Tuesday, December 25, 2012

"Make Straight the Pathways of the Lord"

Today is called Guadete (which means Rejoice) Sunday. It is the Third Sunday in Advent, a penitential season - a time of reflection and introspection, as we examine ourselves to discover how faithful we have been in living God’s two greatest commandments and preaching the Good News to the poor. 

It is the time when we ask ourselves:
  • “How have we served instead of being served? 
  • “How have we cared for the least of God’s children, our brothers and sisters?” 
  • “How well have we lived those two greatest commandments: To love God above all and love one another as we love ourselves.”
In other words: How have we Glorified God by our lives?

God so loved us that he sent his only Son into the world – to live among us - in flesh – as one of us - in all but sin, so we could see his Glory and come to believe.

As we prepare ourselves during the Advent; making our selves worthy to greet the infant Jesus, the Son of God, we feel excitement at His coming.  We begin to Rejoice, anticipating the wonder of this great event - that changed us forever. 

A great Light is coming into the world.  Light that banishes darkness – forever.  He is the greatest gift we could ever receive – Peace - Hope – Love - Salvation - Life Eternal – The Glory of God - in His Kingdom of Peace and Love!

No one speaks plainer than John the Baptist.  His message is clear: “One is coming that is mightier than I . . . He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” 
John is the voice crying out in the wilderness – a world of sin, chaos, oppression and corruption.  He proclaims, “Make straight the pathways of the Lord.”

There is no doubt, - no ambiguity in his message.  When he is asked, “What should we do . . . to gain heaven?”
“Make straight the pathways of the Lord.”

In other words: Change your ways!  Do not let the distractions and allures of this world lead you astray from the path toward salvation.
“Make straight the pathways of the Lord.”
He tells them to change their old ways - put on new ways:
  • Give generously to those in need,
  • Share what you have
  • Feed the hungry
  • Cloth the naked
  • Care for the least of God’s children
  • Be honest - Do not cheat others
  • Be fair and just
  • Do not extort or blackmail
  • Do not use force of power or position to oppress others
The path toward righteousness is through love - love of God and love of all His people.

John’s words echo Jesus in the Beatitudes and throughout all his teachings.  He truly is the Herald of the Lord: Announcing to all that the Lord is near, showing the path toward righteousness: The way of love, the way to attain the Kingdom of God and everlasting life.

This Advent season, we need to ask ourselves, “What should we do . . . to gain heaven and everlasting life.”
  • How have I loved the Lord and cared for Him in my service to others? 
  • How have I loved my brothers and sisters as I wish to be loved?
  • How do I preach the Good News with my life, so that others will find in me the Glory of God?
  • How do I live, so that I too may attain the promises of salvation and life everlasting through our Lord, Jesus Christ?
What should I do to “make straight the pathways of the Lord” as I prepare to celebrate this life-changing birth of Jesus, the Christ?

Deacon Don Ron

First Sunday in Advent 2012

Today is a joyful day in the Lord! It is the beginning of Advent, a time of anticipation and reflection as we await the coming of our Lord, Jesus Christ. He is the fulfillment of God’s promise to bring forth a “righteous Branch to spring up for David:” The fulfillment of God’s promise to his people - of deliverance - so they may be saved and live in safety.

It is also a joyful day in the Lord because we welcome three people into our community - as they continue their journey in the Lord. We welcome Cameron into the order of Catechumens. We also welcome Maya  and Christian as candidates for full reception into the Church.  These three people have responded to God’s continuing call through the Holy Spirit in their hearts - to enter into a deeper relationship with the Lord and with our community.  As it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a Christian community to instruct and guide those who seek the Lord in love and hope to follow in the way of our savior, Jesus Christ.

It may seem odd that we begin this Advent season with this selection from Luke’s gospel. Jesus reminds his disciples of the end times, - where the heavens and the earth will show signs of impending destruction.  Nations will be thrown into confusion and people will faint with fear for what is coming into the world.

In the midst of all these things happening they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with great power and glory.  It is then that “the righteous will stand and raise up their heads because their redemption will be near”.

