Wednesday, December 22, 2021
Friday, December 10, 2021
I feel so fortunate to have a devotion to Mary Jesus’ mother. We got our first look at Jesus' incredible powers came when Jesus performed a public miracle because his mother asked. He said it was not his time yet, but his mother asked for help. And he could not resist his mother’s request. That fact alone should encourage us to seek her assistance when we need to approach Jesus for help.
The work of artist Yolanda Lopez (seen above) is tantalizing as she portrays Our Lady of Guadalupe performing everyday activities such as sowing and running.
Monday, November 29, 2021
Friday, November 12, 2021
Friday, November 5, 2021
This parable about the shady steward is one of the most puzzling Jesus told. Not only does this steward get away with bribing the master’s debtors by reducing their debt, but his boss praises him for being shrewd!
What’s the moral for us? … What’s the takeaway from this odd parable?
Maybe it’s right before our eyes.
Jesus praises the steward for forgiving the debtors their debts. Isn’t forgiving our debts precisely what Jesus came to do? Isn’t the steward, in an odd way, doing what Jesus did?
Remember the Our Father. We Catholics say, "forgive us our trespasses," but many Christians say, "forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors." Jesus taught us this prayer; it's how his heart works, it’s how he thinks. Maybe this story is about the shrewdness of forgiveness.
When our Master asks for an accounting of our life, what will we have to show Him? Maybe this bad steward got it right and Jesus wants to find us forgiving our debtors their debts. The shrewd thing he is calling us to do is - forgive others - like the steward forgave his Master's creditors. That's our calling.
Everything we own is a gift from God. God is the owner of everything, and we are His stewards. Our call is to use the Master’s resources to further the Master’s goals. In this specific case, he is calling us to be generous with His gifts to benefit others. Our call is to make the debts of those around us lighter, to let them know we have a master who finds forgiveness praiseworthy.
Thursday, October 21, 2021
“There once was a person who had a fig tree planted in his orchard, and when he came in search of fruit on it but found none, he said to the gardener, ‘For three years now I have come in search of fruit on this fig tree but have found none. So cut it down. Why should it exhaust the soil?’ He said to him in reply, ‘Sir, leave it for this year also, and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it; it may bear fruit in the future. If not, you can cut it down.'" Luke 13:6-9
The parable Jesus told isn’t really about a Fig tree. It’s a story about the Jewish people, God’s chosen people … and … it's a story about us too, we who call ourselves followers of Jesus Christ. All who call themselves Christians receive a call to bear fruit.
In John’s Gospel, Jesus says very clearly, “My Father's glory is shown by your bearing much fruit, and in this way, you become my disciples. John 15:8
Like that Fig tree, our job is to bear fruit for the master … for God.
Are we bearing fruit for God?
This thing we call religion isn’t a private thing; it’s a call to action. It’s a call to share the Kingdom of God with those around us.
God's Kingdom is all about fruitfulness.
Bearing fruit requires action. Action that results from developing a close relationship with God and knowing what He desires. It comes from an intimate, sensitive connection to Jesus. Jesus once said, "If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me, you can do nothing." John 15:5
Apart from a relationship with Jesus Christ, it's impossible to bear fruit.
How is your relationship with Jesus?
Fruitfulness is Christlikeness. The definition of Christlikeness is a person who has qualities like Jesus Christ. Examples of Christlikeness are being kind, forgiving, sincere, and caring and being a person who produces healing. When we become more like Jesus, when He increases in our lives, we can deliver the fruit that honors God. Jesus is the nourishment we need to produce fruit.
Being Christlike means giving a human face to the gifts we receive through the sacraments. The gifts we speak of here are the “fruit of the Spirit” … love … joy … peace … patience … kindness … goodness … faithfulness … gentleness, and self-control. When we see these traits in our lives, we will begin to see the fruit.
The fruit God wants us to share is our faith, a faith that brings people to Him, including new believers and fallen away believers. That's the fruit Jesus wants.
Jesus is encouraging us all to till the soil of our faith and develop a Christ-like attitude full of … love … joy … kindness … attitudes we develop through studying the Bible and daily prayer time and being charitable, giving to those who need it.
That’s how we till the soil; that's how we bear fruit.
Saturday, October 9, 2021
What God was saying to them is, "I am giving you life. It's a gift, enjoy it." God even told them to: "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it. I give you dominion over all the earth.” God was telling them, and us, to receive life as a gift, not as something we can acquire.
The original sin was a failure to respect the gift. Taking the apple represents the sin of wanting to be in control. The original sin was a failure in gratitude, a failure to appreciate the gift.
