There is no
going back.

Elijah went over to Elisha and threw his cloak over him. Elisha left the oxen, ran after Elijah, and said, “Please, let me kiss my father and mother goodbye, and I will follow you.” Elijah answered, “Go back! Have I done anything to you?” Elisha left him, and taking the yoke of oxen, slaughtered them; he used the plowing equipment for fuel to boil their flesh, and gave it to his people to eat. Then Elisha left and followed Elijah as his attendant.

God tells Elijah to call Elisha as his apprentice. Elijah anoints Elisha in a unique way, by placing his mantle – or cloak – around him.

This is definitely not as dramatic or exotic as the calling of the other prophets. There are no dramatic visions, as Ezekiel had, no cherubim and seraphim like Isaiah had, and no burning bush.

Elisha is uniquely called into apprenticeship and he will exhibit no prophetic ministry until after Elijah is taken up into heaven. Elisha’s call is much like that of Jesus’ disciples – to come and serve, to come and learn.

Elisha, plowing in the fields seems to understand the significance of Elijah’s call and anointing, but also questions. His internal questions are not recounted. Rather, they are made evident in the fact he wanted to go back to his parents to wish the goodbye. He wanted to take his time. Elijah is not amused.

There is no going back. Elisha cannot go back to his former way of life. Elijah prompts Elisha to think about this: “Go back, for what have I done to you?”

Indeed, what has any man or woman done to or for one who is called to follow God’s will? Recognize that God told Elijah what he was to do. God chose Elisha. Elijah was just an instrument to convey God’s message. He didn’t do anything – God did. Think about that Elisha!

Elisha had to provide a real answer to God’s call. What claim does this call make on his life? What ties must he leave behind? When Elisha slaughters the oxen that had previously provided his livelihood, he makes a powerful statement of vocational commitment. He lives his call by offering his life to God and his livelihood for his people.

Jesus isn’t as subtle as Elijah was. No sarcasm in Him. To those who felt the call to follow Him He says, “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.”

As we close out this month of special prayer for priestly and diaconal vocations let us keep Jesus’ call before us. He has called each of us. We are His choice. No man or woman has called us to faith – God has. That call is so powerful and it frees us. Let us set our eyes forward and burn away anything that holds us back.

All children of one
God and model.

Brothers and sisters: Through faith you are all children of God in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s children, heirs according to the promise.

This beautiful text from Paul’s letter to the Church at Galatia calls to the forefront the new model we live in Jesus. It reminds us that we are changed and have become children of One God and Father when we have clothed ourselves in Christ.

In putting on Jesus in baptism we take on the new man, the new person. We take up a privileged position with and in Christ. In fact this new union is Paul’s main emphasis in each verse By faith in Christ Jesus, and being baptized into Christ… we are clothed… with Christ, one in Christ Jesus, and belong to Christ. Since Jesus is the Son of God, all who by faith are in Christ are now also sons of God; co-heirs in Him to heaven’s promise and all being children of One Father.

The positive privileges of union with Christ far outweigh and greatly surpass the old set of relationships under the old Law, Jews were the children of God and Gentiles were sinners. But now we are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.

This must have been a shocking declaration for a Jew to hear. In Jewish literature, “sons of God” was a title of highest honor, used only for the members of righteous Israel, destined to inherit the blessings promised at the end of time. But now all are called “sons of God.” All are equal. All have the same privilege and rank under One Father.

The wonderful day we gained heaven was the day we came to Him, as Paul tells us: through faith and baptism in Christ Jesus. Let us think kindly on that day for in it we were blessed to grab hold of our Heavenly Father, we clung to Him and felt His loving embrace as our Father.

As baptism pictures the initial union with Christ by faith, being clothed with Christ portrays our participation in the moral perfection of Christ. The title sons of God and the two ceremonies of baptism and being clothed with Christ point to the reality of our new relationship with God. We are literally changed and our way of living is opened to perfection. Our new relationship with our Father results in a new relationship with one another.

