Friday, November 30, 2012

Introductions, please

     I believe that it is John the Evangelist in his gospel that introduces us to Andrew, the brother of Simon (Peter).  Andrew was a disciple and follower of John the Baptizer, as well as a fellow fisherman with his brother, Simon.  In his attraction to the message of John, he saw Jesus and knew in his heart that this was the one.  Excited, he returned to his brother and told him to come and meet the master, to seek him out and to come to belief.  He wanted to introduce his brother to the Lord.

     In Matthew today we hear of Jesus introducing himself to Andrew and Simon, who were casting their nets into the sea, and inviting them to "Come after me ...".

     Introductions are important.  In fact, it was the Baptizer John who announced to all of those who were with him the day that Jesus came to the waters of the Jordan that "This is the Lamb of God".  That introduction opened the way for them to hear and embrace the Living Word of God and begin to focus on the One who is greater than John.

     In his letter to the Romans this morning, Paul says that if we confess with our lips and believe in our heart that Jesus is Lord, we will be saved and justified.  He says "For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."  But then he adds, how can they call on one in whom they have not believed?  And how can they believe if they have not heard?  How can they hear if no one preaches?  And how can they preach unless they are sent?

     Like Andrew who hungered and searched for an answer to life and was introduced to John, then through John to Jesus, and who shared that introductory task with his brother, and countless others, we are also invited to introduce to him all whom we love - all whom we know - all whom we meet.  It is the introduction of a lifetime.  We have been blessed, so share the blessing.

     Introductions, please ...

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A worldwide Kingdom

     This past Sunday the Church celebrated the Feast of Jesus Christ Our Lord, King of the Universe.  I shared on Saturday a reflection on the feast.  But on Sunday I had the experience of sharing our 11:00 am liturgy with three brothers who have come to our diocese to bring the Word of God and to minister to God's People in this part of the world.  These three - Fathers  Ronald Maquinana, Gerry Juarez and Jose Pimentel - who have recently arrived from the Philippines to serve as priests in this missionary diocese, are wonderful priests who have accepted a great sacrifice in leaving family and diocese to come to the U.S.  They join two others who have been with us for over two years now, and who have endeared themselves to us, Fathers Joseph and Jimmie.

     Their visit to our parish was a part of their introduction to the diocese and their period of adjustment to this local Church.  Each had the opportunity to introduce themselves to the people of SEAS (Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton) and to receive our wholehearted welcome.  After Mass I invited them to dinner, and found out a little more of their lives and experiences of priesthood.  They are delightful, and I am sure a welcome addition to our priestly service.  They are awaiting their assignments, so keep them in your prayers ... and if you are local, express your welcome to them if and when you meet them.

     So, on the feast of the King of the Universe, it was a universal as well as local celebration of Catholic Faith.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Long Live Christ the King!

     Last year on this Sunday we celebrated the "Feast of Christ the King".  This year, after a year with the Roman Missal, 3rd Edition, we celebrate the "Feast of Jesus Christ our Lord, King of the Universe".  Under either title, we acknowledge the Lordship of Jesus Christ in our lives at the close of the liturgical year and also at a time in history when that acknowledgment is ignored and ridiculed by so many.

     This feast is rich in historical background, yet relatively new to the Church's celebration.  Even though only established universally by Pope Pius XI in 1925, the roots of the celebration, as found in Scripture, go back to the beginning.  In the story of creation, Adam and Eve did not speak of God as a king, but they knew who was "boss", and that their friendship and relationship with him meant everything to them.  He was their all.  When the People of God wanted an earthy king, like their neighbors, God gave them a man after his own heart, David.  Sinner though he was, David knew God as his Lord and King, and reflected that in his governance.  Daniel in the first reading today speaks of the Kingdom of God, an eternal kingdom that will never end.  When God sent his own Son to us, and that Son was brought before Pilate, Pilate asked whether he was a king.  Jesus said: "It is you who say that I am" and acknowledges that his kingdom does not belong to this earth - but that he is King and Lord.  Paul in Romans asks who do we live for - do we live our lives for ourselves or do we live our life for Christ?  A great question.

