From the Desk of Deacon Richard….

 

"You shall not molest or oppress an alien." — God

“You shall not molest or oppress an alien.” — God

Dear Parish Family:

You shall not molest or oppress an alien. Our readings today begin with this command from the Lord. Like many of God’s commands, this one does not allow much wiggle room. This command is addressed to “you,” and by you we can safely conclude that God means anyone upon whom His law is enjoined. If we want to enjoy the benefits of friendship with God, we can know that by “you” God means us. “Shall not” forbids us from doing a thing. The concept of “an alien” is used frequently in Biblical writings to mean a person who is outside of our group; one who is not of our people.

We could, at this point, turn to Webster or a good legal dictionary and attempt to discover how precisely we can define “molest or oppress,” and whether or not we can put so fine a point on that definition that it still allows us to wrong others in some way or another while “technically” being within the bounds of God’s command. Many people have done precisely that in the past, and they have done it to the peril of their souls.

The thing that we are forbidden to do is “molest or oppress,” and the only real question in play is what, precisely, God means by “molest or oppress” because, clearly, you and I are not allowed to do that to other people.

We could, at this point, turn to Webster or a good legal dictionary and attempt to discover how precisely we can define “molest or oppress,” and whether or not we can put so fine a point on that definition that it still allows us to wrong others in some way or another while “technically” being within the bounds of God’s command. Many people have done precisely that in the past, and they have done it to the peril of their souls.

The simple truth is this: God gives us simple commands and He asks that we simply follow them.

God’s rules are given to us for our own good; they exist so that we can be better able to know God, to love God, to serve God, and to be with Him forever in heaven. They are not given to us so that we can work to figure out how close to the line we can get without going over. You shall not molest or oppress an alien means exactly that: don’t be jerky with folks you don’t know. It’s mean. And God doesn’t like it.

Honestly, the real question has nothing to do with what, precisely, God means by “molest or oppress.” We all know exactly what He means by that. The real questions is how can Our Heavenly Father so lovingly and patiently give us such simple commands and yet we still mess them up? The answer, of course, is sin.

Sin is a force that lets us take a simple question like, “what is the sum of 2 and 2” and argue vehemently that the answer is 5, without us ever realizing how foolish that answer makes us. Sometimes the best way to avoid sin is by sticking with the simple answers and just being nice to other people… because that’s what God wants us to do.

Peace,
Dcn. Richard

Homily for October 19, 2014 – the 29th in Ordinary Time

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In today’s Gospel, we once again encounter the Pharisees trying to trick Jesus and catch Him in a contradiction. They surround Him with their own disciples – the religious authority of the day – and with representatives from Herod, the governmental authority of the day. Then they try to make Him pick between them: between God and government. They asked Him a seemingly simple question: is it or is it not lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar?

Jesus could have said “Yes.” Problem is, if He said that He was condoning paying a tribute to the government that went against the religious demands of Judaism. The coin had Caesar’s image on it and the Roman Empire considered Caesar a god. Therefore, if Jesus said yes, He was condoning idolatry and the worship of a false god. His status as a religious teacher would have been severely damaged or destroyed.

Jesus could have said “No.” Problem is, if He said that, then He was rebelling and encouraging rebellion against the ruling government. He could have been jailed as a rebel, or flogged, or had His sermons subpoenaed by the mayor of Houston.

He could have been jailed as a rebel, or flogged, or had His sermons subpoenaed by the mayor of Houston.

The Pharisees were trying to catch Our Lord in one of the great “gotcha” questions of all time. But the Lord of Truth is not one to be fooled by the Pharisees. He calls them hypocrites, for after all they fancied themselves religious teachers, also, and yet they paid the census tax without fuss. He knew that they were trying to test Him.

Not only that, but He asks them – the Pharisees – to show Him the coin. Notice that they have one handy. They can’t claim that they are avoiding the very thing they want Jesus to avoid. They don’t even seem to notice the depth of their hypocrisy.

