Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Vail, Colorado

The Prodigal Father Productions had our quarterly board meeting in Vail.  We were there for the peak leaf changing of the Aspens.  It was breathtaking.  One morning I even woke up for sunrise coming up over the mountains and layer of light by layer of light brightening the "W" Mountain before me.  Absolutely beautiful.

We spent the mornings and afternoons in conference and the rest of the day horse back riding!  Colorado truly is "God's Country".

Monday, September 22, 2014

Our Grade School Children Released 18 Doves at the Prayer Service for Peace!

Check out the video!


The Elite member: Boarding group 1... Envy and Hope

American Airlines - Elite Status Member Benefits 

Boarding the Plane



I have a good friend who just recently flew back from Florida, and on the flight back he was flying American Airlines. And American Airlines has Elite status, you know. So a lot of the airlines are doing this now, where you are boarded by groups. So you have Group 1, Group 2, Group 3, Group 4, and you are boarded in that order.


Well, the Elite status members get to go first, so they all board the plane, and then they call the next group. They call Group 2, Group 3, Group 4. When they are done calling all of the groups, they say, "All groups now board at this time." When they do that there is a big line, and everybody gets into that line and prepares to board.


So he got into line. And he's kind of like me, what's the purpose of rushing to get on the plane when you are going to be stuck there for, like, the next half hour. So as they are all in this big line, somebody had come in last minute and they are an Elite member. So she's telling everybody in line she's Elite, she gets to board first. They said, "Well, they have called all groups, so you have to wait in line like all of us." And she goes, "Well, I don't want to wait line." So she goes up to the desk and she says, "I'm an Elite member. I don't want to wait in line with these people." And so they let her go on the plane first. And, you know, there are people in line that were, of course, upset. She was upset, everybody was angry and upset about each other, and he's kind of standing, looking and laughing and like, why do they want to get on this hot plane any earlier than they have to? And so he experienced this moment of envy. So some of these passengers were envious of the Elite member that got to go first. Even though the Elite member came at the very last moment, she got to go on first.


We hear about this in the gospel. You know, Jesus gives us this parable, and he ends with, you know, this phrase that is so striking. It strikes to our core. Are you envious because I am generous? You know, so that's the first of two things that I just want to talk about in the Gospel. Are you envious because I am generous?


So envy is one of the capital sins. It's one of the seven deadly sins. And Jesus addresses it today in this Gospel. So if you think about it the catechism says the vices can be classified according to the virtues they oppose. They're called the capital sins because they engender other sins or other vices. So envy might have been the first sin, you know, but before you know it there comes anger, there comes impatience, all the other sins kind of come after that. So the seven deadly sins are pride, avarice, anger, wrath, lust, gluttony and sloth.


So I just want to talk about envy for a moment. I'm going to give you the definition from the catechism and just try to think about yourself and reflect in this because we all have some of these sins in our lives, but maybe envy is a core sin for us. So envy represents a form of sadness and therefore a refusal of charity. The baptized person should struggle against it by exercising goodwill. Envy often comes from pride. The baptized person should train himself to live in humility. So if you think about that airport experience, the people were experiencing envy, and it was a refusal of charity. They were refusing to be charitable and just kind to this person.


The second thing is envy is a sadness at the sight of another's goods and the immoderate -- and immoderate, I looked up in the dictionary because I didn't know what it means. Immoderate means not sensible or restrained; excessive. So immoderate desire to have them for oneself. It is a capital sin. So it's an immoderate desire to have what somebody else has, to want to have their Elite status, to want to have whatever they are given.


You know, in the Gospel today, Jesus talks about the laborers in the vineyard. For those of you that go to churchSunday after Sunday, you are like the ones. If you've been doing this all your life, if you're from like a baptized Catholic, you've been doing this all your life. You've been working the vineyard from 9:00 to 5:00, right? And sometimes there can be envy when other people that come in later or come in whenever, or don't even practice their faith, are given more by God, are blessed more by God, and then that can cause us to be envious. So envy is sadness at the sight of another person's goods.
So what do we do to combat envy? The catechism says, "The baptized person combats envy through goodwill." So willing the good of the other through humility and through abandonment through the providence of God. Finally abandoning ourselves to the providence and really accepting what God has given to us.



