Today’s reading from Mark’s gospel is one of my favorites, but with some caveats. I love what Jesus teaches his apostles after his conversation with James and John (Zebedee’s sons):
Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant;
whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.
For the Son of Man did not come to be served
but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.
It reminds me of a story one of our well-loved parishioners tells about when he and his wife first arrived at Padre Serra. She asked him how they would ever get to know people and be part of this new community into which they had moved. His answer was something like this: “That’s easy. Whatever activity or event we go to, we just stay after and help clean up.” They did that, and, sure enough, their experience was exactly as he’d predicted. They got to know more and more people, good people, who came to love and value them and they felt themselves more and more deeply drawn into the life of the parish and its people.
It is taking me a little longer to learn this lesson but I can say that in some cases where I’d rather not, but it seemed the only right thing to do, when I pitched in and helped with post-party or post-meeting cleanup, it has proved to be a way of connecting to other people and I walk away with a sense of peace.
I have a long way to go. This willingness to be of service comes from a radical sense of the value of the person we try to help, indeed, from an awareness of their having been made in God’s image and likeness. Saints see that value readily, even in the most wretched (St. Teresa of Calcutta comes to mind). For me, I have to make an effort of will sometimes, and ask for God’s help to see it in the people I encounter at home, or at work, or in the news.
Returning to the conversation between Jesus, James and John before the passage above. It seems that the two apostles are looking for a shortcut to greatness. “Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left.” When Jesus says to them “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I drink or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” their glib response “we can” leaves me shaking my head at their apparent cluelessness. Of course James and John did go on to become great saints, so maybe there is hope for me when I am dense and self-absorbed, but not without cost:
The cup that I drink, you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized
If I read this correctly, there will be suffering for me, even were I to follow Jesus perfectly (which of course I can’t). It’s the second reading from the letter to the Hebrews that gives me (us) hope, in spite of my desire for glory and my reluctance sometimes to roll up my sleeves and serve. The author, referring to Jesus, says:
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin. So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.
Dear friends on the journey,
Today’s gospel is really challenging, one that causes some discomfort and requires much reflection. The rich young man was strong in his desire to have eternal life and firmly believed he was doing his part by keeping the Ten Commandments. According to Jesus, this was not enough. Then he delivered the sucker punch: Go, sell what you have and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven. I can just imagine the look on his face, like a toddler caught sneaking a cookie or a teenager who has been grounded – surprised then sad.
Discarding his possessions was a step too steep for the rich young man. Perhaps he needed more time to process or his understanding of eternal life was slanted. His exact struggle is unknown but I think we can all relate when asking these questions: Does God really want me to sell my house, vehicles, furniture, and electronics? Does God want me to be homeless and without “things”? Does God want me to give up my relationships in order to give to the poor?
I turned to a few biblical commentaries to help wrestle with these questions and found Alice Camille’s reflection thought provoking. We come into this world to be in it, not of it. However, to live in this world means we need a home, food, water, clothing, relationships, and things to help facilitate daily living. Sometimes though these possessions can overwhelm and bind us. Camille’s reflection points out “whatever we have, it also has us” and that which has us – home, car, lawn, bank accounts, titles, relationships – demands our money, time, and effort.
This reminded me of a standing conversation with my husband about our lawn. Confession time. When the drought was in full effect a few years ago, I was adamant about not losing our lawn to artificial turf or the desert look. Horrible, I know! We dutifully reduced watering and watched it brown a bit. Eventually the rains came and the grass greened again. Now another drought is here and watering is restricted. This time around though we are better informed and ready to say farewell to (at least) our front lawn. The area is rather small but by giving it up, we are gaining so much more. We will replace the grass with native plants and those that help bees, butterflies and other creatures. Time and energy from weekly maintenance shifts to relational time, with each other or others in need. Limited water will better serve as drinking and bathing by others. Money used for equipment and supplies can now be given to the parish, St. Vincent de Paul, and other charities. Today’s gospel and reflection has convicted me to take action in this project. It might seem small or silly to some but by giving up the possession of our lawn, we are
freeing ourselves, opening ourselves to something greater the heaven of right now, and maybe even eternal life.
This week I encourage you to examine your possessions to consider what has a hold on you. Might it be an unhealthy relationship, an addiction, technology, politics, entertainment, vehicle, lawn, Starbucks?
