Eighteenth Sunday in
August 3, 2014
Rev. Anthony Medairos,
Psalm 145:8-9, 15-18
Romans 8:35, 37-39
Saint Paul asks “What will separate us from the
love of Christ?” He looks outside for
those forces potentially separating us from Christ, like persecution, famine,
peril, the sword. Obviously, some of
these external forces still thrive.
Muslim extremists, while seeking the death of all Jews, are just as
determined to exterminate Christianity, first of all in the Middle
East and extending into Africa. It is difficult for Christians there to avoid
forced conversions to Islam or exile from their homes in the face of this
violent extremism. Ironically,
persecutions that caused early believers to flee Jerusalem may have been God’s instrument of
bringing the Christian gospel to far-flung parts of the world. 
Even today most Christians under the threat of violent persecution do choose
exile and the loss of all their material goods or even martyrdom rather than to
to that degree, but the Christian faith – and other religious communities – are
under a subtle form of persecution by secular humanists in Western
society. First comes the marginalizing
of religious faith – the “keep it in the church or synagogue” phase. It is not “fair” to others for one group to
display a manger scene in the public park during the Christmas season. So please remove it; let’s be open minded. Chaplains of many religions are provided for
our military members and their families.
Isn’t it “fair” to also have atheist
chaplains for those who don’t believe in God?
(That’s an actual proposal.)
then pressure is applied on the moral values that underpin various civic
activities. History is our best teacher
here. It was important for the Nazis to
dismantle the Bund Neudeutschland,
the “New Germany Group” (the Catholic youth organization), first by ridicule,
then by restricting some of its activities and finally by outlawing it
outright, leaving only the Hitler Youth to attract the young. Pope John Paul II as a young priest secretly
nurtured an alternative Catholic youth movement under the Communist regime in Poland that
would eventually bear fruit in the destruction of communism there. Inculcating values in the young is so very
powerful. So in our own times, secular
humanism must attack such things as the Boy Scouts, for Scouting’s value system
is seen as an enemy to be eliminated, first by trying to change Scouting’s own standards
and eventually by providing a secularist alternative to it.
the question is: Do Christians, do
Catholics, do people who hold Judeo-Christian moral and religious values accept
exile in our own land? Think of the
times when you have had to “hold your tongue” when faced with criticism of our
faith, rather than to speak out boldly as an apologist for our beliefs? The fear of being “different,” being seen as
“out of step,” of calling our dissent “hate speech” is the beginning of
persecution. This is a kind of internal
exile. And history teaches it will only
get worse over time.
asks, “What will separate us from the love of Christ?” He suggests persecution, famine, peril, the
sword and so forth. But then he answers,
“No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved
us.” So the question is whether you and
I believe that Christ’s love for us will enable us to conquer all these
for the answer to that question, may I suggest that we must also look within for forces that will separate us
from the love of Christ? Might we become
people who feel we don’t need God’s grace, or cannot trust God’s love, and so
try to save ourselves, by ourselves?
What will separate us from the love of Christ? Might it be golf or beach instead of Sunday
worship? Might it be career or paycheck
ahead of charity? Might it be
self-esteem or the approval of others rather than abiding in the things that
Christ approves is not self-service, but service to others. He manifested this numberless times
especially on the cross, but today in the feeding of the multitude, where he
placed his trust in the Heavenly Father to feed so many with so little, and
where he had more left over so the apostles could feed even more people.
ironically, for those who do have a
place for God, our seeking God’s approval can also separate us from the love of Christ. This happens when religiosity and formalism
take the place of a relationship with Christ, when our keeping the rules of
religion is confused with openness to God.
Isaiah made it clear, as Jesus did himself, 
that rule-keeping doesn’t make God owe us salvation. Instead, “Come, without paying and without
cost ... that you may have life.” God’s
love is free!
one person needs not God, so turns to his own devices to find some sort of
salvation, the other person needs religion more than Christ. Both are internal ways that will separate us
from the love of Christ.
love can conquer, has conquered, all those forces outside us that can keep us
from his love, even today’s violent persecution of believers abroad and subtle
persecution of the faithful in our own land.
