The first time I went zip-lining was several years ago. My very first time was a short line - but across a very deep canyon.
I am afraid of heights. So my fear kept me from enjoying the view I was being offered -- mostly because I had my eyes closed and I was hanging on for dear life.
After a few more attempts at this past time -- I learned how to relax - knowing I was perfectly safe in my harness. And it was only after I felt comfortable - that I truly enjoyed the experience.
I learned to enjoy zip-lining -- by doing it.
One of the things I feared the most about becoming a priest -- was speaking in public. I'm an introvert. I seek out quiet corners at gatherings.
I totally dislike being the center of attention.
It was only by doing this -- over and over again -- that I became comfortable doing it - and now enjoy it quite a bit - even though I still get intimated from time to time depending on who I am speaking to.
To become good at public speaking - to get over the fear that most people fear more than death itself -- you just have to do it. And it certainly helps to be convinced that you have something worthwhile to say and share with people.
Jesus said: "Everyone who acknowledges me before others, I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father. But whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my heavenly Father."
This certainly builds on the idea that we heard last week: that all of us are called to evangelize. That all of us, not just me --- but all of us -- are called to be the light of Christ -- and to draw others into the light of Christ. And we get used to doing it -- by actually doing it! And it should help that we do have something worthwhile to say: we are proclaiming the Kingdom of God – a way of being and of doing here on earth, so that we enjoy life in heaven for all eternity.
Oh I know - we don't like doing it. We are afraid people will think we are some kind of Jesus freak. And we are also probably fearful of rejection and of failure.
Which puts us right there in the pit with Jeremiah who experienced terror on every side when he tried to prophecy on behalf of the Lord. Or like St. Paul who was writing his letter to the Romans as he was on the way to that city to be put on trial -- for boldly preaching the kingdom of God to Gentiles!
So if we are a little afraid of responding to our call to be evangelist -- those spreading the good news of the kingdom -- we are in good company. Name the saint - and chances are they had a rough time too. BUT IT DID NOT KEEP THEM FROM DOING WHAT GOD WAS CALLING THEM TO DO!
And I think that's because they remembered at least two things -- that we would benefit from remembering also.
First - most often they let their actions speak louder than their words. As St. Anthony of Padua, no stranger to misunderstanding as he spent several years in a treehouse to get away from his detractors -- once stated:
" Actions speak louder than words; let your words teach and your actions speak."
Or as St. Mary Mackillop stated: "we must teach more by example than by word."
So if people don't want to listen, and if they out-right reject us -- we just keep doing what we are supposed to do - living the calling God has given us – being the light in our dark world and leading others to the light of Christ --- because we never know who is paying attention and WILL grow closer to God because of us.
The second thing we should remember -- is what Jeremiah tells us today: that no matter what: "the lord is with us, like a mighty champion and our persecutors will stumble, they will not triumph and in their failure they will be put to shame."
Which is just a re-enforcement of what we heard last week: when we are actually failing, or think we are a failure -- that's when God swoops under us -- and lifts us up as on Eagle's Wings -- and allows us to try to soar once again.
My sisters and brothers - the Scriptures and our faith are very clear on this: God loves us. And God wants to get that message across to as many people as possible.
And so God sends us --to carry that Good News to others.
And so we need to heed what Jesus tells us four times in the Gospel today: do not be afraid.
Just as God takes care of the sparrows -- God will take care of us -- because we are worth more than sparrows.
And then also listen to this advice of Saint Mother Theresa of Calcutta: “If you want to bring God to all the world – first go home and love your family.”
So we are out of the Easter season. We retained white as our liturgical color for the special celebrations of the Holy Trinity and The Body and Blood of Christ — and now we are back to the GREEN of ordinary time – when we resume our count of the Sundays using ordinal numbers – today being the 11th Sunday of Ordinary Time.
We will only count up to the 17th Sunday of Ordinary Time – have a peek of white as we celebrate the Feast of the Transfiguration on August 6th – then resume counting the 19th through the 33rd Sunday. Celebrate the Feast of Christ the King – then start a new liturgical year with the 1st Sunday of Advent.
