Sunday, December 27, 2009

Holy Family

1. When God sent His Son to be born of woman and become a human being, He was sent to live and grow in a human family. Although Jesus was conceived in the womb of the Virgin by the power of the Holy Spirit and it was through Mary alone that Jesus received the physical attributes of His humanity, He could not advance in wisdom, and age, and favor (Luke 2:52) without growing up in a family. That is, Jesus lived and grew in a family with a mother and a father who were committed to one another for each others’ good and the good of the child.
2. There are those who might argue that the presence of Saint Joseph was largely unnecessary except for cultural reasons. A servant or slave could have just as easily protected Mary and Jesus from the dangers on the road to Egypt. They might muse that Mary could have been the successful carpenter/housebuilder breadwinner head of household for Jesus if it had not been the oppressive times of the past. I am not an expert in history but I suspect that there were women raising their sons all alone even back then. A husband might have been a soldier or sea merchant, or he might have died. Saint Joseph himself was going to divorce Mary quietly and let her be alone until the angel intervened in his dream and told him to accept and care for Mary and raise her child Jesus as his own son. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph were a family because the Son of God needed both mother and father to grow into his full manhood. There is a wealth of proof that each person needs a mother and a father- not just in the biological sense, but to be mothered by a woman and fathered by a man. When someone grows up with one of those absent, they do not receive have everything which they need. Furthermore, Mary and Joseph needed Jesus to be the holy woman and man that God had chosen them to be. After all, Jesus is the Savior.
3. The Church promotes this Feast of the Holy Family to remind us of the importance of the family and to help us counteract those forces or circumstances which can harm the family. It is important to reiterate that each person needs both mother and father active and interested and concerned and teaching them in their lives, and many of our present problems are the result of the failure of fathers and mothers giving their children what they need, and the failure of children to receive it. Of course, parents desire what is good and best for their children. Often times, the failure to give all they should is a consequence of not having received it themselves. Thanks be to God it is never too late to receive the blessing of a father and mother, even if those roles have to be completed by another man or woman.
4. The Holy Scriptures present to us the qualities of a good family life. It seems that first of all there should be committment to the others in mutual and lasting fidelity for their ultimate good. This committment begins with the husband and wife and from them flows to the children. Selfishness has no place, and causes the selfish person to lose far more than they gain by self-promotion.
5. Saint Paul exhorted the Colossians to put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another (Colossians 3:12-13a). This meekness and humility does not mean that there is no authority or discipline in the family. Jesus humbly obeyed Mary and Joseph, while Mary and Joseph in turn had to guide Jesus as He grew. Forgiveness is a key to faithfulness. Even among people who want to love another there are misunderstandings. Mary and Joseph did not understand why Jesus was in the Temple talking to the experts in the Law. But through compassion and bearing with one another, the Holy Family was the place that made Jesus the Man that He was and gave Mary and Joseph the Holiness to be what God has called them for us- Mother of Christians and Patron of the Church.
6. Over all these put on love, which is the bond of perfection (Colossians 3:14). The love which the Holy Family put on was the love through which Jesus offered Himself on the Cross for our sins. Really if I was going to describe the behavior/ attitude of any family working for holiness that is what it is: being Christ to one another, seeing Christ in one another. Being Christ is not being a weakling or afraid. Rather, being Christ is standing up for the truth but loving others in spite of their weaknesses or sins. Being Christ is humbly accepting the role that God has given us but serving Him with a joyful heart and a face shining with confidence. Jesus did not accept the Cross as a man condemned. Rather He stretched out His own arms to offer the sacrifice of His body to save us.
7. There is another aspect of the Holy Family to which we ought to pay attention. Scripture does not contain any more stories about Jesus’ youth and education. It is silent. It would be foolish for us to think that nothing worthwhile happened. But what does the silence tell us? For one thing, it tells us that it was in the ordinariness of the life of the Holy Family that Jesus grew in age and grace. It is the same ordinariness that we all can share. The family is rightly called “the Domestic Church” because it is in the family that we learn how to love God and love one another.
8. For another thing, silence is essential to develop a listening heart. It is true that the Holy Family benefitted in having God Himself for the child. But if Mary and Joseph had not spent time with Jesus and spent time reflecting on the meaning of Jesus in their lives, it would have all been a waste for them. Believe it or not, Jesus is already in your family. He has promised to be wherever two or three gathered in His name. His Spirit is present in those Baptized into His Body the Church. But we have to get still to recognize Him. And we all need quiet to hear His voice.

Friday, December 25, 2009


1. The grace of God has appeared, saving all (Titus 2:11). A common theme among Christians at this time of year is to “Keep Christ in Christmas.” Due to our fallen natures, we sometimes get swept up in the material-gift giving aspect of the season. (Do not get me wrong: Material gift giving is good. To give others presents is part of our being made in the image and likeness of God. God has created all things out of love and given us existence and the bounty of creation to live in. Giving of material gifts is a manner of being like God in His generosity and love). Of course, if the focus of our Christmas is the giving and receiving of material things without raising our hearts and minds to the reason we do so, then we miss the mark. If an alien from another planet was to come to the earth at this time of year, it may come to the conclusion that we are celebrating snow, or ribbons, or trees, rather than the birth of Jesus Christ.
2. At the same time, we must contend with those who are not merely forgetful of Jesus through stress but those who would like to wipe Jesus out completely. There are a few who object to the phrase “Merry Christmas” simply because they do not want to hear the name of Christ. And their intolerance for Christians and anything resembling a Christian culture impels them to attempt to forbid Christmas. They have no problem with the gift giving, since that might stimulate business. But they would like to keep the spiritual side of others quiet so as not to disturb the comforts of their thoughts. And many times we are all too ready to keep quiet so as not to appear rude or pushy.
3. One of the popular Christmastime movies is “It’s a Wonderful Life” - a story about a man who got to see what the world would be like if he never existed. It has made me think, what would the world be like if Jesus had never been born? That is, what if there really were no “Christ” in Christmas?
4. Well for one, we would not be reading the story of Jesus’ birth. Mary and Joseph would have traveled to Bethlehem and stayed in a barn because the hotel was full. But they would have been like many other poor couples. No one would know who they were or cared, even if they were holy. The Magi would not have seen the star and travelled to meet the new king. They would not have presented their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. On a positive note, Herod would not have killed all those children, at least not until some time later for some other reason. But we would not know it.
5. John the Baptist would have preached in vain trying to prepare the people for the Messiah. Peter and Andrew and James and John would have remained fishermen, Matthew would have collected taxes, the blind man would have died blind, Lazarus would have never been raised. Those with illnesses would have continued to suffer. The five thousand would have not eaten the miraculous lunch. Barabbas would have been executed. Paul would have lived out his days as a Rabbi in relative obscurity arguing the minutiae of the Law with others.
6. The Germanic peoples would have continued to worship trees, Egyptians worship the Nile river and the Aztecs would have continued to sacrifice humans to the sun god. There would have been no Saint Nicholas, that is no Santa Clause. There would be no beautiful Churches, no Christian art or music. There would have been no monasteries to preserve the learning of the ancient Greeks and Romans.
7. There would be no Christmas cards or Christmas music. To be honest, we would not be here together, people from every nation worshiping God as one family. There would be no priests, no deacons. No one would have eaten the Eucharist. No one would have had their sins forgiven neither in the waters of Baptism or in the Sacrament of Penance. There would have been no Resurrection, no Ascension, no Sending of the Holy Spirit. The power of death would not have been conquered and we would not have the promise of everlasting life.
8. But as it is, there is a Christ in Christmas. In our weakness, we might forget Him. Or others in their ignorance or jealousy might reject Him or try to get rid of Him. But the Word of God indeed was conceived in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary and became Man. Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One, the Savior of the World. God did humble Himself to come and be one of us- not just to see what it would be like to be human but to give us a share in His divine nature.
9. That is the joy of Christmas: that God loves the world, that God loves us. God has revealed Himself to us in the person of Jesus the Christ, and has saved us from sin and death in the mystery of His Passion, death and Resurrection. It is therefore right that we celebrate His birth. It is reasonable that we make merry and feast and give gifts and reach out to the needy in our joy. The grace of God has appeared, saving all... And we await the blessed hope, the appearance of the glory of our great God and savior Jesus Christ (Titus 2:11&13). Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Be Joyful!