Those who live in fear and dread of these happenings are those who live lives of dissipation and drunkenness. They are those who worry only about the things of this world and life in the here and now. They cannot imagine what God has promised to those who love Him – Redemption, Salvation and Life eternal: God’s promise of his kingdom to come through his Son, Jesus Christ

We pray that we have the strength and courage to withstand the temptations of this world, so we may be counted among the righteous.  We pray that we continue to follow what we have been taught in our Lord Jesus: that we love God above all things and love one another as we love ourselves.  And in that love, we continue to guide and instruct others in the way of the Lord, so that all His children may gain eternal life and live with Him forever and ever.

As a Christian community, we are charged with spreading the gospel to all we meet in the world and to welcome the stranger among us.  The Lord directs us to lead other onto the path of righteousness, guiding and instructing them in His ways, so that they too may realize God’s promise and gain Life eternal.
So when the heavens and earth shake and tremble and we see the Son of Man coming in a cloud, we may all stand together; raising up our heads to be recognized among the righteous.

Deacon Don Ron

God's Greatest Gift

Buon Natale!   Got Jule!         Joy Noel!         
Feliz Navidad!        Merry Christmas!
Our Savior has come – Let us Rejoice and be Glad

Today we celebrate the greatest of all God’s gifts to us – His Son, Jesus – the Word of God made flesh. God, who loves us so much, that he sends his living Word to be among us; showing us the way home to our heavenly Father.

Christmas is a time for remembering - remembering those who are with us and especially those who are far away. It is a time of home, of togetherness - a time with family and friends – with all those people who mean so much to us in our lives.  And it is a time to remember the past: all those who have gone before us - who shaped and influenced our lives; giving us warm memories that bring us comfort and joy.

This truly is a time of celebration and great joy – for we celebrate God’s great gift, Jesus - and rejoice in remembering how much God loves us through His gift of love and compassion in the person of Jesus.  We remember and renew our relationship with God through this memory of the birth of His Son - the reason we celebrate today. 

But, this is not a celebration for this day only, but a celebration we only renew at this time of year – so we may keep it all year long,
W  in our Thoughts –
W  on our Lips and
W  In our Hearts.

Jesus, the Christ, our Savior, - the Word of God made flesh – who lives among us each and every day, - as he has for the past 20 centuries – remembered from generation to generation, - family to family, - people to people. 

He lives among us always, - not just inside this beautiful church, - but in this whole beautiful world – God’s creation and He lives within his people, - within each one of us, - whom he loves beyond all imagination:  For we are his most precious creation – for we are created - of Star-Dust and the Breath of God.

So, Let us keep Christ in Christmas today and every day:  Keeping Christ in our hearts – each and every moment of our lives.  Let us listen to the voice of God in the Word made flesh and live His Word in our thoughts, - words - and actions; sharing this greatest gift with all we meet in the world. 

For in this Christmas Season we are anointed:
  • To announce the Good News to the poor
  • To proclaim liberty to captives
  • Recovery of sight to the blind and
  • Freedom to the oppressed

AND what is this Good News?
Jesus, the Christ, our Savior is born this day
He is the Word of God living among us
Bringing us the gifts of:
  • Peace
  • Joy
  • Hope and
  • Love
Freeing us from the chains of sin and corruption
To live in his heavenly kingdom forever and ever:

Deacon Don

Sunday, September 30, 2012

In Jesus' Name

Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-48
26th Sunday Ordinary Time – B

I direct your attention to two lines from the Gospel of Mark.

First, the disciple John, “Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us.”

The second line sums up Jesus’ response, “For whoever is not against us is for us.”

I have the privilege of working with the RCIA, the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults in our parishes.  I’ve worked in this ministry for about 10 years and am always renewed in faith through working to bring people into the Church, the Body of Christ.

Actually, I don’t bring anybody into the Church – that is the work of the Holy Spirit: God’s unceasing call to bring each of us into a closer relationship with Him.  My task, as catechist, is to walk along with them on this part of their journey in the Lord.

I am always amazed by those who desire a closer relationship with the Lord.  Their hearts are truly “burning within them” as they seek to become one in the Lord.  To listen to their stories, - their stories of faith and - their journey to the Lord - are wonderful to hear and see.  They give witness to the power of God and how much we are loved as he seeks to return His sheep to the fold, often carrying us in his arms.

