7 Sunday A

 From Fr. Tony Kadavil's Collection:

1) "If I could talk face to face with the pilot who dropped the bomb":  A 33-year-old Vietnamese woman named Kim Phu placed a wreath at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington and delivered a short speech. Twenty-four years ago, when Kim Phu was only 9 years old, her picture was taken by an Associated Press photographer and it seared the conscience of the world. Her village had just been hit by a United States napalm attack. Her two brothers were killed instantly. Kim Phu's clothes were burned off her. In the photograph, this little girl was running, naked, in pain and terror. Last Monday in Washington, speaking to a hushed crowd, she made the following statement: "I have suffered a lot from my physical and emotional pain. Sometimes I thought I could not live, but God saved my life and gave me faith and hope. If I could talk face to face with the pilot who dropped the bomb, I would tell him we cannot change history, but we should try to do things for the present and for the future to promote peace." No retaliation! Just tough, wise love. That's the spirit of Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount. It's the greatest power on earth. In the face of it, the devil trembles.

2) "The goal is reconciliation and redemption.”  Martin Luther King, Jr. would take this principle from the Sermon on the Mount and use it to revolutionize America. King used to say, "No man can pull me down so low as to make me hate him." The real goal, said King, was not to defeat the white man, but to awaken a sense of shame within the oppressor and to challenge his false sense of superiority. "The goal is reconciliation, redemption, the creation of the beloved community." The words of Jesus in the sermon on the mount which Martin Luther King paraphrased, are totally out of step with our present world because our  world believes in retaliation. 75 percent of Christians believe in capital punishment because they think we can stop the killing by killing the killers. That's retaliation.

 From Sermon Illustrations:

Mark Twain once said this about the Bible: "I have no problem with those parts of the Bible I don't understand. It's those parts of the Bible I do understand that gives me fits." The passage that we are going to study certainly fits into that category.
This passage illustrates something I bet most of you have never thought about before. One of the easiest things in the world to do is to become a Christian. It is ridiculously easy. All you have to do is confess you are a sinner, repent of your sin, believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross for your sin and was raised from the dead, and surrender your life to Him as your Lord and Savior; and you become a Christian immediately and instantaneously. There is not an easier thing in the world than to become a Christian. But at the same time, one of the most difficult things in the world is to be a Christian, and you're going to see that illustrated this morning.

What Jesus says is totally antithetical to the typical attitude in America. Years ago there was a bumper sticker that became rather popular that simply said two words: "I Want." Now that tag would fit on just about every car in America. We live in the country of "I want." I want my rights; I want my happiness; I want my way; I want my money.

Rights are considered as American as apple pie. This is a country where citizens have rights. The best known part of the Constitution is the Bill of Rights. I'm all for the right kind of rights, but today rights don't so much protect the innocent as they promote the guilty. If you're going to be a real Christian you're going to have to give up some rights...

Robert Valentine once compared Teddy Roosevelt and William Howard Taft as presidents. He said, "The difference was that when you left Teddy Roosevelt's presence you were ready to eat bricks for lunch, and when you left Taft you felt -- what's the use." (Felix Frankfurter, Felix Frankfurter Reminisces [1960], 85.)  
We're hoping that when you leave church this morning, you're ready to eat bricks for lunch. But I hope you have something more wholesome.

Remember as a kid . . . you didn't want to go to bed while the adults were all gathered for something? You didn't want to miss out. You heard everyone laughing. Then you heard everyone talking in a low voice. What were they saying? What was so funny? You wanted to be in the midst of it too. You wanted to be a part of the fun and excitement, or what you perceived might be fun and exciting, even if it wasn't. In any case, you didn't want to be left out, while everyone else was "in."

The church was like that too once. Not too long ago, people wanted to be a part of the church so much they would purchase their pews a year in advance so that "their seat" would be waiting for them when they arrived, and they wouldn't miss out on any part of worship, or have to stand in the back to watch. Having your own pew meant you were part of the ones who "belonged." Others who couldn't afford a pew would gladly stand in the back or in the aisles if all the chairs were taken, or even watch from the outside if they weren't allowed in, just so they could be part of that worship in any way they could. And not too long ago, people in some denominations fiercely dreaded the status of being ostracized or shunned if it kept them from going to church, where they felt part of a community of worship. No matter what, you didn't want to miss out.

