a giving over ourselves to something (Church) and someone (Jesus Christ).

Gift number three? It’s the cheapest and most convenient gift. But, remember that it is still a gift from God. Number three is the emergency box at restaurants and hotels. When an emergency falls upon you, you break the glass, grab the ax, and hope for the best. Not worthy of our Creator, but, I’m told, it still works. But here’s the spoiler alert for gift-opener-of-number-three. Be careful what you wear to a wedding because you may not have been invited.

Dialysis, cable news, and tears. I hold out for gift number two through all times of life; good, threatening, or indifferent. Wrapping neatly folded and never forget to save the bow and then proudly hand it to grandma, I mean God.

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God’s Vine and Us

It’s a “vineyard” weekend in the Catholic Church. It’s a striking image describing our connections and relationships with each other. Now, many of us don’t know that much about vineyards unless you live in River Hills.

Isaiah tells us to “sing” of a vineyard. I don’t know a vineyard song, but I know that music always unites people, unless it’s rap or a polka. Lest I digress. Creating the choicest of vines for the finest wines. But the vine needs to produce in a community of elements; hence a unison, otherwise it’s just silly wild grapes. Pruning or being hoed just won’t work. The vine ends up being thrown in the fire. Pretty sad stuff, don’t you think? The virus was supposed to unite us, as many other tragedies have done. So much for that vine. This parish keeps us connected to both God and each other, and I think we’re doing an excellent job, even though I’m still the new guy.

But hey, in thinking about this weekend, at least for me, I discovered a new word. It’s tendril. Tendril is a leaf that’s attached and supports that ever-climbing thing we call a vine. This new word provides life-giving energy, even sacrificial in giving its very life for the support of the entire vine. Tendril. A new term with an old meaning.

You all know the rule: I can’t sleep tonight until I put it in a sentence and make tendril my own.

We say that we’re social animals, yet how many of those times do we love to beat up everybody around us. “No one does things as well as I do,” we smugly say to ourselves. Try recalling your relationships or encounters this past week and consider how tendril you were. (Hey, I just made a noun a verb. But not a very good sentence. I’m still working on my one sentence.) We love judging and admonishing members of our family, even when sharing the same blood, but somehow that relative’s “tendril is not like mine,” we selfishly say to ourselves. Or, how about two strangers? Like that male receptionist or the young girl at the bank? What connections can be shared between two human beings, known or unknown?

All of St. Paul’s writings are about tendriling our way through life. He’s either writing angrily about divisions in this town against that other town, or he’s writing enduring poetic poetry about the union between the Trinity and us, and about keeping you and me an “us.”

“Whatever” is the beginning of Paul’s litany. It’s not said like a valley girl, “What ever” as though anything goes, but it is the faith-filled “whatever” to be relied upon in any of life’s situations. What words follow Paul’s “whatever?” How about “Honorable, just, pure, lovely.” I told the male receptionist that I liked his hair cut; it’s the look where it’s real short all around but full on top. His eyes beamed wide with his “thank you.” Paul’s final word after saying whatever is gracious. Frankly, the most vital blessing given to anyone.

Before we eat we say, “Let’s say grace.” We begin each Mass with the powerful “grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.” I told the bank clerk whose counting out my withdrawal cash that I liked her nails, multicolored; must be important to her. Her smile back to me said it all.

This is “Respect Life Month,” the first Sunday in October. It’s a serious time to rethink our attitudes and renew our beliefs in the sanctity of life. Life, from the tiny hands we see on billboards to, hopefully, the wrinkled, well-worn hand we lovingly hold onto at her deathbed and offered up to God.

Tendril. Just try telling me the next time that guy’s fixing his hair and she’s scrambling to get her nails down before work that they are not thinking of my compliment, not me, but only my fleeting, five-second sincere comment.

As usual, Jesus has the final say today about vineyards. His is the Old Testament, and New Testament combined. Cancel cable and just read the Old Testament stuff with lots of mayhem and killing to satisfy any male twenty-year old’s appetite inside of us. New Testament stuff is that the kingdom of God will continue to grow, with or without you. But along with you because of God’s grace and our willingness to say ‘yes.” Because God’s kingdom is not of our making or water to the vine. Ours is an honorable, just, pure, lovely, and a gracious participation. Why? We are tendril continuing to grow the Divine vine.

