Wednesday, August 30, 2017

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August 30, 2017

Wednesday of the Twenty-first Week in Ordinary Time

Lectionary: 427

1 THES 2:9-13

PS 139:7-8, 9-10, 11-12AB

MT 23:27-32

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A friend I know was given one of those automatic coffee makers that take a little cup and turns it into a steaming cup of fresh, gourmet bean water.   It was a little dirty so they spent some time cleaning it up.  After some polishing, some general purpose cleaner, and a few cups of hot water they put it on the counter and there it sat gleaming waiting for the first use.  A few days later a smell began to fill up the house.  At first, we didn’t know what it was.  Eventually, we narrowed it down to the coffee maker.  The outside looked great.  The coffee itself seemed ok.   The smell that came out of that thing?  No one would want to put that in their body.  

Jesus today talks about one of the greatest problems with Christians in today’s society, likely in all time periods.  That many of us are just like that coffee maker.  We spend our time at Church on the weekend, we clean up our act outside, and to the rest of the world, we look like really good people.  The inside never changes though.   The tombs that Jesus spoke of were decorated on the outside to make them look expensive, beautiful and clean.  Inside though was the rotting and decaying corpses of those who had gone on, swelling and stinking in the heat of the desert sun.  Just like that coffee maker, they were producing things that looked like healthy, yummy cups of expensive brew, but what was really coming out was dark and rotten.

The problem is that so many people try to do the change alone.  Yes, you have to work at change.  It won’t just happen overnight for most.  In a world where racism is still very much alive and people defend the right to murder innocent, unborn children, it can seem like we are lost.  Pornography has now become a mainstay of television and new evidence shows that our children are being exposed to hardcore porn as young as six years old.  How then can we hope to stand alone?  We don’t have to.  We have been given every tool we need to clean up the inside, especially as Catholics who have Confession.  Not only do we get the guarantee that He himself gave the Apostles that whose sins you forgive are forgiven, but we receive extra grace to help us keep it clean and wholesome inside.  

So are you making use of that?  The grace and Sacraments were given to us through the Church to help us not only begin to look more like Christ on the outside but the very presence of Christ inside of us changing us to look like the image of God we were created to be.   If you haven’t been in a long time, maybe now is time to start thinking about it.  One of the more beautiful things our new Pastor has done is begin to offer Confession before every single Mass.  That means every day of the week someone is hearing confessions.  It’s available in English, Spanish or even Polish.  What are we waiting for? An invitation?  I just invited you.  Come join me, I need it too.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Will you die for him?

August 29, 2017

Memorial Of The Passion Of Saint John The Baptist

Lectionary: 426/634

One of the things I hear the most in every circle these days is "don't judge."   Frequently the justification is God is my judge and somehow sin is a private matter.   Who are you to tell me how to live?   What I do in my own time, my own home, my own relationships... that's between them, me, and God.   That would be lovely if it were true.  The problem is: sin always hurts everyone.   Especially for those of us who claim to be Christian.   Sin is a wound in a body that we are a part of.  Cancer of the brain is not going to improve liver health.  Look at the things that have happened with people in places of authority: from Priests to Coaches, Catholics to Protestants, Religious to Atheist.... they have abused some of the most helpless people in the most heinous ways.   Shall we say then that the wounds they have caused have only hurt them?  That it doesn't hurt the rest of us?  Logic and reason tell us that isn't true. 

Herod and Herodias were in a relationship that was taboo.   They were living lives of hedonism with desires that were against those designed by and revealed by God.    When John stood up for the truth, stood up for Natural Law, Religious revelation, and common decency, Herod put him in prison.  Why does it matter what Herod does?  Why shouldn't John just have kept silent?  Look at the behavior of Herod then with his own step daughter.   He lusted after her and she lost her innocence by asking for the death of a Holy and Righteous man.   Not only were they hurt, but all those who witnessed were hurt in some way.  Those who agreed with Herod were spiritually wounded.  Herod was the king!  He was supposed to be a religious example and authority.   Though he kept all the Kosher laws, he had none of it in his heart.  There was no change in the spirit and others suffered by it.  Then John paid the mortal price. 