     Why a feast of Kingship and Lordship in 1925?  Why then, for what purpose?  The reason is that history was at a particularly critical juncture.  Church and State were often seen as one, and when the State bore the weight of poor leadership, when revolution was necessary, often the Church suffered as well.  But even worse, in the Russian Revolution of 1917, not only the Church and State, but religion and faith itself was relegated to the opium of the people, the superstition that kept people back, the blindness that would stifle growth and prosperity, knowledge and wisdom.  There was no god but the state, no lord or master other than yourself (or the state), no religion worth following except for the man made ideologies of the secular mind.  The same held true in the Revolution in Mexico in the mid twenties.  Priests and bishops and thousands upon thousands of everyday Catholics were imprisoned and put to death, by firing squad and hangings, in those years.  Those who resisted, known as the Christeros, had a rallying cry that was on the lips of Blessed Father Miguel Pro (whose feast was yesterday) as he was being shot "Viva Christo Rey!" - "Long Live Christ the King!"  (I have mentioned previously the excellent movie entitled "For Greater Glory" which tells the story of those days ... it spent no time in the theaters but is available on DVD).

     Those days were at the beginning of a century that saw unbelievable suffering and death, inhumanity to man and negation of God, horrors beyond imagining.  Was it wise, with all of that happening, to draw our attention to the Lordship of Jesus Christ?  Is it important even now with governments, good and bad, who are struggling with their inadequacies to acknowledge the Kingship of Christ?  Now more than ever.


     On a lighter note, do you realize that one month from tonight we will be celebrating the birthday of that Prince of Peace who is our Lord of Life?  We are one month away from Christmas Eve.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Black Friday

     Here we are in the middle of "Black Friday", a day dedicated to the unbridled expression of our consumeristic society.  This is the day of super sales, of packed stores and near riots in those stores when "the doors open", of the official beginning of the holiday season, of our going mad.  The retail store that my sister works in was well on their way to reaching their goal for the day, a fact that she reported to me as she got home from a thirteen hour shift  late this morning.  Hopefully she is sleeping soundly at home.  My understanding is that this is called "Black Friday" because it is the hoped for moving of the bottom line of commercialism into the black, into the good of profit.  I call it "Black Friday" for other reasons - it brings out that which is less appealing in our human nature.

     Yesterday, Thanksgiving Day, is now being referred to as "Grey Thursday", mainly because many of those same stores are opening earlier, even into Thanksgiving Day - to appease eager shoppers and to get a jump on things.  A day held sacred for lots of years even in our secular society has begun to be undermined. 

     Thanksgiving was a day of rest, a day with family and friends, a day of good food, fellowship, prayer and gratitude.  Even for those not wise enough to recognize a greater power that is the source of our blessings, it was nonetheless a day of being grateful for what we have.  It was a special day set aside for something greater than the ordinary and the usual.  With parades and football and hopefully Mass or a time of prayerful gratitude, it stood out and helped us regain our priorities and reset our goals.  The infringement on that day is to be lamented.  The "greying" of Thanksgiving is to be counted a loss.

     But my lamenting goes well beyond Thanksgiving Day, for the way we describe thanksgiving is the way we used to and should continue to describe our "day of thanksgiving" which began and should begin our every week - the Lord's Day.  What we are losing in the national holiday has already been lost in our busy and self consumed society.  When we lost that day, that moment for family and friends, that gathering around the Table of the Lord and our family table, that day of rest and refreshment, we began to lose our souls.  We accept it under the guise of the inevitable or the common good, but we are less for it.  The brightness of that first day of the week, "SUN"day, our recharging moment of grace, has been clouded over in the darkness of self.  If we have accepted the greyness that afflicts Sundays then how can we be surprised that even Thanksgiving is being lost.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

A day remembered

     Well, the day is almost over and thanks has been given, in worship this morning, at the beginning of a good meal, expressed to my sister, Janie, and together with her for mom and dad, and quietly in my heart for all of those who are a part of my life and ministry.  This Thanksgiving Day was a day of thanksgiving.

