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November 2017

Sermon given by Father James (Bohlman)

On Sunday July 30th, 2017

At St. Mary Magdalene Church

Rincon, GA

(and for the missions in Helena, GA & Big Island, HI)

 

1 Cor. 3: 9-17

Matt. 14: 22-34

 

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

Glory to Jesus Christ!

 

The heat wave that we have been in now for almost 2 months has made a lot of people very irritable. And when we are irritable we can easily slip into a very negative mindset. To help everyone this morning to see that things could be a lot worse for us, I will relate the tales of 3 “Darwin” winners. For those not acquainted with the Darwin awards, they give recognition to… well, fools; but more specifically, to fools who make fatal mistakes. On the other hand, their mistakes help to tighten-up the gene-pool!

 

The first Darwin award went to two teenagers in Britain who were so into Star Wars that they wanted to re-create the light-sabre fighting scenes. So they got two fluorescent tubes, opened them up, filled them with gasoline… and then lit them. One of the teens died, and the other escaped with serious burns. The second Darwin award winner was travelling by train home from work in the US. He fell asleep and missed his stop. When he woke up he panicked, thinking that he must have missed his stop, so he pried open the train doors and jumped out. What he hadn’t considered was that the train was travelling at 80 miles per hour across a bridge over a deep ravine at the time. Needless to say, he did not survive. And the final Darwin award winner was a Croatian man named Marko. He wanted to clean his chimney. So he went to his workshop to build a tool to clean it. It was a very high chimney and his broom was too short, but not to worry: He planned to attach it to a chain, weigh the chain down at the other end with a metal object and then lower the broom down into the chimney from the roof. Rummaging around in his tool shop he found what he thought was the perfect metal object… heavy, yet small… and went about welding it to the chain. Somehow he overlooked the fact that the object was a hand grenade. And by the way: WHO keeps hand grenades in their tool shed?!!! Very soon after heating up the welder there was a loud explosion. Marko was killed instantly, his workshop destroyed and the windows of several cars shattered. But his chimney remained untouched.

Whenever I read about the next round of Darwin awards I often read with awe and wonderment; how many of us hear the Sunday Epistle and Gospel with awe and wonderment? My guess is that when the readings begin our mind shifts into some other place, and we return to ourselves only when the reading is over. And then we wonder why coming to Church means so little to us and why the readings have so little impact upon our lives and our behavior, not to mention our hearts! In the Gospel reading this morning, how many of us actually realized that Christ said: “Do not be afraid”?!

 

In this morning’s Gospel reading, Jesus went off by himself to pray, sending his disciples to set out fishing. The Gospel text then states:

 

But the boat was now in the middle of the sea, tossed by the waves, for the wind was contrary…Jesus went to them, walking on the sea…They were troubled, saying, ‘It is a ghost! And they cried out for fear.” Jesus immediately called to them, saying, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.

 

Jesus then called Peter to venture out onto the angry sea, to walk over it and come to him. Peter starts out, but becomes fearful and panics; he takes his gaze off of Jesus, and then begins to sink. We are not so different from Peter; when we are distressed, we, too, stop looking to Christ and, instead, focus on and embrace fear. The problem is that fear sometimes causes us to do and say things which are not in our best interests. In the midst of our storms, we sometimes act as if we don’t trust Jesus Christ: We stop praying, we stop coming to church, we dismiss fasting as irrelevant. In short, we try to solve our pain by ourselves, assuming that God cannot be found within our storm of worries.

 

At a nursing home in Florida, a resident group of old ladies was discussing ailments. Clotilda complained, "My arms are so weak I can hardly lift this cup of coffee." Not to be outdone, Betilda countered with, "Yes, I know, my cataracts are so bad I can’t even see my coffee!" Piping up Esme offered, "I can’t turn my head because of the arthritis in my neck." Lois added, "My blood pressure pills make me very dizzy." Clotida concluded the ailment session by saying, “Well, I guess that’s the price we pay for getting old." Louisa, who up until now had not said anything, and who always tried to see the bright side of things, said: "Thank God we can all still drive!"

