Sunday, July 12, 2009

15th Sunday - homily

Years ago as a seminarian, I was privileged to spend a few weeks in Calcutta, India with the Missionaries of Charity, Mother Teresa’s sisters. It was an incredible experience being able to be with the sisters and serve the poorest of the poor. One image that stands out from that trip is the day that two of the sisters were sent off to different countries to do mission work. They were only allowed to take one box of things. One, little box! I moved here 10 days ago and had a whole lot more than one box (Msgr. Filardi said that I had more stuff than he did…but, he came back for another load in the afternoon, so he might have had more!). These sisters definitely live the simple, detached life that our Lord calls us to live in today’s Gospel.

Living simply brings freedom. I remember when I sold my house to go back to the seminary (one of the times!) and sold my stuff to charity. It was the most freeing experience I’ve ever had. When we are detached from the things of the world, we are free to give ourselves to Christ and others. When we are attached to people or things, it is much more difficult. This is what many people are experiencing with the recent deaths of celebrities. If we are attached to someone or thing, it is hard to let go of them. I’ve heard some commentaries say that people “worshiped” this star or “idolized” that star. The Bible – pretty much in the Ten Commandments – tells us to worship God alone and to be attached to Christ alone. We are to love people and enjoy things, but not to be attached to them. When we are attached to Christ alone, then we are free to give ourselves to Him. This is what the Missionaries of Charity experienced and this is what the Apostles experienced. Their only attachment was Christ, so they were free to go out and proclaim him to others.

Simplicity brings freedom and happiness. We don’t know too many people who are really happy because they have a lot of stuff or have a house full of clutter. In fact, it’s usually the opposite: people are much happier when they have gotten rid of stuff or removed it from their home. Those who try to live simply are happy people. The sisters didn’t seem to be sad that they could only take one little box of things with them. In fact, they were smiling from ear to ear; they looked so happy. The saints – those who live Gospel simplicity – are the happiest people we know.

The rewards of simplicity are freedom, happiness, and also power. The Apostles were called by Christ to radical simplicity – no food, no second tunic, etc. – and were given radical power. They drove out evil spirits, performed healings, and cured people. They were clean, open vessels through which God’s grace poured. Because they were detached and free by living simplicity, the Apostles as well as the Missionaries of Charity had great power in bringing Christ to others.

Finally, when we live simply and are free of worldly attachments, we are able to enjoy and participate in the many “riches of (God’s) grace”, as St. Paul writes in today’s second reading. God offers so many riches to us; chief among them is the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the greatest treasure on Earth. When we are attached to Christ alone, we approach the Eucharist with a… “whew, what a gift”. We appreciate the incredible gift of God in the flesh! As we gaze upon our Lord and receive Him in Holy Communion, let us realize how rich we are to receive such a treasure. For when we receive the Eucharist, we are the richest people on Earth.


At 8:30 AM, Blogger CynthiaBC said...

For our daughter c’s birthdays, my husband & I have specified “no gifts” on the party invitations. There are multiple motives for the no-gift directive.

One reason is that we don’t want anyone to be put off from attending c’s party because of the perceived obligation of a gift. For some, a birthday-party gift is an unaffordable expense; for others, the task of purchasing a gift is just too much for an overloaded schedule. We just want people to show up and have fun.

Another (admittedly selfish on my part) reason is that c already has about a zillion things, and if she gets anything else our house will probably explode! If she gets MORE stuff, then there is that much more for me to nag c to pick up. [I prefer not to be done in by a surfeit of scattered stuff.]

The primary reason for the no-gifts directive is that we don’t want c’s focus to be on what loot she can haul in. In years past c was clueless that one is “supposed” to get stuff at one’s birthday party but this year we had to remind her that the primary reason for a party is to enjoy the company of one’s family and friends. C groused a bit, but once the guests began arriving, she forgot all about gifts, and enjoyed being a hostess.

At 4:20 AM, Anonymous Katherine ER said...

Living simply is freeing. I find I get much more pleasure out of charity work, or volunteer work, or just exercising, then going shopping and spending money with friends. Shopping really only satisfies me for about 5 minutes. Volunteer work makes me feel great for a lifetime.

It is so much more rewarding to see a smile on a handicapped kid's face when he/she successfully steers a horse by him/her self, then to go shopping and buy needless stuff.

On the other side, it does get tiring helping people all the time, with no help for yourself. Everybody needs some way to unwind. For me, time away from the ER includes sleeping and reading, and definitely alone time.

At 1:35 PM, Anonymous mindy said...

I find it challenging to raise children with detachment to “stuff.” I find it challenging to raise a children to appreciate others’ talents and abilities rather than worship them. My son wants to be like this sports star or that one without knowing anything about WHO they are. My teenage daughter behaved like some besotted crazy nut at this concert last night. It takes a lot of effort to help them keep their eyes on the prize, the real prize; however, last night I saw a small glimmer of hope their.

