Humble Service

May the peace and grace of Christ reign in your hearts!

The readings this weekend lead us to reflect on humility and service of others. The Gospel scene depicts Jesus as a special guest attending a formal meal celebration at a wealthy person’s home. Through the past couple of weeks, Jesus has been healing and preaching in the area. He has spoken about mustard seeds, yeast and narrow doors. He cured a woman incapable of standing erect and the man afflicted with dropsy, which is known as edema today. Jesus has been talking about the kingdom of God. It’s a kingdom of new life that is open to all people, both Jews and Gentiles alike. On the side of the mountain when he said “love your brothers and sisters,” he made a sweeping motion with his arm indicating everyone there; those of social status and those on the fringes of society. Afterward he fed them all the loaves and the fish and the last person received the same portion as the Apostles. Today Jesus reminds us how easy it is to get caught up in worldly standards, judgments and politics that constantly change: at times, it can seem like a roller coaster ride. The lesson is for the least prominent and the most eminent among us. God does not judge as people do and what we consider important is not necessarily what God regards as important. But we do know that God is humble, for Jesus said “I am meek and humble of heart.” The people at the banquette seem very occupied with who gets to sit with whom either for bragging rights or perhaps out of fear of being left out. Lucky for us, we don’t have to worry or jostle to get a place close to Jesus. He is the highest guest of honor, and he dwells within us. He sees the truth of our intentions in all our efforts and he knows the desires of our hearts. This knowledge gives us the freedom to not worry about how others perceive us and allows us to focus on Jesus’ encouragement to follow him in humble service of God and neighbor. May God preserve you in peace! +++ Fr Peter

God Helps In Our Mistakes!

May the God of all grace confirm and strengthen you in love!

When I was a 12 year old kid I had a summer job working on a ranch out of Pinedale, Wyoming. Being a ranch hand required knowledge and skills from doctoring people and animals to mechanical wizardry with bailing wire and everything in between. The spectrum of tasks associated with living and working on a ranch was and still is, broad. As you might have already surmised, the development of such skills takes time and repetition and it goes without saying that perfection comes at the cost of many mistakes. One day, my older brother Joe and I were sent out to repair fences and haul debris from the “home pasture” and I was volunteered to drive the truck/trailer for the operation. It took me a few tries to get the clutch figured out but I got to the point that I could avoid the bucking starts most times. I didn’t like shifting gears because I could hardly reach the pedals and I almost always went off the road while looking down, trying to get the stick shift into the proper slot (I quickly developed a dislike for International standard transmissions!). Joe was always insistent on fast travel so I was forced to improve my shifting. The narrow gate incident arrived when we were in a hurry to get back to the ranch for lunch. I thought I could make a turn-around out of the pasture without making the necessary exaggerated arc to get the truck and trailer lined up to pass through a particularly narrow gate. The truck made it but the edge of the trailer caught the post and I tore out the gate post and a section of fence. When we reached the ranch house, I had to give an account to the older ranch hands and the boss. I got razzed and laughed at in good-natured fun then they all came out and helped Joe and I repair the fence—and widened the gate! I think that like the older hands and the boss, God knows that we are going to make mistakes while learning. But if we ask him, God will help us in tight situations and Jesus is always there to repair our failed attempts. If we take the time to try to do the job right, God will help us and we’ll make it through! May God’s blessings be with you always! +++ Fr. Peter

Put Faith Into Practice!

Peace and blessings to you!

The readings this weekend do not bring a lot of comfort with them. Rather, they remind us that lives of faith and service will encounter struggle but God is always present to help!

Jeremiah lived in a very troubled time. His country of Judah was under the control of the Assyrian Empire and this led the people away from God to following the religion of foreign rulers, which was idolatry. Jeremiah’s message was to define true religion and to proclaim that the coming wars were a result of the people’s wrong doing. Jeremiah reminded the people that the covenant between Israel and Yahweh was a matter of love—like the love between a man and a woman in marriage. Sadly, the leadership and the people preferred the status quo. They did not want to change and they made Jeremiah suffer for calling them to turn their hearts and come back to God.

In the Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples that he did not come to bring peace to the earth but rather division. “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!” Many of us experience conflict when we hear these words and we are concerned when it seems that God’s word is giving people a warrant to shatter peace, to cause division, and be prophetic to the point of disrupting the civil status quo.

