Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid!

Putting this story in context, we know that Jesus had heard that his cousin, John the Baptist, was beheaded and given to a woman who danced for the king. Jesus who was grieving, withdrew to a deserted place where people tracked him down. Jesus was moved with pity when he got out of the boat. He taught them, but the disciples were very anxious and wanted him to send them away to get food. Jesus asked them to give them some food yourselves. The disciples complained, “Five loaves and two fish are all we have.” Jesus asked them to “bring them here.” Was he asking them to bring to him the 5 loaves or the people? He then transformed the five loaves into enough to feed 5000 men, not including the woman and children.

When I was ordained 27 years ago I was quite nervous and my homilies were a mess. No comment! Anyways, the bishop called me into his office about this issue. I assured him that I was well prepared, but my anxieties took possession of me. The bishop suggested I use a story or humor to start the homily. I told the bishop it was a great idea, but I did’t know any stories. The bishop offered me an example, “I begin sometimes saying, ‘I am in love with a beautiful woman… and her name is Mary!’” I thought that was a great idea and told the bishop so. The next Sunday, I went into the pulpit with great confidence and peace. I couldn’t wait to share the Good News. I began my homily like this, “The bishop is in love with a beautiful woman!” After a moment for it to sink in, “But I forget her name!” Needless to say, I was called into the office by the good bishop, but he was merciful to me.

Whenever we fail to be calm, we can make huge mistakes. Jesus asked the disciples to get in the boat at first, but then he began to ask us to get out of the boat in the storms of life. We can all relate to Peter. When we get anxious, we stop seeing the persons before us, and focus only on our fears, real or imagined.

It is like this boat that we can imagine being in together. What happens if someone points out that there is a whale on the starboard side? Yes, everyone runs to the other side and before long, we forget about the whale and focus only on the fact that we are dipping deep into the water. We react and run to the other side. This continues until we capsize or see Jesus walking on the water. Jesus calms and encourages us, “Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid.” And yet our terror and fear blind us. We start focusing on the anxiety and depression like it is an illness. Like Peter, we doubt that Jesus knows cares, or can cure our mental turmoil, “Lord if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” Jesus simply says, “Come.” We know his voice.

So like Peter, we get out of the boat and walk on the water until we lose our focus because our addictions, financial woes, relationship problems or children floundering terrorize us. While we are sinking, we cry out, “Jesus, save me!”

What irritates us is that Jesus does catch us, but he says those sometimes dreaded words, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

Those words sometimes sting. We forget we have much to learn. We forget that we must constantly step out in faith to learn more about God, to fly on our faith, and walk on water like Jesus. After all, we are created in the likeness of God.

This reminds me of the story of the farmers who found an abandoned eagle egg, and then placed it in a chicken coop. The eagle hatched and was adopted by the chickens. He grew up to peck, scratch, cackle and run around like his adopted chicken siblings… but he did not learn to fly. One day, after a very long time, a beautiful golden eagle flew above them. The shadow caught the little eagle by surprise and he looked up. He hollered out to his fellow chickens, “What is that?” The other chickens said, “O that is an eagle, the king and queen of all the birds. They fly and rule the skies. Us? We are just a bunch of chickens.” The little chicken that looked like an eagle simply said, “Oh.” And then he went back to pecking and scratching and cackling. He died a chicken, for that is really all that he was.

IMG_6341          You see no chicken could teach the little fellow how to fly. Only a disciple who walks on water like Jesus can show others how to do likewise. Often we resort to the behaviors of those around us, because we don’t know how to be kind, merciful, compassionate and loving like Jesus. We can only learn to fly and walk on water like Jesus if we have faith. But if the anxieties and fears overwhelm us and blind us, we simply cry out to Jesus. He immediately stretches out his hand saying, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” All of us must not only learn to walk on water, but we must learn how to fly like the Eagles. Jesus is our true flight instructor and “lifesaver”. Isn’t that Good News?

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19th Sunday in Ordinary Time ~ August 13, 2017

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1 Kings 19:9-13 ~ After the wind, earthquake and fire…there was a tiny whispering sound.

Psalm 85 ~ Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.

Paul’s letter to the Romans 9:1-5 ~ Brothers and sisters: I speak the truth in Christ, I do not lie;

Gospel: Matthew 14:22-33~ After Jesus fed the people, Jesus made the disciples get into a boat and precede him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After doing so, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When it was evening he was there alone. Meanwhile the boat, already a few miles offshore, was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it. During the fourth watch of the night, he came toward them walking on the sea. When the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified. “It is a ghost,” they said, and they cried out in fear. At once Jesus spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”

                  Peter said to him in reply, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw how strong the wind was he became frightened: and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!’ Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught Peter, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” After they got into the boat, the wind died down. Those who were in the boat did him homage, saying, “Truly, you are the Son of God.”

