CACINA

Saturday of the Fifth Week of Lent (April 8, 2017)

Inclusive Text- Readings- Ezekiel 37: 21-28 / Psalm: Jeremiah 31: 10-12ABCD, 13 / John 11: 45-56

Think back to a time when you coordinated a project, knew something was wrong but could have gone right, messed up by others, but decided to take the blame and fall on the sword. You may have been involved to some degree knowing that everyone contributed their best but no other course could have been taken. It didn’t mean you had to suffer and die for it but perhaps you avoided going to the end because of fear. Something so minor in that sense, but what would happen, we would get through it, right?

On the other hand, as we know, Jesus had to go through it. Jesus in essence had to fall on the sword because so much was at stake. The soul of humanity was at hand. Jesus could have turned back and leave God, but he knew deep down inside it had to be done.

What were the times in our lives when we could not turn back? What forced us to make the decisions that we had made when it came to others?  Could we have turned back? If we did, why? When we didn’t, what gave us the courage to speak up for the cause?

rev. Michael Theogene

Friday of the Fifth Week of Lent (April 7, 2017)

Inclusive Text- Readings- Jeremiah 20: 10-13 / Psalm 18: 2-3ABC, 4-7 / John 10: 31-42

Friends, who is it in our lives that we are trying to impress? Our Creator knows who we are; we do not have to impress God.  God loves us just the way we are but somehow we keep missing that message. But why is it so important for us to impress another human being? Well, if we haven’t noticed by now, people do eventually see through us. This quote says it very well, “Loving yourself is a radical stance in a culture that constantly promotes ways to ‘improve’ yourself, whether through beauty aids or plastic surgery or hair implants or new devices. It takes a great deal of courage to love oneself fully. It takes a wild and passionate heart to look the critical world in the eye and say, ‘I love myself.'”Christine Valters Paintner, PhD
Jesus came to tell the truth of the Creator, what truth are we trying to tell? Who are we really fooling? If the truth, we are so adamant in trying to portray, is what we wish to convey to people, they will see us for who we really are.  We don’t have to prove it, just be ourselves. Some will see us for who we are and others will not.  It is not our job to convince them, it is our job to be the Face of God in all we do
Jesus remained truthful, faithful not only to himself, but to the Father.  Jesus said we can do everything he did and more.  Are we ready for that challenge? 
rev. Michael Theogene

Thursday of the Fifth Week of Lent (April 6, 2017)

Inclusive Text- Readings- Genesis 17: 3-9 / Psalm 105: 4-9 / John 8: 51-59
Sisters and brothers, do we know God? Do we know Jesus? Do we know ourselves? How well do we know ourselves? Friends, I believe that as we journey in this life trying to know ourselves, in some small part we can learn about ourselves through our interactions with others. Whether good or bad, people are placed in our paths for one reason or another. Sometimes we learn from them and at other times they learn from us. Why were they there in the first place? Not a coincidence, a God incidence.
If we have found it hard at times to be free from persons in our present or past lives, I think we need to ask ourselves, who is it that is placed in our life that we must learn from? Who is it that I have allowed to help me shine or whom have I allowed to smother the light within me. What must we learn?
The people placed in our paths will always remind us of the positive or negative lessons in our lives. The question is my friends, what is it that we can carry further along with us on the journey and what is it that we are afraid to take and what must we leave behind?  
rev. Michael Theogene

Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Lent (April 5, 2017)

Inclusive Text- Readings- Daniel 3: 14-20, 91-92, 95 / Psalm: Daniel 3: 52-56 / John 8: 31-42

Friends, as I mentioned yesterday, remember at one time or another when you may not have felt welcomed. I am sure it has happened to us at one time or another. At the risk of sounding prideful, I have always felt that I can get along with anyone. However, there have been times when I was not welcomed, perhaps because of my friendliness. No matter what I thought of my actions in those moments, it was important not to take it personal and be aware of my lack of sensitivity to others needs in those situations, not my feeling of being unwelcome.

It reminds me of when two people are dating and it seems good and one party decided to break up the relationship, and states, ‘it’s not you, you are great, it’s me.’ Right away we blame ourselves for the breakup but in reality we are being called to live up to the real love of God in our lives and not blame ourselves or others and accept change.

rev. Michael Theogene

Peace and Service- What Do You Choose?

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year c, 9-11-16 Exodus32:7-14, Ps 51, 1Tim 1:12-17, Luke 15: 1-10

I had my desk piled high with books & commentaries about the Book of Exodus, looking for ideas for today. Then I read today’s opening prayer.  Let me read it again: “Let us pray for the peace which is born of faith and hope.  Father in heaven, you alone are the source of our peace.  Bring us to the dignity which distinguishes the poor in spirit and show us how great is the call to serve, that we may share in the peace of Christ who offered his life in the service of all.”

 

Well, this week Mother Theresa of Kolkata was canonized as a Saint, and today we have a Day of Remembrance for the attack on September 11th.  How much more clearly could the Holy Spirit have urged me to talk today about peace and service?

 

Moses was God’s servant bringing the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt.  The people all had been born in slavery, as had their parents.  It was the only life they had ever experienced.  Freedom was new, and difficult.  They were accustomed to being dependent, to having decisions made for them.  They escaped from Egypt only 3 months before, and now Moses had been up on Mount Sinai for 6 weeks with God; they were afraid he wouldn’t return.  They fell back on their experiences from Egypt; they made and worshiped a golden cow, and their behavior became wild & uncontrolled.  Worshiping something they made did not bring them peace.