     Last year on this date, November 22nd, my post was entitled "What were you doing?"  I reflected upon the tragic events of November 22, 1963, when President John F. Kennedy was shot and killed in Dallas.  For those of us of that generation, this day will always have meaning and the events of that day will always resonate in our lives.  Naturally we are not what we were then, things change.  But I truly believe that we have lost so much over the years, losses that are increasing in speedy ways as time goes on.  The President's death did not bring this change about, but it serves as a recognizable starting moment in history.   We will survive, as history has shown.  President Kennedy's assassination took place 98 years following another presidential assassination on Good Friday, April 15th in 1865.  And the nation survived that terrible event.  But it behooves us to always "remember".

The Table of Plenty


     Today in this great nation we pause "to give thanks" for the blessings that we have received.  The stories of the early days of our presence in this land tell of such days - with the pilgrims of New England, the Jamestown Colony of Virginia, and I recently read of such a gathering in what is now Florida by the Spanish settlers in Saint Augustine.  Those gatherings often included those who were not a part of "the" family, but who lived here already, and in many cases provided insight on survival in a new land.  These gatherings usually took place at harvest time and celebrated the completion of the preparations to survive for a while longer.  These gatherings were rarely a celebration of untold abundance, but usually followed a devastating and harsh year or two of not having enough, of barely surviving.  These gatherings always took place around a table and the gathering of the family with friends, old and new.  These gatherings always paused to give thanks ... to the Almighty Lord, to God.  Even those that were not religious knew the value of acknowledging that higher power.

     For those of us who are people of Faith, giving thanks must be second nature.  Realizing how we are gifted and blessed is paramount to understanding who we are and who God is.  Our gathering around a table as family to give thanks is something that we do often, at least weekly at the Sunday Eucharist (a word that means "to give thanks"), and not only on this Thursday in November.

     There is a hymn that we sing entitled "Come to the Feast" which goes something like this ...
Come to the feast of heaven and earth,
come to the table of plenty;
God will provide for all that we need,
here at the table of plenty.

     As you gather around your table to share the plenty that we have been blessed with, remember the other feast at the other table that we gather around on the Lord's Day, and pledge to be faithful to giving thanks ... not only on this Thanksgiving Day but on every day of our lives, and not only at this table, but at the Lord's Table where God provides all that we need.

      Our Table of Plenty and Table of Life at Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton

     My sister Janie and I will be dining out and sharing a Thanksgiving buffet at Carson's Premiere Catering in Scottdale which is operated by Tim Carson, a friend.  Janie works in retail, and as everyone who does knows, "these are the times that try men's souls".  She worked late yesterday and goes in tonight at around ten, thus not having time to cook (or rest).  The only problem in eating out is that there are no leftovers to nibble on.  Disappointing, but good for the wasteline.
     Another Thanksgiving memory that I have and want to share is that while on Sabbatical in the Fall of 1996 in Berkeley, some in our program were from Canada.  We got to celebrate both the Canadian and the United States Thanksgiving Days, which we did with gusto.  Good memories.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Worthy are You ...

     In the midst of a remarkable vision, having received an invitation to "Come up here and I will show you what must happen afterwards", standing before the throne, surrounded by the twenty-four elders, the hosts of heaven and the four living creatures, John, as recounted in the Book of Revelation, heard this exclaimed:

"Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God almighty,
who was, and who is, and who is to come."
    The hosts of heaven fell on their faces in worship.  The elders who were crowned with glory and sat upon the thrones of leadership, threw their crowns and themselves down in humble adoration and worshiped the One who sat upon that throne.  They exclaimed:
"Worthy are you, Lord our God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things;
because of your will they came to be and were created."

    The vision, couched in terms that are foreign and fanciful to the sophisticated hearer, is a bold image of what happened in time, of what is to take place now, and of what is meant to be in the days ahead.  We stand before the throne of the life-giving God, the One who has set all things in motion and given us life, the One who has freed us from sin and death by the death of his Son on that Cross, and the One who must be the Lord of our lives.  Fanciful?  Or the unbelievably necessary reality for us?  Make believe or reality?  An option if and when needed or essential for life?  I know the answer, as I hope you do as well.  However, for the masses who do not see clearly the urgent message or are too weak to respond in Faith or just too blind, we need to pray, fast, witness and intercede in their behalf.  The reason is simple - HE - whom we love and adore and who we introduce them to, is worthy to receive their glory and honor and praise as well as ours.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Our reputation

     Reputations are things of major importance.  They make or break a person.  They reflect who we are by reflecting on what we do.  They give people a notion of what to expect in a person.

