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!

This week’s memory verse: Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved. — Psalm 55:22

  • 7/9 – Galatians 6:2
  • 7/10 – Philippians 4:6
  • 7/11 – 1 Peter 5:6-7
  • 7/12 – Ephesians 6:13
  • 7/13 – John 14:26
  • 7/14 – Matthew 6:25-34
  • 7/15 – Psalm 68:19

Pray the week: Lord Jesus, I take up Your yoke. Teach me and lead me. Grant me Your joy!

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.

This week’s memory verse: Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. — Hebrews 13:17

  • 7/2 – Luke 6:38
  • 7/3 – Matthew 7:12
  • 7/4 – Hebrews 13:7
  • 7/5 – Leviticus 19:9-10
  • 7/6 – Proverbs 28:27
  • 7/7 – Matthew 6:33
  • 7/8 – Proverbs 14:21

Pray the week: Lord Jesus, grant that we may receive those You have sent to us with true generosity and justice.

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.

This week’s memory verse: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” — Joshua 1:9

  • 6/25 – Isaiah 41:10
  • 6/26 – Psalm 34:4
  • 6/27 – Exodus 20:20
  • 6/28 – 1 John 4:4
  • 6/29 – Romans 15:13
  • 6/30 – Romans 8:28
  • 7/1 – Philippians 4:6

Pray the week: Lord Jesus, grant me a spirit of abiding trust in You. May Your strength show forth in my life.

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.

This weeks memory verse: And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are true words of God.” — Revelation 19:9

  • 6/18 – Acts 20:11
  • 6/19 – 1 Corinthians 11:27
  • 6/20 – Ezekiel 3:3
  • 6/21 – 1 Kings 17:6
  • 6/22 – Matthew 28:19-20
  • 6/23 – Matthew 18:20
  • 6/24 – Deuteronomy 5:32

Pray the week: Jesus, You are our food and drink. Grant that I may live of life of praise and thankfulness for Your great gift.

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.