 

THIS is the reason that I worry when I drive: I’m afraid of the old ladies on the road with me! When we are worried there are many ways of dealing with that worry: Some make wisecracks, some become aggressive, and some distract themselves with drinking or shopping; however we deal with fear, it is often in an automatic way, meaning that we deal with it in the same way that we have always dealt with it regardless of the fact that that way has usually never brought us good results. It has been said that the definition of insanity is to do something in the same way as before and yet to expect different results.

 

One thing we can change, though, is our attitude about situations that frighten us! There are two kinds of people in the world: Those who wake up in the morning with the attitude of "Good morning, Lord," and those who wake up with the attitude of "Good Lord, it's morning." The attitude with which we face situations makes all the difference, especially when we are facing situations that frighten us. When we are in a storm of pain and distress, instead of automatically embracing fear… just as we have always done in the past… it would be more fruitful for us to recall Christ’s words this morning: “Do not be afraid”. We need to call to mind that God has promised to never abandon us, that he is even there in the midst of our distress just as he is in the midst of our happiness and our blessings; all we have to do is to focus on him and not on the storm! When we are in distress and forced to walk across our waters of tribulation, we need to keep our eyes fixed more on God and less on our fear.

 

Fred took Little Igor and Little Olga to the zoo. As they passed by a cage Fred noticed that in the cage there was both a large lion and an active monkey! He asked a nearby zoo worker who was sweeping, “How does that work, having both a lion and a monkey in the same cage?” Continuing to sweep the zoo worker replied, “It works ok, for the most part.” Still curious, Fred asked, “Do they ever not get along?” Without looking up from his task the zoo worker said, “Every once in a while.” Fred asked, “So what happens then?” Looking up at Fred as if Fred might be a few sandwiches short of a picnic, the worker replied, “We just get a new monkey… of course!”

 

Well, of course! What could be simpler?! It all depends upon how we look at things! In the same way, if we can grow into viewing stressful situations as a chance to deepen our relationship with Christ rather than as something to panic about then we will be able to gradually come to look upon such situations as a blessing, as strange as that may sound. We CAN come to change how we view such situations if we repeatedly call to mind what Jesus Christ has said to us in this morning’s Gospel reading: “It is I; do not be afraid!”

 

 

Glory to Jesus Christ!


Sermon given by Father James (Bohlman)

On Sunday July 23rd, 2017

At St. Mary Magdalene Church

Rincon, GA

(and for the missions in Helena, GA & Big Island, HI)

 

Rom. 15: 1-7

Matt. 9: 27-35

 

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

Glory to Jesus Christ!

While some of us don’t like to be reminded that we are getting older, all around us Life is trying to clue us in, for example…

 

Everything hurts, and what does not hurt, does not work.

 

Your telephone book is full of contacts with names that begin with “Dr.”

 

You give up on holding your stomach in, no matter who is present.

 

And finally, you manage to get it all together, but then you can’t remember where it is.

 

Some of us, at least, fight off knowing that we are getting old… despite the evidence all around us! We say we are getting better, instead of getting older. Because we and our values are so unlike those of younger people today, we don’t say that we are “old”, we say that we are a limited edition. The problem of speaking in code is that not everyone knows what the code means! Speaking in code is a way of speaking about a reality without addressing that reality head-on. As an example: When the comedian Gabriel Eglesias was taunted as a child by other kids for being chubby he used to yell back at them, “I’m not fat… I’m fluffy!” When we don’t want to face the rawness of a fact we often sugar-coat it by calling it other than what it is. At one time or another we have all done this; as children, that was fine, but now that we are adults why do we continue to think that it is acceptable to avoid what we don’t want to face? While Gabriel’s retort is funny, the fact is that “fat” is not “fluffy”… fat is fat! Even we believers don’t always want to be told things by Jesus Christ, for example: That we are still not good enough! According to our assessment, we don’t rob, rape or shoplift, so what more could he possibly want from us?! Why does Jesus Christ keep demanding things of us?! After all, what’s so bad about not seeing what we don’t see, about not understanding what we don’t understand? Isn’t it okay to be just a little blind?!