     When a person's reputation is rooted in fact, then, good or bad, we have a clear vision of the person.  However, as we all know, reputations can be harmed and even destroyed by accusation and falsehood.  I knew a man in the seminary years ago that served as a good priest in a New England diocese, was accused of sexual abuse and found innocent, restored to the parish, but found his reputation destroyed and life too much to bear.  I pray for his soul, and I ask you to offer a prayer for him and for victims of all kinds of abuse.  We need to look into the heart of the person and see what Christ himself loves of that person, rather than judging by the externals or the accusations that build reputations.

     This morning at Mass we heard the Lord speak to the Church in Sardis in the Book of Revelation.  In the letter written to the Church he says "I know your works, that you have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead.  Be watchful and strengthen what is left, which is going to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God.  Remember then how you accepted and heard; keep it, and repent."   The Church at Sardis looked pretty good.  Their PR was great.  They rested on their reputation, but were lacking, empty and hollow inside where it mattered.  The Lord tells them to remember their relationship with him, their commitment to him, what the loss of that commitment would mean, and repent.

     To the Church in Laodicea he lays an even heavier accusation.  Again he says he knows their works and that they are neither hot nor cold about the relationship.  Because they are lukewarm, he will spit them out of his mouth.  He says "For you say, 'I am rich and affluent and have no need of anything,' and yet do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind and naked."  Revelation is so powerful (read the entire passage - Revelation 3:1-6; 14-22).

     And in the Gospel of Luke we encounter the curious Zacchaeus whose reputation, well deserved, is nonetheless invited to welcome Jesus into his home.  His reaction, his response, his repentance opens to him and for him a place in the Kingdom and more importantly a place within the heart of Christ.

     We should be concerned about our reputation.  But since that may not always be within our control, we must more importantly be concerned with our heart, so that we may hear the words "Today salvation has come to this house".

Monday, November 19, 2012

Remembrance Day

     On this date (November 19th) 149 years ago there was a gathering of dignitaries and ordinary people in the town of Gettysburg to dedicate a National Cemetery to the Union soldiers who had lost their lives in the early July battle that would become famous in the Civil War of the United States.  The ceremonies were impressive, the keynote speaker spoke long and eloquently, but one small speech made in brief remarks by the President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, are what is remembered.  I remember learning those words while in school, and they are worth repeating here today, on this anniversary of their first being spoken.

Four score and seven years ago
our fathers brought forth,
upon this continent,
a new nation, conceived in Liberty,
and dedicated to the proposition
that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war,
testing whether that nation,
or any nation so conceived,
and so dedicated, can long endure.
We are met here on a great battlefield
of that war.
We have come to dedicate a portion of it
as a final resting place
for those who here gave their lives
that that nation might live.
It is altogether fitting and proper
that we should do this.
But in a larger sense we can not dedicate -
we can not consecrate -
we can not hallow this ground.
The brave men, living and dead,
who struggled, here, have consecrated it
far above our poor power to add or detract.
The world will little note,
nor long remember, what we say here,
but it can never forget what they did here.
It is for us, the living, rather
to be dedicated here to the unfinished work
which they have, thus far,
so nobly carried on.
It is rather for us to be here dedicated
to the great task remaining before us -
that from these honored dead
we take increased devotion to that cause
for which they here gave
the last full measure of devotion -
that we here highly resolve
that these dead shall not have died in vain;
that this nation shall have
a new birth of freedom;
and that this government
of the people, by the people,
for the people,
shall not perish from the earth.
ABRAHAM LINCOLN, November 19, 1863
     Lest we forget - a terrible struggle, unbelievable sacrifice, and great words of dedication - we have Remembrance Day.

Friday, November 16, 2012


     I went to the movies this afternoon.  This is not an unusual event for me, for I love going to the movies.  In fact, back in 1996 while on sabbatical in California I was teased about being a fledgling film critic.  There was a majestic old movie house a block from the parish where I lived in Oakland that saw me cross its threshold often.  I also attend the matinee showings because its easier to get away for a while in the afternoon rather than the evening and its less expensive (although they recently raised the prices).

