Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Good News of Discovery (2015-07-19)

SUNDAY 19 July 2015, 16th Sunday, Year B

•Jeremiah 23:1-6  • Psalm  23   •Ephesians 2:13-18  • Mark 6:30-34 

[__01__]  It’s good news to be found, to be discovered.

In the Hollywood entertainment industry, and the world of technology, we sometimes hear the old saying, “There is no such thing as BAD publicity.”
It’s good news to be found, to be discovered.

[__02__]   In the 2010 move about the invention and development of FACEBOOK – a movie titled The Social Network – we see the the young Harvard University freshman Mark Zuckerberg and a few classmates struggling – at least at first – to publicize their product, to be noticed, to be found.

Now of course, the infrastructure of technology, cameras, wireless signals, credit card readers, and cell phone towers makes it easier and easier for us to be found, and harder to be concealed …and, perhaps, just to go on vacation or to be away for the weekend …or take a “snow day”.

Remember when a “snow day” meant that we would be rather isolated, out of touch.

So … Is it good news to be found?

Sometimes, we would object, and respond in the negative. We would rather not be discovered.

[__03__]   Is there not also something good and virtuous and holy in this concealment, this disconnection?

Isn’t it the calling of parents and families to create boundaries, a healthy distance for children and young people?

Certainly, it is not easy, but is certainly worthwhile for families to find times where we can be disconnected, in a sense truly wireless and without a wireless network either.

[__04__]   And, isn’t this what our Lord and Savior is trying for, for a short while to create for his FAMILY, for his HOUSE of disciples.

They go away to a deserted place, to travel, to pray for a while. Apparently, they had only a little time to themselves, before the crowd of people would re-appear.

[__05__]   Thomas Merton writes that such a time away with God and a time of solitude enables us to discover how we can give ourselves to others.

And, isn’t it true that when we are in the midst of a physical crowd in the midst of great spiritual tension, we are not very inclined to give ourselves away.

Certainly, when I am in the congestion of the Parkway or Turnpide, the traffic conditions may wear you and me down. But we encounter traffic and busyness offroad as well.

[__06__]  Thus, Jesus invites us away to a deserted place.

But, in this deserted place, we can also come to know ourselves as part of the Body of Christ, and also as part of our own Church and community.

[__07__]  Isn’t this the objective and grace  of our sacraments and sacramental encounters with God – of Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Eucharist – to initiate us and make us faithful not only in solitude but also to give us the grace of initiation to go out and love and serve God and neighbor.

[__08__]  Isn’t this the objective and grace of the sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation ? For a while, we go in secret, to speak to God through the priest, privately and so that we we might be reconciled with him. Also, in private, we learn that God’s mercy is greater than any of our sins.

[__09__]     Isn’t this the objective and grace of the Sacrament of Matrimony to bring husband and wife together … so that they can form a new family, one that is a model of God’s permanence, God’s faithfuluness, and God’s openness to life at all stages

[__10__]     In all of these sacramental encounters, we discover our needs for quiet, prayer, meditation, not so that we can achieve anything material or even reach any particular geographic destination.

But, rather, simply, by God, that we might be found, that we might be discovered.


The Moves of the Gospel (2015-07-12)

12 July 2015, 15th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B

• Amos 7:12-15   • Psalm  85  • Ephesians 1:13-14  • Mark 6:7-13 •

[__01__]  Do you have the moves? Do I have the moves?
We use the term – and terminology – of the “move” to summarize and capture many demonstrations of –
·       Motor skill
·       Hand-eye coordination
·       Dexterity
·       Mental toughness
·       From CORNERKICKS to TOUCHDOWNS to ___non-sports example??__
Do we have the moves?
[__02__]  Whether a performer is part of the New York Ballet, the New York Jets, or Brooklyn Nets, he or she will strive to move not only physically but also mentally and spiritually.

It’s good to have moves.

[__03__]   This past Sunday, many of us observed the very successful moves of the U.S.A. women’s soccer team as they jumped out to a 4-0 lead – nearly insurmountable in soccer – and won 5-2 over Japan in the World Cup.

On the day, the U.S. had better passing, shooting, defending.

It’s good to have the necessary moves.

[__04__]   However, we also know that while a player with good moves can make a particular goal or assist appear easy, these moves usually require a long time to develop and learn.

