Saturday, July 30, 2016

11th Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 18, Year C

When Does Need Become Greed

Readings: Hosea 11:1-11; Psalm 107:1-9, 43; Col 3:1-11; Luke 12:13-21

Ours is a very materialistic age. Our greed for “stuff” is insatiable. We buy, not because we need, but because we want. It is a sad commentary on our society that garbage is such an issue. It seems that greed is insatiable. It always wants more than a person can accumulate. There are even those who say that greed is a good thing. Ivan Boesky, a well-known stock trader defended greed in a commencement address at Berkley back in the 80’s. He said, “Greed is all right, by the way. I want you to know that. I think greed is healthy. You can be greedy and still feel good about yourself.”

Thomas Merton known primarily for his more than seventy books, was a Trappist monk. He was preparing to leave his monastery in Kentucky to live alone. It had taken him some time to convince his abbot that living the life of a hermit was the right thing for him. Then on top of that there was the ordeal of moving. He describes it in his diary. It was a time of emptying of closets, of cleaning out of files and of leaving items behind. Many useful things he gave away. Some things he burned – the kinds of things that accumulate but have no purpose in your life. As he lit the fire and then watched all that “stuff” burn up, he experienced a deep sense of liberation. In the ashes, he left behind his past and began his new life.

In contrast there was an article a few years back about Oprah Winfrey. In the course of the interview it came out that although she is one of the wealthiest women in the world, yet she feels insecure about her future. She worries that she does not have enough. She worries that she will lose everything and become poor again.

And if you look at Scripture, the problem is not totally new. Just exacerbated by our ability to produce wealth!

A man came to Jesus with a request. “Make my brother share the family inheritance with me,” he demands. Jesus looks behind the request to something deeper. The request, after all, is only a symptom. He could referee the situation and resolve the immediate issue. Nothing would really change. And so Jesus refuses to get embroiled in the argument.

Instead he tells a parable. There is a rich farmer whose land is so prosperous that he has nowhere to store his grain. He does the prudent thing. He builds new and bigger barns. This done, one might imagine that he would sit back and really enjoy life. But no! His sole aim is to amass as much grain as possible. The unthinkable happens. He dies suddenly and without warning.

“What really is the problem?” you may be asking yourself. “It was simply good management on his part. He worked hard his whole life. He made a success of himself. It is tragic that he died before he could really enjoy the benefits of his hard work.”

By telling the story, Jesus is pointing out some important things. Here is a person who is equating material success with spiritual progress. Like so many people, he is saying: “I am prosperous, so God must be blessing me, rewarding me.” He is regarding his possessions as the ultimate measure and value of his life. Possessions are not in and of themselves evil. They could be used responsibly and become a blessing to society in so many ways. They could do so much good. But if building up his empire is the end goal, then it has impoverished him spiritually.

Like Oprah, he is worrying that he does not have enough. What should be worrying him is whether or not he is becoming the person God intends him to be. He should be asking who he is.

It is a vivid parable, not about an evil person, but about a foolish one. There is no problem with looking working hard. There is no problem in being prudent. There is no problem in being successful. It is good planning. It is common sense. But we need to continually ask ourselves at what cost we are prosperous? At what cost has it come to my life? At what cost has it come to my country? At what cost has it come to the world? Who is suffering for my success? And then we need to do something about it. There is a danger in becoming too materialistic. It is tragic when things take precedence over God and spiritual values. How do we refocus, put things into their proper perspective, so that we do not lose out on divine meaning and purpose and its order and joy in our lives?

That makes it a very contemporary problem. As Canadians we enjoy the best that this world has to offer. In the whole scheme of things we may not consider ourselves to be wealthy. But who of us in this parish does not have enough? And let us be honest about what is enough. Enough to put food on the table! Enough to clothe ourselves! Enough to provide shelter for our families! Enough to educate ourselves! Enough to keep ourselves healthy! Enough to share! Even enough to dream!

What we cannot allow to happen is for the dreams to take over lives. When does ‘need’ become ‘greed’? It is when we begin to see our wants as needs that we are in peril of losing ourselves. Then we are in peril of losing our spiritual connection to God. We are “storing up treasures for ourselves but are not rich toward God”.

