14 Sunday - B-July 8-Homilies

14 Sunday - B; Mk 6:1-6

Introduction to the Celebration
When we assemble each week on Sunday, we are continuing an earlier tradition of God's people who met on Saturday – the Sabbath. For the Jews, the Sabbath was, and is, the day to rejoice in the goodness of God in creating the universe, and our human family. The first Christians moved the celebration to Sunday as this day was seen as the day of resurrection: God's great act of restoring and renewing the creation in Jesus.
 But whether it is celebrating the creation of all by God, or the renewal of all in Christ, the celebrations have some common elements: the people are to recall God's love in a meal and in reading the scriptures. For the Jews, the meal takes place in their homes on Friday evenings and they gather on Saturday to hear the Law and pray. We listen to the scriptures first, what we call the New Law, and then have our meal together here.
 Today we recall that Jesus entered the assembly on the Sabbath in his home town; we believe that he is here among us in this assembly today. Let us recall his presence, and pray that he may find us a community of faith.

This incident reports what happened when Jesus returned home to Nazareth for the first time after beginning his public ministry and having much success all around Galilee. It continues to deal with the topic of faith and obstacles to it. As in Luke's account, the beginning is quite promising. Jesus amazes them by his teaching in the synagogue but their amazement quickly turns to resistance as their supposed knowledge of him convinces them that he could not possibly be anyone special. The reference to his brothers is usually understood in the Catholic tradition as meaning his kin or cousins. In Greek Orthodox circles, there is a tradition that Joseph had children by an earlier marriage and these are Jesus' stepbrothers. The lack of faith that Jesus encounters leads the evangelist to comment that he could do no miracle there and that he was amazed at their lack of faith.


Ezekiel and Paul both provide us with a valuable lesson in discipleship in these readings. Their work for God brings them into situations that they would not choose for themselves and appears on occasions to meet with failure. However, they have both learned that if they keep their focus on the Lord of the work then they need have no worries about their work for the Lord.  All their experiences can be of service to him if undergone in a spirit of humble faith. Similarly, it is the lack of just such a humble faith that prohibits the spread of the kingdom in Nazareth.
In this short unit of text, Mark summarises several themes that he has already preached in his gospel: the question of discipleship and faith; Jesus as teacher; Jesus as miracle worker/healer; and Jesus as the prophet. Now his gospel reaches a climactic moment. At the end of all his teaching and miracles in Galilee we have a snapshot of reaction to him: his home town, Nazareth, rejects him. This rejection by his own people, his own people in the sense of those he grew up with, those who knew him and his family, presages the greater rejection that comes at the crucifixion.
Underlying the whole scene is the question of what is it to know Jesus and accept him, and this question is framed in terms of faith. They cannot accept this individual as a prophet even if they are amazed at him, and their rejection is seen as unbelief.
The gospel passage for this Sunday is St Mark’s version of Jesus’ return to his home town of Nazareth, accompanied by his disciples. He began to teach in Nazareth, and many were astonished by what they saw in him. They wondered where all this wisdom had come from. What they saw was very different from what others had seen. This man was one of them, in the deepest sense; they knew him and his family. The people of the town would not accept him; even though they had heard of his outstanding accomplishments in other places, they could not see what made him so special.