Benjamin Franklin is noted for this advice about the importance of investing oneself in the learning process, in not only seeing the moves, but also doing them:

Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.

 [__05__]   In the Gospel this Sunday, our Savior speaks to his disciples and to us about movement, about motion, and also about our involvement in his mission.  We are called to carry out his mission and to learn his moves, his ways.

[__06__]  Our Savior also teaches us about the conditions under which we can and will learn his ways.

[__07__]  In two examples and two ways of Christian virtue, Jesus reminds us to travel lighter and thus move more easily.

Of course, this will also honor and manifest the teaching of Pope  Francis in his recent letter, “Laudato Si” or “Care for our Common Home.” 

Our Holy Father is also calling us to imitate Saint Francis of Assisi …

Saint Francis of Assisi was particularly concerned for God’s creation and for the poor and outcast. He loved, and was deeply loved for his joy, his generous self-giving, his openheartedness. He was a mystic and a pilgrim who lived in simplicity and in wonderful harmony with God, with others, with nature and with himself. He shows us just how inseparable the bond is between concern for nature, justice for the poor, commitment to society, and interior peace.

Saint Francis also taught his the brothers, sisters of his order the importance of simplicity of Christian poverty and thus a new move, a new way of moving and being moved by God’s Spirit.

[__08__] Our Lord, in this Gospel also reminds us two paths to virtue that can help us to move, or two detachments

[__08.01__] The first is a detachment from material comfort or convenience. This means that, in spirit, we are also willing to “sell all that we own and give to the poor” …or to give to the needy person around you ore me.

Jesus tells his disciples and you and me not to be concerned about extra clothing, about carry-on bags, about weight restrictions or the overhead compartment.

Of course, we often resist this teaching or act in the contrary way.
I have done the same.

Have I not (or you not), for example, insisted on my place at the table, my seat, my way… and then I will be happy, efficient, generous, effective, patient, and better in every way. 

That is, contrary to the Gospel, I insist that I will go and prepare a place …and then be ready for God …. But the Gospel says that Jesus will go and prepare a that I can be ready for him. (cf. John 14:3)

On the other hand, I think we have also recognize, at least some of the time, the importance of being last, so that another can be first.

…when we are lacking in food or the money in our belts or some other material comfort, when we overcome our need for ease and convenience…then, we move, then we have the moves of God’s will.

[__08.02__]   Another virtue that can help us to move,
The second is is a detachment from popularity.

Jesus speaks about the call to shake the dust from our feet.

It’s time for “MOVEON-DOT-ORG” but without the politics of today …and, unfortunately, there is no website either.

Jesus is saying to us, to move on, from situations in which our compassion, our sensitivity, our love, our charity may bounce off the goal post or be batted away in to the crowd and ignored.

We will not score on every shot. Nevertheless, the practice and consistency of our efforts are worthwhile.

We may find ourselves in a group of friends, at school with whom we are tempted to put aside our values of honesty, or purity, or self-respect.

Do we have the moves?

People will challenge us – perhaps pressure us – into situations with new moves, innovations …so that we can prove ourselves.

Jesus says, at such times if we are being pressured to disobey his commandments or dishonor our bodies or our good names … or that of another, at such times, we need the motion, the strength, to walk away.

We shake the dust from our feet.

Shaking the dust from our feet is not an act of revenge or vengeance. It is, however, an act of love toward both our neighbor and toward God.

For in the letter to the Romans, Paul remind us that vengeance belongs to God.

Our calling is rather to love God and love our neighbor both by what we say and how we move.

It’s good news to have the moves.   [__fin__]

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Prophets Accepted/Rejected / U.S. Supreme Court / Catholic Teaching (2015-07-05)

5 July 2015  /  14th Sunday (Year B)

Ezekiel 2:2-5  _  Psalm 123
2 Corinthians 12:7-10 _ Mark 6:1-6

[__01__] At times, our Savior was rejected by those whom he served.

We read, for example, that the Son of Man had nowhere on the map to lay his head, that the infant Jesus / child Jesus had no GPS to find room at the inn.

This rejection – by others – did not mean that his mission was halted or stopped or even hindered.

Rather, it means that the Lord’s personal relationships…became more important…

·       Within the Holy Family of Jesus – Mary – Joseph
·       Within the circle of the 12 apostles
·       With his friends and disciples such as the Martha and Mary  and Lazarus.