So how do we ensure that we are “rich toward God”? What would our parish life be like if we were truly “rich toward God”? Consider the riches of the members of this congregation. We have gifts and talents beyond measure. We have a lovely choir who offer their talents Sunday by Sunday. We have amazing readers who bring the Word of God alive. We have lay readers and servers who help to beautify our liturgies. We have people who are passionate about the environment. We have those who are advocates for justice. And we have people who give faithfully of their treasures. Otherwise we would not be able to open our doors.

But is there more that we could do? What riches do we bring to our local community? What do we bring in terms of knowledge, of income, of time? How can our gifts be used for the benefit of others? How are our gifts used to spread the message of the gospel?

We enjoy the abundance of God’s grace. Yet often we live as if we are impoverished. Let us, as a congregation, invest our time, our talents and our treasures wisely. Let us use our wealth to build up God’s realm. Let us be “rich toward God”!

Saturday, July 23, 2016

The 10th Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 17, Year C

Lord, Teach us to Pray

Readings: Colossians 2:6-15 (16-19); Luke 11:1-13

Jesus was praying, Luke tells us, in a ‘certain place’. I imagine him to be on a rolling hill by the Sea of Galilee. His disciples watch him at prayer with some interest. They see the serenity surrounding him as he prays. They want that same sense of peace. “Teach us to pray,” they say to him. Jesus responds with a prayer from his Jewish roots, a prayer that very much reflects his thoughts about who God is and the place God has in his life. He addresses God as Father. His prayer begins, not with his needs, but with his relationship with God. He prays that God will meet his needs. He prays to be a forgiving person. He prays not to be tested by life more than he can endure. They know from his prayer that Jesus is in a loving and intimate relationship with God, a relationship in which they want to share.

How did you learn to pray? I suspect that most of us in this church today learned to pray from our parents. I would also suspect that what we really learned was how to say some prayers. Speaking for myself, I would kneel at the side of the bed as my mother heard my prayers, simple prayers taught to me by rote. Somewhere along the way I learned to say the Lord’s Prayer. It became a routine. I would rattle it off without thinking about what I was saying. You see, I had not really learned how to pray.

Jesus continues in his teaching about prayer by telling a story. It is a story that paints the portrait of a loving God and offers instances of human generosity and the motives behind it. He tells of a person who will get out of bed and supply a friend’s need, not because he wants to get out of bed, but because the friend is persistent. A traveller has arrived unexpectedly on the man’s doorstep. He has nothing to feed him. He goes to his neighbour and bangs on the door. He wants his neighbour to give him some of tomorrow’s fresh bread. The family has already retired for the night. The gate is locked. It causes no small interruption. It wakes up the children and the dogs. It is stretching friendship a bit far. Jesus points out that hospitality is important enough, and the shame of not providing it was so great, that the poor man will get up, reluctantly, to respond to the request.

He is pointing out a simple truth about prayer. It is not the words that we pray that bring about some magical change in our lives. It is our attitude towards prayer. Prayer is intended to bring us into a closer relationship with God. It gives us the inclination to place every aspect of our lives in God’s presence and offer it in prayer. That means it is not enough to simply rattle off our prayers without really thinking about what we are saying, without allowing the words of the prayer to change our lives.

That seems simple enough, but this passage of Scripture as with many passages creates some real difficulties for people. “For everyone who asks receives,” Jesus continues in his story, “and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.”

So Jesus, what do I say to the young woman who opens up to me telling me her story of years of sexual abuse at the hands of her father? “I prayed every day to God that he would stop, but he didn’t!” she told me. “Maybe I didn’t use the right words. It must have been my fault.”

What of the man suffering from years of depression who was convinced by a well-meaning friend to pray to God rather than take medication?

Or the young widow who prayed earnestly that her husband, dying of cancer would be healed. What do I tell her when she asks me, “Is it something he did? Am I being punished for my sins?”

What do I say to the family of the teenager hit by a car, praying desperately for a miracle as the doctor tells them that there is no hope and that life support is to be withdrawn?

What do we tell people whose loved ones have been massacred in one of too many attacks over the past few weeks?

Those fervent prayers cause crises of faith. Why did God not answer my prayer? Did God fail or did I? Is it lack of faith on my part? Did I do something wrong? Did I pray the wrong way or use the wrong words? Perhaps there is no God after all? And there are well-meaning people who are quick to blame victims for their lack of faith. What happens is part of the human tragedy. There are things that challenge our courage, trials of pain and suffering, of loss and bereavement. And all of us die. Some of us it is true, die all too young.

