Gifted by God to keep Going & Giving

Third Sunday in Advent

A woman by the name of Bette Nash has been a flight attendant for 60 years when flights were just $12 and you didn’t need a reservation. She says, “My favorite part of flying over the years has been greeting my passengers as they board and deplane. People really are fascinating and it’s truly been a joy.”

With all those miles logged, Bette could fly any route she wants. She chooses to fly the shuttle between Washington D.C. and Boston so this single mom can be home in time to care for her son, who as Down syndrome and attention deficit hyperactivity. One recent afternoon, that meant taking him to see Santa Claus near their home. In whatever hours she has left, she volunteers at the food pantry at her local Catholic parish of Sacred Heart. The C.E.O. of American Airlines made a $10,000 donation to the pantry in honor of Bette Nash’s 60th milestone.

While the famous and the infamous garner the headlines, it’s people like Bette Nash who actually run the world.

I believe that Bette Nash could claim to say many of the words that we have heard in today’s proclamation of the Word.

The prophet Isaiah says “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the broken hearted.” Mary, the mother of Jesus cries out in our psalm today, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked upon his lowly servant. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.” John the Baptist knows he is not the Christ, but he does admit, “I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, ‘make straight the way of the Lord.” And “I am not worthy loosen his sandal strap.”

After all these years, Bette has learned something. The passengers might not listen to everything she says at 30,000 feet—and her son might not listen to everything she says on the ground. But Bette, as she approaches her 82nd birthday on New Years Eve, says she has found something that seems universal and true. “People want a little love. And I don’t mean a lot of hugging and everything, even though we might do that. But this is the big thing: People need attention. You can’t buy love. You can’t buy attention. But people need this.” She says, “And it’s free. You can give this to people for free.” Jesus once said, “Without cost you have received, without cost you need to give.”

For the past 41 years Nash has been a parishioner of Sacred Heart Church in Manassas, VA. She has given of her hospitality, the gift of her son, the gift of her volunteerism, and the gift of her love. For 30 years, Bette served as an “envelope counter,” but now she volunteers at the food pantry. It’s something she and her son, Christian, who has Down syndrome, can do together. The pantry gives out food to 40-50 families every Saturday morning. Bette hopes the money can be used to buy food when supplies are running low, as they often do during the summer. But she leaves the final decision up to Diane and her pastor Father Michael. “I’m’ a worker bee and I never want to be a queen bee,” she said. How fortunate we are here at St. Monica’s and St John’s with so many worker bees for Jesus. There is desperate need for more workers. Are some of you game?

The prophet Isaiah, Our Blessed Mother Mary, and John the Baptist believed that they received wonderful gifts from God. They are grateful and share them with us today. Bette Nash is grateful for the support of her friends and her employer who have helped her stay in the skies all these years.  She recently said, “I feel like I’ve been given a gift from God that I can keep going and giving.”

As full Catholics, we are all like flight attendants who have been hard at work for many years. Even though Bette is 81, she must still be able to pass the annual test for emergencies including knocking out a heavy window or throw open a large door. If there is an emergency, the passengers are Bette’s responsibility, with dozens of souls in her hands. In our ministry as confirmed Catholics, we must sometimes throw open the large heavy doors that block so many people from a deeper relationship of love with Jesus and God. Hundreds of souls are depending on our hospitality, mercy and smiles.

Wouldn’t it be great news if each of us could say the same at Christmas? “I feel like I’ve been given a gift from God that I can keep going and giving. The spirit of the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. My soul proclaims the greatness of God and my spirit rejoices in God my savior.”

Isaiah 61:1-11 ~ I rejoice heartily in the Lord, in my God is the joy of my soul;

Psalm (Luke 1:46-54) ~ My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior, Thessalonians 5:16-24 ~ May the God of peace make you perfectly holy and may you entirely, spirit, soul, and body, be preserved blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ

Gospel: John 1:6-28 John answered them, “I baptize with water; but there is one among you whom you do not recognize, the one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.” ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

 

Come share your Master’s joy!

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

November 18 & 19, 2017 ~ St. Monica, Palatka ~ Father Ron

Come share your master’s joy!

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Proverbs 31:10-31 ~ When one finds a worthy wife, her value is far beyond pearls. Her husband, entrusting his heart to her, has an unfailing prize. (We, the Church of Jesus Christ are the worthy wife.)

Psalm 128 ~ Blessed are you who fear the Lord, who walk in his ways!

