In the times we are in currently, all Christians need to read this. Those that do, may not agree, may even strongly disagree with Mr. Wallis; but his words may cause serious thought. Some of the serious questions it raised for me was, how closely do we ally ourselves to a particular government, a particular party? And will that alliance water down the Gospel message? We are challenged to reconsider what it means to be a practicing Christian in today’s world. I have doubts about my own strength, knowledge and faith! It calls for deep reflection and above all prayer.
“Praise be you, O my Lord, for our Brother Wind, and for air and cloud, calms and all weather by whom you uphold life in all creatures.” Canticle of the Creatures – Francis of Assisi
My wife and I are on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. We are at my mother in laws home, for a gathering of the clan. I am sitting on a deck, a copy of Henry Thoreau’s Walden in my hand.
I am looking up into blue sky, with wispy clouds being blown across. And I spot seagulls circling above, held up by winds coming off the ocean. It is a quiet time, it is a holy time. St. Francis wanted his followers to live in simple huts, mostly as a commitment to poverty. But I would speculate that he hoped his community would be outside experiencing the beauty of God’s creation. As I was for a glorious moment. And in that moment, my soul felt renewed.
“Most high, almighty, good Lord God, to you belong all praise, glory, honor, and blessing!”
“Hear, O Lord, the sound of my call; have pity on me, and answer me. Of you my heart speaks; you my glance seeks.
Your presence, O Lord, I seek. Hide not your face from me; do not in anger repel your servant. You are my helper: cast me not off.
I believe that I shall see the bounty of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord with courage; be stouthearted, and wait for the Lord.” Psalm 27
We have experienced many tragedies in our world, in our country, in our community, and in our Church. Our world has been shaken by the massacre of innocent Muslims in New Zealand. Our country continues to experience natural disasters. Communities in my home State have witnessed shocking violent crimes. And the Church still struggles with the effects of the clergy sexual abuse scandal.
And we speak out, where is God in all this? We seek the Lord to come to our aid; to give us comfort. The truth is that he is always with us. He is present in ones who give us help and comfort. He speaks through those who speak up for the poor and forgotten. And we feel his Presence, when we are still, and listen for his voice.
Amos 7: 12-15
Ephesians 1: 3-14
Mark 6: 7-13
“Jesus summoned the Twelve, and began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over unclean spirits.” (Mark 6: 7)
So began a different role for the followers of Jesus of Nazareth. He sent them out to proclaim that a new day was dawning. They went throughout the countryside, calling people to repent, to prepare for the coming of the Kingdom of God. And they healed the sick, and freed many from the demons that possessed them; signs that the power of God was at work in the land.
In today’s Church, we need to recognize that Jesus Christ is calling us to likewise be proclaimers of the Good News. By our words, by our actions, by the example of our very lives; we reveal the love of God at work in our world. When we share how God has healed us, comforted us, guided us along the right path; we proclaim his goodness. When others witness how we care for friend and stranger alike; they see the love of God at work in the world.
This requires that we be continually open to the love of God ourselves. We must continually seek his guidance, his help, especially during times we falter. We are at our best as evangelizers, when we show our struggles, as well as our successes.
So we go forward, as spreaders of the Good News of Jesus Christ. May we bring back a bountiful harvest.
Acts 4: 8-12
1 John 3: 1-2
John 10: 11-18
11″I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14″I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me- 15just as the Father knows me and I know the Father-and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. (John 10: 11-16)
In today’s Gospel, we hear again Jesus describing himself as the “Good Shepherd;” and what being faithful to that description entails. He is the one who will give up his life to protect his sheep; who will guide his sheep to safe pastures. In turn, his sheep will recognize his voice, will follow him wherever he leads them. And other sheep, not of his original flock, will also recognize his voice, and they will be gathered into the same flock.
Jesus, indeed, gave his life for his flock (us); by his death and resurrection, he freed us from the dangers of sin and death. His words continue to guide us along the right path to the Kingdom of God, if we but listen to them, and act on them. He continues to feed us with his Body and Blood; giving us the strength needed to follow him along the right paths, no matter how difficult they may be. His Presence among us, within us; gives us the hope that we will find a place of repose, in this life and into the next.
We also need to recognize, though, that we are all called to be “shepherds,” by virtue of belonging to the Body of Christ; and caring for each other, both friend and stranger. We are also “shepherds,” when we, by the example of our daily lives, draw others to come and join with us in the flock; in the community of believers.