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Best Baked Bread Ever!

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time
22-23 July 2017
St. Monica & St. John the Evangelist Catholic Communities

Wisdom 12: 13-19 ~ And you taught your people, by these deeds, that those who are just must be kind; and you gave your children good ground for hope that you would permit repentance for their sins.
Psalm 86 ~ Beloved, you are good and forgiving.
St. Paul to Romans 8:26-27 ~ The Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness: for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes with inexpressible groanings.
Gospel according to Matthew 13:24-43 ~ Jesus proposed another parable to them: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a person took and sowed in a field. It is the smallest of all the seeds, yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants. It becomes a large bush, and the birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches.” He spoke to them another parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch was leavened.”

Jesus goes on to teach that in the first parable, “The one who sows good seed is the Son of Man, the field is the world, the good seed the children of the kingdom. The weeds are the children of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. Just as weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son o Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all who cause others to sin and all evildoers. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears ought to hear.”
Jesus did not explain who the slaves of the Master were. Who do you believe are the slaves? Jesus tells us that the harvesters are the angels, which means that is not any of us. I am certainly not an angel.
My hunch is that the slaves are those of us that are ministers of the Word and the Eucharist. The good seed are the baptized. St Paul has told us in Philippians that Jesus took the form of a slave, something to be grasped.” So we priests and you ministers and volunteers of St. Monica and St. John are slaves, something to understand, something to ponder. We ask Jesus what to do with the weeds that seem to be in heaven. I am pondering writing a book called, “Mosquitoes in Heaven”!
Beloved, what if the mustard seed is the church of St. Monica? Surely it is the smallest of parishes that was sown by Jesus in 1858. It survived a civil war and so much more. But when we grow, we have become the largest parish in Palatka where people from all over Florida and parts of the States have come to her branches and dwell here. St. John the Evangelist in Interlachen is the same. People are fed through the food distributions and ministries to the poor. People come in and rest within the bountiful branches of our beautiful but simple sanctuary.
I love the parable of the yeast where God is portrayed as a woman and Jesus is the yeast. Look at this unleavened bread with no yeast (hold the unconsecrated bread). This is what we use at Mass. It really is rather tasteless and, well, flat. But this is the wheat gathered into the barn. God takes the gift of Jesus and mixes him into all of us through the Word and at Communion until we all rise together as the whole Body of Christ resurrected. Wow!
Now this is real Good News, don’t you think?
Let’s make the Best Bread we have ever eaten!!!

 

 

We have seen the Lord!!!

IMG_53703rd Sunday of Easter, 2017 ~ I must decrease…

Gospel: Matthew 28:1-10

So Jesus went in to stay with them. And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and give it to them, but vanished from their sight. Then they said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?”

are you sure+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

None of us recognize Jesus at first. We are usually caught up in our narrow vision. It’s like texting while driving and not seeing how much harm we can cause because we were so focused on our immediate emotional gratification. We don’t see those we harm because we focus on our own fears, pain or broken relationships. However, when we accept Jesus calling us foolish, then we are on our way to burning hearts of love within. We will see while the world around us remains in darkness.

Jesus is all around us, but we are distracted with our phones, pads, addictions and fears. It will take a severe power outage or satellite crash to get our attention. I remember when I was in Puerto Rico in 1996. This was before my life was enslaved to a cell phone (we didn’t have them). A hurricane was forecast. I was on the base, but was sent home because they thought the coast was clear. In fact the worst side slammed us. I lived on the bottom of a two-story house on the side of a hill. My bed was levitating and all power had gone out. When the morning came, there was quite a bit of devastation and my friends had to rescue me. But there was the most profound silence that opened me to the whisper of God. There was no TV or telephone so I was open.

For two weeks, there was no power and no sound of electricity. I could hear a car coming miles away if it could get by the debris. It was wonderful and hot and sticky. I loved it. I prayed, I sang and found myself sleeping better. My prayer was my food.

I wonder what it sounded like when Jesus broke the bread in Emmaus? O Beloved, God is alive. We are already living in heaven. Remember what he said to Martha at the death of her brother. “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me and dies, will live. And whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

Have we a chance to even be open to Jesus walking with us, or will be in the middle of a television show or text or internet? Mother Teresa of Calcutta shared a prayer with us. The fruit of silence is prayer, the fruit of prayer is faith, the fruit of faith is love, the fruit of love is service, and the fruit of service is peace. While they two were sharing about what happened in the breaking of bread, Jesus came into the room with locked doors and said, “Peace be with you!” They were very startled. Jesus might startle us a number of times. (Stay with Us!)

