November 28, 2021
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today the Church begins a new liturgical year with the First Sunday of Advent. Although this season is short, it is richly filled with many liturgical customs, and spiritual practices. Most of us have fond childhood memories of opening the little doors on our Advent Calendars. We eagerly look forward to the light of the Advent wreath that as its light intensifies, signals to us that Christmas is drawing near. Even nature participates in this symbolism (at least here in the northern hemisphere). The days are growing shorter, but we pass the winter solstice just before Christmas. So just as Christ, who is the Light of the World, is born to cast out the darkness of sin and death, the light of the sun begins to grow longer.
The word Advent has Latin origins and means coming or arrival. For those living in the Roman Empire (including our early Christian ancestors), a period of advent would have been the time used to prepare for the arrival or visitation of the Emperor or another high official to their town. How would they prepare? At the very least, they would have cleaned and repaired their city. In addition, they would have prepared a house for the Emperor, where he would stay while he was in town. Often, they would have also dedicated a public work, such as a monument or triumphant archway, to honor the visitor and commemorate their visit.
In our Advent this year, we are also anticipating the arrival of a great King. Christ is our King and Lord, and he is coming to visit us. His arrival is fast approaching. How should we prepare? At the very least we should cleanse and mend our souls and our spiritual lives. This means that we should go to Confession to be reconciled to God. But also, just as accommodations would be prepared for the Emperor, we need to prepare a dwelling place for the Lord. He does not need to stay in a house, nor even in a humble manger. Now he needs to dwell in our hearts and souls.
What type of heart does Christ want to dwell in? One that is strongly built in the Christian virtues. One where he is warmly welcomed in the conversation that we call prayer. Just as the Emperor would have sought rest after his long journey, Christ seeks to rest in our souls. Will he find rest in a heart filled with distraction and noise? Rather, he finds his rest in a soul filled with spiritual stillness and silence. So, take time in this busy season to intentionally cultivate moments of silence.
November 21, 2021
Today the Church celebrates the Solemnity* of Christ the King! You will notice something unusual at Mass today. The Bishop has asked us to offer the “Litany of Jesus Christ, King of All Nations” after the homily at all Masses this weekend.
What does it mean to call Christ our King? A King is not elected. We live in a modern democracy where the authority to govern is determined by winning the majority. Christ does not claim his authority because the majority support him; he claims his authority because of who he is, “the Only Begotten Son of God, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God…” This means that Christ as our King does not determine his teachings or exercise his authority in response to public opinion.
This can make us uneasy, since history is full of examples of authoritarian figures who exercised their power in arbitrary and tyrannical ways. Christ is not a tyrant. As king, he is a servant. His kingdom is always a kingdom of justice, a kingdom of truth, and a kingdom of goodness. So for those who are unjustly oppressed, Christ the Just King, is a liberator. For those who grapple in the darkness of ignorance, Christ opens their eyes with the Light of the Gospel. For those who suffer at the hands of evil-doers, the Coming of Christ brings blessings.
So the only people that have to fear Christ the King are those who benefit from injustice, those who choose to live in ignorance (ignorance is not bliss!), and those who choose to embrace the evils of sin.
Each time we pray the Our Father, we say “...Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done, on earth as it is in heaven…” So our challenge this week is to ask, “If Christ came as King today, would I greet him with JOY or with FEAR?” If we are people of justice, truthfulness and goodness, we receive him with JOY. If Christ’s Kingdom causes us fear and hesitation, it is a call for conversion and repentance. We do not get to choose whether or not Christ is our King, but we do get to choose, by how we live our lives, if His Kingdom brings us JOY or FEAR.
*The Catholic Church has three ranks of feast days: Memorials, Feasts, and Solemnities. Generally speaking Solemnities have the same importance as Sundays.