Jesus says that the answer lies in continuing to pray, in being persistent in our prayer life. In prayer we ask for what we need. We ask, not because God has some sort of ‘money-back’ guarantee. Nor is it about getting the pink Cadillac you have always wanted. We ask knowing that we are building a relationship with God. We ask knowing that God hears our prayers. We pray with a sense of assurance knowing that the gift of the Holy Spirit is a promise that God will keep. We pray in loving expectation for the responsive word of God to rise in our hearts.

As I reflect I think of three ways in which God responds to our prayers. All three are wonderful gifts. The first gift is the surprise we had not even considered asking for, but which delights us. God is constantly offering such gifts – a rainbow in the sky, a beautiful sunset, a kind glance from a friend, a smile from a stranger.

The second gift is just what we wanted. Sometimes God gives us what we want and pray for. Haven’t we all said, “That was an answer to prayer”? When that happens everything about it smacks of God. It happens at just the right time. We sometimes call it a coincidence, but for me it is God at work, a ‘God-incidence’.

The third gift is not at all what we wanted, but it becomes more valuable as we live with it. God may not respond to our prayers as we wish. We may hear God’s call through a word heard in passing. With time we may begin to value and understand God’s response. Sometimes we do not. In whatever way God succeeds in reaching into our hearts we may hear the voice of God. That gift of grace, that powerful love brings us to the feet of Jesus. There we sit quietly with him enjoying his company, knowing that God loves us and loving us cannot help but answer our prayer.

Jesus’ lesson to the disciples points out a deep truth. The answer to prayer comes about, not because we get it right, or because we are living better lives than everyone else. It is about persistence in prayer, not because we hope to tire God out in order to get what we want, but because in persisting we build a relationship with God. We make God a part of our lives. We make prayer a part of our lives. It becomes as natural to us as breathing. We open ourselves up to God and we let God do the rest. Amen

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Ninth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C, Proper 16

At the Feet of Jesus

Readings: Amos 8:1-12; Psalm 52; Colossians 1:15-28; Luke 10:38-42

I was born in a little country hospital on Lake Erie. We lived in a tiny hamlet, and I was the third child so the doctor knew our family well. He said to my mother, “You have another girl.” Mother replied, “Oh! Her name is Catherine Ann.” He went out to my father with the same news. “Her name is Rachael Ann!’ my father told him. “You two had better get together,” the doctor told him. And so I became Ann Martha. And I must say, it was the bane of my existence growing up. You see my sister’s second name is Mary. They loved to remind me of the story of Mary and Martha, but it was always to remind me of my place in life. I personally believe they missed the point of the story.

What a homey story it is! Yet all week I have struggled with it, much as I struggled with it as a child. What can it possibly be saying to us in the context of all that has happened during this past week? The news of the past week has been devastating; the murder of a young girl and her mother, yet another terrorist act in France, a coup in Turkey. I truly want anything but a homey story. I want something that will give comfort that will allow me to say that God is in control, that there is hope. I want good news.

Not only is it homey. It is also wildly ambiguous. Is it meant to give Mary a male role and deprecate the so called ‘women’s work’ that Martha is doing? Is it lauding Mary for being a submissive female and dismissing the caring Martha? Is it praising impracticality? Is it a feminist story, making space for Mary beyond women’s traditional roles? Or is it the opposite? Is it about what is better or simply about our call, male or female, to be disciples of Jesus?

Jesus is visiting some close friends. As friends will do when they have an important visitor, Martha was scurrying around preparing and serving a meal. Mary, on the other hand, sat at Jesus' feet listening to him. Most women, I suspect, immediately identify with Martha. She complained to Jesus suggesting to him that he order Mary to help with the work. He refused to interfere. Instead he said to her, "Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things."

The gospel is not merely pointing out that Martha was busy getting a meal while Mary sat listening to their guest. It is the business of someone to stay with a guest at any time and in every culture. When something we are doing gets to the point that it is making us distracted then something has gone wrong and we need to do something about it. Jesus did not call Martha to task about what she was doing. He accepted her service and hospitality. Such things were important to him. But she was 'distracted' with all the serving. It was her distraction from what was important that caused him to respond as he did. Her anxiety about all the details kept her from the most important thing, really enjoying the opportunity to be with Jesus, to spend time together, to talk, and to listen to one another. She was missing out on the best part of friendship. She was obsessed with 'doing' rather than 'being'.