The struggle and journey of our salvation, in this regard, took place on a small scale first.

These circles of short radius were– and are– more important than a big crowded circle of popularity ... or a press conference.

A prophet is not accepted in his own land. This is a message of the Gospel today.

[__02__This does not mean that you and I, as prophets, will be rejected by ABSOLUTELY EVERYONE all the time.

Even Peter/Saint Peter who denies Jesus three times… is repentant and quickly reconciled.

And, while we may experience rejection – in the “town”- we certainly rely on our friends, families, spouses, for support of our values.

And, we also rely on the personal relationship we have – and can have – with our Savior.

He is present to us in our prayer, in our consciences, in meditation and contemplation.

We read in Psalm 139, “Where can I go from your spirit? From your presence, where can I flee?  If I go up to the heavens, you are there. If I sink to the nether world, you are there.” (Psalm 139:8)

[__03__] We may, at times, experience rejection on a small scale or large scale of Christian principles.

Sometimes, this rejection is presented or wrapped up in something very subtle such as the recent movement – and Supreme Court decision – to legalize marriage as a civil right accessible to those of the same gender or same sex.

This decision, we are told, does not demean or diminish Christian values because Christian matrimony is a private religious event.   But, we would submit that all marriages – and family arrangements – are public testimonies.

In Washington D.C., Archbishop Donald Wuerl wrote recently …

that some may think that because the civil law definition of marriage has changed, so too has the Church’s teaching on what constitutes marriage.

However, while this definition has not changed,  Archbishop Wuerl writes:

the Church has always and always will meet people where they are and bring them closer to Christ.

If people do not share our values, we do not reject them. We do not even wish to say that God rejects or condemns anyone.

[__04__The distinction between “sin” / “sinfulness” …. and  the …. “sinner” applies to all of us.   Archbishop Wuerl wrote that “disagreement” over what is sinful is not “discrimination.”

While Jesus may be the prophet whose values  we resist or reject… Jesus still visits our land, hometown ..he always invites us to conversion, into conversation, to draw closer to him.

Jesus is not necessarily the conquering hero returning triumphantly to us on a parade float. This was not true in ancient Jerusalem. It is the same today.

A prophet may not be accepted in his own land.  Jesus comes to meet all of us, sinners in need of God’s grace.

Archbishop/Cardinal Wuerl continued …”if the Church were to welcome only those without sin, it would be empty. Catholic teaching exhorts (invites) every believer – every one of us – to treat all people with respect, compassion, sensitivity, and love. All are called to walk with Jesus and so all who try do so have a place in the Church.

Love includes dialogue, speaking, listening, …and loving those with whom we disagree.

Can we not love those with whom we differ?

Here at LOURDES, we are grateful to many through whom we grow in our faith …

[__05__]  Within our parish are many who hear God’s call and make God is present even when we may be feeling distracted or outright ignoring him…

These include many volunteers … our …

·       Children’s Liturgy of the Word volunteers … every Sunday at 11:30 am MASS.

·       Our catechists and aides in Mrs. Eileen Morgan’s Faith Formation program and Mrs. Morgan.

·       Our Pre-Cana marriage preparation team – Catholic husbands and wives who may not view themselves as “heroes” …. But it is by their ordinary everyday sacrifice – and sharing this – that we can form and guide new couples preparing for the lifetime commitment of the family and marriage in the Sacrament of Matrimony.
·       Our RCIA team and many others.

He is present when we ignore him in the midst of a family controversy… present when we feel Christian values ignored by our friends and neighbors … present when we feel discouraged by our own faults and fragility.

God is present when we reject him even in own land … in our own conscience.

[__06__] On this  July 4th / Independence Day weekend, we recall that freedom is a value and virtue purchased at a price …and paid for still with soldiers and sailors and national defense.

In other words, FREEDOM is a value we share – COMMUNALLY …not something we own individually.

And, freedom is also a Christian virtue …which invites us to consider our love of God and love of neighbor at all times..

This is not a freedom to do anything we want …but it is the freedom to do what our Lord and Savior asks …even if it is not easy path.

It is the freedom to …

·       Forgive even those who do not ask for forgiveness.
·       Love even those who do not love us.
·       Teach – by our words and actions – even those who seem to ignore us.
·       Ask – for God’s mercy and forgiveness… even if we are discouraged by our faults and fragility.