 The story of what happened to Jesus when he decided to return to his town is a familiar story, one that happens to all of us: we achieve wonderful things far away from home - in another city, or perhaps in some other part of the world, where we are not well known; then the time comes when we know we must return to our own country and teach there, and we find that people at home do not see us in the same way.
 As you reflect on this passage, you may find yourself identifying with the people who rejected Jesus because he was so well known to them. Or you may prefer to identify with Jesus, remembering times when you or others had an experience like his. If you are taking this approach you might like to read it as a necessary journey of “returning to reality”. Feel free, also, to read the story symbolically, taking “going home” to mean the journey to the deepest truth of ourselves.
Homily notes
1.     Who are we following when we say we are 'Christians'? The question seems so obvious that most of us think it a silly question even to ask: it's obviously 'Jesus', isn't it? But the question is not silly, nor is the answer obvious, because who Jesus is and what he means to us is far from obvious. Indeed, it is because it is anything but obvious that there have been so many disputes down the centuries among Christians, and there is a whole branch of Christian theology called 'christology'. 
2.     Let us begin by noting that most people like 'to keep it simple' — and that means they imagine there should be a simple answer to the question 'who is Jesus?' — but the reality is that life is complex, and the more any issue involves human beings, the more complex life becomes. Everyone knows that her/his human relationships are complex — how many of us can say 'I know myself!' — so why think that understanding Jesus is easy?
3.     The situation recorded in today's gospel shows a reaction that must have been widespread: the local people have Jesus in one box in their imaginations: he is the guy from down the road —they know him, his brothers and sisters, and his background. For anyone who comes from their town they have a box for what they expect for and from that person: fine to get him to do a job for you, fine to go to the well with his sisters, fine to engage with them socially. That's all there is to them: another family, just like us, and they should not think of themselves as anything special. So if Jesus stands up and presents himself as a leader, that is just not on!
On the other hand, they have heard him in the synagogue: he comes across as one filled with wisdom, he is a teacher like they have heard, he speaks in a way they have always imagined a prophet would speak. They have another box marked 'prophet' and he seems to fit there too! But that box comes with a label: prophets are very distant from everyday life, they are exceptional in every way, they are 'not like us'.
4.     So when these people find that Jesus ticking both the box marked 'prophet' and ticking the box marked 'ordinary bloke' / 'regular guy' /'one of our own,' they cannot cope with this complexity. So, since they are more sure that he is the guy down the road, they reject him as a prophet. 4. Faith is the ability to imagine that God's goodness is greater and closer than the bits-and-pieces around us and the ups-and downs of life. In this case, faith was the ability to imagine that God was so close that Jesus was both the guy from down the road and the great prophet and the wise teacher and more besides. But the group could not make that leap of imagination —and Jesus was amazed at their lack of faith.’
5.     Would we have been among that group that could not imagine that God's goodness was that close?
6.     Surely not! After all, we are Christians, who publicly declare our faith in Jesus each week in the creed.
7.     But we have problems of our own in imagining the goodness of God coming close to us in Jesus.
8.     For many people, it is fine to think of Jesus as a wise teacher —a proclaimer of great religious or moral truths — and as such one who should inspire us to high ideals. This is all true, but is there a label on that box which says: 'Not needed on a day-to-day basis in life'?

Prayer Rflection:

"The false idealist skips over the real. He skips the mediation of time in order to land full-blown in the ideal, ultimate society where everything is taken care of. He dreams, he does not hope." Jacques Ellul
Lord, we remember with gratitude
the time we had a deep experience of conversion
and then had to make a journey back to everyday life:
- we made a Life-in-the-Spirit seminar;
- we went to confession after a long time away from the sacraments;
- we attended a meeting of our religious community and returned all fired up.
The time came when, like Jesus,
we had to leave that beautiful place and return home.
Naturally enough, people were astonished when they heard us speak;
they asked sarcastically what was this new wisdom
that had suddenly been granted us,
what miracles did we expect to be worked through us.
We were no different from what we had been before, they told us,
and our parents, our brothers and sisters were there to remind us of this.
We were amazed to see that our own enthusiasm was not universally shared.
But today, Lord, we thank you for that experience;
it taught us that we cannot work miracles overnight.
We may feel a lot of enthusiasm within ourselves,
but that does not mean we can get others to see things as we do.
Sometimes we have to be content, as Jesus was, to cure a few sick people
by laying our hands on them.

"Humility is the virtue by which, knowing ourselves as we really are, we become lowly in our own eyes."  St Bernard

Lord, the biggest obstacles to conversion always lie within ourselves.

We don't like facing up to this, but, like Jesus,
we must eventually leave the far away place and come home.
There, as Jesus did, we will hear voices coming from deep inside,
and these voices will be questioning us:
- do we really think that miracles can be worked through us?
- are not our parents, our brothers and sisters there to show us
that we are not different from what we were?
A whole part of ourselves rejects this new direction we are taking
and we are amazed at our lack of faith.
But Jesus taught us that a moment of grace is always resisted
by our long-standing relationships and within our deeper selves.
Lord, help us to make our journey of grace with Jesus,
to accept that we cannot work any great miracles on ourselves,
and to be content that we can lay our hands on some wounds and heal them.