Thessalonians 5:1-6 ~ For all of you are children of the light and children of the day.

Gospel: Matthew 25: 14-30 ~ Jesus told his disciples this parable: “A man going on a journey called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them. To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one—to each according to his ability. Then he went away.”

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Jesus is the husband. We have the opportunity to be the worthy wife.

It is sometimes difficult to accept that Jesus has been looking for each and every one of us.

Basically, Jesus is seeking out people who will accept his gifts and multiply them. What is the gift we receive? His Body and his Blood. What have we done this week with the gift we have received?

Each week we fill up with the love of Jesus in Eucharist. We give thanks for the gift we receive, and then we increase the love by sharing our talents. I understand that sometimes, one week seems like a long time like the man who entrusted his talents and went off. The week is really long when one of our loved ones is suffering from cancer, or our job security is anything but secure. Sometimes the week feels like forever when our children are not thriving or when our marriage is on quite rocky grounds. But still, Jesus has given each of us talents according to our abilities.

Jesus is counting on us to go out and increase his love in the world. Will you be a partner with Jesus? Will you work as a team? I am sure your answer is yes, but remember it is a lifelong commitment.

I Ron, take you, the people of God to be my beloved. I promise to be faithful to you in good times and in bad times, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honor you all the days of my life… or more!

Greedy Sons

There was once a hard-working and generous farmer who had several idle and greedy sons. On his deathbed, he told them that they would find his treasure if they were to dig in a certain field. As soon as the old man was dead, the sons hurried to the field and proceeded to dig it up from one end to another in search of the treasure. The longer they worked, the more desperate they became. Yet, they did not find a single ounce of gold.

Surveying the field, they reasoned that in his generosity their father must have given his gold away during his lifetime. Just as they abandoned their search, it occurred to them that since the land had been prepared they might as well sow a crop. They planted wheat, which produced an abundant yield. When it matured they sold their crop and prospered.

After the harvest was in, the sons thought again about the rare possibility that they might have missed the buried gold. Once again they dug up their fields, with the same result.

After several years they became accustomed to labor and to the cycle of seasons, something which they had not understood before. Finally they understood that their father had been training them to become hard-working farmers. As time passed they became wealthy through the work of their hands and no longer wondered about the hidden hoard.

 

If we think about who the parable is addressed to, Jesus is telling it to the servant who buried the talent in hope that he would become a hard-working disciple who does not depend on miracles, quick fixes or get rich quick schemes on the internet. Jesus is the hard-working and generous farmer. The harvest is great, but laborers are few. Wisdom is required to obtain the treasure of Wisdom.

 

God has given us great and wonderful talents… what will you do with them to become Good News?

Your Love is Extravagant

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time ~ St. Monica~ Matthew 22:34-40, Exodus 22:20-26

A recent study found that the Flint water crises resulted in horrifyingly large increase in fetal deaths and miscarriages. There was concern that there was not a greater outrage from pro-choice commentators asking, “Where are the so-called ‘pro-lifers’ on this tragedy?”  The argument was that pro-life is only concerned about the child in the womb, but not the child that is born.

Around that time, in his in-flight press conference from Columbia, Pope Francis was asked about the cancellation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) which places 800,000 young people without legal immigration status in danger of deportation. In the Pope’s reply he said that President Trump is pro-life, he should “understand that the family is the cradle of life, and that it must be defended as a unit.”

The national director of Priests for Life, took to the website Brietbart to question the fairness of Pope Francis’ description of immigration as a pro-life issue, claiming (misleadingly) that “since there is no specific immigration policy in the Catechism”, Catholics can disagree about immigration without calling their pro-life commitment into question.”

Pope Francis is clear that being pro-life should include concern for the vulnerable outside the womb. While doing so may not win over absolutist advocates, it might help persuade the majority of Americans who question unlimited access to abortion to listen more carefully.

People claim that those here illegally have broken the law. But it needs to be pointed out that this country also has a law that allows abortion. Therefore, our country’s laws are not the same as God’s laws. If we truly follow the laws, then Joseph, Mary and Jesus would not be welcome in our country today. The first reading is clearly the law of God.

“You shall not molest or oppress an alien, for you were once aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt.”

We have unfair laws that have been created by rich people who are more concerned about making money than loving people. God also says, “If you lend money to one of your poor neighbors among my people, you shall not act like an extortioner toward him by demanding interest from him.” What about foreclosures, evictions and entrapment of people to spend more than they need in advertisements? Our country spends more on laws to protect guns than people. We judge people as not worthy of love and respect.

