??From the Desk of Deacon Richard…

Dear Parish Family,

I have long believed that every person at some level expects to see the end of the world. I don’t suppose that is really so surprising when you come right down to it. There’s just something about fallen human nature that gives us the hubris to think — even if it is unconsciously — that the world just couldn’t possibly go on without us. And though everyone might believe it at some level, it also bears pointing out that the graveyards are full of people who also thought it and were wrong.

As we approach the end of the Church’s liturgical year, it is little wonder that we hear readings at Mass about tribulations… about prophecies of end times… about the return of the Son of Man.

Will Christ return? Yes; absolutely. Will it be tomorrow? Probably not. Will it be soon? Probably not. Will it be in our lifetime?

Probably not.

But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be ready. The wise man knows that the world can and probably will go on without him. The prudent man lives every day as if he will be judged tomorrow. It is best to be both wise and prudent.

Whether or not we see the end of the world and the return of Christ the King, one thing remains sure: each one of us will one day be judged by Christ: death, judgment, heaven, and hell. These are the Four Last Things; we are all guaranteed three of them. Let us pray for the grace to live our lives in preparation for that which is certain: our own judgment. If each of us focuses on that, I doubt any of us will have much time left over to worry about the end of the world.

Peace,
Dcn. Richard

From the Desk of Deacon Richard…

Dear Parish Family,

You may have heard the thoroughly modern saying, forgive your enemies. It messes with their heads.

While there is a certain humor to that, there is also an undeniable theological weakness. Far better advice is this: Forgive, and have no enemies, for your eternal salvation depends on it.

Consider that the Lord’s Prayer — the prayer Jesus gives us directly and the prayer that is considered to be one of the most complete and most perfect prayers that a person can pray — asks God to “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” If we refuse to forgive others, why should God forgive us? Shouldn’t we, as a matter of justice, be held to the same standard to which we desire to hold others? Shouldn’t we be judged by the same measure by which we ourselves judge?

A refusal to forgive is a refusal to love our neighbor as ourself. Any fool can stay angry; it takes true wisdom to see that we need to forgive others and to be forgiven ourselves. It takes real humility to see that forgiving and being forgiven is vital for our own salvation and for that of our brothers and sisters. God is love; to cling to hate is to drive God away.

True forgiveness comes from reconciliation. We are not built for bitterness and anger; we are built for love and happiness. Letting go of anger allows us to move closer to God.

When we forgive, we let go of old hurts and move toward peace. When we realize that we need to seek forgiveness ourselves, we reconcile with our brothers and sisters who we may have wronged and we grow in wisdom and understanding. We move closer to God, and that should be the goal of each and every one of us.

Peace,
Dcn. Richard

From the Desk of Deacon Richard…

Dear Parish Family,

Please note: in no place in the Gospel does Jesus say, “Blessed are those who refrain from shooting some jerk in the face with a bazooka when he really deserves it, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” He does, however, say “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”

Christ also doesn’t say that being a peacemaker is easy; however, for those of us who desire to see God, it is vital. Being a true follower of Christ means desiring to act like Christ. We are called to something higher than merely refraining from violence; we are called to truly embrace peace.

Our world and our community are filled with violence. We turn on the news and hear about real-life people killing each other over petty squabbles; we watch a movie and see so-called heroes perpetrating death and destruction on a huge scale presented under the guise of entertainment. Video games seem mainly to involve looking down the sights of a gun at another player.

It’s easy to say that’s not us; that there is a different between entertainment and reality. And, sure — there is a difference… there is a blurry, blurry line between the two. And what do I suggest doing about it? What do we do to fix the world?

Absolutely nothing, I suppose. I’m not looking to fix the world from the top down. I’d rather fix myself and trust the world to tend to its own problems. I’d rather start at the ground floor and work up. And, for me, the fix involves unblurring the line a little bit… it involves rejecting the violence and embracing the role of peacemaker, for there is no higher calling than to be counted among the Children of God.

Peace,
Dcn. Richard

From the Desk of Deacon Richard…

Dear Parish Family,

Something that you may or may not realize about me is that I am terribly shy and introverted. It is very difficult for me to do things that draw attention to myself. I think it is for that reason that I have a special love for Bartimaeus, the blind man.

I probably would have been sitting by the side of the road thinking, “There goes Jesus. He could help me… if only I could ask Him. But – really – is being blind so bad? Maybe I should just keep my mouth closed.”

Not Bartimaeus. Nope. He shouts right out, and when people try to shush him, he won’t have any of it. I can just picture him telling them, “No! You shut up!” and going right on calling out to Our Lord.

