And Anyway, What’s Wrong with Maybe?

Once upon a time, two not-so-smart very jealous people talk at the office.  The first one says, “Hey, why is James our boss?” The other turns to his friend and replies, “Well, I don’t know, but I’m going to ask.” He finds his boss in the lounge and asks him, “Hey, Boss, why are you the boss, and I’m not?” James smiles and stands next to a wall. “Okay, Rick, I’m going put my hand here, and I want you to punch it.” Rick agrees and throws a punch at his boss’s hand. Before he makes contact, James pulls his hand out of the way.  Rick’s hand smashes into the wall. He screams and holds his hand. “It hurts like hell!” “That’s why I’m the boss.” Rick goes back to his friend.  “Hey, did you find out why he’s the boss?” says the one jealous friend. “Yeah, let me show you,” Rick places his hand onto his face and says, “Try punching my hand.”

Jealousy and envy, we know them both.

Look at the people of Nazareth.  After prayers in the synagogue, the chief rabbi chooses Jesus to proclaim the scriptures.  Jesus unrolls the scroll and after the reading they ask him to preach.  His own townsfolk react quite harshly.  They say, “This can’t be the same boy who grew up with us, is it?” “Where did he get all this?” “Isn’t he the carpenter?” “Oh, he’s the son of Mary, the woman who had her child early, ‘wink,’ ‘wink.’”  “Wait, we know his family, his brothers and sisters.” “There’s James over there. We see Joses, Judas and Simon, and all of his sisters.” And since familiarity breeds contempt, Jesus, the neighborhood boy, remains a stumbling block for them.

Jealousy and envy, we know them both.  And they keep us from building the kingdom of God.

Our Fr. David Turner defines jealousy as, “I want what you are getting.”  He defines envy as, “I want what you have.”  Jesus is at the receiving end of both jealousy and envy.  These deadly sins are also present in the Christian community.  These are the exclamation points of jealous and envy: “Where did she get all of her money?”  “Oh, look who got elected.”  “He thinks he’s big stuff now that he’s in charge.”  “Who do you think you are?”  These questions betray us.  At their roots lie the rotting bacteria of wanting what you are getting and wanting what you have.  Whether they are adulations, positions, beauty or money, jealousy and envy are the beginnings of adulterous attitudes.  In other words, they always end in cynicism and sarcasm.  A cynic is a scornful pessimist.  A sarcastic person literally is someone who tears away the flesh.  They are enemies of religion.

St. Gregory Nazianzen says that there are two things necessary for mighty works:  the faith of the patient and the power of the healer.  This applies to medical care as well as to moral transformation.  Jesus could not work any mighty deeds in Nazareth because of their lack of faith.  Jesus was amazed at his neighbors’ scorn and their biting words.  The prophet Ezekiel uses the words “hard of face” and obstinate of heart” to describe people who refuse to believe.  It isn’t that God cannot work miracles.  The problem is that mighty deeds happen all the time around us.  We refuse to see them because of our jealousy and our envy.  Our bad attitude is like our hand on our face asking people to hit us. St. Paul could have turned into a cynic and a sarcastic person.  Persecuted not only by others but also possessing a “thorn in the flesh,” St. Paul chooses the grace of God.  In his prayer, God tells him that grace is sufficient to take care of the problem.

As we come forward for Holy Communion, may we be grateful and content instead of jealous and envious!  May we see all as grace!  In the words of the poet, May Oliver,

I have refused to live

locked in the orderly house of

reasons and proofs.

The world I live in and believe in

is wider than that.  And anyway,

what’s wrong with Maybe?

You wouldn’t believe what once or

twice I have seen.  I’ll just

tell you this:

only if there are angels in your head will you

ever, possibly, see one.[1]

 

The Rev. Fr. Dr. T. Becket Franks, O.S.B.

14thSunday Ordinary Time Cycle B

[1]“The World I Live In,” Devotions, p. 5.

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That Very Important Starting Point

SCRIPTURES FOR THE DAY before you reflect on the Homily

Wisdom 1:13-15; 2:23-24, 2 Cor 8:7, 9, 13-15, Mark  5:21-43

Listening to National Public Radio a few months ago, I perk up. They review a new book by a young woman who is told that she has chronic terminal cancer.  That is, Kate Bowler develops a type of cancer that is not curable but shrinkable.  Her book, Everything Happens for a Reason, is a personal, pastoral and theological reflection about her diagnostic life.  All sorts of people tell Kate what to do and how to do it, especially after she publishes an article in the “Sunday Review” of the NY Times.  In one chapter of the book, Kate names three types of life lessons that make her feel worse.  First, there are the “Minimizers.” These people tell her to just accept it- God will take care of it or better, just give up- we all have to die.  Then there are the “Teachers.”   These people tell us that there is a lesson to be learned here—“Everything happens for a reason.”  Finally, there are the “Solutions” people.  They tell us to keep smiling because everything will turn out ok- God’s in charge.  Needless to say, Kate none of these “helpful aids” act as prescriptions for chronic terminal cancer.

