18 June 2016

Worry Not!

11th Week OT (S)  
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP  
St. Dominic Church, NOLA 

Jesus tells us that we cannot serve two masters b/c a servant divided in half is no servant at all. Like the child Solomon would split in half to share btw the bickering mothers, a servant with divided loyalties is dead to both masters. So, we either serve God, or we serve Mammon. Never both. We know what happens to us when we set aside the gods of worry and commit ourselves to serving God alone: done sincerely and habitually, a peace that passes all understanding settles into our bones, and we get as close to Happiness as we can while body and soul remain together. But what happens when we choose Mammon? What happens when we dedicate our time, talent, and treasure to the worldly ambitions of Worry? If serving the Prince of Peace brings us peace, then serving the unclean spirit of Worry brings. . .more Worry. More anxiety. Deeper and darker spiritual war. Serving God means serving others in His name, for His glory. Serving Mammon means serving Self, even if, and especially when, serving Self is self-destructive. Can any one of us add a year, a day, an hour to our lives by worrying? “If God so clothes the grass of the field [. . .] will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?” 

What's faith got to do with worry? The human brain is nature's most powerful pattern-seeking and pattern-making machines. We take in massive amounts of sensory data and in milliseconds turn it all into a coherent, accurate depiction of the world. Second only to the power of the human intellect is the power of the human will. As we take in billions and billions of pieces of sensory data, and as the brain churns away at building an accurate picture of our world, the will is struggling to decide What To Do About All of This. How do I react? What can I change? Is this dangerous? Is that safe? Left to itself the will will always act to preserve the body, and if that means scaring the snot out of us, so be it. But living in a constant state of life-preserving fear threatens our spiritual lives. We come to believe—falsely—that by will alone we can change that over which we have no control. Faith is the willful act of trusting in God. We set our hearts and minds firmly on the way to eternity, training ourselves to see and hear this world as a passage through to God, back to God. Worry then becomes all about not trusting that God's will and care is sufficient for today. Worry is all about the lie that I am my own god; that I am my own Master. 

And, as Jesus says, we cannot serve two masters. I serve God, or I serve Myself. I live eternally in peace, or I die daily in worry. I place everything I am and have into His hands for His use, or I snatch it all for myself and desperately try to control the uncontrollable. Is there a concrete way to surrender to God? A way to open my hands and let it all fall into His lap? There are many. Here's just one, perhaps the best one: look at your world, your life, everything—family, friends, co-workers, possessions, everything, and consciously, purposefully name it all “Gift.” Nothing and no one is mine by right. Nothing and no one is mine by merit. Everything and everyone is to me and for me a God-given gift. As gifts, everything and everyone comes into my life gratuitously. Without condition or guarantee. Bless it all by naming everyone and everything with its true name: Gift. Food, clothing, job, spouse, education, talent, time, treasure, life itself, everything is a gift. Serve the Gift-giver by becoming His gift to others. Our heavenly Father knows what we need. Seek and serve His kingdom and His righteousness first. And everything you need will be given to you.

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17 June 2016

Spend your treasures

11th Week OT (F)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Albert the Great Priory

Noting the ever-present threat of moths and decay and thieves, Jesus advises his disciples to avoid storing their treasures here on earth. Even well-loved prizes and keepsakes are subject to the wear and tear of gravity, greed, and the occasional, hungry bug. Of course, the question here isn't really about where we ought to store our treasures. By highlighting the possibilities for storing our treasures, Jesus indirectly dares us to question the nature of what it is that we treasure. In other words, by advising us to store up our treasures in heaven and not on earth, Jesus is telling us that anything we could store on earth cannot be a treasure. A true treasure, that which is permanently valuable, cannot be eaten, stolen, or lost to rot, and anything we can lock in a box, hide under a floorboard, or pack into a freezer bag can disappear, will disappear, eventually. What sort of treasure cannot, will not fall apart over time or diminish in value if given away? In fact, what sort of treasure increases in value for you the more you give it away? The only kind of treasure that can be stored in heaven: the favor of God when we follow His Christ in preaching and teaching the Good News, and serving the least of His people. What the Church keeps, we lose; what we spend, we have. 

As creatures intimately bound to the material world, as embodied souls thoroughly subject to space and time and gravity and all those other terribly inconvenient physical realities, it is sometimes difficult, more than difficult at times, to move our thinking and doing beyond the immediate and the proximate and to think and do in terms of the infinite and the eternal. For Christians, still bound to the material world though not of it, our thinking and doing is best focused on The End of Things and the holy pretense of thinking and doing as if The End were here already. What difference does it make to our plans, our investments, our projects if we fake the End Time? Does that sound dishonest? Well, it's what we are supposed to be doing—faking the End Times, that is, living now as if the End were here. Not running around screaming and hoarding food and water but rather setting up our lives as if God's justice already prevails, as if Christ ruled here and now every heart and mind, as if the new heavens and the new earth were set resolutely into their places and were just waiting for us to arrive. 

Living “as if” in this way doesn't mean that we believe the Kingdom of Heaven is some sort of material paradise destined to be manifested by the work of our hands! No. Living “as if” our treasure were storable only in heaven and never on earth means living in full and glorious knowledge that our Lord has won his victory over death and that everything we do is motivated by the living hope that his death and resurrection reveal to us. That's the light that dispels the darkness: the living hope, the daily hope, the hope moment by moment, knowing that God's promises have been fulfilled. Our task—bound to the world but not of it—is to keep the Word, store the Word by freely giving it away; to store up our heavenly treasure by going on a wild spending spree. The more we spend, the more we save!


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16 June 2016

Returned to NOLA

I have returned to NOLA after visiting The Squirrels. . .

Upon my return I discovered several packages sent from the Wish List

A couple had no invoices, so I don't know who sent them. However, I pray for my Benefactors every day and God knows who you are.

Thanks to Evandro M. for the McCabe book. . .I will be using a couple of chapters of this book for my homiletics class this coming semester.

And thanks to Dr. Becky for the acrylic varnish. . .one can never have too much varnish, I discovered.

And thanks to Suzanne S. for the messenger bag. . .I am now a Hipster Friar!

I rec'd a copy of Troy Jollimore's new volume of poetry. . .no name on the invoice. It looks like it may have been sent directly from the publisher. . .odd.

Mendicant thanks to all!


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