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19th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle “C” Gospel link: Luke 12:32-48

My sisters and brothers in Christ, Jesus speaks directly to you and me today when he says: stay awake, alert & alive 2 serve others. We ALL know people who are trained to be ready at a second/moment’s notice all the time. Think of our police and fire staffs, the EMTs & ambulances, & I personally know it’s true: when I became dehydrated last week & couldn’t see straight, people at Mass & an ambulance crew helped me to get medical care to get re-hydrated and well within a 24 hour period. Of course I’m grateful to them, and admire their faithful service!

But who else stays awake, alert & alive to be of service to someone else? I saw it on TV this week:  at a professional tennis match, there were ball boys & ball girls at compass points on court:  1 behind each player, and 2 closer to the net area. The ones closest to net: had to keep the court clear of tennis balls and foreign items. The ones behind the players provided towels & a supply of tennis balls.  Most of all, these servants acknowledged they were there for players & game, and NOT to call attention to themselves. (PS: they’d be paid about $9.00 an hour to start, with raises given to multiple-year servers.

These young people did EXACTLY what Jesus was calling all of us to do when we serve God:             to be READY & focused on the one whom we’re serving, even if changing things up at last second is what we’re called to do, to be those who stay focused STAY faithful & are faithful to God.  But there’s ALSO a big difference between these young men & women chasing tennis balls all over, and the followers of Jesus, who are called by God to serve from now until our last breaths.            

The biggest difference in the Gospel is that if we DO all we’re supposed 2do & follow Christ’s direction, then Jesus, who is our Master & our Good Shepherd, is going to exchange ROLES with us. Now, to picture Jesus putting on an apron, sitting  you and me at a table 4a meal & waiting on US who are the servants, is NOT a picture that most people’s brains will allow them to compute. Yes: God waiting on me? NO WAY. It was a shocking thought 2000 years ago, & it’s an almost unthinkable thought now, because Jesus teaches us he’s called 2 serve others, NOT 2B served by others. Here’s the difference: when Jesus serves us servants, Jesus shows respect 2the humble ones as he teaches the world. He overturns the social, political, & religious expectations of his/our time. Yes: it’s a surprise, a change for us, & as our VBS friends learned this week: “when things are changing, God is good!”

So, what about us? When we put God & others ahead of ourselves, as in the acronym J.O.Y., (Jesus, Others, & Yourself), we are imitating Jesus, who put God and others ahead of himself, and his own preferences. Also, the more ready we are at a moment’s notice to serve someone of God’s own choosing, the deeper our relationship with Jesus is, because we will have become synchronized w Jesus’ own heart. Another way to say that is to remember that when loving others in the spirit of Jesus Christ becomes second nature and almost automatic to us, we have then gone beyond being admirers of X: we’ve become his legs/arms, his vocal chords, his heart/mind and spirit in God’s power.   May we all become Eveready servants of God, every day and in every way.

Sunday, July 28, 2019 Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

Back in the 1990’s there was a store on Orchard St. on the Lower East Side called Sox & Suspenders.

Before my first visit, I had been equipped by a good friend with some important insider information: the insider info was if I was the 1st customer of the day, I’d get a discount by haggling over the price

So there I was one morning before 9am, & as the 1st customer I told the owner I wanted black sox.

The owner quoted me a price of “$2.50” a pair; I kept on looking over the selections & said “nah!”

And the owner came right back & said, “Well, what can I do for U today?” and bold as brass I said,

“I’d like 5 pairs of black socks for $5, including tax.” He looked at me with my insider information, & said with the tone of familiar pretend resignation in his voice: “all right, let’s make a sale.”

 

The same principle is at work with Abraham in the 1st reading from Genesis. Abraham has insider info about God. And it’s clear in Abraham’s exchange with God: Abraham knows who he is, & who God is.

God is divine, & Abraham is a creature, and God interacts with us on & provides for us mercy & love.

But the comedy part contains the Important Insider Information.  Abraham reminds God of how good and forgiving God is, the way a manager or a parent coaches people, and reminds others of how good they really are.  And while there might be some people who are shocked at this dialogue of haggling between Abraham & God, Abraham our father in faith knows he can dialogue directly with God without fear.  

 

Jesus picks up on Abraham’s lead, w a BIG difference: it’s no longer Important Insider Information:                   it’s info for everyone to use. So when some disciples asked Jesus how to pray, he could have given them any number of ways:  Today’s shorter version of Luke’s Lord’s Prayer is like the express train to St. Matthew’s local:

it summarizes what Jesus wanted his disciples to have in their hearts. & it is familiar to us:

The OF contains four basic types of prayer we use: petition, adoration, contrition, & thanksgiving.

When we remember that we are both God’s creatures AND God’s cherished/chosen children,         we’re able to pray both to God & in union with God, who gave us the power to pray in the 1st place.

