Prayers of the Faithful – August 10th, 2014

 

  1. For the shepherds of the Church, that their devotion to Christ’s One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church may be a compelling witness to all, let us pray to the Lord.
  2. For our political leaders, that the recognition that what is good for the family is good for the country may guide them in their work, let us pray to the Lord.
  3. For the sojourner and stranger among us, that they may be met with hands and hearts open in friendship, let us pray to the Lord.
  4. For those throughout the world suffering persecution, especially the community of Christians in Iraq, let us pray to the Lord.
  5. For our service men and women in the armed forces, that God may protect them and watch over them always, let us pray to the Lord.
  6. And for a respect for all human persons from conception until a natural death, and for an increased awareness of the dignity of the human person, created in the likeness and image of God, let us pray to the Lord.

Homily for Friday, August 9, 2014

Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me.

Ouch. This is a hard teaching; it calls us to radical conversion. What does it mean to deny one’s self? Does denying oneself an extra cup of coffee in the morning cut it? Is it enough to skip dessert on Fridays? How much does one have to deny himself?

Jesus isn’t talking about the chump change end of denial. When our Lord says that we must deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow Him, He is speaking of a radical denial of self… He means we must disown ourselves.

When we are Christ’s disciple, we are no longer our own individual. We are His. A true disciple does all in and through Christ. A true disciple subjects his will to the will of God precisely because he knows that in doing so, he can find true freedom. To the world, this is a paradox. Even to the disciple, it is a mystery. And yet it is truly the case, because real freedom isn’t freedom to do whatever one wants. That’s not freedom; it’s license.

True freedom is the freedom to reject evil and select good. This is authentic freedom. This is freedom that is found only in Christ. God, in His love, calls us to be a disciple; we can answer that call in obedience, or we can answer it in love. The outcome is the same: we deny ourselves, pick up our cross, and follow Christ. But if we answer the call in love, we answer in a way that transcends obedience. We are still obedient to the Lord, to be sure. But our obedience finds its origin not in duty, but in the recognition that our God loves us and desires our authentic good. Our obedience, then, becomes a reflection of the love of God.

Suddenly, the teaching doesn’t seem quite so hard. Suddenly, the ouch-factor is gone. We no longer feel the heavy weight of obligation, but the indescribable lightness of love that comes from God and returns to Him. And in this way, it becomes so much easier to lose our life for His sake, knowing there is so much more to find when we dio

Homily for August 7, 2014

MT 16:13-23

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Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi and he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”

They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”

It is in the encounter with Christ that we can see Him as He is. And once we see, we can truly begin to be transformed. 

Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

Then he strictly ordered his disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.

From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised. Then Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him, “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.” He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”

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In today’s reading, we see Peter cut through the hemming and the hawing and get right down to the heart of the matter. The people who saw Christ only from afar tried to put Him into a convenient box – a category with which they were familiar. But our Lord transcends categories; He cannot be conveniently placed in a safe, familiar framework and considered in terms of what we know. He must be encountered as an individual, both fully human and fully divine. He must be encountered in relationship.

This is exactly what Peter does. “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Peter, under the inspiration of God, smashes through the categories and encounters Christ as He truly is: the Son of God.

We, like Peter, should strive to truly encounter Jesus. To enter into relationship with Him. We shouldn’t try to make Him fit into safe, familiar categories, but instead understand that we will be transformed by the encounter. God does not change, but we must change. We must be transformed by our relationship with Jesus so that we become what we were meant to be from the beginning.

It is in the encounter with Christ that we can see Him as He is. And once we see, we can truly begin to be transformed.

Homily for August 6, 2014 – the Feast of the Transfiguration

Transfiguration of Jesus, by RaphaelJesus took Peter, James, and his brother, John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light.

And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, conversing with him. Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”

While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud cast a shadow over them, then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”

When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate and were very much afraid. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and do not be afraid.” And when the disciples raised their eyes, they saw no one else but Jesus alone.

As they were coming down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, “Do not tell the vision to anyone until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”

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Today is the Feast of the Transfiguration; today’s readings tell a very important event in the life of Christ and of His Church.

If any of you are English teachers, you probably winced at the mixing of tenses in what I just said. As a theologian, it bothers me not one bit to refer to the coming of Christ as simultaneously in the past and future tenses — and even present tense — for that is the reality of it.

Today we remember the fact of the Transfiguration – Christ appearing before the Apostles in what is in many ways an intersection of the supernatural and the natural. The way that Christ is described is the way that the divine is described in both the Old Testament and in ancient Jewish writings that are outside of the canon of Scripture. We see Him radiant; “his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light.”

This description links the Transfiguration directly to what the book of Daniel describes in the first reading; the Ancient One is, of course, God. The one like a son of Man is Jesus, Our Lord. And so, the Transfiguration should bring to mind both the ancient event on Mount Tabor and the future coming of Jesus, when “The one like a Son of man received dominion, glory, and kingship; all peoples, nations, and languages serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away, his kingship shall not be destroyed.”

If any of you are English teachers, you probably winced at the mixing of tenses in what I just said. As a theologian, it bothers me not one bit to refer to the coming of Christ as simultaneously in the past and future tenses — and even present tense — for that is the reality of it. Christ is the Son of God; God Himself says so in today’s Gospel reading. His Kingdom is and was and is to come. Jesus  received dominion, glory, and kingship; His is an everlasting Kingdom, and He will come again in Glory, appearing before us all as He did those centuries ago, transfigured and divine; the very embodiment of the Law, the Prophets, and of Salvation itself.

His dominion was and is and will be an everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away; his kingship shall not be destroyed.

Homily for Tuesday, August 5th, 2014

Some Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They do not wash their hands when they eat a meal.”

