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Deacon Paul's Reflection for the Holy Family Of Jesus, Mary, & Joseph 2017 "Family Honor"

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In Jesus, Mary, & Joseph we have the model of what it means to be a family, and familial love is the focus of our scripture excerpts this week. Chief among the attributes of a loving family is the way we honor our spouse, parents, grandparents, children, and siblings. This is not always easy and at times can be most difficult.

Tobit Heals His Blind Father
As my father grew old and his health, both mental and physical, began to fail my patience was sorely tested. He became more disagreeable and when he had to be placed in a nursing home he rebelled. He had always been an independent thinker and succeeded in life with what appeared to be sheer determination. Though he had never attended college – a dream interrupted by the great depression and World War II – he was able to leave a sales career to start and succeed in forming an engineering company. More than his business success, it was his dedication to his family that has impressed me the most. His manner was often rough, but when it came to taking care of others there was no limit to his efforts. When his own parents grew old and infirmed he regularly made the 200+ mile trip to his parent's home to make sure all was well. When he found that it was no longer safe for them to live on their own he took over their affairs and made sure they were cared for until they passed away in their 80's. All this reminds me of the wisdom from Sirach in our first reading this week, "My son, take care of your father when he is old; grieve him not as long as he lives." (Sirach 3:12)

Sirach goes on to write, "Even if his mind fails, be considerate of him; revile him not all the days of his life." This may be an even harder ideal, to honor someone, even your own father, when they appear to be unruly and disagreeable. I hope I did my best to honor my parents as they grew old and that my example was the best one I could give my children. As they say, be nice to your children – they are the ones to choose your nursing home. Though this saying is meant to be humorous there is truth in it that is reflected in St. Paul's letter to the Colossians. He writes, "Fathers do not provoke your children, so they do not become discouraged." Our good treatment of family members encourages honor, respect, and love in return.

As important as care for our parents is, when one marries our primary responsibility shifts from our parents to our spouse and so St. Paul writes, "Husbands love your wives, and avoid any bitterness towards them." (Colossians 3:19) Paul goes even further when he writes, "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church." (Ephesians 5:25) Not to put too fine a point on it, this means laying down one's life for one's spouse. When we can live according to these high ideals we not only foster love in our families we instruct our children on what a healthy, loving marriage looks like. Sure, we all fall short of such high ideals from time to time, but if we can keep returning to them we will have done the right thing. This is the point of what Paul instructs at the beginning of today's selection, "Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. (Colossians 3:12-13) In the spiritual life, it is not about getting it right all the time, rather it is about what we do when we get it wrong. This is the spirituality of imperfection.

And just so we don't get the wrong idea about this ideal, it doesn't mean that we just let things slide when we have been wronged, that would not honor the family either. Paul also directs families to "teach and admonish one another," but this must be done in Christian charity. (Colossians 3:16) So the basis of honor is love that is the "bond of perfection." Perhaps if we strive for this ideal we will experience the peace promised by the example of the Holy Family, even though we are by no means perfect, and on the days we fall short our acceptance of God's grace will make up for what is lacking. As Paul wrote to the Romans, "…transgression might increase but, where sin increases, grace overflows all the more…" (Romans 5:20)

Incarnation: A Reflection for the Nativity of the Lord 2017

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One of my earliest Christmas remembrances is of my mother trying to find something for each of us children to receive on Christmas. Like it was yesterday, I remember my mother sitting in the hall chair by the phone with the Sears & Roebucks catalog in her lap and the six of us clamoring around her making our requests known in the most urgent of terms. I can only imagine how hard it was for her trying to make our Christmas wishes a reality on what was a very limited budget.

At that time, my father was a traveling salesman and was gone much of the time. This left most of our Christmas preparations to mother along with all the normal responsibilities of a mother. In the midst of all this, my mother was able to pass on the real meaning of Christmas to us, the birth of the Christ Child. At the time we children only vaguely understood the fullness of the meaning of the Virgin birth, but it was our mother who planted this seed of faith. More concretely, my mother passed on the faith by how she lived her life. Since then, time, grace, and deeper reflection on this mystery have grown this belief into the full gravity of what is meant by incarnation, the birth of the child we celebrate each year.

Incarnation is the meaning of the season. In God's infinite wisdom, God chose to create all that is, and in God's complete humility, God chose to enter creation and become one of us. In this choice by God, and with the cooperation of Mary, the union of divinity with humanity was accomplished in Jesus Christ; Son of God – son of man. "For the Son of God became man so that we might become God." (St. Athanasius) "The only-begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make men gods." (St. Thomas Aquinas – See Catechism of the Catholic Church #460) What this means for us now and forever is nothing less than Heaven.

I say "now and forever," because the union of flesh and spirit that was begun in Bethlehem 2000 years ago continued in the bodily resurrection of Jesus, and continues today in each one of us. The union of flesh and spirit culminates in Heaven for us, but it begins in the birth of our faith here on earth. "We who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death. We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life. For if we have grown into union with him through a death like his, we shall also be united with him in the resurrection." (Romans 6:3-6)

Our belief in the "bodily" resurrection of Jesus underlies our basic premise of body and spirit being joined in Christ. This union of flesh and spirit, which begins with the birth of Jesus, culminates in his resurrection. What is true for Jesus is true for us, that we will also be raised on the last day. Otherwise, if there is no resurrection of Jesus there will be no resurrection for us. This is quite traditional and orthodox here. Resurrection does not only mean an eternal reward in the future. "For behold, the kingdom of God is now." (Luke 17:21) This means living the prayer Jesus taught his disciples, "Thy kingdom come thy will be done." Choosing to live a life where "all the way to Heaven is heaven and that way is the way of Christ." (Catherine of Siena)

Resurrection is the Incarnation taken to its full and logical conclusion. What we choose now, we will indeed be for all eternity. It is our own decision to make; do we accept the gravity of how we choose to live? Do we believe that the birth of Jesus ushered in a new way of life for the world? Are we ready to live fully in the spirit of Christmas, as the union of body and spirit? It is our choice and we make it in total freedom. We can choose to keep Christ in Christmas, but that means living fully the incarnation of body and spirit. To live this way is to give our children a gift that will never disappoint, and that they will never outgrow. This is an idea that may be too much for us now, but if we are willing the Holy Spirit can make up for whatever is lacking.

Rejoice! - Third Sunday of Advent 2017

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This third Sunday in Advent is called Gaudete Sunday, which means "rejoice" in Latin. In English rejoice means to feel or to show great joy. Traditionally the pink candle in the Advent wreath, which was lighted at the beginning of Mass today, designates this day of joy. At this point in Advent, it is good to take the time in the midst of our Christmas preparations to seek some peace and experience the joy that is the fruit of peace. Unfortunately, it may be more likely for me, and I'm sure for many of you, to find ourselves fretting about what we still haven't done to prepare for Christmas. Let us take a few moments today to experience this joy and express it in our celebration this morning.

There is an important situation to acknowledge, as a compassionate community, regarding this season. There are those here this morning whose celebration of Christmas is not a happy occasion, because today may be a time of sickness, or failure, or emotional distress, or even the death of a loved one. As a community, we need to hold these members with tender love by being present with them in their sadness. Our love expressed this way can be a sign of God's unconditional love. This may help to show that there is a difference between joy and happiness and that one can feel joy even in the midst of sadness. Happiness is based on external conditions. Joy is the experience of knowing that you are unconditionally loved.

There are three things we rejoice in, on this day: The coming of Christ, the Coming of Christ, and… the coming of Christ. We celebrate the coming of Christ 2000 years ago in a stable in Bethlehem of Judea. We celebrate the coming of Christ in our hearts in the present. And we celebrate the coming of Christ at the end of time. Each of these events is crucial in our life of faith and important for our joy.

2000 years ago Joseph had to walk 90 miles with his expectant wife Mary from their home in Nazareth to Bethlehem in the south, east of Jerusalem for the census. This trip would take a traveler, five or six days under the best of conditions, however, it was probably longer for the Holy Family considering that Mary was late in her pregnancy. For me, this would not be a happy occasion. It was, however, an occasion that brought joy, even in the midst of their hardship. Parents here, especially mothers, certainly know that birthing a child is difficult, and can even be fraught with danger, but there also can be a joy.

The coming of Jesus in the present is also an occasion of joy, though it may be difficult to express this joy if we have been distracted by the preparations for the holiday. Please do not let your sadness or worry dampen the joy of the coming of Jesus into your hearts. Like Mary and Joseph let us experience the fullness of God's grace so as to birth Jesus in our families and community this holy season. If we are fortunate, and we are secure in this joy, let us express it freely and share that joy with others who find this season difficult in their present circumstances. Perhaps we can make room in our homes, or in our hearts by including others. Those who are sick, or have lost their employment, or are mourning the loss of a loved one.

Like Isaiah in our first reading we too are being "sent to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives, to announce a year of favor from the Lord, and to comfort all who mourn." (cf Isaiah 61: 1-2) It is our sure and certain hope that, at the second coming of Jesus, all sadness, fear, and sickness will be wiped away with any tears we may have shed in this life. Then our joy will be complete.

Repent - Second Sunday Of Advent 2017

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Today we hear a voice crying out in the wilderness, "Prepare the way of the Lord!" (Isaiah 40:3b) John proclaims a baptism of repentance. What does this mean for us almost 2000 years later? Practically speaking, how can we prepare the way of the Lord? As a civil engineer, I am happy to report that the words from Isaiah that call for the leveling of every mountain and the filling in of every valley are metaphorical directives. Not only would an earth-moving project of this scale be impossible, the environmental ramifications would be disastrous. This metaphor refers to the elimination of things that stand between our God and us. These obstacles don't exist in the physical landscape; rather they are things that stand between God and us. They are the mountainous terrain of our overinflated egos and the deep valley of our false feelings of unworthiness. These are, in fact, two ways that we are tempted into inaction, or to delay our spiritual journey of growth and maturity. For others, who have begun that journey, only to get lost in the wasteland of competing ideologies, we will have to re-chart a straight course on the highway to our God. In any case, it is about getting back to the basics of our faith. This is what it means to repent. "Repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand." (Matthew 3:3 & 4:17)

These words calling us to repentance, first by John and then by Jesus, tell us that the time for delay is over because Heaven is not in some distant future – in fact, the Kingdom is NOW! We also learn from John that God is not in some distant place. John declares God present when he says, "Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29) Furthermore, we will hear from Jesus that the Kingdom of God is now, and the Kingdom of God is among us in his response to the Pharisees. "The coming of the kingdom of God cannot be observed, and no one will announce, ‘look, here it is,' or, ‘there it is.' For behold, the kingdom of God is among you." (Luke 17:20-21) So, given this, what are we called to do during Advent?

What can we do to repent of our old ways and prepare for the way of the Lord? First, we must see Jesus as a model for our lives. This means doing what Jesus did that caused John to declare the coming of the Holy Spirit. (Mark 1:8) Jesus foretold that we would do what he did and even greater. (John 14:12) The works of Jesus begin with affirming people's potential and healing their brokenness – not reminding them that they are broken. Secondly, we need to be agents of reconciliation and to avoid making judgments. ("Stop judging, that you may not be judged." (Matthew 7:1)) Be gracious towards others even if they believe differently than us. Remember, Jesus did not make being Jewish a condition of his care and healing of those he encountered. For Jesus, it was more important to meet the actual needs of others, than in maintaining institutional beliefs and structures.

The overarching thrust of Jesus' ministry was peacemaking, which is something we are in dire need of today. He is declared the ‘Prince of Peace' and the peace he brought about came as a result of his Father's love, a peace that he extends to everyone. There are some who believe that peace can be achieved by the exercise of power or through the destruction of our enemies, but Jesus never taught or exercised this kind of peacemaking. Quite the opposite, he preached the love of enemies. "You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust." (Matthew 5:43-45) In the end, one could surmise that Jesus was more about fostering the Kingdom in the present than a focus on some future afterlife. This seems consistent with His teaching, and it is how we can further the work of Jesus here on earth. Eternity is God work; we are called to do what we can in the present and by this "Prepare the way of the Lord."

Stay Awake! - First Sunday of Advent 2017

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Today we hear Jesus' imperative, "Be watchful! Be alert!" (Mark 13:33a) This is the challenge set before us this season of Advent. This seems easy enough of a request until I try to put it into practice. My challenge is not so much staying alert while driving the car or in the myriad of other activities we actively engage in during a typical day, my challenge is staying spiritually awake. Jesus' message can be heard as a practical cautionary warning about some kind of physical danger or the return of an earthly master or boss. I believe, however, that there is something much deeper in His message. I believe that what Jesus is getting at is more about being open and ready on a spiritual level. Specifically, Jesus is inviting us to open our hearts and minds to the return of the King and thus being open to the advent of the Kingdom of God.


It is this kind of spiritual openness that I, and perhaps others, find the greater challenge. It is one thing for me to recite prayers and go through the motions at Mass, all the while keeping one eye on the clock. It is something quite different to enter into the timelessness of God presence. When I commit to community prayer, a Mass, a Rosary, or the Liturgy of the Hours, I find that maintaining my focus or concentration is a challenge. It is not unusual for me to get a part, or all the way through the prayer only to realize that somewhere along the way my mind had drifted to a memory of the past or something in the future, and I am no longer present. I have allowed myself to be hijacked by my emotions. Intellectually, I realize that distracting thoughts, past or future, are of little value as compared with my original intent, which was to focus on God. Have I forgotten Jesus' words, "where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." (Matthew 18:20) If Jesus were truly present in our prayer, then why would we allow ourselves to be anywhere else? Accepting this truth will require more than an intellectual assent to Jesus' words, it must also happen on the spiritual level. If we have a problem being present to the presence of God, then perhaps the Advent season is an opportunity to recommit ourselves to spiritual watchfulness, and to stay awake and alert to the coming of the Christ. This is about seeking a relationship with the one who is seeking us.


Advent is a season of great expectations and preparations. Will we allow this next three weeks to become a season where all of our expectations and preparations are focused on what Santa Clause will bring or will we focus on how we prepare our hearts and minds for the coming of Christ? What can we do each day to practice the presence of God and experience the peace that Jesus sends us? Recall that Jesus tells his disciples, "My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you." (John 14:27) One way to experience this kind of peace is to practice the contemplative prayer (sometimes called Centering Prayer). Contemplative prayer is a practice being present in the moment, to be watchful and alert, and open.


I was reminded of this age-old practice during a retreat I participated in, a couple of weeks ago. Though I had practiced this form of prayer in the past, I had become lax and had not continued in this discipline. The retreat reminded me of the peace and focus it brought to my prayer life as well as my daily life. I offer it to you here as a way to deepen one's prayer life as we journey toward Christmas and in the rest of our lives. It requires only that we sit quietly for 10 to 20 minutes a day. It means letting go of distractions and getting out of our head and back to our heart. It means to follow Jesus' suggestion, "When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you. In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words." (Matthew 6: 5-7)

Contemplative prayer is, in fact, prayer without words. It is a gift you can give yourself this season. If you would like more information on how to practice this form of prayer goes to:



This YouTube video of Fr. Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O., a spiritual master, gives the basics of Centering Prayer in a very practical way.

When I take the time to pray in this way, the Lord of the house returns. It is not that He has ever left, rather it only seems He had gone because I have ignored His presence. Advent can be a time to recommit to centering our lives on the presence of God. The fruit of this prayer practice is to create a greater Hope in one's life through the experience and closeness of God's presence wherever we may find ourselves in these weeks leading up to Christmas. With greater focus, we can better experience God's presence, whether we are encountering Him in the Eucharist or in our fellowship with another human being.

Priest, Prophet, And King Christ the King 2017

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In several places within the Christian Scriptures, we read about the people wanting to make Jesus a king. The most obvious time was when he rode into Jerusalem just before the Passover; it is what we celebrate as Palm Sunday. (Matthew 21: 1-11) Earlier we find that his own disciples expected him to be king. We learn this when James and John were jockeying for seats at his right and left when he came into his power as sovereign. (Mark 10: 35-45) What was Jesus’ response to those who would make him king? He fled from them and retreated to the mountains to be alone. (John 6:15) But, why did the Creator of the Universe refuse to take his rightful place as king?

I believe it was because Jesus knew their motivation and he knew it was not in alignment with his Father’s plan. In the 1st Century, the Jewish people were a subjugated people who lived under the yoke of Rome as well as being under the thumb of their own religious leaders who had been co-opted by their Roman overlords. These rulers, both religious and secular, were like the King and leaders of Israel that Ezekiel prophesied against when he wrote, “Woe to the shepherds of Israel who have been pasturing themselves!” “Should not shepherds pasture the flock?” “So they were scattered for lack of a shepherd…” (Ezekiel 34: 2, 5) Poor leadership caused what poor leadership always does; it caused a fracturing of the Jews into various groups. This is also true today.

Some of the major groups in the 1st Century were the Pharisees, the Sadducees, Scribes, the Sanhedrin, and the Herodians, and finally the Zealots. Perhaps one of these groups, the Zealots, pursued Jesus in order to enlist him as their charismatic leader. The Zealots were one of several different "revolutionary" groups in the 1st century who opposed the Roman occupation of Israel. One of Jesus’ early followers, "Simon the Zealot" (Luke 6:15) Simon (Not to be confused with Simon Peter) was a member of this group. Though he may have belonged to this revolutionary group before joining Jesus, more likely was "zealous" in the older sense or became non-violent under the influence of Jesus.

Those that followed John the Baptist were another splinter group within the larger Jewish community. With John’s death, they joined with Jesus’ disciples because of his charismatic leadership and the miracles he worked. So as we hear in Ezekiel today, God promises to “deliver them from every place where they were scattered on the day of dark clouds.” (Ezekiel 34: 12) Jesus’ healing ministry speaks of his priestly role in announcing the Reign of God where those who were scattered will be gathered together. As Jesus said, “I came so that they may all be one.”(More on this later.) Those who had followed the prophet, John, came to understand that he was only the one who was to prepare the way for an even greater prophet, Jesus. Jesus prophetic mission was much larger than the limited view of the nationalistic revolutionary party of Zealots who opposed the Roman occupation. Their influence persisted even after the crucifixion of Jesus, and in the year 66 AD, the Jews of Judea rebelled against their Roman masters. This culminated in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD – an event predicted by Jesus.

As we learn in the scriptures Jesus the Nazarene is believed by some to be the King of the Jews (Thus the inscription on his cross – INRI). What was not widely known was that his kingdom was not a temporal one or one that would exercise power by way of domination. Jesus’ kingdom was to announce the good news of his Father’s love as signaled by his priestly ministry of healing. Specifically, “the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hears, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.” (Matthew 11: 4-5) Both the religious authorities and Rome denied his authority and believed only that Jesus was a threat to their power and so they collaborated to put him to death. They didn’t realize that the one they opposed had a power greater than they could even imagine – He had power over death!

Like Jesus, we are also called to be Priest, Prophet, and King. When we are baptized we are baptized Priest (symbolized by the white garment), Prophet (…lighted candle) and King (…Anointed with Chrism), and as such are called to perform the same ministry that Jesus performed during his time on earth. This is the point of the Parable of the Last Judgment that we hear this weekend in the Gospel of Matthew. We are called to continue in the ministry of Jesus by declaring the Kingdom of God so that we can join with Jesus at the end of time in the kingdom that is already, but not yet.

We declare this kingdom to the world and take on our priestly role when we feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, care for the ill, and visit those in prison. For some, you will be prophets when you speak truth to power and be a voice for those who do not have a voice. Some are called to leadership roles as elected officials. “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and the great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave.” (Matthew 20: 25-27) Elected officials put others first by enacting just laws that protect the rights of the poor, the sick, the elderly, the unborn, and alien among us.

Keep in mind that how we care for the least of our brothers and sisters is the basis of how we will spend eternity. The choice is ours, will we live our lives for ourselves, or will we live our lives for others.

The Good Spouse - 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time 2017

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As our children grow up and mature, one thing that weighs heavy on our minds is whom they would choose for a mate.  For the parents here this morning, those whose children are already dating, and those who will be there soon, are certain to think about this a good deal.  Perhaps our own marriage has been blessed and we want our children's marriages to be blessed as well.  Or perhaps there have been difficulties or even divorce and we want to spare our children, and our children's children that heartache and trauma.  In any case, today's wisdom from Proverbs for the Ideal Wife will certainly resonate in our hearts.


A mother gave this advice, on what constitutes a good wife, to her son, King Lemuel.  As good as the advice we have already heard, what precedes it and what was omitted in the interests of brevity, is also excellent.  Many commentators have surmised that Lemuel is actually King Solomon - in which case the mother would be Bathsheba and his father King David.  The Queen Mother counsels her son not to fall into the trap of immorality; chasing after women that will sap a king's strength. (Proverbs 31:3)  (If you recall immorality is something that got his father into trouble.)  She also warns her son against the dangers of alcohol; a drunken king is never a good leader.  (Proverbs 31: 4-7)  Rather than being a womanizer and a drunkard, a good king is one who speaks for the rights of those without a voice.  She counsels that he should issue decrees (enact laws) that are just, that defend and uphold the poor.  (Proverbs 31-8-9)  May the Lord grant us rulers like Solomon who heed this advice of a queen mother on ruling well.  These attributes, by the way, are ones that a young woman would do well to look for when choosing a mate.


Then we come to the advice in today's readings, where we hear that a good wife is one in whom a man can trust his heart and whose value cannot be measured by monetary means …far beyond pearls.  She is skilled in the gifts of domestic life, like spinning and weaving, but is also wise in the ways of the world beyond the home.  As an omitted verse relates, she can pick out a piece of land to purchase and with her own earnings plants a vineyard.  (Proverbs 31:16)  It doesn't relate so much to physical beauty, which it remarks is fleeting, as much as her physical strength.   


So how are we to pass on all this advice to our children so that they actually take it to heart?  We have all experienced those times where we tried to give good advice to our children, only to be met with rolling eyes.  This is where the hard part comes as parents.  It is hard because, as we all know, the most effective instruction a parent can give is by modeling the behavior we wish to see in our children.  So there we have it, the instructive part of this scripture is to see how we can be good parents.  As difficult as it is, we are called to live virtuous lives of service to our families and communities.  This begins with being a trusted spouse who is dedicated to the care of our families.  It continues by looking after the needs of others less fortunate and speaking up for their rights.  Finally, because we are a democracy, and not a monarchy, we need to choose leaders, who are as wise as King Solomon or the Queen Mother Bathsheba.


Remember, "Charm is deceptive and beauty fleeting; the one who fears the LORD is to be praised."  

(Proverbs 31:30)


Holy Wisdom - 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time 2017

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From Wisdom personified to wisdom in practice, our readings this week cover the full gambit. It is also important to note that in these readings and in the Bible as a whole, Holy Wisdom is personified as a woman.

In the brief excerpt from the book of Wisdom this Sunday, wisdom is referred to 8 times in the feminine gender. This is particularly significant in that the Bible, both the Jewish scriptures and the Christian scriptures, came from patriarchal societies. What a wonderful concept, Wisdom personified as a woman who is wise. Sophia, who brings, a graceful touch, a healing presence, to her every encounter, for whom beauty is a mode of knowing and openness, a special strength – who tells us, "all will be well, all will be well, all matter of things will be well."

We are encouraged to seek the holy woman, Wisdom with the promise that "she is readily perceived by those who love her." Furthermore, we are told that to whoever watches for her at the dawn – will not be disappointed, she will make herself known. When we find ourselves perplexed by problems and the decisions we face in our lives, we can go out and find her waiting at our gate. Even when we are not actively seeking her, she seeks those worthy of her and she will appear to us on the way. As one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, wisdom is given to the Christian in order to sustain us and to make us docile and more open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. As an attribute of God, wisdom is one attribute that shows the image of God in the feminine.

By calling God "Father," we acknowledge that God is the source of everything and transcends all things by his authority. We also acknowledge God as goodness and loving kindness that cares for us, God's children. God's parental tenderness can also be expressed in the image of motherhood. At the same time, God transcends the human distinction between sexes. God is neither father nor mother: God is God. God, however, is the standard for both fathers and mothers: No one is father and mother as God is Father and Mother. (Catechism of the Catholic Church #239)

The exhortation to seek Holy Wisdom is epitomized in the Gospel Parable of the Ten Virgins. This story is intended to encourage believers to continue to stand firm in the practice of our faith even as we suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune in the present. Jesus is calling us to stand fast until he comes again, to be ready and watchful, in a word to be wise. The faithfulness of the wise virgins is shown by their preparedness and of having sufficient oil to last until the bridegroom arrives. The bridegroom, of course, is Christ, and the Bride is the Church. The wedding feast is the heavenly banquet at the end of time in the Kingdom of God. The oil is a symbol of all the good works, such as mercy and justice and faithfulness expected of believers.

Do we feel the exhortation of Jesus given by this parable – to be faithful and wise "virgins" who await the bridegroom? There is always the temptation to put off today what we can do tomorrow. One may say to oneself, "I am too busy right now to make time for the works of justice, mercy, and forgiveness." "I can spend more time serving the poor, the stranger, the marginalized when I retire." "I go to church on Sunday, and I don't curse, or steal, or commit adultery…" Perhaps this is the mindset that is represented by the foolish virgins in the parable – who knows? If this causes us discomfort then the purpose of the parable has been fulfilled. Parables are meant to challenge our thinking and be the impetus to reflect on our lives and how we can answer the call by Holy Mother Wisdom. She awaits us on the way and at our gate with a graceful touch and a healing presence.

Holy Wisdom - 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time 2017

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From Wisdom personified to wisdom in practice, our readings this week cover the full gambit. It is also important to note that in these readings and in the Bible as a whole, Holy Wisdom is personified as a woman.

In the brief excerpt from the book of Wisdom this Sunday, wisdom is referred to 8 times in the feminine gender. This is particularly significant in that the Bible, both the Jewish scriptures and the Christian scriptures, came from patriarchal societies. What a wonderful concept, Wisdom personified as a woman who is wise. Sophia, who brings, a graceful touch, a healing presence, to her every encounter, for whom beauty is a mode of knowing and openness, a special strength – who tells us, "all will be well, all will be well, all matter of things will be well."

We are encouraged to seek the holy woman, Wisdom with the promise that "she is readily perceived by those who love her." Furthermore, we are told that to whoever watches for her at the dawn – will not be disappointed, she will make herself known. When we find ourselves perplexed by problems and the decisions we face in our lives, we can go out and find her waiting at our gate. Even when we are not actively seeking her, she seeks those worthy of her and she will appear to us on the way. As one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, wisdom is given to the Christian in order to sustain us and to make us docile and more open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. As an attribute of God, wisdom is one attribute that shows the image of God in the feminine.

By calling God "Father," we acknowledge that God is the source of everything and transcends all things by his authority. We also acknowledge God as goodness and loving kindness that cares for us, God's children. God's parental tenderness can also be expressed in the image of motherhood. At the same time, God transcends the human distinction between sexes. God is neither father nor mother: God is God. God, however, is the standard for both fathers and mothers: No one is father and mother as God is Father and Mother. (Catechism of the Catholic Church #239)

The exhortation to seek Holy Wisdom is epitomized in the Gospel Parable of the Ten Virgins. This story is intended to encourage believers to continue to stand firm in the practice of our faith even as we suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune in the present. Jesus is calling us to stand fast until he comes again, to be ready and watchful, in a word to be wise. The faithfulness of the wise virgins is shown by their preparedness and of having sufficient oil to last until the bridegroom arrives. The bridegroom, of course, is Christ, and the Bride is the Church. The wedding feast is the heavenly banquet at the end of time in the Kingdom of God. The oil is a symbol of all the good works, such as mercy and justice and faithfulness expected of believers.

Do we feel the exhortation of Jesus given by this parable – to be faithful and wise "virgins" who await the bridegroom? There is always the temptation to put off today what we can do tomorrow. One may say to oneself, "I am too busy right now to make time for the works of justice, mercy, and forgiveness." "I can spend more time serving the poor, the stranger, the marginalized when I retire." "I go to church on Sunday, and I don't curse, or steal, or commit adultery…" Perhaps this is the mindset that is represented by the foolish virgins in the parable – who knows? If this causes us discomfort then the purpose of the parable has been fulfilled. Parables are meant to challenge our thinking and be the impetus to reflect on our lives and how we can answer the call by Holy Mother Wisdom. She awaits us on the way and at our gate with a graceful touch and a healing presence.

Practice What You Preach - 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time 2017

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Everyone who is ordained, after being dressed in the vestments of their office, receives the Book of the Gospels. The priest or deacon approaches the bishop and kneels before him. The bishop places the Book of the Gospels in the hands of the newly ordained and says:

"Receive the Gospel of Christ,
whose herald you now are.
Believe what you read,
Teach what you believe,
and practice what you teach."

I remember very clearly my own ordination. It was a very joyous day with all those I had spent five years in formation with, with my spouse, and with my family, including my parents. It was a deeply spiritual moment when I lay prostrate before the altar during the singing of the litany of the saints. I felt awash with grace. The most sobering moment of the day was when Bishop O'Brien spoke the words above. I love the scriptures and believe in its life-changing message. I also love to share the good news of Jesus Christ, but without a doubt, the most challenging aspect of my Christian life is to practice what I preach.


Call it an occupational hazard, but with the assignment of preaching the Gospel in a public way, sets a high bar for the preacher as a public person. I had always been a very private person, but with the advent of public ministry, this disappeared. I love to be of service, but with it came the feeling that I am now to be held to a greater scrutiny. It made for more than a little discomfort when challenged, as we all are, with temptation. In today's Gospel Jesus challenges his religious authorities when he observes that, "They preach but they do not practice." This scrutiny is not just for religious authorities but also for all the faithful. Every one of us, once we profess our faith, takes on the responsibility to live the faith we profess.

If we are to live out our baptismal call to be evangelists we must not only spread the Good news of Christ but to live what we believe. If we, like the Levites in our first reading from Malachi, falter by not living by the instruction of our faith, we may cause many to falter. We are to be ambassadors of Christ and as such we have a responsibility to live what we believe. It is true, as St. Paul writes, "all have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God." Thank God that we are "justified freely by his grace through the redemption in Christ Jesus." (Romans 3:23-24) So it behooves us not to be judgmental of others, but to remain humble about our calling as Christians and gentle and patient with others.


So we are to return often to the Gospel for instruction and inspiration. And remember that all the faithful are called to be heralds of the Gospel. Believe what we read, teach what we believe, and practice what we teach. And when we see others struggling with the yoke of Christ that we respond by sharing in this burden and lightening the load by sharing in the struggle.


- By Deacon Paul V. Hursh

Fundamentals - 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time 2017

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The fundamentals of our faith are contained in two short sentences in this Sunday's Gospel for the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time.  In Jesus' response to the question, ‘Which commandment in the law is the greatest?' 


"You shall love the Lord, your God,

with all your heart,

with all your soul,

and with all your mind.

This is the greatest and the first commandment.  The second is like it:  You shall love your neighbor as yourself." 


Everything that is found in both the Jewish and Christian scriptures depends on these few words.  These two sentences are simple, straightforward, and clear, but they can take a lifetime of concerted effort to carry out.  Jesus says that the second commandment is like the first because the first is born out by the second.  As we read in the First Epistle of John, "If anyone says, ‘I love God,' but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God - whom he has not seen."  (1 John 4:20)  For some, like the rich young man, it will mean that one must "…sell all that you have and distribute it to the poor, and you will have a treasure in heaven.  Then come, follow me."  (Luke 18:22)  


For many of us we can only begin this good work on earth, but begin we must.  We must make a start in this life so that others may live.  We have only to pick up the morning newspaper and scan the headlines to see that the harvest is abundant but the laborers are few.  We are to ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.  (cf. Matthew 9:37-38)  We are the answer to the question, who will bring in the harvest?  For us who have been richly blessed, much is expected.  The answer to who needs our help can be found in our scripture for today from Exodus.  (EX 22:20-22)

Thus says the LORD:


"You shall not molest or oppress an alien,

for you were once aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt.  