We have only to look at the wounds that have been caused in our own society.   With the increased use of abortifacients, contraceptives, drugs, and various other chemical sterilization; sex has become something completely divorced of the creation of life and is only about the hedonistic pleasures of a depraved generation.   The strive for peace and compassion has gone from simple stewardship to a call for the extermination of the human species that the earth and its other inhabitants might not be subjected to our darker nature.    The image of God has been so blurred that people no longer think of themselves as loved and cherished, but as broken and in need of surgical and chemical fixes just to make them into who they would rather be.  Pornography has increased the incidence of oppression and abuse for women and men alike, and the top 10 movies at any given time show the extent to which this has corrupted even the minds of us who claim to be Christian. 

What is the answer?  Love Jesus.  Love him so much that your heart aches for him.  Love him so much that you are willing to be so counter cultural that people will call you weird and will accuse you of being backward.  Be so enamored with God that your life revolves around him!  Throw yourself at his feet and gasp and paint for him as if he were oxygen itself.  If every single person who claimed to be Catholic lived their life with loving Jesus at the center of it?   The church would be full.   Every project would be complete.  There would be no end to volunteers.  Our kids would see in us the answer to that yearning and desire that they so desperately are seeking an answer to.  They would know so well what Augustine was speaking of when he said " You called, shouted, broke through my deafness; you flared, blazed, banished my blindness; you lavished your fragrance, I gasped; and now I pant for you; I tasted you, and now I hunger and thirst; you touched me, and I burned for your peace."

In the movie the 7th sign, Pontius Pilate demands of Demi Moore "will you die for him?"  John the Baptist answered a resounding yes.  He refused to wound the rest of humanity by giving into the whims of a depraved world.  What is your answer?  How will you respond when faced with the choice of rebuking and aiding a reformation, or simply going with the flow? In a world where the life of children is given up for comfort, how will you respond? 

Monday, August 28, 2017

Late have I loved thee.

August 28, 2017

Memorial of Saint Augustine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church

Lectionary: 425

1 THES 1:1-5, 8B-10

PS 149:1B-2, 3-4, 5-6A AND 9B

MT 23:13-22

St Augustine lived a very rough life.  He did everything that one can think of, including having a child out of wedlock.  Eventually, he came to see who God was and exactly what it means to be truly human.  The life of hedonism no longer held any beauty for him.  Life had become precious. God had become the goal of every breath.  In his confessions, he wrote,

Late have I loved you, Beauty so ancient and so new, late have I loved you!
Lo, you were within,
  but I outside, seeking there for you,
  and upon the shapely things you have made
  I rushed headlong – I, misshapen.
You were with me, but I was not with you.
They held me back far from you,
  those things which would have no being,
  were they not in you.
You called, shouted, broke through my deafness;
  you flared, blazed, banished my blindness;
  you lavished your fragrance, I gasped; and now I pant for you;
  I tasted you, and now I hunger and thirst;
  you touched me, and I burned for your peace.
So many have failed to experience life.  There is an overarching theme to discussions, especially on the internet with young college aged kids, where the demand to believe anything must be backed up with "peer reviewed scientific literature."  That's great in a laboratory.  I don't need it to know some things though.  I don't need a scientific article to prove to me that life is beautiful.  I don't need a man with 8 years of college studies to tell me my daughter is precious to me.  There is no scientific journal out there that I trust enough to determine if I love my wife fully enough to avoid contraception and give myself completely to our marital embrace, life giving creation intact.  No man will ever convince me that abortion is not murder, nor that "condoms are the greatest invention in all of human history."  

I also don't need science to tell me that Jesus is present in the Eucharist.  I have experienced it.  That's something so many have stopped doing.  Instead of sitting in the silence of Adoration and asking God to speak to them, they demand proof.  Instead of climbing a mountain they want to know what the rationale and benefit of doing so, is.  I'm all for reason and logic.  But I'm human.  I'm not a machine.  I have feelings, emotions, and a soul.  There is so much more to this world that science cannot address because of the nature of what science is.  Science observes.  It records.  It does not create or interpret meaning.  So keep your science for when I want to build an electronic device in my basement out of old modems, printers, and routers... that's when I do science.  When it comes to matters of life?  I'll stick to love.  Real love.  The kind that doesn't hesitate to tell you when you do something dangerous with your life, something detrimental to your spirit.  The kind of love that Jesus Christ shows in today's Gospel when he rebukes not to drive away, but to draw to Heaven. 

