AD SENSE

23rd Sunday A: Prayer and Reconciliation

The reading refers to a primitive kind of police, the watchman who stood on the Palestinian hills and blew his trumpet to warn of invaders. Prophets like Ezekiel saw themselves as watchmen over the spiritual dangers that threatened God's people. Ezekiel reminds us that if my brother does something wrong to me I have to take responsibility for his/her actions as a believer. If I do not do so I will be held accountable for his behaviour and action. Today, much evil is done because good people prefer to be silent or say "It is none of my business!" As Christians it becomes our business to respond to every situation with faith and love. 
"What would you do"?

Suppose you heard your son's best friend say to your son, "If you need any answer in the math's test, just give me a signal." How would you respond? Jerome Weideman, author of the book Hand of the Hunter, was involved in such a situation as a boy. He said that about 30 years ago he was attending a public school on New York's lower East Side. He had a third-grade arithmetic teacher named Mrs. O'Neill. One day she gave her class a test. When she was grading the papers she noticed that 12 boys had given the same unusual wrong answer to the same question. The next day she asked the 12 boys to remain after the dismissal bell. Then without accusing any of them, she wrote 21 words on the board. They read: "The measure of a man's real character is what he would do if he knew he would never be found out." Then she wrote the name of the man who said them: Thomas Babington Macaulay. Weidman wrote: "I don't know about the other 11 boys. Speaking for only one of the dozen with whom I am on intimate terms, I can say this: it was the most important single lesson of my life."

Mark Link in 'Sunday Homilies'

In today's Gospel Matthew deals with the relationship of members of the Church and highlights one of the most painful responsibilities that we have towards others, namely fraternal correction. Jesus reminds us that if there is any breakdown in our relationship, if we are hurt by our brother we should not wait but be the first to put things right, to have it out, to speak about it in private, in order to build the relationship again. The important thing is to do it with love, delicacy and tact so that the other is not made to feel small in the eyes of the community. Two aspects of Jesus' teaching here are striking: He has standards, and he uses a wise progression. The first step of the progression is to go to the offender and speak directly to the person rather than to anyone else. "If your brother does something wrong, go and have it out with him alone, between your two selves." The Gospel also tells us that only if you cannot solve the problem in private do we call others to be part of the reconciliation move, and that too, not to strengthen my argument but that we might be objective and have a third-party opinion on the matter. The point is that we should do everything in our power to reach out and help the other to be aware of the possible cause of misunderstanding, error or pain before we break off relationship with others. Sometimes, even if I am right do I have to prove the other is wrong?

The story is told of a lady who was having a pleasant journey travelling by train from New York to Philadelphia as there was only one more passenger besides her. But her joy was short-lived when the man lit a cigar and started smoking. The lady deliberately coughed and made an unpleasant face. Nothing worked. He continued to smoke. Then she blurted out: "You might be a foreigner. Don't you know there is a smoking car up ahead? Smoking is prohibited here." The man quietly put out the cigar and maintained his equanimity. When the conductor came to check the tickets the lady realized with horror that her co-passenger was the famous General Ulysses Grant. She had boarded his private car by mistake. As the lady made a hasty exit, the General did not even look her way so as not to embarrass her. He turned his head and smiled only after the lady was out of sight.
Anonymous

Long Walk to Freedom

In his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, Nelson Mandela describes his long years of imprisonment on Robben Island. He tells how one day he was called to the main office. General Steyn was visiting the Islands and wanted to know from Mandela if the other prisoners had any complaints. Badenhorst, the officer in command of the island, was also present. Now Badenhorst was feared and hated by the prisoners. In a calm, but forceful and truthful manner, Mandela informed the visitor about the chief complaints of the prisoners. But he did so without bitterness or recriminations. The general duly took notice of what he had to say, which amounted to a damning indictment of Badenhorst's regime. The following day Badenhorst went to Mandela and said, "I'm leaving the Island. I just want to wish you people good luck." The remark left Mandela dumbfounded. Mandela says that he thought of the incident for a long time afterwards. Badenhorst was perhaps the most callous and barbaric commanding officer they had on the Island. But that incident revealed that there was another side to his nature, a side that had been obscured but that still existed. And Mandela concludes, "It is a useful reminder that all men, even the seemingly cold-blooded, have a core of decency, and that if their hearts are touched, they are capable of changing.
Flor McCarthy in 'New Sunday Holy days and Liturgies'

Room for Adjustment!

Many years ago there was a woman who lived in a small village in France. Trained as a nurse, she devoted her life to caring for the sick and the needy. After many years of kind and selfless service to the village families, the woman died. She had no family of her own, so the town's folk planned a beautiful funeral for her, a fitting tribute to the woman to whom so many owed their lives. The parish priest, however, pointed out that, because she was a Protestant, she could not be buried in the town's Catholic cemetery. The villagers protested, but the priest didn't relent. It was not easy for the priest either, because he too had been cared for by the woman during a serious illness. But the rules of the church were very clear; she would have to be buried outside the fence of the cemetery. The day of the funeral arrived, and the whole village accompanied the woman's casket to the cemetery, where she was buried - outside the fence. But that night, a group of villagers armed with shovels, sneaked into the cemetery. Then they quietly set to work -they moved the fence!
Simon K. In 'The Sunday Liturgy'

May we never walk the path of life and love alone, but with and for others!

2. Connections: 

THE WORD:

Chapter 18 of Matthew’s Gospel is a collection of Jesus’ sayings on the practical challenges facing the Christian community, including status-seeking, scandal, division and, the topic of today's reading, conflict.

Today’s Gospel reading sounds more like regulations devised by an ecclesiastical committee than a discourse by Jesus (this chapter has been called the “church-order discourse” of Jesus). But the point of Jesus’ exhortation is that we must never tolerate any breech of personal relationship between us and another member of the Christian community.  At each stage of the process -- personal discussion, discussion before witnesses, discussion before the whole community -- the goal is to win the erring Christian back to the community (the three-step process of reconciliation outlined by Jesus here corresponds to the procedure of the Qumran community).

Jesus’ exhortation closes with a promise of God's presence in the midst of every community, regardless of size, bound together by faith.

HOMILY POINTS:

Today’s Gospel outlines a process of reconciliation among divided members of a community.  Jesus calls his hearers to seek honesty and sincerity in all relationships, to put aside self-interest, anger and wounded pride, and take the first step in healing the rifts that destroy the sense of love that binds family and friends, church and community -- the love of Christ is the "debt" that binds us to one another.

In the “rules” and “procedures” for bringing sinners back to the community he lays out in today’s Gospel, Jesus calls us to build communities that are inclusive, not exclusive: to bring the lost back, not out of pride or zealousness, but out of “the debt that binds us to love one another.”

In today’s Gospel, Jesus speaks of the “church” — not the institutional capital ‘C’ Church, but the lower-case ‘c’ church that is you and I, human beings who struggle to follow Jesus.  That is the important lesson of today’s Gospel: the ability of individuals who come together as disciples, inspired by the Gospel Jesus, to accomplish great works of compassion, reconciliation, healing and justice. 

Today’s exhortation by Jesus is designed to help us create and maintain households of love and forgiveness and communities of reconciliation and peace, where even the smallest and youngest and least able to contribute are as welcomed and honored as we would welcome and honor Christ himself.  Christ promises that whenever we gather in his name, he is in our midst.  Sometimes it requires an extra sharp and focused vision of faith to realize and recognize Christ with us, but he is always there.  Christ’s presence should move us, inspire us, transform us into a community of disciples and witnesses of his resurrection.     

Small ‘c’ church

On a business trip to South America, he visited a small church in one of the poor barrios.  He was deeply moved by what he saw: the joy-filled faith of these families despite the overwhelming poverty of their daily lives.  When he returned home, he was telling some friends after Mass about what he had seen.  The group wondered what they could do to help, so they contacted the pastor of the barrio parish.  The priest expressed gratitude for any help, especially for the parish’s school and small clinic.  So the group collected school and medical supplies and shipped them; next they gathered up blankets and clothes; now they are raising money to dig a new well for the community.  They see themselves as just a group of friends doing what they are able to do for their South American brothers and sisters.  But, in truth, they are being church.

It’s known as “the list” — names and telephone numbers of folks in the parish who can be called day or night.  An elderly parishioner needs a ride to the doctor?  Call Susan.  The young couple struggling through her difficult pregnancy?  Sheila and Pat will make sure they have supper and groceries this week.  The one car of a family whose parents have been out of work for some time breaks down?  Neil knows what to do.  It is more than a list of numbers.  It is church.

When they were in grammar school, they participated in the parish’s vacation religious education program every summer and always had a great time.  Now that they are in high school, they return every July to serve as leaders and counselors — and often become big brothers and big sisters to the kids.  The adults who are responsible for the week’s program will tell you immediately that these teens make the program go.  They are more than a terrific group of generous teenagers.  They are church.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus speaks of the “church” — not the institutional capital ‘C’ Church, but the lower-case ‘c’ church that is you and I, human beings who struggle to follow Jesus.  That is the important lesson of today’s Gospel: the ability of individuals who come together as disciples, inspired by the Gospel Jesus, to accomplish great works of compassion, reconciliation, healing and justice.  May the grace of God bring us together, even just two or three of us, in Jesus’ name, enabling us to mirror God’s love in our midst.  

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ILLUSTRATIONS: 

Finger bowl
Here is a wonderful story that dates back to the 19th century England :

According to the account, Queen Victoria was once at a diplomatic reception in London . The guest of honor was an African chieftain. All went well during the meal until, at the end, finger bowls were served. The guest of honor had never seen a British finger bowl, and no one had thought to brief him beforehand about its purpose. So he took the bowl in his two hands, lifted it to his mouth, and drank its contents down!
For an instant there was breathless silence among the British privilege guests, and then they began to whisper to one another. All that stopped; however, when Queen Victoria silently took her finger bowl in her two hands, lifted it, and drank its contents! A moment later, 500 surprised British ladies and gentlemen simultaneously drank the contents of their own finger bowls.
It was the queen’s uncommon courtesy that guarded her guest from certain embarrassment.
This is a very rare but very effective human trait which only true leaders can demonstrate!

