Fr. Kelly

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.

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28 Sunday in Ordinary Time
LK 17:11-19
October 13, 2019

Today’s passage from Luke’s Gospel is particularly appropriate for our sisters and brothers gathering for Eucharist “north of the border.” Monday, October 14, 2019, Canadians celebrate “Thanksgiving Day.” The brief encounter between Jesus and 10 lepers not only reminds us of the need to be grateful for all of our blessings, but also draws a clear connection between faith, gratitude, and salvation; a very fine way for Canada to begin the holiday weekend. And it isn’t too early for disciples “south of the border” to be reminded of the lessons drawn from this healing miracle.

A good starting point in our reflection is the word Eucharist…which means THANKSGIVING. When we Christians gather around the healing Word of The Lord and then feast on The Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, we are doing exactly what the faith-filled 10th leper did. We are expressing our gratitude for the cosmic healing from which all humanity has benefited (although not acknowledged and appreciated by the majority) through the suffering and death of our Savior. But, it would seem that the #10…the foreigner…played some role in his own cure. Moreover, Jesus seems to be telling this man that his encounter with God’s Word made flesh has left him with something even more miraculous than cleared skin.

Stand up and go forth, YOUR FAITH has SAVED YOU! The Lord acknowledged the leper’s gratitude with assurances of salvation. Therein lies the connection between faith, gratitude, and salvation. People of faith live in gratitude for their blessings, and somehow, through this lifestyle of gratitude…salvation is to be found.

It’s interesting to consider that a lifestyle of gratitude offers benefits here and now as well. A few years back, in acknowledgement of “U. S. Thanksgiving,” Forbes Magazine (not what one would normally consider a spiritual journal) published an article entitled: 7 Scientifically Proven Benefits of Gratitude That Will Motivate You To Give Thanks Year-Round. Psychotherapist Amy Morin claims that there is research to substantiate that: gratitude opens the door to more relationships, improves physical and psychological health, enhances empathy, reduces aggression, enables people to sleep better, improves self-esteem, and increases mental strength.

All of the underlying research is unnecessary for us who live a lifestyle of gratitude through the Eucharist. Each week, we experience what clinical research is trying to prove!

Think about the song we so often sing: We come to share our story. We come to break The Bread. We come to know our rising from the dead.

We come with grateful hearts to Eucharist, to build and strengthen our relationship with Christ and with one another. And when we come together united by our faith, we extend healing hands to one another.

Remember how the hymn continues: We are called to heal the broken, to be hope for the poor, we are called to feed the hungry at our door. All of these acts of Christian discipleship are evidence of our ability to empathize with the suffering that is pervasive in our world. And it is that very ability to feel the pain of others that makes us more Christ-like.

The final verse of the song is perhaps the most powerful: May we live in love and peace our whole life long. Christian charity and love promote peace in our world. Materialism and greed enrage those who live on the margin and bring about resentment that boils over into violence.

If science has proven that gratitude leads to a better night’s sleep, waking not only refreshed but confident, think of what the grace that flows to us through the Eucharist does. It enables us to embrace death…assured that those who have embraced a lifestyle of gratitude through the Eucharist will not only find healing, here and now, but will be saved…resurrected.

Social research might validate the benefit of saying “thank you” through the Eucharist…We come to know our rising from the dead!

(Thank you to David Haas for his beautiful hymn Song to the Body of Christ)

27 Sunday in Ordinary Time
LK 17:5-10
October 6, 2019

In his little book entitled: Letter to a Suffering Church, (Click on SufferingChurchBook.com) Bishop Robert Barron points out that: In His inaugural address in the Gospel of Mark, Jesus says, simply enough, “metanoite,” which is usually rendered as “repent,” but the word literally means “go beyond the mind you have.”

This clarification seems to be a good starting point with which to approach today’s Gospel. Ambitious for greater faith, the apostles ask The Lord for some tips. Drawing from the images of nature, as He often did, Jesus uses the tiniest of seeds, as well as the sprawling mulberry tree, to explain the limitless power of faith.

