World Mission Sunday ~ 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time

God is Love. God owns everything. God showers us with abundance.

It really is quite simple. It seems that our country recognizes a need for tax reform. But we need to ask ourselves a few questions. What is the problem with our tax code, as it exists? Is it fair? How do our taxes pay for national defense, safe roads, water, food, or disaster relief? Does our nation’s spending of taxes reflect our motto, “In God we Trust”? God is more concerned about how we spend the 90% left over. God gives laws like tithing, to teach us how to give 100% Love! God gives us everything… even Jesus in his mother’s arms. If we are involved in tax loopholes or avoiding paying our fair share of taxes to Our One Nation Under God or to God in the poor, refugee or immigrant, is it possible that we are naively plotting ways to entrap Jesus?

img_7956            So if Jesus were to ask us, “Show me what you pay your taxes to Uncle Sam with,” how will that turn out? Our money states clearly, “In God We Trust”. But today we pay bills without cash. If we had no money, credit card or Internet, how would we buy anything? We just don’t realize that sometimes we pay more to our phones, Internet, football tickets, concerts or health insurance than we do for treasures in heaven.

I have veteran friends in Puerto Rico who were able to post on social media. “Went to CVS and found a pint of Ben and Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie ice cream, found two spoons in the car, turned on the car and sat in parking lot in AC and devoured the pint of ice cream. WOW. What a treat. Takes very little to entertain and make us super happy. … Life is good we have our little routine and are enjoying life as it is now. We have our faith, each other, family and friends and our home. Life is good and the beauty of our Island is shinning through this all. So come on down folks.” How grateful are we today, really?

When Jesus says, “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God,” what could we possibly give to God for our breath in this world? I remember when my mother was being ravished by cancer that metastasized her body as she was literally starving to death. Every day she lived was phenomenal and painful for all of us. For as much pain as she was in, I wouldn’t trade a billion dollars for one of those horribly beautiful 40 days. Although my family was begging for the suffering to end, there was something awesome, something beautiful we couldn’t give to God yet.

One day, less than a week before her death, I sat with my mother and father at the back window of their home as about 70 people from the Cursillo group sang to my mother across the pool. My mother, who had no water in her tear ducts, was upset because she couldn’t share the gift of her tears. She wanted to give something in return for their awesome gift of song and love.

A couple days later, my family gave to God what was God’s, our mother. Yes, God gave her to us, but we trusted God with her. We thank God in the Eucharist for her to this day. Her love is stronger than her death. What we gave to “Caesar” was the hospital bed, the doctor bills, her unused social security check, and her taxes for the first six months of 2000. Caesar seemed to give nothing in return, except more bills and a death certificate.

We will all die one day, and give back our bodies to God. And God will give us eternal life in exchange for our worn out bodies, if, and only if, we love one another and recognize that when we give to the poor, we give to God. We owe God everything. Without God we are nothing. We are called to act with justice and to give to God tender love that we share with one another. Without love we are worth nothing. Wouldn’t it be Great News if we truly gave to God what God most wants from us?

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22 October 2017 ~ St. Monica, Palatka & St. John Interlachen~ Father Ron

Isaiah 45:1-6 ~ I have called you by name, giving you a title, though you knew me not.

Psalm 96 ~ Give to the LORD, you families of nations, give to the LORD glory and praise; give to the LORD the glory due his name! Bring gifts, and enter his courts.

1 Thessalonians 1:1-5 ~ We give thanks to God always for all of you,

Gospel: Matthew 22:15-21 ~ Knowing their malice, Jesus said, “Why are you testing me, you hypocrites? Show me the coin that pays the census tax.” Then they handed him the Roman coin, He said to them, “Whose image is this and whose inscription?” They replied, “Caesar’s.” At that he said to them, “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”

 

A Scrap of Love heals

20th Sunday in Ordinary Time

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Gospel: Matthew 15:21-28~ At that time, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, A Canaanite woman of that district came and called out, “Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is tormented by a demon.” But Jesus did not say a word in answer to her. Jesus’ disciples came and asked him, “Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us.” He said in reply, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But the woman came and did Jesus homage, saying, “Lord, help me.” HE said in reply, “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” Then Jesus said to her in reply, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And the woman’s daughter was healed from that hour.

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How many of us have ever had the need to cry out to Jesus, “Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! My son, my daughter, my relative, my friend is tormented by a demon.”?

What is a demon? Demons come in all shapes and sizes. A demon is what hijacks our ability to think clearly. With the recent epidemic of opiate use, I believe many are possessed by a demon that clouds their ability to see who they are, the sons and daughters of God. There are demons of lust, demons of power, demons of oppression, demons of fear, demons of boredom, demons of mental illness, demons of habit, demons of complaining, and demons profiting from wars and gun sales.

