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Homily for 9/17

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Homily for the Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
(Scriptures for today's Mass)

Audio for homily

WRATH and ANGER are hateful things
yet the sinner hugs them tight.

And not just wrath and anger: 
we hold on to so many things, hugging them tightly,
things that do us no good and only bring harm,
things that separate us from one another and from God,
things like

Oh, what time and energy we invest in clutching and holding on like this,
time and energy that might be devoted to so many,
more worthwhile and more fruitful efforts.
How many relationships in our families,
in our neighborhoods and friendship circles,
in our parish,
how many of our relationships are strained, at odds or ruined
because we hold tight so many stubborn feelings and emotions
that separate us from one another?
And the problem is not just among us.
In the first reading, Sirach asks some good and penetrating questions.

- How can we nourish, how can we feed the anger we hold
and expect to be free and open to receive the Lord’s peace?

- How can we cherish and embrace our wrath and contempt
and hope to reach at the same time for God’s merciful pardon?

Too often we think that circumstances peculiar to our own situation
give us license to hold a grudge
and permission to withhold forgiveness
on account of the harm that’s been done us?

How often do we think we’ve tried hard enough and long enough
and should at some point be free to stop trying
to be merciful and forgiving?

Jesus answers this point eloquently in the gospel today:
How many times must you let go your anger and wrath?
Seven times?  No… more like 77 times!
 (a mystical number meant to imply an infinite number!)

When we let go our wrath and anger,  our resentment and grudges,
our envy and stubborn pride, our prejudices and hard feelings,
then we free our arms to embrace mercy and love
and when we embrace mercy and love
then we embrace God.

We go to the Lord’s Table now, in the shadow of the Cross,
where Christ laid down everything, emptying himself out
in mercy and love for us
opening his arms wide to embrace us
and to teach us how to fill our arms and hearts.

This is a time for us to look,
as we approach the altar,
to see what we carry in our arms this morning,
to see what we hold tight,
to see what we need to let go...

At this altar Jesus opens his arms in mercy
and seeks to fill us with his love,
inviting us to embrace him, his Body and Blood,
in the Bread and Cup of the Eucharist.

Pray with me that he who forgives us over and over again
will teach us to forgive one another in the same way.


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Pause for Prayer:SUNDAY 9/17

Two eyes, a nose, a mouth, two ears:
   in this we’re all alike…

So, help me see behind these features, Lord,
  and into the souls of others
     whose vast variety is but a glimpse
        of the infinite beauty that is you, 
           in all of us...



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Pause for Prayer: SATURDAY 9/16

After a summer break, my priests support group met this past Tuesday night. This song was part of our prayer together, a song I'd never heard.  Its composer is John Becker whose Litany of the Saints is very popular.  Pause with me and let this song lead you through the day...


Blessed are the poor in spirit,
longing for their Lord,
for God's coming kingdom shall be theirs.
Blessed are the sorrowing,
for they shall be consoled,
and the meek shall come to rule the world.

Lead me, Lord, lead me, Lord,

by the light of truth

to seek and to find the narrow way.

Be my way; be my truth; be my life, my Lord,

and lead me, Lord, today.

Blessed are the merciful,
for mercy shall be theirs,
and the pure in heart shall see their God.
Blest are they whose hunger
only holiness can fill,
for I say they shall be satisfied.

Blest are they who through their lifetimes
sow the seeds of peace;
all will call them children of the Lord.
Blest are you, though persecuted
in your holy life,
for in heaven, great is your reward.


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Pause for Prayer: FRIDAY 9/15

Over the past year, Lord,
I've come to find, to know, to hold a peace
deep within,
the likes of which I've never known before...

I find myself at peace with you, Lord,
with the world and the people around me
and with myself:
I have no way to put into words
the gratitude I have for this unexpected gift,
this unexpected peace...

I know so many, Lord,
who long to find, to know and hold
just this inner peace I've found - and if I could
I'd slice and package what I've found
and share it, generously,
here, there and everywhere
with those I love
and with all whose paths cross mine...

Help me share this gift in any way I can, Lord,
and because I believe it's your desire that each of us
find and know and hold
this unexpected blessed peace
of mind and heart and soul,
send your Spirit to waken in others
what's taken me some 70 years to find...

Help others find your peace
soon and very soon -
but all in your good time, Lord,
all in your good and mysterious time...