Over the past year we have seen several terrible tragedies: shootings at schools, shooting of police and police killing people. It doesn’t end there: In Europe, the Middle East and Africa the violence has caused hundreds of thousands of deaths and millions of refugees. In the US we continue to have polarizing discussions around the Second Amendment, Religious Liberty, Freedom of Conscience, and same sex “marriage”, as well as the continuing menaces of human trafficking, pornography and violence in American cinema and video games.

The Gospel values that we as Christians profess are in direct conflict with all the above public topics. But it is first of all felt inside of ourselves. The call to Christ is first of all personal and it moves us to public witness. The Letter to the Hebrews calls us to “rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us.” The violence that we first feel is when we turn from darkness to light. It is the violence of conforming our will and desires according to Christ’s law of love and service to God and neighbor rather than selfishness. Some of us may feel alone and neglected in our own household rather than loved and cared for. Perhaps the violence required is speaking out and expressing our feelings in a non-threatening way so that new life may begin through new patterns of behavior that speak in love languages. Another dimension of violence is zeal for justice over complacency, desire for holiness over indifference, prophetic speech over the status quo. The hearer of God’s Word cannot remain idle or unmoved for God’s Word is truly alive and when it strikes the heart, it can move mountains. St. Catherine of Sienna said “if you are what you should be, you will set the whole world on fire.” For our part, we must believe and put our faith into practice in a most congenial way, first in our own hearts and homes, then publicly in our community. God bless you always! +++ Fr. Peter

Seek Heavenly Treasure!

May the light of Christ give you joy and peace!

This weekend’s Gospel reminds us that nothing in this world lasts forever. Jesus says don’t be afraid to make a real and true commitment to use our resources in a way that will secure a heavenly treasure. Heavenly treasure can never be stolen or lost or decay. In fact, it becomes an eternal weight of glory. No one in today’s stock market or investment firms can make that promise! Sigmund Freud had a favorite story that touches on the point of preparing for the future.

There was once a sailor who swam to the shore of an island after his ship wrecked. When the natives found him, they rejoiced and carried him on their shoulders and made him king of the island. As with any king, the people would joyfully do anything the king asked of them. One day he asked why they made him, a perfect stranger, their king, they replied: because the person selected to be king can only be a king for one year. When the year has passed, he is then taken to a desert island, Kings Island, and left there to die as a sacrifice to the gods. The sailor realized that if he was going to survive, he needed a plan for the future. As king, he ordered the carpenters of the island to build a small fleet of boats. When the boats were ready, he ordered the farmers to dig up fruit trees and nutritious plants, put them in the boats and transplant them on Kings Island. Then he ordered the masons to go and build a house on Kings Island so that when the year ended and it was time for him to be banished, he would have things stored and ready for his arrival.

Although the story of the sailor is simplistic, it does help us to understand what Jesus is getting at. As disciples of Jesus, we recognize that God is more important than anything else. God is the source of all our lives and we hope to come to an eternal dwelling with God. As stewards of God’s many gifts, we know that God blesses and prospers our efforts to use his gifts wisely in the world. Our mission is to increase faith and participation in God’s kingdom on earth. Any investments that we make for God’s sake in the world will help the community of faith on earth. Those who devote themselves and their resources to the mission of the Church will inherit an eternal reward. Even those who offer a cup of water, like Veronica, will be rewarded.

May God enrich you all with his blessings! +++ Fr Peter

How Will You Use Your Life?

May the peace of Christ fill your hearts and minds!

No one can read today’s scripture readings without asking themselves a serious question: What have I done with my life?

This question that Jesus poses is not meant to intimidate or cause us to judge ourselves or other people harshly. It is intended to make us reflect, deeply and personally on our life’s focus, purpose and efforts. The question is one that somebody else can’t answer for us, we must answer it for ourselves. The response to the question is meant to guide us in the direction that we need to go. To God.

Jerry Kramer was an all-pro lineman for the Green Bay Packers whose life was focused on football and the achievement of glory among men. Later in his life, Jerry began to reflect on his accomplishments and what he had to show for them. He had a very fine home, a ranch in Idaho, several cars and a nice boat. He thought, “isn’t all this wonderful?” Then, in reading accounts of people who were resuscitated after having been declared clinically dead, Jerry discovered that there was a deeper question to be answered. In one of the accounts, the person recalled the experience of floating upward and encountering a being of light that asked “what have you done with your life?” In pondering this story, Jerry knew that his life’s accomplishments could not just consist of the attainment of possessions or fame. He was struck by the thought that if he could accomplish one great thing, it would be to give his children Gospel values. Jerry realized that he had not done for his children what his father had done for him because he had been focused on himself most of the time.