There are places and times to use your eyes and ears to listen and record the events going on around you.  There is another time to use your heart, to listen with your soul.  To allow the Spirit of God to speak directly to the person He created and give you insight into what it means to be human.  Fully human.  To be able to participate in the life giving act of creation with nothing held back.  To give yourself so completely to another person that what results is life itself.  No amount of science will ever convince me that that kind of love is wrong. I don't need an equation to tell me my wife is beautiful, my children dear to me, or my heart is overflowing with the sheer enormity of what it means to be a father.  Science just can't do that, nor should it try. 

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Why am I Catholic?

August 27, 2017

Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time

Lectionary: 121

IS 22:19-23

PS 138:1-2, 2-3, 6, 8

ROM 11:33-36

MT 16:13-20

noun - the study and interpretation of types and symbols, originally especially in the Bible.

If you want to understand Catholics, and for that matter most of the earliest Christian writers in the Church, typology is almost a prerequisite.  What we mean by "types" is that certain figures in the Old Testament are precursors to figures later in history.   Isaac is a type of Christ.   That is that in the life and events recorded about Isaac we see some definite correlations with the fulfillment of that image in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.  The wood for instance that Isaac carried up the mountain to be sacrificed on being an image of the Cross.  Isaac is the son of Abraham, being an image of the Father and the Son.  The ram caught in the thicket of thorns symbolizing the crown of thorns.  So and on and so forth we see so many parallels that they could not be formulated even by the best of authors.

One of the rules that types follow is that a type is never greater than its fulfillment.   It’s always less than the thing to come but points out the reality of the thing to come.  The staff of Aaron is a symbol of priestly authority.  Jesus is greater than the staff, being the actual High Priest who mediates for us.  The manna from heaven is a beautiful gift from God but is not as valuable as the true bread from heaven, Jesus Christ.  Image after image points to who Jesus is, what God’s plan truly entails, and exactly who we are in light of that.  Why do I bring up types?  Because today’s readings are extremely important to understanding who we are as Catholics.  

This morning we were watching Joseph, King of Dreams.   In this beautiful Disney cartoon, we see the story of one of the first types of who Jesus is in the Sacred Scriptures.  A descendant of Abraham is abused and sold into slavery.   In the end, he is risen to the right hand of Pharaoh (remember Pharaoh is believed by the Egyptians to be a god.)  In this story, Joseph is given the authority of the kingdom.  When Pharaoh is absent, Joseph is in charge.  No one would dare to question Joseph.  That would be the same as questioning Pharaoh himself.    That’s an important image to keep in mind.  

In our first reading today we hear about Eliakim.  The King of Israel has just made Eliakim his prime minister.   These are the words recorded in Scripture:  “I will place the key of the House of David on Eliakim’s shoulder; when he opens, no one shall shut when he shuts, no one shall open.”  Like Joseph with Pharaoh, a more perfect kingdom has been established (remember that all fulfillments are greater than their previous types.)  The Kingdom of Israel is the Kingdom that belongs to God.  David who was the greatest of all the kings of Israel had given all of his authority to Eliakim.  When David was not around Eliakim was in charge.  Whatever he said, was law.  All of the Kingdom did whatever Eliakim says.   Remember, when David was anointed God said to him: “You shall be shepherd of my people Israel, and you shall be prince over Israel.’”   That means that when David is not around Eliakim is tasked with being the shepherd.

Then we come to Jesus who is the fulfillment of all of Scripture, the perfection of God’s plan for humanity.   In Jesus, we see the true King.   When Israel asked for a King, they were reminded that God was their King.   They still called out for a mortal king to guide them.   In Jesus Christ we see God himself becoming a man in order to be the King we truly need.  The Good Shepherd who will guide us in all our ways.   The true Godman, who unlike Pharaoh, is actually God and has proven it by coming back from death and ascending into Heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father.   The fulfillment of the promise given to David that his descendant would be on the throne for all eternity.   