And Christ’s love can conquer all the things-within that people
put in the place of God, whether these be self-reliance without God or
religiosity without a genuine relationship with Christ. Our readiness to trust God in those exterior
threats and our readiness to change attitudes within ourselves will conquer
anything that tries to separate us from the love of Christ. For, as Saint Paul wrote, “… in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly
through him who loved us.”
 Matthew 23:23, Luke 11:42.
Seventeenth Sunday in
August 27, 2014
Rev. Anthony Medairos,
1 Kings 3:5, 7-12
Psalm 119:57, 72, 76-77,
If you had a wish, what would it be? The story goes: a man discovered an ancient oil lamp thrown
onto some rubble and, for kicks, he rubbed it.
And a genie emerged, offering him one wish. He said, “I’d like a million bucks.” But because the genie was hard of hearing, there
appeared (poof) a million ducks! King Midas wished that everything he might
touch be turned to gold. The “Midas
touch” was wonderful – until he touched his beloved daughter, and she turned into
to a golden statue.
God offered the new king of Israel just such
an opportunity. “Ask something of me and
I will give it to you.” Solomon asked
neither for a long life, nor for money, nor for the death of his enemies, but
for an understanding heart. And because
God granted him an understanding heart and wisdom, people even today speak of
“the wisdom of Solomon.”
You and I are unlikely to encounter
a genie. Nor will God consecrate us the
king of Israel. So, for the things we wish or seek, achieving
them is up to our own effort. And the
issue really is: what are we willing to
do to reach that goal for which we seek?
Jesus framed two parables about this.
the first, a man working in another’s field discovered a treasure. Perhaps it had been buried there to hide it from
a marauding army and the one who buried it had died suddenly. Clearly the land’s current owner did not know
it was there, or he would not have put the land up for sale. The hero of the parable re-buried that
treasure, sold everything he had, and bought that field. Of course there may be real ethical or moral
questions about what that man did. But Jesus
was not teaching ethics or morals here.
He was pointing to that man’s willingness to do anything to get hold of something he truly valued: that treasure.
man in the second parable is just as focused.
This merchant found the pearl he wanted and sold everything that he owned to buy it.
All of Jesus’ parables compare
everyday activities to the kingdom
of God. So, the question Jesus sets before you and me
today is: The kingdom of God: Are you willing to do anything to be part of it?
Are you willing to give up everything
to be part of this kingdom? Those are
questions for lifelong consideration by Christians.
At some level the kingdom of God
is important to you and me, else we would not be in church today. But for lifelong reflection is this question: Just how focused on the kingdom am I? How ruthless am I willing to be to
participate in God’s kingdom? What will
I give up to be part of this kingdom?
Am I ready to change a habit, if that
habit is out of step with God’s kingdom? Of course some of the most difficult habits
that come to mind are addictions to alcohol, gambling, or pornography. There are other habits: exercising power, gaining fame, seeking
fortunes. Anything that one relies on
for one’s happiness can distract a person from God’s kingdom. Will we allow it to distract us?
not that some of our distractions are evil, just as wishing for a million bucks
is not evil. Driving the kids to sports
activities is certainly not evil, but should a parent do this on Sunday morning
while avoiding worship, for example?
Jesus suggests that focusing on the thing that one values – however
virtuous it may seem – before seeking the kingdom of God in one’s life is a
detour and a distraction from God’s will for you and me.
Consider interpersonal relationships:
do relationships draw me away from God’s
kingdom? Am I unfaithful to my spouse, distant
from my siblings, neglectful of my parents’ dignity, failing as a model of
discipleship for my children, enjoying the company of unrighteous people,
disrespectful of coworkers, employer or employees? Is the way I relate to others, or the way my
companions treat others in accord with God’s kingdom?