Roman-CoinOur Lord examines the coin and asks them whose image and inscription is on it. They reply, “Caesar’s.” He could have at that point exclaimed, “You try to catch me in supporting idolatry, and yet your own coin condemns you.” But He didn’t. He had an even better answer: “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” Instead of hoisting them on the point of their own hypocrisy, Our Lord provides us (and, one hopes, the Pharisees themselves) a valuable teaching. If you make use of the things of the world, give to the world’s authorities what is their due. But, also, give to God what is due to God.

When we look at our own money, it has pictures on it, also. Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson… the dead presidents. Now, we don’t worship our presidents or think that they are gods. Far from it. And we don’t worship our money. [Some of you are nodding and some look a little worried right now. Just thought you should know.] But money and government are things of this world; we as Christians should have our eyes focused on the things of the next world.

How do we render unto God what is God’s? We’ve had a whole series of Gospel readings in recent weeks that point us toward that answer. But we don’t have to turn back to previous week’s readings to see the answer; it is here for us again today, in today’s readings.

In the first reading, the Lord is speaking to Cyrus. But He is also speaking to us. God says that He calls Cyrus by name… just as He calls us by name. God arms Cyrus for battle, just as He arms us for battle. Yes, the battles we face are very different from the battles Cyrus fought, but both of the battles are fought to the same end: for the glory of God, and so that all people may know that He is Lord and there is no other.

In the psalm we sang today, the psalmist wrote, “Give the Lord glory and honor. Give to the LORD, you families of nations, give to the LORD glory and praise; give to the LORD the glory due his name!”

If we are to render unto God what is God’s, it is safe to conclude that one of the things we should render unto Him is praise and glory worthy of His Holy Name. How do we do that? Let’s continue with what the psalmist wrote: “Bring gifts, and enter his courts. Worship the LORD, in holy attire.”

Remember last week’s Gospel in which the man without a wedding garment was cast into the outer darkness? As Father told us, the wedding garment is a symbol of the man’s Christian dignity; without it, that man was not worthy of heaven. He had it – the king would not have expected him to have something he never owned – but he lost it, and he lost it through sinful deeds.

So we can render unto God what is God’s by not sinning. But we can take it much farther than that. Instead of merely not doing the things we shouldn’t be doing anyway, instead we can do the things that we ought to do. We can do the good deeds that Christian dignity demands and that God so desires.

Paul, in the section of the letter to the Thessalonians we heard today, wrote that he was “unceasingly calling to mind your work of faith and labor of love and endurance in hope of our Lord Jesus Christ, before our God and Father.” He is writing as much to us as he was to the ancient Church in Thessalonica. We should be constantly performing works of faith and labors of love so that Paul is able to call them to mind. If Paul were to write a letter to St. Sabina’s parish down in Belton, we should want very much for him to write, “I hope your works of faith and labors of love are equal to your brothers and sisters in Christ at Our Lady of Lourdes in Raytown. Those folks rock.”

And why would we want him to write that? Bragging rights? Hardly! Because it would be a clear sign that we are rendering unto God what is God’s, as Our Lord calls us to do.

There are probably just as many hypocrites in the world today as there were 2000 years ago, adjusted of course for population growth. There are probably just as many people not rendering unto God what is God’s. And you know what? We should be praying for them. We should be hoping they respond to the grace God gives them and repent. But, mostly, we should be setting the example that our Christian dignity calls us to set because it is the right thing to do, and because we are rendering unto God what is God’s.

In the words of St. Francis: Preach the Gospel always; when necessary, use words. We do this by rendering unto God what is God’s by conforming our ways to God’s ways and by living a life that would cause Paul to write of us, “We give thanks to God always for all of you, remembering you in our prayers, unceasingly calling to mind your work of faith and labor of love and endurance in hope of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The Feast of St. Luke — Oct. 18

Detail of St. Luke from the the San Lucas Polyptych (70'' × 91'' total, 1454), a panel painting by Northern Italian Renaissance painter Andrea Mantegna, seen today at The Pinacoteca di Brera (Brera Art Gallery), Milan. St. Luke’s Feast Day is October 18th.