Genesis 9: 8-15
1st Peter 3: 18-22
Mark 1: 12-15
“After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: ‘This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.'” ( Mark 1: 15)
When Jesus Christ made this proclamation, what would have been the reaction of the people of Galilee. I suspect that many would have gone on with their daily work; some with a tired look on their faces. They have heard this before; many so-called prophets and messiahs must have gone through the villages, promising a new world, only to wind up dead at the hands of the Romans or Herodians. But there was something different about this Nazarene, something about his manner, his style. And he performed miracles of healing and more, acts not seen since the times of the great prophets! He made them believe that the longed for kingdom of God was just over the horizon. Then came a dark Friday on the outskirts of Jerusalem, where they saw their expectations, their hopes dashed, as they witnessed their messiah die on a Roman cross. Many must have went home to hide; crushed and angry. Others felt compelled to remain in Jerusalem, to mourn in hiding. Then came Easter morning, and the disciples who stayed, realized that the time of fulfillment had begun!
Fast forward to our present time; and when we hear this Gospel passage proclaimed, our reaction might be: “Yeah, right!” This reaction might be understandable; considering the fact that we all have just witnessed the most tragic mass shooting in a school in our history. The horror of it all, is that this is just the most recent of many mass shootings in our country, and none of our political leaders seem willing to do anything about it. We are also seeing a rise of bigotry, some of it born of fear, in the nation. We are becoming a divided people. Terrorism, war, threat of nuclear war, ethnic cleansing, hatred; seems to be the new reality in our world. So we may find ourselves calling up to the Father; “How can this be the time of fulfillment? How can the kingdom of God be at hand?”
And Jesus Christ responds, “Repent, and believe in the gospel.” “Repent;” we all need to reflect on our own individual lives and ask; In what ways, large or small, have we added to the pain our world is in? In what ways, large or small, has our inaction allowed evil and suffering to grow? And when we have an answer; when we are able to see the realities of our lives, we seek the forgiveness, and that healing that can only come from God. And in that moment, we experience the reality of the Good News, and we believe in the gospel. And the Good News that Jesus is revealing to us, is that through God, through living the Gospel, we are transformed. And with every transformation, the time of fulfillment draws closer. “The kingdom of God is at hand.”
Leviticus 13: 1-2, 44-46
1st Corinthians 10:31—11:1
In the Scripture readings for the Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, we see again passages that emphasizes the role of Jesus as healer. We saw in last Sunday’s readings, that his reputation as a healer spread so fast, that the whole town of Capernaum crowded around St. Peter’s home, many seeking a cure, others wishing to witness a miracle. Realizing that he could be trapped in Capernaum by the crowd, he leaves the town early the next morning; before anyone else is awake to stop him. He goes to a deserted place for prayer, but his disciples are still able to find him. He tells them that his purpose is to bring the Good News to all the Galilee. But even in that deserted place, Jesus encounters someone in need of healing, a leper. Now leprosy was among the most dreaded diseases of ancient times, seen as highly contagious. In the first reading, from the Book of Leviticus, we see the ritual one had to go through if he or she was suspected of leprosy. The leper was driven from the community, living in solitary suffering. That person would eventually either die alone, or in company of fellow lepers. Jesus wishes to heal the leper before him, so he does what would be considered madness by his companions, he touches him. The miracle happens, the person is made clean, made whole. Jesus instructs him to just go and show himself to the temple priest and be brought back into the community. Of course, this does not happen, the cured man proclaims to all what has happened to him, and who did it, and Jesus must change his approach to the people.
However, I would like to offer another interpretation of this Scripture. It has to do with the fact that because of this disfiguring disease, this person was separated from the people of Israel. He was lost, destined to be alone in deserted places. Now, consider that “leprosy” can come in many forms; like poverty, like addiction, homelessness, mental disabilities. One can be considered a societal “leper;” if one is an immigrant or refugee, with different languages, different customs, different beliefs. They feel separated from the wider community, ostracized, discriminated against. And here is Jesus Christ, who is telling us, by his example, to reach out and touch them; reach out and embrace them; reach out and bring them back into the wider community of our cities and towns, our states and nation. This is the mission, the calling of the Christian community. This is the work of our Church, to heal and bring back those who are wounded, lost and alone.
