What do you worry about?

Published on 27. Feb, 2011 by in Sunday Homilies

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‘People watching’ at airports is a fascinating adventure.  Having spent 6 hours yesterday in airports, I had a lot of time to do that.  Among many ways to categories people, there was clearly two ‘types’ of travelers.  (both at airports and in life…) On the one side you have the seemingly “carefree travelers”, like college students on their way to spring break or folks going on vacation.  (That was me…)  These are the travelers that seem to not have a care in the world.  They are enjoying the experience, open to meeting new people, and ready for whatever the trip will bring.  Usually these are the OUTBOUND passengers.  On the other side, you have the harried business traveler/parent herding 4 kids/and the regular nervous Nelly’s. Between looking at their watch, texting, herding the kids, checking the departure gates, getting last messages off on the cell phone, thinking and talking about everything waiting for them upon arrival home, – it is obvious that they travel with a lot of worries and concerns.  I suspect all of us vacillate between those two extremes in our everyday life.

One of my classmates became this on the way home.  The lines at the departing airport were long.  The lines at passport security were even longer.  And then at customs even longer still – it was a madhouse.  He went from vacation relaxed to anxious and uptight.  And no amount of words to relax could take him out of that space.  I think he is not alone in that.  Sometimes we are fine.  Life is okay, despite difficult times and we can keep our balance.  Then something happens – and poof – all that calm is gone.  We are troubled.  We do worry:

  • Do I have enough money to pay our bills?  Or to fund college for our daughter?  Is my job is going to last in this economy?
  • We wonder whether we will get good enough grades to get into the college of our choice, or whether our children will?
  • Our car makes a noise that we haven’t heard before; or our body gets a lump that we haven’t felt before and we worry.
  • When the conversation didn’t go so well and we think the other person is mad at us… we find ourselves worried.  Will they forgive us?  Will the relationship survive this bump in the road?  **

“Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear.”

“Really?  That’s easy for you to say.  You’re the son of God.  But for us, it is not so easy.”  Yet, there it is: Do not worry about your life… But as usual, you know that there is a truth here, a deeper truth about life that Jesus is trying to convey to us.  Jesus knows his future, knows that the cross looms for him.  And yet, he tells us not to worry because

  • He trusted for himself – and for us – that God would be with him – and us – even through the valley of the shadow of death
  • And he knew that to worry robs us of life.

The great preacher, Charles Spurgeon, put it this way. He said:

“Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its trials —

it simply empties today of its joy.”

Let me repeat that.  ”  ”   ”    ”   ”   ”

Worry has a corrosive power that eats away at our bodies, our relationships, our peace of heart and mind.

Into that experience, Jesus says: “Instead of worrying, just seek the kingdom.  Just love.”  In any moment, worry will not help me in any way.  It will only rob me of the life and joy that is only found in the present moment.  All I have to do is LOVE NOW.  I only have to love now.

That is all that I really can do.  That is all I need to do.  It is the one thing that will yield a holy happy, joy-filled life.

  • Jesus is not saying don’t plan for the future…  He knows we have to think ahead and use our brains.
  • Jesus is not saying, don’t learn from the past or act like it didn’t happen…
  • He is just saying don’t live there.  Live now. Love now.

When the anxiety comes, acknowledge it. But don’t stay there. Remember, all you have to do is love now. That is enough.  That is ALL we need.

You see, we’re all in an airport – only the destination is not Paris, or California or even Turks and Caicos.  Rather, we are bound for the heavenly kingdom.  That is what we seek.  And if we seek that, day by day, moment by moment, loving with all our strength day by day and moment by moment, then nothing else really matters, does it…

** at UMSL, the following were the ‘worry items’

  • Do I have enough money to pay for college next semester?  Can I get enough hours to keep the apartment rent up and still get out and socialize a bit?
  • Will I get good enough grades to get into the vet/med school of my choice, or missing that, at least some school somewhere?
  • My car mades a noise that I haven’t heard before – will it last through another semester, till I can find another one that I can afford?
  • When the conversation didn’t go so well and we think the other person is mad at us… we find ourselves worried.  Will they forgive us?  Will the relationship survive this bump in the road?