Detail of St. Luke from the San Lucas Polyptych (70” × 91” total, 1454), a panel painting by Northern Italian Renaissance painter Andrea Mantegna, seen today at The Pinacoteca di Brera (Brera Art Gallery), Milan. St. Luke’s Feast Day is October 18th.

San Lucas Polyptych (70'' × 91'', 1454)

San Lucas Polyptych (70” × 91”, 1454)

 

The Miracle of the Sun

The Cova da Iria at Fatima Portugal on October 13, 1917.

The Cova da Iria at Fatima Portugal on October 13, 1917.

October 13 — Today is the anniversary of The Miracle of the Sun, which was witnessed by many thousands of people in this field.

Cova da Iria (“Irene’s Cove”) was a field which was used for pasture land and which belonged to the Santos family in Fatima, Portugal. Lúcia dos Santos was one of three shepherd children visited by the Blessed Virgin Mary, who brought the children several messages. (The other two are Jacinta Marto and Francisco Marto.)

The visitations began on May 13, 1917; on October 13, 1917, the Miracle of the Sun (O Milagre do Sol) was witnessed by more than 30,000 people. The event was officially accepted as a miracle by the Roman Catholic Church on 13 October 1930.

Homily for Sunday, October 12, 2014 – The 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time

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Holy Church offers us two versions of today’s Gospel: the Gospel reading we just heard and a shorter form. Usually when the Church offers us a shorter form, it is fundamentally the same as the longer form. However, today I am not sure that is the case. I think there is something very important missing in the shorter form today, and that is a stern warning that comes to us from Our Lord.

We have been hearing in the Gospel readings for a number of Sundays now a common idea present in all of them: make straight your paths. Make sure your ways are God’s ways. Do what is in accord with holiness and righteousness, and reject everything contrary to it.

Today, Our Lord is comparing the Kingdom of Heaven to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. In Biblical times, a wedding feast would have been understood as a very big deal, and one given by a king would be over-the-top. But for this wedding feast, the invited guests refuse to come.

It is easy to see in that a warning against those who reject Christ and His Holy Church, and it is easy to see in it that the king — who represents God in this parable — rejects those who received the first call and calls others to come to his son’s wedding feast.

Both are easy to see, and as far as they go they are a fair way to understand today’s readings. In the shorter form of today’s Gospel, the reading ends there: “The servants went out into the streets and gathered all they found, bad and good alike, and the hall was filled with guests.” That feels pretty good as long as we understand ourselves as one of the newly-called guests. After all, the hall is full and we all expect to find ourselves there.

God gives us the great gift of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, which is a sort of dry-cleaning service for our Spiritual white garments. When they become stained with sins, we find ourselves in danger of becoming the man in today’s parable.

But the parable doesn’t end there. Yes, it tells us the hall was filled with guests. But the very next word is but.

But is such a little word, though its meaning isn’t little. When I was going to the Institute for Pastoral Theology of Ave Maria University, one of my professors — a very accomplished scripture scholar — told us one day that whenever we encounter the word “but” in Holy Scripture, our ears should perk up and we should really pay attention to what comes next, because it is not going to be something small or unimportant.

Yes; the hall is filled with guests, but one man there is not dressed in a wedding garment. Because of this transgression, the man is bound hands and feet and cast out into the darkness, were there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.

Ouch. The message here isn’t just that a new people are called to be the guests at the wedding banquet and everything ends on a happy note with all of the guests linking hands and singing Kumbaya. No; one of the new guests is found unworthy and is cast out, and in that there is a warning for all of us.

To fully understand this warning, we must ask ourselves several questions. Who is this man? What is this wedding garment? Why doesn’t he have one? And, perhaps most importantly: how can we make sure this doesn’t happen to us?

The first question — who is this man? — is of least importance in understanding the parable, but is of great importance on a personal level because it should be of utmost importance to every individual to make certain that he or she is not this man… to make certain that he or she is not the one cast out of the Kingdom of God. We know that this man was in the second group called; we know that he arrived at the feast unprepared. He had no wedding garment.

