Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving Day (2014-11-27)

Thanksgiving Day, 27 November 2014   “Cause / Effect”

Gospel: Luke 17:11-19

[__01]    On this Thanksgiving Day, we read the Gospel Book of Luke, Chapter 17,the episode of the 10 lepers. 

All ten of them cried out, all ten of them gained the attention of our Savior, all ten of them asked for healing. And, all ten of them experienced the effect of this healing, the visible effect of healing in their lives.

And, for this effect, for this improvement, would it not be safe to say that all ten were glad. All ten were, in some way, grateful for their restoration to health.

[__02]  The effect was readily seen; the cause which led to the effect was not as visible.

Only 1 in 10 investigated the cause. Only 1 of the 10 returned to find the cause in Jesus.

[__03]   And, isn’t it true for us that we can observe the EFFECTS more easily than the CAUSES of many things.

We can observe the effects of an earthquake, or of a tsunami.  However, to identify the cause, we would have to dig or submerge ourselves much deeper.

Right now, in our country, in Ferguson, in Missouri, and other places in the United States, we observe the effects of a particular incident, the effects of a shooting, the effects of an encounter of a young man with a police officer, the effects of the death of young black man who was shot by a white police officer. We are now observing the effects, the dangerous and violent side effects of the incident.

What is harder to address, to solve are the causes. For the cause is not only the single incident or the lack of an indictment in this particular case. There are protests because of other injustices.

It is easy to see the effects, hard to see, to address the cause.

[__04]    This does not mean that there is no cause, or that we should be indifferent to causes or to difficulties.

Sometimes, it just takes longer for us to understand them.

[__05]   In the Gospel reading, we observe that one of the ten is healed and returns to give thanks. 1 of the 10 returns to the cause, to the source of his healing.

However, it took him more time, took him away from his current direction, and led to this reverse-commute back to see Christ.

When we come before our Lord in prayer, we are coming not only for an effect, for a positive effect.

We are also coming for a cause.

We pray about and consider the causes so that we can know what and whom to believe in our lives.

[__06]      In school, don’t students search for these “clues” from their teachers. They search to know what and why – the cause – of a certain lesson, or formula…. Or piece of information.

They will ask…is this important.. will this be on the final exam.

Coaches prepare their players to work together, to create one “cause”, one unified force …

The UCLA basketball Coach John Wooden was asked once about whether he hoped his team would have good luck…good fortune in the game.

His response was that he, of course, wanted, good luck…but he did not want to rely on the randomness of lucky breaks …for a  positive effect, a positive outcome.

He simply wanted a good cause … good cause leads to good effects.

[__06.01]        Could we not say the same about our call to love others, to care for them … that we are seeking not simply a fortunate/beneficial outcome. … but we are seeking to contribute to the cause.

As Jesus himself says you shall know the tree by its fruit … a bad tree does not produce good fruit.

Today, as we reflect on good things, blessings, struggles we have endured, we might also give thanks for not only for good results…. But also for the causes, our good intentions of others.

While we do not always receive immediately what we pray for , it is important that we pray immediately… [pray constantly as St. Paul writes] so that we know what we might be receiving, so that we will know what God is giving, what is God causing….. by a particular event, sorrow, or joy in our lives.

[__06.02]      Coming to Mass, to prayer, we are not simply trying to improve our RESULTS, our EFFECTS.

Are we not also asking for God’s guidance about the causes to which we contribute … not only charitable causes with gifts of time or money…

But, also how do I allocate my patience, my cheerfulness, my gratitude.

Saying thank you today to our family, friends …whether nearby or remote, we are also returning to the cause, by a reverse commute.

[__06.03]       Coming to prayer, we also recall that sometimes we are in the highest tenth percentile, sometimes, we are in the lowest 90th percentile.

Sometimes, we are ahead of God’s curve, sometimes behind.

Nevertheless, we might also recall that the consideration of causes and effects invites us to consider  not what everybody else would do …nor what percentile they are in… but what would I do? What would you do? What can we do?

“Where the other nine?”, Jesus asks

This is a statement reserved to God…reserved to Christ in this episode.  It is not, we might observe, asked by the 1 person who returns.

The Good News was that he neither knew their location nor reduced his motivation.

Wherever the others are, or whatever effects that they may be caught up in, this need not slow us down on our journey to rediscover or Savior and our source of Thanksgiving.


Christ the King (2014-11-23)

Christ the King, 23 November 2014

[__01]   “When did we see you?”