The question before us is not whether we have material wealth or whether we have made personal achievements: God intends that we have both. The question asks whether or not we have used our lives and resources to promote the Kingdom of Heaven which is radically beneficial to ourselves and others. It’s the kind of question that goes to the heart of why we are here and what we do with God’s gift of life. Like you, I want to be able to smile at Jesus in hope on my day of reckoning and show him that I love him with the account that I will give.

May God enrich you with all blessings! +++ Fr Peter

Nourishment Of Prayer

Peace to you!

In the last few days the subject of prayer has been a theme that keeps rising to the surface through scripture passages and while visiting with people.

For St. Therese of Lisieux, prayer is described as “a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy” (CCC #2558). To hear St. Therese’s description of prayer makes it seem like prayer is very natural and easy. It may give us the idea that for the Saints, prayer came as easy as breathing and they never had to think about it or work at it. The truth of the matter is that all the Saints, including Therese, had to keep working to develop their prayer life.

One of the great challenges to prayer for many of us today is that we lead extremely busy lives. When our minds are occupied with the details of family life and we are constantly on the move to meet the different interests and activities we enjoy, prayer can be far from the heart and mind. If we become too pragmatic in our thinking, it may seem that prayer is a waste of time because we are not accomplishing anything concrete.

One day as I was in the produce section at the grocery store picking out some tomatoes and avocados for salad, a young produce clerk there wished me a good weekend. It was Friday afternoon. I responded in kind then he mentioned he had four days off and was planning to do a road trip with friends and visit San Francisco. As he relayed the details of his plans, it became clear that it would be a hurried and hectic time. I wished him good luck getting all of it into a four day weekend. He responded—yeah, you only go around once so you have to get it all in! I smiled and nodded while I thought about how “getting it all in” is a challenge for all of us.

Our American culture places a high value on practicality and the accomplishment of goals and tasks. As a result, we can focus solely on exterior things to the detriment of keeping a healthy, grounded foundation within that allows us to keep things together. The young clerk and his friends were stuffing two weeks’ worth of activities into four days time and that means racing from one thing to the next. That kind of frenetic activity leaves no time to savor and appreciate the experiences as they happen. When life gets like that, things are a blur and we are off balance, peace is illusive and difficulties arise!

Like many of you, and the Saints, I have had to work to develop a discipline of prayer. Prayer is what keeps our inner compass pointed in the right direction. Prayer is what gives the soul peace and confident trust that God will fill in the gaps and cover details that I can’t get to. Prayer seems easy and enjoyable at times and difficult at other times. But through each day’s challenges and changes, we can discover that prayer becomes to the soul as natural as breathing is to the body and we live in the presence of God, who is the source of our energy, our joy and our peace. Begin your day with the nourishment of prayer and notice the difference! Don’t forget to breathe! God bless you always! +++ Fr. Peter

Hospitality and Prayer

Peace to you!

The readings this weekend revolve around two important themes at the heart of Christian life and pertain to part of our action as a community in the Liturgy: Hospitality and Prayer.

In the Gospel story, Jesus said that Mary had chosen the better part so it seems best to begin with a word about prayer. In the prologue of the holy Rule of St. Benedict everyone is instructed that “Whenever you begin any good work you should first of all make a most pressing appeal to Christ our Lord to bring it to perfection.”

Most of us already have the habit of opening our hearts to God at the beginning of the day. The first movement of the heart is one of praise of God’s greatness and gratitude to be aware of God’s presence. From there it seems natural for more thanksgiving of blessings received. Then we move to the hopes we have for the coming day in which we ask for God’s favor and blessing to be with us so that we will recognize him in the events and people around us and that we may carry out his holy and true command. In this too we include our petition for blessings on the works of our hands that they may be fruitful and bring prosperity and blessing into our lives and the world.

I like to think it was prayer that prepared Abraham for the ministry of hospitality that he exemplifies in today’s scripture. The holy Rule of St. Benedict refers to this passage as the primary example of how important hospitality is. St. Benedict points out that Abraham was not aware that he was actually serving the Holy Trinity and so in our hospitality we are actually serving Christ as he appears in human form!