And while we wait (and wait some more)
to find and know and hold this inner peace,
be with us Lord:
give us the patience we need
to wait for your peace;
give us the wisdom we need
to know your peace when it comes;
give us the faith we need
to hold this peace, once found,
as the most precious gift that you might give,
the most unexpected blessed gift
that we might hope to find
and know and hold...



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Pause for Prayer: THURSDAY 9/14

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when I feel like I'm drowning….

drowning in my work and responsibilities,
in my fears and anxiety,
in my worries, doubts and troubles…

drowning in my loss, my loneliness and grief,
in my self and in my passions,
in my confusion and my foolishness…

drowning in my sins and in my failures,
in my sorrow and my hopelessness...

when I feel like I'm drowning...

remind me that you're always there, Lord:
that you see me in the depths,
that you reach down and take my hand
to draw me up and out
until I break the surface
and your Spirit breathes in me
until I breathe again in hope
to live another day...

remind me, Lord, 
that you walk the waters of my life
and will not let me perish:
that you rescue me and pull me
from the depths when I am sinking,
that you save me from myself...

remind me that you'll never forget me,
never abandon me,
never let me slip beyond your grasp
but that your hand will hold me fast
and pull me free of danger
'til I rest, secure and safe, 
in you, my Lord, my Savior...



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Pause for Prayer: WEDNESDAY 9/13

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Pause for Prayer: TUESDAY 9/12

I will instruct you 
   and show you the way you should walk,
give you counsel and watch over you...
- Psalm 32

I could use some help, Lord - if you'd instruct me  -
  on the way I should walk...

Sometimes it seems I'm standing still, idling,
   at the intersection of a dozen different streets
      and I don't know which way to turn, which road to take...

Some streets look like paths I should avoid,
  some are signed One Way, the arrow pointed towards me,
     some are warning Do Not Enter
         and one is even marked Dead End...

Three or four or more are paths that look inviting
   but I still don't know which one to choose, which way to turn,
      in what direction I'll find the peace I'm seeking...

So, I pray, instruct me, Lord
   and show me the way I should go...

I will instruct you 
   and show you the way you should walk,
give you counsel and watch over you...

Be my guide, my map, my chart, Lord,
   my GPS, my WAZE
      to take me street by street and turn by turn...

Give me counsel on bearing left or right;
   give me guidance on which lane to travel,
      when and where to exit and what roadblocks lie ahead...

Show me the most direct route to get to where I'm heading,
   to where I need to be;
help me keep track of my speed, of when I go too fast
   and when I go too slow...

Teach me not to be afraid or slow to ask for directions!

Help me learn, Lord, that relying solely on my inner compass,
   my own "sense of direction," I often lose my way
      and move in stubborn circles, going nowhere...

And when I don't even know my destination, Lord, guide me
   until I get my bearings, until the scenery looks familiar,
      until I have the sense that I'm following your lead,
         that you know the way and will bring me safely home...

I will instruct you 
   and show you the way you should walk,
give you counsel and watch over you...

When I come to unsafe roads or the One Ways,
   the Do Not Enters and the Dead Ends,
give me a cup of black coffee, Lord, to keep me awake
   and help me make the choices that are sure and safe,
      to take the turns that keep me on your path...

And here, today, in the quiet of my prayer, Lord,
   unfold the map of my life and let me see where I've been,
      the wrong turns I've taken and the short cuts that have hurt me...

Let me study the highways that will speed me home
   and the scenic routes that lead me, in leisure,
      to the same destination...

Show me the streets you'd have me follow this week,
   the turns you'd have me make and the direction in which
      your Spirit is guiding my journey...

In the stillness, Lord,
   help me leave behind the hustle of the highways
      and rest in your company on the side of my life's roads...

I will instruct you 
   and show you the way you should walk,
give you counsel and watch over you...

Give me peace to know where you lead me
   and wisdom to know your way...

Give me your own sense of direction for my life, Lord,
   and travel every mile, every street, every step,
      by my side...


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Monday Morning Offering for 9/11

Today we remember the tragedy of a clear September morning, 16 years ago...  Spend some time with my Pause for Prayer; with Carl Daw's haunting anthem; and with a few verses from Psalm 46...

Let us pray...

Gracious God,

All good gifts come from your hand,
and into our clumsy grasp
you entrust the precious realities
of life, justice and peace.