Our secular world is one of distractions, distractions that keep us from building relationships. I am sometimes appalled at the amount of time that has passed as I played some mindless game on my computer. And then there is the cell phone. I lived without one for fifty years, yet now I never leave home without it. Who has not reacted at seeing young people seated together at a table, all texting messages to who knows whom and totally ignoring the friends who are seated at the table with them? We have had to enact laws to limit people from driving distracted; the city of Toronto just announced its intention to limit pedestrians from texting to cut down on accidents. As I speak to people planning a relative’s funeral, I am struck by how often I hear regrets that they did not spend more time together. They regret that work came first. Yes! Like Martha, we are distracted by many things.

It happens in church life as well. So many things distract us from the mission of the Church. As a Church there are many issues that we face. They need to be prayerfully dealt with. I trust that is what happened at General Synod. It has been in the news, and so no doubt you will have heard the outcome of one of the many issues that was dealt with over this past week, that of changes in the Marriage Canon to allow same sex marriage. In his pastoral letter to the Diocese, Archbishop Johnson wrote about the problems facing our Canadian Anglican Church over what was a contentious debate.

I quote: “The next months will require considerable prayer and restraint. The bruising, confusion and pain of General Synod are echoed in our Church and certainly in our diocese. We need to provide the greatest pastoral generosity to each other who will be in very different places, and have been formed in very diverse contexts, theologically, spiritually, scripturally, experientially.

We need to be tender with one another, recognising in each other the image of God redeemed by our Saviour Jesus Christ, a beloved child, the desire of God's heart and will.

And we need to remember that what unites us is far more central than what divides us: our baptism into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and our service together in his mission in the world.”

No matter what our personal opinion, we simply cannot let this debate divide us and distract us from the work of the Church. Nor can we separate this issue from our mission. For surely we are called to be an inclusive and loving community of faith.

Martha was so taken up with the hustle and bustle of service that she neglected the quietness of worship. She was so busy giving that she was not open to receiving. With all that distracts us, how do we hear, how do we truly take in Jesus’ words that one thing is needful? If we are to be servants in the world, the assignment begins at the feet of Jesus and draws us back periodically to that place of quietness and strength. Through Word and Sacrament we are renewed and revitalized and able to face the demands of a world so often torn apart by violence, by racism, by sexism, xenophobia, homophobia. Whatever comes along to distract us from what God is calling us to be.

So back to the ambiguities of the story! As far as I am concerned, this story cannot be about who or what is better. It cannot be about the role of women. Service and learning are both part of our call as disciples. What it does point out to us, and how it intersects with all that is going on in our world, is how important it is to maintain our relationship with God. In these times of distraction and upheaval how important it is to be grounded in our faith and able to listen to all that God is saying to the Church. Then and only then are we able to be a prayerful presence in the world. Amen.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Proper 15, Year C

Who is My Neighbour?

Readings: Psalm 82; Colossians 1:1-14; Luke 10:25-37

A lawyer comes to test Jesus. “What should I do to be saved?” Jesus does not give him the answer. He seldom does. Instead, he turns tables on him, asking him, “What do you think you should do?” The lawyer gives the correct answer. “Love God and love your neighbour.” He knows the law. He says all the right things. He does all the right things. He lives a respectable life. He knows that he cannot be challenged on his knowledge of the law. But he wants to justify his actions, so he asks another trick question, “Who is my neighbour?”

Being a lawyer and an upstanding Jew, he knows the definition. Long before Christianity, Jewish tradition taught that love of neighbour was one of the great principles of the Torah. In fact Judaism’s love principle goes deeper than most people imagine. We Christians pride ourselves on the concept of loving our enemies, while the Torah gives examples of how to love do it. “When you come upon your enemy’s ox or donkey going astray, you shall bring it back. When you see the donkey of one who hates you lying under its burden and you would hold back from setting it free, you must help to set it free.”

Jewish people were conscious in every aspect of life of being the chosen people. If other Jews were also God’s chosen, then it was of the utmost importance to be a good neighbour, even to one whom you did not like. So yes, the lawyer understood the call to being a neighbour – to other Jews. So did Jesus.