Moral of the story
While the most common human trait is to look for chances to humiliate someone else or be neutral when they make a mistake, it takes presence of mind, uncommon courtesy to follow someone else’s mistake in order to guard them from embarrassment!

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From Fr. Tony Kadavil's Collection:
1: “Fraulein, will you forgive me?” Corrie ten Boom often thought back over the horrors of the Ravensbruck concentration camp. How could she ever forgive the former Nazis who had been her jailers? Where was love, acceptance, and forgiveness in a horror camp where more than 95,000 women died? How could she ever forget the horrible cruelty of the guards and the smoke constantly coming from the chimney of the crematorium? Then in 1947 Corrie was speaking in a Church in Munich, and when the meeting was over, she saw one of the cruelest male guards of Ravensbruck coming forward to speak to her. He had his hand outstretched. “I have become a Christian,” he explained. “I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fraulein, will you forgive me?” A conflict raged in Corrie’s heart. The Spirit of God urged her to forgive. The spirit of bitterness and coldness urged her to turn away. “Jesus, help me,” she prayed. Then she knew what she must do. “I can lift my hand,” she thought to herself. “I can do that much.” As their hands met it was as if warmth and healing broke forth with tears and joy. “I forgive you, brother, with all my heart,” she said. Later Corrie testified, “it was the power of the Holy Spirit” Who had poured the love of God into her heart that day. (Garrie F. Williams, “Welcome, Holy Spirit.” Copyright (c) 1994) — I don’t know any other way true forgiveness can take place. We turn our hurt over to God. We ask God for the ability to forgive. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony
2: “I must forgive”: Sister Helen Prejean, in her book Dead Man Walking, tells the real story of Lloyd LeBlanc, a Roman Catholic layman, whose son was murdered. When he arrived in the cane field with the sheriff’s deputies to identify his son David’s body, LeBlanc immediately knelt by his boy’s body and prayed the Lord’s Prayer. When he came to the words: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us,” he realized the depth of the commitment he was making. “Whoever did this, I must forgive them, I resolved,” he later told Sr. Prejean. LeBlanc confessed that it had been difficult not to be overcome by the bitterness and feelings of revenge that welled up from time to time, especially on David’s birthday. But for the rest of his life, forgiveness was prayed for and struggled for and won. He went to the execution of the culprit Patrick Sonnier, not for revenge but hoping for an apology. Before sitting in the electric chair Patrick Sonnier, the murderer said, “Mr. Le Blanc, I want to ask your forgiveness for what I did,” and Lloyd LeBlanc nodded his head, signaling forgiveness he had already given. Today’s Gospel reminds us and challenges us to continue on the path to forgiveness and reconciliation. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony
3: Ancient Jewish rules on fraternal correction: Among the preserved writings of the ancient Essenes (a sect of Palestinian Judaism) is a Manual of Discipline, the rules of which governed and safeguarded the integrity and holiness of the community. One section of the manual, concerning communal correction, reads as follows: “They shall rebuke one another in truth, humility, and charity. Let no one address his companion with anger, or ill-temper, or obduracy, or with envy prompted by the spirit of wickedness. Let him not hate him but let him rebuke him on the very same day, lest he incur guilt because of him. And furthermore, let no one accuse his companion before the congregation without having first admonished him in the presence of witnesses” (1 QS 5:24-6:1). Similar guidelines regarding community discipline are found in the rabbinic writings. A consensus of scholars believes that the procedure outlined by the Matthean community in today’s Gospel may have been influenced by these earlier sources. Today’s Gospel passage reflected the early Church’s concern for the spiritual well-being of each of its members and specified that the responsibility for that well-being be shouldered by each believer. As with any important undertaking, the process of communal correction (vv. 15-17) will, no doubt, be exercised more justly and mercifully when it is permeated by prayer and the accompanying Divine presence. In fact, praying for those who have strayed from the truth should probably be the first (but not only) step in any spiritual rescue effort. (Sanchez Files). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony
4: A pastor preached a wonderful sermon, saying we should love our enemies. And, when he got through, he asked, “Is there anybody in the audience who can truthfully say that he or she has no enemies?” An old gentleman got up right underneath the pulpit, and he said, “Father, I ain’t got no enemies.” So, the Pastor tells the congregation, “Let’s listen. This man has the secret. He can teach us something. Go ahead, sir, now tell us how we do that.” “Oh,” he said, “it ain’t hard. You see, I’ve outlived all those rascals.”
5: Grandma’s list: There was the grandmother celebrating her golden wedding anniversary who told the secret of her long and happy marriage. “On my wedding day, I decided to make a list of ten of my husband’s faults which, for the sake of the marriage, I would overlook.” A guest asked the woman what some of the faults she had chosen to overlook were. The grandmother replied, “To tell you the truth, I never did get around to making that list. But whenever my husband did something that made me hopping mad, I would say to myself, “Lucky for him that’s one of the ten.”
6: Or would you be more like the woman who was bitten by a rabid dog, and it looked as if she was going to die from rabies. The doctor told her to put her final affairs in order. So the woman took pen and paper, and began writing furiously. In fact, she wrote and wrote and wrote. Finally, the doctor said, “That sure is a long will you’re making.” She snorted, “Will, nothing! I’m making a list of all the people I’m going to bite!”
7: One New Year’s Eve at London’s Garrick Club, British dramatist Frederick Lonsdale was asked by Seymour Hicks to reconcile with a fellow member. The two had quarreled in the past and never restored their friendship. “You must,” Hicks said to Lonsdale. “It is very unkind to be unfriendly at such a time. Go over now and wish him a happy New Year.” So Lonsdale crossed the room and spoke to his enemy. “I wish you a happy New Year,” he said, “but only one.”
38 – Additional anecdotes
(Why do we use anecdotes in homilies? 1) Because they tell us forcefully how today’s Gospel challenged and changed the lives of people. 2) Mt 13: 34: All this Jesus said to the crowds in parables; indeed, he said nothing to them without a parable)
1) “Don’t allow them to turn you again into their prisoner!’” When Bill Clinton met Nelson Mandela for the first time, he had a question on his mind: “When you were released from prison, Mr. Mandela,” the former President said, “I woke my daughter at three o’clock in the morning. I wanted her to see this historic event.” Then President Clinton zeroed in on his question: “As you marched from the cellblock across the yard to the gate of the prison, the camera focused in on your face. I have never seen such anger, and even hatred, in any man as was expressed on your face at that time. That’s not the Nelson Mandela I know today,” said Clinton. “What was that about?” Mandela answered, “I’m surprised that you saw that, and I regret that the cameras caught my anger. As I walked across the courtyard that day, I thought to myself, ‘They’ve taken everything from you that matters. Your cause is dead. Your family is gone. Your friends have been killed. Now they’re releasing you, but there’s nothing left for you out there.’ And I hated them for what they had taken from me. Then, I sensed an inner voice saying to me, ‘Nelson! For twenty-seven years you were their prisoner, but you were always a free man! Don’t allow them to make you into a free man, only to turn you into their prisoner!'” [Tony Campolo, Let Me Tell You a Story (Nashville: Word Publishing, 2000).] You can never be free to be a whole person if you are unable to forgive. You see that, don’t you? There are many people who are imprisoned by their own anger, their own hurt, their own inability to let go of the past and move on. Here’s the other thing we need to see about forgiveness: THERE IS ONLY ONE PLACE YOU CAN FIND THE ABILITY TO FORGIVE. It is at the throne of Christ. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony
2) Jackie Joyner-Kersee formula: Jackie Joyner-Kersee, one of the world’s best female athletes, who holds the world record in the heptathlon, and is a three-time Olympic gold medalist, and her husband, Bobby, have a unique solution for discussing problems. Off the side of their house is an office which they’ve designated the “Mad Room.” Whenever they have a serious disagreement, Bobby and Jackie go to the “Mad Room” to discuss it. Neither is allowed to leave that room until the matter is settled. What a great idea! This couple is committed to making certain their conflicts do not smolder and get out of hand. They understand that Jesus was right in warning us that who is right is sometimes not as important as maintaining communication. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony
3) “What a Friend We Have in Jesus!” There was a Church where the pastor and the minister of music were not getting along. As time went by, this began to spill over into the worship service. The first week the pastor preached on commitment and how we all should dedicate ourselves to the service of God. The music director led the song, “I Shall Not Be Moved.” The second week the pastor preached on tithing and how we all should gladly give to the work of the Lord. The director led the song, “Jesus Paid it All.” The third week the pastor preached on gossiping and how we should all watch our tongues. The music director led the song, “I Love to Tell the Story.” With all this going on, the pastor became very disgusted over the situation and the following Sunday told the congregation that he was considering resigning. The musician led the song, “Oh Why Not Tonight?” As it came to pass, the pastor did indeed resign. The next week he informed the Church that it was Jesus who led him there and it was Jesus who was taking him away. The music leader led the song, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus!” Is there anybody you have trouble getting along with? Today’s Gospel teaches how to proceed. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony
4) Marshall Tito and Bishop Sheen: In a little church in a small village, an altar boy serving the priest at Sunday Mass accidentally dropped the cruet of wine. The village priest struck the altar boy sharply on the cheek and in a gruff voice shouted, “Leave the altar and don’t come back.” That boy became Tito, the Communist leader. In the cathedral of a large city in another place, another altar boy serving the bishop at Sunday Mass also accidentally dropped the cruet of wine. With a warm twinkle in his eyes, the bishop gently whispered, “Someday you will be a priest.” Do you know who that boy was? Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen. How do you deal with others who have caused problems for you? Jesus has the answer in today’s Gospel: with straight talk, due process, but most of all, with grace. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony
