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.

Falling into the
arms of love.

Brothers and sisters, rejoice. Mend your ways, encourage one another, agree with one another, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.

The quote on our bulletin from Hildegard of Bingen, a 12th century abbess and mystic, is from a longer prayer she wrote. The main part of the prayer states:

You shine with radiant light,
in this circle of earthly existence
You shine so finely,
it surpasses understanding.
God hugs you.
You are encircled by the arms
of the mystery of God.

Trinity Sunday seems to be one of those days in the Church calendar that presents a challenge for us as believers and teachers of the Word. We work so hard to understand everything, to make sense of who God is, and to show our theological and philosophical learnings that we can miss what God is all about.

Our understanding must start with accepting the mystery of God. Our Orthodox brothers and sisters tend to accept the mystery of God in a much more open way. They don’t look to over intellectualize God. Rather, they see the whole life of a Christian as a mystery.

The joy of God’s mystery is the fact that this inestimable, incomprehensible God, this mystery beyond our understanding, encounters us and holds His arms open to us. Remember that He came to us and told us that He wishes relationship with us.

Moses encountered God in the burning bush and on Mount Sinai. In these encounters, he was surrounded by all the power and glory of God. Yet these were the words he heard: “The LORD, the LORD, a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity.”

In our daily lives, we should reflect back on the prayer of Hildegard. If we have relationship with God we shine brightly. We are different. We have been pulled into relationship with awesome mystery and the key aspect of that mystery is that we can run to it, run into its arms. That is what allows us to be truly radiant.

Over the past several weeks we have worked very hard. The basket social, rummage sale, bread sale. These tasks were done with joy and fellowship, but also added to our stress. We worry over the outcome. Will we have success? Will we live up to past accomplishment? In the face of these concerns, this Trinity Sunday calls us to re-encounter God’s mystery. Paying bills and life can get in the way of being radiant. God calls us back to radiance, back to His arms of love, to fall into His arms today.

Three things will last forever–faith, hope, and love–and the greatest of these is love.

…and the greatest of these is love. Famous words we recall hearing at almost every wedding. I wonder if St. Paul, in writing to the Church at Corinth, was thinking of pretty words for marriage ceremonies? Likely not, marriage wasn’t even on his radar. Frankly, it wasn’t even on the Church’s radar at that time. Paul cared more about the way Christians interacted with each other and with the world that was awaiting the hope only Jesus could offer. Were Christians, therefore, living and showing the lives the saved and redeemed should be living? We have, in Paul’s words, a certain irony. Words we hear at a wedding – at the beginning of a new sacred vocation for a couple – are words that should inform our vocational lives as Christians. The message of Jesus and of the Christian faith is a call to vocation. We are called to participate full-time, with every breath, in God’s creative and redemptive work. The Christian life is to be vocational to the core. It is a complete and total way of living. As we celebrate and pray in this month of sacred vocations let us remember that each of us is called to the most sacred vocation of all – to love completely as Jesus loved us.

Join us beginning with the celebration of the Church’s birthday at Pentecost, through the post-Easter solemnities, and in enjoying some great fellowship. We will be having our Rummage and Bake Sale, our seniorate Corpus Christi celebration, and we will be gathering bras – that’s right, bras!

You may view and download a copy of our June 2017 Newsletter right here.

This week’s memory verse: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” — Acts 1:8

  • 6/4 – Ephesians 2:8-9
  • 6/5 – Acts 19:1-6
  • 6/6 – 1 John 4:1
  • 6/7 – 1 John 1:3
  • 6/8 – 2 Peter 1:21
  • 6/9 – John 14:26
  • 6/10 – Acts 2:38

Pray the week: Holy Spirit, You live in me. Help me to live up to the awesome gifts You have given me and to witness no matter what.

The power of
Pentecost.

They were astounded, and in amazement they asked, “Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans? Then how does each of us hear them in his native language? We are Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya near Cyrene, as well as travelers from Rome, both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs, yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God.”

In the Book of Genesis, we find the people, the descendants of Noah who survived the great flood, were as one people. They spoke one language. They acted of one accord. They decided to build a tower to reach heaven. They had already regained the arrogance of those destroyed in the flood. They were going to reach heaven without having earned heaven, doing so by their own might and power.

