Sunday, December 22, 2013

4th Sunday in Advent - Matthew 1:18-25 - "Emmanuel"

They shall name him Emmanuel - “God is with us”

The retelling of the birth of Jesus from the perspective of Joseph is important to the salvation story.  In fulfilling the prophecies of a savior being born of a virgin and being in the line of David – it is through Joseph that this is made to be.  Joseph is of the line of David.  His taking Mary into his home establishes her as his wife; taking responsibility for the child she bears.  Naming the child establishes Joseph’s responsibility for the child and places the child in his family line – the line of David.

It is important not only to fulfill what God has promised through the prophets, but in establishing that Jesus was of human estate.  It is the fulfillment of God’s love for his children that “he sent his only son to be among us.”

It is the establishment of the humanness of Jesus.  He came into the world as we do – helpless in infancy - to experience life as we experience life - in all but sin.  And to die, so we might have life eternal.

God is not some distant deity – removed from us: our lives, our sorrows, our joys, our pains, our hopes and dreams – God is with us – then and there – here and now.  This is not a myth, but the Truth - the very foundation of our faith.  God did come into the world to be among us, to suffer, die and rise again, - so we might have life, and have it abundantly.

God is with us!  Always and everywhere: - at every moment in our lives.  God is with us at the best times of our lives.  God is with us in our darkest moments: - from the moment we are conceived to the moment we return to Him in heaven.  And God is with us at every in-between moment too.

God shares our joy - dancing and laughing with us in our delight.  He rejoices in our happiness, - lifting us up.  Our joy is God’s joy; He delights in the happiness of His children.  In our happy times God is with us, but are we with God?

Do we remember to be with God in our joy?  Do we share our best times with our creator?  Remember to pray - thanking God for all the good he does for us in our lives. 

In our darkest moments, when we fear and lose hope, God is with us.  When we are sad with grief and cannot bear the load - He comforts and carries us. He listens to our prayers, shares our sorrows and weeps with us.  In our despair God is with us, but again, are we with God?

Do we turn to God in our worst times?  Not in anger, but to share our fears and worries; allowing God to shoulder our burdens?  Pray to God always.  In the dark of our night, give our sorrows and fears over to the Lord – let him fill us with light and hope - as he embraces us with his love and lifts us up as a mother does a weeping child – to comfort and console.

God is our beloved Father and we his children, whom he loves always – without condition.  He forgives us our sins - shares our joys and bears our burdens - asking only that we love - as he loves us. 

  • On this last Sunday of Advent, let us remember why the Birth of our Lord is such an important event in the Church’s calendar. 
  • Let us Keep Christ in Christmas by giving thanks and praise to God, - who is love -- for loving us so much that he came into the world to be among us, so we might be saved from the powers of Satan and the allures of this world. 
  • God is with us – now and forever, - so we might have life eternal and dwell in peace in his Kingdom – forever and ever ~ Amen.

Deacon Don Ron

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Matthew 24:37-44 - 1st. Sunday in Advent - "Advenio"

Black Friday is not the beginning of Christmas.  Despite the secular world trying to convince us that the ‘reason-for-the-season is this hysterical frenzy of consumerism: with love measured in the number of gifts given and received.  If we mean to keep Christ-in-Christmas, we must act truly as Christians, disciples of Jesus, practitioners of the faith in which we all profess.

Today is the First Sunday in Advent. It too, is not the beginning of Christmas.

Advent is a time of anticipation of things to come.  It is a time for preparation, a time for reflection, a time for repentance, and a time for renewal.  Advent – from the Latin word ‘advenio’ - meaning - “to come to” – gives reference to the three comings of Jesus:
  • First, Jesus coming into the world – Emmanuel - God with us – God born into flesh, born into the human condition – becoming like us – in all but sin, because he loves us so much.
  • Second, Jesus coming into our lives – through grace and the sacraments, especially in the Eucharist: helping us to live as faithful disciples and bringing us to His promise of Salvation
  • Third, Jesus coming again – the end time, when the Good Shepherd returns to gather all his flock; bringing all the faithful into the peace of God’s kingdom and life eternal

This third coming of Jesus is our concern on this First Sunday in Advent, in the Gospel of Mathew.  Jesus is giving us a warning of the fulfillment of his promise to someday return, “when we least expect it.”  He tells us that no one knows when the Son of Man is coming.  He warns us to be prepared – always - for this unexpected event.  We are reminded that we should live our lives like the virgins awaiting the coming of the bridegroom. We should be looking out for the Lord; keeping our lamps lit and ourselves in readiness - to go out and meet him when he comes.  Our watchword is to be: “Always Faithful, Always Vigilant” to the Word of God and His promise to return to bring the faithful into His heavenly Kingdom.

Jesus advises us to be like Noah, listening to God and doing the Lord’s work: Diligently preparing for the flood while the world carries on its business. The world ridiculed and ignored Noah, but his faith was his strength, his comfort and his safety. Noah lived in the presence of God and was prepared for His coming promise. 

