Generous with Forgiveness

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time

17 September 2017 ~ St. Monica, Palatka & St. John Interlachen~ Father Ron

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Sirach 27:30-28:9 ~ Forgive your neighbor’s injustice; then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven.

Psalm 103 ~ The Lord is kind and merciful, slow to anger, and rich in compassion.!

Romans 14:7-9 ~ None of us lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself. For if we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord; so then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s..

Gospel: Matthew 18:21-35~ Jesus completed his story, “His master summoned him and said to him, ’You wicked servant! I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to. Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?’ Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt. So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives your brother or sister from your heart.”

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When Father David arrived at his first parish several years ago, he discovered the little town had a fascination for nicknames. He learned that the pharmacist O. R. Carlson is called “Wolf” because when he was a boy he called the police to report a wolf roaming the neighborhood. It turned out to be a large cat, but the name stuck. George, the fire chief, who was credited with saving the horse farm is called “Blazing Saddles.” Eleanor Duffy who owns the local body shop, is know as “Crash,” and Wayne Monson, a 6-foot-7-inch giant who runs a fix-it business, “Tinker.”

Sometimes entire families, such as the Crowleys, have interesting names. August Crowley was chair of the pastoral counsel. He also had the reputation of being a fine biblical scholar. August had attended seminary for a while and had a masters degree in Scripture. Father David thought nothing of August’s name until he met the three Crowley sisters, all members of the church. Their names—April, May, and June. Surely, Fr. David thought, this must be a family with a great sense of humor. In fact, the four Crowley’s had seemed to be a jolly group, until about three years ago when their mother Tillie died. The events surrounding Tillie Crowley’s death had caused a painful split in the family.

The sibling squabble broke out over the disposition of Tillie’s property. It was as one local wit said, spring against summer. April and May were on one side, June and August on the other.

During his first visit to the house after his mother died, August found messages under three antique lamps and on the backside of several pictures. The messages read, “This is for April,” or “This is for May.”

All four children had long believed that Tillie never completed a will. When they opened their mother’s safety deposit box, however, they discovered that she left a detailed will which included a list of what every child was to receive, down to the silverware. Her list and the names on the backs of the lamps and pictures did not match. It was pretty clear to June and August that the messages were written not by their mother, but by their sisters. World War III broke out in the Crowley family.

In the weeks that followed, each pair threatened the other with a lawsuit. Hardly a day passed when some juicy tidbit wasn’t released into the town’s gossip mill. One-week people were buzzing over what August did to April, and the next week over what May did to June.

Father David, as the pastor of the Fighting Irish, I mean Crowleys, preferred not to get involved in this family feud, yet found it increasingly difficult to avoid it. All four Crowleys attended church every Sunday, and April and August never missed the Sunday morning Bible class right before Mass. Neither was willing to let the other prevent them from attending, but the minute they arrived their icy stares seemed to make the temperature in the room drop. The family feud made everyone in the church uncomfortable.

Father David knew something had to be done and he took it to prayer. During the following Sunday Bible study, the pastor announced that next month they would focus on the gospel for the next week. He said, “I’m going to ask some of you to do a little homework for that class. I’ll call you this week.”

The first week the group studied Matthew 18:15-20. “In this passage Jesus gives us instructions on how to deal with grievances between believers,” Father said, “I’ll read just a section. ‘If your brother or sister sins against you, go to them and show them their fault. Do it privately. If they listen you have won your brother or sister back.’”

Although there was a lot of discussion, neither August nor April, normally quite vocal, took part. In conclusion David said, “The purpose of these instructions is to help us win back those we love. It grows out of conviction that we are to forgive the way we are forgiven.”

The following week Fr David made separate phone calls to April and August to ask them to write a brief paragraph for next Sunday’s class. After hesitating, each agreed. Unknown to the other, David gave them both the same assignment. “I’d like you to write 50 to 100 words on the “unforgivable sin,” he said.

At the next Bible study, Father David shared how Jesus wants forgiveness to overflow, he says ‘seventy times seven times.’ In other words, forgiveness without limits.

