Homily – 31st Sunday of Ordinary Time

  I always like it when this Gospel today comes around because it can teach us much about our relationship with God.  Zacchaeus merely wanted to see Jesus—he climbed the tree to get some height that his physical stature didn’t allow him.  Up the tree, he could see Jesus, safely, from a distance.  But Jesus had something else in mind—he wanted to know Zacchaeus in a more personal way—he wanted to come to his house—eat with him—talk with him—get to know him.  It is the same with us—Jesus wants to get to know us and share our lives—a concept we shouldn’t miss when reading this gospel. 

   On a deeper level, the story of Zacchaeus tells us something about the culture of the time and within that culture is where Jesus was able to reach Zacchaeus and enter into his life, giving him true life.  Zacchaeus, we know, was a tax-collector; a profession despised by any respectable Jew.  Being a tax-collector meant that you worked for the occupying Romans.  You were not salaried but took your living out of the extra taxes you demanded from your neighbors.  There was no limit on this—Zacchaeus merely had to pay a set amount to the Romans and anything above that was his. We know that he took care of himself because, as the Scriptures say, “he was wealthy.” 

   There are many interesting twists in this story and Jesus uses them all to teach those gathered, along with offering Zacchaeus something he could not buy through his tax-collecting. First, recalling that Zacchaeus was despised by his neighbors for his profession—he joined a group of others—Samaritans, prostitutes, and lepers, also looked down upon.  It was custom/culture to shun people who certainly weren’t living very good lives; it was thought, as to end up in such places and predicaments.  It would be the same if we were to assume that any of us who live with an ailment in life are getting what we deserve.

   Now we might look down on this kind of behavior, but in our day, has the mindset changed that much in dealing with people we don’t understand, can’t accept, or don’t approve of? We may ignore, refuse to listen, even judge them, taking comfort in a group of people who think and act as we do, telling ourselves that we are right and they, the “different ones,” are wrong.  We don’t wish to really hear a dissenting message, as it disturbs our comfort level.  

   Jesus, we know, was one to turn things upside down.  Everyone knew that respectable Jews didn’t enter the home of a known sinner and all the above mentioned; tax-collectors, prostitutes, and lepers, were in that category.  Who are the outcasts in our society, we might ask, that we choose not to be seen with? Jesus, our brother doesn’t let these culture mores stand in his way but enters Zacchaeus’ house anyway.  Jesus always looked deeper, wanted to get to know people; not just assume them worthless because of what they did.  He wanted to talk with them, hear their stories, love them where they were and then call them to be more. 

   We had a lovely example of the above last Sunday when we attended our friend’s Unitarian Universalist (UU) service.  The minister for the day—they are lay-led, prayed a beautiful beginning prayer welcoming all present, “just as we were,” sad, happy, depressed—whatever described us that day.  

   By the very fact that Jesus wanted to come to Zacchaeus’ house already told Zacchaeus that he was dealing with someone a cut above the rest, and one who could offer him true meaning in life.  One of the interesting twists in this story is that even though Zacchaeus was wealthy, which would indicate some power-over-others, he was short in stature—an issue, or it wouldn’t have been mentioned.  We know it impeded Zacchaeus from clearly seeing this important figure to his town, Jesus.  People in Zacchaeus’ time looked at any physical impediment as most likely caused by sin.  Being that Zacchaeus was a tax-collector, a despicable profession, to many, probably was a reason for his shortness, culture dictated.

   Once again Jesus calls the lie to such narrow thinking.  I want to come to your house today Zacchaeus—to dine with you.  I want to know you.  Jesus’ sentiment comes right out of the Wisdom reading for today, “You love all things that are created and loathe nothing.  Because Jesus looked into Zacchaeus’ heart, Zacchaeus found the strength—the grace, to change his life.   Jesus always chose the compassionate, understanding response—not the easier one that so many in his day and we too, at times choose.  If we can categorize those that aren’t like us, put them in a box—because they are wrong and we are right, we don’t need to ever grow closer, ever come to understanding.  And during this election year, there is plenty of grist for such “easy” sizing up of people.