Paul reminds us to not let the distractions of the world take us away from our salvation.  We can almost hear the excitement in his voice as he encourages us to hold on to our faith - for the Lord is coming – at any moment – to bring us into the promise of God’s kingdom.  Do not give in to the desires of the flesh or the darkness of this world, but - put on the armor of light; put on Christ and live in His Light.

In Isaiah, we hear of the glory of God’s Kingdom, where all shall live in harmony in the house of the Lord.  Joy and peace will reign.  Swords will be beaten into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks and no one will train for war anymore.  This is God’s promise: to live in the peace of His heavenly Kingdom – in His Light – in His love – forever and ever

Each Advent season we are reminded to prepare – not for the future, but for the now.  We are to make ourselves ready to meet the Lord when he comes – at every moment:
  • Reflect on the Lord and His promise of salvation and life eternal,
  • Repent our sins: fast and prepare our hearts to love as we are loved,
  • Renew our baptismal promises: put on our robes of white and hold our lighted candles high.

Overcome the distractions of this world.  Do not become desensitized to the spirit within ourselves and indifferent to the world around us.  Live as brothers and sisters, children of God, caring for and loving one another.  Live in the Lord, Jesus!  Put on Christ!  Preach the Good News and Love as we are loved – always. Prepare: for we know not when the Son of Man will come. ~Amen

Deacon Don Ron

Monday, November 25, 2013

Luke 23: 35-43 Christ the King - "Jesus, remember me. . ."

There are few proclaimed kings in the world today who can claim a royal lineage, though there are plenty of people who act as though they are royalty – ‘lording’ it over others while serving their needs before the people.

We also have the royalty ‘du jour’ - media celebrities; who claim our attention during their 15 minutes of fame, but none of them is royalty in any real sense.  None of them live as real royalty should live – as servants to the people; putting the needs of others before their own needs.  Caring for those in most need, ensuring: the hungry are fed, the naked are clothed, the sorrowful are comforted, the sick are healed,
the poor are heard, the sinful forgiven, and all - are loved.

These are the marks of true kingship. This is royalty at its best. This is the Kingship of Christ – who leads us - through service and sacrifice – who places us – God’s beloved - before all else – a king who loves us so much that he gave his life - to free us from our captivity to sin; bringing us into the light , peace and joy of life everlasting in His heavenly kingdom.

Christ is King: betrayed and denied; saving us from sin and destruction, healing our wounds, drawing us into his embrace.
Christ is a King: scorned and mocked; caring for the least and the forgotten, without counting cost
Christ is King: ridiculed and condemned; giving us life, leading us to God, the Father
Christ is King: who – even at the point of death - in his pain and suffering - reached out to a repentant sinner; healing – forgiving - delivering him up into everlasting life

Our salvation is beyond the human condition – our kings and leaders cannot save – they cannot free us from sin – they cannot bring us everlasting peace and joy – they cannot give us life eternal. They cannot love us – with the love that feeds the true desire of our heart

We cannot cry out to them in our anguish and pain – “Remember me when you come into your kingdom” because their kingdom, - their power, - their glory - is not everlasting and their rule is subject to decay and death – they are just as we, human: weak – frail - limited - finite

We cannot call them ‘Abba’ - Father – or turn to them in our darkest moments – or share with them our burdens and sorrows – or cry out to them in our pain and suffering – or receive true forgiveness from them for our sins. 
Our real needs are beyond their abilities to bring true healing, - true peace, - true forgiveness and true love.

Only Jesus, the Christ is King!
  • A king unlike any king the world has ever seen 
  • A king who rode into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey
  • A king who called the lowly and powerless - friends and companions
  • A king who lived in poverty and homelessness; sharing our human condition
  • A king who healed the sick, cured the lame and gave sight to the blind
  • A king who brought the Good News to the poor

Jesus is the King who resisted temptation, rejecting all the riches and power of this world
  • The king who was jeered by the people and denied by his friends
  • The king who suffered degradation, humiliation and violence
  • The king whose cross of shame – became his throne of victory; victory over death -- to reign triumphant – King forever and ever 

Jesus Christ is the King of whom we can ask – in our sin and sorrow, “Jesus, remember me!” Bring me into your kingdom.

Deacon Don Ron

Sunday, November 10, 2013

32nd Sunday Ordinary Time - Luke 20:27-38 - "Children of the Resurrection"

“(What) eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, and (what) has not entered the human heart, what God has prepared for those who love him,” 1 Corinthians 2:9

We are a people of hope.  We are a people of the resurrection.  We believe in a life eternal in heaven; a life everlasting, a life with God, - the Father who loves us, who cares for us in this life and who desires us to be with him in the new life to come: forever and ever. This is the God of the eternal; the God of the everlasting, the God of the resurrection.

In today’s Gospel we encounter the Sadducees, a people who do not believe in the resurrection.  Their beliefs were informed only by the written Torah where there was no mention of a life beyond this world.  They were a people who lived in the present, with no hope of a future life. 