As we reflect on this Father’s Day, let us think of that man, or those men, in our lives brought us to our Heavenly Father, who gave us the privilege of not just being sons and daughters of men, but true children of God.

The cost of sin.
The reward of love.

Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? When I entered your house, you did not give me water for my feet, but she has bathed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but she has not ceased kissing my feet since the time I entered. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she anointed my feet with ointment. So I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven because she has shown great love.”

This example of true repentance, of forgiveness, and of reconciliation is so powerful. Jesus’ shows this power today.

Jesus didn’t just happen unto situations. He knew that in going to the house of the Pharisee He would find the Pharisee’s life laid out before Him. He would see what kind of man he was. The situation was heighted when this “sinful” woman, indeed a prostitute, was waiting there to meet Him. Now the Pharisee would be really tested.

We might have different perspectives on this. Was the real problem the Pharisee’s judgmentalism? Was it his lack of hospitality? Was it his lack of love?

At he core of the lesson is one of love. It is exemplified in the dichotomy between the sinful woman’s love and the kind of love the Pharisee exercised.

It was not that the Pharisee was without love – he certainly loved his family and all those who thought and acted like he did. It was that his love was out of tune with the way God exhibits love. The Pharisee, as a teacher of God’s Law, failed to find the connection between the Law and love.

More than this, Jesus took this opportunity to show the fullness of God’s love. His love. Those with Him were amazed. He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” The others at table said to themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” But he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

The fullness of God’s love is exhibited in the perfection of His forgiveness. The love that gives full forgiveness, which allows for a God who would sacrifice Himself completely to bring forgiveness to His people, regardless of sin, is real love.

The cost of sin is separateness, distance, loneliness, and heartache. The woman at the Pharisee’s house knew this. She was completely alone but knew there was only one way to find connection to God once more. Jesus gave this woman the perfection of forgiveness only God can offer. It is the perfection found in only the words God can offer: “Your sins are forgiven.” Let us pay attention and realize that in His forgiveness we have the reward of love. Let us faith in His forgiveness.

Do not weep.
Be comforted.

As he drew near to the gate of the city, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. A large crowd from the city was with her. When the Lord saw her, he was moved with pity for her and said to her, “Do not weep.”

Both the Old and New Testament lay out a scenes we see all too often in our city and country. A young man has died. His friends bear his body away. The mourners are there. The mother is weeping. In both scenes there is a powerful encounter with God who comforts and changes things, a glimpse of the after Jesus time. All that is now ours since His redemption.

Elijah seems mad at God – here I am, staying with this woman who is sheltering me, and You let her son die? Fix this. God listens and really does intervene. He raises the young man and Elijah returns him to his mother.

In our Gospel story we see the only son of a widow, her sole support, has died. He is carried out and the procession encounters Jesus. He will not let this situation stand. He intervenes and raises the widow’s son.

These are happy endings to very sad stories. We can relate to these situations. We, who are faithful, are not able to escape tragedy. We ask God – why do You let these things happen? Let us recognize our new truth.

This new after Jesus truth is powerful. It comes in understanding what we have in these after Jesus times – the promise we now hold. That truth is illustrated for us by St. Paul.

In Galatians, Paul recounts the fact that while he was smart, knowledgeable, powerful even – he was a jerk. Yet God would not let that stand. God intervenes and introduces Paul to Jesus. He took what was broken and wrong in Paul and redeemed it. He took Paul and showed him the power of this new day, this new after Jesus time, this time of grace.

If we see difficulty, death, and sorrows in our old ways, in unredeemed ways, we are left with weeping. If we see difficulty, death, and sorrows in after Jesus ways we have powerful comfort, we find the depth of the peace we own. We can think like Paul. For all the bad we encounter in our lives, we have been changed by faith in Jesus. We have a new power and comfort.