This question about a recognition, an encounter, and an exact date and time is part of the Gospel parable on this Sunday of Christ the King.
“When did we see you?”

[__02]  This question about RECOGNITION – ENCOUNTER – DATE – TIME – may also come up in our every day meetings and reunions.

Recently, many of us at Lourdes were blessed to participate in the Solemn Mass and Celebration, to observe the 100th Anniversary of our parish.

  • “When did we see you?”
  • “When did I last see you?”
  • “When did we most recently – or last – see each other?”

These are typical questions at a reunion of old friends, of classmates, of family.

Sometimes, it is difficult to recall.

The reunion itself can feel overwhelming with a large crowd people and memories all in one room.

[__03]   Recently, I also attended a reunion of some high school classmates. I found we were not only reminiscing about about events from years ago. We were also trying to calculate – and conclude – when and if our paths had crossed since graduation, since that last summer vacation?

When did we see you?

[__04]    With one particular classmate, I had forgotten one important fact…although he did not seem to mind. I had forgotten completely that – for several years – we lived in the same town, went to the same church…and saw each other almost every week …for a few years in a row.

I actually needed him to remind me of this fact about the RECOGNITION, ENCOUNTER, the DATE, the TIME.

When did I last see you?  Wasn’t it thirty years ago …. Let’s go on to the next question.

[__05]   And, in the Gospel parable on this Sunday of the Solemnity of Jesus Christ the King, we are asked …

“when did we last see Christ our Lord?”

Through the parable, we are reminded of our own Catholic tradition and teaching that our Savior is visible, is recognized, is encountered, and is seen.

[__05.01]     At Mass/ Sunday Mass, in the Gospel and the Biblical readings.  We see Christ the King.

Before we would read the Gospel, we pray that the Lord be on our mind, on our lips and on our heart. We make the VISIBLE sign of the cross so that he will be visible to us.

We do so also so that our Savior will be visible (and audible) in our actions and words.

We pray that also that he will be perceptible – perceived – in our minds so that we may form the right intentions and recognize the right paths.

When did we see you?

[__05.02]     We also read in the Gospel about the recognition and encounter of Jesus n our prayer as a community, as a parish and church.

Jesus says to his disciples in the Gospel,

“Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20)

 In this regard, the Lord is particularly visible – noticeable – in Sunday Mass, in our prayer, our singing, our reception of Holy Communion.

  [__05.03]    When did we last see you?

These are not only questions for Saturday/Sunday Mass and the encounters scheduled at  5:30, 7:30, 9:30, 11:30.

This is also a question for our life, at home, at school, at work,  and among family and friends.

 [__06]   Consider that we – as families are called to help, sustain, fortify, encourage each other.

This does not necessarily mean every moment – every encounter – will be filled with laughter. There will be times of pain or anxiety.

There will be times, even, of alienation, separation, estrangement.

At these times, we are called to pray for each other, to gather as 2 or 3 in his name.

Lord, when did we last see you?  When did we last pray for a specific need of ours, a specific person.

Prayer is about our communion and reunion.

[__07]   Jesus tells us through this parable about service, humility.
And, that we can encounter him, recognize him, see him.

“As often as you do this for one of the least brothers and sisters of mine, you did it for me.”

So, in our own moments of prayer and recollections of these moments, these opportunities to serve..Jesus answers the question …

“when did we last see him?”   [__fin__]   

Account Balances (2014-11-16)

33rd Sunday, 16 November 2014

[__01]   In this parable, we read about three servants.  Each servant received a different deposit into his or her account.

The deposit amount is denominated not in dollars but in talents.

In the parable, our Savior was using the word ‘talent’ in an ancient context in which ‘talent’ was a unit of measure for gold or other precious metals.

Therefore,   more talent equals more gold = more money equals greater wealth.

Perhaps, those with more talents would also be also preferred customers at Chase, Bank of America, or Wells Fargo.

 [__02] Certainly, the differences in account balances indicated variation in the material advantage for all three servants.

Each one has a different amount. However, we might remember that we before they were invited into the office of Executive Master or Portfolio Manager, none of them had been a 
preferred customer, none of them had any money. They were all at a zero balance.

But, then, each receives some amount.

Then, we are told, each has the opportunity to trade with – to go out into the world, to the open market – with what they received.

This destination for you and me could be to…

·        Neighbors
·        Family
·        West Orange High School
·        College classroom
·        School cafeteria

We also go forward with gifts given to us by God, to spend ….

And, what they were trading or spending…and what we are trading or spending …is not our own money, our own currency, but the assets of our Lord and Master, the assets of his portfolio.