5) Childish stupidity: Here are some clippings from the national media: — In one of those good news/bad news things, school officials in Boston, mirroring a national trend, report that fighting by boys in school yards is down. Picking up the slack, unfortunately, are girls, who are resorting less to name-calling and more to punch-throwing. Equal opportunity stupidity, I guess. [The Old Farmer’s Almanac, 1998 (Dublin, NH: Yankee Publishing, Inc., 1997]. — Some years back there was a report in the press that Turkish Airlines had fired pilot Altan Tezcan and co-pilot Erdogan Gecim. It seems these two were flying 240 passengers from Bangkok to Istanbul when they got into a fist fight in the cockpit while arguing over the plane’s altitude. It’s important that we choose our battles. Endangering a planeload of passengers by fighting over who’s right is irresponsible. — In September 1996, Mark E. Mire was convicted in Baton Rouge, La., for shooting to death a man in a bar in 1994 because the man had said Mire’s dog was ugly. My guess is that this was drunken stupidity. — A few years ago, at the Daytona 500, NASCAR legend Richard Petty was in third place going into the last lap. All at once the car in second place tried to pass the No. 1 car on the final stretch. This caused the first car to drift inside and forced the challenged driver onto the infield grass, and slightly out of control. What happened next was incredible. The offended driver pulled his car back onto the track, caught up with the leader, and forced him into the outside wall. Both vehicles came to a screeching halt. The two drivers jumped out and quickly got into an old-fashioned slugging match. In the meantime, third-place Petty cruised by for the win. [Bruce Nash and Allan Zullo, The Misfortune (New York: Simon & Schuster, Inc., 1988), pp. 125-126]. Good ol’ boy stupidity. — Wouldn’t it be great if we could take interpersonal hostility out of life? Wouldn’t it be great if we could live in peace and harmony with all people? Well, Jesus tried to help us out with this. “If your brother sins against you,” said Jesus, “Go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.” (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony
6) Why does the Church refuse to provide discipline for her members? When a sixteen-year-old stays out all night drinking, then drives home, a father disciplines him with grounding. When a student cuts class, is late with papers, and turns in inferior work, a college professor disciplines him with failing marks. When an employee is lazy and is caught pilfering company goods, his boss disciplines him by firing him. At the businessman’s club, a member who skips meetings and refuses to join in service projects is disciplined by dismissal from club membership. A Church member having an adulterous affair – what happens? Nothing. A Church member who has not attended worship in six months and has no legitimate excuse except a busy social schedule – what happens? Nothing. A pastor, hard-working and faithful, yet is being slandered by a mean-spirited and disgruntled Church member – what happens? Absolutely nothing. Indeed! The question is, why does the Church refuse to provide discipline for her members? One reason is that we are ignorant of what the Scriptures say, verses like the text in Matthew 18:15-20. We either do not know the verse, or we pass over it in disbelief. We also are afraid to discipline sin in the church because of popular verses that are taken out of context and improperly interpreted. “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” “Judge not that you may not be judged.” Indeed, we surmise, how can a sinner correct a sinner? The result is, there is precious little discipline in the typical Church today. People do as they please. We forget the fact that before the Christian congregation can be salt and light, before it can reach out in service to a broken world, it needs to get its own act straightened out. That is why the bulk of Matthew’s code of discipline for Church life is packed into today’s Gospel text. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony
7) Albanian blood feuds: According to people who have been there, the country of Albania is one of the more challenged countries in the world. It is on the fringe of Europe, but it has none of the advantages enjoyed by Western nations. One of the reasons may be Albania’s culture of revenge. It is unlike anything seen elsewhere in the modern world. It’s common in Albania to have blood feuds which date back many generations. In each family, the men of the family bear a solemn obligation to avenge any harm done not only to their families, but also to their ancestors’ families, and this obligation is passed down to each son as soon as he reaches an age of responsibility. If one man kills another man, the family of the victim is required to seek vengeance on any male members of the killer’s family, even decades later if necessary. James Pettifer, author of the Blue Guide to Albania, reports that there are “some 2,000 blood feuds going on in Albania and that as many as 60,000 people are involved.” [Rourke, P.J. Eat the Rich (New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1998), p. 52]. What a tragic loss of life! An integral part of the Christian ethic is forgiveness. Our Lord taught us that, before we can be forgiven, we must forgive others. This emphasis on forgiveness distinguishes us from every other religion on earth. Imagine how different our world would be today if, after the Second World War, people living in Allied countries had not forgiven the peoples of Germany, Japan and Italy. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony
8) “He is a camel thief.” Many years ago, Colonel Jeff O’Leary served as part of the UN peacekeeping forces in the Sinai Peninsula region. While there, he encountered a number of Bedouins, a nomadic people who travel this desert region. One afternoon, Colonel O’Leary had tea with a group of Bedouin men. Colonel O’Leary couldn’t help but notice that his host kept staring at a man who was tending his camels. The host pointed out the man and hissed at Colonel O’Leary, “Do you see that man? He is a camel thief.” Colonel O’Leary wanted to know why his host would hire a camel thief to tend his camels, so he began asking questions. Turns out that, in his host’s eyes, this man was a camel thief because he came from a family of camel thieves. Why were they a family of camel thieves? Because one of their ancestors had once stolen some camels from this man’s family. How long ago, O’Leary asked. Eight hundred years ago, the Bedouin host replied. For eight hundred years, the host’s family and this man’s family had hated each other, because one man had stolen the other man’s camels. For eight hundred years, the host’s family had passed down the story of the camel thief. Forgiveness was not an option for them. In the Bedouin host’s mind, the crime was just as horrible as if it had occurred yesterday, and this man was just as much a thief as his ancestor who had actually stolen the camels. [Colonel Jeff O’Leary, Taking the High Ground (Colorado Springs, CO: Victor, 2001), pp. 240-241] Imagine how difficult it would be to build a better world if all the peoples of the world operated on this same principle. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony
9) Born Again: Most of us are familiar with Chuck Colson’s role as hatchet man for Richard Nixon in the days before Watergate. A few of us have perhaps read his moving book, Born Again. In it, he tells of those days of pain and humiliation that have become a regrettable part of our national legacy. On the evening before Colson pleaded guilty to charges of obstructing justice, three men joined him at home, staying until well into the night: ex-Senator Harold Hughes; former Texas congressman Graham Purcell; and lay worker, Douglas Coe. They were not there to give Colson legal or professional support. They were there to pray with him and to give him the moral and spiritual strength to do what he knew was right. Their prayers did not prevent Colson’s incarceration, but those prayers did enable him to come through his prison ordeal a wiser and better man and to touch many lives in a positive manner along the way. What a grand opportunity Christ has given us! That is why it is so important to maintain harmony among believers. There is much power in a Church that is united. That is the crowning conclusion to this passage. “For where two or more are gathered in My Name, there am I in the midst of them.” (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony
10) “’My goodness, God has a long reach.’ I mean, in the Lucky’s Supermarket on a Sunday morning.” The Washington Times carried a story not long ago about Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. According to this newspaper article, Dr. Rice once described to a Sunday school class at National Presbyterian Church in Washington, how she had drifted from her Christian Faith and how God reached out and brought her back: “I was a preacher’s kid,” says Dr. Rice, “so Sundays were Church, no doubt about that. The Church was the center of our lives.” In segregated black Birmingham of the late 1950s and early 1960s, the Church was not just a place of worship. It was the place where families gathered; it was the social center of the community, too. “Although I never doubted the existence of God,” Dr. Rice continues, “I think, like all people, I’ve had some ups and downs in my Faith. When I first moved to California in 1981 to join the faculty at Stanford, there were a lot of years when I was not attending Church regularly. I was traveling a lot. I was a specialist in international politics, so I was always traveling abroad. I was always in another time zone. One Sunday I was in the Lucky’s Supermarket not very far from my house, I will never forget, among the spices, and an African-American man walked up to me and said he was buying some things for his Church picnic. And he said, ‘Do you play the piano by any chance?’ I said, ‘Yes.’ They said they were looking for someone to play the piano at Church. It was a little African-American church right in the center of Palo Alto. A Baptist church. So I started playing for that Church. That got me regularly back into Churchgoing. I don’t play Gospel very well; I play Brahms. And you know how black ministers will start a song and the musicians will pick it up? I had no idea what I was doing, and so I called my mother, who had played for Baptist churches. ‘’Mother,’ I said, ‘they just start. How am I supposed to do this?’ She said, ‘Honey, play in C and they’ll come back to you.’ And that’s true,” says Dr. Rice, “If you play in C, people will come back. I tell that story,” she goes on, “because I thought to myself, ‘My goodness, God has a long reach.’ I mean, in the Lucky’s Supermarket on a Sunday morning.” (http://www.ehpchurch.org/folder/070404.html.) — You see, a black pastor had approached someone else in Jesus’ name, and Christ was there in Lucky’s Supermarket. We are not alone. This is where we find strength for the journey. Our Lord has given us an incredible promise: “Where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” He’s been here today. Now take Him to everyone you meet. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony
11)”When did this happen?” Christian author Jill Briscoe was counseling a woman who also was dealing with a great load of emotional pain. In the course of their conversation, the woman blurted out, “My husband abused me.” Slowly, she shared the painful details of her suffering. Yet as Jill listened, she noticed no marks on the woman that would indicate the horrible abuse she had endured. Finally, she asked the woman, “When did this happen?” And the woman replied, “Twenty years ago.” Twenty years ago! I don’t want to seem insensitive, but friends, it is time for that woman to let go and move on. Because she had never healed emotionally from the abusive relationship, the pain was still just as intense in her mind as on the day he first hit her. Until she could work through her pain and forgive her ex-husband, this woman would continue to relive her pain and fear. [Jill Briscoe, Heartstrings (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1997), pp.45-46]. Dr. Michael Brickley, a psychologist who studies successful aging in our culture, claims that most centenarians (people who make it to 100 years old), or more, have learned to get rid of “emotional baggage” from the past. Old hurts, past failures, unfinished business, unresolved relationships, regret – centenarians learn how to process these issues in a healthy manner and let them go. [Michael Brickley, “The Extended Life: Four Strategies for Healthy Longevity,” The Futurist (Sept.-Oct. 2001), p. 55.] (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony
