Wednesday, October 1, 2014

10/5/2014 – Respect Life Mass –27th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Matthew 21:33-43

10/5/2014 – Respect Life Mass –27th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Matthew 21:33-43
       Each October is set aside by the Bishops of the United States as Respect Life Month.  This month gives the Catholic faithful the opportunity to reflect upon life issues facing us as a society and to pray for and promote a greater respect for all human life.   This year’s theme is “Each of us is a masterpiece of God’s creation,” which was adapted from Pope Francis’ 2013 Day for Life greeting.  During his message, Pope Francis stated that ““even the weakest and most vulnerable, the sick, the old, the unborn and the poor, are masterpieces of God’s creation, made in his own image, destined to live forever, and deserving of the utmost reverence and respect.”
       Picture yourself somewhere where you at a work someone has created.   It could be a work of art by Claude Monet or Vincent Van Gogh or Leonardo Da Vinci.  It could be a symphony by Mozat or Beethoven or Tchaikovsky.   Imagine the wonder and awe you feel by thinking about the human being that created such a masterpiece, thinking about the precision and care that he used to create such a work. We can look at God’s creation in the same way.  We have a lot of a parishioners who love to do outdoor activities – to hike or fish or jog or bike or to walk along the beach.  Isn’t it amazing to be amongst God’s creation, to marvel at the beauty of nature?   I speak often about being a missionary in the rain forest in South America.   It is hard to describe the beauty of the rain forest.  It is so immense and diverse, and you can travel hours in it, being surrounding by it, feeling as small as a little ant in the middle of the huge jungle.  And then you see a little bug or a flower or a plant or bird, this one little living object living in the jungle, and you realize how that little living thing itself is so wonderful and beautiful.  Each of us, each human being, is a masterpiece created by God, is a masterpiece created with purpose and tenderness.  We are each loved so intensely and are each of such great worth that we cannot even comprehend it, just as I had a hard time comprehending the immensity and complexity of the rain forest jungle.
       That we as a Church devote an entire month for Respect for Life should say a lot to us.  And it should get us thinking about how we can be a messenger for the Respect for Life that is an essential part of Catholic Social Teaching and an essential part of what we believe in our faith.   The Catholic Church proclaims that human life is sacred and that the dignity of the human person is  the foundation of a moral vision for society.  This belief is the foundation of all the principles of our social teaching.  In our society, human life is under direct attack from abortion and euthanasia. The value of human life is threatened by embryonic stem cell research and the use of the death penalty.  In many ways, the message we have in the Church on the Respect for Life is against the message we hear in the world.
      In our parable today, the landowner keeps sending out different messengers to bring his message to the tenants.  We have different messengers in our society who are sent by God to bring the Gospel of Life and a Respect for Life to our world.  In fact, when I was pastor of St Mary Catholic Church in Yazoo City prior to coming to Tupelo, one of the prominent Evangelical Christian pastors in the community publicly thanked our Catholic bishops and leaders for having the courage to speak out on a respect for life in our society, even to the point of bringing a law suit against the federal government regarding certain provision of health care law that were being implemented.  He said that our bishops spoke on behalf of a lot of Christians in our society whose voices were being silenced.   But we don’t have to leave all the work to our bishops.  We at St James want to show our community how important a Respect for Life is for us.  We do so in our words and our actions.   I hope that you will come out next Saturday to our Respect Life event at the Monument to the Unborn on our parish grounds. It will start at noon and will end with the praying of the rosary.  It will be a good way to commemorate this month and to be a witness to our community.  We want to be that messenger that Jesus sends into the world.  And we want to bring the message that we respect all human life. 

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

10/3/2014 – Friday of 26th week in Ordinary Time – Job 38:1, 12-21; 40:3-5, Luke 10:13-16

       During the first readings in the two-year cycle that we use for daily mass, we hear from a lot of different sources, both from the Old Testament and from different books of the New Testament.  This week, we have been hearing from the book of Job.  Job is often seen as a model of patience, obedience, and faith, and although he embraces these qualities, Job’s situation is a bit more complicated than the way we label him.  What is interesting is that a lot of the book of Job is a conversation that Job has with God – a very honest conversation.  In our reading today, God actually engages Job in conversation about the nature of the world, asking Job some very pointed questions.  This conversation comes about because Job has told his friend that what has happened to him has its source in God and not in nature.  At the end of this exchange, Job tells God that he has been frivolous in what he has been saying and will not speak this way again.  And it is interesting, because this somewhat ties into our Gospel, today, about how we can reject the Gospel in our lives in not only reject he who proclaims it, but in rejecting Christ himself.  I think it is good to bring our honest thoughts with God, to wrestle with his word and what it means to us.  That’s what Job did.  And at times he had some very difficult questions.  At times he had doubts and was not very patient.  Being a disciple of Christ is not easy.  Above all, it demands honest and loyalty and obedience.