     I mention my afternoon experience because the movie that I saw was excellent ... LINCOLN, by Steven Spielberg.  As I have mentioned before, I am somewhat of a Civil War buff, and have always been fascinated by Abraham Lincoln.  This movie is less about the man and more the story of the struggle to pass the thirteenth amendment to the Constitution that dealt with slavery.  This took place in early 1865 when that amendment passed the House of Representatives.  And yet this movie is also all about the man, Abraham Lincoln.

     The movie is long, not packed with action, wordy, a period piece, but excellent, in my opinion.  To see the workings of the times in the political and moral arenas is fascinating.  To begin to understand the historical significance of that moment in history, and to see some of its key players makes history exciting.

     But what makes the movie is the acting of Daniel Day-Lewis who portrays Lincoln.  I saw him on a talk show the other day when he spoke of his hesitancy to take the role.  How could a Brit dare to portray an American icon?  He said that it took a great deal of persuasion by the director.  But capture the man he did.  I was convinced that I was watching the president in action, his mannerisms, his humor, his self deprecation, his struggle, tiredness and pain.  It is in my humble opinion a role worthy of awards.  Others in the cast were excellent as well, but it was Daniel Day-Lewis that made this movie.  I am truly glad that I went this afternoon.  It may not be every one's "cup of tea" (that is why I share so few "reviews" - we each see things differently), but this is a movie that stands out in a sea of much less inspiring films of late.  This one gets my vote.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Talk about a challenge!

     In the letter of Paul to Philemon found in today's first reading we are presented with an interesting challenge.  Philemon was a disciple of Paul possibly from Colosae, and a slave owner.  Paul, at this point in time was under arrest in Rome or Caesarea.  During his imprisonment he encounters a young man named Onesimus, a run away slave of Philemon.  This young man ministers to Paul, and Paul leads him to Christ through baptism.  Paul sees him as a son in Christ, and Onesimus sees Paul as a spiritual father.  But a further reconciliation is required.

     Now comes the challenge, for both Onesimus and Philemon.  Paul sends Onesimus back to Philemon because there was a debt owed, but also because Paul wanted to challenge Philemon to grow in faith, to see his former slave not as his property but rather accepted with the respect of a brother, to have the debt paid for this soul by Paul himself in his role as spiritual father to Philemon as well as Onesimus, and because "the" debt was already paid by Christ.  This relationship would be transformed into that of brothers in Christ rather than owner and slave.  Paul challenges Onesimus to be brave and forgiving of his former master.  Paul challenges Philemon to be forgiving and accepting not of a returning slave but of a brother in Christ.

     We do not get an update ... however, I am sure that the love of Paul for these two men and the challenge that he presented them led them to embraced as brothers and to rejoice in the joy of the Lord.   There is no longer slave or free ... all are one in Christ.

     This afternnon I enjoyed a wonderful lunch at our school - Queen of Angels - at the invitation of the Student Council.  The priests involved were invited to join with the Principal and the Council officers for an early turkey dinner in the cafeteria.  It was enjoyable and very tasty.  I thank Tori and Aslan (who was at the dentist) who welcomed us and shared lunch. They are co-chairs of the Council.
     Tonight is "Light Up Night" in downtown Irwin (the local community), and many of our kids are involved in singing as well as riding the Kennywood Trolley in the parade.  Loooking forward to it.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A Comprehensive Immigration Policy

     There is much discussion in the news and the political sphere regarding the need for a comprehensive immigration policy in the United States.  There are real problems with those who come into this country illegally and much worse those who enter for less than noble motives.  I am not qualified to get into an in depth discussion of the issues at hand, but it is a complex problem that requires cooperative minds working together and a stellar example to that discussion.

     I mention it here because we cannot forget that we are a nation of immigrants.  My paternal great grandparents came from Poland through Baltimore to Upper Tyrone Township (Everson) in Fayette County in the late 1800's.  My maternal grandfather came from Poland by way of New York and Pittsburgh to Uniontown, and my maternal grandmother, while born near Youngstown, Ohio, as a very young child went to Slovakia until she was a teenager before returning here (a strange twist to the story).

