Monday Morning Offering: 9/25

Morning Coffee by George Mendoza

Good morning, good God!

The leisure days of summer are gone, Lord,
and parish life is back in full swing...

Even if I'm not ready for it all,
the rush and quickening pace pick me up
and sweep me, head long,
into a "new year" of programs and prayer...

I offer you thanks and praise, Lord,
for the life all around me:
the people, the work, the schedules, the events,
the coming and goings, the new beginnings
and the opportunities all of this offers...

I offer you thanks and praise, Lord,
for all the ways your hand stirs my heart:
prodding, inviting, pushing, pulling,
tugging at my sleeve to draw me out of myself
and into the pulsing body of your presence
in the people who cross my path every day,
all day long...

I offer you thanks and praise, Lord,
for the gifts that are mine
and for all the gifts of those with whom I work
and for all the ways
you mix and match our gifts and talents,
our inspirations, thoughts, ideas and insights
as day by day, through the work of our hands,
you build up the reign of your presence among us...

I offer you thanks and praise, Lord,
for the grace and growth of working together
with sisters and brothers whose energy and excitement
charge me with new life, with hope,
with reason to put one foot ahead of the other and,
step by step, to make my way through days and nights
and weeks and months, year by year,
growing in the life of your Church
and in the joy of being members of your Body,
alive and well,
even through times difficult and dark...

I offer you thanks and praise, Lord,
for the ways in which you make of us all
so much more than the sum of our number,
how you multiply our efforts as we share in the work
you've entrusted to our care...

Help me, Lord, when I'm tempted to withdraw,
to hide in my anxious fears,
when I'm tired and ready to call it quits,
when I'm weary, not sure if I want to go on:
give me your Spirit,
igniting your spark of life within me;
give me others
to draw me out to the fields of your harvest;
give me strength
to keep going when the going gets tough;
give me grace
to trust that in everything I do
your strong, gentle hand guards and guides me...

And when my selfish and careless ways
wound those at my side,
help me see the harm I've done
and heal the hurt I've caused:
make me an instrument of your peace, Lord,
and open me to the healing peace that others offer me...

All this I offer you, Lord, as summer ends
and a "new year" begins in parish life:
accept my morning offering this day
and through the weeks and months ahead...



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A late September gift of glory

Dropped at my doorstep, from the Dixon gardens,
a late September gift of glory!

Praise God from whom all blessings flow!


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A question for you...

I preached at three Masses this weekend: the Saturday 5:00 and the Sunday 10:30 and 5:00.  After the first two times I received only positive feedback on my homily.  After the third time I received some very articluate, negative response. In light of what I was told I'd like to ask what you heard in my homily.  

What did you hear as the main point of my homily?

Did you hear me politicizing the scriptures and taking advantage of my preaching role?

Did you hear me espouse a personal stance on public assistance or immigration reform?
If you did, what personal stance did you perceive me to be taking?

In general, did you find my homily helpful or not helpful?

In particular, was anything in my homily offensive or insulting to you or your views?

I'm not asking these questions to curry favor, solicit support or beg for praise.  I'm mostly interested in hearing from any who had a negative reaction to this homily.

Fair warning: if response turns into a free-for-all, I'll delete the post.

Thank you!


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Homily 9/24: It just isn't fair!

Homily for the Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Scriptures for today's Mass

Audio for homily

When I was a child my father, after Sunday Mass,
would quiz my sister and me on the day’s gospel and the sermon -
an effort on his part to get us to pay attention in church.
Having heard this parable at church one week, my father said:
 “You know, I would have figured Jesus to be more of a union guy.”

At first glance, a parable like the one we just heard
may seem passé or pious or impractical even just plain foolish.
And on any or all of those grounds
we might be tempted to dismiss the story
and whatever message it may have offered 2,000 years ago
when Jesus first spoke it.
But we would do that at our own peril:
the message of Jesus may be obscured
by changing times, circumstances and expectations,
but it remains the word and message of Jesus.
Our task is to discover its meaning for our own times.

And I don’t think we need to dig too deep here
before we find a connection between this parable and today’s news.
The “grumblers” in the parable,
those who worked all day in the sun’s heat,
the grumblers were angry that the late-comers received the same pay
as those who worked a full shift.
Well, that story is alive and well today - but with this one difference:
those who grumble today are often grousing, not about late-comers
but about those who have done no work at all
- and yet are on the payroll -
and at the expense of those who put in 40 or 40+ hours every week.