Yes, at times, we may be rejected.

Yet, freedom rings.

And, we know that God – as Father, Son and Holy Spirit always awaits our return to the security of his homeland and to the spirit of his word.


The Storm (2015-06-21, 12th Sun)

12th Sunday (B) / 21 June 2015
Job 38:1, 8-11  _   Psalm 107 __  2 Corinthians 5:14-17
Mark 4:35-41
[__01___]         In certain seasons – and on certain occasions – the weather – the conditions of meteorology – rainfall, sun, humidity – is not one section of the news, but rather the weather is all the news that is fit to print.

And, certainly for places in our own country, in Texas and the southwestern U.S., the severe rainfall and storms require the attention and efforts of many to rescue and to rebuild.

The weather is the news; the conditions themselves may not always be good news. Nevertheless, these conditions of precipitation or drought, rain or shine, is the news.

[__02___]      We read in the Gospel Good News this Sunday about the navigation of Peter, James, John and the disciples on the boat, on the Sea of Galilee with Jesus.

We read that after they had set sail …

a violent squall came up  [“a great storm of wind arose”]  and waves were breaking over the boat so that it was already filling up. Jesus was in the stern asleep on a cushion. They woke him and said to him,‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’
 (Mark 4:37-38)

Jesus, our Savior, had apparently not tuned into The Weather Channel.

Meanwhile, The Weather Channel was the only station of interest to the disciples.

[__03___]         Jesuit Father Edward Mally indicates that this episode shows both the anxiety and also the faith of the disciples – and of the early Church – in Christ, even under stress, even at times when God appears to be asleep or absent, silent.

We can still bring our prayers to him in times of difficulty.

On the other hand, this episode on the boat also invites us to bring ourselves to Christ in thanksgiving for the good things, the successes and prosperity we may experience.  We are also called to give thanks for his power and strength.

[__04__]      Yes, at times, there are deluges and wildfires and droughts which are weather related.

These require our attention and possibly specialized rescue equipment, fire trucks, police, firefighters, EMS, and ambulances.

These conditions may come upon us with little or no advance warning. It may or may not be in the 5 or 10 day forecast.

The storm for the disciples on the boat symbolizes not only the clouds that might gather but also the conditions created by evil by injustice.

[__05__]       At times, these conditions are similar to WEATHER CONDITIONS or extremes of temperature.

That is, due to evil/injustice on a large scale or on a smaller interpersonal scale, we may be inclined to lock ourselves up or – as the disciples do – to consider that this is the end of – rather than a turning point
[__06__]       Our Savior is reminding us to take action out of love, out of charity, even in times of anxiety or injustice. This will bring us closer to our salvation.

Saint Basil, the great spiritual father and spiritual director, writes:

If we turn away from evil out of fear of punishment, we are in the position of slaves. If we pursue the enticement of wages, . . . we resemble mercenaries. Finally if we obey for the sake of the good itself and out of love for him who commands . . . we are in the position of children.”  (CCC 1828, St. Basil, Reg. fus. tract., prol. 3: PG 31, 896B.)


[__07__]      In the Gospel this Sunday, we read that the rainfall and wind conditions changed – they arrived – quite suddenly.

It was a “violent squall.”


This Sunday, we also mourn and pray for the victims of the squall – the storm – in this past Wednesday’s tragedy at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in South Carolina, in Charleston.

Certainly all of us are called to remember that God does not abandon us in our need, that while human free will can be a ray of hope, this human freedom can also be used for evil purposes, and to manifest one’s sinful choices, in pride and hatred.

This the storm against which our brothers and sisters in Charleston were defenseless.

The Lord invites us to faith, hope, and charity in our prayers for all the people of God, for all us to recall that God will bring healing to this injury, light to this darkness and that we are called to turn to him, so that we ourselves are not driven or overcome by conditions beyond us, but that we are turning to God in the midst of this storm – or any storm – to be quiet and to be still.   [_fin_]     

Good News Underground (2015-06-14 - 11th Sun.)

11th Sunday (B) / 14 June 2015
Ezekiel 17:22-24
Psalm 92
2 Corinthians 5:6-10
Mark 4:26-34

[__01___]         It seems that there is Good News about life underground.

Reflecting on these parables of the sower and seed and the planting of the seed, we recognize that a healthy environment is necessary for growth in the earth, in the soil.