"If people regarded me as a Messiah they were living in a fool's paradise. I have no miracles."
Nelson Mandela

Lord, our leaders often prefer to play a role in foreign countries

where they are more respected than in their own.
So, too, church leaders sometimes enjoy being present in other communities
where they are not well known.
Many of us feel more comfortable
away from our families or religious communities,
among people who only see part of who we are.
Help us to leave those far away places from time to time,
and to go to our home town,
like Jesus did, among our relatives and in our own homes,
even though we may feel despised.
We may not be able to work any great miracles,
but there are always a few sick people who need us
to lay our hands on them so that they may be cured.

"God only comes to those who, in patience, love his fore-runners and the provisional." K. Rahner

Lord, how often you have sent Jesus to us in the form of someone we knew well,

but this person was just too ordinary for us.
All we could see was the carpenter, the son of our neighbour,
one whose brothers and sisters were there with us,
and so we would not accept him.
How true it is, as Jesus said, that a prophet is only despised in his own country,
among his own relations and in his own house.
So the great miracle you had in store for us could not be worked.
Lord, have mercy.

"We all want to be famous people and the moment we want to be something we are no longer free."

Lord, we want to do great deeds.

Free us from all ambition,
so that when we cannot work miracles
we will be content to cure a few sick people by laying hands on them.
Further Reflections:

Picture yourself starting a brand new project. You might want to call it mission. In a parish where most of the communicants were government workers, civilian and military, I was always hearing the word, mission. I had understood mission in a religious context. I learned that mission could have a broader meaning. Life is mission. Business is mission. Career is mission. Mission is a good word. It suggests vision that is supported by good planning. Define your mission clearly. State its purpose briefly. Write the rules for implementing it. That will be your business plan. That makes you mission ready.

The Gospel is about mission. St. Mark has a way of zeroing in on the basics. He's very brief and to the point. Let's get the picture. Jesus sets up a "pilot test" project. He wants to test how well his brand new on-the-job trainees can take instructions and make them work. In this Gospel we see him giving them a lesson on some very basic matters. I will use three key words to highlight his work plan: Excess, Time and Respond. In the simplest terms, the basics are: avoid Excesses, use Time wisely, and Respond, don't react, to each new challenge.

I suggest that these basics will work for you too, any time and any place...
There are two types of travelers. There are those that travel light; and, there are those who pack for self-preservation.

Do you take a small bag with the basic essentials and figure you'll pick stuff up as you go?

Or do you cram everything you can into every corner of an extra-large expandable bag, making sure that whatever comes your way on your trip, you are prepared?

Parents traveling with small children embody both extremes. They bring enough "kid gear," emergency medicines, food and drink boxes, stuffed animals, and beloved story-books to keep the children satisfied for weeks. But they're lucky if they get a toothbrush and a change of socks for themselves.

It is the Boy Scouts' motto of "Be Prepared" vs. the new airline mantra of "you pay for every pound." Once you are beyond the "traveling with small children" phase of your life, it is tempting to look at all the "stuff" parents bring along as just so much junk. But, ironically, it is those protective parents who might best embody the supplications of Jesus and the spartan traveling supplies of Jesus' disciples. No, the twelve apostles did not bring "Dora, the Explorer" downloads. No, there were no fruit snacks and water bottles. But . . . Yes, like parents, they did set out to travel without focusing on their own needs and provisions.

In today's text we learn how the disciples, in accordance with Jesus' own directives, took basically nothing as a "back-up" for themselves...

Pridefulness - Not Needing God

Atlas was condemned to carry the weight of the entire world on his shoulders. That was as harsh a punishment as the ancient Greek mind could conjure up. Today, it seems, we have volunteered to play the role of Atlas. We have not offended God, we have dismissed him, told him we were grown up enough not to need his help any more, and offered to carry the weight of the entire world on our shoulders. The question is, when it gets too heavy for us, when there are questions too hard for human knowledge to answer and problems that take more time to solve than any of us have, will we be too proud to admit that we have made a mistake in wanting to carry this world alone?

Rabbi Harold Kushner

Switching Tracks

Sometimes the best thing we can do is to move on to another field. Paul Harvey tells the story of Joe, who was born into a family of Sicilian immigrants, a family who had a 300-year history as fishermen. Joe's dad was a fisherman. His brothers were fishermen. But Joe was made sick by the smell of raw fish and the motion of a rocking boat. In a family where the only acceptable way to earn a living was by fishing, Joe was a failure. His dad used to refer to his son as "good for nothing." Joe believed his dad. He believed that his attempts at other types of work were an admission of failure, but he just couldn't stand the smell of the fishing business. One thing that Joe could do was to play baseball. Giving up a field where he could not succeed, Joe DiMaggio moved to another field and became one of the great successes of baseball.

