Wednesday, November 18, 2015

A Thousand Blessings (StVdP)

A Thousand Blessings
Reflection for St. Vincent de Paul Meeting, November 16, 2015
Dcn. Bob Bonomi

The Gospel for last Wednesday was Luke’s story of Jesus healing the ten lepers, and how only one came back to him giving thanks to God.  The reflection in the Magnificat that day, written by Ann Voskamp, included a challenge:  count a thousand gifts – a thousand graces – that you had received from God.  With Thanksgiving coming next week it got me to thinking – could I name 1000 things – a thousand blessings – which I had received from God?

A thousand of anything to me is a lot.  The first 100 or so, though, I thought would be easy: family, health, job, a roof over my head ….  Then I thought of all of the material things that I had: a car, my TVs, my computers, my hobby equipment – I’m still a long way from counting to one hundred.  If I count each family member individually – that helps. And I do own more than one car, even if one isn’t running and so isn’t MUCH of a blessing…

Try this: go around the room and each of you name something that you have that is a blessing to you, without repeating anything anyone else has said.  For example, if the first person says “family”, then no one else can say “family”.  I figure that with about twenty people there the last ones to answer may begin to find it challenging to come up with something not previously mentioned.

You get the idea.  It’s hard to count even to a hundred, let alone a thousand, if I limit myself to just the material things I own.

And yet, if I expand my boundaries beyond just the physical possessions that I have and look at the true gifts that I have received from God, then the counting gets easier: the dozens of beautiful sunrises and sunsets that I’ve seen during the last year; the many friendships and coworkers that I see every day; the encounters that I have had with people that I didn’t even know but who were blessings to me; even the miracles of life that I see in the trees and the flowers around me.  Then there is also freedom I have to worship God and the precious gift of His Body and Blood in the Eucharist, and the moments of peace I experience from His Presence in my life, especially during times of prayer.  The thought of a thousand, while still a challenge, doesn’t seem so daunting.

So I’m issuing you a challenge tonight.  You have 10 days to go before Thanksgiving. See if you can list 1000 gifts or graces that you have received from God before then. In your count, include the times you have been a gift or blessing to others, too.  And unlike the TVs or cars you own, count each encounter you have with another as unique and special.  If you do that, then come Thanksgiving, you will truly be able come before God like the Samaritan leper and give glory to Him.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Of Zombies and Apocalypses

Of Zombies and Apocalypses
Homily for November 15, 2015    33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time - B
by Dcn. Bob Bonomi

I remember one of the first times I was in downtown Dallas I heard a street preacher shouting out how the “end of the world was near” and to repent.  Looking back, I’ve come to realize that the “repenting” part was pretty good advice, but the part about the end of the world – eh, maybe not so good.  Maybe.

Based on what we see in our movies, it does appear that we have a fascination with the end of the world, and we have created all sorts of apocalyptic visions of it – world destruction by earthquakes, floods or asteroids; nuclear destruction; epidemic or pandemic disease outbreaks; or my favorite – zombie invasions – well, you get the picture.  It’s no wonder that we are one of the most neurotic generations to have ever come along. Almost all of the scenarios are the result of our own actions or inactions and few, with the exception of the “Left Behind” series, even mention God.

And the reality of the horrendous events unfolding in our world today doesn’t give us much confidence, does it?  It seems like a pretty hopeless world, bent on its own destruction.  Is the world the worst it has ever been?  Is it the End Times?   Probably not.

Did you know that, starting about the time of the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, there has been dozens of different predictions of the impending end of the world. We average a new prediction on the average of every ten to fifteen years.  One list I saw listed almost 175 different predictions, based on things like the alignment of the planets, global conflicts, natural disasters, and plagues. They included predictions based on “secret” numbers in the Bible and prominent calendar dates.  The turn of a century is popular, especially if it is also the end of a millennium. Remember the Year 2000 doomsday scenarios? Same thing occurred at the end of the first millennium, although they couldn’t blame it on computers.  Almost all of these dire predictions throughout history have one thing in common, though, except for the very latest portents of doom.  All of those who predicted them are DEAD. They’ve all met their personal “end of the world”.

Jesus makes it clear.  "But of that day or hour, NO ONE knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father."  You cannot predict the Second Coming of Jesus.