Just like Jesus’ disciples, we ask Jesus to send them away rather than see them with compassion and not judgment. We fail to recognize the Body and Blood of Christ within each of us that can cure them. Some of us believe that sending away (deporting) foreigners; immigrants or refugees will solve our problems. The problem is that we look at them as dogs. Actually we look at them as lower than dogs.

Dogs are actually cared for better in this country than many of the people escaping wars, famine or gang warfare. More than half of the people in this weary world would gladly change places with our pet dogs. Jesus is asking us to see this woman. Jesus has invited us to see many women who have much stronger faith than we ever will. This woman knew who Jesus was. She knew that just a scrap from his table would heal her daughter possessed by a demon. This woman would gladly be called a dog if she knew her daughter would be healed.

If we had faith the size of a mustard seed, we could move mountains.

Jesus still sends us disciples out in twos. He directs us to cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, and drive out demons. What prevents us from doing this?

I believe the place to start is to welcome those who are hurting like this woman. Share her pain. Be moved with compassion. See her desperation. Walk with her.

Jesus asks tells us that if two of us come together and ask, it will be granted. The key to my power when I was in the Battle for Fallujah was falling in love with the Marines and soldiers as they were, not how I believed they should be. I simply loved them as if they were my own sons and daughters. Then my prayer became desperate when my child was wounded or bludgeoned in body or soul.

“Lord, help me.”

Do you believe that just a scrap of Jesus could heal you whom I love?

Let us ask and believe it will be granted.

Someone here today is being healed this very hour.

Is it you? Is it your daughter or son?

Who has the faith of Good News?

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Isaiah 56:1, 6-7 ~ For my house will be called a house of prayer for all peoples.

Psalm 67 ~ O God, let all the nations praise you!.

Paul’s letter to the Romans 11:13-32 ~ For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable.

 

“Rise and do not be afraid!”

Feast of the Transfiguration of Our Lord

6 August 2017

Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. His face shone like the sun and his clothing became white as light. And Behold, Moses and Elijah appeared conversing with Jesus. Peter came and said to Jesus, “Lord it is good that we are here. If you wish I can make three tents; one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”   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.” When the disciples heard this, they went prostrate and were very much afraid. Jesus came to them and touched them saying, “Rise and do not be afraid.” When they raised their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus alone. Gospel: Matthew 17:1-9

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IMG_5979Every 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 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 gets worse. We relapse and fail to produce 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. At Queen of Peace in Gainesville they say: “The Mass never ends, we take it with us. Thanks be to God.” After Mass today, we are changed forever. We have heard the Word of God! 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. (Lent and Easter combined can transfigure us, but most of us stop after 40 days and neglect the 50 days of Easter to listen to Jesus for 90 days). It is like seat-belts. Why do we wear seat-belts? Some will say safety, but when I was a kid we didn’t have seat-belts in the car. We knew wearing a seat-belt increased the chances of surviving an accident, but we didn’t take it serious until the introduction of an annoying ding, blue lights in our rear-view mirror, or slogans like, “click it or ticket”. The mountain transfiguration with Jesus is a wake-up call to take this Eucharist 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. Even if an alcoholic misses an AA meeting, he or she will be fine if he simply puts on the seat-belt of sobriety in the morning. 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 asking us to listen to his Beloved Son.

Beloved, this Eucharist must somehow further the mission of Jesus and not our own pursuits. Our partaking of the Body and Blood of Jesus must always be good news for the poor, the oppressed, the homeless and the addicted. Jesus in me tells me 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 hides Himself and leaves 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 a child being weaned wrestles with its mother.  So when Jesus comes to us and touches us, let’s listen to him…

“Rise and do not be afraid!”

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Daniel 7:9-14 ~ As the visions during the night continued, I saw:

Psalm 97 ~ The heavens proclaim his justice, and all peoples see his glory

2 Peter 1:16-19 ~ We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven while we were with him on the holy mountain.

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“My Son, you are the sacrifice!” God

IMG_539814th Sunday in Ordinary Time

9 July 2017  ~ St. Monica & St. John the Evangelist Catholic Communities

Zechariah 9:9-10 ~ “See, your king shall come to you, a just savior is he, meek, and riding on an ass, on a colt, the foal of an ass.

Psalm 145 ~ I will praise your name forever, my king and my God..

St. Paul to Romans 8:9-13 ~ You are not in the flesh; on the contrary, you are in the spirit, if only the Spirit of God dwells in you.