 

In this morning’s Gospel reading two blind men come to Jesus, begging him for healing. Christ’s response is, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” The blind men answer, “Yes, Lord,” to which Christ replies “According to your faith let it be to you.” In other words, it was the faith of the blind men in Jesus Christ that WAS their participation in their own healing. But that faith was not just an interior reality; it was incarnated exteriorly by their following after Christ and by their asking him to help them to see. What this short passage teaches us this morning is that a supposed faith that does not translate into action is no faith at all.

 

At 80 years old Lucinda’s mother Grizellda was arrested for shop-lifting, and Lucinda’s father Ludovico went to court with her for her hearing. When the Judge told her to stand he then asked her, "What did you steal?"
Grizellda replied, "A can of peaches." The Judge then asked her, “And why did you do that?” Grizellda replied, “Because I was hungry and we old people want to eat when we want to eat!” At that, the Judge raised his eyebrows and then asked her, “How many pieces of peach were in the can?” At that, Grizellda looked puzzled but replied, “About a dozen.” The Judge then said, “In that case I will have to give you 12 days in jail.” At that, Ludovico began waving his arms frantically until the Judge said, “Yes sir, do you have something to say? First of all, stand and please state for the court who you are.” Ludovico stood, straightened out his suit-jacket and replied, “I am Ludovico, the husband of the defendant.” The Judge then said, “Ludovico, what do you have to say?” Ludovico replied, “She also stole a large can of peas!”

 

When we are upset or bothered, how to we attempt to soothe our worries? Do we try to drink ourselves into forgetfulness about what troubles us? Do we go shopping? Do we lash out? Do we get more cats?! When we get glimpses that we are not as we are supposed to be, do we try to soothe our discomfort by telling ourselves that, after all, we’re “not so bad”? How honest are we with ourselves about our current inability to see our spiritual reality? There are all sorts of ways of being blind even when our eyes work properly, and blindness can be just as much interior as exterior. When we get the insight that we might actually be spiritually blind do we take something to distract us from the pain of what we are feeling, or do we do as this morning’s blind men did and turn to Christ and actually, and humbly, ask for his help? Until we come to understand and accept that we are blind insomeway, we will not ask for Christ’s help because we think that we do not need it, that we are fine just the way that we are!

 

Elderly Ludovico was talking with his equally elderly friend Antonio and boasted, "I guess you’re never too old. Just yesterday a pretty college girl said she’d be interested in dating me. But to be perfectly honest, I don’t quite understand it." Antonio replied, "Well, you have to remember that nowadays women are more aggressive; they don’t mind being the one to do the asking." Ludovico replied, "No, it’s not that." Antonio countered with, “Well, maybe you reminded her of her father." Ludovico said, "No, I don’t think it’s that either. It’s just that when she mentioned dating me she also made some reference to carbon 14."

 

Each day Life is giving us clues about ourselves. Each day God is telling us what needs to be done about our actual spiritual state; the question for us is: Do we want to know? The fact is that avoidance IS blindness! What will happen if we deliberately refuse to know? Will we finally show up before God not knowing who we really are… or HOW we really are? Why do we cling to our blindness about ourselves? Life all around us is presenting us with the evidence that there is more that we need to know, that we still need to become better than we currently are, and that our hearts are not as free of self-centeredness as we might like to think: What happens if we refuse to look at that evidence? We tell ourselves that we are good Christians… and yet, when was the last time that we, out of the blue, did something for someone without them having to ask for it? Such gracing of others with kindness can help to heal their hearts as surely as Christ healed the blind men in this morning’s Gospel passage. The point of this morning’s Gospel passage is that unless the faith that we say we have results in our being concerned about others, in our reaching out to others, then we may not just be “fluffy”; we may well just be fat!

 

 

Glory to Jesus Christ!


Sermon given by Father James (Bohlman)

On Sunday July 16th, 2017

At St. Mary Magdalene Church

Rincon, GA

(and for the missions in Helena, GA & Big Island, HI)

 

Rom. 12: 6-14

Matt. 9: 1-8

 

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

Glory to Jesus Christ!

 

 

The following are instructions quoted from actual military sources:

 

  • From a U.S Marine Corps manual: "When the pin is pulled, Mr. Grenade is not our friend."

