Acknowledge Your Sins

Today’s reflection is for the Second Sunday of Advent, December 8, 2019, and the readings can be found by clicking here.

On our journey toward both the cradle and the Coming, we encounter a fantastic character in the Scriptures, John the Baptist. He serves as the “herald” of Jesus, the coming Messiah. He announces a message of repentance and conversion. Both are necessary, of course. We must repent of our wrong doing, be converted back to Christ, and show evidence (fruit) of our total transformation! What an exciting time that must have been; throngs of people streaming toward the river to be made new again, to start over, and to change their lives.

The Gospel today read, “At that time Jerusalem, all Judea, and the whole region around the Jordan were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins.” What a beautiful sight. Would that we too would stream toward reconciliation, forgiveness, and transformation this Advent season!

As the Pharisees and Sadducee approached to be baptized by John, he asks them, “Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath!” What a great question, rhetorical though it may have been. WHO warned you? No one really likes to talk about sin these days, it seems. No one wants to confront the reality of sin, and guilt, consequence, and the awareness that I need to change who I have become in light of who I want to be. We have a real loss of a sense of sin these days. Most would rather forego the thought that they may have done wrong, and instead live in a pretend world where I can do nothing wrong. And others are afraid to call it like it is, and say, “That’s wrong,” when they see others falling into sin. Too many today are minding their own business while the world falls apart right in front of our eyes.

As an elementary school assistant principal, I am confronted almost daily with students and parents alike with an absolute unwillingness to acknowledge wrongdoing. Multiple times a day I try to convince a hard-faced young person that we all make mistakes, that sometimes who lose our temper, or are tempted to do something we should not do. I help them to see their goodness, but to acknowledge that sometimes they stumble and fall. Usually in short order, the child, made aware of their goodness, and assured that this act is not the end, that they can recover, that there will be a consequence but I will help them work through it, their guard begins to come down, their heart softens, their eyes well up, and they admit their wrongdoing. It’s such a beautiful thing. I always give them a hug or deep, meaningful handshake and watch them leave my office a little more human. Adults are more difficult.

These conversations are necessary for all of us. Today’s gospel reminds us that God always calls us to let down our guard, acknowledge our wrong, and grow in holiness. So, who warned you to flee the coming wrath? Have you ever thanked them? And who have you warned to flee the coming wrath? Have you done it lovingly?

Helping someone to self-reflect, let down their guard, and be transformed is a delicate and beautiful thing. It’s takes grace, humility, genuine concern for the other person, body and soul. It demands that we take the time to enter into a relationship with someone who we may not necessarily be happy with at that moment, but it is absolutely necessary if we are going to participate with God in bringing the good news of salvation to others. It is absolutely necessary if we are going to help people to prepare for the coming of the Son of Man, and if we are going to help people begin to prepare a manger, that Jesus Christ might be born in their heart on Christmas Day.

“Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance. [Because] every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire, [and] the one who is coming after me is mightier than I. I am not worthy to carry his sandals.”

Thank you, John the Baptist.

By catholicevangelist

Advent Begins!

Advent 1

Today’s reflection is for the First Sunday of Advent, December 1, 2019, and the readings can be found by clicking here.

Last week we celebrated the truth that Jesus Christ is the King of our heart, of our home, and of the Universe, and as this new liturgical year begins, we eagerly await the return of the King…and also His arrival. Wait…what?

Jesus said, I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end (RV 22:13). Jesus, God eternal, created all things and will also bring all things to their ultimate completion in him and through him; the world and all that is in it, including you and I.

Alpha and Omega pictureThe season of Advent is a special time of year wherein we appreciate and celebrate that more than linear, our experience of faith is somewhat cyclical, and that Jesus stands at the center of it all. The C.C.C. says it this way, “When the Church celebrates the liturgy of Advent each year, she makes present this ancient expectancy of the Messiah, for by sharing in the long preparation for the Savior’s first coming, the faithful renew their ardent desire for his second coming.” (524) So Advent isn’t just the more popular understanding that we prepare a place for the baby Jesus in the manger, but also that we prepare a place for Jesus in our heart.

While Lent is a far more penitential season of preparation for Jesus’ death and resurrection, Advent tends to be more celebratory in nature as we prepare for his coming and return (e.g. carols, family, gifts, lights, decorations, and freshly baked bread and cookies). But make no mistake–Advent is a constant reminder that the Lord may return at any moment and many of us (like last minute Christmas shopping) have a lot of work to do to prepare for the King’s return! Some Christians focus so preeminently upon Jesus’ return that they even call themselves as much–Seventh Day Advents. We too should focus on the very statement that we profess each Sunday in our Creed. Of Jesus we say, “He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and his kingdom will have no end.” Let’s not forget! Don’t forget! The King may be long delayed but that does not mean he will not return! And judgement will occur. Will we be counted among the eternally living or the eternally dead?