     I mention it today because the Church celebrates the feast of the first United States citizen ever raised to the Altar as a Saint, Mother Frances Xavier Cabrini, who was canonized in 1946.  But Mother Cabrini was a naturalized United States citizen, an immigrant who came to this great land from Lombardy (Italy) to minister to the ever growing number of Italian immigrants.  She had founded the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  She came to New York in 1889 at the urging of the Holy Father to minister to immigrants, and between then and her death in 1917, in New York and Chicago where she died, she labored for twenty eight years in the United States and South America.  She establish sixty-seven institutions during that time (schools, hospitals and orphanages - thank God she didn't have to deal with the HHS mandates of our time).   This great citizen of the United States (by choice), this example of love and caring as a servant of Jesus Christ (by choice), this Saint of the Universal Church and the first of a growing number of Saints from this great nation, this immigrant, is honored today.  The Collect prayer says "... by her example, teach us to have concern for the stranger, the sick, and all those in need, and by her prayers help us to see Christ in all the men and women we meet."


Monday, November 12, 2012

A Veterans' Day Prayer

     This morning at 11:00 am our local VFW Post hosted a Veterans' Day event which they invited me to share in.  I had the honor of giving the invocation.  I thought I might share what I said with you as this Veterans' Day comes to a close.

     Good and gracious God,
we call upon your name and your love
as we gather to honor and remember
the service of so many men and women
on this Veterans' Day.
We read in scripture that
there is no greater love than to lay down
ones life for another.
Those we honor today
gave their service to the cause of peace
by placing themselves in service to others,
and in so many cases, literally,
they gave the last full measure of devotion.
For their service we are grateful ...
In their example we are inspired ...
By their sacrifice we are blessed ...
and through them the cause of peace is enhanced
and the greatness of this nation is recognized.
The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month
originally marked the end of
"the war to end all wars."
If only that would have been the case.
But the cause of peace
is one of the noblest goals for nations ...
and those who serve that cause
are good stewards of the virtues and values
entrusted to this great nation.
May our celebration here today
reflect our admiration and respect
for our veterans.

Good Stewards

     In the story of creation, after God had made all things, he created Adam and Eve.  They were created in his image and likeness.  He placed them within the garden and entrusted to them all of his handiwork, calling them to be stewards of his bounty.  They were to speak and act in his name, laying their lives on the line in praise of God and in fulfillment of his will.

     That role of stewardship is paramount to our understanding of ourselves as followers of Christ.  We are called to speak and act in his name, to pattern our lives after Christ as selfless givers, laying all on the line for the sake of the Gospel message.

     This past Sunday we had Saint Paul remind us that Jesus, unlike the other high priests who simply repeated a ritual sacrifice, as "the" High Priest gave his very life in sacrifice for our sins.  That sacrifice is so momentous that it continues to give life and provide grace.  He laid all on the line, freely, for our sakes.  We encountered the poor widow at the temple treasury who gave a few small coins, worth a few cents, but worth more than what countless others gave because she gave of her want, she sacrificed for the honor and glory of God.  She laid all on the line, freely, in a spirit of grateful praise.  We also encountered the widow of Zeraphath who freely shared with the prophet her last morsel because he was doing the Lord's work.   She laid all on the line, and was greatly blessed.

     This past Sunday (November 11th) was also Veterans' Day in the United States, a day to remember, reflect upon, and give thanks to those who "laid all on the line" for this great nation and the world community for the cause of peace.  Many paid the ultimate sacrifice ... all gave of themselves in love of God and neighbor ... they continue to stand as guardians of the virtues and values of a great nation blessed by God.  They, too, are good stewards of God's gifts.

Friday, November 9, 2012

"You are God's building"

     On this feast celebrating the dedication of the Cathedral Church of the Diocese of Rome, the Basilica of Saint John Lateran, Saint Paul in his first letter to the people of Corinth says that "You are God's building."  He reminds them and us "Do you know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?"  Whenever I finish using incense to honor the body of the deceased at a funeral, I remind those present that incense was used from ancient times to designate that which is holy, set apart for God, and that the reason that we use it then, at a funeral, is to honor this temple in which the Spirit of God has resided for all of those years.
We are God's building.

     Ezekiel in the first reading has the angel bringing him to the entrance of the temple, where he saw water flowing out from the threshold toward the east and the south, in fact in all directions.  This water flowed from the sanctuary, from the altar.  This water was life giving, making the salt sea fresh, giving life to all living creatures, providing fruit trees along its banks for food and healing medicines.   From the temple, from the altar of the temple comes life giving waters for all to share in and benefit from.  This is the work of God in our midst.