 

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Wines Around The World

Published on 26. Feb, 2011 by in Events, Fundraising

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The Catholic Newman Center will be hosting a fundraiser on March 4th.  It is entitled Wines around the World. The cost is $35.00 and that allows you to taste wines from Italy, France, Spain, Argentina, and the U.S. In addition, we will have live music (Kathy Reid), hors d’oeuvres, gourmet wine basket raffle, beer and soda. Just call  385-3455 or email Kay at  kay@cncumsl.org to make reservations.

Space will be limited.

Thanks again for supporting  the Newman Center.

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Pastor’s Pen

Published on 20. Feb, 2011 by in Pastor's Pen

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Of many things…

Despite the best laid plans of mice and men, you’ll notice some splotches in our roof in church.  The recent “Ice storm of 2011” not only made a mess of our parking lot, but also covered the drains in the flat ceiling of the church.  As it slowly melted, the water accumulated, and as water is want to do, it found paths of least resistance, high about the normal roof line and found its way in.  Unfortunately, even the plastic we had put in place in the usual spots was not enough to contain the volume that crept on in.  (God bless the engineer who created flat roofs…)  Despite the best efforts of Dave Marstall to climb up on the roof and shovel the ice and snow away (once we realized what was going on) the damage was done.

Now that the roof has dried up, we’ll be making repairs to seal those ‘higher up’ leaks, as well as add a note to ‘check on the roof’ when we have measurable snows to our preventative maintenance routine.  When and how to repaint are still being investigated.  Thank you for your patience and understanding.

I have entered into a contract with AMF Electric to replace the three electrical panels in the sacristy that control the lights in the church, sacristy and power to the front offices.  We just ran out of our supply of replacement breakers, and though replacement ones are still out there, they are no longer manufactured and are getting more difficult to find and more expensive to purchase.  One breaker has stopped working between the time of the bid and today, and a second is on life support – I can get it to function, but only after multiple attempts and that professional technique called “jiggling it.”  After 60 years of daily use for the panels, (they are the original equipment) it is time to replace them.

You notice that one of the church doors has some taped arrows directing you to use other doors.  Please do not use it.  There are some issues that need to be fixed for it to operate without causing further damage to the floor and the door.  A parishioner has informed me that he is able to fix it, can get the parts needed, and will get to it as quickly as his full time job and full time life permits. But in the mean time, if you would heed the arrows and use the other doors, I would be grateful. (This is a classic example of the good-cheap-quick triangle.  You can only have two of those at any one time – so this will be good and cheap, but just not quick…)

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“A box of Russell Stover Chocolates, a card from Quick Trip, and a few cut flowers from the guys who sells them on the street corner – that should keep her happy.”  Imagine if a newly wedded husband approached Valentine’s Day with that attitude, seeking to get away with doing and spending as little as possible. He’d be toast, wouldn’t he?  A husband truly in love would never do just the minimum to demonstrate his love and affection for his wife. He would be extravagant. He would be led by his heart!

As we continue reading from the Sermon on the Mount, we hear Jesus telling his disciples to go beyond the minimum, to go beyond the letter of the law found in the commandments. In doing so, Jesus takes what the law taught to a higher level of obedience.  When we only follow the strict letter of the law, said Jesus, we run the risk of missing the higher, nobler wisdom embodied in the law.  And we miss the opportunity to express all that is in our hearts for God.

