Sunday, March 24, 2013

Palm Sunday - Luke 22:14-23, 56

Amen, amen I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you will not have life within you.  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood with have eternal life, and I will raise that person on the last day.  For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in [them].
This is the bread that came down from heaven . . .
. . . whoever eats this bread will live forever.
– John 6: 47-59

When we receive the Blessed Sacrament we take on Christ – Body and Blood –as Jesus initiated at the Last Supper – in the presence of his friends, the Apostles.

John tells us that Jesus’ flesh is true food and his blood true drink.  If we eat His flesh and drink His blood - Jesus will be in us and - we in him - for he is food for life eternal.  We do this in memory of Jesus, as he directed us to do at that table, so many years ago, at each and every Mass.

As we take Christ within us – we also take Christ upon us.  We become Christ to the world through our actions and our speech.  Partaking of the Eucharist is partaking in a great responsibility: - continuing Jesus’ work here on earth.  Fulfilling the two great commandments - Loving God and loving all our brothers and sisters: spreading the Good News of salvation to the world

We are called as Jesus’ disciples to continue to speak His words of Life and Truth – spreading the Good News to everyone we meet.

Jesus is the Bread of Life that leads us to a new life – a Life Eternal with God in heaven. We disciples, live in joyful hope that through the Passion of our Lord – his death and rising to new life – we too will rise – to share in that joyful life eternal.

In Luke’s Gospel we witness the Lord’s sacrifice for our sins and his conquering death – that brings us to life everlasting.  Luke begins the story with the Last Supper - when Jesus gives us the Eucharist – His Body and Blood - on which to feed – It is real food and real drink - that feeds us on our journey to God’s promise of Life Eternal in heaven.

We find the Holy Spirit working in many ways in our lives; bringing us ever closer to God’s promise of his the heavenly kingdom.  A few years ago I came across this Eucharistic story – a story of life, and hope - a story of our life in Christ Jesus.

A Native American Story
An elder Cherokee Native American was teaching his grandchildren about life.

He said to them, "A fight is going on inside is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves.

One wolf represents fear, anger, envy, ego, sorrow, guilt, regret, self-pity, doubt, greed, arrogance, lies, false pride, superiority, and resentment.

The other wolf stands for joy, peace, serenity, faith, hope, sharing, kindness, empathy, friendship, generosity, truth, humility, compassion and love.

This same fight is going on inside all of us; inside every person."

The children thought about this for a while and then one child asked, “Grandfather, "Which wolf will win?"

The old Cherokee simply replied . . .
"The one you feed."

Deacon Don Ron

Saturday, March 16, 2013

3rd Scrutiny - 5th Sunday in Lent - Lazarus, Come Out!

Today we celebrate the Third Scrutiny of our Elect Cameron, as he approaches the final stretch of this leg of his journey into the Catholic Church.  But this is not the end of his journey of discipleship in Christ.  As with all of us, the journey of discipleship continues all our life-long until we are called home by the Lord to rest in His heavenly Kingdom.

The Third Scrutiny is known as an exorcism, but I assure you there will not be any spitting of pea soup or heads spinning around – at least I hope not!

No, this exorcism is the calling out from the Elect - the death-dealing power of the spirit of evil into the light and life of salvation in Christ.

From death of sin into the light of life – not a resurrection, but like Lazarus, a reemergence from a dark and lonely place away into the light and life of the world – Jesus Christ.

In death, Lazarus hears the voice of Jesus and responds –he returns to life.  Our Elect, Cameron too, has heard the voice of Jesus calling to him – Come Out!  Come out of the darkness - into the Light – into the Life eternal and - the heavenly embrace of God.  Live in peace and joy!  Free from the bondage of sin and corruption - into the perfection of God’s love.

We too, in sin, become dead to life, like Lazarus, - but in the death of sin, we too - are still able to hear the words of Life, - the voice of Jesus calling out to us - and respond.  We emerge from that dark and lonely place, through the sacrament of reconciliation, into the Life and the Light of Christ.  We too, like the Prodigal Son, are received into the loving embrace of the Father, - who calls for a celebration in heaven - for the one who was lost and is now found – who lived in darkness and has re-emerged into the Light.

