Be annoying to
God.

I tell you, if he does not get up to give the visitor the loaves because of their friendship, he will get up to give him whatever he needs because of his persistence.

The ancient Greek philosopher Socrates was arrested for his challenges to the leaders of Athens. His student, Plato, recorded Socrates defense in the “Apology,” essentially the speech given by Socrates in court. As Socrates speaks he tells of the life he had lead, who he was, and his duty.

Socrates uses metaphor and compares himself to a gadfly and the state of Athens to a sluggish horse: “as upon a great noble horse, which was somewhat sluggish because of its size, and needed to be stirred up by a kind of gadfly.” The gadfly is irritating. Everyone wants to get rid of the gadfly, but by its constant buzzing and stinging it awakens the one being annoyed.
The gadfly gets attention. Socrates told the court and the people that his being a gadfly is a gift given to them by the gods.

As we meet Abraham again, God in His presence is about to go off and destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham becomes a gadfly to God. He is annoying, and he keeps at it. Five times he ask the Lord: What if there are only…

Similarly, by parable, Jesus tells us that this is perfectly fine. He tells us that the Father is open and accepting of our coming to Him in prayer and petition, even if we begin thinking we are annoying: he will get up to give him whatever he needs because of his persistence.

One of the hardest things we face in life is asking for the things we need. It is like taking the last piece of chicken or the last chocolate. We are afraid to grab after it and claim it. We hesitate to ask for a raise at work or for affection from someone we care about. We may feel unworthy, overly self-deprecating, or too shy. In the end we feel unworthy – how much more with God. He won’t hear or listen to me, who am I?

Abraham too was a little afraid, but he did press on. Jesus reassures us that we are perfectly right to press on, to be persistent, to be a gadfly to God. We are God’s adopted children. We are Jesus’ brothers and sisters. Jesus, God Himself, encourages us to approach the Throne of Grace, to storm heaven, to pray. Not just that, but we are to pray with confidence and persistence. St. Paul reminds us: Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Yes, it is God’s will that we be those gadflies. The Father is not apart or immune from His children, which we are in Jesus. He will not hand us a rock or a snake. He will give that which we seek and ask for persistently and with faith. Let us keep at it.

God
visits!

The LORD appeared to Abraham by the terebinth of Mamre, as he sat in the entrance of his tent, while the day was growing hot. Looking up, Abraham saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he ran from the entrance of the tent to greet them; and bowing to the ground, he said: “Sir, if I may ask you this favor, please do not go on past your servant.”

There is so much symbolism in these few words of scripture.

This is one of those moments where an Old Testament encounter foreshadows the truth of the Holy Trinity revealed in Jesus. That is something great in and of itself. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit come to Abraham’s camp and God is revealed as He is.

God is acting as if He is passing through. Abraham feels the presence of God and extends hospitality. He asks nothing more than that the Lord stay awhile. We can certainly understand and connect with that. We want God present and active in our lives. Lord, just stay with me awhile. Take hold of me. Abraham states it in words we might use: “Sir, if I may ask you this favor, please do not go on past your servant.”

The terebinth of Mamre is a large oak tree. Terebinth is translated oak. We know that is where Abraham established his camp. The oak – symbolic of strength, courage and power – the most powerful of all trees, the mighty oak stands strong through all things. We desire God as our strength. Hold me up Lord, support me, and guide me through al things.

Abraham had their feet washed. He ran to Sarah and asked her to prepare bread. He had a servant prepare meat. He ran to fetch curds and milk – Abraham brought both fresh milk (probably from the camels) and sour milk (from the sheep – which is particularly refreshing in a hot climate), and this with the cakes and the calf made a stately meal. With noble courtesy he waited on them under the tree while they ate. We want to serve God in our charity towards others and through our worship.

This is most particularly a beautiful, heartwarming, and comforting encounter between man and God. Very appropriate for the season too; Abraham was trying to catch a little rest and coolness as the day grew hotter. Suddenly God was there, at Abraham’s doorstep. Key to us is God’s desire to encounter and be with us; to refresh us. Our God visits His people – not through weird visions and a Jesus with rays beaming out of Him – but in a very real way. He is with us in our homes, on the road, in good times and tragedy. He is not, as the song states, ‘looking on from a distance.’ Rather, God is revealed, present and active, strong and supportive, alive in all we serve. Not far. Here as He is!

Where is
God?

“For this command that I enjoin on you today is not too mysterious and remote for you. It is not up in the sky, that you should say, ‘Who will go up in the sky to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may carry it out?’ Nor is it across the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will cross the sea to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may carry it out?’ No, it is something very near to you, already in your mouths and in your hearts; you have only to carry it out.”

This week we experienced great joys at the annual Kurs encampment for the Church’s youth and children. We grew in faith and knowledge of the Lord. We focused our reverence on God alone.