It is so important we realize everything is gift, including life itself. Nothing should be acquired as if it was ours by right. It's all gift. The highest compliment someone can give to the gift-giver is to enjoy the gift thoroughly. The highest praise we have to give to our God, our Creator, is to enjoy the gift of life indeed.
That is why Jesus during his time with us didn't need anything and lived so simply, he understood the gift. We all need to let go of the need to acquire – to take – and simply receive God’s gift of life.
Tuesday, September 7, 2021
At the end of the musical, as Jean Valjean lies dying before his beloved daughter Cosette and her husband-to-be Marius, he has a vision of Cosette's dead mother, Fantine. In this touching scene, Valjean commends Marius and Cosette to marry and reveals his long-held secret that he had spent his life running from the law. As Jean Valjean sings his last confession, Fantine appears to welcome him into heaven. Jean Valjean then experiences an almost beatific vision of the priest, surrounded gloriously in candlelight. At this moment, he utters one of the most beautiful lines ever written in a play:
"To love another person is to see the face of God."
The message from this excellent musical for us all is that one simple act of kindness has the power to transform a sinner into a forgiven saint. Even in his humble and lowly position, the priest became a vessel for Jean Valjean and, by extension, the audience to see the very face of God through his indefinable love for an embittered thief.
We can be like this good priest. We can show the face of God through our love. Too often, we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.
Let’s all show the face of God by our loving kindness to one another!
Friday, September 3, 2021
If you have become bitter and sour, it is because when God gave you a blessing you hoarded it. Yet if you had poured it out to Him, you would have been the sweetest person on earth. If you are always keeping blessings to yourself and never learning to pour out anything to the Lord, other people will never have their vision of God expanded through you.
Sunday, August 29, 2021
From the Gospel of Mark:
When the Pharisees with some scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus, they observed that some of his disciples ate their meals with unclean, that is, unwashed, hands. So the Pharisees and scribes questioned him, “Why do your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders but instead eat a meal with unclean hands?”
It’s never a good idea to test Jesus. His response to them was one we need to hear too. Jesus’ message this morning is that it’s unhealthy to fixate on some minor issue and miss the more important one. The Pharisees were focusing on the wrong thing. And Jesus got upset:
“Well did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites, as it is written: These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines human precepts. You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition.”
Jesus was not criticizing or rejecting the Jewish law or even Jewish tradition. Jesus was a good Jew. He followed the law and loved it. He probably washed his hands before he ate. His point here is not to criticize the law but to remind his hearers that there are more important issues.
Many people in Jesus' time thought that religion was all about observing rituals, which they thought were pleasing to God. Not to observe them was to sin. In short, observing rituals became identified with being religious.
Jesus made it clear that religion isn't something you do at certain times on certain days. It's not saying specific prayers or performing certain rituals. It’s a thing of the heart. It’s a thing of the heart called love — love of God and love of neighbor. Today’s Scripture readings invite us to look into our hearts and to ask ourselves to what extent the words of Jesus in today’s gospel reading apply to us:
“These people honor me with their words, but their heart is far away from me."
They invite us to look into our own heart and ask ourselves to what extent the words of James in today’s second reading apply to us:
“Do not deceive yourselves by just listening to his word; instead, put it into practice. Be doers of the word and not hearers only.”
We must never forget that Jesus uses our hands, feet, voice, and heart to touch people in our day. That’s what matters - what is in our hearts - and what we do about it.
We are being asked today:
- Do we focus on the things that are not that important and ignore what is essential?
- Do we judge people on how they look instead of who they are?
Here is a question he put on my heart today for me:
- Do we get upset about trivial things - like someone taking a knee at a sporting event during the National Anthem but ignore the significant issue of racial justice in our country?
- Are we attentive to the words we say in church but are deaf to the cry of the poor?
Jesus is telling us today; it's unhealthy when we fixate on – some minor issue – and miss the more important one. This is what has Jesus upset in today's gospel. We are all in need of some “open-heart” surgery. Let us learn not to give our energy and attention to minor things but rather focus on the heart of the matter. Let us promise God not to criticize someone like the Pharisees did that day, before we explore what is on their heart.
My grandmother always had a saying that seems to fit every situation today she might have said to us:
"Don't judge a man until you have walked a mile in his shoes."
Friday, August 27, 2021
We believe that there is one God, eternally existent who has revealed Himself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
(Deuteronomy 6:4, Luke 3:22)
We believe the Scriptures, both the Old and New Testaments, are inspired by God and are the revelation of God to man.
(2 Timothy 3:15-17, 1 Peter 1:21)
We believe in the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ, in His virgin birth, in His sinless life, in His miracles, in His atoning death through His shed blood, in His bodily resurrection, in His ascension to the right hand of the Father where He intercedes for us, in His present rule as Head of the Church, and in His personal return in power and glory.