Today’s Gospel teaches us that very thing. In Matthew’s gospel Jesus teaches his disciples to, “Stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come…you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.” Jesus clearly teaches that his disciples must do two things, 1. stay awake, and 2. be prepared.

In this life I find it very easy to become distracted by earthly pleasure and earthly rewards. In short time, if I do not remain vigilant, I can become sleepy to the things of the Lord. We can easily lose focus and supplant simplicity, virtue, and justice, with extravagance, vice, and relativism. I find myself having to conscientiously recommit myself to Jesus Christ and to staying awake time and time again. It’s sort of like my diet that way, I think. When I fail to maintain discipline at the dinner table and in my exercise, I quickly get unhealthy and out of shape, and can create quite a lot of medical problems for myself. Staying awake requires a tremendous amount of energy and focus. It is not easy. No wonder our first reading today speaks of climbing a mountain!

Isaiah teaches that people will say, “Come, let us climb the LORD’s mountain, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may instruct us in his ways, and we may walk in his paths.” Like climbing a mountain, staying awake demands much from us. A relationship with God, to find and remain in the house of Jacob requires commitment, sacrifice, and long suffering–and I’m afraid that too many would rather rest for a while. And in their resting they fail to prepare, which is the second thing that Jesus says we must do.

Preparation for the Lord’s coming demands that we conduct ourselves properly. Those who are in training and have their eyes set on the Lord’s mountain have no time for the pleasures of the flesh. But when we decide to “rest a while” we can easily become complacent and begin to live in darkness instead of the light of Christ. St. Paul tells the Romans in our second reading, “For our Salvation is nearer now than when we first believed…throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light: let us conduct ourselves properly as in the day, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in promiscuity and lust, not in rivalry and jealousy.”

This conduct mentioned by Paul was popular in his own day and remains popular in ours too. If we become complacent in our walk with Christ, as we climb the Lord’s mountain, we can become too attached to darkness–and many Christians have become enveloped by it, have become distracted and complacent, and their faith grows cold. The attractiveness of drunkenness, lust, promiscuity, violence, and jealousy consume those who, though on the mountain, take too many “rest breaks,” and soon begin to backslide, make excuses, and give up the hard work of Christian discipleship altogether.

And so, as we begin this Advent season, join me in both staying awake and being prepared. Let us renew our commitment to praying daily at meals and nightly before bed. Let us receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Let us attend Mass every Sunday, and maybe even once or twice during the week, if possible. If you’ve got a Bible, read the Infancy Narratives found at the beginning of Matthew and Luke’s Gospels, and if you have a Catechism, recommit yourself to knowing and following the Church’s teachings that you may be “instructed in his ways, and may walk in his paths.”

The truth is that both the time of Jesus’ coming and His return draws near. Follow St. Paul’s advice to, “put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the desires of the flesh.” And if you believe in Jesus, believe what he said, “Stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.” Amen?

For reflection:

To what degree have I become complacent in my walk with Christ?

How much time, energy, and resources do I spend on earthly pleasures and material gain?

When was the last time I read my Bible or a book about the Church and it’s teachings?

What commit will I make to “Stay Awake!” and follow Jesus’ example of simplicity, virtue, and justice?

By catholicevangelist

Just Remember Me, Okay?

Today’s reflection is for The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, November 24, 2019, and the readings can be found by clicking here. 

I often say that God speaks to us at unexpected times and through the most unlikely of people. As Jesus’ disciples, we believe that God’s Spirit dwells within us and opens our eyes, ears, and heart to hearing the voice of God and the message he has prepared, and today’s Gospel proves the rule.

As we celebrate the Solemnity of our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, we celebrate more than a title; we celebrate the Lordship of Jesus Christ over absolutely every single thing that exists, both visible and invisible, animate or inanimate, past, present, and future. We humbly recognize that without Jesus Christ we are nothing and have nothing. He is our all in all. And that’s the necessary beginning to salvation. It’s the only way that we know to enter Paradise–and all this from a criminal.

The words of the criminal on the cross are our words too. He said, “Indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes.” The criminal knows what he is and he acknowledges what he has done. No doubt he has tried time and time again to be otherwise but has failed as many times to change his ways. Now he has been caught, appropriately condemned, and the only thing left is his punishment.

The criminal has hit rock bottom and acknowledges his brokenness. He is not a king, but a slave. He is not righteous, but left to his own is unholy and unrighteous–not a king but a pauper. Are we there yet? Each of us falls short of the glory of God. Each of us has sinned against God and neighbor. Each of us is as unholy and unrighteous as the criminal, and we too stand condemned.