In many ways the beliefs of the Sadducees were somewhat like the beliefs of the secular - humanist world of today.  In this world it is people who come before God and momentary pleasure and profit is of prime concern with no thought to the future: the eternal, the everlasting.  They are a people without hope.  Their god is a finite god, a god only of this world; with no promise of an everlasting life in the glory of heaven. 

The Sadducees’ strict interpretation of the Torah did not include the oral tradition of the Pharisees, who did believe in a resurrection and who lived in hope and belief in an eternal life, as witnessed in the First Reading.

The seven brothers and their mother had an enduring faith in God that gave them strength and courage to undergo torture and death at the hands of their enemy – an enemy who tried to turn them away from God.  Each was a formidable witness to the power of hope; hope in God, a God who promises a life everlasting and who keeps His promise to those who love Him.

The Sadducees, in an attempt to trap Jesus into affirming their belief that there was no life beyond this world, use the example of the woman married to seven brothers to prove their point.  While their example has a basis in Jewish society for providing the continuity of family, it is rooted in their present world, confined by what is read and seen - nothing more.

Jesus tells them that only in this world do people marry and have family, “. . . but those who are considered worthy. . .” those who believe in the resurrection, - believe in a life beyond the present, - beyond the body, - beyond the confines and understandings of this world. 
“They are like the angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection.” 
‘Those who are considered worthy’ are a people of hope – a people who love God above all and hope and believe in His promise of a life eternal.

To have such hope: such strength of belief - is found only in our close and constant relationship with God. 
It is born out of our life in prayer;
a life of love and devotion,
a life of listening to God’s call in our hearts,
To a life of building a loving relationship with God and an abiding belief in His promise that leads us - through resurrection - to eternal life. 

God calls to each of us to live in His love in this world.  Through His ‘grace we are strengthened and have good hope for our eternal comfort.’  He calls us to live joyfully in this hope and believe in His promise of life everlasting through the resurrection.  For our God is love. In His love he has shown us the fruit of His promise, Jesus Christ.

Through Jesus, God calls us to be with Him forever in a new life – like the angels, as children of God, children of the resurrection. 
What that life is:
we cannot see,
we cannot hear
nor can we imagine,
But we live in hope – hope in the resurrection and the peace and joy and glory and love of God in heaven ~ Amen.


Deacon Don Ron

Sunday, November 3, 2013

31st Sunday Ordinary Time - Luke 19:1-10 - "We are Zacchaeus"

The story of Zacchaeus is our story.  Whether we are aware of it or not, God is always calling to us; speaking to us in our hearts, drawing us into an ever closer relationship with him through his Son, Jesus Christ.  “For you (God) love all things that exist and detest none of the things you have made, for you would not have made anything if you hated it.” So it is with Zacchaeus, a beloved child of God, being called into a closer relationship with God through his encounter with Jesus.

A key to an understanding of the story of Zacchaeus can be found in today’s First Reading from the Book of Wisdom. “But you are merciful to all, for you can do all things, and you overlook people’s sins, so that they may repent.”

“You overlook people’s sins, so that they may repent.” God’s mercy and love begins before we repent. His forgiveness is not conditional upon our repentance. He clears the pathway for our repentance by His love.

Zacchaeus was considered by the people to be a public sinner.  As a tax collector, a collaborator with the Roman oppressors, he was judged to be a traitor to the people. While Zacchaeus was a rich man, because he had others doing is bidding and subject to his direction, he was an outcast among his own people. I would think that the Romans only thought well of him when he paid the tribute they demanded.  All in all, Zacchaeus was a lonely man with few friends and they would only be people like him – tax collectors - public sinners, outcasts from society – shunned by all the people.

Now, we have heard the story of Zacchaeus’ encounter with Jesus on a road in Jericho:
  • How he was eager to see Jesus,
  • How he climbed a tree because he was so short,
  • How Jesus stopped and called Zacchaeus to come down and
  • How Jesus told him that he must stay at his house.

Do we see how God was working on Zacchaeus through all this, even before Jesus came to Jericho – when word of Jesus reached Zacchaeus’ hearing and touched his heart?

Something stirred in Zacchaeus’ heart to want to see Jesus even at the risk of scorn and abuse from the people in the crowded street.  The call to see this Jesus of whom he had heard so much, a friend of tax collectors and sinners, was so strong that Zacchaeus made the effort, dressed in his fine clothes, to climb a tree, a most undignified activity for a rich man and most likely not a young man, to do.  Zacchaeus makes an extraordinary effort to see Jesus.  He may not have realized that it was God’s calling out to him in his heart that made him go to such a great effort. 

Jesus calls Zacchaeus out of the tree – to come down from his isolated perch.  “Zacchaeus hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today” Jesus manifests God’s call to Zacchaeus. He calls him to not delay, but to hurry and allow God to dwell within him.  God has overlooked the sins of Zacchaeus; telling him that he must stay within his house – dwell within his heart.

