Saturday, June 16, 2018

6/17/18 -- 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

The crepe myrtles in our church square have gone through a few tough years. It seems they were infected with tiny insects that cause a whitish gray bark scale.

We became aware of the problem last summer and have taken steps to help our trees and shrubs become healthier. We have also begun paying closer attention to caring for all the trees on our beautiful square.

We can plant those trees and shrubs and flowers. We can fertilize them. We can water them. We can prune them. But we cannot make them grow. We cannot make them bloom.

God makes things grow. God makes things bloom. God makes things spring to new life. The same is true of the crops in our fields. 

The farmers can till the soil. The farmers can plant the seeds. The farmers can fertilize. And the farmers can harvest. But those farmers cannot make those crops grow. Only God can.

So as we set out on our spiritual renewal, we must look to the things we can do. And leave the things we cannot do to God.

We can sow the seeds. But what kinds of seeds are we sowing. Are we sowing seeds of love and kindness? Seeds of generosity? Seeds of care and concern? Seeds of forgiveness and mercy?

This takes willpower. We have to want to do these things. We can and should be sowing good seeds.

We can nurture what was planted. We can water and fertilize and prune. This takes work. We have to work at these things.

We can and should be taking good care of our bodies: Proper diet. Exercise. The right amount of sleep. 

We can and should be taking good care of our souls: Spiritual readings. Quiet prayer. Spiritual direction. Retreats. Regular confessions.

We can harvest what is ripe. We can enjoy the fruits of our labor: The good fruit that comes from sowing good seeds. The ripe grain that comes from nurturing what was sown.

We can be nourished by the Eucharist where Jesus gives us his body and blood as a rich harvest for our souls.

We can enjoy our lives and our loved one as a result of all our hard work taking good care of our bodies and souls. Because we have done what we can, God can do what God does. 

Just like we are making an effort to take care of our crepe myrtles, we should be making an effort to take care of our souls, because our souls are certainly a far greater treasure than our crepe myrtles.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

6/3/18 -- Corpus Christi

Scripture Readings

On a recent episode of Code Black, a doctor and an EMT were kidnapped while responding to a 911 call. 

The kidnapper wanted them to treat his girlfriend who was shot during a robbery that went bad. He pointed a gun at them and demanded that they “fix” her. 

In an attempt to foil the kidnapping they told the gunman that they needed to make an incision to check if the lung was inflating properly. They warned him that the incision would cause a lot of bleeding. 

Then they told the kidnapper that his girlfriend would need a blood infusion or she would bleed to death. While allowing the woman to bleed out, they pretended to check everyone’s blood type.

The kidnapper was informed that both he and his girlfriend shared a rare blood type and he was the only one who could save her. 

They began what the kidnapper thought was a blood transfusion, but they were actually allowing him to bleed out slowly only pretending to be transfusing the blood. 

Once he was weakened by the loss of blood, the doctor tackled him and the kidnapping was over.

The blood flowing through our arteries and veins gives us life. We need it to survive. It is absolutely necessary. Hospitals rely on the donated blood of good samaritans to save patients every day.

Even the people of the Old Testament realized the importance of blood. They sacrificed goats and calves offering the blood to the Lord as a sign of the covenant.

Moses sprinkled it on the people saying, “This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you.”

Jesus, at the Last Supper, offers his blood to replace the blood of these sacrificed animals. “This is the blood of the covenant which will be shed for many.”

Jesus’ blood was shed for you and for me. Just as the kidnapper offered his own blood to save his partner in crime, Jesus offer his blood to save us.

At this Mass I will take the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord. In response to this offering of a cup of wine, the Lord will change the cup of wine into the Blood of Christ.

The Blood of Christ is given to us to transform us. It is absolutely necessary for us to live. 

Without Jesus’ blood poured out on us, we would lose our way. We would get lost in the darkness of sin and despair.

So as we approach the table of the Lord on this feast of Corpus Christi, we receive the Precious Body and Blood of Christ in the form of a communion wafer as a sign of the new and everlasting covenant sealed with Jesus’ blood, poured out so that we might live.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

5/27/18 -- Trinity Sunday

Scripture Readings

The Word of God that we read Sunday after Sunday is a masterpiece of the history of our God wanting a relationship with us.

It was not enough for God the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth, to sit alone in heaven. God the Father desired to be near his creation. God the Father desired to be close to us. 

In the Book of Genesis, we are told that God would visit Adam and Eve in the garden. After the fall, when they were cast out of paradise for their sin of disobedience, God desired all humankind to be redeemed from this sinfulness.

So God sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to redeem us, to draw near to us, to walk with us, to love us, to forgive us and to save us. The fullness of God’s blessing comes to us in the person of Jesus.

