Monday, May 25, 2015

5/28/2015 – Thursday of the 8th week in ordinary time – the story of the Blind man Bartimaeus – Mark 10:46-52

     A blind man named Bartimaeus cries out to Jesus from the side of the road: “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!”  The blind man is rebuked for calling out to Jesus.  The disciples try to silence him, but Bartimaeus does not refrain from his requests.  Jesus finally responds, telling the blind man that his faith has saved him.  Bartimaeus is able to see and to continue on his way.
          Bartimaeus had faith in Jesus – total faith.  I wonder if we let things in life get us down, if we feel weary and dejected, or if we are able to show the tenacity and courage and steadfastness that this blind man displays in today’s Gopsel.  I have kept this short prayer that a junior high school student gave me when I was an associate pastor at St Richard in Jackson.  This young man just earned his associates degree with honors this month from a community college.  He thought that the prisoners I ministered to would like this prayer.  I think it relates to the story of Bartimaeus that we hear this morning: Lord Jesus, I give you my hands to do your work,
I give you my feet, to follow your path.
I give you my eyes to see as you do.
I give you my tongue to speak your words.
I give you my mind so that you can think in me.
I give you my spirit so that you can pray in me.
Above all things, I give you my heart, so in me you can love your father and all people.
I give you my whole self so you can grow in me, until it is you, Lord, who lives, works, and prays in me.  AMEN.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

5/27/2015 – Wednesday of the 8th week in ordinary time – Sirach 36:1, 4-5a, 10-17

      Yesterday, we heard verses from the wisdom of Sirach giving us instructions in the moral life according to God’s laws.   Today, from Sirach, we hear a prayer that is offered up to the Lord on behalf of the people of Israel, asking for God’s assistance and for the light of his mercy.  It is interesting that this prayer foreshadows the coming of the Messiah, asking God to gather together the tribes of Israel and to fill Jerusalem and its temple once again with the glory of God. By showing his mercy to the people of Israel, he will show his love and justice to all the nations. 
       We cry out to the Lord at times in our lives, appealing to his love and mercy, just as Ben Sira does in the prayer in our reading from Sirach today. And it is up to us to embody God’s love and mercy in the world, even when we ourselves are treated harshly and violently.  I was heartened to read about the beatification of Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador on May 23, last Saturday.  Cardinal Angelo Amato, the head of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes in the Catholic Church, said that while those who persecuted Archbishop Romero during his lifetime are either dead right now or are living in obscurity, the memory of Blessed Archbishop Romero continues to live in the lives of the poor and the marginalized.  Romero had been assassinated in 1980 while celebrating mass in the midst of a civil war raging in his country, just a day after pleading to soldiers to stop the killing innocent civilians.  His voice for peace and justice stood out amongst the violence and injustice and oppression that was going on all over his country.  Cardinal Amato said that Romero will live as a symbol of peace and justice in a world marked by inequities and division.  We pray to the Lord, asking him to remember his promises.  But, in the example of Archbishop Romero and in the words of the Book of Sirach, the Lord always calls us to practice justice and to speak out for the values of our faith.  As we lift up our prayers today, let the prayer of Sirach resonate in our hearts, and let us practice that love and mercy in our lives.

5/26/2015 – Tuesday of the 8th week in Ordinary Time – Sirach 35:1-12

       We have been in the Easter season for seven weeks, and with the celebration of Pentecost this past weekend, we now enter into Ordinary Time once again.  For those weeks of the Easter season, we had been listening to readings from the Acts of the Apostles in our first readings, learning about how the Early Church formed and grew out of that small group of Christ’s disciples. This entire week our first readings are from the Old Testament book of Sirach, writings in the tradition of Wisdom literature by a scribe who lived in Jerusalem in the early third century.  Besides being known as the Book of Sirach, it is often called Ecclesiasticus.  The scribe originally wrote the book in Hebrew, but his grandson later translated it into Greek.  The original Hebrew version of the Book of Sirach was lost for more than 1,000 years, but in the late 19th and early 20th century, fragments of it were found in the original Hebrew.  Since the original Hebrew text had been lost for so long, it is not a part of the Hebrew Scriptures or the Protestant Bible, but is still included in our Catholic Scriptures.  The tone and the content of Sirach is similar to the book of Proverbs, in that they contain short wisdom verses that are often grouped by theme.
      In our reading today, we hear wisdom address the offerings that we bring to the Lord in the context of our religious practices.  Some of those offerings may come from the heart and may be true sacrifices, but others may be just hollow gestures from us that don’t pay attention to justice or truth.  According to Sirach, the Lord desires that there be a connection between the offerings we give him and the values we live out.  Sirach tells us that giving alms and offerings to the Lord can indeed be a sincere act of worship if they are done out of joy and love. Living an upright life in accordance with God’s commandments and  performing acts of charity are worthy offerings to God, too. 
      There are so many messages in the world today that call out to us.  There were many different messages present in Ancient Israel as well. It is never easy living a life of faith. It is never easy living the values of the Gospels.  We have many different types of help and encouragement along our journey – having God’s wisdom to lead us and instruct us is one such help. 