I told you that these images in today’s scripture were important to understanding Catholics and our Church.   Why?   Because with Pharoah we had Joseph.  With David we had Eliakim.  Now with Jesus, do we have anyone to be Prime Minister?   Who is in charge of the Church?   Of course Jesus Christ is, but did He leave a representative to have the same authority when He wasn’t physically apparent?  Let’s take a quick look at the words said about Eliakim, and the words Jesus Christ said to Saint Peter himself:

I will place the key of the House of David on Eliakim's shoulder;when he opens, no one shall shutwhen he shuts, no one shall open.”

“and upon this rock I will build my church,and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven;and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."

If you ever wanted to understand why we Catholics have a leader called a Pope, who sits on the See of Peter, it is because we take Scripture very seriously.   Is the Pope perfect? No.   Jesus though is.  He has seen fit to establish a Prime Minister to help guide the Church under the helpful hand of the Holy Spirit to be as good a guide as it can to help people to get to Heaven.  That’s one of the reasons(one of many) I’m Catholic.   Because I truly believe.   I believe that this is the best way, to follow the authority established by Christ himself, revealed by the Sacred Scriptures to be the truth, and passed on for two thousand years by the laying of hands through Apostolic Succession, and entrusted in the sacred deposit of faith.   Everything we do as Catholics reflects those simple truths.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

What does today's Feast really mean to us?

August 22, 2017

Memorial of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Lectionary: 420

JGS 6:11-24A

PS 85:9, 11-12, 13-14

MT 19:23-30

It is tempting to constantly pray for the difficulties of life to be passed from us.  Even Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane asked to have that horrible cup taken away from him.  The thing about prayer is that it is less like an ATM that just gives us what we want if we use the right words, and more an opportunity for change.  Yes, God can and does answer prayers.  It’s not always in the way we want or expect but he isn’t just passively watching as the world turns.  Our goal in prayer should not always be to petition but to also be active in allowing God to work in us and through us.

Gideon in the Old Testament reading and the Apostles in the new were both being faced with difficult roads.  They were being asked to do things that seemed hard.   It would be much more pleasant at times to just sit at home playing video games and drinking soda than it would to eat healthily, get out and evangelize, and be active at the Church.  That’s not what we are called to do as Christians though.  We are called to march with armies that are way too small and count on God to win instead of ourselves.   Asked to give up everything we have, or at least the attachment to physical things, and instead reach into the spiritual realm for our true wealth. A wise man came up to me after Mass yesterday and said: “There are other forms of wealth way beyond just money.”  

Today is the Memorial of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Some people are intimidated by how much we Catholics love and honor Mary.  The thing about our Mother is that she always reminds not of who she is, but who Jesus is.  In the Magnificat, she reminds us what true wealth is, it is to be lifted up by God.  “He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly.”  This poor woman of Nazareth went on to be brought into Heaven with her Son, to be crowned with a crown of stars and robed in the light of the sun.  “He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.”  Mary is the ultimate example of what it means to be hungry and to desire good things.

The Queenship of Mary should remind us of the promise and hope that we have in Jesus Christ.  That we too, if we choose to live our lives right, give ourselves over to God and allow Him to work through us, can hope to receive.  A crown of righteousness for all who have longed for His appearing. (2 Timothy 4:8)  As always, Mary points to Jesus and says “Do whatever He tells you.”  Even on her feast day, the readings do not point to her, but to Christ himself and the promise that God has given us that He will be with us always.  So which would you rather have?  Riches and wealth?  Peace and comfort?  Or the presence of God at all times, even during hardship and difficulties?  One looks like Heaven, the other like Hell.  What amount of good can all the riches in the world do for us if we spend eternity alone wailing and gnashing teeth?
1035 The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, "eternal fire." The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs.

Monday, August 21, 2017

A total eclipse of the heart?

August 21, 2017

Memorial of Saint Pius X, Pope

Lectionary: 419


PS 106:34-35, 36-37, 39-40, 43AB AND 44

MT 19:16-22

Today, in case you live under a rock, there was a solar eclipse over the United States.   Many people traveled great distances to be in the path of total darkness, taking a vacation and buying special equipment.   Some prepared for months ahead of time and even now are preparing for the next one to come.  My neighbor’s son was so excited by the eclipse that he wanted to come down and make sure I had a chance to see it.  They brought some of those special glasses and shared them with me as we stood and talked.  He talked about the zucchini, the peppers, the sun, and anything else that came to his mind.  The one thing I could tell is he was excited, and he wanted to share that excitement with me.  