(Matthew 1:23, Luke 1:31)
We believe the sacraments are “efficacious signs of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us”
In other words, a sacrament is a sacred and visible sign that is instituted by Jesus to give us grace, an undeserved gift from God.
(CCC 1131) (CCC 1084).
We believe Christ was present at the inception of all of the sacraments, which He instituted 2,000 years ago. Christ is also present every time each sacrament is celebrated.
The Catholic Church has all of the seven sacraments instituted by Christ, which include Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Reconciliation, Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders and Matrimony. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains that “the seven sacraments touch all the stages and all important moments of the Christian life”
Saturday, August 21, 2021
the author of my hope,
and the object of my love.
I come seeking refreshment and peace.
Show me your mercy,
relieve my fears and anxieties,
and grant me a quiet mind and an expectant heart,
that by the assurance of your presence
I may learn to abide in you,
who is my Lord and my God.
Monday, August 16, 2021
"IF A THING IS WORTH DOING, IT IS WORTH DOING BADLY."
Chesterton did not mean that the goal in our endeavors is to aim for mediocrity,
but rather that we should not let the fear of mediocrity
keep us from doing something worthy:
“The line, “if a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly,” is not an excuse for poor efforts. It is perhaps an excuse for poor results. But our society is plagued by wanting good results with no efforts (or rather, with someone else’s efforts). We hire someone else to work for us, to play for us (that is, to entertain us), to think for us, and to raise our children for us. We have left “the things worth doing” to others, on the poor excuse that others might be able to do them better.”
— American Chesterton Society
Wednesday, August 11, 2021
We live by the conviction
that acts of goodness
reflect the hidden light of His holiness.
His light is above our minds
but not beyond our will.
It is within our power
to mirror his unending love in deeds of kindness,
like brooks that hold the sky.
Abraham Joshua Heschel
Sunday, August 8, 2021
Take my Son.....
A wealthy man and his son loved to collect rare works of art. They had everything in their collection, from Picasso to Raphael. They would often sit together and admire the great works of art..
When the Vietnam-conflict broke out, the son went to war. He was very courageous and died in battle while rescuing another soldier. The father was notified and grieved deeply for his only son.
About a month later, just before Christmas, There was a knock at the door. A young man stood at the door with a large package in his hands.
He said, 'Sir, you don't know me, but I am the soldier for whom your son gave his life. He saved many lives that day and he was carrying me to safety when a bullet struck him in the heart and he died instantly. He often talked about you, and your love for art. 'The young man held out this package. 'I know this isn't much. I'm not really a great artist, but I think your son would have wanted you to have this.'
The father opened the package. It was a portrait of his son, painted by the young man. He stared in awe at the way the soldier had captured the personality of his son in the painting. The father was so drawn to the eyes that his own eyes welled up with tears. He thanked the young man and offered to pay him for the picture.. 'Oh, no sir, I could never repay what your son did for me. It's a gift.'
The father hung the portrait over his mantle. Every time visitors came to his home he took them to see the portrait of his son before he showed them any of the other great works he had collected.
The man died a few months later. There was to be a great auction of his paintings. Many influential people gathered, excited over seeing the great paintings and having an opportunity to purchase one for their collection.
On the platform sat the painting of the son. The auctioneer pounded his gavel. 'We will start the bidding with this picture of the son. Who will bid for this picture?'
There was silence...
Then a voice in the back of the room shouted, 'We want to see the famous paintings. Skip this one.' But the auctioneer persisted. 'Will somebody bid for this painting? Who will start the bidding? $100, $200.
Another voice angrily. 'We didn't come to see this painting. We came to see the Van Gogh's, the Rembrandts. Get on with the Real bids!'
But still the auctioneer continued. 'The son! The son! Who'll take the son?'
Finally, a voice came from the very back of the room. It was the longtime gardener of the man and his son. 'I'll give $10 for the painting..' Being a poor man, it was all he could afford.
'We have $10, who will bid $20?' 'Give it to him for $10. Let's see the masters.' The crowd was becoming angry. They didn't want the picture of the son. They wanted the more worthy investments for their collections.
The auctioneer pounded the gavel.. 'Going once, twice, SOLD for $10!' A man sitting on the second row shouted, 'Now let's get on with the collection!' The auctioneer laid down his gavel. 'I'm sorry, the auction is over.'
'What about the paintings?' 'I am sorry. When I was called to conduct this auction, I was told of a secret stipulation in the will... I was not allowed to reveal that stipulation until this time. Only the painting of the son would be auctioned. Whoever bought that painting would inherit the entire estate, including the paintings. The man who took the son gets everything!'
God gave His son over 2,000 years ago to die on the Cross. Much like the auctioneer, His message today is:
'The Son, the Son, who'll take the Son?'