Sometimes at Mass, the priest will conclude the lead-in line to the Our Father, “we dare to say!” why? Because when we say “thy kingdom come, thy will be done,” those are orders we’re delivering to   God, & it’s pure arrogance to say to God .

 

But U&I know well that when we are intent on prayer, praying doesn’t change God: it changes US 

When my mother’s mom was dying of cancer years ago, I promised God the sun, moon & stars,

I forgot that the sun, moon & stars were created by God & were not mine to give to God.

What did I do? I promised God I’d say these prayers, make these devotions, and visit those shrines.

Two weeks later, the doctors caring for Grandma told me she was in a coma & would not be coming out. What happened then? As Grandma got sicker, the words & feelings of our praying shifted:

So we changed our prayer: it was no longer that we didn’t want her to leave us in death; rather we saw that Grandma in her coma was trapped between heaven & earth, & asked God to free her.

Our prayer shifted from praying for someone sick, to someone who was dying & on her way home.

That was the prayer that was answered, the prayer in tune & in sync with how God called her.

 

As we ask the Blessed Trinity to fill our hearts and minds with God’s truth vs. substitute fiction, and as we pray the Our Father and receive the Eucharist with mature faith in God’s power, we may be a blessing to God’s church and world.

Recently, I went with friends to see a movie called “The Avengers”- it was three hours of good versus evil! I saw this movie with friends who LOVE popcorn, & by passing it back & forth, we were all covered with it. Before we left, I went to the rest room to wash my hands, & I was drying my hands under an electric hand dryer when I saw a sign attached to the dryer. And you know what it said? “Feel the Power!” Now, the dryer was strong!  But “Feel the Power” has been our Christian motto since the 1st Pentecost described in the Acts of Apostles. Yes: it’s clear our God is a sensual God: God communicates through our human senses, so people feel the wind, hear its sound, and see the fiery tongues. God wants to awaken us, so we feel the Spirit’s power, too! So where do we, on our Church Birthday in 2019, know God’s Holy Spirit is active? Here’s a few of them.

I see the Spirit alive when neighbors offer a hand and heart to welcome others. Wasn’t that true on Pentecost, when people joyfully heard the Gospel in words they could understand?  Look at our classic welcome gestures: neighbors bring flowers or a cake as a symbol of welcome. One neighbor, seeing the newcomers head for their cars with coffee cups in the morning, went to 7-11 and bought them gift cards! But such a fine gesture, in a world that’s running so fast it can’t seem to catch its breath, requires us to slow down! Then, the Spirit pauses with us & breathes new life into us, just as the Spirit took the scared & divided apostles, and  breathed into them the courage to serve Jesus more fully. By the way, the word Scripture uses in Greek, our first church language, for God’s power is dunamis: yes, God Power is at root dynamic, like dynamite.

I also see and feel the Holy Spirit working when there’s a surprise: when something good or unexpected occurs. I always think I know how a day is going to go, because I have a day timer, right? Not always: I was on my way to visit one of my godchildren, taking Route 25A into Route 347 West. I was making very good time … or so I thought! My rear left tire behind me caught a nail, I soon realized I had a flat tire. But I had also just had physical therapy for my back, and was told not to lift heavy things. So, where’d the surprise come from?  In less than 2 minutes, a carload of young men saw I was in trouble, and in 5 minutes had changed the tire. When I offered them some cash to thank them for their generosity, one said: “No, that’s alright: it seems this is what we were supposed to do today, & we just did it.” To me, it sounded like a young person’s version of what we heard this past week from our senior D-Day survivors. One of them said: “we had a job to do & we did it, in the midst of bullets and bombs, with loyalty to our country.” They also combatted the Nazi aggressors.

These are CLEAR signs to me that Jesus has NOT forgotten about us & we are NOT orphans. In fact, God’s message is personal & tailored to each of us at the CORE of our being & soul. So today, before you and I consult with God, to identify what our NEXT task of bringing Christ to the world will be, I invite you to close your eyes for the next minute: together, let us both listen to and hear God’s Word, and God’s voice speaking to us, as we culminate this Easter season of grace:                                                                                                                                              

God says: “I KNOW who you are: you are my beloved; YOU carry my creative/unique genius within you.” [pause] God says: “ your soul is filled with my divine gifts, & I place them there, along with my confidence in you, deep within you.” [pause]. God says: “I brought you to life to share your gifts & talents with others with joy, gratitude, and love, because you are my very own.” [pause] Let God’s voice in you be the Holy Spirit, speaking Good News to others. Yes: Happy Birthday, Church!

Fr. Chris

P.S. As you thank God for including in you the gifts of the Holy Spirit,  please join me in offering a prayer of thanks for ALL those who have been Confirmed this year: our tweens, teens, young adults and adults: how blessed we are here at St. Louis!