St. Dorothy Catholic Community Orlando/Winter Park, Florida
Psalms 69:8-10, 14, 17, 33-35
12th Sunday in Ordinary Time - June 21, 2020
We enter this Gospel scene midstream. Christ is giving his Apostles instructions for their first missionary journey. The most striking thing about these instructions is the warning. In this passage, Jesus tells them three times not to be afraid - three times! He wouldn't say it if they didn't need to hear it.
But why would they need to hear it?
Because as they go out in Christ's name to spread the Gospel in word and deed, they are going to run into serious difficulties. Jesus is warning his Apostles that they will meet up with persecution and hardship, just as he will, in a dramatic way, during his Passion. He is warning them that their Christian mission will demand heroic courage, perseverance, and fidelity as they constantly face suffering, defamation, mockery, and opposition. They are going to run into people who will want to destroy them, humiliate them, and even kill them, just because they bear Christ's name and are trying to spread Christ's message.
In the verses immediately preceding the passage we just listened to, Jesus was explicit about this. He told them: "Beware of men: they will hand you over to sanhedrins and scourge you in their synagogues. "You will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them.... "You will be hated by all men on account of my name."
Those same warnings apply to us too. Being a Christian is not like joining a tennis club. There is a spiritual battle going on in this fallen world. Whenever we are truly following Christ and building up his Kingdom, the powers of darkness, the evil and its minions, don't like it, and they try to make it hard for us, just as they made it hard for the Apostles.
We simply have to realize, once and for all, that the pattern of Christ's life is the pattern for every Christian life: suffering and death on the cross at the hands of evil, and then resurrection and eternal victory over evil.
There is a story about a truck driver named Darrell Loomis.
Darrell always stopped for meals at Joe's Diner in the middle of his route between Cincinnati and Atlanta. One day, he was sitting in his favorite counter-seat at Joe's Diner and eating his usual lunch - meat loaf, mashed potatoes, and iced tea. Suddenly he heard a roar outside and saw a cloud of dust, followed by the arrival of twelve members of a motorcycle gang, riding Harley-Davidsons with extended forks.
These were fine bikes, quite a sight to see as the gang parked them next to Darrell's huge Peterbilt truck. As the gang stomped into the diner, the leader spotted Darrell. "Well, who is this little wimp at the counter?" he sneered.
Forming a semicircle around Darrell, the gang members started snapping their fingers in rhythmic cadence. Unperturbed, Darrell just sat and ate his lunch. One of them poured Darrell's iced tea over his head. The others watched, still snapping their fingers in unison. With his napkin, Darrell quietly dried his face, but said nothing.
Another one stuck a finger full of the mashed potatoes into Darrell's ear, wiping his hand on Darrell's back. Darrell just calmly finished his lunch as they continued to taunt him, paid his bill and left the diner without saying a word. The gang leader laughed and said to Joe, "What a wimp! That guy sure ain't much of a man!" Joe, looking out the window said, "No, and he ain't much of a driver either. He just ran over twelve Harleys."
When Jesus came as the Messiah, he wasn't at all what people expected. And so the powers of evil arranged for him to be ridiculed, humiliated, spat upon, whipped, crowned with thorns, and hung on a cross. Jesus willingly accepted it, being faithful to his mission. He knew that in the end evil and all its demons would be crushed under the weight of his saving love. And the Resurrection proved that he was right. And that's the pattern for Christian living.
This may seem like a pessimistic approach to Christianity. But it's actually just the opposite, for two reasons.
First, pessimism distorts reality. But persecution and opposition are not distortions of reality, they are part of reality. Christians follow Christ's footsteps, and Christ walked the way of the cross. That's simple reality. Christians are realists, not pessimists.
Second, once we finally accept this truth, it's actually a huge relief. Tension, pressure and drama come when our expectations for life don't match up with the reality of life. If we are expecting everyone we meet to appreciate our Christian viewpoint, we are going to be constantly frustrated. And that frustration will eventually wear us down, until we just stop trying to bear witness to Christ at all, becoming undercover, cowardly Christians.
But Jesus has freed us from that.
He has told us ahead of time that by being friends with him we will automatically make enemies. And that's OK. He had enemies too. So we don't have to worry anymore about pleasing everyone, but just about pleasing him. And that takes the pressure off, because Jesus is the easiest person in the world to please, although he is very hard to satisfy.
We please him: when we follow the church’s teaching, even if it's countercultural; when we do good to others, without seeking anything in return; when we use our time well, instead of frittering it away in self-indulgence; when we pray, for ourselves and for others. when we are patient with those who bother us, just as he is patient with us.
So today, when he renews his commitment to us in the Eucharist, let's promise that, this week, we won't be shy about living out our commitment to him, no matter the consequences.
