Our Sunday Journal is a brief reflection on the scripture readings of the day by Father Kelly, a senior priest in the Diocese of Saginaw.
Fr. Kelly is interested in your response to the Gospel or his reflection. He invites your comment on his journal entries.
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Make a choice! Are you with me?
Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time
August 23, 2015
Pollsters weren’t tracking and publishing approval ratings in Old Testament times. But the conclusion of this week’s First Reading from the Book of Joshua would have us believe that his rather sobering message from God was well received by the people. Through the prophet, God put the people on the spot. Make a choice! Are you with me or not? If you want to worship idols…if you are pagans at heart…then go do your thing, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t say that you are believers but live like pagans.
The people responded decisively: “Far be it from us to forsake the Lord for the service of other gods.”
Good for them! But I wonder what happened as the drama of the moment passed, and they were left on their own to actually live their faith in the God of Abraham and Sarah. Is it possible that, as time passed, they began to murmur and grumble? As God’s Law began to weigh on them, maybe they became like Jesus’s disciples who responded to another prophetic and dramatic moment with the all too human attitude: “This is hard! Who can accept this?” Is it possible that, with time, many simply “returned to their former way of life”? There were no pollsters in Jesus’s time, but there was no need. His approval ratings dropped to the point that many who ate the free bread and fish…who followed in hopes of healing…who witnessed mighty deeds…were among the voices shouting out: “CRUCIFY HIM!”
We do have pollsters today measuring public opinion. A few weeks ago, results were published from a Gallup poll tracking Pope Francis’s approval ratings. It is reported that over the past year, the Holy Father’s popularity has dropped significantly, even among Roman Catholics, and especially within the USA. Pundits suggest that this is a result of the recent Papal Encyclical: Laudato Si: On Care For Our Common Home. Among American Catholics, there is an uneasiness about the upcoming Papal visit, anticipating what Francis might say, especially during his address to the joint session of our Congress.
Simply put, even as Jesus’s disciples were “shocked” by His Bread of Life Discourse (John 6), in our society today, many are shocked by The Holy Father’s teaching. Rightly so! While the global environment is certainly the central theme of the document, I would argue it is much, much more. I see it as a global call to all humankind to examine our collective conscience. It’s as if Pope Francis is challenging all humankind in the same way that Joshua challenged Israel so many centuries ago…“If it does not please you to serve the Lord, decide today whom you will serve!” Why wouldn’t we be shocked by that kind of challenge?
We Roman Catholics receive this challenge as a Eucharistic people…chosen and invited to feast on the Bread of Life…and to become what we eat. As a Eucharistic people, we are not only privileged to be God’s special guests, but also recruited to be God’s partners in the work of building the Kingdom. Laudato Si is not only a statement concerning the environment, it is a suggestion as to how we might go about that work of building the City of God. It is a vision of how our world might look should we embrace the challenge.
Does all of this shock you? Does it cause you to murmur…grumble…argue among yourselves? If so…that’s completely understandable because the Encyclical is hard! And so is the Gospel. It’s hard to be a Eucharistic people…because it’s hard to be God!
But…does all of this make you want to leave and return to your “old ways”? I certainly hope not. Where else will you find the Words of everlasting life?
Response August 16, 2015
I’m going to share this on Facebook so we can continue to spread the Good News and give more people a chance to ponder what you have shared. You’re right that more young people will probably listen to what the song was preaching than actually listening to the bible, but we have to continue doing our best to reach them. Maybe I’ll catch one or two on FB. Thanks for the great message!
“That ain’t the way to have fun”
Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
August 16, 2015
Way back in 1970, just about the time that I really needed to hear it….one of my favorite Rock and Roll groups, Three Dog Night, had a hit song that the DJs played almost non-stop on the pop music channels. The refrain of the song was so simple that even I could sing along as I drove down the highway in my VW Beetle with the sunroof open. Mama told me not to come…she said: That ain’t the way to have fun, son…no, that ain’t the way to have fun! The verses describe the kind of party that makes responsible parents cringe even to think about. The song itself tells the story of a young man who disregarded the wisdom of his mother, and went to a party in spite of her warning…and he is suffering the consequences of his poor decision. Through the fog that has imprisoned his mind, his mother’s final words replay like the proverbial broken record…over and over…That ain’t the way to have fun, son…no, that ain’t the way to have fun!
I suspect that a lot of kids who would not have given St. Paul the time of day were influenced in a good way by that song. A warning from the radio about poor choices and the consequences of bad behavior somehow carries more weight than the same advice coming from the Bible.
But our Second Reading is about far more than acceptable and unacceptable behavior. Like the First Reading from the Book of Proverbs (9:1-6), St. Paul is urging us to live wisely, rejecting destructive behavior, trying our best to understand the will and the way of the Lord!
As we continue to unpack and reflect upon the “Bread of Life Discourse” set forth at John 6, we see that when the people encountered the very challenging mystery of Eucharist, Jesus’s great invitation to us, they simply did not understand. Jesus continued to explain. They apparently did not listen to Him. We’re told that they “argued among themselves.” The louder and more determined voices opposing Jesus proved more persuasive.