You shall not wrong any widow or orphan.  

If ever you wrong them and they cry out to me,

I will surely hear their cry. 22:20-22


Many have found new power and purpose in their lives by answering this call to service in their lives.  Anyone who has taken a chance, given up a few hours, go out of their way to serve the needs of the poor in our community knows that the rewards far outstrip whatever we can offer.  They come to know also by looking in the eyes of the ones helped, how great a gift it is when one offers oneself in service to building the Kingdom of God.  They have come to realize that as God has blessed them, he also wants them to be a blessing to others.  Remember what Jesus said, "Whatever you do for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me."  (Matthew 25:40)  If you want to take a chance and experience the grace of God's goodness in your lives there are many ways, right in our community of St. Andrew the Apostle Parish.


To name a few:  The Knights of Columbus, who provide financial support to the Right to Life movement by the support of alternatives for young single women with a crisis pregnancy.  Habitat for Humanity, who help the poor, gain home ownership through sharing their skills and empowering them through sweat equity.  Grow Haiti's Children and E3 Africa, who support the orphans in both hemispheres, by providing a home, education and mentoring.  For something closer to home there is the Justa Center right here in Phoenix that works to find permanent housing for the elderly homeless.  Many of these folks are widows and need our help.  Even if the elderly are housed in nursing homes, there is a need to take Holy Communion and share the Word of God right within our parish.  There is something for everyone.


Finally, as we hear in the reading from Isaiah, in addition to the widows and orphans, some will feel the call to serve the alien among us who have been forced from their homeland, by war, religious persecution, crime, or economics.  They too are God's children who cry for our help.  Will we hear their call and respond in Christian charity?


What Belongs To God? - 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time 2017

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During my men's group last Friday one of the men in the circle expressed his frustration over the constant confrontation and name-calling between the President, the Congress, and the news media.  He shared that he had voted for the President, but he was more than dissatisfied with how things had played out over the past nine months.  He seemed to be having second thoughts, if not about his choice, then about the effectiveness of our political system as a whole.  Our Gospel today finds Jesus also locked in confrontation with his enemies who are doing their utmost to trip him up so that they could bring a charge against him.  


Unlike the current situation in our nation, which remains unresolved, Jesus is able to fend off this most recent attack and silence his adversaries.  He does this by moving beyond the partisan politics of his day that included the Pharisees, Herodians, and Sadducees.  These three groups were natural enemies, but they often joined forces in opposing Jesus for their short-term goal of a temporal Jewish kingdom in their own time.  When they confronted Jesus with the question regarding the census tax they marveled at him when he answered, "…Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God the things that are God's."  (Mark 13:17)  What Jesus has done is to challenge his adversaries to move beyond mere civic obligation and the desire for temporal power, to God's Kingdom and our ultimate destiny.


The Kingdom of God doesn't come by the sword but by the Spirit of God.  Only God can change the human heart (Proverbs 21:1), and God is not restricted by human activities.  The challenge for us as well as to move beyond our own agenda and need for power and to commit to working for the coming Kingdom of God.  How can we do this in the current climate that is poisoned by political strife on all sides?  A good first step would be to stop name-calling and start listening to others.  Perhaps if I can pause long enough to listen to the concerns of others, I can respond to the needs of those in our society that are most needy.  For the past several weeks we have offered prayers at Mass for our religious and political leaders to lead us with noble purpose and selfless hearts.  Let us too, seek a higher purpose and selfless motives when we desire to bring about positive change in our world.  I don't believe for a moment that this will begin at the seat of power unless we first act to live according to God's plan within our own lives.


If we have learned anything from the Herodian's, perhaps it is that we cannot take the kingdom by force of words or violence.  We cannot try to establish a worldly kingdom when all the kingdoms of this world will fall under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.  It's futile trying to make this world a kingdom of men when the Kingdom of God is coming (and is already present within us) and will subjugate all other kingdoms of this world.  There is no chance the Herodian's, Republicans, or Democrats, or any other sector group can do what God has already planned to do and that is, to rule the nations and the kingdoms of this world by the standard of love.  Someday the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdom of our God through the action of the Body of Christ, and it will be so for all time.  …but in the meantime, how are we to live lives of peace and tranquility in the midst of a twisted and depraved world?


We should strive to live in the peace Jesus sent upon his disciples at the last supper, when he said, "Peace -I leave with you; my peace I give to you.  Not as the world gives do I give it to you.  Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.  "  (John 14:27) To access this peace is to BE the peace we seek in this world.  This can begin right now by not entering into conflict and engage in name-calling.  Rather, listen and consider what others are saying, even if you consider them the enemy.  Don't expect it to change the world right away, but you will experience the peace within yourself now.  "Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid."  Give to God what is God's – your lives in trust and service to building the Kingdom of love and justice.


Messianic Banquet - 28th Sunday In Ordinary Time - 2017

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The parable of the King's wedding feast for his son is a common motif to symbolize the fulfillment of heaven. As such it should be read as an allegory with the exaggeration and inconsistencies typically found in Jesus' parables that are meant, not so much to be taken literally, as to provoke the listener to reflect and look for the deeper meaning. The story of the wedding banquet in the Gospel reflects aspects of the lavish provision supplied by the Lord in the reading from Isaiah where not only are God's children well provided for but that they will be protected from their enemies and restored to their original joy.


The universal invitation is clear – all are welcome and even invited to share in the feast. As Jesus came for all, so too does his telling of the parable of the wedding banquet emphasize that all (the many) are invited, but sadly, many do not respond to the invitation. This may be due in part to their ignorance or disinterest of a call that is universal. We may not be attracted to join in a feast where everyone is welcome – don't we sometimes like to be part of an exclusive group. This may be what is meant by the "veil" reference in Isaiah. Perhaps when this veil is destroyed we will realize that we are all destined to bask in God's glory. Then we can stop worrying about whether or not we are good enough and just accept God's gracious invitation.


Once we realize that we are all invited, and that inclusion of everyone is OK, then why not join in the feast? Just like the guests in the Gospel parable we often are too preoccupied with our daily activities and careers. Too long have we worked to build our own security net and belonging systems, that when an opportunity to participate in the larger enterprise of God's kingdom we ignore what we judge to be unimportant or unattractive? In the rush to preserve our life, we lose it. We fear that if we drop our agenda, we will lose the riches we seek here on earth. If only the veil could be lifted so that we could see that to lose our life in this world is to gain eternity. If we would only take a chance and come to the banquet and participate fully in the feast, then maybe everything would change. Perhaps this is the point of coming to this banquet of the Mass. Have we come to celebrate and to fully engage, or are we thinking more of what we plan to do once we leave? If this is true then maybe this will explain the early departures today.


When we come to this feast, do we come dressed in the wedding garment? We may have been baptized and dressed for that celebration, but have we continued our life in Christ in an on-going way? Have we clothed ourselves in the good works of the Christian life, or has the business of the world distracted us from our original zeal? These are all good questions to ask ourselves as we continue to strive to build the Kingdom in this world and in the next.


Reflection by Deacon Paul V. Hursh

Building The Vineyard - 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time 2017

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We hear today, two stories of vineyards being built and how the tenants are called to tend the vineyard and to bear fruit for the Master.  As the House of Israel is like a vineyard, so too is our community of St. Andrew like the Lord's vineyard.  Even a newcomer can see that it was through great effort that this community was built – those who built it had to first, prepare the ground, erect the walls, plant the choice vines of ministry.  The bell tower was erected to call the assembly so that this place would be filled and bear fruit.  Now we are engaged in a renovation of our worship space and with great care, we are making something that was very good even better.



As the community is built and renewed so too is the edifice of our celebration today, the celebration that we call the Mass.  The Mass liturgy is the central act of worship in the life of a Catholic, and through the Ecumenical Council of Vatican II, the Mass was also renewed.  The renewed liturgy is literally "the work of the people," and as such Mass is not something we watch, for entertainment, rather it is something that calls forth our full, active, and conscious, participation.


Even before Mass begins, liturgy requires our careful preparation.  Our liturgists, clergy, lectors, Eucharistic ministers, ushers, and musicians spend time every week preparing for our celebration.  But for this celebration to be all it should be requires that every one of us to prepare.  You might ask, "How can I, a person in the pew, contribute to the preparation for our Mass?"  One important way is to read the scriptures for the Sunday ahead of time and to spend some time reflecting on them.  Then when at Mass we carefully listen to the lectors, because it is in the proclamation of the word that it comes alive.  Another way is to commit ourselves to acts of service during the week as a part of the offering we make during the Mass.  This includes the work we do in parish ministry or the acts of kindness we do during our daily routine.  Our lives of service are what we can celebrate on Sunday.



Once we arrive at church we cheerfully greet each other with love and joy.  This is the first way that we can experience Christ's presence at the church on Sunday, by being present to each other.  If we can be truly present to each other, perhaps we can more deeply experience Christ' presence in the Eucharist.  I once heard that one possible reason that people struggle with the Real Presence in the Eucharist is that we have not practiced being really present to each other.  The sacred space we are creating in the Mass is a safe place, a container if you will, to hold everything that we bring together as a community.  We are building a strong container that will hold all our joys and sorrows, our successes and our failures, all our hopes, and dreams.



Full, active, conscious, participation.  That means active listening, praying, and singing.  You may believe that you don't have a good singing voice – If our voices are a gift of God – the least we can do is to share it back to God.  If we have spent time reflecting on the scriptures during the week then we will be better prepared to engage in the scriptures proclaimed and the prayers prayed.



The second way we experience the presence of Christ in the Mass is in the Word of God proclaimed.  This is why it is important to carefully listen to the words proclaimed by the lectors and Gospel readers.  Carefully listen to the Word of God and think about what in this reading is speaking to you in the moment, how it may challenge, comfort, or correct.  What about this word moves you, or attracts you, or troubles you?  Why?  Or, why am I not interested?  What about my life do these words invite me to change?  We need to fight the temptation to think about what the text might mean for other people and thus avoid applying it to our own life.



Then there is the central act of the Mass – the sharing of the Holy Communion.  In this act, we share in the Body and Blood of Christ as the Body of Christ.  By this, we are fed and joined together as the community of faith thankful for the grace we receive and strengthened by grace to carry out our mission.  Our mission, the good fruit we are to bear, is that of bringing His Body to the world in need of healing and reconciliation.  Will we be faithful tenants who will produce this good fruit in the vineyard of the world?


The name ‘Mass' comes from the final blessing said by the priest in Latin ‘Ite missa es' which means, "to send out."  Just as Jesus Christ sent his disciples out, so too are we sent to take his message of healing and reconciliation to the world, so too should we be disciples of his love.  When you leave Mass today go into the World and share what you have received here.  ‘Ite missa es'


October Birthdays and Anniversaries



Join us in celebrating the birthday and/or anniversary for the following brothers for the month of October 2017:



Shola Fifer - 10/1

Bernard Hasper - 10/1

John McGinnis - 10/1

Oo Reh - 10/1

Ben Wetzel - 10/1

George Kirylo - 10/2

James Carroll - 10/8

Antonio Vescio - 10/11

Larry Apodaca - 10/17

Franklin Saavedra - 10/18

Carl Whitesel III - 10/18

William Cowger - 10/19

Que Reh - 10/19

Peter Vuyk - 10/20

Clyde "Williams, PGK" - 10/20

Erin Sparks - 10/20

Johnny Nicholson - 10/24

Larry Gass - 10/26

William Hoddy - 10/26

Manuel Gonzales - 10/28

James Henika - 10/28

Jeff Mc Laughlin - 10/31

Michael Prinz - 10/31

Martin Sepulveda - 10/31



Kevin and Iva Dumas − 10/1

Stephen and Erin Sparks − 10/2

Jerel and Yvonne Simpson − 10/4

George and Maria Stahla − 10/19

Alex and Michelle Murphy Santucci − 10/21

Thomas and Careyn Moore − 10/23

Larry and Louise Huffman − 10/24

Eric and Karla Evans − 10/26

Chuck and Mary Mckay − 10/29


Kenosis - 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time 2017

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In the hymn to Christ, shared in our second reading for today, we learn that "Jesus, though he was in the form of God did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness…"(Philippians 2:6-7) This self-emptying is what is meant by the word kenosis. Kenosis was required for what we call an incarnation, the act of God entering into his own creation as one with us. This is a powerful sign of God's humility and God's invitation to share in divine nature. (2 Peter 1:4) "For the Son of God became man so that we might become God." (St. Athanasius) What does this mean for us?


The invitation is clear. Just as Jesus can and did assume the form of a slave, he invites us to the same process of kenosis. He did this when he washed the disciples'' feet and invited them to do the same. (John 13:1-17) This is not about becoming a doormat for others; rather it is an invitation to empty oneself so that there is room for others in our lives and room for God within our very being. This is probably one of the most difficult things for one to do – I know - I struggle with letting go of my self/possessions. Making room for God and for others feels like the loss of self – maybe even dying to self. As St. Francis once said, "It is in dying to self that we are born to Eternal Life." (Canticle of the Sun)


At times we may accept the call to sacrifice our own desires for the good of others or even let go of our own agenda long enough to be present with God. Then the lure of power or prestige comes along and we forget our commitment. This is like the son in today's Gospel parable who first responds positively to the father's request, and then doesn't follow through on his promise. We shouldn't let our lack of follow-through disturb us too much, we always have the example of the other son who at first doesn't appear to cooperate with his father, but later relents and decides to do the right thing. The right action is not only his obedience to the father's will, but it is also the right thing for him personally because it brings him back to the joy of the right relationship with his father.


In today's Gospel Jesus reminds the priests and elders that it was the tax collectors and prostitutes – those judged as "sinners" by the Temple officials – who allow God to work in their lives and transform them to kingdom seekers. It is interesting to note that though we wish to "do it right" we may miss the mercy and loving invitation of God. For many "getting it wrong" is the path to eventual conversion and the commitment to respond to the call of the Spirit. It was John the Baptist who was the embodiment of that call from God, and John's baptism that inaugurated their return to lives destined for the Kingdom. It is this "second chance" that underlies God's never-failing mercy and forgiveness. Truly we have a God of second chances. The opportunity for a second chance is through our openness to admitting that we have gotten it wrong.


We too can be like prostitutes and tax collectors and put our former lives behind us and accept the gift of graceful mercy from God. Or, we can be blind to the fact that we may have invested too much in doing the right things – praying the right prayers – offering the right sacrifices; instead of having an open heart. Can I let go of my agenda and my investment in outward religious practices? Can I empty myself of certitudes, and pat formularies, and thus open myself to the mystery of grace? The choice is yours - for the moment – in the end, life yields to bodily death and our emptying is done for us. This is the harsh reality that we all will ultimately face; thank goodness that we have a merciful Father – a Father of second chances.

An Unexpected Heaven - Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time 2017

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While I was still in the early grades of parochial school the Sisters of St. Joseph instructed us that Heaven was like the best place we could imagine. This wasn’t hard for me to do - I imagined an endless amusement park. I doubt that the sisters intended to evoke this image in me, but this image persists in my memory, even though I don’t really believe that Heaven is about being entertained. The truth of the matter is that Heaven, regardless of what we may imagine, will probably not match our expectation.

For most of us, we may believe that Heaven is a future reality – part of some cosmic reward/punishment system. I can’t help but believe that Heaven is as much a present reality as it is a future state. Jesus instructed his followers that the Kingdom of God is within us and that the Kingdom of God is now. (cf Luke 17:21 & Matthew 12:28) Perhaps he taught this so that we would not delay in building the Kingdom that ‘is already, but not yet.’ This tension, between the present and future, is a time to “seek the Lord while he may be found, call to him while he is still near.” (Isaiah 55:6) It is the same tension St. Paul writes of to the Philippians that makes him desirous of a life in Christ and the gain of the next life after bodily death.

We all, knowingly or unknowingly, seek that deep and intimate relationship that has always been our truest connection with our Source – it is what drives all our desires. We may unwittingly seek this love in all the wrong places, but in the end it will be the summit we think of as Heaven - if God’s will be done. I do not deny Hell; it is just that Hell is not God’s will for any of his children. Even the wicked and the scoundrels are called to forsake their thoughts and wayward desires to receive the mercy offered in Isaiah’s prophecy.
This is why we will not only be surprised by what Heaven is like, but who we will meet there when we arrive. Today’s parable gives a hint of what Heaven is like, and even whom we will meet there when we arrive.

This parable like all parables is told to demonstrate how our ways are not God’s ways. We may believe that heaven is part of a reward/punishment system that is assigned based on our good deeds in this life; clearly this is not supported by this parable. It may be as shocking for us today as it was for the workers who labored a full day and received the same pay as those who worked only a few hours. Shouldn’t the reward be proportional to the effort? The answer would be yes if this were a reward/punishment system, however this is not what heaven is about. Heaven is an invitation to enter into a relationship with the divine and God’s gracious mercy is available to all and is received in equal measure with God’s forgiveness. All we need to do for our part is to be desirous of and ask for what is freely given. This is the biggest surprise. To realize how close heaven is when we finally choose Christ and follow Jesus. As Pope Francis wrote in Joy of the Gospel, “whenever we take a step toward Jesus, we come to realize that he is already there, waiting for us with open arms…. How good it feels to come back to him whenever we are lost!”

The challenge in all of this is to remain focused on developing our relationship with God and not to become preoccupied with others or our behavior and making judgments as to who is deserving of God’s love. Developing a relationship with God is, to be sure, based on how we treat others and how we choose to serve the kingdom. It is in developing our service to the kingdom; that we advance our relationship with others and with God. This leaves us where St. Paul was caught; torn between his desire for the life to come and duty to serve the present – the kingdom now and the kingdom to come.


Forgiven - Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time 2017

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Today’s scriptures focus on the central function of the Church. I can say with confidence that our central function is the inspirable dyad of healing and reconciling. I say this because this too was Jesus’ action in the world, and now, it is our role as the body of Christ. Healing and forgiveness were inseparable in Jesus’ ministry. Recall how often he would forgive the persons their sin as a precursor to physical healing. Then as now forgiveness frees us for healing.


Jesus never made right action or right conduct a condition for his loving action. He understood that to make one whole goes hand-in-hand with making them one with their community. When he forgave their sins it allowed for their return to community. During his ministry he told his disciples that “whatever you bind on earth with be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth with be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 18:18) After his resurrection Jesus appeared to his disciples and said, “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” (John 20:23) Clearly his message and legacy is to reconcile broken relationships, and thus, to heal the world. How can we, as the body of Christ today, carry on this mission?


For most of us the best place to begin is within our homes and local community. This also may present significant challenges; because our emotions run highest with those we are close to. It is also quite difficult to reconcile with those we were once close, but now we have become estranged. The one thing to keep in mind when extending the forgiveness we have received from God is that there are no prerequisites. Like God’s initiative towards us, reconciling efforts are to be extended to others even if we judge them unworthy – in fact we are admonished not to judge at all. (Matthew 7:1) It is like the parable of the wedding banquet where the king extends the invitation to everyone regardless of his or her worthiness. (Matthew 22:1-13) It is the very extravagant nature of God’s mercy that makes grace so powerful in transforming lives. God wants us to exercise this same kind of healing power in the lives of others.


You may ask, “What am I to do if I extend forgiveness and it is rejected?” This is always a challenging situation and it may be the reason we are reticent to offer forgiveness in the first place. Please do not postpone forgiveness, because of your fear of rejection. Any acceptance of reconciliation must be by free choice of the other and so it is always contingent. Remember that many of the intended wedding guests, in the parable cited above, had perfectly good excuses for not accepting the king’s invitation. Like God we can only make an offer to join in the celebration. If we are refused, perhaps they may later reconsider. We can only do what is for us to do. We do it, not because we are better than the ones in need of forgiveness, we forgive because we are as needy as others, and are forgiven sinners ourselves. Are we ready to participate in this banquet to be given by a generous and all-inclusive King? Are we ready to eat with sinners? Are we ready to say, as did the Pagan centurion, “Lord I am not worthy to receive you under my roof, but only say the word and my soul will be healed?”


Today we are participating in a banquet given by a generous King. A word of caution here… Are we ready to do what would have been unthinkable for a Jew at the time of the Last Supper? – To eat human flesh and to drink blood. We come here totally unworthy of the gift that is being offered, to stand with others who are equally unworthy. The good news is that these gifts are freely given, as is the forgiveness we seek in our prayers today. Are we ready to prepare ourselves for this meal by extending forgiveness to others, freely and without condition? If your answer is yes, then let us continue in faith as we present our gifts on this altar and so express our thanksgiving for all God offers, and reconcile ourselves to one another in love.


In the end we come to the realization that we are all frail and foolish. We have been told that grace is to be found in the universe, but in our human foolishness and shortsightedness we imagine that divine grace is finite and for this reason we doubt. Then, the moment comes when our eyes are opened, and we see and realize that grace is infinite. Grace…demands nothing from us but that we shall await it with confidence and acknowledge it in gratitude. Grace…makes no condition and singles out none of us in particular; grace takes all…into its bosom and releases us from the bonds of sin. This is what it means to be forgiven.

He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother - Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time 2017

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 “Oh, that today you would hear his voice: Harden not your hearts…”  (Psalm 95:8)  Love is the consistent theme throughout all the readings and the Psalm for this week.  It is treated on several levels and it is important to see love in all its dimensions and then to carry it out in our own lives and in the life of our community.  This is a huge challenge in the present time, where the first response to any offense seems to be hatred and vengeance.  Are we putting God to the test when we lack the patience towards others that God extends to us?  Oh, that we would follow the plea we make when praying the Our Father and forgive others their offenses towards us as we wish our offense to be forgiven by God.  


How open are we to God’s grace that will allow us to treat others with patience in our daily affairs?  Perhaps if I can practice this kind of patience in the simple day to day, then when it comes to the bigger and more challenging issues I will find the strength to love, even my enemies as Jesus commands us.  Love comes in a full range of degrees as St. Paul outlines in his letter to the Romans. 


Paul epitomizes the Christian life within the law of love.  In Paul’s Jewish tradition love is the fulfillment of the Law and the Law is carried out on several levels.  One way of looking at love in a deeper way is through four Greek words for love.  In ancient Greek there are four distinct words for love: agápe, éros, philía, and storgē. 


  • éros means love, mostly of the sexual passion.  The Modern Greek word "erotas" means "intimate love. Although eros is initially felt for a person, with contemplation it becomes an appreciation of the beauty within that person, or even becomes appreciation of beauty itself. 
  • Philía means "affectionate regard, friendship," usually "between equals." Philia is expressed variously as loyalty to friends (specifically, "brotherly love"), thus Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love. 
  • Storgē means "love, affection" and "especially of parents and children."  It is the common or natural empathy, like that felt by parents for offspring.  This is also used when referencing the love for ones country or a favorite sports team.
  • Agápe means "love: esp. charity; the love of God for man and of man for God.”  Agape is used by Christians to express the unconditional love of God for his children.  This type of love was further explained by Thomas Aquinas as "to will the good of another."


In each of these successive words we can see the deepening of what is meant by love from attraction and appreciation, to sharing common values and concerns, to love of family, to the highest form – unconditional love.  In our reading from Ezekiel we see that we have a responsibility for others to the point of concern for their salvation, and in this we risk admonishing them when we see others stray from the way of God.  It is not about being judgmental, but in our understanding that we are in this together and have responsibility (love) for one another.  Our salvation is tied to theirs.  This is also reflected in Jesus’ instruction in today’s Gospel.  This teaching includes showing respect for the other by making our correction in a private way, at least at first.


St. Paul carries the theme of Love to its ultimate conclusion that we should love others as we love ourselves.  Jesus also points this out when he also quotes Leviticus, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I say to you, ‘love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you…”  (Matthew 5:43-44)  


All these commands regarding love are more than a little challenging.  It is only by the grace of God that we can even begin to fulfill them, but try we must.  There was a popular song in 1969 that spoke of the challenge in this winding road of life and the challenge of love.  It begins where we began today in Ezekiel and it leads us to the recognition that the other is not our enemy or a stranger, he is our brother.  God’s grace will give us the strength that we need for this journey.  We should not concern ourselves with the weight of the load, because Jesus promises, “My yoke is easy, and my burden light.” (Matthew 11:30)  


There is a link below if you would like to listen to it as it was performed.  The song is called…  


He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother 

The Hollies 

Composed by Bobby Scott and Bob Russell


The road is long
With many a winding turn
That leads us to who knows where
Who knows where
But I'm strong
Strong enough to carry him
He ain't heavy, he's my brother

So on we go
His welfare is of my concern
No burden is he to bear
We'll get there

For I know
He would not encumber me
He ain't heavy, he's my brother

If I'm laden at all
I'm laden with sadness
That everyone's heart
Isn't filled with the gladness
Of love for one another

It's a long, long road
From which there is no return
While we're on the way to there
Why not share

And the load
Doesn't weigh me down at all
He ain't heavy he's my brother

He's my brother
He ain't heavy, he's my brother, he ain't heavy


Birthday And Anniversary For The Month Of September 2017



Join us in celebrating the birthday and/or anniversary for the following brothers for the month of September 2017:



Edward Charkut - 9/1

Rev Joseph Hennessy - 9/1

Larry Orban Jr - 9/1

Say Reh - 9/1

James Woulf Jr - 9/2

John Flickinger - 9/3

Bernard Lum - 9/7

James Candelaria - 9/8

Rudolph Echeverra - 9/8

Benjamin Vega - 9/8

Kevin Dumas - 9/15

Omer Giguere - 9/16

Noah Hursh - 9/16

Gino Duran Jr - 9/18

Olimpio Santos - 9/18

James Buggie - 9/19

Waldemar Tasch - 9/19

Erik Fisher - 9/20

John Somerville III - 9/20

Kenneth Kulinowski - 9/23

Robert Glass - 9/24

James Hamacher - 9/25

Henry Helfenbein - 9/27

Paul Liberatore - 9/27

Vincent Stark - 9/29

Yvonne Simpson - 9/18



Larry and Robin Orban − 9/3

Jerry and Terri Buser − 9/4

Gregg and Rose Anne Wahl − 9/13

David and Virginia Mills − 9/15

Ben and Shelly Wetzel − 9/19


“You Duped Me!” - Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time 2017

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"You duped me Lord, and I let myself be duped; you were too strong for me, and you triumphed." (Jeremiah 20:7-9) There is a problem with this translation of the Hebrew word patah to dupe. The meaning goes beyond the verb duped. The Jewish Theologian, Abraham J. Heschel, first pointed out this error in translation in his 1962 book, The Prophets. The verb patah, found elsewhere in the Jewish Scriptures, is more commonly translated to seduce, specifically as an older man seduces a younger woman. So our quote above is better rendered, "Lord, you seduced me, and I was seduced. You were too strong for me, and you prevailed." This is a far darker connotation to this verse and an indication of the depth of Jeremiah's struggle with God.

The gravity of Jeremiah's encounter with God first struck me when this scripture was proclaimed the Sunday after I returned from a weeklong solitary retreat at Ghost Ranch in the desert of northern New Mexico. This was one of those experiences that can change one forever. Just a month before the retreat I lost my brother Charles, a delayed casualty of the Vietnam War. It was also just a few months before we would engage in a second fruitless war in Iraq and there were much talk and posturing to sell this war to the American people. Though I was totally unaware at the time this situation set the stage for my encounter with God in the desert. Clearly, I was ‘set up.'


Like Jeremiah, I was not interested in changing my current plan. I thought I knew how God wanted me to serve the Church. My plan did not require me to take a radical stance on peace and justice, a stance that both Jesus and Jeremiah proclaimed. A little context… I am a retired Air Force Colonel, and I have always had a hawkish stance, so on my way back to Arizona, I was taken aback when I could not pull up my usual reasons for engaging in the upcoming Iraq war. I kept my "temporary" political disorientation to myself. In the following weeks when it became obvious that I could no longer support the impending war, I realized that I could find no good reason for war - period. I had been duped; seduced by the love of God. I tried to resist coming to terms with my new outlook, but it became "like a fire burning in my heart." Stranger still was that it was not something I chose – it chose me.


I soon realized, to my relief, that I had not become a pacifist. In reflecting on our Gospel reading this week, Peter tries to convince Jesus not to go to Jerusalem, lest the predictions of his demise come to fruition. Peter was arguing for Jesus to take the pacifist stance. Jesus would have none of that. Jesus was not a pacifist; he was, however, non-violent. Faithful Christians are called to be non-violent, but to confront injustice by speaking truth to power. This is what both Jeremiah and Jesus did in their prophetic role. While this role employs non-violent means, it does not mean they will be spared the violence of others. It requires strength and courage, tempered with restraint.


Initially, Peter and the other disciples did not show much strength and courage – witness their abandonment of Jesus at his arrest and Peter's denials during the trial. Peter was not one to show much restraint – witness his cutting off the ear of the High Priest's servant. (John 18:10) The qualities of strength, courage, and restraint are only developed over time, and by the grace of God. I continue to strive and struggle to develop qualities that will help me as one who has been seduced by God. In the meantime, I recall the rebuke of Jesus toward Peter and I endeavor to "get behind Him." As of yet, I think as a man, not as God. Will you join me in wrestling with this passionate Lover as we discern the way to Jerusalem?

“Who Do You Say That I Am?” - Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time 2017

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"We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin." (Hebrews 4:15) In all things, other than sin, Jesus is like us. Accepting this will keep us from committing a host of heresies. The belief that Jesus was fully God and fully man means that he was not spared any of the challenges we have and so we know that he could experience temptation (Matthew 4:1), doubt (Matthew 26:39), sorrow (John 11:35), the pain of thirst (John 19:28), and despair (Matthew 27:46). If we accept this reality of Jesus, it is understandable that there might be some confusion about who Jesus is. As we hear today many of Jesus contemporaries thought he was John the Baptist or one of the prophets of old. To this day many of the Jewish faith and Islam believe that Jesus was a prophet.


Our faith is based on the belief that Jesus was not the only son of man, but also, Son of God. This makes all the difference in the world. It means that we do not have a God who is distant, aloof from our struggles in life, or a God that we should fear. The good news is that we have a loving God who chose to be like us in all things, but sin. "For the Son of God became man so that we might become God." (St. Athanasius) And this is the point of Jesus' question. Sure, it was helpful for Jesus to know where he stood with his contemporaries and his disciples, but more importantly, is what the answer to this question means for us.


Key to who we are is how we understand Jesus and who we believe he is to us. Many have accepted Jesus as a wise and compassionate man and even believed him to be a prophet, but there is much more to his question than what he did. The central aspect and most important fact for the believer is, who is Jesus. If we accept on faith that Jesus is "the Christ, the son of the living God," then everything must change for us. Believing that Jesus is God is a game changer. As we see, for the rest of the Gospel the disciples struggle with Peter's answer to the question of Jesus' identity. This should not come as a shock to us, because, if we are honest, we also struggle with Jesus divinity. Faith, and especially belief in Jesus is always a struggle, otherwise, it would not require faith. Faith only deepens with our openness to transformation to lives of commitment to the mission of Jesus.


Just as the disciples of old struggled until the end and often failed to go all the way to the cross with Jesus, so too do we struggle with deep commitment to Jesus and the cross he asks us to bear. On a good day we are all in, but just like Peter, we will face times when we would rather deny Jesus than identify with him when the risks are high. There are some, like Judas, who will even sell out for the riches of this world in exchange for the Kingdom of God. Blessed are we that we have a loving and compassionate God who is ready to forgive and give us another chance to recommit.


Who do you say Jesus is? Can you, like Peter, make the leap of faith and testify that he is the Christ the son of the living God? If so, make this commitment now. It is important to do this in your heart and publicly if possible. This is the beginning. After your verbal assent, there is a need for committed action. You need ‘skin in the game.' This does two things. First this puts you on record in the community so that others can hold you accountable, and secondly, your good works are a sign of your faith and will build up the Kingdom of God.


