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Pastor's Letter 20220626 - 26 July 2022 - Becoming Fit for God's Kingdom

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June 26th, 2022

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time


A Message from Father Michael

Today’s Theme:  “Becoming ‘Fit’  For God’s Kingdom” 

Reflections on Today’s Scripture

[Note:  The reference above, to “Ordinary Time,” in the Liturgy, applies to the Sundays between the “high feasts and seasons.”  During this time, we dwell on the myriad teachings of Ancient Scripture and those of Jesus’ life on earth.]

Today’s First Reading focuses on the “call” of Elisha to become a prophet (1 Kings 19:16-21.)  It is meaningful for us, because we all are called to be disciples of “The Word” to the world.  We hear of the prophet Elijah’s gesture of “throwing his cloak” over Elisha, which symbolizes a transfer of power, and also prefigures the “laying on of hands” in our modern sacramental ordination and confirmation ceremonies.  Elisha’s willingness to abandon his former life is made evident to us as his total commitment to become Elijah’s follower.


Paul, (the former Pharisee, Saul,) believed passionately in freedom, having known, too long, the “slavery” of a rigid religious on one’s free will—experienced due to the “bondage” of law and precept.  Our Second Reading (Galatians 5:1-18,) relates to us the account of Christ having set him free from all that, in which he reveled.  Aching for his disciples to similarly value their freedom, he felt sadness and anger when they did not truly appreciate it.  The responsibility of conscience for their choices was compelling, because Christian freedom is never license to “do as one pleases,” but is always motivated—and constrained—by love.  He contrasts the Spirit of God with unredeemed humanity, turned in and upon itself.  If one’s thoughts and actions proceed from the Spirit, they are holy; but if from carnal flesh, they are debased.


We begin a new section, “the travel account,” in today’s Gospel (Luke 9:51-62.)  The sayings and narratives come from Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem, toward the end of His earthly ministry.  His encounter with a would-be disciple emphasizes Jesus’ stressing that missionary activities would “become consuming,” and leave no room for “secular” pursuits.  In forthright language, He says that sacrifice and total self-commitment are demanded of a disciple.  That role does not, however, consist in zealous punishment of those who reject Jesus and His mission.  Rather, life’s most painful choices are often not between good and evil, but between “the good,” and “the best;” giving oneself to “proclaiming the kingdom,” without reserve; like the astute farmer must give his whole attention to ploughing a straight furrow. 

Restraint from Retaliation

In Jesus’ time, Samaritans and Jews were mutual enemies.  So, when the Samaritans heard that Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem, they refused to receive Him.  Indignantly, James and John howled for revenge, and called for Jesus to “hit back,” and call down “fire from heaven” on an entire village.  

This is an apt example of “tribalism,” wherein total loyalty to one’s own is demanded, no matter if the tribe is right or wrong.  The apostle’s idea was outrageous, but according to their way of thinking, those who opposed them were not just their enemies, but God’s, too!  Jesus’ response, as they should have realized, was to “rise above” such behavior.  

More courage and strength is demanded not to retaliate against someone.  To “walk away” from a disagreement or a fight demands great self-control.  To “give-up” control to an antagonist may be seen as weakness, but for Jesus, it was necessary in order to promote love and respect.  A weak person thinks they must “win;” the strong one, however, knows they need not triumph in every conflict.  

Jesus’ teaching of non-violence and non-retaliation requires exceptional strength and an unique kind of love.  Truly, evil must be resisted, but not if it means doing further evil.  We can only overcome it by doing good.  Religious fervor can fuel conflicts, as history attests, but religion can also help us go beyond them.  Violence begets violence, but Christ challenges us to respond to darkness with light—to the worst in the “other” with the best in “ourselves.”  Escalation of evil can only be stopped by one who humbly absorbs it, without passing it on….

Dogged Determination

It has often been said that to achieve any worthy goal, one must first articulate what it is that they seek, and then fully theorize what it will be like to have attained it.  In so doing, it becomes “tangible” to us, and we see ourselves in possession of it, long before we actually realize it.  

The next step in the process is to conceptualize all the “intermediate steps” needed.  This way, we won’t labor in vain before we are equipped to possess our prize.  This is the manner in which all great artists have said they prepared themselves in order to create their masterpieces.  Michelangelo is rumored to have once said about his famous statue, David, that he simply had to “remove all the granite that wasn’t David,” in order to sculpt it.  Artur Rubenstein similarly said, when embarking on perfecting a new piece of music, “I see myself physically performing the work, from the very first instant I see the music.”  Then he sets out to diligently practice all the parts of the piece, until he is able to assemble them into the final performance.  

In his book, Psycho-Cybernetics, plastic surgeon, Maxwell Maltz, postulated the human mind to be like a cybernetic organism—one that instinctively delineates possible pathways toward a targeted goal.  When we focus our energies on our eventual end-game, our minds naturally conceive the preliminary steps required to achieve it—much like a torpedo speeding toward its intended mark.  For some, these might appear too daunting, causing them to yield to temptation and “shortcut” the process—resorting to “quick-fixes,” rather than making an ardent effort.  Almost always, this leads to frustration and failure.  

Jesus showed His determination to reach Jerusalem, and didn’t allow the resistance of the Samaritans to deter Him from His goal.  He also stressed to His would-be followers the necessity of forthright resolve required to be His disciples, admonishing them from “looking back” to their former lives.  In doing so, He showed them their attention and their energy would be divided.  We must be fully committed to our task, or we will lose sight of our goal, becoming tempted to “turn back,” or even quit, altogether.  Our resolve may also be weakened by “second thoughts,” doubts and regrets.  The cost of the journey may seem “too high,” and we may instead think of other things we have given up, that still “tug” at our hearts.  

But if we keep “looking forward,” our undivided attention will be given to our chosen task.  We will become fully committed, and whole-hearted.  With the grace of God and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we will have great strength and all our resources will be enlisted and harnessed.  We will not be easily sidetracked, and so have an excellent chance of realizing our goal.  Finally, we will know the “joy of the dedicated,” and in due time, be made fit for the Kingdom.  

May God Richly Bless You!

"Disciples live so the characteristics of Christ are woven into the fiber of their beings, as a spiritual tapestry."

~~Robert D. Hales~~

O Clap Your Hands.docx

To view a recording of today's Holy Mass, click here:  https://youtu.be/m4Gch_8AUd8



Edited by Father Michael
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