September 19, 2021
Hear to Serve …
LEAST OF ALL
There are three young children that I know who usually get along with each other until they don't. The most recent squabble happened over who a stick belonged to. Each had their own opinion as to why it belonged to them. The opinions became louder and louder, and it wasn't long before that stick almost became a weapon. The lecture that followed about speaking nicely to one another and showing kindness (and the removal of the stick) resulted in very grumpy children.
St. James tells us that jealousy and human passions lead to unrest and violence. He tells us that our ambition leads to envy which then leads to killing. This may seem very extreme to us, but all we need to do is look at the news to see that this is very true. There is a whole list of things that we think we should have just because we think we are entitled to them. We feel we deserve to have all the good things we want. Sometimes, we do not think about what it costs us to get them.
The reading from the Book of Wisdom points out that we really do not like to have our faults pointed out to us. We are pretty opposed to anyone who tries to tell us we are wrong. Do not get me wrong, there are very loud voices out there claiming to be speaking the truth. There are lies that sound pretty good. Sometimes though, our voices join right in.
Jesus calls out his apostles for the conversation they were having on the road. To their credit, they were quiet because they had been discussing which among them was the greatest. Jesus knew their hearts and knew that they needed another lesson in the humility required to be His follower. Jesus teaches them that human ambition, greed, entitlement, envy, and jealousy are not His way. To follow Jesus requires putting oneself last. It requires becoming a servant of those who are powerless. It requires becoming a servant of the unborn, of the refugee, of the suffering, and the poor. The way of Jesus Christ is so opposite of our human ambitions. It is by serving those that have nothing to give us, that we gain everything. When we enter into the life of Jesus we come to know the Father.
So often what we think we want in life is really not very valuable. The arguments we have with each other turn out to be about as important as fighting over a stick. We spend our time focused on our passions and not on our immortal souls. Jesus' voice does not join in with all of the screaming opinions in the world. He quietly asks what the discussion is about and once again explains that to be the greatest, we must be the servant of the least.
Viva Christo Rey,
September 12, 2021
Hear to Serve …
WHOSE PLAN IS THIS ANYWAY?
In this week’s Gospel we hear Peter declare openly that Jesus is the Chosen One, that Jesus is the Anointed one, the Messiah. Then why is it just a few short verses later we hear Peter telling Jesus His plan for salvation is not the correct way for the Messiah to do things? Jesus calls Peter out on the carpet. Jesus even goes so far as to sternly refer to Peter as Satan. Jesus tells Peter he is not thinking as God thinks but as human beings think.
I have to wonder how many times have I been any different than Peter? Like Peter, I fully understand who Jesus is, yet I tend to insert my plans, my desires over Jesus’ plans. I know what’s right. I know what Jesus wants from me, but I fail to travel on the road that Jesus has mapped out for me. I fail to remember that it is the same road that Jesus has travelled Himself. Like Peter, I balk at the idea that salvation comes through the cross of Jesus Christ. It is hard for me to understand that If I want to have the salvation Jesus offers, then I must be like Christ.
Have we done what St. James asks in the second reading and made our faith come alive by helping others with their physical needs? Or are our prayers and good wishes the best we can do? We might have to deny ourselves sometimes to help others. We need to be like Peter and profess that Jesus is Lord, but we must also act like Christians in all areas of our lives. We must live up to our Catholic commitments and come to Mass, participate in all the Sacraments, and model our faith at home to our children. Do we have any sinful habits that we need to repent of? Have we said yes when asked to become a Reader, Eucharistic Minister or Altar Server, or to volunteer in some other way at the parish? We must take up the cross in the small matters of life as well as the big ones.
We are being given a tough challenge. We are being asked to lay down our lives for Jesus and the sake of His Gospel. You see, it is not only about knowing who Jesus is, but it is about imitating Him. It is about putting aside what we think and surrendering to His plan. After all, it is God’s plan of salvation and not ours.
Viva Christo Rey,
September 5, 2021
Hear to Serve …
In the Gospel this week, Mark told the story of how Jesus healed a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment. Jesus was very well known as a healer and a crowd followed him wherever he went. The first thing Jesus did when he encountered the deaf man was to take him away from the crowd. In a quiet place, it was just the two of them without any distractions. Jesus then touched the man on the tongue and the ears. Jesus groaned and said one word, "Ephphatha," be opened. Immediately the man's ears were opened. Despite being told not to tell anyone, the man could not stop praising Jesus because his body and his soul were healed.