 

  • From a United States Airforce Ammo manual: "Cluster bombing from B-52s is very, very accurate. The bombs are guaranteed to always hit the ground."

 

  • Advice from an unknown Marine Recruit: "Never tell the platoon sergeant you have nothing to do."

 

  • And finally, from instructions printed on a U.S. Rocket Launcher: "Aim towards the enemy."

 

It seems to often be assuring when we come across proof that there are people dumber than ourselves, as the need for these instructions seems to suggest, which, of course, gives us the erroneous impression that we are smart! There is a peculiar satisfaction in thinking that we are unlike others, and we even indulge in thinking this way in regard to Christ’s commands for his disciples. We all here this morning call ourselves “Christians”… which means “a disciple (or a follower) of Jesus Christ”… and yet why do we think that Christ’s commands are always for other people and not for us?! Why do we also persist in thinking that we are “not so bad” when, in fact, we are “not good enough”?!

 

In this morning’s Gospel reading we heard Christ say, “Why do you think evil in your hearts?” That just about encapsulates Christ’s approach to our spiritual life: “Why do you think evil in your hearts?”If we think that Christ did not intend these words for us, it would be fruitful for us to call to mind those whom we have not forgiven an offense. In this morning’s reading a paralyzed man is brought to Jesus. When we hear this morning’s reading we immediately see, in our mind’s eye, the man on a litter at Jesus’ feet, and can be tempted to think that his only problem was a physical one. But, as with all issues that Jesus directs us to examine in the Gospels, the real problem for us humans is often not physical, but spiritual. The real issue for we who heard the Gospel reading this morning is the paralysis in our own hearts which causes us to not forgive others. And, ironically, sometimes our unwillingness to forgive others and forget what they did winds up paralyzing our own hearts!

 

The following is supposedly a true story. Some missionaries went to convert a tribe of cannibals who, although not eating them, violently mistreated them. Even though being so abused the missionaries did not retaliate and eventually wound up converting them to Christianity. Long afterwards one of the missionaries asked the Chief of the tribe, "Why did you not eat me when I came to preach to you?” The old chief, now a Christian, replied, "The reason we used to eat people was to acquire their skills and bravery. We didn’t eat you because we did not want to become weak like you, patiently bearing every blow against you!"

 

When people deal with us, does our discipleship to Christ cause them to want to be like us, or not? In this morning’s Gospel reading Jesus shows us that we are given to one another for each other’s healing, and not to be an irritant for the other through our lack of forgiveness. As Christ’s disciples we are called to do for one another what Christ has done for us, and that is: To forgive the sins of the other. It is forgiveness which heals the other’s paralysis; our problem, however, seems to be that when we are chewing upon the memory of the offense committed against us we are in no mood to forgive the other, and it is exactly at that moment that we forget that no matter what we are feeling we are obligated to forgive them!

 

One thing we seem to have NOT learned is that forgiveness of others is neither optional nor dependent upon whether or not we feel like doing it! So why do we find it so hard to forgive others? We find it hard to forgive others because we have refused to let go of reliving how they have hurt us. When we refuse to forget an offense we paralyze our own heart by wrapping round it tight bands of miserly memory which, eventually, we come to realize is a paralysis of our own making. Christ’s own example of forgiveness of others makes the point that to be human is to make mistakes; his command for us to forgive those mistakes makes the point that to not forgive others their mistakes is to be less than Christian. Forgiveness is central to all of Jesus’ teaching. How often have we heard Christ’s command to forgive “seventy times seven” (which was a Jewish way of saying: without limit)?

 

When Fred began dating Lucinda, but before he had even met her family, Lucinda had a job at the local hardware store. One day, Fred told Lucinda that he would come by the store to take her to the park for lunch. Lucinda said, "The owners don’t want us hanging out at the store with our friends, so if you stop by, tell them you’re my brother." When Fred arrived at the store he couldn’t readily find Lucinda, so he went up to the counter and asked the woman behind it, "Is Lucinda around?" When the woman gave Fred a disapproving look Fred quickly said, “Oh, it’s okay, I’m her brother." The woman beamed a wide smile and replied, “Oh, what a nice surprise. I’m Lucinda’s mother!"

