From the Archives: Fr. Metzler’s Homilies

From the Archives of Fr. Metzler’s Homilies: 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A

Generous With God’s Gifts

Isaiah 55:6-11   Philippians 1:20-30    Matthew 20:1-16

The theme of the Gospel today is generosity – the generosity of the Lord who is hiring all. Jesus is painting a picture for us of a man who obviously isn’t hiring people because of what they can do for him, but because of what he can do for them.

Scripture scholars tell us that this Gospel was a warning to the Christians of Jewish ancestry. It is presenting a picture of the equal value between Jewish and Gentile believers. The gentiles enter the church later than the Jews but get equal treatment.

Old timers in the Church will have to admit to a tendency to think that we have some special standing with God that “newbies” do not have. It’s as if they believe there is a long period of building up seniority. The longer the seniority, the better is our standing with God. But it is not so, says Jesus.

You’ve heard of companies where the pecking order is measured by the nearness of the employees’ parking spaces to the front door. When someone leaves the company, other employees are begging for their parking space even if it is only three spaces closer to the door. We have an innate need to measure our place. We want to progressively be moving up from the cubicle, to a real office, to the office with a window, to the office on the corner, to the office nearest to the president’s. Leave people alone and they will come up with their own pecking order.

Johnny Carson tells a story about the time when, as the host of the Tonight Show, he made a joke about there being a toilet paper shortage in the city. The next day there really was a shortage because all the viewers who had watched his show ran out afterward and bought up extra toilet paper just in case. There was no trust in the fact that people, if they chose to work together, could ration out the toilet paper to make sure there would be enough for everyone. People panicked and grabbed not what they needed, but more than they needed, leaving others with nothing at all.

Heaven consists of a heartfelt desire for the good of others rather than our own good. If you are motivated primarily by a need to provide for yourself you won’t be very comfortable in “heaven”.

Be thankful you don’t get what you deserve. Yet, God is more generous to us than we deserve.

God is being merciful, not fair, and this parable is what mercy looks like. Grace means there is nothing we can do to make God love us less. Grace means there is nothing we can do to make God love us more!   “It is simply a fact that people regularly understand and appreciate God’s grace as applied to themselves, but they fear and resent seeing it applied to others. Christianity’s unique contribution among world religions is grace. Grace is always amazing grace.

Jesus himself is the best parable of the extravagantly generous God. He makes far too much wine at the wedding at Cana; far too much bread for the hungry crowd; he tells a story about forgiving a debt far too large ever to be paid; and he tells us to forgive, not seven times, but seventy times seven. And as the ultimate revelation of extravagant affection, he willingly gives up his life for us on a cross.

At communion, we are given a little bit of bread and just a sip of wine…our hungers are so deep. Yet in a strange new math, just that little bread and one sip is enough to feed us forever

The good news of the gospel is that we share the extravagantly generous Spirit of Jesus. Sometimes we too can act with extravagant generosity, beyond the rational rules of justice. God’s kingdom is meant to be a new order of grace. Isn’t there always something unexpected and wonderful about a gift of love, even a kind word? A gift is never earned in the way that a wage is earned, and expected.   (W. Metzler)

 

From the Archives of Fr. Metzler’s Homilies: 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A

“Seeking God’s Shalom: Reflections on Labor Day”

Jeremiah 20:7-20    Romans 12:1-2    Matthew 16:21-27

Labor Day celebrates the prophetic concern for justice for the hardworking, poor, and vulnerable. The celebration of Labor Day—a day of rest and respect—emerged out of conflict. First celebrated in 1882 by the Central Labor Union in Boston, “Labor Day” became a federal holiday in 1894 in response to the deaths of a number of workers during the Pullman Strike between labor unions and railroads. Sadly, government was pitted against the people as U.S. marshals and military forces were responsible for the deaths of striking workers. In response to this abuse of power, President Grover Cleveland made reconciliation with the labor movement a top national priority.

The labor movement, often in partnership with Christian leaders, went on to become the source of many of the benefits and rights that both blue and white collar employees hold dear today: vacations, holidays, workers compensation, days off, health insurance, disability, and collective bargaining. Although church leaders were often at the sidelines and even, in some cases, opposed workers’ rights, the Social Gospel movement affirmed the intersection of faith and social ethics and played a major role in securing justice for working people.