David G. Rogne, Sermons for Sundays after Pentecost

Call to Repentance and Change

Erwin M. Soukup has compiled what he terms "The Seven Steps to Stagnation":

1. We've never done it that way before.
2. We're not ready for that.
3. We are doing all right without trying that.
4. We tried it once before.
5. We don't have money for that.
6. That's not our job.
7. Something like that can't work.

Soukup admits that "there's probably an eighth step, but we've never looked it up before."

Martin E. Marty, "Context," April 15, 1985, p. 5.

Ignoring the Play

When I was in elementary school, I remember when all the kids in the neighborhood got together and put on a show. We rigged up a curtain of sorts by hanging an old bedspread in a screened porch, and arranged folding chairs for the audience. Then we practiced a small play, and added in a few musical solos, for which I played the piano. (Because we couldn't move the piano closer to the play, I had to play it very loud, and even then it was barely audible.) As I remember it, it was a prodigious feat for little kids like us.

We invited all our mothers to come to our performance. (That was back in the days when housewives were not an endangered species and most mothers were home all day.) Although we did not charge admission, we went through the motions of collecting tickets and ushering our guests to their seats. Our audience was charmed by how cute that was. Then we put on our play.

We put a lot of work into our play. We had to invent everything from scratch and improvise sets and costumes from things our mothers reluctantly loaned us, and yet they didn't pay attention! They sat there and gossiped with each other, commenting on whether this kid was a natural singer or that kid was terminally shy. At the end, they retained nothing of the plot or the story of our play; they just told us how cute we were. Cute! The word stung! We wanted them to take us seriously, as if we were adults putting on a play. But they were so well acquainted with us that all they saw were cute little kids, and no play at all.

Well, that is pretty much what happened to Jesus in today's reading.

Ken Collins, No Honor in His Own Country

The Object of Envy Is Trapped

In his story "Abel Sanchez," writer Miguel de Unamuno nicely highlights the nature of envy and why it that the envied person is often trapped. In this retelling of the Cain and Abel story from Genesis 4, the Cain character is played by a skilled surgeon who has for years secretly envied his friend, Abel Sanchez, a skilled artist. At one point in the story, the doctor is scrutinizing one of Abel's paintings. This particular painting is a depiction of the Cain and Abel story itself from the Bible. At first, the doctor is convinced that the face of Cain in the painting is modeled on his own face. And he becomes furious! How dare Abel Sanchez use HIM as a model for envy? The gall! The nerve! The implied accusation! But then, upon closer inspection, the doctor decides it's not his face after all. Does this defuse his anger, however? By no means! Instead the surgeon becomes irate that Abel Sanchez did NOT deign to use him in one of his famous paintings! How dare Abel NOT use his face!

De Unamuno's point is clear: when you are the object of envy, you cannot do a blessed thing to make the situation any better. Try to be extra kind to the one who envies you, and this kindness will get written off as condescension and charity. Try to rise above things by ignoring the one torn up with envy and you will be written off as arrogant and rude, thereby merely confirming the envier's low opinion of you. Neither approach nor avoidance can help the envied one.
It's difficult to know how much of a role envy plays in Mark 6 but surely the sneering attitude of Jesus' fellow townsfolk revealed at least a smidgen of envy-driven sentiments. Maybe this had something to do with his inability/unwillingness to do miracles there. He was doomed no matter what he did. Do more miracles, and the people write him off as a showboat (and/or as someone drawing off power from dubious sources). If he refused to do miracles, maybe a few would say, "What now?! We're not good enough for you, not WORTHY of your wonder-working power!?"
Perhaps the only thing left to do was leave town and go to other villages, from which Jesus sent forth his disciples-cum-apostles to do wonderful work in places where it could be unalloyedly appreciated.

Scott Hoezee, Comments and Observations

A Reputation Is Hard to Shake

Do you remember the stupid stuff you did when you were a kid? I'm not talking about wetting the bed or spilling your milk; I mean the things that you did in public, the things that were known in the community and, perhaps, even gave you a reputation. Maybe you were arrested for some prank, or you were kicked off the football team for drinking, or maybe, on a dare, you streaked the high school lunchroom. Whatever.