Did you hear that last line of our Exodus reading of the law that Jesus summarized today? “What else has he/she to sleep in? If he or she cries out to me, I will hear him; for I am compassionate.”

It is about love.

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This is a true story shared by Father Anthony de Mello, S.J.:

“My friend isn’t back from the battlefield, sir. Request permission to go out and get him.”

“Permission refused,” said the officer. “I don’t want you to risk your life for a man who is probably dead.”

The soldier went, all the same, and, an hour later, came back mortally wounded, carrying the corpse of his friend.

The officer was furious. “I told you he was dead. Now I’ve lost both of you. Tell me, was it worth going out there to bring in a corpse?”

The dying man replied, “Oh, it was sir. When I got to him, he was till alive. And he said to me, ‘Jack, I was sure you’d come.’ 

Since both men died, who told the story? Jesus tells stories and teaches the people set in their way of self-righteousness. We are all like the Pharisees and Sadducees. We believe we are justified. But love will melt our icy hearts and taking sides. Jesus wants us to see the immigrant, the woman who out of fear had an abortion, the refugee, and the rich person with love. We have to trust that love will win out.

Project Rachael works. It restores more than the sinner and the innocent child. It restores each of us to love as Jesus loves. The women are released when they name their child, offer their child to Jesus, and hear the child offer forgiveness. Powerful release for the people who just didn’t know what they were doing. We are very much challenged to love those whom we disagree with or who have done things that we feel are against God’s commandments. We need to let God take care of them. They will have a much better chance.img_0593

This is a song I have been singing to God by Integrity Music:

Your love… is extravagant.

Your friendship… oh so intimate.

I find I’m a moving, to the rhythms of your grace

Your fragrance is intoxicating…

In a secret place….

 

Your love… is extravagant

 

Spread wide are the arms of Christ

Is a love that conquers sin

No greater love have I ever known

And you call me an intimate friend…

Capture my heart again

Capture my heart again

 

Gratitude: Two Birth Day Poems! ~ Our Lady of the Rosary ~

 

Eucharist

Center of my life and soul

Piece of Bread, drops of blood

My body, just a little achy

Attempting to awaken

Yes, by standards of many (and sometimes my self)

There are many things to criticize

Much that lacks “father” wonderful

And yet

I am:

loving, joyful, kind

gentle, generous, somewhat self-controlled

peaceful, patient and faithful

 

If I try to defend my flaws and being less than perfect

I gloss over my limitations

which are sometimes my greatest strengths

You see, all of us have temptations, struggles and growing edges

We love things and people that others abhor or avoid

That is just the way it is

 

But ALL are welcome, no exceptions

The only ones excluded from the table,

are those who excuse themselves

or exclude others

My mission apostolic and sometimes impossible:

Bring them home

the isolated, the alone, the lost, the lonely, the wounded

I love my mission and the God who sends me

Soulitude revisited

Ron Moses +

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O Jesus,

I cannot see you, but I do see your body and blood

            I am able to taste you

hold you

worship you… and in a sense worship with you

People do see You in me

But there are times when people see me in You

 

You invite me to see myself

as the person you love

the one you desire to love

and be loved by

 

As my mother indicated on my 10th anniversary card

just months before her death

“Through all the scary and wonderful times,

you must admit,

that Jesus and the Holy Spirit

seem to be having fun walking and dancing with you!”

Yes ~

Gratitude for all that has been in my life and for the life I have lived

Gratitude for the present day of well-being

Gratitude for hope and joys to come,

along with sorrows that bloom like a rose

and wilt and vanish

only to explode with more

 

I love you Jesus

Gratitude for Emmaus partner and soul mate

Birth of Love

Lived, enjoyed, celebrated, Eucharistic!

 

                                                Ron Moses +  October 7, 2017

 

St. Teresa de Avila: “God save us from these sour-faced saints.”

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God calls us to work in God’s vineyard

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time

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

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Isaiah 55:6-9 ~ For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways says the Lord.

Psalm 145 ~ The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness.

Philippians 1:20-27 ~ Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death.

