Saturday, July 23, 2016

Asking for the Holy Spirit

Asking for the Holy Spirit
Homily for July 24, 2016    Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary - C
by Dcn. Bob Bonomi

What would you do if you won the lottery?  A BIG one – like the 1.6 billion dollar Powerball last January.  OK, so that one was split three ways but still, half a billion dollars is a LOT of money, and if you had all that money, what is the first thing that you’d want for yourself?  (I mean, after paying off your bills, of course, And giving St. Paul’s ten percent of your winnings – after taxes.)  In other words, if money was no object, what’s the ONE thing that you want most of all?  A new car?  A new house?  Some other expensive toy?

But, maybe what you want can’t be bought with any amount of money.  Maybe you’re fighting health issues, and you just want them to go away – an end to the suffering or to get healing for an illness that others have said is incurable?

Or maybe what you really want is something that you don’t think you could ever get, or that you even deserve.  Maybe it’s just something as simple as having someone to love, or someone to love you?

I really want you to think seriously about this for a moment - if you asked God for ONE thing for yourself today, what would it be? 

Now – I want you to ask yourself another question:  “WHY”?  Why do I want a new car or a new house or for the pain to go away or to live longer – or whatever it is that you want?  I’m sure that whatever it is, you have a good reason for wanting it, but since you want it, you obviously don’t have it.  So, ask yourself, why do I want this one thing over anything else?

Now, hold onto that thought for a few minutes.

Today’s Gospel from Luke is one that’s often quoted by those who proclaim the “Gospel of Prosperity”.  Others passages include:
  • Matthew, chapter 7, verse 11: “If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him”  and Matthew, chapter 21, verse 22: “Whatever you ask for in prayer with faith, you will receive.”
  • Or, Mark, chapter 11, verse 24: “Therefore I tell you, all that you ask for in prayer, believe that you will receive it and it shall be yours.”
  • Or in the Gospel of John, chapter 14, verse 14: “If you ask anything of me in my name, I will do it”; and John, chapter 15, verse 7:  “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.”
And there are many others.

According to these scripture passages, if you pray hard enough, you should get what you ask for, right?  Maybe not.  I didn’t win that big Lottery jackpot in January, and I even bought a ticket and prayed about it.  So I guess I didn’t pray hard enough? Or maybe God knew it wouldn't be good for me.

In any case, let’s take a closer look at today’s Gospel reading.  It begins with Jesus’ disciples asking him how to pray, and Jesus teaching them a shortened form of the Lord’s Prayer.  (The “Our Father that we usually pray comes from Matthew’s Gospel).  But look at how today’s Gospel ends:  “how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?” 

The answer to everything we need or want lies in the precious gift that God wants to give us:  the gift of His Holy Spirit – the gift of Himself.  And if we look at what Jesus is telling His disciples from that perspective, we see that the other gifts that God offers us through His Holy Spirit are far greater than mere cars or houses or money or even health.

Do you remember the 7 Gifts of the Holy Spirit and the 12 Fruits of the Holy Spirit from your CCD or faith formation classes?  I’m embarrassed to say that I have to usually look them up.  The 7 gifts are:   Knowledge.   Understanding.    Wisdom.    Counsel.    Courage.    Piety.   Awe and Wonder of the Lord.  And the 12 fruits are:  Peace,   Joy,   Love,   Patience,   Kindness,   Goodness,   Generosity,   Gentleness,   Faithfulness,   Modesty,   Chastity, and Self-control.  These are the Good Gifts that God has in store for us, available to us if we just ask.

Why are these gifts so valuable?  Why should we want them instead of wealth, health or power?  How do they answer the question of “what’s the one thing I want most?”

Because if you think about the question I asked you earlier, “Why do I want what I want?”, we find that it is because we are lacking in one or more of these Gifts.  We want what we want because we don’t have what we need – peace, joy, love, courage, wisdom – and so on.  We mistakenly think that more money, or better health, or earthly hookups will satisfy us, and they don’t.

But, God knows what we need, and He wants to give it all to us.  Like we hear in the classic Rolling Stone’s song, “You can't always get what you want / But if you try sometimes you might find / You get what you need."  If we pray for the Holy Spirit, then we'll get what we need, for all we really need is the Holy Spirit, and with it comes an inner peace and joy which fills our longings and leads to a holiness that bring us closer to God.

