From Father's Desk

From Father's Desk

From Fathers Desk web

My Dear Parish Family,

“But Dad, it's not my turn!” “I don’t care whose turn it is, I am asking you to do it.” Ever have an interaction like that in your house? “Not my turn” - drove my dad up a wall, and down the other side. Definitely NOT the correct answer. What’s the correct answer, “Yes, Dad.” We all knew the correct answer, but we often did not give it.

One of the worst things my Mom ever did was begin to pay us for doing chores. Great error, this. A quarter for this, fifty cents for that, a dollar for the really hard stuff - like mowing the grass. Not large sums, but attached payment to participation in the duties of family life. When Mom failed to pay us, or failed to keep up with the whole process (the accounting was intense!) all chores grounded to a halt. We did nothing! Whereas before, we helped when asked, now if not compensated we became ingrates. This phenomenon is not reserved to our family. It is well-known in token economy research. If the reward schedule is not maintained, it falls apart. While perhaps fitting for chronic psychotic inpatients in mental hospitals, in real life too many variables exist for a token economy to be maintained long term. It would have been more prudent for Mom to have promised us $5 a month if and when we completed the list of tasks she set aside for us. Think of this as the difference between salaried employees and piece workers.

My dear Parish Family,

Last week we began a new Message Series on “Home Life.” We will be dwelling on how to improve our family life together. Most of us are spending more time at home so it is a valuable and worthy undertaking. We will also seek to shed light on and explore the relationships between our other homes: our parish home and our permanent home, with God in heaven. We kicked off the series by drawing some parallels between our worship together as a parish family and our family life at home. We dug into Mass as Mercy, Meditation and Meal, and the essentials of Family: Forgive, Focus and Feast. These pairs go together in order to foster a more joyful, peaceful and wholesome life at home.

Dear Parish Family,

We have ALL been spending more time at home lately. Some of us may relish the chance; most of us are probably “over it” by now; either way, we WILL be spending more time at home over the next six to twelve months! When we crashed into our new reality in March of 2020, there may have been some inadequate planning, to put it nicely. By contrast, there has been a lot of planning for our work-life, and school-life. It is time to focus, once again, intentionally, on our home-life.

There are three Ms (or three Fs - if you prefer) in every solid, stable and Christian home-life. And these three mirror aspects of our communal worship, in other words our liturgy in church together (or remotely.) These 3 are: Mercy, Meditation, and Meal. Or: Forgive, Focus, Feast.

Dear Parish Family,

This weekend marks the official “tourist” end of summer. Although the beaches in September are glorious and summer extends to the 22nd! The summer of COVID 19 has come to an end. We are now moving into the school year, whatever THAT means THIS year . No matter what that means, it is time to get back into a different rhythm of life. That new rhythm may prove especially challenging to enact, if everyone is still home as if it is still summer.

To assist with that transition, next week we will begin a new Message Series on Home Life . We have all been spending more time at home and it looks like we will be spending more time there for the next year. It is time to think and pray more deeply about how to make home a place of rejuvenation, peace and joy.

My dear friends,

Ah, the question of suffering! We have been suffering as a community, nation and world during this pandemic. We have been suffering the loss of family and friends, job loss, lost vacations, but also the loss of time together. The human person is made for communion, for friendship and relation. Alone in our homes, we endure psychological suffering. We are made to be together, to commune with each other and to commune with God. Worship accomplishes both of those forms of communion, horizontal and vertical, outward to our neighbor and upward to our God. Wouldn’t it be beautiful if we could gather and share more of life with one another, instead of being on Facebook!

Why does suffering exist? Couldn’t God just fix it all? Let me assure you that God is in the process of “fixing it all,” but it is not a snap of the fingers! There is immeasurable woundedness and brokenness in our world, from broken homes to oil spills to gun violence. In his mysterious way, God has chosen to unfold the kingdom with our participation; yes, God is relying on us.