9/30/2014 - St Jerome - Priest and Doctor of the Church -

      Back in 2005, I was a seminarian at Sacred Heart School of Theology in Hales Corners, Wisconsin, a wonderful learning community that trained me so well for the priesthood.  It was the beginning of my second year of studies.  I had done so well to keep up an exercise routine in the midst of my studies, activities, and a campus job, when I badly sprained my ankle while out jogging the morning of our first day of classes.  This happened in mid-August, and until September 30, I had to hobble around campus on crutches.  Not fun at all.  I remember the feast day of St Jerome because it was on this date, September 30, that I will finally able to discard the crutches and walk without their assistance. 
       Jerome lived in the late 4th and early 5th century.  He was known as one of the greatest Scripture scholars in the early Church. In fact, St Augustine, one of our Church’s greatest theologians, once said: “What Jerome is ignorant of, no mortal has ever known.” Jerome translated the Bible into Latin, which was the common language of his day.  That version of the Bible, the Vulgate, is still held in high esteem up until today.  As a seminarian, I felt Jerome’s presence and inspiration with me as I completed my studies in Scripture and Theology.  Jerome also had a very fiery, combative personality, and often found it very hard to be patient with others, especially in light of his intelligence and knowledge.  Jerome perhaps is a good patron for all of us who have problems with patience and tolerance in our modern, technologically advanced world.  Jerome is the patron saints of librarians, students, archeologists, and translators.
        May we offer up our worries and preoccupations to St Jerome today, giving thanks for his contributions to the Early Church and to the development of the faith that we practice today. 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

10/2/2014 – Thursday of 26th week in ordinary time – Guardian Angels – Matthew 18:1-5, 10

       We often want to be the best and the greatest we can be, don’t we?  But when the disciples approach Jesus with this attitude, that they want to be the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven, he brings a child in their midst, and tells them that they have to become like this child in order to enter into God’s kingdom.  
         Sometime children believe in things that some adults have a hard time believing.  As we know, we in the Catholic Church believe in angels. And angels are just not for children to believe in. We see angels as spiritual being who were created by God.  Our English word “angel” comes from the Greek word “angelos”, which means “messenger”.  God sends out his angels to carry special messages for him. Just this past Monday, we celebrated the feast of the Archangels – Michael, Raphael, and Gabriel.  Today, we celebrate the feast of the Guardian Angels.  We see the role of the guardian angel as to guide us to good thoughts, in good works, and in good words, to keep us from succumbing to sins and to evil. Since the 17th century, the Church has celebrated a feast honoring the Guardian Angels in October.  We talk about how our American society is becoming more secular, but I was looking at an article from Time Magazine that quoted statistics from a study on religious belief in American conducted by Baylor University, which stated that 55% of those surveyed agreed with the statement that “I was protected from harm by a guardian angel.”  Those conducting the survey were surprised at the response, especially in light of all our technology and scientific knowledge. 
         I love the prayer to the Guardian Angels.  It is a favorite prayer of many Catholic children, and many Catholic adults remember this prayer from their childhood: Angel of God, My Guardian Dear, to whom God's love commits me here. Ever this day be at my side, to light and guard and rule and guide. Amen. 
         In our prayers, we communicate with God.  We develop and grow in our faith through our prayers.  May the angels and the saints hear our prayers and pray for us as members of God’s kingdom. 

Friday, September 26, 2014

9/29/2014 – Monday - Archangels – Michael, Raphael, and Gabriel – Rev 12:7-12, Ps 137; John 1:47-51

       Today, we celebrate the feast day of the three archangels – Gabriel, Michael, and Raphael.  We’ve been celebrating the feast day of these three archangels together since 1970, when their feast days were combined together in the revised Roman calendar after the Second Vatican Council. 
       Our reading from the book of Revelation today depicts the Archangel Michael defeating Satan and the powers of evil. With the defeat of Satan, salvation and power have come, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Anointed – Jesus the Christ.  Michael and the other angels are messengers of God’s loving and merciful relationship with us.  They are bearers of Good News to Us and they help us conquer evil and sin in our lives. We respond to this message of Good News by reach back to God in faith and trust and surrender. Yes, indeed, sometimes our lives may seem like we are in the middle of a war that is fought by the angels who are on the side of God as they battle the demons and the evil spirits who seem intent on getting us.  Michael is seen as the Archangel leading us in battle against those evil forces, so he is the patron saint of police officers, soldiers, paratroopers, and fighter pilots. 
       Once a second grader in our first communion class asked me about angels and archangels and the difference between them – quite an intelligent question.  Pope Gregory the Great clarified that the word “angel” denoted a function rather than a nature.   He asserted that the holy spirits of heaven have always been spirits, but they are called angels when they serve the function as messengers of God, when they deliver a message for him.   Angels are those who deliver message of lesser importance, while Archangels are those spirits who proclaim messages of supreme importance, such as when the Archangel Gabriel visited the Blessed Virgin Mary, to tell her that she was with child, that she would deliver the Son of God.
       The belief in angels has gone beyond Christianity, as it is popular in our secular world today to believe in angels, to have a belief in the divine messages that they deliver to us.  May we give thanks for the angels and archangels today.  In our preface before starting the Eucharistic prayer in the mass, we proclaim that we join the angels and archangels in their song of praise to the Lord.  May we truly feel the praise that we proclaim to the Lord in connection with these heavenly spirits. 

