Deacon Ken’s Fourth Sunday of Lent
One bright sunny afternoon, my friend Barry said to me: “your eyes are better than mine, help me look up this part number on my dump truck. Barry raised his hood and we cleaned a bit of dirt and grime from whatever part it was and there were the numbers, except we still couldn’t read them. Barry said: “A friend of mine said that when you are trying to look at something, even in broad daylight like this, if you can’t read the number, shine a light on it and you will see the number.” Barry took out his little flashlight, shined the beam on the numbers and I kid you not, the numbers just about jumped out at us! I couldn’t believe it!
Ask yourself this question: What does “Light” mean in a biblical sense? Perhaps you would be like me and him/haw around and take wild guesses and still be unsure of what “Light” in a biblical sense really means. Like me you might come to the realization that “You think you know what light means”. And, like me, you might think “Surely the answer can be found in the Catechism of the Catholic church. Let me save you some time. You will find: Baptism as light, Children of light, light of faith, light of reason and on and on. You get the picture: no clear definition of what “light” is.
From today’s scriptures we can glean a couple of things about light.
1). Light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth.
2). It is so that the works of GOD may be made visible, not just through the man born blind, but made visible through you and I. We can look to Jesus as an example of how to live our lives so as to glorify GOD. Jesus had a heart for those who were on the fringes of society. He had a heart for the poor, widows, and orphans. He ate with sinners and challenged them to change their lives, and afterwards he forgave them and gave them a fresh start in life. He prayed for those who were suffering. As Jesus traveled along, he shared the Gospel, the way that Christians find their way to heaven when their earthly life is done. Jesus loved to the point that he gave his life for us. It’s these things that Jesus expects us to take to heart. When we follow his words and actions, we become light. As Jesus is the “light of the world”, we become “light for the world”.
As we continue our Lenten journey, may our focus be on being light for others. Here are a few prayers I’ve discovered that might help along the way: “God, give me the grace to rise above my human weaknesses”. “Wisdom of God be with me, always at work in me.” (Christian Prayer, Saturday morning Week III) And from that great theologian Erma Bombeck: “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say I used everything you gave me”.
My Brothers and Sisters, just outside the doors of the church, a battle is raging: A battle between good and evil, light and darkness. As we enter the battleground, may the light of Jesus shine in us, and through us. Semper Fidelis!
Deacon Ken’s Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
A number of years ago, I heard a story titled “A Cat Kicking World” by a motivational speaker by the name of Zig Ziglar, and I want to share it with you. I’ve had to shorten the story, and even though the story is not as lengthy as Mr. Ziglar tells it, I’m certain you will get the point. The story begins:
Mr. B is the owner of a sales business. He has gone to the Country Club for lunch, and as often happens finds himself going to be late returning to the office. He leaves the country club, burns rubber and is doing ninety miles an hour on the freeway. He gets pulled over by the long arm of the law and receives a speeding ticket. While receiving his ticket he yells at the officer that He is a law abiding citizen and that the police should be out looking for real criminals like robbers and thieves and should leave guys like him alone. Now, Mr. B was going to be forty-five minutes late returning to the office. He was upset! Mr. B did what most people who are upset do; he called in his sales manager and asked about the Reid account. Do we have it, or do we not? Mr. B’s sales manager said: “Mr. B, I thought we had it. I don’t know what happened, but it fell through for some reason.” Mr. B said “You better find another account to replace that account or I’m going to fire you and find someone who can! He was upset! But if you think he was upset, you should have seen the sales manager. The sales manager said: “I’ve been working for this company as the sales manager for eighteen years. If it wasn’t for me, this company would have gone under long ago.” The sales manager went to his secretary and asked: “Do you have the five letters I asked you to type?” She said “no sir, you told me to work on a different account first and so the letters are not typed.” He told her: I want these five letters typed today and if you can’t get it done, I’ll fire you and hire someone who can. He was upset! If you think he was upset, you should have seen the secretary. She said: “I’ve been at this company for eight years, I’ve done everything I was asked to do and then some and he threatens to fire me after all I know about him! Why, this company would have gone under years ago had it not been for me! She was upset! She took