The point is, a reputation is a hard thing to shake. Even as a fully grown adult, when you go back home, the people still whisper: "There's Bill Smith, he got busted for 'dining and dashing' back in '72." No wonder so many people move away from their hometown when they grow up! It's less humbling that way.

In high school, I was known as "The Class Clown." Now there's a shock! I was forever cutting up in class, telling jokes, making smart comments. When I arrived in biology class on the first day, the teacher took role, and when she came to my name, she said "Steve, I've heard about you, and you've got one chance. If you smart off in my class, you're out of here." Well, I lasted about a week. When Mrs. McMartin asked if someone could define the word "dilute" I said that it was a city on the shore of Lake Superior. Hello, study hall!
But as my life began to change, some people wouldn't let me change. I came to faith in Christ and got serious about ministry, but people still saw me as a clown. I decided to go to seminary and they whispered "That's Steve Molin, he was tossed off the college hockey team in '68." When I got ordained, some supposed that I would show up as Guido Sarducci of the Saturday Night Live skit. Is it any wonder then that my first ministry job was in Rochester, some 70 miles from home? Or that my next call was to Sioux Falls, 250 miles from here. Or that next, I traveled 1600 miles away to serve in Salem, Oregon. In Salem, they loved me. In Sioux Falls, they took me seriously. But seven years ago, I came back home, and I can't tell you how many times I have run into people from my high school who have said "Really? Steve Molin? A Lutheran pastor?" As I said, it's hard to shake a reputation.

Steven Molin, An Expert Is Someone 300 Miles Away From Home!

Glued to Our Faults
James S. Hewett once gave an apt example of people not getting the respect they deserve. Especially young people. He tells about his son, who was using one of those super-adhesive glues on a model airplane he was building. "In less than three minutes," says James Hewett, "his right index finger was bonded to a shiny blue wing of his DC-10. He tried to free it. He tugged it, pulled it, waved it frantically, but he couldn't budge his finger free." Soon, they located a solvent that did the job and ended their moment of crisis. Then James Hewitt writes this: "Last night I remembered that scene when I visited a new family in our neighborhood. The father of the family introduced his children: 'This is Pete. He's the clumsy one of the lot.' 'That's Kathy coming in with mud on her shoes. She's the sloppy one.' 'As always, Mike is last. He'll be late for his own funeral, I promise you.'"

James Hewett goes on to say, "The dad did a thorough job of gluing his children to their faults and mistakes. People do it to us all the time. They remind us of our failures, our errors, our sins, and they won't let us live them down. Like my son trying frantically to free his finger from the plane, there are people who try, sometimes desperately, to free themselves from their past. They would love a chance to begin again. When we don't let people forget their past, when we don't forgive, we glue them to their mistakes and refuse to see them as more than something they have done. However, when we forgive, we gently pry the doer of the hurtful deed from the deed itself, and we say that the past is just that--the past--over and done with . . ."

King Duncan,
Real Evangelism

If we are going to be effective in reaching people for Christ we are going to have to start showing people that we really care. Evangelism and missions must be relational in nature. There is no record of Jesus walking up to someone out of the clear blue sky and saying: I am the Messiah and then him beginning to show his care for them. No, he showed his care for them first and then he revealed himself to them.

A story is told about a man who was on a luxury liner and suddenly he falls overboard. He can't swim and in desperation he begins calling for help. Now it just so happens that there several would be rescuers on deck who witnessed the incident. The first man was a MORALIST. When he saw the man fall overboard he immediately reached into his briefcase and pulled out a book on how to swim. He now tossed it to him and he yelled: Now brother, you read that and just follow the instructions and you will be all right.

The man next to him happened to be an IDEALIST...



  Anecdotes: # 1: Rev. Deacon Prophet:  There is the story about a bishop who   was  interviewing  a  senior  seminarian  before  his  ordination  as deacon, and   asked  him  where   he  would  like  to  be  assigned  as  a deacon for  pastoral  training.  The seminarian said,  somewhat boldly, "Oh,  my  bishop,  anywhere but  Indiranagar!" "Why not there," the bishop  asked?  "You know," the seminarian answered, "That’s my hometown -- and we all  know  that  ‘a prophet  is  not  without honor except in his native place.’” The bishop replied, "Don't worry my friend! Nobody in your hometown is going to confuse you with a prophet."