As was Lazarus, - clothed in the bindings of death – a shroud enveloping him, - surrounding him completely – we too are clothed in the deadly trappings of our sinful selves.  And again, like Lazarus, Jesus calls out to the community and fellowship of those around us - to free us from those things that bind us in sin and death. We find our pathway to life through Jesus Christ and with the people of God, the Body of Christ. It is into this community that Jesus calls us back to Life and Love – into freedom - from the bindings of sin that kept us in darkness.  Through His people, - in response to Jesus’ command, - we emerge from this shroud that surrounds us into his Light and new Life.
This is how and why the RCIA, Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults works, - not as a closed group, but as a vital and living action of the salvation of Christ in His Church.  It is the people of God, the church community that works:
·         in prayer,
·         in the example of living a truly Christian life
·         in active participation in the life of the Church and
·         In following Jesus’ command to go and make disciples of all nations. 
To free others from the bindings of sin – bringing them out of darkness - and into the Light

Our Elect, Cameron, comes to us today, not just because he wants to become a Catholic Christian, but because he is called – by God - through Jesus and the Holy Spirit.  And with the help of the holy people of God – he will emerge into the light, life and love of God.
So, let us rejoice in this celebration, as we gather together to witness Christ calling  - “Come Out!”, to our Elect, Cameron, who is in darkness – so that that he may emerge from the tomb of sin and corruption into the Light of Life – as he journeys toward baptism and salvation - to live in the peace and freedom of God’s embrace.


Deacon Don Ron

5th Sunday in Lent - The Adulteress Woman

“In response they went away one-by-one, beginning with the Elders” . . ., “Beginning with the Elders.”
This line, “beginning with the elders”, seems to be a throwaway line added for no real purpose except to give some detail to the scene.  But this seemingly unimportant line is very important to our understanding of the story.  In fact, it is a crucial part of the story.
Let us picture this scene in our minds and look at the characters involved.
 It is a quiet mid-morning, not yet too hot to keep people indoors.  We find Jesus – sitting in the Temple area speaking with the people – instructing them.
There is crowd gathered around him listening – men, boys, young, old – some casual passersby, others intently listening to Jesus’ every word.  There too are those who are spying on Jesus – watching him for their masters - who wish to find something for which they can discredit Jesus.
Suddenly there is a commotion – shouting, jeering and a crowd of men enters into the Temple area before Jesus, roughly dragging a woman.  Jesus recognizes them as elders of the temple, leaders in the community – men of influence and learning - along with their underlings – students and scribes –
NOTE: None in this crowd were among the listeners of Jesus.  They are accompanied by a mixed group of hangers-on – people who joined the procession, attracted by the noise and excitement - curious to see what was going on.
 When they come before Jesus, a buzz goes around the crowd informing all who are present along with the new arrivals that a confrontation is going to take place – maybe a fight – better yet – a stoning!  This woman is an adulteress and, “stoning is how we deal with the likes of her!”
What excitement for the people – a diversion from the everyday humdrum struggle of living.
 The crowd is made up of shop keepers, merchants, shoppers, temple visitors, beggars, idlers, street urchins and travelers – a cross section of the everyday population of Jerusalem.
 The elders confront Jesus and ask him – to trap him with his own words - into either denying the Law of Moses or betraying his own teachings of God’s love and mercy.
And what does Jesus do?  In silence he stoops down and writes in the dust.
 It is left to our imagination what Jesus writes. But what ever it is, it catches everyone’s attention.  All assembled are mesmerized by his reaction and a heavy silence overtakes the crowd.
 The elders again demand Jesus answer their question. Again in silence he looks around the crowd.  Finally, he says, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”  And again he stoops down to write in the dust, in silence.
“And in response, they went away, one-by-one, beginning with the elders.”
The elders looked to trap Jesus with his own words and he defeats their wickedness with his silence.
 In Jewish tradition it is the elders who cast the first stones of punishment.  As the leaders of the community, it is up to them to make the determination of guilt and to begin the punishment for breaking the law after which the rest of the crowd present can join in by throwing their own stones at the sinner.  The elders are the most wise, the most learned.  The people in the crowd have little or no education and are not schooled in the Laws of Moses.  The people look to the elders – relying on their leadership and guidance; to set the pace and tone for all the people to follow.
 How have we changed in 2000 years? 
Who are our elders, - our leaders - today?  Who are ones, we look to for leadership and guidance?  Who do we look up to - to set the pace for the rest of us to follow: politicians – sports figures – entertainers – corporate moguls - teachers - parents? 
And what examples do they set for the people to follow?
 As Christians and as Catholics - do we not look to Jesus for guidance?  Is He not our Elder – our Leader - and our example - for living in peace and love with all our brothers and sisters?
 Whether we are at work, at school, during sports events, participating in civic organizations, and especially while at home – do we not live a Christ teaches - setting good example for others to follow, - especially our young people.
 Jesus’ message of love and mercy is for us all.  He knows that we are each sinners, who desire mercy, forgiveness and love, - not punishment, ridicule and banishment.  He is our Way our Truth and our Life – our example of true Servant Leadership.  He knows what is in our hearts.  He is our Elder – our Leader and our guide: teaching us - not to sit in judgment, - but to love one another as He loves us.
~ Amen

Deaon Don Ron

Sunday, March 10, 2013

2nd Sunday in Lent "Transfiguration"

Lent, on the journey of discipleship, reminds us of the paradox of Christian life.  We anticipate the Lord’s Passion which leads to humility, suffering and death - which then leads us to His Resurrection - to light, glory and life everlasting. 

