Take My
hand.

Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw how strong the wind was he became frightened; and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught Peter, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

It would seem that this week is all about drama. In First Kings, we encounter A strong and heavy wind rending the mountains and crushing rocks, an earthquake, and fire. We find Jesus walking across the storm and frightened disciples. Even Paul is filled with sorrow and constant anguish over the lack of faith among his own people. He would rather throw himself into hell so that they may be saved – very dramatic.

Our lives seem to be filled with drama as well. There are disappointments, sadness, and anguish. In the midst of all this noise, it is really difficult to find peace, to close out the noise and release the stress. Peter couldn’t keep his eye on the Lord in the midst of a raging sea. Elijah had trouble finding the Lord in the midst of earthquake, fire, and wind. Why should we different if prophets and saints had difficulty. God understands that we struggle and can even lose faith for a moment.

Even so, God calls us to grow in perfection, to look through and past the drama, keeping our eyes on the prize.

Perhaps that was easier for early Christians. They understood the utter terror of everything. They had no sense of control over anything that happened around them. They could be arrested for no reason, could be killed in a storm. They only had Jesus – so He was their sole confidence and peace.

We have immunized ourselves a bit. We can drive or even fly through storms, we have the protection of airbags and seatbelts, our homes are generally safe and sturdy. We seem to have more confidence. Seem to…

Today, God is calling us back to the prize. He is reminding us to keep our eyes on Him even in the midst of our noise. He asks us to see His very precious gift.

The miracle for our lives is the power of God over the chaos and drama. When we fall, sink, or can’t seem to hear Him, He is the One that reaches out.

Where was God today? He was in the whisper. He was the hand that reached out to save. Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went and stood at the entrance of the cave. He listened. Peter took Jesus’ hand. The disciples in the boat did him homage, saying, “Truly, you are the Son of God.” The presence and hand of God. Jesus reaching out for us is a constant. He is the nudge we feel, the gentle tug and whisper. Take My hand in your storm, find my quiet voice, and have peace.

Did that
happen?

Jesus took Peter, James, and his brother, John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, conversing with him.

As we look into the experience of Peter, James, John, and Jesus at the Transfiguration we first face the question of: Why did this happen? Is there a specific purpose for this account? Let’s take a moment to analyze the possibilities.

The Transfiguration was limited to only a few of the apostles. Why weren’t all apostles invited? Often times the Transfiguration is used to point to the fact that Jesus wanted to give His apostles reassurance before his Passion. If they were to face His humiliation and death, and maintain some level of faith, seeing Jesus in His Divine state would provide this reassurance. So, the question, why weren’t the rest of the apostles there, why were they excluded from this Divine reassurance?

Perhaps the Transfiguration was to point to the fact that Jesus is the fulfillment of both the Law and the prophecies. The appearance of Moses and Elijah who represent all the Law and the words of the prophets signifies that fact. More than that, Jesus transcends the Law and the Prophet as the Father’s voice directs the apostles, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” Again, who would know all this except Jesus and the three apostles?

The whole episode of the Transfiguration adds little to nothing to the public ministry and teaching of Jesus. It had no direct import on the wider public Jesus was trying to draw into the Kingdom. In fact, Jesus told the apostles to keep silent about it, to tell no one, until after His resurrection. Yet it is recorded in three gospels and Peter speaks of it in his second letter. Why so?

When something totally and remarkably unusual happens, a lot of people refuse to believe it. We can see this with the moon landing in 1969. There are people, who to this very day, refuse to believe it happened. The Transfiguration event is certainly amazing, it is certainly beyond our comprehension, and that’s exactly why it is recorded. It is recorded because it is unique to people of faith. We, Christians own this event by our faith in Jesus. Only the faithful get it and are changed by it.

The word “transfigured” means a change to the outside so that it matches what is inside. The remembrance of Jesus’ transfiguration is our call to get it and be changed by it. It is our call to show faith that holds hope greater than fear, that allows us to shine in godly destiny, to overcomes the earthly with glory. Let us then be changed – believing our astounding God holds amazing joyous life for us.