In the Gospel today we see the rich young man coming up to Jesus to find out what to do to get to Heaven.   I imagine him being so excited to know Jesus was there.  Something was missing though.  He had everything money could buy, was living the life of a devout believer, and still knew in his heart there was something more he needed.  The irony of Jesus question back to him always floors me.  The incarnation of Goodness itself standing before the young man challenging, do you realize who I am?  Do you realize that you just asked the image of all that is good, how to be good?  We too were once excited about our faith.   That moment when we first began to believe ourselves, when we realized the beauty of our faith when God spoke to us in the inmost region of our hearts.

The Israelites often needed good men and women to bring them back on course.  Judges, Prophets, and even kings.   I think the readings today, and the events of this afternoon, remind us of an important thing.  We must be careful not to let life eclipse God in our lives.  Too often we let little things creep in and begin to block out the light and dim the excitement.  At first, it’s just a little here or there, but the moon is much smaller than the sun and yet it can block all of its light?  Like the child who visited me today and encouraged me to look at this beautiful astronomical phenomena, do I realize the gift that God has offered me as a child of God?  Do I run to others and tell them about Jesus with awe and wonder?  Or am I letting anything get in the way?  

The Sacraments and the Church are the glasses we need to be able to look in the right direction, to view a glimpse beyond the veil and into Heaven itself… that we can begin to get all that blocks the light out of the way and let the Son Himself shine through in the fullness of His glory.. Saint Pius the tenth reminds us of the need to constantly renew ourselves and our worship of God.   To bring about reverence and respect for the gifts that God has given us in the Eucharist.   He is a constant reminder of what it looks like to lead a Pius and Holy life, filled with study of Scripture, discipline, and obedience.  (Warning, now comes the pun): Are you ready to get out of the way, letting God shine through before you too have a total eclipse of the heart? The goal of the Christian should be to let God eclipse us so that when someone looks in our direction they do not even see the man that stands before them, but the image of God shining through in all its purity.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Following in the footsteps of Jesus

August 20, 2017

Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Lectionary: 118

IS 56:1, 6-7

PS 67:2-3, 5, 6, 8

ROM 11:13-15, 29-32

MT 15:21-28

Jesus has just had a heated exchange with the Pharisees and Scribes about the nature of sin.  He talks about how that it is not what you put in your mouth or touch that makes you unclean, but rather what is inside.  Your motives.  Your actions.  Then he does a most remarkable thing.  He journeys into the very land of those who the Pharisees and Scribes would say is the most unclean of the unclean.  A woman there begins to call after him.  In this time period and especially in this situation it must have been awkward for the disciples.  They knew that everyone was watching, and even though Jesus had just told them about cleanliness, they were still uncomfortable that this woman was walking along behind them shouting and drawing attention to them.

It’s really hard sometimes to break out of the mold.  We learn things as we grow up that we don’t even realize affect the way we think and act today.  There is a large vein of that going on right now in the United States.  When tension happens on the political stage the truth of who someone is will come out.  We see men and women fighting for things we would never have assumed they even cared about.  We also see people spreading half truths and lies in order to get their agenda pushed to the front.  The disciples should have been the first to realize that Jesus did indeed reach out to Gentiles from time to time, yet they fell back to their upbringing.  The situation, one that Jesus had just told them would not make them dirty, was one they did not want to be part of.

Jesus then interacts with the women.   Not only has he crossed the first line of proper behavior for a Jew by entering a Gentile land, now here he is speaking to a Gentile woman in public!   It doesn’t say that she is with other women, or that her husband or family is present.  She is alone begging for her daughter's life.  Jesus should not have spoken to her.  She would have been seen as not just a gentile, but one who didn’t know how to behave like a “woman.”  That is hard for us to imagine in the US in 2017.   However, even today in other countries, women are treated as second class citizens that have no rights and would be beaten for speaking to a strange man in public.   Yet, here we are in America fighting over Confederate statues while in other countries abuse men and women in ways that we have never experienced or imagined.