Brothers and sisters, when it comes to death and disease, everything depends upon our starting point.  Our starting point must be faith in God.

Faith is the starting point for Jairus.  He believes that Jesus can help his daughter live. Because of his faith and the faith of his wife, Jesus raises the girl from the dead.  Faith in God restores the little girl to her place in society.  Now she can grow into womanhood, marry and bear children.  In the middle of this drama, we hear the starting point for a hemorrhaging woman.  Her faith in God is so strong that she believes all she has to do is to touch his clothes and she will be cured of her affliction. Faith in God not only cures this woman but her faith restores her to society where she continues to do her duties and live like everyone else in the village.

I don’t know where I would be today without my faith in God.  July is not good to my family.  It is two years since my brother’s death, and, one year since my father’s death.  I get irritated that life goes on as usual.  I get irritated when people ask me if I am over my father’s death yet.  I lost my best friend, my dining buddy, my traveling companion, and my hero.  Everyday I prayed to Dorothy Day to intercede before the throne of God to heal him of his cancer. And he was healed completely.  But little did we sons know something he never told us. My father developed a dementia that accelerated while he was out of his routine.  He knew this, never told us, and, so he decided not “to do this anymore.”  He was eighty-five years old. It was time for him to go to God.  But it was not time for me to let him go.  Maybe this is why Kate Bowler names her book, “Everything Happens for a Reason And Other Lies I’ve Loved.”  Faith-filled people do not need advice about how to handle death and disease.  Two things remain in my mind as very helpful in my grief.  One comes from my best friend Laura who says, “Becket, there are no words.”  Silence is how faith works.  And the second helpful comment comes from Hank, a valet parker at my dad’s country club, who says, “How are youdoing?”   I get to be my own advisor when I tell people about the roller coast of life.

Brothers and sisters, God does not send cancer. God does not make death. But they happen.  We all know the pain.  We all know the loneliness.  If you don’t know these, they will befriend you soon. My faith in Jesus Christ tells me that God is still interested in my wellbeing. And I savor this promise every single day.  I thank Jairus, his family, and, the woman of the Gospel for their examples of faith.

The Rev. Fr. Dr. T. Becket A. Franks, O.S.B.

13th Sunday Ordinary Time Cycle B

In the streets of Quebec...dad is thinking about French Food (look at the sign behind him)!

I love you, dad!

 

Saying Yes to our Divinity

Once upon a time, a man and a woman die and go to Heaven. St. Peter greets them, and says, “I’m sorry, but your mansions aren’t ready yet. Until they are, I can send you back to Earth as whatever you want to be.” “Great!” says the woman, “I want to be an eagle soaring above beautiful scenery!”  “No problem,” replies St. Peter, and POOF! She’s gone. “And what do you want to be, sir.” St. Peter asks the man.  “I’d like to be one cool stud!” is the reply.  “Easy,” replies St. Peter, and he’s gone.  After a few months, the angels finish their mansions.  St. Peter sends an angel to fetch them back. “You’ll find them easily,” he says, “One of them is soaring above the Grand Canyon, and the other one is on a snow tire somewhere in Chicago!”

What happens when we do not believe the Word of God?

Both parents of St. John the Baptist belong to the priestly cast.  His father, Zechariah, is a priest of the temple.  His mother, Elizabeth, is directly descended from Aaron, the brother of Moses.  Remember Aaron is the first priest of Israel.  In the middle of his priestly service Zechariah does not believe God that he and his wife will have a son.  For this lack of belief, God removes his ability to speak.

Now, we might think- what’s the big deal? For the autocratic paterfamiliasnot to speak says volumes.  God removes the speech from the head of the family. He cannot direct, guide, care for or speak God’s Word to his family. God teaches Zechariah the priest a lesson because now it is his wife who is in charge.  She is the one who directs, guides, cares for and speak God’s Word in the family. Elizabeth speaks as the materfamilias. And to make matters more astounding, Elizabeth is the one who names her son as she stands on the perimeter of the synagogue, that place where Jewish women are allowed since only men can enter the nave of the worship space.