October 31, 2021
Hear to Serve …
PERPETUAL LIGHT CAN BE YOURS FOR THE ASKING
With my mother’s passing, I found a sense of peace. I found comfort in the fact that I know it will be better for her. This is not just because her pain and suffering is over, but more so because she received the Sacrament of “Anointing of the Sick”. Now I can rest assured that in her death, my mother’s elevator will be headed in the right direction towards the perpetual light of everlasting life. And for me, my brothers and sisters, this is a huge comfort. You see, I truly believe in the promises and the teachings of Christ and His Church. Christ gave us the Sacraments, and we all know what every sacrament was designed to do, right? All the sacraments are designed to help us get to Heaven.
When we start out on this earth as Catholics the first sacrament we receive is Baptism. Baptism takes away original sin and it opens the doors for us to Eternal Life with God. But I’m sure we have all realized that as we grow, there are so many distractions, so many temptations, that we face that work to slam those doors of eternal life shut on us.
The Sacrament of Anointing is one of the Sacraments that will keep those doors open so we can rest assured of sharing in Eternal Life with the Trinity. We can find the validity of this sacrament in scripture. James 5:14-15 states, “Is anyone of you sick? He should summon the presbyters of the church and they should pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will raise him up. If he has committed any sins, he will be forgiven.”
There seems to me that there is a current of anti-Catholic forces out in the world today. They so readily pass judgement on the Church when they don’t understand the reasoning behind its teachings. Many do not take the time to even learn the teachings. They only focus on what the Church tells them they shouldn’t do. Society on a whole wants to belong to the church of relativism.
Yes, Christ’s Church tells us there is right and wrong, but the Church always tells us we are loved. Growing up, didn’t your parents tell you no, you can’t do that, it’s wrong? They did this because they loved you. If we really think about it, Christ’s Church is a Church of: One more chance to gain eternal life. Think about it, think about what our sacraments and other church teachings do to help us gain eternal life. As long as we are on this earth, there is always a second chance for us.
So, I urge all of you, when there is serious sickness, routine surgery, or any serious condition for you or a loved one, call your priest and be anointed. Don’t take a chance because you think you’re too young. Please don’t have the attitude that you don’t want to bother anyone, and don’t wait till a loved one is in their final hours on earth. Anointing of the Sick is for the living! We pray for healing of the body, and this is often granted, but what is always, always, given is healing of the soul.
I am willing to bet that if you do this for a loved one, you will find a certain comfort, a certain sense of peace knowing that he or she has been anointed with grace. What better way to show your love than being able to play a part in someone gaining eternal life. It will also help us to remember that our tears are not tears of hopelessness, despair and doubt, but we have tears of assurance, hope, and joy in the gifts of Christ and his Church. May perpetual light shine upon all of us one day.
Viva Christo Rey,
October 24, 2021
Hear to Serve …
“JESUS, SON OF DAVID, HAVE PITY ON ME!”
Today we hear of a man called Bartimaeus who was physically blind. Bartimaeus had to sit by the side of the road and beg which is a truly desperate and demeaning situation most of us will never have to experience. Bartimaeus realized that sitting in the dirt, begging for his existence was not going to be the life for him. Bartimaeus realized there was something greater waiting for him. And he knew who he needed in his life to make this happen.
When “Bartimaeus hears that Jesus is passing by, he calls out, “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me.” This is the prayer of his heart. It was a prayer of desperation for his situation and a prayer acknowledging the greatness of Jesus. The crowd tried to silence him, but Bartimaeus persisted even when everyone else wanted to hold him down in the dirt of his old life. When Jesus tells Bartimaeus to come to him, he throws off his cloak. He threw off his cloak of his old life and brought his request right to Jesus.
So, what can we say for ourselves? Are we in our own desperate and demeaning situation of sin? Are we unable to follow Jesus on the road due to our spiritual blindness? Are we ready to get off the side of the road? Are we ready to get out of the dirt and go to Jesus for healing?