Second Kings 4:8-11, 14-16
Psalms 89:2-3, 16-17, 18-19
Romans 6:3-4, 8-11
13th Sunday in OT – June 28, 2020
Today’s readings remind us that the new life we’ve received in Christ, a new life we live even now as Christians, is not only due to Our Lord’s sacrifice on the cross, but is also a pattern of life that we should be following to create new life. You will see a common thread of hospitality in my remarks this morning. It is very appropriate for us here at St. Dorothy’s to contemplate on this thread as: 1) we are in Orlando and hospitality is the largest industry for us here in central florida and one that was and is still being hardest hit by COVID-19. Even our return back to St. Matthew’s Tavern has been postponed as the State has shut down all bars/taverns. 2) as a Franciscan, our charism as an order and a follower of the principals set forth by St. Francis of Assisi is one of hospitality and I try to be an example of that in my daily life and lastly as a parish St. Dorothy Catholic Community has been and is still known for the hospitality they show to those who may come to liturgy for the first or hundredth time.
In today’s First Reading that John read, an influential woman receives the promise of a son after showing hospitality to the prophet Elisha because he was a man of God. This woman saw something of God in Elisha, and that something moved her to invite Elisha to dine. She extended her hospitality expecting nothing in return. However, she didn’t limit her hospitality to just a few meals: she prepared a place for Elisha to stay when he was in town. Her hospitality and generosity were a sacrifice of her time and treasure for the sake of the Lord’s mission. Serving Elisha was serving the Lord too. With no children on the horizon, she and her husband’s line were destined to come to an end. Through her selfless sacrifice, she and her family received new life with the promise of a son.
In today’s Second Reading Paul reminds us that it was sacrifice and death that brought us new life in Christ, and we must also sacrifice and die to ourselves so that Christ’s life may take hold of us and create a new life. We speak of the “old man,” condemned to death due to original sin, as dying in baptism so that the new man, born in Christ through Baptism, may begin a new life. It doesn’t matter how old or how young you were when you received baptism; you were an “old man” in sin and were born of water and the Spirit through Baptism, making the old man perish and its sins, original or otherwise, along with the old man. This death and new life take place spiritually and sacramentally through Baptism, but one day, just as it did for Christ, it will take place for real: death awaits us all someday, but if we believe in Christ, a new life awaits us too. Our lives will be changed and not ended. Sin/evil leads to death, so the more we deaden ourselves to evil, denying ourselves and sacrificing ourselves for others as Christ did, the more the new life in Christ can take hold of us and make our new lives flourish.
In today’s Gospel, we see that hospitality to others is hospitality to Jesus. The influential woman of today’s First Reading, by helping Elisha, helped Abba God and was blessed for her hospitality. Even today, as Jesus reminds us when we serve others, especially those who are serving Abba God, we are serving God himself. God is also very good at hiding in the people you’d least expect.
True hospitality is not stingy. A guest knows when the host is doing the minimum to satisfy some social obligation or curry favor: skimping on the food and drinks, keeping the event brief, etc. Jesus today invites the disciples to examine why they are serving others: are they serving themselves in some way, trying to gain something for their service, or are they truly serving them because they serve God? Jesus warns us that we must take up our cross in serving others, and even lose our lives, but also promises that in the end, he will take care of us too if we focus on caring for him through caring for others.
Hospitality is one of the cornerstones of Benedictine spirituality, and it is based on seeing Christ in the guest, just as he is seen in the monks. In the Rule of St. Benedict Chapter LIII is dedicated to the reception of guests. Christ told his disciples that their service and disservice to others would also be directed at him, and this teaching is the foundation for the Benedictine attitude on hospitality: “Let all guests who arrive be received as Christ, because He will say: ‘I was a stranger and you took Me in’. And let due honor be shown to all, especially to those ‘of the household of the faith’ and to wayfarers.”
When a guest arrives the Rule of St. Benedict prescribes that the guest be greeted by the superior and the brothers, and they all pray together before anything else. The Abbot attends to the guest and teaches the guest about “divine law.”
Hospitality also involves flexibility: in the Rule, it prescribes a separate kitchen attended to by a couple of monks to attend to the guests’ needs even when they are not following the monastery’s schedule for meal times and other activities.
There are so many ways we can practice Christian hospitality especially in the present time which we are living, which in a way is synonymous with Christian charity. It’s not dinner parties (although it’s very gracious to organize them). It can be as simple as making a sandwich or some cookies for homeless people. It can be helping at a food kitchen, homeless shelter, clinic, or halfway house. It can be welcoming a scared young mother or foster child into your home who needs some stability and a safe place to stay.
Big or small, you are not just loving the persons involved; you are loving Christ.
Psalms 145:1-2, 8-9, 10-11, 13-1
Romans 8:9, 11-13
14th Sunday in Ordinary Time - July 5, 2020
Hidden inside this beautiful Gospel passage is a very serious warning. Jesus is speaking to a group of his followers returning from their first missionary journey, which had been wildly successful. They are full of joy and the satisfaction of victory: in Christ's name and with his grace they had finally been able to do something worthwhile, meaningful, and wonderful. Jesus rejoices with them.