Dear Parish Family,
This Sunday's readings speak on the gift and vocation of marriage. As a married woman, I can't help but think this week’s readings are meant for me. But the more I read and reflect on them it is clear this message is for us all.
In our first reading we are reminded that at creation, the Lord recognized we would need a companion. “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a suitable partner for him.” In God’s ultimate wisdom, a rib was taken from Adam’s side and from it he created Eve. I have always found this so interesting; God could have begun new, just like he did with Adam and his other creations. However for Eve, God created her from Adam, as to say you are both of the same substance, truly one body. In the same way that God made us in his image, we (his church) become One Body through Jesus.
In our second reading we are reminded of God’s love for us and his desire of our salvation is so great, he willingly takes on suffering and death. “He who consecrates and those who are being consecrated all have one origin.” And once again reminds us that we are one in Jesus.
Finally in our Gospel, Jesus is questioned about divorce. Even though as a married person I can and should take this literally; this speaks to us all, single, consecrated life, all ages. Many times in the Bible, the union of husband and wife has been compared to that of Christ and the church. Jesus is the bridegroom and the Church (us) is his bride. Just like a man and woman leave their parents and are joined and become one. When we truly follow Jesus, we too make a commitment to leave everything that is not of God behind, pick up our Cross and Follow Him. A marriage between a husband and wife, requires love, commitment, sacrifice, being present, giving of ourselves, and taking care of the needs of your beloved. Our relationship with God requires all the same things. The connection so close that you are no longer two but one being. When we are truly one, the wins of our beloved are also our own.
Dear Faith Family,
I don’t know about you, in my worst moments, I tend to think that I don’t have an issue with humility. During this frustrating pandemic, it has been so easy to see the faults in others. There is something about being cooped in in our homes for so long, that a lot of us have built a habit of being more critical of others. When I see others messing up, I compare myself to them, knowing that I haven’t been caught in some crazy scandal. This is not very healthy and most definitely not an exercise of humility.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus’ declaration of “the first shall be the last” is something that has been tattooed into our brains. Like many good things that we hear, sometimes we take it for granted. We obviously are great people, but Jesus gives us clear instruction on how to strengthen the kingdom — through humility.
How can we truly believe Jesus’ declaration and truly live it out? Servant leadership and the willingness to sacrifice themselves for their neighbors. I think this is what true humility looks like.
Although we may not have arguments spoken out loud about why we are the holiest or the greatest examples, we can seldom fall into that trap of thinking it without saying it aloud. When we judge others improperly, it is roundabout way of “peacocking” our holy feathers.
So does this mean we infringe on others to implore them to live their lives more fully? No. But the only way we can help others onto a righteous path is through humility.
Must we deny our own talents for the sake of humility? No. Years ago, Father Patrick told me that true humility is actually knowing your talents and using them for the betterment of others.
So don’t let Jesus’ message in the gospel make you feel that you are to never speak up. It is not a cautionary gospel to let us know to stay out of each other’s business, but rather, within this same gospel he gives us an example of how to love; the willingness to die for others.
Through Christ’s death and Resurrection, comes true humility. The willingness to die for the sake of others is so centrally Christian, that it is necessary for us to do so. If we want to bring others closer to God, we must be willing to sacrifice ourselves for them.
Dear friends on the journey,
Throughout my younger years, I spent a lot of time living out my faith. I had wonderful examples in my grandparents, parents, teachers, and mentors so it was natural for me to become an altar server, a weekly mass goer, teen peer leader, summer camp leader, Eucharistic minister, fundraiser, catechist for preschoolers, teens, adults including parents baptizing children, a parish secretary and later a business manager. I was doing a lot of disciple’s work in God’s vineyard.
But about seven years ago, I realized I was “doing” but without really “being” … being in relationship with God, at least not in the way that I thought possible. So I embarked on a journey to change this. I learned about different spiritualities, forms of prayers, engaged in spiritual direction, went on retreats, had thoughtful conversations about faith, and through these I began and continue to deepen my relationship with God. I encountered Jesus for the first time. Don’t get me wrong, I had strong faith. I was a believer. But my eyes, mind and heart were opened to what it means to be in relationship with God the father, God the son and God the Holy Spirit.
I don’t say all that to toot my own horn but to echo the message in today’s second reading from James.
Indeed someone might say, “You have faith and I have works.” Demonstrate your faith to me without works, and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works.