1. Your kindness should be known to all (Philippians 4:5). Traditionally, this Sunday is known as Gaudate Sunday, that is Rejoice Sunday, because Advent is halfway over and Christmas is almost here. To remind ourselves to rejoice, we light the pink candle and the priests wear rose colored vestments. For those who do not know Christ, or for those who might know of Him but do not know His Body the Church, we Catholics are often accused of being a dour and depressed bunch of people. I believe it is largely because we advocate fasting and going to Confession and doing penances and carrying our Cross. Of course on the other hand we are also often accused of partying too much with our general approval of dancing and permitting people to drink responsibly etc…
2. Anyway, even sometimes Catholics themselves look upon our relationship with God as something which is somber or scary or depressing or at least not filled with joy. Maybe it is our fear or misunderstanding of the Sacrament of Penance (that is Confession). We often fear Confession as if it is a moment of condemnation. When in reality it is a moment of liberation and forgiveness. Even the Bible speaks of these somber feelings. In the book of Job, Job begged God to leave Him alone. There are times when people are afraid to pray hoping that God will forget about them and leave them alone.
3. I never had that feeling, but a long time ago I convinced myself that the only way to do God’s will was to accept disasters in my life (which is true in a way). But I became unable to pray for anything good to happen. And worse, I began to expect the worst all the time, as if that was the only way God would treat me. I had to learn that I was God’s son. All of us are His beloved Children. To be God’s child is not to get everything that we want. Our desires are not always what is best for us, or best for the plan of salvation. Still, the Lord desires us to be filled with joy.
4. In John's Gospel, we read: As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and remain in his love. "I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete (John 15:9-11). That is what we believe as Catholics- Jesus greatly desires our joy to be complete. But it will not be complete until we know and love Him the way He loves us.
5. The joy of remaining in the love of Christ is expressed in imitating His love. Saint Paul said Your kindness should be known to all. That is, to express our joy in the Lord through kindness to others. This manner of rejoicing is actually natural to us in areas that we would not necessarily define as “religion.” Many people mark the engagement to marry of themselves or their children with gift giving or the renewal of family relationships so that others could share their joy. Or when you get your first job and in your joy look for ways that you can be generous to those who supported you in school. For some, when their team wins a game, they are joyful and generous as well.
6. Those are but a few examples. John the Baptist gives others. For example, treating people fairly, sharing your goods with those in need, or simply being satisfied with your pay. These actions are expressions of contentment and trust. If we really believe that God is the creator of all things, and that He has the power to provide for everyone, and that the Lord is a loving God, then why shouldn’t we be content? If we know that God has prepared a place in His home for us, why shouldn’t we trust? If we claim that God is kind and merciful, what should stop us from sharing that kindness and mercy to others? If Jesus is the One whom we love above all other people and things, we have every reason to be joyful, for His birthday is almost here.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Time Out For Rest and Recreation

This week, I will be taking a few more days off. I will go visit family out of town. If things go right, I will be riding in the Valero MS Bike to the River. When I return, I will have a report of that.

In the meantime, I have been experiencing some internal pains that have been identified with the gall bladder. Various tests have indicated that the organ is not always working at its best and removal of the gall bladder has been advised. So now I am considering when the best time to do it. Presently, the discomfort is very low, so I do not want to take care of it next week during vacation time.

In the meantime, I have learned that a half cup of black coffee in the morning helps keep the pain down to be almost, but not quite imperceptible. It is a great relief.

So I ask for prayers, for myself, and for others who suffer from this malady. Thanks! And I pray for you too.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Prophetic Witness

Lectionary Readings are from the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B.
Saturday night, we celebrated the Parish Feast Day of Saint Michael the Archangel (normally 29 September), but we used the Sunday readings. On Sunday the whole Mass will be the regular Sunday Mass for the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time.

1. Would that all the people of the LORD were prophets! (Numbers 11:29). These words spoken by Moses to Joshua, have been fulfilled in the sacrament of Baptism. At least in terms of through Baptism, God has bestowed the gift of His Spirit upon each one of us and chosen us to be part of His prophetic people. All of us, young or old, regardless of our situation are entrusted with the mission to be a prophet of the Most High God.
2. But what is a prophet? Some would define a prophet as someone who is able to announce future events before they happen. Certainly this could be part of a prophetic utterance. But in the ancient world people went to the Oracle at Delphi for that kind of prophecy, so telling is not really the main task of a prophet in the Judeo Christian tradition. A prophet is one who announces God’s word to others. But prophecy is not a matter of simply proclaiming out loud the words of the Bible- although that too is part of it. For example, if someone was to record themselves reading the whole Bible out loud so as to distribute it to others, that fact alone would not mean that they were a prophet. Anyone can read words on a page.
3. The other day, I heard someone define a prophet as someone who speaks the Truth. That is a very good definition, as long as we understand that Truth is objectively real. Truth is not a matter of majority opinion, nor is truth something that seems true to me, but could be different for you. For something to be true, it must always be true for everyone in every situation, and does not depend on others believing it to have the power of the truth. To speak the Truth means to speak the word of God, not only in proclaiming the Bible, but in applying God’s word to the particular circumstances of life.
4. Observe the second reading from the Letter of James. He is being a prophetic witness in rebuking those who would build up treasure on earth and neglect the treasure in heaven. He reproves those who have obtained these goods at the expense of those who are poor and weak. Their stored up worldly wealth will serve to condemn those who trust in anything other than God. James continues by stating You have condemned; you have murdered the righteous one; he offers you no resistance (James 5:6). That is, these sins against charity have been violence against Jesus Christ Himself, who has aligned Himself with the poorest of the poor.
5. In the Gospel, Jesus likewise warns those who would lead children or other “little ones” into sin. It would be better to be drowned than to cause others to sin. The sayings about cutting one’s foot or hand off or one’s eyes, the Church does not interpret as Jesus asking us to mutilate ourselves. Rather, Jesus is warning us that Hell is a real possibility and that nothing is worth losing the kingdom of heaven.
6. Being a prophetic witness is not all about saying things that sound negative, for the Truth of God’s Word is freeing. In the Gospel, Jesus likewise says that Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward. How easy it is to gain a reward: simply to serve others out of love for Christ. Just before this Gospel passage, Jesus told His disciples that welcoming a child was the same as welcoming Him. These truths that we can live and proclaim are also part of being a prophet.
7. So when we stand up for the rights of the downtrodden- such as the elderly, the sick, the children, the unborn, the persecuted; when we write letters to convince public officials to do the right thing, when we vote according to a well formed Christian conscience, when we teach our children service instead of selfishness, that is being a prophet.
8. This evening as part of our parish feast we are going to honor and bless those who serve us as law enforcement officers, firefighters, and emergency medical workers. These people have a unique opportunity for public witness of the Truth of God’s love and the reality that we are all created in the Image and Likeness of God. And sometimes, these men and women give their own lives in service of others. To imitate the Living Word of God Jesus Christ in self sacrifice for the good of others is a profound prophetic act.
9. That is most crucial to being a prophet- it is not all about words, but it is about deeds. Jesus did not merely talk about loving our neighbor and forgiving them and obeying the Father. He lived in even unto His own death on the Cross. He did so not only to save those who knew they were poor and weak, but even to save those who shouted for Him to be crucified. At the end of Mass, we will be sent forth in the peace of Christ to proclaim the Gospel to every creature. Would that all the people of the LORD were prophets!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

1. “The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him, and three days after his death the Son of Man will rise” (Mark 9:31). Considering this theme that Jesus began after He asked the disciples who did they say He was, one has to wonder what His disciples were up to. Jesus is speaking about His passion, death, and resurrection. And they start talking about who is the greatest disciple.
2. I believe the reason they did this is because what Jesus said was just too terrible for them to comprehend at the time. They certainly did not understand it. And the Gospel indicates that they were afraid to ask. We cannot really blame them for their fear. It was not usual for a Rabbi or any other leader to be so open about the likelihood of their getting rejected and killed, especially considering the fact that Jesus was so intent on doing the will of God. In their way of thinking, if you did God’s will, He would protect you and you would be successful. If Jesus was indeed the Christ- the Anointed One of God- then how could He possibly get rejected? It would seem more appropriate that God would install Him as a great and powerful king, reestablishing the glory of Israel. Worldly failure and a brutal death did not seem much like how God did things.
3. Another thing to consider is that in those days, if the leader of a group got killed, then his followers pretty much were treated the same way, unless they could run and hide. Thus, the prediction of Jesus’ death meant that they had to be ready for the same. Considering Jesus’ show of power and authority, they could not fathom it. They had no idea what “resurrection from the dead” meant. But they knew that you had to die first to have it happen.
4. And so instead of meditating on Jesus’ words, they chose instead to engage in worldly squabbles over who was the best disciple. In other words, who would be at Jesus’ right hand when He became the King? Just like in many offices, organizations, or families of today, the disciples were struggling to determine who would have the power of the kingdom, or the attention of Jesus.
5. Although some ambition can motivate a person to improve themselves or strive for greatness, sometimes this ambition becomes selfish and even destructive. For example, children might pound any brother or sister who dares enter their room. Or an office worker might strive to get the most underlings or a bigger office so that they appear to be more important. Or maybe someone stops cooperating with a coworker because they feel threatened by their presence. There are those who must always get their way or others will suffer the heat of their anger. There are those who lie or spread rumors or present others in a bad light so as to make themselves look better.
6. Saint James aptly describes such sins and their consequences. That is, selfish ambition usually leads to the doom of those who practice it, although they may enjoy brief success. Those who are ruled by their passions are in fact slaves. And a slave does not inherit anything.
7. To remedy such selfishness, Jesus prescribes humility. That is, “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all” (Mark 9:35). Jesus did not denounce their desire for greatness. Rather, He instructed them as to how to achieve it in truth. Jesus’ prescription of humility and self emptying service was not merely a suggestion, nor was it a order that He gave only to others. Humble service is at the heart of the Incarnation of the Word of God as Man. The all powerful God, Creator of the Universe, all knowing, all good, without defect or weakness emptied Himself to become one of us. Jesus submitted to the weaknesses of infancy and human growth. Jesus submitted to the rule of Mary and Joseph in the home, though He was their Lord and God. Jesus walked when He could flown or just appeared places. He permitted Himself to be hungry and thirsty and tired, and rejected and condemned and crucified- all so that we could be saved. Did the human race deserve salvation? No. God did it out of love. And to accomplish it, Jesus emptied Himself.
8. So when Jesus calls us to the same humility and service of others, even those who are vulnerable and cannot do anything for us, He is asking us to be just like Him.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Who is Jesus?