Might my financial planning better
coincide with God’s kingdom? Do I lavish
myself or family with unnecessary material possessions while neglecting to
tithe to church and charity? Do I place my
trust for my future well-being entirely in Social Security or IRA’s and 401k’s,
but not so much in prayer and a life of Christian service to my neighbor?
That treasure hunter, that merchant
in the parables were bold and decisive. That’s
the boldness and decisiveness required for discipleship. That’s what Jesus raises for our
consideration in today’s parables. That
his hearers might ask themselves, “What actions do you or I take to uncover the
roots of our faith in prayer, in scripture study, and in the Catechism of the Catholic Church? How bold are we in proclaiming the new life
we’ve received in Christ Jesus by speaking the Lord’s name to others? How decisive are we in supporting the mission
of the Catholic Church and Our Lady’s Parish?”
When I hear these parables, these are
the questions that come to mind. “Whoever
has ears ought to hear.” Jesus was not
talking about a crafty land deal or an ambitious pearl merchant. He was talking to you and me today. Jesus wanted you and me to consider whether
we treasure unimportant things. Jesus
understood that these stories – given a proper hearing – would alert you and me
(perhaps to our surprise) that our behavior reveals what we actually treasure. We might come to realize that, instead of
these earthly and temporary treasures, you and I have the opportunity to seek
first the kingdom
of God and to find a treasure
there that will survive beyond the grave.
Sixteenth Sunday in
July 20, 2014
Rev. Anthony Medairos,
Wisdom 12:13, 16-19
Psalm 86:5-6, 9-20,
Jesus proposes an interesting
situation in this parable: an enemy has sabotaged his neighbor’s fields by
broadcasting weeds among the farmer’s wheat.
This might be bearded darnel, a weed that winds around a crop and looks
exactly like wheat until the wheat finally bears fruit. So even if the farmer could distinguish one
from the other, he would pull up the wheat along with the weed. But an enemy’s sabotage is not really the
point of the parable.
Jesus leads us to consider a
farmer’s response to sabotage. He
suggests that in this story we may discover a mystery of the kingdom of
heaven. It is this: God waits to
see. God deals with the good and the bad
differently, but God is patient, slow to judge and ready to forgive. The parable is not about weeds. The parable is about how to deal with weeds. And since every parable is about God’s kingdom,
we may discover here how patiently God deals with weeds – the evil that people
choose – while God gathers in wheat that bears fruit – God’s righteous
But why doesn’t God remove the evil
from our world so that we can live in peace?
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, at his installation 9 years ago, raised the
same issue. Pope Benedict said:
How often we wish that God would show
himself stronger, that he would strike decisively, defeating evil and crafting
a better world. All ideologies of power justify
themselves in exactly this way: they justify the destruction of whatever would
stand in the way of progress and the liberation of humanity. We
suffer on account of God’s patience. And
yet we need his patience. God, who became a lamb, tells us that the
world is saved by the Crucified One, not by those who crucified him. The world is redeemed by the patience of
God. It is destroyed by the impatience
of man.  [emphasis mine]
Despite our human sense of
“justice,” which sometimes actually means retribution or vengeance, Jesus
suggests in this parable that the kingdom
of God is about divine
patience and God’s mercy. One writer put
it this way: “[God] is not a God of
wrath. He is a God who is an Ocean of Mercy.
And that does not mean that on occasion God shows mercy. Rather, Mercy is what God is. Compassion is what God is. When we see Mercy and Compassion, Jesus is
telling us, we know that we are in the presence of God.  [emphasis
God’s patience and mercy toward
others may seem baffling to you and me.
At the same time, though, we fully depend on God’s patience and
mercy toward ourselves. But that
is because we do not think like God. In
our better moments, however, we honestly want to be like God, but our
tendency is towards self-interest. And
so we become judgmental about other people.
