Weekly Reflection

Experience God's Presence

Weekly Reflection

 

August 14, 2022

“Keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus”
Hebrews 12:2

It’s been over thirty years since I was in the kitchen of my grandma’s house in Valders. But even as the years have passed my memories remain vivid. In that kitchen, next to the pantry door, hung a depiction of the Last Supper. As a child, I noticed that my grandma often looked at that picture. She would say that she would have to look towards Jesus. There was such a stillness on her face when she would look towards Jesus that even as a child I could tell that she was speaking to Jesus heart to heart. I do not know what she would say to him, but knowing that she was a prayerful woman, I can imagine that when she felt a moment of sadness, she would look towards Jesus for consolation. When she was in a moment of frustration or worry, she would look towards Jesus in prayer and supplication. When she was feeling grateful, she would look towards Jesus with thanksgiving.

My grandma’s practice of looking towards Jesus is echoed in today’s second reading from the letter to the Hebrews. “Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:2). According to the Letter to the Hebrews, the simple practice of looking towards Jesus relieves us of the burden of sin and temptation, and is a strong encouragement to persevere in the faith. Looking towards Jesus motivates us to continue running the race towards eternal life.

There are a few simple ways to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus.

Do you have an image of Jesus, preferably a crucifix prominently displayed in your home? Our Catholic ancestors had the wisdom to know that what we saw with the eyes formed the thoughts of our mind and the feelings of the heart. So like my grandma’s home there was usually a prominent image of Jesus and Mary in each room of the house and a crucifix above each bed. Every time a glance falls upon these sacred images, it reminds us that he is present, and that we can cast our cares upon him. In a moment of frustration or temptation, a glance towards the Cross provides encouragement. These images also become a natural focus for our prayers, and by focusing our eyes on the Cross, the attention of our hearts and minds focus on the Lord.

The Gospels show us who Jesus is. St. Jerome said, “Ignorance of scripture is ignorance of Christ.” A little time should be taken each day to read from the Gospels. A Christian should be reading from the Gospels continually, until the words and actions of Jesus become ingrained in our mind and heart. Priests are never lacking in Bibles. But of the many Bibles that I own, the one I cherish most dearly is a small orange copy of the New Testament. It was my grandmother’s pocket Bible. She read from it each morning, but not only that she had it with her always, and she would often pull it out to read for a few moments when she was waiting in line. In the age of the smart phone, there is never an excuse to not have a Bible with you. Have a dedicated hard copy of the Bible for routine morning reading. Put it on the kitchen table at night, so it is already ready for having coffee with Jesus. But also have a Bible on your phone, and each time you are waiting, instead of looking at the news, or Twitter, or Instagram, take a few moments to read a few verses.

A third way to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus is to come to the church to pray. Of course you can pray anywhere, but the church is the only place that is dedicated to prayer. When I struggle to pray, I go into the church, and like the Letter to the Hebrews, I am reminded that I am surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses. The images of the saints remind me that I am part of the “Communion of saints.” The church is where we gather to pray, and even though I might go there to pray individually, going to the church reminds me I am also surrounded by a community of Christians. But most importantly, each Catholic church has the little red vigil candle next to the tabernacle. It burns brightly, especially when the lights of the church are off and draws me towards the Eucharistic presence of the Lord in the tabernacle. No one but Jesus can lead along the path of faith. So let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus.
Blessings, Father Bill


August 7, 2022

Hear to Serve
HELP MY UNBELIEF

Every now and then I like to talk about certain sacraments in the Church that don’t get the proper reverence that they deserve. I truly believe it is important that we not only participate in the sacraments but that we believe in the theology of the sacraments that we receive. Some years ago a survey was done and it turns out that 69% of Catholics believe that the bread and wine are only symbols. They don’t believe in the True Presence of Jesus the Christ in the bread and wine.

This is a very sad fact indeed because everything we do as Catholics centers around this great gift that Jesus gave us. Jesus promised that we could have a living relationship with Him. That living relationship starts with the Eucharist.