Readings from the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
1. “But who do you say that I am?” (Mark 8:29). This question of Jesus and Simon Peter’s answer are located at the center of Saint Mark’s Gospel. That is, there is as much after it as before it. (The position of this passage is most likely not coincidental, Saint Matthew puts the same event at the center of his Gospel too.) Anyway, Jesus began by asking what other people were saying about Him. These were the crowds or others who may have simply heard about Jesus, or seen or heard Him a couple of times. The answers seem rather strange- He is Elijah, or John the Baptist, or one of the prophets.
2. The Jesus asked Simon Peter the same question “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter and the other disciples have spent a lot of time with Jesus. Their knowledge of Him was more intimate and personal. Simon Peter responded “You are the Christ.”
3. We should not underestimate the importance of this question which Jesus asks. It is not as if our answer determines who Jesus is in reality. He is Lord and Christ whether anyone believes it or not. The importance is in whether we actually know who Jesus really is. In the present age, as in the ages past, there are many opinions of who Jesus actually is. And not all these opinions are equal.
4. For example, various groups claim that they believe in Jesus. Certainly they believe that Jesus was a real person and that Mary is His mother. Furthermore they view Him as a great prophet and important person. But they do not believe that Jesus is Lord and God.
5. Other people view Jesus as a human being who became god. (John says the the Word became flesh (John 1:14) NOT the "flesh became Word." Some say that God pretended to be a human in Jesus. Some will say that Jesus was a nice guy who was just misunderstood. Others consider Him a great moral teacher or even a political radical burning with the desire for justice and intent of casting down the Romans as well as the religious leaders of His day. There are some who only know Jesus as a curse word. And others who basically see Him as a vending machine- you go to Him when you need something, but you avoid Him otherwise.
6. But these views of Jesus are either incomplete, or completely wrong. Just like our knowledge of any other person, in order to get the clearest picture of the truth we must have both intellectual knowledge and personal knowledge of Jesus.
7. Intellectual knowledge is gained through study. Human beings are intellectual creatures, and so we must study or our minds become starved. Study is a combination of humble acceptance and reception of the Tradition and critical thought, even questioning in order to arrive at a better understanding of the truth. In order to feed our intellectual needs, we must study the Bible and the teachings of the Church. When we were in the seminary, our seminary rector told us “study hard and learn the truth. If you do not know your faith or how to answer, the people will go down the street and find someone else who does.” The next year the priest professor of Scripture said "study or you will go to Hell." The need for study and intellectual development of our faith applies to all of us. We are all witnesses of Jesus Christ and the Catholic Faith. Therefore we owe it to ourselves and those whom Jesus has called us to evangelize to continue to learn. We must confront the mystery of Jesus Christ, True God and True Man and strive to gain an intellectual understanding of the Person of the Son of God who became One of us.
8. Knowledge of Jesus, however, is not merely knowing about Jesus. We must know Jesus as a Person. The only way to obtain that is through pray and the sacraments. In prayer, we can enter into a conversation with our Lord that is personal and intimate. It is true that our Lord already knows us through and through, but He is also waiting to reveal Himself more deeply to us in prayer.
9. In the sacraments, our Lord comes to us mysteriously through signs that carry real power. Even if our intellect is not the greatest, even if our prayer life is dry, we can encounter our Lord in the Sacraments and get to know Him there.
10. In the task of knowing who Jesus is, humility is key. We cannot just be satisfied with our own understanding of who He is. Peter tried to stick to His understanding of God and Jesus called him a “Satan” that is, an adversary. How can we avoid such a charge? We must accept Jesus on the Cross. We must know Him on the cross. We must be united with Him on the Cross. Then we will know the real Jesus the Christ, the Son of God.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

He Has Done All Things Well!

See Mark 7:31-37
1. He has done all things well, He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak! We can only imagine the stir which Jesus caused in the region of the Decapolis with His healing power. Those who previously had been unable to hear or speak were now given the power to communicate clearly with others. Those who were blind could see, those who were lame could now walk. Certainly if Jesus came here and did these same things in our midst we would be astounded too. Although we are used to the marvels of modern medicine, there are some things which pills and surgery simply cannot heal. And even if they could, the monetary cost or even just the rehab time can cause us some fear. So if someone had the gift of making all that suffering go away, we would probably be right there.
2. We should note that even in those days, God gave the gift of healing to various people. So it was not completely unknown that someone might exercise healing power. In that small respect Jesus was not completely unique. And yet scripture says that the people were completely astounded by His actions. Something about the life and behavior of Jesus was astonishing and separated Him from all the others who might have been in the public view.
3. We know and believe that Jesus is the Living Word of God- God Himself made manifest to the world. But people in those days did not yet have the benefit of this faith. When they saw Jesus, He appeared in every way to be human, which indeed Jesus is, as well as being the all powerful God. The miracles (or signs as they should be more properly called) were meant not only to draw people’s attention to our Lord, but also to help them remember the words of the prophets which intended to prepare them for the Messiah. In Isaiah we heard: Here is your God, he comes with vindication; with divine recompense he comes to save you. Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared; then will the lame leap like a stag, then the tongue of the mute will sing.
4. The healings which Jesus performed began to fulfill the words of the prophets. They also began to reveal who Jesus is. When our Lord rose from the dead and the Holy Spirit fell upon the disciples, then they were able to remember what had happened and their faith was strengthened. And as they went forth in the world to proclaim the good news of salvation, the words of the prophet “Fear not!” resonated with the words of Jesus to “be not afraid” as they encountered those who did not want to believe and who instead wanted to persecute those who follow Jesus.
5. In the present time, Jesus continues to pour out His healing power upon the Church. There are in fact, many who have been blessed with the grace of healing power. And it is perfectly okay for us to seek and beg God’s mercy to be bestowed upon us in the way of healing. At the same time, we ought to remember that these acts of our Lord were signs of something much more profound. The physical healings that our Lord performed were all temporary. Yet the Salvation from sin that He obtained for us is something that truly lasts. If we think about it, healing from sin is far more astonishing. Whenever I go to confession and admit my sins, I am truly humbled that God in His mercy always forgives and takes me back. In my ministry of Confession, I get to observe many people returning to the Lord. The healing and strengthening of God is clearly present. And sin is permanently destroyed in this sacrament.
6. An interesting aspect of Jesus’ ministry is that when He healed people, He often times instructed them to tell no one. Of course they did not listen to Him, but it makes you think? Why did Jesus do that? Wouldn’t He want to attract this kind of attention? Maybe its because here people are declaring he has done all things well!!! Jesus knew that it would not be long before the crowds would shout Crucify Him! and even His friends would leave Him. But in those moments of loneliness and suffering, our Lord’s love is at its deepest and His power over sin actually reaches its greatest magnitude. Until we know the Jesus who emptied Himself on the cross for our sake, we will never know Him as the Healer who does all things well.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


For the last few weeks, I have been on vacation. I visited Denver, Colorado and Wichita Falls, Texas. My eldest sister lives in Denver with her husband. And I rode in the "Hotter'n Hell Hundred in Wichita Falls. On another day I may go into detail about my bicycle ride. But the basic information is that I completed the Century for the second time in two tries.

My on the bike average was 16.1 mph, which was lower than my goal but acceptable. I am not sure that I desire to reveal my total time. It is sufficient to say that I needed lots of rest stops to complete the ride. But I felt very good afterward and have had no cramping or soreness. My goals for any ride are 1) Survival and 2) Finishing. This ride I also had the goals of: 3) Maintain a cadence of 90rpm, and 4) maintain an average speed of 17mph. My cyclocomputer malfunctioned quite a bit and so I could not use the cadence feature. (It is really odd in that it did not malfunction at all in Colorado and has not messed up since I have returned from Wichita Falls.) Although I did not reach my goal of average speed, I am still satisfied. Mile 63 to mile 71 was a little rough, fitness-wise, until I caught my second wind. Since I achieved my first two goals, the whole time was a success.