 

Alzheimer’s aside… wouldn’t it be nice, at some point, to not remember some of the idiotic and hurtful things that we have done in our life. Many of us have fantastic memories, especially when it comes to hurts committed against us. The problem is that some of the hurts committed against us were actually mistakes made by the other person, and were not done intentionally; if it is our habit to relive how bad the offense feels to us we may miss this point entirely. Whether or not the hurts were intentional or accidental, Christ has commanded that we, his followers, forgive them. Period! This is not a suggestion, but a command! If we are unwilling to forgive then we cannot rightly call ourselves a Christian. While we might let ourselves off of the hook for not forgiving someone… unfortunately for we followers of Jesus Christ, he will not let us get away with merely giving the impression of having forgiven someone! The point that Jesus Christ is constantly making is that we do not have the right to withhold forgiveness from others. After all, what if God did that to us in response to our misguided choices, our silly mistakes, and even our wicked desires?

 

 

Glory to Jesus Christ!

 


Sermon given by Father James (Bohlman)

On Sunday July 9th, 2017

At St. Mary Magdalene Church

Rincon, GA

(and for the missions in Helena, GA & Big Island, HI)

 

Rom. 10: 1-10

Matt. 8: 28-9:1

 

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

Glory to Jesus Christ!

 

 

There are things that we’d love to say at work but which we can’t… such as:

 

I’ll try being nicer if you’ll try being smarter.

 

Or… I’m already visualizing the duct tape over your mouth.

 

Or… If I throw a stick, will you chase it and leave?

 

Or finally… How do I set the laser printer to “stun”?

We know all of the answers, don’t we? At least, we’d like to think that we do. There are times in life when we find out that we didn’t know all that we thought that we knew, and this realization can make it hard to make sense of our inner life… meaning: If I was so sure, then how could I have turned out to be wrong?! Things not making sense is a kind of interior blindness, much as that manifested by this morning’s men in the tombs when they asked Christ suspiciously, “What have we to do with you, Jesus, you Son of God? Have you come here to torment us?” When we, like this morning’s men in the tombs, think that we have the right “take” on something we see no need for us to change. Unfortunately for followers of Jesus Christ, “to change” is what repentance is about, and repentance is what Jesus Christ is relentless in demanding of us, his disciples.

 

As a result of the culture in which we live we suffer from an over-inflated sense of ourselves, of our right-ness, and when we are content with ourselves we often see no reason to change; I mean – if it ain’t broke, why fix it! Right? The problem is that even if we don’t recognize it, we ARE broken in that we all suffer from a mistaken understanding about our sinfulness, about what sin is; after all, most of us don’t shoplift, we don’t hold up banks or murder others, so how could the concept of “sin” even apply to us? I even once had someone come to Confession and actually say that the individual had nothing to confess because they don’t sin. While most of us would not say such a thing, there is at least the tiniest possibility that we think that way… that we think because we don’t commit the gross and obvious sins like raping and mugging, we are certain that we are good people.

 

Simon was an Orthodox Jew. He had a Gentile friend, Fred, who noticed that Simon owned four sets of false teeth. One day Fred asked Simon why he had so many sets of false teeth. Surprised by the question, Simon explained, "My friend, as you know, I keep kosher. So I have one set of teeth that I wear when I eat milk products; I have another set for meat products; and the third set I use for Passover." After a moment of silence, Fred pressed further and asked, "Well, then, what about the fourth set?" Simon replied, “Oh, that. Well, that is for when I want to sin and eat a forbidden ham sandwich.”

 

Even while most of us are careful to not commit the big sins, many of us… if not all of us… have one or two minor sins in which we think it is all right to indulge. Even while we think of ourselves as good people, if someone presses just the right button in any of us… say, for instance, if they try to take my chocolate from me… we can be just as nasty as we are currently nice. How can this be if we… as we view ourselves… are so sinless? If we are so sinless then how come we repeat a nasty rumor about another to someone else just because of the wicked thrill that we feel in relaying the news? Let us not kid ourselves – this is what sin sounds like. How often do we tell a lie so that we will not have to face up to something? This avoidance of the Truth is what sin is composed of. How often do we try to get away with involvement in those things that are poisonous to our soul, so long as no one else knows? Furtiveness is how sin acts. Let us ask ourselves: Is it not possible that we have become just a bit too comfortable with being a low-grade sinner? Just because we think that we are “not so bad” does not mean that we are good.

