This day celebrates the memory of Saint Patrick, missionary and bishop to the people of Ireland, centuries ago! Sadly, in this country, among others, this day has become a day for excess. An excuse to suspend the requirements of Lent; and indulge in an excess consumption of food and alcohol; shamrocks, and leprechauns!
It is time to remember again what Patrick’s life was truly about; proclaiming the Gospel of Christ, by word and deed. He helped bring about the conversion of a nation!
Saint Patrick’s Breastplate (Abridged)
I arise today Through a mighty strength,the invocation of the Trinity. Through belief in the Threeness, Through confession of the Oneness of the Creator of creation. I arise today Through the strength of Christ’s birth with His Baptism. Through the strength of His crucifixion with His burial. Through the strength of His resurrection with His ascension, Through the strength of His descent for the judgement of doom. I arise today Through the strength of the love of cherubim, In the obedience of angels, In the service of archangels, In the hope of resurrection to meet with reward… Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise, Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me, Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me, Christ in the eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me. I arise today. Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity, Through belief in the Threeness, Through confession of the Oneness of the Creator of creation.
Saint Patrick, pray for us, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ. Amen.
There are moments in history that take place near or on rivers. In ancient times, the Roman general Caesar, took his legions across the river Rubicon, challenging the authority of the Roman Senate; and won. The Roman Republic became eventually the Roman Empire! On December 25, 1776, General George Washington took his rag tag army across the Delaware River, and attacked the British Hessian force in Trenton, NJ, the following morning. His victory at that battle saved the Continental Army from falling apart, and laid the groundwork for ultimate victory. And then there is the River Jordan. In ancient times, twelve tribes, after wandering in the desert together, crossed the Jordan, and were transformed into a united people. And during the Roman occupation, there was John the Baptist, who on the shores of the Jordan River, was proclaiming that the hoped for Messiah was coming, that now was the time for repentance, a time for change. And the symbol for that was to be bathed in the River, to be washed clean. And there was a growing expectation that the Messiah was coming soon. And then one day, a man from Nazareth arrived on Jordan’s shore, and John recognized him, knew who he was; and John poured the waters of the Jordan over him. And Jesus, saw the Holy Spirit descending upon him, heard his Father voice acknowledging him, “You are my beloved Son.” And the journey began, the work of proclaiming the Good News began.
And the work of salvation continues, Jesus continues the work through us who have also been baptized. On the day of our own baptism, the wound we suffered from Original Sin was healed; we were given new life as adopted children of God; we were all joined together in the Body of Christ, we are all brothers and sisters, living together in a holy community that is the Church. We all share in it’s mission, given to us by Jesus, to proclaim the Good News, by our words, our actions; and by the example of our own lives; we are all called to give example to others what it means to be a follower of Christ, by the way we ourselves struggle with our faith; how we, as people of faith, relate to others; our families; friends and neighbors, to strangers, the homeless; the disenfranchised in our society; and to people that are not very nice. When I read in Isaiah; when the Lord, through the prophet, declares “I formed you, and set you as a covenant of the people, a light for the nations, to open the eyes of the blind,…” I feel that it is not just the physically blind we are called to open, but also those whose eyes are blinded by prejudice and hatred. To free those who prisoners of greed and selfishness. And to help those who live in the darkness of despair and hopelessness.
That is not to say to that there will not be times when we ourselves may be tempted to give into selfishness, anger, and despair. It is then we should turn to prayer, and the sacraments; namely confession, penance; and the Eucharist, where in we received Jesus Christ through Holy Communion, and are healed and strengthened by his Presence. It is by how we struggle with our own weaknesses and sins; and work to overcome them that we can be at our most prophetic. Our own baptism is the beginning for each of our own journey of faith. That journey continues, for each of us, each with our own calling, our own approach, to living the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ. May the Lord be with all of us on this journey.
“Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”
In today’s Gospel, we learn about the rich young man, who came to meet Jesus. Now, picture this, Jesus is ready to depart on a journey; he has his Apostles and other disciples with him. He begins to leave, when up comes this young man, who, by his dress, is obviously a wealthy man. And he comes to ask a question “What must I do to earn eternal life?” Jesus is ready to go, so you can hear the impatience in his voice; he gives the standard reply any rabbi would give; he quotes from the the commandments. The young man replies with fervor that he has keep the commandments since he was young. Jesus stop short, he hears the intensity in the reply, he senses the possibilities in this young man. And he gives a reply from his heart, a personal teaching to this young man. And the young man cannot accept it! He walks away!
At that moment, I can imagine the disappointment that Jesus must have felt. You can hear it in his voice when he he tells his disciples, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” And the people are flabbergasted by this statement. Now keep in mind, the societal structure in Jesus’ time was much different from our own today! We have a class society made up of the wealthy, middle class, low income, poor, and destitute. In Jesus time, there was, as one scripture scholar put it, the haves and the have nots! The haves were nobles, rich landowners, merchants who catered to the rich, political leaders, and leaders of the Temple in Jerusalem. The have nots, were farmers, herdsmen, laborers, craftsmen, fishermen; who, because of Roman taxes, could barely scratch up enough money to survive! To people like these, they dreamed of being wealthy, to have wealth meant they had made it. And to have Jesus tell them that the wealthy could not enter the kingdom of God, must have blown their minds! You can hear the disbelief in their voices! If the rich cannot make it, how can we? Jesus tells them, tells us that to follow, to live the Gospel, will come with trials and persecutions; but with it also a fellowship of believers, to support each other along the way; and to eternal life at the end of the journey!
Now we are a society that is fascinated with the lives of the rich and famous, I mean, who has not watched at lest one episode of the Housewives series, or have not read at lest one society magazine, like “People,” or the tabloids. We envy the rich,we wish we could have a tenth, a fraction of their wealth. Yet, Jesus cautions us, in very strong terms, that success and wealth does not guarantee entrance into the kingdom. Remember the prime commandants, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart! And you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus is inviting us to cross the threshold into a new way of looking at the world, a new way of living in this world. One in which we share what we have with the poor and needy. That we look on each person that we come in contact with as a brother or a sister; a fellow traveler in this journey of life and faith, supporting and comforting each other during the hard times. And accepting each other. Standing together against a world where only money and status count, and might, whether through wealth or force of arms, makes right. If we can stand against that, then the blessings Jesus has promised will indeed be ours; and we will enter into eternal life in the age to come!
“Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over unclean spirits.” We see Jesus taking an important step in his ministry in the Galilee. Up to now, it has been just him proclaiming the Good News; just him healing the sick; and those suffering from demons and evil spirits. Now, he was sending his twelve disciples out, to proclaim the glory, the mercy of God; sending them out drive out demons, and heal the sick. In a sense, he was sending them out as his front men, to get the word out to a wider audience, to give hope to more people of the Galilee. I would have loved to know what pairings of the Apostles were. Who was Judas paired with? How did that go? Some ago, a book came out, based on the TV mini-series; “Jesus of Nazareth;” a novelization of the mini-series. In the telling of this story, Peter, the rough, tough fisherman was paired with the Matthew, the tax collector! Not exactly a match made in heaven. The story goes on telling how Matthew worked at keeping Peter out of trouble because of his temper. All of the Apostles fulfilled the mission, given to them by Jesus. The groundwork had been done, that when Jesus went into greater Galilee, thousands of people came to see him, came to hear him, came to be healed by him.
We seemed to have turned the corner on this pandemic we are going through, though this variant has people worried. Our churches are fully opened, people are being invited back; yet, the mainstream press, secular and religious, are reporting a severe drop in the number of people attending church, a drop in the number of people who identify themselves as Catholic, or even Christian. Now, there could be many reasons for this, going to church is no longer a habit, people have found other things to fill their time, people have been put off by the division in the some areas of the Church, they felt alone, scared, and losing hope, and for whatever reason, they feel nobody is reaching out to them.