Then Jesus does something that seems so harsh, doesn’t it?  He calls her a dog.  Even today that would be harsh, back then it was even almost a racial slur.  She wasn’t a Jew.  The word has the connotation of a little dog, a puppy.  How would you react in this situation?  Most of us would grow angry.  We’d stomp off in a hurry.   How dare anyone call us a dog?  How does this foreign woman respond to the rude vocalization of this Jewish rabbi traveling through her homeland?  Humility.  She doesn’t fight the label.  She approaches Jesus with the realization that yes, she is not worthy.   She does not deserve anything he has to give.  Then she talks about what it means to be a puppy in her Master’s house.

Catechism of the Catholic Church 2610 Just as Jesus prays to the Father and gives thanks before receiving his gifts, so he teaches us filial boldness: "Whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you receive it, and you will." Such is the power of prayer and of faith that does not doubt: "all things are possible to him who believes." Jesus is as saddened by the "lack of faith" of his own neighbors and the "little faith" of his own disciples as he is struck with admiration at the great faith of the Roman centurion and the Canaanite woman.
All of us know how much a puppy is loved.  How the oohs and aahs happen when someone brings about a very young animal.  We give them treats.  We feed them under the table little pieces of food when nobody's watching.  We pet them with our toes throughout dinner and curl up with them on the floor to watch movies.   Sometimes we treat them even better than the other people in our lives.  She had faith that God loved her.   That he would reach out to her like a pet under the table.  Giving the scraps that the others refused to eat.  This was a reality of the situation with the Pharisees and the Scribes.   Most of them had refused the meal entirely.   That means the dinner was still on the table with no one to eat it.   My friend just posted a picture of her puppy eyeing her perogies and wanting to eat them.  That’s an image of this very moment.

St. Paul reminds us that God loved us so much that when the people he had chosen refused to sit down to the meal, God invited the rest of us to dinner.  Unlike pets, God chose to simply make us sons and daughters.  We don’t have to beg for scraps because we get the entirety of the meal.  All 7 courses as it were.  Then a few moments later in this chapter, Jesus takes the meal and he multiplies it to feed thousands.  That’s the beautiful thing about love, isn’t it?  We don’t have to worry about only loving one or two people because the more we love... The more love we have to go around.   Unlike thermodynamics, in the spiritual realm the more we use the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the more they are lavished on us.

In this world of hatred, it’s even more important for us as Catholics to remember that every single person is invited to that table.   It doesn’t matter if you are democrat, republican or independent.   An atheist, Jew, Christian or Hindu.  God came to offer his salvation to every single one of us.  Why then do we evangelize?  Because we need to get dressed for the wedding.  That’s the entire purpose of the Church.  I truly believe that the Catholic Church teaches the fullness of faith.  If it did not?  I would not have become Catholic.  In another parable, Jesus talks about a man who shows up not dressed for the wedding and he is thrown out of the banquet.  I want to help as many people as I can get dressed and at the same time make sure my clothes are pressed and ready.

Every one of us has been “delivered to disobedience.”   That is we have all sinned.  We have all missed the mark.  Thomas Merton described it as this:

"Sin is the refusal of spiritual life, the rejection of the inner order and peace that come from our union with the divine will. In a word, sin is the refusal of God’s will and of his love. It is not only a refusal to“do” this or that thing willed by God, or a determination to do what he forbids. It is more radically a refusal to be what we are, a rejection of our mysterious, contingent, spiritual reality hidden in the very mystery of God. Sin is our refusal to be what we were created to be—sons of God, images of God. Ultimately sin, while seeming to be an assertion of freedom, is a flight from the freedom and the responsibility of divine sonship." - Life & Holiness, Thomas Merton

That’s what I believe the purpose of the Church is.  Not to give you a set of rules and regulations to make you sad and morose.  Rather a set of spiritual guidelines that help you figure out who you were created to be.   To know what it means to be made in the image of God.  To be invited to the table to join in the wedding feast of the Lamb.  I want everyone to experience that.  I want to grow into that man, slowly and steadily.   I want to keep working on my ‘outfit’ until it is fit for the wedding of the King of the Universe.  Yes, I know I can’t earn a ticket to the dinner because Jesus did that for me on the cross… but the scripture is clear that I need to put on my suit, I need to fill up my lamp, I need work on entering that straight and narrow gate that only Christ has opened for me.