Gospel: Matthew 20:1-16~ Jesus told his disciples this parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. Going out about nine o’clock, the landowner saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and he said to them, ‘You too go out into my vineyard, and I will give you what is just.’ So they went off. And he went out again around noon, and around three o’clock, and did likewise. Going out about five o’clock, the landowner found others standing around, and said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ They answered, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard.’… The landowner said to one of them in reply to their grumbling, ‘My friend, I am not cheating you. Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what is yours and go. What if I wish to give this last one the same as you? Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?’ Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

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God owns everything, and that is a lot! Without God we have nothing. The real good news is that God is really generous. In fact, it is difficult to comprehend how generous, merciful, forgiving and kind God is with us. Every week we come to Mass, God gives us his Body and Blood to everyone of us. “Take this all of you and eat of it. This is my Body which will be given up for you.”

When were you called by God to work in the Kingdom of God? How wonderful was it? How old were you? Are you like St. Paul who says, “If I go on living in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me.”

Many of us here are “cradle” Catholics. We have been working in the vineyard of God for as long as we can remember. Jesus cautions us today to not judge others, bur rather focus on the generosity of God. If we truly take on the mind and heart of Jesus, then we too will give all we have, including our lives, to those we love and are friends with.

I am reminded of a story about two dogs, Brownie and Big Red. They had just finished eating and decided to lay in the shade to take a nap. “I have no finer friend than you,” Brownie said to his companion. “How fortunate I am to be able to run and sleep with someone like you.”

            “I agree,” Red Dog said as he scratched himself. “Others argue and fight and are envious. But you and I are content just to have each other.”

            “The two continued to speak of the joys of friendship until a cook opened the back door and threw a bone onto the grass. The two friends then leaped to their feet and raced to the bone. Each claimed the fragment for himself, and soon a fight broke out between the two dogs. (19th-century Russian writer Ivan Kriloff)

Beloved, when we talk about money, like bones, often causes friendships to go to the dogs.

Jesus is very clear in this parable. God has given us everything, including his life. Where is our compassion for those who were hired late and would not be able to feed their family that night with one hour of pay? If we lack compassion, we will be very uncomfortable in heaven.

God’s ways are not our ways. Let us change ourselves without attempting to change others. Let us use the gifts we have without being envious of others. That would be Good News!

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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

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?!!!

Holy Thursday ~ Passover of Love

Holy Thursday ~ Queen of Peace Community, Gainesville

April 13, 2017 ~ 30th Anniversary

Gospel According to St. John (13, 1-13): Before the feast of Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to pass from this world to the Father. He loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end…   So when he had washed their feet and put his garments back on and reclined at table again, he said to them, “Do you realize what I have done for you? You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’ for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”

A woman ran up to Jesus and knelt down, saying, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answered with a question as he often does, “Why do you call me good, for no one is good but God Alone? Do you really know I am the Son of God who came for you and loves you unconditionally? You know the commandments, which are essential for the journey. You shall not kill, steal, covet, commit adultery, defraud, or lie. You shall receive God’s gifts gratefully, cultivate them responsibly, share them lovingly in justice, and return them to God with increase.” This community of Queen of Peace answers, “Lord, we have kept all of these commandments, since we were established as a parish in 1987.

Tonight, this night, Jesus looks at us and loves us. Then he says, “You are lacking one thing. Go sell what you have and give alms to the poor. Give more than 10% to the poor and you will have treasures in heaven. Then come and follow me and I will be with you through your fears.” In order to follow Jesus, we must be all in. We can’t be just a little pregnant with the Word of God.

Tonight, this most holy night, Jesus offers us a most wonderful and almost unimaginable gift. Jesus loves us. Jesus washes our feet… everyone of us! The gift is love. The gift is joy. The gift is peace. What more do we need if Jesus looks at us and loves us? On Passion Sunday, a song was proclaimed at the foot of the Cross-after the community proclaimed the Passion. That was Father Jeff’s homily. It was perfect. On Good Friday, we will hear the song again… but the response to our prayer will not be totally understood until the Easter Vigil when the baptismal waters and the Holy Spirit are poured out on all of us.

Jesus, the resurrected Son of God, will sing the song back to us with love:

In your eyes are my secrets that I’ve never shown you.

In my heart I feel, I’ve always known you.

In your arms there’s a comfort that I’ve never known

You’re what I’ve been waiting for. There’s no one like you.

Sure as a sunrise, pure as a prayer,

You fashioned hope right out of thin air.

Every dream I imagined, seems it could come true

I believe in miracles, there’s no one like you.

Jesus is inviting each of you tonight to a journey we have always known. It is the Passover into Love itself. Martha, loved by Jesus, recognized Jesus as the Passover Lamb when he said, “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?” What is your response? Jesus is washing you with Baptism, feeding you with his Body and Blood, and enflaming your soul with His Holy Spirit. He is looking at you with love. If the Mass never ends, and I believe it never does, then let us take it with us and give thanks to God by loving one another and washing the feet of the world. And we shall pray together many more songs.