5/24/2015 – Pentecostés – Hechos 2,1-11, Juan 15,26-27; 16,12-15

       Hoy, celebramos la fiesta de Pentecostés, un don para nosotros al fin de nuestra celebración de Pascua.  En Pentecostés, como en toda la temporada de pascua, celebramos la presencia de Jesucristo resucitado con nosotros.  En los domingos de Pascua, hicimos una memoria de la pasión salvadora de Cristo y de su resurrección y ascensión a los cielos.  Hoy, celebramos la llegada & la obra del Espíritu Santo - el Espíritu del Padre y del Hijo. Con la presencia del Espíritu Santo, podemos reconocer sin duda que la resurrección de Jesús es una realidad permanente en nuestra vida de fe. Por eso, podemos decir que para nosotros, cada día es la Pascua de la Resurrección, que cada día es Pentecostés.
        En el Evangelio, Cristo explicaba la llegada del Espíritu Santo. Conocía la realidad de su camino – con el destino en la cruz y la resurrección.  La comunidad de los discípulos no ha experimentado todavía el Espíritu de Dios, no ha experimentado la realidad de la resurrección.  Después de la muerte de Cristo, los discípulos tenían mucho miedo. Cuando los discípulos recibieron la presencia de Cristo resucitado, cuando recibieron su Espíritu Santo, se llenaron de paz & gozo – se llenaron con los dones del Espíritu Santo.  Si nosotros somos una comunidad que vivimos y creemos en el Espíritu de Jesús resucitado, no necesitamos tener miedo de nuestro mundo tampoco.  Si – el Espíritu está siempre con nosotros – su gozo y su paz están con nosotros.
      Cristo explicaba que el Espíritu Santo es nuestro Consolador, es el Espíritu de la verdad.  Es el Espíritu de nuestra vida nueva que recibimos en el bautismo, la confirmación, la reconciliación y la Eucaristía – el Espíritu que tenemos en los sacramentos de la Iglesia.
        En la llegada del Espíritu Santo de Pentecostés, se llenaron todos los discípulos del Espíritu Santo. El Espíritu Santo, el Espíritu de Jesús resucitado, viene como un viento muy fuerte, como un fuego radiante, que sopla donde quiere. Tenemos la efusión del Espíritu Santo cada día en nuestro camino de fe.  La Eucaristía que celebramos hoy es una acción de Cristo y del Espíritu Santo. En la Eucaristía, el Espíritu nos alimenta con la Palabra de Dios y con el cuerpo y la sangre de nuestro Señor.   El Espíritu de Dios quiere que vivimos el espíritu de esta Eucaristía cuando vamos al mundo, para hacer las obras del Padre con nuestro projimo, para ser testigos del Espíritu con el poder de transformar el mundo.
       El Papa Francisco dice eso sobre el Espíritu Santo y nuestra celebración de Pentecostés:  “Preguntémonos hoy: ¿Estamos abiertos a las ‘sorpresas de Dios’? ¿O nos encerramos, con miedo, a la novedad del Espíritu Santo? ¿Estamos decididos a recorrer los caminos nuevos que la novedad de Dios nos presenta o nos atrincheramos en estructuras caducas, que han perdido la capacidad de respuesta? Nos hará bien hacernos estas preguntas durante toda la jornada."
      Si, creemos en el Espíritu de Dios que está con nosotros.  Si, creemos en el Espíritu de Dios que prepara las obras y las oportunidades que tenemos para avanzar el reino de Cristo aquí en la tierra. Reconocemos esta llamada para servir en nuestra parroquia, en nuestra comunidad, en nuestra país, y en nuestro mundo.  En todo que podemos hacer como individuos y como una comunidad de fe, necesitamos la ayuda del Espíritu Santo.  En nuestra celebración de Pentecostés, celebramos esta presencia de Dios con nosotros. 

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Happy Pentecost - the 12 fruits of the Holy Spirit

It also might be good for us to remember the 12 fruits of the Holy Spirit that Church teaches as well.

1. charity
2. joy
3. peace
4. patience
5. kindness
6. goodness
7. generosity
8. gentleness
9. faithfulness
10. modesty
11. self-control

12. chastity

Gifts of the Holy Spirit -

As we celebrate Pentecost this weekend, it is good to remind ourselves of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit (from 1831 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church).  How many of these do we experience or practice in our lives? 

