Saturday, November 28, 2015
November 29, 2015 - 1st Sunday of Advent, Year C
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church
Do you ever feel like you need a new beginning? As Christmas quickly approaches maybe you are feeling tired, frustrated, rushed, restless, disoriented, lonely, depressed, distracted.
Sounds familiar, doesn't it? But this is not what the Lord Jesus wants for us and ignoring these feelings won't make them go away.
The season of Advent which begins today is the church’s time for new beginnings. Why not you? Why not me? Why not now?
Jesus wants us to have a new beginning. The church wants us to have a new beginning, that's why she gives us this wonderful season of Advent, to prepare for the Lord to come to us.
We begin this new liturgical year with the cosmic gospel scene that may terrify some. The sun, the moon, the stars, the earth, the nations all dismay and people dying of fright.
But we are told to raise our heads; we are told to make a new beginning. We are told to be vigilant and to pray, because our redemption is near. And that redemption comes from the Lord.
The season of Advent calls us to a living, breathing, deeply personal encounter with the Lord Jesus. How can we open ourselves to this encounter? What can we do this season of Advent to start fresh, to begin anew?
We can do simple things, three simple things.
First, read the Gospel. The Gospel of Luke is the one that we will be reading throughout the upcoming liturgical year. Read it. Why?
Because the Gospel has incredible insight into who Jesus is and who Jesus is inviting us to be. As we read the Gospel, we can pray, “Lord Jesus, reveal yourself to me as I begin to discover you through this Gospel.”
We can read it straight through like a short story or we can read a chapter a day. Read the Gospel.
Second, receive the Eucharist. When we receive the Eucharist, we receive Jesus himself. We receive the spiritual food that we need to help us on our pilgrim way.
Maybe you feel like you can’t or shouldn’t receive the Eucharist. Have you ever thought that it might be a good idea to have a chat with me to see if something can be done about that?
We need the spiritual nourishment Jesus offers. Receive the Eucharist.
Third, practice mercy. Pope Francis has declared the upcoming year to be a Jubilee Year of Mercy. Can we allow ourselves to be immersed in this year of mercy?
We can practice mercy in many different ways. We can go to confession or forgive someone or rediscover the works of mercy. Practice mercy.
Let’s make this the best Advent ever by beginning again.
I invite you to check out my blog or Facebook page or the parish’s Facebook page or the parish website and follow the link to Dynamic Catholic’s Best Advent Ever and sign up for a daily reminder that this is the season of new beginnings.
Saturday, November 21, 2015
November 22, 2015 - Christ the King, Year B
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church
Our scripture readings on this feast of our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the universe, describe two worlds, two kings, two kingdoms.
Two worlds. One, a world of armies and soldiers, political power, violence, a world of occupation and oppression.
The other, a world of truth, a world of betrayal and a world of redemption. A world where the dead rise again to everlasting life.
Two kings. One, a king who needs armies and attendants fighting for him, a king who has the power to overcome and dominate others. Pilate is the Roman governor. He is the representative of an earthly king, Caesar Augustus, of Rome.
The other, a King who is slain to set his people free from the oppression. A king who turns the other cheek, who says pray for your enemies and give without counting the cost.
Jesus is the King who comes in the clouds with glory and whose dominion is everlasting. Jesus' Kingship shall not be destroyed. He is the King who frees us by being slain, who washes us free from our sins with his own blood.
Two kingdoms. One, a kingdom of the world, a kingdom that is passing, a kingdom where God's chosen ones would be thrown to the lions and nailed to crosses and burned on poles.
The other, a kingdom in the clouds, a kingdom that is coming, a kingdom where the least will be the greatest, a kingdom where the blind will see, the lame will walk and the deaf will hear.
Entrance to Jesus' kingdom is not gained by fighting or by accumulation of wealth or through earthly power.
God's kingdom comes through an incredible act of surrender.
“Father, for you all things are possible, remove this cup from me, yet, not what I want but what you want. Your will be done.”
The Alpha and the Omega, the one who is, who was, and who is to come, came to us to share our lives.
Jesus Christ, the King of the universe, came to us to show us how to live and how to love. He came to serve and to give his life to save us, to redeem us, and to triumph over sin and death.
Do we accept Jesus Christ as Lord and King and believe in his kingdom. How often do we follow our King's example? How often do we serve instead of being served? How often do we give of ourselves for others?
We are so blessed to have a loving compassionate King, not distant, not far off, but very near to us.