Anyway, that is all about the ride for now. Maybe later I will go into more detail. It was a great ride and the many people from the parish who went with me or who rode there will attest that it was a lot of fun. Maybe most especially because it was not very hot at all- I do not believe it was even above 90 degrees the whole time, mostly much cooler.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Living Bread Come Down From Heaven

19th Sunday in Ordinary Time
1. I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” (John 6:51). When Elijah laid down beneath the broom tree and prayed for death, he had been on the run. You see, Elijah had just put to death 400 prophets of the false god Baal following a tremendous sign. (It is in chapter 18 of the First Book of Kings if you want to read about it). In spite of the great sign of God’s presence among Israel and the powerful words spoken by the prophet, few people were convinced. They preferred to follow the false gods who were nothing rather than follow the true God, who could actually make a demand upon them to change. Elijah was sick of his failure and wanted to die. But God had other plans, and so the Lord bade Elijah to get up and eat, so as to have the strength necessary to continue speaking the Truth.
2. Today as in those ancient days, there seems to be a great number of those who prefer falsehood to truth. We must admit that the truth about ourselves can be frightening. Many Catholics do not make use of the Sacrament of Penance because they fear the what might be revealed in the examination of conscience. Often we are afraid to speak the truth to others either because we are afraid of what they will do, or because we have had the experience of suffering on account of saying what is right.
3. Even though we might not be guilty of this sin, many people’s view of Jesus Himself has little basis in reality. That is, Jesus is often considered to be a revolutionary whose words are really too hot to handle, or a nice guy who really did not say anything demanding all. Even though all Christians admit the stark reality of the Cross, most would prefer to think of the Cross as something in the past that should have no real bearing on how we live. After all, God does not really want us to be crucified, does He?
4. The truth about God, however, is true no matter how many or how few people believe it. When Jesus began His Bread of Life discourse as reported in John’s Gospel, He had healed many people, expelled many demons, fed thousands with just a few loaves of bread and had walked on the water. And yet, there were many who simply would not believe in Him. They preferred the comfort of their own thoughts that did not require any form of change on their part. “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph? Do we not know his father and mother? Then how can he say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” (John 6:42). They did not really know Him. They refused the evidence of truth placed before their very eyes and shut their hearts to Jesus’ words.
5. Unlike Elijah, Jesus was not dismayed. Rather He told them that faith comes as a gift from God. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him (John 6:44). Their preference for unbelief did not keep Jesus from announcing the truth about Himself- He is the Bread of Life come down from heaven. It is a theme which is common throughout the Gospels- that Jesus alone is Life. There is no other way to heaven, there is no other god, and if we want to truly live Jesus must be the center of our existence.
6. Elijah had to choose to serve God, whether or not he was “successful” in the world. It was either be faithful to God, or adhere to lies. In the Gospel Jesus is telling the truth about Himself and we must make a choice as well. Either we follow Jesus or we turn away from the truth.
7. The way in which Jesus makes His demand for our discipleship is not an easy path in the world. For example, when Jesus said we must eat the Bread come down from heaven to live, it appeared to the people that Jesus said they had to become cannibals. (Many of our Christian brothers and sisters reject the Eucharist on this very basis). Cannibalism is not what Jesus is really demanding. He will provide the means by which we can eat His body and drink His blood in an unbloody manner. But the commitment and trust that Jesus was demanding from His listeners in the Gospel was absolute, and it continues today. Will we follow?
8. Of course, the Lord is not going to leave us to our own power any more than the He left Elijah to die under the broom tree. He fed Elijah, and the Lord will feed us. But we have to trust in Him, commit ourselves to Him even when the world opposes us with all its might.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Rockwall Rotary Ride

Tomorrow I will be riding a 100k in preparation for the HHHundred in Wichita Falls Texas. This week I was not very fast, but I am hoping for a good showing tomorrow. Usually when there are others, I can push myself harder.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

What Sign Can You Show Us?

See the Readings for the 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time
1. What sign can you show us? (John 6:30). The signs which they did see were done by Jesus in response to faith (trust). Jesus healed those who trusted that He could and would do it. The trust of the boy who gave Jesus the five loaves and two fish resulted in the feeding of the multitude.
2. Even though the the people had experienced sufficient signs to warrant their trust in Jesus’ words, they demanded more signs. They were not really interested in believing. They wanted to be in control. They were saying you show us a sign, and then we will decide whether or not to believe. But belief or trust is precisely not being in control. The Letter to the Hebrews says Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen (Heb 11:1). Although our faith may begin by the evidence which we see or experience regarding the works of God, ultimately our faith must be able to withstand the lack of evidence that we can see and judge. (That is not to say that faith must do violence to our reason. It is just the old adage seeing is believing is not really true. Rather, it is the other way around, at least in the realm of the spirit. Faith gives illumination to the reason while reason for its part can bolster faith).
3. In spite of those skeptics demand for more signs, Jesus would not play their game. Whether they believed Him or not, Jesus would be true to the mission that God His Father sent Him on- Salvation. Like the Israelites in the wilderness needed to trust in God to lead them through the desert and so enter into the Promised Land, so do we need to trust in the Son of God, Jesus and so enter into our true home- the Home of God our Father.
4. Through faith in Jesus we have begun this journey to our true homeland. And it is not simply a journey which will occupy our minds or our hearts. Salvation is for the whole person- body, mind and spirit. Therefore we need food for the journey. And Jesus has every intention of giving us this kind of food.
5. The food that Jesus will give is Himself- the Bread of Life, the Cup of Eternal Salvation. In the wilderness, God fed the children of Abraham because He lovd them. But the Lord sent the Mannah not to satisfy the skepticism of those who constantly complained, but rather to test and eventually strengthen their faith and trust. At this point of Jesus’ ministry, it appears time for Jesus to test those who were following Him. Do we trust Him? Do we believe that Jesus is the Bread of Life and will fulfill all our hungers?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Sign of the Loaves

John 6:1-15
1. Jesus knew that they were going to carry Him off and make Him king, so He withdrew to the mountain alone. Why did Jesus do that? We call Him the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. It is right and just that Jesus rules in our hearts. If the people of His day wanted to declare Him to be King, why then did Jesus run away? It was not like He was one to escape His responsibilities.
2. It can be said that the people in those days after the multiplication of the loaves rightly identified Jesus as the King. But their reasons were not correct- they were thinking about filling their own stomachs with temporary food. That is, they were intent upon using Jesus for their worldly needs. On the other hand, Jesus was wanting to give them bread for life eternal- that is Himself.
3. Although the multiplication of the loaves was a phenomenal miracle, Jesus did not do it for its own sake, but as a sign. The miracle of the loaves recalls the reading from Second Kings. God fed a hundred people with a mere twenty loaves at the time of Elisha the prophet. That miracle was intended to confirm the prophetic authority of Elisha. So too does the multiplication of the loaves serve as a sign to confirm Jesus’ message. However it’s not a hundred people who are fed, but five thousand. And there are not twenty loaves, but only five loaves and a couple of fish. And there was not just some left over, but twelve baskets of scraps after everyone had eaten as much as they could. Clearly, Jesus is far greater than Elisha or any of the prophets.
4. The multiplication also recalls the mannah from heaven which fed the Israelites while they wandered in the wilderness at the time of the Exodus. Each day, the people were to go out and collect enough to eat for that one day. They had to learn to trust God to care for them each day by giving them enough to eat. In the wilderness, God worked through His servant Moses, the Lawgiver. Because Jesus fed the multitude through His own power, Jesus is superior to Moses. It is a sign that Jesus is God. Therefore, the New Covenant given through Jesus is superior to the Covenant given through Moses.
5. The sign likewise points to the abundant generosity of God. Like the changing of the water into wine at Cana, the Lord does not simply give enough, He gives an abundance. We may take this abundance for granted when we breathe the air or drink water or bask in the warm sunshine unaware that things do not have to be like this. We have not even discovered another planet that has the same conditions as earth throughout all our explorations using telescopes and robotic probes.
6. Looking forward, the multiplication of the loaves was a sign of the sacred meal which Jesus would institute on the night before He died. When we eat the Body and Blood of Jesus in the Eucharist, it does not matter how large or small we consume, it is all Jesus. Jesus can feed over a billion Catholics and Orthodox Christians every Sunday or even every day- as many as come before Him in faith.
7. The aspect of the feeding of the five thousand that always attracts my attention is the boy with the five loaves and two fish. He has what might have been enough food for himself, but which clearly is not enough for everyone. Yet only in giving up his lunch will everyone eat- a fact which he did not know until he trusted in Jesus and shared his food. So it may seem with the things we possess, whether treasures of talents, or time. They may appear to be insignificant and insufficient. And they will remain so until we give them back to Jesus.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Ride and Run

Today I rode the bike 27 miles. Then I ran between half and three quarters of a mile. The running made me much more tired than the bicycling did. I will really have to work on getting my breathing/ heart rate slowed down while running. It was great weather anyway.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Sending Prophets