Labor Day is more than symbolic. It reflects the prophetic concern for justice for the hardworking, poor, and vulnerable. The prophetic writings and the gospel message consistently affirm the rights of laborers and the dispossessed in relationship to wealthy landowners and greedy business people. Economics matters in the biblical tradition.

What people eat and where they live is a spiritual as well as economic and political issue. Disparity of income and power is a recurring biblical concern: the widows, landless persons, and unemployed people matter to God. Just as God heard the cries of the oppressed Israelites, God hears the cries of the poor. Jesus’ ministry embraced rich and poor alike, but his most controversial acts involved his inclusion of outsiders, people at the margins of the religious, social, and economic worlds, as members of the realm of God, deserving care in this life as well as the next.

With the growing disparity between the wealthy and middle class—not to mention the poor—in the United States, Labor Day is an opportunity for the church to give thanks and recognize the importance of those who stand up for workers, as well as embrace the larger implications of this holiday. This is not a matter of class struggle, but the recognition of God’s Shalom in which property and wealth are ultimately a matter of spiritual stewardship rather than private ownership.

The scriptures do not oppose property ownership or wealth, but see them as part of God’s care for the whole earth. Despite the imperfections of governmental agencies, recent calls to disband the Environmental Protection Agency, eliminate regulations related to business practices and the environment, and radically restructure Medicare need to be examined closely in light of worker’s concerns by persons who seek to follow Jesus. The earth is God’s, the economy is a matter of justice, and care for the vulnerable is a moral and spiritual requirement.

Labor Day, then, offers us a reminder and challenge to affirm the value of work, seek healthy workplace environments, and support opportunities for entrepreneurial adventure in the context of a just social safety net. On Labor Day, we give thanks for those whose efforts have led to workers rights and care for the least of these. And we can make a commitment to seek justice for all workers and balance the need for profit making with care for our society’s most vulnerable members.   (Rev. Bruce Epperly)

1

From the Archives of Fr. Metzler’s Homilies: 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A

A121OT21_1_cf03_4c“The Power of the Keys”

Isaiah 22:12-23    Romans 11:33-36    Matthew 16:13-20

We might call this, “Power Sunday”. There is a theme of handing over “keys” which open and shut. We are reflecting on Power and asking that this gift be handed over to us that gives us the power to be open to all God’s gifts and to shut out what hinders our journey.

We want to recognize the authority Jesus gives each of us to use our gifts to continue God’s creation of the Kingdom in our time here. And, we want to tend to God’s garden of life. We want to give “power” a good name, a good image by the way we exercise compassion, patience, and justice.

REFLECTION

Let’s start with a careful reflection on the First Reading. Shebna has had a rather lofty image of himself as well as a high-up position in the palace. He has begun to really immortalize himself by beginning to construct his own tomb in a high place on the mountain. And God stops him in his tracks and tells him that he will be waded up like a ball and thrown out of the country with all his finery and he will die there in disgrace.

God not only takes away Shebna’s symbols of domination, but God calls somebody else from a different family to rule God’s people. Eliakim will be a “father” to the people of Jerusalem and all the people will be his family under God. Instead of warring with power and striding about arrogantly because of his family of origin, Eliakim will be steadfast and use his authority for peace.

In the Gospel, Jesus travels with His disciples to a city whose very name — Caesarea Philippi — celebrates Roman power and Caesar’s domination over Israel. And it is there that Jesus poses the big question for the purpose of eliciting a bigger Answer: “Who do people say that I am?”. For the first time in their relationship, Peter, speaking for the other disciples, declares publicly the name which is opposed to the power of Rome and all other worldly force. Jesus is the Christ, the Anointed and Expected One, and the Son of God.

Peter, or Simon “son of Jonah” is given a new name and as with Eliakim, Simon is given a title and a power. Peter, the name in Greek and in Aramaic means “rock”. He is to be the foundation of the Church. Not Peter as person, but Peter’s profession of deep belief in Jesus as the Christ — that is the emphasis here.

Next Sunday’s Gospel will show Peter’s faith in Jesus tested severely. For now, though, we hear Jesus conveying upon this Rock, the “keys” of God’s power. The Book of Wisdom, says, “Your mastery over all things makes you lenient to all. But though you are master of might, you judge with kindness.” The “keys” which Peter receives are the instruments of governing as Jesus received that power from His Father. Those keys in the hands of Jesus opened ears, eyes, and hearts. Those “keys” in the hands of Jesus shut out darkness, evil, and death from dominating God’s creation and God’s family. That’s what real keys do; that’s what real Power does.