 

The people still thought of God as being made in their image, like an idol. So God is described as having a human fit of rage.  They expect God will destroy them, just as their Egyptian masters would have done.  But in the next chapter, Moses presents the 10 commandments to the people, and they promise to do their part of the covenant with God.  This is actually the high point of the Old Testament story.  The people commit to worshiping only God and God commits to protecting and loving the people.  Their worship space is filled with the Ark of the Covenant and they work together the make the space ornate and beautiful.  The Glory of God fills the meeting tent & peace returns to the people.

 

So, I think we can say this: that service is to bring the word of God to one other.  And peace comes from God’s word and from trust and obedience to God’s word.

 

Our Psalm is the confession of King David after he broke God’s law and took Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah. David was God’s servant, making the nation of Israel a strong and great nation, leading the people into a time of peace, ensuring the people were faithful to their covenant with God.  But there would be no peace for David until he confessed his sin.

 

Likewise, our 2nd reading is a confession by St. Paul about murdering Christians prior to his conversion to Christianity.  Paul had been a Pharisee, proud & arrogant.  He had actively and violently worked to stop the followers of Jesus after the resurrection.  But then Jesus appeared to Paul, and asked, “Why do you persecute me?”  So Paul became a servant of God, taking the Word of the Risen Christ into the world.  He helped form the faith as we know it.  His peace came from not from hatred and violence; instead he found peace even as he became the subject of violence and hatred.  He was beaten and jailed, all in service of the God he praised and worshiped.

 

Finally, in our Gospel, Jesus, the ultimate servant of God, tells us two parables of not only peace, but heavenly joy. The Pharisees, like the Israelites led by Moses, wanted God to be in their image.  They were angry and disgusted that Jesus didn’t put people in their place – mainly the people who didn’t make a great pretense of being holy, people who didn’t or couldn’t afford to follow all the complex rules the Pharisees helped create to set themselves above other people.  So Jesus says, “What if a woman looses a tenth of all her money?  Won’t she tear the house apart, frantically looking for it, not stopping until she finds it? And won’t her happiness in finding it be known to everyone?  The angels in heaven, Jesus says, are the same way over just a single person who repents of their sin.”  Like the woman who found her coin, the repentant one will find peace and joy in finding forgiveness.

 

The shepherd likewise finds his lost sheep, and rejoices, telling all his neighbors and friends. He finds relief and peace, just as there is joy in heaven over a single sinner who comes to repent and find forgiveness.  I always have thought this has a touch of sarcasm from Jesus.  Did Jesus suggest that the Pharisees see themselves as the 99 righteous people, when really their pride and their prejudice creates a barrier to the so-called sinners finding peace?  But still I hear of churches refusing sacraments to people.

 

My neighbor has a bumper sticker that reads, “We need a Department of Peace.” Peace, like charity, begins at home. Peace, like service, is a choice.  I don’t plan to move to India to pick up the dying off the streets there.  I have found enough abused and forgotten people dying in sub-standard nursing homes right here at home.  There are enough hungry children at our local Elementary school and enough refugees and immigrants in the housing development within walking distance of this church; there are enough social agencies, church charities and social justice groups crying for volunteers and donations to keep us all busy all day every day.

 

Every death, every injury, every mourner from 9-11 deserves our prayerful remembrance today. As does every one of the hundreds of thousands of innocent children and adults who still now continue to die from hunger and acts of war and hatred.  We know the one source of peace, and we know a life of service to be the Christian life.  I suggest to you, as well as to myself, to make our act of remembrance in the coming days by finding new ways to be of service, and new openings to bring peace in our own families, our own neighborhoods.  Surely the Holy Spirit whispers in your ears chances to do this service, so let us encourage each other to do it.

The Way We Experience God

Posted in christian, Faith, homily, inspirational, religion, scripture, Spirit, Word by Rev. Martha on May 19, 2016

Holy Trinity, 5-22-16, John 17:12-15, Romans 5: 1-5, Ps 8: 4-9, Proverbs 8: 22-31

 

This celebration of The Holy Trinity has never been something I really looked forward to, mostly because I have never heard an explanation for the doctrine of The Holy Trinity that really satisfied me. It has always been a mystery for me.  It has been like wandering in a big dark cave with a little flashlight.

 

These days, the bookshelves are increasing filled with books which not only don’t explain the doctrine, but instead point out the difficulties or fallacies the author finds in it. They find some example of how The Holy Trinity seems to be self contradictory, or seems to have gaps in understanding.  I come away thinking either it’s just too deep for my brain, or else it is an elaborate excuse for not understanding God at all.  Then, people ask me to explain it.  So I avoid the question by preaching on the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.  At least with that, I’m on really solid ground!

 

But this past week I read something that made sense, so I want to share it with you. John Foley, a Jesuit, wrote this: “…the Triune God is not some kind of brainy speculation by scholars. It is simply the way we experience God in the world.  Christian living is the Trinity in action.”