Were we the farmer in the parable, we would, with great abandon, pull up
anything we might perceive as a weed. We
judge people. We categorize them. We exclude the weeds; we gather to ourselves
the wheat. That is, unless they perceive
us as weed!
Jesus’ parable leads us back to
today’s reading from the Book of Wisdom.
“And you taught your people … that those who are just must be
kind….” You see, as Wisdom teaches, even
though God is all powerful, God judges with clemency, God governs us with
leniency. God’s patience and mercy
toward others may seem baffling to you and me.
At the same time, though, we fully rely on God’s patience and mercy
toward ourselves. And so you and I,
while we still need to be prudent and careful with whom we associate and whose
examples we might emulate, we should not pretend that we are their judge. God is their judge and our judge. And God is a patient judge. If by chance criticism by us seems just, we
must criticize with kindness. For that
is how God deals with you and me.
Another thing: Saint Francis de Sales reminded us, “Have
patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself.”  So as you and I try to become less judgmental
and less confrontational with others, we must be gentle especially with
ourselves. To admit one’s own faults can
lead to a sense of discouragement or even self-loathing. But we must be as patient with ourselves as
God is. Genuine conversion is a
life-long mission for us. But as Wisdom
reminds, “[God] gave [God’s] children good ground for hope that [God] would
permit repentance for their sins.” God
deals with the good and the bad differently, but God is patient, slow to judge
and ready to forgive. “The world is redeemed
by the patience of God. It is destroyed
by the impatience of man.” 
 Pope Benedict XVI, sermon at the Mass of
Installation (April 24, 2005),
quoted by George Weigel, God’s Choice -- Pope Benedict XVI and the Future of
the Catholic Church (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2005), p. 191ff.
 William H.
Shannon, Seeds of Peace: Reflections on Contemplation and Nonviolence
(New York: Crossroad, 1996), p. 130.
 St. Francis de Sales; The full quote is “Have patience with all
things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering your own
imperfections, but instantly set about remedying them – every day begin the
task anew.” http://www.quotesdaddy.com/author/St.+Francis+de+Sales
Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary
July 13, 2014
Rev. Anthony Medairos, pastor
Each of Jesus’ parables was intended
to heighten awareness of the kingdom of God.
But most people seem to let parables wash over us like a wave at the
beach. For a moment that wave gets one’s
attention, but once it has passed, it’s quickly forgotten. And that’s okay because we’re at the beach to
relax. But really hearing a
parable requires attentiveness. It needs
focus and, frankly, it requires work to understand. And many are not willing to do that work.
But each of Jesus’ parables was
meant to astound, not confound.
They were intended to prompt surprise which, hopefully, might lead the
listener to deeper thought and new insight.
The parable of the sower and the seed is one so familiar that we hardly
note its challenge. It is so familiar
that we may not hear its power.
Now, one must remember that the
gospels took written form rather late, in fact, many decades after Easter. The community’s memory of what Jesus did and
said lived on in oral form – in story telling – for at least a generation before
being written into books.
The parable of the sower and the seed must have been particularly
memorable, as it found its way into each synoptic gospel. Matthew (which we read today), Mark, 
and Luke 
include it nearly word-for-word the same.
It is even found in a Gnostic gospel reputed to be from the apostle
Thomas – which is neither scriptural nor even a gospel, in that it is not a
narrative (a story) but only a collection of sayings reputed to be from
Jesus. But in Thomas this parable also
appears word-for-word the same. 
As a collection of supposed sayings
from Jesus, the parable in the Gospel of Thomas stands alone, without
explanation, while the synoptic evangelists say that Jesus explained the
meaning of the parable. Personally, I am
not convinced that Jesus actually explained the parable to his apostles. Rather, his “explanation” is the inference
made by each Christian community that heard the parable. The reasons I say this are three. First, parables by definition are stand-alone
stories that are intended to startle and prompt new thought. Second, an explanation of a parable weakens
its startling aspect and dampens the challenge to come up with a new insight,
like a stand-up comedian trying to explain a joke. Sometimes people “get” a joke, some people
don’t. But if a joke needs to be
explained, it’s not much of a joke.