Like Bartimaeus, we must be brave. We must be persistent in our prayers. We must want to follow Jesus because there are many in this world that will tempt us. There will be many that will want to hold us back and keep us from Jesus. They will do whatever they can to keep us on the side of the road sitting in the dirt of our old lives.
It takes courage to cast off the cloak of pride and sin that keeps us blinded and begging, that keeps us from asking for a new and better (but not necessarily easier) life following Jesus. But we have to be like Bartimaeus and we have to ask Jesus and keep on asking.
I urge all of you today to get up and go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and proclaim, “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!”
I know Jesus will.
Viva Christo Rey,
October 17, 2021
Hear to Serve …
LORD, SHINE ON THOSE WHO DWELL IN DARKNESS AND THE SHADOW OF DEATH
October is set aside by the USCCB as “RESPECT LIFE MONTH”. As Catholics, we are not just anti-abortion, we are pro-life. This means we work to respect all human life from conception to natural death. Catholics work to end the death penalty, euthanasia, and abortion, and work to make sure that all people are treated with dignity and respect.
Our present leaders in government seem to have lost any moral reasoning when it comes to abortion. Often when we get into these types of debates, we tend to lean toward the side of only emotional reasoning, and we forget about moral reasoning. It is important for us to be able to discuss abortion and other right-to-life issues in a clear, balanced, and faith-filled way. When we rely on only our emotions for reasoning, we become illogical, and often end up in the darkness ourselves.
Many in our society say that a fetus is not life, that it’s just a clump of cells. We can respond by saying, “Well, you’re right, the fetus is a clump of cells. And so are we for that matter. Science (Not the Church) declares that new life begins when the sperm and the egg join and form a new cell. If the fetus wasn’t a living being, doctors wouldn’t be doing fetal surgery on the unborn baby in certain cases.”
You have heard people say that a woman’s body, a woman’s choice. A possible response would be, “No, it’s not about the woman’s body it’s about the child’s body inside the mother. If a five-year-old child needed a kidney transplant, the mother would not be obligated to give that child one of her kidneys. Those kidneys are designed to keep the mother alive. But the woman has a uterus, and the uterus is designed not to keep a mother alive, but it’s designed to keep someone else alive. The child inside her.”
We hear that women have reproductive rights. As Catholics we say, “That is true. Women are to be treated with respect. No woman should be forced to reproduce. But abortion occurs after reproduction, a new life has already reproduced.”
Many people argue that abortion is okay in cases of rape and incest. Our Catholic response is that rape and incest are grave sins and heinous crimes. But you cannot cure a sin by committing another sin, murder. Pope Francis said, “You may not take a human life to solve a problem.”
There are people who feel that it is not fair for a woman to have to remain pregnant if it is a hardship for her. Our Catholic response is to acknowledge that parenthood is hard work. It is not easy to feed, clothe, and provide medical care for a child. I just can’t toss my child off a bridge because I’m tired of it all. The only difference here is one child is still in the womb and one isn’t. They are both living beings.
It seems the world has gone mad with relativism, and there are those that have fallen into the darkness and don’t want to hear the moral truth. As Catholics, we are called upon to shed the light of Christ on all areas of life. We must not only give arguments against abortion but also provide physical, emotional, and spiritual help for women and families who need help. We must replace fear with hope and death with life.
Lord, shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death. AMEN.
Viva Christo Rey,
October 10, 2021
Hear to Serve …
In the Gospel reading from Mark, we hear of a young man who has many things going for him. He has his youth, health, family, and wealth. He was rich, indeed. Despite everything that he had, he knew there was something missing, that there was something out there that he needed to fill that void. The young man was wise because he figured out what he needed to fill that void. This young man knew what St. Augustine would write about so many centuries later. “Our hearts are restless until they rest in you, Lord.” He figured out that the right question to ask is, “What do I need to do to gain eternal life?”
The rich young man also determined that Jesus was the person he had to ask. He saw in Jesus wisdom and authority. He was wise to bring his question to Jesus.