A few years ago, I was scheduled to go on a weekend retreat in a very small cabin in the woods with no one around. I was not looking forward to it because I could not imagine three days of complete silence. I could have no cell phone or electronics. So, once I was dropped off, I was really going to be alone. What I found during those days was that I was not alone. I was in a truly quiet place with Jesus. I could hear for the first time his word, "Ephphatha" so clearly. Jesus took me away from the crowd. He connected with me as I read the Bible. I found my muteness went away because I could really pray. In all of the noise of my busy life, I had become deaf to God. When you are deaf to His voice, you are not able to speak clearly.
A three day weekend away is not something many of us can afford to do very often, but it is possible to go to a quiet place to encounter Jesus. If we are not able to make a holy hour at church, we can make a holy fifteen minutes somewhere away from everyone but Jesus.
In our quiet place, we must be open to whatever it is Jesus has to tell us. We have to be open to learning about the faith. We have to be open to the Scripture of the Mass. We have to be open to encouraging the young (or older) people in the parish. We have to be open to participating in a new ministry. We have to be open to new ways of doing things at home and in the parish. We have to be open to giving to others without seeing any return. We have to be open to forgiving others and asking for forgiveness. We have to be open to the radical transformation that Jesus wants to make in our lives. When our ears are opened, when our minds are opened, when our hearts are opened, then our prayers will also be opened.
Jesus has compassion for all sinners. He longs for connection with all of us. He longs to bring us all to the Father. He longs for the Holy Spirit to be active in our lives. Let us all ask Jesus to take us away from the deafening noise and the crowd this week and to pray over us, "Ephphatha," so that we can truly be open to living the lives we were meant to live and being the parish, diocese, and Church that can clearly speak His Word to the world.
Viva Christo Rey,
August 29, 2021
Hear to Serve …
Flannery O'Connor, a great Catholic writer of the 20th Century said, ”A faith that just accepts is a child's faith and all right for children, but eventually you have to grow religiously as every other way, though some never do. ... They think faith is a big electric blanket, when of course it is the cross. It is much harder to believe than not to believe." This is very true of our "feel-good" culture of today. If it doesn't make us feel nice and cozy, we do not accept it. If we do not feel entertained we reject it. This weekend's readings are filled with some hard-hitting, uncomfortable truths about our faith.
"This saying is hard, who can accept it?"
When engaged couples choose the readings for their wedding ceremony, they often dismiss St. Paul's words to the Ephesians. The bride and groom-to-be are often uncomfortable with the idea of the wife being subservient to her husband. They stop at this point, shake their heads and say, "No, this is not for us." Our culture has reduced marriage to a self-serving institution that can be tossed aside when things are difficult. However, those couples who enter marriage as a sacrament see the truth, beauty, and goodness of marriage. They understand St. Paul's words and know that marriage is a reflection of Christ's love for the Church. They know that it is a vocation of entering into the Divine Life of the Trinity, and this is why the Church works so hard to defend the sanctity of marriage.
Do You Also Want to Leave?
In the reading from John's Gospel, the Apostles are discussing the fact that Jesus said that they must eat His flesh and drink His blood. They watched as most of those who had been following Jesus left. They listened as Jesus told them that there were going to be many more difficult things to come. Do we walk away when the teachings of Jesus are too difficult, or do we instead trust that He has the "Words of everlasting life”.
"Decide today whom you will serve."
Joshua told the people that they had to choose between the gods of the Amorites or the one true God. We have that decision to make every day. We must choose if we are going to settle for a comfortable life that society tells us is the definition of success, or if we are going to pick up the cross and follow Jesus Christ. We must decide if we will settle for a cozy blanket or if we choose the hard truths of the faith--the "words of everlasting life."
"As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."
Viva Christo Rey,
August 22, 2021
A Word from Fr. Robert …
Last week I attended the meetings of the Parish Councils and Finance Committees of St. Gregory and Holy Trinity. In the suggestion box at Holy Trinity (yes, someone does check it!) the question was raised as to when we would return to offering the Precious Blood as well as the Sacred Host at Communion. The answer, sadly, is that for the foreseeable future we won’t. I think the same reasoning applies as with the mask issue - it’s about protecting you from me, not the other way around. At the same time, it is vital that we remember the teaching of the Church which has always been true - that the Lord is fully present under either “form.” In fact, the option to receive from the cup simply isn’t offered to the laity in many countries — Mexico and Ireland are two that spring to mind. Hopefully it won’t be too much longer before we can once again carry out the Lord’s command at the Last Supper in its fullest manifestation. But in the meantime, we cling to our faith that the Lord is present, whole and entire whether under the appearance of broken bread or of a cup of wine.