#  2:  Don’t   allow   rejection  to   derail   your   dreams:   Brilliant  British Theologian G.K. Chesterton could not read  until he was eight  years old. A teacher said  if his  head were  opened they  would  probably  find  a lump  of fat where  there  was supposed to be a brain.  That teacher was wrong.  Einstein’s parents were informed by a teacher that  he  would never  amount to anything. For The Tale of Peter Rabbit, Beatrix Potter received seven rejection slips before finding a publisher. Richard Bach got twenty rejection slips before Jonathan Livingston Seagull was published.  Dr. Seuss,  one  of the  most  popular  children’s authors of all time, got more  than  two  dozen  rejection slips before The Cat  in the Hat made it to print. Ruth Graham felt an uncontrollable urge to run out of the meeting the  first  time  she  heard Billy preach. She was not under conviction. She was put  off by his preaching style. Billy had to improve his preaching before Ruth would become his wife.  Today’s gospel  tells us how Jesus encountered rejection with prophetic courage.

# 3: Good news to the poor!  But are we poor?  Mother Teresa thinks so. There was a  beautiful  article  about her  in  Time  magazine.  She was asked about the materialism of the  West.  "The  more  you  have,   the more  you  are  occupied,"  she  contended, "but  the  less  you  have  the freer you are. Poverty for us is a freedom. It is a joyful freedom. There is no  television  here,  no  this,  no  that.  This is  the  only  fan  in the  whole house...and  it is  for the  guests.  But we are  happy.” She continued, "I find the rich poorer.  Sometimes they  are lonelier  inside...The hunger  for love  is much more  difficult  to  fill than  the  hunger  for bread...The  real poor  know  what is joy." When asked about her plans for the future, she replied,  "I just take   one  day.   Yesterday   is gone. Tomorrow has not come. We have only today to love Jesus." Is there anyone in this room as rich as Mother Teresa?

Life Messages:

Life messages: 1) Let us face  rejection with prophetic courage and optimism.  The story of Jesus' rejection in his own  town  is a story that  we can  identify with, because it is a story that  has happened to most of us. We might  have  felt the pain  of rejection experienced in hurts, wounds, betrayal, divorce, abandonment, violated trust, trauma, neglect or various  forms  of  abuse.  What  about rejection  by  those  closest  to  us? Often  our  friends,  families,  or  childhood companions  fail  to  listen  to, and  refuse to accept, the  words of grace, love  and  encouragement that  we  offer  to  them,  because  they  are  too  familiar  with  us.  Hence, they  are  unable to see us as God's appointed instruments, the  agents of God's healing and  saving grace. Let us check also the other  side of the  coin. How often  do  we  discount God’s agents through prejudice? How often  do we fail to see God’s image in them  because of our own hardheartedness?   We   must   realize   that    God's   power   is   always available to transform even  the most unlikely people.

2) We need  to  handle rejection in the  right  spirit: a)  We  can handle rejection with  respect  for  ourselves  and   respect  for  others.  Our  first reaction  to  rejection  is  often   anger  at  ourselves  for  assuming   we deserve  what we  have  gotten and  bitterness  toward  others  who  do the  rejecting. In the  face of rejection, we  would be  wise to follow  the advice of St. Paul who  said, “Be angry  and  sin not.  Let not  the  sun go down on your anger.” b) We need to avoid self-defeating assumptions. One  rejection need not be an indictment on one’s  life. Rejection is not synonymous  with  continuous failure.  c)  We need to  avoid magnifying the rejection. Rejection need not be  a forecast of our future.  We must avoid making rejection a self-fulfilling prophecy. d) We must avoid allowing  rejection  to  derail   our  dreams,  but  instead,  keep   coming back. e) We need to learn from our rejections. We are not perfect and we do  not always get  it right, but  we need to keep  coming back until we  do  get  it right. Every rejection can be  a lesson if we  stay open to new possibilities and  new opportunities. What can I do differently? How can I improve?  What  needs can I meet? These are  the  questions we need to ask if we are never to let a trouble go to waste.

3) Let us acknowledge the  prophets of  God’s  goodness in our  midst. God  is  present  giving  us His  message  through  both  our  nearest  and dearest  and  our priests, bosses, neighbors  and  coworkers.  Since  God uses these people as His prophets to convey His message  to us, it is our duty  to acknowledge and  honor  them.  Let us express our appreciation today for our families – spouses for each other,  parents and  children for each other.  A word  of appreciation for the lady  who  cooks the dinner, for  the  neighbor  who   is  always  ready  to  share  our  happiness  and sorrow, for the  friends who  have  given  us time,  support and  attention during  a recent bereavement or a tragedy in our life – all God’s messengers of love  and  light -- is are our proper responses to them  for their  service  and   to  Him  for  His mercy.   Let  us  not  take   this  active presence of  God  among us for granted, and  let us not  ignore  God’s direction, help  and  support in our lives coming to us through His words in the Bible and  the advice and  example of others.