The humility with which we approach the King of the Universe comes from an honesty about our limitations, weaknesses and failures. In fact, a failure to recognize our weakness blinds us to calling out to the King in the first place. It is he who grants pardon because of who He is as the benevolent King. He doesn’t pretend that there has been no offense, but instead loves and shows mercy in spite of it.

The rulers, soldiers, and criminals all sneered and told Jesus to save himself if he is who he claimed to be. In other words, they were wrong both about who he was AND who they were. They did not believe that he was indeed the King, and they did not believe that needed his help. If they had believed either in who he was or understood who they were, they would have been begging him to save them instead of telling him to save himself. They would have known that they needed a savior and that we was the savior. They had neither faith nor humility–and both are necessary prerequisites to Paradise.

As we come to the end of our liturgical year, we recognize Jesus’ rightful place as king of our lives and of the universe. We acknowledge our countless failings and seek his pardon. As we approach the throne of the King we seek not fortune nor fame but instead only one thing…to be remembered.

After acknowledging his unrighteousness, the criminal says, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” What a beautiful request. I want the same from my wife, children, and friends when I’m gone–to be remembered. To remember another is to affirm the strength of the relationship and the impact it had on our life. How is your relationship with Jesus? Have you had an impact on him? Would he weep for you as he did for Lazarus? Have we pursued him? Have we nurtured the relationship with Him? Have we allowed him to transform our lives? Or have we kept a safe distance so as not to be challenged, but because of it have not grown in love? Would He even remember us? Is that even our only request?

As we end this year, may we always acknowledge Him as King of kings and Lord of Lords, draw near to Him and grow in relationship with Him, and at our last hour may we too hear, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

By catholicevangelist

Run and Climb

ZacchaeusToday’s reflection is for the Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time, November 3, 2019, and the readings can be found by clicking here.

Some of you may remember the song, “Zacchaeus was a wee little man, and a wee little man was he. He climbed up in a sycamore tree for the Lord he wanted to see…” (Let’s try that together…)

Zacchaeus was a wee little man (repeat), and a wee little man was he. (repeat) He climbed up in a sycamore tree (repeat) for the Lord he wanted to see. (repeat)

We have much to learn from Zacchaeus in today’s Gospel. The first is that Zacchaeus was not perfect—in fact, far from it, and often so are we. The second is that Zacchaeus strove mightily to see the Lord, even to the point of climbing a tall sycamore tree, and so should we. And finally, Zacchaeus joyfully accepted Jesus’ request to enter his home—and it changed his life forever, and so must we.

Interestingly enough, the Hebrew name Zacchaeus literally means, “clean and pure.” But we know from the Gospel today that Zacchaeus’ life was far from being either clean or pure. Zacchaeus was a tax collector and a sinner. Tax collectors in Jesus’ day worked for the Roman government, which was an occupation force in Israel. So not only were tax collectors working directly for the people oppressing God’s people, they openly added extra money for themselves, and used force to collect it! Zacchaeus became rich on the backs of his own overtaxed, hard-working, countrymen. Hardly clean. Hardly Pure.

But the truth is that whether we like it or not, we can be a lot like Zacchaeus. Too often we tend to look out for number one, to be selfish and greedy, and often at the expense of our own countrymen, our friends, or our family members. I’m not going to stand up here and lie to you…I eat my children’s candy, and I eat more than my fair share of the cookies! Just last week my wife made twelve cookies. That’s three cookies each for the four of us…I ate 6 before the kids even woke up the next morning! Sometimes we’re selfish, but Jesus calls us to be self-less.

Although Zacchaeus was selfish and sinful, he strove mightily to see the Lord, right there in his own town. The Gospel tells us that Zacchaeus was vertically challenged so he knew he’d better find an elevated place! It says, “for he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus, who was about to pass that way. When he reached the place, Jesus looked up.” Isn’t that beautiful, Zacchaeus knew who he was, knew his weakness, and his need and took off running! Zacchaeus knew he was a, “wee little a man, and wee little man was he.” He didn’t whine about it. He didn’t complain. He didn’t say he was a victim and start looking for sympathy, and he didn’t ask the whole crowd to take a knee so he could see. No, he just started running and climbing.

You might not know that the sycamore tree has existed on the earth for more than 100 million years! A single tree can live up to 600 years old and grow up to 130 feet tall. Now I don’t know how tall the one was in Zacchaeus’ village, but I know that Zacchaeus was willing to do the hard work of climbing it so that he could see Jesus. Like Zacchaeus, we too need to run and strive so that Jesus doesn’t pass us by.

