Friday, June 23, 2017

12th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A - 2017

On the death of Pious XII after the tragedy of war the Cardinals of the Church could not decided who to elect as Pope.

They were hopelessly divided on the future direction of the Church.

There was simple no consensus so they decided to elect a place keeper someone who would maintain the status quo.

In the conclave they looked around the room and the chose Pope John the XXIII everyone loved him and the cardinals reasoned he’s old and heavy so he won’t last long and do any damage.

One thing they didn’t count on was the John XXIII was a holy man and listened to God.

To the surprise or shock of everyone, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit Pope John felt compelled to call an ecumenical council of the church only the 21st in the History of the Church.

There was lots of opposition and he suffered greatly because of it but he saw it through and the Second Vatican Council was held.

While there are still some people who think it was a mistake.
Most believe that it was an incredible gift to the church

He was followed by a man who never ever wanted to be a Pope.

Paul VI was very introverted. Crowds of people made him nervous and frightened him. In public he was often awkward.

Imagine what it was like for him to face all those crowds day in and day out.

He looked around the world and saw the chaos of the 60s and was particularly concerned by the trend of separating human sexuality from  responsibility and love.

He warned that this trend could lead to children not being cared for, an increase in divorce,, and women being treated as objects.

He wrote a document Called on Human Life which was prophetic and everything he foretold has happened but he was mocked as out of touch and many including priests publicly dissented from his teaching.

For a while it seemed like the Church was going come apart.

This very holy introverted theologian suffered greatly because he listened to God and proclaimed the truth. Some say he was relieved to go home to God.

Then the Church decided to chose another place taker. To the shock of everyone he chose the name John Paul I

A double name was never chosen before but what he was saying to the church was that he would have the gentleness of Pope John and the Theology of Pope Paul.

God was merciful to John Paul I he only lasted a couple of months as Pope and his heart gave out.

But by his choice of name he had made a bold statement to the church about the role of the Pope in the modern world.

So much so that when the Cardinals shocked the world and chose a Polish pope he chose the name John Paul II

We all know that John Paul II was instrumental in the fall of communism.

On his first trip to Poland 3 million poles turned out. There had never been that many Poles in one place before.

And when they looked around they saw how numerous they were and they dared to hope for change.

That’s when the Solidarity movement was formed and slowly but surely the iron curtain began to fall.

Eventually there were several attempts on his life and the attempt in St. Peter’s Square some attribute to the communist secret police.

Because of his teaching and travel many call him St. John Paul the Great.

At the end of his life though after Poland was free from communism and firmly in the Western sphere of influence. JPII lamented that the more Western and affluent the Poles became the more the churches and seminaries emptied out.

On his second to last trip he strongly expressed his heartbreak at the direction Poland was going a direction that he was instrumental in starting.

Benedict IV was also a older introverted gentleman. He loved his apartment his books, his cats and taking long walks around Rome.

For years he had been kind of the Papal doctrinal enforcer.

When he was elected some categorized him as an attack dog and called him the German Shepherd.

He did his best and he was more of a gentle old professor than an enforcer.  

He trusted everyone and under him the Vatican Bureaucracy became divided and out of control.  

He suffered greatly with the betrayal of some of his closest advisors who leaked private documents. He eventually pardoned all of them.

When he didn’t feel he could do it anymore to the shock of everyone he resigned in the interest of the church.

It was the first time it happened in 600 years and by doing so gave everyone who followed him permission to resign in the best interest in the church.

You all know about Pope Francis. His two main goals are to reform the central governance of the Church and He calls us to be more authentic followers of Christ.

He has many many critics and I am sure their comments hurt him but he remains faithful to his call.

The readings today speak about prophets.

In the first reading we hear how much the Prophet Jeremiah suffered in order to remain faithful God call.

In the Gospel Jesus calls on us to be faithful and not to worry about persecution or troubles arrive.

Each one of the Popes I mentioned was a prophet.

They listened to God and boldly proclaimed God’s truth and they suffered for it.

