Wednesday, October 29, 2014

11/2/2014 – All Souls Day – Romans 5:5-11, Psalm 23:1-6, John 6:37-40

       I was a missionary in Ecuador for about a year when my dad passed away.  At the time, I was serving at a very remote mission site that had no telephone at all.  My sister contacted the provincial house of our missionary order in the capital city of Quito to notify me.  I finally got the news via a CB radio, a message that had to pass through many different missionary priests in order for it to finally reach me in the jungle.  It took me several days of travel, but I was able to make it back for the funeral, which really meant a lot to me. However, since my dad was buried in Chicago, and the funeral was in southern California, I was not able to go to his gravesite until several years later when I had completed my term as a missionary and returned once again to the United States.  I placed a small wooden cross at his gravesite in Rosehill that my students in Ecuador had made, as well as a rosary that I had gotten in Ecuador.  It was important to me to honor him in that way, and to remember him as I continued on my journey as a missionary.  I think all of us want to remember, honor, commemorate, and pray for our deceased loved ones in a special way, which is reason that the two day celebration of All Saints Day and All Souls Day is such a popular festival for the Catholic faithful.
      Paul speaks about the virtue hope in his letter to the Romans.  Paul said that this hope we have will not disappoint us, because it has been poured into our hearts by God through the Holy Spirit.  Pope Francis says that the two great feasts that we celebrate this weekend – All Saints Day and All Souls Day – are celebrations of hope.  The celebrations of these days are to bring hope into our hearts – to be a leaven to our spirits just as we are to be leaven in the world.  We all go through difficult moments in our lives, such as the time in which we lose a loved one, but with the hope that is in our hearts and in our faith, we press forward and we keep on eyes focused on those eternal truths that matter, we keep focused on what awaits us.  Today, All Souls Day, is a day of hope because we know that our brothers and sisters who died in the love of Christ are in eternal life with him.   We place our hope in that eternal life for ourselves.  We place our hope that one day we, too, will be in the loving arms of Jesus, the Good Shepherd whom we sang about in Psalm 23, that he will lead our souls to eternal rest and refreshment.
      Since those first centuries after the death and resurrection of Christ, the Church has consistently encouraged the offering of prayers and Mass for the souls of the faithful departed in Purgatory.   At the time of their death, those souls were not cleansed completely of their past sins nor had they atoned completely for their past transgressions, and thus were not ready for unification with God.  The faithful here on earth assist these souls in Purgatory in attaining eternal life with the divine through our prayers, our good works and the offering up of Mass.
       We use All Saints Day and All Souls Day to start our commemoration of November of a month of remembrance, in which we in the Church traditionally remember those who have entered eternal life with our Lord. This act of remembering is not just a nostalgic looking back, but rather a way of building up and maintaining our holy community, of making the love and mercy and goodness of God present in our lives.  We remember in this way each time we celebrate the Eucharist as a community. And this weekend’s remembrance takes on additional significance as we remember the souls of the faithful departed.
        In the opening prayer that we use for the wake service at the death of a loved one, the priests exclaims that we the faithful believe that all the ties of friendship, love and affection that knit us together as one throughout our lives do not unravel with our earthly death.  Our loved ones are still united with us in their eternal life, where they offer up prayers and intercessions for us, and we in return offer prayers for them.  We have our altar cloth at St James where we write down the names of our loved ones and remember them during the entire month of November.   Remembering and being connected to our deceased loved ones and to those who passed down the faith to us throughout history is an important part of what we celebrate in these two feasts in the Church this weekend. When we went out to the cemetery at St Thomas in Tupelo this weekend, we see those mothers and fathers of the early Catholic community here in the Tupelo area who were pioneers of Catholicism in Northeast Mississippi.  Often they had to travel far to attend mass, often they had to bring in priests from the Benedictine monastery in Alabama, but living out their Catholic faith was an important part of their lives that they would not give up.  When I blessed the graves in historic Glenwood cemetery in Yazoo City, we always started at the graves of the priests and nuns buried there, some of whom died in the yellow fever epidemics that struck the Mississippi in the 19th century.   In is important for us to remember and to pray for those to whom we are connected in our families and our lives of faith, to offer thanksgiving and blessings to them for their faith and their example. 
       The promise of eternal life that Jesus gives us in the Gospel today gives us hope and encouragement, especially during the ups and downs of our own journey. May that hope be present in our prayers and worship today. 



