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.