Zacchaeus is forgiven his sins even before he repents - not on condition of his repentance.  He is moved by God’s love and mercy that he vows to give to the poor and repay four-fold to anyone who claims to have been defrauded by him, - not just for this one time, but for all time going forward. 

Jesus declares that salvation has come to the house of Zacchaeus; this son of Abraham, for this sinner has now heeded the call of God, amended his life and returned to live in God’s love forever.  The story of Zacchaeus is our story.

  • We are Zacchaeus – for God is calling to us constantly, in our hearts – drawing us into an encounter with Jesus where we too are forgiven before we repent because God loves us and overlooks our sins: We are His creation which is always good
  • We are Zacchaeus when, we go to Jesus, hurrying to join Him and allow Him to stay in our house and change our lives
  • We are Zacchaeus when we repent our sins; vowing to amend our life - to live in right relationship with one another, caring, loving and receiving one another as we are embraced by God.
For the Son of Man came to seek out sinners; revealing God’s merciful love, opening the pathway to salvation for all the lost sheep of His flock, so we may return home to dwell with Him forever and ever ~ Amen.
Deacon Don Ron

Sunday, October 27, 2013

30th Sunday Ordinary Time - Luke 18:9-14 - "The Penitent Man"

In the movie, Indiana Jones and the Holy Grail, Indy tries to approach the place where the Grail is hidden, but has to pass three tests. The clue to the first test is, “The penitent man humbles himself before God.” The entrance to the crypt is littered with the headless bodies of those who had already failed in their attempt at seeking the prize of immortality.  Indy realizes, at the last moment, that the truly sorrowful need to bow humbly before God or lose their heads.

I think in this scene we can capture a sense of Jesus’ parable in Luke’s Gospel. 

It is God we approach with our prayers and petitions.  It is before God that we bow; approaching on bended knee with true sorrow in our hearts. God does not ask for a list of our accomplishments, he knows our hearts and the sincerity of our deeds.  He knows the love in our hearts.  God asks us only to seek his mercy and love to obtain His forgiveness, with sincere and contrite hearts. 

In the parable we see two people, a Pharisee and a tax-collector.  The first an outwardly pious person who obeys the law; living within the well-defined margins of what was expected of someone of his class.  The tax-collector is a despised member of society, the lowest of the low, a public sinner held in great contempt by the “good people”.

The Pharisee comes into the temple, not to ask for God’s mercy and love – seeking forgiveness – he never asks to be forgiven, but he lists his accomplishments to show how he has obeyed all the rules: thereby, in his mind, making him better than all others, certainly better than the tax-collector.  He isn’t praying to God, but to the god he’s made of himself. He stands at the front, not meek and humble before God, but self-righteously – God’s equal. 

His disdain for all others oppresses the least of God’s children.  His thoughts would translate into his actions, betraying his true heart to God.

I have worked with victims of domestic abuse, a form of bullying and I have seen how abusers attempt to make themselves feel better, righteous, if you will, through the humiliation of others.  Their thinking is very much like the Pharisee’s – focused on how good or justified they are over other people.

Meanwhile, at the back of the temple, in a dark corner, bows the tax-collector, a sinner.  He knows he’s a sinner, unjustified and without a shred of righteousness.  He is a penitent man, bowing humbly before God. He asks God for mercy and love without expectation.  He makes no assumptions about his position in life and where he stands in the eyes of God.

What I find surprising in this story is the tax-collector even coming into the temple to pray, especially when faced with the contempt of the Pharisee.  How many of our “tax-collectors” today would feel welcome to come into church, let alone, seek God’s forgiveness.  Maybe that’s why there is great rejoicing in heaven when one ‘lost lamb’ returns to the flock.

Jesus embraces the sinner, the tax-collector, the lost, the miserable and oppressed.  He asks each of us too, - to embrace the least of God’s children, our brothers and sisters in Christ:
  • to lift up the sinner,
  • to seek justice for the oppressed,
  • relief for the suffering,
  • And peace for the troubled.

It is in loving, with the heart of Jesus that we bow humbly before God; seeking His mercy and forgiveness, finding justification through doing His will and loving as we are loved – all our sisters and brothers. ~Amen

Deacon Don Ron

Sunday, October 20, 2013

29th Sunday Ordinary Time - Mission Sunday - "The Lord hears the cries of the poor"

Today the Church celebrates World Mission Sunday.  We know this by the second collection that will be taken up for the Church’s missions throughout the world. 

The need is great to continue to spread the Gospel message through out the world.  So many people have not yet heard the Good News of Jesus Christ, his message of God’s love, mercy and forgiveness – His promise of salvation and eternal life in His heavenly Kingdom. 