He summoned the James_Tissot_Phariseescrowd and said to them, “Hear and understand. It is not what enters one’s mouth that defiles the man; but what comes out of the mouth is what defiles one.”

Then his disciples approached and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees took offense when they heard what you said?”

He said in reply, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit.”

The Pharisees took offence at what Jesus said. That really shouldn’t be a surprise. After all, what Jesus taught contradicted what they taught. He threatened their position of power. That in itself would no doubt have been enough to cause their offense. But it might not have been enough for Jesus to call them blind guides. There is more going on in their rejection of His teaching and Our Lord’s reproach of the Pharisees.

The Pharisees taught a ritualistic hand washing before meals as the tradition of the elders. Now, washing your hands before you eat is a good idea, but this went beyond that. This was the elevation of man-made tradition to the level of God-given Commandment. Christ wasn’t rejecting good hygiene; He was rejecting false authority. The Pharisees were so concerned with external appearance that they thought God would reward them for mere observation of a formula of behavior. They did not understand that God judges what is in a person’s heart; they did not understand that what a person says is a direct reflection of what is in that person’s heart. If a man speaks poorly of his neighbor or curses those who he meets, his words are sinful; he defiles himself by his words. If a man speaks well of his neighbor and blesses those he meets, his words reflect the love in his heart. He, in turn, is blessed by the words he speaks.

“Hear and understand. It is not what enters one’s mouth that defiles the man; but what comes out of the mouth is what defiles one.”

The Pharisees’ teaching that Christ spoke against was self-serving, and self-righteous. The Pharisees were blind to the love of God, and they were the blind guides of the blind.

Christ teaches us that ultimately we will be judged by how well we have loved others — by what we have built up for the sake of the Kingdom of God and not by the walls we might build to separate us from others. When we stand before Christ and are judged, He will know what is in our hearts. We must pray and work so that at the end of our life, Christ’s finds our heart filled with love and worthy of our God.

Homily for August 4, 2014

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Late Saturday night, about 11, every dog in my neighborhood started going nuts. It lasted most of the night. My dogs were convinced there were invaders just outside the windows, and it was their job to drive them away.

This continued most of the night. I got out of bed several times over the course of the night, took my brightest flashlight, and made sure everything was okay. As far as I could see, it was. I would get the dogs settled, just get to sleep, and it would start all over again. Dogs were barking for as far away as I could hear.

When the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified. “It is a ghost,” they said, and they cried out in fear.

Finally, about three in the morning, I gave up, got dressed, put the dogs on their leashes, and took them outside. Bright flashlight in hand, I took them to see if we could discover the source of their agitation.

I was more than a little bit shocked – and the dogs were scared into not only silence, but into retreat behind me – when we came around a tree and were face-to-face with something glowing white in the flashlight beam and hovering about three feet off the ground.

When the pups saw it, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said and cried out in fear.

Well, it wasn’t a ghost… and it wasn’t Jesus walking on the water, either. It was nothing more than a part of a white plastic bag that was caught in a thick spider web and so appeared to be hovering in the flashlight beam in front of us.

Certainly, it’s not the same as seeing a miracle, but in that moment of encountering something both unexpected and unknown, there was a brief moment of terror that must have been very similar to what the disciples felt when they saw Our Lord walking on the water.

Jesus calls us to a trust in Him that drives out fear. Notice that as long as Peter was not overcome by fear, he – with Christ’s help – did the impossible. He walked on water. But when he began to fear, he began to sink.

We are called to a faith that endures not only in the face of difficulty and fear, but that is strengthened by difficulty and fear. Christ will never abandon us as long as we remain faithful to Him and put our trust in God, and if Christ is with us than nothing can overcome us… not fear, not difficulty… not even death itself – for none of these is greater than Christ.

Prayers of the Faithful for Sunday, August 3, 2014

  1. For the Catholic Church, that she may be a constant witness to the beauty that is life lived in service to God, let us pray to the Lord.
  2. For our political leaders, that the recognition that what is good for the family is good for the country may guide them in their work, let us pray to the Lord.
  3. For the sojourner and stranger among us, that they may be met with hands and hearts open in friendship, let us pray to the Lord.
  4. For the universal recognition that Christ is central to family and married life, let us pray to the Lord.
  5. For our service men and women in the armed forces, that God may protect them and watch over them always, let us pray to the Lord.
  6. For the success of the mission of the Sisters in Jesus the Lord and of all missionaries throughout the world, let us pray to the Lord.
  7. And for a respect for all human persons from conception until a natural death, and for an increased awareness of the dignity of the human person, created in the likeness and image of God, let us pray to the Lord.

From the Desk of Deacon Richard….

The RCIA schedule is now ready for this year; classes will begin on Wednesday, September 3rd, which is the first Wednesday after Labor Day. Classes will be held every Wednesday night following the Wednesday 5:30 p.m. Mass. It’s a great opportunity to come to the daily Mass and then spend the evening learning more about Jesus Christ, the Catholic Church, Catholic Tradition, and our shared faith.

Classes will begin on Wednesday, September 3rd, which is the first Wednesday after Labor Day.

Love of Jesus calls us to pursue an ever-deepening understanding of Our Lord. After all, if you love someone, then you ought to want to know more about that person. Jesus is a person, both fully human and fully divine. This is one of the many mysteries we will explore in the coming months.

All are invited to attend, and you are welcome to bring your questions. Is there something you’ve always wanted to know? Why Catholics do a certain thing… or don’t do a certain thing. Why our faith teaches what it does. All questions are welcome, and if I don’t know the answer I will find it for you.

If you would like more information, you’re welcome to call me at 679-8974. I hope to see you there! Remember: we have cookies.

Peace,
Dcn. Richard