Because, you see, whoever takes the Son gets everything!
FOR GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD HE GAVE HIS ONLY BEGOTTEN SON, WHO SO EVER BELIEVETH, SHALL HAVE ETERNAL LIFE... THAT'S LOVE
Friday, July 23, 2021
AKing, A Victim, A Priest
A king accused,
A victim scourged,
A priest condemned,
A king crowned and robed,
A victim beaten and humiliated,
A priest on the altar of the Cross,
O Anointed One,
O Crucified One,
O Holy One,
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done.
Eternal Priesthood won.
the poetry of Joann Nelander
Wednesday, July 21, 2021
Today I gird myself
May Christ be with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Monday, July 19, 2021
Slow me down, Lord. Slow me down!
Ease the pounding of my heart by the quieting of my mind....
Give me amid the confusion of my day, the calmness of the everlasting hills.
Break the tensions of my nerves and muscles with the soothing music
of the singing streams that live in my memory.
Help me to know the magical, restoring power of sleep.
Teach me the art of taking minute vacations, of slowing down to look at a flower,
to chat with a friend, to pat a dog, to read a few lines from a good book.
Remind me each day of the fable of the hare and the tortoise,
that I may know that the race is not always to the swift —
that there is more to life than increasing its speed.
Let me look upward into the branches of the flowering oak
and know that it is great and strong because it grew slowly and well.
Slow me down, Lord, and inspire me to send my roots
deep into the soil of life’s enduring values
that I may grow toward the stars of my greater destiny.
Wilferd A. Peterson
Friday, July 16, 2021
Jesus was going through a field of grain on the sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick the heads of grain and eat them. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, “See, your disciples are doing what is unlawful to do on the sabbath.” Matthew 12:1-3
Imagine you had a birthday party for your little daughter. Imagine as she unwrapped each gift and she kept the wrapping paper and threw away the gift - she trashed it.
That’s what the Pharisees were doing. They were turning religion into something God never intended it to be. They were keeping the wrapping paper (God’s laws) and trashing the gift (God’s love).
The question for each one of us today is: Do I do that?
Do we realize that religion is not a set of rules to be followed but a life of love to be lived?
I try very hard not to mix religion and politics. But when I think of that question – “Do I do that?” If I’m being honest with you all, I think about our country’s immigration problems. Yes, laws are being broken, but I’ve been to the shelters and seen Moms and Dads, with absolutely nothing but the clothes on their backs, holding their beautiful little children who they have walked with for weeks to bring to a place where they can thrive and be safe.
And I hear the words of Jesus ringing in my ear … “I desire mercy.”
Wednesday, July 14, 2021
Friday, July 9, 2021
I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Matthew 10:16
“I am sending you out like sheep among the wolves.”
Sheep are such gentle creatures they seem no match for a wolf. But they are more intelligent than we give them credit. When a wolf comes around, their natural instinct is to come together into a tight flock and look to the shepherd for protection. That might be the image Jesus intended for this message. Whenever we are battling the wolves in our lives, he might tell us we need to look for the other sheep, our flock (each other) and Him for help. We are not designed to go it alone. We need each other and God.
Jesus also told us “to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” When I was a boy, we used a term Jesus might have used if he knew it. The term was “street-smart.” We were good kids in a bad neighborhood. But we learned how to get out of danger if needed; we were good but crafty.
It is difficult to imagine a single person having the characteristics of the serpent and the dove simultaneously. Jesus is saying we must combine the toughness and craftiness of the serpent - we must be street-smart - and at the same time be gentle as a dove, to be effective as his disciples. Jesus expects us to live outside our comfort zone and defend our faith in a culture that is full of hostility. To do that he says, we must have a tough mind and a tender heart.
Thursday, July 8, 2021
She could not give her children gold,
So she gave them faith to have and hold.
She could not give them royal birth...
A name renowned throughout the earth.
But she gave them seeds and garden spot
And shade trees when the sun was hot.
She could not give a silver spoon
Or servants waiting night and noon.
She gave them love and a listening ear
And told them God was always near.
She could not give them ocean trips
Aboard majestic sailing ships.
But she gave them books and quiet time,
Adventures found in prose and rhyme.
She could not give them worldly things
But what she gave was fit for kings.
For with her faith and books and sod,
She made each child aware of God.
—attributed to Alice Leedy Mason
Friday, July 2, 2021
Isn’t it interesting the kind of people Jesus hung out with and recruited? He didn’t seek out the people most of us might expect him to the religious types in his culture, the priests or the teachers of religion, the Pharisees.
None of his closest apostles had an impressive resume. He sought out fishermen and women and ordinary folks. And yes, he even wanted outcasts and sinners in his ministry.