They do not know, as we know, that they are God’s beloved children – 
  • Called to live in peace and harmony
  • Called into the embrace of God’s love and mercy
  • Called to live with dignity and respect
  • Called to be holy; working to make saints of one another
  • Called to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world
  • Called to bring hope, healing and freedom
  • Called to know and love the one true God

There is darkness in the world, dark places where God is unknown.  Places where God’s love has yet to reach.  Places where hope, love, mercy and forgiveness are unspoken.  It is our mission to bring the Light of Christ into these dark places. 
  • To speak of God’s love and mercy for all people
  • To give hope to the despairing
  • To bring peace to the troubled
  • To heal our suffering brothers and sisters in Christ who have:
    • Never felt God’s love,
    • Never known God’s embrace
    • Never tasted the goodness of God's gift of life as His beloved child

So many of our brothers and sisters in Christ know only hardship and despair in this world. They suffer – poverty, starvation, exploitation, slavery, illiteracy, unsafe living and working conditions – which condemns them, especially women and children, to the very bottom of the human condition – offering them no hope and little opportunity for survival.

This world offers them little, but we, through our missionary support, can bring them hope – hope in the knowledge that they are loved and that God listens to their cries of anguish and despair. God hears the cries of the poor.
So many others worship false gods or no god at all.  They know only
  • gods of their own making,
  • gods who cannot love, who cannot care,
  • gods who cannot heal or bring peace.

We are called to bring the knowledge of our living God into their lives.  To show them the God who loves his children and wants them to live with Him eternally in heaven.  Through the Word of God, we bring the Good News into these dark places; spreading the Light of Christ, dispelling the darkness and giving hope of a Life Eternal in the peace of God’s Kingdom to those who know only the confines of this world.

A few days ago a remarkable woman passed away.  She was known as Madre Antonia (Mother Antonia) and she was one of those missionaries who brought the Light of Christ into dark places.  Mother Antonia lived in La Mesa penitentiary in Tijuana, Mexico.  She was not a prisoner, but a nun who took private vows and served both the prisoners and guards in one of the worst prisons in the world. 

Living in a 10 X 10 cell, sleeping on a prison cot with a bible and a Spanish dictionary, she brought hope and spiritual guidance to the very least of God’s children.

Mother Antonia was called to her missionary life of service through an encounter with the Risen Christ.  She was blessed and given the grace to live as the Lord himself lived – in service to sinners, the miserable and forgotten; bringing them knowledge of God’s love and mercy.

We may never have such an encounter with Christ as did Mother Antonia, but we can always hope.  Meanwhile, we can support the work of missionaries like Mother Antonia and like so many courageous others who bring the Word of God into the dark places of the world. 

Please give generously to support missionaries and as the parable in Luke’s Gospel today reminds us: Persevere in Prayer, God hears the cries of the poor and brings them His justice. ~ Amen


Deacon Don Ron

Sunday, October 13, 2013

28th Sunday Ordinary Time - Luke 17:11-19 - Unclean! Unclean!

“Unclean!  Unclean!  Beware! Stay Back! Unclean!”

Imagine having to shout “Unclean” wherever we walked or hearing “Unclean, Beware” shouted in the streets as a warning to others that we had a ‘disease’ and were not ritually pure and that our presence could infect others with whatever terrible ‘disease’ we had.

For good and obvious reasons, the people of Jesus’ time were very sensitive to disease, especially sores and scales on the body.  Medical care was primitive or non-existent and catching a disease could be life-threatening.  The Jewish community formulated a whole set of laws concerning ritual purity that governed their worship, but the root of those laws was set in keeping people healthy and away from contagious disease.

In Luke’s Gospel, we find 10 men afflicted with leprosy traveling together.  Now this was most likely not true leprosy because there is no anthropological evidence of true leprosy existing in Israel until much later in time.  More likely this was a form of eczema, psoriasis or some other scaly, flaky disorder of the skin.  Whatever it was, the people feared it and required anyone afflicted to remain outside of community, the mainstay of Middle-Eastern existence. This meant they were not allowed to socialize with anyone; they could not stay or associate with family members or live within their community.  They were not allowed to worship in the Temple; to work, farm or earn a living in any way.  They were banished completely and cast out – alone - without means of survival – relying solely on begging to stay alive.

It is no wonder why, when they encounter Jesus they ask, not for healing, but for mercy.  They desired a return to life in the community – where their life could again - be normal.  Jesus, recognizing their need and understanding the consequences of their disease – its effect on their very existence – takes pity on them.

Someone who was healed from leprosy or - other disease that rendered a person unclean - had to present themselves to the priest before being allowed to re-enter the community: to live, to worship, to work, to re-enter their lives among family and friends.  Sending the lepers to show themselves to the priests was necessary for these men to be welcomed back into the life of the community.  In essence, they were “dead” and through Jesus’ healing power - now brought back to life.

I find a great parallel in this story with the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  When we sin, we, in effect, place ourselves outside our community of faith.  Our sins, - especially grave sins, - separate us from the love of God and divide us from our community and the unity of faith in which we all profess.

In a state of sin, we are like the ten lepers roaming the countryside cast out from our community of faith.  We don’t go about shouting, “Unclean!  Beware!” – imagine that, if we did!  But within our hearts, even though we participate in our daily lives – we are outsiders, looking in.  We are no longer whole – no longer fully members participating in the life of the community of believers.  And like the ten lepers, we go searching about for the One who can heal us and return us to life, Jesus Christ.