So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore its name was called Ba’bel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth; and from there the Lord scattered them.

Today we recall the meek Apostles, the women, and family of Jesus in quasi-hiding being empowered to speak every language. They are commissioned by the Holy Spirit to declare the mighty acts of God to the entire world. They do so not regarding any barrier.

The early Church Fathers were the first to see Divine reversal in the events of Pentecost in Jerusalem compared with Babel. At Babel one language was confused; in Jerusalem, many languages become comprehensible. At Babel the people were scattered; in Jerusalem every nation comes together. At Babel, earth arrogantly tried building its way to heaven; in Jerusalem heaven reaches down to earth. At Babel the human ego was condemned; in Jerusalem humanity realizes it can be filled with God. At Babel humanity arrogantly looked at itself; at Pentecost humans are sent out to look for and bring the Good News to others; to all their brothers and sisters.

At Babel the mission was human, the goal was measured in bricks and height. At Pentecost, the mission is God’s. Pentecost means full acceptance of the Holy Spirit’s gifts and using those gifts for God’s work. His work is not to build towers nor to create structures. It is to build the Body of Christ, the Church, by our witness in spite of obstacles or barriers. We are to make Jesus known without regard to language, difference, or background. Pentecost undermines all human plans. Pentecost lived is great witnesses to the mighty acts of God no matter what.

Stop being
bland.

Jesus said to his disciples: “You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

We all face the challenge of blandness. We get bored, complacent, and just don’t have the energy we used to. It certainly isn’t an age thing, for it happens no matter our age.

It happens in our relationship with God. A friend once told me that he gave up going to church because he’d heard it all before. There was no new sermon, was no new inspiration, the same platitudes got trotted out season after season, year after year.

We crave stimulation and newness for very healthy reasons. If we do not receive proper stimulation, boredom creeps in. When boredom is left unchecked, disgust forms and leads us into cynicism, anger, and distrust. Unchecked boredom is a red flag. This red flag can result in two outcomes.

The red flag can cause us to go off the rails; lead us to reinventing God. Boredom becomes license to add to and change God’s teaching, or to turn God from what He is into a false image created to satisfy and justify our sinful desires. This is damaging Christianity.

On the other hand, we can use this red flag as God intended. It should drive us to dig deeper, to invent anew, and to be creative. Digging deeper, creativity, and newness are hallmarks of healthy Christianity.

If we are feeling bored with the Jesus we think we know, we need to dig deeper. Read and study more – find that aspect in His eternal and infinite perfection that we haven’t plumbed yet. Learn and enter contemplative prayer. We could spend an entire lifetime and still not grasp everything in just one aspect of God’s life. We won’t get bored doing this.

If we are getting bland in our practice of Christianity, let us resolve to add something new to the life of the Church. A new ministry? An added form of prayer? Lead a bible study in our homes or at work. Gather a focused prayer circle to pray for those who have struggles in our parish family. Make it fun, interesting, and new. In the process, we share our faith with new people and expand our family.

Let us get creative. Let us work together to do exactly what God commanded through Isaiah: Share your bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and the homeless; clothe the naked when you see them, and do not turn your back on your own. Because then our light shall break forth like the dawn, and any wound shall quickly be healed.

When we end blandness, when we make a new and creative difference, the glory of the Lord dwells with us and our light shines.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Christians, in attempting to understand the tremendous nature of God, Who sent and sacrificed Himself out of love for us, adopted the Greek word agape to describe God’s love for us and how our love is to be. Agape is love that is universal, unconditional and extraordinary. Agape its stronger than circumstances… We are invited to accept God’s real love and to let it envelop us. Accepting His love we are overcome by its unconditional nature. We move from saying, ‘How can He love me.’ to swimming in the sea of His tremendous love, letting it draw us in, allowing it to refresh and renew us and finally allowing it to become agape love in action in our lives.

Join us as we move from the season of Christmas into the Pre-Lenten season. Check out all the great events we have planned for the month ahead, find some beautiful prayers, reflect on the true meaning of stewardship, and so much more.

You may view and download a copy of our February 2017 Newsletter right here.