12) “There are no fish under the ice.” A drunk decides to go ice fishing, so he gathers his gear and goes walking around until he finds a big patch of ice. He heads into the center of the ice and begins to saw a hole. All of sudden, a loud booming voice comes out of the sky. “You will find no fish under that ice.” The drunk looks around, but sees no one. He starts sawing again. Once more, the voice speaks. “As I said before, there are no fish under the ice.” The drunk looks all around, high and low, but can’t see a single soul. He picks up the saw and tries one more time to finish. Before he can even start cutting, the huge voice interrupts. “I have warned you three times now. This is not a lake and there are no fish!” The drunk is now flustered and somewhat scared; so he asks the voice, “How do you know there are no fish? Are you God trying to warn me?” “No,” the voice replied. “I am the manager of this ice hockey rink.” –Today’s readings are about correcting our brothers and sisters with loving concern for the temporal and spiritual welfare of the community. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony
13)”Let us have harmony!” More than thirty years ago, a brief story appeared in Reader’s Digest about a town in Minnesota that got its name in a strange way. When the community was first settled, it had no name. People began to move to the area, and soon the townspeople called a meeting to choose a name for their town. Many suggestions were made, but they couldn’t agree on the name. The discussion soon became heated and quarrelsome. One man in attendance that night became so disgusted by the way things were going that he jumped up, pounded on the table with his fist, and shouted, “Let us have harmony!” Someone present suddenly seized the idea and shouted back, “Yes! Let’s have harmony!” And the town got its name: Harmony, Minnesota.
Harmony is a wonderful thing to have in a community, a family or a church. If harmony is going to take place, someone has to heed Jesus’ advice for reconciliation as given in today’s Gospel. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony
14) No Yankee, nor Sherman: Just a few years back, a man in Hardeeville, South Carolina went down to the Jasper County Courthouse. There he filed a deed restriction. The restriction barred the sale of any part of his 1,688-acre plantation to anyone north of the Mason-Dixon Line and anyone named Sherman. It seems that more than a century before, General William T. Sherman’s troops burned every building on this man’s property and Mr. Ingram vowed never to let his plantation fall into Yankee hands again. (Great Stories, Oct.-Dec. 1998, p. 6) Now there’s a man who knows how to hold a grudge. Unfortunately, he’s not alone. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony
15) “Dad, I just came over to tell you that I love you.” In one of the popular Chicken Soup volumes, Dennis E. Mannering tells about an assignment he once gave to a class he teaches for adults. He gave them the assignment, “Go to someone you love, and tell them that you love them.” At the beginning of the next class, one of the students began by saying, “I was angry with you last week when you gave us this assignment. I didn’t feel I had anyone to say those words to. But as I began driving home my conscience started talking. Then I knew exactly who I needed to say ‘I love you’ to. Five years ago, my father and I had a vicious disagreement and never really resolved it. We avoided seeing each other unless we absolutely had to at family gatherings. We hardly spoke. So by the time I got home, I had convinced myself I was going to tell my father I loved him. Just making that decision seemed to lift a heavy load off my chest. At 5:30, I was at my parents’ house ringing the doorbell, praying that Dad would answer the door. I was afraid if Mom answered, I would chicken out and tell her instead. But as luck would have it, Dad did answer the door. I didn’t waste any time. I took one step in the door and said, ‘Dad, I just came over to tell you that I love you.’ It was as if a transformation came over my dad. Before my eyes his face softened, the wrinkles seemed to disappear, and he began to cry. He reached out. But that’s not even my point. Two days after that visit, my dad had a heart attack So my message to all of you is this: Don’t wait to do the things you know need to be done. What if I had waited to tell my dad? Take the time to do what you need to do and do it now!” (“Do It Now!” Condensed Chicken Soup for Souls, Copyright 1996 by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen & Patty Hansen.). That’s the advice that Jesus would give us. People hurt us, sometimes intentionally, sometimes without meaning to. But sometimes who is in the right and who is in the wrong is not as important as finding a common ground where the relationship can be maintained. Sometimes that means that we have to take the first step, even though we know that the other person is in the wrong. And the best time to take that step is today! (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony
16) “I have no enemies. I shot them all.” When the great nineteenth-century Spanish General, Ramon Narvaez, lay dying in Madrid, a priest was called in to give him last rites. “Have you forgiven your enemies?” the padre asked. “Father,” confessed Narvaez, “I have no enemies. I shot them all.” Too often that is the story of our lives, and Jesus knows it. It was General Philip Sheridan who gave us the striking reflection in 1869, “The only good Indian is a dead Indian.” Post-9/11 there were many voices that seemed to echo his advice in the new and painful context. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony
17) We’ve all heard of Gilbert and Sullivan, the dynamic duo of the stage. They created fun-filled musicals and light operas a generation ago, giving high school drama departments and community theaters plenty of material to dazzle and delight. Their names always appeared in tandem on the programs: Gilbert & Sullivan’s H.M.S. Pinafore; Gilbert & Sullivan’s Patience; Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Mikado; Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance. It was as if they were a married couple. Indeed, much of their career felt like that. It was only right that their names be wedded together in common speech. At the height of their success, they even purchased a theater together so that they could exert full creative control over their new works. Then came the nasty disagreement. Sullivan ordered the installation of new carpets. But when the bill arrived, Gilbert hit the roof at the cost and refused to share in payment. They argued and fought about it, and finally took the case to court. A legal judgment settled the claim, but it did nothing to heal the breach between them. These grown men never spoke to one another again as long as they lived. When Sullivan wrote the music for a new production, he would mail it to Gilbert. Then, when Gilbert finished the libretto, he would post it back to Sullivan again. Gilbert quarantined Sullivan in the prison of his mind, and Sullivan banished Gilbert from his social continent. Eventually, they each became warders for the prison of the other. Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel are very pertinent. We are social creatures who cannot live in isolation. Yet, because of the sin and stupidity that trouble our human condition, we do not live well with those around us. That is why the German philosopher, Schopenhauer, compared us to porcupines trying to nest together on a cold winter’s night. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony
18) “Not bad for a small Church like ours. Not bad.” Our text for the morning reminds me of a story of a pastor in a drought-stricken part of the South who implored his people to begin praying for rain. In fact, he asked each member of the Church to join in a prayer vigil that would continue day and night until God granted their request. Never had there been a greater sense of urgency in that Church than was revealed over the next few days. At any hour, one might pass that small rural church and find the lights on and someone at the altar praying. Finally, late Wednesday evening, some dark clouds began to roll in. Soon rain began falling in torrents. For four straight days it rained without ceasing. The creeks began overflowing their banks. It became necessary to evacuate persons from their homes. Still the water kept rising. The entire community was now under water. As rescue workers made their way in a boat through the perilous floodwater evacuating the last reluctant stragglers, one of the boats passed that little country Church, now almost completely submerged. Here sat the pastor on the roof of the Church with a look of grand satisfaction on his face. He could be heard saying to himself as he surveyed the flood waters around him, “Not bad for a small Church like ours! Not bad!” Jesus said, “If two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in Heaven.” That is a stunning endorsement of corporate prayer. It is important that we pray, but it is even more important that we pray together. We are a community. Better yet, we are a family. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony
20) ‘Then I can live without my legs.” Roy A. Burkhart told this story. Once a boy went out of his home to do something that his parents felt was wrong. He was involved in an accident and lost both legs. It was a terrible blow, but the father told me one of the most beautiful stories I have ever heard. He said, “When his mother and I saw him in the hospital cot lying there aware that he had lost both legs, he said, ‘Will you forgive me?’ We both ran up and hugged him and said, ‘Of course; we have already forgiven you.’ And he answered, ‘Then I can live without my legs.’ ” (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony
21) “Won’t you tell him so yourself?” Wilhelmina Schroder, a famous actress and singer, was already past her prime. One day she was traveling from Hamburg to Frankfurt in a first-class carriage. The conversation turned on herself. A lady declared that Ms. Schroder’s voice had much gone off, her future as a star was over. She had gone as podgy as a fatted goose. A gentleman beside her, overhearing this criticism, suggested with a smile: “You can say that to the singer herself because she happens to be sitting opposite to you.” The lady paled and stammered a string of apologies. At last she came upon a saving excuse. “My stupid remarks madam”, she said to the actress, “are certainly the fault of the journalist in the evening paper. One can never trust in his poisonous theatre reviews. A dreadful man that journalist!” The actress replied sweetly: “Won’t you tell him so yourself? He is sitting right besides you.”– Jesus advises us in today’s Gospel to correct our erring brother or sister with forging love. (Pierre Lefevre –One Hundred Stories to Change your Life; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony
22Praying together: In 1868, Susan B. Anthony and her friend Elizabeth Cady Stanton persuaded a Congressman to introduce an amendment to grant voting rights to American Women. Although their efforts failed at the time, they began the Women’s Suffrage Movement, which gradually gained momentum until the 19th Amendment was finally passed in 1920. Today we see the results of the revolution Susan and Elizabeth began as more and more women not only decide political elections with their votes, but also participate in them as candidates themselves. Other examples of two or three people getting together to initiate significant change include: Ralph Nader and consumer advocate groups, and MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Drivers). Jesus presents his own pressure group version in today’s Gospel and he does it in the context of prayer. “If two or three of you join your voices on earth to pray for anything whatever, it shall be granted you by my Father in Heaven. Where two or three are gathered in My Name, there am I in their midst.” (Albert Cylwicki in His Word Resounds; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony
23Long Walk to Freedom: In his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, Nelson Mandela describes his long years of imprisonment on Robben Island. He tells how one day he was called to the main office. General Steyn was visiting the Islands and wanted to know from Mandela if the other prisoners had any complaints. Badenhorst, the officer in command of the island, was also present. Now Badenhorst was feared and hated by the prisoners. In a calm, but forceful and truthful manner, Mandela informed the visitor about the chief complaints of the prisoners. But he did so without bitterness or recriminations. The general duly took notice of what he had to say, which amounted to a damning indictment of Badenhorst’s regime. The following day Badenhorst went to Mandela and said, “I’m leaving the Island. I just want to wish you people good luck.” The remark left Mandela dumbfounded. Mandela says that he thought of the incident for a long time afterwards. Badenhorst was perhaps the most callous and barbaric commanding officer they had had on the Island. But that incident revealed that there was another side to his nature, a side that had been obscured but that still existed. And Mandela concludes, “It is a useful reminder that all men, even the seemingly cold-blooded, have a core of decency, and that if their hearts are touched, they are capable of changing. (Flor McCarthy in New Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony
24) Two or three, bound or free! A couple was constantly quarrelling for the flimsiest of reasons. Once, after a heated argument with his wife, the man shouted, “Why can’t we live peacefully like our two dogs who never fight?” “No, they don’t,” agreed his wife; and added, “but bind them together as we’re bound, and see what happens!” When two or three individuals are bound – as in matrimony or in family – conflicts inevitably arise. Today’s readings instruct us about conflict-resolution. Like the husband and wife perpetually on the warpath, it’s not easy to live in family and community. A bachelor friend once remarked, “It’s better to be alone than in the best of company!” But, Jesus says, “If two of you agree about anything they ask, it will be done by my Father in Heaven. For where two or three are gathered in My Name, there am I in the midst of them.” Jesus stresses community indicated by the use of two or three. (Francis Gonsalves in Sunday Seeds for Gospel Deedsquoted by Fr. Botelho). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony
25) Mrs. O’Neil’s Test: Jerome Weidman, author of the book Hand of the Hunter, was involved in such a situation as a boy. He said that about 30 years ago he was attending a public school on New York’s lower East Side. He had a third-grade arithmetic teacher named Mrs. O’Neill. One day she gave her class a test. When she was grading the papers, she noticed that 12 boys had given the same unusual wrong answer to the same question. The next day she asked the 12 boys to remain after the dismissal bell. Then, without accusing any of them, she wrote 21 words on the board. They read: “The measure of a man’s real character is what he would do if he knew he would never be found out.” Then she wrote the name of the man who said them: Thomas Babington Macaulay. Weidman wrote: “I don’t know about the other 11 boys. Speaking for the only one of the dozen with whom I am on intimate terms, I can say this: it was the most important single lesson of my life.” (Mark Link in Sunday Homilies; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony
26) Putting Despair on Film: In Mel Gibson’s movie, The Passion of the Christ, one of the most haunting scenes shows Judas as he gives into despair. It is the morning of Good Friday, and Judas has spent the night being tortured with regret for his betrayal. His years of hidden sins have finally led him down a path of hopelessness and despair. Of course, even then Jesus would have forgiven him, if he had just asked for forgiveness. But his deep selfish habits have put him under the devil’s power, and he can’t seem to shake himself loose. He finds himself outside the walls of Jerusalem, alone with his anguish. Then he notices something on the ground nearby and turns towards it. It is a dead donkey. The carcass is rotting, foul, and crawling with worms and maggots. At that point, in the film, Judas begins to weep, and then he hangs himself from a nearby tree. It was a difficult scene to film, because showing utter despair is not an easy thing to do. They did a lot of takes, but couldn’t get it quite right. Then Mel Gibson gave the following instruction to the actor playing Judas: “When you see that rotting donkey carcass, you have to think to yourself: ‘My soul is in worse condition than that.’” The very next take was perfect: the look of despair and hopelessness, the tears – it all flowed just right. That’s a perfect image for sin. Sin causes death in the soul. It corrodes the human heart, poisons relationships – especially our relationship with God – and distorts our true self. That’s why Jesus is so insistent about not ignoring it. (E- Priest). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony
27) “Your color like mine is green.” On a busy corner in New York City a burly, Irish cop is directing traffic. He notices that a fellow cross the street at the orange caution light. The traffic cop stops him. He discovers he is a fellow Irishman. Gently he says, “Your color like mine is green.” The perp gets back on the curb. The light turns green. The man walks across. As he passes him, the cop says with a smile, “We don’t give an Orangeman a chance around here.” (Arthur Tonne). The cop has much to teach us. He was not humiliating the pedestrian. Rather, he was emphasizing gently but firmly that he must cross on the green and not in between. He did not make a Federal case out of the incident. He surrounded his reprimand with such good humor the guilty party could not fault it. The cop didn’t find a fault; he found a remedy. His intent was not to win a battle but to win over the offender. The cop believed that society is improved one life at a time. (Homilies.net). — Today’s Gospel teaches us how to make fraternal correction. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony
28) Film –The Devil’s Advocate: When a talented small-town Southern lawyer, Kevin Lomax, discovers his client is guilty, he goes to the restroom to compose himself. He returns to the courtroom, humiliates the prosecution’s young witness and emerges victorious. Soon after, he is offered an opportunity to join a prestigious firm in New York. His wife is uncertain about the move and his very religious mother is against it, but he joins, and strange things happen in New York. Kevin’s wife is lonely and hallucinates, Kevin’s confidence in his work begins to falter, he is attracted to a female lawyer, and his relationship with his wife suffers. He gets a wealthy but guilty businessman acquitted of murder charges. Kevin’s wife claims that she has been assaulted by John Milton the company’s head. When Kevin confronts Milton, he discovers that Milton is the devil incarnate who offers Kevin the world and the opportunity to sire an Antichrist. Milton reveals that Kevin is actually his son, and Kevin puts a gun to his head and pulls the trigger. … Suddenly, Kevin is back in the restroom where he had gone to plan the next move for his guilty client. He decides to do the right and noble thing – to discontinue defending the client, knowing that he will be disbarred. But as he leaves the courtroom, a journalist asks Kevin for an interview that will make him a celebrity. — The Devil’s Advocate deals explicitly with sin, and the screenplay raises themes of God, the devil, salvation, damnation and free-will. The film is about choices people have to make to live an upright life with all its challenges, or to live an easy life that leads to doom. Jesus, in today’s Gospel, reminds us that we have to make a choice for God or for the Satan. The way of the devil is attractive and comfortable. The way of the Messiah is the way of the Cross, hard, challenging but in the end fulfilling.
(Peter Malone in Lights Camera..Faith! Quoted by Fr. Botelho). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony
29) It wasn’t easy…To play the role of a leader, a prophet, is never easy and entails readiness to face hardship and suffering. Nelson Mandela spent twenty-seven years in prison or ten thousand days approximately. Before that he was on the run for a couple of years. Of the years he was on the run, he wrote later in the Long Walk to Freedom: “It wasn’t easy for me to separate myself from my wife and children, to say good-bye to the good old days when, at the end of a strenuous day at the office, I could look forward to joining my family at the dinner table, and instead take up the life of a man hunted continuously by the police, living separated from those who are closest to me, facing continually the hazards of detention and arrest. This was a life infinitely more difficult than serving a prison sentence.”
(Flor McCarthy in New Sunday and Holy Day Homilies; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony
30) Losing to gain: In the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, 16-year-old Mary Lou Retton became the first American girl to win a gold medal in gymnastics. To accomplish this extraordinary feat, she had to make many sacrifices during her two-year period of intense training prior to the Olympics. While other teenagers were enjoying themselves with a full schedule of dating and dancing, Mary Lou Retton could only participate on a very limited basis. To improve her skills she had to practice long hours in the gym; to nourish her body properly she had to follow a strict diet, and to increase her confidence she had to compete frequently in meets. But what Mary Lou Retton gave up in terms of good times and junk food was little compared to what she gained in self-satisfaction and public acclaim when she won her Olympic gold medal. What she lost in the usual social life of a teenager she found in the special setting of becoming a champion gymnast -acceptance, camaraderie and respect.– Mary Lou Retton’s Olympic experience illustrates Christ’s paradox in today’s Scriptures. (Quoted by Fr. Botelho). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony
31) Heroes who realized the responsibility each one of us has regarding the spiritual welfare and salvation of others: Every once in a while, the daily gloomy reporting of the world’s violence, wars, hatred and inhumanity is pierced by an account of selfless courage and altruism. One such account featured the heroism of Lenny Skutnik, an erstwhile meatpacker, house painter, factory worker and short-order cook. A heavy storm had blanketed Washington D.C. on the afternoon of January 13, 1982. Skutnik was making his evening commute to his home in Virginia when Air Florida, Flight 90 struck the 14th Street Bridge and plunged into the Potomac River shortly after taking off from National Airport. Hundreds of horrified commuters stood on the river’s banks while rescue efforts were attempted by helicopter. When Skutnik made his way to the shore, he found the plane, partially submerged with several passengers clinging to the wreckage. Without hesitation, he jumped into the icy waters and managed to save one of the passengers, a woman. Seventy-eight other passengers perished. Later, when interviewed about his heroic efforts, Skutnik said simply, “Nobody else was doing anything. It was the only way.” Similar accounts of heroism tell of people rushing into buildings, engulfed in fire, in order to save the life of another. One report told of a mother who repeatedly returned to her burning home, and although her injuries soon proved to be fatal ones, she succeeded in saving all six of her children. Soldiers can recount comparable incidents of bravery. The Portland Oregonian newspaper carried this story from the Vietnam War. Several soldiers were together in a trench when a live grenade was thrown in among them. Within an instant, one soldier threw his body on the grenade and muffled the explosion which took his life but saved all of the others with him. Even as I write these words, there are people risking their lives for others; rescuers are wading chest-deep in the alligator and snake infested muck of the Florida Everglades, searching for possible survivors of a recent plane crash. In each of these reports of courage and selflessness, the heroes and/or heroines have chosen to put themselves at risk for the well-being and safety of another. — In a sense, believers are proffered a similar challenge in today’s readings. Both the first reading (Ezekiel) and the Gospel (Matthew) are concerned with the responsibility each one of us has regarding the spiritual welfare and salvation of others. (Patricia Datchuck S├ínchez). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony
32) Correct with your life! A man approached St. Francis of Assisi and asked him, “Brother Francis, I am in a quandary. In the Bible, it says we should rebuke sinners, but I see people sinning all the time. I don’t feel like I should go around rebuking everybody.” St. Francis then said, “What you must do is to live in such a way that your life rebukes the sinner– How you act will call others to repentance.” (Johnson V. in The Sunday Liturgy) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony
33) “Don’t you know there is a smoking car up ahead?” The story is told of a lady who was having a pleasant journey travelling by train from New York to Philadelphia as there was only one more passenger besides her. But her joy was short-lived when the man lit a cigar and started smoking. The lady deliberately coughed and made an unpleasant face. Nothing worked. He continued to smoke. Then she blurted out: “You might be a foreigner. Don’t you know there is a smoking car up ahead? Smoking is prohibited here.” The man quietly put out the cigar and maintained his equanimity. When the conductor came to check the tickets, the lady realized with horror that her co-passenger was the famous General Ulysses Grant. She had boarded his private car by mistake. As the lady made a hasty exit, the General did not even look her way so as not to embarrass her. He turned his head and smiled only after the lady was out of sight. (Anonymous)(http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony
34) Moving beyond the argument: Having an argument with someone we love is not unusual.  We all experience rifts of various degrees with family and friends.  There are times when we all act insensitively and say hurtful things. The question is how we deal with those arguments and heal those rifts.
In a recent article in The Wall Street Journal (July 15, 2014), reporter Elizabeth Bernstein spoke with psychologists, therapists and counselors about how to best make up after an argument. One psychologist summarized the process this way:  “You don’t want to avoid [conflict].  You want to manage it.” How?  The Journal article outlines five steps: First:  Wait to talk.  Give time for both of you to calm down.  If one side is still “hot,” the other’s apology will only escalate the argument. Second:  Give up the idea of being right.  Remember that each of you believes that you are right, and the other is in the wrong.  Focus instead on each other’s feelings. Third: Verbalize your understanding of how the other person feels:  “I understand that you are hurt because . . . “ And ask if you are correct. Fourth:  Quash the impulse to defend yourself.  If you apologize and the other person says, “Yes, you behaved badly,” just nod your head.  Explain to the other that you really care about him or her and that you are willing to modify your behavior. Fifth:  Accept the fact that it will take a while to feel better.  Care enough to check in later.  If each of you shows the other that you really care, the larger issues will resolve themselves. And never use the word “but” in an apology.  “I’m sorry, but . . . ” undermines the entire purpose of apologizing. The point of both The Wall Street Journal article and today’s Gospel is that reconciliation takes determined and focused work.  Elizabeth Bernstein offers several insights into healing a rift between family members and friends; Jesus outlines a process for reconciling a conflict within a community. (Connections)(http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony
35) Tribal reconciliation: One summer evening after a festal hour of singing and dancing the whole tribe sat around the chieftain. He began to speak to them: “If you have quarreled with a brother and you have decided to kill him,” as he spoke he looked directly at the one of the group, “first sit down, fill your pipe and smoke it. When you have finished smoking you will realize that death is too severe a punishment for your enemy for the fault he has committed, and you decide to give a good whipping instead. Then you fill your pipe a second time and smoke it to the bottom. By then you feel that the lashes will be too much and instead some simple words of reproof would be sufficient. Then when the third time you have filled your pipe and smoked it to the finish, you will be better convinced that the better thing to do is going to that brother and embrace him.” (Fr. Lakra) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony
36) Sisterly correction from the best friend: I love Margot Fonteyn’s autobiography, written with the fluency that distinguishes her dancing. The famous English ballerina narrates an incident in which she experienced a sisterly correction from her best friend, Pamela May (cf. MARGOT FONTEYN: Her Own Best Selling Autobiography, London: Wyndham Publications Ltd., 1976, p. 98-99).  Pamela May was away from the ballet for quite a while having a baby. June Brae, the other member of our ‘triptych’, had met David Breeden at Cambridge at the same time that I met Tito and Pamela met Painton. June and David married early in the war, and their daughter was born soon after Pamela’s son. I seemed to be the odd girl out. Alone in No. 1 dressing room, without my closest friends, I developed a star complex, and for a time I was really impossible, imagining that I was different from, and superior to, those around me. Then Pamela came to see us. It was soon after she had been widowed. Completely broken up by her loss and living as she did facing up to stark reality, she was in no mood to put up with my fanciful airs. She told me outright that I had become a bore. Thinking it over, I decided that I far preferred the company of my friends to the isolated pinnacle implied by the title “Prima Ballerina Assoluta”, which I had been trying to reach, so I climbed down. As a matter of fact, it had been partly the fault of what I call false friends – those who, with the best will, and believing themselves your warmest admirers, unwittingly destroy you with such talk as: “People didn’t realize how great you are”; “You are the greatest ballerina alive; people should fall back in awe when you leave the stage door”; “You should be treated like a queen.” All of which is, of course, rubbish. (Lectio Divina). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony
37) U. S. Catholics must be sentinel prophets: The following excerpt from the document, “The Challenge of Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship”, issued by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in November 2007, illustrates what it means to be a “sentinel prophet” in the world today. The Bishops speak out against the sinful situations of the society and at the same time offer guidelines toward a well-formed conscience that is in consonance with truth. “Our nation faces political challenges that demand urgent moral choices. We are a nation at war, with all of its human costs; a country often divided by race and ethnicity; a nation of immigrants struggling with immigration. We are an affluent society where too many live in poverty; part of a global community confronting terrorism and facing urgent threats to our environment; a culture built on families, where some now question the value of marriage and family life. We pride ourselves on supporting human rights, but we fail even to protect the fundamental right to life, especially for unborn children. We bishops seek to help Catholics form their consciences in accordance with the truth, so they can make sound moral choices in addressing these challenges. We do not tell Catholics how to vote. The responsibility to make political choices rests in each person and his or her properly formed conscience.”…” In light of Catholic teaching, as bishops we rigorously repeat our call for a renewed politics that focuses on moral principles, the defense of life, the needs of the weak, and the pursuit of the common good. This kind of political participation reflects the social teachings of our Church and the best traditions of our nation.” (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony
38) “But I have many more bridges to build.” The following beautiful story, “The Carpenter”, circulated through the internet, gives a glimpse on how to promote mutual and forgiving love in our community. Once upon a time, two brothers who lived on adjoining farms fell into conflict. It was the first serious rift in 40 years of farming side-by-side, sharing machinery and trading labor and goods as needed without a hitch.  
Then the long collaboration fell apart. It began with a small misunderstanding and it grew into a major difference and finally, it exploded into an exchange of bitter words followed by weeks of silence. One morning there was a knock on John’s door. He opened it to find a man with a carpenter’s toolbox. “I’m looking for a few days’ work”, he said. “Perhaps you would have a few small jobs here and there I could help with? Could I help you? “Yes”, said the older brother. “I do have a job for you. Look across the creek at that farm. That’s my neighbor. In fact, it’s my younger brother! Last week there was meadow between us. He recently took his bulldozer to the river levee and now there is a creek between us. Well, he may have done this to spite me, but I’ll do him one better. See that pile of lumber by the barn? I want you to build me a fence, an 8-foot fence – so I won’t need to see his place or his face anymore.” The carpenter said, “I think I understand the situation. Show me the nails and the post-hole digger and I’ll be able to do a job that pleases you.” The older brother had to go to town, so he helped the carpenter get the materials ready and then he was off for the day. The carpenter worked hard all that day – measuring, sawing and nailing. About sunset when the farmer returned, the carpenter had just finished his job. The farmer’s eyes opened wide; his jaw dropped. There was no fence there at all. It was a bridge! A bridge that stretched from one side of the creek to the other! A fine piece of work, handrails and all! And the neighbor, his younger brother, was coming toward him, his hand outstretched. “You are quite a fellow to build this bridge after all I’ve said and done.” The two brothers stood at each end of the bridge, and then they met in the middle, taking each other’s hand. They turned to see the carpenter hoist his toolbox onto his shoulder. “No, wait! Stay a few days. I’ve a lot of other projects for you”, said the older brother. “I’d love to stay on”, the carpenter said, “but I have many more bridges to build.”(Lectio Divina). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony



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One New Year's Eve at London's Garrick Club, British dramatist Frederick Lonsdale was asked by Symour Hicks to reconcile with a fellow member. The two had quarreled in the past and never restored their friendship. "You must," Hicks said to Lonsdale. "It is very unkind to be unfriendly at such a time. Go over now and wish him a happy New Year."

So Lonsdale crossed the room and spoke to his enemy. "I wish you a happy New Year," he said, "but only one."

Today in the Word, July 5, 1993.


Shortly after the turn of the century, Japan invaded, conquered, and occupied Korea. Of all of their oppressors, Japan was the most ruthless. They overwhelmed the Koreans with a brutality that would sicken the strongest of stomachs. Their crimes against women and children were inhuman. Many Koreans live today with the physical and emotional scars from the Japanese occupation.

One group singled out for concentrated oppression was the Christians. When the Japanese army overpowered Korea one of the first things they did was board up the evangelical churches and eject most foreign missionaries. It has always fascinated me how people fail to learn from history. Conquering nations have consistently felt that shutting up churches would shut down Christianity. It didn't work in Rome when the church was established, and it hasn't worked since. Yet somehow the Japanese thought they would have a different success record.

The conquerors started by refusing to allow churches to meet and jailing many of the key Christian spokesmen. The oppression intensified as the Japanese military increased its profile in the South Pacific. The "Land of the Rising Sum" spread its influence through a reign of savage brutality. Anguish filled the hearts of the oppressed -- and kindled hatred deep in their souls.

One pastor persistently entreated his local Japanese police chief for permission to meet for services. His nagging was finally accommodated, and the police chief offered to unlock his church ... for one meeting. It didn't take long for word to travel. Committed Christians starving for an opportunity for unhindered worship quickly made their plans. Long before dawn on that promised Sunday, Korean families throughout a wide area made their way to the church. They passed the staring eyes of their Japanese captors, but nothing was going to steal their joy. As they closed the doors behind them they shut out the cares of oppression and shut in a burning spirit anxious to glorify their Lord.

The Korean church has always had a reputation as a singing church. Their voices of praise could not be concealed inside the little wooden frame sanctuary. Song after song rang through the open windows into the bright Sunday morning. For a handful of peasants listening nearby, the last two songs this congregation sang seemed suspended in time. It was during a stanza of "Nearer My God to Thee" that the Japanese police chief waiting outside gave the orders. The people toward the back of the church could hear them when they barricaded the doors, but no one realized that they had doused the church with kerosene until they smelled the smoke. The dried wooden skin of the small church quickly ignited. Fumes filled the structure as tongues of flame began to lick the baseboard on the interior walls. There was an immediate rush for the windows. But momentary hope recoiled in horror as the men climbing out the windows came crashing back in -- their bodies ripped by a hail of bullets. 

The good pastor knew it was the end. With a calm that comes from confidence, he led his congregation in a hymn whose words served as a fitting farewell to earth and a loving salutation to heaven. The first few words were all the prompting the terrified worshipers needed. With smoke burning their eyes, they instantly joined as one to sing their hope and leave their legacy. Their song became a serenade to the horrified and helpless witnesses outside. Their words also tugged at the hearts of the cruel men who oversaw this flaming execution of the innocent.

Alas! and did my Savior bleed?
and did my Sovereign die?
Would he devote that sacred head
for such a worm as I?
Just before the roof collapsed they sang the last verse,
their words an eternal testimony to their faith.
But drops of grief can ne'er repay
the debt of love I owe:
Here, Lord, I give myself away
'Tis all that I can do!
At the cross, at the cross
Where I first saw the light,
And the burden of my heart rolled away --
It was there by faith I received my sight,
And now I am happy all the day.

The strains of music and wails of children were lost in a roar of flames. The elements that once formed bone and flesh mixed with the smoke and dissipated into the air. The bodies that once housed life fused with the charred rubble of a building that once housed a church. But the souls who left singing finished their chorus in the throne room of God. Clearing the incinerated remains was the easy part. Erasing the hate would take decades. For some of the relatives of the victims, this carnage was too much. Evil had stooped to a new low, and there seemed to be no way to curb their bitter loathing of the Japanese.

In the decades that followed, that bitterness was passed on to a new generation. The Japanese, although conquered, remained a hated enemy. The monument the Koreans built at the location of the fire not only memorialized the people who died, but stood as a mute reminder of their pain.

Inner rest? How could rest coexist with a bitterness deep as marrow in the bones? Suffering, of course, is a part of life. People hurt people. Almost all of us have experienced it at some time. Maybe you felt it when you came home to find that your spouse had abandoned you, or when your integrity was destroyed by a series of well-timed lies, or when your company was bled dry by a partner. It kills you inside. Bitterness clamps down on your soul like iron shackles.

The Korean people who found it too hard to forgive could not enjoy the "peace that passes all understanding." Hatred choked their joy.

It wasn't until 1972 that any hope came. A group of Japanese pastors traveling through Korea came upon the memorial. When they read the details of the tragedy and the names of the spiritual brothers and sisters who had perished, they were overcome with shame. Their country had sinned, and even though none of them were personally involved (some were not even born at the time of the tragedy), they still felt a national guilt that could not be excused. They returned to Japan committed to right a wrong. There was an immediate outpouring of love from their fellow believers. They raised ten million yen ($25,000). The money was transferred through proper channels and a beautiful white church building was erected on the sight of the tragedy. When the dedication service for the new building was held, a delegation from Japan joined the relatives and special guests.

Although their generosity was acknowledged and their attempts at making peace appreciated, the memories were still there. Hatred preserves pain. It keeps the wounds open and the hurts fresh. The Koreans' bitterness had festered for decades. Christian brothers or not, these Japanese were descendants of a ruthless enemy. The speeches were made, the details of the tragedy recalled, and the names of the dead honored. It was time to bring the service to a close. Someone in charge of the agenda thought it would be appropriate to conclude with the same two songs that were sung the day the church was burned.  The song leader began the words to "Nearer My God to Thee." 

But something remarkable happened as the voices mingled on the familiar melody. As the memories of the past mixed with the truth of the song, resistance started to melt. The inspiration that gave hope to a doomed collection of churchgoers in a past generation gave hope once more. The song leader closed the service with the hymn "At the Cross." The normally stoic Japanese could not contain themselves. The tears that began to fill their eyes during the song suddenly gushed from deep inside. They turned to their Korean spiritual relatives and begged them to forgive. The guarded, calloused hearts of the Koreans were not quick to surrender. But the love of the Japanese believers --not intimidated by decades of hatred -- tore at the Koreans' emotions.

At the cross, at the cross
Where I first saw the light,
And the burden of my heart rolled away ...

One Korean turned toward a Japanese brother. Then another. And then the floodgates holding back a wave of emotion let go. The Koreans met their new Japanese friends in the middle. They clung to each other and wept. Japanese tears of repentance and Korean tears of forgiveness intermingled to bathe the site of an old nightmare. Heaven had sent the gift of reconciliation to a little white church in Korea. 

Tim Kimmel, Little House on the Freeway, p. 56-61.


A childhood accident caused poet Elizabeth Barrett to lead a life of semi-invalidism before she married Robert Browning in 1846. There's more to the story. In her youth, Elizabeth had been watched over by her tyrannical father. When she and Robert were married, their wedding was held in secret because of her father's disapproval. After the wedding the Brownings sailed for Italy, where they lived for the rest of their lives. But even though her parents had disowned her, Elizabeth never gave up on the relationship. Almost weekly she wrote them letters. Not once did they reply. After 10 years, she received a large box in the mail. Inside, Elizabeth found all of her letters; not one had been opened! Today those letters are among the most beautiful in classical English literature. Had her parents only read a few of them, their relationship with Elizabeth might have been restored. 

Daily Walk, May 30, 1992.


For the sake of each of us he laid down his life--worth no less than the universe. He demands of us in return our lives for the sake of each other. 

St. Clement of Alexandria.

The Civil War was carnage. Then Jefferson Davis of the Confederacy died. And Ulysses Grant of the Union died. Their widows, Varina Davis and Julia Grant, settled near each other. They became closest of friends.

Source Unknown.

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Sermons.com 

One of the things I like best about the New Testament is that it is so practical. It must have been the fact that Jesus had human beings called disciples always with him that forced him to speak in such everyday terms about everyday problems. Sometimes Christians disagree in the congregation of believers. Sometimes they quarrel. Sometimes they hold grudges against each other. The Scripture for today says that we must never tolerate any situation in which there is a breach of personal relationship between us and another member of the Christian community.

In this eighteenth chapter of Matthew Jesus admits that disciples are going to have conflicts; but they are to resolve them.
It is very true today that the behavior of us church members on this very issue makes Christianity to the outside world either repulsive or attractive.

It isn't a matter that Christians are perfect and will not have conflicts. There will always be quarrels, differences of opinion on how and who, disappointments with preachers and councils, hurt feelings, bent pride, loss of face, and lots of mistakes. It's the idea that Christians can resolve these conflicts as no other fellowship can, that Jesus puts before us today.

Comus, a Duke of Florence, had a saying that indicated the limitations of his religion: "You shall read that we are commanded to forgive our enemies, but you never read that we are commanded to forgive our friends."
That can happen in the Christian proclamation of the gospel. We spend a lot of time in our pulpits talking about how Christians are admonished by Jesus Christ to love their enemies and to pray for their enemies. When in actuality, right there in the pew side by side are Christians who hold grudges, hang on to petty hurts, refuse to forgive and love each other within the fellowship. And when they do this, church and Christianity and the whole practice of religion for them is not the joyful experience it ought to be. They miss a large dimension of belonging to God's family.

This particular portion of Matthew (18:15-18) gives us a whole scheme of action for the mending of broken relationships within our "family of God" called the Christian fellowship...
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Anyone remember playing "tag?" The worst thing that could happen to you when you were playing "tag," was to be touched and declared ... "Tag! You're it!" Once you were "tagged" you were the odd one out. Once you were tagged you were the enemy, the outcast, the outlier, and you worked hard to get that moniker off your back by giving it to someone else. 

How times have changed. Now to be "tagged" is to be one of the elect: to be included, to be part of a movement, to be involved in something larger and more important than your own email register. To get "tagged" is to be drawn into a new community with distinctive concerns and a unique consciousness. To be "tagged" means that you have been chosen to participate in a larger experience of life. 