the five letters to the switchboard operator and said: “I want these five letters typed up right away. You sit out here and occasionally answer the phone, so you have plenty of time to get these done. If you can’t get them done, I’ll fire you and find someone who can. She was upset! But if you think she was upset, you should have seen that switchboard operator. She said, “I do more work around here than any three people combined. They all joke, goof off, carry on and gossip in the back. When something need to be done quickly it gets thrown in my lap, she was upset! But she got the letters done. That evening when she went home, she slammed the door behind her, went to her house and there was her twelve year old son lying on the floor watching the television with a big rip across the seat of his pants. She said: “Son, I’ve told you to change into your play clothes when you come home from school and now those pants are ruined. Because you didn’t listen, you can go right on upstairs to your room right now, there will no supper for you and no television for three weeks. Mommy works so hard to keep you fed and clothed.” She was upset! But if you think she was upset, you should have seen that little boy! The little boy said: “It was an accident. It could have happened to anybody. I was doing something for her and she never even gave me a chance to explain. Now I’m not going to have supper tonight and no television for three weeks. He was upset! As he was going to his bedroom, his tomcat made a terrible mistake and walked in front of the boy. The boy reared back and kicked that cat and said: “Get out of here, you’ve probably been up to some no good yourself!” Now think about this. Wouldn’t it have been easier on everyone in this story if Mr. B would have left the country club, drove to the switchboard operator’s house and kicked that cat himself!
We do live in a cat kicking world. Sometimes, we kick another’s cat. Sometimes, we let others kick our cat. When someone kicks our cat, and we respond negatively, we let them bring us down to their level.
Be Holy, for I, the LORD your God am holy. Can we really be holy? No way! But we can choose to respond differently from what the world dictates our response should be. It’s in our DNA, but not in our nature. But, we can strive to be Holy. Holy in this instance means that we as Christians are “set apart”. We are called to act differently and love differently than what the world would have us do. Saint Paul says: Don’t be like the world, for “the wisdom of the world is foolishness”. As disciples of Christ we are called to act at a higher standard. When the Gospel begins with “The Lord said to his Disciples”, guess who the Lord is speaking to? You and me. What he said to his disciples two thousand years ago, he is saying to you and me today. Be Holy, for I, the LORD your God, am Holy.
Jesus asks us to stretch ourselves and love those who are hard to love. How do we do that? The Catechism tells us that love “begins in the heart, where humans choose between the pure and the impure, where faith, hope, and charity are formed and with them all the other virtues. The Gospel thus brings the Law to its fullness through imitation of the perfection of the heavenly Father, through forgiveness of enemies and prayer for persecutors” (CCC1968).
Father Thomas Merton puts it this way: “Speak words of hope. Be human in this most inhuman age. Guard the image of man for it is the image of God.” Christ tells us to love our neighbors and pray for those who persecute us. By loving our neighbors and praying for those who persecute us, our actions give witness that love is greater than sin. It gives witness that the way of the world is indeed folly compared to the Christian life.
As Jesus always did what was pleasing to the Father, we too, as Christ’s disciples are called to live in a way that also makes us pleasing to God and that God will recognize us as his chosen ones.
Like Mr. B we can choose our actions. Listen again to the words of the Collect, the opening prayer: “Grant, we pray almighty God that, always pondering spiritual things we may carry out in both word and deed, that which is pleasing to you.”
So my brothers and sisters, when you cross paths with a person who is short with you, gruff or downright mean, remember; someone has been kicking their cat, long before you got to them. Hopefully, we recall Zig Ziglar’s story of “The Cat Kicking World” And respond in a way that is pleasing to God. Be Holy, for I, the LORD your God am Holy.
Additionally, the URL is Cat Kickin’ World by Zig Ziglar.
Cat Kicking World
by Deacon Kenneth Stewart
Deacon Ken’s Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
They told us in the Homiletics course that when we are going to preach, to print the readings and carry them with us wherever we went. We were also told to do lectio divina at least once a day, which I did. I circled and underlined, I read the footnotes in the bible, I read all the paragraphs in the Catechism of the Catholic Church that had to do with witnessing and service. Then I waited, and I waited, and I waited. You know what I got? A quote about Marines from President Reagan and some Marine Corps Recruiting Slogans.
