More Than Words

Peace and grace to you!

This weekend we get a distinct contrast between the first reading and the Gospel.  In the first reading, Moses delivers the statutes and decrees of the law which, the people are to carefully observe so that they may rest in right relationship with God.  In the Gospel, Jesus criticizes those who rigidly focus on rules and exterior observances yet fail to understand that entering the covenant with God requires an interior personal commitment.

Examples of people who call themselves Christians but don’t act like one, abound.  It’s everywhere.

But this is not a time for name calling, criticizing or passing judgment on others.  Most of us are a little de-sensitized to all the harsh and critical words being exchanged on news interviews, TV shows, movies and media presentations.  We wonder at the increasing lack of civility being displayed and where it’s all going.

Christianity is about belief and practice!  Real, authentic religion is not a mere external observance of rules for show and it is not just a matter of opinion or politics.  Words and opinions are important but empty words and empty ritual observances are the basic actions of the hypocrite.  The authentic covenant relationship consists of a concrete connection between external observance, words and actions.  Authentic observance and actions flow from the heart as the result of a personal connection with God and an internalization of divine teaching.  This is what makes a living faith a daily journey with an intentional effort toward conversion of heart and mind.  Remember the gift of the Eucharist, its from Jesus’ Sacred Heart!  He calls us to conversion.

So what should we do?  What can we do?

Instead of falling under the influence of wide-spread disrespect and dishonesty, we can consciously commit ourselves to being doers of the word.  That means putting our faith into practice wherever we are and in whatever we are doing.  We owe a debt to God, we respond by humble service to God in all situations.  It requires us to be mindful that God is always present.

God sees into the heart of every person and knows the intent.  We all need God’s grace to be true disciples.  We are called to help each other along the way and we do this by our personal efforts to be authentic!  May God bless you always! +++ Fr. Peter

Covenant With God

Peace and grace to you!

This weekend we are reminded of what it is to be in a covenant relationship with God.  Our understanding of this relationship is enhanced through the image of Jesus’ love for the Church.  It is also reflected in a marriage covenant.

In the first reading Joshua stands as the leader of the Israelites and informs them that they have a choice to make.  The people are aware of their past and continuing struggles of fidelity to the Covenant that God established with them through Moses.  Joshua affirms his intent to remain faithful in his statement “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians provides instructions for remaining in communion as a faith community and uses the Church’s relationship to Christ as the basis for all relationships, especially for those who are married.

The Gospel of John reemphasizes the reality that following the Lord is challenging and involves personal and communal choices.  Over the past 5 weeks, Jesus has been revealing who God truly is and has also revealed that he is the Bread of Life.  He began by teaching and feeding the five thousand with a few loaves and a couple of fish.  The people loved it because the message was good and the miracle was sensational and tangible.  Some came in search of him only because they wanted more fish and bread, they were never interested in his words and teaching about God.  Last weekend when Jesus informed them that not only his words were food but also his physical body and blood would be food, the mood quickly changed to rejection and disbelief.   Only a few remained.  Jesus asks the disciples if they too will leave and Peter’s response is one of faith but without complete understanding: “Master, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.”

The journey of life is full of surprises!  So many times in life, God gives us surprises that seem too good to be true—like his real and true presence in the Eucharist.  Another unbelievably great surprise is how much God loves each of us and how, no matter how badly we may sometimes fail, God always remains faithful in love and mercy.  God is always true to his promises!  But not every surprise is a good one.

I say this as a back drop against any lack of understanding, lack of faith, or lack of fidelity on the part of an individual or the Church.  Sometimes something unbelievably bad can happen and we are tempted to “throw the baby out with the bathwater” through rejection and disbelief.  They are those who walk away from the faith and the Church.  In such circumstances it is difficult to be humble and continue as disciples. Whenever there is pain and hurt all we can do is make Joshua’s assertion of fidelity my own: as for me, I will serve the Lord.  And when others walk away, we can make Peter’s words our own: to whom shall we go?  You alone Lord have the words of eternal life.  Our faith does not reside in people because all human beings are flawed, even the best fall short of perfection.  Our faith must always reside in God who will sustain each of us personally and the Church universal.  The Church is the Sacrament of salvation to the whole world.  May God bless you always! +++ Fr. Peter

The Assumption

May God’s gift of grace in Christ rest upon you!