What He might just as well have said is: “metanoite”…“go beyond the mind you have.” Don’t settle for the seed of faith that was implanted within you when The Creator called you into life. Summon into fullness all of the potential with which you were born. Awaken the tiny seed that rests dormant in your hearts and feed it, nurture it, protect and prune it, so that it grows into a majestic tree that stands tall and proud within the forest of humanity. And then, at the proper time, you will have the strength and power to “transplant” what you have grown…into The Kingdom.

In our Second Reading, St. Paul uses a different image to teach the same lesson. Don’t be content with a dying fire…stir into flame the gift of God...and enjoy the power that is awakened by simply tending to embers that otherwise would die out…leaving cold, dark ash.

But here is the twist.

Once the power is awakened…”stirred into flame”…its potential realized…it is then, and only then, that we can go beyond the mind we have and follow the example of Jesus, enslaving ourselves to the will and the ways of Almighty God. The notion of indenturing oneself to another, especially when we feel powerful and in control, runs contrary to human nature. But, by word and example, Jesus teaches us that our power and strength must be unconditionally committed to God.

This is a leap of faith that uproots the mind from the forest of human nature to be replanted in the infinite ocean of love that is God.

Say that again! How can we increase our faith?

Metanoite…repent the lack of trust in, and commitment to, the will of God, and then >“go beyond the mind you have,” enslaving yourself to God’s ways.

26 Sunday in Ordinary Time
LK 16:19-31
September 29, 2019

This is the second Sunday in a row that the Old Testament Reading was taken from the writings of the Prophet Amos. Amos, of course, is the voice of social justice. As exciting and moving as his writings might well be, when we read them, or even hear them proclaimed during the liturgy, we simply do not “feel the heat” that must have radiated from him as he spoke live to his ancient audiences. This past Monday, a meeting held at the United Nations offered an opportunity of experiencing what it might have been like to hear Amos in person.

Repeatedly punctuating her brief but blistering remarks with the question: How dare you! A teenager from Sweden spoke passionately about environmental concerns.

People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction and all you can talk about is money and fairytales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!

You say you hear us and that you understand the urgency, but no matter how sad and angry I am, I do not want to believe that. Because if you really understood the situation and still kept on failing to act, then you would be evil, and that, I refuse to believe.

Although her “issue” is global warming and climate change, hardly a matter of concern to Amos, the link between the young woman’s speech and this Sunday’s Readings is the proper and righteous response to human suffering…especially by the most privileged.

Certainly her “issue” is a matter of debate that has become highly politicized. The young woman’s motives, emotional state, and even sanity have been questioned. It is quite likely that the same held true so many centuries ago when Amos called the wealthy and privileged to task. Jesus is the very best example of the way prophets are treated…especially by those who feel targeted or challenged.

The excerpts from the UN address seem to echo Amos’s indictment of those who ignore opportunities to relieve human suffering. Although the remarks are prophetic in tone, it would not be fitting to place the young woman on the same level as Amos. But it would likewise be very ill advised to completely dismiss her…or ignore her…or ridicule her. There is no authentic challenge to her point that: People are suffering. People are dying. And is there truth to her point that there are others who have the power and resources to, at a minimum, ease that suffering. There is very credible evidence that the gap between the so called 1% and the rest of humanity is widening dramatically. But, it can be bridged with the mere stroke of a pen. Charity is all that is required.

However, in the Kingdom of God, there is no way to bridge the “great chasm” that separates those who have suffered in this life and those who appear to be oblivious to the misfortune of others. Because if you really understood the situation and still kept on failing to act, then you would be evil.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus seems to be setting an even higher standard. If you really are so self- absorbed and self-indulgent that you are totally oblivious to the distress of your sisters and brothers…HOW DARE YOU! You will be treated like you were evil.

25 Sunday in Ordinary Time
LK 16:1-13
September 21, 2019

It was recently reported that the New York Attorney General’s office is conducting an investigation into the financial holdings of a family which owns a pharmaceutical company that manufactures what has proven to be a highly addictive “painkiller.” Evidence of the transfer of AT LEAST $1 billion in wire transfers to Swiss banks aroused suspicion of efforts to conceal assets in anticipation of an avalanche of litigation arising out of the opioid crisis.