So, while the law says do not kill, Jesus teaches that his disciples are to disperse anger and ill feelings. Jesus elevates the emotion of anger to the level of murder.  Why?  Because, as Martin Luther King, Jr. said often, you can kill a person without killing them.  Hatred, prejudice, slander, and fear all have murder in their DNA.  To treat another person as if they did not exist, to discount their fundamental humanity because of their skin color or ethnicity, to demote another person to the level of being sub-human because of their religious beliefs, sexual orientation, political views, or what we call social class is to write them off, killing them as persons of worth.  Anger left unchecked and unnamed for what it is has de facto murder as its outcome.  The loving of God’s people must move from anger to love.  It is not enough just to ‘not kill’ people.  That is just the minimum.  Love demands that we recognize the intrinsic value of every human being.

While the law says do not commit adultery, Jesus teaches that his disciples are to resist the lustful feelings that seek a place in their mind and heart. We are to avoid all things that pull us in the wrong direction.  For example, married couples can strictly keep the fidelity of their marriage vows yet not keep the promise to deeply, passionately love the other person.  A couple that prides itself on faithfulness but has neglected the hard work of keeping romance in their relationship has missed living into the power of their marriage promises.  They’ve done only the minimum.

Jesus probably never imagined what the Internet has done in terms of people looking ‘lustfully’ at others.  The ease of accessing pornography and the number of people addicted is frightening.  Its effects on those addicted are just beginning to be documented:  it reduces men and women to objects, cheapens the value of sex, and lessens people’s ability to enter into long term relationships.  In response to that, the archdiocese is beginning a new program to combat pornography and its use.  It is called: As for Me and My House. The title comes from the moment when Joshua, about to lead the people into the Promised Land, asks the people whom they will follow – God and his commands to life or Baal and death.   After issuing the invitation, he says, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”  It is multifaceted in its approach – a video, counseling, advice to parents on what to watch for from you kids, etc.  (As an aside, I still need a chair from the parish to help implement.  This is a hard “ask” – Hey, do you want to be in charge of anti-pornography in the parish… So, if God moves your heart – let me know)  It’s another way where people can do more than the minimum…

While the law says avoid false oaths, Jesus teaches that his disciples are to be persons of integrity. We are to speak words that always ring true.   And so it goes…

Jesus, as we hear in this Sunday’s Gospel, did not come to abolish the law and commandments, but to fulfill them. Jesus came to teach us by his words, and to show us by his life, that true love is extravagant. True love never does the minimum.  Neither should we…

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Pastor’s Pen – February 6, 2011

Published on 06. Feb, 2011 by in Pastor's Pen

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A winter to remember… (or to forget)

It is the lull between the storms as I write this.  We had enough residual salt down on the blacktop to keep ice from accumulating Monday night.  However, today’s sleet has done what the ice failed to do. The parking lot looks like an ice rink. Don’t even ask about the sidewalks.  50 pounds of ice melt was just enough to clear the steps to the church and the rectory, and the small black ‘rugs’ outside the front of church.  And now we are waiting for what forecasters are calling ‘the big snow’.

As I kid, I loved this kind of weather.  As an adult who worries about keeping sidewalks safe for walking, and access open for people, it is a little less fun.  I tell my classmates “I love my parish.  Where else can I get my aerobic workout done (shoveling/chipping away ice) all before the 8am mass?”  Thanks to Phil Krill for his help with the daily “getting church accessible” labor.  Thanks to Bob Reid and Luke Engelmeyer for their work on keeping the school accessible.

Thanks to a combination of folks who came up during the last snow storm with plow equipped ATV’s (Tim and Mike Britt) and a snow blower (Don Muckerman) and shovels (Bob Maixner and others) to lend a hand.   In the absence of a maintenance man, their help makes a huge difference.

And then, let me say a word about safety.  In golf, they talk about the risk/reward equation to various shots.  If your chances of finding the hazard are pretty good unless you hit ‘the perfect shot’, then the risk involved tells you to “play the safe shot.”  The same applies with the decision to come to mass.  There are some times when it is neither wise nor prudent nor safe to come to mass, even if it should be on a weekend.  If the chance of falling and breaking a leg or a hip is strong, especially as you get into your senior years and the balance and agility are not quite what they used to be, then the prudent choice is to keep holy the Sabbath from the comfort of your living room.  Stay home!  And don’t worry about ‘not going to communion until you have had the chance to go to confession’ about this.  If that is the reason why you are missing mass, trust that our Lord understands.  (Now, if you miss mass out of laziness and neglect…)

This winter will pass – this we know.  It may take a few hundred more pounds of ice melt before it does.  But it will pass. In the mean time, be safe out there…

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Packers or Steelers?