Paul saw with new eyes, eyes focused on God’s grace. The old ways of life, the old sorrows no longer mattered. In the after Jesus time we have become truly invincible, saved, redeemed – we are made new by faith. We have God with us, His promise is ours. What we have is incomparable joy and assurance – we own heaven as our inheritance and no difficulty, death, or sorrow can take that from us. We live in the after Jesus time. He changed life for us. This is the after Jesus time. Do not weep.

Still on the early newsletter streak – only hours early, but still…

Thus Joseph who was surnamed by the apostles Barnabas (which means, Son of encouragement)” St. Barnabas’ life is modeled on Jesus, the ultimate Son of Encouragement. Barnabas’ goodness, faith, big heartedness, courage, generosity, humbleness, self-sacrifice, open-mindedness, boldness and the fact that he was full of the Holy Spirit – were also stamped on the believers that he encountered. As today’s sons of encouragement, alive in the Spirit, or willing to be, are we working so that the gifts of the Lord are stamped on our families, community, and the world? Let us focus our efforts on being positive sons of encouragement, lifting up all we encounter – helping them to know the power of Jesus.

Also in our newsletter, the Matsiko Orphan Choir is coming to Holy Name of Jesus. Thank you to all who helped make Memorial Day so special. Like bread? – check out our table at PolishFest. Our Bible study is growing, special Holy Masses this month for healing (June 20th) and on the Commemoration of St, Anthony (June 13th). Considering the priesthood? Praying for dads and vocations. A great and comprehensive list of summer activities and so much more…

You may view and download a copy of our June 2016 Newsletter right here.

Yesterday
was it easier?

There was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding. When the wine ran short…

I was listening to the song “Yesterday” by the Beatles. Paul McCartney wrote the lyrics.
McCartney wonders why his girl has gone away. Yesterday was so much easier, happier:

“Yesterday, love was such an easy game to play
Now I need a place to hide away
Oh, I believe in yesterday”

McCartney wants to go back to yesterday, fix his mistake. He blames his angst on having “said something wrong.”

Was that all there was to it, saying something wrong ruined a relationship? Based on experience we could all say that we doubt that. Certainly friends, husbands, wives, children, and co-workers have said something wrong at one time or another. If that were all it took to destroy a relationship we wouldn’t have marriages, family members, friends, or co-workers. We would all be alone!

Looking a little deeper we see McCartney saying that love was a game to play – yesterday. Love was easy and fun.

Some would comment that since that song was written our concept of love has changed. It is supposed to be about romance, candlelight, fun in… all the easy games to play. When that ends, when the passion fades, when the candlelight is no more than melted wax, and the flowers have dried out we move onto the next game.

Perhaps that was McCartney’s mistake. His words weren’t a wrong statement, saying something wrong in and of itself. Perhaps, and likely, his words were just a bit too transparent and shallow. Hey honey, this is fun, this is a great game – but I’m not serious.

Jesus is with a young couple. Certainly this was a joyous moment in their lives. They have entered into a lifelong commitment – not just a game. They had friends and family – all who cared were with them. All are celebrating. And, the problems didn’t wait until tomorrow – they were here today. The dawn would bring the realization that they had failed in their first task as hosts – tomorrow’s yesterday was turning into a failure. Then Jesus steps in. His Father’s plan is in action. His power was revealed to His disciples. Tomorrow’s yesterday was saved. The best wine was served.

Letting Jesus into our lives, our marriages and relationships makes each day more than a game. His first miracle becomes a recurring miracle. Each day in Jesus has true meaning, joy, and the fullness of real and eternal love – the best.

What are we holding
onto?

“Learn a lesson from the fig tree. When its branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves, you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see these things happening, know that he is near, at the gates. Amen, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”

Terror! On Friday evening, our time, we learned of horrible terrorist attacks in Paris, France. Earlier the same day there were similar attacks in Beirut, Lebanon. There are insurgent wars and terrorism across the globe. Those with power and money accumulate more – some through a subtle terrorism and violence that slowly whittles away at the lives of those without. The night of the terrorist attack in Paris also marked a major earthquake off the coast of southern Japan.