So, then, what is the wedding garment? For an answer to this question, I ask you to think back to the day you were baptized. After you were baptized with water and in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, you were anointed with sacred chrism, the Oil of Salvation. You were then clothed with a white garment and the celebrant said, “you have become a new creation, and have clothed yourself in Christ. See in this white garment the outward sign of your Christian dignity. With your family and friends to help you by word and example, bring that dignity unstained into the everlasting life of heaven.”

All present responded, Amen. This wedding garment is one and the same as the garment you received at baptism that you are to bring unstained with you to everlasting life. I don’t mean the physical garment, but the spiritual reality that it represents: your Christian dignity, unstained by sin.

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Why does the man lack a wedding garment? Clearly, the king expects that he should have one… and so he should. The fact that he was in the second group of guests called to the banquet tells us that the man was baptized; he should have a white garment that is his Christian dignity. But at some point, he lost it. Through the stain of sin and through a lack of repentance, he has lost that Christian dignity that he was to bring with him into the everlasting life of heaven and, therefore, he is cast out into the darkness. Many are invited, but few are chosen.

Once we understand that the man could be any one of us — after all, the man in the parable is a sinner and we are all sinners — and we understand that he was given the garment the king expects but has lost it, the last question — how do we make sure this doesn’t happen to us? — becomes very easy to answer. Perhaps it is not as easy to do, but it is a very easy question to answer.

Christ teaches repeatedly that we are to renounce sin and follow the ways of God, and that is exactly what we must do. Will we have failures along the way? Yes; certainly we will. But when we fall and stain that spiritual garment that is our Christian dignity, we must then again rise, dust ourselves off, and continue that journey in the ways of God.

Christ teaches repeatedly that we are to renounce sin and follow the ways of God, and that is exactly what we must do. Will we have failures along the way? Yes; certainly we will. But when we fall and stain that spiritual garment that is our Christian dignity, we must then again rise, dust ourselves off, and continue that journey in the ways of God.

God gives us the great gift of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, which is a sort of dry-cleaning service for our Spiritual white garments. When they become stained with sins, we find ourselves in danger of becoming the man in today’s parable.

But God doesn’t want us to be that man, and so He allows us to come to Him, to confess our sins and to receive forgiveness; God will take away the stains of sin; He will even patch holes in that spiritual white garment and restore to us our Christian dignity so that we may better know Him, love Him, serve Him, and so that we can be together with Him forever at that wedding banquet in heaven, where we will be robed in the white garment that is the dignity we receive as creatures remade in Christ and where the hall will be filled with many guests.

From the Desk of Deacon Richard. . .

Dear Parish Family:

Go out, therefore, into the main roads and invite to the feast whomever you find. — From Today’s Gospel


Many from the OLL Parish community took to the main roads in front of the parish last week for the annual Life Chain event. Though I have not heard an exact count of the attendance, I would guess there must have been at least 60 people participating in the event at which we held signs with slogans such as “Life: the First Inalienable Right,” “Adoption is the Loving Option,” and “Abortion Hurts Women”in support of life.

We were received very warmly by passing motorists. Katei kept a running count of motorist reactions during the one-hour event. There were 41 enthusiastic honks, 17 thumbs up or waves, three verbal encouragements, and a “woo-hoo.” I am aware of no negative reaction.

It is up to all of us as Catholics to actively promote a culture of life and to pray 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.

Peace,
Dcn. Richard

Homily for Friday, October 10, 2014

illus-411If Jesus had been from Tennessee, when He had driven out a demon and someone exclaimed “By the power of Beelzebul, the prince of demons, he drives out demons,” Our Lord would have responded with a look of mixed pity and genuine concern and said, “Bless your heart.” It’s a handy phrase that expresses a number of sentiments that would oftentimes be downright impolite to say outright. For example, it’s a nice way to let someone know you think he is an ignoramus without being obligated to take him a casserole the next day. Southern social customs can be very complex, and many of them involve casseroles.

“Every kingdom divided against itself will be laid waste and house will fall against house. And if Satan is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand,” Our Lord asks the crowd who seek to test Him. We would be wise to wish the kingdom of Satan was divided but we would be wiser still to pray for unity in the Christian world. If a house divided against itself cannot stand, one must surely wonder how Christendom can stand, as others who call themselves Christian rebel against the Church that Christ founded.

