Peace to you!

Beatitude, understood properly as a term, means the state of complete blessedness or happiness. The beatific vision is to be in the full possession of the only truly perfect good, which is God. There are 8 supernatural actions that the Lord enumerates in the Sermon on the Mount, the last of which is indicated twice to emphasize its excellence. Simply stated, the beatitudes are the crowning achievements in the Christian life on earth. They are acts of virtue (moral excellence) that have been perfected to the highest possible degree by the person who has become habitually docile to the Holy Spirit. It almost goes without saying that while humility, meekness, desire for justice, chastity, compassion, mercy, charity, working for peace no matter the cost are acts of virtue, they also manifest the real presence of special, God given gifts in the person. A beatific or happy life is the result of using these supernatural gifts in a manner guided by the Holy Spirit. All of us desire fulfillment and happiness at the deepest level within. As Christians, we regard Jesus as the revealer and teacher of truth. Jesus teaches us the truth about the human person and about God. Through the beatitudes, he reveals that the way to true happiness consists in a life of virtue in communion with God in the Holy Spirit. This doesn’t necessarily mean that we won’t have to struggle with sin while we are in the world, but it does mean that we can experience the blessedness of the kingdom! May God guide you into the way of peace! +++ Fr. Peter

We Thirst For God!

Peace and grace to you all!

The readings that we use this weekend are from Year A. The reason we will use them is because they emphasize the importance of faith and baptism. This is important for the faithful and especially for those preparing for baptism into the Catholic faith.

In the first reading, the Israelites’ physical fatigue and thirst reveals the deeper level of their spiritual aridity and lack of faith. This happens even though God has been providing everything that they need in a unique and powerful way. Moses is frustrated with their hardness of heart, doubt and complaining rather than putting confidence in God. But God is patient, understanding and compassionate so he gives them the water they desire (the water symbolizes the Life of Grace through baptism).

In the Gospel story, Jesus encounters the Samaritan woman and surprises her in many ways. She carries an empty jar to the well each day to satisfy her physical thirst. But in the encounter with Jesus, it becomes almost immediately clear that the empty jar is an image of her own spiritual emptiness and thirst for grace and mercy from God. She has had a hard life. She comes to the well at mid-day to avoid the scorn and ridicule of other townspeople. She quickly discovers that Jesus doesn’t treat her the way other people do. He is kind toward her even though he knows her whole life story with the bad decisions but instead of ridicule and rejection, Jesus offers her a remedy. For her part, she has only to put her faith and trust in him. She leaves the jar behind as an image of leaving behind her emptiness, pain, and thirst for God. Something new is springing up inside of her, it is faith and trust. As baptized Catholics, we can well identify with the wellspring flowing inside her because we know it is the grace and mercy of God. It is evident that Jesus came on that day and at that hour to satisfy the longing the woman had for God: to save her from her sins.

There is another thirst in the story too. Jesus’ thirst. Jesus was thirsting for her faith and trust. This set of readings helps us in our Lenten desert. While we experience trials and tribulations, aridity and loneliness, we thirst for fulfillment and comfort but we don’t always remember that God’s thirst for our faith and trust in him is much greater than ours. God’s thirst for us is satisfied when we put him first and call to him for help. God’s presence will always be found in the act of loving. When we comfort, accept, heal and forgive one another, we are not only imitating God’s response to us, we are also making God present to others. May God continue to fill you with life-giving water! +++ Fr. Peter

Trust In God’s Promise!

May joy and peace fill your hearts!

The readings this weekend may catch us off guard a little bit but on a closer look, they are filled with consolation!

Abraham lived with the kind of faith and hope that we are encouraged to imitate. God made a covenant with him and kept it. But there came a time when Abraham’s faith was tested. He had to believe that God would keep it even in a situation where it looked like God wouldn’t. Abraham gives us an example of how to grow in faith and trust in God.

Paul’s letter to the Philippians is filled with faith because it reminds them that “our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we also await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ . . . who will change our lowly body to conform to his glorified body.” Paul’s faith filled vision of heavenly glory became an inspiration and strength to the Church at Philippi. The Philippians had always been supportive of Paul financially and otherwise but they were experiencing some tensions that could cause divisions. From prison, Paul expresses his loving concern as a pastor and instructs the community to guard their unity in Christ with humility and charity. He reminds them of their heavenly goal to give them strength.