Sorry folks, but I can’t use tendril in a decent sentence. I think it’s because it’s not only a noun but can become an adjective, verb, and even an adverb. That word becomes our living vocabulary due to the threesome we call the Trinity and the other three’s expressed daily in our lives: in our thoughts, words, and deeds.

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“It’s the ‘Three’s’ of Spirituality”

We just love our “the threes.”

How many jokes are told in threes, “A priest, a minister and a rabbi walk into a bar…” Then there’s Patty, Maxine, and Laverne, and how about “Ready, set, go?”

“Father, Son, Spirit,” anyone? We honor this weekend welcoming three people fully into the Catholic Church when receiving not two but three sacraments; Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist. (Too bad we didn’t have this service at 3:00 p.m.)

Jesus didn’t die at five o’clock, nor did he spend a week in the tomb. The whale story was not about four days. Judas received three times 10. Peter doesn’t just lie once, ohhh nooo, he had to hit that magical number. Wisconsin has three of them: summer, fall, and drawn out winters.

The number three. Living life’s triad. Baby, adolescent, adult. Morning, noon, and night.

There’s a biblical story that’s not found in the Bible. This story explains living our lives through three objects. The story’s called “Jack and Beanstalk.” The objects are “magic beans,” “a harp,” and a “golden egg.” Life’s mystery trying to be interpreted.

The “magic beans” are gained by selling the animal that makes milk or (Sorry, moms) “mother.” Eventually, we need to trade mother for our own maturity, our own responsibilities, “to be on our own?” anyone? With those “magic beans,” a “vine of life” rises before and above us; “the sky’s the limit?” anyone? Those beans create a life vine enabling us to steal that “harp” and that “golden egg.” Stolen to become our own. “Nothing in life is free?” anyone?

                                More religious stuff after this short break. 

There’s Larry, Curly, and ? Later there was Larry, Curly, and ? Ummmm. “Five Musketeers?” No, subtract two. How about three soldiers with one match? “Shake, rattle, and __?” I don’t follow sports, but I do know about the Chicago Bull’s threesome. Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and…and…Dennis Rodman. And then there’s “six legs and a bra.”

                                             Now back to the good stuff.

The “harp” is our professional lives – recognizing and using our gifts. We say to ourselves before our first job interview, “to make something of ourselves.” You almost need to steal the job you want. Rarely, just handed to you. Then your contribution to this world is the beautiful sound of the harp. The melody of your life is fulfilling your passion, as any occupation ought to be.

We all know that eggs break easily. That’s why the “golden egg” from our fable is the fragility of this human life. The egg of our personal, private lives. Twitter, Facebook, and others can unknowingly but easily crack the “golden-ness” of that precious gift. The precious gift of our own self-esteem, our worthiness before others, and most especially before God.

One traded, two stolen—the critical “threes” for a thankful, gratifying God-like life journey. The three sacraments received this weekend makes “Jack’s” fairy tales gifts come true. The rituals are the graces freely given by God. The Holy Spirit’s gifts of fortitude, strength, the awe of God, and the rest of them breathe life into Jack’s fabled gifts. To own them, to live them, to witness them and to share them with others. All empowered through the power of the Holy Spirit.

I’m done but here’s three more. You remember, “Faith, hope, and charity?” Tony Orlando’ sang don’t hit the pipes but knock that many times on the ceiling. And, do you remember the Motown sound of Diana, Mary, and Florence calling themselves…?

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“Seven Times?” Wrong

Peter thought he had the best answer to impress the man Jesus. In the public school, he’d tell his friend, “I got this.” In a Catholic school years ago, he’d wave his hand saying, “Sisster, Sisster! It’s 7!” He thought to himself, well, there’s 7 of them in a week, until the Beatles centuries later made it ‘8’.” Peter thought to himself, “I bet there will even be seven sacraments once I become Pope.” He thought right, for a change.

Jesus retorts, “Silly man, it’s not your magical number ‘seven,’ it’s the bigger seventy times against your measly seven.”

Dumbfounded, as Peter often is, he’s speechless. I sometimes think that Peter is the fall guy in order for Jesus to make his important point, important. He’s the Costello to Abbott. Or, he’s the Gracie to George.

“Reach beyond that perfect seven,” He said to His apostles and to us today.

Seven contains the number three of the heavens and soul with the number four of the earth and body. Hence, the term, “Seventh Heaven.” Guess how many colors there are in a rainbow?