This originates underground, invisibly, out of sight.

[__02___]      In the Gospel, the Kingdom of God is compared to the underground, subterranean development/growth of a tree or plant.

Regarding this progress in the soil, we read:

This is how it is with the kingdom of God; it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land and would sleep and rise night and day and through it all the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how.(Mark 4:26-27)
Do we hope, do we expect to find life underground?

At times, life underground can be troublesome or risky.

For example …

·       In an earthquake… in a tunnel.
·       In the plants or trees that could grow beneath our porches or houses
·       Or the objects which might accumulate in our basements.

[__03___]         Do we hope, do we expect to find life underground?

The Good News is that our Savior expects that we would find life underground, that the Kingdom of God grows in secret.

And, he wishes that we would participate in the discovery.

[__04__]      Through these parables, our Savior reminds us of the importance of life underground

[__05__]      In your life and in my life, we are called to part of God’s kingdom, and in this kingdom God’s word – and God’s commandments – are the seed which is planted in the soil, in the earth.

This seed and these roots grow gradually and also invisibly.

[__06__]      As we just read in the Gospel …

This is how it is with the kingdom of God; it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land and would sleep and rise night and day and through it all the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how.(Mark 4:26-27)

[__07__]      Yes, this growth depends on the sacramental moments and sacramental graces on the day of ..

·       Baptism
·       Confirmation
·       Sunday Mass & Communion & First Communion
·       The wedding day / Sacrament of Matrimony

All of these moments are important sacramental encounters with God as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

And, what Jesus is saying is that our soil, our life, our earth is changed by the planting of these seeds in sacramental moments.

[__08___]        However, the growth of God’s kingdom also occurs when we are not watching or observing explicitly.

[JURASSIC PARK / JURASSIC WORLD EXAMPLE]  We may, at times, resemble the scientists and “developers” in the fictional Hollywood action-movie, Jurassic World …. These scientists and developers are trying hard to control the growth of their ancient flora and dinosaurs. They wonder how they became so powerful. Where did they achieve all this growth?

For example, if experience a movement in our hearts, a movement in our consciences, to act in a certain way, to admit a fault, to do something generous…. We might say that these thoughts or movements are similar to the seed which grows …though the man of the parable knows not how. (cf. Mark 4:26-27)

 [__09___]       We may wonder, at times, why we are called to act differently or contrary to the way in which our friends or family would behave.

Sometimes, especially, when we are are young, we experience this as peer pressure to follow a friend or to fit in with the crowd.

Some of our friends are also leading us “UNDERGROUND”…but it is not necessarily a path to the Kingdom of God.

In our consciences – in secret and underground – we know that God’s way call us to a certain virtue or honesty.

For example, we are called to….

·       Treat our bodies our own person – and others – as Temples of the Holy Spirit.

·       …pray for enemies…to pray for those who persecute us….

·       Persevere even if we were criticized or rejected for doing what is right…. Sometimes, the persecution is an indirect way of recognition that we are doing what God asks…not what anyone else wants.

We are called not simply to do what appears good above the surface or on the ground, but also to do what is right underground in our hearts.

The Catholic Church teaches…

The heart is the dwelling-place where I am, where I live; according to the Semitic or Biblical expression, the heart is the place "to which I withdraw." The heart is our hidden center, beyond the grasp of our reason and of others; only the Spirit of God can fathom the human heart and know it fully. The heart is the place of decision, deeper than our psychic drives. It is the place of truth, where we choose life or death. It is the place of encounter, because as image of God we live in relation: it is the place of covenant.” (CCC 2563)

[_10_]     In this regard, God works mysteriously underground in our hearts, in our souls.

[_11_]      In our prayer today – and every day – we realize that we cannot change the ATMOSPHERE or the CLIMATE CONDITIONS into which we are born or in which we exist.

Neither can the farmers schedule the rainfall or sunlight.  Of course, they wish they could just as we may wish we could control the actions of others.
Rather, we live in an ATMOSPHERE or CLIMATE that may include, both:

·       Justice and injustice
·       Love and indifference
·       Honesty and deception.

However, here on earth, underground, we can unite ourselves to God, in an intimate relationship so that he can work to shelter, to protect us and to guide us with his grace, in our soil, so that we might the be good trees that bear good fruit with his help.  (cf. Matthew 7:17)

There is Good News underground.