This week we experienced great sadness at the prejudice that still exists in our country – the great American sin or as author and Christian activist Jim Wallis titles his book – America’s Original Sin. This week we also experienced great shock as one man decided to fight violence with violence, who took up the cause of hatred and wrought death instead of peace, reconciliation and life.

It is easy to see God at work when young hearts are opened, when barriers are broken down, when a person comes to the realization that God is with them. But, when we look at divided cultures and gridlocked power structures that fail to end systemic sin or worse yet, encourage sin and death, we feel that God is far from us.

That is the problem with expecting that we can “feel” God’s intervention. Sure, it is easy in good or joyous times to feel God. It might even be possible in times of tragedy; we run to the Lord to feel His comfort. But what about times such as these where we are hammered day-by-day with evil? What about times when our leaders and those with responsibility fail to stop and root out evil, or worse yet, condone it?

If we were to rely on feelings we would be tossed about like little boats on the sea. Up and down, He’s there; He’s not there. I don’t know. Moses got that. He knew that God had been with Israel through their exodus, before the enemy, in time of famine, thirst, sickness, and death. He had been there when Israel turned its back and ran away, even when they completely failed to trust in the Lord. Moses saw with eyes that had been taught by faith. It took him awhile, but he finally got it.

Like Moses we must build and renew our faith trust. Faith trust tells us that God is with us, not up in the sky, nor across the sea. No, very near to us. Faith trust tells us that He will answer us. With faith trust we will not loose heart in confronting evil. With faith trust we are secure even in the face of certain death. With faith trust we will see God act mightily in our life. Don’t just hope that we might feel His presence. Know He is here.

What will stop
Jesus?

At that time the Lord appointed seventy-two others whom he sent ahead of him in pairs to every town and place he intended to visit. He said to them, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest. Go on your way; behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves.”

Thirty-six, what can we do with thirty-six? With thirty-six dollars we could hire an actuary, a Sports Agent, or a Nuclear Power Reactor Operator for an hour. We could hire a Physical Therapist for an hour’s treatment. We could buy a fairly good meal at a good restaurant. We could get three drinks at the Palm Beach Marriott Singer Island Beach Resort & Spa. We could get a whole mess of stuff at our local dollar store. The point is that with thirty-six dollars we couldn’t do a lot. We would be limited. Thirty-six isn’t a lot.

What could Jesus accomplish with only a few? This is a powerful moment. Jesus cuts His first followers loose on the world. He sends them out. There are only seventy-two. Thirty-six pairs of disciples who go out to witness and proclaim the kingdom.

What was it about these thirty-six ordinary pairs of people? They’d listened to Jesus for a while. Not exactly like going to college or a long-term course of study. Jesus’ instructions aren’t even that detailed. So what would these thirty-six be able to do?

Jesus gave them an essential mission. Tell people who receive you: ‘The kingdom of God is at hand for you.’ They went and they did it – then came back rejoicing. They were successful. They focused on one thing that Jesus asked and that was all that was needed. The word was spread. By this proclaiming people came to know about the kingdom. A kingdom they had part of by their faith.

We might now think, wow, with only thirty-six pairs of people so much seems to have been done. Unfortunately things did not get great immediately. Things went backwards. Once the Great Preacher and Teacher was arrested, tried, and killed many ran away. Was it fear or no earthly kingdom? We cannot say for sure, but in the end twelve counting Judas’ replacement and a handful of supporters were left in the upper room.

We know the story – they were filled by the Holy Spirit and preached the Kingdom to the ends of the earth. Yet they were only twelve. They were small, uneducated, and unpopular. They went out like lambs among wolves. Within days some would be arrested. One was already dead. But nothing stopped them. Nothing was more powerful than their faith. They were victorious because regardless of obstacles faith overcame. And their names are written in heaven.

Still on the on-time newsletter streak. How many months is it?

And he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. As soon as they come out in leaf, you see for yourselves and know that the summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near.” Summer is about preparation. Going on a picnic? Having a barbecue? Friends coming over to sit on the deck or hit the pool? Heading off to the beach or on vacation? Going on a summer walk?
We gather food, charcoal (if you are old school like me), sunblock, bug spray, our more colorful clothes (I’m getting my Hawaiian shirts ready). Summer joy is about two things – preparation for joy and getting to that place where we can be joyful. This summer let us reflect on our spiritual preparedness and to focus on what that preparedness will bring for us – true and eternal joy. This summer, as we gather food, let us reflect on the food of everlasting life – in Word and Communion. As we put on sunblock, let us block the evils that challenge our faith. As we spray away the bugs, let us push away the things that sting our soul. And, prepare that colorful garment for the joys of the kingdom.