This week's Roman's text is all about being "tagged." As Christians, as those who are participants in a unique community called the body of Christ which is defined by a confession of faith in Jesus Christ as God's Son and our Savior, we are totally "tagged" by a divine challenge. Christians are not defined by their ability to dump icy water over their heads. Christians are known by their ability to dump love over all those they bump into. When you are "tagged" by Christ's love, you are called to "tag" all those you can with that same amazing, transforming, overwhelming love...
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Icon Ambulance: Attention to Detail 

Vic Gundotra posted this story in response to the news Steve Jobs has stepped down as CEO of Apple. We wanted to share this inspirational story about someone who has changed the world in so many ways. 

"One Sunday morning, January 6th, 2008 I was attending religious services when my cell phone vibrated. As discreetly as possible, I checked the phone and noticed that my phone said "Caller ID unknown". I choose to ignore.

After services, as I was walking to my car with my family, I checked my cell phone messages. The message left was from Steve Jobs. "Vic, can you call me at home? I have something urgent to discuss" it said. 

Before I even reached my car, I called Steve Jobs back. I was responsible for all mobile applications at Google, and in that role, had regular dealings with Steve. It was one of the perks of the job. 

"Hey Steve - this is Vic", I said. "I'm sorry I didn't answer your call earlier. I was in religious services, and the caller ID said unknown, so I didn't pick up". 

Steve laughed. He said, "Vic, unless the Caller ID said 'GOD', you should never pick up during services".

I laughed nervously. After all, while it was customary for Steve to call during the week upset about something, it was unusual for him to call me on Sunday and ask me to call his home. I wondered what was so important?

"So Vic, we have an urgent issue, one that I need addressed right away. I've already assigned someone from my team to help you, and I hope you can fix this tomorrow" said Steve. 

"I've been looking at the Google logo on the iPhone and I'm not happy with the icon. The second O in Google doesn't have the right yellow gradient. It's just wrong and I'm going to have Greg fix it tomorrow. Is that okay with you?"

Of course this was okay with me. A few minutes later on that Sunday I received an email from Steve with the subject "Icon Ambulance". The email directed me to work with Greg Christie to fix the icon. 

Since I was 11 years old and fell in love with an Apple II, I have dozens of stories to tell about Apple products. They have been a part of my life for decades. Even when I worked for 15 years for Bill Gates at Microsoft, I had a huge admiration for Steve and what Apple had produced.

But in the end, when I think about leadership, passion and attention to detail, I think back to the call I received from Steve Jobs on a Sunday morning in January. It was a lesson I'll never forget. CEOs should care about details. Even shades of yellow. On a Sunday.

To one of the greatest leaders I've ever met, my prayers and hopes are with you Steve." 

Vic Gundotra
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 Are You Willing to Live in Hell? 

In his book The Great Divorce, C. S. Lewis, the great Christian apologist, draws a stark picture of hell. Hell is like a great, vast city, Lewis says, a city inhabited only at its outer edges, with rows and rows of empty houses in the middle. These houses in the middle are empty because everyone who once lived there has quarreled with the neighbors and moved. Then, they quarreled with the new neighbors and moved again, leaving the streets and the houses of their old neighborhoods empty and barren.

That, Lewis says, is how hell has gotten so large. It is empty at its center and inhabited only at the outer edges, because everyone chose distance instead of honest confrontation when it came to dealing with their relationships.

"Look, she's the one who said that about me. Let her come and apologize!"
"We may go to the same church, but that doesn't mean I've got to share a pew with that so-and-so!"
"It'll be a cold day in July before I accept his apology."
That's all well and good, I suppose... if you don't mind living in hell.

Are we really so willing to give up our relationships with others - relationships that have come about and been forged by our desire to follow Jesus? Nowhere, and I do mean nowhere, in the New Testament gospels will you find Jesus saying that the first order of things is always to be
right. But he does have a great deal to say about forgiveness, about relationship, about reconciliation, about service and humility and vulnerability.

He makes it sounds like family, doesn't he?

Randy L. Hyde, Two or Three
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 For Shame

James Twitchell, author of the book, For Shame: The Loss of Common Decency in American Culture, says that making people feel bad is one of the cures for what ails us. Not every problem can be solved with judicial solutions so shaming those who have made mistakes is becoming popular.

In colonial days they used to put public offenders in stockades in the public square thereby making them feel embarrassed and singling them out as "shameful" members of the community. Fortunately, our society has evolved from that kind of treatment since everyone has certain inalienable rights. But, since our judicial system seems to be waning, there is a trend that appears to be going the other direction.

In Florida, for example, repeatedly convicted drunk drivers are required to use special license plates or bumper stickers alerting others to their status. And in Rhode Island, child abusers have their photo appear in the local newspaper with the caption, "I was convicted for child molestation."

Even here in our town there was a sign posted by the road that listed the names of the local drug offenders.

Shaming people publicly is becoming an accepted practice. The belief is that someone who commits an offense will experience enough shame and embarrassment which will help to turn their lives around. In other words, according to Twitchell, there is a social good in making troublemakers feel bad.

Somehow I cannot see Jesus agreeing with that philosophy.

Keith Wagner, Living Without Shame 
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 Corporate Effects of Sin

 A man is on a boat. He is not alone, but acts as if he were. One night, without warning, he suddenly begins to cut a hole under his seat. 

The other people on the boat shout and shriek at him: "What on earth are you doing? Have you gone mad? Do you want to sink us all? Are you trying to destroy us?" 

Calmly, the man answers: "I don't understand what you want. What I'm doing is none of your business. I paid my way. I'm not cutting under your seat. Leave me alone!" What the fanatic (and the egotist) will not accept, but what you and I cannot forget, is that all of us are in the same boat. 

Elie Wiesel, Parade Magazine.
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 Disharmony in Worship

 There was a church where the pastor and the minister of music were not getting along. As time went by, this began to spill over into the worship service.

The first week the pastor preached on commitment and how we all should dedicate ourselves to the service of God. The music director led the song, "I Shall Not Be Moved."

The second week the pastor preached on tithing and how we all should gladly give to the work of the Lord. The director led the song, "Jesus Paid it All."

The third week the pastor preached on gossiping and how we should all watch our tongues. The music director led the song, "I Love to Tell the Story."

With all this going on, the pastor became very disgusted over the situation and the following Sunday told the congregation that he was considering resigning. The musician led the song, "Oh Why Not Tonight?"

As it came to pass, the pastor did indeed resign. The next week he informed the church that it was Jesus who led him there and it was Jesus who was taking him away. The music leader led the song, "What a Friend We Have in Jesus." 

King Duncan, Collected Sermons, www.Sermons.com
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 Criticism 

The trouble with most of us is that we would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism. 

Norman Vincent Peale
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 True Freedom in Forgiveness
When Bill Clinton met Nelson Mandela for the first time, he had a question on his mind: "When you were released from prison, Mr. Mandela," the former President said, "I woke my daughter at three o'clock in the morning. I wanted her to see this historic event." Then President Clinton zeroed in on his question: "As you marched from the cellblock across the yard to the gate of the prison, the camera focused in on your face. I have never seen such anger, and even hatred, in any man as was expressed on your face at that time. That's not the Nelson Mandela I know today," said Clinton. "What was that about?"

Mandela answered, "I'm surprised that you saw that, and I regret that the cameras caught my anger. As I walked across the courtyard that day I thought to myself, 'They've taken everything from you that matters. Your cause is dead. Your family is gone. Your friends have been killed. Now they're releasing you, but there's nothing left for you out there.' And I hated them for what they had taken from me. Then, I sensed an inner voice saying to me, 'Nelson! For twenty-seven years you were their prisoner, but you were always a free man! Don't allow them to make you into a free man, only to turn you into their prisoner!'" 

You can never be free to be a whole person if you are unable to forgive. 

King Duncan, Collected Sermons, www.Sermons.com
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Loving Confrontation 

Several years ago, a good friend and colleague in ministry came to visit me at the church I was serving in Memphis. After we exchanged greetings, he put his arm around my shoulders and said, "Johnny, you know I love you. That's why I have to tell you this." And he proceeded to gently, lovingly scold me for the way I had been handling a particular situation in the church. And he was absolutely right. I knew that the way I had been dealing with that situation was not the right way to handle it. My motivation was good, but my actions were wrong. And after he left, I knew that here was a friend who would stand beside me in tough times, because he loved me enough to risk damaging our friendship by confronting me with my mistake. Loving confrontation, which is what Jesus calls his followers to practice, is never easy. Many of us would prefer to just ignore it, or not name what it is, especially in the church. Out of some sense of false humility, we would rather just keep quiet about it. It's just easier not to get involved. But no matter how painful it may be, sooner or later we must resolve our differences in a Christ-like manner. 

Johnny Dean, Gentiles 'R Us
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Building Bridges 

Once upon a time, two brothers who lived on adjoining farms fell into conflict. It was the first serious rift in their 40 years of working together. It began with a small misunderstanding, and grew into a major difference, and finally exploded into an exchange of bitter words followed by weeks of silence. One morning, there was a knock on John's door. He opened it to find a man with a carpenter's toolbox. "I'm looking for a few days' work," he said. "Perhaps you would have a few small jobs here and there that I could help with? 

Yes," said the older brother. "I do have a job for you. Look across the creek at that farm. That's my younger brother! Last week, there was a meadow between us, but he took his bulldozer and dug a small river between us. Well I'm going to do him one better. See that pile of old lumber? I want you to build an 8 foot high fence between us. Then I won't need to see his place or his face anymore." The carpenter said, "Show me the nails and the tools, and I'll do a good job for you." 

The older brother had to go to town, so he left for the day. At sunset, when he returned, his eyes opened wide, and his jaw dropped...