I am sure you have made faith commitments in the past and may have done much work in the Kingdom. Ask yourself, "Have I been true to my commitments and do I still work to build up the Body of Christ, the Church?" Paul proclaims, "In an acceptable time I heard you, and on the day of salvation I helped you." "Behold now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation." (2 Corinthians 6:2)

Children And Dogs - Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time 2017

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Sometimes Jesus says the darndest things. Today he refers to anyone who is not a Jew, as dogs, and that includes most of us. After referring to the Canaanite woman as a dog, she retorts with, "even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the master's table." This exchange is shocking because both parties have crossed the social boundaries that divide them. In the end, Jesus relents and heals the woman's daughter. From this point on Jesus' love and compassion is extended to all, Jew and Gentile alike. This shift in Jesus mission speaks of how God's love is for all.

The theme of who is deserving of God's love, forgiveness, and compassion is at play in all three readings for this weekend. It is timely to hear these themes, given the current social unrest and violence between peoples of different races and religions. Regardless of your race, I am sure that you are in anguish over the renewed hatred and bigotry we have seen this past week. In his letter to the Romans, St. Paul's hope is that his fellow Jews would also have a change of heart and embrace the Messiah and his message of Love. Not only do the Jews reject Jesus, but harbor hatred for Jesus' followers as well. They seem to have forgotten that as a covenant people they are to do what is right, regardless of race, and to worship the one true God in the Temple. Jesus' reoccurring message until the end of his mission on Earth is that he came that we all might be one. (John 17:21) All men and women are to join together in their worship of God. This is to fulfill the prophecy that God's temple is to be a house of prayer for all peoples. (Numbers 15:14-16)

As citizens, we pledge that our country is "one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." This is a holy pledge and one that cannot and should not allow for violence against our brothers and sisters of different faiths, races, or countries of origin. Not only do we look to our leaders to uphold the Constitution, but also each and every patriotic citizen should uphold the values of equality and justice for all. This means that we cannot stand idly by when we see the values of our country trampled. In the words of Rev. Martin Luther Kings Jr., "There comes a time when silence is a betrayal." "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." "In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends." True patriots do not seek to divide our country; they work to live up to our motto, "e pluribus unum," out of many one.

As Christians, our responsibility does not end with extending rights afforded by the Constitution but includes God's call to love. Love is not just a verbal assent but also a call to action. Love means caring for others in need; welcoming the alien, clothing the naked, visiting the sick, and imprisoned, and if necessary laying down one's life for the other. It is a trap to look at those on the street with disdain. It is the same trap that Jesus addressed in the Gospel. To ignore someone in need because they look different, or because they believe in God by another name, or have skin color different than mine, is to treat them like dogs. It is wrong. I often have to remind myself, we are all children of God and that ‘There but for the grace of God, go I.' Everything I have and even who I am, is by God's grace. Was I gifted so that I could satisfy my friends, and myself or was I gifted so that I could answer my baptismal call to proclaim the Kingdom of God to the world? God's Kingdom is for all people created by God.

In the spirit of St. Paul, the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable. The reconciliation of the world comes through the acceptance of both the gifts and the call and this is nothing less than life from the dead.

19th Sunday in Ordinary Time - 2017 – "Truth v. Fake News"

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Pilot's rhetorical question to Jesus' testimony to the truth is, "What is truth?" (John 18:38) Today there are those who claim to speak the truth, those who testify to the truth, and those who report the truth in the media. We too may ask, "What is truth?" Do we trust what has been handed down to us in faith? Do we believe that Jesus is Lord and that what St. Paul testifies in his letter to the Romans is the truth, or do we write it off as "fake news?" Paul's anguish is apparent in his letter that his own fellow Jews, have rejected Jesus and the truth he proclaims.


In anguish also are the disciples who remain huddled in a boat, scared to death that they are seeing a ghost, rather than believe the good news of their salvation by God's Son. The situation is out of control, but they seem to be satisfied taking their chances on a sinking boat than trusting Jesus. That is until Peter takes the plunge and places his faith in Jesus. Do you have those desperate moments when there seems no other way out, and you decide to pray? Like Peter, do you say, "Just tell me what to do, and I will do it." Do we really listen to the answer and then do it? If we do respond in faith, do we find that we falter half way through the storm?


The disciples come to believe that if they stay with Jesus the storm will eventually die down and that they can survive the present storm. In this story, the boat can represent the Church and like the Church, it can survive many storms, if we only hold on to our faith in Jesus who is present to us especially in the storms. We know that many of the disciples perished for the faith, and because of their courage born of faith, the Church survives today despite its many storms. They realized that their individual lives were not as important as much as the community they served for the greater good. Each individual was not as important as the Body of Christ of which they were a part.


In anguish to is Elijah, hiding in a cave from those who seek his life. God's command to him is to step out of the cave and face the storm. Because Elijah seeks an encounter with God he does as he is told in the hope to see the Lord as he passes by. To Elijah's surprise, God is not found in displays of power. God becomes present in a tiny whispering sound. How often have we wished for God to exercise power over our adversities? Can we be satisfied with an answer that only gives us the knowledge that God is present? Do we pray for victory or for the strength to persevere in the difficulties? And are we ready to persevere until the end?

There are several truths one can gain from these stories. They are not cheap wisdom and they are hard to embrace. If we pray for the strength to embrace the challenges of life then we may find ourselves better prepared for what will arise in our lives and be able to preserve until the end. The truths are:


1. Life is hard.
"It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed." -Deuteronomy 31:8


2. You are going to die.
"Run while you have the light of life!" –Saint Benedict


3. You are not in control.
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." –Jeremiah 29:11


4. You are not as important as you think you are.
Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, "Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all." –Mark 9:35


5. Your life is not about you.
"For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others." –Matthew 20:28


These truths may come as a surprise to some of us, but I can assure you, it is not fake news.

19th Sunday in Ordinary Time - 2017 – "Truth v. Fake News"

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Pilot's rhetorical question to Jesus' testimony to the truth is, "What is truth?" (John 18:38) Today there are those who claim to speak the truth, those who testify to the truth, and those who report the truth in the media. We too may ask, "What is truth?" Do we trust what has been handed down to us in faith? Do we believe that Jesus is Lord and that what St. Paul testifies in his letter to the Romans is the truth, or do we write it off as "fake news?" Paul's anguish is apparent in his letter that his own fellow Jews, have rejected Jesus and the truth he proclaims.


In anguish also are the disciples who remain huddled in a boat, scared to death that they are seeing a ghost, rather than believe the good news of their salvation by God's Son. The situation is out of control, but they seem to be satisfied taking their chances on a sinking boat than trusting Jesus. That is until Peter takes the plunge and places his faith in Jesus. Do you have those desperate moments when there seems no other way out, and you decide to pray? Like Peter, do you say, "Just tell me what to do, and I will do it." Do we really listen to the answer and then do it? If we do respond in faith, do we find that we falter half way through the storm?


The disciples come to believe that if they stay with Jesus the storm will eventually die down and that they can survive the present storm. In this story, the boat can represent the Church and like the Church, it can survive many storms, if we only hold on to our faith in Jesus who is present to us especially in the storms. We know that many of the disciples perished for the faith, and because of their courage born of faith, the Church survives today despite its many storms. They realized that their individual lives were not as important as much as the community they served for the greater good. Each individual was not as important as the Body of Christ of which they were a part.


In anguish to is Elijah, hiding in a cave from those who seek his life. God's command to him is to step out of the cave and face the storm. Because Elijah seeks an encounter with God he does as he is told in the hope to see the Lord as he passes by. To Elijah's surprise, God is not found in displays of power. God becomes present in a tiny whispering sound. How often have we wished for God to exercise power over our adversities? Can we be satisfied with an answer that only gives us the knowledge that God is present? Do we pray for victory or for the strength to persevere in the difficulties? And are we ready to persevere until the end?

There are several truths one can gain from these stories. They are not cheap wisdom and they are hard to embrace. If we pray for the strength to embrace the challenges of life then we may find ourselves better prepared for what will arise in our lives and be able to preserve until the end. The truths are:


1. Life is hard.
"It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed." -Deuteronomy 31:8


2. You are going to die.
"Run while you have the light of life!" –Saint Benedict


3. You are not in control.
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." –Jeremiah 29:11


4. You are not as important as you think you are.
Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, "Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all." –Mark 9:35


5. Your life is not about you.
"For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others." –Matthew 20:28


These truths may come as a surprise to some of us, but I can assure you, it is not fake news.

“Real Presence” The Transfiguration Of The Lord - 2017

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This weekend we celebrate the feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord. As we listen to the story of how the Apostles were made more aware of whom Jesus was, on a mountain it is a good time to reflect on how Jesus is present to us in the celebration of the Mass. The Mass is the memorial of Jesus' ongoing presence in the world. At Mass, we gather to share the scriptures and partake of the Eucharist – the Holy Communion. We bless and celebrate our call to service. We all share in the blessing of service given us and to celebrate the fruits of the Spirit bestowed on us for the good of the community, in service to the Body of Christ. As servants in word and deed we not only live out our baptismal call, but we become a sign of God's presence in the world an icon of God's son, an icon of Christ. We serve as Jesus taught his disciples, not to lord their position over others, "Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave." (Matthew 20: 26-27) The Church uses a Greek word for servant, Diakonos.


Diakonia is expressed in three ways in our Eucharistic celebrations:

FIRST: We share this role when we serve as ministers of hospitality and invite and welcome people into the church. In this way, we make real the presence of Christ in the assembly as the community gathers for Mass. As Jesus said, "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." (Matthew 18: 20) This is the first way we experience the Body of Christ in our celebrations.


SECOND: When we proclaim sacred scripture, God is made manifest to the community. God's word is alive in our proclamation, and God's power is present in our midst. Reading the word of God is good and necessary in our personal spiritual growth. What is different when the Word is proclaimed in the assembly is that it serves to develop our corporate spirituality. In this way, we obey God's command when he says, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him." (Matthew 1: 5b) When we listen carefully, God's word becomes alive and active and holds in it the power to rescue us from our sins.

THIRD: In the action of the Priest in concert with the whole community the Body and Blood of Christ become present in the gifts of bread and wine. Jesus' invitation to eat this Bread and drink this Cup is brought to fruition by the actions of the priest and in the service of the Eucharistic ministers. In this way we come to share the unity that Jesus prayed for when he said, "I pray not only for them but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me." (John 17: 20-21)

It is in this divine indwelling that we experience the real presence of Christ. Keep in mind that we along with Peter, James, and John are more than spectators of this reality of divine indwelling; we are in fact active participants in the presence of Christ in the world and builders of the Kingdom of God. The real presence that we receive at Mass, we are to share in the world at large, the Spirit of hospitality, the Word of God, and the Body of Christ.

Birthday And Anniversary For The Month Of August 2017




Join us in celebrating the birthday and/or anniversary for the following brothers for the month of August 2017:



Anthony Prutch - 8/1

Christopher Emerson - 8/3

Steve Lucero - 8/4

Jeffrey Leonard - 8/5

Oscar Peralta - 8/6

William Bennett - 8/7

Mark Schlarmann - 8/7

Dr Thomas Shellenberger - 8/7

Jon Beedle - 8/8

Eric Evans - 8/10

John Heffernan - 8/11

Frank Manella - 8/13

Jeffrey Farrar - 8/16

Maw Tsu - 8/16

Robert Kondziolka - 8/18

Benjamin Lucas - 8/18

Michael Whalen - 8/19

Fr. Robert Aliunzi - 8/21

Dr Matthew Bauer - 8/21

Kevin Lum - 8/21

Jose Ortiz - 8/21

Daniel Kiley - 8/22

Albert Cruz - 8/24

Owen Kelly - 8/24

Joe Deegan - 8/25

Esp Stephen Tjephe - 8/27

Brian Dietrick - 8/28

Cesar Escobar - 8/30

Fr. Teilo Lwande - 8/30

Kevin Minardo - 8/31

Peter Racz - 8/31

Kui Hui (Jin) Negron - 8/24



Robert and Marianne Kondziolka − 8/1

James and Sue Hamacher − 8/8

Franklin and Connie Saavedra − 8/9

Seth and Heather Tyler − 8/9

Peter and Melinda Mills − 8/14

John and Jennifer Simpson − 8/14

Brahama and Alice Kroma − 8/15

Raymond and Patricia Gentile − 8/22

Edward and Letty Kuch − 8/24

Jeffrey and Joyce Farrar − 8/31


“Everything Belongs” Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time 2017

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"The dragnet is a familiar symbol in our parish. The net motif was chosen as our symbol because of our patron, Saint Andrew, was a fisherman. The net is a metaphor for the kingdom of heaven in one of today's Gospel parables. Because a dragnet gathers all fish, good and bad, it can be a challenging metaphor for God's kingdom. Perhaps it is disturbing because it challenges us in the same way as life itself. We often ask, "Why does God allow evil in the world?" Why indeed! If God is a benevolent god, then why does He allow suffering and injustice? This question can challenge one's faith… as only suffering can.


After pondering suffering and weakness in the world, St. Paul concludes that God's Spirit persists in the travails of life. In trust, Paul affirms that there is good even in the midst of suffering when he writes, "…all things work for good for those who love God…" (Romans 8:28b) The fact that we suffer in the present confirms that the Christian vocation, as God designed it, is to be conformed to the image of his Son. This is a vocation that chooses to be a positive generative force in the world even in the midst of opposition by those who oppose God's purpose. This was the path that Jesus chose and what God worked for good, a cross that becomes our greatest grace. The image of God who chose to suffer with us and never abandons us. But why must this suffering persist until the end?


Like the weeds among the wheat (Matthew13: 24-33) we may wonder why we need to suffer the bad fish with the good in the present age. The answer is that we are unfit to distinguish right from wrong as we await our own redemption and transformation. Like Solomon, in the first reading, we should pray to God for the gift of wisdom. Pray that God will grant us an understanding heart to see the wisdom of patience and the value of necessary suffering. Then our suffering will be joined with the suffering that St. Paul referred to when he wrote, " I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh, I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church." (Colossians 1:24) The wisdom of this is when we share in the work of Christ by service to the poor; our sufferings are joined to His and we also participate in the redemption of the world. Practically speaking we become a sign and the vehicle of God's love and that God has not abandoned the world but responds to our needs in real and material ways. In the end, it is up to God to sort the fish, ours is to allow ourselves to be caught up in this net where everything belongs - we call it the kingdom of heaven.

“Weeds And Wheat” - Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time 2017

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Refection By: Deacon Paul V. Hursh 


“Be strong, be just, and be lenient.” These are not mutually exclusive ideals; they are in fact all necessarily required in order to receive the fulfillment of the prayer we heard this morning from the Book of Wisdom.  Namely, we have a God who is strong, just, and lenient; and by God's grace, we are all called to temper our affairs with strength, justice, and clemency.  But how can we be strong when we have fallen?  


St. Paul testifies to God's grace when he declares, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.”  (2 Corinthians 12:9b)  And how are we to exercise justice when only God is the judge?  True we are not to judge, but we are called to work for justice, not man's justice, but God's justice, which restores and redeems through forgiveness.  And how are we to exercise this forgiveness, this clemency?  Simply said we are to forgive as we are forgiven.  (Matthew 6:9-13)


So in a messy world where there is much weakness, injustice, and retribution, what are we to do?  Are we called to go on a crusade to eradicate sinners or create sanctuaries for the holy ones?  Wouldn't it be great to work to make our Church pure?  Aren't we called to make our communities safe, even if it means expelling the sinners, and the children of Satan?  Don't feel alone when you want to resort to these most draconian approaches to deal with evil and evildoers.  The answers to these nagging questions of sin and evil in the world can be found in today's Gospel. 


In the parable of the weeds and the wheat, the well-meaning workers ask the master if he wants them to uproot the weeds that have been sown into the field.  It sounds like a good idea.  If one removes the weeds it will free the wheat to grow more freely without competition from the weeds.  The problem is that in pulling the weeds one may also uproot the wheat.  The problem with this approach is obvious for the care of the crop.  It is not as obvious when it comes to our personal journey or the spiritual life of the community.  We have all strayed from time to time and so it is good that God is patient with us, allows us to see the error of our ways, and allows us the time to come to our senses and return to Him.  Are we ready to allow others this time, to reform before expelling them from the community?


Deeper still is the meaning of psychological wholeness and spiritual holiness that never excludes the problem from the solution.  If it is wholeness that we seek then it must hold both the dark and the light side of things.  Our sins always have something to teach us, so let us not forget them until they have had a chance to teach us what only they can teach.  Primarily our sins can teach us how much we need God.  The pain of sin can purify us, help us know ourselves, and to ask for mercy.  At the point we admit our powerlessness and throw ourselves on the mercy of God – it is then that God can transform us.  This is a lifetime of spiritual work.  Are we patient with ourselves and trust that God will deal with us patiently and lovingly?  A mystic, Julian of Norwich, wrote, “All will be well, all will be well, and all matter of things will be well.”  Like the dough in the Gospel parable, the whole batch will be leveled. 


“No Man Is An Island” A Reflection For The Fifteen Sunday in Ordinary Time 2017

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“One thing I have learned as a parent is that if you have a daughter who is a mathematician you get books on quantum physics for father's day presents.  The book I am now reading, Reality is Not What it Seems by Carlo Rovelli, is more than a little challenging, but one aspect of Quantum science that has really struck me is that all of reality is relational.  The world of existent things is defined by and reduced to the realm of their interactions.  Things cannot be defined unto themselves, but only become what they are by how they relate and react to other things.  What strikes me about this is that I believe this holds true for everything.  Take for instance the words from Isaiah we have heard today.  


“… just as from the heavens

the rain and snow come down

And do not return there

till they have watered the earth,

making it fertile and fruitful,

Giving seed to the one who sows

and bread to the one who eats…”


The rain is not rain until it works its effect on the land and the seeds planted there.  So too is the word of God.  Until it works its effect on us, it is nothing but a void.  As it happens it does impact us and works its effect and achieves God's ends for which God sent it.  In our own lives, we are defined by our relationships.  We are wives or husbands only in relationship to our spouse.  We become parents because of the children we bear.  We are Christians due to our relationship with Jesus and in the relationship with others as we serve the Kingdom.  God creates us in God's image and sends us into the world, what we become depends on how we relate to others.  As God's children, we do not return to Him void. 


We are created in freedom and are graced with free will and so none of this is forced on us.  We can choose to withdraw from the myriad of relationships in our lives, but if we did who would we be then.  Wouldn't we cease to exist?  Conversely, as we engage in the lives of those around us we have the opportunity to become who God intended us to be. Our instruction is the word of the kingdom spoken of in today's Gospel parable.  How ready are we to receive this life giving word?  Are we prepared to engage with others in meaningful relationships that not only build the kingdom of God but also bring meaning and purpose to our own lives?


As we model our lives after Jesus we become the Body of Christ on earth.  What this means for the world is best expressed by St. Teresa of Avila when she wrote, “Christ has no body now, but yours, no feet on earth, but yours.  Yours are the eyes through which Christ looks compassion into the world.  Yours are the feet with which Christ walks to do good.  Yours are the hands which Christ blesses the world.”  Let us receive the word of God as fertile soil prepared by our prayer and openness of heart.  Let us not overly focus on the concerns of the world and our own advancement, which can become the brambles and thorns that choke the word of God planted in us.  Finally, let us not listen to the naysayers and fear mongers of the world that would steal away the word of God before it has a chance to take root in our hearts.


Remember our true identity is based in our relationships and the quality of our interactions with others.  As Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “we are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality.  I can never be what I ought to be until you are who you ought to be.”  We cannot make our way in the world or even come into being apart from others,  as the poet Jon Donne once wrote…


“No man is an island, 

Entire of itself, 

Every man is a piece of the continent, 

A part of the main. 

If a clod be washed away by the sea, 

Europe is the less. 

As well as if a promontory were. 

As well as if a manor of thy friend's 

Or of thine own were: 

Any man's death diminishes me, 

Because I am involved in mankind, 

And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; 

It tolls for thee.”


“Hidden In Plain Sight” - Fourteen Sunday in Ordinary Time 2017

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"You have hidden these things from the wise and the learned … you have revealed them to the little ones." (Cf. Matthew 11:25) What has been revealed is that everything is holy now. We may want to divide the world into the sacred from the profane, the sinner from the saint, but for God – everything belongs.


Everything new and creative in this world puts together things that don't look like they go together at all but always have been connected at a deeper level. Spirituality's goal is to get people to that deeper level, to the unified field or non-dual thinking, where God alone can hold contradictions and paradox. This is not easy to see and for many of us remains hidden in plain sight. How else can the crucifixion of the Christ, be transformed into our greatest grace? Doesn't God's love truly become evident in the recovery of the lost sheep or the return of the prodigal son?


This is the spirituality of imperfection. It is a hopeful sign for us that we don't have to ‘get it right' to win God's love. God already loves us and God searches for us especially when we have lost our way and even when we get it very wrong. God doesn't love us because we are good; God loves us because God is good. This is a hard thing to understand and accept because we live in a world where the standard of justice is a system of reward and punishment. In the world, justice is a system where wrong behavior is punished - a punitive system. God seeks our restoration or as we hear in religious circles redemption. God seeks out the lost, forsaken, and the sinner not to punish or expel, but rather to forgive, love, and welcome home.


God's redemptive action towards us not only restores us but also teaches us how, in the name of God, to be agents of restoration for others. Experiencing God's unwarranted forgiveness for our failures makes us more ready to forgive others without judgment. We come to understand that, but for the Grace of God there go I. The humiliation of failure is difficult to experience, but it is often the only thing that can teach us when we see ourselves as the wise and learned. Like St. Paul we may acknowledge, "I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want." (Romans 7:19) Paul comes to know that it is only by the grace of God that he is vindicated when he acknowledges, "God's grace is sufficient for me, for power is made perfect in weakness." I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me. It is through this grace that he has the power to live his call as a wounded healer. (Cf. 2 Corinthians 12:9)


We are all prodigal children of God, this is evident, but we are also called to be the good parent and wounded healer that our world so dearly needs. This is the thing that is hidden until we can become one of the little ones who has experienced the loving redemption of a God who wishes only to restore us to full stature as heirs of God co-heirs of Christ. Full restoration of the world will only come when we all participate in the restorative justice of God. We become these agents of change when we allow ourselves to be embraced by the Father who loves us.

Birthday And Anniversary For The Month Of July 2017



Join us in celebrating the birthday and/or anniversary for the following brothers for the month of July 2017:



Saw Cree - 7/1

Michael Huffman - 7/2

Charles Legorreta - 7/3

Roger Fischer - 7/4

Edward Urrutia - 7/5

Sydney Winter - 7/10

Frank Smigelski - 7/11

Fr. Christopher Fraser - 7/12

James Schweppe - 7/13

Kevin Waltko - 7/14

Dararoth Lam - 7/15

AJ Fifer - 7/17

Jon Rathbun - 7/17

Alan Turdy - 7/17

Siaffa Kroma - 7/18

Thomas Liddy - 7/20

Michael Partel - 7/21

Philip Vogel - 7/21

Bradley Watson - 7/22

Ron Shebel - 7/26

Michael Noffke - 7/27

Robert White Jr - 7/28

Raymond Creamean - 7/29

Bryan Nelson - 7/29

Manny Sabori Jr - 7/30

Darren Weninger - 7/30

Robert Bogan - 7/31



Lloyd and Doris Schell − 7/1


“Hospitality” - Thirteen Sunday in Ordinary Time 2017

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"And whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because he is a disciple—amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward." (Matthew 10:42) The theme this week that runs through both the Gospel and the story of Elisha's visit in the second book of Kings is hospitality. The age-old tradition of offering refreshment and comfort to visitors is something to consider today as we celebrate the anniversary of the founding of our nation.


As a nation of immigrants, it is good to recall the importance of welcoming and supporting those who have traveled far to start a new life. Most of our forefathers came to America because life was not great in their ancestral home. Many fled political upheaval, discrimination, or natural disaster and came for the liberty promised by a democracy founded on the principle that, "all men are created equal." Others came to enjoy the freedom of religion; to exercise the freedom to worship God as they chose in honor of God, as they understood God.


As our forefathers enjoyed these new freedoms so we should share them with others and not only that but to extend a welcome that includes supporting their needs as they strive to get on their feet and pursue the American dream. As the newcomers strive to secure a place in America for themselves it invigorates these same freedoms for all of us. Part of the welcoming process is the acceptance of others who are unlike us, speak different languages and cherish different customs. These differences do not strain the fabric of our nation; rather this diversity enriches who we are. Out of the diversity of our history come such precious things as jazz music, a frontier spirit, and a can-do attitude to get ‘er done.


Perhaps if we can extend this kind of biblical hospitality to the strangers in our midst we too will reap the "righteous man's reward." (Matthew 10:41b) This is nothing less than, as in the case of Elisha the prophet, future generations, and progeny. In the case of Jesus, the reward of caring for one of these least ones is the inheritance of his Father's Kingdom. He specifically references welcoming the stranger. (Matthew 25: 31-46)


Many of us will be traveling out of town to relatives and friends or hosting out of town visitors this summer. Whether we extend a welcome to others or are recipients of hospitality we will do well to remember the traditions of our faith and the history of our nation (we or our forbearers) were all once strangers in a strange land. To this end, we should practice the Golden Rule – "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you."


The people who reach our shores have already borne much adversity, sacrifice, and loss of homeland. We can ease their suffering by standing with them and offering a hand-up, even if it means, "only offering a cup of cold water." The best symbol of this welcoming spirit is our Statue of Liberty, a gift from the country of France. On its pedestal is this poem by Emma Lazarus entitled The New Colossus.

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

“Fear No One” - Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time 2017

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 “Fear no one.”  (Matthew 10:26a)  The world is a dangerous place and there are many people who would stir our emotions to increase fear thereby exercising control over us.  Fear mongering is their way to convince us that we need to take action in our defense.  Their motive may be to sell weapons, to divide people, to advance their agenda.  In the face of this culture of fear, we hear Jesus' command...  “Fear no one.”


There is no shortage of reasons for us to be fearful, as I have said, the world is a dangerous place and there are acts of violence, terrorism, and a war in every corner of the globe.  So how are we to accept Jesus' admonishment against fear, on what basis can we set aside our fears and live peaceful and tranquil lives?  Well first of all Jesus did not promise peaceful and tranquil lives, he sends us as sheep among wolves and that we must endure persecution and resistance – even from our families.  Given this, why should we put down our guard when there are those who would harm us?


The primary object of fear is the unknown, unknown motives of others, unknown outcomes of conflicts, or unknown character of the stranger.  We fear the shadowy things beyond our ability to perceive them, or an uncertain future.  The manipulators of this world know our greatest fears and they play on these fears to their advantage.  Jesus realizes our fear of the unknown and so his instruction to the disciples was to assure them that “Nothing that is concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known.”  (Matthew 10:26b)  When our wild imagining is brought to light much of what we fear disappears, as do phantasms at the dawn of a new day.  In the words of Thomas Carlyle, “Our main business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand.”  So what are we to do about those truly dangerous situations and people in our world?


When faced with immediate threat our discipleship will meet its greatest challenge to follow the words and actions of Jesus.  Though it seems to be within our right to respond in kind to an attack, Jesus instructs, “…offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one to him as well.”  This teaching by Jesus is backed up with how he lived his life.  When he was arrested and mistreated he offered no resistance.  How closely are we committed to the life and teaching of Jesus?  Though we may feel within our rights to act in self-defense very often defense can expand into offense and retribution.  When this occurs we become the evil that we oppose.  This is why Jesus instructs not to resist evil, even though this seems an extreme position, he is trying to preserve our holiness.  How are we to endure the requirements of discipleship?


Like Jeremiah in our first reading today we will be faced with adversity, and like Jeremiah, we are called to trust in God for to God we have entrusted our cause.  This takes courage, which is one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit.  To be clear, Courage is not the absence of fear, but making the right choice in spite of being afraid.  Pope Francis in an audience (May 14, 2014) said “with the gift of courage the Holy Spirit frees the soil of our heart from torpor [inactivity], uncertainties and all the fears that can stop it, so that the Word of God can be put into practice, in an authentic and joyful way.  This is a real help, this gift of fortitude gives us strength and frees us from many obstacles.”  We can then, proclaim on the housetops what we hear whispered by Christ in our hearts.


Divine Participation - Corpus Christi 2017

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 "Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him."  (John 6:56)  This is what is meant by the true presence of the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity.  The very presence of God dwells in us through the Eucharistic miracle.  We literally consume Jesus' body and blood and by this action, we become the Body of Christ.  We become what we eat.  "This saying is hard; who can accept it?"  (John 6:60b)  Maybe you will react like many of Jesus disciples when he told them to eat his flesh and drink his blood.  "Many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.  (John 6:66)


Or perhaps you will believe on faith and accept Jesus' invitation to divine participation and welcome Jesus into your very being.  Jesus said, "Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me."  (Matthew 10:40; Mark 9:37; Luke 10:16; John 13:20)  This underscores the desire of the creator to participate with his creation on a most personal and human level.


And why has Jesus come to be one of us?  You may believe that Jesus assumes flesh to correct Adam and Eve's sin; perhaps Jesus would have taken flesh whether we had sinned or not.  Love by its very nature wants to be one with its beloved, so our salvation has been announced and realized by an Incarnate God.  The suffering and death of Jesus confirms for us how deep and committed is God's love in the Incarnation.  A love expressed in an embrace, not unlike the marriage embrace of the groom for the bride, so Jesus, the Groom, embraces the Bride, our Church.  What is more intimate than entering into an embrace where the two become one flesh?  By consuming the Body and Blood of Christ we become one flesh with Jesus and with one another.  This is a great mystery.


And why did Jesus leave?  Jesus' Pascal Mystery, his life, death, and resurrection, is the pattern of all things.  We too are born, live, and die.  Our children more fully take their place in the world when we die, so too do we become the body of Christ through the Pascal Mystery.  Jesus' departure is not the end of Divine participation.  Jesus does not leave us orphaned by his return to the Father, he sends the Holy Spirit to be with us forever.  It is through the Spirit that we continue to be Christ in the world.


As you leave Mass today, remember to reverence the tabernacle as the place we reserve the Body and Blood of Christ.  However, reverence also those with whom we share the Eucharist.  They too are the Body and Blood of Christ.   


Do you want to know

what goes on in the core of the Trinity?

I will tell you.

In the core of the Trinity

the Father laughs

and gives birth to the Son.

The Son laughs back at the Father

and gives birth to the Spirit.

The whole Trinity laughs

and gives birth to us.

- Meister Eckhart, OP (c. 1260 – c. 1328)


Shape Of The Universe - Most Holy Trinity 2017

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 "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you."  (2 Corinthians 13:13)  On this feast of the Most Holy Trinity, it is fitting to begin today's reflection with this exhortation for ecclesial unity and divine blessing.  In a world torn by conflict and fear of strangers, there is a great need to heal relationships.  We need the healing grace of God's love to mend our relationships within the communities of peoples, nations, and families.  As the model of all relationships, the Holy Trinity has much to teach us.


A deep relationship is formed when we surrender all we are to the other.  This self-emptying is called kenosis and it is how we gift the other with who we are.  When we do this it creates the space in us necessary to receive the other in their self-emptying.  In the Trinity we see how the Spirit proceeds from the self-giving of the Father to the Son and the Son to the Father. 


The Trinity describes the very heart and nature of God and it is the model of the universe.  In this model the emphasis is on the relationship; the energy between the persons is more the focus than individuals in a relationship.  Think of it as a divine dance where the creative motion between the parties is the true identity of God more than any of the individuals.  This is also what is found in the created universe from atoms to planetary systems.  In the atom, the push and pull of strong and weak molecular forces and gravity between the elementary particles are the identifying and creative aspect.