So the first thing I just want to challenge us all to think about in our hearts is, is there envy there? Do we find ourselves envious of others? Do we get upset when others have more than we do? And if we notice that, it's a good thing. That's actually a grace to notice that and to realize that, because once we realize that sin in our hearts, then we can go to God and ask for forgiveness, and not only forgiveness, but to free us from that envy so that we can actually experience and desire the goodwill of the other person.


The second point I would like to talk about in the parable today is for those workers that come late. You know, the workers that come late, they come at five o'clock, which is like the end of the shift, you know. So they work like an hour and they are given everything. So I just want you to think about that because many of us struggle with people that are away from the faith.


I was just at lunch with a couple of ladies from the church. Their hearts were torn because their grandchildren are choosing not to practice the faith. One of them has gone to the Methodist church, one of them has left the church completely and doesn't go to church. Their hearts are really torn over this. And I just, all I can do is give them encouragement that, you know, just as we hear in the Gospel today, at any point in their lives they can turn to God. And even if it's that last final breath that they take, they will be accepted into the Kingdom, they will be become one of God's laborers, and they will receive eternal life.


So the truth is it's like all of us gathering on that plane ride, you know, the American Airlines ride, and we might all be in different groups who might experience and come to the faith at different times in our lives, but the grace is, through baptism, we all have a ticket. We're all going to get on the plane. You know, it doesn't matter what order we get on the plane, but we are actually all going to get on that plane and take that travel into eternal life.


So first of all, if there is any envy in our hearts, to ask God to free us from it; and secondly, to have great hope and great trust that God will bring back everyone to his church and that we will all get on that plane together and fly one day into eternal life.
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Catechism References:

1866 Vices can be classified according to the virtues they oppose, or also be linked to the capital sins which Christian experience has distinguished, following St. John Cassian and St. Gregory the Great. They are called “capital” because they engender other sins, other vices.138 They are pride, avarice, envy, wrath, lust, gluttony, and sloth or acedia. (2539)

2540 Envy represents a form of sadness and therefore a refusal of charity; the baptized person should struggle against it by exercising good will. Envy often comes from pride; the baptized person should train himself to live in humility: (1829)

Would you like to see God glorified by you? Then rejoice in your brother’s progress and you will immediately give glory to God. Because his servant could conquer envy by rejoicing in the merits of others, God will be praised.329

2553 Envy is sadness at the sight of another’s goods and the immoderate [not sensible or restrained; excessive.] desire to have them for oneself. It is a capital sin.

2554 The baptized person combats envy through good-will, humility, and abandonment to the providence of God.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

"You duped me, O Lord, and I let myself be duped." Pulled into a swimming pool.

200149308-001


"You duped me, O Lord, and I let myself be duped."

Recently I was on vacation and I was visiting a priest friend in Washington DC and another family that I had met from my first assignment in North Carolina.

I had a great time with both, but my time with the priest was much more peaceful!

I did have a wonderful time with the family but there were some unexpected surprises.  One of the funniest was one morning when the kids were off at school I found myself at the community pool.  I was the only one there reading, enjoying the sun, resting, praying, and simply relaxing.

When I was just nodding off into one of those wonderful mid-afternoon naps I heard the pool gate open and the youngest two girls playfully yelling "Hi Fr. Michael!"  The mother, before I even realized what was going on said: "I have to go pick up my other daughter, you got this right?"  Even if I would have had time to think and tell her no, she was already on her way.

My silence was over and these two little girls who had been in school all day now wanted to entertain.  There would be no more reading or napping or relaxing; they demanded undivided attention.

The youngest of the girls, Mikaela, jumped into the pool first and shouted to her sister Lindsay: "Come in, the water isn't cold I promise."  And then had that smirk that siblings share when they are up to something and she said to her sister.  "Here, help pull me out."  Lindsay said "No, your going to pull me in."  And from the water Mikaela smiled and said "Trust me."

As Lindsay reached down to pull her sister up, Mikaela, instantly grabbed her with both hands and pulled her head over heels into the water.  I shook my head and laughed... "Trust me... right."