We begin next week with five people who seek to become one of us, - who seek to drive out demons in Jesus’ name – people - who are for us and not against us.  Over time you will meet these brothers and sisters of ours in Christ: who come here to be with us – seeking, as we all seek - in our journey together - a closer relationship with the Lord.

One of the themes in common with those who come to us - is their desire to be part of something larger than themselves.  They seek to become members of a living and active community.  There is a longing for meaning in their lives, which they hope to find in Christ Jesus and in His Church.

·         We are the Church!
·         We are the people of God, the Body of Christ! 
·         We are the living stones, the life in the Church. 
In us and through us - the message of God’s salvation through Jesus, his son, is passed on – person to person, family member to family member, - generation to generation. 

·         We are evangelizers of the faith! 
·         We heed Christ’s call - to go forth making disciples of all nations, baptizing in the Name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
·         We are the continued apostolic line - bringing the Word of God to all-the-world. 
·         We preach in our actions and words and make real His presence in the world
·         We are called Christians, - known by our good works - as followers of Jesus Christ, the Way, the Truth and the Life.

Every organization needs to continually grow and be renewed.  Without growth and renewal, - without attracting new members - the organization will decrease and eventually cease.  We have seen - and experienced - our parishes decreasing. 

Before I came to Asbury Park, I worked and ministered in parishes that have been twinned and combined.  It is not easy to live through – but we must always hope in the Lord.  I asked my bishop to come here because I saw the possibilities and challenges of renewal and growth among this Body of Christ - the communities that have come together here.  These are living communities, full of the power of Christ.  I have spoken with many of you and hear of the care, love and concern for the future of these communities.

BUT – and there is always that word in every situation – The Lord’s work is done through his people.  Each of us, clergy and laity, as disciples of Jesus; - work to bring about God’s promise of salvation to the world.  We are His messengers of His Word – evangelists, teachers and preachers.  As we live truly Christian lives - in our words and in our actions – we evangelize the world of God’s great Love for all people and His promise of Life Eternal.

·         I ask each of us to continue the good work of the Lord, especially as you meet and welcome our brothers and sisters who seek to become part of our communities through the RCIA. 
·         And I ask you continue to help spread the Word of God, - to grow our communities - through evangelizing. 
·         Invite those members of your family and your friends who have fallen away from the Church – to come back to the Lord. 
·         Let them see in you - the miracles and wonders of the Lord: – As you drive out demons in Jesus name – and bring His message of Love and make known His desire for all his children to live with him in heaven for ever and ever – AMEN

Deacon Don Ron

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Whoever receives one child such as this. . .

25th Sunday Ordinary Time
Mark 9:30-37

“Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me, but the One who sent me.”

Who is more helpless than a child?  Who is more completely dependent upon the love and mercy of others than a child?  Who is without power, without authority, without a means of independent living; other than a child?

Even in our western culture where children tend to come first; children are completely dependent upon others - to clothe them, - feed them, - provide shelter for them - and tend to all their needs.

Jesus lived in a culture quite different from ours.  It was a social structure that afforded children no status at all.  The cry, “Women and children into the lifeboats first” on a sinking ship would have been a completely foreign concept to the people in Jesus’ time.  In times of famine, children were fed last - after the adult men and then the women.  If a house was on fire the head of the household was to rescue his father first, then his mother, then his wife and, if there was time, his children.

So, for Jesus to bring a child to the center of the assembly of his disciples was a very radical thing to do.  It actually was an insulting gesture toward his disciples to ask them to receive this child. 

In their culture, hospitality was given with an expectation of reciprocating hospitality or for the guest to tell others of the gracious generosity of the host; thereby bringing honor to the host.  What reciprocal honor could a child give?  Would anyone listen to a child tell of the generosity of a host – a child without status or standing in society?  Honor was a very important aspect of the culture, even among the poor.

So, why does Jesus bring this child into their presence? 

Remember, the disciples have all been arguing among themselves on the road about who was the greatest among them.  Which of them was the most important?  Who was next in line to Jesus among their little band?