Tuesday, October 28, 2014

10/30/2014 – Thursday of 30th week in Ordinary Time- Luke 13:31-35

      The Pharisees think they have the answers. They are always are criticizing Jesus and trying to bring him down.   They try to entrap him and ensnare, focusing so much on that that they are open to the wisdom and goodness that he is trying to bring to them.  As Jesus says, they reject the prophets that God sends to them, they are unwilling to see the signs that God sends them. Pope Francis, in an interview with America Magazine last year, had this to say about the openness we need to have for God in our lives:  “If one has the answers to all the questions - that is the proof that God is not with him. It means that he is a false prophet using religion for himself. The great leaders of the people of God, like Moses, have always left room for doubt. You must leave room for the Lord, not for our certainties; we must be humble.”  As we search for God in our lives, are we concentrating so much on the answers we think we have, that we aren’t open to hear God’s voice as it comes to us in unexpected ways?  We need to be open to mystery, ambiguity, and uncertainty.  We to be open to truly listening not only to God, but to our brothers and sisters, to their lives and their journeys.  No, we don’t always all the answers.  But that’s ok. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

10/31/2014 – Friday of 30th week in Ordinary Time – Luke 14:1-6

         As a priest, I spend a lot of time visiting the sick & the shut-ins, so I can really imagine how Jesus responds the way he does in today’s Gospel, as he goes to the home of a Pharisee on the day of the Sabbath, but right in front of him is a man suffering from dropsy.  From what I understand about that medical condition, the person fills up with excessive fluids, an uncomfortable & painful & dangerous condition.  When Jesus sees this man, he doesn’t think about the rule that prohibits him from performing any work on the Sabbath.  Instead, out of his love & mercy, he sees a man who needs his healing, so Jesus heals him, no questions asked. 
         Often we can get so caught up with our own busy lives, with all the work that needs to be done, with all the chores that need our attention, with our obligations to family and friends.  Do we respond to those around us when they need our love and mercy?  We cannot heal in exactly the same way that Jesus does, but you would be surprised as to how much a smile or a kind word, a prayer or a visit, would bring different forms of healing to someone’s life. 

         Lord, may you bring love and healing into our hearts today, so that we may become instruments of your compassionate love to our busy world.  Be with those who are in need of your love and compassion today, Lord, and may we always be servants of your peace.

10/29/2014 – Wednesday of the 30th week in ordinary time – Luke 13:22-30

        From the crowds, someone shouted out to Jesus, “Lord, will only a few be saved?”  Jesus’ teachings & his proclamation of God’s kingdom attracted a lot of interest from the people of ancient Israel, but it also drew a lot of questions.  The people wanted to know more and more about what God’s kingdom was all about.  Jesus demands that we incorporate the teachings of God’s kingdom into the reality of our daily lives, through the ups and downs of our journey. 
         We all called to dialogue with the modern world and to read the signs of the times, but we are also called to be true to the traditions of our faith and God’s laws and commandments.  In fact, our Catholic moral teachings contain a great richness for us. Through the Beatitudes and the Ten Commandments, through the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity, we can learn so much about our faith.  We need to continuously form our conscience and grow in our faith so that we can continue to make the right decisions that our faith demands from us.  We are marking an end to the month of October, a month that honors the blessed Virgin Mary and her role in the history of salvation, a month that calls us to specifically look at how the respect for all human life is an important part of our Catholic faith. 
         So, let’s get back to that question in today’s Gospel.  Perhaps we should not be asking is not how many will be eventually saved, but rather, we could ask ourselves some other questions: How is God calling me to live according to his will here on earth?  How am I incorporating his love and mercy into my life in serving Him and in serving my brothers and sisters?  There are some things to which only God knows the answers. 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Eudora Welty Library - Jackson, Mississippi




I was in Jackson last week for a meeting and parked near the Eudora Welty Library.  Eudora Welty was a beloved resident of Jackson almost her entire life and one of the most honored writers both in Mississippi and in the United States.  It is a great honor for us to have a library named after such an influential writer.

Mass in honor of St Jude









Saturday evening, we had a mass in honor of St Jude with our Hispanic community.  We had a great celebration.  Many members of our community have a great devotion to St Jude and asked me if we could have this mass.  It was a joyful expression of our Catholic faith.  

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Blessing


Our parish cat Blessing loves sitting on the copier. What a funny cat!