He made the hated Samaritan the hero of one of his greatest parables. His first evangelist, who converted her whole city, was a woman with multiple marriages and was currently living with a man, not her husband.
One thing we know for sure, Jesus sees the potential goodness in people despite their backgrounds or their sins. His closest friends included people like Mary Magdalene and Matthew. The good news is if he liked them, he'd probably like most of us too, warts and all.
Jesus is unapologetically intolerant of sin, but he is all-inclusive in His offer of salvation for those who repent. I think the message for us today is: no matter what we might think of our qualifications, Jesus reaches out to us to be his representatives.
The question for us is: Who would Jesus be attracted to today?
He isn’t on earth now to seek out the sick, but we are. He isn’t on earth now to reach out to sinners, sinners with hidden potential to become saints, but we are.
Maybe it is time for some serious reflection about reaching out in love to those who Jesus would if he were here.
Tuesday, June 29, 2021
The Ponds by Mary Oliver
are so perfect
I can hardly believe
their lapped light crowding
Nobody could count all of them --
the muskrats swimming
among the pads and the grasses
can reach out
their muscular arms and touch
only so many, they are that
rife and wild.
But what in this world
I bend closer and see
how this one is clearly lopsided --
and that one wears an orange blight --
and this one is a glossy cheek
half nibbled away --
and that one is a slumped purse
full of its own
Still, what I want in my life
is to be willing
to be dazzled --
to cast aside the weight of facts
and maybe even
to float a little
above this difficult world.
I want to believe I am looking
into the white fire of a great mystery.
I want to believe that the imperfections are nothing --
that the light is everything -- that it is more than the sum
of each flawed blossom rising and fading. And I do.
Wednesday, June 23, 2021
Someone very wise once wrote: “I’ve seldom learned anything from pleasure, but I’ve learned loads from pain. The highs made me glow, but the lows made me grow.”
Another sage said: “Pleasure keeps me going, but pain keeps me growing.”
Pain is no fun, but it is so often the genesis of our growth as a human. We must often endure the pain and then look back on it to see our development, especially our spiritual development.
I can tell you story after story of Christians who found strength in their pain and a feeling of peace they couldn’t explain. The only thing that they were sure of was that God was there in the fire with them. I felt those feelings twenty years ago when I battled cancer.
If you are struggling right now, take comfort in the fact that God knows what you are feeling. Please don't lose faith that he is in control. He is absolutely in control. God knows you are struggling, and, more importantly, he knows what he’s doing. God doesn’t cause our pain. But he can give even our senseless pain a purpose. He can bring good out of all that’s bad.
Are you in pain? Are you suffering? Always remember: You are God's child. You are loved. And, if you listen carefully, you might hear him whispering, "DON'T GIVE UP!"
Tuesday, June 22, 2021
The Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. John 14:26
Paraclete is a Greek word that Jesus used for the Holy Spirit. Paraclete has several meanings in English, such as "advocate", “counselor”, "intercessor", "teacher, "helper", and "comforter". Meditate for a moment on each of those qualities.
Isn't it true that we need one of these roles at any given moment in our life? The scripture passages above, tell us the primary role of the Paraclete is to make perfect sense of the teachings of Christ, to open our eyes to the Truth.
At Jesus' request, the Father sent the Holy Spirit to energize the Church after he ascended. At the event we call "Pentecost," the Apostles went from quivering wimps in hiding to fearless, enthusiastic teachers of the faith. How? What changed? Just one thing, they received into themselves the Paraclete – the Holy Spirit. Would our faith go from wimpy to bold if we welcomed the Holy Spirit into our lives?
We recognize the Spirit's influence on people we know when we see it. If someone is full of life and energy, we say they are "spirited." That’s the Spirit's role, to fill us with joy and enthusiasm because we understand the truth of Jesus’ teaching. Pray for that. Pray for the Spirit to fill you!
So, where does the Spirit lead us? He leads us to the teachings of Jesus and opens our eyes to the truth of them. And what is the truth of his teachings? Jesus tells us clearly - "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this, all men will know that you are my disciples if you love one another." John 13:34-35
That’s it! It isn’t complicated. Our call is to love!
So what does the love Jesus speaks of require from us? This love, Jesus asks of us, requires that we be able to find good in everyone. And he truly means everyone: your family, your neighbor, and even your enemy. Love for your enemy who harmed you, love for your neighbor who dumps his lousy attitude on you; love for the parent who physically or mentally abused you and left you paralyzed in fear and low self-esteem; love for the child who neglects you; love for the lover or spouse who has betrayed your trust by seeking a self-indulgent relationship that leaves the very harmony of life in ruins; everyone! The call to love is simple yet amazingly challenging.