The disciples were not powerful or influential men.  They were ordinary - everyday people - with no more importance than the next person.  Not one of them had an expectation of being next in line to Jesus: for none of them were exceptional – they were like children - without Jesus. 

Jesus was their center.  He was the reason they had preaching authority when he sent them out two by two.  Jesus was the leader of their band and the sole reason for doing what they did.  Without Jesus they did not “have authority over unclean spirits” and they could not “cast out demons, anoint the sick and work many cures” as they did when Jesus sent them out.

Jesus brings the child into their midst to humble them and show them how they must be like Him; like the child – completely dependent on God, the Father and trusting – with the trust of a child – in God’s love.  Jesus challenges his disciples to welcome the powerless; - the weak, - the vulnerable among them, - for these least will be first in the Kingdom of God.

Jesus himself is like a child – trusting completely in his Father in heaven for all his needs.  He asks the disciples to also trust in the Father.  Jesus places himself among the weak and vulnerable; inviting his disciples to also place themselves among these least and in doing so, accepting the Fathers love and trusting in Him for all their needs.  

For Paul reminds us,
God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.” 1 Cor. 1:27

In Wisdom’s reading we hear the foretelling of Our Lord’s journey into Jerusalem; his suffering and crucifixion.  We hear of the plots of those who despise the righteous.  They plan to “beset the just one who is “obnoxious” to them because he reproaches them for their “transgressions of the law and violations of their training.”  They want to test his gentleness and patience with torture and “a shameful death” to see if he actually believes his words of Trust in God - and if God will take care of him.

Just as Jesus challenged his disciples to accept the weak and vulnerable among them; recognizing that they too are among the least of God’s children: to trust as he trusts - in God for everything they need.  He continues today to challenge each of us accept our weaknesses and vulnerability and to also trust in God’s love for all our needs.

For as with the first disciples, we too are without power or authority - without Jesus.  Jesus too is our center.  And to be like him - we too - need to trust as he trusts in God, the Father.  For we are His children, powerless and weak, except in the arms of God - where we are strong in His love.


Deacon Don Ron

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Man Deaf and Mute

Mark 7: 31-37
23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

In Mark’s Gospel we hear a story of the healing of a doubly afflicted man.  He was a man who could not hear and who spoke with an impediment.  Imperfection of mind and/or body was a sign, in Jesus time, of not being favored by God.

There are some who want to know what was really wrong with the man in the story: was he really deaf or did he just not hear well? Was his speech impediment caused by his deafness? If he could speak, was he really deaf?

We learn to speak as we hear.  Children imitate the sounds of the words they hear as they learn language and begin to speak.  How well they learn to speak depends on how well they hear words spoken by others.

As on other occasions, - people beg Jesus to lay hands on this doubly afflicted man to cure him – so all present can witness the miracle, - but Jesus does a curious thing – he takes the man aside - away from the others.  In private, he touches inside the man’s ear and touches his tongue – very personal actions – far beyond the laying on of hands – Jesus makes an intimate connection with the man. 

Jesus also spits, another curious action by today’s standards, but this action has meaning.  In Middle Eastern culture, spitting was done to ward off evil and cast out demons.  In spitting, Jesus frees the man of the evils that afflict his spirit.  He not only heals the man’s body, but heals his spirit too.

All Jesus’ actions show something deeper has passed between Jesus and the man – more than a mere healing of his outward afflictions – Jesus makes a profound change in the man.  The man receives Jesus’ Grace - a new level of understanding and wisdom - and he now, “Spoke plainly.”

We equate speaking plainly with speaking the truth – speaking in a way that is honest and open – where there are no hidden meanings, - no double talk, no spin. 

This man, - who could not hear well and spoke in a broken way – now “Spoke Plainly” – He now proclaimed what he now heard clearly from Jesus – who had cried for him, “Ephphatha!,” “Be Open!”

In this, Jesus gave the man the understanding and wisdom - to speak plainly, - to speak the Truth.  And in gaining understanding and wisdom, - the man received the Grace of - belief and faith.  Cured in body and spirit - this man’s life was changed in a very profound way – beyond the healing of his hearing and speaking – his life was healed – his life took on new meaning – his life - was now a life of discipleship in Christ Jesus.