Wait! I need
to ask.

“Give your servant, therefore, an understanding heart to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong.”

We look to continue our process of growth and becoming in our Christian journey; to become better in our walk with Jesus and each other.

In our Old testament scripture, we encounter Solomon, the young successor to his father, David, who had just died. Solomon, age twelve, took David’s throne. Before his passing, David acknowledged Solomon’s intelligence and wisdom saying: “You are wise; you will know what to do to.”

It is longstanding worldly human practice to go with what people say about us. We trust their wisdom and understanding, especially if they are people of power in our lives. Our bosses compliment us, we eat it up. A talented person says we are talented or special, we trust their judgment. A professor notes our intelligence, we trust that.

It would have been easy for Solomon to just trust what his father had said. After all, these were words from David’s death bed – words most people value in a very special way. He was wise and intelligent according to his father, the King. Thus, when God spoke to Solomon, Solomon could have asked for anything else. Why ask for wisdom and intelligence if he already had it? Instead, he humbled himself before God. He accounted himself as having nothing and asked God for the very things his father said he already had.

It should be this way for us as we grow and develop in our Christian walk. We should be the children of our heavenly Father asking Him for all gifts. This requires vast humility. Having that kind of humility is why Solomon was blessed and praised by God! Having that kind of humility gave Solomon not only the gift of wisdom and intelligence, but also long life, riches, success, and the life of his enemies.

St. Paul expands on this saying: We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.

If we love God, if we walk humbly with Him, if we trust judgment to Him and stay aligned with His will, we will be vastly rewarded. The littlest ones in our lives get this in a special way. If they are asked to do something or go somewhere, if they are asked to make a judgment, their instinct is to stop, say wait, and say: ‘I need to ask.’

This is what God is seeking from us. I think I am wise – Wait, I need to ask. I think I know what I should do – Wait, I need to ask. My judgments are correct and righteous – Wait, I need to ask.

The treasure hid in a field is God’s gifts for us. It is the kingdom and all it holds for us. There is a great treasure for us if we only ask.

Growing the
community and the world.

He spoke to them another parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch was leavened.”

Jesus’ radical call to us is to be something totally different, to rise above our worldly ways to become like Him so we can grow the world.

When we think about the what this call means, the depth of it, the power of it, we can be taken a little aback. How can I possibly be like Jesus? How can I get beyond my ‘feelings,’ my angers, disputes, grudges, opinions and take up Jesus’ opinion and way? Can I grow the world?

This season of growth, as we have discussed over the past several weeks, is all about getting beyond and over ourselves to become ourselves. Seems strange to say – but to become ourselves is to fulfill what God has designed us to be, is to reach for becoming God like and then to be that yeast. The few Christians in our community – that’s us and our brothers and sisters from many traditions – can grow and develop our community and the entire world. Be its leaven.

The Book of Wisdom points out the aspects of God we have within us and that we need to grow into so that our community may grow. What a wonderful prospect that we have such dignity and heavenly love – grace pointed toward us, that we have the ability to become ‘all that.’ By becoming all that God has designed us to be, the world around us is given the chance to become all that God wants it to be.

Wisdom tells us God’s mastery over all things makes Him lenient to all. What a radical call – to be lenient to all. Not to take up grudges or be judgmental, but to be merciful, clement, forgiving, forbearing, tolerant, charitable, easygoing, magnanimous, sympathetic, compassionate, and mild. If we are so, then we leaven the community to also be lenient.

Being the yeast for our community calls us to be bold. God knows that we can be. He knows the power He has paced in us. Because of that, Wisdom tells us that God rebuke[s] temerity. Unless we toss our leaven into the community nothing will happen. If we stop our leaven at the door of the church, act differently at meetings, work, on the road, online, or at home then God will rebuke us, He will correct, reprimand, admonish, reprove, chastise, and censure us – not something one would ever want. If we are truly bold in God, then the community can be bold in Him.