What Jesus proposes here rubs rough against our egalitarian grain
and our sense of justice,
against what we understand to be fair and equitable.

Most of us endorse the Lord’s generosity and mercy
-  at least up to a point.
But when welfare reform or immigration reform are on the table,
many are quick to invoke the law of the land
over the authority of the gospel,
 (which may seem passé, pious impractical or just plain foolish).

So, what’s a Christian to do?

What are American Catholic Christians to do
when their bishops offer (as they have) sweeping support
of public assistance programs
and endorse (as they have) opening our nation’s doors
to immigrants and refugees?
How do we make sense of all of this
as citizens of the reign of God and citizens of the United States -
as people who want to espouse both mercy and justice?

As Christians, our first task is to follow the teaching of Jesus     
and be faithful to the commandment that we love God
with all our heart, soul, mind and strength -
and love our neighbor as we would love ourselves.
 (Mark 12:30)
That is our starting point.

That is the starting point for every matter, issue, question and concern
that Christians face.

For Christians there is no other starting point.

The teaching of Jesus is clear in today’s parable:
God is generous with his mercy, to lengths and depths
beyond our imagination or comprehension.
Jesus teaches that God chooses to love everyone
with the same love, the same mercy, the same generosity -
in spite of  when we show up for work,
in spite of how we receive or reject his love.

It’s never a question of our “deserving” God’s love:
none of us, not one of us deserves the mercy of God,
- much less is there anything you and I could do
to earn or merit God’s love.

God’s mercy and love are pure gift.
And every one of us here this morning is, without exception,
a beneficiary of God’s extravagant mercy.

The generous and merciful love of God
is the model of  how we’re called to love our neighbor,
and is always the Christian starting point
for all our deliberation and decisions on social and political matters.

The Constitution of the United States is not our starting point.
Campaign promises are not our starting point.
The platforms of political parties aren’t our starting point.
Current law and policies are not our starting point.
The economy is not our starting point.
All of these ARE factors to be considered - yes -
but only after we have rooted ourselves deeply
in the teachings of Jesus
and in our love of God and neighbor.

Of course, Jesus also taught:
Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.
(Mark 12:17)
And that means we are obliged to consider
the constitutional, the political and the legal
in seeking to understand how best we can love God and our neighbor
in our efforts to be faithful to Christ’s teaching,
always keeping in mind that love is the first and greatest commandment,
the highest law, that binds us.

We consider what rightfully belongs to civil authority
so that our efforts might more effectively achieve
the realization of God’s love and mercy in our midst.

The words of Isaiah in today’s first reading ring clearly here:
Seek the Lord while he may be found…
turn to the Lord for mercy, to God who is generous…
for his thoughts are not your thoughts
and his ways not your ways…
God’s thoughts and ways are often very different from ours
but each of us is called
to make the ways and thoughts of God our own.

We gather every week in the shadow of the Cross,
under the arms of Jesus who, for our sakes,
bore the weight of our sins, in the heat of the day.

Most of us are late-comers, showing up at the foot of the Cross
at the last hour of the day
and yet hoping for, expecting - and receiving -
equal shares of God’s mercy and love.

Whether we’re among the first or the last
to show up to work in the vineyard
there’s a seat for each of us at the Lord’s Table
where he will generously serve each of us
- not according to our faults and sins -
but rather, according to his mercy and love.

Each of is, without exception, a beneficiary
of God’s extravagant mercy.

May the nourishment we receive here in the Eucharist
teach us to make the love of God and neighbor
our starting point in all things
and to make our own
the thoughts and the ways of God.


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Pause for Prayer: SUNDAY 9/24

Image source

Today's Pause for Prayer is a powerful song, sung powerfully by hundreds gathered at a Gospel conference.  This musical style may not be for everyone - in fact, it's not my usual bent - but this piece took hold of a deep place in my heart and perhaps it will reach yours, too...

It Is Well With My Soul

When peace like a river attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well, with my soul!

It is well (it is well)
With my soul (with my soul)
It is well, it is well with my soul!

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul!

It is well (it is well)
With my soul (with my soul)
It is well, it is well with my soul!

My sin (oh, the bliss of this glorious thought)
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

It is well (it is well)
With my soul (with my soul)
It is well, it is well with my soul!

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound and the Lord shall descend.
Even so, it is well with my soul!

It is well (it is well)
With my soul (with my soul)
It is well, it is well with my soul!