We seek out Jesus and ask for His mercy and forgiveness – through which we may be healed.  In His great love for us, he makes us whole and restores us to life among our family and friends; returning us to our community of the faithful.  He sends us to the priest, to present ourselves for examination – showing - that by His power - we are healed and freed from sin and division. 

In Jesus’ love and mercy, He returns us to life.  He restores us so we may live again among our family and friends, our brothers and sisters in Christ, so we may take our place at table; giving thanks to God –
  • For our healing and freedom from sin –
  • For the gift of our life and
  • For all the gifts He bestows on us in His great love for His children. ~ Amen


Deacon Don Ron

Saturday, September 28, 2013

26th Sunday Ordinary Time - Luke 16:19-31 - "The Message"

The path toward salvation runs through the back alleys of the poor and downtrodden. The road to righteousness winds, not through scenic hills and bountiful valleys, but through the mean streets of poverty and oppression.  It is the stranger, the immigrant, the outcast and the shunned who will lead us to the gates of the Kingdom of Heaven.

We all want to get to heaven. That’s why we come to church, isn’t it?  We don’t come to Sunday or even daily Mass because we have nothing better to do.  We live in hope!  We live in the belief that by coming to church we are living virtuous, faith-filled lives - that will lead us into God’s promise of Life Eternal in His Kingdom.  And, in coming together in church to worship and praise God is certainly a fitting way of living out a part of our call to live good Christian lives, but there is an additional message in today’s readings, especially in Amos, the Psalm and in the Gospel.

Amos begins with a list of the benefits of the good life enjoyed by the rich.
  •          They have fine housing filled with comfortable furniture. 
  •          The rich have food and drink in abundance. 
  •          They have cosmetics and healthcare to adorn them and keep them looking well and attractive. 
  •          The rich have time for entertainment and diversion from the boredom of life. 
  •          Their busy, important lives are too busy and important to be bothered by the plight of the poor. 
  •          They, who have no care or concern for anyone, but themselves, will be the first to suffer the pains of loss and banishment from the joys of the heavenly kingdom.

Jesus continues this theme of our call to care for the poor so we too may enter the kingdom of God.  In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, he gives us a very vivid picture of the contrasts between the rich and the poor. This is a story set in ancient times, but just as relevant in today’s world.

Here is a rich man, an over-consumer, who wears the finest of clothing in the latest style: a person who never wants of anything and has more than he needs.  He doesn’t just eat a meal – he feasts! – Sumptuously! – Everyday!  I am sure we can all easily conjure up a mental picture of what this man looks like and how he acts in life – arrogant, self-indulgent and filled with his own importance.

Meanwhile, at his gate, lying in the dust of the road is Lazarus.  Here a very different picture comes to mind from Jesus’ description: A poor man, dirty, nearly naked, repulsive; covered in sores, hungry to the point of starvation.  Even the stray dogs that Lazarus competes with for food scraps come to lick the sores that cover his weak and worn body.  There is no one - lower, - poorer or - more outcast than Lazarus.  Even when he dies, there is no mention of his having the dignity of being buried, like the rich man.

Now, in death, we see the fruits of a life turned inward; a life of self-concern.  The rich man, who ignored poor Lazarus, finds himself in torment in Hades.  Amid the flames now consuming the riches he surrounded himself with in life, he calls out for mercy and consideration.  In his still present arrogance, he directs Abraham to send Lazarus to relieve his torment – unlike how he relieved the torments of Lazarus in life.

Abraham tells the rich man that Lazarus, who received all bad things in his life, now rests in the comforting embrace of Abraham and because there is a great divide between their eternal worlds, Lazarus, even if he wanted, could not cross over to relieve the rich man’s agonies.

Still filled with himself, the rich man then instructs Abraham to send Lazarus to warn the rich man’s brothers of the fate that awaits them for their lives of selfish indulgence; lives of not caring for the poor.

Abraham tells him that they already have such a warning - in the scriptures - and in the teachings of the prophets, the messengers of God.  They only need to listen.  If they fail to heed the message they have already been given, then they will not listen to another messenger, even one who has risen from the dead.

Jesus said, “The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me.”  The poor are our constant reminder to love one another, as Jesus loves us.  His care and concern for the outcast, the sinner, the poor, the hungry and voiceless is the message Jesus leaves for us: To love our brothers and sisters – all God’s children, especially those in most need, as we are loved.  Jesus’ message for all of us to heed is: Love the poor and care for them as we love and care for Jesus. ~Amen.


Deacon Don Ron

Sunday, September 15, 2013

24th Sunday Ordinary Time - Luke 15: 1-32 - The Greatest Sinner

Jesus speaks to us about loss in his parables – the loss of a sheep, the loss of a coin and the loss of a son.  But instead of dwelling on the loss he tells us about the joy and rejoicing over that - which was lost – now being found and returned to its rightful place: The sheep to the flock: the coin to the purse, the son to the father.