Many nights we prayed, with no proof anyone could hear
In our hearts a hope for a song, we barely understood

Now we are not afraid, although we know there’s much to fear
We were moving mountains long before we knew we could,

There can be miracles, when you believe
Though hope is frail, its hard to kill

Who knows what miracles, you can achieve
When you believe, somehow you will
You will when you believe
In this time of fear, when prayer so often proves in vain

Hope seems like the summer bird, too swiftly flown away
Yet now I’m standing here. My hearts so full, I can’t explain,

Seeking faith and speakin’ words, I never thought I’d say (Refrain)

From Prince of Egypt

 

“I Thirst”

Jesus said, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him or her a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.” Gospel of St. John 4

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Life can sometimes harden our hearts. We are always looking for something more. There are many billionaires in this world. But have you noticed how happy they are? NOT! You would think that they would be satisfied and enjoy their wealth and security. Something is missing. They still thirst, just like you and me. Some of us are gifted with retirement, money, national championships, family and/or fame, but there is still a thirst for more. What are you thirsting for today? In the first reading we hear, “In those days, in their thirst for water, the people grumbled against Moses.” O yes, they got their water from the rock, but they did not know that they thirsted for the Rock of Jesus. If Jesus asked you for a drink today, and I believe he is asking, how would you respond?

“Jesus, you don’t even have a bucket or a place to lay your head. You have a cross and suffering. The hatred in the world is deep. The problems of this world are massive. People are filled with anxieties, hunger, thirst, division, depression and politics.” Our reactive response to a simple question from Jesus blinds us to the man before us who simply asks for a drink of water.

This woman of Samaria came to draw water and was beginning to feel that her bucket list had perpetual holes. She was addicted to unsatisfying relationships and the tediousness of life. She must have been unbelievably beautiful to be able to secure so many men! She kept looking for love outside of her own beautiful self. When she came to the seventh man, she did not think anything would be different. She was indifferent and in a way, she had lost hope, but she did have one last drop of hope in her bucket. That is all that Jesus needed.

Jesus was pouring his mercy and love into this woman even before her first failed marriage. Jesus, the Son of God, had been waiting at the well for a very long time. Jesus is waiting for each of you. Jesus simply reaches into our hearts and says “I thirst.”

If we want to get closer to God, we must be thirsty first. We need to transform our grumbling into desire, our hostility into hospitality, and our illusions into prayer. We need to open up our hearts. “We have peace with God through Jesus the Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith to this grace in which we stand, and we boast in hope of the glory of God.”

When we come to Mass, are we open to the thirst of Jesus? “Give me a drink.” How amazing that we have access to Jesus every day. The Mass never ends; we take it with us. Jesus in the Eucharist totally quenches our thirst for so much more. I was at the well with Jesus… and all was well. “And hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

 

Psalm 63:

My soul is thirsting for you O Lord, thirsting for you my God.

O God you are my God, and I will always praise you.

In the shadow of your wings I cling to you, and you hold me high.

Through the day you walk with me. All the night your love surrounds me.

To the glory of your name I lift up my hands, I sing your praise.

I will never be afraid, for I will not be abandoned.

Even though the road grows long and weary, your love will rescue me.

3rd Sunday in Lent

March 19, 2017 ~ Queen of Peace Catholic Community

Exodus: 17:3-7~ In those days, in their thirst for water, the people grumbled against Moses

Psalm 95 ~ If today you hear God’s voice, harden not your hearts

Romans 5:1-8 ~ And hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

I Have Set My Soul in Silence and Peace

2nd Sunday of Lent ~ 12 March 2017

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1st Reading: Genesis 12:1-4 ~ Abram went as the Lord directed him.

Psalm 33 ~ Our soul waits for the Lord, who is our help and our shield.

2nd Reading: St. Paul’s 2nd Letter to the Timothy 1:8-10 ~

Beloved: bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God.

Gospel: Matthew 17:1-9

Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.     While Peter was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud cast a shadow over them, then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”

 

Every time we come to the Eucharist, we go up the mountain and experience the transfiguration and the glory of God. Sometimes our clouds of anxiety, depression, fear, addictions or worldly affairs prevent us from seeing even the love of God. That is so sad.