This is what I got…
“Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they have made a difference in the world. The Marines don’t have that problem.
President Ronald Reagan
The recruiting slogans:
• “It’s not just a job, it’s an adventure”
• “When the going gets tough, the tough get going”
• “We never promised you a rose garden” •
Like Mary (which is a really far stretch), I pondered these things in my heart, and I waited, and waited, and I waited some more. I thought surely God is teaching me patience and perseverance.
On Thursday morning I went to the Barber. On a plaque on the wall across from where I was sitting was the “quote of the week”:
“Nothing good ever came from a comfort zone”. It was then things started to meld together.
As Christians, you and I have only one job. Our one job is to bring others to Christ. We do that by our witnessing and service to Jesus and to others. In our witnessing and service, others see our words and actions, and are drawn to Christ. Often, we think it is a difficult thing to do, but be assured you it’s not as hard as one would think. I’ll give you a couple of examples.
His name was Roosevelt. He was from Mississippi, but had moved to Detroit so, he could better support his family. While working in a Ford automobile plant, Roosevelt met Ralph Lyke and Jim Stewart. Ralph and Jim were working their way through the Moody Bible Institute to become pastors. All three became good friends and soon began asking their factory worker friends to bring gently used clothing to the factory. The three men collected the clothing, and now and again would rent a van and haul the clothing to Mississippi.
One day at a family reunion Roosevelt and I were on the same end of the horseshoe pit. Roosevelt jokingly said: “Ken, where I’m from, we throw horseshoes with one leg tied behind our backs.” I said: “Well Roosevelt, at my house, we throw the horseshoes with the horses still attached”. We had a good laugh, but what he said next blew me away. Roosevelt said: “Ken, when you get to heaven, who is the first person you want to see”? I said: “Probably my mom”. Roosevelt said, “I want to see Jesus first, and thank him for all He has done”. Did you see how easy and smoothly he did that? Nothing extravagant. He didn’t quote chapter and verse. On that day, I learned to witness, and it would serve me well because later I would need to witness.
His nickname was Squeak. He was the roller man at the asphalt company where I worked. I could tell something was really bothering him, so I went to talk with him. I discovered that his wife had divorced him, and he never wanted a divorce. Squeak was miserable. I said: “Squeak, do you go to church? Sounds to me like a trip to a church would do well for you right now.” Squeak said: “I did a long time ago, but haven’t gone for a good while”. I said: “Why don’t you give it another try”, and he did. Long story short, Squeak went back to church, met the woman of his dreams and got married. Today Squeak has two beautiful children who he is raising in the church. He is one of the happiest persons on the face of the earth.
In our world, there are plenty of Ken’s and Squeaks who need but just a gentle nudge towards salvation. It is so easy to tell them that the God who created heaven and earth, snowcapped mountains and the depths of the oceans sits in heaven and says: “See that man, or that woman, or that child? I am especially fond of them. So much so that I sent my Son to take away the sins of the world by dying on a cross that everyone might live forever in heaven with Me.
Remember the quotes and recruiting slogans?
“Nothing good ever came from a comfort zone”:
We were baptized and received the Holy Spirit. If we would only do our part, the Holy Spirit would do his. To do our part, we have to leave the comfort zone.
“It’s not just a job, it’s an adventure.”
Being a Christian isn’t just a job, and it is an adventure. To think that we could have a hand in helping others come to Christ and then on to eternal salvation, WOW!”
“When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”
Get going Christians! Witnessing isn’t as tough as we may think. It can be as simple as saying: “Put Jesus first” or “go back to church.”
“We never promised you a rose garden.”
There will be speed bumps along the way. Not everyone will desire to turn their lives to Christ. Not everyone will desire to do God’s will. Talk to them about Jesus anyway. Yours may be the only Gospel they will ever hear. And finally, at the end of days, God will say: “Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they have made a difference in the world. “The Christians at Saint Augustine don’t have that problem” don’t have that problem.
God Bless you abundantly as you go and proclaim the Gospel of the Lord.
Deacon Kenneth Stewart