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Parish Daily Update 7/25/20

Dear Parish Family,

“The most Holy Trinity invites us to let ourselves be fascinated by God’s beauty, goodness and inexhaustible truth.  He is humble, near, who became flesh in order to enter into our history, so that every man and woman may encounter Him and have eternal life.”     ~Pope Francis

Prayers for our young people who are receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation this evening.  Half of the class received the sacrament a few weeks ago and the remaining candidates are celebrating today.  We pray for all these Confirmandii as they enter into this new chapter of their faith lives. May God pour out the gifts of the Holy Spirit abundantly upon each of them and give them strength throughout their lives!

If you are unable to attend Mass tomorrow, I will post the video of our 8:00 a.m. Mass in the email shortly after lunch tomorrow.  I miss seeing those of you who aren’t ready to come back for whatever reason, and hope to see you soon.  I pray for you daily!

God bless you all!

Pam

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
 

First Reading:  1 Kings 3:5, 7-12 

The LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream at night.  God said, “Ask something of me and I will give it to you.” Solomon answered: “O LORD, my God, you have made me, your servant, king
to succeed my father David; but I am a mere youth, not knowing at all how to act. I serve you in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a people so vast that it cannot be numbered or counted. Give your servant, therefore, an understanding heart to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong. For who is able to govern this vast people of yours?” The LORD was pleased that Solomon made this request. So, God said to him: “Because you have asked for this— not for a long life for yourself, nor for riches, nor for the life of your enemies, but for understanding so that you may know what is right— I do as you requested. I give you a heart so wise and understanding that there has never been anyone like you up to now, and after you there will come no one to equal you.” 

Responsorial Psalm:  Ps 119:57, 72, 76-77, 127-128, 129-130

R. Lord, I love your commands.
I have said, O LORD, that my part
is to keep your words.
The law of your mouth is to me more precious
than thousands of gold and silver pieces.
R. Lord, I love your commands.
Let your kindness comfort me
according to your promise to your servants.
Let your compassion come to me that I may live,
for your law is my delight.
R. Lord, I love your commands.
For I love your command
more than gold, however fine.
For in all your precepts I go forward;
every false way I hate.
R. Lord, I love your commands.
Wonderful are your decrees;
therefore I observe them.
The revelation of your words sheds light,
giving understanding to the simple.
R. Lord, I love your commands. 

Second Reading:  Romans 8:28-30 

Brothers and sisters:
We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. For those he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son,
so that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined he also called; and those he called he also justified; and those he justified he also glorified. 

Gospel:  Matthew 13:44-52 

Jesus said to his disciples:
“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again,
and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into the sea,
which collects fish of every kind. When it is full, they haul it ashore and sit down to put what is good into buckets. What is bad they throw away. Thus, it will be at the end of the age. The angels will go out and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth. “Do you understand all these things?”
They answered, “Yes.”
And he replied, “Then every scribe who has been instructed in the kingdom of heaven is like the head of a household who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old.” 

Homily 

“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field . . .

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. When he finds a pearl of great price he goes and sells all that he has to buy it . . . 

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into the sea, which collects fish of every kind. When it is full they haul it ashore and sit down and put what is good into buckets . . . ” 

Matthew 13:44-52 

To young minority doctors, he was “our Jay-Z.” 

                Dr. James Mahoney — “Charlie,” as he was known — was the heart and soul of University Hospital, a chronically underfunded state-run institution that primarily serves Brooklyn, New York’s poor, minority communities. Charlie Mahoney started as a student at the hospital’s teaching college in 1982 and never left. He rose to become a pulmonary and critical care physician and a professor at the college. 

                Dr. Mahoney was a large, intimidating man — but his calm resolve, ready smile and quickness with a joke and an encouraging word immediately put patients and students at ease. He had no use for the protocols of the medical hierarchy: he preferred having lunch with his nurses and assistants; he treated the housekeepers with the same respect as he treated the hospital CEO. Residents, typically fearful of approaching senior physicians with rookie questions, had no problems coming to Dr. Mahoney. 