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time
1. When God asks someone to be a prophet, the primary message is the need for repentance. For example, God sent Amos to prophesy to the Israelites in the Northern Kingdom. In those days the Chosen People the Israelites were divided into two kingdoms, North with its temple in Bethel and the South with the Temple of Jerusalem. Anyway, the Lord sent Amos to the Northern Kingdom to warn them to repent. The people had slipped in their worship of God. They were not being just in their business dealings. They were imitating the pagans who lived around them, eagerly committing any sort of sin instead of being holy.
2. When Amos preached, they did not want to hear what he had to say. So they told him to go to Jerusalem, where maybe someone would be interested in hearing what Amos had to say. They even accused Amos of preaching in order to gain money, which he was not. Because they refused to listen to Amos and the others God had sent, their kingdom was destroyed. The people who lived there were killed, sold into slavery, or sent into exile, although not all. God did not send Amos in order to condemn the people of the Northern Kingdom, but rather to save them.
3. Likewise, when Jesus began His public ministry, He preached The Kingdom of God is at hand, repent and believe in the Gospel (Mark 1:15). It is this same message that our Lord sent His apostles out to proclaim- a call to repent and believe. Just like in the time of Amos, some of the people listened to the apostles and some did not. The stakes were higher with the apostles. To believe means everlasting life and to disbelieve means eternal punishment.
4. There was a difference in the sending of the apostles, however. Jesus shared with them His divine authority and power. They were given the authority over unclean spirits and the power to heal the sick. Although we may see the exorcism of demons as being more “powerful”, the healing of the sick implies the power to forgive sins, which in those days at least was considered the root cause of illness and disease. To put things right with health was a sign of putting things right with God.
5. Of course, to get healed of sin and its effects, or to be freed from the oppression of the demons without an interior change and desire for holiness does not solve any problem. It is hard enough to avoid sin when you want to, but without repentance, there is no freedom from the ravages of sin nor a share in Christ’s victory over the evil one.
6. Although the primary message of prophecy is repentance, it is not the only one. The other message is that God loves us and wants us to be with Him. That is reason we ought to repent. As creatures, we ought to conform ourselves to the Creator. But the Lord wants us to be more than creatures. God has destined us to be His Children. As Saint Paul told the Ephesians, God has destined us in love for adoption through Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:6). God does not intend to condemn people. Neither is God interested in turning us into unthinking robots. He desires our love. Jesus said that it is enough that a disciple should become like his teacher (Matthew 10:25). In Jesus, God has chosen us to be His beloved children- to be like His Son in every respect and to be received into His presence forever in heaven.
7. Because we have been chosen since before God created the world to be in the likeness of Christ His Son, we have to do what Jesus did. Therefore, as part of our baptismal call we are also prophets, not unlike Amos or the apostles. Through the way we live and how we speak, we must announce the Good News that God wants everyone to be a member of His family. But we also have to announce the need for repentance. If we do not encourage people to turn from sin, they might miss the chance to change.
8. With the mission to prophecy comes both the prophet’s reward and the prophet’s problems. Amos was told to mind his own business and go preach elsewhere. In time, the apostles were killed or exiled in an effort to keep them quiet about Jesus Christ. There will be those who try to silence us- through unjust laws or through violence or intimidation. But if we are faithful and persevere, when we enter into our reward, all those troubles will seem as nothing compared to the Glory that God will bestow on us.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Lack of Faith

1. Last week we heard of the great signs performed by Jesus in response to the faith of the woman with the hemorrhage and the synagogue official Jairus. Because they believed in Jesus and put their trust in Him, they received a great healing, as well as peace in their souls. Maybe they only sought out Jesus because they had no where else to turn, but still they relied on Him even in the face of great difficulty.
2. This week, however, the theme appears to be the lack of faith. The townspeople of Nazareth are so sure that they know everything about Jesus that they cannot put their trust in Him. They even took offense at Him because of His outstanding teaching and the reports of the miracles and signs wrought by His hands.
3. Maybe they just could not get over their own opinions and see the evidence before their eyes. When I was a music student, one of the instructors cautioned us against getting a job in our home town, at least until we had become well established. He said that people’s memory of your childhood could prevent them from listening to your words of wisdom. Maybe it was like that. In any event, the lack of faith disturbed Jesus and He eventually moved His home to Capernaum.
4. Their failure to believe in Jesus made it impossible for Him to do any mighty signs for them. He was only able to accomplish a few healings. But not the kinds of healings that really signify Jesus’ Divinity and the salvation that is imminent. In fact, their disbelief made it impossible for them to hear the Good News of Salvation. Their lack of faith blinded them from being witnesses to the fulfillment of the promises of God that they themselves had longed to see accomplished.
5. In the first reading, we hear of the call of Ezekiel by God to be a prophet. At the time, the people were not obeying the commandments, they were not being faithful to God. And so the Lord sent Ezekiel into their midst. Some heard the call to holiness, others did not. But it was not to succeed that the Lord called Ezekiel, it was to faithfulness.
6. It seems a little strange that the All Powerful God who holds all of creation in being would send prophets who would fail. You might think that God could make sure that they did not. And when He sent His only begotten Son, you’d think that God would make sure that He was a success also. At least His hometown should have been behind Him. But they were not. It is really not a lack of power on the part of God. The failure of people to believe is in their exercise of free will. God has given us this gift of freedom and He will not take it back. I have heard people say that God made a mistake giving human beings free will. But He is God and I am not going to second guess Him. I will just have to trust that His way is the best way.
7. Even though the theme might appear to be lack of faith, in truth, faithfulness is the most important quality emphasized by today’s readings. For although Ezekiel may or may not have been successful, as the world counts success, he was faithful to his calling as a prophet. And Jesus did not give up when those whom He loved rejected Him, whether in His hometown or when He hung upon the cross. Jesus was faithful to God the Father. And He is faithful to us also.
8. The call to fidelity is not the call to great power, or to resounding success in this world. The call to fidelity is just that- the call to be faithful to God no matter what. There will be those who like us because of it. There will be others who do not like us. They might listen, or maybe they won’t.
9. The battle with faithfulness and trust may even be waged inside of ourselves more than outside. Consider Saint Paul and his nameless temptation. This great saint struggled mightily within himself to be faithful. And he had to learn that his own weakness could lead him to experience the true power of God. God is calling each of us. But are we going to be faithful?

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Problem of Death

1. God did not make death, nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living (Wisdom 1:13).
2. The problem of evil, suffering and death imposes itself on each one of us eventually. For some people in the modern world, the reality of suffering is enough to convince them that God does not exist. They might say "if there was a God, He would certainly not let this thing happen"... whatever it is. Such a statement does not really disprove the existence of a Supreme Being. Maybe those who deny God’s existence see suffering as proof that the universe is irrational and meaningless. Of course, how then could one reason to that conclusion? But not to get sidetracked.... Maybe those who deny God are just treating Him like they would any other relative or acquaintance who they perceive is offensive- they simply ignore Him.
3. The biblical view of suffering and death however is that God did not create it. (The book of Wisdom (1:13-15; 2:23-24) reiterates the book of Genesis (first two chapters) in reminding us that creation is essentially good because it has being. God created all things and declared them good. Death, however, is the result of sin (the envy of the devil and the disobedience of Adam and Eve)- that is the failure to do God’s will. Saint Augustine would say that evil then was the lack of some aspect of goodness which God had created and intended. For example, illness is the lack of health. Hunger is the lack of nutrition. Sorrow is the lack of joy. Death is the lack of life. Since God made all human beings in His image and likeness, to have being, to exist, to live is God’s most basic intention for us. Only through failure to live in God’s image and likeness can death intrude.
4. The book of Wisdom continues by saying they who belong to his (the devil's) company experience death (Wisdom 2:24). This is not to say that since everyone is dying that we are all in the company of the devil. But rather It was the wicked who with hands and words invited death, considered it a friend, and pined for it, and made a covenant with it (Wisdom 1:16). Those who follow the devil will experience the second death of being permanently alienated from their true destiny which is union with God.
5. God did not make death, nor does He rejoice in the death of the living. Rather, our Lord confronted suffering and death in His earthly life. He healed the sick and raised the dead back to life. On the one hand, these miracles were signs of who Jesus is- that is the all powerful God- and signs of the salvation He won for us- namely the ultimate freedom from these evils which His death and resurrection obtained for us. These signs are evidence to us that God does not rejoice in our destruction. Our Lord permits us to suffer because it is the result of free will. But at the same time, our Lord opposed death and still opposes it.
6. Our Lord has a healing will, but not everyone who saw Him or touched Him was healed. In Mark 5, The disciples noticed that many touched Jesus, but only one was healed of her illness. Likewise, many people in those days had one of their children die. But not all did Jesus bring back to this life. What was the difference? Did Jesus freely decide to heal that one and let another suffer and die? That is not how the Bible portrays His ministry. The difference is in those who turned to Him in need. The woman with the hemorrhage believed and trusted that Jesus had the power to heal her. Even though circumstances looked bad, the synagogue official trusted that Jesus could heal his daughter. Their trust was more powerful than their sorrow and suffering. And as a result of their faith, they received the healing which they ardently desired.
7. The lesson which Saint Mark is trying to teach is that we must believe and trust in Jesus, putting fear aside, if we want to experience His power in our lives. Others may ridicule us- no matter. Others may appear to be doing exactly what we are, but with no effect- we cannot let that stop us from trusting.
8. Of course, many of us may have prayed sincerely and trustingly for a healing which we have not obtained. Does that mean we just do not have enough faith? We might not, but the failure to receive the miracle is not an indication of our lack of faith. (We ought to remember that Abraham and Sarah had to wait 24 years for God’s promise of a son.) Jesus’ conquered death, but He did more. He changed its meaning. Our suffering makes us like Him (that is, suffering and death can make us more like Jesus Christ). By changing death, Jesus made death different not just for those who would believe in Him later, but even for all those who lived before His time. All have the offer of union with Christ the Lord. Only those who reject Jesus and His passion, death and resurrection truly experience death in all its horror and emptiness.
9. In the Sacrament of the Sick, many times people are healed of their illness. But much more often they are healed spiritually or morally. And this kind of healing is far more important than physical healing because it can last forever. But we have to trust, for God will not force His love upon us. Nor will Jesus make us live in the home of His Father if we do not want it. No, we must put ourselves into His hands. Do not be afraid; just have faith! (Mark 5:36).