 

Little Olga climbed up into the lap of her Grandmother Grizellda, looked at her Grandmother’s white hair and wrinkles, and then asked, "Did God make you?" Smiling, Grizellda replied, "Yes, Sweetie, God made me.” Then Little Olga asked, "Did God make me, too?" Hugging Little Olga Grizellda replied, "Yes, he certainly did!" Staring at her Grandmother for a few seconds, Little Olga then said, "Don’t you think he’s doing a better job now than he used to?"

 

When we were little children we knew all of the answers. Unfortunately for our ego, as we age we discover that no matter how talented and successful we might be it is still possible for us to be mistaken about what we were so sure was our correct take on things… especially about our supposed goodness. When we become content with ourselves, when we are sure that our assumptions about ourselves are correct, we often plough ahead into things that carry much more serious consequences than we might expect. Becoming blind to our spiritual mediocrity we can even become irritated when Jesus Christ tells us that we’re not so good as we think we are, and that we still need to change; if you don’t believe me, ask your spouse! In our myopic vision of ourselves we think, “Why should I change if I’m ‘good enough’”? The problem is that Jesus Christ will not let mediocrity be. Jesus Christ not only calls us to come to church on Sunday, to tithe, to donate a can of soup to the Food Pantry outreach program, but… annoyingly… like a little boy with a stick, he relentlessly pokes at our mediocrity until we either change, or, like this morning’s townspeople, we depart from him. And if we choose to depart from Jesus Christ, we slowly become possessed by this world’s misplaced values and distorted vision; in other words… we become madmen!

 

Is it not possible that we too, like this morning’s villagers, don’t want to be inconvenienced by getting involved in our own healing, by our having to change? Is there not a chance that we, like this morning’s villagers, are blind to our own need for deliverance, which blindness results in our viewing God’s demands upon us as: “Have you come here to torment me?” By not becoming serious about complying with the growth that God demands of us, are we telling God, like this morning’s townspeople, to “Go away”? And finally, are we more possessed by our desire for the blindness of comfortable mediocrity, than by trying for the change to which Christ unceasingly… and sometimes annoyingly… calls us?

 

 

Glory to Jesus Christ!

 


Sermon given by Father James (Bohlman)

On Sunday July 2nd, 2017

At St. Mary Magdalene Church

Rincon, GA

(and for the missions in Helena, GA & Big Island, HI)

 

Rom. 6: 18-23

Matt. 8: 5-13

 

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

Glory to Jesus Christ!

 

Lucinda’s elderly mother, Grizellda, and her equally elderly friend Clotilda, were out driving in a large car. Both could barely see over the dashboard. As they were cruising along they came to an intersection and even though the light was red they sailed right on through. In the passenger seat, Clotilda thought to herself, "I must be losing it; I could have sworn we just went through a red light." After a few more minutes they came to another intersection where the light was also red; again, without so much as slowing down, they went right on through. Clotilda began to become nervous but didn’t say anything to Grizelda… until they sailed on through their third red light. “Grizellda,” Clotilda said from the passenger’s seat, “Do you know that we just ran through three red lights in a row? Your driving is going to get us killed!" In amazement, and without slowing down, Grizellda turned towards Clotilda and replied, "Oh my! Am I the one driving?!!!"

 

All of us, at one time or another, have had the sudden realization that we didn’t quite know what we were doing. And this is partly the reason why the Church presents us with this morning’s Gospel scene as she tries to get us to re-evaluate what we are doing with our life. Like the Pharisee in the Temple, all people, at one time or another, have echoed the Pharisee in the Temple who said, “Thank you Lord that I am not like him (or her)!” That attitude, even towards just one person in life, is the reason that we do not forgive. Do we here this morning view Christ’s command to forgive others as an “obligation” or as something optional? For all of our attendance at various church services, have we become more tolerant and forgiving of others? For all of our Lenten prostrations, has our heart softened towards others in any way, or do we still think that there is at least one person towards whom it is okay for us to be dismissive?