“In today’s Gospel Jesus underlines his message. A king had a servant who owed him millions of dollars, and there was no way the servant could ever repay that amount. Out of compassion the king forgave him.”

David saw April and August staring at the floor. “Next, the man who was forgiven insisted that a friend repay him 100 denarii, which may have been worth about $30. When his friend pleaded for mercy, the man refused and threw him into jail. When the king heard what happened, he arrested the first servant. The story ends with these words, ‘So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart. ‘” Father David concluded, “I think we may have another unforgiveable sin.”

There was an awkward silence until one of the women in the front row responded, “I don’t understand,” she said. “This story and your point aren’t clear to me.”

Father resisted saying anything more. He let the words hang in the air. Finally a man’s voice broke the silence. “It is painfully clear to me.” It was August, the biblical scholar.

“God is like the king,” he said slowly, without looking up. “God looks at the dark hearts of his servants, the debt people like you and me owe. There is no way we can repay him. We cry out, “Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy.’ And in Christ’s death on the cross God forgives our massive debt to him, a debt worth millions. But when we meet a sister who owes us a few lousy bucks, we refuse to forgive that sister.” August glanced across the room briefly catching April’s eye. “We refuse to pass on the very forgiveness of the king, a forgiveness that allows us to walk free and live clear. The unforgivable sin is refusing to forgive as we have been forgiven. I’m afraid it is all too clear.”

When August finished, no one else spoke. The only sounds were a nervous cough and the noise of people changing positions on their hard metal chairs. Finally August stood up and walked out of the room. No one moved until the bell rang, calling people to Mass. August was not in his usual spot when the service began.

Father David thought about August during the entire service, and again on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. He continually second-guessed his decision to go public with their family feud. At the time, he had decided it would take a terrible jolt to make them see. He also knew that their division was not private, but had touched the lives of the entire congregation.

David thought about visiting his friend, but decided to wait for August to make the first move. On Friday, August did. David looked up from his desk and saw him standing silently in the doorway. David wordlessly invited him in. For several minutes the two men sat looking at each other without speaking.

Finally August’s eyes narrowed. “That was a dirty trick you pulled on me Sunday,” he said. Then there was a long pause. “But I deserved it. This has been a long week. It has been a time of soul searching. You said nothing new, nothing I didn’t know. I knew all about forgiveness as a concept, an idea. For mercy sakes, I’ve led classes on the subject. My problem is that I knew little of forgiveness as an experience.”

August thought for a moment before he continued. “I visited my sisters last night. I told them I had been a fool. I told them their friendship was worth more than trinkets, whether those trinkets be new or antique. I asked them to pray for me. We all cried a lot before I left.”

Tears flowed down August’s wrinkled cheeks. “Father, I have sinned. Pray for me,” he cried.

Father David walked over to his friend and asked, “Is this your confession?” August nodded.

Father David put his hands on the old man’s head and spoke lovingly, “God the Father of all mercies, through the death and resurrection of his Son, sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins. Through the ministry of the Church, may God grant you pardon and peace. And let me be Jesus for you. I forgive you of all your sins, seventy times seven times. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”

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Homily Story adapted extensively from Stories for the Gathering: A Treasury for Christian Storytellers by William R. White, 1997, Augusburg Fortress, Minneapolis, MN ~ Family Feud, pp 78-82

Evacuation Route to Heaven

Ezekiel the prophet warns of us of hurricanes. If we fail to heed the warnings, he is not held accountable. If we see that our brother or sister is heading into harms way, but do not warn them, we will be held accountable. Sometimes we complain that we were evacuated for no reason at all. Many didn’t listen to these warnings and died or were injured or caused first responders to be harmed. But what about the internal storms we harbor for others? How have we prepared for them? Are we warning others?

Yes, the storms are brewing. We tell people that we love them. We clean up our yards so that our junk doesn’t harm our neighbors as flying debris. We stock up on water and gas. We begrudgingly heed mandatory evacuation orders. Sometimes we share what we have with others even if we know there will not be enough. We trust God. We share our evacuation plans so that we can reunite once the storm passes or lessen the worry.