From another perspective, today’s passage of the keys is often cited to prove papal primacy and the right of the Church to admit or exclude, to loose or unloose. But what really proves the authenticity or our mission is whether our personal priority is including others with leniency and kindness. We are the Church, those called together. We have our structures based on tradition and Scripture with our Pope Francis as chief key-holder. Each of us has been given the Key of the compassion into the very heart of God through Jesus. The power of God has been placed into our hands, and we don’t need to jingle it around as a false sign of belonging and domination. We are each invited to exercise Christ’s power to open ears, eyes, and hearts and to shut out the noises of dishonesty, false posturing, and false temptations to power.

In the history of the Church, power has corrupted and made fools of those who used the power-keys for establishing their own importance. As with Shebna, God brought them down to size. Power can be used as a prop, as a crutch to assist the insecure of spirit. True power is received in open hands, not grabbed and wielded like a club. Each of us receive the power of the keys and our hands are stretched out to accept this blessed gift, this power. These are the same hands which are writing the new and present history of Christ’s church. This power does not corrupt, but in the hands of the faithful, it gives life to the world in His Name.

Someone once wrote that power does not corrupt, but power in the hands of a fool, corrupts the fool. Keys can be a sign of control- car keys, house keys. I have observed that people who jingle their keys are saying that the power they have comes from outside; from what they possess. They make the noise of power to frighten away anybody who might not listen to the noise and might want to ask if anybody’s home in there. That is the fool who has been corrupted by pretentious power. This fool has been fooled by the evil of this world into thinking that things make you who you are, and one’s position proves one’s authenticity. On the high mountain, at the beginning of his public ministry, the Devil offered Jesus power over all things and told Jesus that this power would prove that Jesus was the “Son of God.” But Jesus had received His identity from the Father, and needed no jingling of power-keys to satisfy this world’s demands.

At a gathering of several of Wilkinsburg’s ministers this past week, we reflected on how similar with but a single incident our situation could become like that of Ferguson, Missouri and the false hopes that grip our community leaders. Everyone fears how one misunderstood incident might bring the same fearful crisis to our community. Leaders in Ferguson scramble for an end to the violence and instead create more violence in peaceful people with tear gas and national guard troops. And, as almost with blinders, nobody in our nation or in our own town notice what the real problems are — the addictions, the killing of the young, the spiritual emptiness in the lives of our residents; the pain in families and the despair of the jobless, while officials pat themselves on the back that they are getting state and federal grants to build new buildings and rehab old ones.

The pain and emptiness will still be in Fergeson when the national guard is gone, one minister said. But our job as church is to name the Evils, to bring Christ’s compassion to those suffering, to keep all eyes focused on the real needs of our community — not the lack of funding, but consequences of racism and the lack of seeing with compassion.

We have been given the keys. Let us not squander its power.

From the Archives of Fr. Metzler’s Homilies: 20th Sunday in Ordianry Time, Cycle A

“Crumby Gospel”

Isaiah 56:1, 6-7    Romans 11:11-32    Matthew 15:21-28

But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”

I’m thinking about the crumb of bread I will receive this morning and the morsel I will place into your cupped hands during the Eucharist today. “The body of Christ, broken for you,” He said. The body of Christ broken for me. For me! We all will receive crumbs from the Master’s table — bread and wine, body and blood. It won’t take much. There will be no three-course sit down dinner. A morsel and a tiny sip are enough, yes more than enough, at Jesus’ table.

We need this ‘crumby’ gospel, especially on days when the world seems crummy. We need this taste of Jesus to whet our appetite for more and to sustain us and remind us again and again of what really matters and that we belong. We need to come to the table and kneel, as it were, at Jesus’ feet with all our sorrow, pain, baggage, and badness. Yes, even the little whelps and aged curs get something from the master. No one is excluded. So why do Jesus’ disciples get all lathered up over the Canaanite woman?

You’d think by now they would have realized that Jesus is not out to impress the religious elite or to maintain the status quo. In fact, he’s just delivered, in the passage before, a graphic object lesson about the source of human filth and rottenness. Ouch! Oh, what dark hearts we hide beneath the clothes of respectability and righteousness. Jesus lists some of the dark and dirty things: evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. You get the idea. Not keeping nit-picky rules, abandoning hollow traditions, and refusing to get hung-up on religiosity do not render us ‘unclean’ or outside of God’s love.

