From the Desk of Deacon Richard…

January 31, 2016

Dear Parish Family,

I saw a newspaper article this week that reported on one of the candidates for President responding to a question about religion. The candidate was actually on more sound theological footing than the reporter was and clearly had the thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians, today’s second reading, in mind in making the response.

The reporter, however, gushed enthusiastically over the candidate’s response, virtually elevating the speaker to sainthood and certainly putting words and ideas into the candidates response that, as far as I could see from reading the actual response, were not in any way included. For example, the reporter marveled over the candidates understanding of Christianity and celebrated what the reporter saw as a declaration that the point of religion is social justice and loving other people.

It isn’t. And to the best I could tell, the candidate never suggested that it was. Now, social justice and the love of neighbor are both wonderful things and are certainly in themselves worthy of celebration. Further, those desiring to live as Christ instructs them should be concerned about social justice and must be concerned with the Greatest Commandment, part of which is to love one’s neighbor as oneself. However, neither one of those are uniquely Christian ideas; it is certainly possible for an atheist to be deeply concerned about matters of social justice. Many of them are. You need not come to church to love your neighbor; it is possible to do that from the comfort of your own home.

The reason we go to church — and, specifically, to the Catholic Church — is the sure and certain knowledge that we will die and then be judged, and we will either go to heaven or to hell. Further, we understand that going to heaven is a very good thing and going to hell is a very bad thing — a failure — and we are humble enough to realize that without the help that God gives us through His One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, we are likely to fail.

Our reason for being is to know God, to love God, to serve God, and to be with Him forever in heaven. Celebration of this happy fact of our existence makes going to Mass easy; the desire to be pleasing to God and to be made worthy of the gift of being made in His image is the reason for our religion. This is why the Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith, because in receiving Christ in the Blessed Sacrament we are brough into union with Him and come closer to our eternal home where we will dwell with God forever.

Peace,
Dcn. Richard

Homily for Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Other seed fell on rocky ground where it had little soil.

The ground use to be much softer than it is today. I don’t mean in Jesus’ time. I mean in the ‘70s. I remember falling down in the 1970s and it hardly hurt at all. Today, it is much more painful and the only reason I can think of is that the ground today is much harder than it used to be. This is almost certainly an effect of global warming.

Christ tells the parable of a sower going out to sow. The seed falls on different types of ground; some make growth possible. Some make growth easy. And some make growth all but impossible.

The seed is the same; it is the ground that changes. The seed is the Word; we are the ground.

And good gardener will tell you that you have to prepare the ground and maintain it. You have to turn the soil over; you have to remove the rocks. You have to pull the weeds. You have to make the soil the best that it can be so that the seed can produce much fruit.

Why did Saint Frances become Saint Frances or Mother Theresa become Mother Theresa or Saint john Paul the Second become Saint John Paul the Second? Did they get a better Gospel than the rest of us and so they became saints? What about less famous but very holy people — do they have an advantage we don’t? Of course not. We all receive the same Gospel.

Most of those who are holy don’t become holy by accident. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it. Holiness comes from tending the ground and making sure the seed can grow. From pulling the weeds through our prayer life; through hauling the rocks away through confession; through making the ground fertile through frequent participation at Mass and reception of the Holy Eucharist: these are the things that make a person holy. Let us pray always for the grace and wisdom to be able gardeners of our own souls and so make the ground ready to receive the seed when the sower comes.

From the Desk of Deacon Richard…

January 24, 2016

Dear Parish Family,

In today’s Gospel, Our Lord is in the synagogue in Nazareth, where he proclaims a reading from the prophet Isaiah: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord. Christ declares that this Scripture passage has been fulfilled in their hearing.

Our Lord is declaring that His ministry is the fulfillment of the hopes and expectations of God’s Chosen People. This is initially very well received by those who hear Him; however, that quickly changes.

The people demand that He do for them what He did at Capernaum; He refuses and tells them, essentially, it is not for them but for others. Their praise of Him and their amazement at His gracious words turns to fury; they want what belongs to the poor, the captives, the blind, and the oppressed without actually being poor, captive, blind, or oppressed.

