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

Divine Nourishment

Peace to you!

In a way, this Sunday could be called Good Shepherd Sunday because Jesus felt pity for the people who seemed like sheep without a shepherd.

In the Gospel story this weekend Jesus and the disciples don’t get much rest between the demands of the crowds.  One thing that stands out is what Jesus said to his partners in ministry: “come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.”  God knows how important it is that we take care of ourselves and get some rest.  That’s because we are human and we all need a chance to recharge our batteries!

Sunday is our principal day to come to the Lord for blessing, renewal and rest as a community.  Many of us have perhaps been wearied by the tedium of the week and we need God’s strength and to be revitalized through the Eucharist.  We all experience spiritual renewal in our souls and we are sanctified, made holy, by participating in the Eucharist.  This is the new energy and joy that comes with the Eucharist.  We also enjoy communion with the community by getting a cup of coffee, a donut and some conversation with other people in our faith community.  We’re ready for another week of whatever comes next and we’re happy about it!  It’s amazing how the Lord calls us, nourishes us and sends us out again and again to be his messengers!   After living this pattern and enjoying the goodness it brings to life, it’s hard to imagine that anyone would choose to separate themselves from the Word and Sacraments of Christ.

In the first reading the prophet is sent to call the people back to God.  The leaders of God’s people decided to shoot the messenger so-to-speak and reject his call.  Things deteriorated after that and the country fell into civil war followed by foreign invasion/occupation and captivity.   500 years later the attitude of the leaders in Jesus’ day was unchanged: they crucified Jesus rather than listen to him.  Then civil war erupted and their temple was razed to the ground.  Today,  over 2000 years later, a Muslim Mosque stands in the place of Solomon’s Temple.

The people Jesus meets in the Gospel are outside of the towns because they are not finding what they need in town.  At least they knew enough to search for what they needed!

As leaders, whether of a faith community, civil community, state or country, we have to know that we need to come away to hear God’s voice, to rest in his love and grace, to be nourished and strengthened by him.  We need to be led and fed by God so that we can lead and feed others in the right way.  If the leaders don’t listen and follow, how can they expect others to listen and follow?  If God is not listened to, people go the wrong way, greed, avarice, lust, evil, destruction and war result.  Perhaps you know someone who could use some divine nourishment.  Invite them to come and encounter Jesus, the Good Shepherd!  God bless you always! +++ Fr. Peter

Anointing The Sick

Peace to you!

This weekend Jesus sends his disciples out and equips them with authority over unclean spirits so they drive out many demons and anoint with oil many who were sick and cure them!  Perhaps today is a good opportunity to reflect on the power and grace given in the Sacrament of the Sick and the life-giving power in the proclamation of the Gospel.

The first point about the Sacrament of the Sick I have noticed is that many people do not fully understand what it is.  Such people call and ask for “the last rites.”  Sadly, many of them wait too long so that by the time the priest arrives the person has already died without receiving the sacrament or they have been left to suffer for a long time without the consolation of the Holy Spirit.  This is truly unfortunate because when death is approaching, it is a time when the dying person and their families need God’s help the most and that’s what this sacrament brings: pardon of sins and the consolation and grace of the Holy Spirit!

The Sacrament of the Sick is intended to serve the needs of those who are seriously ill, preparing for surgery, struggling with a chronic condition, in the event of serious spiritual need, when a poor condition worsens or to alleviate the gravity of old age.  The various forms of mental illness are also alleviated through this sacrament as well as persistent grief or depression due to grief.

It is important for everyone to understand that the sacraments are for the living; not the dead.  When a serious condition begins, it is time to ask for this sacrament.

I make an effort to make this sacrament available every Friday after the 12 noon Mass and frequently provide it after Mass on Saturdays and Sundays right in my office.

If you have need of it please ask for it and if you know someone who needs it, please speak to them about it first then contact me.  If you are not sure if you should receive this sacrament or not, simply ask whether or not you should.  May God continue to bless you in every way! +++ Fr. Peter

Be Open To God’s Plan!