God so loves us that there is rejoicing in heaven when we are reconciled to him and returned to our heavenly family.  The saints and angels leap with joy when one of God’s lost children hears the Father’s call and responds: Turning his face toward heaven and crying out, “Abba!”

No matter how far we have strayed or how deeply we have sinned, the Father is always ready to welcome us into his embrace; showering us with the finest he has to offer and holding us close to his heart.

God’s mercy and forgiveness is endless.  We only need to ask.  He welcomes us back into his kingdom with great rejoicing and celebration – like the Prodigal Son, once lost, but now found and returned to the Father’s embrace.

There is only one condition under which we commit the unforgivable sin - Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.  This is when we turn our backs on God; keeping him from forgiving us.  We keep backing away from his outstretched arms; preventing Him from reaching out to embrace us, hold us; forgiving us completely: without condition or question.  God’s forgiveness is a forgiveness we humans, like the older son in the story, find hard to understand, let alone do. 

Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is when our pride and shame keeps us from accepting God’s love and mercy – wrongfully thinking that we are so unforgivable, so unlovable, so despised, wretched and unwanted - that not even God can forgive us.  The evil-one convinces us that we are so wronged, so terribly bad and sinful that God would have no choice, but to condemn us to the everlasting fires of Gehenna.

This is so wrong, - so unnecessary – so perverse and egotistical.  To allow the evil-one make us think that we are greater than God - that we are such tremendous sinners that even He – our Creator – is not great enough to forgive us.  In doing so, we place ourselves above God – away from His love and the peace of His Kingdom – into a universe of our own making - where we reign supreme – “the greatest sinner there ever was, so great that not even God will forgive me!”

Wow! What an ego! But I am sure we’ve all heard people say such foolish things.

When we hear people say such nonsense – like, “If I went into the church it would fall down” - we are called to remind them that God loves all of us completely.  We are his creation, - his children: made in his image.  He wants all of us to be with Him in His eternal Kingdom forever and ever.  He has made a place for each of us to dwell with Him – a home
  • where no tears are shed,
  • where there is no want or deprivation,
  • where conflict and strife do not exist,
  • where each live with dignity and respect – love and peace.

This is the Kingdom of God, the kingdom that “no eye has seen, nor ear has heard, nor can man imagine what God has prepared for those who love Him” – the place where God wants each of us to live - with Him, His children, - the God who is love, - the God who is always seeking us; - always calling to us, - always reaching out to us. 

We are called to remind everyone that God’s love knows no bounds: His forgiveness is endless and everlasting.  We need only to hear his voice: surrender ourselves; falling into his embrace – to enter into His promised Kingdom.

Return to him, for we are his own.  Listen to His call in the quiet of the night and in the roar of the day – at all times:
  • When we are most vulnerable and at risk 
  • When we are miserable and alone
  • When we are wounded and sick
  • When we are angry and bitter - or
  • When we are full of ourselves and in need of humility and God’s grace

Remind those ‘great sinners’ that God seeks us always, -- He is with us always - at the darkest moments of our lives,  - in our tragedy, - in our suffering, - in our pain. And on those brightest occasions – in our triumphs, - in our joys, - in our success.

He is always there watching over us, - loving us, - calling us, - seeing us when we are far away - welcoming us back with great joy and celebration, like the lost lamb, - the misplaced coin or - the headstrong son: Gathering us into his embrace.  For we arenowalways and forever – His beloved children ~Amen

Deacon Don Ron

Sunday, September 8, 2013

23rd Sunday Ordinary Time - Luke 14:25-33 - The Cost of Discipleship

Once again Jesus reminds us of the cost of discipleship.  In harsh and unyielding terms, he tells us that following him is not a casual endeavor or a part time pursuit, but a call of dedication into a new way of life –

away from the comfortable,
away from the familiar,
away from surety of family and friends,
away from our possessions and entertainments
away from the safety and security of our known world:

Taking on a life under the burden of the cross – following in his footsteps, loving as we are loved and living in a radical new way.

Jesus tells us that when the Spirit moves us to follow him, - to become his disciple, - we must make sure of our commitment to this new life – our life in Christ – our life under the cross.  He warns us that this is not an easy life, a life of comfort - where we can be his disciples and still continue in our old ways of living.  It is a radical call to leave behind all our possessions, all our ties to family and community, all the things of this world – to seek God and his Kingdom above.

This is not a life of half measures or for the faint-hearted, but one of total dedication.  Once we begin our journey, Jesus tells us not to look back, - longing for what was left behind, but to go forward - guided by our belief in the Word of God and strengthened in our faith through God’s love and grace.

Our journey should not be clouded with doubts and hesitations.  When we start out on this road of discipleship, we should have a clear understanding of the destination and the costs to reaching our goal.  We need to ask ourselves:

Do we have the strength of belief - to reach the destination?
Do we have the commitment of faith - to stay the course, no matter the hardship? 
Do we have the courage to accept - that we will be challenged and tested along the way? 
Do we recognize that it is only through the love and grace of God - that we will be able to suffer hardship, persecution and rejection for the sake of the Gospel and for the name of Jesus?