And so Jesus tells a story. We know it well. A man travelling from Jerusalem to Jericho is robbed of everything and left for dead. Several people pass by him on that busy road, amongst them a priest and a Levite. Maybe they are in a hurry to reach Jericho before nightfall. Perhaps they fear being made unclean. Or they may fear being attacked themselves. For whatever reason, they don’t stop. But a Samaritan, an outcast of society, does stop. He cannot pass another human being in pain without wanting to relieve that pain. He takes care of the man, binding up his wounds. He takes him to an inn and looks after him as long as he can. He even gives the innkeeper enough money to care for the man until he is well. His are not simply Band-Aid solutions; he accepts the full responsibility for this person who is in desperate need.

In telling the story of the Good Samaritan, in even suggesting the possibility that a Samaritan could be good, Jesus is going beyond the biblical laws of the Old Testament that speak of treating other Jews as neighbours. And so he asks the lawyer one last question. “Who was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” He knows there is only answer. “Go and do likewise,” Jesus tells him.

For us 'Good Samaritan' means doing the loving thing. It is a common metaphor, so much a part of our culture that it is in the dictionary. It is defined in the Oxford dictionary as a “charitable or helpful person”. However, in Jesus' time it would have been a stretch. It would have been inconceivable to the lawyer to put those two words together in the same sentence. The Jews of Jesus' time did not consider the Samaritans to be a "good" people. They were considered to be heretical in their worship. The breach between the Jews and Samaritans went as deep as any controversy could go. It hit at every prejudice – race, religion, nationality; that in itself gives a powerful dimension to the story, communicating Jesus’ vision of justice. We do not hear the lawyer’s response. The story comes to an end. But truly the lawyer could not help but get the point that Jesus was making.

We get the point as well. Or do we? ‘Good Samaritan’ means ‘good neighbour’. We all know that. If someone does a great kindness to another we acknowledge that person as a ‘Good Samaritan’. Our province even has a ‘Good Samaritan’ act written to prevent people doing good deeds that go wrong from being prosecuted. We relate to the story. But we can all find legitimate excuses for acting in other ways, to keep from becoming involved.

And so we need to continue to ask, “Who is my neighbour?” What an important question it is in today’s context. We have Brexit in Britain focusing on its nationhood, but with its underlying current of racism. We have the Syrian refugee crisis in a world that puts its own needs first. I have to admit that our response as Canadians makes me very proud, but I know we have not gone far enough. We have our First Nations people who need justice on so many levels. In our society the real challenge is not the casual hand out. Most of us manage ‘charity’ without much thought. It is in confronting the system that creates need in the first place. It is becoming advocates for those who lack power. It is accepting the responsibility for past mistakes that occurred long before our time and allowing transformation to take place in the lives of innocent victims. It is in understanding what it means to be a neighbour.

We know our call to be neighbour, yet we still hear the questions asked and perhaps even think them ourselves. ‘If we open our borders to Syrian refugees what will happen to us? Will we lose jobs for Canadians? Will they just go back when life improves? Will they become terrorists?’ Or when it involves our First Nations people, ‘if we honour their treaties, how will it affect us? What will it cost us? Won’t they just squander our resources? Why don’t they just get over it?’

The story is a revealing and judgemental condemnation of much that goes under the name of Christianity. It makes many professions of faith seem less than authentic. As long as I say the right thing and belong to the right church, my faith cannot be proved or disproved. But this parable demands that I account for my actions. I cannot simply say, “I turn to Christ” without making a commitment to love neighbour as self. Who is my neighbour? Every human being is my neighbour, without regard to colour, background or social status. Jesus’ story of the Good Samaritan hits to the heart of the matter. The question remains: How will I put it into practice?

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Proper 14, Year C

No One is an Island

Readings: 1 Kings 21:1-3, 17-21; Psalm 5:1-8; Galatians 6:7-18; Luke 10:1-12, 17-20

John Donne writes: (No apology given for the change to inclusive language!)

No one is an island,
Entire of itself,
Everyone is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend's
Or of thine own were:
Any one’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in humankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.

No! I am not making a statement about Brexit, although I suspect it applies quite nicely. The theme in Donne’s poem resonates with today’s readings. They all point to our need of God’s grace and of our need to share it for the empowerment of ourselves and others. No one walks alone through life. There is an interdependency on others and on God, no matter how hard we try to make it otherwise.