Peace be with you!

Through the Gospel and readings last week we were given an idea of how important it is to have faith.  The woman with the hemorrhage and Jairus approached Jesus in a desperate state of faith and both experienced a miracle—unexpected but never the less hoped for.  The woman was healed and the deceased daughter was raised back to life.  The accounts of Jairus and the woman also provided a lesson of contrast between those who came to Jesus in deep, sincere faith and those who did not.

This weekend too we are given a lesson about faith but in a different way.  At the end of the Gospel we read that Jesus “was amazed at their lack of faith.”

For me, the Gospels over these two weekends work together to form two bookends: a matching set of opposites.  In order to grasp the contrast of deep, sincere faith and something less, we have to remember the other characters in the stories besides the woman and Jairus.  The crowd that was pressing in upon Jesus all wanted something from him but only the woman was healed.  The people at Jairus’ house all ridiculed Jesus when he told them the girl was only asleep—then he put them out!  In a way, they put themselves out by not being open to a possibility that was unbelievably good.

This weekend Jesus has returned home and the people are amazed at his wisdom and knowledge and the stories of the great things he accomplished yet, they looked down on him.  We get a strong sense that the negative attitude and preconceived notions of the people actually prevent Jesus from performing “any mighty deed there.”  For God to do things for us, we need to believe and ask, then we need to hope and believe that he can and will.

A few questions arise for us from the two lessons:  Is my heart open to experience God’s plan of salvation for me?  Or do I have a plan that God is supposed to accomplish for me?  How do I deal with pain and disappointment when things don’t go the way I want?  Do I truly come before God in a simple, sincere trust when I ask for help?  Am I grateful for finding blessing in the unpleasant and painful as well as the pleasant and good things in my life?  These are all matters of faith and trust and we are continually challenged to grow to new levels.  God bless you always! +++ Fr. Peter

Dare To Approach Jesus!

Peace be with you all!

Fr. Ron Rolheiser, a theologian and spiritual writer, described a state of being that is natural to the human person in one of his articles.  “At the center of our lives there is an innate tension.  On the one hand, something in us wants to be different, to stand out, be separate and show itself to be unique and independent.  We have an equally strong, almost contradictory impulse that yearns for unity, community, family and intimacy, connection, solidarity and oneness with others and the world.”

In the Gospel stories, we see the people who stand out as those who approach Jesus in a state of humble, vulnerability and faith with a deep need for another person’s help.  The crowd represents those who are not seeking God at that level.  The woman with the hemorrhage is a great image for the socially ostracized and the one who feels unclean or unworthy within, or the person who feels like a persistent slow leak is draining them of life and hope.  It could be from some hurt from the past that no ordinary doctor or medication can heal.  It could be an addiction.  Jairus, a competent and upper-class individual, who falls to his knees before Jesus offers an image of what it is to be overwhelmed with worry, fear, helplessness and desperation.  Jesus’ response to those who approach him in complete sincerity is the same: the fountain of his Merciful Heart pours forth a grace of healing and deliverance, and in the little girl’s case, the grace of final salvation.

As baptized Christians, we have to make an effort to overcome our desire for independence in order to approach Jesus in the same way as the woman with the hemorrhage and Jairus.  Frequently, it is only through difficult events and situations that we become aware of our deep need for the help of God and others.  Sometimes the process takes years but it doesn’t have to.  There are many stories of those who came to the point when they called to God from the depths of their heart and soul.   They always remember God’s loving response.  There is nothing like it.  They will never forget it.  Do you need God’s help?  Do you want to be part of something far greater than your own personal reality?  Make a prayer of surrendering your life to God and enter the joy-filled communion of the Body of Christ.  May God bless you always! +++ Fr. Peter

Trust Jesus In Challenges!

Peace and Grace to you!