I wonder how this encounter in the gospel lesson really went down. We have the words on the page, but we don’t have the tone of voice, the looks, the entire scene before us. When the woman appeals to Jesus he doesn’t answer her. What hangs in that silence? The disciples are evidently quick to fill it by urging that Jesus send this inconvenient truth of an outsider away. His next words, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel,” must have sounded mighty fine to the annoyed and embarrassed disciples.

Perhaps there was a lesson for them in the words that they overlooked. After all, they were quite prone to overlooking both the obvious and the obscure. Yet even in the midst of this rather crummy situation, the woman will not be deterred from holding out her hand for a crumb from Jesus. She instinctively knows she belongs at the table. That is great faith, my friends. And, this too, is great stewardship. This outsider woman gets it. She understands that you don’t hoard grace and that you aren’t stingy with love and healing. A crumb from Jesus makes all the difference in the world.

Chances are that this week you, like all sensitive followers of Jesus, are reeling and/or numb from world events. War and torture everywhere, riots in our own country, hatred toward children at our borders. Add to that the usual list of prayer needs and human brokenness and pain. So I hand out this crumby gospel, these crumbs of abundant love, grace, and salvation, and I won’t be stingy. You, too must believe that Jesus is still about the business of working miracles, changing lives, and ushering in the reconciliation of this world. Come to the table, every last rag tag and gimpy one of you. Hold out your hands for these precious crumbs and receive – and then go out to share — this very good news.  (Sharron Blezzard)

Readings: St. James Day, July 23, 2017

All readings from The Message Bible (© Message Bible Eugene Peterson)

  • Sirach 1: 17-24

My son, conduct your affairs with humility, and you will be loved more than a giver of gifts. Humble yourself the more the greater you are, and you will find favor with God.

For great is the power of God; by the humble He is glorified. What is too sublime for you, seek not, into things beyond your strength search not. What is committed to you, attend to; for what is hidden is not your concern. With what is too much for you, meddle not, when shown things beyond human understanding. Their own opinion has misled many, and false reasoning unbalanced their judgment. Where the pupil of the eye is missing, there is no light, and where there is no knowledge, there is no wisdom.

  • James 2:14-17

Dear friends, do you think you’ll get anywhere in this if you learn all the right words but never do anything? Does merely talking about faith indicate that a person really has it? For instance, you come upon an old friend dressed in rags and half-starved and say, “Good morning, friend! Be clothed in Christ! Be filled with the Holy Spirit!” and walk off without providing so much as a coat or a cup of soup. Where does that get you? Isn’t it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense?

  • Matthew 20:20-29

     It was about that time that the mother of the Zebedee brothers came with her two sons and knelt before Jesus with a request. “What do you want?” Jesus asked. She said, “Give your word that these two sons of mine will be awarded the highest places of honor in your kingdom, one at your right hand, one at your left hand.”

Jesus responded, “You have no idea what you’re asking.” And he said to James and John, “Are you capable of drinking the cup that I’m about to drink?”

They said, “Sure, why not?”

Jesus said, “Come to think of it, you are going to drink my cup. But as to awarding places of honor, that’s not my business. My Father is taking care of that.”

When the ten others heard about this, they lost their tempers, thoroughly disgusted with the two brothers.

So Jesus got them together to settle things down. He said, “You’ve observed how godless rulers throw their weight around, how quickly a little power goes to their heads. It’s not going to be that way with you. Whoever wants to be great must become a servant. Whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave. That is what the Son of Man has d   one: He came to serve, not be served; and then to give away his life in exchange for the many who are held hostage.”

 

From the Archives of Fr. Metzler’s Homilies: St. James Day 2014

“Walking the Camino”

Sirach 1:17-24   James 2:14-17   Matthew 20:20-29

A couple of years ago I was very excited about the film ‘’The Way”.”The Way” is a fictional story about an American eye doctor, played by Martin Sheen, who takes his deceased son’s place on the Camino, the 500 mile pilgrimage across northern Spain to the Cathedral of Santiago (St James) and is transformed.