On this my last weekend in St. Nazianz and School Hill I want to thank you all for a wonderful (a totally unexpected) 8 weeks. These are two deeply faith-filled communities and it has been a privilege to serve you and with you. I leapt at the opportunity to return here for a further experience of the Faith as it is lived in rural Wisconsin - quite different in some ways from Central Florida, but at the same time clearly the one faith which unites us and guides us. I pray that your long wait for a permanent pastor will soon be at an end and please know that I will be thinking of you (especially when I hear reports of 4 ft of snow!) - Go n’eiri an bothar leat (pronounced: guh nyree on bohar lat) may the road rise up to meet you.
August 15, 2021
Hear to Serve …
“MY SOUL PROCLAIMS THE GREATNESS OF THE LORD.”
This week, we leave the Bread of Life Discourse in John’s Gospel. We take time to honor the Assumption of Mary’s body and soul into heaven. And why shouldn’t Mary have such an honor? She said that obedient and daring “yes” to become the Living Ark of the New Covenant. Just as the Original Ark of the Covenant that held the remains of the original Ten Commandments were a manifestation of God’s physical presence here on Earth, Mary was the new Living Ark of the Covenant. She was a place where God truly dwelled in human form among men. She sealed her fate in history and all generations call her blessed.
Mary is the model of discipleship for us. She showed us exactly what it is to say yes to God, and what he wants from us. So I may wonder where I fit in this. I’m not exactly pure and unblemished, without sin. What does God expect from me? Like Mary, we are called to be living tabernacles and to bear Christ into this world. By coming forward and receiving the Eucharist each week, we too are saying a daring “yes” to God’s plan. The question is, will we remain obedient to that yes like Mary did?
A good place to start is to listen to Mary as she proclaims those words of that beautiful prayer called the “Magnificat.” “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord. My spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” Do we proclaim the greatness of God every day? Do we rejoice that we have a loving God that has given us eternal life? Or do we tend to not thank God for all that He has given us?
“The Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name.” Do we recognize God’s greatness and praise Him in prayer?
“He has mercy on those that fear Him in every generation.” To fear God is to give him respect, to love and honor God and not ourselves, or the world around us.
“He has cast down the mighty from their thrones and has lifted up the lowly. Lifted up the lowly.” Just as Jesus did, we too have to welcome the poor, the immigrants and the LGBT community, to name a few. Can we say we have offered a loving embrace to those that are different than us?
“He has filled the hungry with good things and the rich He has sent away empty.” Just as God sent manna from heaven to feed the Israelites on their journey to the Promised Land, we are called to give food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, and clothe the naked. We have to do more than have good intentions for the poor. We must back up our prayer with action.
“He has come to the help of His servant Israel, for He has remembered his promise of mercy.” Are we merciful to others that have wronged us, just as God is merciful to us?
Did you ever dream that just coming forward every week for the Eucharist and uttering our “Amen” would lead us into a life that is centered in Christ, a life that calls us to bring Christ into the world in imitation of Mary. Let us honor our Mother, and pray this beautiful prayer she gave us, the “Magnificat.” Better yet, let us give Mary the honor she deserves and live out this prayer in our daily lives. Then, we too, can join her in that Divine love of the Trinity. Then we will be truly blessed.
Viva Christo Rey,
August 8, 2021
Hear to Serve …
“A CLEAN HEART CREATE FOR ME, GOD.” Ps 51:12 PART III
In the last two weeks I have talked about pornography and how the sinfulness of it takes the wonders of God’s creation and dirties it. Pornography devalues the human body, the human soul, and the gift of sex. This week I would like to introduce you to just a few statistics found on fightthenewdrug.org; enough.org; and intellectualtake-out.org. These statistics show just how much of a problem pornography is.
Pornography is a big business. There are more than 26 million pornography websites that make over $3,000 per second. There are 40 million regular consumers of online porn in America alone. It is an industry that exploits and degrades everyone involved.