Many members of the early Church (1st Century) expected Jesus to return within a generation of His Ascension. In the New Testament, the word Parousia, meaning arrival or official visit is used at least seventeen times to refer to the Second Coming of Christ, except the one case in which it refers to the coming of the “Day of the Lord.

The Church has always looked forward to the Parousia, the second coming of Christ. Of course as time passed, and as certain Churches grew rich and powerful, those Churches did not make such a big deal out of it.

The early Church prayed Maranatha (Come, Lord!). They longed for the Lord’s return because they knew the glory that was to be realized by those who put their faith in Him. They didn’t care for worldly wealth and power for, as St. Paul reflected, “I consider our present sufferings insignificant compared to the glory that will soon be revealed to us.” Somewhere along the line a good chunk of the faithful lost track of that desire.

We must not assume that we know the day and hour of the Lord. That is pride, and a time only the Father knows. “But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” What we do know is that terror will come, earthquakes will happen, earthly death will go on, Christians will be persecuted, beheaded, crucified, and subject to the derision of the worldly.

We, as Christians, need to reconnect to that longing, the desire for the Parousia. When we pray the Creed we need to wholeheartedly proclaim: “He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.” We need to really look forward to “the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.” We need to cry out “Maranatha, Come Lord Jesus!” If we cannot do that, then we must be holding onto something so much more important than His glory.

Riches out of our
poverty.

He sat down opposite the treasury and observed how the crowd put money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents. Calling his disciples to himself, he said to them, “Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.”

It is the thought that counts! We might hear that saying in a couple of instances. One is the more traditional meaning – as Oxford tells us: “Used to indicate that it is the kindness behind an act that matters, however imperfect or insignificant the act may be.” The other is slightly more sarcastic. It might also be used when someone receives a gift that isn’t quite wanted – a re-gift of an unwanted gift, something not quite attractive or necessarily wanted. Well, it was the thought that counts.

There was more than just Jesus and His disciples observing the day’s giving at the Temple treasury. We know from some of the other observations Jesus made that many of those who gave did so just to be noticed and praised: “So when you give to the poor, don’t announce it with trumpet fanfare. This is what hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets in order to be praised by people.” Jesus also told a man who had invited Him to dinner to “invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, since they do not have the means to repay you.” Living in community obviously allowed many to see and make judgments.

So there is the widow putting in her two mites, all she had. Most were probably not thinking – ‘Well, it was the thought that counts.’ She was an embarrassment to them; that widow, that poor woman. The Old Testament is filled with legislation that attempted to provide for the widow. The legislation acknowledged the fact that they were vulnerable and victimized. People probably did not treat this widow as they should, and there she was. The fact she had next to nothing to give accused the observers.

Jesus was not thinking: ‘Well, it was the thought that counts’ either. The widow’s act of giving was neither imperfect nor insignificant nor was it something received and unwanted. Jesus knew that this widow knew the joy of love and the anguish of loss. Yet she continued to give her all. This act of giving represents what Jesus intended to do in giving of Himself totally. This is what he asks us, His disciples, to do. Jesus saw her giving as perfect, significant, and wanted. Jesus points to her so that we too – from love and loss will chose correctly and give our all.

This is how I
respond.

He threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus. Jesus said to him in reply, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man replied to him, “Master, I want to see.” Jesus told him, “Go your way; your faith has saved you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way.

The restoration of Bartimae’us sight appears to be a rather ordinary. Yet understood within the context of the Gospel of Mark, it serves as a profound revelation about seeing rightly and living in discipleship.