Published on 06. Feb, 2011 by in Sunday Homilies

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Packers or Steelers?  Oops.  I mean, “Who is someone you know whose goodness has made a difference in your life?”

  • Five years ago, the Super Bowl was played in Detroit, Michigan.  If you know who won that game, raise your hand.  (Pittsburgh/Seattle).
  • Three years ago, the Super Bowl was played in Glendale, Arizona. Raise your hand if you know who won the Super Bowl three years ago (New York Giants/Patriots).
  • At the beginning of Mass I asked, “Who is someone you know whose goodness has made a difference in your life?”  How many people had an answer for that?
  • Follow up question to that last one.  If you were lonely, grieving, or in a hospital dying, who would you rather have with you?  The MVP of today’s game, or the person whose goodness changed you?

Interesting, isn’t it.  Companies will pay millions of dollars for commercial spots at today’s game – this year the cost for a Superbowl commercial is $100,000 a SECOND – but none of them will make nearly as lasting impression as those people who are salt and light for us.  That is what we are called to be – salt and light.

And if you think about Jesus’ invitation in the Sermon on the Mount as a kind of ‘ad campaign’, they were very effective symbols.  Salt was crucial in Jesus’ day.  Wars were fought over salt and the right to mine it in salt rich territories.  As a preservative in the days before refrigeration, salt enabled food, particularly meat, to be edible for months.  We know what it does to the flavor of food, but in the time of Jesus, its most important role was to keep things from rotting.

You are the salt of the earth. Your lives are meant to have a preserving, sustaining quality about them that keeps this world from becoming a rotting mess.  We are to take up the hard work of bringing peace where there is war, and comfort where there is sorrow.  We’ll hear more about the practical implications of being salt as we continue reading from the Sermon on the Mount in the weeks to come.

You are the light of the world.  That places us as LEADERS among the human family.  In our families, our parishes, our communities and nation – we are to be that city on a mountain – bringing light and love to all.  And how are we to do that?  Jesus is even more explicit – it is by our example, the HOW in which we live, that we will change hearts and lives.  This is not necessarily a call to go rushing into the public arena waving the Catholic flag and calling people to get their act together.  But it is an invitation to be people whose lives have been changed because we have met Jesus in a way that transforms us.

All in all, it is a tall order – to be people of salt and light.  I like to think that I have the salt function down – I do pretty well at preserving and sustaining things that are here at St. Ann’s.  Where I have struggled the most as pastor is in the light/leadership category.  That part doesn’t come easy for me. … So I have been praying this week about that call to be light/leader.  There have been three dreams working their way forward in my heart and prayer this past year – three ways that I think God might be calling us as a parish to move forward.  Let me put them out there and see if they find any resonance in you, and indication that perhaps God is inviting you to help make those a reality here at St. Ann.

First, I want to bring a retreat program to this parish – called the Acts Retreat – as an ongoing part of our mission.  There is a woman’s retreat and a men’s retreat.   And then those who participate become the ones who put it on for the next group.  Secondly, I’m forming a team to look at how we might be better stewards, not so much of the gifts of treasure – you have been very supportive of this parish and our school – but of the gifts of time and talent.  How do we give people the opportunities to put their faith into practice in concrete ways.  The third is in the realms of the social gospel of the church.  I dream of this parish being a place where the demands of social justice become a driving force in our neighborhood and in our lives.

It is a tall order, to be people of salt and light.  And we don’t have a budget of $100,000/second to put that into place.  But we do know people who have been salt and light for us, and the difference they have made in our lives and world.  Now, it is our turn to do that for others…

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