After Jesus’ death upon the cross, his wondrous resurrection from the dead and his ascension into heaven, God still desired a way to be close to us so God breathed the Holy Spirit upon us.

The Holy Spirit at work in us makes our lives beautiful. The Holy Spirit at work in us refashions us into God’s masterpieces.

We come here to this holy place to hear the voice of God speaking to us:

The voice of God the Father saying, “I love you so much that I created you and I cannot possibly imagine my creation without you.”

The voice of God the Son saying, “I love you so much that I died on the cross to redeem you from every sinful choice you have ever made and will ever make. I am yours and you are mine.”

The voice of God the Holy Spirit saying, “I love you so much that I come and dwell in you so that you remain in my love and I remain in you.”

We are blessed because God the Father created us.
We are blessed because God the Son redeems us.
We are blessed because God the Holy Spirit lives in us.

Through the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, we receive adoption, we belong to God, God claims us and his own, we are God’s children. The Holy Trinity of God with us always until the end of the age.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

5/20/18 -- Pentecost

Scripture Readings

In the Book of Genesis, the activity of the Holy Spirit is inseparable from the work of God. It is the Spirit that is hovering over creation bring order from chaos. The Spirit is the very breath that gives life to humanity. 

In the Book of Exodus, it is the Spirit who engraves the stone tablets at Mt. Sinai

There are examples of the Holy Spirit at work throughout the Old Testament. The Holy Spirit takes possession of Gideon. The Spirit grants Samson extraordinary strength.

The Judges settle disputes, answer questions, solve problems and comfort people all through the power and working of the Holy Spirit.

The Prophet Isaiah tells us that the Spirit anoints the Servant of God. Other prophets are filled with the Holy Spirit as they announce the coming of the long awaited Messiah, the consolation of Israel.

Zechariah, Elizabeth, Simeon and Anna are not surprised when the Son of God becomes flesh in the womb of a virgin through the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit.

John the Baptist announces that the coming Messiah will baptize with the Holy Spirit and when he baptizes Jesus in the Jordan River, the Holy Spirit descends upon Jesus in the form of a dove. 

It is that very Spirit that drove Jesus into the desert wilderness where he fasted and prayed for forty days.

At Pentecost the Holy Spirit comes upon Mary and the Apostles in the Upper Room as tongues of fire.

Even today the Spirit still moves, sometimes in a gentle whisper and sometimes as a roaring wind which we hear, but cannot tell from where it comes or where it is going.

The Holy Spirit purifies, illuminates, cleanses, refreshes, consoles, heals, strengthen and anoints. The Holy Spirit gives the gifts of peace, hope and love.

The Holy Spirit is omniscient, eternal and holy. The Holy Spirit teaches, testifies, judges, witnesses, intercedes, reveals, speaks and glorifies God.

The Holy Spirit is the way that the Holy Trinity of God touches and transforms over lives today. 

And so at this Eucharist, we call down the Holy Spirit to transform simple gifts of bread and wine into the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus.

This Eucharistic miracle makes us sharers in the divine life Jesus offers. 

And so we call down the Spirit to hover over us, to fill us, to comfort us and to enlighten us so that we have the grace and the strength and the courage to become the children God is calling us to be.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

5/11/18 -- Ascension

Scripture Readings

You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and to the end of the earth. Be my witnesses. How? How can we be witnesses to the Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus Christ?

We think that being a witness to Jesus must be an extraordinary thing reserved for priests or nuns or saints. But nothing could be further from the truth. 

Usually witnessing to Jesus is not something incredibly difficult. We don’t have to discern for years. We don’t have to ask again and again. “What is Jesus asking of me?”

We simply have to do what we are supposed to do; by living our everyday lives with honesty and integrity; by being people who live with faith, hope and love in our hearts, and with generosity and charity in our actions.

Even though Jesus has ascended and is seated at the right hand of God the Father, the presence of Jesus is powerfully at work in our world through good people like you and me; people who are inspired by the inner promptings of the Holy Spirit.

Witnessing to Jesus Christ in our everyday lives means choosing hope over despair, generosity over greed, and mercy over vengeance.

Witnessing to Jesus Christ in our everyday lives means choosing kindness over cruelty, compassion over judgment, and love over hatred.

Witnessing to Jesus Christ in our everyday lives means choosing life over death. This is how we bear witness.

Jesus calls us to witness to our brothers and sisters. Jesus calls us to witness to our friends and to our coworkers. Jesus calls us to witness to our spouses, to our children and grandchildren not in some extraordinary, heroic way, but in our everyday actions.