We need both faith and works. When we are rooted in relationship with God, when we love God and rest in God’s love for us, the automatic response then is to give that love to others. In loving others, it is necessary to return inward to be nourished and guided by God. Faith is rhythmic, that ebbs and flows, inhaling and exhaling, receiving and living.
Today begins our three-week ministry fair where we showcase the ministries that support that rhythm. Not only those ministries where you live out your discipleship and “do” for God and others like James affirms, but also those ministries that feed and support you spiritually, pastorally and to just “be” with God. You know the analogy of the airplane oxygen mask: put yours on first then help others.
Perhaps you need to care for yourself first, or maybe you’re ready to give.
Wherever you are in your faith rhythm, I invite you to come and see after all morning Masses.Are you in a place of needing to breathe in,wanting to give, or desiring both?
Faith Life Minister
1930 - 2021
Monday, September 20, 2021
Padre Serra Parish
Tuesday, September 21, 2021
Padre Serra Parish
I got up early that day and made my way to the gazebo nestled against the hills where cars can be seen but not heard. I sat down by myself to ponder the beauty of God’s creation around me. I listened and watched with a smile as a single quail graced a corner beam repeating a most beautiful sound. Soon, two hummingbirds approached the quail in what seemed to be a choreographed dance only they can do while the melody continued. I sat in awe watching for some time until the birds (all three of them) flew away in the same direction and together. I spent the rest of the weekend pondering what I had just witnessed. What was God saying to me? Had He just invited me to be opened, to truly listen?
In our Gospel this weekend, we read of a deaf man who is cured of his affliction at the hands of Jesus and his spoken word, “Ephphatha” meaning “Be opened.” By doing so, Jesus tore down the barriers that kept the man from living life to the fullest. I suspect this is at least one of the lessons for me as I continue to reflect on what I witnessed that morning.
Each of us is provided opportunities throughout our lifetime to be opened to God’s message of love and life. The fact that we all have a chance to witness His message differently shows the perfection in this great plan. For you, perhaps you will become more open when looking through the eyes of a loved one, in serving the poor and oppressed, or while participating in many of Padre Serra’s Ministries. Great news is that you do not have to limit yourself to just one such event.
Live a Life of Faith, Understanding and Love...
What we hear from the prophet Isaiah in today’s first reading seems especially pertinent as we enter the eighteenth month of very strange times for our world, our nation, and our church (both local and global). The pandemic and the polarizing effect it has had, worries about environment and climate, economic uncertainty and inequality, racial justice concerns, natural disasters, instability in places like Afghanistan, increasing stridency in politics, and even divisiveness in our church – all of these have, for many, induced a weariness and debilitating fear, and understandably so.
During Isaiah’s time Israel was in dire straits too. They were attacked by the Assyrians in the north, and even Jerusalem was surrounded by Sennacherib’s army. What Isaiah wrote in chapter 35 (the beginning of today’s reading) was this:
Thus says the LORD:
Say to those whose hearts are frightened:
Be strong, fear not!
Here is your God,
he comes with vindication;
with divine recompense
he comes to save you.
What we know that those of Isaiah’s time did not is that Jesus is the fulfillment of that promise. Most of those with Jesus when he walked the earth also did not recognize him as Messiah, as Savior. Happy are we who do! But from what is Jesus delivering us? Is it just assurance of escaping punishment for our sins? Of seeing our departed loved ones in the afterlife? Or is it the gospel of prosperity – if we just have enough faith then Jesus will deliver us from poverty and illness? I think it’s more than that. I think it’s the gift of knowing that Jesus – human like us in everything (including temptations) but sinless – walks with us, embraces us in all our frailties, and promises to be with us always.
Then will the eyes of the blind be opened,
the ears of the deaf be cleared;
then will the lame leap like a stag,
then the tongue of the mute will sing.
We hear of Jesus in the Gospels doing all of these things that Isaiah foretold. In today’s gospel he heals a man suffering deafness and muteness. In Advent, we refer to Jesus as Emmanuel which means “God with us”. It is Jesus, today, by our embrace of the mission he gives us at baptism to go out and preach the gospel to all, who fulfills Isaiah’s prophecy.
We all have to do our part. But what of our weariness, our fear? God will “strengthen hands that are feeble, make firm knees that are weak” to equip us for the task by means of Word and Sacrament. Let’s support one another as we live out the Good News.
Director of Liturgy and Music
1936 - 2021
Wednesday, Sept 8, 2021
Padre Serra Parish
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