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From the Tee Box

A Blog by Father Trey Nelson

ADMIRERS ONLY, OR FOLLOWERS?

Tuesday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Jesus began to reproach the towns where most of his mighty deeds had been done. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For, if the mighty deeds done in your midst had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.” (From Mathew 11:20-24)

First, it would be worthwhile to read the full text of today’s Gospel along with this reflection. I am including the link to the USCCB website and the readings for the day. You should be able to either click on it or copy and paste it into your browser. I recommend that you read the text first:

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/071817.cfm

I am reminded of an adage, first shared with me many years ago by my late friend and colleague, Judy Stewart, “…Jesus wants followers, not just admirers.” Which of the 2 are we? I think of this, because in today’s Gospel passage, Jesus chastises 3 communities: Chorazin, Bethsaida and especially Capernaum. They were not as receptive to him as he had hoped. He plainly tells them that there were other towns, pagan towns, to be specific, who would have eagerly accepted him, had he spent time with them.

Jesus confronts us today through this passage. Unfortunately, many of us who have heard of and known of him since childhood, at times take his Word and our faith for granted. Whereas, more than likely, there are those who, never having had Christ preached to them, would openly and eagerly welcome his message. The challenge for us, perhaps, and the very pointed question that we might want to consider is simply this: do I still desire to hear God’s Word in a new way and to be continually transformed by it, or has the newness worn off?

Are we followers of Christ or simply admirers only?

"LOVE YOU MORE..."

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.

THE SEEDS THAT WE SOW...

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?