     Ezekiel's vision and Paul's words reminds us that as the temple of God, with God dwelling in our midst, we are the source of the life giving waters of grace and truth provided by the Spirit.  That life giving water flows freely to every corner of the world in order that all might be touched by the healing power of Christ, renewed by the Spirit of God, and rejoice in the creative love of the Father.   That water is not stored up in the temple for those who seek it, rather it is emptied out so that all could be touched by it.

     The reading today help us celebrate the dedication of an ancient church in Rome that is the Cathedral Church of Rome.  Originally named after Our Savior, it was later placed under the patronage of Saint John.  First built by the Emperor Constantine in about 324 on the Lateran Hill, the basilica is called "the mother and head of all the churches of the City and the World" and is one of the four major pilgrimage churches in Rome.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Let's hope it's not over

     The results are in from the general election in these United States, and President Barach Obama has won a second four year term.  The number of those voting was impressive, the length of the campaign unending, the quality of the advertising distasteful, and the amount spent on TV ads alone was sinful (especially since it did little to inform us of anything of substance).  But we are a democratic republic where the people express their will through the ballot box.   Now is the time to declare the campaigning and politicking to be over.  Now is the time to move forward and try to salvage a nation that has been on a downward spiral for many years, that has replaced her moral compass with a very secular and relative approach, that looks to the political one-up-man-ship rather than the common good.  The challenges facing this nation are tremendous, and the prospects of meeting those challenges with any measure of success are dismal, unless there is a change of attitude and of approach.

     I have heard commentators gloating over the President's victory.  I have heard it said that he received a mandate to continue with the leadership that he has shown these past four years.  What the President and politicians on both sides of the aisle need to remember is that there was no mandate.  One half of all voters voted for the other guy ... one half.  The President has been chosen to lead all of us, not only those who agree with his policies.  And the President cannot lead all of us without the cooperation and co-working of both chambers of Congress, with members from both parties laying aside politics and political gain for once and working for every man, woman and child in this land, working for the common good, no matter what the cost.  Our moral compass needs to be refound and dusted off, for without it we, like every great nation and civilization before us, will disintegrate.

     Speaking from my perspective as a shepherd of souls, until we realize and acknowledge that there is a higher power that we need to turn to, that there is only one savior, that our values need to rest in something more important than my wants or needs, the work is not over.  It is not enough to simple end every speech with "God bless you!  And God bless the United States of America".   Mentioning God is not the same as believing and trusting in him.  Let's hope that this election cycle IS over, but let's make sure that our work IS NOT over.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Dining in the Kingdom of God

     The Gospel of Luke, Chapter 14, verses 15-24, which was read at today's liturgy struck a personal cord in the ongoing discussion and struggle regarding those who do not attend Mass.  Sunday we held a "town hall meeting" of parishioners in which a large part of the discussion was this issue. 

     I shared the stats of our October Count (the Church's effort to "count heads" during the month of October so that we can see the trends).  We have those stats since 2001.  This year our numbers were down slightly after a slight increase in 2011.  Overall, in the past twelve years we saw a little over 300 less attending Mass. Our percentage is about "normal" at just under thirty percent of our registered parishioners.  It is not like our Masses are empty, although they are far from packed.   We express our concern, we look for ways to encourage attendance, and we do very little.

     In today's Gospel Jesus tells a story.  It is of a man who has planned a great dinner and invited his guests.  When it is time and all is ready, his servant goes out to call the invited guests.  They have excuses - valid ones - but excuses nonetheless.  A new field was purchased and he needs to inspect it.  New oxen needed to be evaluated.  One guest just got married and begged off.  They asked to be excused very politely, and with what they perceived as a just reason.  But the man throwing the dinner was  angry.  This party was for them, because they were important to him.  And they "blew him off".  He instead invites the poor and the crippled, the blind and the lame, any who are willing to come ... for he desired the house to be filled.   And to those who refused the invitation, he says "...none of those men who were invited will taste my dinner."