Jesus asks a few questions of us today. How will you answer these questions?:

“What are you discussing along the way?”

“What are you hungry for? What are you thirsty for?”

“What sort of things stop you or distract you from this mission of God?”

Let us be prepared for Jesus to call us foolish. If they had recognized Jesus, he wouldn’t have walked with them on that day. Jesus comes when we don’t recognize him. Wasn’t it a really great day?

Jesus was recognized in the breaking of the bread because they saw the wounds in his hands as he broke the bread. His power was unleashed.

If the power goes out around you, simply allow the power with in you to kick on. Those two ran back to Jerusalem seven miles without any streetlights. The Light was within them burning brightly. They had incredible energy to walk over 14 miles in one day. Jesus is the Power of the world, the Prince of peace. Let us rejoice and be glad.

I am so glad that Jesus has called me a fool, because it woke me up to a joy I cannot contain. “I have seen the Lord!”

So God made a better way

When the moment was right he sent his own Son

And he opened the way so that everyone

Could have hope and believe that when time was done

He’d be able to make us one

 

Now I understand that there is a key

It’s Jesus in me a reality

That God is in Christ, and that Christ’s in me

That with faith I see what is unseen.

 

To hear with my heart, to see with my soul

To be guided by a hand I cannot hold

To trust in a way that I cannot see

That’s what faith must be!!!!

(Lyrics and song by Michael Card)

Have you seen the Lord?!!!

The best Easter ever!

And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, approached, rolled back the stone, and sat upon it. His appearance was like lightning and his clothing was white as snow…. Gospel according to St. Matthew 28:1-10

The Magi who came seeking the Messiah were overjoyed at seeing the star of Jesus, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

The Women who came to the tomb seeking Jesus the crucified were not expecting an angel with the appearance of lightning. After seeing the angel of the Lord, the women went away from the empty tomb fearful yet overjoyed. But then Jesus greeted them as they ran. They approached, embraced his feet, and did him homage like the Magi did. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of humility, surrender and love. Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid.”

Here I was in Fallujah, Iraq on Christmas night 2004, I was exhausted, beat up and depleted. I had celebrated about 19 Masses in three days. It was rainy and cold with broken glass all around me. A 19 year old Marine on lookout was unable to receive communion and asked for me to bring Jesus to him. I almost said no, but here I was. He was fearful yet overjoyed at seeing me with the Eucharist. We didn’t know that the battle was over. My homily was the same for every Mass and Communion service. “If this is not the best Christmas ever, then something is wrong.” The Marine looked at me from the mud, death and broken glass as if I was crazy. Even though I truly believed that every day living and believing in Jesus makes it the best ever, my hope was frail and despair was building. My joy was on life-support.

This young Marine reverently opened his grimy hands to receive the Body of Christ. I thought of Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes in the crèche and on the cross. As I began to sing O Holy Night, which is really an Easter hymn of resurrection, the Marine sang louder and louder in an operatic voice. Could the whole world hear this Marine? With our eyes closed, tears streamed down my face and soul. I was no longer afraid. When I opened my eyes and saw the Marine radiant with face awash in tears, he gave me a smile and simply said, “Yep, Padre, this is truly the best Christmas ever!” We had approached Jesus, embraced his feet, and did him homage. We offered him gifts of innocents lost, broken minds, and love. Jesus simply said, “Do not be afraid! Tell my brothers and sisters the Good News! You will see me in the Eucharist!” And now today is the day that springs from the best Christmas ever. It must truly be the best Easter Ever…

Some people are still trapped in the rubble of life and some, like you, with the help of God, are raised from the rubble and rebuilt with strength, courage and patient hope. We have the choice, will we step out of the tomb new and renewed, resurrected in our lives, or will we be tempted to return to the tomb with our same old perspective, and, like shackles, take them again into our life’s experience?

This is the atmosphere of the tomb, but Jesus wants to instead, open the way of life, the way of joy and the way to lasting peace. The light has conquered darkness; hosanna to God in the highest!  ( Check out the short video clip which will inspire)

Best Easter Ever

I pray for each and everyone of us that we might be filled up, filled up with the joy of salvation, filled up with the joy of justice, filled up with the joy of the Sunday experience so that our lives speak something, so that our lives mean something, so that our lives have a purpose, so that our lives have an impact. Jesus is the light that comes into our world, his words echo through the Gospels, may we remain young as they also echo in our lives fully alive with strength, courage, wonder, awe and hope, as Good News.