So why do we place such an emphasis on these apocalyptic scriptures at this time of year?  We’re nearing the end of the liturgical calendar, and in two short weeks we will begin a new church year with Advent. The first Sunday of Advent we’ll hear the same theme again – this time from St. Luke. Why?

Because these passages and others like them throughout the Old and New Testaments remind us that we will not, nor should not, expect an idyllic world here.  There will be wars and famine and natural disasters and evils brought about through the action of men.  And we will face challenges to our health and well-being and to the health and welfare of those we know and love.  But, more importantly, they remind us to NOT GIVE UP HOPE in the face of what seems to be the end of the world.  God IS with us.

I am constantly reminded of that whenever a person close to me or to someone I know passes away.  Earlier this week a young mother and teacher that I knew passed away from a brain tumor.  It was discovered a little over 8 weeks ago when she started suffering from headaches that her normal medicine didn’t help.  Her funeral was yesterday.

Yet, even with her passing there were signs of God’s presence and love.  The community outpouring of love for the family was inspiring.  The tenderness of her co-workers towards her children and students to help them through their time of grief was amazing.  And God sent a visible sign - a rainbow of colors in the sky, God’s reminder of His covenant of love for us - at a moment when it was needed the most.

Let’s face it. Life can be tough.  But we do not have to wait until the end of the world to experience the “Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.”  St. Stephen had the vision of Jesus coming for him as he was being martyred.  We hear stories of those who see visions of our Blessed Mother Mary or of guardian angels coming for them as they come to the end of their life.  And I’ve seen the smile on the face of those who are at peace when they meet Jesus.

God IS with us, here and now.  We share His peace with each other at Mass just before we share in His Body and Blood.  Let us take His peace, His Holy Presence, with us as we leave today and do not let the terrors of the night and of the world scare us.  Let us be prepared.  Let us have Faith and trust in the Love of Christ for us.  And when our end time comes for us, let us be ready to experience the Glory of God.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The Paradox of the Beatitudes (StVdP)

The Paradox of the Beatitudes
Reflection for St. Vincent de Paul Meeting, Monday, November 2, 2015
By Dcn. Bob Bonomi

As we celebrate All Soul’s Day today, let us pause and ponder the paradox that is reflected in the Beatitudes as we look at our earthly goals here and now, and compare them to our goals for eternal life in the hereafter.

The Beatitudes from yesterdays’ Gospel sounds so – foreign – when we compare them to what we’re told by our commercialized society: “You cannot be happy if you do not own a new car.  You need a bigger house.   Your TV isn’t big enough, or your computer isn’t fast enough, or your smart phone isn’t smart enough …”.  The list goes on.  And yet, merely owning these or other earthly things cannot guarantee happiness either.  If they did, then why does it seem that so many people who “have it all” often end up dependent on drugs or other addictions, live extreme lifestyles, fight depression, or are even suicidal?

Therein lies the paradox:  the Beatitudes tell us that blessedness – and thereby happiness – comes from NOT having the “good things” of life, and that it is in the struggles that we share with others less fortunate than ourselves that we can discover the hidden happiness that comes from being a child of God and a member of the Body of Christ.

Which brings us to All Souls Day, where we pray for and honor those who lived less than perfect or saintly lives but believed in their faith and who now await those heavenly rewards promised by the Beatitudes.  (Unlike those we recognized on All Saints Day as those living lives of heroic virtue.)  They may not have experienced the earthly treasures that our society says they needed to have in order to be happy, but they remained faithful in their trust in God and so are worthy in God’s eyes of the greater blessings to come. 

As Vincentians, you all are part of the Body of Christ that serves those who are the “Blessed” in the eyes of God.   It is through your efforts on the behalf of your clients here on earth that YOU a share in those heavenly rewards.  But as important as your work here is, we should not forget that no less important are your prayers for those who have gone on to God before us and have no need of material aid, but who continue to need spiritual aid.  Your prayers continue to bring forth those bound for heaven and who are becoming “pure” by their time in Purgatory. 

So tonight, and this week, take time to pray not only for those you serve here on earth but also for all our “dearly departed”, and remember that as you do, you are indeed also praying for yourselves.  For we all part of the Communion of Saints, and so are one in Christ – Vincentians, your clients, and our loved ones both living now and those awaiting heaven.
May God continue to bless you in your ministry.