 

I work with a young mother whose parenting style I really admire. She and her husband just came back from a week in Disneyland with their 5 year old daughter.   She has high expectations of this little girl, and teaches her very traditional values of respect and obedience.  But she deeply loves the child and is very attentive to her; she is lavish in her praise and rewards for good behavior.  This mother enormously enjoyed the week in Disneyland because she saw it through her child’s eyes.  She was not concerned with how Disney designed or constructed the place, or with the reality of the Disney stories or characters.  Instead her eyes were open to the charm of the buildings, her daughter’s delight in meeting the characters, the details of the presentation, and the wonder of it all.

 

From that perspective, I ask you, what is wrong with finding a way to express how we experience God in our daily lives, without focusing on what we don’t yet understand about Divinity or without trying to put some rigid human imprint on God? In fact, isn’t it very right to take great delight in how God creates a myriad of ways for us to experience and rejoice in divine love, grace, mercy, and companionship?  Isn’t it exactly right to fill ourselves with the experiences of God as God comes to us, and then have that fullness to take into our needy world?

 

Someone once wrote that God is not like a blind date, someone we might wisely be a little guarded with. With God, there’s no need for precautions to safeguard ourselves.  We do not have to arrange a time and place to meet; we don’t have to struggle to make ourselves more attractive than we think we are.  We don’t have to find a dating service to test us and find someone “compatible”.  God is never darkness, always pure love, and finds us beautiful from the moment our first cells are created.  God is available 24/7/365, never on vacation, never holds a grudge and always forgives us.  We can argue with God, because God is always right and patient with us.  God will never stomp away, disgusted with us, wanting to leave us for someone else.  How do we know this?  By the way God self-reveals to us – in our experience and in the experiences written down in scripture.  We share the miracles we experience and our revelations of God with others, and we discover that God is forever finding the perfect way to reveal who the “Great I AM” is at any moment.

 

That is exactly what our scriptures tell us today. Proverbs presents Wisdom as a woman, with God from before the creation of the earth, who was God’s craftsman (participating in the act of creation).  Wisdom is God’s delight, and who delighted in being with God, and who found delight in the people that God made.  Meditate on that one!!   This is not your old stogy idea of Trinity, but draws an image of a God full to the brim of joy and creativity, of delight and companionship, who gives us the best and the most in our world.  If you read the rest of that chapter in Proverbs, you find the Wisdom of God calling to us.  She reaches out, ready and able to teach us, to give us understanding, and to fill us with her treasures.  That may not be what you’ve heard in some Trinity Sunday homilies, but I beg you – read it again and take in the deep, deep love and longing that God has for us.

 

The Psalm is a reflection on the works of God we see around us and how God self-reveals in our world. Who are we that God should be aware of us?  Yet God made us little less than gods, and allows us to rule over his creation.  We are not puppets or toys; we are “of” God.

 

John speaks of how God guides us and gives us direction and understanding. In today’s language, we will get the memos, we are in the loop, we get the word straight from the top.  There are no barriers between us and administration, we are valued, we are part of the family, and we will receive an inheritance.

 

In Romans, Paul says this in a more tradition way. He reminds us that God has chosen to free us from sin and guilt, that we are in peace, not contention, with God, and faith brings us grace and hope.  Like Paul, we can experience the love of God poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.  God proved this love through Christ’s death on the cross even while we were not yet willing to trust in God’s love.  Now, forever changed by this Love, we boast of God, whatever our circumstances, because the hope God gives never disappoints.

 

All of these writings reveal God in different ways, and your experience of God may be different still. But the love and goodness of God are consistent through all the ways God is revealed.  The more we open our eyes, the more we see of God in our world, despite the evil that God allows for the time being.  So if we experience the revelation of God in our world, the next logical question is, “Does the world see God revealed through us?” That, my friends is where the celebration of the Holy Trinity ultimately leads us.

Forget the Fish and the cucumbers

Posted in christian, Christianity, homily, inspirational, politics, religion, scripture, Spirit by Rev. Martha on September 26, 2015

26th Sunday Year B 9-27-15 Numbers 11: 25-29, Ps 19, James 5: 1-6, Mark 9: 38-48

Moses, as you know, was chosen by God to lead the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt, across the desert and into the Promised Land. But it was not a smooth trek through the desert. The Israelites walked in the desert approximately 3,000 years ago, but there were people just like us in a lot of ways – particularly that they complained a lot. Just before our 1st reading starts, they were complaining about food. “Oh, that we would have meat to eat,” they whined. “We remember the fish & cucumbers, the melons & the leeks, the onions & the garlic in Egypt. We are famished and have nothing but this manna.” God had sent them manna, the “food of the angels” everyday, always enough to fill them, but they seemed to be stuck in “nothing-is-ever-good-enough” mode. Entire families stood at the entrance of their tents and cried about the food.

Moses was overwhelmed. Desperate, he prayed to God, “”Why do you treat me so badly? Are you so angry with me that I must be burdened with all these people? They are like babies crying, that I must carry them around! But I cannot carry them; they are too heavy for me. If this is the way you will deal with me, please kill me now so I won’t have to listed to this whining.” So God replied, “Assemble 70 trusted elders, and I will take some of the spirit of leadership from you and give it to them, that they may share the burden.” So it happened. But one little thing went wrong.

Two of the elders somehow missed the memo & had remained in the camp and did not come to the meeting tent along with the others. Despite not being with the rest of the elders, they still received the spirit. They were prophesying in the camp, just as the others had prophesied at the meeting tent. Prophesying was an outward, physical sign of the granting of the spirit. So, Joshua came running to Moses to tell him what was happening and urging Moses to stop them.

