27th S. 2020: Gratitude

Today’s reflection is for the Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary time, October 4, 2020, and the readings can be found by clicking here. The video of the homily can be viewed by clicking here.

We live in a pretty amazing country. In this country, men and women can buy property—they own it, they plant it, and they profit from what it yields. My grandfather, like many immigrants, moved here with very little. Slowly, and not without sacrifice, he purchased cows, hay, tractors, and land. He actually leased the land that his dairy was on, but he eventually bought forty acres on Linwood and another forty on Bradbury. It was the land he loved the most. He had his garden, grew his cucumbers, and as we sat and ate he marveled at what an amazing country this was. He looked out over his property and said, in his thick Portuguese accent, “Ah! Nothing betta! No country betta than this.” I share my Avo’s love for this land.

In today’s parable Jesus talks about people who did not own the land, but leased it, like my Avo. But unlike my Avo, these tenants were greedy. They wanted to use the land, benefit from its fruit, but not pay what was their due. They worked the land, and that was good. They grew the crops, and that was good. They harvested the land, and that too was good. But when it came time to pay their taxes they failed miserably.

Instead of loving the land and being thankful for the blessings that they received from it, instead of being grateful for the generous landowner that invested so much in it for their use—planting the vines, building a hedge around it, digging in a wine press, and building a tower—instead of being grateful and humbly and joyfully giving back, they became sick with greed, killing the man’s servant, killing even more after that, and finally killing even the man’s own son, with delusions the land might be theirs—which of course, as anyone could easily tell, was nonsense. Far from the land being theirs, the crowd answered correctly, “The wretched men would be put to a wretched death, and the vineyard would go to other tenants who would render the payment at the proper time.”

Greed, my brothers and sisters, selfishness and greed. It causes our minds to become twisted. Nothing is ever enough! Many in our country, in our churches and in our families are sick with it. There’s no such thing as enough! Jesus commands us to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, to visit the ill and imprisoned, but in a world sick with greed we have no time for others. Time is money, we say! We do not take the time to spend with others and we don’t spend money to come to the aid of others. We cannot be Christians if we are sick with greed. We cannot be Christians if we care more about wealth and riches than meeting the basic needs of others. 

The Roman Catholic Church is the largest non-governmental provider of education and medical services in the world. The Church runs 5,500 hospitals, 18,000 clinics, 16,000 homes for the elderly and those with special needs, with 65 percent of them located in underdeveloped and developing countries. We should be proud to be Catholic, we should be excited about supporting the Church and all of whom they serve. Gratitude is the antidote to selfishness and greed. The world wants to convince you and me that our cup is only half full, my brothers and sisters, far from being half full, our cup runneth over! 

Living in this country, belonging to this Church, being blessed with schools and hospitals, with homeless shelters, with policeman and fireman, and the strongest military the world has ever known so that we might have security and peace and the right to live our faith, love our faith, and practice our faith–that’s something to be grateful for, and should cause us to not only give back, but especially to give God and country their fruit at the proper time. 

I served in the Marines as a way to give back to this country that my grandfather taught me to love. I pay my taxes because roads and security, national parks, and clear water isn’t cheap. I volunteer in the community. I pick up trash when I see it, and I recycle as much as I can. It’s an attitude that we have. It causes us to treat this land and it’s people with dignity and respect, and to ask others to do the same. People of faith must register to vote, participate in the elections, and elect leaders that love God and this country as much as we do, and who are willing to serve it. That’s giving fruit at the proper time. 

Our parishes are beautiful, they’re God’s gift to our communities, but they need to be worked! Seeds of faith need to be planted, bills paid, grass mowed, calls made, and Masses livestreamed. Your parish needs volunteers with hands and feet ready to work, but also funds that keep salaries paid and lights turned on, candles bought, and wells dug. Volunteering and offering our hard earned treasure—that’s giving fruit at the proper time.

Fr. Manuel had nothing to do with this homily, I promise, it’s from the heart. I love my parish, and I love my country. There’s room for improvement on both and it’s the responsibility of those who enter the vineyard to do the hard work and give the fruit at the proper time.

I’d like you to reflect this week on this country and its leaders. I want to encourage you to register and vote. I’d also like you to consider how much you’ve been blessed by your parish, and I want to encourage you to offer your time, talent, and treasure. Let none among us be among the wretched who are perverted by selfishness and greed, but instead be among the righteous who selflessly serve God and country with a grateful heart. Amen?