Pornography is a threat to marriages. Frequent viewers of pornography are less likely to get married. This is because they see porn as a substitute for marital sexual gratification. Regular viewing of pornographic material increases marital infidelity by 300%. 56% of divorce cases involve one party having an obsession with watching porn. A 2014 study by the Max Planch Institute found that men who view porn frequently have a decrease in brain cells. It also causes mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and insecurity.
88% of mainstream pornography shows physical abuse covering a lot of different levels. Males are usually the aggressors, leaving females as the targets of violent acts. This leads not only to unwanted physical acts between consenting adults, but also leads to other acts of violence in the home.
Pornography threatens our children. There are 116,000 searches for “child pornography” every day. So many children have lost their innocence and freedom to criminals who use them to produce pornographic material. Many more children are affected than we can imagine. The average child first sees pornography at age 11, and the average age of those children who get trapped into sex trafficking is 12-14 years old. Pornography is easily accessed. It is not limited to internet sites and magazines. Oftentimes, it comes into our homes through television shows and movies, especially through streaming services. Viewing content that would have been considered shocking just a few years ago is now accepted as normal.
Addictions of all kinds threaten our relationship with God and with each other. Use of pornography can be overcome. God is stronger than any addiction. He offers healing and grace to the soul in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Pope Francis once said, “God never tires of forgiving us, we are the ones who tire of seeking His mercy.” I think that is so true of us when we fall victim to addictions. We give up because we are afraid to come back over and over again for God’s mercy and help.
As a Parish, we support the many programs offered by the Diocese and Catholic Charities that work to end addiction to pornography, heal marriage relationships, and provide parents with the tools to protect their children.
If you find yourself trapped in any addiction, if you find yourself going through hell trying to break free, remember that Jesus doesn’t expect you to be successful on the first try or even the third try, but He expects you to remain faithful. If you do this then you will find peace and healing.
August 1, 2021
Hear to Serve …
“A CLEAN HEART CREATE FOR ME, GOD.” Ps 51:12 PART II
Last week, as I started to talk about the evils of pornography, I thought it necessary to go back and start at the beginning. It’s important that we recognize our self-worth. Our dignity comes from the fact that we were created in the image and likeness of God, and this includes our bodies and our inner selves. This is why the Church tells us we are to treat our bodies with respect, for our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit.
This week I would like to start with chastity. Contrary to what many people think, chastity does not automatically mean not having sex. The Church teaches us that chastity is a virtue and a vocation. Chastity means that we have a healthy moral attitude towards sex. Chastity combines our sexual desires along with our pursuit of moral excellence and holiness.
This virtue of chastity is tough because chastity leads us to a genuine love, a love that is deep and life giving. This is why chastity is the direct opposite of lust. For lust only uses the other person for self- fulfillment. Chastity does not allow us to use others just to give ourselves pleasure. Chastity affirms the other person body and soul, going above their sexual qualities.
Chastity tells us to rely on God’s grace so we can persevere with fortitude in resisting temptation in those challenging moments we face. Chastity in marriage calls us to a permanent, faithful, and fruitful love. This includes the intimate physical act of sexual love. This marital act of love is an all-encompassing, total gift of ourselves that is open to new life.
The immorality of pornography is that it is the direct opposite of everything God has created us for. It perverts the gift of sex that He has bestowed upon us. Pornography distorts our human dignity because it tells us we are nothing more than objects to be used for someone else’s self-gratification. It turns the other person into nothing more than an erotic stimulant, and there is no self-giving love involved in pornography.
Besides degrading the other, the sinfulness of pornography is that it also harms the user. It conditions the user so they no longer know what healthy human intimacy and relationships are about. It distorts the user’s views on the gift of healthy sexuality, and it can inflict damage on the user’s self-worth.
Pornography leads the user into sins against chastity, such as seeking sexual pleasure outside of the self-giving intimacy of husband and wife found in marriage. It can generate isolation between husband and wife and other family members. It can hurt parent’s abilities to be virtuous role models for their children.
Pornography may be more and more accepted by society but it is nothing more than a vortex of lies and deception. It can lead into other sinful ways such as adultery, domestic violence, the abuse of children for child pornography, prostitution, sex trafficking, and yes, it can even lead to abortion because of the way it cheapens the gift of sex that God has given us.
That’s it for this week. I have to give credit to a document called “Create in Me a Clean Heart”. It’s a pastoral response to our pornography epidemic put together by the USCCB, with much more detail than what I could ever tell you in a bulletin column.
VIVA CRISTO REY! (Long Live Christ the King!)