The rich man was also wise by keeping the Commandments, He honored God and his parents. He did not steal, kill, or lie. He did all of the things he was taught to do to be a good person. So, why was the man still searching? Could he sense that his faith was no deeper than filling out a checklist? Doing the basics?
This young man also didn’t realize that Jesus had a much more challenging mission for the rich young man. He did not know that to follow Jesus, to have that relationship with God, requires more than completing a checklist. The young man didn’t know that God is pure love. God is that love we call Agape love. It is a total self-sacrificing love, where you will the good of others before your own needs. To gain eternal life, one must give everything in service to God. So, the young man goes away sad. Even though he knew what he needed in his life, and he knew where to go for it, he wasn’t ready to climb the next step to fill that void in his life. He was not wise enough to let go of the things of this world.
Where are we in relation to this rich young man? We know what will fill that void that continually nags us at the edges of our life. Yet, we continue to fill our lives with things of this world. We continue to fill out our checklist. We deny the void is there, and we just won’t take that leap of faith into that Agape love and give our life away totally to God. What is the thing holding you back from eternal life?
Viva Christo Rey,
P.S. Even though we can see what the young man in this story missed, I have to say that by keeping all the Commandments he is a better man than I. I don’t know about any of you, but there are so many times when I turn my back to God and his Agape love, and I fall victim to the snares of the devil. Don’t worry though, there is a wonderful cure for this. It is called the Sacrament of Reconciliation. To do this though, requires us to swallow our pride and ask Jesus for His mercy. I GUARANTEE that if you do this with a pure heart, you will feel better and that nagging void will become a little less.
October 3, 2021
Hear to Serve …
STILL ON MY HONEYMOON
When people ask me how long I have been married, I tell them, and then I’ll say that I’m still on my honeymoon. They laugh at me like I am joking, but I’m not. Marriage, the way God intended, is a Mystery that we enter new each day. Our readings this week focus on the essential truths of marriage. Here are a few.
Marriage is unity. In our first reading from Genesis, we hear how God created every kind of creature and told Adam to name them. In all the creatures of the earth, sky, and sea, Adam could not find another like himself. There was no other creature on earth that Adam could talk to or share his life with. When God created Eve, he recognized that this was a creation like himself, an equal partner. Their union was the first family, the very first community. Marriage creates the very closest unity we can achieve with another person. It is a friendship of heart, mind, body, and soul. Through the sacrament, we are made one flesh, one family.
Marriage is sacrifice. In his Letter to the Hebrews, St. Paul reminds us how God's love for us was so great that Jesus Christ put aside His divinity and took on human form. In marriage, the husband puts the good of his wife before his own. She in turn puts her husband's good before her own. They work to bring out the best in each other. The work of marriage is to bring the other to heaven. Marriage is a life-giving sacrifice. It is a mutual giving of honor and love. The bride and groom lay their lives at the altar in service to each other and to Christ and His Church just as Jesus gave His life as a sacrifice for our eternal souls.
Marriage is a faithful covenant. Jesus makes that perfectly clear in the Gospel reading from Mark that marriage goes beyond our human experience. In a sacramental marriage, two people acknowledge that they have been brought together by God for His purposes. The bride and groom also state that they are freely submitting to the marriage and to their vows to faithfully love and honor each other. Our society today has made the goal of marriage about personal happiness. As Catholics, we see the goal of marriage as holiness. When we understand that holiness is the goal, we become the people God wants us to be. In a holy marriage we are joined to each other and to God. There is nothing that brings more happiness than that.
The Catholic Church takes a very firm stand on marriage. This is because it is the foundation of our society. It is the foundation that God the Father created, and Jesus Christ defended. We no longer live in the perfection of the Garden of Eden. Marriage can be hard because our human wants and desires get in the way of a perfect union. But each day, Christ calls us into perfect union with Him, and promises to be with us in our relationship.
Now ask yourselves, “Are you still on your honeymoon?”
Viva Christo Rey,