Sunday, September 8, 2013


Interesting to note that an old-fashioned bottle opener is known as a "church key"...

   Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time    
Two guys go camping,
bringing along a cooler 
with sandwiches and beer.
After hiking all day, 
they arrive at the perfect campsite…
…only to realize 
they’ve forgotten a bottle opener.
The first guy says to the second,
“You’ve gotta go back for the opener 
or else we have no beer.”
“No way!” says the second. 
“By the time I get back, 
you’ll have eaten all the food.”
“I promise I won’t,” says the first guy.  
“Just hurry!”
48 hours pass 
and there’s still no sign of the second guy.
Desperate and starving, 
the first guy digs into the sandwiches.
Which is when the second guy 
jumps out from behind a nearby rock
and yells, “I knew you’d eat the food!
I’m not going for the opener!”

If you’ve read your bulletin, 
then you already know:
I’m getting ready to go camping.
In just over a week, a friend and I will begin hiking
through the heart of the Adirondack wilderness.
The trip will last 10 or 11 days…
…but the planning has been going on for months.
I was never a Boy Scout,
but I’ve been living by their motto: Be prepared.
I’ve been studying maps, 
taking hikes to get better conditioned,
and assembling my gear—all kinds of gear.
(The last few days, Fr. Stitt’s been saying
that it looks like somebody’s camping 
right there in our living room.)
Everything we’ll need needs to be carried on our backs,
so we’re trying to keep things simple
and get right down to the essentials.
I never before realized
how expensive and complicated it is
to try and live simply!
But the stakes are too high to take too many chances.
Planning well is—literally—a matter of life and death.

Is that not the message of Jesus in the gospel this Sunday?

Yes, this gospel passage is one most of us
would rather just gloss over—
whether you’re sitting in the pew or standing in the pulpit.
These are demanding words,
and they pose a serious challenge to all that we hold dear.
If you do not hate parents, spouse, children, siblings, your own life—
if you do not renounce all of your possessions—
you cannot be my disciple.
I look out and know that you have families.
How can Jesus ask that you turn your backs
on the ones you love the most?
I know the heavy responsibilities you bear
to feed, clothe, educate, and otherwise care for them.
How could the Lord expect you
to renounce your necessary belongings?
We believe, of course, that this it the Word of God,
and we want to take it seriously,
How is this “being prepared?”
How is this wisely planning ahead?  (cf. F. Martin)

God well understands our many needs and obligations.
In fact, he sees them more clearly than we do.
What the Lord is asking is that we put him first—
ahead of all we possess and—yes—even ahead of family.
That’s because God wants to show us a more fruitful way
to make use of our money and other goods,
to teach us that all of our relationships will be more fulfilling
if only we live them within our primary relationship with him.
It’s not enough for us to come together here an hour each week,
and then manage these other aspects of life
by a different set of rules.
While it might seem that God is only jealous
of our attention and affections,
the truth is that God has a plan:
a plan God put into place when he made the world and all that’s in it.
God knows things will go better for us—much better!—
if we make his plan our plan, too.
That means putting God and his way first—no exceptions.

Can we trust God enough to do that?

We are now beginning the 2013 Bishop’s Fund Appeal.
In this Year of Faith, Bishop LaValley has chosen as its theme,
Faith Opens the Door.
The Bishop’s Fund opens doors in so many ways:
supporting religious education, Catholic schools,
and summer camp opportunities for our youth;
providing training for our seminarians and lay ministers,
for our priests and deacons;
offering guidance for couples preparing for marriage
and families trying to keep the faith;
supplying needed financial assistance to our neighbors
when facing illness, job loss, or other tragedies.
To keep doing such important work 
requires a strong commitment from us—and not from just a few!
We all benefit from the work of the Bishop’s Fund…
…therefore we all have a stake in its success.
So, make your plan!
If you haven’t given before, plan to give this year.
No gift is too small.
And if you’ve given one-time gifts in the past,
then consider making a pledge this year.
Pledging $25 four times a year
adds up to less than $2 a week in your household budget...
…but also adds up to something very big and powerful
when united with the sacrifices of thousands of others
who support the ministry and mission
of the Church in the North Country.
This week, registered parishioners will receive
a letter from Bishop LaValley in the mail.
Offering envelopes are also available now in your pew.
Take some time this week
to prayerfully consider your level of commitment,
and then bring your gift or pledge 
to drop in the collection next Sunday.

The Church possesses a treasure of faith
far more precious than a cooler full of beer;
let’s be sure not to leave her without a way to open it.
Many, many thanks for your generosity!

In a message on Twitter this past week,
Pope Francis said it well:
“There is no such thing as low-cost Christianity.”  (9/5/13)
I guess that’s why our symbol is the Cross.
In Jesus, God has suffered with us and for us,
paying the ultimate price.
Follow Christ, and we can expect hardships and struggle—
but with perseverance comes the ultimate pay-off:
a love which cannot die and life both new and everlasting.

It takes a lot of careful planning
for a long camping trip through the woods.
It’s costly and complex,
but the stakes are too high to take too many chances.
Likewise, we must—
individually and as a wider Church community—
lay aside our own plans and give ourselves completely to God’s.
No question about it:
the cost of being a disciple of Jesus is high…
…but the cost of not being one is even higher.

Make your battle plan.
Be prepared.
Put God first.

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