This past Wednesday, I was privileged to see a showing of another film, a documentary this time, called “Walking the Camino, Six Ways to Santiago”. The film follows six pilgrims, on their real journey, including a mother pushing her 3 year old in a stroller, along this path of suffering, reflection and beauty.

As one priest says at the beginning of the film, people make the pilgrimage for many reasons: devotion, purification, and penance being the more traditional motives. In the olden days, going back 1,200 years, people used to walk the Camino instead of going to jail, and even then some people would pay others to walk it for them, which rather defeats its purpose. One thing is for sure, walking the Camino will change your life.

Single mom Tatiana is walking the Camino with her 3 year-old son Cyrian in a stroller and her brother Alexis. Tatiana is a believer while her brother is not and they are an unlikely pair because they don’t usually get along. They make it together almost the whole way before Alexis’ party behavior and language divides them. But at the end Tatiana admits that she started the Camino wanting to change Alexis but she is the one who changed.

Samantha lost her job and is depressed. But she discards just about everything, even the pills, before starting the Camino. She cut her hair and dyed it another color. And for a whole month she goes without shampooing her hair. By the end she has found interior meaning and a resolve to really live. She admits that people told her she would find answers on the Camino but realized that she didn’t even have the questions. The more she walks, the more her depression lifts.

Wayne is a 70 year old widower who is walking with Jack who had presided over his wife’s funeral four years before. Early on he reflects that “there may be something beyond this, but today I have this, the Camino, and I will walk this day the best that I can.” Jack is more spiritual than Wayne and says, “If you go to Santiago searching for him you will not find him… unless you take him with you from the beginning.” Later Wayne says, “Every day is a journey and the road itself is home.”

Annie is a wide-eyed American and walking the Camino is very hard for her. Besides enduring the physical pain, she doesn’t want to sleep mattress-to-mattress with a stranger but she does it anyway. The next day the German man who slept next to her sees how she is struggling with her backpack and carries it for her. Annie is moved and says, “I have never been that kind to anyone in my life.”

Tomas is a young man from Portugal who “parachuted” in to walk the Camino, meaning he did it without much reflection or preparation. The film opens with him popping the blisters on his feet.

Misa is from Denmark and it’s only she and her mother at home. She walks very fast. Misa meets William from Canada and though he is about 10 years younger, they have a lot in common and spend every moment together until they get to the coastal town of Finesterre beyond Santiago, once thought to be the end of the world. They are the only pilgrims who seem to begin a relationship. Perhaps they will have a future. But it is Samantha who comments that “No woman would try to find a husband on the Camino … between the snoring, farting and smelly boots …”

“Walking the Camino” is beautifully shot and we get to see inside the hostels, and refuges. We meet some of the volunteers at the monasteries who welcome and feed the pilgrims. At one monastery the volunteers wash the feet of the pilgrims. At another, they are invited to spend time in silence, to reflect on their experience. Throughout, the scenes of the churches are warm and landscapes are stunning.

The film briefly introduces Martha, a South Korean woman who is making the Camino alone. She has been married 27 years. She says that throughout her married life her husband always said, “I love you” and she could only respond, “Me, too.” Then one night on the Camino she called him and told him, “I love you” for the first time. “Walking the Camino makes me brave; I can do anything,” she says.

As the pilgrims go along some send home what is extra or leave things behind. They find that they can live on very little. Wayne says, “It is a simple existence, addictive. All you own is in your bag … and then you walk.” Another says, “The only baggage you carry are your fears.”

“Walking the Camino” makes me wish I had heard of ‘El Camino’, when I was younger and stronger and in better health. But I think it works even for us who are unable to make that 500-mile pilgrimage because we are all on a journey, we are never “finished.” The film lets you see that it is no “walk in the park.” It can rain frequently and the mud can be thick — if it is mud, because it could be cow dung, too.

But there’s a freedom to walking the Camino. Just as Tom, played by Sheen in “The Way,” comes to see life and faith differently by the end of his Camino, we see it in the pilgrims in “Walking the Camino.” I think these two films, one fictional and one a documentary, complement one another beautifully. In fact, the documentary lets us see more details of what the pilgrimage entails than does “The Way” such as what the hostels and facilities look like and how much more Christian imagery is to be found along the way. Both films conclude at the Basilica of Santiago but the documentary is less dramatic than “The Way” except for Tatiana for whom it is a deeply religious experience.