Now, there are programs and approaches to answer this growing situation , all coming under the umbrella of the “New Evangelization;” but in the light of today’s Gospel, I would suggest that each one of us are called to bearers of the Good News, to be evangelists. Now some may object, “I do not have training!” I would agree, we do need trained evangelists. But we also need people who have strived to live the Gospel, at home, on the job, with family, friends and strangers. Amos was not a trained prophet, he was shepherd, something of a gardener. The Apostles were mostly fisherman, who probably knew just enough Hebrew that they could read, barely, the Torah. Matthew was probably the most educated, he had to know some arithmetic, and enough Latin or Greek to communicate with his Roman overseers. But they were ordinary folks, like you and me, but they were inspired by the Gospel that Jesus preached; they were filled with the Holy Spirit.
We, who strive to live the Gospel, try to put into practice the commandments to love God with all our mind, with all our heart, with all our soul; and love our neighbors as ourselves, with all that it implies; have that same Spirit within us. And people will recognize that, recognize the authenticity of our lives, both with the struggles and joys. And they will be drawn to Christ, drawn to the God who loves us and cares for us.
I would remind us again what Saint Paul said to the Ephesians; “In him you also, who have heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and have believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit;”. May the Holy Spirit guide us, inspire us to be evangelists for others, by the example of our lives, our lives of faith.
Acts10: 25-26, 34-35, 44-48; 1 John 4: 7-10; John 15: 9-17
We find ourselves in unsettling times, a deadly pandemic is ravaging the world, killing millions of people. We are just now beginning to getting a handle on it in this country, but it is devastating other parts of the world. But in this country, in addition to COVID, we find ourselves in the midst of political strive. We find an unwillingness to cooperate, to even civilly discuss the issues that affect our country. And even within our own Church, there is divisiveness! In opinion columns; through the internet, and even, God help us, from some pulpits, comes a level of argument, disagreement, down right disrespect and vindictiveness, that I never heard of in the past; from both sides! Is there any wonder why some polling services are reporting that the number of people no longer identifying themselves as Catholic has dropped, seriously dropped?
“This I command you: love one another.”
When Jesus Christ issued this command, he does not mean having a “Hallmark” moment! But…look at our Crucified Lord! ”No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Keep in mind, by “friends,” Christ means everyone we encounter, from family members, neighbors, coworkers, strangers, and yes, anyone we may have disagreements with. Because we are all brothers and sisters in Christ! We called to pray for everyone! We are called to welcome all, friend and stranger with love and acceptance. We are called to discuss and debate, with respect for the other, maintaining peace of heart with all. We are called to show charity to all in need.
And we can do this, if we turn to Jesus for help; let the Spirit inspire us, and remember that we are all children of God. Whatever we need in order to fulfill Jesus’s command, the Father will provide. Let us take to heart what Jesus has taught us, let the Holy Spirit inspire us! Let us love one another, today, tomorrow, and always. If we can do this, we can inspire others to do the same, we can help bring peace to our communities, to our state, our nation, to a world that desperately needs it.
I grew up in the North Shore of Massachusetts. Now, while I was a young boy, my father and one of my uncles’s co-owned a small, wooden outboard motor boat. We would bring it up with us to the Sebago lakes region, where we usually rented adjoining cabins. Now they also used to take the boat out into Lynn Harbor, where they, myself, my brothers and cousins would sometimes go fishing. Now one Saturday, it started out to be a beautiful day. We were just at the entrance of the harbor, almost into the ocean, when suddenly, this squall hit! I mean the waves started getting very big, the boat was bouncing all over the place, as my father and uncle tried to get the boat to an anchorage. After one big bounce, the rear bench we kids were on, suddenly broke, and we were sprawled on the bottom of the boat. What had been an adventure, was turning into something very scary. We finally made it safely to the Nahant town dock. But I will never forget how scared; how really scared I was.