But Jesus asks us to do more than the law of preparedness. Jesus asks us not only to warn our neighbor of the impending dangers, but also to love them and help them to avoid the impending doom. Jesus loves both me, and my neighbor who has sinned against me. Period! If we warn our loved ones to evacuate and they end up dying, part of us also dies. This is a law of love.

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Why are you terrified?

There are many hurricanes in this world with far deeper and catastrophic consequences. These are the hurricanes of poverty, war, indifference, addiction, family discord and selfishness to name a few.

Jesus warns us of the consequences of family hurricanes and infighting. Here is the evacuation route Jesus proposes:

  1. If your brother or sister sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. Simple but seldom done.
  2. If he doesn’t listen, bring one or two along with you. In other words, if the road you are taking toward love is blocked, change course and find another way. Don’t give up!
  3. If he refuses to listen still, then tell the church. So often people come to confession and tell me the sins of others. It is my job to gently invite them to look at the part they played in the sin and love them.
  4. If that evacuation route is blocked, then Jesus tells us to treat the person as you would a Gentile (refugee) or tax collector. Following the law we would treat the offender with constitutional justice. But how did Jesus treat the Gentile or tax collector?
  5. If you cannot evacuate, have a hurricane emergency kit. Be prepared.
  6. If you bind judgment, racism and unforgiveness on earth, you will bring a surge of judgment, racism and unforgiveness into heaven.
  7. But if you loose or forgive the debt of others on earth, then God will let loose an abundance of love. Pack love, mercy, forgiveness and joy.
  8. Many of us are inconvenienced this week. We complain about losing things like electricity, possessions, running water, and abundant food that we have often wasted. Insurance, government help and citizenship help restore us quickly. God is asking us to consider the poorest of poor who lack basic essentials, insurance or even citizenship. They literally live the aftermath of a hurricane or some other natural disaster perpetually. Pack a cross.
  9. In our hurricane emergency kit, we need a very strong flashlight that requires no juice. The Body and Blood of Jesus is essential for our survival. Jesus is our Light in the darkness. Bring along Jesus.

This next couple of days could be an opportunity for us to connect with the eye of the storm. This time can be savored if we have faith.

A tiger was chasing a man. A cliff blocked his evacuation from the jaws of the tiger. But he saw a vine that he climbed down. When he looked down, he saw another tiger below. Then looking up, he saw two mice chewing on the vine. He felt his anxieties and despair rising. Then he saw a strawberry on the side of the cliff. He reached out and plucked it. He then placed the strawberry in his mouth and savored the taste of the delicious strawberry.

The hurricane is on both sides of our state of mind. Anxieties and worry have paralyzed us. It is time to turn on the Light of the World. Turn the hurricanes of your life with love for one another and prayers united.

My life flows on in endless song

Above earth’s lamentations,

I hear the real, though far-off hymn

That hails a new creation

 

Through all the tumult and the strife

I hear it’s music ringing,

It sounds an echo in my soul.

How can I keep from singing?

 

No storm can shake my inmost calm,

While to that rock I’m clinging.

Since love is Lord of heaven and earth,

How can I keep from singing?

 

When tyrants tremble in their fear

And hear their death knell ringing,

When friends rejoice both far and near

How can I keep from singing?

 

In prison cell and dungeon vile

Our thoughts to them are winging,

When friends by shame are undefiled

How can I keep from singing?

Words of this song first published by Robert Lowry, a Baptist Minister in the 1869 songbook, Bright Jewels for the Sunday School. Lowry most likely wrote the music but the words are anonymous and public domain.

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

10 September 2017 ~ St. Monica, Palatka & St. John Interlachen~ Father Ron

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Ezekiel 33:7-9 ~ When you hear me say anything, you shall warn them for me.

Psalm 95 ~ Come, worship the Lord, for we are his people, the flock that he shepherds…Alleluia!

Romans 13:8-10 ~ Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law…Love does no evil to the neighbor; hence, love is the fulfillment of the law.

Gospel: Matthew 18:15-20~ Jesus said to his disciples: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother.  

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?”

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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.  

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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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