Friday, January 26, 2018



 Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter,
was one of the two who heard John and followed Jesus.

He first found his own brother Simon and brought him to Jesus.

Jesus looked at him and said,

"You are Simon the son of John;

you will be called Cephas" — which is translated Peter.
John 1:35-42

Jesus was right! The church is like a huge dragnet that scoops up a little of everything from the depths of the sea, like a field of weeds and wheat growing together, like a banquet attended by the good and bad alike!   Today’s self-righteous Pharisees, like the self-righteous Pharisees of old, are scandalized by this reality, the reality that the church is, and always has been, a hodge-podge  of  sinners and saints! These self-righteous types like to distance themselves from “undesirables,” painting themselves as man’s gift to God while looking down on the weak and sinful.  Jesus would not join them today, just as he did not join them 2,000 years ago!

In another place, we have the scene of Jesus inviting tax collectors and sinners to join him and his disciples to dinner.  Jesus obviously held these dinners quit often and obviously these crowds of rejects had a great time at his dinner parties because the Scriptures tell us that Jesus earned the nicknames of “glutton” and “drunkard” in the religious establishment. Coming upon this scene, this “holier-than-thou” group of Pharisees objected vehemently, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”  Overhearing their criticism, Jesus responds, without apology, lays this on them: “Those who are well do not need a doctor! Sick people do! I did not come to call the righteous but sinners!”

If the church is like a dragnet that scoops up a little of everything  from the depths of the sea, then Jesus must have scraped the bottom of the pond to come up with this motley crew that we have come to call “apostles.”  A few years ago, I came across a funny memo addressed to Jesus about the apostles he is about to choose. It is sent from a fictional consulting firm in Jerusalem! It may be funny, but it makes a profound point! Let me read a section to you.

 Jesus, Son of Joseph

 Woodcrafter Carpenter Shop

 Nazareth   25922
Dear Jesus:
Thank you for submitting the resumes of the twelve men you have picked for management positions in your new organization. All of them have now taken our battery of tests; we have not only run the results though our computer, but we have also arranged personal interviews for each of them with our psychologist and vocational aptitude consultant.

It is the staff opinion that most of your nominees are lacking in background, education and vocational aptitude for the type of enterprise you are undertaking.
Simon Peter is emotionally unstable and given to fits of temper. Andrew has absolutely no qualities of leadership. The two brothers, James and John, place personal interest above company loyalty. Thomas demonstrates a questioning attitude that would tend to undermine morale. We feel that it is our duty to tell you that Matthew has been blacklisted by the Greater Jerusalem Better Business Bureau. James, son of Alpheus, and Thaddeus definitely have radical leanings, and they both registered a high score on the manic-depressive scale.

One of the candidates, however,  shows great potential. He is a man of ability and resourcefulness, meets people well, has a keen business mind, and has contacts in high places. He is highly motivated, ambitious and responsible. We recommend Judas Iscariot as your controller and right-hand man.

We wish you every success in your new adventure.

Sincerely yours,
Jerusalem Management Consultants

“God’s ways are not our ways.” How many times have we heard that remark? Well, it is absolutely true and the Scriptures are full of examples where God seems to relish in picking losers, crooks, idiots and incompetents to do his most important work. We read about the call of Abraham and Sara. They were 99 and 90 respectfully when they were called to begin the most important family in history! A little old, don’t you think? When he need a mother for Jesus, who did he pick but an engaged teenager from nowhere!  A little risky, don’t you think? Are we surprised that Jesus would pick such a shaky foundation on which to build his church: a liar, a couple of mama’s babies, two Middle Eastern terrorists, an agnostic and a tax collector? The only reason I can figure out for these kinds of decisions is to let us know loud and clear that it is God’s work, not our effort or expertise, that counts! It’s not about our efforts. It’s about God’s goodness!

Most of my life I have struggled with feelings of not being good enough, no doubt results of some serious emotional abuse when I was a child. “You will never amount to anything!” “You can’t do anything right!” “You’re a hopeless case!” My feelings of not being good enough are not as severe as they used to be, by a long shot, but traces of them are still there and those old feelings can be triggered almost without warning. Many of you know what I am talking about. They are irrational feelings, for the most part, but they are still there.  I have been battling feelings of not being good enough like a wildfire these last several weeks. One incident in particular triggered them “big time!” The Pope recently told a group of newly ordained priests in Rome that they must be “perfect.” Since I have never felt like I could adequately measure up to the expectations that people place on priests, those words went right through me. It has taken me over 30 years to quit beating myself up for not being perfect and be consoled that my best was good enough for God. I don’t want to go back! I won’t go back!

It is the gospel message  has helped me more than any psychologist! The word “gospel” means “good news.” The “good news” is this :our best may not be good enough for this world, but it is good enough for God! God loves us without condition! As the first reading puts it, “God proves his love for us, in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us!” God’s  love is freely given without any need on our part to earn it. God loves us flaws and all!  “People see externals. God sees into the heart.” “God chooses the weak and made them strong in bearing witness to him.” Jesus filled these weak, flawed and sinful bunch of men with the fire of his love and gradually made saints of them! In his ministry Jesus specialized, not in ritual temple service, but in helping people who feel bad about themselves, feel worthy: the poor, women, children, the diseased, the ostracized and the marginalized: people who did not feel good enough!

My friends, in the end, it is not about what you do for God, it is about what God has done for you. No matter what happens, remember this: you are valued and loved in God eyes, no matter what you’ve done or failed to do!  Look what out second readings says today: “He died for us while we were sinners.” Notice that it does not say: “He died for us because we shaped up!” God loves us, not because we deserve it, but in spite of the fact that we do not deserve it!

If Jesus can choose  Peter, Andrew, James, John, Phillip, Bartholomew, James, Thaddeus, Thomas, Matthew and Simon and use them for his work, he can choose people like you and me, flaws and all, to carry on that work! God did not love us because we are lovable. We are lovable because God loves us.  God’s love is pure gift. And before we go around judging others’ worthiness for God, let us own our own sins and failings. If God can have compassion on us, knowing all our sins and failures,  surely we can have compassion on each other.  As we say in the Mass, right before communion, “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed!” 


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