How do we achieve this kind of love? Only with the help of ... The Paraclete!
Thursday, June 3, 2021
That God is a loving God, a God who cares about His creation, is also an awareness that resonates in me. You might ask: “Why then is there pain and suffering in the world? How can a loving God allow this? It's because we underestimate - undervalue - our freedom from God, our free will. We are free, entirely free to explore, free to choose, and free to reject. We can choose to disbelieve or ignore God, because He made us that way. He allowed us that freedom.
The opposite of love is evil. Once His love is rejected all forms of horror are possible. What you see too often in the world is the rejection of God's love.
If God is a lover, he longs to be loved in return. And only freedom allows love. Without freedom, what would our response to God be? Duty? Fear? God created us free so that we could choose to love Him.
To choose love … is … to choose God.
God is all about love.
Saturday, May 22, 2021
Now that COVID is waning, it is time for all to return to Mass on Sunday. We should not take the ability to go to Church on Sunday for granted. In the early days of the Church, Christians did not enjoy the freedom of religion that we enjoy today in the United States. The Roman authorities regularly persecuted them for attending Mass. One story is told of a Mass in 303 where 49 Christians suffered torture and martyrdom because they defied the Roman Emperor Diocletian’s order not to celebrate the Eucharist on Sunday. When asked why they had disobeyed the emperor, one of them said, “Without Sunday, we cannot live.”
In the past century, Catholics in former Communist countries like the Soviet Union or Vietnam were persecuted for practicing their faith. Today in Egypt, China, North Korea, Iraq, Sudan, and countless other areas, Catholics risk their lives and travel for hours to attend Sunday Mass. We give thanks to God that we do not have to put our lives in jeopardy to attend Mass at our local parish. Unlike some in poor areas, we rejoice that we do not have to walk for miles, over hills, or on inadequate dirt roads to attend. Most of us can walk safely down the street or take a short drive to arrive at our beloved parish.
I grew up in the middle of the last century. In my family, going to Mass on Sunday was about as optional as breathing. It was not a matter of authoritarian parents or social pressure, but rather a sense of how important the Sunday Eucharist was for our family identity and survival. To miss Mass is to stop breathing; it is the sure path to spiritual suffocation.
Just because Catholic Mass doesn't have mega projectors, or Hillsong-style music, or entertainment- oriented preaching, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have anything going on. The truth is that Mass is amazing and beautiful and rooted in the Bible, as well as Christian and Jewish history and tradition. Our Mass has been the same for two thousand years, it is rooted in history not in the current fashion. Each Mass contains a real miracle in the Eucharist. Each Mass is a chance to come physically in contact with our Savior through Holy Communion. Nothing is boring about Mass if you enter into the prayer and the miracle of it deeply. Do not expect to be entertained – that is not the purpose of our worship. Every Catholic Mass around the world and throughout history is spiritually united, which is the reason we stay true to it's structure. Our goal is to pray profoundly and join in the miracle of Christ’s presence in the Eucharist. Mass is the opportunity to sit in the upper room with Jesus when he says, "This is my Body. This is my blood." It is a holy moment shared with all who are Catholic. It is deeply prayerful and profoundly moving.
The priests and deacons at Saint Brigid are so excited to welcome you back! See you Sunday because, "Without Sunday, we cannot live."
Wednesday, May 19, 2021
I once heard someone describe the story of God as a three-chapter book.
Chapter three of the story of God is about his followers doing that. God's plan was to reveal himself to the world, through the people of God, through you and me. The third chapter of the story of God is our story. Like Peter, James, John, and the other disciples, we are being asked to go tell the people in our lives about Jesus. And then those who we tell are asked to tell others, and so on. The story of Jesus has spread – person to person – as He said it would. The goal is for the entire earth to know his story, and we are getting close to that now.
This church Jesus left behind to tell his story has been wildly successful. The church he founded 2000 years ago with a hand full of followers, in some ways, is stronger than ever. There are about 2.5 billion Christians in the world right now, by 2050 it’s projected there will be 3 billion. The most extensive growth is in Africa and South American. China's Christian population is also growing. When I was born, there were about 450 thousand Catholics globally. Now, there are 1.2 billion. 75% of adults in the United States identified themselves as Christians. So don’t believe everything you hear about the demise of the church. The story of God is far from over. Chapter three of the story is still being written; and, we are called to play a starring role. As we wait for God's Kingdom to come when Christ returns, our call is to tell His story.
Something incredible happened at the Ascension. St. Augustine describes what happened beautifully when he wrote: “You ascended from before our eyes, and we turned back grieving, only to find you in our hearts."
An English Jesuit priest and poet Gerard Manley Hopkins once said: “Christ plays in ten thousand places lovely in eyes and lovely in limbs not his”
Saint Catherine of Sienna said: "Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.”