    All the readings today are about salvation—not in the narrow sense of saving folks from their humanness—but in a much broader sense.  Jesus wants people to know, as described in the Wisdom reading, the Creator “loves all of creation,” or would not have made it!  We might also say, “God created only that which is loved!” Think of all the people in this world, categorized in any way—our God simply looks on with love. 

   Jesus, in the great heart of God, knows and understands Zacchaeus—he knows what he does for a living, and he knows why he does it—he knows all that makes up Zacchaeus’ life.  He doesn’t judge but moves to the next step—he respects Zacchaeus and loves him to be more than Zacchaeus thought was possible. 

   With Jesus, simple acceptance of Zacchaeus where he was, then gave him the strength through Jesus’ love to change his life—that is what salvation is really all about—finding the strength to be all we were created to be. No doubt, the idea behind the lovely welcoming at the UU service. 

   We have to smile when we think of Zacchaeus, the wealthy tax-collector, wielding, no doubt a good bit of power around Jericho, by nature of his occupation, climbing the sycamore tree like an excited child to see someone, he knew was important for reasons he wasn’t totally aware of.  He had the misconception that, up the tree, he probably wouldn’t be seen. Little did he know that Jesus was about to teach him and all of Jericho a significant lesson—God loved him right where he was and for what he was. 

   Certainly Jesus knew all that Zacchaeus was capable of and through love, selflessly given, compassion and understanding, Jesus brought about the transformation in him that at some level Zacchaeus was looking for when he climbed the tree that day. 

   For each of us friends, Jesus is on the look-out each and every day of our lives to enter in through the sorrows, the joys, the “ah-ha” moments.  We try to hide, in safe places too, up our own “trees”—behind our names, our situations—our pain, the people we know—thinking that God won’t find us or probably doesn’t care.  And if we think that, we would be wrong.  Let me say that again—if we think that our God doesn’t care—WE WOULD BE WRONG!  All we have to do is reflect on all the Scriptures where Jesus goes out of his way to make a difference in people’s lives like today with Zacchaeus.

   This gospel story tells us in no uncertain terms that our God wants to be part of our lives, wants us to be our best selves.  And it all begins, simply, with love.  Once we know we are loved and accepted, we can then share that love with others. 

   Paul prays today with us that God will continually make us worthy of our call as followers of Jesus, the Christ—that by his power in our lives, all good and works of faith will be accomplished through us.  On this next Tuesday, the Church will celebrate the feast of All Saints. No doubt, we will reflect on some of our favorite saints through the years, who have touched our lives. I think it is important to remember that we are all saints in God’s eyes—we all have that inherent goodness that our God created us with—we just need to show the truth of that each day in our lives. 

    On Wednesday, the Church will celebrate the feast of All Souls—a day we remember all those who have gone before us—many who have shown us the way. It is significant that near the end of the church year, we reflect on who we are in God’s eyes, who have been the people who have touched and mentored us in life and make a resolution to be all that we can be in their memory, going forward.

   Each week we pray for those who have died when we gather here for liturgy. As a community we have created a book that we can open each year during the month of November and remember in a special way all those who have gone before us who have helped make us who we are. So, beginning next Sunday and throughout the month of November, I will invite you to record the names, birth, and death dates of your loved ones. This special book is our parish’s Book of Life.

   Paul’s prayer today, that all good and works of faith be accomplished through us is a mighty challenge. My friends—let us pray for the grace to be faithful to this call.   Amen? Amen!

Homily – 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time

   My friends, it seems that we are often called to “faith” in the Scripture readings given us to reflect on each week.  Faith, we can then assume, must be very important in our walk with our brother Jesus to be mentioned so many times.

   Therefore, it is important to have a working definition of just what, “faith” is in order to reflect on, talk about, and determine why it is so important.  Very simply, “faith” is believing in something or someone for which we don’t have the “whole story,” we might say, yet we believe anyway. 