Here’s a spiritual sentence that needs to be said twice. It’s the imperfect perfection of perfection. That’s our daunting Christian task. Seven may solve the predicament, but extending it beyond that number makes it God-like. And, I also add, makes it the best of us.

“Oh hummm, I can’t be like God so I’ll settle for the ‘seven’ part,” says us to ourselves every, single day.
When added the opposite sides of a dice always equal the number seven. I have no idea what that means but aren’t you glad you came to church today?

“Seventy times seven,” says the Son of God. Troublesome? I hope so. Jesus tempts us to do better than the mere good we sometimes do. Temptation. We usually thinks that it’s the devil’s method. Jesus tempts us each day to do better.

We think goodness, but how often turn away from it. Ignore it. Kindness can then tempt us in any situation. But, we tried it how countless times and how many times it just didn’t work.

The key to Jesus’ thinking is more than that we “tried.” “Nah,” we say to ourselves, “I tried this seven perfection shtick and it fell flat.”

Gee, I wonder who many gifts are from the Holy Spirit? “That’s all! Only seven of them to be lived for a lifetime? I need more!”

King Solomon’s temple took seven years to build; every seven years is considered a holy year in the Hebrew Torah; Israelites during the battle of Jericho were told that marching around the walls of the city “those many” times would ensure their victory; in Jewish tradition, the deceased are mourned for seven days; in the Christian tradition there are seven deadly awful sins, and the plaques numbered the same number. (That list was only six. I can be lazy in my “imperfect perfection” attempts.)

What does Jesus Christ startlingly say to his followers and to us today? When does the better become good and then when does the good become the best of your life? There are many more numbers to witness and live throughout our lives.
To hate and to divide is the easiest game in town to play. No thinking. Self protection. Selfish. Carefully watch out for it in others and especially watch out for it within yourself. To forgive anyone is a game changer, if only for your own well-being. You sincerely reach out and extend a wish of forgiveness; no “ifs” about it. None of that “If I hurt you in any way…,” or “If I offended you whatsoever…” That’s called showing yourself as a blatant fake.

That’s the weak seven, but it seems to work, sometimes. As Christian men and women, Jesus asks us to go beyond that perfect number and to multiply our numbers again and again to those we have harmed and to what we have harmed in ourselves.
What number of years causes an itch in a marriage? Snow White has how many little, friendly friends?

Jesus powerfully tells us to, “It’s the new math we hated teaching our kids but it’s the religious new math that leads us toward perfection!”

Watch and see what happens…

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“Magic” Sacramental “Moments”

(Perry Como sings, “Magic Moments”)

Who’s the singer? That song was Burt Bacharach’s fist big hit. “When two hearts beat are caring,” is truly magical.

It’s even more natural for us to look for a “magic moment” in religion. We can call them miracles or spiritual times that changes us, or strengthens us, or straighten us out. Each sacrament can contain such a moment. However, we tend to narrow that special moment within the sacrament and miss its meaning or application.

Take the Eucharist, for example. All of you would probably agree that the consecration is that sacrament’s mystical magic. Not necessarily. I was taught and believed that it’s the doxology, proclaiming the Trinity before the “Our Father” is prayed. But that may not be necessarily so either. The magic of the Eucharist is what is received on Sunday and then lived on that hump of a day, Wednesday, together with its worries, schedules or whatever concern concerns you. That’s the test of Sunday’s reception.

One would think that Holy Orders is both the laying on of hands by the bishop and priests and the Holy Oil rubbed into the candidate’s hands. I think the magic of the priesthood is the humbling experience of celebrating Reconciliation or Confession. The mystery of God’s mercy being poured into a soul seeking a fresh start or a restart.

For us this weekend, it’s the final initiation sacrament of Confirmation. One would confidently conclude that it’s the extension of the priest’s hand on the confirmand’s head; although not is the virus season. It is also the Holy Oil placed on the person’s forehead; only with cotton during this virus season. But do you really think that that’s the beginning and ending of this sacred sacrament? Wouldn’t it be only the beginning of full membership in the Catholic Church along it’s lifelong commitment of service, prayer, and a faith-filled life? It’s the mustard seed of this and all the sacraments?

We could talk about Marriage forever but I think its magic is the mutual forgiveness after their first argument. That makes a sacrament “sacramentally,” the adverb any sacrament calls us to be. It is all about action, behavior, and effort.