As I said, I took my daughter to this concert last. We were fortunate to get good seats but the tickets were expensive and she had to pay for half of hers, a good portion of her birthday savings. She also wanted backstage passes which one could purchase (for a crazy amount of money), which she knew was never going to happen, so she asked me to call some people I know to get them. I told her she would have to call and ask herself, which she was rather reluctant to do. So, no back stage passes, but the concert was great and she thoroughly enjoyed herself.

On the way home on the Metro, there was a girl who had attended the concert and had backstage passes. My daughter overheard her talking about the number of concerts she attended, the cost of the passes, her floor seats and tickets to the pre-concert warm up session. The child also mentioned it was her fourth time doing ALL of that in seeing this one particular group.

In the car coming back from the Metro, my daughter had done some calculating and figured out home much money this girl spent on all this concert “stuff.” She said, “That is so much money to spend for concerts, especially when there are so many people who have nothing. That girl must think a lot about herself and not very much of other people.” Though, I did correct the fact that she was being judgmental, saying that she didn’t know another’s financial situation and, perhaps, this girl’s family was equally as charitable with their money as they are in their spending, I was happy that she discerned some proper value there.

It is hard though, and I love the “no present” birthday party thing.

At 9:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

World's Oldest New Mom Dies at 69

MADRID - She devoted years to caring for her mother, who died at age 101. Then Maria del Carmen Bousada embarked on a quest to become a mom herself. She lied to a California fertility clinic to skirt its age limit, and later pointed to her mother’s longevity as a reason to expect she’d be around to care for her kids.

At age 66 she had twins, becoming the world’s oldest new mom — and raising questions about maternity so late in life. Now she is dead at age 69, leaving behind boys not yet 3.

Shortly after her sons, Pau and Christian, were born in December 2006, Bousada reflected on her decision to deceive doctors in order to have a family.

“I think everyone should become a mother at the right time for them,” she told a British tabloid .

“Often circumstances put you between a rock and a hard place, and maybe things shouldn’t have been done in the way they were done, but that was the only way to achieve the thing I had always dreamed of, and I did it,” she said.

Beginning in 2005, Bousada underwent hormone treatments to reverse nearly 20 years of menopause and sold her house to pay for in vitro fertilization at the Pacific Fertility Clinic in Los Angeles.

Slender with dark brown hair, she told the clinic she was 55 — the facility’s maximum age for single women undergoing the procedure. When her sons were born in December 2006, Guinness World Records said she was the oldest woman on record to give birth.

Dr. Vicken Sahakian, director and owner of the clinic, said Bousada falsified her birth date on documents from Spain. When he learned of the deception, “I figured something might happen and wind up being a disaster for these kids, and unfortunately I was right,” he told The Associated Press.

It’s easy for women to lie to their doctors, Sahakian said. “We don’t ask for passports, obviously. When is the last time you went to a doctor and he asked you for a birth certificate? We’re not detectives here,” he said.

Sahakian said he implanted the Spanish woman with a younger woman’s eggs and donated sperm, using hormone therapy to “rejuvenate” her uterus after she had been in menopause for 18 years.

The hormone treatment lasted three weeks. Sahakian said he did not believe that increased the woman’s cancer risk.

“Nothing she did (to get pregnant) caused her illness,” he said.

Bousada had once said she would look for a younger man to help her raise them.

Bousada lived with her mother most of her life in Cadiz and worked in a department store before retiring. She decided to have children after her mother died in 2005 and initially kept her plan secret from her family.

She sold her house to raise $59,000 to pay for in vitro fertilization in Los Angeles, she told the News of the World.

Spanish law on assisted reproduction sets no age limit, but state-funded and private clinics have an informal agreement establishing 50 as the cutoff, based on recommendations from the scientific community, according to the Health Ministry.

There is no U.S. law regulating the age of in vitro candidates, but Sahakian said his clinic won’t take older women because “I would like the mother ... to basically survive until the kids reach 18.”

When Bousada told her relatives she was two months pregnant, they thought she was joking, she said.

“Yes, I am old of course, but if I live as long as my mom did, imagine, I could even have grandchildren,” she said after the birth.

Allan Pacey, secretary of the British Fertility Society, said the organization recommends that assisted conception generally not be provided to women beyond the natural age of menopause at about 50. “The rationale ... is that nature didn’t design women to have assisted conception beyond the age of the natural menopause, he said. “Once you get into the mid-50s, I think nature is trying to tell us something.”

At 8:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi there, for my sons birthday we asked for presence only; for those who felt a need to gift we asked that they make a donation to St. Annes Orphanage.


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