Dear Parish Family,

The number one movie on Netflix this week is called, Project Power. An action thriller of good guys versus bad guys, with a glowing pill at the center that enables those who take it to activate a mystery superpower in their own DNA, for five minutes. In the movie, the Major, played by Jamie Foxx, makes the assertion that all power runs to those who have power. In a sense, the powerful always accumulate more power. Those taking the pills - while experiencing a superpower - are ultimately ceding more power to those who are already in power. Today we consider power and its sources.

Also this week, the Democrats held a virtual convention to nominate Joseph Biden and Kamala Harris to be candidates for President and Vice-President, respectively. The presidency of the United States of America is often called the most powerful office in the world. Enshrined in the Constitution is a balance of powers: executive, legislative and judicial. Regardless of party, stalemates in congress have led the executive branch to accumulate power. Ultimately, the power resides with the people. We are a democracy, meaning government by the people, and a republic, meaning we choose others to represent us. When we want to effect change, we vote, we lobby, we write our congresspeople, we may even assemble and march in the streets, but we do not loot or riot or resort to violence. The people give the government its power.

Dear Parish Family,

Last week Jesus said to Peter “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” Today, Jesus says to the Canaanite woman, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” Peter did not get what he wished: to walk on the water. The woman did: the exorcism of the demon from her daughter. Examples of great faith and little faith, while also being demonstrations of perseverance and wavering, offered to us in successive weeks.

One would expect the reverse, that the foreign woman who shows no indication of having known Jesus ahead of time, would be far less resolved to insist on her request, than Peter, who has spent each day with the Lord since he began following as a disciple. These beautiful accounts show us disciples how to behave when at prayer, or even in pursuit of virtue: we must be persistent, persevering, even willing to endure insults for what we know to be right and good. There will be a cost even in the asking. No free lunch. The woman’s perseverance actually builds her faith as she uses it, like a muscle.

My Dear Family,

As I write this, rain and wind from Hurricane Isaías pound the roof and windows. Yes, it is Tuesday. A hurricane watch is in effect. While dry and comfortable at my desk, the new member of my family, a dog Lilli whom I am in the process of adopting, is less comfy. She whines and paces with the noise of driving rain. These moments help us to imagine what it might have been like in the storms at sea.

Today in the Gospel , a continuation from last week, Jesus sends his disciples off in a boat and then dismisses the crowds. Perhaps he wanted the crowds to see him send them off alone onto the Sea of Galilee? Then when alone, he goes up the mountain to pray.

My Dear Family:

In week 4 of our message series on discipleship and the kingdom, the parables are done (for now.) I hope you have taken one or two deeply to heart so that you can carry one with you and ponder it, deepening the sense of the Kingdom of Heaven in your own heart and life. Now it is time to put some of those lessons into practice.

We find the disciples and Jesus surrounded by the crowds. Despite Jesus’ desire to find some alone time and mourn the death of his cousin John the Baptist, he has healed and taught the crowds. It has been a long day. It reminds me of the times growing up when both of my parents worked. The kids were in school and then at sports. We were all coming home in the evening after a full day but it was my mother’s responsibility to make dinner. That was just the way it was.

Dear Parish Family,

This is week 3 of our message series: Discipleship and the Kingdom. We are meditating on the Kingdom of Heaven in Matthew’s Gospel (chapters 13 & 14) and asking ourselves what it means to be a disciple. Today, three more parables about the kingdom, each of which shines like a facet of a diamond on one aspect of this beautiful and complex reality.

Parables are drawn from common life. The examples should not seem far-fetched. Our three parables involve a farmer, a merchant and a fisherman: three common trades of the day. And while buried treasure discovered in a field may seem the fanciful tale of pirates, during Jesus’ day many fields were rented, and many people buried their valuables before times of war and uncertainty. The earth was the original safety deposit box! So the treasure, the pearl and the dragnet really speak from the reality of common life. I hope these images can resonate with us so many centuries later. These familiar situations help us to see that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand, close, in our midst. The gift of faith, seeing reality with the eyes of Jesus, helps us to recognize the beauty of the Kingdom right here in Maple Shade. Jesus, help us to see your beauty in our common life.