   We might also say that every belief system, Christianity included, has aspects about it that just can’t be known, yet again, people believe anyway.  This is curious, and probably the only way to make sense of it all is to look within ourselves and ask, what we believe and why we believe it. 

   Those who look at the world in a rather, “black and white” way are prone to say, by way of explanation, not, what “faith is,” but what it is not.  They might tell you, “If you doubt” that something is “true,” then you are lacking in that elusive quality, faith. 

   Someone wise once said, “the opposite of faith, is not doubt, but “certainty.”  Therefore, if we know something to be “certain,” we have no need of faith.  Dan Schutte, composer, and presenter of much, faith-filled music has said, “Faith is a matter of heart and mind.” 

   I believe it is important that he began with “heart,” instead of, “mind,” because going through the heart first, it seems to me, allows us, more readily, to accept what may not be clear at first glance.  Example: “Jesus rose from the dead.” If I were to ask each of you, if you believe, in fact, that, “Jesus rose from the dead,” you would probably say, “Yes, I believe that!”  And this may be true for a number of reasons, among them, the fact that you have heard this all your life and don’t question it, or, on some spiritual level, you do really believe. 

   Now if we were to come at this tenet of our faith through our minds first, we would have to deny the legitimacy of the claim as we have nothing in our “black and white” world to compare it to.  Dan Schutte has shared in the past his gratitude to religious sisters and priests along the way who taught him to question.  He put it this way: “Don’t leave your brain at the door of the church.”  Too many present day, church “leaders” are wont to have us do just that—disconnect our brains and just accept rules and regulations that, for the most part, are meant to “keep us in line,” rather than grow in our faith. “Doubting” something my friends, is really a challenge to make us grow. 

   Perhaps the reason that only one leper returned to Jesus to say, “thank you” for their cure, in today’s gospel was because of looking at the gift they received in a very “black and white” way, through their minds alone.  Looking through their hearts would have opened up so much more—love, gratitude, and ultimately, “faith” in something they couldn’t totally understand. 

   And the added piece which this gospel doesn’t address, is that the “cured one,” looking through their heart, loving the giver of so great a gift, can go out and do likewise for others.  Looking to the first reading from Kings in the story of Naaman, a non-Israelite, cured of leprosy by the prophet, Elisha, we see this more expansive response when the gift given is reflected upon through the heart first, rather than the mind.  And in order to totally understand Naaman’s response to being cured, a bit of explanation is necessary. 

    Naaman shows us the way when he sees what has happened—he praises the God of Elisha and takes it up a notch, wanting to gift Elisha for his goodness, his compassion toward him.  Because Elisha will take no reward for what God has called him to do, Naaman makes a strange request—that he be given two mule loads of earth.  It makes sense though, you see, when we learn that Naaman not only chooses to now follow and believe in Elisha’s God, but he wants to take some of the ground of Israel back to his own country where upon it (the ground) he can praise this God who was so gracious and compassionate as to cure him of his affliction.  A true “faith” response should always move us to, “pass it forward,” as it were—to do good to others as good has been done for us.

   If we are truly responding in faith to life around us, there should always be “growth.’  The action should never be just about us. In Paul’s letter to Timothy we hear this truth in another way— “there is no chaining the Word of God[!]” And Paul goes on. [Even]if we are unfaithful, Christ will still remain faithful [to us].

   Our whole journey in this human experience that each of us has is about striving, evermore completely to follow Jesus, the Christ in our walk of faith rather than that of the nine lepers who took the gift and ran. 

   One final thought that I would raise for us to reflect on is something that Jesus thought important to say in his time and therefore it would be good for us to consider as well.  It seems that the “cured one” who returned was a Samaritan—a cultural and social outcast in the minds of most law-abiding Jews in Jesus’ time.  Is it possible that “good” can be found in the likes of a Samaritan, Jesus seems to be asking.  In our own time, who are the “Samaritans” that we may not accept, trust, or want to reach out to in faith? —immigrants, Native peoples in our own country, women, LGBTQ+ folks.  Faith, my friends, calls us into areas of “doubt” if it is the true article.