With this in mind, we can see how important dialogue is between parties seeking a true relationship.  Listening and seeking to understand becomes as important as speaking one's truth.  In good dialogue, the sharing of ideas is met with empathy.  This is the kind of exchange that builds bridges rather than barriers to communication.  Perhaps with this kind of approach, we can begin to model the love of God, "a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity."  (Exodus 34: 6b)


If the love of God is shown in the gift of his Son, a gift sent to save us, then we too need to make the self-gift that chooses not to condemn another, or to even judge another, but rather to forgive others as we have been forgiven.  Isn't this our prayer each time we recite the Our Father? (Matthew 6: 9-13)  We are created in the image and likeness of God.  (Genesis 1: 26-27)  Even though this is the case we still resist and deny our true identity, but our true self is never really lost.  With a merciful God, we are always invited to return to our truest self and this is experienced in relationship with the Trinity.  But how do we access or experience this relationship?


In prayer, we can return to the intimacy of the Trinity.  Silent or contemplative prayer is our surest access to the Father who is an unspeakable mystery.  It is prayer beyond words for no word can capture what is incomprehensibility itself.  The I Am who Am of Jewish tradition.  The second person of the Trinity is creation itself, the manifestation of the Divine in all creation, and Jesus most uniquely.  This Jesus, we are told in Matthew 25, is directly accessed when we serve the least and the littlest, the outside and the sinner.   The Holy Spirit is most evident in the implanted Hope; the Hope that makes us wounded healers rather than people dying of our wounds.  I leave you with "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit..."  (2 Corinthians 13:13)


Holy Spirit Fire - Pentecost 2017

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"Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were filled with the Holy Spirit…" (Acts 2:3-4a) These flames are a manifestation of varied spiritual gifts bestowed on the disciples at Pentecost. Though many and diverse, as are the various parts of the body, these gifts from one spiritual body, the Church. The Jerusalem Temple, soon to be destroyed, (c. 70 AD) will be replaced. The new Temple will be built of living stones, the believers, and it is the dwelling place of God. These gifts, when exercised, form the glue that holds this holy edifice together and makes it a habitation for God and man.


This new Temple cannot be destroyed and will be the center and centering place of the whole world. Therefore, what the Holy Spirit has brought together let no man divide. The gift of service and the gift of faith go hand-in-hand to build up the body, the Church. One is evidence of the other, and one cannot exist without the other. (James 2:14-26)


It is important to note that on Pentecost these gifts descended on all present, not just the Jews, but also Greeks, slaves, and free persons. All are baptized by the one Spirit into the one body. Up to the present day, we continue to baptize in this one Spirit. We baptize all persons who present themselves and thus are extending the Church to the ends of the earth. This forms a church whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere. (Voltaire) In that first Pentecost moment, Christianity began to see itself as a universal rather than a tribal or regional religion. This is why they very soon called themselves "catholic" (universal) as early as the year 108 AD.


The implication for the universal church is that there is unity through the Spirit. Unity not uniform sameness, but a richness of diversity. Community with a diversity as rich as the varied gifts bestowed by the Spirit. The gifts of wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, and prophecy, are given as the Spirit wishes. (1 Corinthians 12: 8-11) All these gifts are to be used to build up the Kingdom by those on whom they are bestowed. One gift is given to all as bestowed by Jesus before he ascended – it is the power to forgive sins. Jesus forgave sins in connection with his many healings and exorcisms and so it needs to be extended as we share our particular gifts with others. In the care of others, forgiveness is crucial and in many cases may be the only action required. Recall that we all come to the knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of our sins. (Luke 1:77)


Today on this Pentecost let us open ourselves to the Holy Spirit Fire, to enkindle in us the fire of God's love.


Let us pray, send forth Your Spirit and we shall be created and you shall renew the face of the earth. O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations, Through Christ Our Lord, Amen.

Called To Protect(CTP) Training Class

It's that time of year again, the time when we need to make sure we are current with our Called To Protect(CTP) certification. All volunteers and brothers need to have a current Called To Protect(CTP) certification. The parish is conducting a Called To Protect(CTP) at St Andrew the Apostle Catholic Church, 3450 West Ray Road, Chandler, AZ 85226, in the Adult Ed room at church (Hennessy Hall for the class on Jan 18). Please update your certification online or attend one of the classes listed below:


Tue Jul 11, 2017   6:00pm – 9:00pm
Called to Protect - Adult Ed Center
Thu Aug 17, 2017   6:00pm – 9:00pm
Called to Protect - Adult Ed Center
Sat Sep 16, 2017   9:00am – 12:00pm
Called to Protect - Adult Ed Center
Thu Jan 18, 2018   6:00pm – 9:00pm
Called to Protect - Hennessy Hall

Up - The Ascension of the Lord

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"When he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight." (Acts 1:9)

Paul writes to the Ephesians, "What does "he ascended" mean except that he also descended into the lower regions of the earth?" (Ephesians 4:9)


That he first descended into earth could simply mean, that he was buried in the earth, however, we understand from the Apostles Creed that "he descended" not just into the confines of the tomb, but also into hell - for three days - whereupon he rescued all of our ancestors, beginning with Adam and Eve. So certainly, to say that 'he ascended,' also means more than just rising up above their heads and out of sight, but rather into heaven, into the realm of God's kingdom.


At the cosmic level, there is no such thing as up. There is out, and there is in, however, up-and-down only is relevant within the context of a very finite viewpoint. A place within the clouds of the Earth's atmosphere is much too finite to contain any sense of the mystery of the Ascension. Even in the realm of the created universe up and down doesn't hold much meaning. So for today let us think of Ascension as something deeper than ones' physical position in space-time. Rather than seeing the Ascension as an ascent into the sky, or some locale within the greater universe, consider it as the revelation of Jesus' place within the Trinitarian relationship. Think of Ascension as entering into a relationship of loving union with God and the Spirit. In this mystery of God as Trinity, we are invited into full participation with God, a flow, and a relationship that transforms the world.


When I was a child in parochial school I was told, by the sisters, that Heaven was a more pleasing place than anything I'd ever experienced, and so my imagination led me to believe that Heaven was a giant amusement park. Clearly, I missed the point that they were trying to make. From the Acts of the Apostles we hear the rhetorical question, "Why are you looking at the sky? Jesus has been taken INTO heaven." Clearly, heaven is not a place in the sky. Instead of a place, could heaven be a state of being, a place of universal belonging? How can this outlook inform our present life?


"How could humanity on earth, enslaved by death, recover its wholeness? It was necessary to give to dead flesh the ability to share in the life-giving power of God. He, though he is Life by nature, took a body subject to decay in order to destroy in it the power of death and transform it into life. As iron when it is brought into contact with fire immediately begins to share its color, so the flesh when it has received the life-giving Word into itself is set free from corruption. Thus he put on our flesh to set it free from death."[1]


Freed from the fear of death, we are free to live in hope, to live with courage, to be the people of God Jesus calls us to be and by this, to be the world transformed. This is full salvation finally realized as universal belonging and universal connecting. In this Trinitarian existence, there is no room for hatred.


[1] Olivier Clement, The Roots of Christian Mysticism (New City Press: 2013), 47.

Present Advocate - Sixth Sunday of Easter 2017

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Today we hear from John's Gospel, a portion of Jesus' farewell discourse spoken at the Last Supper. In it, he promises not to leave us orphaned, but to send another, an Advocate who will be with us always. He also shares with us his own body and blood in the form of bread and wine. The Eucharist we share at each Mass, as we will today.


The arrival of this Advocate, the Holy Spirit, we celebrate on Pentecost in two weeks. Pentecost in Judaism, called the feast of weeks, was the harvest festival celebrated fifty days after the Passover that celebrates the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai. Interestingly Jesus makes a connection between love, keeping the Commandments, and receiving the promised Advocate. ‘If you keep my commandments you will receive the Holy Spirit.' The Law given to Moses on Mount Sinai was the first five books of the Jewish Scriptures. The law that Jesus taught, to love God and to love one's neighbor, is the basis of the Mosaic Law. (Matthew 22:40)


The Holy Spirit fire that will descend on Pentecost is not unlike the fire and cloud from heaven that descended and filled the stone Temple constructed in 950 BC. Like God's fiery presence, evident in the first Temple, so the fire of Pentecost is the sign of God's presence in the body of believers today. God's presence in the first Temple made it the righteous place of worship for ancient Israel, so God's presence among the body of believers makes the new Temple, the human person. As the tabernacle is the place to reserve the Body of Christ in the church, so we are called to be human tabernacles to carry the presence of God into the world. How we carry the Body of Christ into the world is critical.


We become the Body of Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit and in the sharing in the Body and Blood of Christ. In Holy Communion, we share in the very life of Christ as his Body on earth. The Advocate reminds us of everything Jesus taught during his life. Through his words Jesus taught ‘as one with authority,' but he taught with even more authority through his actions and his physical presence. We share His physical presence today. In this we share more than a recollection of what He said and did and who he was; we share in his ministry of service, in building the Kingdom of God. This is challenging work, but it is a labor of love. What we are called to do is to love God and to love our neighbor. This is our mission.


We are true to this mission when we feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, and visit the sick and imprisoned. However, it is more than what we do, it is who we are and our very presence to others. Our presence is the fulfillment of God's promise that he will never leave his children orphaned. We are not only the Body of Christ to meet the physical needs of our neighbors; we are also his advocate to remind others of everything Jesus taught, and with the assurance of God's love. This is our participation in the divine life of the Trinity: Father, Son, and Spirit. This is lived out, not as individuals, but as a community, in the same way, that the Trinity is more than the three distinct Persons, but in the loving relationships between the three persons, in the total giving and receiving between those who participate.


Just so, as a community of faith, St. Andrew the Apostle carries forward the Christian mission by being an Advocate of love; love for God, and love for neighbor. A place where everyone is welcomed and no one is abandoned.

Growing Pains - Fifth Sunday of Easter 2017

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“Today’s selection from Acts tells the story of how the Apostles ordained the first ministers to serve the needs of the growing community of Jesus’ followers. Like any successful institution, success is accompanied by growth, and growth is often accompanied with greater diversity. Growth and diversity are positive outcomes, but they place increasing demands on the institution.

Due to the growing numbers and the greater diversity of this sect of Judaism, was in need of reorganizing and the restructuring of ministry. No longer could the Apostles attend to the corporal needs of the community while at the same time meet the spiritual needs of their followers. Thus the diaconate was born to better serve the growing needs of this fledgling community, especially the more vulnerable members, like the widows. As in all the ministries in the Church, deacons are called to serve, not to be served. The Greek word διακονία, ας, ἡ (diakonia) literally means servant.

The persons picked to serve, as deacons were men who spoke the Greek language of the women who were being neglected. It should be noted that the division between the two groups went deeper than language, but also culture, and it posed a challenge to unity. The men chosen to address the needs of the estranged Hellenists, and thus bring greater unity, were chosen because they were reputable men, filled with the Spirit and wisdom. True today is the need for wise leaders, whose reputation gains the respect of the people they serve. True also is the role of the deacon today, to serve the needs of the excluded; the poor, the sick, the alien, and the imprisoned. This is what deacons are ordained to do, but equally important is their role to lead other members of the community in service to these least ones in our midst.

Be aware that when the poor, the sick, and the alien are welcomed; it may become a point of contention or even division in the community. This is why leadership by respected members of the community is so very important. True leadership is key, leadership that comes from faithfully following the leadership given us in the Spirit. This is why choosing Spirit-filled and faithful leaders is so very important. Do you know such a person in the community? Are you, or someone you know, this person? If the spirit is prompting you then have the courage to act. The health and growth of the Christian community depends on you. The healing of division and the inclusion of everyone is paramount to building the Kingdom of God in the here and now. God’s kingdom is not for a select few, but for all God’s children, regardless of how challenging this may be at times.

There are those, who consider themselves Christian, who will reject this kind of leadership. Do not be surprised; they rejected Jesus in the same way. “Jesus, a living stone, rejected by human beings, but chosen, precious in the sight of God, and, like living stones, let yourself be built into a spiritual house and a royal priesthood… …a holy nation, a people of his own.” (cf 1 Peter 2)

Thieves And Shepherds - Fourth Sunday of Easter 2017

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 “The Lord is my shepherd there is nothing I shall want.”  (Psalm 23:1)  We all need a shepherd and we will often seek one to lead us and to provide for our nourishment and security.  Sadly, what we often get is a hireling or a thief who is in it for pay, or even worse, to ‘steal and slaughter and destroy.’  This is what is common (and even expected) in secular society, but it is also true in religious societies.  This is true today as it was in Jesus’ time.  Who do we want for a shepherd and how do we find him?


Do you want a leader to take you into battle, to vanquish the enemies, and win for you the crown of victory?  Or…  Are you ready to walk into the dark valley and to take courage in His presence only?  Are you ready to follow His example and to lay down your life for another?  Or...  Would you rather defend your property and way of life with violence?


How will you find your leader?  “Seek the Lord while he may still be found, call to him while he is still near.”  (Isaiah 55:6)  When he responds, will you recognize his voice?  The sheep of his fold will recognize his voice.  He walks ahead of you and he will “lead you where you do not want to go.”  (John 21:18c)  Are you ready to follow a leader such as this?  You may ask, “Is there another leader I can follow?”  Surely there are other leaders and many who wish you to follow them.  They have climbed over elsewhere and they are neither the gatekeeper nor the shepherd.  We have followed them in the past and may even be following them now.  The question is, “Where are they going?”  Listen to their voice, what are they promising?


Does their voice sound like Jesus, because they promise reconciliation and forgiveness so that we might be one people?  Or, do they sound demonic because they seek to divide and conquer?  Do they operate in the darkness like a thief to ‘steal and slaughter and destroy,’ or do they live in the light, to nourish, heal, and bring new life?  Do they go low and drag us down with them or do they go high to inspire us with high ideals and to dare greatly?  Do they play to our weakness or to our strength?


Today is set before us, life and good, death and evil.  We can focus on judging and condemn, punishing and excluding; or we can seek peace and reconciliation by acting for justice.  We can be agents of transformation (for us and others) if we choose to follow the Shepherd and his ways.  The shepherd’s way is the way of love; love of God and love of neighbor. If we do follow the good shepherd we will live and grow numerous, and the LORD, our God, will bless us.  If, however, our hearts turn away and we do not obey but are led astray and bow down to other gods and serve them, we will certainly perish.  (cf Deuteronomy 30:15-18)


In today's Gospel selection Jesus was clear and he used terms that the Pharisees would understand, but because of their hardness of heart, they rejected his message.  Are we ready to receive the forgiveness and understanding Jesus offers us today so our hearts will be opened?  If we open our hearts to follow a true shepherd, perhaps we will hear and recognize his voice, and follow him?  It will not be an easy path, Jesus didn’t promise that (Matthew 5:11), but it is the path that ultimately leads to life and abundance.


On the Road Again - Third Sunday of Easter 2017

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"He was made known to them in the breaking of the bread." (Luke 24:35b) 


Why do you suppose Cleopas and his fellow disciple were so quick to leave Jerusalem, following Jesus' execution? Maybe they were afraid they would be crucified next?  Had they given up on their mission and the vision of the Kingdom of God preached by Jesus?  And why were they heading for the village of Emmaus?


Some scholars have suggested that they were unwilling to accept a disastrous end to what they had hoped to be the redemption of Israel.  Emmaus was the hotbed of political activity, perhaps they might find a new, more militant, leader who would bring them the victory they desired.


It is evident in this story that these two disciples were saddened and downcast at the loss of their beloved Jesus through the betrayal of their religious leaders.  They just couldn't make sense of what appeared to be a dead end to what had promised to be a whole new way of life.  Neither did they seem to be able to put too much stock in a vision of angels or an empty tomb.  Then, in this disturbed state, they have an unexpected encounter with a stranger they meet along the road.  


This young Rabbi they meet puts everything in context and it all begins to make more sense, but it still seems too much for them until they sit down to dinner.  In the blessing over the food, they come to realize that Jesus in not gone, only changed.  Like the bread and wine, they share everything takes on the living presence of Christ, a true presence of the living truth that expands to embrace them and all believers in the love of God.  With this realization, Jesus vanishes from their sight; no longer is he separate from them, but alive and living within them in the same indwelling presence found within and among the Trinity.


With the realization and awareness of their direct participation in the Divine dance, they return immediately to the company of believers, the larger community, and the true presence of God.  And since then whenever they share a meal; "He was made known to them in the breaking of the bread." 


Faith And Freedom - Second Sunday Of Easter

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"Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed." (John 20: 29b) If Thomas the Apostle is known for anything, it is his lack of faith in the resurrection of Jesus. He demanded proof and in this, we are like him, aren't we? Throughout His time of active ministry, Jesus was often confronted by those who demanded proof. To these demands, Jesus responds, "An evil and unfaithful generation seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it except the sign of Jonah the prophet. Just as Jonah was in the belly of the whale three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights. (Matthew12: 39-40)

These words of Jesus get to the heart of the matter regarding faith and freedom. It is human to want assurance for something that demands our complete commitment and the total investment of our life. When it comes to faith, however, there is no proof. We either accept God's grace and the gift of faith or become members of the ‘unfaithful generation.' If like Thomas and the other disciples, Jesus confronts us with the hard evidence of his wounded body, then we would have no other option, but to accept the reality of His resurrection. Faith would no longer be required because faith believes in something for which there is no proof. Our acceptance of the resurrection would be more a coercion than a free choice. At that point, could we even claim to love God? At that point, it would be clear that God was the only option for participation in a life beyond the grave. …and love without options is no love at all. Our motivation would be reduced to mere prudence or pragmatism.


The other profound take away from this experience in the upper room was the power of forgiveness that was bestowed on the disciples. I can imagine that there was much ill will within the followers of Jesus toward those who had plotted the false arrest, trial, sentencing, and execution of their beloved leader. Jesus knew that if this hate remained in their hearts it would end the good work He had already begun in them. Anger and hate for the perpetrators would fester and along with their fear, they would become the next target and the movement started by Jesus would come to a swift end.


Jesus did not stop the authorities from pursuing his followers, but he did invite his followers to change their response to this aggression. By encouraging forgiveness, Jesus knew that the hate in their hearts would be converted to love and understanding. Forgiveness freed his followers to continue to pursue the peaceable Kingdom of God rather than end up in a cycle of tit for tat violence against their opponents.


Let me digress a bit… In physics, Newton's third law is: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. This statement means that in every interaction, there is a pair of forces acting on the two interacting objects. I believe that this is also true in spiritual matters. When we exercise violence against another it also damages us, and when we exercise forgiveness toward another it also frees us from the trap of hatred and frees us to love again. Today we have the sacrament of Reconciliation that is exercised by our priests and is an important source of grace. Recall also that both Apostles and disciples were gathered in the upper room and that all received the gift of the Holy Spirit to forgive sins. This gift is freely given so that we can be freed to love and to free others to love again. This forgiveness is what will continue the mission of Jesus Christ to build the Kingdom of God in our world, a kingdom based on faith and the freedom to love.

Original Blessing - Easter Sunday Vigil 2017

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Reflecting on the first reading for the Easter Vigil, (the creation story from the Book of Genesis,) I am deeply touched by the generosity and the superabundance of God's blessings. The complexity, diversity and interwoven nature of creation never cease to amaze me. God thought of everything and with this, God has blessed us beyond our wildest dreams. I only need to take a walk in the woods or hike the lush Sonoran desert to be reminded of these blessings and to experience first hand the grace of God. Creation is the context of our faith and a manifestation of a benevolent Creator. As related in today’s scripture everything God created is “very good” indeed. It is hard to imagine how Adam and Eve could turn away from God given the evidence and actuality of this kind of love.


Yes, their turning away is inconceivable, until we reflect on our own fall, despite the miracles in our own lives. We make our choices and conceive in ourselves the same rejection of God’s abundant blessing as did Adam & Eve. We reject God’s blessing in favor of our own limited desires for passing glory. How could we think for a minute that what we choose to create would be better than that which has been gifted to us from the beginning? In fact, much of what we have created has despoiled God’s creation.


The story of salvation history, told through the several readings of the Easter Vigil, recount the same story we experience in our own individual lives. It is the story of how humans continue to turn away from God, and how God gives his children yet another chance to return. Salvation’s story is a history in travel – during good times we take three steps forward, and then, we get scared or threatened and lose trust, we resort to doing it our way, and this is when we get it wrong – two steps back. In all this, God is not an angry and judgmental god; rather God is a loving and forgiving God. Our God is a God who continues to invite us into a commonwealth of love and justice. So why do we sin and turn away?

As St. Paul writes, “For I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want.” (Romans 7:19) We pray “thy will be done,” but it ends up being more about our own willfulness, then our willingness to allow God to guide and inspire our lives. At particularly troubling times in history, God has sent prophets to challenge our wrong-headedness and to call us to account, and to lead us back. The words of these messengers of truth are often rejected, and the prophet murdered. Even in our own day, few prophets are honored during their own lives, as was St. Teresa of Calcutta. More frequently they are rejected and murdered as was Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. It seems that only the outcasts and vagabonds love the prophets.


The story we hear this weekend culminates in the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus. During his life, Jesus is at first seen as a prophet, then as the miracle worker, but finally rejected and murdered as a heretic. Perhaps what they wanted was a King who would wage war against their oppressors – what they got instead was the unlikely image of a “king riding on an ass, and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden (Matthew 21:5).” ‘He humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:8).’


When Jesus was arrested, accused, and questioned, he refused to retaliate or even defend himself. “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him (John 3:17).” …and saving the world will not come through violence or military conquest, but through the power of love. “Do you think that I cannot call upon my Father and he will not provide me at this moment with more than twelve legions of angels (Matthew 26:53)?” A military campaign was not to be the path through which Jesus would claim victory. The path to conquer sin and death was to be the Via Dolorosa.


Only after the crucifixion did Jesus’ disciples come to the full realization that he was the Christ. Jesus is the One to bring creation to completion and the Via Dolorosa is the example of what it means for us to turn radically toward God. Jesus submits to God’s will, and his cross becomes the key to the gates of Hell. With this key he gains the release of captives, beginning with Adam. The path to Calvary is the way in our lives as well. To walk this path with Jesus is to become (whole) holy people. This comes to fruition in the ‘second coming,’ the advent of Christ in each of us as we follow our Savior. We become the ‘Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27),’ and the Kingdom of God within us (Cf Luke 17:21), and the Kingdom of God now! God’s Kingdom is already fulfilled, but not yet consummated. When it is consummated there will be a new heaven and a new earth, and the turning will have come full circle.

The Challenge of the Cross - Palm Sunday - Passion of the Lord 2017

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For me, this image of the cross by Matthias Grunewald invites questions—hard questions. Questions like:

  • Is our God a bloodthirsty god who demands a sacrifice?
  • Why is God unable to simply forgive us, without human blood to satisfy him?
  • Is it just to execute an innocent person to spare the guilty? How does that even work?
  • If the cross was a payment, who was being paid off? Was it even God?

The crucifixion is a historical fact recorded by Titus Flavius Josephus (37 – c. 100), a first-century Romano-Jewish scholar, and by among others (Apostle Paul and the author of the Gospel of the Hebrews). It is also highly unlikely that the early Christian community would have invented the embarrassing and painful death of their leader by crucifixion. Certainly, because Jesus is like us in all things, but sin, would live a life that would end in his physical death. The resurrection, on the other hand, is an article of faith, something for which there is no proof. (If something can be proved, no faith is required.) However, like the grace that comes from this belief, the resurrection

itself is an unearned, and underserved gift. St. Bonaventure did not consider the incarnation foremost as a remedy for sin, but as the primacy of His love and the completion of creation. God sent his Son in love freely to everyone, regardless of state, or conviction, or belief. To receive this gift, one only needs to receive it.

It is not heretical to ask questions like those proposed above. Remember, ‘A faith unquestioned is no faith at all.’ As Thomas Aquinas instructed, reason should inform our faith. For me the most helpful question to ask is, “Where is God in this Passion Narrative?” Or, in any situation – “Where is God now?”

There is a story that comes out of the Holocaust that is instructive. There was an
infraction by the prisoners in a concentration camp and the punishment decided on by the camp commandant was the hanging of 12 young boys. The executions were to be performed in front of all the camp and the people were made to watch the proceedings. As the order was given and the 12 boys were dangling and jerking at the end of the ropes, someone in the camp cried out, “Where is God? Where is God now?” Then silence, and after a few moments someone else cries out, while pointing at the gallows and the dying children, “There, God is there!”

When it comes to the crucifixion of Jesus, and the part that God played in Jesus’ execution, the answer is right in front of us… God hangs on the cross.

The suffering Jesus on the cross is not Jesus making a payoff or taking the place for those who should suffer or pay the price for sin. No doubt that the cross is the result of our sin, and by his death Jesus saves us from ourselves, but there is deep teaching that is transmitted by a death like his. As during the rest of his time on Earth, Jesus is modeling for us by his life and his death, what we are called to do when the circumstances of life weigh us down. When the choices people make, result in suffering, we are not to respond in kind with violence and hatred. We are, like Jesus, to speak the truth of God, who is Love, to not resist evil, but to lay down our lives for others. This is not acquiescence to evil, or to condone violence, but to break the cycle of hatred, indifference, and violence; once, for all. We do this by following the example of Jesus, by becoming a bridge to understanding, forgiveness, and compassion. His instruction to his disciples remains for us today, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24b)

The uncomfortable resolution I have arrived at in my questioning regarding Jesus’ torturous death, is that Jesus saved the world by redeeming our sinful nature, and he did it by way of the cross. Our lives should follow His. When we embrace the cross (life & death – sin & grace) even to the point of despair – “My God, my God why have you forsaken me!” (Matthew 27:46b) – God hears our cry and in response to our call He will give us the grace to forgive others’ transgressions, - “Forgive them Father for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34) We will not speak this on our own, for it is God who will speak through us and with us. And by this action all will be reconciled and He will raise us on the last day. As Paul once wrote, and we too could declare, “I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, the Church…” (Cf. Colossians 1:24).

Zombies? - Fifth Sunday Of Lent 2017

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In our first reading, Ezekiel prophesies, “O my people, I will open your graves and have you rise from them, and bring you back to the land of Israel.”  I don’t believe for a minute that the Lord was creating Zombies when he promised to raise the Babylonian Captives from their graves.  If one checks into what Ezekiel was referring to in his prophecy, one will find that what he was addressing was actually the opposite situation.  The captive Israelites had become despondent, disheartened by the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple – they were like corpses in the grave or the walking dead.   They had failed to make the connection between their bondage and their lack of faithfulness.  They had lost sight of their mission, not only was their salvation beyond their own sight, but they forgot that they were to be God’s visible sign to the nations, of God’s never failing love – the covenant.


Ezekiel’s prophecy was that they were to live again, full of the Spirit and life that comes from a loving God.  Though they were at the bottom of their history, God would raise them up again.  Though they had failed to live as a people dedicated to God, God would not abandon them, because he loved them in spite of their sinfulness.  They would be called again to their mission, to be a beacon to the nations.  As Ezekiel was sent by God during the Babylonian Captivity, so God would send his Son to raise up his people in the time of the Roman occupation of the first century. 


Jesus came to restore the fallen relationship between God and creation, to restore to life a broken and subjugated people.  The Jewish people were living under the yoke of Roman occupation and their own abusive and compromised religious authority.  Jesus’ miracles of restoring the sight to the blind and setting free those held captive by their shame was the sign of the coming Kingdom of God.  But the story of raising Lazarus from the dead was the most amazing miracle of all, something that was a preview of Jesus’ own resurrection.  All these miracles were, in and of themselves, life-changing events for the individuals they were performed on, but there is a powerful message in these events for all believers down to the present day.  See in them a wake-up call to assume our calling as faithful children of God.


Our calling is more than our own salvation.  Our calling is to bring about the restoration of the Kingdom in our present day.  Many have become like the people in the Babylonian Exile or the 1st century Jews during the Roman occupation – aware of our faith, but more like Christian Zombies who go through the motions of ones who have been born again, but not being truly alive with the faith.  Those truly alive would live in a way that would transform society.  This would mean more than weekly Mass attendance and participation in some enrichment programs held at the parish.  These things are only a start and they are meant to feed us in a way that calls us to action that transforms our lives so that we can call others to transformation.


 It would be easy to be lulled into complacency and overcome by the daily demands of a consumer culture and the accumulation of wealth and the feathering of our own nests.  I know too well how I can be led away from the challenging dictates of our faith to call for justice, care for the suffering, share our time and talents with the poor.  When our faith is reduced to going through the motions of rote prayer, Sunday liturgies, and feel good experiences, we run the risk of becoming the walking dead.  It is then that we need to ask for the grace to come to life again in an active faith.  It is then that God will again put His spirit in us that we may live.


Justa Donation

Complete list of items needed

At the April 10th, Knights of Columbus meetings Deacon Paul Hursh and I will be collecting donations for the Justa Center and will deliver them the next day. See the attached for the complete list of needed items. Please consider bringing one or more of the items listed, or make a monetary donation to the Justa Center.


Visit the Justa Center's website at:


With your help, we can make great strides to getting the homeless back on their feet. Remember Matthew 25:45-46,  "...[W]hat you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’ And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”


Vivat Jesus!

Whose Blind? - Fourth Sunday Of Lent 2017

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For those with sight, it is very difficult to know what it is like to be blind, especially to be blind from birth. If I close my eyes I can still see the light that comes through my eyelids. Even in a perfectly dark place, like a cave, I still have the images retained in my memory, which is something a person blind from birth can't have. In today's scriptures, we learn from a blind man, that there is more to blindness than the inability to see the physical reality that surrounds us. The blind man experiences the blindness of another kind, in others' reaction to his new-found sight.

One can be presented with something, an obvious truth, for example, the animate life of a child in the womb, and many will deny the reality of this life. Despite the proofs offered by the child's biology, physiology, and neurology, many maintain that since the infant cannot sustain itself outside the womb, it isn't a human person. Given this criteria, the term allowed for infanticide could extend far beyond their birthday – especially in the case of children who require Neonatal Intensive Care. Sadly, some societies practiced infanticide at different times in history and even today it is practiced in parts of India and China.

So that we don't get too proud and say, "Spiritual blindness doesn't occur in Christian communities," I point out the support for discrimination, prejudice, judgmentalism, based on a person's legal status, orientation, or religious affiliation. These biases go unchallenged despite Jesus' clear command to love one's enemies, to forgive offenses, and his consistent example of love and care for "sinners." A neighbor lady told me just today that her faith was challenged because in her church they were quick to denounce a recent Disney movie because of the portrayal of one of the characters as gay. The pastor's position against the Disney movie was emphasized while during the recent election their clergy openly supported candidates that fostered discrimination against immigrants and refugees, and whose own moral behavior was abhorrent and did not respect persons of the opposite sex.

The only encouragement I could offer her was that, while we humans are flawed and often hold conflicting positions regarding the teachings of Jesus, we need to hold ourselves accountable to the highest standards of conduct and to speak the truth without malice to those in positions of authority in our communities – both civic and religious. Speaking the truth to those in power is the role of the prophet and this is a role we are all commanded to by our baptism. On our parting, I also warned her that the more perfectly we exercise our prophetic office, the more likely we are to earn the "prophet's reward." Like Jesus, in his day, prophets today will be singled out for special treatment in the form of ostracization, hatred, and ridicule (or worse). Jesus' response would have been, "Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you." (Matthew 5:11-12)

The interesting thing is that when average churchgoers see these issues in sharp contrast to their own clergy, well schooled in the scriptures, they miss the obvious point, we can only wonder. Interesting that some Christian clergy suffers from the same spiritual blindness as the Pharisees did in Jesus' time. They see, but their sin remains, as do those who want the option to terminate an inconvenient pregnancy or disbelieve the inconvenient truth of global warming. I guess it is a matter of what we are ready to see or want to see in a situation. The grace to regain our sight is always there, as it was for the man blind at birth. We only have to be open and ask for sight from the Son of Man. Lord, give me your eyes so that I can see my blind spots.