Sometimes people are spiritually provoked by a parable, some people are
not. If it needs to be explained, it’s
not much of a parable. And third, the
“explanations” of this parable are different in each of the gospels. Each evangelist inferred or “remembered” the
explanation Jesus gave differently.
Two gospels are similar. Mark writes, “The sower sows the word.”  Luke recalls it a little more specifically,
“The seed is the word of God.”  And that is an easy interpolation for each of
us to make: using the agricultural
method of his day, unlike today’s professional farmers – or even amateur
gardeners – who plough their ground and make neat furrows in which seeds are
planted carefully at intervals, people of Jesus’ time simply “broadcast” their
seed on ploughed ground, hoping that some of it would implant and grow, full
knowing that some seed would be lost in the bushes and brambles and some people
would walk on them. While some seed
would bear fruit, other seed would wither and die. In Mark’s and Luke’s recollections, Jesus
implied that various people would respond differently to the word sown among
them, as seeds responded to the earth.
But Matthew’s recollection is subtly
and significantly different. It’s the
message we’re left with today. And it
requires some introspection on our part.
As Matthew relates Jesus’ explanation of the parable, the seed is not
the word or the word of God. The seed is
the listener. “The seed sown on the path
is the one who hears the word … without understanding it.” “The seed sown on rocky ground is the one who
hears the word … but has no root and lasts for only a time.” “The seed … among thorns … hears the word,
but then worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word….” “But the seed … on rich soil is the one who
hears the word and understands it [and] bears fruit and yields a hundred- or
sixty- or thirty-fold.”
The seed is the listener. The seed is you and me. Matthew’s interpretation of the parable
places responsibility for the fruitfulness of God’s gifts to us squarely on how
we listen to God. And this requires
some honest introspection from each of us.
How, we must each ask of our self, do I listen to God?
This may actually make a better
examination of conscience than running through the Ten Commandments before
going to bed each night or before going to confession.  Am
I someone who has heard the message but doesn’t care? I don’t find God relevant to real living, so
I pay God little heed, thus making myself easy plucking for “the evil
Has my initial enthusiasm for our faith failed? When a tribulation or persecution pops up, am
I rootless and so turn from faith? Like
at the recent Church sex scandals:
people who thought themselves pillars of the parish just wander
away. Tribulation, certainly; but the
abandonment of sacrament and worship exposes the rocky ground, the rootlessness,
that had always been there. Persecution,
yes; both from Muslims martyring Christians overseas and the ridicule of our
neighbors and the resistance of government as we Christians attempt to live a
moral life. Perhaps the most
disconcerting place I see this is while teaching a moral truth and our own
teenagers look with utter mystification that the Church could possibly think
that, for example, marriage is between a man and a woman. (“Where do you get this stuff, father?”) God is facing a world-wide field of rocky
ground – people who are taught to hear only what they already believe because
of their immersion in secular humanism rather than in the gospel.
Did some thorns in my life drive me away? There are many difficult people to deal with
even in this Christian community; are these the weeds choking me? Or perhaps I am the weed, teaching my
children and others in word and example that Church is not important.
Or do I listen to God by preparing fertile ground through my prayer
life, my study of today’s issues, my reading of scripture, my involvement with
other Christians, my celebration of the sacraments, my service to
neighbor? It is in listening to God in
these ways that I nourish the word and will surely bear fruit, yielding “a
hundred- or sixty- or thirty-fold.”
 Marvin W. Meyer (trans.), “The Gospel of
Thomas or The Secret Sayings of Jesus” from The
Secret Teachings of Jesus – Four Gnostic Gospels (New York: Random House,
1984), Saying 9.
 Edward F.
Steiner, “Homily Backgrounds,” The Priest