It is our time to open our hearts and be Christ’s messengers to the world. God could have had just two chapters. He could have done the whole thing himself, but he didn’t. He chose to pass on his mission to us. God chose us to write Chapter 3 with the help of the Holy Spirit. He sends us the gifts of the Holy Spirit through the sacraments.
This is the time of year when many of our beautiful children receive their first communion. I compliment their moms and dads for passing the torch to the next generation; that is exactly what we are called to do! Our call is to share our faith with our families and friends. The reality is - if you do not have a plan to get your family to heaven, the chances are they will never get there! And the very best way to teach your friends and family how to become a child of God is to be a child of God yourself.
That is our call to know God, to love God, and to tell God's story ... to write our chapter in his book.
Friday, May 7, 2021
In the fifteenth chapter of John's Gospel, Jesus said: (John 15:10-12) "If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you."
I think we all want joy. Right? So what is this list of commands we must keep to attain this joy? Jesus tells us in verse 17 there is just one command, and that is to "love each other.”
That’s it - love each other!
When you go out and try to explain our Catholic faith to someone, maybe with the goal of getting them to understand or to be part of our faith, do you tell them there is only one rule that Jesus said we must live by, and that rule is to love each other? Why do we make our religion so complicated? All we are asked to do is to love.
The question we must ask ourselves as Christians is: How am I doing with this love command? What little things did I do, or not do, this week that responded to this command? Did I make someone's life better by a simple act of kindness? Did I love someone that challenges me? Did I ignore someone by my insensitivity and, in doing so, make their life a little sadder? How aware am I of my loving or un-loving responses and actions?
The truth is if we Christians lived this one simple command – "love each other" – the sum of all the little loving acts done, would be a great flood. And this flood of goodness across the world would be powerful beyond imagining. Just picture a world where every Christian spent each day loving the people around them. That’s the revolution the world needs right now! For us to simply love each other.
Monday, April 12, 2021
Earlier in the day, they heard from the women that Jesus’ grave was empty. Peter and John ran to the tomb to see for themselves, and it was empty. Later that day, Mary Magdalene told them she saw an angel, and then she said she saw Jesus, who looked like a gardener. Can you imagine their state of mind?
Suddenly Jesus was standing there with them. You must believe that what he says to them in that moment is important. It’s the first message to them after his resurrection. And what he says is something we all need to hear. He said: “Peace be with you.” Be at peace.
All of us have just come out of a year of stress and worry. We have faced an illness that has killed - I read today - 3 million people. We are living in a country where our political parties barely talk to each other. Most of us never dreamed of the kind of homelessness we see in our major cities. A policeman is being tried for the death of a man, and race relations are at a breaking point. Many of us are nearly as frazzled as the apostles that night. And Jesus says to each of us today … be at peace … it’s going to be alright.
How do we find that peacefulness Jesus is offering?
In his gospels we read each week, Jesus tells us how to find this peace. He told us first of all what peace is not. He said, "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you.” John 14:27 ESV We won’t find – true peace in our lives from the things this world tells us will make us happy. We don’t get peace from the things of this world, even when things seem to be going our way; when our bank account is full, our job is going well, our investments are all increasing, our kids are brilliant and well mannered. That’s all delightful, but it isn't the peace Jesus offers.
That night he showed them his scars his wounds. He opened his hands, and pointed to his feet, and pulled up his tunic so they could see his side. He kept these marks in his resurrected body, almost like badges of honor. In doing that, he dignified all of our wounds. His wounds proved that God could take what is broken in our lives and turn it into our moment of triumph. We all have wounds; it’s part of life. And Jesus shows us that we, too, can use our wounds to help others. If we let God use them, our life experiences are the mysterious and perfect preparation for how we can serve.
I've seen addicts reaching out to other addicts through twelve-step ministries. We have a bereavement ministry where widows and widowers use their wounds to help others dealing with the loss of a loved one. I have seen many veterans struggling with the horrors of post-traumatic stress disorder sharing with other vets how to heal.
Life with God isn’t immunity from difficulties; God can give us peace and purpose within our challenges. By trusting in him and offering our experiences to Him, we find peace. One of my wife Linda’s favorite sayings is: "Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass. It's about learning how to dance in the rain."
Real peace, the kind Jesus gives, has roots much deeper inside us. It's the peace that comes into our hearts when we say to the Lord: “I give my life to you, all of it, all of my experiences for you to use. I know you can be trusted, so I put my trust in you.”