Many of us are taking things a little too slowly, procrastinating, getting distracted, and wasting precious time. Life is short, we’ve gotten out of shape, we have a long way to run and a tall tree to climb if we hope to get the invite. We must get our priorities straightened out while there’s still time—build our spiritual muscles—too many of us aren’t running and aren’t striving. We strive when we pray daily, read a Catholic book, attend reconciliation and Mass, read the Bible, spend time with family in service opportunities, volunteer at “We Care,” or the Salvation Army serving the homeless. It is in these moments, and in that service that we see Jesus face to face. It is in the midst of the struggle that Jesus sees us and asks us to take him home with us.

Zacchaeus was not perfect, but he strove mightily, and his life was changed forever. We hear that people began to grumble when Jesus went into Zacchaeus’ home. I guess it was no different then than it is today, “Haters gonna hate!” I love that Zacchaeus received the Lord with great joy and couldn’t care less what anybody else thought about it. Zacchaeus saw the face of God, accepted Him into his home, and the change in Zacchaeus’ lifestyle provided the evidence of the change.

St. Ambrose said that there are two conversions in the Church, namely, water and tears. The first, he said, is the water of baptism where we are converted to God for the first time, and the second, he said, are the tears of repentance where we return to God again and again. (C.C.C. 1421) The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that, “Interior repentance is a radical reorientation of our whole life, a return, a conversation to God with all our heart, an end of sin, a turning away from evil, with repugnance toward the evil actions we have committed. It entails the desire and resolution to change one’s life, with hope in God’s mercy and trust in the help of his grace.” (C.C.C. 1431)

That day Zacchaeus gave away half of everything he owned and pledged to return four-fold any money he had taken that wasn’t his to take. We might not be called to give away half of our wealth, but we may need to apologize if we have hurt someone. We may need to start dedicating more of our resources to God and the Church community. We might need to commit ourselves to daily running and striving mightily to see the Lord.

“Zacchaeus was a wee little man, and a wee little man was he. He climbed up in a sycamore tree for the Lord he wanted to see…”

The name Zacchaeus means ‘pure’ or ‘innocent’, which is exactly what we are called to be. As a tax collector, Zacchaeus didn’t live up to his name, and too often neither do we. After Jesus reached out to him, Zacchaeus changed his ways and went above and beyond to make things right. He finally overcame his past and lived up to his name, and so can we. God bless.

By catholicevangelist

Upcoming Men’s Retreat

We are officially launching the registration for the “2019 Catholic Men’s Fellowship Fall Retreat – Sonora, CA” and appreciate your support. Review, share, and forward this email to other brothers as we invite you to join us for another great gathering in Christ.

“The Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, and Jesus’s teaching on the Torah reveal for us the kind of people we are called to be in the Church and how we are to act so as to receive the blessings of the kingdom of God both in the present and when the kingdom of God comes in its fullness. The teachings of Jesus gives those who follow Him an identity as God’s people and a significance for the whole world.” -Bishop Stephen Blaire

Come join us as Father Yesobu Banka, of St. Stanislaus Parish, Modesto, Ca. in his wisdom of the teachings of the Church lead us to a better understanding of how the “ Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes ” will encourage our Life-Long Faith Development, and live our Baptism by integrating our faith into our daily lives through purposeful learning and prayer. This will lead us to deeper engagement with Christ and develop a vibrant, active community of disciples that radiates God’s love, justice, and truth to the world.  

Accept this invitation to join other men for a weekend of reflective spirituality. Get away from the pressures and activities of daily life for a refreshing weekend of renewal. Regain, deepen and strengthen your spiritual perspective.

Select links for details:  

https://www.catholicmen.org/event/2019-catholic-mens-fellowship-fall-retreat-sonora-ca/ 

https://www.catholicmen.org

 

Retreat Date:

September 13 – 15, 2019, Friday – Sunday.

Beginning at 5pm Friday and concluding at 10 am Sunday.   

 

Retreat Cost: $185 per person (Includes lodging and all meals).

You may register by mail by downloading the attached flyer, printing it, and sending a check to the address on the flyer or call Chris at (209) 264-2263 for any questions or details, leave a message and I’ll return your call.

Make checks payable to 2019 CMF CA Fall Retreat

Mail to: 10905 Kelso Ct. Sonora, CA   95370

 

Retreat Location:

OLD OAK RANCH

15250 Old Oak Ranch Rd.

Sonora, California 95370

[Map & Directions]

 

God Bless,

(209) 264-2263

Email Sonora CMF

Sonora CMF Website

http://www.catholicmen.org/

By catholicevangelist

A Lot Like Coffee

iced or hot coffee Today’s reflection is for the Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, August 18, 2019, and the readings can be found by clicking here. This reflection was given as a homily at the Deuel Vocational Institute, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, in Tracy.