Certainly, we know that the Catholic Church stands because the Holy Spirit will not let it fall. Nevertheless, there is much that you and I can do. We can and we should pray for unity, but that is not enough. We must also live our lives as authentic witnesses to the Catholic Tradition and to the Gospel Imperative.

Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters, Our Lord teaches. We should daily pray for the grace to live lives that will be with Our Lord and advance the Kingdom of God in the world around us, for if we are not with Him, we are against Him. And that is no good place to be.

Homily for Thursday, October 9, 2014

In the Gospel reading for today, we return to prayer. Luke presents for us two important teachings on how to pray.

Luke119In the parable at the beginning, we are presented with a man who goes to a friend’s house late at night to borrow some loaves of bread to share with another friend who has recently arrived at his house. However, the first friend is in bed already and does not want to get up. Christ’s answer to this dilemma is to keep asking until the asker gets what he wants: “I tell you,” Our Lord says, “if he does not get up to give him the loaves because of their friendship, he will get up to give him whatever he needs because of his persistence.”

I heard someone comment once that after praying for something once, you should never pray for it again because doing so shows a lack of faith. I don’t know where they got such a goofy idea. Certainly, it wasn’t from the Bible, because here Christ is teaching us exactly the opposite: ask and ask again. Be persistent.

Later, Christ points out that we human beings, though fallen, are still wise enough to give good things to those we love. Shouldn’t we then understand that God, who is perfect and divine, can far better than we give good things to those He loves? And He loves every one of us.

Christ teaches that God gives us the greatest gift of all: the Holy Spirit. It is through cooperation with the Holy Spirit that we cooperate with grace and grow in faith and prayer. We are given the Holy Spirit to guide us to heaven; let us pray always for the wisdom and grace to respond to the Holy Spirit in the way that God intends for each of us as we, every day, discern the call God is making to us.

Homily for Wednesday, October 8, 2014

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In today’s reading from Luke, we encounter one of the synoptic Gospel accounts of the Lord’s Prayer. Though we are perhaps more familiar with the Lord’s Prayer as given in the sixth chapter of Matthew’s Gospel during the Sermon on the Mount because that is the version adopted by our liturgical tradition, this account from Luke is a reflection of the Lord’s Prayer as understood in the very early tradition from which Luke came. Both versions make the same basic petitions.

In the Lord’s Prayer, we petition God to provide for our basic needs and to forgive our sins. We promise the Lord to forgive others. We ask God to preserve us from the Evil One and to deliver us from him. We praise God and His holy Name and we declare our longing for the coming of God’s Kingdom.

Those are all excellent. Jesus Christ, our Lord and God, commands us to pray for these things, and so we do. Our Lord teaches us the perfect prayer; it is concise and complete. It can be — and should be — prayed repeatedly throughout the day. It asks for what we need and it gives glory to God. It is a prayer to which we can always turn. If the Lord’s Prayer prayed earnestly are the last words that we speak on this earth, we should expect to find ourselves in very good company in the world to come.

The Lord’s Prayer is a wonderful gift that Jesus gives us for all of those reasons, and for many others. But there is one other that, I believe, surpasses all else. In the beginning of both version of the Lord’s Prayer as presented in the Gospels, Our Lord instructs us to address His Father as our Father. We are instructed to call the Creator of the Universe and the Architect of Life, our perfect and eternal God — omnipotent, omniscient, and holy beyond our understanding — we are instructed to call Him our Father.

The depth of the love that God shows for us in that instruction cannot be overstated and it cannot be fully understood. It is beyond our mortal minds. We can accept it, and we can love God as fully as we are able — and certainly we should!

We are invited into a relationship with God that has no equal in all of creation. And so we should rejoice, because when we address God as our Father when we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we are responding to that invitation made by our Almighty Father to enter into a relationship of love with Him, and to recognize that He loves us and values us, and that we should reflect that love and value to those around us treating them as we desire ourselves to be treated. We should — as we heard in the Gospel so recently — love God with all our heart, all our soul and all our mind; and, we should love our neighbor as ourselves.