Sunday, June 19, 2016

Reflection on the Times

I visited a local parish for mass last weekend, and the priest was reflecting on the fact that at Easter, they had to have two simultaneous masses because of the crowds - one in the church, and one in the auditorium next door.  

He wondered, however - as he looked at a half full church last week - where all the crowds went.

Just when I thought that was the low point for his homily, he told us that they surveyed the people at that Easter Mass.  And only 36% of them could correctly identify what we were celebrating at Easter.  

This troubled me greatly. 

Ironically, I read bible readings and reflections each day through the Laudate app, and a recent reflection read:

In our times, some Christians claim they are the "moral majority," yet a few people have been able to defeat millions of Christians in legalizing abortion, promoting euthanasia, removing prayer from public schools, promoting homosexual acts, etc. Masses of Christians are being defeated by a few non-Christians because we have lost our first love (Rv 2:4). We "are caught up and overcome in" the pollution of the world once more (2 Pt 2:20). Possibly a parent, pastor, or Christian friend has helped us fix our eyes on Jesus. Now that is no longer the case. So we have fallen away, backslid, and have been defeated by even the weakest enemies.

Again, this was very troubling to me.  However, I took some solace in a second reflection from that same app:

The queen mother, Athaliah, killed off the whole royal family, with the exception of one infant, Joash (2 Kgs 11:1-2). Seven years later, Joash and the priest, Jehoiada, were the central figures in overturning the wicked, idolatrous reign of Athaliah.
This pattern is often repeated throughout God's plan of salvation. An evil system dominates society and destroys so many people that only a few believers survive. Eventually, though, this remnant, by God's power, overturns the forces of evil.
Right now, new Athaliahs are killing off God's royal family. In the USA, one out of three babies in the womb are slaughtered before birth. Many who escape the womb are emotionally and spiritually destroyed by abuse and neglect. Many more become "spiritually brain-dead" after carelessly exposing themselves to the brainwashing from our secular society. They lose their minds, hearts, freedom, and objectivity. Nonetheless, a few Joashes make it through the mine-field of abortion, abuse, neglect, secularization, and brainwashing. The Lord will raise up these people to bring down the strongholds of the evil one (see 2 Cor 10:4) and lead the world to Christ.

I don't know God's plan, of course.  And I likely wouldn't fully comprehend it if I did.  But I trust in Him.  And pray that more people come back to His loving grace.

God Bless you. 

Monday, May 30, 2016

Memorial Day Gospel

Today is Memorial Day in the United States - a day where we reflect and remember those who died serving this country.  

Ironically, today's Gospel reading also focuses on death and serving, albeit in a slightly different way.  In today's reading, Jesus tells the parable of a man who built a wine tower and then leased it out to tenant farmers.  He sends servant after servant to collect the produce from them, but each servant is either beaten or killed.  

Finally the man sends his beloved son.  He thinks "surely they will respect my son".  

But of course, the tenants kill him as well.

This parable, of course, speaks to the fact that God also sent many servants (prophets) to speak to the world, but many were beaten and killed.

God then decided to send his only Son.  

However, unlike the man in the parable, God knew that His Son would be tortured and killed.

What a sacrifice the Lord gave for us!  And how hard it must have been to not only send His Son, but to watch what we did to Him.  

So today, on this national holiday, I not only thank all those who served our country, but also their parents who endured such trying times.  But most of all, I thank Jesus for his sacrifice and His Father for an equally unfathomable one.

God Bless you.

Monday, May 16, 2016

How do we describe the Holy Spirit?

This weekend we celebrated the beautiful Feast of the Pentecost.  

I, like most people, have a harder time talking about (or imagining) the Holy Spirit versus the other two persons of the Holy Trinity.  

Jesus walked the Earth as one of us, so He is the easiest to imagine.  

The Bible tells us that God created us in His likeness, so again, we have some direction there as well. 

But it dawned on me this weekend how different the Holy Spirit is.  In various Bible passages, The Spirit is mentioned as "like a Dove" or "as Tongues of Fire" or as a "wind".  I realized that these varied references probably add to my difficulty in describing the Spirit as easily as the Son.  

But upon hearing the readings at mass, I realized that the easiest way to envision - and describe - the Holy Ghost is how the Spirit works through people.   Think about the Apostles and their drastic change once they were strengthened with the Spirit.  The most powerful description of the Holy Spirit in that story, in my opinion, isn't fire ... it is the change we saw in the followers of Jesus!  They were more confident, had more skills, and went on to change the world!

What are your thoughts?

I pray that you are strengthened in the same way by the Holy Spirit.  God Bless you.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Overturning Tables and Loving One Another

My church is celebrating First Holy Communions this month.  Since we have a relatively smaller church, each mass has about 10 children receive their first Eucharist.  This goes on for about 3 weeks or so.  