As disciples: 
  • ·         Do we let Jesus place his finger in our ear and touch our tongue, so we too may be healed to hear his Word and proclaim the Truth?
  • ·         When we listen to the Word of God, Jesus, the Christ – do we hear his voice clearly and learn to speak as he speaks? 
  • ·         And in hearing, are we brought to understanding and wisdom through our close relationship with Christ? 
  • ·         In speaking – do we speak plainly – the Truth of the Gospel – the Word made Flesh?
  • ·         Do we bring our brokenness: - our afflictions to the foot of the Cross; allowing Jesus to heal us in spirit and body; profoundly changing our lives?
  • ·         Have we asked Jesus, in his love and mercy, to cast out the demons in our lives, so we may receive his gifts of Grace – belief and faith?
  • ·         Are we true disciples – witnesses to the healing power of Jesus; proclaiming it to all the world?
  • ·         Have we come to Jesus, so he can cry, “Ephphatha!” for us, so our lives “Be Open!” to His Grace and Love?"

      Deacon Don Ron

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Sending Disciples - Mark 6: 7-13a

I want to tell you a true story – I know it’s a true story because I was there when it happened.  During my summer breaks from college I worked at Jones Beach on Long Island.  One Sunday afternoon, while driving along the beach, my crew and I heard the following exchange on the marine radio channel, “This is fishing trawler ‘Ruthie B’ to the Fire Island Coast Guard Station.” 
“Go ahead ‘Ruthie B’ this is Fire Island Coast Guard.”
“Fire Island, we’d like to report a boat on fire in the Inlet.  There are people in the water. We are going to assist.” 

Now, this caught our attention and as we listened intently to the rest of this exchange it quickly became apparent that the Coast Guard radio operator had a form to complete for emergencies.  He began to ask a series of questions of the Captain of the Ruthie B.

“Ruthie B, what is the size of the vessel in question?” 
“It’s about 30 foot, Fire Island.”
“What is the color of the vessel in question? “
“It is blue and white, Fire Island.”
“What is the name of the vessel? “ 
“I cannot see the name, Fire Island.”

The voice of the Captain of the Ruthie B betrayed the unfolding urgency of the situation.

The Coast Guard radioman continued, - “Ruthie B, are there any distinguishing marks on the vessel in question?” 

Now there was a long pause and finally the Captain answered, “Fire Island, it’s the only boat in the Inlet that’s on fire.”

Now I tell you this story -- to talk about our call to discipleship in Christ Jesus. -- We are here because we are all disciples of Jesus Christ.  We are his disciples for love of Jesus, for his sacrifice for us on the cross and for his teachings of the Truth of God’s love and promise of Salvation: leading to life eternal.  As Christ’s disciples, we gladly preach the Good News to all nations and share the gift of His love with all we meet.

We may not go out two by two, with only a staff, sandals and one tunic – with no money, no food and no advance hotel reservations, -- but still, we are sent -- just as the twelve were sent –

W  Sent to drive out demons and cure the sick. 
W  Sent to feed the hungry and give drink to the thirsty
W  Sent to comfort those who mourn and suffer
W  Sent to clothe the naked and shelter the homeless
W  Sent to bring justice to the oppressed
W  Sent to bring peace to the nations
W  Sent to preach the Good News – of God’s love and mercy

Jesus empowers us to do all these things in His name.  He gives us his Spirit -- to guide and support us as we go.

This brings us to “problem” of the stranger, the alien in our midst, the immigrant.

The conversation continues on immigration, - who can stay – who cannot – this continues to be a hot-button topic commanding the national attention.  The hostility toward immigrants, especially those who come to us out-of-desperation - continues to grow – often with violent words and actions.