The Camino is a Christian activity but it is open to people of all cultures and religions. There the pilgrims will encounter new people, culture and food, and it will change them. The film a special reminder of us who are part of the parish community of St. James, of what it means to be a pilgrim and a follower of Jesus and His Apostles in this journey of life.

As the Franciscan priest says, “The Camino is pure medicine. It heals many hurts of the heart and the soul. Contact with nature, attachment on so little, dependence of the kindness of strangers, does much good. When we are in harmony with nature and God and others, we feel so much better.”

“Walking the Camino”, as a film, is a spiritual experience in itself. I am sorry to say that its showing was only for two evenings, Wednesday and Thursday of this past week. But the good news is it will be out on DVD this November, just in time to be a focal point in our retreat for our St. James parish 145th anniversary November 15th. Perhaps we can all ‘’walk the Camino’ then, so to speak. In fact we can come to realize better how we walk it now every day of our lives.   (N.C.R. film review May 2014)

 

From the Archives of Fr. Metzler’s Homilies: 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A

“The Beauties of the Earth”

Isaiah 55:10-11   Romans 8:18-23   Matthew 13:1-23

The readings for this mid-summer Sunday reflect the beauties of the earth, its golden harvests, its astonishing Spring, its delicate birds, beasts, mountains, hills and plains. Infinite surprise for those whose eyes can see.

In the First Reading the Lord uses the ebb and flow of seasons to show how his sensitive love for the earth works.

Just as the rain and snow come to earth, he says, and return to the heavens when they have done their job of watering, making the lands fertile and fruitful, so too does God’s word. It comes to the world and does not return until it has moistened and nourished life in every single creature that will receive it.

St. Paul speaks of all creation groaning in labor pains even until now. Human beings too groan within themselves like seeds which break open and push their way through tough ground and then evolve into full trees that stretch up for Christ’s light.   Fr. John Foley, S. J The Center for Liturgy at Saint Louis U.

The parable of the sower is a story about the fruitfulness of the earth. It assures us that the harvest will come in spite of the many obstacles that stand in its way. In the end, the rocks and birds and trampling feet cannot nullify the fact that the seed that falls on good ground will yield a fruitful harvest.

Paul talks about the salvation of the world, pointing out that the world itself will be freed from its slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God.

Meanwhile, all creation groans and is in agony: we pollute the clear air and the fresh water; we drive plants and animals to extinction; we clear-cut forests and we strip-mine, leaving ugly scars in the land.

Our opening prayer today calls on us to reject what is contrary to the gospel. Isn’t it contrary to the “good news” to waste and destroy God’s creation? The Creator has greatly enriched the land. How dare we impoverish it.     (Gerald Darring The Center for Liturgy Sunday)

In another sense, parables both reveal and conceal the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven. Many of us, even though we hear the words of a parable, refuse to recognize the voice of divine wisdom calling us to conversion of heart and to healing.

Matthew transforms the meaning of the seed from the word which initiates life to the person called to life in the kingdom. Some persons hear the word without understanding its deeper meaning; some receive it, but fall away when tribulation comes; some hear it, but worldly anxiety and greed choke off the life it gives; some hear the word, understand it, and bear an extraordinary amount of fruit.

Jesus tells us the good news that the seeds of God’s kingdom have been abundantly sown everywhere in the world. Despite all the violence and despair that threaten us, we can live in expectation. God’s kingdom has already come, will continue to grow, and will ultimately triumph. Henry David Thoreau once said: “Convince me that you have a seed there, and I am prepared to expect wonders.”

Because it, too, is a parable, the human-divine mystery of God’s kingdom itself means that we cannot grasp its meaning as we do the realities of this world. It is only in the humble attitude of prayer that we may receive the gift of faith’s understanding and conversion of heart.

Jesus warns us that even if we have heard his word, worldly anxiety or greed can destroy our Christian life. God’s Spirit will grant us perseverance in living so that God’s kingdom will flourish beyond measure.  (Campion P. Gavaler, O.S.B.)

Can such rich images apply to you and me? How good is your own soil?

God pours his grace into it always. Do you and I groan and yearn for the goodness of God, which He has already lavished upon us? Do we take time each day to let love in? Or do we listen on Sunday, perhaps with some interest, but then forget everything by Monday?

