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.

Homily at Holy Trinity Parish April 10, 2016 the 3rd Sunday of Easter

Homily from Holy Trinity Parish March 22, 2015 the 5th Sunday of Lent

Holy Trinity Parish Homily for November 9, 2014

Homily September 7, 2014 23rd Sunday of Ordinary

Posted in Called, christian, Christianity, church events, Eucharist, inspirational, religion, scripture, Spirit, Word by Fr Joe R on September 3, 2014

23 sun aPaul today, as well as the gospel, looks at the human side of the church. Paul speaks of the commandments and how all are summed up in the command to love your neighbor as yourself. True love does no evil to your neighbor, thus love is the fulfillment of the law. In a real sense then, the law is truly written on our heart, a real part of ourselves. It is not the insincere and trivial thing sometimes portrayed in our entertainment media but something real and dynamic and part of our very being. 23 sun cThis is the love we bring to the church and is in all our activities within the church. Each of us has been called and each has been baptised and belong to this body of Christ we call the church. What I want to address today is that each of us in our own way, in our own personality and in our own talents, serve the church using our talent. More than anywhere I’ve been I find in our church the enthusiasm and the willingness to come together and serve and be a part of our faith community in worshiping together and in reaching out and sharing the love of God we all have received. The word ministry doesn’t mean only for someone to minister, but for a sharing of time, and talent and treasure in the service of our church and to those in the community around us.

Today, as I think back on many years of priestly service, I realize that the beginnings of that call began from what I saw to be God working in real way. My experience growing up was of seeing faith and love being an activity, an action for and positive doing of good things for others. Many things have happened in the church in the years since, but more and more the love of 23 sun dGod has come to free up so many people to see that his love and spirit remain in the church and is as alive and active as it always has been. As in Jesus’ time the clouded or self-serving vision of men and the multiplication of insignificant things into roadblocks can actually hurt the work of the Spirit of God. That is why with an open heart I ask all today in a spirit of love and service to open your hearts and ask what I can do to further contribute to our faith community. In faith, nothing is impossible. God calls us to express our talents in numerous ways and surely at least examine whatever call you feel. We are here because we found all are welcome and Jesus and his Body and Blood are here to share and celebrate. God has been good to us let us share that good news.

Homily August 31, 2014 22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time

Posted in Called, christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture, Spirit, Word by Fr Joe R on August 27, 2014

22 sun aPaul reminds us today that we can not conform ourselves to this age or for that matter to any age. If we look back we can see how true this is. No past age has been perfect or come close to living out the will of God. Christ’s life was perfect in that he carried out the will of God, taking up the cross and giving up his life. He was a man of His time, yet he transcended it in many ways. His words, his message, his church was relevant then, is relevant today. His Word was a seed, a slow release time capsule meant to bring his love to all generations. His love is not a static thing nor is his church. It is a place where people have laid down their lives only to be raised up in giving it and their love to others. 22 sun cAs a human being grows and gains wisdom, love and understanding, so too our love of Christ and the church and all within it grow together. The built-in contradiction of our life in Christ is the we give it up and lose it to actually gain it. The challenge of each generation is different. God certainly hasn’t changed, but the place we live, the world has changed and is different. The challenges our parents met while similar in some ways were far from what we see today. Communication alone should make us aware that Christ’s message has as yet to have gone out to all the world. The weakness and ineptitude of men has at times weakened and slowed the flow of Christ’s message. But that message is within us, implanted and growing if we only nurture it by seeking it out in prayerful contemplation. We don’t need the confines of a monastery to find him,but just that moment, that time to speak, to listen, to learn. He is always there we need only be aware.

And so, here we are, his life continues, his church is here, the cross holds as his boldest symbol calling all brother and sisters following Christ. In following, in putting aside ourselves, we actually find the real self we always seek. Life is not meant to be simply power, profit, gain, but love for one another. The value of common sharing, interacting, giving is the way, the cross that Jesus speaks of at times. 22sun bThe contrary is Satan, the snake, the creature in the desert, it is Peter seeing through the eyes of his humanity only. Such temptation Jesus is quick to rebuke, for as a man he too feels the comfort of the easy way out. But who he is requires more than that. God’s ways are in no way like those of his creatures. We can only understand and know by discerning what is for us. Love for each other and prayer are necessary ingredients. God has put us where we are, who better to know us and judge us?