This should sound a lot like the passage from Mark. “Jesus, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him.” Jesus replied, “Don’t stop him. No one can do good deeds in my name and malign me at the same time. Even if he only gives someone a cup of water because of me, he will be rewarded.” But Jesus doesn’t leave it there. “If you stop anyone (the term “little one” is not limited to children) from doing good in my name, if you divert their good intentions into sin, then you deserve capital punishment, death by drowning.” This is not said to support capital punishment, but to emphasize the critical importance of small kindnesses, generosity & good works. It’s that serious. If that wasn’t enough, Jesus keeps going.

If something as valuable as your foot or your hand or your eye causes you to sin, or someone else to sin, then rid yourself of that part. Otherwise, your entire body will be thrown into Gehenna. Gehenna had been an ancient site of human sacrifice. In Jesus day, it was a scary burning garbage dump in a valley near Jerusalem. You, yourself, become like trash when you trash someone else’s good deeds. Our actions toward others carry heavy consequences indeed.   Our thoughtless exclusions and self-centeredness can have huge repercussions.

There are many applications of these readings, but I have one particular favorite. This may be the best reason I have ever heard for the ordination of women. “Would that all the people of the Lord were prophets” (or deacons or priests).   Would that the Lord bestow His spirit on them all. If only each one was free to act on the call of God, male or female, gay or straight, rich or poor, strong or handicapped. CACINA has taken great steps toward this, but we need to frequently remind ourselves to keep the way open & God’s sacraments available, to remain inclusive & ready to take the responsibility for acting out the Word of God. 

When my son and his wife went to prepare for their first child’s baptism, all they got was castor-oil-style dogma served cold with a frown. It was the last time they entered a church. I thought church history would be really interesting, until I began to read of all the greedy, violent, nasty, underhanded, evil things done in the name of Christianity. No wonder Moses was so exasperated and Jesus was so very harsh in his correction. 

Another action, equally serious & harmful, is addressed by James, and that is to hoard wealth and goods far in excess of need, particularly at the expense of the poor. I thought of this as I listened to Pope Francis’ speech to Congress. He said, “Business is a noble vocation…producing wealth & improving the world. It can be a fruitful source of prosperity…especially if it sees the creation of jobs as an essential part of its service to the common good.” That is the good side of wealth. However, if we have so many clothes that some are never worn, so much food it rots, so much jewelry that it rusts, use so much energy we deplete the earth & have so much in the storage unit we forget what’s in there, then if we are able but fail to pay our legitimate debts and neglect charity, well, that’s another story. But just when I feel righteous, I compare my wealth and lifestyle to most of the world & I realize how very wealthy I am. The image of Francis’ Fiat among the fuel-guzzling, emissions-spewing SUVs remains in my head. St. James, you warn me how easy it is to guard my own inflated image without considering the consequences to others. 

And that is just the right time to read our Psalm. The decree of the Lord is trustworthy, giving wisdom to the simple; the laws of the Lord are true. Yet, in our blindness, who can their detect their own failings? Restrain me from sin, let it not rule over me. Amen

Reflection on the Feast of the Assumption of Mary for Saturday, August 15, 2015 (Cycle B)

Inclusive Lectionary Texts

Readings- Revelation – Chapter 11 verses 19 – Chapter 12 verses 1-6, 10 / Psalm 45 /
1 Corinthians – Chapter 15 verses 20-26 / Luke – Chapter 1 verses 39-56

Sisters and Brothers, in my opinion, you know that we will all evidently die. We probably won’t be assumed into heaven both body and soul as Mary was assumed to be. Unlike Mary, we will face death. However, when we come to the end of our physical existence, we know that our concept of death whatever it may be will disappear and that we truly will be transformed into something new. Mary was transformed by something new as she stood at the foot of the cross in deep pain witnessing the death of her son. Yet Jesus tells her that John who was standing next to her is now her son. What did he mean? I believe Jesus was telling her and the world that new life was a daily encounter. In the middle of pain and suffering we are prompted by the Spirit to see resurrection. How many times do we miss the opportunity to be renewed in God’s love each day? How many resurrections have we let die? How do we change our mind set? I know one way to change is to replace an old habit with a new one. Let us replace our concept of pain and suffering with the thought that pain and suffering lead to resurrection. Not an easy job but well worth practicing.

rev. Michael Theogene

White, Rye, or Pumpernickel ?

Posted in christian, Christianity, Eucharist, homily, inspirational, religion, Resurrection, saints, scripture, Spirit, Word by Rev. Martha on July 30, 2015

18th Sunday Ordinary Time 8-2-15, Exodus 16: 2-15, Ps 78¸ Ephesians 4: 17-24, John 6: 24-35

Let’s start today by diving right into our second reading.  Behind Paul’s scholarly-sounding language is a deep understanding of real life.  Paul walked thousands of miles, and probably taught the Gospel to more people than anyone else in the ancient world.  He preached in streets, in homes, in cities, in synagogues – anywhere that you could image.  From this came real knowledge of what needs to happen to make faith functional in our lives. 