That is very much the lesson that Naaman learns. Naaman is the commander of the army of the king of Aram. He is a great man, honoured in his country because of his leadership. This man who possesses great power has to learn the hard lesson that he is human and vulnerable, that he needs the help of others, and that there are other kinds of power beyond his own. He has leprosy, not the virulent disease that would have banished him into exile, more of a skin condition, but difficult all the same for a man of his position to deal with. He tries every possible cure, but nothing works. His wife’s maid, a young woman from Israel, one totally void of power, tells him about the prophet Elisha who may be able to cure him. He doesn’t take any chances. He gets the king of Aram to write a letter to the king of Israel. He sets off to Israel armed with the letter, along with lots of money and clothing. The king of Israel is mortified. What is going to happen? Is Israel about to be conquered? Elisha calms his fears. “Send him on over. I’ll look after everything!” he says.

And so Naaman arrives with all of his entourage at Elisha’s house. Elisha ignores him. He doesn’t even come out to see him. Instead he sends one of his house servants, “Go, wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored and you shall be clean.” What Naaman heard was ‘go jump in the lake’! He is beyond angry. After all, he wants a performance equal to his self-importance. He wants the show that he has paid for. His pride is deeply wounded. He refuses to do as Elisha has told him. After all, he wants life to be easy, but not too easy.

Once again it is one of his servants who persuades him to come to his senses. “If he had told you to do something difficult, you would have done it.” Finally he is able to hear the good sense of what the servant is saying. He does as Elisha has told him. No doubt kicking and screaming and complaining of the cold, dirty water, he immerses himself seven times in the Jordan, and he is healed.

It is a wonderful story that reminds us of the struggle most of us have in accepting help. It is a wonderful reminder that there are sources of grace other than those we know in our public lives.

Jesus’ disciples too must learn to depend on God’s grace for their needs. Jesus empowers them to go out into the society around them, to share the good news of what they have come to believe and experience. They go out trusting that God will provide. They don’t pack a lunch. They don’t take money – not even an extra pair of sandals. They stay wherever they are welcomed. And they come back filled with stories and experiences of God at work in and through them. They are happy, not because of their newfound power, but because they belong to God. They know that the glory belongs to God, not to them. They know that they are utterly dependent on God, and that they can trust God to be there in all of their needs.

But that is then, and this is now. In a period in the world’s history when terrorism seems to be all around us, isn’t it better to be an island, to become protective as a community? Our world, after all, is not so different from that of Jesus. The disciples go out, not expecting universal interest and welcome, but knowing that they may be put down.

We are meant to be thrust out, like lambs in the midst of wolves into our secular and revolutionary world. Our role is unlikely to be that of evangelist. It is more likely to be what St. Francis proposed. Preach the Gospel. Use words when necessary. We preach with our lives. We relate to people day by day.

That was the most powerful experience that I had on the Camino. True! People walking the Camino are pilgrims, open to God at work in their lives, whatever God means to them. They are looking for spiritual fulfillment. I was surprised at how many people were walking on their own, not in any group. I became a listener as I walked with strangers whom I overtook on the road. Sometimes I walked with them for only a few minutes before I moved on at my own pace. I heard their stories, their struggles, their heartaches. One time it was simply helping someone struggling up a hill to get water out of her backpack, and encouraging her to continue putting one foot in front of the other when she was tempted to give up. Other times it was pulling out my First Aid kit and offering a compeed to treat a blister. Often it was helping to discern the right path on a tricky part of the trail. And when we parted ways, I continued to pray for those I met, that God would bless them. Several times I met them again at the end of the day in a cafĂ© or at the auberge. I recognized that as they shared their pains and joys with me, I was able to minister to them, not because I am a priest. For the most part they did not know that I was. If it helped to heal loneliness or to raise someone out of despair or to restore someone’s dignity, or to help them in their discernment process, or to comfort them in their pain, then I was seeing Christ in them and allowing them to see Christ in me.

No one is an island. Like the seventy Jesus sent out, we are called to seek out people who will respond. We are to listen to them, to share with them in their pain and their joy. We are to meet their needs. We are to relate to them the gospel message that God loves them and is the answer to their deepest needs. We are called to allow God to work through us. We are called to responsible action, to finding the ways and means that others can know God. We are called to live out the Gospel message in our lives. It is a call to respond in the way we live and work. May we know the urgency of that call! May we respond and live in love as God has called us. Amen.

The Second Sunday after Epiphany, Year A

Come and See Readings: Isaiah 49:1-7; Psalm 40:1-11; 1 Corinthians 1:1-9; John 1:29-42 Invitations come in many shapes and sizes. They ...