Lindsay had let herself be pulled in, she let her sister dupe her, and before long they were both laughing and playing in the pool.  In the meantime I realized I had been duped as well, my peaceful afternoon of solitude was now complete attention on the boundless energy of girls who had been in school all day.  I had been duped and I let myself be duped!

The Prophet Jeremiah is coming into the realization that God has duped him and he let himself be duped.  Only it isn't a playful situation for him.

Jeremiah had been called from a very young age by the Lord to be a prophet.  He once said: “Ah, Lord GOD!”  “I do not know how to speak. I am too young!"  But the Lord encouraged him and assured him: Do not say, “I am too young.” To whomever I send you, you shall go;  whatever I command you, you shall speak.  Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you."

God was basically saying "Trust me" and Jeremiah let himself be pulled in way over his head!

Jeremiah was very sincere, he saw the impending doom that was coming to the people and he greatly wanted to spare them from it.  He saw that they had turned their back on God and pleaded with them to return.  Jeremiah, would come to be known as the prophet of doom!

Over the years he would be imprisoned, exiled, persecuted, mocked, laughed at, ridiculed and nearly put to death.  Through it all he maintained this very real, loving relationship with the Lord.

I have a dear friend whose mother used to always say: "God never sends you anything you can't handle."  And his response would always be: "Yeah, but He sure can be testy."

The truth is we may find ourselves feeling like the Prophet Jeremiah at times.  There are times when we go into things thinking we are answering God's call and we end up feeling duped.  We feel like God has let us down or even tricked us.  We beat ourselves up because we knowingly on some level let ourselves be duped by God.  There's a tendency to never want to let it happen again.

I think there are a lot of situations where we can find ourselves lamenting our call in life.

It was once said to me by an older priest, I'm glad I didn't know everything I would face going into this because I might not have had the courage to do it.

I know of many married couples who come to the realization that the "Honeymoon is over!"  They realize that their spouses aren't perfect, marriage is hard, and now really choosing to love begins.  

Couples often say the same thing about children.  "We had no idea how hard it would be."

There's always "buyers remorse" after the purchase of a new home.

Sometimes it's a job or a career path that turns out to be "not what you thought it was going to be."

Maybe your life has not turned out to be the way you imagined it would be.

Through it all you may find yourself lamenting and saying "You duped me, O Lord, and I let myself be duped."

Sometimes when we feel this way, we have a tendency just to shut God out, to stop praying, stop communicating with Him and ultimately stop trusting.

Jeremiah even thinks about going back on his calling:

I say to myself, I will not mention him,
I will speak in his name no more.
But then it becomes like fire burning in my heart,
imprisoned in my bones;
I grow weary holding it in, I cannot endure it.


The reading ends abruptly in the lectionary today, but we don't get to see is what follows.  

Jeremiah, instead of shutting God out, Laments.  This is where we see the true wisdom and the depth of love that Jeremiah has for God.  He has such a deep and trusting relationship with God that he is even able to share his disappointment.  He communicates his feelings to God, he continues dialogue with God.  In fact his being willing to share his lamentations with God shows that he has a very real and deep relationship with God.
As he is lamenting to God, and venting his frustration, God must speak something to him because for a brief moment his tone changes.  Jeremiah has an epiphany: "But the LORD is with me, like a mighty champion."

His prayer of lamentation turns to a prayer of praise.  In communicating his frustration with God he realizes that God is with him, that God is real and that God can be trusted once more.  Instead of shutting God out, he shares with God and moments later he is open again.

I have a friend who is returning to the seminary and when he first made the decision he was the most peaceful I have ever seen him and now that it is all starting he has been plagued by the enemy with doubts and questions and anxiety.  But I can see a hint of openness and a hint of light because he looked at me and asked... "Should I let myself be duped again?"  "You bet" I said, with a genuine smile at knowing the joys of priesthood I could assure him that God can be trusted.

I had the opportunity to share this story with the father of the the girls and he just laughed and said to me... now you know what it's like to be me, Fr. Michael!

So imagine the Lord reaching his hand out to you right now and asking you to trust him... Are you willing to let yourself be duped?