Thursday, October 22, 2009
We find these words in this Sunday’s second reading from the letter to the Hebrews. As I read those words I could not help but think of this past week’s “Balloon Boy” saga. It seems now that this event was part of a larger attempt to gain fame through the creation of yet another “reality” television program. As the story unraveled this week, I overheard someone say, “They should have just put the kid in the balloon and hoped for the best.” The statement was, of course, said tongue-in-cheek, but it does reveal a through line of thought that exists in today’s common culture. Seek fame at all costs; fame that has the potential to bring about financial gain.
As disciples of Jesus Christ we choose a different path for ourselves. We seek glory not through self promotion but through service. Admittedly we do not know the full story of the family behind what now appears to be a hoax. What we do know is that a husband and wife were blessed three times over with the greatest gift they could ever receive, a child. There is no glory or fame greater than that of the love and affection that comes from a child to his or her parents. There is no one more proud then a parent who watches a son or daughter mature into an adult. There is no greater reward than the words, “Thank you Mom and Dad.” In many ways this story is tragic because children may have been exploited for cultural fame. The sight of a little boy getting sick on two different morning news shows, while his parents perpetuated a hoax, is not only a new low for the news media, but a tragic revelation of disoriented parental priorities.
There is no greater glory than that which comes from protecting, defending, guiding and loving a child. This story reveals that we have drifted from Jesus’ reminder that whomever receives a child, receives him. During this Respect Life month, we continue to commit ourselves to protecting, defending, and loving all human life, from conception, to childhood, through adulthood and natural death. We seek an eternal glory that is modeled on Christ, who laid down his life in obedience to the Father, and in service to those whom he was sent.
Sunday, October 18, 2009
“Teacher, we want you to do something for us.” Does that sound like an odd statement, a student asking a teacher to do something for them? Is not the master, the teacher, the superior supposed to expect that the student will serve his teacher? That may sound like the ideal, but the lived reality is that a teacher is one who serves.
• From the basic necessities of the elementary student
• To the time taken to tutor before an exam
• To being a lifetime resource that the student, now adult continues to call upon
Jesus is the master teacher of the disciples and we recognize his teaching in what he says, in the signs he performs and the actions he takes. When these very bold disciples in today’s Gospel ask him to do something for them, it should come as no surprise. What he does here and in spoken word and through action is the surprise. The life lesson of Jesus the Master teacher is that leadership is sacrifice and service. Leadership is not exhibited through sitting in places of honor or the lauding of authority but the laying down of one’s life in sacrifice and service. This suffering sacrifice and service is salvific. What the teacher does, for these disciples, is gives his life, so that all might be saved.
There is more to the lesson; however, it is not simply about what the teacher does for the students. Jesus’ disciples began to recognize him as more than another rabbi or philosophical teacher. They began to identify him with the identity of the long awaited messiah, the political leader who will bring liberty to the occupied and oppressed Jewish people. James and John are envisioning the victory that will be won by the
messiah/teacher and wish to claim their spot on his right and his left. We want to share in your victory; we want to be a part of your holy entourage. Jesus wants this much for his disciples AND MORE. The disciples will share in the victory but not as the entourage, staff or hangers on, but as co-heirs. James and John set their sights lower than what was available to them. They were called to sit at the left and the right of the master but not as subordinates; as slaves but as those who share in the victory because they share in the sacrifice.
In our culture we have many examples of people who have achieved power and authority not from their own efforts but through the achievement of others. Politicians, celebrities, professional athletes, business executives, Bishops (not pastors) may by necessity have a staff to accomplish professional tasks, but some who serve a leader and others who are simply associated to the leader, often seek to share in the power, of a victory won by a sacrifice that was not there’s. Their power and rewards are fleeting and subject to the generosity of the leader. What Jesus teaches is something radically different. The rewards of the victory are ours, not as underlings, but as adopted sons and daughters of the Father. The transformative suffering of Jesus on the Cross, opens the way for all who believe to share in that victory.
This Sunday will celebrate World Mission Sunday and are mindful of those who have shared in the sacrifice of service to the church as missionaries. The notion of missionary ministry often connotes work that is far off from the everyday reality of our lives. The reality is, however, work of missionary sacrifice is not far from us.
• North American Martyrs – Tomorrow we celebrate the feast of Saint Isaac Jogues and his companions who are known as the North American Martyrs. These Jesuit missionaries from France came to North America to bear witness to the faith in North America. In 1646, Jogues was martyred by the Mohawks near the present day Auriesville, New York. The service of sacrifice here in our state, in the not too distant past
• Ita Ford was a woman born in Brooklyn in 1940 who joined the Maryknoll order and was sent to Latin America. She served in Bolivia, Chile and El Salvador where she provide food, shelter, transportation...and faith in a country torn by conflict and war. In December of 1980, along with Sisters Maura Clarke and Dorothy Kazel, and a lay woman named Jean Donovan taken by the Salvadoran National Guard to an isolated spot, where they were tortured, and raped, and killed. A U.N. commission later found that the men were acting on orders from the Salvadoran military. They are modern martyrs and missionaries. A servant of sacrifice, from Brooklyn born less than 70 years ago
• Fr. Matt Cassidy SJ stood here at this pulpit last week. A kid from Hicksville, a graduate of Holy Family School spoke to us about his missionary work in Ghana. Fr. Matt has not been called to sacrifice his physical life like the other two examples but he has sacrificed the comforts and the familiarity of the life he knew growing up here in Hicksville.
These sacrificial servants, with whom we can identify have the opportunity to share in the victory of eternal life, to sit at the right and left of Jesus, not as members of an entourage but adopted sons and daughters who share in the victory won by their sacrifice united with Christ.
• All of us share in the sacrifice of mission. We are sent every week from this sacrifice, this Eucharist, not simply to coexist with the world but to serve; to share in the sacrifice and ultimately the victory of eternal life
o In the work place or school – standing up for injustice
o Within the community – serving rather than tearing down
o Sacrifices of family life that focus not on the pursuit of material possession and luxuries but on creating safe, nurturing and loving homes
o Sacrifice of moral choices – not following the temptations of greed, addictions and the abuse of another person or ourselves
o Sacrifice of illness – When we are burden with illness or tragedy we are tempted to say everything happens for a reason but then struggle to find a reason. Instead we finding meaning in our suffering. For the terminal the suffering process creates a longing for the eternal life that awaits us. For others the suffering of illness often deepens appreciation and love for the true gifts of life and assists in reprioritizing what is important.
We leave this Eucharist each week with the desire that Jesus do something for us, that is lead us to the victory of new life here and the eternal life yet to come. We are called to share in that victory not as servants but as ones who have sacrificed in faith.
Sr. Ita Ford wrote this: “I hope you come to find that which gives life a deep meaning for you. Something worth living for - maybe even worth dying for - something that energizes you, enthuses you, enables you to keep moving ahead. I can't tell you what it might be - that's for you to find, to choose, to love. I encourage you to start looking, and support you in your search.
With the master teacher we share in the service of sacrifice, the mission that shares in the building of God’s Kingdom.
*** Thanks to Deacon Greg at the Deacon's Bench for a little inspiration.