Live The Faith!

Peace and grace to you all!

Through the readings this weekend we have an opportunity to reflect on how well we understand and live out Catholic social teaching.

In the first reading, God sent a gift of the spirit upon seventy chosen leaders so that Moses would have help in leadership of the people.  When Joshua approached Moses to prevent the two who were absent from the assembled group and yet prophesying, Moses’ response recognized that God had not excluded the two from a gift of the spirit, so how could he?  When John makes a similar observation to Jesus, the response is similar.  Both Moses and Jesus responded with an open and tolerant heart.  They were not threatened or jealous of God’s gifts to other people.

We know that Joshua and John were very good men with the very best intentions at heart but judging from Moses’ and Jesus’ responses, Joshua and John needed to be more open-minded and open-hearted.

If you think about it, it’s easy to become critical or territorial or too controlling when it comes to our jobs and the roles we play at work or in ministry.  It is also easy to look down on other Christians who are not Catholic, but the Church declares that they are our brothers and sisters in Christ by baptism.  We mean well but we can forget that God calls many into action and we should be more amiable and helpful when we encounter them.  But this doesn’t mean that if God calls someone, they automatically become a successor to Moses or Jesus!  There is always a path of development and conversion that comes with service!  Good leaders are first of all good followers, servants and teachers!

The most important dimension of today’s theme is that God calls everyone to be active in their faith and they are to be encouraged so that they don’t become like the rich referred to in James’ letter.  Faith in action is what it means for us to be a prophetic people.  There are many opportunities for us to be involved in our faith communities.  As you reflect on your own life and activity, listen for God’s call to you!  Consider how enriched your life can be by sharing it with others and how enriched their lives will be by having you in theirs!  May God bless you always! +++ Fr. Peter

Sincere Prayer

Peace and grace to you!

One of the things that strikes me about this weekend’s Gospel and reading from James is the way we pray.  I get to talk with a lot of people about a lot of different things but one theme that is mentioned frequently is what we pray for.  We also ask each other to pray for us and our intentions.

St. James’ letter mentions a lot of the kinds of things that we can expect to encounter in the world and we’re not surprised by it.  But James hits closer to home when he asks “where do the wars and where do the conflicts among you come from?”  He then identifies that a lot of our conflicts come from our passions.  Individual passions cause conflict within the person and left unchecked, can bring disturbance and conflict into relationships.  The real root of evil is contempt toward another person.  That’s the way sin is.

As disciples of Jesus, we all want to feel important (and we are!), we all have something to give and sometimes we have a very strong desire that things always go the way WE WANT.

Many methods are employed in getting what we want.  Some of us do well at peacefully negotiating through open dialogue and listening, which is the best because there is unity and peace.

Other times however, more aggressive and unhealthy means are used, anger, triangulation, gossip, manipulation and withholding information (to name a few) are the methods used and these are obviously problematic because it’s vicious behavior.

James tells us that God is present to help us in everything but we have to ask.  We are also informed that we need to know how to ask God for help!

In the Gospel, the disciples are engaged in debating who is the greatest and consequently who is going to get to say how things go.  Jesus reminds them that their role is to be servants.  The child Jesus points to shows us an image of straight forward simplicity and trust—no big power play here and no agenda.

In our prayer, we must be like the child.  Although we are asking for something we think is good, we’re not really aware of the greater good that God has planned.  If we want God to hear our prayer, we must be sincerely engaged in our own conversion.

When we are experiencing conflict, it is almost automatic to ask God to do such and such, in support of our own position.  If however, we offer to God our conflict, then ask God to help resolve it, we are open to God’s plan and we usually experience guidance to a peaceful resolution.  God frequently shows us a new perspective and by this we learn and trust him more.

If we’re open, God has a chance to lead and guide us.

Sometimes the resolution takes a long time.  In that case, we have to have child-like trust that God is patiently working something good for that situation.  I hope this is helpful to you!  God bless you always! +++ Fr. Peter

Works Of Faith

Peace and grace to you!