One final thought.  In order for our prayers to be answered we need to pray with persistence.  Persistence in prayer isn’t just us knocking on God’s door with a list of our earthly wants, but it is about helping us come to a better understanding of what we need.  And, with that understanding – that wisdom – we also come to recognize that God indeed answers our prayers.  We only have to accept those gifts that He offers us so that we can also experience the one Gift we need most: His Love.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

A Litany For Our Nation

A Litany For Our Nation - the rest of the story...

I came across this prayer the other day as I was mucking out my garage. Thirty minutes after I found and read it, I heard the report of the shooting in Louisiana where three more police officers were gunned down.  Now, more than ever, we need to pray for our country.

I don't know where I originally got this, but a search of the Internet provided the following:

"Below is an adaptation of the litany used at the Cathedral Church of St. Peter and St. Paul (National Cathedral) in Washington, D.C. at the celebration of Independence Day on Sunday, July 2, 1995. The litany itself is based on the Common Book of Prayer's Thanksgiving for the Nation and Prayer for Sound Government."

The prayer card itself is of my own design.  Please consider praying the litany daily for at least the next 9 days. I've created the prayer "card" below in case you would like to print it out for any group that you belong to.
A Litany For The Nation


Almighty God, giver of all good things:  We thank You for the natural majesty and beauty of this land.  They restore us, though we often destroy them.
Heal us.

We thank You for the great resources of this nation.  They make us rich, though we often exploit them.
Forgive us.

We thank You for the men and women who have made this country strong.  They are models for us, though we often fall short of them.
Inspire us.

We thank You for the torch of liberty which has been lit in this land.  It has drawn people from every nation, though we have often hidden from its light.
Enlighten us.

We thank You for the men and women who serve us as first responders – police officers, fire fighters and emergency response personnel – and for the service personnel in the various branches of our military.  They offer their lives for our protection, though we are often ungrateful and disrespectful.
Protect us.

We thank You for the faith we have inherited in all its rich variety.  It sustains our life, though we have been faithless again and again.
Renew us.

O Lord our Governor, bless the leaders of our land, that we may be a people at peace among ourselves and a blessing to other nations of the earth.
Lord, keep this nation under Your care.

Teach our people to rely on Your strength and to accept their responsibilities to their fellow citizens, that they may elect trustworthy leaders and make wise decisions for the well-being of our society; that we may serve You faithfully in our generation and honor Your Holy Name.   For Yours is the kingdom, O Lord.
And You are exalted as head above all.

Help us, O Lord, to finish the good work here begun.  Strengthen our efforts to blot out ignorance and prejudice, and to abolish poverty and crime.  And hasten the day when all our people, with many voices in one united chorus, will glorify Your Holy Name.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Who's My Neighbor?

Who's My Neighbor?
Homily for July 10, 2016    Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary - C
by Dcn. Bob Bonomi

If someone asked you, “Who’s your neighbor?” what’s the first thing that comes to your mind?  (Besides someone being mugged and left for dead?)  Is it the person who lives next door to you or on the same street?  How about your co-workers?  Or, for those of you who have children, how about the parents of a child that shares a class with yours?

Or, how about the person that share’s your faith? Look around – go ahead – would you consider the person who is sitting close to you to be your neighbor?

I think you get the idea.  Our word “neighbor” comes from the Old English word “nēah-gebūr”  - nēah, or near, and gebūr, or dweller, and so we might consider those who live or work or close to us as neighbors.  We might also consider people that we associate with, or those that we at least share a common interest with, as neighbors.  And that was exactly the perspective of Jews at the time of Jesus.  Neighbors were those closest to them.

In a sense, I come to you today as your new neighbor.  My name is Bob Bonomi and I will be serving you as one of your deacons.  I’m originally from northern Idaho, and growing up I was typical of many cradle Catholics – I’d go to church for Christmas and Easter sometimes but I wandered away from my faith – so those of you whose children have wandered from the Church, there is still hope for them.  Remember, God works miracles every day.  I didn’t come back to the Church in earnest until about 1990, after a particular difficult period in my life.

I moved to Texas the first time in the summer of 1980 as an engineer and computer specialist – in the middle of the 100-year heat wave – and I discovered that Texans don’t outright lie, they just don’t tell all of the truth.  When I interviewed for the job that February I was told that the “mean temperature of Dallas was 75 degrees”.  Yep – 75 is half-way between 125 (which it was in Wichita Falls when I came through on the 4th of July weekend), and  25 (which it was during the ice storm that rolled through later that fall.)  But nobody told me that there were only three seasons in Texas: almost hot, hotter than Hell, and don’t worry, it will be hot again soon. 