We cannot feed the hungry, clothe the naked, or give drink to the thirsty in the name of Christ if we cannot even have faith in the words Christ told us about the Eucharist. We believe Jesus raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead when He said, “Little girl, I say to you arise.” And she got up. (MK 5: 41-42). We believe Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, when He said, “Lazarus come out!” And Lazarus came out of the tomb (JN 11: 43-44). Then why don’t we believe the words of Jesus? He tells us, “Amen, Amen, I say to you unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood you do not have life in you.” Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life”( JN 6:52-54).

You see, the words of Jesus alter reality. Jesus’ words altered reality when he raised the dead, and Jesus’ words altered reality at the Last Supper when He gave us the gift of His Body and Blood.

During the Mass, as Father Bill calls down the Holy Spirit to change the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of our Lord, Father is acting In Persona Christi. Father is acting in the person of Christ. It is Jesus speaking through Father. Jesus’ words are changing reality at every Mass. Transubstantiation (the changing of the bread and wine), Jesus in body, soul, and divinity overtakes the presence of the bread and wine without changing the physical appearance. It is hard to comprehend, but that’s where we need faith in Jesus and His words.

Now the world isn’t going to help us understand this, but there are things we can do to help us with our unbelief. Do we genuflect to Christ present in the tabernacle when we go into a pew and when we leave church? When Father Bill raises the Host and the Chalice, we should be repeating the cry of Thomas when he saw the risen Christ. In our minds we should be saying, “My Lord and my God.” Do we read Scripture and allow the Holy Spirit to enter our minds and hearts? Do we read other teachings by the Church on the Eucharist? Do we spend time sitting before Jesus in the tabernacle? Do we attend Holy Hour? We can also say these words from Mark 9:24, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief.”

I cannot stress enough to you, my brothers and sisters, how important it is to believe in this Sacrament. This is at the core of all that we do. It is through the sacrament of the Eucharist that we have an intimate relationship with Jesus and eternal life.
Viva Christo Rey,
Deacon Gary


July 31, 2022

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Hopefully you have noticed in the bulletin that our parishes will begin offering Mass and Devotions on the First Friday and First Saturday of each month. The First Friday and First Saturday devotions have a long history in Catholic spirituality.

The First Friday of the month is marked by special devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. This devotion originates with the visions that St. Margaret Mary had of Jesus. During those visions Jesus shared the following words:

“In the excess of the mercy of my Heart, I promise you that my all-powerful love will grant to all those who will receive Communion on the First Fridays, for nine consecutive months, the grace of final repentance: they will not die in my displeasure, nor without receiving the sacraments; and my Heart will be their secure refuge in that last hour.”

For our observance of First Friday, Mass will be offered at 8:00am at St. Gregory, and will be followed by an hour Eucharistic Adoration. During Eucharistic Adoration there will be time for silent private prayer, but there will also be traditional prayers, such as recitation of the Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and prayers of entrusting ourselves, our families, and the needs of the world to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

While the First Friday of the month is dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the First Saturday of the month is dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Devotion to Mary’s Immaculate Heart has been linked to devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus beginning with scripture. In the Gospel of Luke, when Jesus was presented in the temple, the holy man, Simeon, prophesied to Mary, “and sword shall pierce through your heart, too,” (Luke 2:35). Through her love and devotion, Mary’s heart shares in the suffering of her son.

The popularity of devotion to Immaculate Heart of Mary grew after Mary appeared to three shepherd children at Fatima in 1917, and told them, “I will assist at the hour death with all the graces necessary for the salvation of their souls all who, for five months, on the first Saturday of each month, confess their sins, receive Holy Communion, recite the Rosary, and keep Mary company for fifteen minutes while meditating on the fifteen* mysteries of the Rosary, all offered in a spirit of reparation.”

For our observance of First Saturday, Mass will be offered at 8:00 am at Holy Trinity, and will be followed by an hour of Eucharistic Adoration. During Eucharistic Adoration there will be time for silent private prayer, but also the recitation of the Rosary, the recitation of the Litany of Loreto, along with a prayer for reparation. Since this Mass will be offered in the morning, it will not fulfill the Sunday obligation.