What happens when we do not believe the Word of God?  Like Zechariah, we lose our voice.  We lose our way.  We lose our vision.  We lose site of our divinity.  Literally, we grow dumb.  Now, I do not want this homily to become a male versus female contest. However, we learn a lesson here. Sometimes we are like both Zechariah and Elizabeth.  Zechariah does not believe the Word of God because he is practical:  he is too old to have a child.  God thinks otherwise.  Elizabeth hopes against hope and is rewarded with a son. Her faith in the Word of God astounds her family and her faith community.  Her faith overcomes the religious and cultural hurdles of her time.  She believes God’s Word and discovers the Divine within her.

When we embrace the Lord we find our divinity.  Some people are in darkness. We can be that light. Some people are in need.  We can be their servants.  Some people are ignorant and hateful.  We can be their teachers.  St. John the Baptist found food in the desert as he prepared for his ministry.  At this Eucharist, we find heavenly food for our journey.  And when it is our time to enter into our heavenly mansions, may we allow the Word of God prepare us to embrace the fullness of God’s divinity.

The Rev. Fr. Dr. T. Becket A. Franks, O.S.B.

The Birth of St. John the Baptist

2018

Sun peeking through the tulip tree

 

Separating Families at the Border is Unjust, Unbiblical, Un-American — Millennial

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Archbishop of New York, tells CNN’s Chris Cuomo that the Bible should not be used to support separating children from their parents at the border:

via Separating Families at the Border is Unjust, Unbiblical, Un-American — Millennial

Herbs Season and Trees Shade

My basil plants are thriving.  My rosemary plants are growing tall and green. My hibiscus plant is filled with orange red blossoms.  I wish I could add a gardenia to those plants but every place seems to be sold out.  Then, there are the abbey trees, especially the maple trees that provide great shade for those who seek protection from the hot sun.

Herbs season and trees shade, so must our church and our nation.

How does God season and shade?  It is through prophets.  They inspire the people.  They envision what society can be like as they follow God. The kingdom of Judah is like a crest of the cedar that is snipped from the top of this ancient tree.  This tender shoot grows roots and is planted on the top of the mountain.  There it grows strong and blossoms.

How does Jesus season and shade?  It is through parables.  Jesus uses two images for the kingdom of God.  The reign of God is like seeds scattered everywhere.  We never know where the seed lands.  But when it lands, it finds fertile soil.  It grows and grows bearing fruit until harvest time.  The kingdom is also like the smallest of seeds.  When of grows it becomes the largest of trees with large branches.  There birds of every sort dwell in its shade.

As Benedictine Christians, we never know how or where we sow seed in the world.  A good word here, and right action there is always fertile fodder for someone to come to Christ.  And these persons who come to know Christ must always be welcome- as the song goes, “all are welcome.”  There is shame on us if we exclude persons from our church because of race, culture or sexuality.

The same goes for our nation.  Do you know that as of today, because of the government’s “zero tolerance” policy for illegal immigrants, children of those stopped at the border are separated from the their parents and placed in holding centers? Our government tears children away from mom and dad and places them inside warehouses, inside fenced areas.  There are two thousand of them in fenced warehouses.  In the words of our pastors, the bishops, protecting our borders is important. Equally important is the American asylum system that protects those seeking adequate protection. Separating children from their parents is immoral.   If the Attorney General of the United States can quote scripture to defend this immoral practice then so can we quote the Bible.  In the words of St. Paul today, For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may receive recompense, according to what HE did in the body, whether good or evil.

Herbs season, and trees shade, so must we season society and shade those sick of violence.  The Catholic Church can do more to include the faithful in its loving arms.  The United States can do more to protect families from violence, especially those children in the womb and those children in the arms of illegal immigrants.  This is how it is with the kingdom of God.  May Holy Communion strengthen us this week to take action to stop excluding people from our church and our nation!

The Rev. Fr. T. Becket A. Franks, O.S.B.

11thSunday

Ordinary Time

Cycle B

LOGOS2

 

 

Cardinal Seán: Our Country’s Immigration Policy Destroys Families, Traumatizes Parents, and Terrorizes Children — Millennial

via Cardinal Seán O’Malley of Boston: “Immigration policy presents many challenges for any country. Developing sound immigration policy that respects the needs of a nation and those of the international community is a complex and challenging process. It always involves reconciling domestic priorities and global demands, strategy and tactics, objectives and means. At its core, […]

via Cardinal Seán: Our Country’s Immigration Policy Destroys Families, Traumatizes Parents, and Terrorizes Children — Millennial

Crazy? I know~ But that’s God!