I will have been married to my wife, Rene’, for 35 years this December, and we live in Plano.  We have two grown children, and two small dogs.  I was ordained on Groundhog’s Day, 3½ years ago, and prior to coming here I served as a deacon at St. Francis of Assisi in Frisco.  I currently work in the business office of St. Patrick’s just down the road from here and have been there for almost 9 years.  Prior to that I was a computer specialist and have had my own computer consulting company now for over 25 years.  I know some of you from my old days with the Knights of Columbus at Prince of Peace, and I’ve already met several of you during the last couple of weeks.  I’m looking forward to being a good neighbor.

Which brings us to today’s Gospel.  The scholar answers his own question to Jesus about what it takes to obtain eternal life with the two greatest commandments which comes from the Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament, the foundation for Jewish law.  The first, “Love God” comes from Deuteronomy, chapter 6, beginning with verse 4 and is part of the Shema, or the main Jewish prayer which they are to recite three times a day:

“Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, The Lord is One. / Blessed is the name of His glorious kingdom / Forever and ever. / And you shall love the Lord your God, / With all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your possessions."

The second, “Love your neighbor”, comes from the book of Leviticus, chapter 19, verse 18:

“Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against your own people.  You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Now, the scholar could have stopped there, but he wanted to put Jesus on the spot by challenging him about who should be considered a neighbor.  See, In Jesus’ time it was the Jewish custom to live a life of what might be considered “national isolationism” – after all, Jews were the “chosen people” of God and deserved special treatment or consideration, while anyone who wasn’t a Jew was considered an inferior.  Even though there were many laws specifically about caring for all those who were marginalized, including not just the poor, widows and orphans, but aliens, laborers, the deaf and blind, even lepers and sinners, those outsiders were obviously not in God’s favor and so were treated as inferiors.

It was one of the reasons why the Jewish leadership distrusted Jesus and had such a problem with him – his “signs”, his miracles, aided those who were outsiders, not the elite or even the “chosen”.

There were two primary reasons for their distrust. The first had to do with pride.  Jewish leadership didn’t believe that the marginalized deserved to be considered worthy of the earthly gifts that God should give to those who “earned” them by being a “good” Jew.  They allowed their ego, their arrogance, their pride, to color their thinking and their behavior toward others.  Jesus’ actions were not consistent with living “the good life” as they saw it.

But the second reason was far more insidious – fear.  They were afraid that the status quo of their lives, the comfort of their own existence and the known way of their lives would be threatened and they would lose the power and control they exercised over others.  Jesus treated outsiders not only as equals, but often in a preferential manner.  With his question, the scholar wanted to show others just what kind of threat Jesus posed to all Jews.

In answering the scholar’s second question about “who is my neighbor?”, Jesus changed the focus from a “who” – who is a neighbor to me – to a “what” – what makes me a neighbor to others.  His parable struck right at the heart of their fear of losing the status quo. 
In the parable, why did the Levite or the priest fail to help the injured man?  Scripture scholars suggest several possible reasons:
  • Perhaps they are on their way to perform religious services and if the victim was dead and they touched him, they would become “unclean” and would not be able to perform their duties.
  • Perhaps they are overwhelmed at the prospect of transporting an injured man through the mountains and finding assistance for him in the next town
  • Perhaps they are afraid, fearing that the man has been placed there to lure them into an ambush.
  • Perhaps they are disgusted by the gore and prefer not to dirty their hands and clothes.
But aren’t these our fears, too?

In any case, the Good Samaritan doesn’t let any of these things interfere with his helping someone who was in grave need.  He was obviously a businessman who traveled that stretch of road often and had business to attend to, yet he still took time and his resources to help without measuring the cost.  He did what he could do for the injured person, and then went back about his business.  But he did not forget about the injured person, for he said that if more was needed, he’d give it.

So, who is our neighbor today?  Or, rather, who is it that we are called to be a neighbor to?  We are over half-way through Pope Francis’ Year of Mercy, and when I see people who are in need of God’s mercy, I wonder if we’re getting the message that Jesus is telling us in the Gospel today.  That WE are our brother’s keeper.  That WE are the source of God’s Mercy to others.  That WE are called to be a neighbor to one and all.

Who is the neighbor that we see laying on the side of the road today?
Are we afraid to help them?