Gospel according to Matthew 10:37-42 ~ At that time Jesus exclaimed: “I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to little ones. Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.

                  Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”

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2000 years before Jesus, Abraham was asked to carry a pretty heavy cross even before he knew what crucifixion was. God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac who was just about 12 years old. Isaac was more than willing to go with his Father alone, like any child would love to go on an adventure with their Dad. He just didn’t know he would be the one who would be killed!

When they got to the place of sacrifice after three exciting days, Isaac was confused. His father said very little and there was something missing. The “little one” was beginning to understand hidden things. Abraham told the servants that he and the boy were going up the mountain to pray and that they would come back to them.

So Abraham put the wood for the fire on Isaac’s shoulders while he carried the fire and the knife. Isaac labored and was burdened with his yoke. Abraham also labored and was burdened with an emotional and spiritual yoke. Have you ever felt burdened like this?

As the wood shifted on Isaac’s shoulders and he nearly fell over, he called out, “Father!” Abraham answered, “Yes my son.” Thinking that his father might be forgetful in his old age, Isaac asked, “Dad, here is the wood on my shoulders and you have the fire. Where is the sacrifice?”

Abraham answered, “My son, God will provide.”

Isaac trusted his father, but must have been paralyzed with fear when his father started to tie his hands and feet and place him on the wood he carried. This was terrifying, but at the last second, his father lowered the knife to plunge into his son’s heart.

He unties Isaac. And then grabs a ram caught in the thicket.

Fast forward 2000 years. It is the Passover feast when all Jews sacrifice and feast on a lamb. Jesus, the Lamb of God, is caught in the thicket in the Garden of Gethsemane. The burden of his emotional cross is crushing. Many of his disciples have abandoned him, one has betrayed him, and his closest friend is about to deny him three times. His physical cross would be horrifying.

Jesus cries out on that very dark night, “Father!” God answers, “Yes my beloved son.” Jesus questions God, “Father, here is the wood of the Cross I am about to carry and here is the fire of the people’s anger… Where is the sacrifice?”

God, the Father answered, “My beloved Son, you ARE the sacrifice.”

Jesus answered, “Okay. Not my will, but your will be done.”

Let us ask ourselves if our burdens and weariness come from anxieties and worries over worldly attachments. God does provide a lighter load in the shape of a cross, but Mercy and love for others lightens the load.

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St. Monica & St. John the Evangelist

IMG_5403I am so excited to be called to minister to the beautiful people of St. Monica in Palatka and St. John the Evangelist in Interlachen. I begin this Saturday, July 1st. It will be the 13th week in Ordinary Time. Here are the readings:

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time

2 Kings 4:8-16 ~ “I know that Elisha is a holy man of God. Since he visits us often, let us arrange a little room on the roof and furnish it for him with a bed, table, chair, and lamp, so that when he comes to us he can stay there.”

Psalm 89 ~ Forever I will sing, the goodness of the Lord.

St. Paul to Romans 6:3-4, 8-11 ~ Are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? …If, then, we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him.

Gospel according to Matthew 10:37-42 ~ Jesus said to his Apostles: “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds one’s life will lose it and whoever loses one’s life for my sake will find it.

     “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me. Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man’s reward. And whoever gives only a cup of water to one of these little ones to drink because the little one is a disciple—amen, I say to you, that one will surely not lose one’s reward.”

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If you are in the neighborhood, come join us. I will be preaching at all the Masses.

St. Monica Masses:  Saturday Vigil @ 4:30 pm, Sunday at 9 am

St. John the Evangelist: Sunday @ 11:30 am and 2 pm (Spanish)

 

It has been a whirlwind since I left Queen of Peace Catholic Community in Gainesville.

~Wedding of Clay and Alicia at the Cathedral of St. Augustine

Graduation of my niece Rachael from my Alma Mater in Daytona Beach

~ Faith and sharing with the theme of BLESSED< BEAUTIFUL< BROKEN<BELOVED

Ordination to Auxiliary Bishop of Seattle of our classmate at St. Meinrad pre-theolgy class…

~ Ordination of a fellow Coast Guar officer to Richmond diocese ~ Father Miguel

 

Funeral of my beloved classmate and priest… Greg Ryan

And then a trip to Aix-en-Provence FRance and Paris… Normandy, Mont St. Michel, and Liseaux

Divine Mercy Sunday

dscf9385Gospel: John 20:19-31

On the evening of the first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they say the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”

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This is Divine Mercy Sunday. We give away mercy, just like Jesus. Beyond locked doors and fear, we proclaim, “Peace be with you” to our enemies and betrayers. Have you?