                The same was true of his patients. He readily gave out his pager and cellphone numbers. For those too sick to come to the hospital for routine checkups, Dr. Mahoney made house calls. His assistant remembers: “Not only did he heal people’s bodies; he healed their minds and souls.” 

                Unfailingly kind and soft-spoken, Dr. Mahoney was assertive when he saw injustice — which, like many physicians of color, he experienced throughout his career. 

                After 40 years as a physician, Dr. Mahoney could have retired. He had been on the front lines for AIDS, the crack epidemic, 9/11 and Hurricane Sandy. His family and friends urged him to take a break from this one.  

                But that’s not who Dr. Mahoney was. A colleague recalls how Charlie would run from crashing patient to crashing patient, always at the bedside — where it was most dangerous. “There were people who were really reluctant to go into the rooms, and you could understand why [but] he saw another human being in need, and didn’t hesitate to help.” 

                Dr. Mahoney belonged on the floor and that’s where he would stay, always on duty, always teaching, seldom sleeping. Until the end: April 27, when the 62-year-old physician died of the disease he had fought so hard. 

                For the staff at University Hospital, Dr. Mahoney’s death was shattering. For students, especially black students, he was a legend. One minority physician who studied under Dr. Mahoney said: “As a young black man, I looked at this guy and said to myself, ‘Twenty years from now, I want to be like him.’ When a black resident sees him, he sees a hero. Someone that you can be one day. He’s our Jay-Z.” [The New York Times, May 18, 2020, People.com, May 19, 2020; The Guardian, May 12, 2020.] 

                What higher praise can a student doctor say about one of his or her professors: “I want to be just like him.” During this pandemic God has raised up thousands of saints like Dr. James Mahoney, whose selfless generosity is the “pearl of great price,” whose “treasure” was the care and hope they could provide to the sick and dying. Their courage and generosity should inspire us to realize that the Gospel “treasure” and “pearl” exist within each one of us: that ability to see God in those we love and are able to serve, that spirit of compassion that enables us to be the means of God’s mercy and peace using whatever our skill set, in whatever our work place. The search for the Gospel pearl and treasure is a life-long search — but guided by the light of God’s wisdom and the markers of God’s grace, we will become what we seek. 

                The search for the Gospel “treasure” and “pearl” begins with understanding, first, the real value of what we are searching for and the investment of time and energy required.  Sometimes we are surprised at the “treasure” we take for granted, the “pearl” in our midst that we overlook – and at other times the “treasure” we gave our all to obtain left us impoverished, the “pearl” we moved heaven and earth to possess cost us dearly.  As Solomon understood in asking the Lord for wisdom and “an understanding heart” (Reading 1), the “treasures” and “pearls” of lasting value are the things of God: the love of family and friends, the support found in being part of a community, the sense of joy and fulfillment found in serving and giving for the sake of others.  In order to attain such treasure, may we possess the grace of the Gospel speculator: grace that transcends logic, efficiency, and self-interest, grace that sees beyond the currency of the earth to gain the riches of God: love, justice, mercy, peace. 

                A teenager was playing basketball in the driveway and a lost a contact lens.  He searched for a while but was unable to find it.  He went in and told his mom who came out and took up the cause of looking as well.  Within minutes she found it.  

                “How did you do that?” he asked. 

                “We weren’t looking for the same thing,” she explained. “You were looking for a small piece of plastic. I was looking for $300.” 

                If Jesus were to appear to you and say, “Ask anything of me and I will give it to you – what would you ask for?  I wonder if any of us would ask for an understanding heart as Solomon did in the first reading?  How much value would any of us place on an understanding heart in our market economy. 