We are not here today to debate or discuss the merits of this controversial topic, but we here to remind each other of our lives as disciples - sent by Jesus Christ, - who calls us to love God and one another.
  • Just as he did with the twelve, Jesus sends us today to drive out demons -- the demons of fear and hatred
  • He sends us to cure those who are sick -- sick with the sins of greed and prejudice; those who would exploit the weak and defenseless; denying food, water, shelter and fair wages to people who are different, especially those who are desperate
  • Jesus sends us to seek justice for the oppressed – to protect the weak and speak for voiceless
  • Jesus sends us to care for those who suffer in mind, body and spirit: bringing them comfort and peace
  • Jesus sends us to welcome the stranger and the alien: calling us to treat all people with dignity and respect – to love the other as we love ourselves

When we see those among us who live in the shadows – who live in fear - the exploited, the voiceless - we see people; people who suffer, - people living on the fringe of society, - People driven by desperation to make the hard choice to leave their homes and family – to come here; seeking a better life.  And in seeing them -- we should remember that we are a nation of immigrants;

  • Immigrants who fled oppression, starvation, persecution and death,
  • Immigrants who sought a better life – lives of peace, prosperity and freedom
  • Immigrants who too faced hostility, uncertainty and rejection – barred from good jobs, decent housing, fair wages and a place in society
When we look into the faces of those who come today – we see people not very different from our own ancestors. People who hope to find freedom and peace – dignity and respect – love and compassion.

Like the Coast Guardsman in the story, it is easy to get caught up in the details – but we must remember -
There’s a “boat burning in the Inlet and people are in the water” needing to be saved. - People looking for the same basic dignity and respect each of us want, need and deserve – as children of God.

Let us remember why Jesus sends us, his disciples – let us stay focused on the burning boat and those whose lives are in danger – for as Paul reminds us – “we are all one in Christ Jesus.” –

Jesus, who said to each of us -

“I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you welcomed me; naked and you clothed me; sick and you visited me. . . I tell you solemnly, in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me.”

Deacon Don

Saturday, June 16, 2012

"The Kingdom of God is like. . ." Mark 4:26-34

Mark 4:26-34
“The Kingdom of God is like. . .”
11th Sunday Ordinary Time

I was curious to see how big a mustard plant could grow, so I “Googled” Mustard Plant (ya’ gotta’ love the internet – the whole world at your fingertips).  There were several photos showing a rather rambling, unruly, very large bushy plant.  Some were over 10 feet tall, some looked tree-like. I was interested to see that they all appeared to be their own habitat environment; supporting not only nesting birds, but other animals could seek shady homes or refuge from the harsh climate.  All-in-all, the mustard plant is quite amazing.  It not only serves as home and shelter, but it is edible too.  I love mustard on hotdogs!

The mustard plant also serves as a great metaphor for the kingdom of God, but before we go there let’s look at the first parable of the farmer and the seed.

As far as gardening goes, I fall into the category of “accidental grower”.  I have house plants that grow and flower despite my interference.  I provide water on an irregular basis, dust them off occasionally and, when I remember, I open the shades to let in sunlight. How my plants not only survive, but thrive is a mystery to me.  I believe it is only through God’s grace that they grow.

Jesus’ parable of the farmer and the seed is like the church, especially today.  Who does not know of the trials of the church in today’s world. 
  • Rampant secularism,
  • government interference,
  • scandals that undermine trust,
  • internal turmoil and controversies,
  • declining attendance at mass,
  • lack of understandings of church teaching and
  • an abandoning of belief, not only in the teachings of the church,
  • but in the very existence of God:
All these and more make the future appear bleak for the church we know and love.

But we, the faithful, should be like the farmer who sleeps and rises, night and day – ever faithful and regular – day in and day out - in prayer, - practice - and participation in the Holy Church.  In being so, we sow the seeds of faith through our prayer, - practice, - and participation.  Jesus calls us to preach the Word of God to everyone we meet: teaching the Gospel always and if necessary, using words, to quote St. Augustine.

God works in mysterious ways and according to His timetable.  We are not to worry or fret, but rely on the Holy Spirit to bring God’s kingdom on earth into the next age. 
He makes the seed sprout and rise, not we.  He brings forth the grain and the fruit; providing for all his children: as he feeds the birds of the air, - the creatures in the sea - and the beasts of the forest. 

Where the church is heading is part of God’s plan.  He provides the rain to soften the soil.  He nourishes the ground to feed the seed.  He prunes the branches; cutting away those unproductive and dead branches off the living vine, so it will bring forth healthy fruit, and bring it forth more abundantly. 