What a wonderful day it is. If we forgive others we are forgiven.

Jesus breathes on us today, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” We are given wisdom, knowledge, understanding, courage, counsel, reverence and a wonder and awe. Jesus tells us that we will be known by our fruit. We are like trees that offer medicine every month of the year. God continues to replenish our fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, generosity, self-control and faithfulness.

In some ways we become like the two on the road to Emaus when they didn’t recognize Jesus. Jesus says to them, “How foolish you are. How slow of heart. Didn’t the Messiah have to suffer and die and be raised. Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets he interpreted every scriptural passage that referred to him. When they urged him to stay with them, they finally recognized Jesus in the breaking of the bread. Let us all become foolish in order to meet Jesus on the Way.

Let us be fools for Christ. Let us be joy. Let us be instruments of God’s peace. Where there is hatred, let us sow love. Where there is injury, let us be pardon, despair to hope, darkness to light, sadness to joy. O Divine Master of Mercy, grant that we might not so much be consoled as to console, not so much to be understood but to understand, not so much to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Mercy Sunday is about looking within our own souls and sharing the mercy and love we have been given by Jesus when he broke through our locked doors.

We not only hunger for the Body and Blood of Jesus, our souls are thirsting for our Beloved God of Mercy and Love.

We receive God’s gifts gratefully. (Jesus and His Spirit)

We cultivate them responsibly. (You will know them by their fruits)

Share them lovingly in justice with others. (They shared everything in common)

And return them with increase to the Lord. (See how they love! People joined us.)

Jesus is like a rescue diver. “Don’t grab me!” If we grab, he will kick us, and go deep, but we will eventually learn how to swim. If we stop breathing, he will gift us with his breath, “Receive the Holy Spirit!” Let us receive Jesus in our midst.

Let us receive his breath…. Breathe in….. Breathe out…..

Good News!!!!!

Rich in What Matters to God?

     Someone in the crowed said to Jesus, “Teacher, tell my brother to share the inheritance with me.” He replied to him, “Friend, who appointed me as your judge and arbitrator?” Then he said to the crowd, “Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.”

     Then he told them a parable. “There was a rich man whose land produced a bountiful harvest. He asked himself, “What shall I do, for I do not have space to store my harvest?” And he said, ‘This is what I shall do: I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones. There I shall store all my grain and other goods and I shall say to myself, “Now as for you, you have so many good things stored up for many years, rest, eat, drink, be merry!”

   But God said to him, ‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’ Thus will it be for all who store up treasure for themselves but are not rich in what matters to God.”

                                                                                                St. Luke: 12:13-21

What Matters to God?

The key to the parable is learning “being rich in what matters to God.”

If we are driven to saving up for retirement while avoiding the term, ‘paying it forward’, the parable could apply. If I am so anxious about my kids’ college education that I fall short of the biblical tithe, the parable could apply. If I cut-off family and friends who have hurt me, bury the bitterness or resentment away and ignore the problem to live and exist in a fragile peace… Jesus may be reaching out to me in this parable today. Our desire for fame, legacy, pictures, larger iclouds, praise or respect could all be part of our trying to tear down our barns for larger barns and storage.

Jesus became poor and yet remained abundantly rich. This matters to God.

The Gifts of the Holy Spirit matter to God: wisdom, knowledge, understanding, counsel, reverence, courage and a wonder/awe in the presence of God.

Jesus says you will know them by their rich fruit. This fruit matters to God:

It matters to God that each of us here bears abundant fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, generosity, self-control, and faithfulness.

Saving up for retirement is a wise thing to do, but not very wise if we neglect the poor, the oppressed and the grieving. Is it possible that God has given us the opportunity to produce very large harvests so that we can be instruments of God’s generosity, not our own?

If you received an unexpected and large inheritance, what would God want tyou to do? What would matter to God?

Would the voice of your desires be louder than the whisper of God?

How would you rationalize quitting your job?

How would you invest that money to share your joy with Jesus in the poor?

What matters to God?

Jesus inherited God’s abundant richness, but he cashed it all in for YOU and ME?

That alone mattered to God.

What matters to God is what matters to Jesus, his beloved Son.

We matter to Jesus.

Therefore, We matter to God.

Let us go out of this church with Jesus within us. Let us in our generosity; leave the security of Heaven in Church, and bring about Heaven on Earth.

Let us grow rich in our Love for One Another.

It does matter to God that we spend time with Him. It matters that we share our ups and downs, grief and joys, frustrations and resentments, need for security and fears. God cares… a lot.

In God We Trust is on our money.

What if we trust and share our money thinking about what matters to God…

Now that is what matters to God.