Mark 8:22 tells of the healing of another blind man. In this case, Jesus has to try twice to bring clear sight to the man at Bethsaida. At face value it seems odd that Jesus cannot restore the man’s sight the first time around, but when seen as a parallel to how Jesus deals with His disciples and us it becomes clearer.

Jesus doesn’t give up on making things clear to us. He tries over and over to help us see clearly by the light of faith. Later in Mark 8:29 Jesus asks His disciples their opinion – “Who do you say that I am?” The disciples finally see Jesus for who He is as Peter declares, “You are the Messiah.” As soon as Peter has said that, Jesus begins to teach them about the suffering He must endure. Peter rebukes Jesus and tells Him how he thinks things should go. Jesus plainly tells Peter to get behind Him because Peter doesn’t see clearly. Jesus teaches His disciples over and over that as Messiah he must suffer and die, yet the disciples repeatedly fail to see clearly. Like James and John they think that following Jesus will bring them glory and power.

Jesus repeatedly tries to help His disciples see. Thanks be that He does that for us too since we too can miss the fact that discipleship requires a radical change in our vision, in our way of seeing and understanding.

Now in Mark 10:46 we come across blind Bartimae’us. The blind man lights the way to discipleship and response as it should be. We see Bartimae’us doing all that is required of Jesus’ disciples – a way of living and acting that is hope-filled and authentic.

Bartimae’us, the son of Timae’us, which means ‘the honorable one and son of honor,’ shows how we are to respond to Jesus’ call. Bartimae’us hears that Jesus is near and calls out to Him. As Jesus’ disciples we need to recognize when Jesus is near – indeed how near He is – and we must call out to Him in prayer and petition. The crowd attempts to shout Bartimae’us down yet he cries all the louder. As Jesus disciples we need to speak the truth regardless of the voice of the world. Bartimae’us responds to Jesus’ healing not by going his own way, but by leaving behind his cloak, his all, to follow Jesus. This is the essence of discipleship: to see Jesus clearly and follow along His way.

Are our hearts
hard?

The Pharisees approached Jesus and asked, “Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?” They were testing him. He said to them in reply, “What did Moses command you?” They replied, “Moses permitted a husband to write a bill of divorce and dismiss her.” But Jesus told them, “Because of the hardness of your hearts he wrote you this commandment.

This is the day – the set of readings and gospel – we dread to hear. God is laying out His plan for our lives, how we are to act, what we must believe, and the fact that we just cannot make our own rules. These things are difficult for us to hear. As with Israel, we want things our own way.

God is great when He blesses us, but when He tells us the way we must go, the narrow road we must tread, then we balk. We fear the hard questions because the answers are not easy to hear and are even harder to carry out. We often ask – well why can’t..? Why can’t those two people marry? Why can’t we just live together? Why are you getting in the way of my good time?

These and other questions are certainly with us. To get to the answers we must start with a more basic question: Who am I?

As humans we are both honorable and shameful. We are God’s glorious creation, made in His image. We are also fallen from innocence and marred by the sin that pushes us further and further away from the image of God in us. Great evil occurs most readily where the answer to ‘Who am I?’ gives way to hard-hearted, egotistical, and self-centered answers. These offer the wrong answers to the question of who we are.

At an even more fundamental level, we must ask the most important question anyone could ever ask. This is, of course, the question of who God is. Who is this god – the God revealed to us by our Lord and Savior or another deity? Is God pure truth, without lie or deceit, or just a great bunch of suggestions?

In order to understand the image of God within us, we must first decide Who He is. To find the answer to all questions we must fix our eyes on life according to God who does not lie. Otherwise we end up with nothing more than a take-it-or-leave-it menu god, a set of options that offer no real path to life. We end up with ourselves, life according to us. Then we remain with hard hearts because there is nothing else. I am all I have.

Jesus understands our struggle in answering hard questions – finding Him and ourselves. To cure our hard-heartedness He told us to have the faith of a child: “for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” That kind of trust, unquestioning and unrestrained, will melt our hearts and give us every answer.