In late 2013, a new word was accepted into the Oxford English Dictionary to explain this kind of phenomenon. The word is "FOMO" - a short-hand acronym for the "fear of missing out"...


Love Your Enemy

In a sermon written in a Georgia jail and preached just after the bus protest in Montgomery, Alabama, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said this about loving your enemies:

After noting that hate is just as injurious to the hater as the hated, Dr. King says,

"Of course this is not practical; life is a matter of getting even, of hitting back, of dog eat dog... My friends, we have followed the so-called practical way for too long a time now, and it has led inexorably to deeper confusion and chaos. Time is cluttered with the wreckage of communities which surrendered to hatred and violence. For the salvation of our nation and the salvation of mankind, we must follow another way. This does not mean that we abandon our righteous efforts. With every ounce of our energy we must continue to rid this nation of the incubus of segregation. But we shall not in the process relinquish our privilege and our obligation to love. While abhorring segregation, we shall love the segregationist. This is the only way to create the beloved community."

Martin Luther King, Jr., A Testament of Hope: the Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr., page 596, quoted by Chuck Queen, Love Your Enemies
What Christians Are Really Made Of

This text from Matthew makes me recall the words of C.S. Lewis, "Surely what a man does when he is taken off his guard is the best evidence for what sort of man he is. If there are rats in a cellar, you are most likely to see them if you go in very suddenly. But the suddenness does not create the rats; it only prevents them from hiding. In the same way, the suddenness of the provocation does not make me ill-tempered; it only shows me what an ill-tempered man I am."

Think about the reaction that Christ calls us to have if someone strikes us on the cheek. What kind of a person would that make us? To turn the other cheek and refuse to react with similar anger or malice shows the world we are Christian. So if what we do when we are taken off guard is the best evidence of what sort of person we are, let us pray our reactions show that we are good Christians!

Adapted from C.S. Lewis

Practice What You Admire

Once upon a time a prince was born physically deformed. He was known as the hunchback prince. His physical posture troubled him, because he knew a prince should stand tall and straight. One day he commissioned a sculptor to make a statue of him, not as he was but as he wanted to be. When the statue was completed, the prince had it placed in his private garden. Every day thereafter, he would stand before his statue and try to pull back his shoulders and stand tall. After some years, his physique matched the statue!

It is obvious, is it not, that the principle involved in this story is that what we admire, adore, greatly respect, and worship, we eventually become.

John Brokhoff, Old Truths for New Times, CSS Publishing Company
Going Beyond Duty: The Second Mile

Shortly after the battles ended the American Revolution, but before the peace had been negotiated, George Washington was with his troops in Newburgh, New York. But they began to grow very restless because they hadn't been paid. Washington had begged the Continental Congress to do what they said they would do and pay the soldiers, but they refused.
Well, some of the officers began to organize a rebellion. They talked about marching on Philadelphia, which was at that time the seat of the reigning national government, and overthrowing that government and letting the army rule the nation.

With the fate of America in the balance, George Washington made a surprise appearance before these officers. After praising them for their service and thanking them for their sacrifice, he pulled from his pocket a copy of a speech that he wished to read. But then he fumbled with a paper and finally reached for a set of reading glasses-glasses those men had never seen him wear before. Washington made this simple statement: "I have already grown grey in the service of my country, and now I am going blind."

Historian Richard Norton Smith wrote: "Instantly rebellion melted into tears. It was a galvanizing moment, and the rebellion..." and the rebellion was put down because they had seen before them a second miler. Becoming a Christian is one thing; being a Christian is another one. Every chance you get for the glory of Jesus, for the goodness of others, and because of the grace of God, go the second mile.

