Saturday, March 17, 2018

3/18/18 - 5th Sunday of Lent, Year B

Scripture Readings

Each one of us will fall to the ground and die one day. Last Saturday night, I thought it was my turn. I thought I was dying.

Whatever was happening to me was mimicking a heart attack and respiratory failure. My heart was racing and I couldn’t breath. It really felt like the end.

The gospel speaks about a grain of wheat falling to the ground and dying. What do we do with that? Whoever loves his life loses it. I love my life and I wasn’t ready to lose it.

Whoever hates his life preserves it for eternal life. I don’t hate my life. It’s not perfect. Who’s is? I don’t want to lose my life just yet.

We get to where it seems that this gospel just doesn’t make any sense. So what do we do? Let’s read on. Jesus is using imagery to try to make a point. If we read on we increase the likelihood of finding the point.

Jesus goes on to say, “Whoever serves me must follow me.” That’s it, right there! Follow Jesus.

If last Saturday night was a near death experience, my doctor is not sure that it was, but I certainly felt like it was the end. I mean, I called 911. But I’m gonna tell you there wasn’t some great white light.

And I spoke to another priest who recently had a heart attack and he reported the same thing.

There seemed to be some battle between choosing good and choosing evil. And while the good was obviously the right choice, I must admit that the evil presented itself in a way that was very tempting.

Now, I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know from your own experiences.

Whoever serves me must follow me, Where I am, there also will my servant be. To choose the good, we have to be willing to follow. And in following, the key word is serves. Whoever serves me is following me. How do we serve Jesus? How do you serve Jesus? How do I serve Jesus?

What disinterested service do we do for Jesus, in his name or on his behalf? It must be disinterested service because we are doing it for Jesus. We are not interested in getting anything in return, except grace.

What do we do to show that we are followers of the Lord? What? It has to be something. I have to be able to say this is what I am doing to better serve Jesus, this is what I am doing to better follow Jesus.

Otherwise, when the time comes there might not be some great white light.

I am troubled now. Yet what should I say? God save me. Then a voice from heaven came. I have saved you and I will save you again.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Message from Father Rusty P. Richard

First, let me thank all of you for so many heartfelt prayers,kind thoughts and expressions of support and affection during my recent health concern.   I appreciate that more than I can ever express.

Fortunately, my concerns over this past weekend proved to be the result of some medication interactions rather than any issues relating to my heart.  But, as we all have experienced in our lives, it’s best to err on the side of caution. My weekend hospital visit and subsequent tests were all shown to be negative in terms of any physical condition related to my heart and all pointed to a medication interaction.   

I am now back home resting after being discharged and will return to my full duties very shortly. 

Life is often full of surprises and challenges, and while this one certainly got my attention, it is comforting to know that it wasn’t a matter of the heart. It is also comforting to have had the support of so many.  To me that made such a great difference.

God bless you all and again, thank you.

Rusty P. Richard, Pastor

Saturday, March 10, 2018

3/11/18 - 4th Sunday of Lent, Year B

Scripture Readings

Most of us get lost in the darkness at some point in our lives. Yes? Some of us for longer periods than others.

The priest who really doesn’t want to be a priest anymore because the church has changed and doesn’t seem as welcoming or relevant or spirit-filled as it used to. He’s unhappy but still effective in ministry and really too old to leave and do something else. 

The woman whose husband wakes up one morning and says, “I’m not the man you married. I’m not the man you think I am.” She feels for her husband but just can’t bring herself to accept what is happening and doesn’t want to start over.

The young man whose wife says after five years of marriage, “I don’t love you. I’m over you. I don’t care about you anymore.” He’s trying to make it work but she’s not giving anything at all.

The person who gets the medical diagnosis and knows that the future hold surgery after surgery after surgery with no hope of improvement.

You can add your own story of darkness. Anger. Illness. Mental illness. Despair. Grief. Addiction.

Without light, we stumble around in the dark. Without light, the darkness overcomes, overwhelms, frightens.

The light overcomes the darkness. The light helps us find our way. We have reached the midpoint of lent and maybe we are still wandering about in the darkness.

Being at the midpoint means we still have a chance to turn things around. Are we going to allow ourselves to be filled with fear and dread or are we going to be hopeful?

Jesus always gives us another chance to turn things around.

Jesus is the light that helps us find our way. We should not prefer the darkness. But sometimes we do. Rather, we should seek the light and the truth.

Saint Paul tells us God is rich in mercy. God doesn’t want us stumbling around in the dark. God wants to rescue us. That’s why God sent his son Jesus: to be a light in the darkness, to rescue us from our sins, to bring us to the truth.