We must keep careful guard on our own desires so that we, too, are not guilty of seeking to steal from the poor and the marginalized. Luke’s Gospel is, more so than the others, concerned with the plight of — and Jesus’s love of — the poor and the oppressed. Because ministry to the poor and the marginalized is important to Our Lord, it must be important to us.

It is easier to minister to those who are like us than to seek out those who are truly in need; Christ does not fall into that trap, and neither should we. I have heard it said that charity begins at home. Perhaps… but it does not end there. Christian charity must always face outward and seek to help those with the truest and deepest needs, because that is the model Christ gives us to follow.

Peace,
Dcn. Richard

From the Desk of Deacon Richard…

January 17, 2016

Dear Parish Family,

“They have no wine.”

Imagine you are putting together a birthday party for children, and you don’t have enough cupcakes to go around. Or, if you prefer, that you are organizing the company Christmas party, and you forget to order soft drinks. Those are probably not situations you’d like to find yourself in.

So, the problem at the wedding at Cana is in no way foreign to us. They have no wine. Oops.

Notice that Mary doesn’t ask questions; she doesn’t even really make a request. She just makes an observation: they have no wine.

She is concerned, and she brings her concern to Jesus.

Surely she knew that her Son could do something to alleviate her concern… to correct the problem. It would have made no sense for her to have spoken in the way she did if she was not completely confident in Christ’s ability to correct the problem.

Though this was Christ’s first public miracle, one gets the feeling that Mary at least had seen Him perform miracles before. She knew He could so it, and so she told the servers to do whatever Christ commanded them. And they did.

We should never overlook the power of Mary’s intercession for us. Is having no wine the end of the world? No. Is it a concern too small for Mary to bother with? Also, no.

Mary’s intercession is a powerful thing. It can even motivate Our Lord to do something that He might not otherwise have done. This should be a great comfort to all of us who will one day be judged by Jesus Christ, for after all if we have Mary our Mother to intercede for us we might discover that is the difference we need… the difference for us between heaven and hell.

Peace,
Dcn. Richard

From the Desk of Deacon Richard…

Dear Parish Family,

Today we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord, the day on which we commemorate Christ’s baptism by John in the Jordan.

Baptism is a sacrament and like all sacraments it was instituted by Christ. Jesus commanded His apostles to baptize “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” This baptismal formula has endured and is used today; without it, baptism is not valid. Should you ever hear someone attempting to baptize “in the name of the Creator, and the Redeemer, and the Sanctifier” or any other formula than the one commanded by Christ and taught by His holy Church, that baptism is not valid. The person is not baptized.

Baptism is the first sacrament that a person receives; as such, it is the gateway to the other sacraments. In baptism and through the power of the Holy Spirit, all of the faithful are united into one body… the Body of Christ, His holy Church. In baptism, sin is forgiven and we receive new birth through the Holy Spirit.

All sin is forgiven in Baptism; the sacrament also washes away punishment due for sin. The sanctifying grace received in baptism is a tremendous aid in the struggle against sin.

In baptism, we are reborn as adopted children of God; we become partakers in the divine nature, a fellow heir with Christ, and a member of Christ. Baptism brings us into the family of God on earth, which is the Church.

All of the faithful baptized are called to be witnesses to the beauty of the Christian faith; they have been called to participate in Christ’s missionary and apostolic work because they have been united in Christ and infused with the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity. Once made a child of God in baptism, a person is a child of God for all eternity.

Peace,
Dcn. Richard

From the Desk of Deacon Richard…

Dear Parish Family,

Today’s Gospel reading could almost be comedic… if it weren’t for the tragedy involved. The magi from the east arrive and ask, in their innocence, for the newborn king of the Jews… a question that does not sit well with Herod, who was quite attached to his position of power and was not willing to give it up for any newborn king.

It is interesting to note that the Gospel also reports that “all Jerusalem [was troubled] with him.” All of Jerusalem, in this case, must surely mean the chief priests and scribes — those who held power in the capitol and in court — and those who are gathered by Herod to ascertain where Christ was born. This was not the first time in Israel’s history that the powerful among the Jews placed human authority over divine… an ordering that never works out well for them (or for anyone else).

