Pastor Column: Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time, October 14, 2018

Pastor Column: Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time, October 14, 2018

Msgr Joseph Tracy, St. Stanislaus Parish

Only one place in the Gospels does a person who has a personal encounter with Jesus leave unhappy. It happens in this Sunday’s Scriptures this weekend, in the account of the Rich Young Man’s meeting with Jesus. He comes to meet the “good teacher” with good intentions and looking for a sure answer to his question: “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus responds with the core demands of the Jewish tradition – keep the Commandments, love God, do no harm, treat others well, and be faithful to your family.

For the young man, this was no problem. He had the Ten Commandments covered. Jesus admires his zeal. One almost expects Jesus to give him a slap on the back, an “A” for effort, or stamp his “get into heaven free” card. But not is not what Jesus says or does. Rather, he asks him to go deeper with the invitation of his life, essentially asking him to drop his other ambitions, unbind himself from other ties, and give to the poor all the trappings he had. The poor guy goes away stunned and extremely sad. Even the apostles who witnessed the exchange were taken back by the response of Jesus.  He reassures them that they and anyone like them who risked all for Him and the Gospel would receive so much more than they could imagine. Notice that the invitation was not extended to everyone. Jesus knew not everyone could do it well. To embrace a life of dependence on God and obedience to mission is not for all. In addition, He did not want to leave out those who lived out Kingdom values in their homes. Whether itinerant or living in a steady place, Jesus asked for a radically free lifestyle defined by consecration and willingness to do the will of God no matter what.

Jesus offers each of us more than we expect. He calls forth the potential we all have to be and do good. Pope Francis, in the Exhortation Guadete et Exsultate, 11 says it this way:

The important thing is that each believer discern his or her own path, that they bring out the very best of themselves, the most personal gifts that God has placed in their hearts (cf. 1 Cor 12:7), rather than hopelessly trying to imitate something not meant for them. We are all called to be witnesses, but there are many actual ways of bearing witness.

We are all individually called to serve in Jesus’ mission. Our summons is personal, unique, and tailored to our gifts and dispositions. God never asks us to do the impossible, but rather to meet whatever challenges head-on with God’s help. Like the Rich Young Man, we are invited to accept by becoming more than we can imagine. It’s part of the Gospel’ “Inconvenient Truth” that can speak to the world.

Pastor Column: Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, September 30, 2018

Pastor Column: Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, September 30, 2018

Msgr Joseph Tracy, St. Stanislaus Parish

The Gospel this weekend follows directly upon the one that we heard last Sunday. As you may recall, in response to the disciples’ inflated sense of self-importance, Jesus stood a child in their midst and explained that true greatness comes from service. Yet the disciples still don’t “get it.” John brings up a situation where others were able to drive out demons, but they (the apostles) could not, and they were powerless to stop the practice. Sounds like the disciples had become so caught up in a status game that they had made discipleship an exclusive club in which only the bona fide members had the right to promote the Kingdom. They wanted to guard their privilege. Jesus again returns to the theme of littleness: “Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward.”

Once there was a poor farmer who was a heavy drinker. When he over drank, he would become abusive, forcing his family to escape into their cornfield to hide, with him frequently shooting after them with a .22 rifle. One day an elderly Amish neighbor came to the farm. He explained that rodents had been in his corn-crib and asked the farmer if he knew anyone who would sell him a .22. A bargain was quickly struck and the old farmer took the rifle and ammunition and started home. One of the poor famer’s children followed him. From a distance he watches him cross the river’s bridge, stop midstream, and drop the rifle and ammunition in the swift water. Then he continued home.

The generosity of heart and humility of spirit to buy and then destroy the rifle is the Amish farmer’s “cup of water” that Jesus speaks about today. Christ asks all of us to be His followers and be compassionate . . . not feel sorry for someone and stop there, but truly walk with (suffer with) the person who is the object of our concern. Our Lord promises us that even the simplest act of love and kindness will be honored by God. Perhaps not now, but we meet Christ in judgment in our life to come. Anyone in need or in trouble has a claim on our compassion and charity because they belong to Christ. Let us not hesitate to act in the name of Jesus when the opportunity arises, and whoever crosses our path in life. With God, even a little goes a long way.