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Corpus Christi

1. We believe that the Bread and Wine offered on the altar, through the Invocation of the Holy Spirit, through the Words of Jesus Christ, through the ministry of the priest become the true Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ. We did not invent this teaching, rather it was handed on to us from the Apostles themselves, who not only were present at the Last Supper when Jesus instituted this sacrificial meal, but also came to recognize Jesus in what they called at the time “the Breaking of the Bread.”
2. Jesus Himself, on the night He was betrayed, took the bread, gave thanks, broke it and gave it to His disciples saying “Take it; this is my body (Mark 14:22). And taking the cup Jesus said This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many (Mark 14:24). If we believe that Jesus is God, we cannot doubt His words. And it is not as if the Lord had not prepared His people for this moment. In the covenant the Lord made with the people when He rescued them from Pharaoh in Egypt, the people had to eat the flesh of the lamb of sacrifice, or they would have no part in His people. In the peace sacrifice of bulls made by Moses, the people were sprinkled with the blood of the sacrificed animal in order to participate in the sacrifice. In like manner, we the People of the New Covenant, must partake of the sacrifice by which the covenant was established. But it is not with blood of bulls or goats or sheep, but with the Blood of Jesus.
3. In His power as God, Jesus has made it possible for everyone to share in His sacrificial offering of Himself for the sake of redeeming us from our sins. And we need this sacrificial offering of Jesus’ Body and Blood. Jesus said Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life (John 6:53). The body needs material food and the intellect is fed by thinking or study. But the life of Christ living within us, can only be nourished by Jesus Christ Himself. Without Christ nourishing us, we cannot live and grow as Christians. And since Jesus Christ is concerned about saving the whole person, our food cannot be simply spiritual but bodily as well.
4. We might ask: how is it possible that Jesus can give us His body and blood to eat and drink? How is it possible for us to believe in this sacrament? Where’s the proof? Ultimately the Eucharist is a Mystery of God- a miraculous feeding- a mysterious meal and sacrifice. But there are ways for us to grasp the mystery. One such way is the theological term transubstantiation. Now a substance in this explanation means that which makes a thing what it is- its true being. An accident is a quality that is accidental to the being of a thing, like color or shape or taste or location. We say that in the Eucharist, the substance or true being of the bread and wine are transformed into the substance of Jesus Christ. But the accidental qualities remain. By using this concept, our hearts and minds can know in truth and believe that which our eyes cannot see.
5. And through believing with all our strength, eventually the eyes of our understanding will see the Truth and we too will come to know Jesus in the Breaking of the Bread. And by eating His Body and drinking His Blood, we will gain life everlasting if only we keep His commands.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Holy Trinity One God

1. In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. About 20 years ago, someone loaned me a book containing letters which Mozart the musician wrote. It was interesting to me, because the letters were written in the same style as his music. They revealed the personality of the famous music Composer just like his music even though they were not poetic or musical in any way. In fact, they revealed Mozart in a new way which I was not used to experiencing. As Catholics we believe that God reveals Himself through His creation. Everything which we learn about the universe can tell us something about God, if we pay attention. For example, we can know that God exists through the use of our natural powers of intellect. A person generally does not have to be taught that God exists. The other day I heard that there are about 30 arguments for the existence of God (for example, things do not just pop into existence and there certainly seems to be some order to the universe). But there is only one argument for the non-existence of God (that is the problem of why evil exists).
2. Although the existence of God and certain aspects of the moral life are things which we can figure out on our own with our God given brains, other facets of our Christian faith must be revealed to us. The Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist is an example. Another example is the Holy Trinity. We believe that there is one God, in Three Persons- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is revealed to us, we did not arrive at it using basic human intelligence.
3. The Holy Trinity is explicitly mentioned in the Bible in Matthew’s Gospel. Jesus said Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19). But how do we explain it? It is one thing to know that God is Trinity, and another matter to understand it. To be truthful, it is a mysterious fact. In the seminary we took a class for a whole semester studying the Trinity, and at the end, it was still mysterious. But there are various ways of explaining it. For example, Saint Augustine wrote that since God is love, one could say that God the Father is the Lover, and God the Son is the Beloved, and God the Holy Spirit is the Love which exists between them. After all, the Perfect Lover must have someone to love (otherwise it is just self-love, which is not perfect). And love must be reciprocal in order to truly exist (if love is not shared and returned, it is also imperfect). Perfect love between two persons becomes so powerful it is another person. Look at human love, imperfect as it is. When shared completely and returned completely, it can result in another human being.
4. Even if this explanation is unconvincing or lacks something, God is still a Trinity Persons in a Unity of Divinity. Pope John Paul II has said that in His essence, God is a community. And that communion which is interior to God is part of the image and likeness which we as humans were made to be. We are connected to others even though we may not feel like it. We are not islands or solitary beings. We are called to relate to others in the human race. In fact it is a command of Jesus Christ. He said Love one another as I have loved you... Live on in my love.
5. Although God is perfect for all ages upon ages, in His love He created us. Part of God’s plan is to make us His children- that is to unite each of us with Himself so profoundly that we begin to share His divine nature. It does not mean that we each will become the supreme being. It means that we are destined for life without end in the Home of our Father in heaven.
6. A professor told us that our homilies should include something that each listener should do. Maybe what we ought to do then is strive to live this week as if we were part of the Holy Trinity- to love others with the Love that exists between the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Or maybe we can recall frequently that God the Father has chosen us to be His beloved children. That recollection may go a long way to strengthening us against envy or jealousy or an inordinate attachment to the things of the world. After all, we will be in the home of the Father for a lot longer than we will be here.

Sunday, May 31, 2009


1. The Church came to exist when Jesus Christ called the disciples and began to form them in the Good News of Salvation. But Pentecost is rightly considered the birthday of the Church. What was largely hidden from the eyes of the world now burst forth upon the scene, with rushing wind, tongues of flame, and powerful and effective preaching (Acts 2:1-11).
2. The word Pentecost comes from Greek, meaning 50 days. It was originally a word used by the Greek speaking Jews to indicate the end of the 50 days of harvest after the feast of Passover (see this in the Jewish Encyclopedia). Harvest would begin with the barley and end with the wheat, because wheat took longer to ripen. The feast would include a day of rest as well as the sacrifices of the first fruits of the harvest. It was believed that Moses deliberately arranged it to fall on Sunday, so that everyone would have two days of rest in a row (Saturday being their Sabbath). In some places it was customary to read the Book of Ruth, because the harvest figures into her story, but also because she became a convert to Judaism.
3. The Christian feast of Pentecost is the fulfillment of the ancient feast. Our Pentecost is celebrated always on a Sunday. It is 50 days after Easter, which is referred to during the Easter Vigil as our passover feast. Note in the Passover, the Lambs are sacrificed and their blood is sprinkled on the doorposts so that the sons of the Israelites would be saved from the angel of death. In the mystery of Jesus Christ, it is He the Son of God, the True Lamb, who is sacrificed so that all people may be saved from the power of death. In the Last Supper, we are invited to share mysteriously in this same sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross.
4. In the Jewish feast of Pentecost, the first fruits of the harvest are brought before the Lord in thanksgiving. At the feast of Pentecost, the first fruits of the harvest of souls is brought before the Lord by the preaching of the apostles. Remember the many parables of Jesus which compared the evangelization of the world to the sowing of the seed of truth and the harvest of believers brought to faith and baptism ( for example: Matthew 9:37-38, Matthew 13:24-30).
5. The gift of the Holy Spirit, which the disciples received on Pentecost empowered them to fulfill the mission given to them by the Redeemer Jesus Christ. In spite of being with Jesus for about three years and receiving His teaching and observing His many signs, the disciples were still missing something. They were afraid. They were still thinking in a worldly manner. Yet all that changed with the infusion of the Holy Spirit. Those who had hidden themselves out of fear for what people might think or say or do became fearless in their proclamations regarding the Risen Christ. Those who had longed for a worldly kingdom and worldly power now yearned for a heavenly kingdom. Those who may have been regarded as ignorant were now able to demonstrate through scripture and argument that Jesus is indeed the Lord, the Son of God. Furthermore, many of those who previously might have shouted Crucify Him! now listened intently and received the gift of faith. These converts could be said to be in some sense the “first fruits” of those who would come into the Body of Christ which is the Church. In any event, the disciples and those who were added to the Lord that day received Courage, Wisdom, Knowledge, Understanding, Right Judgement, Piety and Fear of the Lord- all the gifts of the Spirit.
6. The Church has also received one other gift through the Holy Spirit- that is the gift of indefectability. That is, the Holy Spirit guides and protects the Church from falling away from Jesus. It is true that individual Christians, whether they be lay people or even deacons, priests, or bishops can sin or make mistakes. But Jesus promised that Hell would not prevail against the Church (Matthew 16:18). And it is through the Holy Spirit that God keeps His promise to us.
7. Like the Disciples at Pentecost, we have received the gifts of the Holy Spirit. These gifts are given to us so that we may accomplish our part in the mission to bring Jesus Christ to every creature. But there is one thing to consider. If after the Spirit descended on the disciples they would have remained in the upper room, if they had failed to make an appearance in the Temple precincts to begin preaching the truth out loud and without fear, where would we be now? Likewise, we cannot be afraid. We need to stand up for the truth. We need to share with others our faith in Jesus Christ the Risen Savior. Come Holy Spirit!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Ascension of Our Lord into Heaven