We remember this day
how fragile is the gift of peace
and how vulnerable are we
in each other’s hands.

We remember those who died
and those who mourn their loss...

We remember those whose courage
gave us a new model for bravery...

We remember those who gave their lives
to save their neighbors...

We remember that day, that sunny morning
when the borders of our nation
were broken through to the depths of our hearts...

We remember and we pray
for the healing and peace
that only you can give
and that all of us must share...

Bring us to the day, O God,
when war is but a memory
and peace our way of life...

Bring us to the day, O God,
when a harvest of justice
will nourish the people of every nation...

Hasten the advent of that day, O God
and let our pride not stand in its way... 

Hasten the day of justice and peace
and let nothing we do
keep us from its promise...


When Sudden Terror Tears Apart

When sudden terror tears apart
the world we thought was ours,
we find how fragile strength can be,
how limited our powers.

As tow’r and fortress fall, we watch
with disbelieving stare
and numbly hear the anguished cries
that pierce the ash-filled air.

Yet most of all we are aware
of emptiness and void:
of lives cut short, of structures razed,
of confidence destroyed.

From this abyss of doubt and fear
we grope for words to pray,
and hear our stammering tongues embrace
a timeless Kyrie.

Have mercy, Lord,
give strength and peace
and make our courage great;
restrain our urge to seek revenge,
to turn our hurt to hate.

Help us to know your steadfast love,
your presence near as breath;
rekindle in our hearts the hope
of life that conquers death.

By Rev. Carl P. Daw, Jr. who  wrote this hymn to commemorate the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon September 11, 2001 The hymn debuted a week later at the noon Eucharist at the Episcopal Church Center, New York City, on September 18, 2001.   (2001 Hope Publishing Co.)

From Psalm 46
God is our refuge and our strength,
   an ever-present help in distress.
Thus we do not fear,
   though the earth be shaken
and mountains quake
   to the depths of the sea,
The Lord of hosts is with us...
- Psalm 46

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Homily for 9/10

Homily for the Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
(Scriptures for today's Mass)

Audio for homily 

“I say to you, if two of you agree on earth
about anything for which they are to pray,
it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father.”

But haven’t you and I and others prayed together for something,
even something very good and for the good of others,
and haven’t we had the experience of what we prayed for
not being granted?

Is the gospel just plain wrong on this promise
or is Jesus playing some kind of joke on us?

No, Jesus isn’t trying to fool us here and the gospel speaks the truth.

The problem comes when we pull this quote out of its context -
just as I did at the beginning of this homily -
and make demands on it as if it stood alone.

The context here is how the faith community ought to deal
with members who have sinned and offended others.
After giving a protocol of a gradual confrontation
between the sinner and the one offended,
Jesus assures us that our prayer in resolving such a case
will be heard by God who will confirm our decision.
So, Jesus isn’t promising here that every prayer we make together
will be answered just the way we want.

But that leaves another question hanging:
 “Why don’t some prayers, especially prayers for the good of others,
why don’t some prayers get the response we hope (and pray) for?

For instance:
over the past 10 days, how many people around the world
have prayed for the hurricane to veer off course
and head out to the open seas where it would do no harm?
And if that’s what we’re praying for,
for deliverance from danger and death at the hands of Harvey and Irma,
why is there a hurricane Jose on the horizon?

I don’t have any better answers to the question than you do.
I only know that in the face of some disasters,
natural or man-made,
we stand mostly helpless, save for asking, begging, praying
that God who is stronger than anything or anyone
that God might intervene or in some way shield us
from the danger ahead.

Sometimes it seems that God does intervene
and a hurricane changes course or dies down and dies out.
But sometimes, too often,
there’s death and damage in spite of our prayers
and before a storm moves out to sea
or diminishes in strength.

We should pray at all times
but we certainly pray in the face of anything before which       
we stand helpless.

Some hurricanes are tracked by the weather bureau -
some are much more individual and personal.
Perhaps your personal hurricane is an illness,
or financial trouble, or deep disappointment,
or grief, or loneliness, or confusion,
or a failed relationship, or anxiety and fear
or worry about a loved one.

Hurricanes come in many categories and many strengths.

Just days ago I wrote a prayer for my blog,
before hurricane Harvey:

We hold in prayer all those who live in the path of Harvey...