                Too often we mistake wisdom for high intelligence or an asset that comes with great age and hard experience.  Young King Solomon would scoff at such ideas.  Solomon was still a youth, a teenager, when he became ruler of Israel.  He knew that he was not holy enough or masterful enough to guide his nation in God’s ways.  So, when God invited him in a dream to ask for whatever he wanted, Solomon prayed for an understanding heart.  He sought wisdom to distinguish right from wrong and to act accordingly.  And God was only too willing to answer his prayer.  Will God not do the same for us if we pray for the wisdom to discern the cause of violence in our hearts and society.  If our understanding is rooted in the deep wisdom of God instead of the latest poll, we will commit ourselves to righting what we cannot doubt is wrong.  Solomon displays for us the values of the Kingdom of God. 

                Values are not unique choices or events which occur only once in our lifetime.  Values persist and are exhibited in the habits of our lives. 

                In the gospel the pair of parables about the treasure and the pearl offer us a challenge.  What if you found a pearl, precious beyond any you have ever seen before – what would it be worth to you?  What if you discovered a great treasure hidden in a field – to what extent would you go to make that field your own?  The treasure and the field are metaphors for the kingdom which Jesus came to preach.  Through these parables we are invited to assess the value we have placed on the kingdom, the reign of God in our own individual lives.  Are we willing to choose it freely above everyone and everything else in our lives?  If so what in our daily manner, our regular actions reflect the decision we have made. 

                In order to attain the treasure, we must take the risk of the speculator and sell off our own interests, ambitions and agendas in order to obtain the far greater wealth.  In freeing ourselves we can accomplish so many great and worthwhile things. 

                A relationship with God requires action on our part.  As St. Paul says the Spirit prays within us, but we must tune in.   Many of us have prayed that the inevitable wouldn’t happen: a loved one wouldn’t die, a disaster wouldn’t occur.  Consider again what you would say if the Lord told you as he told Solomon: “Ask something of me and I will give it to you.” 

                Our God hopes that we would ask for Him, we would ask for His Wisdom, His Will.  A modern addition to the parables of the gospel would be a shopper who finds a coat with a winning lottery ticket in the pocket.  He doesn’t hesitate to run his credit to the max to buy the coat.  The trick is to see the treasure.  Once we see the treasure, the choice feels right, even though it may still be difficult.  When we pray, we seek to understand what is most important in our lives right now.  Maybe what’s most important is devotion to your children, your wife or husband rather than something that might seem more fun or glamorous.  When we pray, we are seeking to find that treasure we call God. 

                In the fullness of time God revealed himself most fully in his Son.  He spoke the truth – and was called a liar.  He did honest deeds – and was called a wrongdoer.  It seems mysterious, until we recall that the same thing happens to us.  All of us are mysteries, subject to misunderstanding.  No one is merely the sum of personal deeds; not one of us can plumb the mystery of our self, much less the mystery of God.  And yet we are invited to bet it all and buy the field. 

                The pearl of great price remains beyond our reach unless we “sell all that we have in order to buy it.”  Where is our treasure?  What are we willing to risk for the Kingdom of God?  The values I hold and the priorities I establish tell me the answers to those questions.  The reign of God requires us to give up judging, to give up our desire to control others to have things our own way.  When we pray “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done,” we are saying that we desire God and God’s will in our lives and the lives around us.  

                Our readings today call us to consider what is most important, what is valuable to us, what are we willing to die for, what are we willing to live for?  

                Jesus says the reign of God is like a treasure or a priceless pearl.  Down through the ages people have identified this treasure in many various ways.  But the treasure is really God himself.   The things are not God.  If we make prayer the center of our life and faith its guide and worship its support, we do well – but not well enough.  If we settle for anything less than the experience of God himself, we may work at religion for a lifetime and still miss the point. 

                If we want to experience God, we have to know whom we are searching for.  We have to know that God is not a being who happens to be bigger and better than other beings.  God is not a thing who happens to be more perfect than other beings.  God is not a person who happens to be nicer than others.  God is not an experience that happens to be more fantastic than other experiences.  WE have to know that God is mystery – the mystery beneath and beyond, surrounding and sustaining everything. 