Are we open to God rescuing us? Are we open to Jesus, the light, showing us the truth? Are we open to Jesus, the light, showing us the way?

We all get lost in the darkness from time to time. But because of the great love God has for us, we are brought to new life in Jesus Christ. We are saved. We are rescued from the darkness. We are brought into the light. 

Saturday, March 3, 2018

3/4/18 - 3rd Sunday of Lent, Year B

Scripture Readings

Because we had such a harsh winter, I’ve heard folks saying, “I need to get out into my yard and see what survived.” Some things will have to be uprooted and thrown out. New flowers, trees and shrubs will have to be planted. 

Flower beds need to be cleaned out. What survived needs to be pruned and fertilized. That way, everything will bloom with new life in the coming months.

Many of our homes could probably use a good spring cleaning as well. We can, without even realizing it, accumulate lots of clutter over the years. 

For example, I have an old collection of VHS tapes. I don’t know why I keep them. The tapes are probably dry rotted and the player is getting old too. The movie library could easily be replaced with DVDs.

We have a tendency to hoard things because we think there is a chance we might use them again. Believe it or not, we do that with stuff here at the church too. 

I can’t tell you how many dumpsters I’ve filled in my seven years here with stuff that’s outdated, stuff that’s gone bad, stuff that we will never use again.

If we haven’t used something since I’ve been here, it’s unlikely that we will ever use it again.

And while our yards and our homes could use some sprucing up, it would be sad if we stopped there.

Jesus cleanses the temple because, over the years, it had become more of a marketplace and less a place of prayer. This cleansing of the temple is an opportunity to look at our lives during this lent and do some good Spring cleaning.

There are some cobwebs in our hearts and some accumulated clutter that doesn’t belong, some bad habits, some sins, some hurts, some grudges, some prejudices, some selfishness.

If we do a good Spring cleaning, our bad habits can give way to new habits, habits that will help us grow closer to God and one another.

If we do a good Spring cleaning, our sins give way to virtues. We could pick one sin and identify the accompanying virtue. Then we could work on that one virtue this lent. Progress not perfection.

Selfishness gives way to generosity. Pride gives way to humility. Anger gives way to peace. Grudges give way to kindness. Prejudices give way to understanding and acceptance. Hurts give way to healing.

You get the idea? One sin giving way to one virtue.

Let us pledge here and now to undertake a good Spring cleaning of the temples of our hearts. Why? So that Jesus doesn’t have to do this for us. Look at what happened in the temple.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

2/25/18 - 2nd Sunday of Lent, Year B

Scripture Readings

We focus on God. When we hear the reading from the Book of Genesis, we wonder why would God ask this of Abraham? What was God thinking? Maybe our understanding of the reading would change if we would focus on Abraham instead.

We focus on Jesus. When we hear the gospel reading we say I want to be transfigured like Jesus. We are not God. We are the children of God and we will have to await the resurrection of the dead to be transfigured.

Maybe we should focus on Peter. Why focus on Peter and Abraham? Because they are like us.

Somehow Abraham convinced himself that God wanted him to sacrifice his only son Isaac.

Somehow Peter convinced himself that he and Jesus, along with James and John, should just stay atop the mountain.

Both were well intentioned but both were wrong. What they thought God wanted was not what God wanted at all. Even though they were way off, God was still on their side.

God is on our side. Saint Paul reminds us that if God is for us, who can be against us?

That’s why I think Matthew Kelley’s theme this Lent is so profound. Kelly reminds us that God wants progress, not perfection.

If you’ve been watching the daily videos from Dynamic Catholic you know that’s what the reflections have been about this Lent.

If you haven’t, it’s not too late. Visit and sign up for the Best Lent Ever and you will receive a short video reflection in your inbox each day. These videos are a wonderful way of keeping our focus this Lent.

Abraham is continuing to learn about God and grow in his relationship with God. He is continuing to try to discern. What is God calling me to do? Who is God calling me to become? Progress not perfection.

Abraham really believed that God was calling him to sacrifice Isaac. But the angel brings a very different message. Do not lay a hand on the boy. Progress not perfection.

Peter is continuing to learn more and more about Jesus. Peter is continuing to grow in his relationship with Jesus. Peter really believed that they should all stay on the top of the mountain forever.

But Jesus says come down the mountain with me and I will show you how to be my disciple. Progress not perfection.

We are not going to get everything right in our relationship with God during these forty days of Lent. That’s ok. We are seeking progress not perfection.

Each day is an opportunity to make progress. Each day is an opportunity to become a better version of myself.

God is trying to help us know ourselves. Jesus is trying to help us discover God’s will for us. This takes time. It also takes drawing closer to God.

