Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church
Hot Springs Village, Arkansas
Some of you (at the very least those who read the bulletin) are aware that I spent part of last week in Little Rock with brothers priests and a few deacons for our semi-annual continuing education sessions.

Over my 30 years of priesthood, I can truly say that we have had some wonderful speakers/teachers who have come from all over the United States

Honestly, in many cases I have returned eager to share with you what I have learned in those few days, but as the saying goes, there's a time and a place for everything......usually don't find an immediate opportunity to share it with a group of people.

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Most of the time when we hear a parable it is pretty easy to tell who is the main character.  So often the titles that we give the stories give away who is the good guy and who wears the black hat.  The good samaritan, the prodigal son, the faithful steward.  Today’s Gospel is a little harder to pin down.  Which character is the focus of the story?  Should we call it “The Parable of the Unjust Judge,” or maybe “The Persistent Widow,” or take the easy way out and say “The Parable of the Widow and the Judge.”  And what is the message?  If God is the judge, is the message just be persistent, keep badgering God and eventually he will give you what you ask for?  It can’t be that because this judge is clearly not portrayed as God, in fact it says he neither feared God nor respected any human being.  That is not our God.

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There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day.  And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table.”  Now some of you are probably wondering, “How can Deacon John spin this story to make us feel good?”  I can’t.  Not even a politician could turn this into a feel good story.  It is meant to make us uncomfortable, maybe even a little worried or nervous.  Since June, everyone of our Gospels has taken place as Jesus heads towards Jerusalem and his death on the cross.  And as we heard before, crowds were following him and listening as he told them what was involved in being his followers, his disciples.  He told them that there is a cost to being a disciple; it will involve sacrifice, may turn families against each other.  He warned the people not to get too attached to material things, to focus instead on eternity, on the things that matter, that last forever.  And he described the great love God the Father has for each one of us, a love so great that He never abandons us, always forgives us, always wants us with Him, enjoying the banquet, the feast, the celebration.  And today He tells us how we are to act toward each other, care for each other.

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Who can know God’s counsel, or who can conceive what the Lord intends?  Deliberations of mortals are timid, and unsure are our plans.”  That first reading from the Book of Wisdom really lays out the problem.  What’s it all about, our life, our journey?  How are we mere mortals supposed to know what to do?  In the Gospel Jesus tells us what we are called to do:  we are called to be disciples and follow Him on a journey to the Father.  And He tells us there is a cost to being a disciple.  The Gospel says that “Great crowds were traveling with Jesus” yet at his crucifixion there was only 4 or 5 people present.  What happened to the great crowds?  What happens to us on our journey through life?

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Our readings all echo the same theme:  prophets, people who speak the truth in a world gone crazy, are ignored, ostracized and regarded as fools or even dangerous.  But God assures us that He will hear our cry, draw us out of the mud, put a new song into our mouth.

If there was ever a time when we needed prophets, in the world and in our country, it is today.  Sometimes we pick up the paper and just want to shout, “Make it stop!”  And yet it seems that there is no shortage of people claiming to be prophetic.  Everyday our political candidates tell us what is wrong and how to correct it.  But believe me, they are not Jeremiah, although sometimes I wish we could drop them into a well!  What do we most need to hear in terms of prophetic challenge?  Which voices resonate with the great prophets of Israel and the prophet of prophets, Jesus?

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