How do you feel …how do I feel about purchases – or investments -- made with money belonging to someone else?

[__03]  The Good News of this parable is that the Lord has placed gifts in our account, assets in our account. For our use.

Money – or asset value – was used in the parable to signify God’s gifts.  While these cannot be invested in stocks, bonds, and real estate, they can still be invested. They still have value. And, our balance increases when we meet with him, turn to him in prayer.

However, money in the bank may not necessarily help us … if, say, inflation were to skyrocket. Also, don’t we often have to spend money in order to make more money or protect ourselves against catastrophe.  We spend money to educate ourselves, to buy insurance… if we just left all these dollars in the bank, we might actually be impoverished.
So, having money is not enough… we are called to be wise as serpents in our asset allocations and purchases.  The Lord also calls us to be wise in using his gifts which are in our account.

 [__04]   The parable also invites to disclose and use our talents, so that they would grow.

The parable reminds us that the fruits – or gifts – of the Holy Spirit can grow in value… in particular by practicing them.

In fact, doesn’t St. Paul also suggest – in Galatians chapter 5 – that these gifts are a safer investment than actual money…. Money can be taken by taxation, by legal action, by the law…

But, St. Paul says that God himself – not a bank and not the government -- gives and protects these gifts …. “against [them] …there is no law” (cf. Galatians 5:22-23)
The gifts increase in value through their use and practice.
Here, I would like to touch on three of them – PATIENCE, KINDNESS, GOODNESS..

[__05]   [__05.01]  

PATIENCE.  Regarding the servants in the parable, we are told that they were faithful in small things.

And, isn’t this the invitation to you and me, to patient, trusting, forbearing in small matters, in everyday matters?
We are called to exercise patience on the phone and in person.  To “spend” some of our 
patience on every single person. We may need more some people than others.

To exercise patience in school – in the relationship between teacher and student, between teacher and colleagues… between an employee and his/her superior.

St. Paul invites the servant to be patient with the master…and vice versa.

Many of us would lament – and I would also lament – that we are not sufficiently patient.

This could be true, but consider the patience that you and I are capable of exercising when we anticipate a good result or a fortunate outcome. This patience tends to be deleted quickly when the outcome is unpleasant.

The Lord is asking us to trust him so that our patience – as an asset – might grow.  We exercise patience in small matters so that we would have patience in greater matters.

[__05.02]    KINDNESS.  Would it not be a joy to exchange courtesy, politeness, kindness?

That is, for every courtesy, I receive back an equal or greater amount in the transaction.

On the curve and time line of value, the portfolio value is either flat or rising. That’s a good deal.

It is, however, quite challenging to be kind and merciful under circumstances when our kindness is not reciprocated.

None of us wants to be rejected.

Nevertheless, the message of the parable is that the value of our kindness does not diminish because there is no “matching gift” by some other person or corporation.

God underwrites the gift. The risk is worth taking.

[__05.03]    GOODNESS
In the parable all three of the servants believe they are doing good, that they are practicing virtue and goodness.

That is we are called not only to be generous and charitable but also to do so without hoping to get something back.

We are called rather to give something back of ourselves to God.
We are spending his “talents” which he has poured into our hearts. We are spending his money which he has deposited into our account.

After all, it is better to give than to receive. We share the Master’s joy by giving these things away.    [__fin]

Lourdes 100th Solemn Jubilee Mass (2014-11-09)

 Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica
9 November 2014 – 11:30 am Mass
Our Lady of Lourdes Church, West Orange, NJ
100th Anniversary / Jubilee. 

[__01]   To Monsignor Emery, our Vicar for the archdiocese in Essex County, my brother priests, our religious Sisters of Charity from Convent Station and from our convent, our team leaders of this Jubilee Celebration, we have reached this milestone and faith, to celebrate in our own church, and in our own hearts, to join our prayers with each other here, and also with many friends who support Our Lady of Lourdes and join us spiritually in prayer, including both those living and deceased.

They are also inside with us here.

In this Gospel reading, the people of Jerusalem are moving from the outside to the inside of the Temple area, to worship, to offer their sacrifices.

Our Savior interrupts – to say the least – this journey to ask …to what inner room, to what destination were they going? To what destination are you and headed?

[__02]   The French spiritual writer Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange writes this about the spiritual life …that as soon as a person seeks truth and goodness, this intimate conversation [is also a] conversation with God. Little by little…., instead of tending more or less consciously to make oneself the center, [a person] tends to seek God in everything, and to substitute for egoism love of God and of souls in Him. This constitutes the interior life... The one thing necessary which Jesus spoke of to Martha and Mary consists in hearing the word of God and living by it."[1]

“Mary hath chosen the better part and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:42) She is, at that moment, closer to the inside.