Two of them have already been declared saints and the others probably were too. Each man was sent at the right time for a specific purpose.

The role of a Prophet is not restricted to Popes or Priests or the leaders of the Church all of us are called to live prophetic lives no matter what the cost.

Some of your Moms and Dads were prophetic to you. That’s why you are still in these pews.

Today’s readings and the lives of the Popes I mentioned should cause us all to reflect on our own lives and ask ourselves have we been faithful to God’s call to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world.

Just looking around we all know in our hearts that the world is so in need of an authentic prophetic Church willing to proclaim the Gospel no matter what the cost.

Are we the prophets God so desperately needs us to be.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

The Feast of Corpus Christi - Year A - 2017

The words the priest says at the Consecration of the Mass,

The words which I will have the incredible privilege of saying in a few moments echo the words that Jesus himself spoke at the Last Supper.

“Take this all of you and eat of it for this is my body
This is the chalice of my blood”

And Catholics have always taken Jesus at his word.
From the very beginning of the Church we have always believed that If Jesus said this is my Body, it is…
If He said this is my blood it is.

We believe that Jesus intended the literal meaning of the words when he spoke them at the last supper.

If God can make the whole universe he can surely change a piece of bread into his body and a cup of wine into his blood even if they don’t change in appearance.

Many Christians simply don’t believe that Jesus literally meant what he said.

They take the bible literally in so many instances but just can’t take it literally in this one.

They think he was speaking symbolically or allegorically rather than literally and it’s easy to see how someone could come to that conclusion until you read today’s Gospel. John Chapter 6

It is called the bread of life discourse and in it we just heard Jesus say

“The bread that I will give
is my flesh for the life of the world."

When the people listening to Jesus began to complain that it didn’t make sense if you understood his words literally  he doubled down and said,

"Amen, amen”, Remember in the Gospels whenever you hear Amen Amen it’s important

“Amen Amen I say to you,
unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood,
you do not have life within you. “

Then many people who were listening to Jesus who heard him speak said to themselves this is crazy he can’t mean it literally  and they walked away.

That day was a very sad day for our Lord because he lost many followers simply because they refused to take him at his word

When this happened Jesus didn’t run after them and saying wait I misspoke, I meant what I said  symbolically rather than literally.

He didn’t run after them and say wait you misunderstood, he sadly let them go and later on in the chapter he said to his Disciples are you going to leave me too?

Peter responded “Lord where could we go you have the words of everlasting life.”

Today is the feast of Corpus Christi or the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ.

Today the church asks us to reflect upon and be grateful for the mystery of the Eucharist through which Jesus is himself broken and shared among us.

With the Eucharist, Jesus wishes to be present to us and even more than simply being present to us, Jesus longs to be in communion with us.

That’s where the phrase “Holy Communion” comes from. We were made to be in relationship and Jesus desires to be intimately united with us.

With the Eucharist Jesus longs to satisfy our hunger with heavenly food.

All of us hunger for something and in the end only God can and will satisfy our hungers.

Every desire we have is in some way a reflection of our desire for God.

In the Eucharist we recall both the last supper and the suffering and death of our Lord on the cross.

The Eucharist is more than just a meal it is also a sacrifice and through the Sacrifice of the Mass Jesus offers up his Body and Blood to God in remission for our sins and the sins of the whole world.

And so every Sunday the Church gathers the People,
We listen and reflects on  the Word
We break and the bread, which becomes the body and blood of Christ
And we enter into holy communion with our Lord and Savior who longs to be a part of our lives.

We do this and have done this not because the church needs an excuse to gather but  simply because Jesus told us to when he said “Do this in Memory of Me” Those words were meant for the 12 and those words were meant for every follower of Christ for all time.

Finely,  with the Eucharist we are transformed, changed and become more and more like the image and likeness of God.

While this change may not be apparent to us and those we live with, when we receive the Eucharist worthily we are indeed changed.

In some small way we become more and more like Christ and we are better able to conform ourselves to his will.

