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

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

Seek The Bread Of Life!

Peace to you!

Over the past couple of weekends we have revisited the importance of prayer in our lives and reflected upon a few of the ways that giving and sharing what we have enriches our lives in amazing ways.  Last weekend Jesus taught the people about God and then fed the multitude with a few loaves and a couple of fish as a sign of God’s generous providence and care toward the people he created and dearly loves.

This weekend we pick up the story after the multitude has been taught and fed.  Some of the people go in search of Jesus because they want more bread and fish.  Jesus notes that though they had seen the sign, it didn’t lead them to faith in him.  Their only interest was the tangible thing.  Jesus instructs them to have faith in what he has taught them and put those teachings to use in their lives.  In response to Jesus’ instructions, they ask for another sign—more bread.  Since all they can think of is bread, Jesus uses bread as an allegory to teach them a higher principle:  “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and who believes in me will never thirst.”  You wonder if they “got it” after that.

In the past, I’ve encountered some things that remind me of what is taking place in the Gospel story.  One event was on a fishing trip when our boat came in to the dock and we had people filet our tuna for us.  The couple who were cutting the fish found out that I was a priest and they asked me to do them a favor: send all the people to go fishing on Sunday so that they could make more money.  I smiled at their faith in my ability to provide them a means to more money, but was saddened at their lack of understanding that we NEED God’s word, its light and power, we need God more than money.  Another couple I spoke to was concerned about the economy and their retirement.  They decided to stop going to Mass on Sunday and keep their little restaurant open 7 days a week.  I noted that they weren’t open in the morning when Mass takes place but they insisted that they needed to prepare for the day’s work.  Over a period of time I continued to stop in and see them and I noticed their fatigue and that family affairs were becoming more burdensome and the business profit margin was slowly declining like their own health.  I wondered if they ever “got it” .

Jesus tells us not to work for what perishes—things of the world– but for what endures for eternal life.  Jesus also said that no one lives on bread alone but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.

God established Sunday as a day of rest, nourishment and trust in his loving providence.  On Sunday, we come to give thanks for our blessings, ask for help with our needs and we are inspired with faith because we know he keeps his promises to not only provide, but also to bless us with joy and peace as well!  Got it?  Blessings to you! +++ Fr. Peter

God Will Provide!

Peace to you!

This weekend Jesus feeds the five thousand with only a few loaves and a couple of fish.  Whenever we hear this story we are reminded of Moses and the people in the desert.  They had hunger and thirst, then God provided the manna from heaven and water from the rock so that no one was lacking.  Elisha did not keep what was offered to him but gave it to the people instead and upon blessing it, there was plenty for all.  The people in the Gospel story were in a deserted place and in need so Jesus made sure that all had their fill.  He did it to fulfill God’s Word and to reveal who He is and show that God loves and cares for them.

We believe in miracles and God’s mighty power to provide for his people.  Jesus could have made stones turn into bread if he had wanted to—we know that.  But that is not what happened here.  Jesus asked people to share what they had, then he blessed it and what was shared became more than sufficient for a multitude!

There is a human tendency to store up more than what we need for ourselves, an extra amount against lean times, and most of us agree that this is prudent and wise.

Today, Jesus calls us to share some of what we have with others.  To not share or to not give, even from the little we have closes us off from what God’s blessings can bring to ourselves and others.

The people with Moses in the desert were not permitted to store more than they could eat for that day.  They learned to trust and depend on God’s providence for each single day.  By asking us to give and share, Jesus invites us to increase our confidence, trust and grow in our love by imitating God’s goodness.  This frees us from worry, fear and selfishness.

The sharing of money or things we have is far more enriching to our souls than the things that we give.  Giving connects a person more deeply with God, who is generous. Giving brings satisfaction and fulfills our longing for happiness because helping others brings joy.  It also connects us with our past present and future generations of the Church.  Giving makes the scriptures alive and real and our faith finds a concrete expression through it.  People who are generous are models and heroes that encourage everyone to be generous and the whole community begins to see accomplishments that could not have taken place otherwise.  When we share, our prayer life is enlivened and our faith grows as we gain a deeper sense of ownership and belonging to God and the Church.  We also grow in a special kind of freedom from being overly attached to things of earth and from fear of being in want or need.  As we begin to understand that God cannot be outdone in generosity, our values and priorities become refined as we consciously labor to build the kingdom of heaven on earth.  May God bless you and guide you in the way of joy and peace! +++ Fr. Peter