Jesus lists a number of things we might have to correct in order to accept the gifts he has ready for us. We might be shallow, shallow ground, he says. Or rocky soil. The weeds of our preoccupation with the things of the world might choke us. How discouraging. Well, must I pretend to be rich soil, even though I know my shallowness? No. I must only be fully myself and allow God to do the rest. The Indian poet Tagore once said:

“Be humble. Join in the revolving refreshment of all earthly things. Like the cloud that stands humbly in a corner of the sky.”

Just let God, like the morning, crown you with splendor. Open your leaves. Allow in the sun.   (Fr. John Foley, S. J.)

 

 

 

From the Archives of Fr. Metzler’s Homilies: 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A

“Go Gentle”

Zechariah 9:9-10   Romans 8:9,11-13   Matthew 11:25-30

How beautiful Jesus’ words in the Gospel are this week. And yet so hard to trust in them: Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves; for my yoke is easy, and my burden light.’

Great comfort! There is a place to go to when death or loss or suffering descend upon us. Thank God!

Another very honest viewpoint is given by Dylan Thomas, the poet, who was not wiser than Jesus, but does suggest a different viewpoint. He wrote the following to his dying father:

‘Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light.’ Rage is quite different from the easy, light burden Jesus promises.

Dylan Thomas was a ragged man who—if rumor is true—drank himself to the death he wrote about. He loved his youth and sang glad song to it, but hunkered down in the shadow of death.

What would Jesus say? He went through torture and death: surely he should have raged! Yet he says his yoke is light. How to understand such a puzzle?

Perhaps God does not mean to erase labor and suffering from our lives, not throw them away, but instead means them to be pathways to a solid ground that lies beneath our troubles, to a quiet grounding that is real stillness and rest.  What would that solid ground be?

Jesus seems to say that it is meekness and humility of heart. In the desert Jesus spoke to the devil humbly about food itself, saying that we do not live by bread alone but by “every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” Maybe the only real good in life is rooted firmly in

the love that is God. There, meekness and humility have their source.

“Watch me,” Jesus says, “I am meek, and riding on an ass,  Watch me on the sad height of Calvary and see. I have let it all go. Belongings, beloveds, achievements, all. One thing remains and I find my rest in it. Make this thing your life, whatever your sorrow is, whatever is your result of living and of dying and facing troubles. One thing. Love. It will not be heavy—it is the reason why my burden is light.

If we can begin to let go into the arms of God’s Great Love, if we can give our life away instead of raging, we will know respite from our burdens. We will see how death is actually the ultimate act of giving yourself away.  Lets try it out: take our troubles and hand them gratefully to the One who can give us rest.

“Come to me, all you who are weary.” Let’s listen to this passage as presented from the Message Bible, whose free translation I have come to love so much:    “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

©   John Foley S. J.  composer and scholar at Saint Louis University

 

 

From the Archives of Fr. Metzler’s Homilies: Feast of Corpus Christi, Cycle A

“Eucharist as the New AA”

Deuteronomy 8:2-3,14b-16a    1 Corinthians 10:16-17    John 6:52-58

A friend of mine, an alcoholic in recovery, likes to explain the dynamics of an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting this way: “It’s funny”, he says; “the meetings are always the same, the exact same things get said over and over again. Everything is totally predictable; everyone, except those who are there for the first time, know already what will be said. And we’re not there to show our best sides to each other. I don’t go to an Alcoholics Anonymous meetings to share my talents or to be a nice guy.

No. I go because, if I don’t, I know, and know for sure, that I will start drinking again and eventually destroy myself. It’s that simple. I go there to stay alive!”

In a curious, but accurate way, that can also be a description of the Eucharist, at least of one important aspect of it. Among other reasons, we go to the Eucharist to stay alive. The Eucharist is meant to be God’s regular nourishment for us, daily manna to keep us alive within the desert of our lives.

We get this theology from John’s Gospel. The gospels, as we know, do not have just one theology of the Eucharist. The various communities in the early church each emphasized different things about the Eucharist.

In John’s Gospel, where the other gospels have the institution of the Eucharist at the last supper, he has Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. John, in placing the washing of the feet where the other evangelists put the words of institution, is reminding us that washing each other’s feet, service to and humility before each other, is what the Eucharist is really all about. But John also emphasizes another aspect of Eucharist.

In John’s Gospel, Jesus tells us that the Eucharist is the new manna, the new bread from heaven, the new way that God gives us daily sustenance. It was understood not as an extraordinary ritual to commemorate only the last supper, but as an ordinary, ideally daily, ritual to give us sustenance from God.

