The two coins of today’s Gospel were equal to a social security check today. The widow gave everything she had for God and didn’t look back. She is a wonderful example for us. Our normal tendency is to give our extra; not from what we need. It is easy to fall into the habit of giving only the spare change out of our pockets. The spare change can be our time and talent as well as our money. I am a firm believer that God gives each parish community all it needs to do ministry and be active disciples. The widow reminds us that there is no gift or talent that is too small. Each person in the parish has something to offer for the good of the community. We are all vitally needed to spread the message of Jesus and to be His Body in the world. May we follow the example of the widow and give all we have to God and for His people
From Father Tom
Over the years, probably because of my degree in social work, I tend to take a more global or wider view of things. I am always fascinated about how interconnected all things are. One of my favorite images of organizations and the world is a giant spider web. What I do affects you; what you do affects me.
This is the core of the great commandment. Jesus tells us to love God, to love others and to love self. We are not isolated beings.
Our love of God needs to be foundational. It is not a one-way street. God doesn’t passively sit there absorbing all our love. In fact, we don’t even initiate it. God does. God created us out of love. Our love for God is a response to what we have first received.
If we can accept this, then we need to turn to the reality that we must love ourselves. How can we hate or not like what God created and God loves? God never stops loving us, even when we try to stop him. Being created in the image of Love, we need to see that Love in the mirror every morning.
Once we get to this point, then love of neighbor becomes easier. Charity cannot be limited to cleaning out our closets and giving our second-hand stuff away. To truly live the Great Commandment demands that we walk out of these four walls and get our hands dirty, together, as Christ’s Body. It challenges us to look beyond the color of person’s skin, their accent, who they love, the sex and religion, their external appearance and see what God sees: The reflection of His Divine Image. We must see the God who we see in the mirror every morning.
The life of discipleship is summed up in the Great Commandment. It is the mission statement of this parish. Dave and Lora, our parish trustees, will now give you an account of how well we are living as disciples and where we need to focus for the next months in to continue the mission.
I was watching a movie this past week about the life of St Francis of Assisi. He was just like the young man of today’s gospel. Francis had everything. Good family, money, nice clothes, promising future. But, as he portrayed in the movie, Francis seems empty; searching for something. Thinking he would find it in the fame of being a knight, he goes to war. He gets hurt; in his recovery, his powerlessness, his weakness, he finds Jesus. Jesus says to the Francis what he said to the rich young man, give it all away and come follow me. Francis literally find that. He walked away from all the stuff and found a joy we all envy. We too can have it it; if we give it all away, become unattached to what we have, don’t worry about tomorrow and put Jesus first, then we can find what Francis found.
In Rome, tomorrow, the Holy Father will canonize Archbishop Oscar Romero. Oscar was the a bishop in El Salvador in the 1970’s. Oscar, like the young man and Francis, had it all going for him. He was a career churchman. He obeyed all the rules, didn’t create any waves, was low key which is why he was made the Archbishop of El Salvador. The thought was he wouldn’t cause any problems with the government who was oppressing the poor and those who wanted El Salvador to be a free place not controlled by the very rich who oppressed the poor. However, like the rich young man and St Francis, Oscar met Jesus: in the life of his priest friend who worked in a poor parish and advocated for the poor who was shot by the government. Oscar met Jesus when he gave up all the power and wealth he had and walked among the poor and became their voice. He found Jesus in a prison cell surrounded by the cries of those who the government was trying to silence. Oscar was shot celebrating Mass at the hospital he served as chaplain.
Like the rich young man, Francis and Oscar, Jesus looks like on us with love….a love that sees what is ensnaring us from following him. For the rich young man, it was money; for Francis, it was prestige and fame; for Oscar, it was fear and the desire to keep the status quo; what is Jesus showing you and me to give up to follow him? I remember saying to someone one day when I knew I needed to let go of something in my life that I didn’t want to: What more does He want? My friend answered: Everything
This is the risk of knowing Jesus. The place to start is to ask yourself what cant I live without and see what pops us. What has society told me I need or I wont be complete? What does advertisements tell me that I absolutely need to be happy?
He wants everything and he doesn’t stop pursuing us. If we give away everything we become free. He want all of us and nothing more.
Prayer of St Ignatius Loyola
Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding,
and my entire will,
All I have and call my own.
You have given all to me.
To you, Lord, I return it.
Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace,
that is enough for me.