Christmas time has come around once more for all Christians, for all Catholics. The Church has put away it’s purple colored vestments and liturgical decorations. The Advent wreath has been taken down. In their place, the chapel sanctuary, where I worship, is strewn with red and white poinsettias, a Christmas tree, with white lights. A manger scene with Mary, Joseph, and the Baby Jesus, has been set up in front of the altar.
The chapel quickly fills for our 4:00PM Vigil Mass, and soon it is standing room only. Our guitar choral group leads us in song, we join in singing the old Christmas favorites. We have a guest priest as our celebrant this night, and the sacred liturgy begins. We hear the words of the prophet Isaiah spoken; telling of ancient Israel’s future vindication, and rebirth. Then we hear the Good News from St. Matthew, proclaimed by our celebrant:
Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the holy Spirit.
Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly.
Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord* appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her.
She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:
“Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,”
which means “God is with us.”
When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.
He had no relations with her until she bore a son, and he named him Jesus. “ (Matt. 1: 18-25)
After hearing how Christ Jesus, though he was Son of God, willingly came into this world as a child, to begin the work of salvation; we are soon witness to another miracle. Christ is made present to us in the form of bread and wine, transformed into his Body and Blood. It was my privilege and honor to help distribute Holy Communion to those who approach. I feel something in my heart, as I hold up each host for the communicant to see, and say with conviction: “The Body of Christ.” And then place the host in the hands of the person, or on their tongue.
There the final prayers, and the blessing of the priest; we then sing joyful Christmas songs; celebrating the sacred event that happened in Bethlehem; the sacred moment we just experienced, and leave with the hope of Jesus’ promised return, when a new heaven and a new earth will come to be.
All peace and joy be yours this Christmas day, and God’s blessings on you for the coming year.
Pax et Bonum!
Just after the violence of Charlottesville, after watching scenes of white supremacists, and neo-nazis, carrying torches, and chanting hate; I saw a tv trailer. It was on PBS, and it was a scene from Ken Burns famous documentary, “The Civil War.” The scene was of a new military cemetery, located on the battlefield of Gettysburg. The actor, Sam Waterston, as Abraham Lincoln, was speaking the words of the Gettysburg Address. Here is a portion:
“But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate-we can not consecrate-we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, not long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us-that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion-that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain-that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom-and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
We are all “the people,” descendants of those who sought to create “a more perfect union.” The process has been messy, bloody, imperfect, and at the same time wonderous and life giving. We cannot surrender the process to the haters, the greedy, the terrorists, and the self-serving. We must work together, with respect, with dialogue, and with peace in our hearts. This ideal must not “perish from the earth!” So help us God!
Sirach 35: 12-14, 16-18
2 Timothy 4: 6-8, 16-18
Luke 18: 9-14
In this Sunday’s Gospel, we read the parable about the Pharisee and the tax collector, who both go up to the Temple in Jerusalem to pray. Jesus tells us about how the Pharisee “took up his position.” Jesus hints that this Pharisee had a designated spot, probably in a prominent place in the Temple Sanctuary. Jesus has the Pharisee, in his prayers, tell God of the “good” he has done during his life; how thankful he is, that God did not make him like the rest of humanity, especially that (ugh!) tax collector in the back of the Temple courtyard. Jesus, in his tale, turns our attention to that tax collector; who many in Israel of this at time, considered a thief and a traitor. This tax collector is on his knees, bent over, not daring to raise his eyes. His only prayer is: “O God, be merciful to me a sinner.” Jesus then must have shocked his audience when he declared that the tax collector left the Temple area justified, but not the Pharisee! It all has to do with humility.
Humility is somewhat of a dirty word in our society. Our social media, our TV programming, our magazines, are full of stories of people who really make a big deal of themselves. In no way could it be said that they are being humble. Those seeking a job, are always told to present yourself in the best possible light; really sell yourself and your skills to a possible employer. There is no room for being humble in that scenario. Or is there? What I mean is that to be humble, is not that we let other people walk over us; but that we acknowledge our true self, the self that was created by God. We acknowledge all the gifts and talents we possess, were given to us by the God who loves us. We acknowledge that everyone else around us, has been similarly blessed with unique skills and talents. And to be humble, is to also acknowledge that at times, we may have misused those skills and talents. And we acknowledge that we need the healing power of the Father’s forgiveness.
Jesus is calling on us to remember who we truly are; what our relationship with God truly is. In a certain way, Jesus is echoing the words of the prophet Micah: “You have been told, O man, what is good, and what the Lord requires of you; Only to do the right and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with you God.” (Micah 6:8)