     How do we get that message out?  How do we convince those who refuse the invitation that this is crucial, a life or death situation?  How do we point out that this is not just "another thing" to fit into the schedule if possible, but that without gathering at THIS table we have no share in the heavenly banquet?  This is an urgent matter!  We have work to do, vital work that is caught up in the noise and business of everyday life.  The challenge is to set our priorities and follow through with the conviction of our Faith.


     Well, after Mass this morning (I wanted to pray first) I went and cast my ballot.  Challenging as the problems are, unsatisfying as the party platforms and candidates' positions are, and uninspiring as many of the candidates themselves are, it is a sacred duty and a moral responsibility to take part in the political process afforded us in this democratic republic.  The other sacred duty and moral responsibility incumbent upon us is to pray for this nation, her leaders, and the people that they serve.   May God have mercy on us and may he bless us!

Friday, November 2, 2012

It is a good thing ...

     The Church is aware and acknowledges the fact that it is a good thing to pray for the dead.  Many great societies show a great respect for their ancestors, which adds to their wisdom and character.  We, as Church, look to those who have gone before us, grateful for their legacy and enriched by that legacy.  But what we regularly do, but with a special emphasis in the month of November (and especially today on All Souls' Day), is much more than remembering the past.  We celebrate the life, past and present, that those who have gone before us "marked with the sign of faith" possess.  The Entrance Antiphon for November 2nd (from 1 Thes.) states:

"Just as Jesus died and has risen again,
so through Jesus God will bring with him
those who have fallen asleep;
and as in Adam all die,
so also in Christ will all be brought to life."
      We pray for the dead in thanksgiving and in love. 
      We pray in thanksgiving for all that our loved ones have given us and shared with us, for this is the foundation of our existence.  This thanksgiving is rooted in remembering and pledging to use that which they gave us for the greater good of all.  
     We pray in love for them so that our loved ones, destined for that perfect experience of seeing God "face to face", may be readied and prepared for that beatific vision and eternal joy.  Our prayer adds nothing to God's greatness, but it helps the faithful departed to enter into that greatness as they ready to walk in the quiet of the evening with the Lord in Paradise.
     Those for whom we pray today, during this month of November, and in our daily lives are children of God, destined for that eternal glory reserved for the saints of God.  Their journey has touched and enriched our lives.  It is indeed a good thing for us to pray for them.
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon them.
May they rest in peace!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Saints of God

     I just returned from my third Mass of the day on this celebration of All Saints (two in the parish and one at the school - at the school Mass I was assisted as servers by some heavyweights ... the Archangel Gabriel, Bridget of Sweden and the bishop Patrick).  At all of the Masses I reminded those listening that sainthood is not the destiny of a select few, as it is often perceived.  Rather it is the province of all who through the waters of baptism are united with Christ and are recipients of his grace and favor. 

     The reading from Revelation has John sharing his vision of 144,000 marked with the Blood of the Lamb.  That 144,000 is not a limiting or restrictive number.  I mentioned that numbers in the scriptures have meanings beyond the obvious, and that the number twelve represents fulfillment, completion, the totality of things, wholeness.  There are the twelve tribes of Israel that describe the entirety of God's People ... the twelve Apostles who represent the completeness of the new Covenant People ... even the twelve baskets of "leftovers" after the feeding of the multitude reminding us that God will provide for all and beyond.  Add to the number twelve the number one thousand, which signifies limitlessness and abundance and you have moved it to a higher level.  Multiply the number 12,000 by 12,000 and you have 144,000 - not a limiting number but one that speaks of fulfillment, completion, the totality and wholeness of all that is.  In the next line John describes this group as being a vast crowd that no one could count.

     Holiness (sainthood) is not limiting, but a gifted right of all believers.  Those recognized by the Church as Saints are examples and models for the rest of us who are on journey.  They are our heroes.  They show us that the weakest and the greatest, women and men, young and old, poor and rich, even sinners who accept the mercy of God are called to that glory that holiness brings.  It begins at our baptism, our incorporation into Christ, and continues throughout all eternity.  Our destiny is to join the other saints and angels in standing before the throne of God singing the praise of the Father.  Our role is to help others on their journey by lovingly being an example for them.

     On this day when we honor the Saints of God, we also celebrate our call to holiness and the grace that makes the response to that call possible.  HAPPY FEAST DAY, SAINTS OF GOD!