Although our justice system promotes a presumption of innocence until proven guilty, it certainly would be a surprise if these unimaginably wealthy people, realizing that they were vulnerable, had not taken steps to ensure they did not lose all that they had gained under the guise of controlling people’s pain.

This is just one example of the addictive power of wealth. The news as well as the court system is full of other examples.

Much like “opioids,” money helps control pain. Money enables us to relieve hunger and protect ourselves from the elements with good clothes and sturdy shelter. Like “painkillers,” money dulls our worries and concerns about our future and serves to enhance our moods. But, for many, the benefits of wealth are quickly outweighed by the risks.

Wealth tends to be addictive. It takes control over our senses and values and stimulates the appetite to acquire more…and more…and more…until the servant become the master…or the monster. And “the monster” is particularly ferocious when threatened. People take remarkable measures to protect their wealth…be it transferring funds to offshore accounts or Swiss banks, or, like the unfaithful steward in the Gospel, by “cooking the books.”

The Old Testament speaks frequently to the issue, with Amos, the Prophet of social justice (refer to today’s First Reading) being the most forceful voice, warning against the all too human tendency toward greed.

But the good news is there is a cure. And there is no need to check into an expensive rehab facility to become healthy. A dose of Christian charity can help to tame “the monster” to be repeated whenever the symptoms return.

24 Sunday in Ordinary Time
LK 15:1-32
September 15, 2019

This Sunday, The Church gives us a particularly long Gospel. In fact, and most likely because of our really short attention spans, preachers are given the option of proclaiming only the first third of the chapter (Luke 15:1-10), omitting the very relatable drama of what some might consider to be a highly dysfunctional family. For me, that is like being served a bread basket, followed by small dinner salad, and then told the meal is over…no main course…no entree. I, for one, would leave the table unsatisfied…still hungry.

While both of the shorter parables stand on their own, delivering a lesson about the joy of recovering something thought to be irretrievably lost, it seems that Jesus intended them to be “appetizers” but not the full meal. So, I think if we are to walk away from The Table of The Word on this 24th Sunday completely satisfied, in spite of our really short attention spans, it’s important to be served up all three parables…and then dessert might be something really light…a very short homily.

The problem is, our host has done the shopping, set the table, laid out all the ingredients next to the pots and pans and cooking utensils, and has even opened the cookbook to the recipe…but has left us to prepare the meal. Think about it, there is no ending to the family drama. The Lord has left us everything we need to finish the story…according to our own taste…or preference…or experiences. But, it’s up to us to do the work.

I find the most helpful cookbooks to be those that have a large, colorful picture of the completed dish next to the recipe. That picture gives the amateur chef something to aim for. Very often, when one places their best effort next to the picture, it leaves something to be desired. But the next time they prepare the dish, it gets better. Encouraged, they keep returning to that recipe until it becomes their “signature dish.”

The key ingredients that the Lord has laid out for us this Sunday are patience, forgiveness, mercy, and, of course…LOVE. So what would a picture of this meal that we are invited to share today look like?

The “lost son,” having returned home out of desperation, would be overwhelmed with gratitude for the homecoming. Less out of guilt than from a newfound sense of duty and obligation, he would focus all of his energies towards restoring what he has squandered.

The father, now content that the “lost son” is home and back on track, would turn towards the “faithful son” in order to help him heal from the experience so as to restore harmony to the family. Still, fully understanding how short the human attention span truly is, the wise, patient, forgiving, merciful, and all-loving father would never stop worrying about his children.

While at first angry and resentful, the “faithful son” would slowly respond to the special attention of the patient and all-loving father, and encouraged by the efforts of his brother, would eventually imitate the father’s example of acceptance. Even the long suffering son would come to appreciate the joy in recovering something thought to be irretrievably lost.

That is the picture in the book. How does it compare with what you bring to the table?

Even people who betray you are part of the plan.

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