James Merritt, Collected Sermons,

What We Grab Also Grabs Us

Once there was an eagle which hovered over a lake and suddenly swooped down and caught a two-foot long fish in its talons. Slowly, the bird rose with its ten pound catch, but when it reached about 1,000 feet, it began to descend, until it splashed into the water. Later, both the bird and fish were found dead. Apparently the fish was too heavy for the eagle, but it could not let go, for its talons were embedded in the flesh of the fish. The truth is that what we grab, grabs us. When we grab alcohol, drugs, or sex, it grabs us and brings us down to death.

John Brokhoff, Old Truths For New Times, CSS Publishing Company, Inc.

Reconciliation: Refusing to Retaliate

It's a story that is repeated on every elementary school playground, nearly every day in our country. Two fourth-graders get into it during recess; something about "he did this, so I did that" and it kind of goes south from there. When they get back to class, Billy trips Joey. After lunch, Joey breaks Billy's pencil on purpose. When nobody is looking, Billy writes on Joey's desk, and later, Joey steals Billy's folder. After school, Billy and his friends face Joey and his friends, and they call each other names. Somebody gets hurt. Somebody else gets hurt worse. And then there is no telling when or if these conflicts will ever end.

Sound familiar? We have all experienced this sort of escalating pettiness and we readily admit that it is silly. But I would suggest to you that we can remove the names "Billy" and "Joey" and insert the words "husband" and "wife" and the story is much the same. Or we could insert the names of two rival high schools, or two rival companies, or "The Hatfields" and "The McCoys." Or Republicans and Democrats, or "pro-life" and "pro-choice," or Israel and Palestine, or America and almost any Arab nation you care to name. Conflict at any level is conflict. And if not preventable, most conflict is at least resolvable...but not until one side refuses to retaliate and instead decides to reconcile.

Steve Molin, He Hit Me First!
 A Christian Conception of Justice

The nature of men and of organized society dictates the maintenance in every field of action of the highest and purest standards of justice and of right dealing.... By justice the lawyer generally means the prompt, fair, and open application of impartial rules; but we call ours a Christian civilization, and a Christian conception of justice must be much higher. It must include sympathy and helpfulness and a willingness to forego self-interest in order to promote the welfare, happiness, and contentment of others and of the community as a whole.

Woodrow Wilson
 Love Your Enemies

Former Boston Red Sox Hall-of-Fame third baseman Wade Boggs hated Yankee Stadium. Not because of the Yankees; they never gave him that much trouble but because of a fan. That's right: one fan.

The guy had a box seat close to the field, and when the Red Sox were in town he would torment Boggs by shouting obscenities and insults. It's hard to imagine one fan getting under a player's skin, but this guy had the recipe.

One day as Boggs was warming up, the fan began his routine, yelling, 'Boggs, you stink' and variations on that theme. Boggs had enough. He walked directly over to the man, who was sitting in the stands, and said,
"Hey fella, are you the guy who's always yelling at me?" The man said, "Yeah, it's me. What are you going to do about it?"
Wade took a new baseball out of his pocket, autographed it, tossed it to the man, and went back to the field to continue his pre-game routine.
The man never yelled at Boggs again; in fact, he became one of Wades' biggest fans at Yankee Stadium.


In The Grace of Giving,  Stephen Olford tells of a Baptist pastor during the American Revolution, Peter Miller, who lived in Ephrata, Pennsylvania, and enjoyed the friendship of George Washington. In Ephrata also lived Michael Wittman, an evil-minded sort who did all he could to oppose and humiliate the pastor. One day Michael Wittman was arrested for treason and sentenced to die. Peter Miller traveled seventy miles on foot to Philadelphia to plead for the life of the traitor.
"No, Peter," General Washington said. "I cannot grant you the life of your friend."
"My friend!" exclaimed the old preacher. "He's the bitterest enemy I have."
"What?" cried Washington. "You've walked seventy miles to save the life of an enemy? That puts the matter in different light. I'll grant your pardon." And he did.
Peter Miller took Michael Wittman back home to Ephrata--no longer an enemy but a friend. 
Lynn Jost.