“God of our ancestors who set their hearts on you, of those who fell asleep in peace, and of those who won the martyrs’ violent crown: we are surrounded by these witnesses as by clouds of fragrant incense. In this age we would be counted in this communion of all the saints; keep us always in their good and blessed company. In their midst we make every prayer though Christ who is our Lord forever and ever. Amen.
“Tax collector; MA Dept. Of Revenue, Internal Revenue Service, Revenooer, IRS.” Feeling your tempers rising up just little bit right now?Nothing causes a New Englander’s blood pressure to rise than the subject of taxes, and those who collect them. We had this little thing called the “Revolutionary War,” over it. But why are we still feeling this animosity, because after all, folks, these departments are made up of public employees, people like you and me. And believe it or they serve the public welfare! They are the ones who collect and disperse the funds needed for our towns, cities, states and nation to function. When you come right down to it, they work for us. Now in the time of Jesus, the tax collectors served not the people, but the Empire of Rome. Funds raised locally were for Roman roads, to extend Rome’s power and authority, to pay for occupying Roman legions and officials; and enrich Rome itself. Little went to common folk of Palestine. Except of course, the tax collectors, who, once they reached the goals set for them, would claim the rest as their pay, some, like Zacchaeus, became quite wealthy.
This made them, him, very unpopular, I am sure. But I get the sense, of where Zaccheus was in this stage of his life; he was beginning to have second thoughts of where it going. He was questioning the course it was following. I would speculate that he was beginning to question his relationship with God. I would like to think that he was becoming a seeker, wishing to know what his life was really meant to be. I suspect that he may have started hearing reports about this man from the Galilee and what he was preaching. And when the opportunity arose, he went out to see what this Jesus was all about.
And you all know the rest of the story. He risked life and limb climbing a tree, in order to catch a glimpse of this man from Nazareth. And, Zacchaeus, had what our evangelical brethren would call a “come to Jesus” moment. Literally! And it changed his life forever!
Now, what about us? Have any of us experienced a “come to Jesus” moment? I would say that we all have, every time we gather together to celebrate Mass. When Father consecrates the bread and the wine, when it becomes the Body and Blood of Jesus; when we go up to receive Jesus in Holy Communion; it can be a transformative experience for all of us. Now the experience may be different for each of us, it may be intense, it may be ordinary. But each encounter with Christ, each experience we have, has the potential to make us different, like Zacchaeus! And the way we live the Gospel life, the way we put into practice the teachings of Jesus, can possibly help others experience their own “come to Jesus” experience!
Your are holy, Lord, the only God, and your deeds are wonderful.
You are strong. You are great. You are the Most High, You are almighty. You, holy Father, are King of heaven and earth.
You are Three and One, Lord God, all good. You are Good, all Good, supreme Good, Lord God, living and true.
You are love, You are wisdom, You are humility, You are endurance. You are rest, You are peace. You are joy and gladness. You are justice and moderation. You are all our riches, And you suffice for us.
You are beauty. You are gentleness. You are our protector, You are our guardian and defender. You are courage. You are our haven and our hope.
You are our faith, Our great consolation. You are our eternal life, Great and wonderful Lord, God almighty, Merciful Saviour.
The Lord says: “Love your enemies [do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who persecute and blame you] (Mt 5:44). That person truly loves his enemy who is not upset at any injury which is done to himself, but out of love for God is disturbed at the sin of the other’s soul. And let him show his love for the other by his deeds.
“My child, do not mock the life of the poor; do not keep needy eyes waiting.
Give a hearing to the poor, and return their greeting with deference; Deliver the oppressed from their oppressors; right judgment should not be repugnant to you. Be like a father to orphans, and take the place of a husband to widows. Then God will call you his child, and he will be merciful to you and deliver you from the pit.” Book of Sirach 4: 1, 8-10
Came across this Scripture passage in a prayer book I have. It seems appropriate for our present times. With high inflation, just about everyone is feeling the pinch when it comes to purchasing the necessities of life. But we cannot forget, that the poor, the homeless, and the refugee feels it more deeply.
So we are called to dig deeper into our pockets. And not just our own pockets, but our communities pockets. Find the resources needed, to help all of our brothers and sisters! And if we give with an open heart, God will be there for, to support us; to embrace in love.
“I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish is were already blazing!” Luke 12: 49
Listening or reading this Gospel verse can be very jarring! We are so used to the gentle Jesus; not the one revealed in today’s Gospel. This Jesus wants to set the world ablaze. We look at this statement from the point of view of a country that has already been ablaze from numerous, destructive forest fires. We have witnessed numerous, fierce house fires in our neighborhoods. Fire is destructive, so how can Jesus say he wants to set the world blazing?
Let us look at this another way; that Jesus wishes to set the world ablaze with the fire of the Holy Spirit! Jesus wants to transform the world, with the Holy Spirit working through us. We need to accept the Holy Spirit within us; to guide us; to energize us. All of us, in what ever way Jesus calls us, are to help bring the transformative fire of God, to our communities, our workplaces, our churches, our homes, and within ourselves!