[__03]  We are the insiders to this Centennial, this Jubilee.

We have information to protect, to guard, to share.

Everyone of us here is part of this endeavor to tell it on the mountain – and at the base of the mountain – both the Gospel Good News and our own traditions as a parish family.

[__04]  Our own intelligence – our inside information – reminds us that Lourdes was – and remains – a community called to welcome new people in our country and our community.

We ourselves are located geographically at a crossroads – the crossroads of [a]

  • PLACE – at Eagle Rock, Main, and Harrison where three roads converge and many people arrive at once.
  • TIME –  in which the movements – traffic – are simultaneously slowing down and accelerating. Sometimes, in our lives, things are both slowing down and accelerating.
  • FAITH / CONFIDENCE IN GOD –  Every day, we are at a crossroads of faith and trust in God’s strength and love.
[__05]   Even the insiders – our Savior’s inner circle of apostles and disciples – knew this crossing, this intersection, sometimes, with their own pain and anxiety.


Early in the life of Jesus – when he was about 12 years old – Joseph and Mary discover him missing from the family caravan departing Jerusalem. They return to search. But they lack the awareness to go to the Temple first. Jesus himself says, in effect,

“You are the insiders, you have inside information, dreams with angels, inspirations from the Holy Spirit …. And he said to them: How is it that you sought me? did you not know, that I must be about my father's business?

It can be difficult to follow and act on inside information.

[*** pause ***]

[__06.01]   In 2013 and 2014, we suffered the passing – the very sudden passing – of two of our beloved insiders and leaders and collaborators in the vineyard of Our Lady of Lourdes.

Deacon Ernest Abad served our parish faithfully in many ministries of prayer, Eucharistic Adoration, Bereavement, the liturgy and more. And, to Father Edson, to me, and also to Monsignor Joe Petrillo, Deacon Ernest was not only an insider to the operation of the parish, but also an insider to the needs of our community, to the needs of his co-workers at Essex County College.

Deacon Ernie was a faithful friend and trusted confidante to his family, to his wife Margo, to his sisters, Marilou and Marissa, to many.

He would speak often of listening to the Holy Spirit within each of us.

[__06.02]   Here at Lourdes, I have been blessed to serve with both Deacon Ernest and with our late pastor, Monsignor Joe Petrillo.

Joe had a lot of INSIDE INFORMATION, sometimes more than you wanted to know or were afraid to ask.

But, truly, as a priest, a brother, a friend to you, to our Sisters of Charity, to our Lourdes staff, Father Joe was a person with whom one could share inside information. 

I also learned from him the value of talking things out even if there was no clear resolution or immediate solution.

And, isn’t this disclosure of inside information what we are called to do in our families? We do it in moments of JOY and TROUBLE…

One   JOY, in a family, is to re-tell the exact same story, with the exact same details, over again, just because there is 1 more person to be informed and 99 righteous people fully versed in all the details.  We share inside information in the family, joyously, humorously.

Also, in times of TROUBLE, we disclose our pain and anxiety in the family, sometimes to ask for more inside information, more connections and guidance … but we also ask others to keep confidences (inside) that we can build each other up first for our missions and callings (outside).

[*** pause ***]

[__08] In the Gospel of this Sunday, our Savior is also at a busy intersection and crossroads in the Temple area.

Some of the folks on this sidewalk fear that he would destroy the building, destroy the edifice of the Temple.

But Jesus is not going to destroy the Temple building. He does not suggest that people should stop worshipping in the Temple. He was only asking – as he asks you and me – what are we doing with our inside spiritual knowledge – with our inside information about the Holy Spirit.

The money changers and merchants are criticized for their price structure and menu options. These would seem to suggest that salvation – or faith – is for sale on the street or online.

Jesus accepted that a faithful Jewish person would bring a sacrifice to the Temple. Yet, he was asking them to consider that their more important sacrifice is the sacrifice of their own lives, their own comfort for the other.

Remove your talent from the ground, your light from under the bushel basket.

This completes our offering to God from whom we have also received inside information about strength and love.

This Jubilee, we also give thanks to our Blessed Mother, for her intercession before God, for her yes to God’s call to allow the Son, the Word of God to dwell among us.

It is Good News to have this inside information.  Our Lady of Lourdes Pray for Us.  