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus asks us: “Are you weary carrying a heavy burden? Come to me. I will refresh your life, for I am your oasis.” Matthew 11:28 TPT Giving ourselves into His hands does not guarantee good luck or immunize us from trouble. But it changes everything. It changes the way we experience whatever life brings. When we turn it over to God, it takes away fear and lets us relax in His loving arms. He is just waiting patiently to fill up our empty spirits. Trusting God sets us free from the doubts and fears that steal the joy that belongs to every day. When we trust him, it frees us from our doubts and fears that stop us from giving ourselves to one another as we would like and as we should. Real peace comes to those who trust the Lord enough to walk with him in good times and in bad.
Jesus spoke about us that night with his Apostles. He said: Blessed – blessed is just another word for happy - happy are those who have not seen and have believed. That’s us he is speaking about on the day of His resurrection. We were on His heart and mind that night, telling us that we will find happiness if we believe in Him.
Jesus entered a place dominated by fear and flooded it with peace!
He can break down the doors that we hide behind and offer us peace.
Monday, April 5, 2021
He loves you so much he accepted these wounds so you may live forever!
Saturday, April 3, 2021
The good news of Easter is that every Good Friday in our lives can be turned into an Easter Sunday.
The good news of Easter is that nothing can defeat us anymore — not pain, not sorrow, not even death.
The good news of Easter is that Jesus will work a miracle in our lives on this very day if we will but open our hearts to his Easter power.
What miracle might I ask Jesus to work in my life this Easter day?
How might I open my heart, in a special Easter way, to let the risen Jesus do this?”
Mark Link, S. J.
Friday, April 2, 2021
How can we doubt someone who gave everything for us?
Alister Edgar McGrath is a Northern Irish theologian.
Wednesday, March 31, 2021
from Thomas Merton’s Thoughts in Solitude
Friday, March 26, 2021
What is it that stands between us and God?
Between us and our brothers and sisters?
Between us and life, the life of the Spirit?
Whatever it is, let us relentlessly tear it out,
without a moment's hesitation.
Thursday, March 25, 2021
Monday, March 22, 2021
So, what did he say: “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.”
This law of life Jesus speaks of is the pattern of loss and renewal, a law that runs throughout our lives and our world. We have all lived this and experienced it, sometimes by choice and other times by chance.
Look at the way this pattern is present in your life.
Have you ever fallen in love and committed your life to another? If so, you had to let parts of your old life go; something of your single life died so that you could be with the other person.
How about parenting? If you are a parent, you know that there are sacrifices of yourself and your life to be made for your child's new life to emerge and grow. We give up parts of ourselves for the other. And then parents are continually letting go of their child, and the child is letting go of the parent, so the child can grow up and flourish.
Have you ever been the caretaker of another? If so, you could name the parts of your life that died so that another might live with dignity, compassion, and love.
What are the costs, the losses you paid for your education or career?
You chose certain losses and let go of some things. Let them die so that other things can arise. We see this same pattern in nature, in the changing seasons: falling leaves and new blooms.
The bible is full of stories of loss and renewal. Abram left his country and his relatives so that he might become a great nation. Renamed Abraham, he became a blessing to all the families of the earth. James and John, Andrew and Peter, left their fathers, boats, and nets to become disciples of Jesus and fishers of women and men. We see the pattern over and over: loss and renewal, dying and rising, leaving and returning. At our Mass each week, we declare it.
Christ has died
Christ has risen
Christ will come again.
Sometimes the most growth in our lives comes when we least expect it. Everyone experiences moments when you look back on them; you think, “I never want to go through that again.” But. I would not trade that experience for anything. Yes, something was hard. Something died but what came from it is a new life. For me, it was a battle with cancer. It transformed my spirit and led me to an unexpected new life. I never want cancer again, but I love what it did for me.
The challenge for us is to become aware that we are where we are by God calling us to be there. God is calling us to let our ego die and know that we are where we are by the grace of God and doing what you do by God’s grace too. It’s in the letting go, the emptying of the stuff of our ego; it’s in the dying to ourselves like a grain falling to the earth that we find the secret to life. Jesus said, if you are devoted to your life in this world, you will lose it. But if you give it up in this world, you will be given eternal life.
Letting go of our selfishness allows God to use us to create new life right where we are.
Over the next two weeks, we will see this played out in the miraculous movement in the life of Christ – in his death and resurrection. That’s what he was telling his followers, that he was letting go of this life, moving through death to life; through defeat to victory; through suffering on the cross to the glory of Easter.
That is the secret of life.
Jesus gave his life away for the sake of others so that we might live, and He asks us to do the same, to die to our own selfish needs to share our faith – our life – so others may live.
Saturday, March 13, 2021
A college girl asked her mother
“How can you be sure Jesus’ teachings are true?
You can be convinced in only one way,"
her mother said, "by living them.
If you live Jesus’ teachings they will speak to your heart
and tell your heart that they are true.”