I don’t think I’m alone in saying that there’s nothing quite like a hot cup of coffee on a cold morning! Of course, because coffee isn’t just for breakfast, many take delight in coffee later in the day. And because we’re reaching over a hundred degrees these days, iced coffee has become quite the treat for many, myself included. While some like coffee cold, and many like coffee hot, I don’t think I know anyone who can’t wait to have lukewarm coffee.  Lukewarm would seemingly promise to please everyone, but in truth, it pleases no one, and the same is true of our Christian discipleship. Jesus tells us today that he came to set the earth on fire! He desires nothing less than people burning with the fire of his Holy Spirit, filled with life and love and goodness and truth.

In fact, this is one of my favorite verses from the Book of Revelation. The angel of the Lord tells John to write this to the well-to-do Church in Laodicea, “I know your works; I know that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” Today’s Gospel is very clear, if we are going to call ourselves his disciples, then we must take a stand. We must be red hot for him. In fact, he tells his disciples that their allegiance must be so decided that it will no-doubt cause division for many–even within one’s own family. There is no tighter bond than between father and son or mother and daughter, but the decision to follow Jesus may in fact be a source of brokenness. How many children in non-Christian countries (and even predominantly Christian ones) have made the decision to follow Jesus only to be rejected by family and friends.

Jesus tells us, “Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. From now on a household of five will be divided, three against two and two against three…” Jesus’ desire is, of course, unity and love, but he knew all too well the tragedy of brokenness and sin that would cause many to turn away from him. Many in our church today, while claiming to title of Christian, remain luke-warm. For many years I straddled the fence between Christ and his church and the world. I called myself Catholic for an hour on Sunday, but made no commitment to following Jesus or the teachings of the Church at any point throughout the week. I was neither hot nor cold. I was a lot like Jeremiah–stuck in the mud and going nowhere fast!

The book of Jeremiah has some helpful wisdom for those who are luke-warm,  in a dark place, or stuck in the mud and muck of the world. We need an Ebed-melech and three or four good men. When we are stuck in our ego, stuck in the allure and promise of worldly wealth or power; when we’re stuck in desire for pleasure and earthly friendships and fame we need some good friends who will speak openly and honestly to us about where we are in our life and in our faith.

Disciples of Christ are called to burn hot with the fire of the Holy Spirit, but the world is a difficult place and we can too easily become side-tracked and begin to cool. I want to encourage you this week to seek spiritual direction, read Scripture often, attend Mass weekly, receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation, join a Catholic book club, pray the Rosary, attend parish events, start a Catechism study, and pray daily. These activities will not only help your faith grow strong but will also surround you with like-minded people who are also seeking to be more like Jesus and burn with his love. These are the friends who will get you out of the mud when you’re stuck in your dark place!

All of these activities and friendships will provide fuel for the fire! Everytime we do these things we burn a little hotter for Jesus! Jesus has come to set the world ablaze and he is calling us to join him. There is no in between, I’m afraid. Like coffee, there’s only hot or cold. That’s it. Which one are you?

By catholicevangelist

All Alone

All aloneToday’s reflection is for the Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, August 11, 2019, and the readings can be found by clicking here.

In today’s Gospel Jesus warns his disciples that while the Master is away there is an expectation of appropriate behavior! They must be “faithful and prudent stewards,” lest they be cast aside with the “unfaithful.” Who are these unfaithful? And what made them so?

I’ve heard many people wrongly claim that the Old Testament reveals the wrath of God, the angry God, and the punishing God, while the New Testament reveals Jesus and the love, mercy, and tenderness of God. My friends, make no mistake, the God of Israel was patient, merciful, and loving with his rebellious children, and Jesus has some pretty clear and harsh teachings on the consequences of being far from God. He unequivocally demands that we make a choice. We are either with Him and for Him, or on our own and against Him. We are to choose either light or darkness, in or out, faithfulness or unfaithfulness. There are clearly only two choices and each of us must make a personal decision that is either for or against God and His Kingdom.

I believe today’s second reading from the book of Hebrews holds the key to understanding Jesus’ harsh teaching about the faithful and unfaithful, as well as what we might expect to see among those who are faith-full. Hebrews reads, “Brothers and sisters: Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.” (11:1) Hebrews says faith is two things: 1. getting what we hope for, and 2. evidence for the invisible God. People are usually quick to equate faith with trust and belief, but I think trust and belief and products of faith. There can be no greater hope for our heart than relationship and unity with God, our Creator. Faith is the attainment of that relationship. “Faith is the realization of what is hoped for,” according to Hebrews. When we are in that relationship (faith) with God, then we have all the evidence we need for the truth of God. Of course God exists! We are in an intimate, loving relationship with Him! “Faith is evidence of things not seen.” And because we are in the relationship, we can trust and believe!

Relationship with God, like any relationship, must be attended to. I must spend time with, talk with, learn about, and share with others the beauty that I have discovered in my beloved. If we want a strong relationship with our spouse or with our children, we must attend to them, and it is true also with God. Faith grows like a mustard seed! It starts so very small–maybe as an infant in Baptism, but if nurtured and cared for, attended to and cultivated, it grows to be so big and strong that it brings comfort and consolation to others during times of need. Our relationship with God must be authentic, attended to, never neglected, and always shared.