In today’s Gospel, we see the disciples going on ahead of Jesus, by boat on the Sea of Galilee, they also, run into very rough weather, they too were being tossed about by the waves. The fishermen of the group were probably concerned, the landlubbers in the group were probably scared out of their wits. On top of everything else, there is this figure moving towards them through the stormy water, so they think, it’s got to be a ghost, right? Then Jesus calls out “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” Now, Peter, wanting proof, asks Jesus to command him to come out and meet him on the water. He probably also wants to show Jesus that he has the right stuff, unlike these landlubbers. And Jesus calls him to come out to him. And he is doing it, up to a point. He suddenly realizes he is walking on water, in the middle of a squall, and he thinks “Holy “bleep!!”; what am I doing out here!!” He begins to sink into waves, and Jesus has to rescue him! So what happened? He had begun to looked at the storm around him, losing sight of Jesus, and giving into his fears! What was it Jesus said to the disciples when they first saw him, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”
We are living in frightening times! We see a threat to our health, to our lives that appears invisible, but is very, very real. We see an economy that was once the envy of the world, come crashing down. We have people out there in our community, who are afraid, because they do not know how they will pay bills, buy food, pay rent or mortgage! No matter how much we may deny it, I am willing to bet that everyone one of us feels something of the fear that is abroad in this country, in this world.
“Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught Peter, and said to him, O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” Peter ran into trouble because he was not focused on Jesus! We can give into fear, if we are not focused on Jesus Christ, the Son of God! We need to become aware of His Presence in our lives, in every moment. We need to really listen and focus on His Word! We are all called to look to the altar, where we see ordinary bread and wine, that will soon become the Body and Blood of Christ! And we will receive Him, and be strengthened by Him for the times that ahead. The problems may not disappear, they may get better, they may get worst. But we are not alone in our struggles, we not alone with our fear; Jesus is with us in this journey. He will always be with us, supporting us in the midst of whatever storm we are in!
“At once Jesus spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”
On this January 6, 2019, many Christians will be in church, celebrating the Epiphany of the Lord. We are celebrating the moment, when three magi, wise men, came from the east and proclaimed to the leaders of Jerusalem that the birth of the Messiah had been revealed to them. They had traveled from a far land, to see with their own eyes, this wonder. Their belief in this revelation was so strong, that they were willing to make this risky journey, guided only by a unique star, to a foreign land. And the Gospel gives no indication that they were disappointed at what they found. Finding a small child, with his peasant mother, in a simple village house; they “did him homage.”
We are all seeking that intimate encounter with Jesus Christ, with our God and Savior. Sometimes, that life journey may take many years; sometimes, the encounter can happen in just an instant. We find that we need to give up our own preconceived images of Christ; let the Holy Spirit guide us on our journey; and be open to what the Scriptures will reveal to us. And above all, open ourselves to the experience, the wonder of the Eucharist; which in a real sense, is food for the journey we are on.
There have been others, who have also been on this journey before, who, by sharing their own experiences, can help guide us on ours. Some of my favorites, Francis and Clare of Assisi, who made living the Gospel of Jesus Christ an intimate part of their lives. Teresa of Avila, founder of monasteries and mystic. Caryll Houselander, laywoman, artist and mystic; who had a vision of Christ in every passenger of a train she was on. Thomas Merton, author, monk, and mystic. Despite being in a monastery, he was always on a journey, seeking our Risen Lord. And finally, I would recommend Sister Wendy Beckett, who recently passed away. Hermit, art historian, media star; she brought a fresh look at art, with both a scholar’s and mystic’s eye.
I am still very much on journey, seeking the Lord. I have sometimes gone off course, sometimes felt like not going any further. But always, I feel that tugging to continue on; something many pilgrims feel, to finish the journey. I still am not sure what I will find; I have faith that when I truly see the Lord, with eyes of faith; I will bow and do him homage.