9/28/2014– la homilía del Domingo XXVI del tiempo ordinario – Mateo 21, 28-32; Ezequiel 18, 25-28; Filipenses 2,1-11.

     ¿Como podemos tener una conversión en nuestro corazón?  Las lecturas de hoy hablan sobre este tema.   El profeta Ezequías habla sobre la responsabilidad personal que necesitamos tener en nuestra vida de fe, una responsabilidad de convertir nuestras almas a Dios.  Recibimos el don de salvación de nuestro Salvador.  Según Ezequías, nuestras obras y nuestro camino de fe tienen consecuencias, especialmente si no nos arrepentimos de nuestros pecados y nuestras debilidades. 
     En el Evangelio de hoy, tenemos un lección sobre nuestra responsabilidad en la manera que vivimos.  No es suficiente para seguir nuestro Señor y sus mandamientos sólo con nuestras palabras y nuestros pensamientos.  Es necesario que nuestras obras y nuestra acciones acompañen nuestras palabras. Sin cambios en nuestra vida, no es una verdadera conversión.  Por esta razón, según el Evangelio de San Mateo, los publicanos y las prostitutas precederán a los maestros de la ley en el Reino de Dios.  Las prostitutas y los publicanos dijeron “no” en sus palabras y en sus vidas a la voluntad de Dios antes de su conversión, pero después, en el gran cambio en su vida de fe, ellos están siguiendo nuestro Señor en su plenitud.  Los maestros de la ley dicen que están siguiendo el camino de fe, pero no se dan cuenta de la necesidad de convertirse y de hacer penitencia por sus pecados.  Con sus palabras, ellos dicen “sí” a Dios, pero en sus obras y sus acciones y en sus corazones, ellos dicen “no.” 
      Nuestra segunda lectura de la carta de San Pablo a los filipenses nos da un modelo para seguir.  Cristo es nuestro modelo como un siervo en su humildad y en su camino a la cruz.  Cristo es nuestro modelo en su humanidad y su divinidad, y en la manera que cumplió con sinceridad la voluntad de su Padre. Es verdad, a veces nuestro camino no es fácil.  Pero, poco a poco, con cada paso, podemos avanzar en nuestro camino de fe.
        Tenemos la llamada de practicar nuestra fe en el espíritu del Evangelio, no en una manera estéril, rígida o implacable.  El espíritu de Jesús nos llama para encarnar su espíritu de amor y compasión, de cariño y de perdón, de llegar a los oprimidos, los marginados y los que están solos.  Creo que la razón Papa Francisco está amado por tanta gente es que él tiene el espíritu de Cristo en sus palabras y sus obras.  En un Tweet, el Papa Francis dijo: El verdadero poder es el servicio.  Yo como el Papa debe servir a todas las personas, especialmente los pobres, los débiles, y los vulnerables.
      El espíritu de las lecturas de hoy me llamó la atención en un cuento que alguien me contó recientemente.  Un hombre me explicó que manejaba a casa de la costa de Mississippi cuando se daba cuenta de que quedaba poca gasolina en su carro.  Él oraba tan fuerte que se encontraría con una gasolinera en alguna parte, pero estaba el momento de atardecer.  La gasolina en su carro terminó.  El estaba en una parte aislada de la carretera  desconocida por él.  En el transcurso de una media hora, comenzó a oscurecer, y ninguno de los carros se paró para ayudarle.  Cuando el hombre no tenía esperanza, una vieja camioneta pasó por él, y entonces lo vio otra vez unos diez minutos más tarde que vino por el otro lado. Una joven madre y su pequeño hijo estaban en el carro. Ella le preguntó qué necesitaba, y luego le dijo que iba a volver con un poco de gasolina para él. Ella dijo que le tomaría más de media hora, ya que no había gasolineras muy cerca.  Ella regresó con la gasolina y dijo que el hombre no necesita pagarle el dinero.  Ella le dijo que necesitaba saber por qué se regresó.  Ella dijo que ella y su hijo estaban en una prisa por regresar, que llegarían tarde para su compromiso. La madre explicó que después llegaron alrededor de un minuto en el camino después de pasar junto al hombre, el niño le preguntó a la madre por qué no se pararon a ayudarle. Le dijo a su hijo que llegarían tarde y no tenían tiempo. El niño respondió: Pero mamá, me parece que el hombre necesita ayuda. Jesús se habría parado para ayudarle. Así que eso es lo que hicieron la madre y su hijo. Ella se dio la vuelta inmediatamente y le ayudó. Y no quería recibir nada de este hombre a cambio.  Tal vez no necesitamos preguntar por qué la vida no parece justo o por qué las cosas malas suceden. Tal vez tenemos que concentrarnos para vivir el espíritu de Cristo en el mundo.

Signs of recovery from the tornado - St James Catholic Church - Tupelo, Mississippi - From April 29th to the road to recovery