The phrase, “Birds of the air” was an old Jewish term used to describe the Gentiles.  Those who were not descendants of the tribes of Israel were known as “birds of the air.”  I’m not sure, but it may have been because they were not tied to the Promised Land.  But this phrase puts a different spin on the second parable of the mustard seed.

Jesus tells us in this parable that the love of God is so great that if only a small part of it was used, a part the size of a mustard seed, it would grow into this enormous bush, “so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.”

This is evidence that God’s love is for all people, not just for the tribes Israel.  Jesus is letting the people know that all his beloved children can find a home – a place of rest and refuge - in God’s house.  His love excludes no one, but invites all to come into the shade of his love and find rest.
  • Again, God works in mysterious ways.  He brings about His kingdom - which is enduring and everlasting.  He asks us to remain strong in our faith;
  • continuing to sleep and rise,
  • night and day,
  • remaining ever faithful:
  • To pray, practice, participate and, especially to preach the Word of God. 

God’s love provides shade for all his beloved children; He builds a house with many rooms in His 
everlasting kingdom of life.

Deacon Don

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Divine Mercy Sunday

  • I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings. (Hosea 6:6-7)
  • I desire mercy, not sacrifice.  For I have come to call not the righteous, but sinners. (Matthew 9:13)
On Divine Mercy Sunday, the floodgates of heaven - through which all graces flow - open.  Our Lord’s love and mercy freely pours out - like the sunshine on a bright clear day; - showering down on all people.  We, his beloved children, need only to stand in the Light of God, repenting our sins – accepting his mercy and grace.

Jesus promised that on the first Sunday after Easter: “The Soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain the complete forgiveness of sins. . .” (Diary 699)  What a tremendous opportunity Divine Mercy Sunday presents for us! 

Repent, ask God’s forgiveness and receive his mercy and love.  Wipe clean the slate - begin anew - walk in the Light of God, - sinlessTake up our discipleship in Christ Jesus, live fully our life of love and good works – be the face of Jesus to all we meet, spread the good news to the whole world and love our brothers and sisters in Christ.

A while ago an email was circulating that made me very sad.  This email was completely devoid of love and charity.  It lacked Jesus’ two commandments: to love God above all things and to love our brothers and sisters as we love ourselves – as we are loved by God.

The email had a list of fourteen statements - each advocating no love for our suffering brothers and sisters in Christ – People seeking a life away from poverty, - a life free from oppression, - a life without the cruelty of corruption.  People: - men, women and children - hoping for and seeking love, - seeking peace, - seeking justice.

It is easy to vilify the alien - the stranger among us, - placing blame on them for a variety of problems; saying, “if we keep them out - all our problems will be solved,” but in our hearts we know it is not true and - certainly we know in our hearts it is not the way we are called to live as Disciples of Christ.
  • Jesus asks us to look into the face of each of the least of his people - to see his face
  • Jesus asks us to look into the suffering lives of each of the least of his people - to see his suffering
  • Jesus asks us to look into the hearts of the least of his people - to see his heart - burning with God’s love for all his children
The Word of God, Jesus, the Christ, calls us to live our lives in a radical new way.  As disciples he calls us to: look at the world through his eyes, see each of us as we are - beloved children of God.  Just as Jesus is not of this world, - we too, - as Disciples of Christ, - are not of this world, - a world which worries itself over worldly things.  We are called to aspire to higher things – to the things of above – the things of God.

In Matthew, Jesus tells us:
Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear.
Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?
Look at the birds in the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.
Are you not of more value than they?
And can any of you - by worrying - add a single hour to your span of life? Matthew 6:25-27

Jesus asks us to trust in him - Live his Word – Love as he loves – completely - without hesitation:
§  Love our brothers and sisters and not count the cost,
§  Love others as we ourselves would be loved,
§  Share with those who have less; - with those who have nothing,
§  Care for the sick, as we would want care
§  Free the oppressed, as we would live free
§  Jesus asks us to warmly greet the stranger with love and hospitality, - welcome him; give him food, shelter and comfort
§  He tells us to speak up for the voiceless and the vulnerable;
§  To make room at the head of the table for the poor, the outcast and the lonely, so they too may share in God’s bounty

 Jesus calls us to be peace makers, speaking out against oppressors and warmongers who - for lust and greed, - pride and envy, - hate and fear – make gods of themselves - victimizing the weak and conquering the defenseless

As disciples we can be no less than the face of Jesus to the world.  To be called followers of Christ, - to wear the name Christian - is to live the Gospel message, not only this day, but everyday - in every way.