We might have convinced ourselves that we have to be perfect before God will love us. But God loves us just the way we are and calls us to grow. So let us focus on progress not perfection. That’s the way to God’s heart this Lent.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

02-18-18 -- 1st Sunday of Lent, Year B

Scripture Readings

What does temptation from the devil look like? It’s that strong desire to do something I want to do, but I know is not in my best interest; something I might want, but I know is ultimately not good for me; something that might be fun right now, but I know there’s going to be consequences later.

Jesus was tempted to do things that might have seemed attractive in the moment, but there would have been disastrous consequences.

If Jesus had given in to the devil’s temptations what would have happened? Jesus would have been turned to the dark side. Jesus would have been beholden to the devil.

If the devil is trying to tempt Jesus after 40 days of fasting and prayer, the devil will certainly try to tempt us.

We find ourselves tempted to do all kinds of things that seem appealing at the time: drink too much, eat too much, self-medicate with prescription drugs or alcohol, for young people, it’s partying and doing drugs all night and calling that “chillin'.”

We might be tempted to take a little bit more than our share when we think no one is looking, or in some cases to simply steal because we think we deserve it, or to visit sites on the Internet that are sexual or explicit or violent.

We might be tempted to bully someone in order to feel good about ourselves or look good in front of our friends, or we might be tempted to manipulate or lie or cheat to become powerful.

We are tempted everyday by the devil to make bad choices that seem good at the time. But we are also tempted by God everyday to do good deeds, or maybe we should say we are tempted everyday by God to do God's deeds.

What makes a teacher jump in front of a gunman to protect his students? The temptation or invitation from God to do good.

What makes a mother fiercely protective of her child who is being bullied at school? The invitation from God to do good.

What makes a priest willing to continue to work in the vineyard of Jesus Christ in today’s world? The invitation from God to do good.

What makes a person donate a kidney to a complete stranger? The invitation from God to do good.

What makes a soldier stay by the side of an injured comrade even at the risk of being shot and killed? The invitation from God to do good.

What makes three young men on a train to Paris dramatically and successfully confront and take down a terrorist who was intent on killing everyone on that train? The invitation from God to do good.

What makes an ordinary person reach out and do a good deed, reach out and help a total stranger? The invitation from God to do good. 

What makes us desire to show love and affection to the people closest to us? The invitation from God to do good.

Some of these examples are heroic acts. Some are not. But we are all invited by God to do good everyday. We are tempted by God to do God’s deeds.

I suspect that if we were to focus more on the temptation to do good and less on the temptation to do evil, we would all be happier, healthier, more loving, more forgiving and more fulfilled.

Yes we are tempted by the devil, but we must always remember that we are also tempted by God. And when we give in to the temptation or invitation from God, we do God’s deeds.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

02-11-18 -- 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

Scripture Readings

The lepers were estranged. They had to live outside the community. They were isolated, apart from others. As long as they had the sores of leprosy, they were not able to live with their families. 

That must have been a terribly tragic and lonely existence, calling out “unclean, unclean” everywhere they went. They were avoided by all, except Jesus.

Jesus does not fear leprosy, nor does he fear the lepers. He is moved with pity. He stretched out his hand and touched the sores. In touching them, he healed them. Jesus made the leper clean.

After Jesus heals the leper in the gospel of today, what happens? He says, “Go show yourself to the priest.” Why? 

The priest has the power to declare the leper clean. Once the leper was declared clean, that person was then able to return to the community.

So Jesus brings those who are outside back into the community. Jesus desires for those who are excluded to be included again.

Sometimes we find ourselves on the outside, on the fringe, excluded for any number of reasons. 

Maybe we are excluded because of our race or skin color, or our religious beliefs, or our sexual orientation, or our political views, or even our physical appearance.

Jesus doesn’t want this. Jesus wants us all to be included. Jesus doesn’t want these divisions. 

Yet we continue to divide ourselves into camps of us and them. And this continues to cause strife and even social unrest.

That’s one of the reasons why we try so hard here at Saint Martin de Tours to make sure everyone feels welcomed, to make sure everyone feels wanted, to make sure everyone feels like they belong.

Jesus comes to heal sin and division. Jesus wants those who are estranged to be brought back. 

We all need to feel like we are a part of something bigger than ourselves. We all need to feel like we belong. Otherwise, we are like the lepers who are forced to live apart from everyone.

The lepers were estranged but Jesus healed them so that they could return to the community. Jesus desires to heal whatever is keeping us from community. 

Jesus wants us all to belong. Jesus wants us all to feel like we are important members of his family.