Our faith tradition is always an amazing treasure!  The readings this weekend capture a representative diversity of situations and sentiments for daily living.

Job has been trying to make sense out of the tragic misfortunes that happened in his life and ultimately concluded that God had not treated him fairly even though he himself had been just and faithful to God.  Job feels confused and lost.  It is as if a great and terrible hurricane destroyed all that he enjoyed and left him desolate and disoriented.  In response to Job’s confusion and complaint, God speaks and reminds Job of who He is.

In the Gospel we have five elements to illustrate lessons for us in daily living: the boat, the sea, the disciples, the storm and Jesus.  The boat is a frequent object and symbol in Mark’s Gospel.  It is a small place where Jesus is very close with the disciples and away from the crowds.  It also serves as an image of the Church.  The boat was a means of transportation by which Jesus and the disciples journeyed together to bring the message of salvation to the world around them.  The sea represents the forces of nature, mystery, and when aroused, it represents chaos and the abode of the dead.  The storm in classical literature is always related to the human experience of confusion, passion, disorientation, change, loss and sentiments of fear and powerlessness.  The disciples are those who are close to Jesus and journey with him in a special way to bring the Gospel to other people in different cultures and towns than their own.  This represents ALL the people of the Church.  At times, there are challenges and seemingly insurmountable forces and obstacles in the way.  Just as for the disciples in the story, there can occur in daily living the whole gamut of thoughts and emotions that are not rooted in the peace of God: a sense of peril, jealousy, anger, resentment and even fear of harm or loss of life.  In times such as these, we have to use our faith and call out to God who spoke to Job from the midst of the storm!  It is the same voice, Jesus, who rose in the midst of the disciples’ peril and spoke to the sea.  The sea and all forces of nature obey his voice– just as the chaos did in the beginning—all our fears and passions too are subject to his power to save.  Have confidence in Jesus for he is near and will respond to all your needs!  May God bless and save you always! +++ Fr. Peter

Spreading The Gospel

Peace and grace to you all!

In the June/July 2007 issue of the Catholic Extension Magazine a news item was mentioned that demonstrates part of the Gospel message this weekend: from small things, big things one day come.  On June 16, 1907, the Catholic Extension Society dedicated its first railway chapel car, the St. Anthony, to bring Mass and the sacraments to churchless areas on the frontier in America.  Two more chapel cars were built later on – the St. Peter and the St. Paul.  Many churches sprung up throughout the country after visits by these churches on wheels.  One Church was St. Catherine of Sienna in Mill City, Oregon.  There was a sizeable Catholic population in the area and many people came from nearby Jordan, who were mostly German Catholics, to see the chapel car and hear the Gospel and have the sacraments.  Jordan became the site of the first Trappist Monastery in Oregon and the foundation site of the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon whose Mother House is now located at Murray Blvd. and the Tualatin Valley Highway in Beaverton.  I am friends with two of the Sisters, Sr. Michael and Sr. Krista, and I occasionally get to visit them!

This kind of story from our local area reminds us that first impressions and humble beginnings can frequently grow to greater and lasting realities.  As people entrusted with the mission to advance the Gospel, one of the most important things to remember is that first impressions are important!  Many Catholics feel uneasy or afraid when it comes to talking about their faith with non-Catholic people.  Why is that?  We have a lot to be proud of and so much to share with others!  A couple of points that are important to remember about faith traditions: living your faith in the day to day relationship with God is a prerequisite for talking about it.  An important question you might ask yourself each day is “how is my faith important to me right now?”  Of equal importance is to never criticize or put down another person no matter their belief.  Also it’s never a matter of who is right or wrong.  As Catholics, we believe in giving dignity and respect to every person—it’s a debt we owe by love.  Reading Scripture, articles or books about Saints or the Catholic Church can help you feel more comfortable, more knowledgeable and more at ease when faith comes up as a topic for discussion but the most important element of all is the personal relationship of love we have in Jesus!   God bless you always! +++ Fr. Peter