Centuries ago St. Thomas Aquinas summed up the meaning and mystery of the Eucharist In the best possible way when he wrote this prayer…
Please repeat it after me.

O Holy Banquet
In which Christ is received
The memory of his passion is recalled
The soul is filled with grace
And the promise of future glory is given to us

He have given us bread from heaven
Containing in itself all delight.

May we never miss an opportunity to receive Our Lord in his Body and in his Blood.


Sunday, June 11, 2017

On Air Conditioning and Mercy and Forgiveness

I have two things to talk to you about this morning.

When I came into church  early yesterday morning to set up for a baptism I noticed it felt a little warmer.

When I walked through the door I ran into the air conditioning man who was distraught.

He explained that something major had gone wrong with the new wing air conditioning unit and that it would not run.

It is all still under warranty and I am sure they will make it right.

So if you are one of those people who always gets cold sit in the new wing

and if you are one of those people who are always hot sit in the old wing.

We hope to have it fixed as  soon as possible.

They are also going to work on the sound that the Old Wing airconditioning unit makes.

We are the only church in the Archdiocese that offers temperature preferred seating.

The second thing is this.

Last night two neighborhood boys I think grades 4 and 5 were riding their bikes in the parking lot across the street.

We know them, they swing on our swings,
and play basketball in our parking lot all the time.
They are always very polite and remember our names.

I just happened to be over by the pavilion and they showed me a bike trick.

Then the prayer garden caught the eye of one of them.
I didn’t really pay that much attention because they are good kids.

This little boy just stood there and look at the statue.
It was as if he had never seen anything like the it before

I yelled out “don’t touch it buddy it’s fragile.”

Then I told them it was better that they not ride their bikes in the prayer garden because it was like a church and I started to walk back to the friary.

When I glanced back and noticed both of them still there I walked back to reinforce the message that the statue was fragile and one of the boys said someone already damaged it.

I looked and the finger of the Blessed Mother was missing.

After a little coaching one of the boys dug up the two pieces of the finger where he must have buried  them in the dirt.

Evidently, he had reached up to grab the blessed Mother’s hand and the finger broke off.

They were both very afraid and sad.

I walked over to their house and spoke with their Dad who was also very kind and respectful and explained what I thought had happened.

I told him I would give him a call when I figured things out.

Then I came home to check the security tapes.
And I saw when the little boy must have buried the pieces.

You may not know it but there are ten security cameras over there.

I am so grateful that I didn’t yell or raise my voice.
I felt sad for the boys and very sad for you our parishioners because I know how proud you are of that prayer garden and the statue and I apologize that this happened so quickly.  

I promise we will do our best to get finger repaired and hand strengthened.

After it was all said and done

I came back to the pieta and sat at Mary’s feet to finish my prayers.

And I noticed that the beauty of our Pieta was so much more than a missing piece of marble the size of my little finger.

The statue
and what it teaches
still draws us into the mystery of mercy, forgiveness and healing.
It calls us to forgive even and especially when it’s easier to stay angry and bitter.

I also realized that this was an accident not an attack.

If we are, who we claim to be, followers of Christ and Children of Mary

this moment calls us to completely forgive the little boy who reached up to shake Mary’s hand and broke her finger.

I am sure that our Blessed Mother would be the very first person to forgive him and so should we.

This afternoon I am going to go over to the family and let them know our feelings.

I am going to tell the boys we still care about them very much and that they are still welcome to swing on our swings and play basketball on our court just don’t touch the statues.

If we can’t get the finger fixed perfectly it will serve as a reminder to all of us that as Children of God and Sons and Daughters of Mary,
the Mother of Mercy

We are called to be instruments of healing forgiveness and mercy in every circumstance.

So that was yesterday I am sure today will be better.

Have a good Sunday everybody.

Saturday, June 03, 2017

Pentecost 2017 - Year A

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors of the upper room were closed and locked securely, Jesus came and stood in their midst

The disciples had locked themselves in the upper room because they were afraid.
They weren't sure what was going to happen next.
They weren't sure if the Temple Guard or Roman Soldiers would appear at the door and take them away to face the cross

They were also overcome with shame, shame because in a moment of fear they had abandoned their dearest friend and ran away.