1. In His Ascension to Heaven, Jesus took His place at the right hand of the Father. It is important to remember that Jesus did not leave His human body behind, as if it were a machine or a mere container or even some form of prison. Rather, Jesus ascended in the totality of His humanity (together with His divinity), a totality which included His whole person, body and soul. That is what happened in the Ascension of our Lord, but what does it mean?
2. Saint Paul refers to Jesus as the new Adam- that is the new Man (human) (1 Corinthians 15:45). Whatever happens to Him is destined to happen to us (1 Corinthians 15:48). To be fully human, we must be like the New Man who is Jesus the Christ. In His resurrection, Jesus has conquered the power of death for every human being. We still die, but death will not have power over us. In the Ascension, we discover that the whole human person is the subject of redemption and salvation and glory, not merely the spirit or the mind. Just as all of Resurrected Jesus ascended into heaven, so will the full completeness of our resurrected selves go to heaven on the last day (if we are in union with Jesus the Christ). As wonderful and glorious as Jesus’ resurrection was, that was not all He came to accomplish. Human beings are not destined for this life and this existence alone. God has made us for much more.
3. Jesus told His disciples that there were many dwelling places in His Father’s house and that He was going to prepare a place for us (John 14:2-3). That is our true destiny- life in the house of the Father forever- without sorrow, without suffering, without want.
4. But there is a catch. In the Acts of the Apostles, as the disciples stood looking up into heaven after Jesus ascended, the angel of the Lord told them that Jesus indeed was going to return at a time of God’s choosing (See Acts 1:1-11). However, those who are His followers have a job to do. In the Gospel, Jesus told them Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15). In Acts, He said you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). We may be destined for eternal life in Heaven, but in the meantime we must obey the will of the Father and the instructions of the Son.
5. The mission of proclaiming the Gospel to every creature belongs to every Christian regardless of age, status, or position. In fact whether we like it or not, we are witnesses of Jesus Christ. We might be bad witnesses and tell lies about Him, or we might be good witnesses and tell the truth. But whatever we say, do, or think will not be without effect. The ultimate goal of this mission of course, is the salvation of the whole world. This task is serious business, too. Jesus said Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned (Mark 16:16).
6. It is serious for us, because the Lord wants us to have salvation, therefore we must believe and be baptized (not just be baptized). That does not mean that our belief must be fully formed. Certainly the apostles are ample proof of that. Jesus chose them and they had to grow in knowledge and wisdom. But we must believe.
7. The act of belief has two aspects. The first aspect is consent to hold the Good News of Salvation in our minds and hearts. To make this kind of assent, we must grow in knowledge. Because if the faith does not grow, it will wither. The Christian is obligated to learn more about the truths of our faith. Some people describe to me what they interpret to be a period of doubt in their lives. And it is not doubt- it is the desire to know and understand more. God is permitting it so that we will be motivated to learn.
8. Another aspect of faith is trust. This aspect is probably more important than gaining intellectual knowledge. Trust is an acknowledgment that we do not have all the answers, that we cannot save ourselves, that we are not in control, and yet, we will follow Jesus anyway. Faith as Trust is plunging into the dark cloud of unknowing, placing ourselves at the disposal of God for His Glory and our good. Trust is Mary saying be it done to me according to thy word (Luke 1:38) and Peter saying to whom shall we go Master, you have the words of eternal life (John 6:68).
9. The Ascension also means hope for us. The angel told us that Jesus would come back again in glory. Jesus Himself works through the Church with through the sacraments and the teaching capacity of the bishops, as well as through miracles and signs. Jesus said He would not leave us orphans (John 14:18), and He has not. In truth, at the right hand of the Father, Jesus is more present to His Church than He was walking the earth.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Good Shepherd

Jesus calls Himself the Good Shepherd. He identifies various qualities that a good shepherd has. Namely, that He cares for the sheep personally as if each one is important to Him. He does not have the attitude of someone shepherding as a job with no real concern for those being cared for. His commitment to the sheep is such that He will even lay down His own life to protect them.

Of course Jesus is not talking about real sheep, He is talking about shepherding us. Jesus does indeed care for each one of us. His concern is unlike a hired hand because He is the Creator- we belong to Him. When Jesus says that He will lay down His life for His sheep, He is not just speaking empty words. He has really done it.

With the knowledge of what the Lord has done for us, our confidence in God should be very high. Of course, some people may object to being compared to sheep. But it is an apt comparison. We are dependent upon our Lord for everything. We like to think that we are in charge, or that we have within ourselves the capacity to save the world by our own actions. Others may object to having anyone other than themselves as their shepherd. But Scripture says that those who trust in their material wealth and human power are seeking folly. They will have death as their shepherd (see Psalm 49:15).

Saturday, May 2, 2009

It was just a little rainy, that's all.

Well the 2009 Sam's MS 150 from Frisco to Fort Worth was last weekend. It did not turn out as anybody had really planned. Between the fears concerning the Swine Flu (H1N1), and the weather, the planners and the participants had to be very flexible.

I was able to obtain sufficient priests to substitute for me over the weekend, so that I did not have to strive to get back in town to celebrate any of the Masses. My training went okay, and I was confident that I could finish the whole ride.

Anyway, the first wrench in the works was the H1N1 virus. Or I should say the fear of the virus. Out of concern for public safety, the finish line at Sundance Square in Fort Worth was cancelled. But it was decided that the second day would be a loop starting and ending at the Texas Motor Speedway.

I almost did not even go Saturday morning. Friday night, I drove to Frisco and checked out the parking and starting area. The weather that day was so cloudy and gloomy that it was hard to get excited about anything. The internet weather sites were predicting a 40% chance of rain on Saturday and a higher chance on Sunday. I was decided that I was not going to ride in the rain, if at all possible. Sunday was probably not going to happen for me. Still, I packed up my tent and sleeping bag and everything that I would need to spend the night. As of Friday, because of the rain earlier in the week, it was decided not to have camping at the Motor Speedway. This decision was very wise.

When I returned home on Friday night, the chance of rain for Saturday had increased to 50%. I was hoping that it would either just start to rain, or miraculously clear up, so I would not have to worry about it one way or another. At 4am Saturday morning, the chance of rain had been increased to 60%. I sat around for an hour trying to decide what to do. Finally, I concluded that I would ride until I could ride no more and left the house. It was easy getting to the parking area and leaving my bags on the bag truck. The sky was dark grey, but I had made up my mind. To be prepared, I brought a lightweight rain jacket, suitable for backpacking. It was a little too bulky for the rear pocket of my jersey, so I opted for the hydration pack. I put the jacket, the matching rain pants, and a vest in the pack. I don't generally prefer to ride on the road with a hydration pack, but I was not going to be caught in the rain suffering.

Because of my early morning waffling, I was near the tail end of the starters. If I was not in the last group starting, it was next to last. But as they say, it is not a race. It is also said that whenever there are two or more bicyclists, there is always a race. It may or may not have been wise, but I started to go almost as fast as I could. I was not sprinting, but trying to move up in the mass of people and find a group going my speed. Riding in a large group of cyclists is great in that you can go much faster with the same energy than you can riding alone.