In becoming a disciple of Christ, we are not given a promise of a life of ease in this world.  Jesus tells to leave this world behind and to give away all the things we’ve come to know, love and rely on, - so that we may pursue the better things, the higher things, the things not of this world, but the things of the God’s Kingdom.

Jesus warns us that we cannot serve two masters or live two lives.  His disciples, should not be distracted by worldly pursuits –
the things that rust and decay –
the things that are not everlasting –
the things that cannot save -
But focus on what can save, - what is enduring, and everlasting; the Love of God and eternal life in the peace of his heavenly Kingdom.

Jesus promises us that we will not be alone in our journey of discipleship, - but that he will be with us always - until the ends of the earth and that we are beloved children of God, - the God who desires us to be with him forever.  He does promise that when we take up the cross of Christ: our yoke will be easy and our burden light - for he has sent the Spirit to be with us; to comfort us, to guide us and to teach us.

Our call to discipleship, - to a life of wonder and fulfillment in the love of God, - is not something we should take on lightly. Jesus wants us to know that disciples should have their eyes wide open - before entering into this new life – the life of a follower of the Way, the Truth and the Life.  That discipleship in Christ Jesus means leaving behind all the things of this world - that keep us from loving God as God loves us – completely, without question or hesitation – forever and ever ~Amen.

Deacon Don Ron

Monday, August 19, 2013

20th Sunday Ordinary Time - Luke 12:49-53 - A Prophet's Life

My brothers and sisters, Rejoice!
I bring you Glad Tidings and Good News!
I bring you words of hope and encouragement! 
The Lord, your God has mercy and forgiveness for His people. 
The Lord loves His people and desires them to live in peace and prosperity with Him forever and ever!
Sing a new song to the Lord, for he liberates captives, frees the oppressed and comforts the troubled.
In the Lord, find a new day dawning; a day of peace and plenty - where all tears and sorrow are wiped away.

The Kingdom of God is at hand.  Heed His call to repent.
  • Turn away from your old sinful ways and look upon the Lord with joy. 
  • Renew your faith in God and be welcomed into His heavenly Kingdom.
  • Trust in the Lord, your God, to deliver you from domination and despair. 
  • Find in Him new hope and courage to live in freedom – fully human - as beloved children of God! 
  • Throw off the yoke of oppression and sin.
  • Cast aside the things that take away your dignity and respect as humans. 
  • Turn you back on the ways of the world that deny your freedom.
  • Reject those who would do you harm - for their profit; leading you away from the Lord into the hands of the evil-one. 
  • Live as children of the one God, Father of us all, who loves us beyond imagination, gives us all the good things we need and desires us to live with Him in peace and freedom - forever and ever. 
The life of a prophet is not an easy life.  While the prophet brings Good News of hope and peace - in living a new life in the loving embrace of God: he also reminds us that the journey of faith has its risks and requirements. 

God selects his prophets: it is not a chosen career path.  Usually prophets try to talk God out of His bestowing this singular honor on them. Some prophets try to run away, many deny that God has chosen them; all complain to God that it’s a life too hard for them and beg to be relieved of the privilege to represent God to his people.  This is due mostly to the nature of the message God wants His people to hear. 

Telling people about the good things is easy:
  • Peaceful living in a land of milk and honey
  • A life free from sorrow and tears
  • Lives of plenty, free from deprivation and despair
  • No more pain and affliction
  • Liberation from oppression and slavery
  • Delivery from addiction to worldly pleasures

But - telling people they need to change their lives and amend their sinful - destructive ways – that’s the hard part. 

No one wants to be the bearer of bad news - or have to remind people that they need to change their ways; - turning their backs on the treasures of this world to build up treasure in heaven.  It upsets people: it makes them angry and fearful.  No one likes to be reminded that the things they do are against God and that they need to change their wicked ways – even if it’s for their own good.  It makes them want to do things - like – throw you down a well – or nail you to a cross. 
  • Both Jesus and Jeremiah spoke God’s word to His people. 
  • Both reminded the people of God’s love and care for them and God’s desire for His people to be with Him in His heavenly Kingdom. 
  • Both called for rejection of the status quo, to break from the addiction of worldly desires and denounce adherence to evil ways.
  • Both called for the people to repent, ask for God’s mercy and forgiveness - and come to a new life
  • Both Jesus and Jeremiah were seized by those who feared the power of God’s Word - that it would take away their power over the people
  • Both Jesus and Jeremiah suffered for their faith
  • Both Jesus and Jeremiah were raised up – Jeremiah out of the mud - onto solid ground and Jesus to the Glory of heaven. 
Throughout all time God calls to His people to turn away from sin and worldly desire: to turn toward Him – to be loved by Him, to live in peace with Him, to become fully human in Him - His children - forever and ever.
~ Amen.


Deacon Don Ron