God has fixed His gaze on us, His people, in a particular way. The Holy Spirit is with us coming to the aid of our weakness; interceding for us, His holy ones so we can bold, lenient leaven.

We have the power, ability, and love to grow and become like Jesus – lenient and bold – growing our community and the whole world.

In the mirror between
the sowing and the growing.

“Hear then the parable of the sower. The seed sown on the path is the one who hears the word of the kingdom without understanding it, and the evil one comes and steals away what was sown in his heart. The seed sown on rocky ground is the one who hears the word and receives it at once with joy. But he has no root and lasts only for a time. When some tribulation or persecution comes because of the word, he immediately falls away. The seed sown among thorns is the one who hears the word, but then worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word and it bears no fruit. But the seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.”

How deep is our faith? Jesus’ parable is really a question about that very subject. As we have heard, Ordinary Time is a period of focus on our faith journey. During this time, we are given the opportunity to grow and develop, to deepen our faith inwardly and outwardly.

As we probe our faith in the mirror, we need to take account of those areas in which we can grow and beware of those things which can hurt our relationship with Christ. We must engage with the Lord both in our personal mystical union with Him and our corporate experience of Him.

Jesus sows only good in our lives. He places His word in the hearts and minds of men and women with the intent that it will grow, flourish, and produce. He does this through both His ministers and all the faithful called to evangelize the world. But things happen between the sowing and the growing. This is where depth comes into play.

Jesus’ explanation is pretty straightforward. In the first three examples, something comes between the sowing and the growing. In the fourth, the faithful grow and produce.

In the first example, the Church is just a way station. It serves some other purpose in the person’s life. There is little to no faith intent in them and thus no depth. It might be a great social club, some sort of way to pass time or even do a little good – but no real connection to faith in Christ at all.

The second two are more troublesome; they have actually gotten it. Christ began to grow in them. Unfortunately, something intervened, and that is not an external intervention. They let other things get in the way of Jesus. Maybe personalities, control, or a personal opinion – whatever the cause, these lost the purpose for which the seed was planted in them. They didn’t see the danger and killed off growth in Jesus.

The question can only be answered by looking in the mirror. Is Jesus there with us – deep in us – or is something else pasted on Jesus’ face? If the seed has been choked, now is the time to find out and to ask Jesus to replant it. He will!

Taking up the
yoke.

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”

These scriptures for Ordinary Time speak to where we are and urge us to deeper spiritual formation, authentic responses to God’s call in the midst of our challenges, and to a renewed commitment to evangelism.

Today we hear Jesus invite us to come to Him and find rest. He asks us to take up His yoke for it is easy and light.

As a young person, this verse confused me a little. Why would one come for rest only to take up a yoke? It seemed ironic at best to lay down one’s burdens just to take up another. What could this mean?

Jesus’ invitation is indeed for those who labor and are burdened down. The Greek words in original scripture speak of labor and burden as grinding toil and desperate burden. Desperate burden is that kind of weight that creates on-going weariness. It is seemingly inescapable.

As we reflect back on the lives of people at the time Jesus walked the earth we might imagine some of the burdens they carried. They had to turn over nearly everything they had to corrupt tax collectors. They had to scrape for a bit of oil and wheat to make some bread, maybe a bit of weak wine on a special occasion? On top of that there were the requirements of the old Law. Sacrifices had to be made for sin. Rules had to be obeyed diligently, often for no better reason then they were made requirements by religious leaders who enriched themselves.

Jesus invites these weary people to come to Him – He would give them true rest. The Greek word for “rest” used here suggests renewal and refreshment. It doesn’t promise that burdens will go away. It does not promise that people who receive this renewal and refreshment will never be weary again. Rather, their lives will be changed to such an extent that toil and burdens will pale in comparison to the glory they will receive.