   In conclusion then, there are no assurances, but faith will lead to some awesome places if we can let go of our need for certainty and our response to this new-found freedom is likely to be that of the one, returning leper—now cured—gratitude.  Amen? Amen!

Homily – 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Friends, once again today, the Church Season of Ordinary Time calls us to be our best selves, not by sitting on the sidelines, waiting for someone else to actively follow our brother Jesus, the Christ, but in fact, for each one of us to step up and fulfill our baptismal call.  Jesus, we know, became “the Christ,” “the Anointed One” through his faith-filled life, death, and resurrection, and in so doing, he became a God big enough, inclusive enough, to be a source of strength for all people.  We, friends, as his followers, are called to the same in the time that we occupy space—here, on this earth. 

   The readings for this week’s ponderance are basically about, “faith”—believing in something that we can’t totally explain, but through the strength of Jesus’ Spirit, we move into each day, trusting that, as 12th Century mystic, Hildegard of Bingen was fond of saying, “All will be well.”  And truly believing and trusting that, “all will be well,” calls us to do our part.

   It would be true to say, I believe, that we all wish that our world could be a more peace-filled, and safe place—that the cares and needs of all could somehow be addressed.  And the truth of the matter is that this can only happen through each of us, in our lifetimes, making it so—we have to be the change we want to see, a wise one said. 

   The prophet Habakkuk in today’s first reading is speaking to the anxiety the people in his time are feeling over the violence in their world.  Our God, through this prophet, speaks words of comfort to the people then, and to us, “Though the vision [of whatever good it may be] awaits an appointed time, it will certainly be fulfilled…”  But we also hear that there is work on our parts—basically a stance that we must take in life.

   Habakkuk goes on— “Arrogance” he says cannot be our stance as part of our human experience, if being our best selves is what we are after.  Those who are “arrogant,” this prophet says, “have a soul that is not right within them.”  Additionally, he says, “Those who are just, will live by their faith.”  Let’s look at that a bit…To me, this says that I cannot consider that I am better, more worthy, more privileged than anyone else. And all of us would probably say, if asked, “I don’t consider myself better and try not to be that way.”

   We have talked about “white privilege” in the past and it is important for us to remember—at least to be cognizant of the fact that some of us have a “step up,” in this world by the very nature of how and where we happened to have been born!

   The psalmist today cries out, “That we would not harden our hearts, if today we hear God’s voice.”  This is great confirmation, isn’t it, that our stance in this world should be to, “lead with our hearts?” I am presently working my way through a lovely book that some of you may be aware of; Braiding Sweetgrass, by Robin Wall Kimmerer, that I would highly recommend.  She makes a strong case, coming from the Native people, Potawatomi, by name, for the importance of respecting all life, animals, plants, the environment—being grateful for each, and all. 

   She further teaches through her writing and speaking of the importance of having gratitude for all of life—animals and plants and all, and likewise, respect and appreciation for each.  She further teaches that as, “we use life in whatever form, we need to, give back, to sustain all life.  Practically speaking, we are talking about, “giving thanks” for members of the animal world that sustain our human lives through feeding us—for plants too, through giving their lives, and never wasting these gifts.  Keeping animals for this purpose and growing edible plants makes this all the more, “up close and personal.”  Perhaps if we all had more appreciation for “what” feeds and sustains us physically, destruction of our planet through global warming would not be an issue. 

   Often when I walk through the woods on the Redig Family Farm, I am amazed with the wonderful, tall trees there—some, 100 feet and more, and I consider them, “marvelous creatures,” almost, in a different sort of way!  It would seem that as God created us spiritual beings and gave us this, “human experience,” we should do all in our power to indeed, “not harden our hearts,” but each day to attempt to love and respect all the life, in all its forms, around us—be grateful and “give back,” in response—in the very least, with our gratitude. 