Starting and ending
with Jesus.

Rather, God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something, so that no human being might boast before God.

Imagine a world in which some criminal, a reactionary and revolutionary becomes everyone’s hope. Imagine a world in which being foolish, weak, lowly and despised is more powerful than power.

Paul was telling the people of Corinth to be focused on Someone and something the world saw as completely absurd. A criminal in the world’s eyes was crucified and had become the center of their faith. Jesus – Who the Jews saw as a stumbling block and Who the Gentiles saw as foolish – was their means of salvation. In fact, Jesus specifically called them, chose them – the lowly of the world – into the fullness of salvation and victory. Can we be foolish enough to get there?

Around 300 a philosopher explained that Christian “simplicity” attracted people. It is a fact of human history that power and strength and its benefits are limited to a few. The power of the strong and their cruelties make us question whether their way is our goal and hope or is it a corruption of what life was designed to be.

Jesus’ life calls us to question what is important. It helps us to realize that we, the foolish, weak, lowly and despised, are chosen and worthy of God. Jesus’ life, sacrificial death, resurrection, and ascension calls us to realize that all He said and did was meant to raise up our everlasting status and to make us His coheirs – that’s real power.

Like us, the Corinthians probably doubted. Worldly power and status is powerfully attractive. Yet there they were, none of them powerful or aristocratic. Paul reminds them that the real victory in not being “all that.”

God’s way is to choose those of apparently little account to show the apparently important that they are wrong, to “shame” them. It is a paradox with a beautiful outcome. Instead of choosing learned, perfect, and proud figures to bring about the greatest good; God chooses the small, imperfect and weak. It that, God works the most beautiful of miracles. He does away with boasting so that His faithful might place their boast and receive their power from Him alone.

God asks that we grasp the real power that comes from boasting in Him. We are to rejoice in our simplicity and rely completely on the One who gives us real power. Seeing Him as our beginning and ending leads us into becoming His blessed, His coheirs, the receivers of His real power.

Love to
completion.

I urge you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree in what you say, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and in the same purpose.

Pixie and Dixie and Mr. Jinks was a Hanna-Barbera cartoon. Mr Jinks is an orange tuxedo cat. Mr. Jinks was always outfoxed by Pixie and Dixie, the mice. Mr. Jinks trademark line was, “I hates those meeces to pieces!”

Reading today’s Epistle, we could easily imagine all sorts of Christians saying the same thing about other Christians. “I hate those _________ to pieces!” What we fail to recognize is that saying things like that ends up as I want Jesus in pieces.

We have a centuries long legacy of that which Paul warned against, people choosing Church leaders over the Lord. I mean that each of you is saying, “I belong to Paul,” or “I belong to Apollos,” or “I belong to Cephas,” or “I belong to Christ.”

Paul words show a hint of weariness and frustration. The Church, just a few decades old, was descending into factionalism. Yet Paul’s love and devotion to this quarrelsome community would not let him stand by. He understood that the sinful side of human nature eventually reveals itself. The brokenness of our human condition causes all manner of brokenness in the flock.

Church leaders can behave unethically and inappropriately. Parishioners can turn into a pack of church-going coyotes attacking the weak and vulnerable in their midst. Pastors burn out and leave ministry. Parish Committee members become disillusioned by the dark underbelly of the church world or by grabs for power and control. Children of church workers see this and decide that organized religion is hypocritical and vile. We’ve all seen the fallout from trying to follow the call of Christ in a wounded and difficult world.

“Follow me,” Jesus says to the fisherman by the Sea, “and I will make you fish for people.” Those fishermen knew that fishing is dangerous business and hard work. Did they think fishing for people would be any less? And yet they immediately dropped everything and followed Jesus.

We have been called to follow and disciple for Jesus. He believes each of us is worthy. We all have our story of how Jesus called us into discipleship. Whatever expression our call takes it is not going to be an easy journey but will be one of great reward. Yes, we are called. We are called into discipleship that does not hate or divide into pieces. We are called to make the Holy Name of Jesus known; to magnify Him above all else. We are called to live in real agreement with all who proclaim Jesus – loving all in Jesus to completeness.