Paul says we can “no longer live… in the futility of our minds.” He’s saying that we like to cling to what we’ve decided to think, and work very hard to make everything around us match up with what we have decided to be truth. We say, “Don’t confuse me with the facts”. There’s a lot of that in today’s Gospel as the people say to Jesus, “What miracle can you do, that we may see and believe in you?”  They wanted “Jesus’ Drive-thru Quick Bread & Fish”, with no cashier.  “Get a side order of salvation.” They wanted “Easy Street” to be reality. 

But St. Paul says, “That’s not how you learned Christ…you were taught that you should put away the old self, corrupted through deceitful desires.”   We decide we Need more stuff, God doesn’t do enough for us. Paul knows that we lie to ourselves and need to change!  What is the remedy?  “Be renewed in the spirit of your minds and put on the new self,” Paul writes. 

Paul writes from experience.  He was working to wipe out Christianity when Jesus came to him; he was directly responsible for the stoning deaths of Christians.  He was “breathing murderous threats” when Jesus appeared to him.  He was convinced he was right – and righteous. But, if you recall Paul’s encounter with the risen Christ on the road to Damascus, you know that meeting with real “righteousness, holiness, and truth ” stunned Paul into changing his life, putting on a “new self”, and as a result he truly changed the world.  Remember, Jesus loves us, despite anything we’ve done.

With that background, we come to the Gospel.  Jesus has to tell the crowd, “You were looking for me not because you saw miracles, but because you ate the loaves and were filled.  Don’t work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which I WILL GIVE you.” 

“Ok”, the people say, “What do we have to do?”  But they had only listened up to the part about the food; that was their “reality”.  What Paul called “the futility of their minds” had trapped them.  Jesus was talking about eternity; they were thinking about lunch. 

It’s easy to understand why the people reacted like they did.  Theirs was a culture of constant near starvation.  A full day’s work paid for nothing but a day’s food.   Hunger was very real to them, and I get why their minds were on manna – free food that appeared each day, bread from heaven.  “Sir”, they say, “Give us this bread always.”  I can imagine their confusion when Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”

So here is the centerpiece of the entire passage. “I am the bread of life.” Jesus knows full well about hunger and thirst. God created us to be more than animals who stand in the field, eating grass. Life is more than white, rye or pumpernickel. Life is love, community, family, worship, eternity. Drive-thrus sell food, not give life. Jesus sustains the soul in a way that far exceeds bread filling the stomach. “I am the way, the truth and the life” is not a statement about which religion is the best, but an open door to life beyond our imagining. Jesus is the bread of love, community, family, the very substance of the spirit of God, the essence of life.

 The early church understood.  James 2:15-17 “ If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.”  On page 12, at the bottom, in the Saturday Baltimore Sun, is this one-paragraph article: “The World Food Program announced new cuts…in food aid for Syrian refugees in Jordan…” There are 629,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan, and their monthly food allotment is as low as $7.00.  More than half of these are children. There is no money after August for over 3 million children.   The early church may have understood Jesus, but today’s world – not so much.

Jesus tells the people, “This is the work of God:  that you believe in the one he sent.”  He is teaching priority #1.  First, we believe and love God.  If we do that, then loving each other is a given.  It is a part of loving God.  It is belief itself; the two cannot be separated.  Loving God is believing that God is the source of life.  God brings life to not only our body, but also our soul. This is not different from loving each other and caring for each other, body and soul, stomach and spirit.  Our love of God is based on a risen Christ, and Christ’s love for us was God’s love.  This is all one idea, one belief, one faith.  If the love is real, then the bread comes with it.  

Lord, renew the spirit of our minds, and help us to live in your truth.

 

Homily March 31. 2013 Easter Sunday Resurrection of the Lord John 20: 1-9

Posted in christian, Christianity, church events, ecclesiology, inspirational, religion by Fr Joe R on March 27, 2013

As we look at the resurrection from our time and perspective, we find it based on the faith and love we have. No where is there an actual account of the event as there were no witnesses to it. In fact, what we get is the presentation of an empty tomb. First Mary and then Peter and “the beloved disciple”. This account draws on the love Jesus had for them and the faith developed over their time with him.. Still, we are told the Beloved disciple sees and believes.

Both men experienced and saw the empty tomb and it was from there that their faith in the resurrection developed. Jesus’ resurrection was like his birth, a moment in time that was special, yet as a product of God’s love, disseminated only in a way that fit his inscrutable plan. Neither event was a big flash of news, what we would call the big Internet moment. It was an event capturing the hearts in his love of his faithful followers. His subsequent appearances all came after the empty tomb encounter. He talked with them was touched and ate. Yes he was real.

What it means is that God has worked his plan. All of us have the ability to raise ourselves up by the love of God and our faith in him. If we have given ourselves to die with him, we too will rise and share life with him. He has made it possible to reverse the effects of sin and evil. Now we can say no to them and remain faithful.

But once again, we know this only from the The love of God and the faith we have in him. Like the Beloved Disciple, we believe because of this and the profound experience of the empty tomb and the passing on of it from then to now. Christ is truly risen and present in our life and the church even today. Surely there is a constant to that love and belief, even with all the human faults and failures of the centuries since, Christ’s presence and love continues to be here in the world and among us here and now. Faith calls us to respond and listen, to see and believe, to hear and to act. Yes, Christ is Risen!

