Reflections: Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time October 25, 2020

Brother Phil remarked that we had a reprise of last Sunday’s reading because of the significance of Jesus’ message. He humorously stated the repeat was because “God don’t like ugly” and is trying to remind us that “there is a lot of it” in our world.

Paul’s message to the Thessalonians (1 Thess 1:5c-10) affirmed their actions as “imitators” of goodness. In Exodus (22:20-26) God addresses the Israelites who have been described by Moses as a “stiff necked
people” In giving guidance of how they should live, God is saying “Remember who you are. Remember that you were not welcomed. Remember that you were slaves until I freed you. Remember that you were aliens. Don’t forget your story and your past.”

There was no economic safely net in the desert. God called all the Israelites to care for the powerless: the widow, the orphan, and the immigrant. These are the forgotten, abandoned. That demand for justice is God’s call to us. Brother Phil reminded us of the historic prejudice against the Catholic immigrants where they faced rejection for employment and efforts to prevent their acceptance into the United States. It is important for us to remember our story too. Pope Francis highlighted the importance of caring for “the least of them” in making his first visit outside the Vatican to a refugee camp in Italy.

In the gospel, (Mat 22:33-40) the Pharisees are trying to trap Jesus with their question, “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” Brother Phil informed us that there are 611 laws in the Torah from which they wanted Jesus to choose. Jesus replies, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind”. Then Jesus “threw in the clinker” said Br. Phil. “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

We are called to “Love God above all else” Br Phil repeated. It is about what and who we value. Jesus is asking us to value God above everything. With that decision, life can seem to fall into place. We can truly see ourselves as “children of God” and even more grace-filled, we see others as children of God also. Our perspective of what is important changes.

We have a taste of the heavenly truth of our heritage as children of God, surrounded by the Communion of Saints, blocking out the “ugly” to become the communion of saints within our worship. How we act when we walk out the doors will show the efficacy of our worship in professing our faith. With God’s grace we are changed, and we can change the world with our love. Let us all remember who we are and whose we are, children of God. Peace, Anne

Reflections: Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time September 20, 2020

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord”. If we would contemplate that statement every day it would help guide us in our prayer and actions. Brother Akolla began his homily focusing on how we live in a merit based society. We work to achieve success and monetary reward; we study to achieve good grades which we believe lead to career success etc. We believe in “quid pro quo”, what for what; I should receive a benefit for my effort.

Emphatically Br Akolla stated “God doesn’t work that way”. God is generous beyond our understanding and gives us what we don’t merit. Depending on whom you identify with in the gospel reading, the
workers who toiled all day, or those hired toward the end of the day, we experience God’s generosity very differently. We only see the griping of the full day laborers, who expected to be paid more than the other workers. (Mt 20:1-16a). The landowner, replies “are you envious because I am generous?”

God’s justice is not based on merit, but on mercy, God’s faithful loving kindness. So as God is patient and kind to us, we are asked to be patient with others. We are all aware of our failings, of our countless goals to “do better” and repeated slips. Br Akolla reminds us to take comfort, “God says, ‘I am not finished with you yet,’”

Our response to God patient kindness is to model it with others after receiving it wholeheartedly within us. We are invited to kingdom living by remembering we are all created in the image and likeness of God and therefore worthy of respect from each other as equals. Br Akolla reminded us again to be people of action. In the gospel, the landowner hires more workers from the marketplace, asking them “Why do you stand here idle all day?”

The question Br Akolla put to us is is “What are you doing lately to build the kingdom?” . How have we “built up” our brothers and sisters. What have we done for the “least of them”. How are we praying and serving the sick, the unemployed, the forgotten, and marginalized. He reminded us we cannot be “on the sidelines concerning racism”.

Finally, he invited us to notice that a grateful heart “keeps us from envy”. Envy separates us from God and our neighbor. It blinds us to the goodness of our lives and all the gifts we have received.

May we remember the goodness of God, the wonder of God’s creation, each of us and our sisters and brothers throughout the world. May we go forward in our lives with grateful hearts and treating each other with respect and loving kindness.

Peace, Anne Butts

Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time—September 13,2020

Since I did not write an entry for last week, I will include some of Brother Marva’s reflections here also. He presided at the liturgy last week and today. Outside, the cool breeze sometimes mirrored his statements about us not being in control. We had to stake down the tents before his homily because
the “Spirit” in the form of a strong wind threatened to topple his covering.
He reminded us that last week’s gospel was the roadmap for forgiveness, encouraging us to address our grievances directly, one on one, with the person involved instead of speaking about them to others as a first recourse. Today’s gospel focused on the frequency of our forgiveness. In the gospel, after hearing the importance of forgiving our neighbor, Peter is asking “Do I really have to keep forgiving for as long as I have to?” Jesus’ “No” is really a “Yes”. Brother Marva emphasized that Jesus reminded Peter to “do more” forgiving—“seventy-seven times”, a never ending process.

Last Sunday Brother Marva caught our attention with Tina Turner’s hit song “What’s love got to do with it” remarking that Paul’s letter to the Romans might have a title “love’s got everything to do with it”. It is stressed again in the readings today. Sirach calls us to “Remember your last days, set enmity aside” in order to receive God’s mercy by granting it to others in the form of forgiveness. Holding grudges and fueling our anger with resentment controls us after a while and destroys the bonds of love. How many of us have witnessed peaceful deaths after moments of reconciliation. Just as the gospel’s indebted servant was forgiven by his master, we can remember the unconditional love and perpetual forgiveness of God. Then, unlike the servant, we are charged with passing on this loving forgiveness to others.

As Brother Marva mentioned last Sunday and today, forgiveness is hard. Often, we cannot believe God could forgive us, either through the sacrament of Reconciliation or in our private prayer. He said, “we are asked to let go of our ‘stuff’ so we can release the burden in others”. For as St Paul wrote in Romans, “Whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s”. We think we are in control, but we are not. We are invited to examine our behavior and relationships and do the hard work of asking and granting forgiveness. We ask it of God, ourselves and each other. We commit to moving forward each new day, leaving behind our old habits so we don’t fall back to old behaviors. The hope of today’s message is “no matter how hard or difficult our lives feel, no matter how we fail, God forgives and loves us over and over”. Can we live fruitfully to do the same?

Peace, Anne Butts

Brother Akolla’s First Anniversary of His Ordination