The Church’s calendar this year does not include the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary as a Holy Day of Obligation because it falls on a Sunday.  Like many of you and many disciples through history, I have a deep love and appreciation for Mary the Mother of Jesus.  In fact, I recognize that it is through prayer and a living relationship with Mary that I have a deep relationship with Jesus and a greater sense of value for my vocation.  For these reasons, I find it most advantageous that we celebrate this Solemnity of Mary and give her honor and recognition as her Son Jesus so much enjoys.  The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary depicts that when her earthly sojourn was completed, Mary was assumed body and soul into heaven!  To have such a feast calls us to pause and consider God’s original plan for the human race, the fall of Adam and Eve, the incarnation, death, resurrection and ascension of Christ, our own death as Christians and the resurrection of the body.  That’s a lot to think about!  God created the human race to be with him forever in the intimate union of the beatific vision.  Adam and Eve ruptured God’s plan and relationship through disobedience.  In response to the sin, God sent his Son– as a man– to heal and restore human nature.  Mary was preserved free from any stain of sin to be the pure human being through whom Christ would restore human nature.  The first Eve led Adam to sin and became, in a sense, not the “mother of the living” but the mother of the dead.  In contrast, Mary, the New Eve, by her obedience to the Annunciation of the angel, brought life to the human race in conceiving the person of the New Adam and by willfully uniting herself to the principal acts of his redemptive mission.  Mary cooperated with Jesus in the totality of his mission: in his conception and birth, in his Presentation, in his first public miracle, his passion, crucifixion, ascension and the beginnings of the Church at Pentecost.  More exalted than the natural motherhood of Eve, Mary became the mother of the living, Mystical Body of Christ through her discipleship and participation in the work of the Redeemer.  Mary was the first among the redeemed (Dun Scotus) and began to share in the fullness of redemption from the moment of her conception (doctrine of the Immaculate Conception), for her whole life on earth, and now in heaven.  As disciples of Christ, we rejoice that she stands as a light of hope for the whole human race and is revered as a true mother of love and holiness to all who seek her help and friendship.  God bless you all! +++ Fr. Peter

God Provides Nourishment!

Peace to you!

The great prophet Elijah was filled with the Spirit of God and yet, in his humanness, he was discouraged to the point of death.  We hear in the first reading how God encouraged him by sending an angel to speak to him and give him nourishment.  The nourishment that Elijah received was more than just physical; it was spiritual too and it gave him the strength he needed to fulfill his mission.  Because Elijah listened and received gratefully what God gave him, he was strengthened to accomplish God’s will.

There are times in our lives when the burdens and crosses of daily life seem to get too heavy for us.  We can be discouraged like Elijah and simply want to give up.  There are times when we don’t understand and we murmur, question, and doubt like the Jews in the Gospel story.  Sometimes we grieve the Holy Spirit by allowing our bitterness and frustrations to move us to lash out at others with anger, harsh words, fury and shouting.  The readings today call us back away from sadness and confusion.  Instead, they direct us to receive strength through his Word, the Eucharist, and the life of the Holy Spirit within in us.  Jesus, who is the Living Word of God, came also as Bread from Heaven so as to nourish us to life in communion of his own Spirit.  The image of God feeding the people of Israel in the desert with manna during their forty-year sojourn to the Promised Land prefigures the fulfillment of the true Bread from Heaven sent in Jesus.  Jesus comes to us with Words of encouragement and clear instructions, he gives us himself under the form of bread and wine to strengthen us.  We are uplifted as the wind of the Spirit fills our hearts and souls to run joyfully as members of the Heavenly Kingdom.  Our hope is made certain as we fix our desire on the true Promised Land of eternal happiness with God in heaven.  The invitation that Jesus gives is to all!  Our mission as God’s prophetic people is to invite and encourage others to come with us on this great sojourn in which we find and share blessing and peace!  God bless you always! +++ Fr. Peter