Yes, some are called to witness in heroic ways. But the vast majority of us are called to witness with the everyday events of our lives by becoming the beautiful, loving, and caring people Jesus has called us to be.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

5/6/18 -- 6th Sunday of Easter

Scripture Readings

John Robert Fox was a first lieutenant during the second world war. He was directing artillery fire in Italy when a large German force moved on his position. Fox called a final artillery strike on himself. His body was found next to hundreds of dead German troops.

Arland Williams was a passenger on Air Florida Flight 90 when it smashed into a frozen lake. Twenty minutes later a helicopter arrived to rescue survivors. After getting one man to safety, Arland gave the life ring to the passenger next to him. 

The helicopter came back a third time, and again Arland gave the ring to someone else. When the helicopter came back again, Arland was dead.

When Ryan Arnold’s brother Chad needed a liver transplant, Ryan immediately checked to see if he was a compatible donor. Ryan died following the procedure but the transplant was a success ensuring that his brother Chad would live.

Gianna Molla was pregnant with her fourth child when doctors discovered a cancerous tumor that needed to be removed. 
The surgery would mean her unborn child would not survive. She wanted her baby to live. Gianna died seven days after her baby girl was born.

Maximilian Kolbe was a Polish Franciscan priest who was arrested and imprisoned during the German occupation of Poland. When ten prisoners escaped, ten more were randomly chosen to starve to death. Father Kolbe volunteered to die at Auschwitz in the place of a stranger.

When the floods ravaged the Philippians in 2009, 18 year old Muelmar Magallanes decided that if nature was going to kill people, it would have to get through him. He tied a rope to his waist and rescued his entire family. Then he rescued his neighbors and then his other neighbors. 

Exhausted after rescuing as many as two dozen people, Muelmar saw a mother and baby being dragged by the current. With no regard for danger he lept once more into the water to rescue the mother and child before finally succumbing to the current.

Their lives were just as precious as yours and mine. Their lives were cut short by a decision to love. They were all ordinary folks testifying to the extraordinary power of love.

Not the “I love pizza” or “I love ice cream” or “I love New York” kind of love. Nope. The “Jesus” kind of love. The “I would give my life for you” kind of love. The “God” kind of love. The love that gives without counting the cost. 

Saint John says, “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God.”

Love that gives without counting the cost is of God.

Love that sacrifices itself for another is of God.

Jesus loves us so much that he sacrifices himself for us.

Jesus calls down artillery upon himself to save us. Jesus hands us the life ring every time. Jesus ties a rope around his waist and rescues us from the ravaging flood. 

Jesus dies is Auschwitz again and again in someone’s place. Jesus doesn’t just give part of his liver; Jesus gives us his very body and blood. 

Jesus calls us to love with this kind of love, a love that sacrifices itself for another. This I command you: love one another.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

4/22/18 -- 4th Sunday of Easter

When our pilgrim group was in Avila at the convent founded by Saint Teresa of Jesus, the first woman to be proclaimed a doctor of the church by Pope Paul VI, we were told a wonderful story about an experience Saint Teresa had there.

One day when she was the prioress of the convent, she found a young boy running about in the convent. You understand, the convent Teresa founded is a cloistered convent. 

Even to this day, the sisters have little to no contact with the outside world. Their lives are filled with work and prayer.

She asked the little boy, “Who are you?” “He answered her with a question. He asked, “Who are you?”

She said, “I am Teresa of Jesus. “The boy replied, “Well I am Jesus of Teresa.” And with that the boy vanished.

Jesus, the Good Shepherd, is at work in the hearts and minds of people everywhere, in every time, in every place. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, is at work in the hearts and minds of all of us.

We are all his. And he is ours. Every one of us belongs to Jesus, the Good Shepherd. Every one of us is part of the flock.

We all belong, one family, one flock, one body, one church, one faith, one baptism.

In our Eucharistic prayer we pray that by sharing in the body and blood of Christ we may be gathered into one by the Holy Spirit, becoming one body, one spirit in Christ.

When God looks upon us, all God sees are his beloved children, each and everyone. God doesn’t put us into categories of good and bad. God doesn’t favor some and not others. God doesn’t speak to a few and abandon the rest. 

Like the sheep who listen for the voice of their shepherd and follow, we have to listen for the voice of Jesus calling us to follow.

We live in a noisy world where we are bombarded with many different voices telling us many different things. We have to be quiet long enough to hear Jesus’ voice.

And once we hear his voice, we begin to recognize it. The more we listen, the easier it is to hear him when he calls our names.

We all belong to Jesus, the Good Shepherd. He knows us. He calls us by name.

When Teresa of Jesus asked the little boy his name, he said he was Jesus of Teresa. She was Teresa of Jesus. 

I am Rusty of Jesus. Who are you? And do you recognize Jesus’ voice when he calls you? Because he does call you.