Jesus’ invites the desperately weary to take up a new yoke – new life that brings joy – not weariness. As understood in Jewish culture, this yoke was beautiful submission and obedience to God. Jesus’ invitation was to know joy and freedom by following His path.

We too were once called to come to Jesus, to take up His yoke – to become His disciples. Perhaps some are called out of their burdens today. Inescapable weariness didn’t disappear in the year 100, 1,000, 1980, or 2016. What has changed is that we have the opportunity to say yes to a light and beautiful burden that destroys grinding toil and desperation. Take up His yoke, throw down burden, find joy.

She entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.

We begin our summer with the celebration of Holy Mass on Sunday, July 2nd followed quickly by the celebrations of the Visitation and Independence Day. The Visitation holds special significance for us. What would summer be without visits with family and friends, getting together for picnics, or the traditional family road trip to go visiting? The scene of Mary’s visit to her cousin Elizabeth is part of the larger story of salvation. The story line in Luke’s gospel is the story of God’s powerful desire to visit with us, to be present in our lives. Mary’s visit with Elizabeth would not have been possible without the angel Gabriel’s visit with Zachariah (Elizabeth’s husband) telling him that they would have a son. It would not have been possible without that same angel’s visit to Mary, telling her that God desired to place His Son in the world, to visit with us. All of salvation history is a telling of God’s visitation with us. He wants to be with us, even when we do not want to be with Him. He remains with us and calls us back even when we wander off. He continually calls us into deeper and deeper relationship with Him. He is the visitor that never leaves! As we contemplate our best visitor, let us also take up Mary’s example As we get out there to visit this summer, let’s talk about the One best visitor ever. Help others invite Him into their lives.

Join us this summer as we continue to visit with Jesus, as we are assured of His abiding presence with us. There are tons of summer activities – Kurs Youth Camp, Independence Day, the National United Choirs Convention and Music Workshop, the YMSofR Golf Tournament, our neighborhood and community picnic, and so much more. We will continue gathering bras – that’s right, bras!

You may view and download a copy of our July/August 2017 Newsletter right here.

Open to God’s
reward.

“Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me. And whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because the little one is a disciple—amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward.”

These scriptures for Ordinary Time speak to where we are and urge us to deeper spiritual formation, authentic responses to God’s call in the midst of our challenges, and to a renewed commitment to evangelism.

Earlier in St. Matthew, chapter 10, Jesus sends out the Twelve. He commissions them to: go, make this proclamation: ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, drive out demons. Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give. Jesus advised the disciples to accept no extra money, but to receive the welcome of those who would care for them on their mission. He specifically points out that: The laborer deserves his keep. Today we focus on our task of receiving those who are sent.

The Church sends forth its priests to serve local communities, and in our tradition the local community is given the option of accepting the one sent. This helps because when the personality of the one sent and of those receiving him mesh, good things happen, graces abound, and the work of drawing more into the kingdom is productive. Jesus remains with the sent and those who receive them. He does not turn His back on them. He rewards them.

Today, Jesus addresses those receiving the ones sent and He states His expectation as well as the rewards given to those who meet His expectation. By illustration – whoever gives to the one sent, even a cup of cold water will be rewarded. Whoever receives the sent, because they have sacrificed their lives to carry the Gospel, will be rewarded. Isn’t this a wonderful prospect – a reward guaranteed by God?

If we look at our community we see the rewards that come from graciously receiving the sent. We see God’s promises fulfilled. The cooperative and positive relationship between our local church and those sent to it has resulted in growth, greater charity, and a joy that overcomes any obstacle. The rewards and the blessings we receive are not separate from God, nor is He just a bystander. He is active in our lives – delivering on His promises because we listen to Him. He is blessing us! Let’s be absolutely clear, God has blessed our work specifically because we give that cup of cold water to the sent and in fact to all who come and find welcome here.

We hold Jesus out to others by our authentic response of welcome. How we receive the sent, how we receive all, is how we receive Jesus. Open to all we open ourselves to God’s reward.

Real, present help.
No fear!