Our King comes to be part of our lives, to share our pain and suffering, our joys and our gladness, but our King teaches us to put others first.
Our King teaches us that love always conquers hate. Our King was slain so that life always triumphs over death.
Saturday, November 14, 2015
Nov. 15, 2015 - 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church
There is enough darkness around us to overwhelm us, isn't there? On our drive to the airport the Cardinal was telling me about the plight of Christian refugees in the Middle East.
He was telling me because what is happening to them is exactly what happened to our ancestors so many years ago.
ISIS comes into a Christian village and gives three options. One, convert to Islam. Two, leave and you have two hours to be gone. Or three, we will execute you.
Imagine the tribulation that would cause if someone gave you those three options right now. The darkness is all around us.
The news media reminds us on a daily basis of shootings and violence and crime and some of that hits very close to home. It would indeed seem that the days of darkness and tribulation are upon us. Tension, unease, unrest, anger, hatred, violence, all around us.
There are even false prophets in our midst to lead us astray making us feel good with praise and worship and possibly even false piety, but not really challenging us to be good.
These false prophets tell us what we want to hear instead of telling us what we need to hear. It would indeed seem that the days of darkness and tribulation are upon us.
But they were upon the people in Jesus's time. And they were upon the people during the prophet Daniel's time. Darkness and sin and death are always with us because the Lord God in his great love for us has given us free will.
And with our free will, we can choose to live in the darkness. We can choose to be overwhelmed by dread. We can choose to be depressed, anxious, upset, angry, resentful, hateful, gossipy, nasty people.
Yes, we can choose all of those things. But those only lead us to sin and death and hell. The prophet Daniel says that this leads us to everlasting horror and disgrace.
But the prophet Daniel also says many who are in this unsurpassed time of distress will awaken to everlasting life. They will shine brightly like the stars in the heavens.
That's awesome. We want to be those chosen ones. We want to be the ones who see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. And so, the Lord Jesus says to learn a lesson from the fig tree.
In essence he's telling us to pay attention. Pay attention to what the darkness brings. Pay attention to what sin brings. Pay attention to what evil brings. But don’t just wait around for the end to come. Choose to do good instead.
When we make these bad choices we bring the darkness upon ourselves. But Jesus says that by paying attention we can make other choices, better choices. We can draw nearer to Jesus and listen to his words because Jesus says heaven and earth may pass away but his words will not pass away.
So we gather here Sunday after Sunday in this holy consecrated place to listen to Jesus' words. To allow his words to sink into our hearts and into our souls. The Lord’s words spoken to us and the Lord’s presence in this place enable us to pay attention; here, yes, but also when we are out in the world.
We are called to be alert to God at work in our world.
Jesus’ words and Jesus’ presence with us call us to be a people of hope and grace and light rather than a people of despair and darkness. We are also called to pay attention so that we may become wise. And the prophet Daniel tells us that the wise will shine brightly and live forever.
We will hear the Lord’s words today and we will gather around the Lord’s table to be fed with spiritual food. But, are we paying attention? Will we respond to Jesus’ invitation to choose the good, to choose the light, to shine like the stars in the heavens even when there is darkness around us?
Friday, November 13, 2015
I take this opportunity to digress from my usual weekly blog postings and reflections to look back at this past weeks historic event held in our church. Some events come along once in a lifetime. This one came once in 250 years. Our November 11, 2015 anniversary celebration was of great significance, not only for our church parish, but our larger community of Acadiana as it became a part of the long history of our people who came here and founded so many of our Louisiana communities and at their earliest arrival, this church parish in 1765.
And so, I reflect....
It was a most special evening in the long history of one of the oldest churches in the United States and the third oldest in the state of Louisiana.In celebration of the 250th Anniversary (1765 - 2015) of Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church, Mother Church of the Acadians, a mass and reception were held on Wednesday, November 11, 2015, the feast day of our patron saint, Saint Martin de Tours.
Cardinal Gerald Cyprien Lacroix, Archbishop of the Diocese of Quebec, Canada presided at the mass before a completely full church of guests and parishioners. Dozens of area Priests were in attendance and Bishops from across Louisiana served as co-celebrants for the 7pm mass.
As Pastor of Saint Martin de Tours it was a great honor to welcome Cardinal Lacroix to his first visit to Louisiana and introduced him to Louisiana's unique culture of faith, family and food.