I think about Bartimaeus when I have to say something difficult or uncomfortable. It might be far easier to keep my mouth shut – to not speak out against a wrong or an injustice… but that’s not always the right thing to do.

Bartimaeus was saved by his faith, and he demonstrated his faith by calling out on the Lord – a very real action – and by trusting that Jesus had the power to help him.

Let us always pray for the faith of Bartimaeus… to pray for the wisdom to know that Christ can help us and for the spiritual eyes to see that nothing should prevent us from calling out to Our Lord and begging Him for His aid. Even when it is easier to be quiet, we should never hesitate to demonstrate our faith and our trust in God, who can do amazing things for us.

Peace,
Dcn. Richard

From the Desk of Deacon Richard… October 18, 2015

Dear Parish Family,

I come from the rural South, and in Tennessee we have a saying that someone “went and got the big head.” In today’s Gospel, the sons of Zebedee done went and got the big head. (Please note, gentle reader, that the act of “done went” compounds the fact of “got” so that “done went and got” is magnitudes worse than simply having “got the big head.”)

But haven’t we all been there at one time or another? Haven’t we all at some point been a little full of ourselves? And haven’t we seen others who are full of themselves? It’s fairly normal to react with indignation at others when they go and (as the saying goes) get the big head; the other ten apostles, Mark tells us, reacted in that way.

Christ, though, seems to react with somewhat more patience and understanding. He warns James and John that they really do not understand what they are asking for and tells them outright it is not His to give.

Let us all pray for the grace to respond a Our Lord responds, not with indignation but with patience. We are called to suffer wrongs with understanding and humility in the manner of Our Lord Jesus Christ. It is easy to be indignant; it is the mark of one on the road to sainthood to respond with patience and understanding to affronts, both real and imagined.

Peace,
Dcn. Richard

From the Desk of Deacon Richard… October 11, 2015

I would like to say a very special thank you to everyone who came out last Sunday to support Life Chain 2015. It was a bit chilly out, but the support of so many passers by made it seem a little less cold. It is always good to be a witness for those who cannot speak for themselves and to support the sanctity of life.

In today’s Gospel reading, Our Lord tells a rich young man to sell what he has, give it to the poor, and to follow Him. The young man goes away sad, unwilling to take that radical step in discipleship.

Christ then goes on to exclaim to His disciples, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!”

This statement worries me, and it seems to have worried his disciples as well, as the Scriptures report that they were amazed at Jesus’ words… so much so that when they questioned Our Lord, He seems to have doubled down on His statement and told them, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

Now, I’ve heard the stories about camel caravans and a narrow gate in Jerusalem that it was somewhat difficult but far from impossible for a camel to pass through. Those stories are utter bunk, made up by tour guides to reassure wealthy visitors to Jerusalem. Let’s set those stories aside (along with their semi-pelagianistic leanings) and assume that Our Lord meant what He said: that just as a camel cannot pass through the eye of a needle, a rich man cannot enter heaven.

That idea is very frightening, indeed. Compared to the American standard of wealth, I’m not what might be considered overly wealthy. Like many of the parishioners of Our Lady of Lourdes, I’m comfortable, not complaining, but not rich, either. However, compared to a standard that encompasses all of the world’s people, I am exceptionally wealthy.

Can I be saved? Can you? Or does our wealth doom us? The answer is simple: left to our own devices, our wealth dooms us. But Christ does not leave us to our own devices; He makes possible our salvation. Still, to those who are given much, much is expected. We have been given great gifts, many of which we receive by simple virtue of when and where we were born. It is incumbent upon us to use some of what we are given in service to Christ and His Church. After all, it was given freely to us and we in turn should give freely to those less fortunate.

Peace,
Dcn. Richard

From the Desk of Deacon Richard… Oct 4, 2015

A Note on Mass Intentions: There is a new mail box near the parish office in which Mass Intentions can be left. This box, like the chapel, is available 24-hours-a-day. You can leave your Mass request and $10 stipend in the box at any time.

N.B.: when I schedule Masses, I try to put them on the requested date when possible. When the requested date is not available, I place the intention on the next available open Mass time. If you want to find out if a particular date is open, you are welcome to call or text me at 816.679-8974 or email me at richard@richardgross.net. (I am in school right now and will be through December 11, so I am unavailable by phone for part of the day. If you are unable to reach me by phone, please leave a message and I will return your call as soon as I am able. It is my hope that Mass Intention scheduling will be available online via the OLL website in the not-too-distant future.)