Jesus said to the Twelve: “Fear no one. Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known. What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light; what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.

I have had quite a week. Actually, a week-and-a-half. It has been filled with a constant barrage of work, travel, preparation for Church events. I have been in nine cities in seven days, with two more to go. I will be leaving to chaplain Kurs in less than a week. After that I am off to Baltimore and will be filling in for Fr. Mark at our neighboring parish. This weekend was my son’s high school graduation. We had family and friends with us with all the incumbent preparation that entails. Coincidentally, as we prepared for his graduation party, his first college bill came in the mail. Somewhere in here is a parish committee meeting.

As I read Jesus’ words and prepared for today, I said – this makes total sense. Not just “Fear no one…” but really, with Jesus, fear nothing!

This is one of those scriptures that speaks to us where we are. So it is as we enter Ordinary Time in the Church year. These scriptures will speak to where we are and will urge us to deeper spiritual formation, authentic responses to God’s call in the midst of our challenges, and to a renewed commitment to mission and evangelism.

Today’s scripture translates into a call to fearless witness. How easy it is to get overwhelmed by life, by the many pushes and pulls on our schedules. In the midst of the storm, we are called to remember that Jesus is with us. He is with us to tell us that as long as we cling to Him we will make it through. More than that, we will come out victorious. We are reminded that we can be like Jesus, in the back of the boat, in the midst of the storm – sound asleep and at peace.

Jesus tells us that we need not fear the “hosts of evil” around us however they might show up or appear in our lives. Jesus is with us and in control.

What places us in Gehenna? It is those things we think are greater than God. Is a crazy schedule, travel, messes of meetings and obligations greater than Jesus? Absolutely not! We are to take these challenges and flip them on their head. We are to see and use them as opportunity to deepen our faith in Jesus as our strength. Our authentic response is to freely praise God and to publicly acclaim Christ as Lord over all; giving public account for the hope that is in us. Let us live daily acknowledging, trusting, abiding in, and praising God’s real and present help – no fear.

Turn up the
dial!

Jesus said to the Jewish crowds: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”

When I was young, it seemed everyone had a big old console stereo system. You may remember these, a really big and long wooden piece of furniture with built-in stereo speakers and all kinds of electronic equipment.

These systems had various doors and hinges that opened sections of the system. They typically had a built-in record player under a hinged top. The front doors would open to access the radio and volume controls. interestingly, these furnishings are making a comeback.

These systems were very elegant, and for me, a great temptation! (especially at home, but not only).

I would sit on the floor before this impressive set of electronics and dream of all sorts of adventures. I could control a spaceship, launch missiles and destroy the Russians, wherever the mind could take me, I could go.

The one thing my fiddling around always seemed to accomplish was the shock and surprise my parents and their guests would get when they turned the system on. Boom! the radio was turned all the way up, and people jumped. So would I when I heard my name called…

For these days, where we particularly reflect on the mystery of the Body and Blood of Jesus, we are called to do what I did with those stereo systems; turn up the volume.

This solemnity offers a unique opportunity to turn up the volume of our praise and worship, to acknowledge a love so great that its giver desired to stay with us forever. During this eight day period, we focus on celebrating and proclaiming more than a mere symbol or a nice memory – who would waste time doing that! We turn up the volume on the truth – the great giver of all love is with us here, now, and forever.

The great giver of love, Jesus Christ, is really present – body, blood, soul, and divinity in what appear to be simple bread and wine. He is in our hands. Sadly, only 40 to 91 percent of catholic churchgoers recognize Jesus. It should never be less than 100%. So, we need to turn up the volume. We need to sing out and proclaim His praises, revel in His presence. Let the world know.

Love isn’t something far off. Our great God allows us to eat His flesh and drink His blood and because of it we have eternal life. This simple fact must fill us, envelop us with such joy that we cannot help but turn up the dial on our praise. We need to live praise filled lives, overwhelmed by the fact that He is so close by, ready for a visit. Call the world to Him by loud thankful praise.