1. wisdom
2. understanding
3. right judgment (counsel)
4. courage (fortitude)
5. knowledge
6. reverence (piety)
7. wonder (respect for the Lord)

5/24/2015 – Pentecost – Acts 2:1-11

       Today, we celebrate Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit to the early followers of the Jesus.  The day of Pentecost is seen as the birth of the Church.  On that day, enlivened by the Holy Spirit, the disciples went out into the world and preached the Gospel to all, each speaking in his own language and being understood by all.  The word Pentecost comes from a Greek word, “pentekostos,” which means 50. Pentecost occurs 50 days after Christ’s resurrection on Easter morning.  Indeed, today we conclude the Easter season, returning to ordinary time once again this Monday in our Church’s liturgical year.
         But how does the Holy Spirit work in our lives?  How does the Spirit manifest itself?  There are many answers to those questions.  There is not just one way the Spirit works in our lives.  The past few weeks I have shown you different objects that have illustrated aspects of our faith or the Gospel message.  Today, I continue to do so by showing you this beautiful framed display of holy cards that I have.  Terri Zeibart, one of the ladies who went through the RCIA program at St Richard Catholic Church in Jackson when I served there as associate pastor, gave me this as a gift a few years ago.  She was given it by one of the Carmelite nuns in Jackson, and thought of me when she received it and wanted me to have it.  Anyone who knows me knows how much I love the saints.  As a convert to Catholicism, the saints are one of the things that have drawn me to the Church.  Each one of them can us something about our faith.  Each one of them can show us how the Holy Spirit can work in our lives in different ways.
      Dorothy Day is a woman who came to my mind when I thought about the community of saints and the way the Holy Spirit works in our lives. The Church has not yet named Dorothy Day an “official” canonized saint, but she is seen as a saint and as a great example of faith by many in the Church. Day was born right before the dawning of the 20th century and lived as a young adult in the Roaring 20s, a time in which a lot of people were living in a very worldly, secular way.  She professed to be an anarchist and an atheist as a young woman living in New York, she had an abortion, and she did not find much time for God in her life.  At a talk he recently gave at the Dorothy Day Conference, Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles remarked how it was not the Church’s ideology that drew Dorothy Day to the Catholic faith, but rather “she was changed by love, changed by the over-powering awareness of the reality of God’s love and mercy.”  She felt God's love and mercy in her life through the birth of her daughter and through her relationship with a Catholic nun while she was living on Long Island in New York.  Dorothy Day became a very devout Catholic after her entrance into the Church and one of the great social activists of the 20th century, founding the Catholic Worker movement in New York and providing outreach to the poor and the oppressed.  Dorothy Day left us a legacy that illustrates how to live in and evangelize a culture that has rejected God.  She listened to the way the Holy Spirit was calling her in the reality of her life, and she called upon the Spirit to be a witness of faith in the world.  She believed that the surest way to evangelize in the modern world “was to raise up a new generation of saints.”
       We have mentioned the book Rebuilt about one parish's journey to renewal and new life.  That parish developed a mission statement that called them to love God, love their neighbor, and make disciples.  It is hard to listen to the call of the Holy Spirit sometimes, isn’t it, especially if the Spirit calls us to something new and different, to something that appears risky and out of our comfort zone. But Pope Francis has this to say about the Holy Spirit and the celebration of Pentecost: “Let us ask ourselves: Are we open to “God’s surprises”? Or are we closed and fearful before the newness of the Holy Spirit? Do we have the courage to strike out along the new paths which God’s newness sets before us, or do we resist, barricaded in structures that have lost their capacity for openness to what is new?”
      I mentioned the Community of Saints.  I look at those saints I see pictured in this frame – well-loved saints such as Ignatius of Loyola, Teresa of Avila, Vincent de Paul, Francis of Assisi, Joan of Arc, and Catherine of Sienna. All of these saints add to richness and depth of our Catholic faith. They represent a wonderful diversity of gifts and charisms.  As individuals and as a community of faith, we call upon the Holy Spirit to lead us and guide us in our faith. On the website for Nativity parish, the parish where the book Rebuilt came from, it states: We believe that the Holy Spirit has prepared works for us to do that will advance the kingdom of Christ. We recognize God’s call on our church to serve within our parish and beyond: in our city, our country, and in the world. I believe in those statements for our parish as well.   Nothing we can do as a parish or as individuals of faith should be beyond the realm of the Holy Spirit.  As we celebrate Pentecost today, we celebrate the Spirit of the Lord that is with us, and we ask for the Spirit’s help.