[1] Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange. The Three Ages of the Interior Life. Introduction.

All Souls Day (2014-11-02)

[__01]  In the twenty-third psalm, we read that we are guided and protected from harm, from danger.[1]

In the twenty-third psalm, the Lord is our shepherd; and in the Gospel of John – chapter 10 – Jesus is called both the Good Shepherd and the Gate or Doorway for the sheep.

[__02]  When we read/pray, “The Lord is my shepherd” (Psalm 23:1), we profess not only his identity but also his destination and plan for our lives. He is our gate, our doorway:

“in verdant [green] pastures, he gives me repose, beside restful waters he leads me, he refreshes my soul.” (Psalm 23)
The Lord is our guide and guidance toward our destination.

Isn’t it true that such guidance is meaningful – and applicable – if we observe the connection between the

  • Guide and the guidance
  • Instruction and the instructor
  • Teaching and the teacher.

This Sunday, we observe the Commemoration of All Souls, a commemorative Mass to pray for all the deceased, our beloved departed.

Each of them has passed through the gate, through the doorway, to meet Jesus as the Good Shepherd.

[__03] All Souls Day reminds us to pray for our beloved deceased, to pray for the souls in Purgatory. They are also being led – by the Good Shepherd – to the verdant pastures of heaven, of eternal life.

Just as we pray that suffering would be alleviated for our friends and family among us here, we pray also pray for the eternal rest of those who have died.

All Souls Day is a reminder that we will pass from this life to the next life. And, this commemoration reminds us that Jesus is our shepherd and gate.

[__04]  In certain public ceremonies – and photo opportunities – there is much fanfare and celebration about welcoming, about the Official State Visit of diplomats and presidents to JFK or Dulles International Aiport.

In these cases, for example, the “shepherd” is the President or Secretary of State …and they walk through the verdant pastures or Rose Garden of the White House, while being videotaped and photographed.

We might wonder, however, if such “shepherding” and “guiding” is only superficial.

The Secretary of State, after all, is not going to drive anyone to a hotel… that’s the job of the Secret Service.

Thus, we might say that – at times – the “shepherd” or “guide” is greeted … but later ignored.

After all,  if 2 prime ministers or 2 presidents were to have a meeting at Camp  David or the White House, they would not necessarily listen to each other.   Each has his or her own interests, agendas….

[__05]  When Jesus meets us as the Good Shepherd, he wishes to become part of our lives, to share our interests, our concerns

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI writes that …

The Good Shepherd … tends [to you and me], looks after [us] as precious possessions, [would be] ready to defend [us]…. “Indeed, the shepherd has at heart the good of his flock, he adapts his own pace and needs to [us]… and [leads us] on paths “of righteousness.”

And, in particular, at the valley of death or the valley of darkness, we need his protection.

Isn’t it more dangerous to move about at night time – in the darkness.  When we are in the dark spiritually we also need the protection of a shepherd.  To know someone at the gate, at the door.

[__06]  Isn’t it helpful – to know the person at the gate or at the door if we want  to go somewhere?

Perhaps, many of us – in our lives – have observed the importance of a connection to the “manager” or the “administrator” …or Executive Assistant … if we want to make a reservation…or get some information …so that we do not stand at the gate – in the doorway – or on hold on the telephone for a a long time.

For example, such a person may tell us how to obtain what we want either … by

·         Showing up at a particular time of day

·         By asking our questions in a particular way.

Such a shepherd also communicates to us what the protocol is, what the rules are….

 In this regard, a competent guide – or shepherd – does not simply give us what we want on demand … but helps us to find out what is best for us.

Isn’t this also the role of our parents, teachers, coaches?

[__07] To know Jesus the Gatekeeper and Jesus the Good Shepherd, we are called to observe what he expects us of us …

Yes, he expects us – invites us – to follow his ways.  However, he is also the Good Shepherd who seeks out the lost sheep and brings this sheep – you or me – through the gate.

Yes, he also expects us to come to him in the light, in the lighted doorway and main entrance.  That is, there are no shortcuts to his kingdom, to his green pasture.

But, he is also the shepherd and Father who waits on the front porch – at the front door –for the return of the Prodigal Son at any hour of night or day.

On All Souls Day, we place our trust in the Good Shepherd for this life and the next ..that he will protect us in the many doors and passageways  through which we still  have to travel.

[__fin__]  [__Bibliography__]   Benedict XVI General Audience

[1] Reference: Benedict XVI General Audience on “Psalm 23” – 5 October 2011