Obviously, the ministry of hospitality is extremely important everywhere and in all aspects of life. Those who do it well can make others feel the warmth and welcome of Christ. For this reason, it is important to pray and ask God to bless us in our efforts. I thought a few practical notes on Hospitality should be included today.

The ministry of Greeters and Ushers begins well ahead of Mass time with prayer and preparation so that they may be ready at heart to serve the Lord and truly radiate genuine warmth with their smile and graciousness of bearing. They need to arrive early and unlock the doors and check the worship space for cleanliness and comfortable temperature. They need to be aware of the Liturgy of the day so they may assist as needs require, especially on Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday and the Easter Vigil. The Ministers watch for those who may need assistance in and out of Church as well as those who need a place to be seated. This is especially true for guests and those who arrive late. Sometimes they must quickly bring extra chairs for oversize crowds. They are also ready to respond to emergencies, special needs, and they must keep an eye out for ”strangers” —it can get quite exciting at times! But they act in such a way as to not draw attention to themselves, they are visibly invisible and discreet in word and action.

They are responsible to take up the regular Sunday collection and the special collection through the year in an unhurried, dignified and respectful fashion. They are responsible for selecting people to bring forth the gifts of Bread and Wine with regard to the diversity of the community; different ages, families and ethnic cultures. The Ministers hand out worship aids before Mass if candles or special articles are used and they hand out bulletins after Mass. After Mass, they review the pews and worship space to be sure it is neat and orderly for the next use. They turn out all the lights and lock the doors. They do all this in a quiet humble way, usually unnoticed and without adulations. But they do receive a secret gift in their hearts from God who is very pleased with their efforts!

The ministry of Hospitality is not limited to Greeters and Ushers. It is the part of everyday that says “you are welcome in my life.” Thank one of our Ushers and Greeters this weekend who go out of their way to serve others! God bless you all! +++ Fr. Peter

Turn To God’s Love!

Peace to you!

This weekend we are called to reflect on love. We are reminded through the book of Deuteronomy that the source of all love is God and that when we love God before, beyond and above all things our lives are ordered according to God’s love. For this reason, Moses exhorts the people to turn to God with all their heart and soul and listen to God’s commandments because they are based in love and lead to love.

In the Gospel story, a scholar of the law asks Jesus about the greatest commandment of the law. Jesus teaches that we must love God above all things and he includes loving our neighbor as ourselves. When the scholar asks who his neighbor is, he implies that he can excuse himself from an obligation to love some people. Jesus’ response is a stinging surprise to the scholar and those who are like minded!

Why? After the sons of Solomon divided the nations of Israel, two kingdoms resulted: Israel in the North and Judah in the South with the capitol of Jerusalem. The Northern kingdom was invaded by the Assyrian Empire and the Israelites were reduced to slavery. Over time, they began to intermarry and blend with the Assyrians. The Jewish people regarded this blending of blood as a permanent loss of purity of race. In addition to the great calamity of being forever unclean, the Israelites were part of the Assyrian forces who invaded portions of Judah—killing members of their own race (family). So, in the eyes of the Pharisees, Samaritans were unclean by reason of impure blood and the sin of fratricide and any Jew who spoke with or touched a Samaritan would carry the same label. They deserved to be hated!

Jesus came to save all people and he extended himself toward the last, the lowest, the least, the leper, the sinner, the tax collector and the prostitute—no one is excluded. He was not hindered by prejudices of any kind and he ministered to the people of a Samaritan town. Jesus uses a Samaritan enemy in the parable story as a hero to puncture any pride in us that we might use to withhold love from someone we don’t like. Jesus, as God, loves all people and all creation. He calls us to join him and fulfill God’s law of love.

We know that we need to serve and protect the poor, the hungry, the homeless, the addict, the refugee and those who are suffering. These people and issues are around us in our places of work, school, and parishes but they are also in our own homes. It seems like it is much easier for us to care for them when they are strangers than when they are members of our own families. When we find ourselves drawing back or turning away from serving those close to us, we need to turn to God in love and ask for the love of Christ to dwell within us. God’s love gives us strength and courage to confront the things that need conversion in ourselves and others. God’s law of love brings healing and peace. Today we are reminded that “It is something very near to you, already in your mouths and in your hearts; you have only to carry it out.” May God bless you with the strength of his faithful love! +++ Fr. Peter

Pray For Vocations!

Peace to you and your house!

For the past couple of weeks the readings have called us to reflect upon the theme of vocation. Although I have not emphasized vocations to the priesthood and religious life in my homilies or articles, the readings certainly invite those who have not yet decided on a vocation to seriously search within and ask God for help in making a decision on which vocation to choose.