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I was blind, but now I see!

We are all blind from birth. Jesus spits on the ground and makes clay with the saliva, anoints our eyes with the clay and sends us to wash in the waters of Baptism. The Spirit of the Lord rushes upon us like it did for David.

Whenever we are confirmed in the Spirit (Baptized in water and the fire of the Holy Spirit), the same oil of David is used. But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not judge from his appearance or from his lofty stature, because I have rejected him. Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but the Lord looks into the heart.” How can a man born blind teach us anything?

            The man who was truly joyful for being able to see for the first time was quite innocent in his approach. He thought that everyone would want to rejoice with his miraculous healing of sight. He thought they would want to find and follow this man called Jesus. But they could not seek Jesus because they were blind. The religious leaders ridiculed him for his fast growing faith in Jesus. Then he made the works of God visible.           

The religious leaders could not see the person before their eyes. They could not see his love and courage. They clung to their traditions and old wineskins. Their own authority blinded them. Then they threw him out.

All of us are desperate for community, and sometimes we go against our values just to be part of the gang, the synagogue, the team, or to be famous. We avoid being “thrown out”. This man born blind, who from no fault of his own, was miraculously healed. He wasn’t prepared for his parents wanting to be part of the religious community more than the joy of being with their son who could now see. This is not that far fetched from our reality today. I have seen people healed of their drug addiction or alcoholism, go home only to discover that their spouse and children and parents preferred to deal with them as addicts because they were used to the insanity. They become blind to their own resistance for healing.

Jesus came specifically to heal our blindness.

But the really good news is that when Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, Jesus found him. Jesus is looking for each of us.

Jesus finds us and knows that we feel persecuted, lonely, insulted or thrown out, “Do you believe in the Son of Man, the Light of the World, the God of mercy, love and sight?” We might be looking right at Jesus and not recognize him. “Who is he, sir, that we may believe in him?” Jesus answers our prayer; “You have seen him in the poor, the orphaned, the oppressed and the blind. The one speaking with you is he.”

“We do believe.”

And miraculously we no longer feel thrown out, but part of the team of Jesus that launches a most joyous buzzer beater..

We have advanced to the Elite Eight…Let us worship and rejoice!

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4th Sunday in Lent

March 26, 2017 ~ Queen of Peace Catholic Community

1 Samuel: 16:1-13 ~ Then Samuel, with the horn of oil in hand, anointed David in the presence of his brothers; and from that day on, the spirit of the Lord rushed upon David.

Psalm 23 ~ You spread the table before me in the sight of my foes; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Ephesians 5:8-14 ~“Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light!”

Gospel of St. John 9: “Jesus answered, “Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him. We have to do the works of the one who sent me while it is day. Night is coming when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva, an smeared the clay on his eyes, and said to him, “Go wash in the Pool of Siloam” –which means sent–. So he went and washed, and came back able to see.”

Passing on the Torch of Compassion

We can only hope to give the best care possible to our heroes and heroines.

When medicine has gone to its limits

Or sometimes even beyond

In the compassionate care of the providers

It is then that the

Spiritual dimension of the human person

Shifts into high gear

It was already there, this spiritual dimension

Even in her denial

But at the moment of pain that escapes

the morphine

and encouraging words

and even tears of the soul…

that is when your RMT

Religious Ministry Team

facilitates the

Faith or lack thereof…

Within the indomitable

mysterious

wholly incredible

person

human being

and spirit

To save

That source and summit

Beyond death

And yet below, that is attainable

As I have witnessed

And borne with gratitude and trepidation

When a son or daughter of our nation is close to breathing no more,

Or even after the breath has been stolen away,

It is then that we ask their final wish and receive

their final statement

In the timeless moment before departure

stripped of all earthly desire…

life runs dry.

A chaplain records and witnesses this miracle of death

And the RMT can teach the Medical Team to provide likewise.

Let us journey with great love, hope, and humility.

Let us celebrate the hours and days and minutes

that will transform and transfigure

our wounded, dead, and their families forever!

AMEN.

We can only imagine what our kind acts, our compassion, our love, and our skills will create in eternity.

We can only imagine.

Chaplain Ron Moses Camarda +

Camp Fallujah, Iraq

February 24, 2005

Tear in the Desert

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Last night I watched in great horror and disbelief when our president evoked a standing ovation for the widow of a Navy Seal who was killed in an operation that was deeply flawed. It didn’t seem like it was done out of compassion, but to make him look like he is doing a great job as our president. Most notable is that the father of that sailor is estranged from the president who hasn’t shown any respect for the loss of his son. The father held that Navy Seal when he was a baby. He was proud of him. He is probably mourning the many civilians and children who were also killed in that raid. Our safety as a nation can’t be bought with the deaths of millions of displaced people. People who make arms and weapons profited from that fiasco. Where are the prophets?