Homily November 4, 2012 Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted in christian, Christianity, ethics, religion, scripture by Fr Joe R on October 30, 2012

In today’s gospel, Jesus summed up a whole history of faith and salvation in two commandments. Legalism and ritual which are okay, but really a means to an end, are put to the side as Jesus tells the scribe the two commandments that are above all the others and upon which the others are based. Finding and carrying out these commandments starts with ourselves. Love is something that starts from our own inner experience and develops as we grow as an individual. We find it in our family and with and through them it grows and ultimately leads us to a love of God. In finding and experiencing God’s love we come to know that loving and sacrificing our self in love is the way of faith and finding God. The pursuit of the world with its vanities and values and excuses and self centeredness, and its concepts of reward and punishment, all confound and hide what is the true value of God’s love. God loves all of us personally. No matter what we do, that love remains perfect. It is what WE do to respond and return that love that determines our relationship with God. He always responds to us, but how do we respond to him? How do we respond to our neighbor? Are we petty, arrogant, harassing, prejudiced, judgmental, unforgiving, or unloving in a hundred other ways? Are these ways of developing and growing in love of finding God who is love itself? Love is a living growing active thing. Certainly the love a young just married couple changes as the years go on. It deepens and unites them all the more. So it is with our Love of God and how we stand with Him.

But let us not be misled. The demands of love are much more demanding than simple legalism or ritual with all their detailed instructions. It means we must be present and give ourself far beyond a very minimal pat answer. Great truths, great laws, great principles are that only if we see them in light of God’s love and the requirements of that love. Seeing our neighbor as ourself, means no one is better or less than we are, we are called to respond in love to those we meet. We share God’s love and bring it to others each time we do that. Just being a joyful, happy person helps doing that.

So, to sum up, Love is not easy, because it requires much work. At the same time it is joyful because it is self-fulfilling and God gives us His love to do it. But then what is ever easy if it is good?

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on July 18, 2011

Gospel reading of the day:

Matthew 12:38-42

Some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Jesus, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” He said to them in reply, “An evil and unfaithful generation seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it except the sign of Jonah the prophet.

Just as Jonah was in the belly of the whale three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights. At the judgment, the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and there is something greater than Jonah here. At the judgment the queen of the south will arise with this generation and condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and there is something greater than Solomon here.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: The scribes and pharisees come to Jesus to ask him for a sign. Of course, Jesus has been giving signs since the start of his ministry, and the people who followed him understood something new and amazing was here. When they asked him to heal them, they approached him with faith, not asking for a proof but an intervention. These scribes and pharisees approach him in doubt, demanding evidence and not pleading for transformation. Jesus, in reply, says that they will receive no sign but the sign of Jonah, Jonah who spent three days in the belly of a whale. Jesus uses Jonah’s experience as an allegory of his own burial in the tomb and his resurrection on the third day. In other words, the sign that these pharisees and scribes will receive is Jesus’ resurrection. And this is the sign that comes down to us and founds our faith, for blessed are we who have not seen but still believe.

Saint of the day: Camillus de Lellis was born at Bucchianico (now in Abruzzo, then part of the Kingdom of Naples). His mother died while he was still a child and his father was an officer in both the Neapolitan and French royal armies. As a consequence Camillus grew up neglected. Camillus joined the Venetian army while still only a youth. After his regiment was disbanded in 1574 Camillus worked in a hospital for incurables; however, his aggressive nature and excessive gambling led to his dismissal. He later rejoined the Venetian army and fought in a war against the Turks. After the war he returned to the hospital in Rome from which he had been dismissed; he became a nurse and later director of the hospital.

Camillus established the Order of Clerks Regular Ministers to the Sick, better known as Camillians. His experience in wars led him to establish a group of health care workers who would assist soldiers on the battlefield. The red cross on their cassock remains a symbol of the order today. Members also devoted themselves to the plague-stricken. Camillus was so distressed at how hopeless plague cases were treated during his time that he formed the “Brothers of the Happy Death,” for plague victims. It was for the efforts of the Brothers and his alleged supernatural healings that the people of Rome credited Camillus with ridding the city of a certain plague and, for a time, Camillus became known as the “Patron Saint of Rome”.

In 1594 Camillus also led his friars to Milan where they attended to the sick of the Ca’ Granda, the main hospital of the city. A memorial tablet in the main courtyard of the Ca’ Granda commemorates his presence there.

Throughout his life Camillus’ ailments caused him suffering, but he allowed no one to wait on him and would crawl to visit the sick when unable to stand and walk. It is said that Camillus possessed the gifts of healing and prophecy. He died in Rome in 1614 and was canonized in 1746.

Popularly, Camillus is the patron saint of nurses, and against gambling. His mortal remains are located in the altar in the Church of Mary Magdalene, Rome, Italy, along with several of his relics. Also on display is the cross which allegedly spoke to Camillus, and asked him, “Why are you afraid? Do you not realize that this is not your work but mine?” which has become the motto associated with St. Camillus, as well as healthcare workers who were inspired by him.

Spiritual reading: Think well. Speak well. Do well. These three things, through the mercy of God, will make a person go to Heaven. (Camillus de Lellis)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on April 20, 2009

Gospel reading of the day:

John 3:1-8

There was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. He came to Jesus at night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God, for no one can do these signs that you are doing unless God is with him.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless one is born from above, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.”

Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man once grown old be born again? Surely he cannot reenter his mother’s womb and be born again, can he?” Jesus answered, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless one is born of water and Spirit he cannot enter the Kingdom of God. What is born of flesh is flesh and what is born of spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I told you, ‘You must be born from above.’ The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: The readings from the gospels in the season of Easter will let us move generally in order through the gospel of John, from this passage close to the gospel’s start through later chapters of the gospel. In this passage we have today, a member of the Sanhedrin, Nicodemus, impressed by the signs that Jesus works, comes to Jesus to learn more about his teaching. Jesus explains that God’s spiritual gifts come at the initiative of the Spirit, who moves, like the wind blows, where the Spirit wills. (The word for wind in Hebrew is exactly the same word used for spirit.) We cannot anticipate the movements of the Spirit, just as we cannot anticipate the movements of the wind, so we should ever endeavor to maintain an openness to the Spirit’s spontaneity in all the areas of our lives.

Saint of the day: John Payne was born in England and converted to Catholicism. He studied at Douai, France in 1574 and was ordained a priest on April 7, 1576. He returned to Ingatestone, Essex, England, ministering to covert Catholics and bringing many back to the Church. He worked with Saint Cuthbert Mayne and was arrested for his work in 1577. As a result, he was exiled to Douai in 1579. He returned to England in 1581 to resume his work. Betrayed by John Eliot, a known murderer who made a career of denouncing Catholics and priests for bounty, he was arrested in Warwickshire, tortured several times, accused of plotting to kill the queen based solely on Eliot’s testimony, and executed. He is one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales. He was hanged, drawn, and quartered on April 2, 1582 at Chelmsford, England.

Spiritual reading: Finally, about being united with God’s will: I don’t mean that you should specially formulate this in words frequently but rather just develop a habitual awareness and conviction that you are completely in His hands and His love is taking care of you in everything, that you need have no special worries about anything, past present or future, as long as you are sincerely trying to do what He seems to ask of you.

And of course by that I mean simply what is called for by the obvious needs of the moment, duties of state, people you meet, events to cope with, sicknesses, mistakes, and so on. “When hungry eat, when tired sleep.” (The Hidden Ground of Love by Thomas Merton)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in Uncategorized by Mike on April 18, 2009

Gospel reading of the day:

Mark 16:9-15

When Jesus had risen, early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons. She went and told his companions who were mourning and weeping. When they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe.

After this he appeared in another form to two of them walking along on their way to the country. They returned and told the others; but they did not believe them either.

But later, as the Eleven were at table, he appeared to them and rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart because they had not believed those who saw him after he had been raised. He said to them, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: Many commentators believe the gospel we read today likely came from the hand of someone other than the person who wrote the gospel of Mark. This passage synopsizes resurrection accounts found in the gospels of Luke and John. The dominant theme in the narrative is doubt, but the Lord ultimately overcomes this doubt through his appearances. One of the dilemmas of the human condition is to believe in a moment of joy that we always will feel joy and believe in a moment of despair that we always will feel despair. For this reason, we should develop minds that remember that all things are passing, and when doubt overcomes us, we can trust that Jesus, who loves us, will not leave us alone, but that, sometimes quickly and sometimes slowly, he will give us again a calm assurance in his continuing presence.

Saint of the day: Pedro de San Jose Betancur was born on May 16, 1619 in the Canary Islands as a poor shepherd. He devoted his time with the flocks to prayer. At age 31, he journeyed to Guatemala City in hopes of a job away from the sheep. Befriended by the Jesuits and Franciscans of the area, he enrolled in the Jesuit College of San Borgia in hopes of becoming a priest. However, with little background education he was unable to master the material and withdrew. He then took private vows, and became a Franciscan tertiary, taking the name Peter of Saint Joseph.

Three years later he opened Our Lady of Bethlehem, a hospital for the convalescent poor. Soon after there was a shelter for the homeless, schools for the poor, and an oratory. Not to neglect the rich of Guatemala City, Pedro walked through their part of town, ringing a bell, begging support for the poor, and inviting the wealthy to repent. Other men were drawn to Pedro’s work, and they formed the foundation of the Bethlehemite Congregation or Hospitalers Bethlehemite.

Pedro built chapels and shrines in the poor sections of the city, and promoted the ministry of intercessory prayer among those who had nothing except their time. He is sometimes credited with originating the Christmas Eve posadas procession in which people representing Mary and Joseph seek a night’s lodging from their neighbors. The custom soon spread to Mexico and other Central American countries. Legend says that petitioners need only tap gently on Peter’s stone tomb in order to have their prayers fulfilled. Stone tablets scratched with thank-you notes are often left on the tomb afterwards. He died April 25, 1667 at Guatemala City, Guatemala.

Spiritual reading: From all such thoughtless people and their gossip, deliver me, Lord, for I do not want to fall into their hands nor do as they do.

Let my lips speak only what is true and honest and keep my tongue from all sly speech. What I am unwilling to tolerate in others I must, by all means, avoid doing myself. (The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on April 16, 2009

Gospel reading of the day:

Luke 24:35-48

The disciples of Jesus recounted what had taken place along the way, and how they had come to recognize him in the breaking of bread.

While they were still speaking about this, he stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” But they were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost. Then he said to them, “Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.” And as he said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed, he asked them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of baked fish; he took it and ate it in front of them.