The Eucharist nurtures us by giving us God’s physical embrace, and, like a Quaker-silence, it gives us a oneness with each other that we cannot give to ourselves. And it provides us with a life-sustaining ritual, a regular meeting around the word and person of Jesus that can become the daily bread of our lives and our communities.  (Ron Rolheiser, S.J.)

Pentecost is the feast when Jesus showed He actually was staying with us here on earth in the most important way possible. He was sending his inside life, the Holy Spirit, into our souls. Christ’s heart would become our heart and by this we would become his new and continuing body for the life of the world. With Spiritual eyes we would be able to see as Jesus sees, the needs around us that He yearns to transform with Love.

But some people feel vaguely dissatisfied with God’s presence with and in us through Holy Spirit They want to touch Him. We live in a material world, so we don’t see how a Spirit way down deep inside us can cope with that. Besides, we sin, often, and by doing so we cast out the Spirit, or at least hide it. We have very short memories, and even with the Spirit we forget about Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.

The Body and Blood of Christ, this Sunday, here and now, Jesus gives us himself in bodily form. We approach the table of sacrifice and there He gives his body and blood to our body and blood. It is the wonderful way we are joined to the worldly life of Christ. His body becomes one with our bodies in an intimate metamorphosis.

And so the Easter season of the Lord’s coming among us to feed us, to suffer with us, to die with us and to bring all life back to its original source — God-Love – comes full circle; Sunday’s feast of feeding becomes a physical sending of us out into the physical and spiritual world to be Christ for it.

And the world had need for Him, the world awaits Him. And we are up for the task.  (John Foley S. J.)

 

From the Archives of Fr. Metzler’s Homilies: Trinity Sunday, Cycle A

Throughout today’s Gospel and in fact throughout all of his Gospel, John the evangelist tells us that what he has written has been done so that we may come to believe in Jesus, the Son of God, and so, have life in His Name. And to help us come to this belief, he talks about people like us — some who believe, some who half-believe, some who refuse to believe. Today’s gospel passage is part of the story of Nicodemus, a member of the Sanhedrin, the ruling body of the Jews, who comes to Jesus ‘at night’ and who represents those of us who hold back, and so never completely leave the darkness to enter the light and love of Eternal Life.

The very first sentence of this passage is that verse so well known as John 3: 16 — summarizing John’s entire gospel about the meaning of Jesus and the meaning of our human existence: “God so loved the world” it says, “that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish, but might have eternal life.”

In each Sunday gospel, Jesus makes the Father’s truth and love present in the world through the power of the Holy Spirit. Every good work we do is our chance to share in Christ’s mission of making the Father’s truth and love present in the world because we share Christ’s Spirit. Each time, we experience peace and joy in living in communion with the divine love of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

The gospel of Trinity Sunday reminds us of the reality which Jesus shares with us every time we hear the gospel. That reality is the ‘world’ which God loves so much as to give it his only Son. We are that world — human beings tragically alienated from God, alienated from each other, alienated from our own deepest personal identity as children of God. This is the world described in the first chapters of Genesis in the story about Adam and Eve, in so many of the stories of the evening news on television, in our own experience of life.

And we are children of God, every one of us. We know that, and that’s why it so breaks our heart to hear of those times when we human beings do not act like God’s children. We feel it most in the great tragedies that we hear every night on the news, more today, it seems, than ever before.

Particularly this year, when many in our world seem to prefer darkness to light, when so many ignore the terrible sufferings of such great disasters throughout our world, we need to acknowledge our oneness as God’s children with prayers of steadfast hope. God still does love the world. And we can still come out of its dark night to accept His only Son, whom he has given to us so that we might have life in Him.

But it is equally as true in more personal ways – in the ways we slight our own brothers and sisters at times, or even carry grudges and resentments toward them for months or even years. And in the way we make off-handed racial and ethnic slurs, fully expecting a response of humor or approval.

It continues on and on. Wars are only the ultimate conclusion of the hatred and contempt we carry in our hearts every day. We who are all children of the One God, the Loving God, the Creator God of us all. We hear it again. “God so loved the world.. that we, all His children, might have Eternal Life. Only in His light and in His life can we enjoy peace among ourselves and within ourselves, a peace that truly surpasses all human understanding.   (Campion P. Gavaler, O.S.B)