So who is with me?  We are all called to be Saints.   That’s impossible without Christ in our life.  I had a man say to me today “who needs Church, I’m an atheist and I do plenty of good works.”   Good for you! We need more people like that!  The thing is as G.K. Chesterton said: “I don't need a church to tell me I'm wrong where I already know I'm wrong; I need a Church to tell me I'm wrong where I think I'm right.”   Yes, you know when you do good works.  You often know when you do bad things.  The question is, are some of the things you think are good actually bad?   If I went off all the things I “feel” there are a great many things out there I’d probably enjoy that aren’t good for my spiritual life, my family, or my vocation.  

So I look the to the Church.  I look to the Sacraments.   I sit down at the table as often as I can to receive Jesus himself to help me grow into the son that I am created to be, the image of God that I have been designed to radiate... And then I set out to help others do the same.  I want them to experience the same joy and fullness of life that I get to experience when I live for Christ.   Then I work the best I can that I too may emulate Christ in my life that others may see him through me.  That’s the goal of being a Christian.   To be a Saint means just that, to become as much like Christ as we can that we are transformed into the person God created us to be.  Joyful, loving, happy, and content… even in the worst of circumstances.  Let’s do this!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Saint Michael's Lent. Who is with me?

August 16, 2017

Wednesday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Lectionary: 415

DT 34:1-12

PS 66:1-3A, 5 AND 8, 16-17

MT 18:15-20

It often seems like we are getting nowhere in this world, especially when it comes to making it a better place.  Our society has become rampant with hedonism and sinfulness.   Many Christians cannot be distinguished from those who live around them by word or deed.  As a vegan and environmentalist, I find it even more discouraging to see how we treat this beautiful creation that we have been given stewardship over.  When I see someone who lives a life filled with all those things which God has said we should give up, and they seem to be thriving?  Their health is seemingly intact, though one cannot know what is going on under the hood.  They seem to have comfort, friends, and enjoyment.  Sometimes it makes me think, why bother?  Why should I do all of this?  

Imagine how Moses felt standing on that mountain looking into the promised land.  Here is a man who had worked so hard to bring about the plan.   He went out of his comfort zone into the realm of the enemy, performing miracles and leading his people.  Overwhelmed with all of the work he had he often wondered why God had put such a burden on his shoulders.  Then he would only get to look at the promise but never set foot on the land given to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  That’s hard, isn’t it?   Abraham himself died only owning a small parcel of land unable to see the fulfillment of his promise.  The one thing both had, was trust in God and I believe a glimpse of what is to come.

That is what keeps me going.  A glimpse here or there.  Last night as we gathered around the altar to Worship God at Saint Catherine’s Church, I saw another glimpse of that future.  Here were men and women of every heritage.   A polish priest, a Hispanic sacristan, an Irish extraordinary minister, a man with a strong native American heritage, a woman with a southern twang, and an array of skin tones from light to dark.  All gathered together in song, listening to the Word of God, breaking it open together, and feasting at the common table in which God provides us the true manna from Heaven, Jesus Christ himself.  

In this world where the devil seeks to divide men from one another on any ground that he can, it’s more important than ever to seek unity.   To realize that we are all made in the image of God and that we should always seek peace and reconciliation.  In Matthew's Gospel, he gives a quick outline of how the Matthean community should respond to conflict.   Privately at first.  If that doesn’t work, take a couple holy men and women with you to talk it out.  Are you still unable to work things out?  Go to the Church, ask them to help arbitrate matters.   What do we Christians do then?  We have to do what is for the good of both people, separate until reconciliation can happen authentically.  Sometimes forgiveness takes time.  

Yesterday began the first day of St. Michael’s Lent.  This is an older devotion that involves fasting from August 15th to September 29th.  It begins with a day devoted to Mary, the perfect disciple of Christ.   It ends with a feast of Michael the Archangel, whose name means “Who is like God.”   It’s an opportunity for us to choose to add something to our life or give up something that is standing in the way of that realized dream that we glimpse at Mass.  I started a few days ago in order to get in some serious prayer and fasting for a friend who is having surgery.   Today I recommit to that.  How about you?  Will you join my wife and I as we pray and fast for this country?  For our Parish?  For our families?  Our friends?  