In St. James’ letter there is a strong emphasis on the concrete connection between faith and works.  We know that we cannot achieve our own salvation through our own works, but we do know that God calls us to be co-workers with him by putting our faith into action.  Our faith in action is one way in which the Word becomes flesh– today.

In the Gospel, Peter opposes Jesus for saying that he must suffer and die.  Peter is then rebuked by Jesus because he doesn’t understand that Jesus’ commitment to God’s plan for our salvation is total and complete.  Jesus alone must accomplish the saving work of our redemption and his love for God and the human race will not allow him to falter in it!

Jesus then tells the crowd and his disciples that anyone who wishes to follow him must make the same commitment.  They must give their lives for the sake of the Gospel and hold nothing back.  After Jesus’ death and resurrection, we read in the Acts of the Apostles the many good works of Peter.  We also know that he practiced what he preached because he gave his life for the sake of the Gospel.

There is much for us to think about here.  It is not enough to come to Church on Sunday, take our place in a pew and put some money in the collection basket.  It is very important that we do this but there is much more!

Some among us will be called by God to serve him by close imitation of Jesus in giving their whole lives in service of the Gospel.  They will be priests and religious Brothers and Sisters.  They must make a total commitment and God will reward them!

Most of us however, can begin to think more deeply about how we serve in our own faith community.  There are many ministries and needs within each parish.  There are lots of opportunities for us to put our faith into action.  Each one must seek and find the one, or many, that God calls them to.

What happens when we put our faith into action?  We grow in faith and joy but most importantly of all, we grow closer in our identity with Christ.  Sometimes it feels uncomfortable at first because it’s new and we have to learn new things—even about ourselves.  Sometimes it means we may be ridiculed by a person we are trying to serve (ask those at St. Vincent DePaul).  More often than anything else, we encounter God’s presence in our lives at ever deeper levels and we experience the living goodness of God working through our lives and the lives of others.  Through joy and struggle we become seasoned in our faith which tells us we are on a short journey to an eternal reward.  Giving of our resources and ourselves is not about a reward in this life but is about discipleship.  Our reward will be in the life to come. Not because we deserve it or can merit it on our own, but because God is good and loves a cheerful giver.

May God bless you always! +++ Fr. Peter

Be Opened!

Peace and grace to you!

This weekend Jesus says to the deaf man and to us: Ephphatha—be opened.

The Gospel tells the story of a deaf man with a speech impediment.  When it comes to deafness and impeded speech we can consider them on at least three levels: physical, social and spiritual.

On the physical level, there are many people who are hearing impaired.  Some were born that way and for others it occurred through various reasons such as an accident, illness or aging.

On the social level, there are a great number of people with communication problems.  We see this on the news where differing opinions and views are not listened to and aggressive, derogatory statements keep flying back and forth. We also see this in families where the same old things keep being said and not listened to and where old hurts can leave people not speaking to each other.

Though we may be able to communicate physically and socially, we could still suffer from spiritual deafness.  We could fail to hear God in our lives.  There is a plethora of noise.  Distractions and distortions of truth abound in our world today.  We all need to clear a space and time to listen to God speaking to us.  We may also suffer from a spiritual speech impediment and lack the courage and depth to speak of faith to others—with understanding and diplomacy.

The Good News, the Gospel today for those with a physical impediment– “Ephphatha” be opened,– is that God provides the resources to assist those who are hearing impaired and those who have a speech impediment through medical research, technology and health care.

To those who are engaged in social discourse, Jesus says: be open!  Listen respectfully to those with views that are different than your own and speak with honesty and charity– encouraging dialogue.  To family members, change the old patterns that have led to entrenched estrangement, welcome each other’s words and value them.  Try to respond and not react.  Forgive each other so that you may be open to listen and speak to each other again in new ways.

To the spiritually impaired, make an effort to be open and aware of God’s constant presence in your life.  God loves you!  God is with you at every moment.  Jesus always speaks the truth to you.  Go to daily Mass, read scripture, make time for private prayer everyday when you speak to God and then listen for God speaking to you.  Carry the presence and knowledge of God and your faith wherever you go.  Say “God bless you” to others and don’t curse them.  May the God of peace bless you always! +++ Fr. Peter