I am a licensed mental health counselor and I counsel part time at a psychiatric hospital in Jacksonville. Many of the people have serious addictions that require treatment plans and a commitment to sobriety. It is like some of the things that we fast from during lent. Many of us give up sugar with a secret benefit of losing weight. There is nothing wrong with that, except after Lent we begin to realize that nothing has changed and it sometimes get worse. We relapse to not bearing the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

When we listen to Jesus and do a fast that he suggests, we would be foolish to stop that fast after Easter Sunday. God is very clear in saying, “This, rather is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly; setting free the oppressed, sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own.” In other words, Jesus is taking us up the mountain with Peter, James and John to undergo a reality check. We say here at Queen of Peace: “The Mass never ends, we take it with us. Thanks be to God.” I would like to propose that, “Lent never ends, we take it with us.” When Lent is over, we don’t go back to the way we were before Lent. When an addict quits drugs, alcohol, or internet porn, they can never go back. If they do, we call it relapse. Most addicts go through many relapses before they find total peace and sobriety. We do it one day at a time and humbly admit our weakness.

In order to heal we ask addicts to go to anonymous meetings (90 meetings in 90 days). This is so they can replace a bad habit with a good habit. It is like seatbelts. Why do we wear seatbelts? Some will say safety, but when I was a kid we didn’t have seatbelts in the car. We knew wearing a seatbelts increases the chances of surviving an accident, but we didn’t take it serious until the introduction of an annoying ding, blue lights in our rearview mirror, or slogans like, “click it or ticket”. The mountain transfiguration with Jesus is a wakeup call to take this season seriously, to listen to Jesus. Eternal life depends on it.

When I look at the group of men or women before me, they are detoxed from their destructive behavior. They are balanced. Sometimes I play my flute and ask them to breathe in… and breathe out… After I play, it seems that their anxiety and depression are momentarily balanced and they seem quite normal. I believe they are normal. We all need depression to sleep and we all need anxiety to wake up. It is when they are out of balance that trouble snowballs. They need to take this calm and serenity out into the world even when they are triggered or tempted. We must stay calm when we encounter the Cross.

We are like a little toddler having a temper tantrum because Mom is weaning the child off of breast milk. The key to recovery of any addiction, including getting into bad relationships, is to wean our selves off. Our hope is to come to Easter as mature Christians who not only accept the Body of Christ into our bodies, but also the Blood of Christ. If you choose to give up chocolate for Lent, you will never see God until you give up chocolate for the rest of your lives. If you choose to go on a mission to a poor nation, you will have to go on mission every year. But we can do this in our mind. Even if an alcoholic misses an AA meeting, he or she will be fine if he simply puts on the seatbelt of sobriety in the morning. Today I will not drink. Today, I will be God’s child. All of us need to be weaned off of worldly things and mean it when we say, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” We need to go up the mountain and then listen to God’s Beloved Son.

Beloved, our fast must somehow further the mission of Jesus and not our own pursuits. Our fast must always be good news for the poor, the oppressed, the homeless and the addicted. My fast is to continue to visit those imprisoned by addictions and to be an instrument of God’s peace to console, to understand and to love. In the book, The Imitation of Christ, we hear, “Jesus has many lovers of His heavenly kingdom, but few bearers of His Cross. He has many seekers of consolation, but few of tribulation. He finds many companions at His feasting, but few of His fasting. All desire to rejoice with Him; few are willing to endure anything for Him. Many follow Jesus as far as the breaking of bread, but few to the drinking of the cup of His Passion. Many reverence His miracles, but few will follow the shame of His Cross. Many love Jesus as long as no adversities befall them. But if Jesus hide Himself and leave them but for a brief time, they begin to complain or become overly despondent in mind.” (Thomas A Kempis)

Jesus is trying to wean us so that we too hear God’s voice, “You are my Beloved”

We all must wrestle with God from time to time, just like child being weaned wrestles with its mother. Jesus lived and breathed the psalms. He cried out Psalm 22 and 63 on the Cross. Before we sing “The Lord is my shepherd there is nothing I shall want”, we need to understand Psalm 22, “My God, My God, why have you abandoned me, why so far from me?” The following psalm is for us to when we experience the transfiguration of our souls.

Psalm 131

O Lord my heart is not proud

nor haughty my eyes.

I have not gone after things too great

nor marvels beyond me

Truly I have set my soul

in silence and peace

A weaned child on its mother’s breast,

even so my soul.

O Israel, hope in the Lord,

both now and forever.