Where are the chaplains and commanding officers who know this is not the way to go? When I was in Iraq, I knew that my most difficult task would be to comfort the families and friends of those who died in my arms or whose bodies I received from the battlefield. As a priest, there are times when I need to be quiet while those mourning the death of their loved ones pounded my chest. That is the Cross and that is the fast that God requires or desires. To feel hopeless at such loss.

I do pray for President Donald Trump, but I still believe that Jesus is trying to break through his stony heart. I am trying not to judge, but Jesus does give me permission to observe the fruit. “You will know them by their fruit.” So when I think of our leaders of our country (including the media, congress, lobbyists and military industrial complex), I see people trying to profit at the expense of bearing the fruit of love, joy and peace.

Think of anyone you are supporting and see whether they have any of these fruits of the Holy Spirit…

LOVE

JOY

PEACE

PATIENCE

KINDNESS

GENTLENESS

GENEROSITY

SELF-CONTROL

PURITY

FAITHFULNESS

These are more important than the Ten Commandments, because this fruit is what rules and laws are aiming for. This is what decreases the need for government; when people love one another. I have a long way to go, but at least I believe I am bearing some of this fruit.

For Ash Wednesday and Lent, I speaking out against hate that is often masked behind self-righteousness and hypocrisy. Of course, I am beginning with myself. It is not easy, but the peace, love and joy that rises in my heart is worth the fasting and sacrifice.

Love, joy, peace,

Ron Moses +

The fruit of silence is prayer

the fruit of prayer is faith

the fruit of faith is love

the fruit of love is service

the fruit of service is peace…

I prayed this prayer of Mother Teresa many times as the soldier, marine or sailor died.

 

Law of Love Within ~ 6th Sunday

6th Sunday in Ordinary Time   Gospel: Matthew 5:17-37

God is love.

All commandments coming from God are about love.

There are no exceptions and no amendments.

“Night to Shine” is an annual prom for people with special needs sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation. The proms were hosted Friday at over 375 churches in all 50 states and 11 countries including South Africa, Peru, and the Philippines. In his welcome video, Tim Tebow proclaimed to people with special needs, “You are created by love, for love and in love.”

A follower of Jesus must be all about abundant love and fruit of God’s love. Followers of Jesus are like trees of life. We welcome all who come to our shade. It doesn’t matter if one is saint, sinner or lumber jack, the tree of life will freely and indiscriminately offer her shade, beauty, fragrance, fruit, oxygen, peace and even wood. The tree bears much fruit beyond what we see. The tree is gratuitous in that she gives while asking for nothing in return. The tree loves unconsciously in that she is unaware. She gives her gifts even when no one is present or appreciates her. What would it be like if we realized that each of us was created by love, for love and in love?

Jesus was baptized to fulfill the law. When he came up out of the water a voice was heard from heaven. “This is my beloved son with whom I am well pleased.” Jesus follows the law of love even if it costs him his life. Jesus knows that God has written all the laws and commandments of God into his heart and to his followers’ hearts. He knows the law better than lawyers, politicians and judges. We also must know God’s commandments this well. All we have to do is look within and share this wisdom and love with all.

It is something like learning to swim. When I asked my father to teach me to swim, he simply picked me up and walked me out to the end of the dock on that delicious morning and threw me out into the deep water. As I flew across the sky with panic and joy, I didn’t have time to be mad at my father for putting me out into the deep, because it was about survival. My heart was as pure as a six year old who grew up on the waters edge. My father knew I had the rules of swimming in my heart and soul. If for some reason my fear froze my ability to start the dog paddle, my dad was ready to jump in and save me if I cried out to him. I never cried then.

However, over the years there were times when I rebelled against my father’s commands. Some were unreasonable or mixed with anxiety or alcohol. Some of the rules I came to understand protected me from dangers. Some of those commands were good, but overkill.

So to begin his mission to teach us his Father’s laws and commandments (to swim in God’s love), Jesus climbs up the mountain and tells the people how loved they are by God. He tells us, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are the meek, blessed are they who hunger and thirst for justice, blessed are they who grieve, blessed are the clean of heart, blessed are peacemakers, blessed are the persecuted for helping the oppressed, poor and orphaned, and blessed are you when you share the cross with me.” He goes on to tell us that we are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Basically we are love in the world!