I must admit, these masses bring out the best in me, and, unfortunately, the worst in me. 

On the bright side, seeing these little children of God receiving Christ for the first time is such a beautiful, and promising, thing.

On the other hand, events like these fill the church with lots of visitors.  Visitors who park their cars in fire lanes or the middle of our exits so they can make a quick getaway as soon as Mass ends.  Visitors who talk so loudly before mass that the congregation cannot hear the greeter (who is using a microphone) welcome everyone.  Visitors who do not show any kind of respect for the Eucharist, other than getting close enough to it so they can take a photo.

This frustrates me.  

Part of me thanks God for bringing these people to Mass to begin with.  And I often pray that some of them return based on their experience.  

The other part wonders what Jesus would do in these situations.  

Would He "overturn the tables", as He did in Jerusalem, and tell them that His Father's House should be a House of Prayer?

Or would he softly remind me of what He said in today's Gospel, namely that we should love each other as He loves us?

What do you think?

God Bless you.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

A Detail about Peter's "Rehabilitation" That You Might Not Have Noticed

This week's Gospel from John is a favorite.   

The Risen Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him three times - a beautiful scene to counter the Apostle's denial just days earlier.  

We've heard this reading many, many times before.  But there is a small, yet significant, detail in John's writing that I just learned this weekend.

When they climbed out on shore, they saw a charcoal fire with a fish on it and bread.

John made it a point to note the kind of fire that Jesus had set up. 

Do you know the only other time in the entire Bible that a charcoal fire appears?

Peter's denial of Christ.

And the servants and officers stood there, who had made a fire of coals; for it was cold and they warmed themselves.  And Peter stood with them and warmed himself.

What a beautiful detail.  Jesus has returned Peter to the sight - and even the smell - of the event that wounded him so badly.  

And thus, while Our Rock left the first charcoal fire in shame, he leaves the second one a healed Shepherd.  

God Bless you.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Desertion and Second Chances

Firstly, I hope you all had a very Blessed Easter, and enjoyed the great Hope that comes with the Resurrection.

When I looked back at this year's Holy week, one thought kept hounding me over and over again.  


I kept thinking about how beautiful the first Palm Sunday must have been - with crowds of people making this wonderful gesture with branches to welcome Jesus into Jerusalem.  Yes, Jesus must have had His death weighing on his mind as he rode into the city, but at that moment, there were so many willing to be near Him ... to be with Him.  It must have been so joyous.

That feeling, of course, departed rather quickly on Holy Thursday as I really contemplated what it must have felt like for Our Savior when all of his Apostles scattered during His arrest and torture.  It was clear that Jesus allowed Himself to feel our human emotions while He was with us, and having your friends leave you in your greatest time of need must have hurt on some level.  

Imagine for a minute, if you were being arrested for a crime you didn't commit.  If the police dragged you past your closest friends, asking if anyone could vouch for you, or even knew you.  Imagine watching as those friends ran away ... or worse ... told the police they had no idea who you were.  If we are being honest with ourselves, we'd be in utter shock. And it would hurt.  A lot.  It is almost impossible to imagine no one sticking up for us, right?

In fact, sometimes I wonder what was more painful for Christ, the physical torture or watching his friends leave Him, deny Him, and then ignore everything He told them.  

I've shared with you before that I enjoy watching Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ during Holy Week because it helps me appreciate the physical suffering that Jesus endured for us.  But this year, I couldn't help but focus on this other pain He persevered through.  

I must admit, it upset me to think about that.  

But not nearly as much as when I broke out another kind of torture device ... the mirror.  

Realizing that there have been times in my life where I did not stand by Jesus made my solemn thoughts even worse. 

Luckily, the Prince of Peace gives us all second, third, and millionth chances to make it right and follow Him!

God Bless you.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

The Lifeless Body of the Son She Bore

(Continuing to share the short Stations of the Cross reflections we had at my church...
The style of these reflections is that we imagine what Jesus might say at each station, and then reply with what we should say.  The following is the reflection that accompanied Jesus is Taken Down from the Cross:)

Jesus says:

The sacrifice is done.

Yes, my Mass is complete;
but not my mother's
and not yours, my other self.

My mother still must cradle in her arms
the lifeless body of the son she bore.

You, too, must part from those you love,
and grief will come to you.

In your bereavements think of this:
A multitude of souls were saved
by Mary's sharing in my Calvary.
Your grief can also be the price of souls.

I reply:

I beg you, Lord,
help me accept the partings that must come -
from friends who go away,
children leaving home,
and most of all, 
my dear ones
when you shall call them to yourself.

Then, give me grace to say:
"As it has pleased you, Lord,
to take them home,
I bow to your most holy will.
And if by just one word
I might restore their lives
against your will,
I would not speak."

Grant them eternal joy.

I hope you have a Blessed Triduum.