Officer's Duties

Grand Knight 

  • Presides over all council meetings
  • Appoints program and membership directors
  • Appoints committees as needed
  • Countersigns orders for payment and checks
  • Ensures the submission of all paperwork required by the Supreme and State Councils
  • Maintains working relationships with the council’s chaplain, district deputy, field agent and general agent; as well as with other local service organizations (e.g. Habitat for Humanity, food pantries/soup kitchens)
  • Has a working knowledge of the Knights of Columbus website, Officers Online and Member Management
  • Responsible for council’s Admission Degree Team and the scheduling of frequent Admission (First Degree) Ceremonials


Deputy Grand Knight

  • Assists the grand knight with operation of the council
  • Presides at council meetings in the absence of the grand knight
  • Is recommended to serve on the council’s retention committee
  • Has a working knowledge of the Knights of Columbus website, Officers Online and Member Management
  • Performs other such duties as the grand knight may direct



  • Assists the grand knight and deputy grand knight with their duties, as assigned
  • Is entrusted with strengthening the members’ interest in council activities
  • Is recommended to serve as the chairman of the Admission Committee
  • Performs other such duties as the grand knight may direct



  • Responsible for keeping and maintaining a true and permanent record of all actions of the council
  • Maintains all correspondence of the council
  • Reads the bills entered into the minutes for discussion
  • Performs such other duties as the grand knight may direct


Financial Secretary

  • Is appointed by the supreme knight for a three-year term upon the grand knight and trustees’ recommendation
  • Must complete and submit the Application for Appointment as Financial Secretary (#FS101) to the Supreme Council
  • Collects dues from members
  • Initiates retention measures by providing a list of delinquent members to the grand knight
  • Ensures that the council’s membership records, including email addresses, are kept updated 
  • Ensures that new members sign the constitutional roll
  • Receives honorary and honorary life membership cards from the Supreme Council and provides them to the grand knight
  • Receives the “Surge. . . with Service” materials each fraternal year from the Supreme Council and distributes accordingly
  • Files various reports and membership/insurance transactions with the Supreme Council
  • Has a working knowledge of the Knights of Columbus website, Officers Online and the Member Management/Member Billing Applications
  • Responsible for completing and submitting a Form W-9 for the council (U.S. only)
  • Keeps the seal of the council and affixes it to membership cards, resolutions and other official documents
  • Performs such other duties as the grand knight may direct



  • Handles council funds
  • Receives money from the financial secretary and deposits it in the proper council accounts
  • Maintains all of the council’s checking and savings accounts
  • Is responsible for paying all council expenses, including assessments from the Supreme Council
  • Performs other such duties as the grand knight may direct



  • Is appointed annually by the grand knight
  • Is responsible for providing suitable educational and entertainment programs under the “Good of the Order” section of council meetings
  • Stays abreast of developments within the council’s charitable, membership and social programs
  • Performs other such duties as the grand knight may direct



  • Acts as parliamentarian for the council
  • Has a working knowledge of Method of Conducting Council Meetings (#10318)
  • Knows the council’s bylaws and the Order’s Charter, Constitution and Laws (#30)
  • Has access to Officers Online and Officers Desk Reference
  • Seeks legal assistance from the state advocate as needed
  • Performs other such duties as the grand knight may direct



  • Supervises and maintains all council property
  • Arranges the council chambers for meetings and degree exemplifications
  • Oversees inside and outside guards
  • Performs other such duties as the grand knight may direct


Inside/Outside Guards

  • Attend the doors of the council chamber, checking for current membership cards and allowing entrance
  • Perform other such duties as the grand knight may direct


Board of Trustees

  • Consists of the grand knight and three other members, who are elected by the council’s membership
  • At each regular election, the position of each trustee will be voted upon
  • Supervises all financial procedures of the council and conducts the semiannual audits
  • Ensures that proper protocol and procedures are followed by the council for the payment of monies
    • however, cannot override the vote of the council’s membership


Whose Your Lord? - Third Sunday Of Lent 2017

CLICK HERE to open a PDF file

 Have you ever felt shame for something you did; something  that was illegal or sinful?  Or, maybe you can remember back to a time when you were a child and you did something you were told not to do, and you got caught.  Some of us have learned about shame at a very early age.  Our parents may have been the most loving and well meaning parents, but they may have responded to something we did in a way that leaves us feeling embarrassed.  


In today’s Gospel story we can sense the shame of woman at the well.  We can also be fairly sure that Jesus did not condemn this woman or try to shame her.  No, he did not shame this woman any more than he would shame or condemn the woman caught in adultery, later in John’s Gospel (John 8:1-11)


We should not condemn this woman either.   Jesus commands his followers not to judge, lest we be judged.  Another important factor to consider in this situation is that in the first century only the man had the right to divorce his spouse.  The divorce was executed by the man by simply declaring, “I divorce you, I divorce you, I divorce you!”  At that point the former wife would be sent to the street without any property or resources to survive.  Who knows, maybe the woman caught in adultery in the 8th Chapter of John was a divorced woman trying to survive. 


The fact that Jesus engaged this woman in conversation in a public place would make him a violator of rabbinical law.  Earlier, in Jewish history women were held in higher regard, but by the 1st Century they were treated like Gentiles, and other undesirables.    Jesus quietly addresses her shame in a private way and does not expose her to further humiliation.  Her shame is evident in her coming to the well in the heat of the day so as to avoid the scorn of other women in the village.  Her solitary existence is part and parcel to the judgment that was leveled against her by her estranged husband(s) and neighbors.  This is the same loneliness we feel when we are shamed or judged to be unworthy.


An interesting parallel between the Samaritan woman’s story and her fellow Samaritan countrymen is that the Jewish community treated all Samaritans with disdain.  The reason for the contempt leveled at the Samaritan community was due to their apostasy.  During the Babylonian Exile the Samaritans had changed from being faithful Jews to worshiping the gods of their Babylonian captors.  They worshiped the 5 Baals of Babylon and not YHWH, the one true God of their ancestors.  Like the Samaritan woman their relationship with one God devolved into a multiplicity of allegiances and misplaced faith.  They did not have one Lord – they had five and the Lord they had now was not their God.  So how can this story be instructive for us and how can it help us in our faith journey?


Imagine that you meet Jesus in the midst of your shame – discovered in that one act or disposition that you hide and would do anything to keep hidden from those you love, or those you work with, or worship with.  Perhaps you harbor hatred or a deep-seated prejudiced against someone or even a whole group, or maybe it is the fact that you cheat on your taxes, or flirt with people (or worse) unbeknownst to your spouse, or perhaps you steel from your employer, or gossip so as to injure your rivals.  Imagine now that Jesus comes to you at the very moment of your realization that you did the one thing you promised yourself you wouldn’t do again.  He looks into your eyes and you see his great sadness and pain.  What do you say – what can you say?  What do you imagine he says to you?


You expect the worst – you expect that he will give up on your weak and unsuccessful attempts to change and the fact that you have secretly given up on trying to change.  You expect his condemnation.  You say to yourself, “Why try anymore?”  Then he acknowledges your failures, and you wait for the wrath.  Instead of His wrath he lets you know that he loves you, and he assures you that with his grace.  He says, “My grace is enough.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)   “I don’t expect you to be perfect, I only ask that you not give up trying.  Please never stop seeking my forgiveness, continue to turn back to me.”  With these words, you feel immediately lifted out of your darkness, and hopelessness and your shame is gone.  You are so surprised by this newfound energy and hope that you cannot wait to tell others, and your excitement is contagious.  You have gone from desperate and convicted sinner to evangelist.  Is this possible in your life?  The same savior that redeems the woman at the well wishes to redeem your life today.


Justa Dam Charity Ride


If you were at our last meeting you heard about the Justa Center and the work the 4th Degree has been doing with this wonderful organization. Just a recap Justa is the only homeless shelter, who's clients are 55 years of age or older. Of the nearly 130 people they serve daily, nearly 50 percent of them are veterans, and 42 percent of whom are women. This weekend we will be participating in the first annual Justa Dam Charity Ride with the Knights on bikes. You are welcome to join us even if you don't ride a bike. We are collecting donations of supplies listed below at the onset of the ride and we would love to have a you tour the center and we hope that you will come out to support this wonder charity.


Visit their website at:

And watch the ad for the Justa Dam Charity Ride at:

Read the flyer at:

Print the map at:

Transfiguration - Second Sunday Of Lent 2017

PDF copy of the reflection

Have you ever been surprised by an experience of God’s love that was so real and so immediate that it utterly shifts your conscientiousness to a place of peace and timelessness?   I have, but I find it almost impossible to explain with words.   What I can say is that I experienced a peace, and a sense of oneness in which I, and everyone, and everything were united.  This is not to say I lost my sense of self – in fact, I experienced what I will call my truest self - more truly than I have ever experienced before and after – and this self was being loved.   I recall that as I became self-aware of what I was experiencing I had a strong desire to hold onto it, and it was at that point that the experience began to fade and it left me.  …but the experience changed me forever.  


When I read today’s Gospel it brought back my own mountaintop epiphany of 21 years ago – not that I was on a mountaintop when it happened - I was driving south on 99th Avenue at 55 miles per hour in the west Valley – God only knows how long it actually lasted and who or what was guiding the car at the time.  The experience seemed outside of time.  There were some striking similarities in my experience with what I believe the Apostles experience in today’s story and it helps me to understand what is behind this amazing event.


First of all, Peter, James, and John were not praying at the time and they weren’t at the synagogue – they were outdoors on Mount Tabor.  In Luke’s account of this story (Luke 9:28-36) they had fallen asleep while Jesus went to pray.  I doubt that they were seeking or had any expectation a religious experience – it was pure gift.  It was something that could not be conjured up.  In my encounter I remember that I had worked a long day, I was tired, and I was not paying attention to anything in particular – probably zoning out as I drove mindlessly along.  I remember noticing the Estrella Mountains in the distance - and then it happened.  


In our Gospel story, when Moses and Elijah were about to depart, Peter suggests that they erect three tents – it seems to me that Peter did not want the experience to end and, like me, he was trying to hold onto it.   Then, a frightening cloud and the voice of God interrupts their desire to hold onto good feelings and points out the real reason for this encounter.  Their encounter on the mountain is about seeing Jesus in the context of salvation history and knowing that Jesus’ mission is true and must be trusted.  The grace of this vision and instruction will give the Apostles the strength to face the trials and suffering ahead as the follow Jesus to his final exaltation – the Cross.


I find it significant that Jesus is standing between Moses and Elijah. In the Jewish scriptures the books can be divided into three major sections; the LAW, the Prophets, and Wisdom.  Moses is credited with the first five books of the Jewish scriptures; the LAW or Torah.  In the LAW the Jewish people come to their identity beginning with the Exodus, the receiving of the Ten Commandments, and the rest of the laws.  The LAW orders Jewish society and sets them apart as God’s chosen people.  


Elijah stands for the prophets and is found in the book of Kings (1&2).  Other prophets include Jonah, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Daniel, and many more.  The prophets critique and correct the Jewish people, especially their Leaders.  Most of the prophets were persecuted and put to death for their trouble.  This is the price of speaking truth to power.  


In the tension between the LAW and the Prophets stand the Wisdom books, especially Job. Job holds to the LAW regardless of the critique and accusations of his friends and neighbors.  Jesus holds this same position as Job – while being an observant and faithful Jew he is widely condemned by his Jewish community, especially its leaders.  Despite his suffering and persecution, Jesus remains a faithful Jew, faithful to the LAW, and brings the LAW to perfection by critiquing the religious authorities, and by extending the love, mercy, and forgiveness of the Father to everyone.  


This epiphany is a powerful lesson for Peter, James, and John.  They heed the Father’s  command, they listen to the wisdom of Jesus, and they follow in His ways.    It changed them forever.  What epiphanies of God’s love have you experienced in your life?  What change is possible in your life as a result of this loving encounter through the gift of faith?  Maybe this Lent you will experience an epiphany of God’s mercy, love, and forgiveness.  Maybe you will find that this encounter of faith will shift your consciousness.  Maybe this will be the change, which changes everything. 


“Where Are We Being Led” - First Sunday Of Lent 2017 Reflection

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It is provocative to consider where Jesus is led in today’s Gospel, and by whom he was led. At the outset “…Jesus is led by the Spirit into the desert…” (Matthew 4:1) The devil, on the other hand, takes Jesus to the Temple and then to a high mountain to show Him the kingdoms of the world. I don’t know about you, but I would much rather hang out in precincts of the Temple in Jerusalem or be dazzled by great the great kingdoms, then spend time in the flinty Judean Desert. Isn’t this true even today? Doesn’t the desire to satisfy our wants draw us more toward places of glamour and power rather than to the wilderness?

In today’s reading from the second creation story in Genesis underlay same aspect. God’s first children, Adam and Eve, are placed in creation’s garden, in its original and natural state. In the garden they are provided all they need and they are close to their Father, and even walk with Him in the evening. God affirms his creation and his children when he remarks, they is “very good.” This is original, natural state is spoiled, however, when Adam and Eve fall prey to the temptation to be like gods – to be powerful, to be important, to satisfy their hungers. This is similar to the temptations we all face and is the very same temptations that Jesus faces in the desert. When subjected to these temptations Jesus doesn’t fall, how does he resist?

I believe that the key to understanding Jesus’ ability to resist these age-old temptations lies in the verse immediately before today’s Gospel selection. “And a voice came from the heavens, saying, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.’” (Matthew 3:17) Jesus’ Father affirms his true beloved identity. With his true identity established, Jesus doesn’t need to prove that he is the Son of God – he knows this at his core. Jesus doesn’t have to seek after power, prestige, or privilege. What greater privilege could one want than to be a beloved son, the Son of God? 

There is one important fact for us to realize, as we enter the wilderness of our lives, and we are exposed to the glamour and attraction of evil, and are tempted to become demigods. It is that we are already beloved children of God. If I can trust the truth of God’s unconditional love, then I no longer need to prove anything. I don’t need the adulation of the crowd, because I am affirmed and sustained by God with every breath I take. I wont need the knowledge of good and evil, for I will know that in God’s eyes, I am already “very good.” I don’t need to become powerful to protect myself, because “God is with me; with his rod and staff he comforts me.” (Cf. Psalm 23:4b) I do not need to test God’s love, because he proved his love when he “gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” (John 3:16) I don’t need to seek after the riches of worldly kingdoms, because I already have a place at the table in the Kingdom of God for all eternity. I wonder... Have I put my place in the kingdom in jeopardy by my stumbling attempts to obey God’s law? No, because God condemns no one to hell! (Catechism #1037)

Jesus shows the forgiving nature of his Father when having suffered the effects of the worst sin, as he hung on the cross said, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34) When we fall prey to the tempter, we have only to accept God’s forgiveness and, with His grace, try again. Then there is only one thing left for us to do… We need to extend the same understanding and forgiveness to others that we have received. Then, the devil will leave us, and behold, our angels will minister to us.

“The Lord Has Forsaken Me” - Reflection For The Eighth Sunday In Ordinary Time 2017

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The Lord Has Forsaken Me…”  (Isaiah 49:14a)  I visited a man in the Browning Unit of the State Prison Complex this week that, by all accounts, could speak these words with all sincerity. …and who would be surprised?   However, Derek did not speak such words, even though he awaits a death sentence for a capitol offense.  If you imagine that ‘Death Row’ of the State Prison Complex in Florence, Arizona is a dark and foreboding place, then you are correct.  Personally, I find the “Special Management Unit II” (SMU II – as it is alternately known) is the darkest place that I have ever entered.  Having said this, it may surprise you that, I have also found the light of God can penetrate this darkness and that one can experience the grace of God, and even joy, despite a sentence of death.    


After sharing this Sunday’s Gospel regarding who and what we are to serve – “God or Mammon” – Derek and I discussed what touched us about this scripture.  We agreed that one important point was the fruitlessness of worry. “Can anyone by worrying add a single moment to our life-span?”  (cf Matthew 6:27)  Derek is awaiting a death sentence by lethal injection, but it occurred to us that every person is born with a sentence of death from our birth.  – no one gets out alive.  This may feel like a morbid thought, but if you ponder on it awhile you may come to the realization of just how precious is our time on Earth.  Should the precious time remaining be spent gathering treasures on earth?  (cf. Matthew 6:19b) “Is not our life more than food and the body more than clothing?”  (Matthew 6:25b)  So, given the preciousness of life, what are we to do with the life we are given?  Is there something God is calling us to do?  


When I posed this question to Derek his response was, “I engage my fellow prisoners in a bible study.”  Imagine that – bible study on death row.  …and he adds… “I sit with someone who is going through a difficult time.”  I asked him, “What sort of things cause difficult times for men on death row?  Isn’t it difficult 24/7/365 in the SMU?”


When someone loses a loved one on the “outside” it is particularly hard, especially if they can’t go to the funeral.  One reason given for not allowing a prisoner to attend a parent’s death is if the body was cremated. (Go figure…)  Then he chuckles, “sometimes it’s the small stuff, like receiving a package from a family member and it wasn’t everything they wanted or asked for.  I told this one guy, to be thankful for the things they enjoyed and to share the other gifts with their fellow prisoners.”  “Yea,” I said, “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.”  Then I shared my other favorite euphemism about complaining about what we receive free of charge…  “Yea, some people will complain if they are hung with a new rope.”  I immediately thought better of this, but it was too late, Derek almost fell off his chair laughing.”  See there is even humor in the SMU.  He added his quip in the form of a question – “Why do they only use sterilized needles for administering the lethal injection?”  


Our conversation ended with the administering of Holy Communion and a final story from Derek.  Recently the death row prisoners are now being allowed out of doors in the yard for short periods. This was something that had not been allowed in the past, but thanks to a lawsuit lodged by The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) it is now being allowed.  During a recent time Derek and six of his fellow prisoners were playing basketball early in the morning before sunrise.  As the Sun began to rise, there was one of those beautiful Arizona sunrises.  He said that they immediately stopped in their tracks and could only marvel at the beauty – a gift from God that they had not seen for years.  How often am I immersed in the beauty of creation and don’t give it a second thought – take it for granted.  Has He not much more provided for you, O you of little faith?  (Matthew 6:30)  Yes, the light of God can penetrate even darkness of men destined to die.  "God bless us, every one!” 1



1.  Tiny Tim (A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens) is known for the statement, "God bless us, every one!" which he offers as a blessing at Christmas dinner.  Dickens repeats the phrase at the end of the story; this is symbolic of Scrooge's change of heart.  Are we ready for God to change our hearts?


“Love Your Enemies” - Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time 2017

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 This week’s portion of the Sermon on the Mount immediately follows last weeks which consisted of a series of sayings which begin with, "You have heard that it was said, …” “But I say to you, …” These last two of the six antithetical statements are, for many, the most difficult of all to live by.    And Jesus is commanding us to live in a very countercultural way.  Recall that Jesus begins this series of statements by making the point that he did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it.  Like last week’s excerpt from the Sermon on the Mount he is moving the focus from the wrongful behavior that constitutes sin, to the attitudes and judgments in the heart that precede our wrongful action.  Jesus understands that the root of evil is what we harbor in our minds, and it is what we think about others that often lead to the broken relationship we call sin.  



We live in a time where justifiable homicide is accepted as normal behavior and is seen as the solution to many of our problems.  If our person is attacked, we can pull out a concealed weapon and kill our assailant and call it self-defense.  If our country is threatened we can destroy the other nation and call it a just war.  If a murderer is captured he can be tried, sentenced to death, and executed and we call it justice.  If we conceive an unwanted child, we can have an abortion and call it a choice.  If we are chronically or terminally ill and are suffering, we can commit suicide and call it euthanasia.  If people are fleeing war, or persecution, or famine we can cut off their means of escape and call it protecting our sovereignty. 


Jesus’ words from today’s Gospel are no less radical today as when he spoke them 1984 years ago.  If the President of the United States were to command the military not take action against ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) he would be impeached and possibly tried for treason.  


So how are we to understand Jesus’ command to, “offer no resistance to one who is evil.”  This may sound as if Jesus is asking for passive resignation or even indifference to evil.  Surely this is not the case any more than when Jesus went to Jerusalem to challenge those in power and then offer no resistance to his, arrest, sentencing and execution.  Just as Jesus lived out his mission of speaking truth to the powerful in a nonviolent way, he also commands us to stand for the truth – “letting our yes mean yes, and our no mean no.”  (Matthew 5:37)  The goal is to allow the truth to stand for itself and let our nonviolent actions shame the opponent into a change of heart.  This type of moral resistance was exactly the approach used by Mahatma Gandhi (1940’s) and Martin Luther King (1960’s).  The end results of their efforts changed history forever in the direction of 

greater justice for all.  


As if to underline this very difficult stance of nonviolence in the face of evil, Jesus also commands that we love our enemies.  I spent 22 years in the Air Force and so, as you can imagine, I feel a bit hypocritical, preaching the love of enemies.  My job description as defined by Carl von Clausewitz, as an officer, was a manager of violence.  But I must preach peace if I am to call myself a disciple of Christ, the Prince of Peace.  My stance on this point came after months and years of soul searching and a very troubling week in the desert back in 2002.  In the end, it was not something I chose; I would have preferred to stay comfortable in my hawkish stance – My father fought in WWII and my two older brothers fought in the Viet Nam War.  It is important to point out, as stated above, Jesus was not a pacifist, and He was non-violent.  If Jesus had been a pacifist, he would have listened to Peter and not gone to Jerusalem.  (Matthew16: 22-23)  Instead, Jesus went to Jerusalem and spoke truth to power.  What results of his actions are displayed on every crucifix, the impact is the greatest gift of grace ever bestowed by God.


So how are we able to take this very courageous stance for truth?  The answer is presented in today’s excerpt from Paul’s letter in the form of a question.  “Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16)  And how is this Spirit to dwell in us?  Well… this is the point of our celebration of the Holy Eucharist – in a few minutes we will consume the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ.  We will literally eat God and we will become what we eat so we can live out the very life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.  If we but obey…


“Matters Of The Heart” - Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time 2017

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This week’s portion of the Sermon on the Mount consists of a series for sayings which begin with, "You have heard that it was said, …” “But I say to you, …” In each case Jesus states the Law of Moses on a particular point and then he restates the law in a deeper way. At the outset he explains that his intent is not to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it. Specifically he is moving the focus from the wrongful behavior that constitutes sin, to the attitudes and judgments in the heart that precedes our wrongful action. Jesus understands that the root of evil is what we harbor in our minds, and it is what we think about others that often lead to the broken relationship we call sin.

When we sin, two or more relationships are violated. We alienate the person or group we have injured by our wrongful action, and we alienate ourselves from God. Broken relationships are not healed by exacting punishment, but through reconciliation with the injured parties, and to seek forgiveness from God. I readily admit that asking God for forgiveness through the Sacrament of Reconciliation is easier and less messy than redressing wrongs with other human beings. But let’s look at the way of avoiding this dilemma in the first place…
First of all, I should point that Jesus is not minimizing the importance of the prohibitions against murder, or adultery, or divorce. Rather, Jesus is stressing the importance of recognizing the attitudes and the judgments we hold in our hearts that leads to these violations and that result in broken relationships and alienation from God. These judgmental attitudes arise in our minds; therefore the healing of these deformations will not be resolved within the same mind conciseness that formed them. They can only be healed within the heart, a centering place of passionate love. So how does that happen?

I’m a picture kind of guy so for our discussion lets consider the images here of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the immaculate heart of Mary. Note that Jesus and our Mother are not pointing to their heads, but to their hearts. With in the merciful heart of Jesus and of the compassionate heart of Mary we can find a place where we can first experience our own healing and forgiveness, so that we can then express the same healing and forgiveness to those persons from whom we are estranged.

Imagine that person whom we may think of as our enemy, or accuser, or competitor. This image rests in our mind and our understanding of this person is by way of our own calculations of their worth or maybe their worthlessness. Now move that image down into our heart where that image can experience a transformation through the warmth of our beating heart and flowing blood. Held them in this space we will find it harder to be judgmental and accusatory about this person. Now we are in a stance where we can pray for them with a sincere heart. The reason for this transformation is that our heart is the dwelling place of Jesus and it is the same place where we can experience the unconditional love extended to us by God. This doesn’t mean that their behavior will change, but it does mean that we can stop being their judge and the exacter of punishment. In stead we can become an understanding and forgiving brother and sister. When we can take this stance there is no limit to what miracles God can work in and through us.

I understand that you may be skeptical about all this – I am also a skeptic, but I was amazed with the outcome of this exercise. Remember what Jesus told his disciples, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father.” (Matthew 5: 43-45a)

But now I am getting ahead of myself, because this saying is the heart of next Sunday’s Gospel. More next week.

“People of Salt And Light” - Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time 2017

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Our Gospel for this Sunday is a continuation of the Sermon on the Mount begun last week with the Beatitudes.  Today we hear Jesus teaching about salt and light as metaphors that emphasize the importance of actions that flow out of our ascent to faith.  When we recite the Creed at Mass, do we truly believe that Jesus is the Son of God?  If we truly believe that Jesus is the Son of God and we hear his teaching today, are we impelled to act on His teaching




In 1994 the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) issued a reflection on the social mission of the parish titled, Communities of Salt and Light.  This reflection starts with today’s excerpt from Matthew.  (Matthew 5:13-16)  Within this context our bishops stated emphatically, “We cannot proclaim a gospel we do not live, and we cannot carry out a real social ministry without knowing the Lord and hearing his call to justice and peace.”  St. James harshly retorted to the man who claimed he had faith, but does not have works, “Do you want proof, you ignoramus, that faith without works is useless?(James 2:20)  


At St. Andrew the Apostle our mission is commitment to the “mission of Jesus Christ; dedicated to the formation of disciples, who use their gifts to fulfill His mission.”  Jesus’ mission is clear, and many in our community put their faith into action each week to carry out this mission in the corporal and the spiritual works of mercy.  Their faith is not dead, it is alive!  …and the work their faith inspires brings life to others.  Here is a list of the many good works done by the faithful at St. Andrew’s the Apostle Parish. 



The corporal works of mercy include:

  1. To feed the hungry.
  2. To give water to the thirsty.
  3. To clothe the naked.
  4. To shelter the homeless.
  5. To visit the sick.
  6. To visit the imprisoned.
  7. To bury the dead.

The spiritual works of mercy include:

  1. To instruct the ignorant.
  2. To counsel the doubtful.
  3. To admonish sinners.
  4. To bear patiently those who wrong us.
  5. To forgive offenses.
  6. To console the afflicted.
  7. To pray for the living and the dead


These works are done by groups like the St. Vincent de Paul Society, the Knights of Columbus, Grow Haiti’s Children, and the various Caring Ministries.  Please excuse me if I have overlooked some groups in our parish (ie. Marian Missionaries of Divine Mercy), who works, because of their humility, will remain hidden.


Based on their approach to ministry, the actions of these faithful disciples are like salt and others’ actions are more like light.  What does a ministry of salt or a ministry of light mean?  In which way does their approach differ & why?  It is based on their God-given gifts.  As mentioned above some folks don’t like to draw attention to themselves.  You may be a shy person, but don’t let your honest humility keep you from living your faith.  


SALT:  There are many ways you can serve that don’t require you to get up in front – which may be the last thing you want to do.  That’s OK – it is the way God made you.  That may mean that you are meant to be subtler – like a good seasoning that brings out the good flavor of food without being noticed.  There are many in our parish that prepare and serve food for funeral receptions.  In doing this you are performing two of the corporal works of mercy (#1 & #7 above) and one of the spiritual works of mercy (#6).  As a good cook you already know that the right amount of salt doesn’t leave the food salty.  Good seasoning is always subtle.  But maybe you know that cooking isn’t your thing.  Well, maybe the Sophia Sewers would be your way to active faith.  These folks minister by sewing garments for Smile Train and working collaboratively with the teens at OLPH Orphanage in Jeremie to make garments and cards for sale to raise money and awareness of our brothers and sisters in Haiti, the poorest county in the Western Hemisphere.


LIGHT:  However, if you have been given the “gift of gab” and you don’t have any inhibitions about speaking your mind in front of a group, than you may be that light that is placed on a lamp stand that gives light to the whole house.  Perhaps you may be the right person to participate in the R.I.C.A. (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults).  There is a need to sponsors and teachers where you will have the opportunity to instruct and counsel those who are curious about our Roman Catholic faith.  Do I need to go on?  I think you get my drift…


As mentioned above in the quote from the USCCB, ministry is both active and prayerful.  As a community, we at St. Andrew the Apostle try to reflect our concern for the poor during each liturgy.  When our children bring up donations of food during the offertory along with the bread and wine, for consecration and distribution, we are connecting all the various parts of the Body of Christ.  With these gifts, both the sacramental elements for Holy Communion & the food staples for the poor, we are giving thanks and sharing in the One Body.  This Holy Communion is within our sanctuary building,  beyond our church, into the streets, and out into God’s creation – a sanctuary without walls.  When we do this we build bridges of conscious loving service.  We begin to transcend all boundaries based on race, color, creed, or national origin.  - - - or any other human division that threatens to divide the family of God.  In all this we “glorify (y)our heavenly father”(cf. Mt 5:16b) and we become Kingdom-builders in the mission of Jesus Christ.  


“Blessed Truth” - Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time 2017

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 For now it is enough to focus on only one verse of today’s Gospel passage.  “He began to teach them saying:  “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  (Matthew 5:3) This beatitude is truth, pure and simple, but it can only be understood by those born of the Spirit. (John 3:8)  Heaven is experienced by those who abide in God, and those who have been born again are those who abide in God.


When a Pharisee named Nicodemus comes Jesusin the night and asks Jesus, “How can this happen?”  “How can a person once grown old be born again?  (John 3)  Jesus retorts that the kingdom of God is only seen by those who have been born from above, with water and Spirit.  There are two catalysts for this rebirth.  Two ways that people can be led to the threshold of transformation that we call rebirth; deep prayer and suffering, but most commonly suffering is the catalyst.  It is God, of course, that transforms us,  but God dose not force God-self on us, we must become open to God’s action in our lives.  


…But where is God?  God is eminent, God is everywhere, but God is also intimate.  God resides in us, in the center of who we are – think of a seed in the earth.  For this seed to germinate the soil must be fertile and moist.  We can water this seed of faith through deep prayer and contemplation.  This seed can also be bear fruit when we embrace the suffering in our lives in the same way that Jesus embraced his cross.  To embrace suffering means to trust God and allow God to work.  God hears our cries and responds with the same peace and healing love that Jesus shared with his disciples on earth.  Jesus shared this peace with those who responded to his call and his invitation to healing and forgiveness.  These are the hallmarks of the kingdom of heaven.  Either way (suffering and prayer) we can become open in a way that allows God to abide in us.


Later in Matthews Gospel Jesus teaches how his Father answers our prayer for healing and peace.  


“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.  Which one of you would hand his son a stone when he asks for a loaf of bread, or a snake when he asks for a fish?  If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him.”  (Matthew 7: 7-11)


The truth of the first beatitude is that for those who are poor in spirit, theirs is the kingdom of heaven.   …that is where they abide now – they abide in God and where God abides, there is peace.  In only this first beatitude and the next to last beatitude is heaven a present reality.  For all the others there is a promise of future restoration.  Heaven is a promise not postponed.  Heaven is a promise open to anyone, but especially those who suffer and are poor in spirit.  If you struggle with making sense of this, as I do, then we should pray to be reborn through our suffering and through compassion with the poor, to literally suffer with the poor.  This can begin when we align ourselves with those who can teach us by their example what it means to be poor in spirit.  Those who have been baptized in suffering and in the Spirit.  Then the poor in spirit will be a blessing for us as well.


“Jesus Christ Liberator” Third Sunday in Ordinary Time 2017

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 Today’s scripture from Matthew’s Gospel (which echoes the words of the prophet Isaiah from our first reading) introduces Jesus as a Liberator and, I should add, a friend of outcasts.  Matthew also gives us a strong sense of how different Jesus’ approach to teaching was, as compared to the Jewish rabbinical tradition.  A tradition where a rabbi would focus on his kindred Jews and would-be disciples would pursue the teacher, not the other way around.  Instead of associating with the temple officials & priests, fellow rabbis, scribes, & scholars of the Law, Jesus sought out and associated with the outcast; Tax collectors, foreigners, prostitutes, and drunkards – in short “sinners.”  