Jesus is like my father. When we desire with all our heart, soul, strength and might to love like God and follow all of God’s commands; he is going to bring us out into deep water and throw us into the sea. We have the wisdom, courage, understanding, knowledge, counsel, reverence and fear of the Lord to interpret the law of God. Jesus knows we can swim even in the storms of persecution. If for some reason our fear freezes our ability to love (which is the law) in the storms of insult and persecution, Jesus is standing ready to plunge into the deep water and save us if we cry out to him. He might also say, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

So after fifty years, I am beginning to remember another commandment that my father gave me just before he threw me off that dock into the deep waters, “Do not be afraid, I will be with you.”

Jesus assures us that he loves us too much to ever abandon us. He promises to be faithful always, in good times and bad times, in sickness and in health. God throws us with love to be love for a world in desperate need of love and truth. Are you ready to plunge into the Good News and follow this law and love of God into the kingdom of heaven? Here is even Great News. Jesus doesn’t wait for us to cry out to him, he jumped in with us. Let us swim and dance. The Mass never ends, we take Jesus with us.

Eye has not seen

Ear has not heard,

What God has ready for those who love Him

Spirit of Love, come give us the mind of Jesus,

Teach us the Wisdom of God.  

(St Paul to the 1st Letter to the Corinthians 2:6-10)DSCF3464

Jumping in Cuba

Christmas Meditation

Holy is God’s name

My Soul bursts with love for the Living God

Morning pause, morning chill

Warmth in my heart, helping to warm the morning

Rejoice, Rejoice

Children and Lovers of God

Sun splashes the top branches and houses

Birds greet the morning, warming the sound.

 

“The Beloved has exalted me by a gift so great,

so unheard of,

that language is useless to describe it,

and the depths of love in my heart can scarcely grasp it.

I offer then all the powers of my soul in praise and thanksgiving.

As I joyfully surrender my whole life, my senses, my judgment…

for my spirit rejoices in the eternal Godhead (Beloved) of that JESUS, that SAVIOR, whom I have conceived in this world of time.”

(Mother Mary through Venerable Bede, priest)

Thank You God, my Father, my Mother, my Lover for the Gift of your wisdom, knowledge, understanding, counsel, reverence, courage and wonder/awe…

Truly the best Christmas ever!

 

So for Christmas, God has prepared a gift for the World, You and Me.

God has wrapped us in swaddling clothes after Baptism in water and fire.

We are confirmed in the Holy Spirit and sent as Good News to the world.

The Spirit of the Beloved is upon us because Our Beloved God has anointed us to bring Good News to the Poor.   God is sending us from this Christ-Mass (Chrism Mass)

to proclaim liberty to captives (emotionally, economically, psychologically, physically), recovery of sight to the blind (especially inward and of the soul),

to let the oppressed go free,

and a Year (of mercy and love) acceptable to the Beloved God.

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Looking for a Real Christmas

 The Gospel According to Saint Luke 2:1-14

These two branches may look the same from a distance, and in some ways they are alike. But there is also a great difference between them. This is from a real Christmas tree. And this is from an artificial tree. You can see, feel, and smell the differences when you are near the two branches. One branch is wounded and will die. One never had life and came from a box.

It’s easy to tell the difference between a real and artificial Christmas tree, but can you tell the difference between a real and an artificial Christmas?

Maybe you never thought about it, but you can have an artificial Christmas. Just as the artificial tree can serve a purpose, an artificial Christmas can be fun. You can give and receive presents, go to parties, sing songs and still not have a real Christmas.

A real Christmas includes the coming of God’s Son to be a part of life with people on earth. On the first Christmas He came as the Baby at Bethlehem. But the Baby was God, and He came to be the Savior. Jesus still comes to the world as the Savior who gives new life to people who know and believe this.DSCF8609

When Jesus was here the first time, some people wanted to know for sure that He was the real Savior. They did not want an artificial Son of God. Jesus told them to look at what He did. Jesus healed the blind, deaf, and crippled. He brought a dead person back to life. He had a message of love and hope for all people. They could tell that He was real because what He did was real. His actions proved that His words were true.

Just as Jesus pointed to what He did for people to show that He was a real and not an artificial Savior, you can tell if your Christmas is real by seeing what it does for you. Jesus once said, “You will know my real followers by their fruit.” Ask yourself some questions:

Will this Christmas help me feel the presence of God?

Will I realize that God not only came to a manger but also to me?

Will I see again how much God loves me and feel that love in action?

Will I see that God came not only for me, but for all people?

Will I also produce abundant Christmas fruit of love, joy, hope and peace?

Let us celebrate a real Christmas. Recognize that many things that look like Christmas offer only an artificial Christmas. They are not wrong, but don’t use them as a substitute for the real thing.