The account of Jesus’ Transfiguration with a few of his disciples is intended to console and strengthen them in their faith just before they see him horribly disfigured by crucifixion. They hear the voice from heaven declaring Jesus as the chosen Son and they experience seeing Jesus resplendent in glory, dazzling in radiant beauty.

During Lent, we don’t often have “mountain top experiences” or mystical trance-like encounters with God. Although we do pray more and are accompanied by the Spirit, it is more common for us to become painfully aware of our failings and weaknesses. The readings this weekend lift us up to focus, not on our faults, but on God’s faithful covenant promise and what we will become by God’s love and mercy. We continue in our Lenten Journey to our own transfiguration and transformation by dying to sin, and rising to new life in Christ! God bless you! +++ Fr. Peter

The Lenten Journey Begins!

Peace and grace to you!

We have begun our Lenten journey! As you already know, this journey leads us out of the oppression and captivity of sin through a deep change called conversion and into a new life closer to God. This pattern follows the way of the Paschal Mystery of Jesus which leads to the resurrection!

Throughout the Lenten season we are reminded that from baptism, we have a special identity: we are God’s holy people! Each one of us is a child of God and deeply loved. Another theme of Lent is almsgiving by which we show our gratitude to God for our own blessings and our care and concern for those in need.

In the first reading from Deuteronomy, Moses instructs the people to recount the history of the Israelites and to present to God the first portion of their possessions in gratitude for God’s saving action which delivered them from oppression in Egypt and gave them a fruitful land.

The Gospel story picks up at a point immediately after Jesus’ baptism when the heavens were opened and the voice identified him as “beloved son.” Following that, Jesus is led to the desert where he is tempted by the devil to turn away from God to sin.

The first temptation is to use his divine power to selfishly satisfy his own bodily cravings by turning a stone to bread when he is hungry. The second temptation is to abandon his role as a humble servant of God in exchange for worldly power, wealth and glory but he would have to worship the devil to gain it. The third temptation to jump from the temple height would be to reverse his role with God by trying to make God serve him. Each of the temptations leads to loss of divine son ship. In the face of each temptation, Jesus rejects sin and chooses to follow God’s commands affirming his role as an obedient servant of his Father’s will. It is by his obedience that our disobedience is healed and restored.

At this early point in the journey, we are invited to evaluate our conduct as God’s children. I’m sure that each of us can discover something in ourselves that compromises our divine “son ship;” not living our true Christian identity, not giving of what we have, misusing the gifts we are given. The good news is that where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more! God is here to help us truly be his beloved children and strengthen us in discipleship. No matter what, let no one be afraid to turn to God and ask for mercy, help and healing.

May the God of all consolation be with you! +++ Fr. Peter

Avoiding Hypocracy

Peace and grace to you!

Today’s readings remind me of Flannery O’Connor’s stories “Revelation” or “A Good Man is Hard to Find.” I also recall Harper Lee’s only novel “To Kill a Mocking Bird.”

The principles that Jesus is teaching today inspired these authors to describe situations that depict great injustices by societies, individuals and even whole classes of race toward other people.

We might label this kind of behavior as “Log-in-the-eye-disease.”

Jesus is asking us to be honest with ourselves about the way we treat others. He is saying that frequently we quickly point out the faults and failings of others while overlooking our own greater faults and failings. Darkness and hardness of heart are the root of viewing people wrongfully and this results in wrongful judgement. Grudges and long-standing prejudices close out the light of the Gospel. Jesus names it as evil and not capable of good fruit. That means no happiness, no peace, no friends, no joy and no glorifying God. If we, who are baptized into Christ, are suffering from log-in-the-eye syndrome, we are hypocrites and merit a hypocrite’s reward.

The remedy? Listen to Jesus and follow him. It helps to first consider that we don’t completely know another person’s story. We must be able to identify bad behavior but that is a long way from condemning a person. Will Rogers said: “Good judgement comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgement.” If we begin from a perspective of understanding that all of us need room to make mistakes, that all of us need God’s mercy, we avoid being hypocrites and become better friends of God and our neighbor. Blessings to you! +++ Fr. Peter