So, on this day the Lord has made – this Divine Mercy Sunday – Let us rejoice and be glad, - for God’s unending love and mercy - which is poured out through the gates of heaven – let us ask God for his mercy - and forgiveness of our sins - for what we have done, - for what we have failed to do – and for what might do better. 
Let us seek God’s abundant grace poured forth from the Fount of Christ’s loving heart, - for us and for our salvation.
Trust in Jesus, - Believe in the Gospel - and Love as He loves - by loving God and all our brothers and sisters.


Deacon Don

Monday, March 19, 2012

Light in the World

We cannot watch a sports event on TV without seeing someone hold up a sign like this JOHN 3:16. It is instantly recognizable – simple; - elegant even- in its message - “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish, but have eternal life.”

This is a joyful message.  We should - and do celebrate - that God wants us to be with him - because he loves us so much, sacrificing himself ,through his Son: to bring us into heaven with him for all time. 

This is a message we should be passing on every day to all we everyone in the world.  By our life, we are to reflect this message; reminding everyone of God’s love for us.  As disciples, we all are messengers of the Light, Jesus, the Christ, called to share the Light with the world.

But in this message is a warning too.  It is not a neutral message, - a message without consequences – we cannot see it as a “take-it-or-leave-it” kind of message.

We are warned - that if we do not believe in the Christ, we will not share in God’s love, live in God’s peace or bask live in God’s grace, - but will suffer death, and eternal damnation ,to live where no Light exists, only darkness - forever and ever.

For John the world was a place filled with darkness.  It was a forbidding place – a world:
W  Without hope -
W  without peace -
W  without justice -
W  without love –
W  without salvation –
W  a place without the Light -
(It is) a world without Jesus, the Christ – who was to bring Light into the world.

The children of this world loved the darkness:
W  Darkness hid their crimes,
W  Darkness hid their evil worships,
W  Darkness hid their deceptive practices,
W  Darkness hid their hate,
W  In Darkness they could be selfish
W  In Darkness they satisfied their wonton desires
W  In Darkness they lived sinful lives

John wanted the disciples of Christ to leave this dark world – He wanted them to live in a world filled with light, - the Light of Christ - He wanted them to be Light – dispelling the dark –
W  Light overcoming the darkness, -
W  Light overcoming sin –
W  Light bringing peace,
W  The Light of justice,
W  The Light of love –
W  The light of Christ - leading to salvation and Life eternal.

Just as Moses lifted up the serpent, so that those who were bitten could look up - believe in the power of God - and live, -- so too for us - is Christ lifted up on the cross, - so we too may look, believe and have Life eternal.

This Lenten season, a season of reflection and repentance is also a season of filled with expectation and hope.  Unlike the disciples of Jesus’ time, we, disciples today know the end of the Jesus story, which is really the beginning of the Eternal story.  We know that on Easter Sunday Jesus will overcome death, - overcome sin; - bringing Light into the world – bringing life eternal to all who believe in him. 

W  We know that he is raised up on the third day. 
W  We know that the stone is rolled away from the mouth of the tomb and the burial clothe is found empty. 
W  We know that Jesus appears again to the 12 – showing his wounds and bringing his Spirit into the world. 
W  We know all this comes to pass and it is the truth. 

Jesus was lifted up on the Cross for all to see - and believe – bringing us out of the darkness to become children of the Light.

W  So as we come nearer to Easter, let us look up to Jesus on the Cross and - be lifted up in the grace of God’s love and mercy; turning away from sin, deception and darkness to live in the Light of Christ
W  Let us look up to Jesus on the Cross and - be lifted up in the joy of the Resurrection; proclaiming the Good News of Salvation through our Lord Jesus to all the world
W  Let us look up to Christ on the Cross and - be lifted up by the Glory of God – who, in his great love for us, sent his only Son, so we may have Life eternal


Deacon Don