On the Margins: Matthew 22:1-14

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On the Margins from Mater Dei Radio, Portland, OR

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28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, October 15, 2017

Gospel MT 22:1-14

Jesus again in reply spoke to the chief priests and elders of the people
in parables, saying,
“The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king
who gave a wedding feast for his son.
He dispatched his servants
to summon the invited guests to the feast,
but they refused to come.
A second time he sent other servants, saying,
‘Tell those invited: “Behold, I have prepared my banquet,
my calves and fattened cattle are killed,
and everything is ready; come to the feast.”‘
Some ignored the invitation and went away,
one to his farm, another to his business.
The rest laid hold of his servants,
mistreated them, and killed them.
The king was enraged and sent his troops,
destroyed those murderers, and burned their city.
Then he said to his servants, ‘The feast is ready,
but those who were invited were not worthy to come.
Go out, therefore, into the main roads
and invite to the feast whomever you find.’
The servants went out into the streets
and gathered all they found, bad and good alike,
and the hall was filled with guests.
But when the king came in to meet the guests,
he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment.
The king said to him, ‘My friend, how is it
that you came in here without a wedding garment?’
But he was reduced to silence.
Then the king said to his attendants, ‘Bind his hands and feet,
and cast him into the darkness outside,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’
Many are invited, but few are chosen.”

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time: My column and my cover art

October 15 Bulletin Cover

Dear Believers in the Real Presence,

We are invited to the feast in today’s gospel, Matthew 22:1-14. Since we have been worshipping in the gym at Sacred Heart, I have been reflecting on the gym floor a lot in my own prayer. I have never used the dirty floor as a source of prayer before. The temporary set up for Mass on Saturdays and Sundays intrigues me. We are praying on the weekends from the altar that was in the church. The old sanctuary furniture is set up for the weekends and then put into a temporary closet during the weekdays. What happens on the old gym floor connects our prayer and service like we have never experienced before. This is the real mission of the Church.

The floor is a profound source of prayer. The floor of our Parish Center now carries the lives, bodies, the wheelchairs, the children and the elderly of our parish community in prayer. There are no obstacles of steps or tattered carpeting to be a stumbling hazard. The floor is a host of great diversity welcoming people to the Eucharist. The tiles enable a steadiness with people leaning on their canes. The flat floor creates surefootedness for our older parishioners who are approaching the ambo to read the scriptures as well as a solid surface for baby strollers and parents carrying young children. What happens on Sundays is the core of our Christian faith, the celebration of the Body and Blood of Christ, the feast to which we are invited to not only attend but also the feast that we are invited to become.

This becoming happens immediately after the Mass. When the Eucharist has ended, the room is immediately transformed into a dining room. On Sunday evenings, we host the Lord’s Dinner where over 100 of our neighbors dine with one another and with volunteers from one of the nine different churches hosted by Westside Cares. The floor becomes common ground for people carrying their possessions on their backs and others who have not eaten all weekend. Parents carry their infants and toddlers into the gym with diaper bags and a few articles of clothing. The floor becomes the host for mutual hospitality, the place of communion with conversation and food.

The Eucharist invites us to be fed on Sunday mornings. We carry the invitation forward by learning how to feed other people on Sunday evenings. I hear these echoes of invitation across the gym floor. I never thought of using the gym floor as a source of prayer, but when I stop for a moment and walk in the place where our faithful walk and pray, I can hear the echoes of people who ache for food, love, conversation and communion. I hear the longing for God, for healing and hope for tomorrow. On the gym floor, I do not know from which group these echoes come.

Welcome to the feast,

Fr. Ron

 

Jesus grieves for us…

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“Jesus grieves for us…” Painting, using a rag by: Ronald Raab, CSC October 9, 2017

Jesus grieves for us…

In the center of the storms that ravage our homes and landscape…

In the middle of such destruction and uncertainty…

In the core of our hearts as we let go of our belongings…

In the divisions we find in our souls as we bury the dead…

 

Waiting for us to awaken to the real and unknown destruction…

Waiting for us to reach out to our neighbors and enemies…

Waiting for us to begin rummaging through the rubble…

Waiting for us to find him in the letting go…

 

Standing with us as we argue over weapons and rights…

Standing with us as we search for causes and reasons…

Standing with us when we are blind to mental illness…

Standing with us when we become obsessed with control…

 

Embracing us when we weep at graves of the young and talented…

Embracing us when we think you have abandoned us…

Embracing us when we encircle our lives with entitlement and self-righteousness…

Embracing us when we turn our faith into national politics…

 

Loving us when we disregard our children and people…

Loving us when we toss hope aside…

Loving us when we think we can survive on our own…

Loving us when we are discouraged and so lost…

 

Forgiving us when we argue over skin color and language…

Forgiving us when we hoard our wealth, knowledge and expertise…

Forgiving us when we abuse power, control and superiority…

Forgiving us when we have lose our identity of your Kingdom…

 

Jesus, grieve for us…

27th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Cover and my column

October 8 Bulletin Cover

Dear Followers of the Anointed One,

We are very aware of the destruction of the fields, the crops and our food in the recent hurricanes, storms and earthquakes. Our plans for such security come to nothing when natural disaster strikes. The basics of life are swept away, destroyed and our lives are at risk. In faith, we know that our true lives depend on the Kingdom of Heaven, the true source of hope. However, in light of the destruction, our view is of the earth, our survival and the care of so many of our brothers and sisters.

