Sunday, July 21, 2013

Homily For 16th Sunday In Ordinary Time 2013

Genesis 18: 1-10a
Colossians1: 24-28
Luke 10: 38-42

"The Lord said to her in reply, 'Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.  There is need of only one thing.  Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.'"  (Luke 10: 41-42)

How many of us who have had family gatherings, or dinner parties, can identify with Martha?  It is an old cliche, but I think is still valid; “the more things change, the more they stay the same.”  We see in today’s Gospel the story of Martha and Mary, the sisters of Lazarus.  They hear that Jesus of Nazareth is coming to visit their village.  Now, we can speculate that Jesus’ reputation as a preacher, a healer, a miracle worker; has preceded him.  And maybe Martha wants the honor, the rise in social standing that would come by having Him as a guest in their house.  In some ways, Martha reminds me of Hyacinth, the main character in the BBC/WGBH show “Keeping Up Appearances;” who is middle class, but wants to appear as upper class.  And she will do anything to maintain that appearance, often with comic results.  So we see Martha rushing about, preparing food, making sure the guest’s glasses are not empty, that their feet have been washed and they are comfortably seated.  And amid all this work, all this running around; there is Mary, just sitting there, listening to Jesus talk.  We can understand how upset Martha must have been.  So she complains to Jesus; and what does He say: “Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her!” That must have taken the wind out of Martha’s sails! 

Now before Vatican II; many monastic communities, and religious orders of hermits, have all used that Gospel passage to prove the superiority of the contemplative lifestyle over the active religious lifestyle.  Since the Second Vatican Council, we now know that there are many ways to live the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

So what is this “better part,” that Jesus is talking about?  I think we can get a clue from the first reading.  We see Abraham, seeing visitors coming into his camp.  He immediately recognizes that there is something special about these individuals. He senses the presence of the Lord.   He immediately offers them hospitality, washes their feet, prepares food and serves them himself.  He is aware that he is in God’s presence, and he receives a promise from God, that He will begin the fulfillment of His original promise to make of Abraham a great nation.

Both Abraham and Mary, I believe, knew, sensed that they were in the presence of the Lord, because they were open to that encounter.  Martha, however, was not, because she had so many things on her mind.  In some ways, we are more like Martha, rather than Mary.  How open are we to the presence of Christ in our daily lives, or are we too busy; have we giving in to our anxieties, cares and worries. 

But Jesus Christ is with us.  We are all part of His Body.  He is ready to heal us, to strengthen us, to guide us, to inspire us.  We will soon witness the changing of bread and wine into His Body and Blood. And we will receive Him through Holy Communion.  When we leave here, let us not forget that Jesus is still with us.  And as we do our housework, go to market, work at our offices, and play our video games; keep our hearts open and let Christ speak to us.  And if we take the time to listen, we will have chosen the better part and it will not be taken from us.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Feast of St. Bonaventure - 2013

“As Jesus was the true worshiper of the Father, so let prayer and contemplation be the soul of all they are and do.”  ( Art. 8, Secular Franciscan Rule)

On July 15th, we celebrated the feast of Saint Bonaventure.  Born during the time of Saint Francis, he attended the University of Paris, became both a Franciscan friar and professor while at that university.  He would become the 7th Minister General of the Order, and because of the work he did bringing the Order together, he has been called the second founder of the First Order.  He would end his life as a bishop, working for the reunion of the Western and Eastern branches of Christianity. 

Above all, though, Bonaventure is known as a mystic, who wrote, besides treatises on philosophy and theology, works on the mystical life of the Christians, which still inspire many people to this day.  Despite the demands of the many offices he held, Bonaventure still found time for prayer, time to be still in God’s presence and experience, as Francis did, the power and joy of the Father’s love.  He was able to share these experiences with us, especially in his treatise, “The Soul’s Journey into God.”

We are all called to a life of prayer, it is to provide a foundation for our lives, and the “soul” of the work we do in the world.  It is through prayer, Scripture and the Eucharist that we can have that encounter with our loving God, that we too can have that mystical experience; that Francis called the first step for a life of conversion.  That experience may be like hearing a soft breeze, as the prophet Elijah did; or it may like an angel hitting us in the back of heads with a baseball bat, as Fr. Andrew Greeley related in one of his novels.  The important thing is that we keep ourselves open for that experience, through prayer, through being still and resting in the Lord.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Plant Some Flowers In Honor Of St. Francis

“Following the example of Francis , patron of ecologists, they should actively put forward initiatives that care for creation and should work with others in efforts that both put to a stop to polluting and degrading nature and also establish circumstances of living and environment which would not be a threat to the human person.”  (Art 18.4, Secular Franciscan Order General Constitutions – 2000)

My wife and I live in a third floor apartment with a small balcony.  When the weather grows warmer, she takes me to the local garden nursery and we stock up on flowering plants and herbs.  She turns our balcony into a small beautiful garden.  Sometimes I sit out there in the light of dawn to pray the morning office or just to enjoy the beauty of the flowers, the trees that surround our complex, and the smell of the herbs.  It is in those moments that I perceive, like Francis, the love of the Creator for His creation.

The biographies and legends about Francis of Assisi, all speak of his feeling of kinship with all creatures, all plants, with the very elements that make up our planet. There are many stories of the lengths he went to, to save lambs, doves, even earthworms.  There was something about him that drew birds, animals, and fish to him.  He recognized that if God is the Creator of all things, then we all have a relationship with all things, that all created things must be respected, cherished, and loved. 

Today, we live in a world that is consuming itself into a hollow shell. Ageless forests are being cut down to supply not just building materials, but also wood pulp for disposable paper products.  The land that is cleared is then planted not for local sustenance, but for exportable food stuffs.  In both developed and developing countries, the ground, the air and water is being polluted, to maintain our consumer lifestyles.

The situation may look hopeless, overwhelming, but we Franciscans can help call the world back from the brink.  By lessening our own consumption, use every opportunity to recycle, and support those movements that promote better treatment of the earth.  And finally, maybe plant some herbs and flowers in memory of Francis.