These are traditional devotions, and many people will even consider them to be old-fashioned. Jesus taught in the Gospel of Matthew, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old” (13:52). Embracing the old, does not reject what is new. An old tree is often able to survive a drought and even support new growth, because its roots reach deep water at greater depths. In much the same way, much of the growth in the Catholic Church, especially among young people, has been found in parishes that embrace and promote traditional devotions and practices.

Please prayerfully consider participating in these devotions. Even if you are not able to come to church, please offer prayers to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary on the First Friday and First Saturday of each month.
Blessings,
Father Bill
* When Mary appeared at Fatima, there were only fifteen Mysteries of the Rosary, the Joyful, the Sorrowful, and the Glorious. Pope St. John Paul II added the Luminous Mysteries to the Rosary in 2002, bringing the total number of mysteries to 20.


July 24, 2022

Hear to Serve
BEWARE OF FALSE TEACHERS

As you listen to the second reading from St. Paul to the Colossians you may scratch your head and wonder what is being said. You see, as St. Paul wrote this to the Colossians, he had not yet been to visit them, but St. Paul had been informed of bad teachings given to the Colossians. In fact, all of chapter two in the Letter to the Colossians warns the Colossians to be on guard against teachings that are more concerned with human traditions and worldly values, instead of following Christ.

St. Paul told the Colossians, and he tells us, that at our Baptism we die with Christ, and we rise with Him. St. Paul reminds the Colossians not to let outward things such as circumcision and transgressions keep them from Christ. St. Paul is telling them that despite their former days as pagans, when they indulged in the sins of the flesh, that God has raised them to new life with Christ in Baptism. St. Paul said, “Obliterating the bond against us with its legal claims, which was opposed to us, He removed it from our midst, nailing it to the cross.” St. Paul is telling the Colossians that God has cancelled the indebtedness of our sins by the Cross of Christ.

We have seen only a small part of St. Paul’s letter to the Colossians in today’s reading, but it’s a very important part. It amazes me that something written so long ago to people that don’t even exist anymore still has importance for us today. It’s not hard to be led astray in today’s world. The world is full of false teachers and empty promises. Too often, we forget that Christ is all that matters. False teachers tell us to graft ourselves onto the attention-getting trend of the moment. They encourage us to focus on ourselves instead and our momentary happiness rather than on the teachings of Christ which are life-giving and bring eternal happiness.

So beware, we must be careful not to be led astray by current false teachers that want us to focus on their newly made up morals and values. Instead, focus on the great gifts of Baptism and the Cross which graft us to Our Lord, Jesus Christ.
Viva Christo Rey,
Deacon Gary


July 17, 2022

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
“Lord, teach us to pray.” Luke 11:1

P. to Praise – bless, adore and praise
A. to Ask – petition and intercede
R. to Repent
T. to Thank

As we move through the parts of prayer, we begin with Praise.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (#2639), the prayer of praise “recognizes most immediately that God is God. It lauds God for his own sake and gives him glory, quite beyond what he does, but simply because HE IS. It shares in the blessed happi-ness of the pure of heart who love God in faith before seeing him in glory.” The simple prayer, “Glory be to Father, and to the Son, and the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever, world without end. Amen.” is a simple prayer of praise. Many of the psalms are expressions of praise. Also many of the church’s best loved hymns are songs of praise, such as “Holy God, We Praise Thy Name” and “Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow.”

What’s the point of praise? The other P.A.R.T.s of prayer have a clear purpose. We ask God for things because we recognize a need and believe that he can provide. We repent because anyone who engages in an honest self-examination knows the need for God’s mercy. We thank God because we recognize that God has blessed us, and the proper response to receiving a gift is to express gratitude. But praise doesn’t seem to have a point, so why devote a portion of our prayer time to praise? The first reason to praise is because God deserves it. The second reason is that praise is the most common form of prayer found in the Bible, and the most common way that Jesus prays. Praising also helps us to grow in the virtues of reverence and humility.

Offering praise to God is easy. We have the sim-ple prayer, “Glory be…” discussed above, along with many psalms that offer examples of prayers of praise. For many people their prayers of praise arise spontaneously from their hearts and lips. Practically speaking, I think it helps to sing the praises of the Lord. St. Augustine is often quoted as saying, “he who sings, prays twice.” And he is right, singing while praying has a powerful way of lifting the heart and mind to prayer.