The OLL Website: Our parish’s website, www.ollraytown.com, was recently updated; there will be more changes to it in the coming weeks. I am in the process of migrating it to an entirely new format that will better enable me to provide information on upcoming events in the parish.

You can still find all of the information that was on the old site on the new; as always, you can find an expanded edition of this Bulletin on the website. The digital edition of the Bulletin is posted to the website on Friday afternoon.

Life Chain 2015: This year’s Life Chain is today! I hope to see everyone this afternoon praying for the sanctity of life and for the protection of the unborn.

All human life is precious because all people are made in the likeness and image of God. There is nothing more valuable than a human soul and no person’s life should ever be ended prematurely for any reason.

Not everyone who is in mortal danger is capable of speaking for him- or herself. It is the responsibility of those who love justice to act as witnesses for those who are incapable of representing themselves.

Please join me this afternoon in silent witness for those whose lives are in danger through the evil of abortion. See the interior of this Bulletin for more information about Life Chain 2015.

Peace,
Dcn. Richard

From the Desk of Deacon Richard….

August 16, 2015

Dear Parish Family,

Let whoever is simple turn in here; To the one who lacks understanding, she says, Come, eat of my food, and drink of the wine I have mixed! Forsake foolishness that you may live; advance in the way of understanding.

In the book of Proverbs, Wisdom is personified. She — for Wisdom is a she — offers understanding to the simple. She invites us to her table and offers to share with us the fruit of wisdom.

However, the gaining of wisdom is not assured. It is not enough to merely sit at the table; one must eat the food and drink the wine. In short, one must do.

One must also forsake the way of foolishness in favor of the way of understanding. Wisdom does not fall into our laps; such is not the natural order of things. We must seek her.

It is easy to be the fool. It is easy to be mean spirited. It is easy to be uncharitable. It is easy to be small, and petty, and foul, and every other thing that comes through sloth… through lack of effort… through lack of charity… through a desire to do as little as possible for others while taking as much as we can for ourselves. Being pushy and hateful is easy; any fool can do it. It is basically the default path for fallen mankind — but it was never intended to be.

To be wise is far more difficult. It takes real effort. To be charitable and loving… to defend justice for others… to work selflessly and actively for the betterment of all — these are good and noble not because they are easy, but precisely because they are hard. They do not come naturally because we must, through grace, rise above our base nature and take on the nature of sons and daughters of God. We must work to be what we were intended to be from the very beginning.

Let us all pray for wisdom and understanding, for charity and love, for a commitment to justice, and for the ability to see the good in others as being equal to the good in ourselves. Most importantly, let us always seek to cooperate with the grace that God gives us so that we can rise above our base nature and become what we were intended to be from the very beginning: sons and daughters of God.

Peace,
Dcn. Richard

From the Desk of Deacon Richard…

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August 2, 2015
The 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dear Parish Family,

Buddha did not claim that he was God. Abraham — the patriarch of not only the Jewish faith, but of Christian and Muslim as well — did not claim to be any other than fully human. Moses claimed only to be a prophet and to speak with the Lord. Mohammed made a similar claim as Moses and certainly did not identify himself as Allah. Never did Zoroaster claim to be Ahura Mazda. Jesus alone makes the claim that He is God made flesh for our salvation.

Christ was fully human and fully divine. We should never lose sight of this reality. There are those who will make the claim that Jesus never said He was God. This is simply wrong. He did, indeed, make such a claim, both in word and deed. When the high priest asked Jesus directly if He was the Christ, the Son of God, Our Lord responded, “I am.” His words to Martha after the death of her brother Lazarus also that He is fully aware of His divine nature as do His words to the Samaritan woman at the well when He identifies Himself as the Living Water come down from heaven.

In today’s Gospel reading, Christ tells us that He is “the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.” We receive the Bread of Life — Christ Himself — when we receive the Eucharist. Christ’s flesh is real food; Christ’s blood is real drink; what we receive at the Eucharist is really and truly the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ, Our Lord, the Son of God.

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There is no other religion in which the high priest can make a reasonable claim to be God Himself. Christ alone makes this claim and Christ alone should be believed. Thousands of years of Hebrew history anticipate His coming, and two thousand years since show the reasonableness of His claim: Jesus Christ is the Son of the Living God. He became man for our salvation. When we receive the Holy Eucharist we are receiving His flesh and His blood and entering into communion with Him. When we receive the Bread of Life, we participate in a great movement toward salvation initiated by God Himself, without Whom we have no hope of eternal life.

Peace,
Dcn. Richard