VIRTUAL and REAL CHRIST-MASS TREE: Gifts of Holy Spirit beneath the Tree of Life… and Fruit of the Holy Spirit in the Branches. Jesus is the Light and Star radiating from the top of the Tree of Life. Jesus is asking us to be living trees of life, where people live off the fruit of the Holy Spirit God sends through us.

Christmas is real when you know Christ comes to you. Christmas is real when we ask ourselves how we fit into the Christmas Story in the living Nativity. Christmas is real when we hold the child like Joseph and accept Jesus as his real son. (Joseph is not an artificial father.) Each of us will have the best and merriest Christmas ever if we receive Jesus as God’s Christmas gift, gratefully, cultivate his love responsibly, share him lovingly with justice, and return Jesus with abundance to God! That is what we do at this Christmas Mass. That’s a real Good News and Merry Christmas!

Tear in My Soul…still!

After reading the first draft of the screenplay for A Tear in the Desert, I was moved, but something didn’t sit right with the ending. In truth, I did meet with April, the woman who gave birth at the moment her husband passed away when I breathed the last word of Mother Teresa’s prayer.

The fruit of silence is prayer

The fruit of prayer is faith

The fruit of faith is love

The fruit of love is service

The fruit of service is peace.

The almost miraculous birth of Shane Jr. is amazing and fascinating to millions…but there was something much more profound to April and Shane. April had been writing little notes to Shane on Myspace.com for over two years after his funeral. Anniversaries of certain dates were particularly difficult. I, the chaplain priest was simply the messenger. Shane called for help for his beloved wife who would become a widow and mother instantaneously…the death and the birth.

At the funeral

Recently I was almost miraculously transported to the small aircraft that carried the body of a young 19-year-old Marine. His family and wife of seven months stood a few yards away, including his grandparents.

There was no doubt that his dead body was in the silver casket partially draped with a U.S. flag. The dog tag dangled as the casket was lowered before me. As I stood on the tarmac with the family just a few yards away from me…I saluted in my summer whites that were slightly tight (I am a retired reserve officer and 50 years old). It was a bright sunny day on NAS JAX (Naval Air Station Jacksonville) with thousands of people and military holding their breath.

Time truly stopped in the literary sense.

Philip’s widow approached with his parents and family.

I wanted to escape and run away back to the desert. My entire tour in Fallujah was crushing and burying my soul at that moment, but I was frozen in my uniform caught between the ultimate death and life. It has been said that when people are in an intense firefight or 9-11 experience, they do one of the following: fight, flee, freeze, feed or make love. Most of us will not know how we will respond until we are actually in it. Those that fight end up getting a medal, killed in action, or both. Some who survive physically tend to die because they didn’t do enough to save their fellow soldier, sailor, or Marine. The truth might be that in the intensity of the battle we don’t think about it, we simply instinctively do what it takes to just try to stay alive or sacrifice our own life for our friends, partner or children.

A medal that says we were heroes or heroines in battle does not soothe the wounds of helplessly witnessing violent death, even of our enemies. The military puts a heavy significance on medals, but a study of the recipients might unveil the truth. I am convinced that the true heroes and heroines are the mothers, fathers, siblings, spouses and children of the wounded and dead troops, but they would be revolted at the thought of presenting them with a medal for their sacrifice.

As the petite and beautiful teenager approached her husband’s casket in the year of her dreams of a family and choices of the infinite possibilities that the fountain of youth inspires, she simply placed her face that was flooded with tears, upon the cold and exposed metal casket that beaded with the holy water that I had just blessed it with. Human beings are composed of over 97% water. The tears of this very young woman seemed to meld with the water on the casket. Time stopped. Jacksonville and all North Florida seemed to stop and gasp.

Silence.

Commanders, Marines, sailors, mayors, veterans, fathers, mothers, friends, firefighters, high school classmates, and an entire city stopped, paused and silently wept for this very long couple of minutes.

It was as if I could literally hear her tears splashing onto the casket and boring a hole through the tabernacle that once contained the tabernacle of Philip’s body. This reminded me of the woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears on the night before he succumbed to a gruesome and torturous death. Can you hear the tears coursing down her face and crashing onto the feet of Jesus? The woman and the widow’s tears washed over her beloved’s feet…such intimate, sensuous love.

We all watched in paralyzing wonder and fear. Our hearts were torn asunder. All was done for love. In that moment, we saw the vision that war and hate were crushed and defeated. With tender kisses and a tear in the soul and heart… the widow’s tears melded with the soul of Philip.

“Do not be afraid.”