Also in our newsletter, prayers for Orlando, a huge thanks to the Matsiko Orphan Choir, a Year of Reverence update, a happy summer to our youth – we are off to Kurs and Convo, our parish and community picnic on the church grounds on Sunday, August 21st, and special thanks to all those who pitched in at PolishFest. So much more too…

You may view and download a copy of our July 2016 Newsletter right here.

There is no
going back.

Elijah went over to Elisha and threw his cloak over him. Elisha left the oxen, ran after Elijah, and said, “Please, let me kiss my father and mother goodbye, and I will follow you.” Elijah answered, “Go back! Have I done anything to you?” Elisha left him, and taking the yoke of oxen, slaughtered them; he used the plowing equipment for fuel to boil their flesh, and gave it to his people to eat. Then Elisha left and followed Elijah as his attendant.

God tells Elijah to call Elisha as his apprentice. Elijah anoints Elisha in a unique way, by placing his mantle – or cloak – around him.

This is definitely not as dramatic or exotic as the calling of the other prophets. There are no dramatic visions, as Ezekiel had, no cherubim and seraphim like Isaiah had, and no burning bush.

Elisha is uniquely called into apprenticeship and he will exhibit no prophetic ministry until after Elijah is taken up into heaven. Elisha’s call is much like that of Jesus’ disciples – to come and serve, to come and learn.

Elisha, plowing in the fields seems to understand the significance of Elijah’s call and anointing, but also questions. His internal questions are not recounted. Rather, they are made evident in the fact he wanted to go back to his parents to wish the goodbye. He wanted to take his time. Elijah is not amused.

There is no going back. Elisha cannot go back to his former way of life. Elijah prompts Elisha to think about this: “Go back, for what have I done to you?”

Indeed, what has any man or woman done to or for one who is called to follow God’s will? Recognize that God told Elijah what he was to do. God chose Elisha. Elijah was just an instrument to convey God’s message. He didn’t do anything – God did. Think about that Elisha!

Elisha had to provide a real answer to God’s call. What claim does this call make on his life? What ties must he leave behind? When Elisha slaughters the oxen that had previously provided his livelihood, he makes a powerful statement of vocational commitment. He lives his call by offering his life to God and his livelihood for his people.

Jesus isn’t as subtle as Elijah was. No sarcasm in Him. To those who felt the call to follow Him He says, “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.”

As we close out this month of special prayer for priestly and diaconal vocations let us keep Jesus’ call before us. He has called each of us. We are His choice. No man or woman has called us to faith – God has. That call is so powerful and it frees us. Let us set our eyes forward and burn away anything that holds us back.

All children of one
God and model.

Brothers and sisters: Through faith you are all children of God in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s children, heirs according to the promise.

This beautiful text from Paul’s letter to the Church at Galatia calls to the forefront the new model we live in Jesus. It reminds us that we are changed and have become children of One God and Father when we have clothed ourselves in Christ.

In putting on Jesus in baptism we take on the new man, the new person. We take up a privileged position with and in Christ. In fact this new union is Paul’s main emphasis in each verse By faith in Christ Jesus, and being baptized into Christ… we are clothed… with Christ, one in Christ Jesus, and belong to Christ. Since Jesus is the Son of God, all who by faith are in Christ are now also sons of God; co-heirs in Him to heaven’s promise and all being children of One Father.

The positive privileges of union with Christ far outweigh and greatly surpass the old set of relationships under the old Law, Jews were the children of God and Gentiles were sinners. But now we are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.

This must have been a shocking declaration for a Jew to hear. In Jewish literature, “sons of God” was a title of highest honor, used only for the members of righteous Israel, destined to inherit the blessings promised at the end of time. But now all are called “sons of God.” All are equal. All have the same privilege and rank under One Father.

The wonderful day we gained heaven was the day we came to Him, as Paul tells us: through faith and baptism in Christ Jesus. Let us think kindly on that day for in it we were blessed to grab hold of our Heavenly Father, we clung to Him and felt His loving embrace as our Father.

As baptism pictures the initial union with Christ by faith, being clothed with Christ portrays our participation in the moral perfection of Christ. The title sons of God and the two ceremonies of baptism and being clothed with Christ point to the reality of our new relationship with God. We are literally changed and our way of living is opened to perfection. Our new relationship with our Father results in a new relationship with one another.

As we reflect on this Father’s Day, let us think of that man, or those men, in our lives brought us to our Heavenly Father, who gave us the privilege of not just being sons and daughters of men, but true children of God.

The cost of sin.
The reward of love.

Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? When I entered your house, you did not give me water for my feet, but she has bathed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but she has not ceased kissing my feet since the time I entered. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she anointed my feet with ointment. So I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven because she has shown great love.”

This example of true repentance, of forgiveness, and of reconciliation is so powerful. Jesus’ shows this power today.