As creation reveals your stormy power,
show us the strength of your mercy
and spare those whose fragile lives are threatened
by wind and rain and floods…

We pray especially for all seeking shelter in safer places,
forced to leave their homes behind..

And we pray for those who welcome them,
offering safety and comfort, a place to hide
till nature's fury dies...

And to those who stand among us,
called first to respond and serve the many,
send angels to protect them, Lord,
as they step up to protect and serve us all...

And remind us, Lord,
of how much we need to trust in you
and in those who serve as you served us:
fully, freely, no strings attached,
laying down your own life
that ours might be spared...

Be our refuge, our protection,
our shelter in the storms of life,
and save us, Lord,
that we might praise you and glorify your name...


Well, my prayer and yours didn’t stop Harvey in Houston.
Still, last night found me writing another prayer,
as hurricane Irma was making her way north:

O God,
we like some of your weather,  the fair-weather days,
not a cloud in the sky
(except for occasional beautiful puffs),
temperatures warm but not too warm
with the forecast: the same -
for at least a few days...

Though, farmers love the rain,
slaking earth's thirst, nurturing growth,
bringing to harvest
seeds that have died for the sake of the crop
and its bounty of food
and the life it provides and sustains...

Then some love the cold,
for beauty or sport:
the chill of a frost and snow:
capping mountains, blanketing hills,
carpeting yards, sidewalks and streets,
drifting in beauty and charm,
shining as clear, as bright as the sun...

But to my knowledge, Lord,
no one loves hurricanes -
their threat too muscular, fearsome and menacing:
the havoc they wreak, their toll of destruction,
their death-dealing force more than we can abide...

If hurricanes reveal your power, Lord,
then show us the power of your arm for our sakes
and flex your muscular mercy over your people
whose lives and homes lie in the path
of wind and rain and oceans gone mad...

With but a breath steer the eye of disaster
degrees away rom its innocent targets
and spare your people, Lord,
from whatever might threaten or harm them...

In nature and spirit
yours is the power and yours is the glory:
reveal your glory, Lord, in the power of your mercy
and show us your power,
for the glory of your merciful name... 


As always, our prayer brings us to the Lord’s Table
where we remember his prayer on the night before he died
when he prayed he might be spared the cup of suffering
waiting for his lips to drink.

But he was not spared, not spared his suffering and death,
in spite of his prayer to his heavenly Father.

Rather, he gave himself for us,
laid down his life for us on the Cross,
he, our greatest and first responder, Christ Jesus,
that we might have life and have it to the full.

Pray with me for all who died in
and all who lived through Harvey,
and for those who live in the path of  Irma and Jose -
and whoever will follow them.

Pray for their safety and protection
and for those who will make the first response
when others are found to be in trouble.

Pray with me for deliverance
from our own personal hurricanes,
the ones tracked only in our hearts and souls.

Pray with me,
for in the face of such powerful storms
our only refuge, our only haven,
is the saving power and love of the Lord our God.


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Pause for Prayer: SUNDAY 9/10

For those who have died,
for those who were injured,
for those who went to their aid,
for their families and friends,
let us pray to the Lord...

For those who lost their homes,
for those who are living in shelters,
for those who had no home to lose,
let us pray to the Lord...

For those who are evacuating,
for those seeking shelter,
for those away from home,
for those who offer shelter,
let us pray to the Lord...

For those who are waiting:
waiting to see where Irma will go,
waiting to know if their homes will survive,
waiting in line for water and food,
waiting until the danger is past,
let us pray to the Lord...

For those who are serving those who are waiting,
who themselves are praying for the storm to end,
waiting and hoping and praying it's true
that a calm, a sweet calm, follows every storm,
let us pray to the Lord...

For those who are waiting and searching and praying
for God's loving hand in these terrible times,
for those who are waiting and wanting to know
how God might allow what's coming to pass,
let us pray to the Lord...

For a deeper trust and a deepening faith
that somehow in ways we cannot yet see
that all shall be well, all shall be well,
that all manner of things shall be well...

So we need pray for patience,
perseverance and grit,
endurance and courage
and generous hearts:
we need all of this, Lord,
more than anything else
til all shall be well, til all shall be well,
til all manner of things shall be well...

For all this and for prayers known only to you,
we pray to you, Lord,
we pray for your help:
Lord have mercy,
we pray for your help...



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