There is a certain effect that praising the Lord has in our life. When my prayer begins to feel dry, I begin to increase the portion of my prayer dedicated to praise. Even if the praises remain silent and only expressed in my heart, I find that praising brings life to my prayers. Praising reconnects me to the Spirit that is the well-spring of true prayer. Similarly, praising also has a way of strengthening the virtue of Faith.

Praising is an important, perhaps the most important part, of prayer. However, it is often the most neglected part of prayer. Lift your heart in praise during your prayers starting this week. Pay attention to how it affects your heart and soul.
Blessings,
Fr. Bill


July 10, 2022

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
“Lord, teach us to pray.” Luke 11:1

We continue our series on learning to pray.

Why do we pray? Or in other words, what’s our reason or purpose for praying?

If you ask a child to describe prayer, they will usually say that praying is asking God for a special favor. This is certainly true prayer, and I think it would be good if more people approached God with the simple trust that children have when asking God for blessings and special favors. But this prayer of asking is not the only reason to pray.

The fourth section of the Catechism of the Catholic Church is a beautiful explanation of Christian prayer and is well worth reading. I find that it is the most reader friendly of the four sections of the catechism. In the Catechism, five types of prayer are summarized: 1) Blessing and Adoration, 2) Petition, 3), Intercession, 4) Thanksgiving, and 5) Praises. To help remember the different types of prayer, re-organize them, and use the acronym P.A.R.T.
P. to Praise – bless, adore and praise
A. to Ask – petition and intercede
R. to Repent
T. to Thank

So when we pray, we should remember to make use of all four PARTs of prayer. Over the next four weeks, I will review each “PART” of prayer. But already we can see the four PARTs of prayer in the prayers of the Mass:
Praising God with the “Glory to God” and the Creed.
Asking God with the “Prayers of the Faithful.
Repenting with the Penitential Act at the beginning of Mass.
Thanking God with the Eucharistic prayer.

When prayer begins to feel a bit stale, often it is helpful to shift emphasis to a different PART of prayer. So reflect on your own prayers, and ask “When am I praising God? When am I asking God? When am I repenting? And when am I thanking God?”
Blessings,
Fr. Bill


July 3, 2022

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
“Lord, teach us to pray.” Luke 11:1

We continue our series on learning to pray. A few weeks ago, I started an explanation of the prayer “Sign of the Cross,” which is the simplest prayer, and the first prayer that many of us learned as children.

This prayer has two components, the words, “In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” and the gesture of crossing our body from head to sternum, from heart to right side of our chest with the fingers of our right hand. Both the words and the gesture make up this prayer.

Have you ever thought about why we use gestures in our prayers? Looking at us, members of other Christian communities might ask why we need to use bodily gestures to pray, since prayer is primarily a matter of the soul. We notice in almost all religions, both Christian and non-Christian religions, that there are prayer postures and gestures. Orthodox Jews will face towards Jerusalem and beat their chests to lament the destruction of the temple. Muslims will face Mecca and bow to the ground in prayer. Yoga is actually a series of Hindu prayer postures. So, there is something about prayer that involves not only the soul, but also the body.

For Christians, we understand that we are both body and soul and because we are both body and soul, we pray with both body and soul. When we genuflect upon entering a church or kneel during Mass, we are offering God an act of worship with our body. When we move our hand across our body with our right hand, we offer a prayer with our body.

In fact, the bodily postures and gestures of prayer can sometimes lead our soul into prayer. When my mind is filled with distractions or I am feeling rushed, I find it difficult to pray. But I make the sign of the Cross, and that very gesture helps to calm my mind and heart and focus them on God. Kneeling helps us to pray. We kneel for nothing else, except for prayer. So when we kneel, often our mind and heart shift gears and are now ready to pray.

As you pray this week, reflect on how your gestures and postures help you to pray. Once you start to pay attention to the connection between the gestures of prayer and the words of prayer, many Christians find bodily gestures and postures to be an effective help to prayer.
Blessings,
Fr. Bill


 

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