Reflecting on the history of Saint Martin de Tours Church to the people of St. Martin parish, Cardinal Lacroix stated, "The Canadians came here, they were refugees, they were expelled from Canada and they were brought here by boats. They came to settle this place and they were the first here and they built this church."
Cardinal Lacroix delivered a moving yet warm and upbeat homily to the congregation and cited the link between Canada and Louisiana as, centuries ago, Saint Martin de Tours church parish was part of the Diocese of Quebec, Canada.
Following the mass which culminated the celebrations of the year long 250th Anniversary year of the church, a reception was held in the historic church Presbytere and in a nearby reception hall across the church square.
In offering my own reflections on the evening, I felt that the celebrations of November 11 were a fitting tribute to this great church parish that has served the faithful for two and a half centuries, and which stood at the foundation of the arrival of the Acadians to our part of Louisiana. Cardinal Lacroix brought home the wonderful connection between our French-Canadian roots and ancestors and most fittingly touched upon the Catholic faith that unites us all.
You can visit our website at www.saintmartindetours.org to view more photos from the evening of November 11th or visit our Facebook page accessible from the home page of our website.
Saturday, November 7, 2015
November 8, 2015 - 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church
Today could be called Widow’s Sunday. Widows are at the center of both the reading from the first book of Kings and the gospel of Mark.
Both Elijah and Jesus celebrate the generosity of these women who have so little, and yet, give so much.
Widows in our assembly and around the world are doing this very thing every day. They act with grace and courage under desperate circumstances and often without fanfare.
Since the time of the early church, the Christian mission has been powered by the extraordinary energy of widows.
In the first three centuries, the church formally recognized a quasi-religious status of widowhood in a ranking just below the priests.
Although we no longer speak of a consecrated order of widows, they still work tirelessly in our communities, doing what they can from the goodness in their hearts.
Today we celebrate them and the good work they do. Today we notice them. After all, that’s what the gospel is about. It’s about noticing.
It’s not about virtue. It’s not about a generous widow. Rather, it is about what Jesus does. He notices her. His seasoned eye does not take in the high and mighty who have captured everyone else’s attention.
No, he picks out someone who has been overlooked by everyone else. He observes this little, invisible, nondescript human being from the bottom of the social ladder.
He notices her quiet act of fidelity, kindness and generosity. This is what makes her different. He notices her and comments about it.
A priest was visiting a family whose father was a widower and had Alzheimer’s. His daughter was also a widow. She was taking care of her father. It was not easy and she struggled a great deal.
As the priest was leaving, she walked him to the car and said,“I don’t know how much longer I can do this. It’s awfully hard going after him in the middle of the night when he wanders off.
“And I don’t know how much longer I can lift him or take him to the bathroom. It’s very hard and I’m getting tired.”
The priest responded, “I don’t how you do it, but I know somehow you will continue to do it until it isn’t needed anymore.” Later the priest reflected on this poor widow. Her father unaware of her devotion.
This poor widow was giving all she had and nobody really noticed it. Except the one who counts. Jesus noticed.
An old priest tells another story about a widow. He tells that he is a priest because of this widow.
“Who was she?” we might ask, a notable citizen, a treasured teacher? No. She was a little woman who always sat near him in church on Sundays.
He would settle in, trying to get through a boring homily and the old widow would smile at him and quietly reach into her purse and pull of a piece of the best tasting chocolate in the world.
She would pass it to him. She always had it there and always had it for him. For the boy, this generosity was his experience of church and he says he is a priest today because of the widow’s actions.
The old widow seemed to just blend into the scenery. No one every noticed her. But two people did. A little boy who became a marvelous priest. And Jesus.
Catherine Doherty, who gave her life in service to the poor, noticed a poor widow as well and tells this story.
I remember her very well. Every Saturday, rain or shine, cold or hot, she would come through the door of our House of Hospitality. After a few words of greeting, show would lay on my desk in a tidy row, four dirty pennies.
She would explain, almost in a whisper, that this was all she had left of her pay to give to Christ in the poor. Then, with a little smile and a bow, she would ask for our prayers.
She was a widow who earned a living by scrubbing office floors at night. Her name was Martha. She brought her four pennies every week for four years. Then one Saturday she did not come.
She died and had been buried in an unmarked grave in a potter’s field. While no one else seemed to notice this poor old widow, you can be sure Jesus did.
So you see, our good deeds, however small, are observed, cherished and remembered. No one else may know about them or comment on them or notice them. But you can be sure of one thing. Jesus notices.
We count. What we do counts. And most importantly, Jesus notices.