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

The Ascension ...

 I once heard someone describe the story of God as a three-chapter book. 

Chapter one of the book is God the Father revealing Himself to the Jewish people. The second chapter of the book is where God reveals himself in human form. In a way that we can identify with him. It is the story of Jesus. The final scene in that second chapter is the story of when Jesus ascended into heaven; it’s the end of Jesus’ mission on earth. The very last action of Jesus, before he ascended, was to ask his followers to go and tell his story. He said: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel – proclaim my story – to every creature.”

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

It's so simple!


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.