This weekend the Lord speaks on vocations to the priesthood and religious life when he says “ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.” When we hear these words, we understand that we are to pray for vocations to the priesthood and religious life. It is also very important for us to speak of these vocations frequently and in a positive manner to our sons and daughters and young people encouraging them to seriously consider this amazing call to serve God in a special way.

When Jesus sends the seventy two disciples, he expects them to work together by using their particular gifts and talents for the sake of one goal: establishing faith in the Gospel and forming lifestyles that manifest God’s presence and wisdom in the world. He sent them out empty handed so that they, like him, would grow in trust and confidence in God. They did not carry anything with them except what people desire the most, the peace of the kingdom and they blessed the people and homes they encountered with the gift of peace. When the disciples returned to Jesus they expressed amazement at the wonders that God worked through them.

For all those who have followed God’s call to the priesthood or religious life, these readings only begin to express how amazing it is to have such a wonderful life! For God is always active in accomplishing wonderful, mighty deeds in our world through his special servants. Just take a moment and think about the Eucharist and the whole dynamic around this event in our lives. There is no comparison for the wonder and power we receive and share through the Eucharist! Yet, if young men do not respond to God’s call, we won’t have it! If families do not encourage the priesthood and religious life, we suffer a form of poverty that is hard to estimate. Right now, St. Edward shares one priest where there were two. This 1 priest serves 3 communities. While St. Edward is fortunate enough to have Mass several times a week, the other 2 communities go hungry.

Please pray for vocations to the priesthood and religious life and please encourage young people to do something truly special and amazing by letting go of everything else and following God. Thank you for your prayers and support! May God bless you always! +++ Fr. Peter

Resolve To Follow God!

Peace to you!

The readings this weekend pique our awareness of tensions that arise while we strive to serve God above all.

Fr. Ron Rolheiser, a theologian and spiritual writer, noted in an article for Catholic Northwest Progress that Christians should set themselves apart from the world.  But setting ourselves apart does not come without innate tensions.  “On the one hand, something in us wants to be different, to stand out, to be noticed as separate and show itself to be unique and independent.  At the same time however, we have an equally strong, contradictory impulse that yearns for unity, community, family and intimacy, connection, solidarity and oneness with others and the world.”

Fr. Ron observes that our baptism is at the core of this tension because it is meant to set us apart from the world while drawing us deeply into a family of faith, the Body of Christ.  It is in membership with the Body of Christ where we are called to be humble and be part of something much larger and greater than ourselves.  Our true fulfillment, identity and happiness does not consist in our own self-determined reality.  Rather, it consists in always belonging to and actively being part of the Church that Jesus regards as his very self (remember how he spoke to Paul in regards to his persecution of the Church: Why do you persecute me?).

Interesting dynamic and tension!  No less marvelous than the balance of the solar system in which we live or the universe for that matter!  But that’s how God does things!  This could be the foundation of the Benedictine motto: All things in Moderation!

This weekend’s readings and Gospel help us understand that each of us has been called by God in a special way.  God has a plan for each of us and every other person in the world that is unique.  This plan includes some vocation and purpose for each one that only they can accomplish.  Yet it can only be rightly and fully accomplished in the context of relationship with God and the people we are with day by day.

Jesus calls us out of the world to be with him, trust him and depend entirely on him.  God also calls men and women to follow him in a special vocation within the Church to be outstanding witnesses of the true presence of God’s power working in the world.  Jesus himself had to fast, pray, and forgive his enemies and struggle to be faithful when everyone else fled away.  There is a cost to discipleship for everyone.  St. Ignatius of Antioch died as food for wild beasts and he prayed for the gift of grace to do it.  A young postulant in a monastery makes a vow of silence and strict enclosure to be separated from the world in a radical way—dead to the world.  A priest and a professed religious make a promise of celibacy and an exclusive commitment to serve God alone.  A married couple makes an exclusive commitment to each other and must balance the duties of job, marriage and raising a Catholic family in a world that is sometimes too busy and disconnected from morality.  We all feel the tensions of “worldly stuff” that can cause us to feel divided or distracted from our highest goal.  Yet we also feel the surge of a dynamic power through our communion which, ultimately rests upon the infinite love and mercy of God!  May God strengthen you in your resolve to follow him more closely! +++ Fr Peter