In the Scriptures for this past Sunday, we read from the Book of Wisdom, that God creates life, only life. He meant for humanity to be immortal. It is only because humanity allowed evil into its hearts, that death came in.
In the reading from the Gospel of Mark; we see Jesus as the source of healing and life. A woman needed only to touch his cloak, and she was healed of her illness. Jesus restores a little child to life. And he will, by his death and resurrection, will free all from the power of death.
But death can take many forms. There is physical death, and then is the slow death of one’s spirit, one’s soul. Sometimes, the harsh circumstances of life can grind us down. So much so, that we begin to to feel dead inside to the beauty of creation; the love of others; the love of God.
It is in moments like this, that we need to turn to Jesus, through Word and Sacrament; through prayer and meditation. In encountering Jesus Christ, we encounter the healer, both of body and soul. Now this does may not mean an instantaneous healing. But if we remain open to the Spirit of Christ, working within us; we may feel a little more peace, a little more hope. And a new dawn will break open for us.
There has been a school of thought that when raising our children, we need to be strict, uncompromising about standards of behavior. This “tough love” school was particularly popular some years ago. And among many parents, it still is.
I want to talk about another type of “tough” love. The type of love that Jesus calls us to have for one another. I have been deeply troubled by what has been going on both politically and socially in our nation. Racism is raising it’s ugly head. Splits between poor and rich; blue collar and white collar; liberal and conservative, are becoming more fractious and angry.
This is not completely a new thing, one needs only read about the life and incidents that occurred leading up to the Civil War. In 1854, abolitionist Senator Charles Sumner was beaten by a Southern Congressman, on the floor of the Senate Chamber itself. Fast forward, we have a Democratic Congresswoman calling for the harassment of any supporter of President Trump. And his supporters are doing the same to anyone who opposes his policies. And the social media of both sides are egging their followers on. And the country appears to be fracturing.
Jesus taught that there are two prime commandments from which all other commandments come from: You shall love your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind. And the second commandment: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. This is the “tough” love I am speaking about. A love we experience when we open our hearts, our inner selves to God. A love that asks us to change, but also to accept who we are at that moment. And if we can accept ourselves because God does; so must we accept other persons, because God loves them too. They are due at the least respect; even if they do not offer it in return. We can never dehumanize another, turning them into an object of our anger.
Now that does not mean we just standby and remain silent. We are still called to the prophetic role of speaking truth to power. We speak out against those who spread bigotry and hatred of others. But we do not use their own tactics. Look tothe work of Martin Luther King Jr., and Dorothy Day, their movements used protests, and civil disobedience; but using non-violence, in word and action, to win people to their side.
So we are challenged by the Spirit, to be faithful to the commandment to love our neighbors; even when they are being asses. Gospel love is “tough” love.
On May 1, in the year 1933, a Socialist group was holding a May Day demonstration in New York City. The Great Depression had the nation in it’s grip. The demonstrators were protesting very strongly against the bankers, and capitalists they blamed for this economic disaster. On the edges of the demonstration, a small group of men and women were selling copies of a newspaper, for a penny. It was “The Catholic Worker,” and it heralded the beginning of a Catholic social movement by the same name. Co-founded by Dorothy Day, a Catholic convert, single mother, reporter, author and socialist; and Peter Maurin, former religious brother, philosopher, and traveling vagabond. They introduced a radical way of living the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
They established “houses of hospitality,” where the poor would be received as friends, brothers and sisters, fed and given shelter. They spoke out for the poor, powerless and downtrodden. They and their followers, down through the years, have worked to make the world a place “where it was easier to be good.”
The Catholic Worker continues this work, through autonomous Houses of Hospitality scattered throughout the country and the world. They have a different measure of success. If only one person is welcomed, clothed, and fed, it has been a good day. If they have gathered together for prayer, to reflect and discuss what it means to radically love the Gospel of Jesus Christ, it has been a good day.
The Catholic Worker continues, inspired by the words of Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin. May we all be inspired by them.