Western Region Teams Retreat 2020

Today was the Western Region Teams of Our Lady annual retreat! It was only a half day and was outside, but it was just what so many needed! The day began with Mass and was then followed by two talks for both the English and Portuguese-speaking communities. I was honored to be the featured speaker for the English-speaking group. For more information on Teams of Our Lady, please click here. The retreat slideshow can be accessed by clicking here. The Endeavors worksheet can be accessed by clicking here. And soon, the livestream of the retreat will be available by clicking here for talk 1 and here for talk 2.

26th S. 2020: Respect and Obey

Today’s reflection is for the Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary time, September 27, 2020, and the readings can be found by clicking here. The video of the homily can be viewed by clicking here.

Today’s Gospel hit close to home for me because I’m a man with two sons, and they’re old enough now for me to lean on them to do quite a lot around the house. We actually have a list: do the recycling, take out the garbage, pick up dog poo…And then my wife gives them chores: clean up your room, make your bed, dust and wipe down the baseboards… I must say, we are very blessed to have two boys that, for the most part, do their chores without grumbling or complaining. They are respectful and obedient, for the most part…

A child’s willingness to obey has been a struggle since the beginning, and in our society today, it is difficult to teach obedience to any authority at all–especially toward parents, it seems. Scripture, though, is full of verses that teach the importance of obedience toward parents. Honor for father and mother is the 4th commandment, and it begins the commandment to love thy neighbor. You remember that Jesus summed up all the commandments in only one: Love God and Love your neighbor.

It’s important to note that love of neighbor, the Great Commandment of Jesus, begins with honoring one’s parents. We honor our parents when we do two things: Respect and Obey. When a parent teaches respect and obedience to their child they train that child in respect and obedience toward God. Ephesians 6 reads, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” Parents have a right to expect obedience!

Jesus certainly knew this commandment well when he told the parable of the two sons that we heard today. The crowd easily recognizes that it was not the son’s words that mattered most, but whether or not he actually did the father’s will. Talk is cheap. Actions speak louder than words.

But if you could imagine a continuum from bad to best on the obedience scale, I don’t think either of these sons is really doing all that well! I’m glad when my sons do what I ask, but I definitely wouldn’t want defiance to go along with it! What I expect of my kids, what I think you have every right to expect from yours, and what God expects from us, is that we say, “yes” and do what is asked. That’s respect and obedience. 

Out of respect we do not argue or defy our parents, and out of obedience, we do what we’re asked/or told. I don’t think parents are asking too much here! The Catechism, paragraph 2214 begins the Church’s teachings on the duties of children, and paragraph 2221 begins the duties of parents. The church teaches that respect for parents begins with a grateful heart: an attitude of gratitude. Quoting the book of Sirach, we read, “Remember that through your parents you were born: what can you give back to them that equals their gift to you?” (2215) The answer, of course, is, “nothing.” But respect and obedience is a good place to start.

This teaching does not apply only to children and their parents. It applies also to all those who exercise the authority that God has given them. The fourth commandment includes extended family, honor and affection toward elders and ancestors, and even includes “pupils to teachers, employees to employers, subordinates to leaders, citizens to their country, and to those who administer or govern it.” (2199) Teachers, employers, and government leaders are experiencing a shocking amount of disrespect!

I think we all have a lot of work to do in this regard. There is far too much disrespect in our culture today. In the 1960s the most popular show on T.V. was Father Knows Best, and by 1980 it was Married with Children with Al Bundy–a clown to his family, who endured ridicule, disrespect and outright defiance–and America loved it. Now we’re dealing with it.

When respect does not begin in the home, it does not extend to law enforcement, nor local and national leaders. We don’t always have to agree with their decisions but each of us, all of us, can show respect and Christian charity to those who govern, whether we voted for them or not. As a Marine, my duty was to serve the Commander In Chief–whether I voted for him or not. I served him and his office with honor and respect.

As adults we want respect and obedience from our children, and rightfully so, but if we’re not modeling respect for leaders, not obeying legitimate laws and lawful leaders, if we are not caring for and providing for our own elderly parents, then we are acting hypocritically. Respect and obedience applies to adults too.

Paragraph 2218 reads, “The fourth commandment reminds grown children of their responsibilities toward their parents. As much as they can, they must give them material and moral support in old age and in times of illness, loneliness, or distress.” A very difficult teaching indeed for those charged with the care of the aged. So much patience is required.

St. Paul gives us the secret to respect and obedience. Listen to this, “Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory: rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but also for those of others. Have in you the same attitude that is also in Christ Jesus.”

We have a lot of work to do. Our country has a lot of work to do. It starts with selflessness, humility, Christian charity, and a Christ-like attitude. All of us need to get over ourselves and show some respect and obedience. We must stop acting like dictators and start acting more like disciples. Amen?