   So my friends, this business of “being our best selves,” leading with our hearts, which ultimately will mean that we will need to be just, good, kind, and merciful in our world, will, as you know, not always be easy—it will drop us into some “gray areas” that won’t always be simple to navigate around—and, we may have to jump into the fray.

   Paul assures us in his letter to Timothy today that “the Spirit of God is no cowardly Spirit, but One that makes us strong, loving and wise” and additionally, he says, as Jesus’ followers, we need to “bear [our] share of the hardship that the gospel entails.” Perhaps speaking up when everyone else is going along with something that they shouldn’t be going along with.  Each of us friends have a special gift to do our part.  Paul reminds Timothy and us, “to stir into flame the gift God bestows on [us].

   Our final encouragement is Jesus’ call to each of us, an assurance really, that, “faith the size of a mustard seed, can uproot trees” and in another place, “can move mountains.”  And doesn’t much of what plagues us in this world feel like, “uprooting trees, trying to move mountains,” at times?  For me friends, I do place my continued trust in Jesus’ words and hopefully, you can as well, “though the vision awaits an appointed time, it will certainly be fulfilled…”  Amen? Amen!

Today then, in the footsteps of Francis of Assisi, we will virtually bless and be thankful for the pets that share their lives with us.  

Homily – 26th Weekend in Ordinary Time

     My friends, being that I was away at retreat with my sister priests for the greater part of this week, I opted for using most of an earlier homily on today’s readings with a few updates.  Hopefully, there is still good for us all in this previous work.

   Once again with today’s readings, we are challenged to care for those who in our society and world, live with less because most of us live with more.  It isn’t news that we in the First World have managed to accumulate the lion’s share of the world’s goods and we are willing to fight to keep it, and whether we personally believe that or not, our country does and that is why we fight many of the wars that we do, to protect our interests around the world.  The years of COVID certainly lifted up for us the disparity between rich and poor and how those with less suffer far more and quicker than those who have enough of this world’s goods. 

   Lives are being lost today, as throughout history, on both sides of battles, over nations wanting more, rather than trying to find a way for all of us to have the basics which will ultimately mean some having less so that everyone can have some.

   Our United States is really good about giving humanitarian aid throughout the world when disasters strike, and so we should!  We can look at the unequal distribution of the world’s goods and say truthfully, that no one of us is responsible for this situation—but people of heart and character will always struggle over what to do to help, and so we should! 

  The Scriptures today don’t speak so much against having wealth when others do not, but against being complacent in our lifestyles.  Complacency seems to be the greater evil for which the prophet Amos has his dander up with the Israelite people today. Complacency is about being so wrapped up in our own world, our own lives, and our own projects that we cease to see the “Lazarus” people at our door, looking for the scraps. 

   I have found myself doing a great deal of reflecting of late as we recently celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary, and I am realizing anew that the way I feel about my family—all the memories of the good of those years and of how we stood by each other in the hard times as well, is how most other families feel about each other—we all want happiness and good for those that we love.

   Unfortunately, over the years, figures continue to show that the poor have become poorer and the rich—richer, a fact that we can’t be complacent about.  Complacency can drive us to see our own children and their needs and wants without realizing that we are likewise connected to all the children throughout the world, especially to those who have no food, and being Jesus’ followers should call us to, no less.  Every religious belief system calls its people to service of the less fortunate and the deeper message and challenge is always to understand why the imbalance exists, and then, to do what we can to right it. 

   I think we find ourselves troubled by the story of the rich person and Lazarus today—probably more so by the cruel-seeming outcome for the complacent rich person.  We speak often here in our gatherings of the great love and mercy of our God—a few weeks ago we had the story of the prodigal child—wasteful of this world’s goods and the prodigal, wasteful, almost, love of the parent in accepting the wayward one back.  So why today, do we see no leniency for the rich person? 

   It seems the difference is that this wealthy person never made the connections in his life, even though fiery prophets such as Amos and others, one after another, came and proclaimed, challenged that there be a better, more just way of life for all.  The rich person didn’t heed the message whereas the prodigal found the way home and did see the light.