Jesus comes to call the lost children, to heal them, to forgive them, and to express his Father’s love for them.  He didn’t ignore their sins, but lovingly called them to repentance and gave them a second chance.  He offered them a chance to change their lives and to have a seat at the table, a seat at the banquet table of the Kingdom of God.  Not some future heaven, but a place of justice and love in the here and now.  As Jesus preached, the Kingdom of God is at Hand!  (Luke 10:9, 10:11, 17:21 Matthew 3:2, 10:7)


Interestingly, he did not have much time for the self-righteous, judgmental, and insular elite.  These were aforementioned temple officials & priests, rabbis, scribes, & scholars of the Law.  It is not surprising that these ‘establishment folks’ had nothing but contempt and hatred for Jesus who seemed to be unsettling their comfortable and secure system.  This is the system that kept the elite in power at the expense of the poor.  Also not surprising, was the love that the ‘bottom dwellers’ had for Jesus.  Jesus treated them with respect, and showed them care and concern for their plight and worked to make life in the present world better for them.  


It would seem of little consolation to offer the suffering masses a promise of a future heaven in lieu of compassion, concern, and healing in the present.  When they came to him he forgave and healed all who came to him.  This is not to say that there is no consolation in knowing of a future heaven with God, there is.  …but if God is present in the now and the kingdom of God is at hand (as Jesus preached), then God will not withhold this healing in the present.  This salvation is in the person of ‘Jesus the Liberator,” who relieves suffering and offers forgiveness.  


Given the scriptural mandate to proclaim that the kingdom of God is now, I posit that salvation has as much to do with this world, as it has to do with this world redeemed.  Rather than a reward based moral judgment, salvation is the acceptance of this mandate and acceptance of ones true self as a beloved child and faithful servant of God.  Jesus is the mediator of salvation through his example of building the kingdom by selfless and loving service to others.  His service consists of healing, forgiving, empowering and liberating anyone in need.  The personal relevance of this and the relevance of this view of salvation in ministry is that Jesus saves us through and in us.  Jesus is the liberator because he empowers us with the image of the “beloved son” (Matthew 3:17) to choose to be part of redeemed creation rather than miss what is already present in the here and now.  Our baptismal call is to emulate this beloved image, and to do so beyond all boundaries, religious, political, and national, just as Jesus did.


“Behold The Lamb…” - Second Sunday in Ordinary Time 2016

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“Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29) This ancient phrase in John’s Gospel, read at the beginning of Ordinary Time, contains the same words we hear during the Communion rite at Mass each Sunday. I had always assumed that these beautiful words were original to the Gospel of John. The evangelist actually borrowed these words from the meals shared in the early house-churches following the passion of their beloved Jesus. This table fellowship of Messianic Jews, who had followed Jesus, was a time to share their stories of his life and the hope of a new future. He had died, but they believed his Spirit was alive in them. They were not yet called Christians; this was to come later. They were Jews who still went to their local Synagogues and to the Jerusalem Temple. The Temple was not yet destroyed and the Gospels were not yet written.

With the destruction of the temple in A.D. 70, the center of the Jewish faith moved to the synagogues under the direction of the Pharisees. The Pharisees, who had rejected Jesus, rejected his followers from the synagogues that they controlled. These followers, though tolerated by the Romans up to this point, became suspect and were forced underground to operate out of house-churches.

The meals they shared (along with all they owned), were shared in common in the memory of the Master who had shared Himself completely, even His very life. By mid first century, these meals became more structured and by all accounts could be called Eucharistic in the same sense we have today. Many elements of this early Eucharist, documented in the Didache (circa late first-century), are recognizable in today’s more formal Mass.

You might ask, "Why all this discussion about the early Church?” Let me explain. In today's church we have a highly developed theology from alms Giving to worship, we have the Nicene Creed, the Sacred Scriptures, the Code of Canon Law, and the Catechism. From this perspective, we might assume that all these things are what make us church; and in one sense, this assumption might be correct. But there is a different view that I have come to appreciate.

After Christ died and was resurrected, the early Church had none of this formal structure. What they did have was first-hand experience of Jesus, his teachings, and his ministry. Some actually had the memory of a meal shared with their Beloved. As Rich Mullins song, Creed, says “I did not make it, no, it is making me:” I believe this is true not only about our Creed, but it is also true about our rituals. This is especially true of the most central ritual of our Faith, the Eucharist: the source and summit of our Faith. The Eucharist came first and everything else flows from it. In this ritual meal, shared in community, we are transformed – by the real presence of Jesus – into the real presence of Jesus. You may ask, “How can this be?”


In John’s Gospel (17:21) Jesus speaks of this divine communion, “…so that we may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us.” This unitive nesting of God and us, divine and human, also speaks of the “supernatural existential,” or the innate capacity of the human person to receive the self-communication of God.

While we find it difficult to comprehend this real presence of God in us, I believe that Jesus’ disciples also struggled with this mystical truth of grace that is God’s gift of God’s self. I believe (and this is speculation, not doctrine) that He decided to make His presence real and actual in another and physical way in the hope that they/we would understand. He hopes that we also understand and believe this great truth. And so each week we hear the words “Take this all of you, and eat it: this is my body which has been given up for you.” The next time you hear these words, know that this act is the central communal action of the people of God gathered as the living Body of Christ, the confluence of the infinite Creator with the finite person in a most intimate and perfect way.

“Behold The Lamb…” - Second Sunday in Ordinary Time 2017

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“Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29) This ancient phrase in John’s Gospel, read at the beginning of Ordinary Time, contains the same words we hear during the Communion rite at Mass each Sunday. I had always assumed that these beautiful words were original to the Gospel of John. The evangelist actually borrowed these words from the meals shared in the early house-churches following the passion of their beloved Jesus. This table fellowship of Messianic Jews, who had followed Jesus, was a time to share their stories of his life and the hope of a new future. He had died, but they believed his Spirit was alive in them. They were not yet called Christians; this was to come later. They were Jews who still went to their local Synagogues and to the Jerusalem Temple. The Temple was not yet destroyed and the Gospels were not yet written.

With the destruction of the temple in A.D. 70, the center of the Jewish faith moved to the synagogues under the direction of the Pharisees. The Pharisees, who had rejected Jesus, rejected his followers from the synagogues that they controlled. These followers, though tolerated by the Romans up to this point, became suspect and were forced underground to operate out of house-churches.

The meals they shared (along with all they owned), were shared in common in the memory of the Master who had shared Himself completely, even His very life. By mid first century, these meals became more structured and by all accounts could be called Eucharistic in the same sense we have today. Many elements of this early Eucharist, documented in the Didache (circa late first-century), are recognizable in today’s more formal Mass.

You might ask, "Why all this discussion about the early Church?” Let me explain. In today's church we have a highly developed theology from alms Giving to worship, we have the Nicene Creed, the Sacred Scriptures, the Code of Canon Law, and the Catechism. From this perspective, we might assume that all these things are what make us church; and in one sense, this assumption might be correct. But there is a different view that I have come to appreciate.

After Christ died and was resurrected, the early Church had none of this formal structure. What they did have was first-hand experience of Jesus, his teachings, and his ministry. Some actually had the memory of a meal shared with their Beloved. As Rich Mullins song, Creed, says “I did not make it, no, it is making me:” I believe this is true not only about our Creed, but it is also true about our rituals. This is especially true of the most central ritual of our Faith, the Eucharist: the source and summit of our Faith. The Eucharist came first and everything else flows from it. In this ritual meal, shared in community, we are transformed – by the real presence of Jesus – into the real presence of Jesus. You may ask, “How can this be?”


In John’s Gospel (17:21) Jesus speaks of this divine communion, “…so that we may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us.” This unitive nesting of God and us, divine and human, also speaks of the “supernatural existential,” or the innate capacity of the human person to receive the self-communication of God.

While we find it difficult to comprehend this real presence of God in us, I believe that Jesus’ disciples also struggled with this mystical truth of grace that is God’s gift of God’s self. I believe (and this is speculation, not doctrine) that He decided to make His presence real and actual in another and physical way in the hope that they/we would understand. He hopes that we also understand and believe this great truth. And so each week we hear the words “Take this all of you, and eat it: this is my body which has been given up for you.” The next time you hear these words, know that this act is the central communal action of the people of God gathered as the living Body of Christ, the confluence of the infinite Creator with the finite person in a most intimate and perfect way.

A Good King Cares For All His Subjects: Reflection for the Epiphany of the Lord 2017

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 In ancient Israel a King was judged by how he cared for his subjects - all of them, especially the least in the kingdom. This concept arose out of how God was seen - a God who cared for all his children and for all creation. This is the theme I see running through all of our readings on this feast of the Epiphany. The very word, epiphany, is defined as the sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature of something though an event - an intuitive grasp of reality through a simple or striking event, in this case, the birth of Jesus, Emanuel. This revelation brings us to the understanding that God is for everyone, without exception. 

However, not everyone will recognize this Child-King in the same way. The magi will come to do Him homage, but how do they see this event and the star that leads them to this child, and who were these magi? The magi are defined as those who "pray in silence" and are believed to be decedents of Seth, third son of Adam. These monk-like mystics from a far-off, mythical land called Shir (China?), were guardians of an age-old prophecy, that a star of indescribable brightness would herald the birth of God in human form. They clearly recognize this new King, but when they return to the homeland do they lead others to the truth they have come to believe? We don't know, the scriptures are silent on this point.

Herod also seems to recognize that this child would become king, but rather than accept the prophesy of the magi or the understanding of the Jewish priests, Herod sees the child as a threat to his own kingship. Many are amazed at these events and come to see the child and share their amazement, but we don't hear any more from them in the scriptures. Does this event change their lives, do they choose to live their lives differently, or do they just go back to their lives as usual?

The greatest impact appears to be on the immediate family of Jesus, on May and Joseph. Mary ponders these events in her heart and Joseph dreams dreams of an angelic messenger. Driven by Herod's hatred and jealousy, and directed by the God's angel, the these parents and their child flees into Egypt. We don't hear too much more about this Child-King until he advances in wisdom and age and favor before God and man. (Luke 2:52) What we do know is that he became a man who cared for those who were sick, rejected and despised. He loved them and healed them and forgave them of their sins. This won him many friends, especially among the common folk. Sadly, many did not accept his love or the truth he shared, especially those in power. The truth He shared was that God loved all his children, especially those who were the littlest and the least - just like the good kings of old.

The crowds who followed him began to trust his message of love and their numbers grew to the tens-of-thousands. Those in power began to fear him. They were afraid that they would lose control of their subjects who allegiance was based in fear. The one thing they thought would stop this revolution of love, was to eliminate its radical leader. If they could kill the shepherd, the sheep would scatter. So like Herod, who sought to kill Him at the beginning of His life, the Roman overlords and the religious leaders conspired to kill Him.

The question that remains for us today is, "Where these despotic leaders right?" By killing Jesus, did they end his message of love and forestall His Kingdom? Did the people who believe in Jesus' message continue to embrace his teaching after his execution? Will the Kingdom he came to proclaim been established on Earth, as it is in Heaven? Are we doing His will on Earth? Jesus told his followers that the Kingdom of God is Now! ... and the Kingdom of God is within us. Do we believe this? Are we ready to do more that to pay only lip service to these beliefs? God's Kingdom will come, that is our belief, but when? Are we ready to live like we believe it? Jesus came and showed us what this looks like. He loved everyone and commanded us to do the same - even those we call enemies and sinners. Are we ready to follow this Son of Man, Son of God? Today?


“Amazement v. Reflection” - Reflection For Mary, The Holy Mother of God 2016

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In today’s story of the Savior’s birth, the angles message shared by the shepherds resulted in amazement by all who heard it, with one exception, Mary. Mary reflected the angelic message relayed by the shepherds and pondered it’s meaning in her heart. Her son’s birth was the result of the promise she received from Gabriel and her acceptance of God’s will in her life. Her obedience was mirrored in Joseph’s acceptance of God’s promise and his obedience in the role as foster father of Mary’s offspring, Son of Man, Son of God.

The life ahead for this family would be a most difficult one. Starting with Jesus’ birth, and for the rest of his life, there would be those who would oppose Jesus’ mission. Only three days after Christmas we celebrated the Memorial of the Holy Innocents, Martyrs, which was an attempt by a jealous king to extinguish the life of who he believed would grow up to be his rival. As you recall Herod was fearful of the child king, predicted by the three wise men, was a threat to his throne. He set about to destroy the child; first to trick the wise men into revealing his location, and when that failed, by the blatant violence of killing all the male children under two years of age in the district of Bethlehem. This attempt on His life wasn’t the only oppression that would plague Jesus, his family, and his disciples. He and those closest to him would also be faced with poverty, homelessness, and violence because of those who opposed God’s message of love and justice. Many would seek his life throughout his brief 33 years. In the end they caught up with Jesus in Jerusalem, they tortured him, and executed him in the most brutal way.

Because of their own marginalized status, Jesus, and his disciples could easily understand, and identify with, the plight of the poor, outcasts, and foreigners – and even those today. For the followers of Jesus the only laws by which they lived are the two great commandments, to love God, and to love thy neighbor. (Matthew 22:40) Living by these laws ties the love we have for our neighbor and the love we have for ourselves to the one who loved us first, the Father. More explicitly in the parable of the Last Judgment in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus connects the love and compassion we have to the littlest and the least to the love of the Father. ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’ (Matthew 25:40b)

It is interesting to note, that the shepherds that were present at Jesus birth were those who were little respected by society at the time, those unwashed men who smelled like the sheep they tended. Ironic, today we place so much importance on status, even in the religious institutions, especially considering the explicit condemnation of seeking places of honor at banquets and the donning of fine clothing. (Mark 12:38-39) I always feel a little squeamish when reading this passage from Mark from the Altar in nice vestments, and then, return to my place in a large comfortable chair located in a prominent location in the front of the congregation. More challenging yet is the parable of the Rich man and Lazarus. (Luke 16:19-31) This challenges me to try to live my life in a way that shares the abundance I have received with those who have little. Pray that I do not make the mistake of the rich man as relates to his relationship with the poor man at his doorstep.

Perhaps, like Pope Francis, we need to look for ways to simplify our lives and live closer to the little ones of the world; whom we are called to serve. Can we follow the lead of our Pope serve to serve with humility, compassion, and understanding? And can we associate with those who, like the Holy Family, were poor refugees of this world?

“People in Darkness” - Nativity of the Lord 2016

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 The readings from Isaiah for this week and last week reflect the tense and dangerous decades before the fall of the Kingdom of Israel.  As you may recall from what I shared last week: this was a time of conflict between kingdoms, within and without the tribes of Israel.  The conflicts were between Judah and Israel; and with their aggressor to the north, Assyria.  Not unlike today, there are alliances between countries that would seem to be natural enemies, and conflict with those whom one would hope would be at peace.  What seems to be holding true is that “misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows.”(Shakespeare - The Tempest)  As in Shakespeare’s time, politicians form peculiar associations so as to achieve short-term gains.  Sadly this arrangement led to the downfall of Israel, 20 years after Ahaz courted Assyria in order to secure his own personal situation as King of Judah.  I fear that we today may also be courting disaster when “…we place our trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save.”(Psalm 146:3 [NIV])  Shouldn’t we rather be relying on God and the values espoused by our faith.


At this time of year, when we celebrate the Incarnation, (as well as the Second Coming) we should be ever more mindful that we, as believers, place our trust in the Word, that was with God in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be God, world without end. (Cf. John 1:1)  Battles rage today, in places like Aleppo, Syria; Juarez, Chihuahua; and Grozny, Chechnya.  In places like these, Isaiah promised that the uniforms soaked in blood, and the boots that trample the innocent will be burned as fuel for flames.  (Cf Isaiah 9:4) …meaning that all vestiges of war will be destroyed so that the reign of peace and justice may commence.  And who will usher in this reign of God? …the Prince of Peace?  A child born to us, a Son given us… an infant born in a stable, wrapped in swaddling, and lying in a feeding trough for cattle.  Do we believe this prophecy?  If so, why after two millennia do the wars still rage and the innocent suffer?  Do we truly understand what prophecy is?


Prophecy isn’t telling the future, prophecy is telling the truth.  If peace is to reign, then we need to place our trust in God’s truth and not in our own politics of power and influence.  Like Mary and Joseph, we need to say ‘yes’ to God so as to bring Christ into the world.  If peace is to reign we need to do the work of Jesus, to bring a justice that establishes right relationships and seeks the good for all people.  We must demand that world leaders (beginning with our own elected officials) act with righteousness, looking out for the needs of all, especial the poor and dispossessed.  We must live up to our own prophetic call (received at baptism) and be the voice for the voiceless, the healer of the broken, the protectors of widows, orphans, and life at all stages.  Our standard for excellence on the international stage must be based on justice for all especially the most vulnerable.  We need to care for all of God’s children regardless of race, religion, or national origin.  This begins with our own county taking the high ground when it comes to leadership in justice among nations.  We need to truly become  ‘one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for ALL.’


The challenge question for us today is, ‘Are we ready to put aside our short term desires, so that we can work to usher in the Kingdom of God here on earth?’  ‘Are we ready to pick up our cross and follow Jesus?’  ‘Are we ready to lay down our lives for others and for the good of all?’


"He Was a Righteous Man" - Fourth Sunday of Advent 2016 Reflection

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 In the second half of the eighth century B.C. Isaiah received a call to prophetic office in the Temple of Jerusalem.  This divine summons, to be the ambassador of the Most High, happened during a critical time in world history.  The geographic setting for today’s story encompasses what are today, Israel, Syria, and Iraq.  Geography, however, is not the only parallel we can draw between ancient times and the present day.  As in the time of Isaiah, this is an area of much conflict and war.  Our story opens with King Ahaz aligning himself with Assyria rather than joining forces with his natural allies as a people descended from Jacob (Israel and Damascus).  By his misplaced loyalty, he held onto his throne in Judah with all its power, prestige, and privilege that kingship affords.  Isaiah protests Ahaz’s choice to place his trust in Assyria, rather than trusting in the God of Jacob.


Besides preserving his position, throughout his 20-year reign, Ahaz was also freed of troubles with his ‘brother states’, a relationship that had been marred by territorial disputes.  The downside of Ahaz’s pragmatic choice of allies was that Judah became a vassal state of Assyria.  This lopsided alliance led to a moral breakdown of King Ahaz and the subjects of Judah, who subsequently embraced both the Assyrian religion, and its politics of aggression.  If you think this is beginning to sound like the geopolitics of today you may be correct.  I am referring to foreign policy, in which superpowers use the smaller nations in this region as pawns in promoting their global ambitions.  I pray that we, as one nation under God, can mend our ways, and always seek long-term peace, rather than trying to satisfy short-term gains. 


In the midst of this unhealthy alliance, the Lord offers a sign to buoy Ahaz’s trust, but Ahaz refuses on the grounds that this would be tantamount to tempting God.  Isaiah protests Ahaz’s hypocrisy, and his lust for power:  Isaiah foretells that the Lord will provide a sign anyway.  The sign will be the Virgin birth of a boy child who will be a true Shepherd of Israel.  This descendant of King David will be a servant-leader that comes to proclaim the truth by his own life.  King Ahaz, an unrighteous man, seeks to satisfy his own vain desire of power and privilege, by aligning himself with the rich and powerful.


St. Joseph in our Gospel from Matthew provides a stark contrast to King Ahaz.  Joseph is a righteous man who does not seek to satisfy his own ambitions, but rather seeks to provide for and protect his family.  Joseph is like the man described in today’s psalm, “One whose hands are sinless, whose heart is clean, who desires not what is vain.”  (Psalm 24:4)  However, when Joseph finds out that Mary is pregnant before they live together he decides to divorce her quietly, so that she will not be subject to the Law that requires that a woman caught in adultery be stoned to death (Leviticus 20:10).  The Lord sends an angel to Joseph in a dream that instructs him that it is the Lord’s will that he take Mary as his wife. Joseph, unlike Ahaz, listens to the angel and places his trust in the promise proclaimed by Isaiah 800 years earlier.  (Romans 1:2)  Joseph, like Mary, accepts the calling to parent the son of Mary – Son of God.  He did not seek after his own needs, but provided for the needs of others, even a Son that he did not father.  


This makes Joseph a model for all fathers, and sets the bar high for any parent who desires to live ones faith.  What kind of man takes on this huge responsibility on faith alone?  What was he like?  There is not a single word spoken by Joseph that is recorded in the scriptures.  Neither does the Bible reveal much detail about Joseph's role as Jesus’ earthly father, but we know from Matthew, today, that he was an excellent earthly example of integrity and righteousness.  Joseph is last mentioned in Scripture when Jesus was 12 years old.  We know that he passed on the carpentry trade to his son and raised him in the Jewish traditions and spiritual observances.  My speculation (and there are no Bible references for this) that Jesus would share many of Joseph’s human qualities, while at the same time, without any comprise, share the distinct qualities of his Heavenly Father.  I pray that our families can accept the responsibility and grace we need to be holy families.


“You better watch out, you better not cry You better not pout, I'm telling you why...” Third Sunday of Advent – 2016

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 As we move through the advent season we get bombarded more and more by the marketing hype stirred up by the commercialization of a religious holiday.  Sadly this joyful feast of the incarnation has been  highjacked by the secular world.  The result of this onslaught is the unrealistic expectations in both children and adults for the treasures to be found under the Christmas tree.  This often leads to buying sprees made possible by the misuse of credit cards.  At the beginning of the New Year, there are many who are more hungover with the regrets of increased debt and buyers remorse, than from too much distilled spirits.  Then there is the discovery that more toys won’t bring the joy promised in the greeting cards now relinquished to the recycle can.  When this happens to us we realize that we have not fully lived up to the slogan, “Keep Christ in Christmas” bumper sticker, on the family car.


Even the patron saint of Christmas, St. Nicolas, has been transformed from a 4th Century Bishop from the ancient town of Myra, to a jolly man in a red suit who hands out gifts to children based on whether or not they are naughty or nice.  The Americanized version we call Santa Claus has come down to us from the Dutch name “Sinterklaas.  The story of the gifts he gave was from the time when a poor family with three girls lost their mother.  The grieving and desperate widower fell into despair, for he had no money for a dowry, and so could not secure their future.  Sadly he was tempted to sell his daughters into prostitution just so they could eat.  When the Bishop realized this the got three bags of gold and threw them through the window of the home, thus providing the needed dowry so resolve their dilemma.  


This is the true meaning of Christmas.  God send’s his only Son, born of a woman, to give birth to love, a love that saves us of our sins, and save us from ourselves.  To ransom us from a life where we are often temped to compromise our beliefs just to survive.  By coming to earth as truly one of us, God is saying, “I know your pain, I know your suffering, I know your sickness, and I know your despair and confusion; because I have experienced all of these as one of you.”  So when John the Baptist sends his disciples to Jesus to ask Him, “Are you the one who is to come.”  John waits for the answer back with great anticipation to see for sure what he has already believed in faith, is really true.  He, like us, wants to understand who this Jesus is.  He, like us, believes, but at times we doubt.  He, like us, can become imprisoned in our fear, in our doubt, in “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.”  (Shakespeare – Hamlet)  Remember, John will soon loose his life as a direct result of speaking the truth of God to the powers that be.  Are we ready to step out in this kind of faith or do we hold back for lack of faith.  Oh, how foolish we (you) are!  How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke!”  (Luke 24: 25)


The answer comes back to John, “the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.  (Matthew 11:5)  Imagine how relieved John was to know that if he lost his life for proclaiming the truth of God, it would not be the end but only the beginning!  Imagine for us that if we are blind in our understanding, lame in our faith, leprous in our sins, deaf to the Good News or the walking-dead of the secular world, or poor in spirit…  God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”  (John 3:16)


“Full of Grace” - Reflection for The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary 2016

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It is believed that the Feast of the Immaculate Conception was first celebrated in Syria as early as the fifth century, but what exactly is it that we celebrate? What we celebrate today (which is sometimes confused) is that the Blessed Virgin Mary, daughter of St. Ann and St. Joachim, was conceived without sin. Immaculate Conception - macula [mak´u-lah] (L.) a stain immacula w/o stain. Not only was Mary conceived without sin, but Mary also remained sinless for the rest of her life. Mary is the highest model of the Church for all believers. So what are we, as people who do sin and have such a different life from Mary, have to learn from her?

First of all - just to be clear – Mary did suffer – she did suffer as the result of sin, especially the torturous execution of her son, Jesus. Shortly after the birth of her son, Joseph had to take Mary and her son Jesus, abandon their homeland, and flee to Egypt to escape the rage of a deadly king. Ask any refugees, what it is like to leave home and family to travel to a foreign country, this too is suffering. You see suffering is not the punishment for sin, for clearly Mary did not sin, and still she suffered as a result of the sin of others. Her sinless state was not something she merited; it was a free gift from God that was granted to her in view of the merits of Jesus Christ. She did not earn this gift – salvation is not earned. God granted this gift, because of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. The reason was she would be the Mother of Jesus.

Mary sums up the very same gift God offers us through Baptism and the other sacraments. When we are baptized, we (at that point) are like Mary, without original sin - and any other sin for that matter. Unlike us, Mary remained without sin – something we cannot claim. As St. John wrote, “If we say, “We are without sin,” we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8)

But do not despair, Mary shows what happens when we cooperate with God’s grace. Mary’s son, Jesus, by his life, death, and resurrection has wiped away our sins. For our part, we are to ask for forgiveness of our sins and forgive others of their sins. Our paths differ from Mary, but our destination is the same. What other things do we share with Mary?

We, like Mary, suffer in this life.

We, like Mary, are full of grace – God dwells within our soul.

We, like Mary, are called to cooperate with God’s plan.

We, like Mary, are highly favored by God.

We, like Mary, are called to eternal life.

Let us now pray the prayer that honors Mary:

Hail Mary full of Grace the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

“Repent!” Second Sunday of Advent 2016

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 “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand!”  (Matthew 3:1)  Last week our scriptures called us to be alert and awake in preparation for the coming of the Son of God.  This week, as we have become more aware and mindful, we realize that there is a need to reform our lives.  To re-form, that is to change the very shape of our existence and to reorient our lives towards God.  Aircraft pilots call this a course correction; they realize that only a few degrees error in direction can mean missing their intended destination by more than 100 miles in a coast-to-coast flight.  In flying an airplane, there are many things that can put one off course – strong winds, the pilot’s inattention or distraction, or bad weather.  Worse yet is not having a clear understanding of the intended destination.  During wartime, military aircrews are aware of, and train for, electronic counter measures.  The enemy will, with various means, attempt to confuse aircraft navigation equipment and lure aircrews off course and into traps.  We face similar challenges as we chart our course in life here on Earth in the hopes of reaching the kingdom of God.


As young adults we start out with high ideals and believe we can chart a clear course to what we think will lead to success and a happy ending.  We leave home and take off, and once at cruising speed, we may be tempted to just turn on the autopilot and enjoy the ride.  With sophisticated aircraft navigation equipment this might work in a modern airliner, but it doesn’t work that way with our lives.  There will always be things in life that will distract us, or divert even our best efforts.  Perhaps a failed relationship, the loss of a job, or the death of a spouse will call for a serious course correction.  A poor choice of friends, sex, or alcohol; may even ground us.  Any of these can put us way off course if not put us in a deadly tailspin.    


The interesting thing about all these painful travails is that any one of them can be the very thing that awakens us, like John the Baptist, with a harsh call for repentance.  Sometimes, when I look back at some of the things I would rather forget.  I see now how God uses even the unpleasant and dangerous things in my life to show me my need for His grace and mercy.  In the big picture, the things that I had judged to be the worst that could happen to me, is what was needed to awaken me.  It awakened me to the forgiveness and mercy that only a loving parent could give.  And besides all this, it was humbling to me and showed me that I cannot do it on my own.  This gave me both a deep love for this God of second chances and instilled in me a compassion for others who have not been as fortunate as I.  There is a part of me that wants to blame my past failures on others and attributes my successes to me alone.  I see now that this is not true.  In truth I can do nothing without the grace of God. (John15:5) But, on the other hand, I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me.  (Philippians 4:13)


The tempter will try to divert me from my course, like enemy electronic counter measures, by the promise of easy success, illicit pleasures, and willful power.  It is at these time that I need to remind myself that I don’t have to prove my worth to anyone, because I have a merciful and loving Father.  …but when I do fall (and we all do), I need to ask the Father for forgiveness.  He has sent his Son to point the way, so I can find the way back to the path of life.  I also need to be gentle and to forgive myself for not being perfect, because if I can’t love myself enough to forgive me, I probably will not be willing to forgive others when I am wronged or offended.  Conversely, if I can forgive myself, I will probably be compassionate enough to forgive others.  Remember, that, with God as your Co-Pilot your destination is assured. 


“Mindfulness” - First Sunday of Advent 2016

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Stay Awake!  It is the first Sunday of Advent and that means that Christmas is coming.  …but as much as Christmas is about celebrating the birth of Jesus two millennia ago, it is more about remaining vigilant for the second coming of Christ.  In Matthew’s Gospel just before today’s passage is this verse; "Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.  (Matthew 24:30)  This kind of waiting can be full of anxiety and fear, who will be left and who will be taken?  There is much need to stay awake!  But there is more to attentiveness than anxiety…    


Another kind of attentiveness, less prone to anxiety, and one that will even be a source of peace and joy in your life.  There are various ways of expressing this state, ‘being present in the moment,’  ‘the eternal NOW,’ ‘mindfulness,’ or contemplative prayer.  It is available to anyone and is as simple to access as breathing.  I learned this anew on a retreat this past weekend from our spiritual director for the retreat, Fr. Scott Harris, MM, MD.  This is ancient practice of contemplative prayer or mindfulness of the heart dates back to the early Desert Fathers and Mothers.  (c. 3rd Century AD) I had read about this technique long before, and thought it sounded like a good idea, but reading about something like this is of little value – one must experience it, practice it, and, in time, receive its fruits.


As we look into the future, whether it is the immediate future or the eschatological time of fulfillment of the second coming; there is much need to opening ourselves to the prompting of the Spirit.  Many know, intellectually, that God loves us, and that Jesus is our brother.  To truly experience this relationship with the Trinity we must surrender, become vulnerable and thus open ourselves to the divine.  You may have already experienced God’s love breaking into your life, and when it happens it is powerful and life changing.  These experiences can be as startling and fierce as a powerful storm or as quiet and gentle as a soft breeze.  My own past experiences are far too rare and I have always wished I could access this transformative power of Love more readily. 


On our retreat weekend a number of men took the time (only 10 to 20 minutes) to sit in contemplation and to receive the peace that can come from this practice.  Here is what we learned: Go to a quiet place and shut the door.  Find a quite place where you can be undisturbed for this time of wordless prayer.  You can set an alarm for the time you have set aside; 10, 15, or 20 minutes.  Sitting erect is best with your feet flat on the floor.  Let your hands rest in your lap.  Be open to allowing God to share God’s Spirit and peace in the present moment.  


Take some breaths, breathing in through your nose and exhaling out of your mouth.  As you breathe in note the rising of your chest.  Become aware of the miracle of your life and how each breath you take is a gift of the Creator who is sustaining you at each moment.  As you exhale allow your breathing to be a cleansing of your body and spirit.  With each breath, let go of any tension in your muscles.  As  you let go of this tension, feel your body relax as you release each breath.  As you become more and more relaxed begin to empty your mind of distracting thoughts.  Thoughts will continue to bubble up, don’t fight them.  Just let these thoughts go.  Don’t worry if these thoughts keep arising – this is natural; don’t try to control them just let them go.  Empty your mind as best you can, so that you awareness of God presence can arise all the more.


Accept this time as a gift to yourself so that you will be more free, and energized by the Spirit, better able to follow the will of God in your life.  You may be surprised at how quickly this time will pass, and how much more at peace you will be at its conclusion.  Try to practice this type of pray three or more times a week.  You will find that the benefits are cumulative.  Expect miracles.  What God has in store for us is better than we can imagine.  We simply need to free up our spirit and surrender to God’s grace.  If we can be mindfully present, our humility will be rewarded.  Then we can be an agent for change in the world by acting in the name of justice, with eyes of compassion.  We will also be better able to love with tenderness, through better understanding.