Peter the supposed leader of the group had denied Jesus not once but three times and only the youngest of them had even dared to stand at the foot of the cross.

There they were afraid, alone, and filled with guilt, and suddenly there Jesus was.

The Locked doors of the upper room had no power over him.

And the first words out of his mouth were not angry.
They were not bitter, there was no shame on you, or no finger pointing.

All that Jesus said was
Peace be with you.

And to help them believe that it was really him,
he showed them the scars of his love,
the scars of his obedience, the scares  of the cross which he still carried in his hands and in his feet and in his side.

With those 4 simple words the disciples knew that they were forgiven.

They knew that he still loved them and they knew that they were set free from all of their guilt and their shame.

They were whole again.

Disciples rejoiced when they saw the risen Lord and experienced his loving mercy

Every single one of us who has experienced forgiveness which is freely and spontaneously given knows how the disciples felt on that day in the upper room.

The bigger the sin, the bigger the mistake, the bigger the betrayal, the bigger the joy when it is forgiven.

Yes Jesus burst through the locked doors of the upper room,
and Jesus burst through the doors of their locked, broken and shame filled hearts.

That´s what love does especially when it is accompanied by the gift of the Holy Spirit.

And then something even more incredible happened.

Jesus breathed on them and said
Receive the Holy Spirit whose sins you forgive are forgiven them whose sins you hold bound are held bound.

That was John´s experience of coming of the Holy Spirit.

On that day of Pentecost as related by John, the core mission of the church and the core mission of every follower of Christ was made clear.

The forgiven became forgivers.

All of us need to be ministers of mercy and God's holy peace.

We who have experienced the healing forgiveness of God need to be heralds of forgiveness and healing.

In the book, Naked and You Clothed Me, Fr. William Bausch tells the story of a 41-year-old man named Tom who was dying of AIDS.

His parents lived in so much shame because of this, that they literally locked him in an upstairs bedroom so that no one could see him or visit him.

The priest then tells how when he was finally allowed to go up to his room and visit with him, he bent over to kiss Tom on the forehead and then took his hand in his own.

The emaciated, bed-ridden man whispered to the priest with tears streaming down his face, ‘No one touches me anymore.’...

His father remained outside of the room behind a closed door — until Tom died.

At the wake, he finally broke down and wept with shame and regret over how he had neglected and abandoned of his Son.

The Locked doors of his heart were finally blown open and Mercy and forgiveness were immediately his.

You all know me
There is no facade anymore
You know I have my faults you know that I am a sinner but I have to tell you there are two moment in my life which make every sacrifice I make worthwhile.

The first is when I hold up the host and say. This is my body which will be given up for you… and it is.

The second is when I say  I absolve you of all of your sins and they are.

Just like the Apostles locked the doors of the upper room that day because they were ashamed and afraid many or most of us have areas in our lives which we keep locked up.

Sins which we just refuse or seem unable to let go.

There areas in our lives which need to be forgiven and healed.
We all know their names, anger, bitterness, pride, selfishness, lust whatever.

Today’s gospel reminds us that no sin is beyond God´s mercy and God's peace. GodÅ› love is more powerful than our closed locked hearts.

With every living breath it is our sacred mission and duty to share the forgiveness and mercy of God.

So many of us have made mistakes,
Mistakes which not only hurt us but even those we loved, ourchildren, our spouses, our loved ones.

On this feast of Pentecost, on this feast of the Holy Spirit all of us need to look into our own hearts and ask ourselves see what doors remain locked.

What areas of our lives need the the light and the power of the Holy Spirit so that they may be healed.

Through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit
Let us all seek and accept God’s mercy and forgiveness for ourselves.

Let us humbly and gently encourage others to do the same.

For Jesus said to the Apostles
Receive the Holy Spirit who sins you forgive are forgiven them
Whose sins you hold bound are held bound.