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From the Tee Box

A Blog by Father Trey Nelson


Monday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Jesus said to his apostles, "whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (From Mathew 10:34-11:1)

It’s a special relationship when people make it a habit of saying, “I love you” to each other upon greeting or saying goodbye. As I meet different families, I have found that this is often a regular practice. Parents say it to their children. Their children reply with the same. They do it in person. They do it when they’re about to hang up the phone. In my family, too, this is always an inspiration to me. It’s not only a sign of love, but it’s also a sign of respect and shows that we remember “the blessing of” the other person. Throughout my life there have also been certain people, every now and then, who will reply, “love you more.” One of my nephews, for example, routinely says this. In all, for most of us, this is our attempt to describe in words a gift that comes from above.

I recall this dynamic in light of the words of Jesus in today’s Gospel passage. For most of us, if not all of us, it is impossible to find the words to describe the love for our children. Still, Jesus says what he says. The most direct interpretation of his statement is, that, no one thing and no one person should come before God in our lives. In all things, it is our vocation to “be transparent” to the love and presence of God within us. Let’s put it another way. A few years ago, I celebrated the funeral of a delightful Baptist lady. She was the mother of my cousin’s wife, and we were all very close. At the end of the service, she and her 2 brothers stood up to speak about their mother. The brothers went first and both said, more than once, “Mom always made you feel like she loved you more.” But then my cousin’s wife, the one daughter, stood and jokingly said, “well, I’m going to disagree with my brothers.” Then she said what I’ve never forgotten, “I won’t say that our Mom loved each of us the most. I will say this. Mama loved each of us as we needed to be loved.” Wow. “…as we needed to be loved.” I think this is what Jesus is getting at today, at least, in part. Every relationship is unique. Sometimes loving is easy, and sometimes it can be difficult. We are indeed called to love each person in our life as God calls us to, and we are called to give God the highest place and utmost priority in our lives.

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The Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

“Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it. But some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold. Whoever has ears ought to hear." (From Mathew 13:1-23)

I invite us today to consider this parable from a slightly different point of view. The traditional interpretation is that God is the sower, the One who plants, the seed is His Word, and the soil is us and leads us to the question, “how receptive am I to God’s Word?” For a moment, though, consider that we are all coworkers with the Lord in the vineyard, in the field, and the question, “what kind of seed are we sowing?” Consider this question with regard to our actions and also our words, something very common place for us.

One of the people for whom I have always had the deepest respect has been my brother. As far back as I can remember, from when he started working for the first time in late high school and college, he has always been respected by those with whom he works: his coworkers, is supervisors, you name it. And I believe, I know that it is because of his style of interacting with other people, especially in difficult situations. He just has a way about him in this regard. His philosophy that guides him is simple and one with which we all agree; namely, that, “if something needs to be said, there is a way to say it. If something needs to be said, then the ‘how’ can make all the difference in the world.” Even in our family, he has often been the one to bring the peace, because of his approach to a situation. In other words, he sows good seed.

In our everyday interactions with other people we have the opportunity to sow good seed or to sow bad seed. Just in our attitude alone we can sow seed that builds up or tears others down. We can affect their feelings, their mood, and even their sense of purpose. The choice is ours. We can sow bitterness or we can sow forgiveness; prejudice or acceptance; dishonesty or the truth. This does not mean that, in saying the necessary thing in the right way will not bring with it deep emotion. It certainly at times will. But again, there is a way so say everything, and that “way” must have the blanket of compassion over it.

Mother Teresa is quoted to have said, “kind words can be spoken quickly, but their echoes endure forever.” Every one of us knows that our words can make a lasting impression on people’s hearts and leave a lasting memory on their hearts and lives. What kind of memories are we leaving?

What kind of seeds are we sowing?

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Memorial of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, Virgin: Friday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time

“Jesus said to his apostles… ‘when they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. You will be given at that moment what you are to say. For it will not be you who speak but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.’” (From Matthew 10:16-23)

Whenever asked to offer advice to someone who is seeking counsel, I always try to offer something that I believe in and something that works. I have always found great consolation in the belief, that, “for the person of faith, what you need to do will be revealed to you.” Whether it’s a parent trying to work through a difficult experience with their child, or a college student trying to discern their future and their purpose in life, we all need to be reminded that the ability to move forward is rooted in faith. Personally, I have found this helpful when dealing with difficult people or people who seem to be purposely standing against us.

Jesus offers a similar reminder to the apostles in today’s passage. He states for them a very harsh reality; namely, that they will encounter difficult, selfish, and hurtful people. For all of you West Wing fans out there, I am reminded of that scene in which Danny, a reporter, says to C.J. the press secretary, that she needed to be careful, because, “not everybody’s a good guy.” He was reminding her of the reality that some reporters employ good ethics but some do not. Whenever we face people who are difficult in this way, we may want to use the “grip ‘n rip” approach, but this rarely works. It usually just serves to escalate the situation. Remaining prayerfully calm, taking a deep breath, and trying to allow God to work through us is the safest, surest way through a painful encounter with difficult situations and difficult people.

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