The world may be raging all around us, let it. (Especially in the overly commercialized version of the coming Christmas holidays.)  We do not need to be hijacked by all the distractions of the world and pulled into the fray.  We will have discovered a secret place where we can go to experience the peace and joy of a loving God.  By doing so we will be better equipped to share that same love with others.  We will also be more aware and awake, mindful, and ready for this holy season.  We will also be standing in hope for the coming of the Lord.  Remember what Jesus told his disciples…


“…when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”  (Matthew 6:6)


“Teaching from the Cross” - Christ the King 2016

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This weekend we celebrate the feast of Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.  During his time of active ministry there were many who tried to carry Jesus off to be their king.  They wanted a Jewish King, like David, who would be a messiah to rescue them from the domination of the Roman Empire.  Jesus didn’t allow this; rather he fled into the wilderness to avoid this misunderstanding of his mission.  (John 6:15)  


In today’s Gospel from Luke we see the results of the people’s desire and misunderstanding around Jesus’ kingship.  Jesus’ message of forgiveness for sinners, healing of the sick, and the announcing of the Kingdom of God got everyone’s attention.  His correction of the self-righteous, won for him the contempt of the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Temple officials.  They appealed to their Roman collaborators to deal with Jesus’ challenge to their status quo.  They convinced them to condemn this “man who would be King.”  At the end of the day the Romans gave Jesus both a crown and a throne.    A thorny crown and a cruciform throne.  But this is not the end of the story. 


All this violent opposition did not deter Jesus’ bringing to fruition his peaceful mission.  He would complete his Father’s mission despite its difficulty and man’s effort to the contrary.  His mission to Jerusalem was to speak the truth to power, and oppose the despots in a non-violent way.  He taught five powerful lessons as he completed his mission.  Jesus teaches these lessons, these hard truths, by his very presence on the cross.  They are transformative messages, yet they are difficult to assimilate in our lives, but they are important for our maturity as Christians.


The Lessons:

  1. Life is hard.  The hardness of life is never more evident than in injury and sickness.  The naked and bleeding Jesus.  Being abandoned, rejected, and left alone by ones friends and community is also life at its hardest.  This is especially true if it is due, not to our own fault, but because of misunderstanding, and prejudices.  Even when we bear part of the fault for our rejection, the lack of forgiveness is unnecessary and it is what Jesus calls us to with his words from the cross, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”  (Luke 23:34)  What is called for in the face of this truth is not to deny or medicate all our pain away but to embrace it so that our pain can have meaning.  As Jesus embraced the cross – so we too should daily take up our cross and follow Him.  (Luke 9:23)  Denying this truth only magnifies and exacerbates the suffering in our lives.
  2. You’re going to die.  Death is always the final act in all of our lives, yet we deny it most of our time on earth.  Death is, in fact, a part of life itself.  “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.  (John 12:24)  As Irish rock group, Flogging Molly’s song infers, no one gets out alive, so get over it.  (“If I Ever Leave this World Alive”)  This truth is not to be morbid, but rather underlines the preciousness of each day we are given.  The finiteness of our life is to be used on doing the good that is needed in the world and not to be squandered on trivial pursuits.  As St. Paul wrote, (Galatians 2:19-20)


“I might live for God.  I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me; insofar as I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me.”


  1. You are not in control.  The image of Jesus nailed to the cross is as horrific an image of powerlessness as one can imagine.  Their taunts, “He saved others let him save himself…” &  “If you are the king of the Jews save yourself,” provokes questions in me, like, “Why didn’t he come down from the cross?  Wouldn’t this convince the disbelievers once and for all?”  The reason he didn’t come down from the cross was simply because, He was nailed to the cross.  He was not God masquerading as a man.  Jesus was the God-Man, and his humanity was nailed to the cross.  This is a strong reminder that we also are not in control.  We humans need to discover the limits of our resources, and the limit of our own abilities to control outcomes.  Then, when we have come to the reality of our own limits, we will learn to trust and rely on the Other.  Jesus relied on his Father as he entered his passion, but he first prayed “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will.”  (Matthew 26:39)  Jesus models for us that there is a finite limit to what we can accomplish in this world, and that God is in control and therefore we need to trust Him.  This begins with admitting our own powerlessness.  
  2. You are not that important.  Humility is of central importance for human truth and happiness.  We must come to know ourselves truly as children of God, and not little princes or demigods.  We are only human – (Humus: Earth; ground) formed from the dust of the earth.  (Cf. Genesis 2:7)  Creating our own inflated-self will continually require reassurance from others and is impossible to maintain.  The maintenance of and the insistence on our imperial self, will not bring us peace, but strife.  Strife for others and ourselves.  The cost to maintain our status will usually be at others’ expense.  Humility is what is called for, and again, Jesus is the best example one could have for humility.  The Creator submitting to be like us in all things – by choice – and experiencing the worst that life could bring.  “Though harshly treated, he submitted and did not open his mouth; like a lamb led to slaughter or a sheep silent before shearers, he did not open his mouth.”  (Isaiah 53: 7 & Matthew 26:63)  
  3. Your life is not about you.  We are to be, about life.  We are a part of a greater whole that we call Christ – we are literally the Body of Christ.  Jesus never asked us to do anything that he did not do himself.  As he placed himself at the service of others – the sick, the imprisoned, the despised, the outsider – so too are we to be for the least and the littlest.  As he spoke the truth to the powerful, so too are we to speak the truth of the Gospel and be a voice for the voiceless.  As He loved and forgave his enemies – so too are we to love and forgive our enemies.  As he laid down his life for us, so too are we to lay down our life for him - as we lay down our lives for others.  (John 15:13)  We are part of a great and holy mystery. 


“Do Not Be Terrified” - Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time 2016

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As you look around you today you see the beautiful church that was built by the founding parishioners of St. Andrew the Apostle.  The days are coming when it will be totally destroyed!  Think about this for a moment and you will have some idea at how shocking Jesus’ prediction of the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple was in 33 AD.  There was no way to know at the time, but in 70 AD, less than 40 years after Jesus’ prediction, the Jerusalem Temple was totally destroyed along with much of Jerusalem.  Later in this passage Jesus will also speak of cosmic disasters that will be the prelude to the coming of the Son of Man.  This time at the end of our liturgical year our readings will focus on the end times and final judgement.  


As frightening as the thought of the end of the world is, Jesus’ message is that we must resolve to not be terrified by these horrifying predictions.  There will always be con men who will use fear to lead us down the wrong path for their own purpose and gain.  Fear is a powerful motivator, but if we allow ourselves to be subject to it we will easily resort to violence.  Fear comes in many forms; fear of the unknown, fear of the stranger, fear of death, fear of losing our freedom or our possessions.  As Thomas Merton, O.C.S.O. once said, “the root of war is fear.”  Jesus asks us to welcome the stranger, to share our possessions, and to love our enemies.  The early Christian community transformed the world, because they were known by the love they had for the other.  Thomas Merton echoed Jesus when he said,  Love is our true destiny.  We do not find the meaning of life by ourselves alone - we find it with another.”


There are many pressures in the world that would want us to capitulate with the powers to be, just like the Jewish leaders 2,000 years ago.  We must not trade our values, any of them, for political expediency.  Pope Francis, in his book, On Heaven and Earth, stated: “There are those that seek to compromise their faith for political alliances or for a worldly spirituality… Henri de Lubac, says that the worst that can happen to those that are anointed and called to service, is that they live with the criteria of the world instead of the criteria that the Lord commands from the tablets of the law and the Gospel.”  This is what troubled the faithful Jews that Jesus tried to reassure with his message in today’s Gospel passage.  


The Temple officials and Jewish leaders had collaborated with their Roman occupiers in an effort to protect their positions and maintain their life style.  Herod the Great who was despised by the common man was responsible for the rebuilding of the Temple, returning it to its former glory during the time of King Solomon.  Jesus points out that the Kingdom of God is not about a man-made temple built on the backs of the faithful Jewish peasant class, but God’s Temple within.  Keep in mind that at the time of Jesus 80% of Jerusalem’s economy was based on the Temple.  The raising of animals for sacrifice, the selling of these animals, the slaughtering of these animals, and the distribution of the meat.  And guess who got the lion’s share of the meat.  This is not to say that we don’t need places of worship, only that we must not lose sight of the big picture and trade away our everlasting glory for short-term gains.


“Do not be deceived,” or let people convince you that in order to uphold the sanctity of life of the child in the womb, we must ignore the stranger in our midst, affordable healthcare, the right to a living wage, or the poor on our streets.  In the Gospel Jesus commands, “Do not follow them!” St. Andrew parish has a legacy, not just for a beautiful church building, but also a heart for the poor and the orphan.  Let’s not lose sight of these admirable values we hold in this community of faith, when we walk out into the secular world and into the political arena.  This is part of what I believe Jesus was trying to get across with his discourse in today’s Gospel.  Sure the Temple is important, but don’t neglect the needs of the common man in your efforts to adorn the Temple.  The earthly Temple will pass away, but human lives need to be upheld, who are themselves the true Temple of the Lord.  The earth too will pass away, as will all the inhabitants, but there will be a new Heaven and a New Earth, where all of creation will be restored.  Until then… 


So what are we to do in the mean time?  Jesus is clear when he speaks of the coming calamities.  He doesn’t mince words; it will be the most difficult time of persecution and the attacking of personal and religious liberties.  For our part Jesus tells us not to fear, he says, “do not be terrified.”  We must resolve to persevere so that we will secure our lives.  (cf Luke 21:19)  … but I get ahead of myself – the end of the world cannot be predicted, but we do live in dangerous times even today.  So we will need the same endurance and perseverance that will be required at the end-time and be ready to speak the truth.  Gladly we do not need to prepare what we are to say beforehand, for Christ will give us the wisdom to speak the truth, that will dumbfound our adversaries.  One of the temptations during the times when our faith is challenged is to resort to violence in our attempts to change society – this we must resist, because the only way to change hearts is by love.


Forced To Eat Pork - Thirty-Second Sunday In Ordinary Time 2016

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 In our scripture selection from 2 Maccabees at Mass this weekend we are presented a horrifying story of a family that faced torture and execution rather than submit to the will of the unjust king, Antiochus.  This family chose to follow God’s Law rather than the edicts of their captors (to eat pork), even though it meant giving up their lives.  It is important to note that this display of heroic fidelity was possible, in part, due to their foundational belief in the resurrection of the dead.  Reflection on our belief in the resurrection would be more than enough for a meditation on this weekend’s scriptures, but I will trust that the homilies you will hear this weekend will adequately address this issue.  I will instead focus on something that is heavy on my heart as we enter a week where we will vote for state, local, and federal leaders.


Many of us will feel called to vote according to our Catholic beliefs, and given the current choices, will also feel more than a little challenged by the choices that are offered.  I appreciate that you have heard more than you already want on this subject, but I find that there is something missing from what I have heard regarding how we are called to be faithful to our Catholic beliefs in this time of divisive politics.  More importantly, how can we find peace in our hearts, in our families, and in our faith communities during this time of rancorous debate in our country?


There is help for us with this dilemma from our Church and it is easy to access this information on the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website in the document titled Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship.  This is a document that I recommend every voting aged Catholic read before casting their ballots this coming week.  Here is the link: Faithful Citizenship - USCCB.  The following are some of the important topics covered in our bishop’s document.  I mention these points in the hope that they will entice you to read the entire document for yourself.  I am not attempting to cover all that is contained in the bishops’ words – there is not enough room here for that.  It is important that you read this document for yourself.


Our bishops call us to our moral responsibility; to listen, receive, and act upon the Church’s social teaching in the lifelong task of forming our conscience.  For a Catholic, conscience is formed by scripture, the Church's magesterium and prayerful reflection on one's experience. (cf. Catechism Sec. #1, Ch. 1,
Art. 6 Conscience)


Regarding the Church’s teaching, there are four guiding principles, which underlie the Church’s instruction to the faithful.  They are: (1) the dignity of the human person, (2) the common good, (3) subsidiarity, and (4) solidarity.  Under these four principals there are seven themes, which you will recognize.  They are:  (1) All human life is sacred, (2) support of the traditional family and not redefined, (3) active participation of community groups and associations, (4) human rights, (5) dignity of work and the rights of workers, (6) care for God’s creation, and (7) a preferential option for the poor.  In all this we are to attend to our civic duties and avoid the temptation to pick and choose what guides our actions.


Faithful Citizenship lists two temptations and two duties.  Our two duties are: (1) Opposing evil and (2) doing good.  Opposing evil means that there are some things that are always evil and that we must never do: taking of human life as in abortion and euthanasia, human cloning, destruction of human embryos.  Other direct assaults on human life are genocide, torture, and targeting non-combatants.  Doing good includes responding to the needs of our neighbors basic needs such as food, shelter, health care, education and meaningful work. All these are important and none should be neglected.




There are two temptations that we need to avoid.  The first is making a moral equivalence that makes no distinction between different kinds of issues involving human life and dignity.  The direct and intentional destruction of human life is always wrong and is not just one issue among many.  It must always be opposed from the moment of conception to natural death.  Taking a life is never right, whether it is in a hospital room, the battlefield, or in a prison death chamber.


The second temptation is the misuse of these necessary moral distinctions as a way of dismissing or ignoring other serious threats to human life and dignity.  The current and projected extent of environmental degradation has become a moral crisis especially because it poses a risk to humanity in the future and threatens the lives of poor and vulnerable human persons here and now.  Racism and other unjust discrimination, the use of the death penalty, resorting to unjust war, the use of torture, war crimes, the failure to respond to those who are suffering from hunger or a lack of health care, pornography, redefining marriage, compromising religious liberty, or an unjust immigration policy are all serious moral issues that challenge our consciences and require us to act.  These are not optional concerns, which can be dismissed.


There are other considerations when selecting a candidate for your vote.  As Catholics we are not single-issue voters.  A candidate's position on a single issue is not sufficient to guarantee a voter's support.  Yet if a candidate's position on a single issue promotes an intrinsically evil act, such as legal abortion, redefining marriage in a way that denies its essential meaning, or racist behavior, a voter may legitimately disqualify a candidate from receiving support.  But what if you can find no candidate that meets the standards of Catholic social teaching?


Here I will quote directly from the bishop’s teaching in Faithful Citizenship. (Paragraph 35. & 36.)


35. There may be times when a Catholic who rejects a candidate's unacceptable position even on policies promoting an intrinsically evil act may reasonably decide to vote for that candidate for other morally grave reasons.  Voting in this way would be permissible only for truly grave moral reasons, not to advance narrow interests or partisan preferences or to ignore a fundamental moral evil.


36. When all candidates hold a position that promotes an intrinsically evil act, the conscientious voter faces a dilemma.  The voter may decide to take the extraordinary step of not voting for any candidate or, after careful deliberation, may decide to vote for the candidate deemed less likely to advance such a morally flawed position and more likely to pursue other authentic human goods.


Again, I need to emphasize that in this short reflection I only skimmed the surface from the excellent and information-packed document from the magisterium of the Catholic Church.  I recommend that you take the time to read the 24 pages of this document.  I also recommend that you read and meditate on the scriptures.  Of particular note is Matthew 25: 31-46 which is Jesus’ teaching on how God will judge at the end of time.  The rewards you will receive is knowing that you have done your best in your duty as a Catholic Christian and that you have made the effort to inform your conscience in a way that may bring you some measure of personal peace in an otherwise chaotic time in the civic life of our nation.  In any event voting your conscience will be better than being forced to eat pork.


A Person’s A Person No Matter How Small - Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time 2016

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 In his children’s book, Horton Hears a Who, Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel) teaches an important lessonthat is reflected in this Sunday’s scripture from the book of Wisdom.  When one reflects on the immensity of the universe we, on this tiny speck we call the earth, are like the people living on Horton’s speck in the children’s story.  As related in the book of Wisdom, “Before the Lord the whole universe is as a grain [speck] from a balance…”  (Widsom11: 22-12: 2)


As the story unfolds, Horton realizes that there is life on this tiny speck of a world and he does his best to protect those that live there.  Sadly, he has a very hard time convincing his fellow jungle creatures that there really are people to be saved.  They try to take this speck from him and destroy it.  In the end Horton succeeds in changing the hearts of his fellows, but not after first risking his reputation and his liberty in doing so.  If this sounds familiar don’t be surprised; it is the same very real drama that is currently being lived out in the debate over abortion.  


Real lives, not characters in a story, are being destroyed and our faith mission is, like Horton’s in the story, to win the hearts of those who do not fully realize what they are doing.  It is unlikely that we will be able to change the law (ROE v. WADE, (1973)), and even that would probably not end abortion; though this is a worthy cause.  The focus of our efforts is to change hearts by our own faithful witness and in living Jesus’ command to love one another as He loves us.  (John 15:12)  Until our country cherishes all life from conception to natural death, there will continue to be the destruction of infants in the womb. 


How are we called to love in a way that changes the hearts and minds of those who destroy God’s most precious gift, the gift of life?  The answer to this question is also contained in our reading from Wisdom.  The answer is a radical love that God has for all persons, regardless of ones innocence in the eyes of men.


“For you love all things that are and loathe nothing that you have made;

for what you hated, you would not have fashioned.”

And how could a thing remain, unless you willed it; 

or be preserved, had it not been called forth by you?

But you spare all things, because they are yours…


Can we love like this?  Are we ready to love, not only the baby in the womb, but also the alien in our midst, the enemy on the battlefield, or the prisoner on death row?  If we can live the command to love as Jesus loved and as God commands, and only rebuke offenders little by little, warning them and reminding them of their sins.  Perhaps we can live this way, but it will require that we first abandon the hate in our own hearts, then, and maybe only then we may convince others to abandon their wickedness.  (cf. Wisdom 12:2) Cardinal Joseph Bernardin maintained (and Pope Francis now affirms) there is a seamless garment of life, and until we respect the dignity of all life, then life itself is in jeopardy.  A consistent ethic of life must be affirmed and we must not limit ourselves to issues we are comfortable with, but must uphold all life from the cradle to the grave.


To expand on Dr. Seuss:  A person’s a person no matter how small; no matter what age; no matter innocence or guilt; no matter a friend or enemy; race or creed; legal status; no matter whatever.  Lord you created us all and how could we remain, unless you willed it; or be preserved, had it not been called forth by you.  Who are we to end any life in any form or state that you are sustaining by your imperishable spirit?


St. Andrew's Wednesday's "Day of Prayer."

Brother Knights,


Several years ago, Fr. John designated Wednesday's as a "Day of Prayer" for St. Andrew's. Fr. John wanted the parish to use Wednesday's (mid week) as a day to reflect on God in a special way. Fr. Scott and Fr. Robert have continued this tradition at St. Andrew's. 


After the daily morning mass on Wednesday's, we have adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in the church from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm. At 10:00 am on Wednesday's, our Marian Missionaries of Devine Mercy (MMDM) ministry prays a "Rosary for Peace" and a Devine Mercy Chaplet. At 11:00 am, Fr. Robert and the St. Andrew's staff attends adoration and prays the mid-day Litany of the Hours prayers until noon. At 6:00 pm, we have a holy hour, with prayers, the rosary, and benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. Finally, at 7:00 pm, we have an evening mass in the church. 


During adoration when the Blessed Sacrament is exposed on the alter, there should at all times be at least two adorers in the church. Unfortunately, there have been times when there have been no adorers while the Blessed Sacrament has been exposed. Fr. Robert has asked if the Knights can help by signing up to be at adoration for at least one hour during 9:00 am - 6:00 pm. There is a particular need for adorers in the afternoon hours between 12:00 noon and 5:00 pm. 


If you have an hour during Wednesday to spend with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament in adoration, would you please consider signing up for adoration, so that our Knights Council can support the parish's Wednesday "Day of Prayer". If you can sign up for adoration, please reply to this email with your name and the time you can attend adoration.



Click Here to Sign-up to help with the St. Andrew's Wednesday's "Day of Prayer."



P.S. Even if you can't commit to attending adoration at a specific time each Wednesday, if you ever have a free hour on a Wednesday, it's always great to spend an hour with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.


Thank you Brother Knights and God Bless.


Unique Boutique - Help Needed

Brother Knights,

In two weeks the largest St Andrews event will take place...The Unique Boutique.

We will need all Knights to be a part of this will start on the Wednesday November 09 with Courtyard setup...we will need as much help as we can muster to setup tables and chairs for the Preview Night Dinner...we will meet in the Courtyard at 5:00pm.

Thursday November 10, 2016...Preview Night...we will need at least 15 Knights to work as Security, Bartenders, and for Cleanup and Breaking Down after the Dinner.   Security will watch the gates to the Courtyard...patrolling the parking lots and helping carry customers packages to their vehicles.  Bartenders will serve the dinner guest wine, beer and soda's. Cleanup will help breakdown tables and remove chairs back to there classroom locations after guest have finished eaten their dinner.

Friday November 11, 2016... we will need at least 5 Knights to work the luncheon... serving to quest and workers...also several Knights will be needed again to work security. 

Saturday November 12,2016... will be a repeat of Fridays schedule.

Sunday November will be needed for security and cleanup...Boutique will end about 1:00pm on Sunday following the 11:30 Mass.

Signup Here.


See You There....

John B Simpson Sr

Grand Knight

PS: If your planning on eating dinner on Thursday Evening a Ticket will be required...these can be purchased after all Masses for the next two weekends...Cost is $10.00


Bias for the Bottom - Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time 2016

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 The Lord hears the cry of the poor.  This is the Psalm (PS 34) response for this weekend’s Mass and it is good news for the poor, the marginalized, and the outsider, those without a voice in society.  God is not distant or remote from those who suffer, rather the Messiah foretold in the Old Testament עִמָּנוּאֵל ('Immanu'el) means "God is with us".  This is a consistent theme in our Jewish heritage as is evident in today’s reading from Sirach (Sir 35:12-18).  The Hebrew word for the poor is anawim, which means those who are bowed down.  This Catholic Worker image I have selected for this reflection is a stark reminder that the anawim are with us today in the homeless, but are we, as Christians, still for them as the body of Christ depicted in this image.  Jesus, the Christ, could have come as any kind of person, rich or famous, a king or a beggar, the Temple High Priest or an outcast.  Jesus chose to come as a poor child, born in a stable, who, along with his mother and father, became refugees fleeing to Egypt to avoid the wrath of a jealous King.   


“And [as] Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and favor before God and man” (Luke 2:52) he chose to associate with many types of people, but he especially associated with the simple fishermen, the tax collectors and sinners (Mark 2: 13-17), prostitutes (Matthew 21: 31) and even the despised Samaritans (John 4: 4-26).  The lesson in this for us today is; if Jesus chose to be for and with the poor and outcast, then shouldn’t we also be attentive to the cry of the poor, the sick, the outcast, and the dispossessed?  This is a major challenge for me as I am sure it is for many in a world that seems to prize associating with the rich and powerful and the celebrity.  One of the reasons I believe that I struggle with being present with those who are sick is, well…  I am afraid that I might catch what they have.  This seems to be a well-founded fear, and in this situation I need to take the appropriate precautions when visiting someone sick with a contagious disease.  But if I let my fear overwhelm me to the point that it keeps me from visiting a sick friend, then I need to think more deeply about my fear and keep it in check.  But why do I hesitate to be present and supportive of all the other classes of anawim in the world?  What am I afraid of?


I have reflected on my fear of getting involved with the lowly in recent days and I believe that it is similar to my aversion to be with those who are sick?  I am afraid that I might “catch” what they have.  Just as I am drawn to be with the rich and the powerful and the famous – perhaps because I subconsciously think that some of their wealth and notoriety will rub off on me.  On the other hand, maybe I also think (subconsciously) that if I align myself with the poor and the outcast and the sinners, that I will also be rejected, just as they are.  This, I believe, is also a well-founded fear.  


To see the hazards of aligning with the anawim, one only needs to look at the life of Jesus and others like Him, who advocate for the underclass of society.  There are repercussions for being a voice for the voiceless, by speaking truth to the powerful, and standing with the poor.  A good example is Dom Hélder Pessoa Câmara (Brazilian Archbishop 1964-1985).  He once said, “When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint.  When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist.”  Be further warned that the opposition for the one who does justice will go far beyond name-calling.  Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Worker Houses of Hospitality, was jailed many times for her position on poverty, peace, and justice.  Archbishop Oscar Romero, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Mahatma Gandhi, are three individuals in modern times that were martyred for their advocacy and action on behalf of the poor and dispossessed.


So why should we risk our comforts, our liberty, even our very lives, on behalf of the sick, the poor, and dispossessed?  The answer is simple and it is found in Matthew’s Gospel Chapter 25, versus 31-46.  The reason is our very salvation.  Just action and support of the poor and dispossessed is nothing less than an encounter with Jesus.


“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him.  And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.  


Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father.  Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.  Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?  When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?  When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’  And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’  


Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.  For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’  Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’  He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’  And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”


Sacred Scripture - Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time 2016

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 Immediately following the ordination of a deacon, the deacon kneels before the bishop; the bishop then places the book of the Gospels in the hands of the newly ordained and says… 


“Receive the Gospel of Christ,

whose herald you now are.

Believe what you read,

teach what you believe,

and practice what you preach.” 


For me this is a most profound command that I take with all seriousness and with joy – even as I struggle to live up to the full measure of what I have been commanded.  St. Paul makes this the same imperative to Timothy in today’s excerpt from this letter to his younger protégé (2 Timothy 3:14-4:2).  This command to preach and to live the Gospel is a command that all Christians receive at baptism with the words of the celebrant as he blesses the ears and the lips of the newly baptized saying, 


“Ephphetha, (Aramaic for ‘be opened’) 

The Lord Jesus made the deaf hear and the dumb speak.  

May He soon touch your ears to receive His word, 

and your mouth to proclaim His faith, 

to the praise and glory of God the Father.  Amen”


The profound role of scripture in our lives begins in our infancy, as Paul writes, and is the source of wisdom that leads us to salvation by way of faith in Jesus Christ.  As Christians we become the prophets of the Good News that is available to everyone and is made know to all through our sharing of this most hopeful message.  There are many opportunities for all of us to teach others the truths we have found in joy by our own sincere study of these sacred texts.  Our teaching could be as instructors in our parish religious education program and RCIA sponsorship.  For many the most impactful way to teach , is in our daily lives at work and in our neighborhood by the way we live and the love we share.  


St. Paul wrote this letter from prison where he will soon be put to death for his prophetic role of bringing the Good News of Jesus to the Gentiles – even though, he is still full of hope and positive in his approach as he provides this final instruction to Timothy.  His command is simple, and to the point; “proclaim the word.”  Further, Paul insists that the proclamation of the Gospel is to be persistent and to be done whether convenient or inconvenient.  This calling is not as dangerous today as it was in Paul’s day, but it is not easy.  We compete with a media that captivates many people for several hours a day, at a time when people leave church early, because the Sunday Mass has run a little over 60 minutes.  It is at times like these that I think about the question Jesus poses in today’s Gospel (Luke 18:1-8), “… when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”


The challenge for us today is how to convince others of the value we have found in God’s inspired word, in a way that convinces others of its practical value and usefulness.  Of course it is important to stay positive and approach others with patience, as Paul encourages, but the most important attribute of our teaching is much more about who we are and not what we say or how we say it.  If others see in us a people who are loving, caring, and joyous, then others will naturally be drawn to us.  They will be drawn and they will want what we have that makes us this way, and they will want to be associated with others who live lives of joy and peace.  What the world offers are things and things will be unfulfilling.  What God offers through His word is faith, hope, and love.  These are things that last and fulfill the deepest human desire.  Once we possess these, and live them out in our daily lives we will draw others to make the same discovery we have made.  Then we will be true heralds of the Gospel of Christ.


Fraternal Brotherly Love Of The Knights Of Columbus

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The video you have just seen showed real life heroes. Athletes, the 35th President of the United States, humanitarians, astronauts, and first responders at the largest terrorist attack on US soil to date. Like the heroes of old they are Knights. Knights, in service to others. Knights, the ones of strong principles and virtues. Knights, the men defending the faith. From the Knights of Columbus humble beginning in 1882 we have stayed true to our name as Knights. We were founded by a parish priest, the Venerable Father Michael J. McGivney, in the basement of his parish to provide aid for widows and orphans after the passing of the breadwinner. Armed with the same core principles and the knightly virtues, which we still stand for today, we support our communities and care for our families.
What I have told you is more then my personal belief; it’s a similar statement that you would heard from any of the 1.9 million men around the world that call themselves Knights of Columbus.
I wanted to come to you today to share my personal testimony about one particular event in my life that I feel most exemplifies what it means to be a member of the Knights of Columbus. In July 2012, just a day following my birthday, I was taken to the hospital with chest pains and breathing issues. After the triage diagnosis by the ER doctor I was admitted to the hospital while more test were ran and specialists were called in to consult. Unfortunately before a pinpoint diagnosis could be made my condition took a change for the worst. My lungs started dangerously and rapidly filling with fluid. My family was told that my situation was grim and that the chances of me leaving that hospital alive was extremely unlikely. I was placed into a medically induced coma, for the better part of a month, while the doctors and nurses did everything in their power to save my life. During this process my family was driving everyday to be at my bedside, and the financial costs during this time was eating away at their fixed income. Upon hearing of my condition and the situation that my family was in our Knights of Columbus council donated a check to my family for day to day expenses and to help cover my needs if I left the hospital. Brothers from other councils around the state, for which I had only passing interactions with, visited my bedside, sent get well cards, their support, and prayers.
The tidal wave of emotions I felt when I woke from my coma to find my family at my bedside and upon hearing of all that my brothers from the Knights of Columbus have done for us during my time of need can best be described as feelings of fraternal brotherly love, respect, thanks, and caring devotion. Whenever anyone asks me, “why should I become a member of the Knights of Columbus?” I think back on this experience and how my brothers were there for me and my family. It isn’t a matter of “if” your time will come it is only a matter of “when.” I want every man to know that when their time comes we, your brother Knights, will be there to do anything in our power for you and your family. I want you to share in the same feelings of fraternal brotherly love that we share with all our members, and I hope one day I can be honored to call you a brother Knight. Thank you.

Where is God? - Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time 2016 Reflection

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 When we find ourselves, as we do today, in the midst of suffering from wars, natural disaster, violence in our streets, and threats from abroad; we may ask, Where is God?”  Do we have a God who is distant and unconcerned with the hatred spread by so many people.  Is Heaven so far away that God doesn’t know how many people suffer from personal prejudices and institutionalized discrimination?  Where is God?


I remember from my years in St. Joseph’s parochial school in Downers Grove, Illinois, what we learned from the Sisters of St. Joseph - that God is Omnipresent – God is everywhere.  This means that God is omnipresent in two ways; by nature and grace.  Everything is created by God and because of this, God’s essence is present in all things – everything created by God shares in God’s goodness.  Surprisingly this includes all people (both our friends and enemies), angels, and demons.  Nothing exists outside of God and without God willing it into existence – at each moment.  God is also present by God’s grace. By God’s grace, God is present in the souls in whom he dwells as in a temple.  So why all the hatred and strife between the parts of God’s creation?


In God’s infinite wisdom we are given a free will.  I believe that we are created in this freedom so that we can choose to love – to love the Creator and to love creation – or not.  Otherwise, if it is not a free choice then there is no love.  God gave us this freedom to choose the right.  God did not give us this freedom to choose hatred, indifference, violence, but without the option to choose wrongly there is no true option for love.  Unlike us, God always chooses love, mercy, forgiveness, and healing.  This brings us to our scriptures for today.  It does not matter to God what the nationality, religion, race, etc. the person is – God still loves them regardless of who they are, where they are, or their present state (physical or spiritual).  In our first reading (2 Kings 5:14-17) Naaman was healed even though he was not a Jew – God did not love him less because we was not a believer.  He loved him because He had created Naaman for love.  It is heartwarming to see Naaman’s response to his healing.  Naaman requests some of Israel’s soil to cart back to his own country so that he can worship this miraculous God on Israel’s soil.  Clearly Naaman believes in a world that can be divided into the sacred and profane.  God makes no such distinction – and neither should we.