   My friends, we all have free wills—no one from on high or from below will ultimately be able to force us to do anything—we will need to choose.  The responsibility is ours and so too the consequences.  I believe that Jesus wants us to get the message, in no uncertain terms, that many things, while not good, can and will be forgiven, but when we simply don’t care or can’t be bothered, or for whatever reason, don’t attempt to see the connection to the whole; we are on shaky ground.

   It has been suggested that the poor, destitute person, Lazarus, has a name in the story and that the rich person does not to uplift the plight of the poor man and to downplay the actions of the rich person. It has also been suggested that we try and see how we might be like the rich person; not that the situation is the same—of not feeding the hungry, but maybe there are other ways that we are capable of sharing in issues of inequality. Can we perhaps make a call; write a letter, saying “no” to a congressperson that we don’t agree with? Who are the people right in front of me, at my doorstep, so to speak, whose needs I am ignoring? 

   At the conclusion of my RCWP retreat, we celebrated the liturgy together—this same liturgy and the presider suggested that the person, right in front of us, might be ourselves who most need care today. A very valid point!

   And friends, that is truly what it is all about—taking the Scriptures and making them come alive today, applying them to our current life situations.

   The Spirit of God is continually renewing the face of the earth, calling each of us to be our best selves; and that isn’t about a narrow, strict following of man-made law and regulation, but about the law of love, prodigal loving even, that Jesus talked about.  We simply can’t be about living our lives with reference to “black and white” rules when the solutions to many of our world’s problems; climate change, gun violence, unending wars, hypocrisy in leadership in both Church and State throw us into “gray areas” where “heart action,” not “head action” alone, is needed.

   Being “black and white” as a response to the needs of this world, can often leave us feeling really disconnected from our best selves.  We can’t fully know what it is like to be on the receiving end of a law, such as those against the LGBTQ community, women and more, that are devoid of love, or to be discriminated against for the way we were born, if that hasn’t been our reality, unless we walk in someone else’s shoes for a while.  We can’t always do that, but we can try very hard to treat others as we would want to be treated.  In every situation where we encounter strife, animosity, or division; we must apply the law of love.  We can’t just talk about labels devoid of the human component. Once we give the label a human face; we can never again be complacent; we can never again say, “It’s not my business.”  We can no longer walk away. 

   If we choose to stay and confront the evil present; (remember, evil is easy to spot—it is that which is devoid of love) then we must be good listeners of people’s stories, as we spoke of last week. We must have ears that can truly hear and hearts that can feel their pain.  I think of the many in this world and their families who live with mental illness—certainly not something that they chose.

   It isn’t an easy thing to confront the powers-that-be if that is the route, we choose to make a difference, because we have all been taught to give them the respect of the office; but we must always remember that we answer to a higher power.  We all know right from wrong and must simply speak up when people are being misused and abused—no matter who is speaking the untruth.  It was what our brother Jesus did, and it is what we must do! 

   You all remember Swedish-born, Greta Thunberg who has given such a great example of speaking truth to power in the past concerning climate change and saving our planet for the next generation.  Her plea and demand even, that each of us steps up, was right -on, refusing to be complacent any longer. 

   The times in which we live friends, are crisis-laden, lacking in morality—selfish times, that we must, simply must address with love—continually ask our brother Jesus to stand by us as we endeavor to be “the light” this world needs.

   In conclusion, looking back at today’s gospel, the rich man was apparently “condemned” not for his selfishness, but for his complacency that effectively allowed him, “not to see” the suffering right in front of him! Let us not be guilty of the same! Amen? Amen!

Homily – 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time

My friends, the Scriptures for this Sunday speak a great deal about “listening”—to ourselves and to others, in order that we might have a better understanding of who we are—what God may be calling us to, and what others in our world may be needing from us.  Because you see, for the Christian follower of our brother Jesus, it is very much about action on our parts—we can’t just “hear” the Word and do nothing—this is clearly not acceptable. 