These disciples have believed in Christ, trusted him, and followed his teaching. Now they are reaping the benefits, experiencing the kind of interior peace and satisfaction that comes only to the humble, to the "childlike," the ones willing take Christ at his word. Those who are "wise and learned," on the other hand, arrogantly demand that God explain himself completely before they agree to trust in him. That's a reasonable expectation to have from a politician, but it's a diabolical attitude to take in relation to God.
The "wise and learned" are the Pharisees and Sadducees, the successful people and the intellectuals - the ones who will eventually nail Jesus to a cross instead of "taking his yoke upon them." They can't imagine that maybe, just maybe, God knows a little bit more than they do, and so they should accept his teaching with faith, the way children trust in their parents. And as a result, they cut themselves off from the joy, interior peace, and deep satisfaction that only Christ can bring. By refusing to take up Christ's yoke, they have refused to let him give them rest.
They are committing a sin we don't hear much about these days, maybe because it is so widespread: the sin of intellectual pride. Intellectual pride is diabolical because it tries to put the creature into the place of the Creator. After all, we were the ones created to reverence and obey God, not the other way around.
Through the ages, many of the people who have done the most damage to Christ's Church have been heresiarchs, a fancy word for people who starts new heresies. A heresy tears people away from the family of God by convincing them that Christ's Church is wrong about some important teaching.
Some heresies, for example, say that we don't need God's help to get to heaven, or that Jesus was just a good guy and not really divine, or that the Holy Eucharist is only a symbol and not the real presence of Jesus Christ.
Heresies have been used as an excuse to wage war, as in Europe during the 1600s. They have led to widespread immorality, abuse, social decadence, and civil strive, as in southern France in the 1200s. Some historians even say that the horrible crimes of twentieth-century Europe - the 13 million tragic deaths in Nazi concentration camps and the 20 million deaths under Stalinism - can be traced to the breakdown of Christian culture that occurred as a result of heresies that divided western civilization at the beginning of the modern period.
Heresies have caused literally incalculable damage, physically, socially, and spiritually. So heresies have caused all this damage, but what causes heresies? The sin of intellectual pride.
The most widespread, long-lasting and destructive heresies have almost all been produced by Catholic priests who gradually decided that they knew more about Christ than Christ's own Church. Arius, Pelagius, Nestorius, some include Martin Luther in this list but we now realize that he was correct for his day and time on what was going on in the church - even John Calvin began his career as a Catholic seminarian.
Instead of humbly following and building upon the ancient, unified, and unbroken teaching of the bishops of Rome and the councils, some of these and other so called heretics arrogantly defied the authority of the Church or called out the leaders of the church at a given time as they were going astray from the teachings of Jesus, or interpreted the Bible in some new and flashy way, and painfully tore flesh away from the Mystical Body of Christ. But today we see that some of these so called heretics were absolutely correct what they did at their given time in the history of the church.
Yet we are all vulnerable to the sin of intellectual pride. Arrogant judgmentalism is just as common at the barbershop and the truck stop as it is in the ivory tower of academia. And the older we get, the more likely we are to put everything the Church teaches, and everything everyone else says, on trial, with our limited and prejudiced intelligence as the sole judge. Sometimes done without due reason and at other times with due reason. In this most messed up world/society of today it is necessary, with due reason, to put various topics and decisions on trial if they are contrary to the teaching of Jesus and be afraid to call people/church or institutions to task.
But we have to walk a very slim tightrope whenever we do that, because we could be following in the footsteps of the Pharisees, cutting ourselves off from God's light and wisdom, turning off our "childlike" wonder.
So how can we avoid falling into this temptation?
Besides staying close to Christ through personal prayer and the sacraments, we need to adopt the Sherlock Holmes Policy.
Sherlock Holmes was a great detective because he never rested until he discovered the full meaning of every clue.
We should do the same with our faith.
The things God has revealed to us, that we profess in the creed and read in the various teaching venues, are not meant to be the end of our search for understanding; they are meant to be its beginning! The wonders and beauty of God are inexhaustible; there is always more to discover about God and his Creation.
And so, it's easy to keep our childlike wonder alive and well, if we just act like Sherlock Holmes, constantly, actively delving into all the truths of faith and nature. If you are quarantined at this time you may want to google the lives of various saints who were in such a predicament and how they sought for full understanding and yes, even had moments of doubt and rejection of their faith.
God is a mystery who wants to be solved, a lover who wants to be known. Starting today, let's stir up our sense of childlike wonder and curiosity, and commit ourselves anew to knowing God better every day, so we can love Abba God with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind.
Psalms 65:10, 11, 12-13, 14
Matthew 13:1-23 or 13:1-9