Let’s have a little English lesson today. Verbs are important. They spell action. Nouns pronounce that something’s happened. Both are good but it’s verbs that gets us through life and especially in our faith. Here’s our sad, non-action Catholic verbs. Please pay attention. “I went to Mass today.” “I got married last weekend.” “I say five rosaries a day.” “I gotta go to Confession this weekend.” Please notice the absence of energy and propulsion in those crazy, dull, and inactive verbs. “Went, got, say, and gotta go” are not the verbs of God. “I gotta go to the bathroom,” expresses the same sentiment. When are the verbs heard? Verbs like praying, healing, adoring, sanctifying?

Sacraments are spiritual nouns that, because of the sacrament, become active, engaging religious verbs in all of our thoughts, words and deeds.”

That’s what makes a sacrament holy by its old Catechism definition: “An outward sign instituted by Christ to give [each of us a daily hefty dose] of grace.”

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Cheap Grace & George Carlin

It’s the American way. Always looking for something and paying nothing. The advertisers tease us. We tempt ourselves. It’s often called “bait.” And the fish? Are you and me.

“Free installation, free admission, free appraisal, free alterations, Free delivery. Free estimates. Free home trial And, free parking. No cash? No problem! No kidding! No fuss, no muss. No risk. No obligation. No red tape. No down payment. No entry fee. No hidden charges. No purchase necessary. No one will call on you. No payments or interest for twenty-four months.”

We all know that our faith if fed and fueled within us through the power of the Holy Spirit; yet, yet we continue thinking there’s just kinda be an easier way of being a Christian. We’re Americans. There just has to be a way to get a deal. Full price! Ugh!

“The serpent said to the woman: ’You certainly will not die! No, God knows very well that the moment you eat of it, your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods who knows what is good and what is evil.”

Gosh, there’s got to be some kind of short cut, some kind of angle that I can rangle for myself. Like buying a lottery ticket because all the odds are in my favor?

“So come on in for a free demonstration and a free consultation with our friendly, professional staff. Our experienced and knowledgeable sales representatives will help you make a selection that’s just right for you and just right for your budget.”

“Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized that they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made [Fruit of the Loom] loincloths for themselves.” Naked equals being made a fool of instead being vulnerable and spiritually naked when it is rooted and lived in the life of Christ, and for Christ.

“Say, don’t forget to pick up your free gift: a classic deluxe custom designer luxury, high-quality premium select gourmet pocket pencil sharpener. Yours for the asking.”

“Sacrifice and burnt offerings, [I don’t need,”] says God. God wants hearts that are contrite, true, humble and worthy of the sacrificial death of His Son. Wait a minute! Sacrifice of His Son? Just picture that huge stone at Gethsemane. Apostles are sleeplessly out. Jesus, kneeling, praying to His Father and, and He’s bargaining! He offers God his “If” question. “If only…” we could work something out Father. “Then let this cup pass” [and Me and boys will be on our way]. The Son of God “wheels and deals” to show us how futile it works with God. And, how sad when we do it to each other.

“Limited time only so act now, order today, send no money. Offer good while supplies last, two to a customer. Each item sold separately. Allow six weeks for delivery. Some items not available. Some assembly required. Some restrictions may apply.”

Next time you return home from Mexico (if there will ever be a next time) please brag to your friend how you paid the Third World vendor more that he asked for the stupid scarf. If I hear one more person brag about haggling a poor person out of five dollars… Jesus solves his bargaining problem by powerfully, and, most importantly, humbling saying, “Not my will but Yours.” Can we do any less in our lives?

“Low rates, friendly service. Name brands. Easy terms. Affordable prices. Money-back guarantee.”

Whether we stand, kneel, or bow; like Peter, can we proudly proclaim, “Truly, You are the Son of God?” Can we hear that constant whispering voice placed within each of us first at our Baptism and then renewed each time we receive the Eucharist? Can our Confirmation unyoke our self centered selfs the way it did for the high school students who became full members in this Body of Christ Thursday night? (“Unyoke,” I like that. Never used that word before.)

We don’t need to travel to a mountain, experience an earthquake or be burnt by fire. Like Elijah, let us hide our faces in our cloaks (and masks) and go out and [see] the entrance of the cave. Leaving that selfish, dark and dank cave that only held selfish selves. Can we turn to the God of oneness and inclusion, unity, and love? The God of forgiveness for ourselves and those around us. Can we continue to search and find that “hidden pearl” that’s we think is hidden but stares us all in the face in the morning mirror.