To get to the heart of today’s gospel, we must go back to the first century church of Mark. Marriage was not about two people in love, romance , the wedding day, or even about the couple. A marriage was arraigned by the parents as a way to unite two families. One commentator put it this way: no one chooses their parents but God, God chooses the spouse through the parents. The union of the families was for a variety of reasons, never love. A divorce was seen as shame to both families, in particular, the bride’s family. For her to be rejected by her husband was an affront to her father, brothers, etc. In a society that often devalued a woman, we see one way in which she was honored. To be rejected by her husband, her family would avenge the shame, often though blood feuds.
So how does this apply to our lives today? The answer is found in Genesis in the creation of man and woman. God created woman from the side of man….as his equal. In the nuptial blessing of the wedding Mass, this is part of the prayer we could miss…”May her husband entrust his heart to her, so that acknowledging her as his equal and joint heir to the life of grace”. The relationship of two people living in marriage is not about one having more power; the type of power that abuses…emotionally, physically, psychologically, in fact, this is so against what marriage is to be, that the abused woman or man should leave that marriage because it is so against what God intends. Sometimes the two people are not able to make it work and the love dies. The relationship of two people in marriage is a reflection of God’s love for us, His people. This best definition of Christian love is found in 1 Corinthians 13, “Love is patient and kind, etc. If a marital relationship is not reflecting this, then the marriage is in trouble, in the Christian sense.
A Christian couple is called by God, the Father of all, to witness to all people the love that the Father has for each us. At this Eucharist today, let us pray for all those who live in marriage that God will bless their union with his grace and peace. Let us pray for all those are contemplating Christian marriage that they will be blessed in their life together. Let us also prayer for those marriages in difficulty that they will experience healing. Finally, may we remember all woman and men who have been or are in domestic violence situations. For their healing and peace of mind and for the strength to find a way out of the abuse.
What does it mean to be a Christian? For us Catholics, it is very foreign question but one that I think the times are demanding we look at. What does it mean to follow Jesus? The Gospel today gives us a hint. It is not about being powerful or being served. As we are witnessing, this will only lead to trouble and corruption. Authentic Christianity is about serving one another in the name of the Lord Jesus. It means that we align ourselves with the vulnerable of the world. Jesus gathering that child to himself for me is a sign that His Body exists, we exist, to serve the poor and vulnerable, no matter who they are, what they look or where they are.
The cornerstone of any Christian community must be Christ. He is the source of the Church, the center of every parish, the inspiration of all we do , and the supreme model of service. As we look at the future, He must be the center of this community. Jesus must be the pastor. Jesus’s Word must be that which guides us. From this flows everything we are. Our worship will be focused on the glory of God and our thanksgiving to God for we have and have been given, most importantly, our salvation in Christ. The Sacraments will not be rituals we go through; they will be encounters with the saving mystery of God. Our gatherings for community and support will be build a community that learns how to laugh with each other, to learn each other’s name, how to work together with power plays, to disagree with each other and to know we that are there for each other. Our service to the vulnerable in this community and beyond will be done in Christ’s name and for His honor and glory, not ours. We have so much to give in this community, so many gifts and talents that we can make a better world. Together we are strong; together we can serve, together we will rebuild the Body of Christ. Finally, we must learn about who Jesus is. How? Learning how to prayer; studying the Sacred Scriptures, learning what our church teaches and why, forming our consciences so we can make good decisions, and learning how to question and grow deeper in our belief.
How will we do all this? By prayer and God’s help. I have been wondering to myself why I stay in the Church and how can I represent a group that has done things that have hurt others and then worse, covered it up. What I have come to know is that my faith is not in a structure or institution. I stay because of Jesus and who he is for me. Jesus is more than a concept, but my friend and Master, the one I talk to through out the day, the one who I can always count on when things are crazy in my life, Jesus is the one who shows me the way even I resist him…I have learned that my friend in very patient with me. This is the Jesus I want you to know and love. It is this Jesus who binds this community together.
What will attract people here will not just be the building even though it is important. What will attract people maybe the music and how it is, but that cannot be the only reason. What will attract people here maybe the faith formation process or how well we serve the poor and needed. All important, but that can’t be the main focus either. What will attract people here will be them walking in here and leaving and saying that those people are really Christian and they showed me who Jesus is and can be for my life. I want to go back there because I found Jesus there.
For us here at St Mary’s. I am making that our main goal. As we make our commitment to the Reigniting our faith and discipleship initiative the next few weeks, I ask you to see your contribution as a way to help this community to create opportunities for people to know Jesus, to help you grow in your life with Christ, and to make this church’s reputation be about Jesus. As you will see, everything we are proposing to use our 70% will be focused just on that: enlivening and deepening your commitment to Christ and mine, to worship well, to be a community, and people who serve the rest.