What a sad ending this story brings. The people just walked away! Turning away from Jesus! That ain’t the way to the truth…and that ain’t the way to eternal life! Turning away from Eucharist…That ain’t the way to the Father, The Son, or the Holy Spirit!
Response August 9, 2015
This reminds me of St Ignatius of Loyola’s prayer:
Teach me to be generous;
Teach me to serve you as you deserve,
To give and not to count the cost,
To fight and not to heed the wounds,
To toil and not to seek for rest,
To labour and not to seek reward,
Except that of knowing that I do your will. Amen.
Thank you once again Father for keeping us on the right path! God bless you…
Thank you Fthr Kelly – hope you have a nice day and enjoy your week.
Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
August 9, 2015
Infants and toddlers cry and make a fuss anywhere and at any time. As children grow and develop, they begin to get a little more control over their emotions. Teenagers…well, they are in a class all of their own. But, by the time we are adults, we usually have acquired the social skills and the emotional maturity to express our feelings in an appropriate way and at the proper time. That being said, we never seem to get past the urge to GRUMBLE…MURMUR…COMPLAIN! Whether we “think it,” whisper it to ourselves…under our breath, so to speak, or share our negative and obstinate feelings with others…most of us do it! Maybe it’s one of the consequences of original sin. I suspect that Adam and Eve didn’t leave the Garden silently; if not, maybe as they made their exit from paradise, and certainly by the time they had to work in order to eat!
I wonder if the first parents passed on this all too common human tendency with the other unfortunate things that came along with the original sin. We certainly see examples of this human behavior throughout the Old Testament. Israel spent 40 years wandering in the desert and perfecting the technique which carried over into the New Testament. This week’s Gospel tells us that people who enjoyed the free meal of loaves and fish did not understand Eucharist…and so they GRUMBLED…MURMURED…COMPLAINED.
Do we understand Eucharist? Do we today understand that Eucharist is about God wanting to be an intimate part of us, so that we, in turn, can become more “God-like?” Do we understand that Eucharist is far more than simply a religious ritual? Eucharist is God’s greatest gift to humankind that carries with it God’s greatest challenge to humankind. Eucharistic people are challenged to become what we eat! That means that strengthened by The Lord’s Body and Blood, we are called to go out into the world and show the Face of Christ to all whom we meet.
Eucharistic spirituality includes with it a deep and sincere appreciation for the Communion we share with the Divine and the communion we are called to embrace with the universal family. As the song goes…
“We are called to act with justice.
We are called to love tenderly.
We are called to serve one another, to walk humbly with God.”
The “Gift” part of Eucharist is easy to accept. But sometimes the “call” part…the expectation that comes with the “Gift”…the Divine challenge that is part of sharing in the Divine life….well, sometimes, that part of Eucharist can cause us to GRUMBLE, MURMUR, AND COMPLAIN!
Considering all of this, are you spiritually mature enough to walk up the isle this Sunday to accept the Gift…as well as the challenge? Or might you walk away GRUMBLING…MURMURING OR COMPLAINING?
Response August 2, 2015
YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH!
Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
August 2, 2015
That line, delivered (actually shouted) from the witness stand in a military courtroom by Jack Nicholson in the movie “A Few Good Men” is part of Hollywood history. That courtroom scene has become legendary, certainly because of the skill of the actors, but also, possibly, because it prompts us to ponder whether or not we can…”handle the truth.”
One of the truths that we see in the Book of Exodus is that the people were quick to forget the misery and degradation of slavery, and equally as quick to forget how God, through Moses, liberated them. The same held true with Jesus’s followers. His popularity spiked after the miraculous event of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes. However, as soon as their bellies started to growl again…so did they. I wonder if St. Paul’s ratings took a hit after the Ephesians read his letter telling them that they needed to give up the lifestyles to which they had grown accustomed? Could they handle the truth?
Francis echoes Paul in his recent encyclical on the environment. We need to give up our current lifestyles or there will be dire consequences. But this cautionary document has been met with much criticism by many people…even religious leaders. Why? Maybe because, like the Israelites, people have forgotten what misery and degradation comes from slavery to sin…and have also forgotten how God, through Jesus Christ, has liberated us.
In another powerful courtroom scene played out on Good Friday, Pilate asked Jesus: “What is truth?” The Gospel does not report a response. A response was not necessary because Jesus had already identified Himself as The Truth. (John 14:6) So it would seem that if YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH, then…YOU CAN’T HANDLE JESUS CHRIST! St. Paul told the Ephesians the very same thing The Holy Father is telling us today…if you want to be in a genuine relationship with Christ, then you have to change your lifestyle.
The Truth…plain and simple…is that to be in a genuine relationship with The Lord, one must live “in righteousness and holiness of truth.” CAN YOU HANDLE THE TRUTH? We are in desperate need of a Few Good Disciples…hopefully YOU are one of them.