Let’s look at today’s parable opening up another image of God’s Kingdom, our true and eternal home. This parable and image may seem so otherworldly, so out of place in the tragedies of our recent months. Yet, we gain hope in our faith during all the destruction as we place our hope in God.

Today, we break open another parable about the Kingdom of Heaven in Matthew 21:33-43. Jesus tells the story about a landowner who carefully plants, protects and equips the vineyard, and about the tenants who take progressively more violent steps to usurp what is not theirs. Jesus issues judgment against the chief priests and elders. The Kingdom of God will be given to those who understand what is given— the promises made here on earth of the glory and hope of the Kingdom in Heaven.

There are many questions to be asked. What is the fruit of the kingdom? How are we to find it now? The only way to discover such a gift is to die to our selves, to discover the life that is greater than our own plans, our own egos and our own desires. This is the fertile soil on which we plant hope for the breaking open of our hearts and lives.

We die to certainty on earth. This is a difficult way to find God and yet it is the only way. There are few people who are willing to risk security and a full ego to find the true fruit of the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth. When we take the risk, God’s fidelity and love grow more deeply in the soil of our hearts, our actions and our decisions. Love only flourishes when we let go of our hatred, our violence and our illusions in order to discover a life of prayer and hope in God. The fruit of God’s Kingdom is lasting and true.

Here are some questions to consider for this week:

What have you learned in the recent storms and natural disasters? Where are you finding hope? What lessons have you learned in such experiences of powerlessness? How are you praying through these events? What does it mean for you to die to self and discover the Kingdom within your life? What does it mean for you to enter and care for the vineyard of God’s Kingdom?

Blessings,

Fr. Ron

On the Margins: Matthew 21:33-43

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On the Margins from Mater Dei Radio, Portland, OR

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Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, October 8, 2017

Gospel  MT 21:33-43

Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people:
“Hear another parable.
There was a landowner who planted a vineyard,
put a hedge around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a tower.
Then he leased it to tenants and went on a journey.
When vintage time drew near,
he sent his servants to the tenants to obtain his produce.
But the tenants seized the servants and one they beat,
another they killed, and a third they stoned.
Again he sent other servants, more numerous than the first ones,
but they treated them in the same way.
Finally, he sent his son to them, thinking,
‘They will respect my son.’
But when the tenants saw the son, they said to one another,
‘This is the heir.
Come, let us kill him and acquire his inheritance.’
They seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him.
What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants when he comes?”
They answered him,
“He will put those wretched men to a wretched death
and lease his vineyard to other tenants
who will give him the produce at the proper times.”
Jesus said to them, “Did you never read in the Scriptures:
The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
by the Lord has this been done,
and it is wonderful in our eyes?

Therefore, I say to you,
the kingdom of God will be taken away from you
and given to a people that will produce its fruit.”

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Cover and my column

Ocober 1 Bulletin Cover

Dear Believers in the Messiah,

When I was in the seminary, one of our retired priests used to say, “Ninety percent of life is just showing up.” I admit the truth of his words the longer I am in the Church and struggle to become a person of prayer. Showing up is a gift to God. God can work with us only when our hearts become ready and willing, when our lives are given freely.

Matthew 21:28-32 gives us a story about our own stubborn ways and our own willingness to show up. Two sons are asked to work. One says yes and then no. The other says no then yes. This very human response is revealed in each one of us. The two sons are examples of reactions we all have within our human attitudes and hearts.

It is always interesting to me how in so many human circumstances, we tend not to ask someone to do something whom we know will not show up to accomplish the task. We usually ask the person who is already incredibly busy and generous because we know the project will get done. The not so generous person can often get away with remaining distant and sometimes lazy and not involved.

God welcomes all people; sometimes it just takes time for us who are more selfish and stubborn to find our way toward God’s generous and inviting life. We have untold opportunities to accept the invitation toward God’s mercy and fidelity.

I remember when I first starting writing for publication. One of my writing mentors told me two things to remember when working with editors of magazines. He said, “Never say no to an invitation no matter how pressured you are with other work and always get the work accomplished before the deadline.” He told me that if I do those two things, editors would continue to ask me to write for that particular magazine. I have followed his advice and have published many articles in a number of magazines since 2002.

I may not be so successful in other areas of my life about showing up and allowing God to work within me, especially when I find the task tedious and not in my expertise. However, I know that God is not finished with me or with any of us quite yet. We are all invited into the Kingdom of God, no matter how stubborn or selfish, no matter how we are awakened to the gift, no matter how we are taken by the love that is being offered us.