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Pause for Prayer: SATURDAY 9/23

Image source

Slow me down, Lord…

Sit me down 
and sit right by my side
until I've settled down inside
and begun to find the peace I need,
the peace that only you can give...
Temper me, Lord, with autumn days:
this season in between the seasons
of summer's heat and winter's ice... 

Temper me with days sublime:
the sun's warmth upon my face
while cool breezes brush my cheek,
waking me to all the ways 
you touch my life, my heart...

Temper me that I might find your beauty
in the loss of green, the letting go of leaves aflutter,
spiraling down to sleep the winter months
'neath snowy blankets, layered lovingly by you...

Temper me this fall for winter's journey, Lord,
until in spring you warm the earth again
and waken to new life the green 
that brings new hope to earth
and to my soul...

Temper me this fall, Lord,
ready me for what in winter waits:
cover me in layers of your grace,
protecting and preparing me
for seasons and for gifts I don't yet know…

And for now, Lord,
slow me down, sit me down  
and sit right by my side
until I've settled down inside 
and begun to find the peace I need, 
the peace that only you can give...  




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Pause for Prayer: FRIDAY 9/22

It is the summer's great last heat, 
it is the fall's first chill: they meet.*

It is the autumn equinox:
   technically, the first day of fall...

Today the seasons change:
   summer makes her exit and fall her entrance,
      all at the bidding of celestial spheres...

Oh, there will be warm days yet
   but there's no denying 
      the seasons are a-changin'
   and there's no holding back summer's departure
      or fall's debut
   as they flirt with each other
      and tease us with their comings and goings
   until summer's passed away
      and autumn's born in colors ablaze...
And what is your bidding for me, Lord?

What would you have me leave behind
   as one season ends
and what would you have me anticipate
   as a new season opens?

What do you ask of me, Lord,
   and what do you expect of me this fall
in the changing seasons
   of my heart, my story, my life?

As the seasons change, Lord,
   all around me and within me,
be the center, the still point, the peace
   in my ever-changing life...


* Sara Morgan Bryan Platt


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Happy New Year!


A blast of the shofar calls the people to Rosh Hashana


A traditional greeting for Rosh Hashana:

A good and sweet year to you,
may you be inscribed and sealed for a good year!

Our Jewish neighbors and friends began their celebration of Rosh Hashana at sundown yesterday, September 20 and will conclude at sundown on Friday of this week.  (The 10 days starting with Rosh Hashana and ending with Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) are kept as the Days of Awe.)

For background on this celebration of the Jewish New Year, take a look at Judaism 101.

For beautiful prayers for Rosh Hashana, go to my friend Alden Solovy's page, To Bend Light.

Rosh Hashana FAQs:

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Word for the Weekend: September 24

Photo by AP
Time to sit down with the scriptures and begin to prepare for celebrating the Lord's Day this weekend, the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time. Spend some time with the texts and background material on them and invite your kids to do the same.

This Sunday's familiar gospel story troubles and challenges American sensitivities about economic justice.

Hey - this story just isn't FAIR!  

Groups of workers go out into the vineyard, each group working fewer and fewer hours - and at the end of the day they're all paid the same wage - what's up with that?



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Pause for Prayer: THURSDAY 9/21

O God, 
I am your work in progress,
as much today at 70
as I was at 7 months or seven years…

I am your work in progress:
incomplete, unfinished,
still growing, taking shape, maturing,
all with the help of your grace…

I am your work in progress
and you never cease
to nudge and nurture me,
to mold and form me more and more
as the person you created me to be…

I am your work in progress,
even when I resist, deny or try to frustrate
your constant effort soften my ragged edges
and sharpen what’s grown dull in my spirit…

I am your work in progress
and by now I’m version # I-don’t-know
although I’m confident and sure
that you’re still working on the original,
on the heart-of-who-I am,
that unique individual whom you have known
since before all time began…

Give me patience, O God,
with the pace at which you work
to help me grow
and bring me to full stature…

And give me patience with myself
when I’m dissatisfied with who I am
and the progress I’ve made
in becoming the person you call me to be…

Give me patience ‘til I see and know
the plan you have for me
and how the work you do in me
serves you
and serves the world in which I live
and the people whom I love -
even while I’m still your work in progress…

That’s who I am,
I am your work in progress
and you love me, always, 
every step along the way,
because you take me as I am
and you know so very well
that I am yet unfinished, incomplete,
still growing and maturing,
with the help of your grace,
because I’m still your work in progress…

I trust, O God,
that you who began this good work in me
will be faithful
and will bring it to completion
on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ…



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