I stopped briefly at the first rest stop and skipped the second one entirely. The group was already stretched out and I was trying to stay with people who were riding about my speed. For about the first 40 miles, that was about 18.5mph. At one point we were on a road that went along the south end of Lake Ray Roberts. The roadway was high up from the lakeshore, like a bridge. At that point, it began to mist a bit. Halfway across the bridge, the temperature suddenly dropped about 10 degrees it seemed. I was very grateful when we finished crossing and the trees provided somewhat of a wind break. (I say we, but in truth, by this time I was riding alone.) I still felt strong, and my legs were nice and warm, but the upper body began to be a little uncomfortable.

Lunch was in Sanger at mile 48. I put on my vest before I ate. We had turkey sandwiches which were very tasty. But I could not sit down. The wind was so bad that the seating area was too cold. I huddled with some like minded people on the leeward side of the concession stand where the food was being served. Along the way I met a parishioner who was a Ride Marshall. At lunch, his wife approached me to give me encouragement and to express hope that her husband would start coming to church more often.

After lunch, I put my raincoat on and opened up the pit zips. Riding with rainwear is a challenge. Most of the time, you sweat so much that you are just as wet as if the rain is on you. But at least its warm. My jacket is fairly breathable, and the pit zips helped. Still, I had to open and close the zippers to adjust the temperature the rest of the ride. I got hot and at a later stop took off the vest. That was a mistake, because it got soaked by the rain as it was in my hydration pack.

Around mile 60, my legs began to refuse to function like before. I was no longer able to keep the 87-95 cadence. My saddle began to feel uncomfortable also. Occasionally I would eat a package of energy gel, which helped my legs. Maybe I was lacking in salt, I do not know.

The last rest stop was at mile 71. My plan was to rest there about 15 minutes, then finish the ride, which had 15 miles left. I can always do 15 miles, so I knew I had it. But then at the rest stop there in Ponder, the authorities announced that due to severe weather, the rest of the ride was cancelled. We were to lay our bikes down on the grass and board vans to be transported to the Texas Motor Speedway. They would send a crew to bring our bikes. I was able to enter the third van. As soon as I got in an situated (uncomfortably) the skies opened up and the rain began to pour.

When we arrived at the TMS, the other passengers on the van begged the driver to let us out at the bike storage lot. It was raining very hard and there were these two little booths under which many people were crowded. I went there to put on the rain pants and assess my situation. The nearest bathrooms were at least a half mile away, so there was nothing to do but walk. Thank God for the rain suit!

Halfway across the parking lot, the water was already about 2 inches deep and too wide to jump. So I had to slosh through and get wet feet. The luggage crew had the bags underneath plastic sheeting. I reclaimed my bags and walked across a homemade boardwalk across the grass toward the dining tent. Most of the tent had 3 inches of water on the ground, but I found a "dry" spot. It was tempting just to stay in the portable toilet out of the rain, but I went back to the dining tent and proceeded to check the contents of my bags. For some reason, the clothes were still dry. I put another long sleeve shirt over what I had and changed jackets to another rain coat with more coverage.

My sister was coming to pick me up to take me back to Frisco. She was waiting at the gate next to the bike storage lot. As I walked back, there was much more water. The homemade boardwalk had floated away or sunk, so there was about 4 inches of water to wade through. The volunteer in charge of the bike lot had no idea when the bikes would be delivered, since not all the riders were accounted for as of yet.

It had mostly stopped raining, so there was a little less standing water to trudge through in the parking lot. I walked out and across the road and got into my sisters car. We waited about an hour for the trucks with the bikes to arrive. I was impressed that those who had reclaimed our bikes had wrapped each one up in heavy duty brown paper, so that the bikes would not get damaged. I helped unload and store the bikes until mine came off the second truck.

Later in the day, it was announced that the second day was cancelled. It was disappointing not to be able to finish the full distance, but it was a memorable ride. The volunteers were well organized, helpful and friendly. The rest stops were well stocked with goodies to eat and drink. My average speed for the 71 miles was 16.6mph. There is room for improvement, but I am fairly satisfied. I am glad that I rode.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Another MS 150 Beckons

This weekend, I will be riding in the Sam's MS150 ride from Frisco Texas to Fort Worth Texas. The ride will be Saturday and Sunday, thus I will be posting remarks on the Sunday readings late. There will also be a post about my ride experience. The weather forecast is unpleasant. And if it is raining I am going to wait to begin until it stops. Hiking in the rain is okay with the correct clothes, but being wet and possibly cold is not my idea of fun. Besides, I do not really want to be on a slick road with skinny tires and 3000 other cyclists sporting the same. And my bike already has the 28's, which is the largest that it will accept.

But if it is just cloudy, or cool, or foggy, or hot or humid or whatever else, then I will ride and I will finish. Then there will be a post.

Saturday night I plan on camping out at the Texas Motor Speedway. I hope that the camping area has good drainage.

Maybe I will see some of you all there.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Preach Repentance in His Name

1. If we looked at the content of the Gospels we would notice that they contain much of Jesus’ teaching, and many of His miracles. But their focus is on His Passion, Death and Resurrection. When we read about the preaching of the early Church, we also observe that the primary content of the Good News is that Jesus the Crucified One has Risen from the dead. The proclamation of the Resurrection of Jesus the Lord was not merely the idea of those who had been His followers and had been witnesses of the new kind of life which Jesus possesses. Rather, this truth is announced as the of His command to tell everyone in the whole world.
2. Some people in the days of Jesus have proposed that the disciples made the resurrection up. For example, the Chief Priests and elders bribed the soldiers guarding the tomb of Jesus to say that the disciples stole the body while they were asleep (Matthew 28:11-15). Even today there are those that say the disciples invented the resurrection to explain their “experiences.” The documents of faith, that is the Scriptures, however, indicate that nothing of the sort happen. In the ancient world, people who wanted to learn would go in search of a teacher whom they liked. But the disciples were chosen by Jesus, they did not choose Him (see John 15:16). When Jesus was preaching, they were not quick to understand what He was teaching. They held the common opinion that the Messiah would be a great king leading Israel to political greatness. In spite of what Jesus told them, they persisted in this error right up until the time He was arrested. When He spoke to them about His resurrection, they would not even ask Him what He meant (Mark 9:32). When Jesus was arrested, they ran away. When He was crucified, they hid. And even when He rose again in glory, at first they were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost (Luke 24:37). Jesus had to eat a piece of fish to convince them that He was indeed alive. (Luke 24:42-43). The disciples did not have the wherewithal to invent the resurrection. Nor does it make sense that they would persist in proclaiming a fiction that cost them their lives. Jesus resurrection is real, though we have to believe on the basis of others’ testimony.
3. Practically every year, I hear someone say that all religions are basically the same. Sometimes it is said by a parent trying to be okay with the fact that their children have left the Catholic faith. Others who hardly know God will say such a thing either out of ignorance or out of wishful thinking. In those cases, it is uttered by someone who rejects religion as stifling or restrictive. Its much easier to dismiss religion if you can lump them all together. In any case, it is simply untrue. (A quick study of religions will reveal marked differences). No other religious founder was crucified or rose from the dead. No other religious founder claimed to be God. Jesus is unique among all people who have ever existed. His resurrection is the single greatest moment in human history.
4. The Passion, Death and Resurrection of our Lord is the central teaching of our Christian faith. It is the heart and soul of our belief. When we celebrate the Eucharist, we are participating in this same Mystery of Jesus’ death and resurrection. And this celebration constitutes us as Catholics. Saint Paul will tell the Corinthians that without the resurrection of Jesus, your faith is vain; you are still in your sins (1 Corinthians 15:17). But Jesus is Risen. He sits at the right hand of the Father and intercedes for us.
5. When the disciples began to proclaim the good news of Jesus, we should note they did not simply announce the truth of the resurrection. Saint Peter did not say “You know that fellow Jesus whom you crucified about six weeks ago? Well, he’s okay now. He is alive.” And those who heard Saint Peter did not say “well that’s good, crucifixion is terrible, we are glad that everything worked out for him.” No, the people said what are we to do? (Acts 2:37). To which Saint Peter replied Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). Jesus’ resurrection carries with it power and to believe has consequences. Knowledge of the truth obligates a person to conform themselves to the truth. Belief in the Risen Lord demands repentance and change. (That is why those who give themselves over to sin eventually lose their faith.)
6. And so the proclamation of the Good News of Jesus’ Death and Resurrection leads us to a crossroads- a place in which we must make decisions. Either we will believe and follow Jesus with our whole hearts, or we will part company with Him and go our own way. We may desire to put off conversion for awhile. That is a bad idea, since we do not know how much time we have. Or we may try to satisfy ourselves with being lukewarm in our Christianity. For example thinking that if we go to Mass, Jesus might not pay very close attention to how we actually live. That is foolish also. God is always present at every moment. If we really want to know the Risen Lord, then we must repent and seek out His mercy and forgiveness. And when we begin to know Him as He really is, a merciful and loving God, we will be eager to share our faith with others.