Jesus said it to the woman. She will be remembered for this act of kindness and love.

Now I don’t know exactly how April Kielion experienced the body of her husband for the first time after his death in Iraq back in November of 2004. However she has clearly stated that she was in denial and expected him to return home. She wasn’t convinced that it was truly her husband in the casket because she only saw his face. When the body of a Fallen Marine arrives at the funeral home for the family’s viewing, he is wrapped in the burial cloths of a formal uniform. Usually even the hands are in white gloves. Medals are meticulously placed; wonderful words of his personality and life are shared.

Philip was a man with gifts and flaws.

Shane was a man with gifts and flaws.

Both of them were and are still loved. They were sinners like you and me. They were sinners and beloved. They died too, too young.

When S.E. Kielion (Shane) was before me moments before he died… he looked like Jesus on the cross. The wounded are stripped when they come to Bravo Surgical so that we can check for all pertinent wounds and so we don’t miss anything. It seemed that Shane was vulnerably stripped and beside Jesus on the cross.

I can still see the vivid image of the Guardian angels tattooed on his chest as only a reflection of the truth of my belief. My own guardian “angel” whom I call Patrick Moses guided me to this moment with his other friend angels. The open bible on S.E.’s right side was the Open Door that St. John spoke of in the book of the “Apocalypse (Revelation).”

The scroll was sweet like honey in the mouth…

and sour and bitter in the stomach.

That day was a vision and a warning.

On the left side of his body under his arm was the third tattoo.

Like St. John, I was at the foot of the cross with the mother of Jesus, Mary and the beloved Mary Magdalene. Many won’t believe my story. Many still don’t believe the women who reported the events of the empty tomb. The angel told them:

“Don’t be amazed. I know that you are seeking Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified. He is not here. He has been raised just as he said. Come see the place where he was laid. Then go and tell the disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him.”

With that the women left the tomb and trembling and fear overtook them and they fled. And they didn’t tell anyone because they were afraid.

(Original ending of St. Mark’s Gospel)

Eventually the women had to tell the disciples even if the men wouldn’t believe them. How else would we know this story?

THE TEAR IN THE STORY

And now I am ready to tell this part of the story that began on November 15, 2004 and peaked on April of 2007 in a hotel lobby in Omaha, Nebraska. I have no choice.

“He’s alive!” as my friend Father Jeff said at the funeral Mass of Philip.

Shane is alive!

In Omaha…29 months after Shane died, I met April Kielion in that hotel lobby. I also met the living S. E. Kielion…Senior…Marine!

Just as I had anointed Shane moments before he died in Iraq, I anointed April in the hotel lobby. Shane was showing off his wife and the mother of his son. Words are inadequate to express the inexpressible and ghostly. Before I could hand over my tattered green notebook to April—Shane seemed to look into my soul and ask if he could be the one to share my tattered green notebook with his beloved wife. I sat in awe and disbelief as the two of them held my scribbled written words. The original version of the story in my journal is almost identical to the edited version in my book Tear in the Desert.

green-notebook-cover

(April and I calculated that with the time zone difference, Shane Jr. was born within a half hour of Shane Sr.’s death, if not the same minute.)

April and Shane were alive again. He gently held her, caressed her and kissed her. He comforted her and reassured her. He was no longer just a Marine; he was much, much more.

April knew that this would be the last encounter in this world…and protested…

She looked at me and stated, “He didn’t have three tattoos. He only had two.”

I couldn’t see with my physical eyes, but with the inner eye and ear, I could see and hear Shane insisting he was right there more present than in her dreams. He was firm. He basically said, “April, my beautiful and beloved Baby…I must go. I can only be in your dreams from now on…but I am with you always until the end of time. Don’t be afraid. You need to move on and fall in love again. Trust me. I want you to fall in love and have another child. She will be beautiful…and she will reflect your beautiful soul. I love you April…I always have and in all ways I will.”

Of course I wasn’t able to actually hear these words, for that was a sacred moment, a gift from God. But it was real and it really happened. It is a real love story that seems to travel down the face like a slow and gentle tear. Do you hear it?

April couldn’t speak. Her tears just flowed and mingled with his tears somewhere between heaven and earth.

Tear of love and tear of hope,

a tear of heart and a tear of eternity,

a tear in the desert and tear in my soul…o my!

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Philip Paul Clark

Laid to rest

His burial stone rests against the tree.

The tears of his wife Ashton and the holy water remain on the casket under the flag.

Thanks and praise

For our days

Neath the sun, neath the stars, neath the sky

As we go, this we know

God is nigh!

                       Father Ron Moses Camarda +                                          June 2010