Herod discerns through his priests and scribes from where the prophets anticipated the birth of Christ and he sends the Magi on their way, hoping to use them to locate the child.

Of course, God does not permit that to happen. The Magi’s eyes are opened to the impending danger Herod represents, and — after they deliver their gifts of gold (for a king), frankincense (for a priest and prophet), and myrrh (which anticipates Christ’s death and entombment) — they avoid Herod and return home by a different way.

Herod sought to manipulate the wise men who were seeking Our Lord, but God would not allow his deception to stand. It is wise to ask ourselves where we stand. Are we more of the wise men, diligently seeking Christ even though we don’t know where that search may take us? Or, are we more of a Herod, seeking to guaranteed our own power and authority by any means necessary?

Peace,
Dcn. Richard

From the Desk of Deacon Richard…

Dear Parish Family,

Have you ever been told you pray well?

By that, I mean: have you ever had someone comment that a particular prayer you said was powerful or inspiring to them? Have you ever made someone’s day better by offering a prayer for that person?

When was the last time you prayed aloud publicly? And I don’t mean simply the responses at Mass or even something like the Rosary or grace before meals, but a prayer that you prayed spontaneously. How long has it been?

I’m certainly not suggesting that praying the Rosary is not meritorious — certainly it is, and I encourage everyone to pray it daily. And, certainly, we should pray before meals… and before going to bed… and upon waking in the morning. These all have great merit and are absolutely necessary in the spiritual life.

Now, the goal of prayer is not to show off; it’s not to show how eloquent or spiritual you are. But there is nothing wrong with being eloquent and demonstrating a deep spirituality with your prayer.

The purpose of prayer is to communicate with God… to give Him thanks, to ask for His intercession, to make petition, and so on. St. Thérèse of Lisieux wrote that, “Prayer is the raising of one’s mind and heart to God or the requesting of good things from God.”

We should always be ready to offer public prayer at any time and for any reason. Being hesitant to pray or being afraid for others to hear you pray indicates a weakness in the spiritual life. When we enjoy the friendship with God to which we are called, there is no reason to fear prayer.

Let us pray that God will show us how to pray; that He will lead us toward a more perfect life of prayer so that when we are called upon to offer praise and thanksgiving to God, we can do so confident in our prayer and confident in our ability to pray well.

Peace,
Dcn. Richard

From the Desk of Deacon Richard…

Dear Parish Family,

“Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy
from carousing and drunkenness
and the anxieties of daily life,
and that day catch you by surprise like a trap.
For that day will assault everyone
who lives on the face of the earth.
Be vigilant at all times
and pray that you have the strength
to escape the tribulations that are imminent
and to stand before the Son of Man.”

About the first time I saw Smokey and the Bandit, I remember hearing a song on the radio in which the singer remarked that the hardest part was waiting. I don’t remember what she was waiting for; maybe it was the second coming of Jesus… though perhaps that is not likely; after all, it was the ’70s and songs anticipating the return of Christ did not typically get a lot of play on K.I.Q.Q. Los Angeles. Still, I think, in charity, we can assume it was the return of Our Lord for which she longed.

Waiting is hard, and the anxieties of daily life are many. How easy it is to become distracted from our vigil and maybe even to forget exactly what it is for which we wait.

As we enter this Advent season, let us remain focused on Our Lord and pause a moment to ask ourselves what things we might be doing differently in our lives if we knew we would stand face-to-face with Christ tomorrow. It is never too soon to start doing those very things.

Peace,
Dcn. Richard

From the Desk of Deacon Richard…

Dear Parish Family,

I am regularly amazed at man’s capacity to call evil good and to call good evil. I’m not surprised that it happens — after all, our fallen nature frequently drives us to justify some things for which there is no justification. I’m just amazed at how good at it some people are.

For those of us who desire to do good and to walk in the way of peace, we must be diligent to not be lead astray by those who sugar-coat lies and make them sound sweet. In our age, this has become a major industry with professional working around the clock to sway our opinions and shape our desires.

In the midst of the cacophony of modern life, Christ alone leads us to the fullness of truth. Christ tells us, “For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice. ”

Let us strive always to hear Christ’s call and to live in the truth, which is the path to everlasting life.

Peace,
Dcn. Richard