Here are some things to consider this week: I say yes to God and then don’t follow through when… I say no to God when… What brings me to change my mind is… I remember when I felt so discouraged about showing up in prayer because… Then God changed my mind through…

Blessings to you,

Fr, Ron

On the Margins: Matthew 21:28-32

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On the Margins from Mater Dei Radio, Portland, OR

Twenty-Six Sunday in Ordinary Time, October 1, 2017

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Gospel     MT 21:28-32

Jesus said to the chief priests and elders of the people:
“What is your opinion?
A man had two sons.
He came to the first and said,
‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’
He said in reply, ‘I will not, ‘
but afterwards changed his mind and went.
The man came to the other son and gave the same order.
He said in reply, ‘Yes, sir, ‘but did not go.
Which of the two did his father’s will?”
They answered, “The first.”
Jesus said to them, “Amen, I say to you,
tax collectors and prostitutes
are entering the kingdom of God before you.
When John came to you in the way of righteousness,
you did not believe him;
but tax collectors and prostitutes did.
Yet even when you saw that,
you did not later change your minds and believe him.”

Sounding the Fist: A painting and poem while sorting through the rubble

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Sounding the Fist

A silent bell rang out this week in Mexico

Summoning the attention of exhausted emergency teams.

Brown, bloody fists steady in the air shouted out quiet

On behalf of a child’s whisper or a tapping on a desktop

Where the young students were buried alive.

 

The dirty, callused fist rising in the air

Captured attention of loved ones faster than the seismograph.

Parents held the familiar voices of their children silently

Praying that the uneven plates in their hearts might be healed from the shifting

When the earthquake piled up rubble around the children.

 

No matter our skin color or what buries our voices

The raising up of our fists challenges, inspires and evokes change.

We open up our memories when civil rights were young

When black fists lifted up uneducated people in poverty

Aching for a better life from under the debris of racism and rubble of hate.

We all grieve the voices silenced by lynching and gunfire in schools.

 

We are reminded this week of tender fists that rose up

Women who searched for equal pay and rightful voice and a chance to vote.

The fist in the air draws us toward silence where fear speaks so loudly.

The human fist also a megaphone of hope when words get caught in our throats

Freeing voices squelched by racism and misogyny and sheer hatred.

 

The manicured fist rising in rainbow colors from Stonewall

To the historic flooding from Katrina where black fists carried white flags

Where the pain of acceptance and human dignity

Washed up against blindness and apathy.

Courageous voices speak up when fists challenge injustice and bloodshed.

 

Silence was the loudest word cracking open darkness this week

On behalf of children’s whispers that rose to the surface to loving ears

Or tapping from students buried sitting in desks

Learning of the colorful fear of racism, violence and hope

Just waiting to lift up their fists in class because they already knew the answers.

 

 

Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time: Cover art and column

Sept. 24 Bulletin Cover

Dear Followers of Jesus,

To our human experience, today’s gospel may seem unfair. The parable presented in Matthew 20:1-16 shows that God waits for us and offers us opportunity and entrance into the Kingdom even at the last minute. God’s generosity is overwhelming to our finite and selfish approach to life. Let’s explore this.

The landowner hired people early in the morning for his vineyard. He also saw people waiting to be hired throughout the day, even at the very last working hour of the day. All of them received the same daily wage. The workers who were hired first were jealous.

Our society is hardwired for a sense of entitlement. So often we raise our children with a sense that they can do no wrong and that they deserve the best. Sometimes our children do not understand that they have to work hard, put themselves out in the world, and take risks. Those risks often produce hardship and complications and no person ever gets only his or her way in life.

This gospel seems unfair, that the person hired last should get the same benefits as the person who worked all day. Yet, this is a parable about something greater than our earthly work. This parable is a story about our place in God, our place in the love, hope and forgiveness of the Kingdom of Heaven.

We all have a place in God. This statement often makes people crazy. We blame people for their sin, their poverty and their lack of education and we wonder how God could love them and accept them as well. We find it hard to believe that God loves the public sinner, the hardened criminal, the outcast and the marginalized.

God loves us far beyond the external of life. God treasures the human heart and wants to dwell within each of us. We are God’s creation and God has the right to enter into the mystery of every human heart. Our prayer always should be that of rejoicing, of gratitude that God is generous toward every human being. God’s love is extravagant.

Salvation is free. We do not earn our place in God’s Kingdom. We do not earn his tenderness here on earth. God’s mercy, forgiveness and presence is free, a real and treasured gift no matter how stubborn we are or how jealous we are toward other people.

I pray for us all that we could finally realize that salvation comes not on our earthly perfection or sense of entitlement, but on the true and inviting nature of God’s fidelity toward every human being. If we could internalize today’s parable, we could change the world.

Here are some statements to consider this week: The gifts that I offer for the growth of the Kingdom are… My response to God’s generosity toward me is…. My prayer for when God is generous toward other people is…

Blessings,

Fr. Ron