“You’re crazy.”  My dad said that a lot.  My mother wanted to buy me another pair of $250.00 black dress shoes.  “You’re crazy,” my dad told her.

God gets a little crazy in the scriptures today.

As it happens often, God goes walking in the breezy time of the day.  He is looking for Adam.  But Adam is hiding, and so is Eve hiding.  They ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  They are ashamed that they are naked.  They are ashamed that they ate the fruit.  So, they do what humans do best.  They pass the buck.  “She made me do it.”  “It made me do it.”  Yet, since God always decides to enter into the chaos of other people, God gets a little crazy.  Sure, God punishes them by expelling them from the garden.  Sure, God tells them that they will sweat and toil to make a living.  But God does not abandon them.  God continues to speak to Adam and Eve like humans who speak to one another face to face.  Later, God’s loves culminates in the Incarnation of his Son.

God, you’re crazy.

Faithful to his promise to redeem us, God sends his Son from the depths of his love. He is so famous, he is so popular, that when he goes home to Nazareth and brings along his disciples, they cannot even sit down for a meal.  Besides the owners of the house, whom are these uninvited guests sitting in the circle around Jesus?  They are those who need him: the prostitutes with their faces covered, the tax collectors with their money bags, the lame with their crutches, the lepers with their walking canes and bells, the blind with their guides, the dying with their caregivers.  They fill the house.  And his family is angry to high heaven!

Jesus is crazy, and, he needs a good shaking.  Jesus is possessed, and he needs a good exorcism.  There is another group of persons in the house- the lawyers of the law.  They think he is possessed and they gossip about him.  Then there is his family:  his mother, and his brothers and sisters.  They come to seize him, St. Mark says.  They come to arrest him, a word that St. Mark uses again in the Garden of Gethsemane.  The family of Jesus comes to take him by force, grab him by the arms and force him to come to his senses.

But, my brothers and sisters, Jesus is crazy.  Like God in the Book of Genesis, Jesus is extreme.  There is no changing him because his true family is those who do what God wishes to be done here in the kingdom.  Who are these people today?  Sitting in the circle around Jesus today would be people who need him:  the alcoholics with their Big Books, the gay couples with their wedding rings, the divorced couples with their second and third spouses, the battered and bruised women with their best friends, the suicidal New York and Hollywood celebrities with their pill bottles…the list is endless.

In the words of St. Paul, God bestows grace on us so that we can begin to grasp eternal matters. Our faith lives are like buildings built by God.  God builds for everyone.  If we would but stop “passing the buck” like Adam and Eve, we would understand how crazy is the mercy of God.  God chooses to enter into our chaos.  It does not make sense in human language.  But in the language of eternity it is the way of life.

As we come forward for Holy Communion, God does not pick and choose who receives the body and blood of the Lord.  The fullness of redemption is everywhere for everyone.  I know it sounds crazy- but that’s God.

The Rev. Fr. Dr. T. Becket A. Franks, O.S.B.

10thSunday

Ordinary Time

Cycle B

Charles Wells drawing

 

 

Now-We-Are-Talking-Sacrifice!

Once upon a time, an angry God stands at the foot of Mount Sinai as Moses descends. At the foot of the mountain lays the sign of the Covenant:  the two tablets of the Ten Commandments, shattered in a thousand pieces. “What have you done?” demands God. “Didn’t I tell you to deliver the Covenant, the Ten Commandments to the children of Israel?”  “Yes, Lord,” says Moses. “But as I descend the mountain a person dressed in brown clothes with a brown hat in a brown chariot with golden letters on the side appears to me halfway down the mountain. He tells me he’s there to make a delivery, to deliver the Covenant to the children of Israel.  So, I think- you sent him.”  “I most certainly did not,” says God. “What are the letters on the side of this brown chariot?” Moses stoops and writes three letters in the sand, UPS. Pointing at them, he says, “Oops” (UPS).

Sacrifice- it involves a lot of blood.

If you do not like when I throw holy water, be glad you do not worship with Moses.  In ancient Israelite worship, Moses tosses bowls of blood on the altar and sprinkles the people with the rest of the bulls’ blood. If you do not like when I use incense, be glad that you do not worship at the temple in Jerusalem.  To cover up the smell of butchered animals the priests burn incense.  Incense was also a symbol of the peoples’ prayers arising to heaven, and they burn a lot of it.  Sacrifice is messy.

For Christians, the Mosaic sacrifice prefigures the Crucifixion of Christ.  Face beaten.  Person mocked. Back whipped.  Head crowned with thorns.  Hands and feet nailed.  The person hanged.  He bled.  He suffocated. He died.  The crucifixion was messy.  And the Christ did this because of sacrifice.