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Hail Mary, full of grace (Luke 1:28)

August 15, 2017

Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary -

Mass during the Day

Lectionary: 622

RV 11:19A; 12:1-6A, 10AB

PS 45:10, 11, 12, 16

1 COR 15:20-27

LK 1:39-56

My grandfather used to stop by our house every day as he came home from his long shift at work.  During that visit, he would pull out a candy bar or cake that he had left over from his lunch.  I learned many years later that he didn’t actually have left over food, but would stop and charge the candy at the company store so that he would have some treat to give us.  I don’t remember it very well, mostly through the stories that I’ve been told.  I do remember though the excitement of knowing he was coming.   Not just because I would receive a treat, but because he had promised.  I knew he would be there and that it would be fun.  It always was.

That’s excitement, that palpitation is how we should feel on this Feast day.  The Church has made it a Holy Day of Obligation for a good reason!  The very nature of this solemnity declares one of God’s promises to each of us, that of eternal life.   In the life of Mary, we see a person who has given herself completely to God’s plan.   A woman who said yes to every detail and gave her very body to Him to form in it the body of Jesus Christ.  We find her at the conception, the birth (logically), the presentation.   The one who nursed the child as he grew.   The one who comforted him as he learned to walk, with all it’s bumps, scrapes, and bruises.  A catechist who taught the faith, fed and clothed him.  Walking along the way in silent witness to the crucifixion and stood at the foot of the cross when most others had run the other way.  In the upper room at Pentecost and likely a fixture in the lives of the disciples, especially John.

Why is this feast so important?  Because it outlines for us the kind of life we too should live.  If Mary was not assumed?  What hope have we?   The Scriptures themselves reveal to us that she is to be called blessed for all eternity (see Luke 1:48.)  From this section of Luke, we get two of our very prominent prayers: the Hail Mary, and the Magnificat.  One is a prayer that reminds us of the greeting of Elizabeth, the other a prayer that reminds us of the response of Mary to her situation.  This feast reminds us to look at all of her life and especially the end of it.  

Did Mary die? That’s something that you’ll find people arguing over.   To me, it doesn’t matter.  Did she fall asleep?  The Dormition?  All of those details are much less important to me than what we see happened after “she completed the course of her life.”  Even the book of Revelation when speaking of Mary, giving us a glimpse of her as the Ark of the New Covenant, speaks of her being swept up into Heaven after a long period of time.  Rightly so.   If the woman who bore Christ into the world in a physical way did not receive the reward at the end of the race, what hope have we?  We who imperfectly try to do the same on a spiritual level and fail so miserably.  That is why to me the argument over exactly how it happened is much less exciting than the discussion over the fact it did happen!  

That is what I think this feast is about in fact.  A feast that should eradicate the fear of death from every faithful believer.  One that should remind us to be more like Mary, one who lived out the life of a disciple in the most perfect way possible.  To be like Mary at the Annunciation, giving a perfect yes to God to help bring Christ into the world.   Again, as Mary did, carrying Christ inside of us after receiving Him and bringing Him to the world.  Giving birth to Christ in our actions, thoughts, and words.   Then following Jesus ardently in the other, helping him up when he falls, cleaning his cuts and bruises, and feeding him when he is hungry.  Journeying with him at the end of his life as he carries his cross, and being there to comfort him at his death, no matter how hard it is to watch, even if it seemed a sword where piercing our chest.

I think then today is a perfect opportunity to meditate on that simple prayer that comes directly from the Gospel of Luke and ask ourselves, what does it mean to me.  Have I made Mary a part of my life?  Have I, the disciple standing at the foot of the cross, invited her into my home as instructed by Jesus himself?  Have I failed to journey with the sick, the widow, the orphan, the refugee, the dying?  Do I look for Jesus in them and accompany them as they carry their own cross?  Do I look with excitement, like a child waiting for his grandfather to visit with candy, for the end of my own life?  For the Mass?  For Jesus in the Eucharist? In the Confessional? May I pray the following words with that in mind as I ask Mary to pray for me to be strengthened to live a life of true discipleship and to “do whatever He tells me.”

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.  Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.  Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.   Amen.