Jesus didn’t just happen unto situations. He knew that in going to the house of the Pharisee He would find the Pharisee’s life laid out before Him. He would see what kind of man he was. The situation was heighted when this “sinful” woman, indeed a prostitute, was waiting there to meet Him. Now the Pharisee would be really tested.

We might have different perspectives on this. Was the real problem the Pharisee’s judgmentalism? Was it his lack of hospitality? Was it his lack of love?

At he core of the lesson is one of love. It is exemplified in the dichotomy between the sinful woman’s love and the kind of love the Pharisee exercised.

It was not that the Pharisee was without love – he certainly loved his family and all those who thought and acted like he did. It was that his love was out of tune with the way God exhibits love. The Pharisee, as a teacher of God’s Law, failed to find the connection between the Law and love.

More than this, Jesus took this opportunity to show the fullness of God’s love. His love. Those with Him were amazed. He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” The others at table said to themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” But he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

The fullness of God’s love is exhibited in the perfection of His forgiveness. The love that gives full forgiveness, which allows for a God who would sacrifice Himself completely to bring forgiveness to His people, regardless of sin, is real love.

The cost of sin is separateness, distance, loneliness, and heartache. The woman at the Pharisee’s house knew this. She was completely alone but knew there was only one way to find connection to God once more. Jesus gave this woman the perfection of forgiveness only God can offer. It is the perfection found in only the words God can offer: “Your sins are forgiven.” Let us pay attention and realize that in His forgiveness we have the reward of love. Let us faith in His forgiveness.

Do not weep.
Be comforted.

As he drew near to the gate of the city, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. A large crowd from the city was with her. When the Lord saw her, he was moved with pity for her and said to her, “Do not weep.”

Both the Old and New Testament lay out a scenes we see all too often in our city and country. A young man has died. His friends bear his body away. The mourners are there. The mother is weeping. In both scenes there is a powerful encounter with God who comforts and changes things, a glimpse of the after Jesus time. All that is now ours since His redemption.

Elijah seems mad at God – here I am, staying with this woman who is sheltering me, and You let her son die? Fix this. God listens and really does intervene. He raises the young man and Elijah returns him to his mother.

In our Gospel story we see the only son of a widow, her sole support, has died. He is carried out and the procession encounters Jesus. He will not let this situation stand. He intervenes and raises the widow’s son.

These are happy endings to very sad stories. We can relate to these situations. We, who are faithful, are not able to escape tragedy. We ask God – why do You let these things happen? Let us recognize our new truth.

This new after Jesus truth is powerful. It comes in understanding what we have in these after Jesus times – the promise we now hold. That truth is illustrated for us by St. Paul.

In Galatians, Paul recounts the fact that while he was smart, knowledgeable, powerful even – he was a jerk. Yet God would not let that stand. God intervenes and introduces Paul to Jesus. He took what was broken and wrong in Paul and redeemed it. He took Paul and showed him the power of this new day, this new after Jesus time, this time of grace.

If we see difficulty, death, and sorrows in our old ways, in unredeemed ways, we are left with weeping. If we see difficulty, death, and sorrows in after Jesus ways we have powerful comfort, we find the depth of the peace we own. We can think like Paul. For all the bad we encounter in our lives, we have been changed by faith in Jesus. We have a new power and comfort.

Paul saw with new eyes, eyes focused on God’s grace. The old ways of life, the old sorrows no longer mattered. In the after Jesus time we have become truly invincible, saved, redeemed – we are made new by faith. We have God with us, His promise is ours. What we have is incomparable joy and assurance – we own heaven as our inheritance and no difficulty, death, or sorrow can take that from us. We live in the after Jesus time. He changed life for us. This is the after Jesus time. Do not weep.

Still on the early newsletter streak – only hours early, but still…

Thus Joseph who was surnamed by the apostles Barnabas (which means, Son of encouragement)” St. Barnabas’ life is modeled on Jesus, the ultimate Son of Encouragement. Barnabas’ goodness, faith, big heartedness, courage, generosity, humbleness, self-sacrifice, open-mindedness, boldness and the fact that he was full of the Holy Spirit – were also stamped on the believers that he encountered. As today’s sons of encouragement, alive in the Spirit, or willing to be, are we working so that the gifts of the Lord are stamped on our families, community, and the world? Let us focus our efforts on being positive sons of encouragement, lifting up all we encounter – helping them to know the power of Jesus.

Also in our newsletter, the Matsiko Orphan Choir is coming to Holy Name of Jesus. Thank you to all who helped make Memorial Day so special. Like bread? – check out our table at PolishFest. Our Bible study is growing, special Holy Masses this month for healing (June 20th) and on the Commemoration of St, Anthony (June 13th). Considering the priesthood? Praying for dads and vocations. A great and comprehensive list of summer activities and so much more…

You may view and download a copy of our June 2016 Newsletter right here.