Finally, Hebrews teaches us that because of his faith–his relationship with God–Abraham “obeyed,” “went out,” “sojourned,” “looked forward to,” “received power from,” and even “offered up,” his only son, trusting that God would raise him up again. In other words, Abraham’s faith caused him to do something! And therein lies the key for those who claim to believe. If we say we believe, if we have faith, if we are in a relationship with God, but we do not do what The Master commands, then we are no more in a relationship with Him than any anybody else! And if the faith-full are truly full of relationship with the God of the universe, then the un-faithful are those who find themselves alone. Faith is to recognize God and live in a loving relationship of obedience and service. Yes, to be a “faithful and prudent servant.” To disobey, to act as though there is no Master, and that the Master will not return, is to separate oneself from God; to walk away; to reject; to give our “no” to Him, His will, and His Kingdom.

So the faithful servants are in a relationship with God that causes them to act in a way that is responsible and brings glory to God and His kingdom of love, mercy, and justice. To be unfaithful is to reject that relationship, to store up treasure not in heaven but here on earth. It is to refuse to forgive, to show no mercy, and to love no one but oneself. When you love only you…you end up all alone…for eternity. And God honors that decision freely made by that person.

Choose faith. Nurture it. Act on it by serving those most in need. Be the good and faithful servant, because the Master will return at an unknown hour. Be ready. Get to work while there is still time. Amen?

 

By catholicevangelist

Pray For Riches!

Gollum.jpg

Today’s reflection is for the Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, August 4, 2019, and the readings can be found by clicking here. This reflection was given as a homily at the Deuel Vocational Institute, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, in Tracy.

In today’s Gospel Jesus tells the crowd what I think we all need to hear. He tells them, “Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.” Let that sink in a bit, though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions. My brothers, we must remain on guard lest we become possessed by our possessions.

To be possessed means to be influenced or controlled by something. Many times we talk about people being possessed by an evil Spirit, that takes control of their mind and body. To be possessed is to longer do what we want to do. We act in a way that we know we should not act and do things that we know we should not do. Most of us will not be possessed by a demon or an evil Spirit, but I bet we’ve all been possessed by our possessions at one point or another.

We grow up being told how important money is. We are told that we need to get an education so we can get a good job so we can make lots of money and have lots of things! From as early as I can remember I was told that money is KING…get that money! Game shows, radio, tv shows, the lottery; all promise joy and happiness that we’re led to believe can only be found in stuff. And we buy it, and hoard it, and we become slaves.

We fill our rooms with pants, shoes, jackets, and jewelry. We fill our houses with furniture, dishes, and paintings. Our garages with tools, boxes, bins, cars, boats and trailers. We buy sheds when our garages can’t hold any more stuff, and we rent storage facilities when our houses and garages, and sheds overflow…and then we buy locks, and security cameras, and alarms–because we don’t want anybody stealing our stuff! We are entirely convinced that when we have that one more thing…then we’ll be happy. We just need a little more money. We strive for it. We dream about it. We steal for it. We hurt people to get it. We even kill people to have their money, or what they have bought with money.

Have you ever seen The Lord of the Rings? Gollum wants the ring so badly–it’s the only thing he cares about. He is willing to kill for it, and because it’s the only thing he thinks about, it slowly kills him. Do you know people like that? Do you know people who nothing is ever good enough and nothing is ever enough?

Today’s message is a message that leads to liberation, true freedom, and life. Today’s message is an important reminder that we need to be a lot less selfish and a lot more self-less. We are called not to be rich in the stuff of this world, but instead to be rich in what matters to God. What a funny thing to think about: What matters to God, that we might be rich in it? The Gospel story that Jesus tells is like someone today making it rich with business or with the lottery. All at once you have more than you could ever have dreamed about, but the next day, you’re gone. What a wasted life. A life without meaning, and life without true wealth that brings joy and lasting happiness.

What is the wealth of happiness? What is the treasure of God? What should we be storing up right now that will last for eternity? God told Solomon that all he had to do was ask, and God would give him anything he wanted. Solomon did not ask for gold or women or power, he asked instead for wisdom to lead God’s people.

It would be good to be rich in wisdom. How about if we were rich is counseling others? If we always gave good advice to friends and family? Have you ever had a friend who always seemed to know what was good? What if you could do that for others?