 

The Roman centurion in this morning’s Gospel reading was a Gentile, and the Jews felt an extreme hatred of Romans who they viewed as their oppressors. And yet, when Jesus saw his people’s enemy coming to him for a favor he didn’t focus on the uniform, or the sword; rather, Jesus focused on the heart of a man who was so concerned about his servant that he went to Christ and asked Jesus to heal the man. This morning’s Gospel reading poses the question: Why don’t others also matter this much to us?!

 

There was a man and a woman who were both born on the same day and who eventually married. Each year they celebrated their birthdays on the same day. One year they decided to celebrate their 63rd birthdays in Hawaii, and one morning as they walked along a beach on Maui they came across an old jar sticking out of the sand. The woman pick it up, brushed off the sand, and lifted the lid; all at once a genie stood before them who said, "You each have one wish. Ask for whatever you want and it shall be yours." Without hesitation the woman said, "I want a diamond. But not just any diamond: I want a diamond bigger than one that even Elizabeth Taylor has seen!." All of a sudden, a big, heavy diamond showed up on her finger. It was huge. Equally without hesitation the husband blurted out, "And I want a wife who is 30 years younger than me!” And, just like that (SNAP!) … he turned 93.

 

Sometimes we make choices the consequences of which are not possible for us to see at the time that we make them. At some point in our lives, we all try to get away with something. The problem with trying to get away with something is that we sometimes come to believe our own lies, and one of those lies that we tell ourselves is that because we tithe and don’t murder we are legally as good as we need to be in order to get into heaven. But legally “good” according to our culture is not the same thing as morally “good” according to Jesus Christ. As Christ makes clear in this morning’s Gospel reading, we are considered good by God only if we are concerned about others.

 

So why are there some in our life who simply do not matter to us? The answer to this is that we assign them to the category of “other”; in other words, someone who we can look down upon. When was the last time that we expressed some kind concern for a stranger, or someone whose occupation we dismiss… or even a spouse with whom we have grown increasingly irritated? The fact is that our culture encourages us to objectify others, assigning them to categories of “friends” and “enemies”, the latter category being the one in which we can be dismissive. Sadly, such an approach to other people does not leave any room for genuine concern. And yet, we who call ourselves Christians buy into our culture’s lack of concern for others. Our culture (as differentiated from Christ’s Gospel) teaches us that it is all right to look down upon at least one category of people, whichever one that makes us feel better about ourselves!... as in: “Thank you Lord that I am not like this one!”

Fred was eating breakfast and reading the newspaper one morning, when Lucinda… who was getting ready for work… came into the kitchen and asked, "Fred, do these pants make me look fat?" Fred, being Fred, replied without considering consequences, saying: "No dear, it's your hips that make you look fat."

All of us, at some point in our life, have had that one person who we were convinced was simply beneath us, and when we view someone that way we can also become convinced that we are not obligated to forgive them their mistakes. Nelson Mandela, however, once said, “To refuse to forgive is to drink a glass of poison and then to wait for your enemy to die.” One of the reasons why we sometimes don’t forgive others or even care about others is because of our basically antagonistic attitude about them… whether they be non-white, non-Orthodox or Centurian. Antagonism prevents us from seeing the goodness in others. We often do not care about others because we are convinced that we are “…not like them”. After all the Great Lents that we have gone through in our lives, all too often our interior mantra still seems to be that of the Pharisee in the Temple: “I thank you Lord that I am not like this man!” This is the chant of a heart that still views at least someone as “the enemy”.

 

This morning, let us stop trying to fake being a Christian. During this coming week, let us go out of our way for at least one other person who we usually dismiss! Instead of talking about treating all people equally how about on the way home from work we buy a meal-to-go and hand it to one homeless person who we come across?  Instead of talking about bringing peace to the whole world why not call up that one friend who we cut out of our life, and apologize?  Instead of talking about love in general … this coming week how about showing gratitude to some ONE in particular? How about letting someone matter to us?

 

 

Glory to Jesus Christ!

 

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