4)  We  must  have  the  prophetic courage of  our  convictions. By our baptism, God  calls us to share in Jesus’ prophetic mission. The task of a prophet is to  speak God’s truth.  We must  never  be  afraid of  this call. We  may  rely on  Jesus to  supply  us with  the  courage to  oppose the many   evils  in  our  society.  By  legalizing   abortion  in  1973,  the   U.S. Supreme   Court   has  allowed the  killing  of  over  thirty  million  unborn children  in thirty-one  years  and  it is tolerating  the  brutal  execution  of 4400 defenseless  babies  every  day  by  abortion. Our  liberal  television and   movie   conglomerates  systematically  poison  the   minds  of  the young  as  well   as  the   old   by   the   excessive  importance  given   to perverted sex and  unnecessary violence. Many  well-known corporate sponsors  support  more   than   75,000  U. S.  websites  of  pornographic material,  making  it easy  for people to  become addicts,  perverts and sex abusers.  Our  society  tells  youngsters  that  promiscuous  sex, drugs and  alcohol  are  means  by  which  they  express  their  individuality.  It  is here  that  our country needs Christians with  the  prophetic courage  of their convictions to fight against such moral evils.

5) We need  to speak the truth of Christ without being hypocritical or disrespectful. We must never  remain  silent in the face of evil for fear of being thought "politically incorrect." Jesus was not  against conflict if it promoted truth. He taught us to give  respect and  freedom without condoning or encouraging sinful behavior. Love does not tolerate destructive behavior but,  nevertheless, it sometimes causes pain  – just as  a  surgeon  must  sometimes  hurt  in order  to  heal.  We can be  kind, charitable,  and    honest   and    forgiving   and    still   speak   our   own convictions as Jesus did in the synagogue.

  Jokes of the week: 

# 1: Rejection  resulting  in the resignation:  There was a feud  between the Pastor and  the Choir Director of a Southern Baptist parish. The first hint of trouble came when  the Pastor preached on “Dedicating oneself  to service” and  the Choir Director chose to sing: "I Shall Not Be Moved". Trying to believe it was a coincidence, the Pastor put   the   incident   behind  him.  The   next   Sunday   he   preached   on “giving”. Afterwards, the choir squirmed as the director led them  in the hymn:  "Jesus Paid  It All" By this time,  the  Pastor was losing his temper. Sunday morning attendance swelled as the  tension  between the  two began public.  A large  crowd  showed  up  the  next  week  to  hear  his sermon on the “sin of gossiping”. Would  you believe the Choir Director selected:  "I  Love  To Tell the  Story."  There  was  no  turning  back. The following   Sunday   the   Pastor   told    the   congregation   that    unless something changed he was considering resignation. The entire  church gasped  when   the  Choir  Director  led  them   in:  “Why  Not  Tonight.” Truthfully, no one  was surprised when  the Pastor resigned a week  later, explaining  that  Jesus had  led  him  there  and  Jesus was  leading  him away. The Choir  Director  could not  resist singing:  "What  a  Friend We Have In Jesus."

 # 2: Rejection  at the Pearly Gate,  too:   A cab driver reaches the  Pearly Gates and  announces his presence to St. Peter, who  looks him up in his Big Book. Upon reading the entry for the cabby, St. Peter invites him to grab  a  silk robe  and  a  golden staff  and  to  proceed into  Heaven. A preacher  is  next  in  line  behind the  cabby and  has  been watching these  proceedings  with  interest.  He  announces  himself  to  St.  Peter. Upon scanning the preacher's entry in the Big Book, St. Peter furrows his brow  and  says, "Okay,  we'll  let you  in, but  take  that  cotton robe  and wooden staff." The preacher is astonished and replies, "But I am a man of the cloth.  You gave that cab driver a gold staff and a silk robe. Surely, I  rate  higher  than   a  cabby." St. Peter responded matter-of- factly: "Here we are interested in results. When you preached, people slept. When the cabby drove his taxi, people prayed."