Wouldn’t it be great if we were like the Bill Gates of knowledge? If we could know a ton of stuff and help figure out the world’s problems? If you’re like me, you need to be rich in strength. Sometimes I cave too easily! I too often go with the flow when I should stand against the storm. These are the gifts of the Holy Spirit that I’ve been talking about. Knowledge, Understanding, Wisdom, Counsel, Strength, Piety, Fear of the Lord. If you want to pray for riches–God wants to give you these! Honestly, how often do we pray to be rich in the Gifts of the Holy Spirit?

Or how often do we pray to be rich in the Fruit of the Holy Spirit? I want you to think about your heavenly bank account, are you wealthy  in love–both what you give and what you get? Are you rich in joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, generosity, faithfulness, and self control. If you’re like me, you’re barely able to pay the rent with some of these! Far from being rich in the things that matter to God, I’m actually broke!

And that my friends is a scary thought. I spend most of the minutes of my entire day trying to get the riches of the world–and I can’t even take it with me when I die, and that could be on the way home today. I spend so little time acquiring the wealth that matters to God. I spend too little time being generous and patient and kind. St. Paul tells us that all those who have been raised with Christ are to “seek what is above,” and “not on what is on earth.” My brothers, I think we all have some work to do. Don’t wait. Start investing in God today. Pray for and seek what is above. Amen?

By catholicevangelist

Look and Listen!

Holy TrinityToday’s reflection is for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, Sunday, June 16, 2019, and the readings can be found by clicking here. This reflection was given as a homily at the Deuel Vocational Institute, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, in Tracy.

Today the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity. It is, of course, a bit strange to celebrate a Dogma of the Church, right? And while we do indeed celebrate a Dogma—which I will talk about—the thing that I would like to really emphasize today are the courageous men and women who were open to what God was revealing to them in their time and place.

The Dogma of the Most Holy Trinity, the truth that God is three in one; an interconnected, yet distinct, communion of persons is an absolute requirement for belief if we are going to call ourselves Christians. The distinctive mark of the disciple of Jesus Christ is repeated every time we make the sign of the cross, in the NAME of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It’s the inexhaustible mystery of the Triune God.

At different times and in different ways, humans have tried to wrap their minds around this great mystery using different images or symbols. Some are more helpful than others, but all are worth considering, and all ultimately fall short of the full reality of the mystery. St. Patrick used the image of the 3-leaf clover as a way to explain the triune God; three distinct leaves, one clover; three distinct persons, one God. Or maybe a triangle is helpful; three distinct sides, one triangle, or three angles and one triangle. Or the Celtic knot—three loops, one knot. Yesterday I was at Starbucks sitting in front of three window panes, that made up one big window.

Probably the one I appreciate the most is one of experience. I’ve heard that the Trinity is like steam, water, and ice. It is all H20, but we experience the H20 in different ways depending upon the temperature. God is one, but the one God was experienced by Abraham and Moses in a way that was different than the disciples experienced Jesus. And that was different than the way that they and we experience the Holy Spirit. This is indeed a great mystery. It’s a fun exercise to walk around and try to discover threes and twos. I mentioned that I saw three window panes while at Starbucks, the cool thing was that each of the panes was made up of two parts—reminding me not only of Trinity, but also about the dual nature of Christ—fully human and fully divine in one person. What a joy to discover how nature and human construction can remind us and reveal to us the mystery of Jesus Christ and the Trinity all around us! Stay awake!

Just take a look around right now. What threes and twos can you find right where you are? [Pause] Discovering the presence of God right where you are, where you hadn’t seen God before is precisely the joy that was experienced by Jesus’ disciples. They were Jews. The only God they knew was God the Father—the God of their ancestors, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. But God was doing something new. They came to understand and believe that Jesus of Nazareth, the carpenter’s son, was actually God. You have to appreciate just how groundbreaking that was! For over four-thousand years Yahweh, and Yahweh alone was God…and then came Jesus. And then at Pentecost, God reveals the Holy Spirit! Absolutely incredible.

This was not an easy thing for any of the disciples to come to terms with—that God was one, and then two, and then three! But they were courageous! They were willing to struggle with what God was teaching them. They had ears to hear and eyes to see how God was making some very important changes in the way they understood and experienced God. They were men of strength, and prayer, and courage, and they remained open to what God was telling them, and they obeyed God rather than men. Some were jailed and then put to death for it, but they knew what they saw, and no one could make them deny it.

Jesus says to his disciples in the Gospel today, “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth.” My brothers, the Holy Spirit still has much more to tell us. The Holy Spirit continues to guide the Church into greater truth. In each generation the Spirit is able to reveal what a previous generation unable to bear. The last council of the Church is proof that the Spirit of God is as alive today as it was 2,000 years ago—guiding the Church, leading the Church, challenging the Church, and courageously empowering the Church.