Now, we maybe all called to various levels of works or actions, and for many us, it was a call to just daily living of the Gospel, of lives of prayer, of acts of simple charity is all what is demanded of us. And it does not matter if our actions are big or small; simple or very involved; have you ever seen a steel wielder’s torch? It may produce a small flame, but it’s heat is so intense that it melts metal, cuts through steel. No matter what God may ask of us; whether it is large or small; we share what we have received. Whether by word or action, whether with a large group or small. We perform the work we have been given; we do the best we can to proclaim the Good News, by our works, our words, and yes, even just by our prayers. Now, there may be disappointments, especially in the times we finds ourselves in, church attendance is dropping, many of our friends and family members no longer practice the faith, indeed, they are thuise who are hostile to the Church. But so was the experience of the early disciples, and the early Christians. Within their own families, they found discord, disputes, and divisions. But just as our Risen Lord was with the Apostles, the first disciple; He is with us here and now, and into the future.
I have a favorite story about a Desert Father that I would like share in closing. Now the Desert Fathers and Mothers were early Christian hermits who lived in the Egyptian wilderness. They lived in simple huts, prayed and fasted often. Now, one day, one of these hermits approached Abba Joseph, who was known for his holiness, with a question. “I have followed my rule of life faithfully, what more is required of me?” Abba Joseph lifted his hands into the air, and spread his fingers. Suddenly, each of his fingertips was aflame. Abba Joseph said to the young hermit, “If you will, you can become flame!” Let us pray that the Holy Spirit will help become flame, to shine the light of the Gospel throughout our community, Commonwealth, our Nation!
Moreover they should respect all creatures, animate and inanimate, which “bear the imprint of the Most High,” and they should strive to move from the temptation of exploiting creation to the Franciscan concept of universal kinship.Article 18, Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order
Morning weather reports speaks of drought conditions, of various degrees, existing in Massachusetts, and the rest of New England. A story on a morning news program shows drought conditions in Italy, and it’s affects on the Italian agriculture. And I have seen the pictures of the American West, forest fires burning up dried forests. The famous Lake Meade, slowly became a puddle. Yellowstone National Park, which I love with all my heart, damaged by floods, started by premature melting mountain snows.
All this confirms, for me anyway, that we are at a serious stage of global warming; that the window of opportunity to stop the effects is growing smaller. Special interests, who have a financial stake in keeping things as they are, are keeping the pressure up on civic leaders to leave things alone. And let’s be honest, we enjoy the comfort of our present lifestyle, and really do not want to change anything. But that may not be a choice we can maintain much longer.
It now that we followers of Saint Francis of Assisi need to act more forcefully, and take the implications of what it means love and respect God’s creation as St. Francis did. We are all created by God; we all share in the responsibility of maintaining life on this good Earth. All our actions, whether big or small, will have an effect. All our words, our political activity in defense of the environment can have an effect.
The work of a Franciscan is conversion, of ourself, of our society, of our world never ends. The time of taking it easy is past. The time of being silent is past. It is now time to roll up our shelves, and get to it.
“The Rule and life of the Secular Franciscan is this: to observe the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ by following the example of Saint Francis of Assisi, who made Christ the inspiration and the center of his life with God and people.” SFO Rule: Article 4
I have ten minutes to create a post for this blog, so here goes!
The Franciscan way of life, both religious and lay, has taken many different forms over the centuries. Different lifestyles, different ways of prayer, different emphasis of mission. But it must all remain rooted in this, the Gospel and the way Francis strove to faithfully live the Gospel!
For a lay Franciscan, this can prove to be a challenge. But in accepting this challenge, he or she enters a blessed way of living. The will be high moments, and low. There will be times of satisfaction, and frustration. But we are not alone in this journey; we will have brothers and sisters here on this earth; and others in heaven, who will encourage us on! The challenge is to get off our duffs and do it.
Saints Francis and Clare, and all Franciscan Saints, pray for us!
Today, we are called to celebrate the birth of the United States of America! There will be parades, displays of fireworks, and of course speeches. I wonder what tone these speeches will take; either a call for all peoples to come together; or will politics takeover. There are times when, after hearing the speeches, the interviews, the commentaries; that I want to shout out “A pox on both your houses!”
To paraphrase, these words from the Declaration of Independence continue to move me; “ We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all persons are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights., that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” These words have inspired many, both in this country and abroad to work for their fulfillment here and now. It is also true that the interpretation of these words has lead to fierce debate, arguments, strife, and a Civil War. There continues be fierce debate over how these rights are to be implemented, with little effort to seek common ground.
We are entering, I believe, a time of strife, both nationally, and internationally, where words like “discussion,” and “compromise” are considered weak, equal to “surrender!” There is little respect for the views of others, no addressing what might be causing the fears that drive people to radical beliefs and actions.
Perhaps the world needs to learn the concept of “synodality” as the Catholic Church is beginning to learn about it now. One definition of it is “listening.” Listening to the hopes and desires, the joys and the fears, what they want this country to be; and not be judgmental, but learn about the other. And in learning, finding common ground.
“What is not possible to us by nature, let us ask the Lord to supply by the help of his grace.” The Rule of St. Benedict, Prologue.