He said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. And he said to them, “Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: The passage we have here continues the narrative we read yesterday. The disciples who encountered Jesus on the road to Emmaus have returned to Jerusalem to tell their companions what it is that they have seen and heard: how they walked and talked with Jesus and how he revealed himself to them in the breaking of the bread.

There are good and wonderful Christians who live the gospel in amazing ways who have concluded that the resurrection is some kind of ordinary symbol that reflects the awakening of Jesus’ spirit in the lives of his disciples, that the resurrection has nothing to do with the body of Jesus. For these good and faithful Christians, Jesus’ body on Easter Day apparently still lay amouldering in the grave while the apostles picked themselves up off the ground, dusted themselves off, and decided to get on with it.

This gospel passage is Luke’s unambiguous response to such thoughts. Not only is the resurrection not an ordinary symbol, Luke unequivocally assures us that neither is the resurrection the apparition of a ghost.

This narrative tells us several things about the nature of the resurrection. As the disciples from Emmaus are recounting their story, Jesus unexpectedly appears in the midst of the small assembly. Yes, this account tells us that Jesus is different than he was: there is something about his resurrected person that enables him to enter rooms without walking through a door, but unlike any ordinary symbol or the appearance of a ghost, the resurrected Jesus can present his physical wounds for exploration by human hands and, like any woman or man of flesh and blood, take food into his mouth to eat.

Luke in today’s gospel reading makes an unequivocal point: the resurrection is about the body; it is about the whole person. The spirits of the first disciples certainly are revived in the resurrection of Jesus, but this and the other resurrection narratives hasten to assure us that there is something more here: something that is physical but something that also is changed and new.

Saint of the day: Born in 1844 in Lourdes, France, Bernadette Soubirous was the oldest of six children in a very poor family headed by Francois and Louise Casterot. She was hired out as a servant from age 12 to 14 and served as a shepherdess. On February 11, 1858, around the time of her first Communion, she received a vision of the Virgin. She received 18 more visions in the next 5 months; in one vision, she was led to a spring of healing waters. She moved into a house with the sisters of Nevers at Lourdes where she lived, worked, and learned to read and write. The sisters cared for the sick and indigent, and Bernadette was both of these, sick and indigent. When Bernadette was age 22, the sisters admitted her into their order. Always sick and often mistreated by her superiors, she died on April 16, 1879 in Nevers, France. A prayer for Mary’s aid was on her lips as she slipped away.

Spiritual reading: Nothing is anything more to me; everything is nothing to me, but Jesus: neither things nor persons, neither ideas nor emotions, neither honor nor sufferings. Jesus is for me honor, delight, heart, and soul. (St. Bernadette of Lourdes)

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on March 16, 2009

Gospel reading of the day:

Luke 4:24-30

Jesus said to the people in the synagogue at Nazareth: “Amen, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own native place. Indeed, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah when the sky was closed for three and a half years and a severe famine spread over the entire land. It was to none of these that Elijah was sent, but only to a widow in Zarephath in the land of Sidon. Again, there were many lepers in Israel during the time of Elisha the prophet; yet not one of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” When the people in the synagogue heard this, they were all filled with fury. They rose up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong. But he passed through the midst of them and went away.

Reflection on the gospel reading: Jesus’ life is a challenge. It confronts us in our own presuppositions about our existence. When we listen honestly to the gospel, it should make us uncomfortable, because Jesus is neither meek nor mild. The Lord is stiff in his opinions and inflammatory in his language. No one in the gospels accuses this man of being a bore. In fact, over and over again in the gospels, just as we see in today’s reading, the ones who hear the Lord’s message not just challenge what he says but actually rise up to do him injury. If when we listen to the gospels, we do not feel uneasy, it is quite possible we’re not paying attention.

Saint of the day: Born about 296 at Edessa, Mesopotamia, Abraham Kidunaia was the son of a wealthy family. Forced into an arranged marriage at an early age, he fled during the wedding festivities. He walled himself up in a nearby building, leaving a small hole through which his family could send in food and water, and by which he could explain his desire for a religious life. His family relented, the marriage was called off, and he spent the next ten years in his cell.

After a decade of this life, the bishop of Edessa ordered him from his cell. Against Abraham’s wishes, the bishop ordained him, and sent him as a missionary priest to the intransigently pagan village of Beth-Kiduna. He built a church, smashed idols, suffered abuse and violence, set a good example, and succeeded in converting the entire village. After a year, he prayed that God would send the village a better pastor than he, and he returned to his cell. It is from his success in Kiduna that he became known as Kidunaia.

He left the cell only twice more. Once a niece, Saint Mary of Edessa, was living a wild and misspent life. Abraham disguised himself as a soldier, which he knew would get her attention, and went to her home. Over supper he convinced her of the error of her ways; she converted and changed her life, and he returned to his cell. His final trip out was his funeral, attended by a large, loving throng of mourners. His biography was written by his friend Saint Ephrem. He died about 366 of natural causes.

Spiritual reading: There can be no doubt, no compromise, in my decision to be completely faithful to God’s will and truth, and hence I must seek always and in everything to act for His will and in His truth, and thus to seek

with His grace to be ‘a saint.’ . . . The thing is to cling to God’s will and truth in their purity and try to be sincere and to act in all things out of genuine love, in so far as I can. (A Year with Thomas Merton)