                Not too long ago, Jesus’ parable of the dragnet would immediately confront us with our consumerism, our obsession with having the biggest, the newest, the flashiest. 

                But more and more of us have started to worry about not having enough of something else:  Time. 

                James Wallman, author of Time and How to Spend It, writes in (ironically) TIME magazine [February 10, 2020] that a growing awareness of consumerism’s effect on the environment and a propensity to broadcast our lives on social media have led many of us to prioritize experience over things — and we fear of misusing time or wasting it on less-than-satisfying experiences. 

                But, Wallman writes, “there’s some irony to this predicament: We have more free time now than we have had in decades. But for a number of reasons, it doesn’t feel that way.” 

                In fact, our life spans have gotten a bit longer: 13% since 1960, and our spending power has surged by 198% — but we’re finding it harder and harder to stuff all the things that we want and can afford into the time we have, time that we worry is becoming more and more limited because of the many expectations and demands made on us. 

                And then there’s our cell-phone addiction.    

                “American adults spend around three-and-a-half hours on their devices each day, trying to keep up with the volume of e-mails, texts, social-media updates and 24/7 news,” James Wallman notes. “And much of our time is ‘contaminated time’ — when we’re doing one thing but thinking about something else. Trying to get more miles out of every minute — scanning Twitter while watching TV, for example — makes us think we’re being productive, but really it just makes us feel more frazzled. 

                “Add to this the ever-expanding options in today’s experience economy. Think of all the pop-ups, plays, talks, workshops and escape rooms you could go to tonight” (were it not for the coronavirus pandemic). No wonder many of us suffer from what psychologist’s call “time famine.”  

                “People who feel strapped for time are more likely to be anxious or depressed. They are less likely to exercise or eat healthy foods. And they’re less productive at work . . . 

                “Time is our least renewable resource. Despite the stress our fixation on it may cause, it’s good for us to consider if we’re using it wisely.” 

                So maybe we should take a look at the “net” of our calendars and e-journals to realize how we use our time: Are we spending the gift of this time God has given us for what is good and enriching and affirming — and are we able to “throw away” those demands and expectations that make our lives less than we want them to be? That doesn’t mean we can eliminate everything that is unpleasant in our lives; we can’t (nor should we) avoid sacrifice and suffering for the sake of others or for what is good. Jesus urges us to stop and look at our time as if it were a “net” of so many experiences and recognize what those experiences teach, what we have learned from the time we have been given, and how we might use our days to make God’s Kingdom of justice and mercy a reality in our lives. 

                The pearl of great price remains beyond our reach unless we “sell all that we have in order to buy it.”  Where is our treasure?  What are we willing to risk for the Kingdom of God?  The values I hold and the priorities I establish tell me the answers to those questions.  The reign of God requires us to give up judging, to give up our desire to control others to have things our own way.  When we pray “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done,” we are saying that we desire God and God’s will in our lives and the lives around us.  

                Making the things of God a part of our lives does not simply happen.  It must be done deliberately; we must consciously make a place for God in the midst of everything else.  The three parables of the buried treasure, the pearl, and the dragnet challenge us to consider what is most important and valuable to us, what we want our lives to be and to become, what place we want the things of God to hold in our lives.  Too often we settle for less; resentful accommodation instead of healing forgiveness; comfortable rationalizations instead of paying the price for what is moral, ethical, and just; fulfilling careers instead of fulfilling lives.  The true meaning and purpose of life are found in the treasures and pearls of God’s love, justice, mercy, peace, true wisdom begins with sifting through the dragnet of our busy lives to find and hold dear the things of God. 

An Act of Spiritual Communion

My Jesus, I believe that You are present

in the Most Holy Sacrament.

I love You above all things,

and I desire to receive You into my soul.

Since I cannot at this moment receive You sacramentally,

I ask You to come spiritually into my heart.

I embrace You, trusting that you are already there and I unite myself wholly to You.

Never permit me to be separated from You.

Amen.