The universality and unconditional nature of God’s love is underscored in today’s Gospel from Luke (Luke 17:11-19).  Like our first reading from 2nd Kings, Jesus makes no distinction based on nationality as to whom he heals.  They ask for healing and healing is given.  They are healed, because they are sick and as a testimony of the universality of God’s love for all of humankind.  Notice that the ungrateful are also healed, something we should keep in mind when judging who deserves our love.  Be aware that Jesus doesn’t receive universal acceptance for his indiscriminate love.  When Jesus made reference to Naaman’s healing on the Sabbath in his hometown synagogue, they drove him out of town and attempted to throw him off a cliff (Luke 4:16-30).  Even though we are being called to this same kind of indiscriminate love and justice – don’t expect any better treatment.


This mistreatment for teaching and living of the Gospel is the point of today’s excerpt from St. Paul’s letter (2 Timothy 2:8-13).  The Gospel means ‘good news’, but many don’t see it as such, because it means that we too need to change the hatred in our own hearts that leads to so much violence, prejudice, and war.  The first step in changing the world is to look at our own motivations and to ask for the grace to love as God loves – unconditionally and universally.  We need to be the love we seek in the world and where love is present – there is God.


Worthy Servant - Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time 2016

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 Jesus never asks us to do anything that he has not already done himself.    He called God, his Father and so he asks us to address our prayer in the same way.  He reached out in love to the poor and abandoned, the sinner and the despised – he asks us to do the same.  He spoke truth to the powerful and gave voice to those without a voice – he asks us to do the same.  He proclaimed the Kingdom of God by his healing touch – He asks us to do the same.  He forgave those who attacked him and prayed for those who persecuted him – He asks us to do the same.  In the end he humbly carried his cross to Calvary and laid down his life for others – he asks us to pick up our cross and follow him.   


In this Sunday’s Gospel (Luke 17:5-10) we hear about the unprofitable servant and it disturbs me.  As a servant (deacon) in the Church I try to do what I am told and I want to think that I do my work well.  This Gospel selection ends with “We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.”  This causes me to think about what I should be doing, how I am doing it, and what my motivation was in doing it.  Do I wait to take on tasks only when I have received a direct request to do so?  Or do I make a point of looking for what is needed and then take the initiative to get it done?


When I begin a task or service, is it my intent to complete it as quickly as possible so I can get back to my own pursuits?   Perhaps I should look at what I am doing for others as an opportunity to do my very best to do it carefully and with an eye to the quality of the finished assignment.  I believe the key to being a worthy servant has more to do with my motivation at the outset, than a particular outcome.  Certainly there is a wrong way and a right way to do something, whether it is a pastoral visit to the sick or supplying a needed necessity to the poor.  It seems to me that the overarching quality comes from that primary motivation for the action from the beginning.  Jesus shows us that the only right motivation is Love.


St. Paul wrote eloquently of this in his letter to the Corinthians… 


If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.  And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing.  If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.” (Read 1 Corinthians 13:1-13)


The clue to my own motivation is whether or not the work brings peace or frustration, regardless of the difficulty.  Am I working with patience?  Do I treat the other with kindness?  Am I looking to see if others have noticed my “good works”, or do I make sure they know the “good” I have done.  On a good day, when I have forgotten myself, I discover that from honest work aimed at the wellbeing of others, I have both joy and peace.  The discovery is that the reward for doing the right thing is the thing itself.  With love at the uppermost we too can work miracles in peoples’ lives, as Jesus did, and one of the miracles is the transformation that will take place in our own lives.  


The source of this transformational love is faith.  This faith is faith in God, a God who loves us first and loves all of us to the end.  A God who loves us directly and through the love passed on through others in their service to the Kingdom of God.  Like Jesus, God has called us and sent us to serve, not to be served.  We don’t just do what we are obliged to do, but do what love requires.  “At every moment, do what love requires.” (St. Therese of Lisieux). This is a hard command, but one worthy of our best efforts. 




Time: Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time 2016

CLICK HERE to open a PDF file

 I have said, “I have all the time in the world – now that I’m retired.”  If you are young you might say, “I’m young, I can always get to that tomorrow.”  Or if you’re busy, in the ascent of your professional life or in raising a family, you might say, “I don’t have time right now, I can get to it later, when I have more time.”  If we find ourselves saying these kinds of things, we might be deceiving ourselves and procrastinating the important things in our life.  The truth of the matter is that our life and the time we have on this Earth are finite.  If we don’t make time for something today, what makes us believe tomorrow will be different?  Believing there is plenty of time is a delusion at best and, at worst, a recipe for failure.  


The rich man in today’s parable (Luke 16: 19-31) found that time had passed him by and all was lost.  He knew only too late that there was a need for a change of heart.  Perhaps he had a nagging suspicion as he passed Lazarus each day that he could help him.  Maybe he told himself that some day he would stop and offer his assistance.  …But the rich man was a busy man, and why didn’t Lazarus do something to help himself.  We are all busy and the demands on our time are greater then the time available.  What this means for me is that I must make choices, because there isn’t time to do it all.  There is only time to do the most important things.  I must also guard against the time wasters like the Internet social media and TV.  (I’m preaching to myself on these issues.)


The choice on how to best use my time begins with deciding what is most important in my life.  I like to think that my faith is of greatest importance and if this is true I will choose to live by the Golden Rule.  “Do unto others, as I would have them do unto me.”  After loving God, the greatest commandment is to love others.  (Matthew 22: 34-40)  If I choose to live my life by faith, then I must begin to put the welfare of others at the top of my list and how I spend the limited time I have on this earth.  An accurate indication of what is important to me is to look at where I spend my time and resources.  As I discover that my life has not always held the care of others in the highest place, then it is time to make a change.  


The necessary change begins with making different choices when deciding how I spend my time.  If I don’t want to end up in the unenviable position of the rich man in the parable, then now is the time to make a change.  Later may be too late…  The first step in making a change is in admitting that what has gone before has not worked and I am in need of God’s mercy.  Out of God’s forgiveness will come the grace to make the necessary changes in my life.  Am I ready to ask for God’s mercy by admitting my failure to love?  Am I ready to accept this life-changing mercy in my life?  Do I have the courage to try something different?  Remember, what has not worked in the past will not work in the future.  Recall that one definition of insanity is trying the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.  The time is now to take a different path.  It may be time to get off of our comfortable couches and trust God’s grace.


So if, when you heard the indictments in today scripture passage from Amos (Amos 6:1a, 4-7) and parable from Luke’s Gospel, your conscience may be trying to tell you something.   If you are ready to make a change (or not) you may want to reflect on Paul’s words from his First letter to Timothy (1Timothy 6:11-16).  He is imploring us to “pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness.”  St. Paul explains that it is in pursuit of these virtues that we will lay hold of eternal life, the life Lazarus experiences in the bosom of Abraham.  As children of Abraham it is the destiny that God desires for us.  Remember – “Tempus Fugit, Memento Mori.”


Justice - Twenty-Fifth Sunday In Ordinary Time 2016

CLICK HERE to open a PDF file


“Those who do justice will live in the presence of the Lord.”(Cf. Psalm15) …and how are we to accomplish even a little justice in our time and place.  We can first look to the examples of justice leaders in our time; people like St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Dorothy Day.  In each of these cases they saw that their personal relationship with God could not exist on its own, but had to be lived out of a life of working for the justice of one’s neighbors.  


This is an uncommon outlook, especially today, where we tend to look after our own needs first, and are encouraged to do so by many financial advisors and retirement planners.  If we only share our resources, after we have “paid ourselves first,” will we ever look after the needs of others?  This is something that, when we are reminded of it, our conscience is pricked and it becomes the cause of guilty feelings.  To their credit, there are many who choose to do something about these guilty feelings.  We may become active in our parish’ homeless outreach, join the Knights of Columbus, or support the OLPH Orphanage in Jeremie, Haiti.  These are all good ways to respond to the cry of the poor in our parish.  


When we give of our time and resources to comfort the homeless, clothe the naked, feed the hungry, visit the sick and imprisoned, we are doing justice. When we speak on behalf of those without a voice, the unborn and undocumented, we are doing justice.  Not only are we doing justice in the name of God, we are encountering Jesus in the faces of the littlest and the least.  (Matthew 25:31-46) We are guided by age-old principles beginning in our Jewish roots, and proclaimed by Jesus in his kingdom proclamation of good tidings to the poor (Luke 4:18-19), and espoused by his Mother in her canticle (Luke 1: 46-55), that God “… has thrown down the rulers from their thrones, but lifted up the lowly.”


The challenge of doing justice in the context of our daily lives is brought to clarity in our Gospel this Sunday. (Luke 16: 1-13)  It is simply this, we must make a choice between the World and the Kingdom – whom will we serve.  Regardless of whom we serve, we will be called to account for our actions.  We need to be wise in the things of this world to provide for our families and for ourselves, but where will our deeper allegiance rest?  Will it end with our own needs or will we participate in the building of the Kingdom of God as worthy stewards of the larger reality?  The reality is that we are all God’s children, and as Christians we are called to serve the common good with love and mercy and justice.  As Paul emphasizes in today’s excerpt from his letter to Timothy (1 Timothy 2: 1-8) the Kingdom we are building is for ALL God’s children, not just those who profess the same faith we profess.  God is the God of all peoples, and Jesus came to save everyone, not just our own tribe.


As Jesus implies in today’s Gospel we are prudent if we spend our passing wealth for the benefit of our needy brothers and sisters as a way of storing up wealth in the Kingdom.  Using our worldly resources in this way is only prudent.  Using our wealth in this way is a good way to make sure our wealth does not become a dead idol that replaces our living God.  Like the Charles Dickens’ character, Ebenezer Scrooge, we will find that amassing wealth does not attain happiness; rather it is in caring for our fellow human beings that we can gain true happiness, both in this world and the next.


Novena for our Nation



All Ministries at St Andrews are being asked to encourage their members to participate in this Novena.
We in the Knights Of Columbus wanted to be sure to pass on the information about the Novena that starts Monday August 15th, the Feast of the Assumption. However if you miss a few days you can start anytime. Visit this site for more information Novena for Our Nation.


We encourage as much participation as possible. The time has come to PRAY more diligently, intentionally, and together for our country.


Vivat Jesus!
Your Knight of Columbus
Council 39482 and Assembly #3591
Leadership teams

KofC Disaster Relief - Your Help Is Urgently Needed

Brother Knights,


The following message is from Supreme: 

Southern Louisiana is being hit by what is called “the worst natural disaster since Superstorm Sandy.”

Several people have died, with tens of thousands of others forced to leave their homes. More than 30,000 people have been rescued from the flooded areas, many seeking refuge in emergency shelters.

In response to the devastation, the Supreme Council has launched an online donation drive to assist with local relief operations. One hundred percent of the proceeds will go directly to relief efforts.

The Knights of Columbus has a long tradition of providing disaster relief, said Supreme Knight Carl Anderson. Our communities, like the people of Southern Louisiana, need our time, our efforts and our financial assistance. We are going to do all that we can, working with the Louisiana State Council and local councils, to help those most in need as a result of the flooding.

Your support is urgently needed. Please DONATE TODAY to help those suffering such devastation.

Knights of Columbus Urges Prayers for Healing

Following a week of violence across the United States, the Knights of Columbus has called for a novena of prayer to heal the wounds and divisions afflicting this country.

Knights, their families and all people of good will are encouraged to join in the novena (nine days of prayer) that will run from July 14-22 by praying St. Francis of Assisi’s Prayer for Peace:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy;

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

“The violent episodes of the past week have shocked the conscience of our country,” said Supreme Knight Carl Anderson. “Through this prayer, each of us has the opportunity to help transcend hatred and violence by personally committing to the concepts of love of neighbor, peace and forgiveness that are central to an authentic embrace of Christianity. It is our hope that, from coast to coast, those who pray this prayer will become true instruments of peace.”

Supreme Chaplain Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore also urged people to join this prayer campaign: “During this Year of Mercy, let us pray for an end to violence and senseless killings,” he said. “Through our prayers and good works, may we help build a society that is merciful, just and peaceful.”

Knights on Bikes Memorial Day Weekend Ride & Service Project


Knights on Bikes,


If you plan to participate in the Knights on Bikes Ride to the Knights of Columbus St. Joseph Youth Camp for the Service project on Memorial Day Weekend I am providing a map at and an itinerary.  


I will be leaving from St. Andrew the Apostle parish (West 101 & on north side Ray Road) at 1:00 PM Friday, May 27th.  I will also swing by other parishes as we gather along the way.  You will need to respond to this message if you intend to go and want to ride together - I can stop by your parish on the way.  Please let me know what parish and address and time.  I plant to leave shortly after lunch so lets rendezvous in time to leave the valley before 2:00 PM.  This will get us to the camp by 4:00PM.  


We will be provided a bunk in one of the cabins, meals, and plenty of good service projects to get the camp ready for the summer camper season.  All you need to bring is a bead roll and your personal items/needs.


Saturday even meal will be a pig roast.  We will leave Sunday late morning or early afternoon.


Vivat Jesus!


Deacon Paul Hursh 

(602) 692-3450


Online Dues Payment!


Do you keep forgetting to bring a check for your council's yearly dues? Well you're in luck we can now process your yearly dues online. Click the buy now button to begin the process securely.

Vivat Jesus!

Big News! Fatima Women Center 4-D Ultrasound Machine


Great news! Today, Fatima Women Center received the matching fund check from Supreme for their 4-D Ultrasound machine.

I spoke with Kelly Copeland today. He very excited and said that the machine is about 10 days away from being delivered. The center has spoken with the Diocese of Tucson about a blessing ceremony when the machine is operational and ready to be used. We should expect an invite for an event to be held in the next few weeks or so. I would like to have a 4th Degree Call Out at the center that day. I would also like to make it a huge Knights, presence at the ceremony in Tucson. This is a big deal! Please feel free to pass this message on.

Again, thank you to our State 4-D Ultrasound Initiative Project Chairman Ron Cacini, Henry Armstrong, the MBC Foundation, Council 9800, and to all the Brothers, Councils and Assemblies who generously donated towards this great cause.

We will be helping to save many, many lives! Praise be to God!

Vivat Jesus!

Larry Becker
State Deputy
Arizona State Council

1st Sunday of Lent 2016: Who’s Your Daddy

I believe that the key to understanding this week’s Gospel from the 4th chapter of Luke is to look at what has just occurred in the previous chapter. If you recall from the feast of “The Baptism of the Lord” that we celebrated about a month ago, Jesus hears his Father’s voice say, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” (Luke 3:22) Immediately after this powerful affirmation the Holy Spirit leads Jesus into the desert to be tempted by the devil. In the desert alone, Jesus experiences hunger, and in this weakened state, is tempted by the devil. Like Jesus, when we mature and come into our own, many things will test us. This is especially true when we find ourselves alone or in a weakened state. Like us, when our own children mature and go out on their own, many things will test them as well. What will prepare us, and what will prepare our children, to face the temptations of this world? What will sustain us, and what will sustain our children during the times in life when we are tempted?


We do much to prepare ourselves for life’s challenges; through education, physical fitness and, financial planning… and we try to provide these opportunities for our children as well. As important as these things are, there is more. Jim Carrey, the well-known comedian once said, “I hope everybody could get rich and famous and have everything they ever dreamed of, so that they would know that it’s not the answer.” This is a good way of saying that success, by the world’s standards, is not the meaning of life.

At a child’s baptism the parents and Godparents promise to raise the child in the faith and to teach them to keep God’s commandments by loving God and their neighbor. More than that, they also promise to be good models of the ways of faith by what they say and do. Finally we need to affirm our children by expressing our love in a way that lets them know that they are “beloved sons and daughters in whom we are well pleased.” (cf. Luke 3:22) I would also recommend that we find times to say this verbally to underscore the nonverbal ways we show our love to our children. To tell a son that “he’s got what it takes,” or to tell a daughter that “she is worth fighting for,” is one way to affirm them in their dignity and worth.


Heaven forbid that any of our children should get lost in temptation and fall down in life. But if they do fall, as many have done, I pray that, with God’s grace, we will be good parents. Parents ready to receive back that prodigal child and be ready to lift them up and get them back on their feet. …once they have come to their senses. This is truly the kind of love that our heavenly Father has for all his children and we are here to be instruments of that love. Perhaps if they know that they can always come home again, they will not have to succumb to the temptation to prove success by the world’s standards. Like Jesus, who was so assured of his place as a beloved son, that he could rebuke the devil when he tempted him to abandon his true mission and to chase after wealth, pleasure, and power.

The Gospel ends on an ominous note with the words, “…he (the devil) departed from him for a time.”(Luke 4:13b) I believe that this is an indication of the devil’s return throughout Jesus’ life. It is as if the devil is saying, “I’ll be back!” It is important to remember that we too will be tempted from time to time, and therefore, we must always be aware of our call to follow Jesus’ example, and to rely on the Father’s love, more than what the world has to offer.

St. Andrew’s 2nd Annual Father-Son Camp out

St. Andrew’s 2nd Annual Father-Son Camp out

Friday, August 19 – Sunday, August 21, 2016

St. Joseph Youth Camp, Mormon Lake, AZ

Sponsored by St. Andrew’s Knights of Columbus

  • We are beginning the preparations for our 2nd annual father-son camp out at the St. Joseph Youth Camp.
  • The camp is located near St. Mary’s Lake and Mormon Lake Village, at an elevation of 7,000 feet.
  • Reservations will be limited to the first 100 registered campers so please plan on signing up early as this event will sell out.
  • Sign-ups will begin in April and registration is based on first paid basis – please watch the bulletin for updates.
  • Activities available include basketball, volleyball, ball fields, horseback riding, kayaking, mountain bike trails and more.
  • The facilities also include showers, flushing toilets and cabins with bunk beds. The group campground area can accommodate tents ,campers and tent trailers. There are no hook-ups available for RV’s Fifth wheels and large fixed shell campers.
  • Anticipated costs are expected be similar to last year: 2 people≈ $75, 3 people≈$85 and 4 or more (in the same family)≈$100. Firm pricing to be announced when sign-ups are released.
  • The fee includes all camping fees, all meals, craft supplies and lots of great memories
  • There is an extra fee for horseback riding and kayaking – these fees to be announced closer to the event date.
  • Limited scholarships are available for parishioners.
  • We’re looking for volunteers to organize on-site activities/events such as Softball, Flag football, Crafts, Group hikes, Camp Fire Songs, etc.

Any questions, please contact Alex Santucci at (602) 615-5172.

State Raffle Details

I’m sure each of you have read the February newsletter, but in case you missed it our Raffle Chairman, Chuck Mckay wrote the following piece:

Chuck McKay—Raffle Chairman

State Raffle ticket sales are upon us once again. And as you may or may not know, our Council sold the winning raffle ticket last year. The State Raffle Chairman gave me the idea to reach out to family members and friends both locally and in other states. So I got my family members to purchase tickets.

The result was my sister-in-law in Iowa had the 1st place winning ticket. This was great that Our Council sold the winning ticket in 2015.

WardenBut our primary focus is to raise money, all proceeds collected from this raffle go to the Caring Ministries here at St. Andrews the Apostle Church.

Last years sales almost doubled funds raised from the year before. Wouldn’t it be great to do
the same again this year.

But we need everyone’s help to accomplish this task.

We will also hold a drawing from all tickets sold by Our Council again this year. There will be 5 guaranteed cash winners.

Contact Chuck today to get your State Raffle Tickets. They are one for $5 or five for $20 or thirty for $100 as they were last year.

Vivat Jesus!

5th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Life Interrupted

You know how it is when you are in the middle of something, and then someone unexpectedly comes along, and interrupts, and tries to get you to change your plans? When this happens to me I am very resistant to making any change in my plans – I already have what I am focused on accomplishing today – ‘what’s with this interruption?’ This is why I find today’s Gospel story very intriguing. Simon and Andrew are clearly occupied with getting the nets back in order and put away after a long night of unsuccessful fishing. They probably just want to go home and collapse. Then Jesus begins to preach. He must have been a spellbinding and attractive preacher to captivate these two hard working, but exhausted men. What he had to say shook them out of plans. Not only did it change their plans for the day – Jesus’ invitation change their entire lives.

According to John’s Gospel Andrew had been a follower of John the Baptist, but once he encounters Jesus he realizes he has found the Messiah and it is Andrew that introduces his brother Simon to Jesus. (John 1:41) Yes Andrew son of Jonah, the patron saint of our parish, is the first of the Apostles and his life as a fisherman, and as a fisher of men, is reflected in the art throughout our parish. Of course we are familiar that a number of the apostles were fishermen, and so this comes as no surprise to us who have become too use to these stories. What is surprising, however, is that Jesus should choose such common men with so little formal education in things religious. He did not choose Scribes or Pharisees to fill the leadership positions in his band of intenerate preachers; rather, he chose simple men like Nathaniel “in whom there was no guile.” (John 1:47) It seemed to matter little to Jesus that Nathaniel started out a doubter. It is a lesson to any of us who may at times doubt our faith or feel unworthy to proclaim that faith to others.

In today’s story Simon pleads with Jesus to leave him because of the guilt he feels about his sinfulness. For Jesus, it seems that being perfect is also not a requirement to fill the position of Apostle. Jesus will not hear Simon’s request to leave him alone, but instead tells him that he will be a much better “fisher of men” then he was a fisherman the night before. Jesus sees not as we see when it comes to judging who would be the best candidates for proclaiming the Kingdom of God. Perhaps Jesus knows that, since he intended to preach first and foremost to those who were least and littlest in the world, he wanted men with humility and honesty about themselves, ones would be less likely to judge others. Perhaps, also, Jesus recognizes the goodness that his Father places in everyone regardless of their status before men, goodness that could be empowered by the diving wind of the Spirit to change the world forever – a world of love and justice for everyone.

Maybe today’s story of the calling of the first Apostles will also disturb us and interrupt what we are so focused on and become an opportunity to consider what God has in store for us and for others, through us. Am I willing to trust that God’s plans for me are so much better than what I could dream up for my future? Can I believe that sinful, doubting, and distracted me could help bring about the Kingdom of God? We will never know unless we trust the Spirit long enough to put down the nets we are trying to untangle and consider the words of Jesus and become a fisher of men. Are you ready for a change?

Amazed - But Not Yet fazed Fourth Sunday In Ordinary: January 31, 2016

Last week we heard how Jesus chose his hometown synagogue to declare the advent of the Kingdom of God in the words of Isaiah…

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring glad tidings to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.
(cf. Isaiah 61:1-2)

Today’s Gospel selection follows immediately after this bold proclamation – and the impact on the hometown crowd was at first, amazement at the authority with which he spoke. Their amazement quickly turns to disbelief as if they wonder out loud, “if anything good could come from Nazareth.” (cf. John 1:46) Jesus presence seemed to have impressed them, but it didn’t seem to have fazed them. Their hearts were not changed. Jesus reads their hearts, understanding that they were probably hoping for a replay of the miracle cure he performed on the man with the withered hand – the probable reason for their amazement.

He catches them in their desire for a miracle show and names it by remarking, “Surely you will say… …’do here the things we heard were done in Capernaum.’” At this point, the people’s amazement turns to indignation. Then, when Jesus points out that he has come for all peoples, not just the people of his own religious tribe, Jesus barely escapes with his life. Jesus knows what this is about; he is experiencing what all the prophets before him faced, when they spoke truth to those with closed minds. Their minds were closed to the truth, and so their hearts could not accept His transformative love.

Our aversion to the truth is as true today as ever. When a good man speaks the hard truth to those who are blind and whose hearts are closed, he will feel their scorn. Are we ready to hear the unvarnished truth? Unless we become aware of our own blind spots and strive to remain open to hearing the truth about our own motives – we too may come to possess withered hearts. Remember blind Bartimaeus, who cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (Mark 10:47) He knew what he wanted – to see. …and because he was ready, Jesus could alleviate his blindness, because of his faith. Healing is not something done to us , but something done with us. In all of Jesus’ miracles, the person who received the grace of healing or wholeness, participated, by faith or action or assent.

Contrast hostility of the folks in Capernaum (and now in his hometown), to everyone else with whom he is very popular. Was he popular and successful with these others, because they were amazed by the miracles or because, they know the truth about their brokenness and they hope to be healed? It is often said that the first step towards health and wholeness is to know the nature of the sickness. In the end many more people will reject Jesus, and when he returns to his hometown, even his family will try to seize him – thinking he was out of his mind. Poor Jesus it seems that he is uniformly misunderstood on all sides. He has not come to judge people under the law or, to be a miracle sideshow or, become an avenging King. He came instead to declare the Kingdom of God – a Commonwealth of Love and Justice – and to bring healing and wholeness through the gracious love of His Father.

How well do we understand Jesus even today? Why do we follow Jesus? Do we look for Jesus to amaze us, or do we strive to seek wholeness and live fully as we have been created? Do I pray for an easy life or the grace and mercy to live the life we have. Do we pray for comfort or faith?

Jesus did not deny the healing they sought and he often casts out the demons that plague them as well. Today we should continue to seek out healing – physical, emotional, or spiritual. The first step toward wholeness is to go to Jesus in prayer, openly admitting our brokenness, our sickness, and demons. Then we need to pray for God’s will to be done in our lives. …and this is not the end of the process, there is more that we should do – as was done by those healed by Jesus so long ago.

As we are healed (in body, mind, or spirit) we share that healing with others and seek to comfort and heal others. In this way Jesus’ healing and our ministering to others becomes a sign of the Kingdom. Sometimes it only takes our caring presence, or listening ear – and sometimes true healing through our hands as conduits of God’s grace. As Jesus proclaims in John’s Gospel, “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father.”(John 14:12)

Today there is no Jesus on earth, but us. No good news of the Gospel but our voices raised for those without a voice. No power for the powerless but us when we stand in the breach at our own expense. We are the Body of Christ. …but keep in mind that our mission is more dangerous than glorious – on this side of the resurrection. …more scary than assured conviction before the final judgment. …more inconvenient than satisfying, before eternity. …and no one knows with certainty what lies beyond the veil – that is why we rely on Faith, Hope and Love.

Fulfilled in Your Hearing: The Relevance of the Church in the Modern World

Why was it important for the author of Luke to investigate everything again and write the Gospel story in an orderly sequence? I suspect that there existed in the author’s community some uncertainty, some disorder, and perhaps even some inaccuracy in the shared stories of Luke’s community. To start with Luke’s and Matthew’s Gospel included an infancy narrative where Mark’s Gospel begins with the preaching of John the Baptist. The differences don’t end there. To begin with, the genealogy in Luke and Matthew are almost completely different. In order to reconcile these significant differences the reader needs to keep in mind the author’s purpose for writing them in the first place.

The Gospels were written for a specific community in particular circumstances so that they could have a unifying story of faith and purpose. Sure the Gospel is a history of the life of Jesus, but not a history like the U.S. History book we studied in school. It doesn’t depend on historic certainty and accurate facts like a history book; it relies on the trans-historical faith of the believer. It is a theological history of Jesus that explains how the early Christian community came to be, and, why they chose to live out their lives in the risen Christ.

After listening to a series of radio programs on NPR titled, Losing Our Religion, I came to realize that we could use a new Gospel for our day that would go back and investigate everything accurately anew and write down an orderly sequence for our community. The young people interviewed in the radio program voiced their struggle with the believability of what they were taught as children, the relevance of what Religion teaches in light of the current politics, science, and social norms. The challenge of why God allows evil in the world.

As I listened to the interviews I wished I could be there to share my faith and perspective in the hope of giving them the answers they needed. I needed to tell the young man who could no longer accept the fantastic biblical accounts of floods and whales, and parting seas, that these were often metaphors that held a greater truth than facts alone could hold. I want to explain to the young woman that God is not indifferent to our suffering, but if I could do that, why had I not done it with my own son who is struggling with his faith and no longer going to Church?

Are you challenged by the struggles with your own children who seem to be losing their faith? Are you at a loss on how to explain the relevancy of our Church in light of current social norms, politics and the lack of justice in the world? Do you struggle yourself with understanding why you practice our faith and come here week after week looking for the certainty of the teachings you received?

I hope that what I have to share this morning not only identifies a problem, but also offers a way forward. There are two things you can do for yourself to answer some of the questions I have posed. First, dust off your Bible and spend some time in study. The Bible is a rich library of stories that will open up for you the possibility of knowing more deeply that faith we came to know partially as children in catechism class. I know that this can be a daunting task and many who have begun to read the Bible don’t get very far. What will help us is to do this with others and an organized program of study. Well right here at St. Andrew the Apostle parish we have a Wednesday morning Bible Study at 9:00 AM and another bible study group on Thursday evenings at 6:00 PM with many people just like you who are coming to get a better understanding of our faith – and you can jump in any time. Please come and join us.

As for a new retelling of the story of our faith there is another resource. You see the Gospel continues to be written for each generation. In our time we have the Documents of Vatican II. The Vatican II document that answers the questions raised, but not answered in the NPR program, is Gaudium et Spes. This is Latin for the Joys and hopes and heaven we have need for joy and hope in our world. The long title is Pastoral Constitution On the Church in the Modern World. This document is the foundational document of how we, as a people of God, address the hopes, the grief and anguish, of the people of our time, especially of those who are poor or afflicted, for these are our joys and hopes, the grief and anguish as followers of Christ.

This document specifically deals with the dignity of the human person, the community of mankind, our activity and the role of the Church. It addresses the sticky issues of marriage and family, modern culture, economic and social life. It dives into the political life of our world and the questions of war and peace. It is what Jesus was trying to share on that Sabbath 2-millennia ago, in Nazareth, when he read from Isaiah…

The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
because the LORD has anointed me;
He has sent me to bring good news to the afflicted,
to bind up the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives,
release to the prisoners,
To announce a year of favor from the LORD
and a day of vindication by our God;
To comfort all who mourn;
to place on those who mourn in Zion
a diadem instead of ashes,
To give them oil of gladness instead of mourning,
a glorious mantle instead of a faint spirit.”
Isaiah 61: 1-3

Committee Directors and Chairman - 2016 - 2017

  • DEPUTY GRAND NIGHT - Richard Bruck
  • RETENTION - Chairman – Owen Kelly
  • MEMBERSHIP - Director – Eric Evans
  • DEGREE TEAM – Co-Chairmen: Peter Mills& Ed Kuch
  • PROGRAMS - Director – Mike Threadgill: Dan Blomberg & Stephen Sparks
    • Church Council Liaisons
  • CHURCH EVENTS - Director – Ron Delperdang
    • KofC Masses
    • Church Events
    • Pro-Life
  • EVANGELIST - Chairman – Bill Marcotte.
    • Spirituality
    • Men’s Retreat
  • FAMILY - Director – Alex Santucci
    • St. Joe’s Youth Camp - Events
    • Sporting Acts/Outings
    • Family Picnic
  • YOUTH - Director – Tracy Hernandez
    • Free throw
    • Teen Life Golf Outing
  • COMMUNITY - Director - Frank Saavedra
    • Blood Drives
    • PWID Drive / Tootsie Roll
    • Parish Karate Classes
  • KNIGHTS PROGRAM - Chairman – John Negron
    • Christ in Christmas
    • Knight Kids / Kids Backpacks
  • PUBLIC RELATIONS – Chairman - Paul Liberatore
    • Bulletin Updates
    • Newsletter
  • FUND RAISING - Chairman - Todd Huffman
    • Pancake Breakfast
    • Lenten Fish Dinner
    • Themed Dinners (St. Patty, Italian Night etc)
  • CALL to PROTECT – Chairman - Mike Noffke
    • Coordinate Call to Protect compliance
    • Coordinate Maricopa Food Handles Card Compliance
  • HABITAT PROJECTS - Chairman - Phil Vogel