The time is going to fly by – so we might as well have fun – and maybe learn a few things along the way so that we can be more like Christ.
So, there was a little girl on her way to her Catholic school, dressed in her school uniform. Thinking she was going to be late – she began running to get to school on time.
Being the good Catholic she was – She began praying as she ran: “Dear Lord, don’t let me be late!”
And all of a sudden – she tripped and fell, getting a little dirty and banging up her knee.
Not being discouraged, she got up, brushed herself off, and started running again.
This time praying: “Dear Lord, don’t let me be late. But please don’t shove me again to get me to move faster!”
I don’t think God shoves us when we’re doing our best at something – but I do think God shoves us when we need to get moving – or at least when we need to get moving in the right direction.
In today’s first reading we had an image of God in which most people find comfort. God said to his people: “I bore you up on eagles’ wings and brought you here to myself.”
This is the scripture passage Michael Joncas used for the song we will use at Communion:
And he will raise you up on eagles’ wings. Bear you on the breath of dawn. Make you to shine like the sun. And hold you in the palm of his hand.
Michael wrote this song for a couple of his friends for their wedding – but we use it alot at funerals: because it gives us an image of God’s protection and a sense of security.
But there are other aspects of the image of eagles’ wings to consider.
One is – when the baby eagles are old enough to fly, the mother eagle will nudge the little ones out of the nest in order to get them in the air so they can start to fly: the old sink or swim methodology – or in this case fly or crash.
But even eagles are capable of compassion: if a young eagle starts falling and does look as if it is going to crash – that’s when the adult eagles come to the rescue.
The adult bird, either the father or the mother: will soar down under the falling fledgling and support them and lift them up so they can try again.
God wants to keep us from crashing for sure – but God is not in the business of providing free rides so we can get through life without much work or effort.
God is in the business of getting us to mature, to grow up, to use the gifts and talents and energy God has given us.
We’ve all had times when we feel as if God has dumped us and we have to make it on our own. The truth is, God is watching out for us, but God is not going to do our job for us. We’re not getting into the kingdom of God without effort on our part. And part of that effort is to hear God’s voice and keep God’s covenant as God told the people of Israel in the first reading. And doing that is not always easy.
If eagles’ wings symbolize God’s watchful care, God’s watchful care is also expressed by another image in today’s gospel – that of a shepherd.
St. Matthew tells us how Jesus’ heart went out to people of his day who were like sheep without a shepherd, lost and abandoned.
Jesus wants to reach out and help all of them but he knows he can’t so he chooses people to help him. They receive the name “apostles” which means those who are sent out.
Today, Jesus still sends people out. Some of them have the same role the apostles had: to be spiritual leaders of the community: like Pope Francis, and Bishop Johnston, and the three deacons we are blessed to have in this parish.
But there are religious men and women, teachers, those who take Communion to the sick and home bound, those who work in homeless shelters and in food pantries – and parents who do their best to raise their children to be good, and hopefully - holy - people.
We all have our part to be a witness to the risen Lord and to guide and direct other people to him. Just think if everyone here brought just one person with them to Mass next weekend – how tremendous that would be.
Jesus said to pray that the master of the harvest send out laborers for his harvest. God wants to share profound love for all people – but someone needs to let people know that.
That someone is NOT just me – but also you. We could certainly be blessed with more priests. That’s something we need to pray about. Bishop Johnston will soon announce more parishes that will be closing in our Diocese because of the lack of priests.
In my home diocese of Indianapolis – when the new assignments of priest came out – I noticed out of the 21 assignments – 11 were just adding another parish to the one the priest already had – as if priests have an unlimited amount of time and energy. . . especially as we continue to age. . .
So yes, pray for priests. But also pray for a renewed sense of how all of us are called to evangelization – how all of us are called to be first of all the light in the very dark world we live in – but also called to lead others to the light of Christ.
We share with our friends a good story or a good movie we’ve seen or that great restaurant we just ate at the other night – are we also sharing our faith with them???
God’s love flows from every reading today. Can we absorb that love – soak it up while we are here – and then share it with others throughout the week? That’s our calling:
With one voice to pass the word along.