We celebrate Trinity Sunday as an important reminder that God is not done speaking to us, teaching us, and guiding us to all truth! Through science, technology, philosophy, art, engineering, and yes, even, theology, the Spirit of God wants to show us something new, something life-giving, something that will change the way we see God, each other, and the world around us. Trinity Sunday reminds us that if we are faithful and if we keep our eyes, ears, and hearts open, that God wants to speak to us, teach us, and fill us with incredible joy. God wants to continue to surprise us with something new, that you never would have believed before.

As you leave this communion service today, be on the lookout for what God is trying to show you. You might discover a relationship that you never thought possible, or joy in a place of darkness, or…well, I don’t know, but God does. So be open, be led by the Spirit, and be courageous.

By catholicevangelist

Grace Revealed: Pentecost

I make all things newToday’s reflection is for Pentecost Sunday, June 9, 2019, and the readings can be found by clicking here. This reflection was given as a homily at the Deuel Vocational Institute, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, in Tracy.

In the very last book of the Bible (Chapter 21) we see Jesus, ascended to the Father, seated on his throne in glory, and worship going on in heaven. It’s a beautiful sight, indeed. Jesus says something very important that we must not miss. In verse 5, Jesus says, “Behold, I make all things new.”

Today we celebrate Pentecost, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus’ disciples, the birth of the Church, the commissioning of its ministers, and the fulfillment of the promise that God made to Abraham four thousand years earlier–and six thousand years before today.

You might remember the story about The Tower of Babel. In the very beginning of the Bible, the Book of Genesis, Chapter 11. Those first eleven chapters of the Bible reveal the tragedy and consequence of original sin. Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Noah and the Flood, and finally, The Tower of Babel, all reveal a humanity entirely unwilling to follow very simple directions. What ensues are narratives that teach the hearer of, 1. Humanity’s sin, 2. The consequence of sin, and 3. That God’s grace has the last word–always. So it’s a cycle of sin, punishment, and grace.

God gives Adam and Eve rules, they break them and are kicked out of the garden, but God loves them and clothes them. Cain kills Abel, God condemns Cain to be a restless wanderer, but loves him still and marks him to protect him. The world is filled with wickedness, God sends the flood, but God loves his creatures and calls Noah to build an ark. Finally (and this is the key for today) we end up with the Tower of Babel. Humanity has achieved greatness without God. They seek to make their name great by building a tower to the heavens essentially supplanting God. God confuses their language and scatters them around the earth. But God loves them and…wait…where’s the grace? The pattern is broken. We see sin, and consequence, but grace is not revealed until Pentecost. It begins with Genesis chapter 12 when God calls Abraham and the history of salvation begins. However, the fullness of that grace for the whole of humanity is not realized until the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. God makes US his temple. He forgives our sins. He makes us great. Simply amazing.

God worked through Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the twelve tribes, Moses, Kings Saul, David, and Solomon, the prophets, and then Jesus, the Messiah, the Savior of the world. As we bring Easter to a close, we know that Jesus suffered, died, was buried, rose again, ascended to the Father, and will come again to judge the living and the dead. But how will we ever know Jesus that we might call out to him, be saved by Him, and cling tightly to Him–enter the Holy Spirit! We are taught that, “No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.” (1COR 12:3)

Jesus sends his Spirit on Pentecost to make the sinner aware of his/her sinfulness, to convict us in the heart and to be moved to repentance! His desire is to make the sinner whole through the forgiveness of sin, to bind sinful, sorrowful, but forgiven people together and call them to holiness! He sends the Spirit to help us remember the saving acts of God and to not only guide us toward Jesus in every generation, but to make Jesus truly and substantially present, body, blood, soul, and divinity, at every Mass until he returns. That great work of the Spirit is done by God’s design through the ministers of the Church. That’s awesome.

The Gospel today teaches us that Jesus appeared to his disciples, breathed on them and said, “‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.’” (JN 20:19-23)

Today, then, is not only the revelation and celebration of God’s grace to the people of Babel, and God making good on his promise to Abraham, but it is also a recognition that God powerfully sent his Holy Spirit on the Apostles so that they might continue his work of redeeming humanity. Today, through the ministers and ministry of the Church, by the power of the Holy Spirit, people still hear the voice of God in every generation, have the opportunity to call Jesus Lord, confess their sins, and be reunited with the God of grace and mercy.

We call these people the Church. (That’s us.) These people are not perfect, but strive mightily to be. We are the sick who day after day and week after week return to the hospital that is the church, and are healed by confession and reconciliation, are nourished by the body and blood of Jesus, and eagerly await the end of all things, when the Savior returns in glory to judge the living and the dead. We receive the Sacraments of the Church to help us to our final destination, the heavenly Jerusalem. And we fervently pray, “Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.” (Psalm 104:30) The renewal begins in you and me, in our families and in our workplaces, in our community, and in the world. And from the throne in heaven Jesus can say in truth, “Behold, I make all things new.

By catholicevangelist