   I belong to a Franciscan Life Group (FLG) as a Cojourner with the Rochester, Minnesota order of Franciscan Sisters, that this past week was finally able to meet in person after all the months of COVID where only Zoom gatherings were possible. 

   Our topic for reflection was the volume of ideas and concerns that have been raised over the past couple of years under the title, Synod on Synodality called for by Pope Francis. This synod or any synod is a time when the laity and the bishops, especially the bishops, are encouraged to truly “listen” to one another, so as to perhaps make concrete decisions for change to make our Church more inclusive, open, and vibrant.  As you might expect, our discussion of a half hour was only able to scratch the surface of the needs out there to make our Church more inclusive, open, and vibrant. 

   I told my life group that when I heard of this synod two years ago, I didn’t approach it with much enthusiasm as I still remember a like process done in the 1980’s—for a pastoral letter on women.  Thoughts and comments from women were sought from around the world. The letter went through four revisions with the first draft the most complete and telling about what women were asking for, and by the time the fourth and final draft appeared, the beautiful and complete statements of what women wanted and needed from their Church were completely gutted.  But when those who have the power within the Church represent only half of the people, (the men) this is to be expected. 

   When I did my pastoral project for my master’s degree from St. Mary’s University of Minnesota in Pastoral Ministries in 1999, I chose to study and write about clericalism and lack of voice for women within our Church under the title, Excluded by Birth, Diminished by Language: A Case for Inclusivity Within the Catholic church. I had the rare privilege of working with then, Bishop Raymond Lucker of the New Ulm diocese in Minnesota as he was implementing a system of lay pastoral administrators in his diocese to cover for the lack of male priests. 

   I had hoped to eventually have my research published and tried several avenues to have that done, and other than being able to place a hard-bound copy of it in the university library, that was the extent of sharing the word of how one bishop was “listening” to his people and doing what he could to allow the voices of lay women and men, as well as women religious to be heard. 

   A final note might be to add that we were in the long papacy of John Paul II who basically was not listening, so in many respects, other than the National Catholic Reporter, not many other publications were willing to “listen” either. 

   The prophet Amos is attempting today through the first reading to get the people of his time to “listen,” and his issue was the “poor” and he speaks rather forcefully relaying God’s displeasure of those who “trample on the needy” [for their own gain].

   It is important for us all to remember that people are “poor” in many ways.  In the discussion of “synodality” or any other synod issue, when all the voices are not heard, we are all a poorer people.  Our second reading today from Timothy speaks in a general way to this issue, where he says, “there should be prayers offered for everyone…[this] will please God…who wants everyone to be saved and reach full knowledge of the truth.”  When we listen, truly listen, to another and hear perhaps, a reality other than our own, we give the very best “prayer” to another. 

   The gospel from Luke today has a somewhat confusing message from our brother Jesus.  We may have found ourselves asking, is Jesus really praising the dishonest steward who is trying to save himself from ridicule and/or punishment?  Exegetes tell us “No” and that Jesus is really lifting up the “creativity” of the steward in finding a solution that ultimately helps others. 

   Within our FLG, I shared my frustration with Church leaders who justify their inaction or inability to truly hear the needs of their people with the adage: “the Church moves slowly!”  As one of our members said, “Well that is just an excuse!” 

   Going back once more to Luke’s gospel for today, our brother Jesus ends his teaching with, “You cannot worship God and money.”  Again, looking broadly at Jesus’ words, “money” can be seen as a catchall for whatever stands in the way of “worshipping God” through our actions in the world.  We can certainly look at “power” in that sense and our Church hierarchy’s strong grasp of it!

   Clericalism, that need for men to stand alone as the only conduit for the message of the Spirit is truly about “power” and their need to hold on to it.  Not much that is truly good can be accomplished through this synod or any other until this issue of clericalism is addressed. 

   So my friends, in Timothy’s words once again, [let each of us offer] “prayers for everyone,” that we might be good “listeners” of all the stories and strive to address all the needs expressed.  Amen? Amen!