Homily from Holy Trinity Parish August 17, 2014

Posted in christian, Christianity, ecclesiology, inspirational, religion, scripture, Word by Fr Joe R on August 17, 2014

Homily Holy Trinity Parish Sunday July 27, 2014

Posted in Called, christian, Christianity, ecclesiology, ethics, inspirational, religion, Resurrection, Word by Fr Joe R on July 27, 2014

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on July 23, 2014

5473e7f897aab994b55fe11ebc82540f_w600Gospel reading:

Matthew 13:1-9

On that day, Jesus went out of the house and sat down by the sea. Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat down, and the whole crowd stood along the shore. And he spoke to them at length in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep, and when the sun rose it was scorched, and it withered for lack of roots. Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it. But some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold. Whoever has ears ought to hear.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: Two thousand years after Jesus’ death and resurrection, we know that the coming of the Kingdom of God is not without setbacks, and Jesus’ Parable of the Sower of the Seed assumes an air not just of parable but of prophecy as well. Jesus said the the Kingdom will not arrive in a smooth and orderly process. There will be fits and starts along the way. Epochs in history will seem like the gospel is being consumed wholesale, and in other times, it will sprout only to whither. But the ultimate trajectory of the Kingdom is secure. When all is said and done, the gospel will produce a rich harvest. We only need to do our part and wait for God to yield the rich harvest.

Saint of the day: The Servant of God Virginia Blanco Tardio was the second of four daughters of Louis Pius White Unzueta and Daria Late Quiroga. She was born in Cochabamba, Bolivia on April 18, 1916 and earned the Bachelor of Humanities at the College of the Handmaids of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. She had a general knowledge far superior to most of her contemporaries and had extensive biblical and theological knowledge. Blanco_VShe received the title of Professor of Religion School when I was 32. From the time when she was young, Virginia was an exemplary catechist teaching children, youth, and adults in Spanish and Quechua to receive the sacraments. She was beloved by her students to whom she taught religion in several public schools in Cochabamba for 40 years; she worked more than 10 of those years without receiving a salary. Virginia was a member of Catholic Action, and for many years, she served as the president of the Diocesan Women’s Association of Catholic Action. During the 1950s, she served the welfare of indigent people, even opening her house to support their needs. In 1962, she founded the Prayer and Friendship Group. She continued her service of the poor throughout her life, dying of a heart attack on the night of July 23, 1990 at age 74. The investigation of her virtues is drawing to a close, and there is a strong likelihood she will be named a venerable in the near future.

Spiritual reading: Finally I am coming to the conclusion that my highest ambition is to be what I already am. That I will never fulfill my obligation to surpass myself unless I first accept myself, and if I accept myself fully in the right way, I will already have surpassed myself. (Thomas Merton)

Homily July 27, 2014 17th Sunday of Ordinary Time

17 sun 1One thing ingrained in all of us is that we want the best that we can have for ourselves. We all work hard and do our best to achieve a comfortable life and the same for our family. The parables today liken the kingdom of heaven to a treasure or an expensive pearl that prompts us to sell all that we have and use that to get the treasure or pearl and a better life. It is not hard to imagine a person so dedicated to a thing or a cause that his life is centered on one thing or goal. We see it around us in our daily life, in some athletes and business people driven by the lure of wealth and advancement and power. But really implanted in all of us is a desire for a goal in life, to make a difference and means to carry it out. As we grow we realize that one choice pretty much shapes future choices. So it is in our spiritual life. The treasure of God’s love might seem ethereal or out there, but it is real and is a call, a goal to seek. Throughout history, we might be surprised and even marvel at the dedication that that love brought about in different individuals. To see people who have dedicated their whole life to serve God by giving of themselves to others is always an inspiring thing. Some can do this and still support and lead a family life, while other choose to serve in a religious life. The point is really the selflessness they show in how they go about getting the treasure or pearl they see.

It is interesting, that Christ never mentions or goes into the ethics of hiding the treasure and 17 sunbuying the land and the ownership of the treasure belonging to the finder or the land owner. His concern was the value of the treasure, the kingdom of heaven. Its magnitude and importance pushed aside other considerations and truly one seeking the treasure of the kingdom would not be one to selfishly keep the news of the kingdom for himself. All who are called learn to embrace others. Their wealth, their treasure, their love becomes present for all. Giving up everything and selling it all to get the treasure, is more than hitting the lottery, rather it is the beginning of a foundation for life. God’s love is a starting point and a compass on a journey that twists and turns and has peaks and valleys along the way. As long as our eye is on that treasure, God’s love will lead us there.