With one voice, to bring justice to the world.
To spread the goodness of God.
I think you stand a better chance of getting it right this time— than you did several weeks ago – when I ask the question again: what do all of these statements have in common:
-He’s just a kid. We should not let one action ruin his whole life - he deserves a second chance.
-I accept your apology and forgive you - and let’s do our best to put it behind us.
-Just because she was like that once - doesn’t mean she is that way now: people CAN change. . .
-Or how about this one: I’m not perfect - so how can I expect anyone else to be?
Did you get it this time? They are things we almost NEVER hear people say.
Again, perhaps more accurate to say that I seldom hear these things said - but something tells me that it’s probably the same with you.
Instead, we hear things like:
-I hope that guy gets what’s coming to him.
-I’m never going to forgive her because of what she said to me.
-People never change – if he was like that before, he’s still like that.
-Or, why can’t people just be perfect like me??
One definition of MERCY is the “compassionate treatment of those in distress, especially when it is within one’s power to punish or harm them.”
That’s why Pope Francis says “a little bit of mercy makes the world less cold and more just.”
We seldom here words that extend mercy to others - because is seems as if mercy is kind of in short supply.
And maybe this is nothing new– maybe it’s always been this way - and maybe that’s because mercy might be one of the most difficult things we can do - and so we seldom practice it and so seldom hear about it.
Because unlike other positive attributes like generosity, honesty, or compassion – mercy is hard to fake - because it has to be soooo intentional.
In fact many people see us as kind of weak or soft if we show mercy to others - and few of us want to come off looking this way.
Maybe you disagree – and that’s okay. I’m just saying from my perspective, specifically the vengeful things I sometimes hear people say – mercy is not meted out in abundance. . .
And so it is hard for us to want to extend mercy to others, hard for us to be kind, and loving, and forgiving – when our knee-jerk reaction is to act otherwise.
Of course we seldom want someone else’s knee-jerk reaction directed at us – when it comes to OUR faults, failing, and imperfections - we certainly want others to be merciful to us – but to extend that mercy to others– it’s mt so easy and so not so fast.
And that’s unfortunate – because Pope Francis has also said that “mercy is the very face of God.” The God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – whom we gather to celebrate today on this feast of the Holy Trinity.
This feast teaches us that at the very heart of God - at the very core of God – is the a “relationship.” And not just any kind of relationship – but a loving relationship between Father, Son, and Spirit. Love is at the core of who God is – and it is love that is not hoarded and not clung to by God – not kept in a tight embrace – BUT POURED OUT FOR US.
And poured out not just once in awhile – but continuously. A love that is merciful, just, overwhelming, abundant, all accepting and all forgiving.
This is who we believe that God is:
God the Father – the one who created all things out of love and saw that all of it was good. Which includes you and me – we are good - and God the Father holds all creation in the palm of his hand – gently sustaining us and every other created thing.
This is also God the Son: the one who became like us in order to save us, redeem us, and show us what true love looks like.
And this is God the Spirit: our God who is not watching us from a distance, but who is alive and well and at work in every human heart.
At the heart of God - and God’s very core is a relationship. A relationship of love which includes abundant mercy: “for God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.”
So if this is our God, and we are called to be like God – why do we have such a hard time embracing the very core of who God is?
The answer is not a simple one – and each of us has our own reasons as to why we fall short of being the person God wants us to be.
But when we look at the life of Jesus, it becomes abundantly clear that:
God is NOT looking for reasons to punish us.
God is NOT looking for an opportunity to “give us what we deserve.”
God is NOT looking for a way to “teach us a hard lesson” or “make sure we know who is in charge” or cause us to worry unnecessarily or fear God’s wrath every second of every day.
NO, our God is constantly looking for opportunities to show us mercy, opportunities to forgive us, opportunities to be generous, opportunities to simply love us.
That’s our incredible and awesome God. That’s who God is. And that should make us wonder: who are we? Or more importantly: who do we want to be?
Let’s always look to the Trinity to answer those questions.
Moments in time...