The gift of living this earthly life in a heavenly way fulfills the creation God created. Witnessed for us by the disarming decision of His son and is continually reinforced by the Spirit we call “Holy.” This becomes the full, enjoyable, and enriching life God blesses and empowers us to live every single day.

“No purchase necessary. It’s just our way of saying thank you. Batteries not included. All sales are final.”

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The Sower of the Seed

“Jesus said, “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still, other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.”

I wear hearing aids, so can I ignore this parable!? But, let’s see what happens anyway. Am I seed number one? Or, is seed number two me? (I feel like Monty Hall!) Perhaps for my life, it’s the number three seed. Oh yes, there is always that notorious, envious fourth seed.

Oh my, which seed am I? The first seed is an Alfred Hitchcock movie, meaning for us the seed was easily misplaced or lost because we were stuck in a phone booth, talking only to ourselves. “Rocky ground” seed sounds very familiar to me. Seed number three has the “thorny” sound of making poor choices in friends. Seed three is safe because you always have someone else to blame for your wayward actions.

Ahhh. Seed number four. Fruitful, generative, valuable, rewarding, and how many other affirming and peace-filled words. Number four seed reminds me of funeral elegies. A tad over the top? I wonder to myself, “Is this the same guy that I knew?”

So. Those are the four doors, I mean seeds, of our lives. All beginning in goodness, promise, and hope. And the rest of our lives plants replants and replants again any or all of those seeds.

That’s what’s wrong with the statue and monument destruction these days. The same as our ancestors, we are all four seeds. On a good day, we’re the good seed, number four. Tuesday rolls around and the number two seed rears its shallowness. Wednesday night, seed three rings loudly in our heads that our life is always someone else’s fault, never owning it ourselves. Seed three is most days when we neglect to water seed four.

Confusing? I hope so because our lives contain all four of these tiny, little growing things that either scare us out of life or invite our life to be more deeply lived.

After the “Our Father,” the priests says to you, “In your mercy keeps us free from sin.” I don’t know what that means but it sounds important. Is God not providing us with enough mercy to grow seed number four? Wrong.

Yet, we are all four seeds, always seeking to grow that fourth seed. The one that yields. We all hit number four sometimes, but often behave within the other three; the ones with the Hitchcock birds, the rock holding us down and those nasty thorns.

God’s mercy is extended every day to the first three hoping and praying that number four yields the wondrous grace that God gave each of us at our Baptism and is not never returned to God until it achieves “the end for which [God] sent it.”

“I’m Monty Hall and that’s our show for today.”


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“Not By Bread Alone”

When do you do your best work? If you’re a morning person, you’re quite pleased with yourself come lunchtime. The afternoon now becomes a cinch.

If you’re a “last-minute type of guy,” the time of day doesn’t matter, it’s just about the deadline.

Jesus learns of his cousin’s death and just wants to be alone. Yet, five thousand people seemed to have heard of his “alone time,” so Jesus feeds them all, not counting those who don’t matter. “Women and children,” not counted! How much more time would it have taken to include them?

Jesus surprises those counted and uncounted with not stomach food but instead provides food for living this life fully in the love and protection of God, through our witnessing the life of His Son, and relying on the continuing presence of the Holy Spirit. For us, it only looks like a measly wafer, in its spiritual effects it is truly hardy.

I misled you at the beginning with the material work that seems dependent on your temperament. The real work of our lives is those nighttime revelations about yourself and your relationships with others. Sometimes soothing, but oftentimes haunting.

Haunting because those thoughts that echo in your tired head are not felt within your heart. Or, more importantly, fed by your soul.

We so often rely only on material food that so very often only yields illusions in a safe and a carefully guarded version of ourselves. It’s so much easier and enjoyable to eat a hamburger than to prayerfully delve deeper into your spiritual life and personal behavior.

“Food that perishes,” that’s a polite word for our bathroom visits. Or, is the food we need one that prompts us to be better Christians, a complete person; the person God created each of us to be. A welcome digestion to reside and live in your soul.

So, please welcome your haunting nighttime guests who have faithful morsels that await your attention. For those midnight morsels can and need to slowly become the whole Christ-wafer.

This is a First Communion weekend at St. Catherine’s. But, I’m terribly sorry once again, I misled you. This day and every other day is the first communion for us all.

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