On the night before he dies, there is an invitation to join HIS sacrifice.  According to St. Mark, as they celebrate the Passover something else happens. Jesus takes bread.  As he breaks the loaf into parts, he says, “This, my body.”  Jesus does not say, “This, my flesh,” like in St. John’s Gospel.  Literally, Jesus says to his Church, “Take it, my whole being.”  We do not get a fragment.  We do not get to know only the mind of Christ.  Nor do we get just the words of Christ.  If we want communion, we must take the whole Christ, his whole being including his wounds.  Now-we-are-talking-sacrifice!

Growing up Catholic and Christian, my parents and my teachers teach me about sacrifice.  “Offer it up,” is the saying.  Something hurts.  Offer it up!  I do not have something that other people have.  Offer it up!  Someone hurt me.  Offer it up!  Now-we-are-talking-sacrifice!  But sometimes we need more than offering it up- we need re-action because the body of Christ is still suffering.  Does anyone take notice over the lack of civility in our country, in our news and on our televisions? When we speak to one another in such crass and perverse manners, the body of Christ bleeds again.  When we turn a blind eye to national ignominy and to heretical patriotism that says, “Me First,” the body of Christ bleeds again.  We may pride ourselves on freedom of speech but our talk betrays our lack of scholarship.

Today, CORPUS CHRISTI, Christ invites us into his sacrifice.  We will bleed- we may be bleeding now.  We will hurt- we may be hurting now.  Faith never promises us a rose garden.  But we do have a promise of eternal life. May WE begin to speak and to act as the sacrificed people of God.

The Rev. Fr. Dr. T. Becket A. Franks, O.S.B.

Corpus Christi Cycle B 2018

 

abbey-cross-clerestory

 

The Flow of All Living Relationships

Benedictines begin a lot of things with prayer. From my earliest childhood, I remember beginning everything with the sign of the cross.  It’s what Catholics do- this sign of the cross, especially at the dinner table.  After all the food is on the table, my mother would always begin with, “Say grace.”  Then we begin in the name of the +Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Today is a reminder that “God is a flow of living relationships,” so says Fr. Ronald Rolheiser in his profound book, The Holy Longing.

In ancient times people believe that the Divine speaks through natural elements- earth, wind and fire; the mountains quake, God speaks.  The mighty wind resounds over sea and land, God speaks.  The fire flares and explodes.  God speaks.  Abraham sacrifices and God blesses him in the midst of the fire of the sacrifice.  Moses stands on Mt. Sinai and he and God speak in the midst of lightening and thunder.  Elijah stands at the entrance of the cave. He covers his face and listens to the whispering sound of God’s voice.  While these natural occurrences stands as symbols of the Deity to ancient societies, what is most important is that the people fix in their hearts that God exists and that God wants a deep relationship with them.

Fast forward to the twenty-first century and we know that we all want a relationship with God BUT we want just God and ME.  I do not need the church community.  I do not need the sacraments or a communal prayer life. We want just God and ME. Again, according to Fr. Rolheiser: “The most pernicious heresies that block us from properly knowing God are not those of formal dogma, but those of a culture of individualism that invite us to believe that we are self-sufficient, that we can have community and family on our own terms, and that we can have God without dealing with each other.”

God the Father is the Lover; God the Son is the Beloved; God the Holy Spirit is the Love, so says St. Augustine.  God the Father is Fire; God the Son is the Burning; God the Holy Spirit is the Flashing Forth of the Fire, so says St. Hildegard.   When I love you and you love in return, we become God’s children.  When I walk into fire and burn with vision and faith, I become a child of God.  And I participate in the project of the Trinity.

We humans used to find God in natural wonders.  Now we find God in the natural wonders of each other’s lives.  And, according to Rolheiser, “…since God is inside of community, we should be there too, if we wish to go to heaven. Simply put, we can’t go to hell, if we stick close to family, community,” the villa and the monastery!

The Rev. Fr. Dr. T. Becket A. Franks, O.S.B.

Trinity Sunday Year B

2018

Sunlight

 

No to the IL death penalty! No!

Illinois governor Bruce Rauner called for the reinstatement of the death penalty yesterday. The Catholic Conference of Illinois released the following statement in response: We are distressed and alarmed by Gov. Bruce Rauner’s call for the reinstatement of the death penalty in any way, shape or form. His call to put to death individuals convicted […]

via Don’t Bring Back the Death Penalty, Illinois — Millennial