It is in this paradox that we, as disciples, discover our own journey to the foot of the cross and life everlasting.  As we live in this world - we are called to live not of this world.  We are called to live an extraordinary life.  - A life filled with love, compassion and hope.  - We are called to leave behind the trappings of this world, things that are fleeting, things that rust and disappear in the memory of time, - fame – fortune – worldly (accomplishments, honors) trappings. 

We are called to a life dedicated to the two greatest commandments: - Love of God and - Love of our brothers and sisters: a life praising God and loving as he loves. 

In his great love - we see our call to love.  We are called to care for one another as we would want to be cared for – with the same considerations, compassions and cares – the love of God, the love we need and the love we deserve - as his children.

Lent calls us back into a right relationship with God and with one another.  It is a time for us to pray, to renew our spiritual selves and repair our relationships with all our brothers and sisters in the world.  Lent is a time to reflect on how well we live our discipleship. 

  • Are we living lives of love for God and our brothers and sisters? 
  • Is the path of our journey leading us to God and his Heavenly Kingdom?
  • Do we journey with Christ, carrying our cross with his same humility? 
  • Do we suffer the weight of the cross with his love and compassion? 
  • Do we die on the cross to the sins of this world - Leaving behind the hollow glories of this world; seeking only the Glories of God and his Kingdom?
  • Is our journey bringing us into the Light of God; leading us into Life Eternal?

The voice in the cloud speaks to Peter, James and John, saying, “This is my chosen Son, listen to him.”  They have witnessed Jesus’ transfigured – radiating with the light of God from within.  They have seen Jesus standing with Moses and Elijah, who represent the Law and the Prophets.  Jesus is the summation of God’s compassion for his people, his covenant of love - manifest in Christ.

The voice speaks to each of us too.  God tells us that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life – it is in him, with him and through him – in unity with the Holy Spirit – that our journey of discipleship leads to its happy conclusion – rest and peace in the glory and love of God and Life Eternal.
~ Amen

Deacon Don Ron

4th Sunday in Lent "Lost and Found"

I often find myself getting emotional when I watch news reports of miners being rescued from a collapsed mine or a child rescued from a well.  My emotional level begins to rise, not when I see the rescued persons emerge from their captivity, but when the rescuers and onlookers begin to applaud.  I’ve always marveled at their rejoicing in the return of someone who was lost, but is now found and returned to their families, friends and the life of the community.

I am sure we all can identify with the feeling of loss.  The loss of a loved one is a sharp pain that cuts us to the heart.  It turns our world upside down; leaving us on an emotional rollercoaster.  If we have ever had someone in our family who was gravely ill or injured – hovering between life and death, we know the joy we feel as they recover and are returned back to good health; to be among us in the family or the sadness we feel if they fail to recover.

I vividly remember that terrible feeling of loss when my family thought we had lost my sister in the World Trade Towers.  For many agonizing hours we watched and worried, not knowing if she was among the living or the dead.  We waited and prayed, never wanting to give up hope, but were plunged into despair every time we saw those endless videos of the ruins of the towers.

Finally, late in the evening of the terrible day - there was that glorious phone call that brought overwhelming relief and rejoicing – my sister Martha was alive!

Jesus speaks to us about loss in his parables – the loss of a sheep, the loss of a coin and today, 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 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 strayed children responds to his call and turns his face toward heaven and cries “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.

His forgiveness and mercy is endless.  We only have to ask and he forgives; welcoming us back into his kingdom.  The only unforgivable sin is Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit – which is our turning away from God’s forgiveness.  It is our pride or shame that keeps us from accepting God’s love and mercy – wrongfully thinking that we are unforgivable, unlovable and unwanted.  This is so wrong, - so unnecessary – God loves us completely, we are his creation, - his children: made in his image - to joyfully be with him forever. 

He wants us to return to him, for we are his own and He seeks us constantly – calling to us in the quiet of the night or in the roar of the day –

-       at those times when we are most vulnerable and in need of his love and consolation
-       or when we are full of ourselves and in need of his grace and humility. 

God seeks us always, -- he is with us always - at the darkest moments of our lives, in tragedy, in suffering, in pain or on the brightest occasions – in triumph, in joy, in success – He is always there watching over us, loving us and calling us to rest in his embrace.  For we are – now – always and forever – His beloved children
~ Amen

Deacon Don Ron

3rd Sunday in Lent "The Lord is Kind and Merciful"

How wonderful is our God?  His love and mercy are endless.  As we have difficulty imagining the far reaches of outer-space, we too have difficulty, - in the limits of our humanness, - in understanding the infinite patience, mercy and love God has for us, his beloved children.

Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 2:9:
“Eye has not seen,
Ear has not heard
Nor can the human heart conceive
What God has prepared for those who love Him.”

God’s love is the perfection of love – enduring, limitless, powerful and all-encompassing.  In God’s love we rest in peace and security – without worry or care – in complete knowledge and understanding of its perfection for us.

God’s love is a love that responds to love - in its perfection.  We cannot be loved if we do not respond with love.  God’s love is always open to us, - showering us with his grace.  It is we who need to be open to God’s love - in order to receive his mercy and forgiveness.  We must open ourselves to his grace – through the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

There is only one unforgivable sin: “Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit” – it occurs when we close ourselves off from God’s love and grace.  It is a sin we impose on ourselves – when we do not allow ourselves to bask in God’s complete love. -- In our hard-heartedness, our stubbornness, - we say to God - we are not lovable.  “How can God love me when I have sinned so greatly?”

It is a sin born of selfishness, self-pity and obstinacy.  We place ourselves above God – thinking our sins are so great even God cannot forgive us.  How foolish we are – how vain and arrogant!
Thinking we are so terrible, so sinful, that Our Father in heaven - cannot possible forgive us.  Placing limits on God’s love, we turn away from his mercy and forgiveness and dwell in darkness – away from the light of His love.

The beginning of reconciliation with God is in forgiving ourselves and acknowledging our weakness.  When we recognize our own frailties – our need for mercy and forgiveness - we see how much we need God’s love.  It is then - when we can begin our journey to healing; opening ourselves to the abundance of God’s loving grace – (which showers down upon us like the rays of the sun).

Letting go of ourselves and our attachment to this world, we look to heaven and God’s kingdom with His promise of life eternal.  There is where we shall live forever - in God’s embrace, - the perfection of His love.

Jesus’ teaching in the parable of the fig tree is not to show us that God’s patience has limits, - but to show us that we need to respond to His love – so we may bear fruit.  No matter how sinful we are, how badly we believe we have behaved - God’s love is greater – overcoming all.

Just as the gardener promises to feed, water and nurture the fig tree, God too offers us ample opportunity to be nurtured in his care; responding to his love and grace. 
W  Sending his Word into the world to proclaim the Good News of His Kingdom
W  Sacrificing his Only Son, so that we may be saved. 
W  Sending the Holy Spirit to be with us as comfort and guide.
W  Establishing his Church where we gather together to give him worship and praise
W  Teaching us to pray – saying to us - ask and we shall receive, - seek and we shall find, - knock and the door shall be opened to us.

Everyday we encounter God’s love through opportunities of grace in discipleship in Christ Jesus –
W  loving the poor,
W  helping the lost and disenfranchised,
W  setting captives free;
W  feeding the hungry,
W  sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked and
W  giving comfort to the sorrowful

Jesus warns us that we should look not on the sins of others or accept the sinfulness of the world as excuse - in not fulfilling our call to holiness and obedience to God.  We are to look to ourselves and support one another in keeping holy.

Everyone is subject to the fires of Gehenna - if we do not respond to God’s love and rely on his mercy and forgiveness – which knows no bounds, and has no limits.  He is always ready to forgive; – welcoming the most wretched sinner into his kingdom of Light.
We need only to ask his forgiveness - be open to His love: accepting His gift of mercy to be received in His embrace.

Deacon Don Ron

Sunday, March 3, 2013

RCIA - 1st Scrutiny - 3rd Sunday in Lent "Unbelief to Belief"

This morning we celebrate the First Scrutiny in the Rite of Christian Initiation.  Our Elect, Cameron, will stand before God and His Church as he begins his walk to Jerusalem and his death to sin and resurrection in the New Life through Jesus Christ.

The readings this morning are taken from the lectionary for Year A and are proper to the Rite of Christian Initiation.  The gospel story this morning of the Samaritan Woman at the Well is in its self a journey from unbelief to belief – the same journey each of the Elect make as they heed the call of the Holy Spirit within their hearts and journey from unbelief to belief in Jesus Christ.

What begins for Jesus as an ordinary request for a drink of water becomes an intense catechizing of a sinner; moving this woman from her sinful, unbelieving state into belief.  Through her new belief she becomes an evangelizer for belief in Jesus Christ herself; proclaiming to others that she has found the Christ, the Messiah and inviting them to encounter Jesus.

In her exchange with Jesus, she begins by calling him a “Jew” (Jews and Samaritans were not on friendly terms, so her voice may have had a tone of hostility to it).  As the conversation progresses she calls him, “Sir” three times, each time little softer and gentler.

“Sir, you do not even have a bucket.” – Hostility/Skepticism
“Sir, give me this water. . .” – Asking/Pleading
“Sir, I can see that you are a prophet.” – Honor/Praise

Now the woman recognizes Jesus as a prophet.  And when she goes to the village to tell others of Jesus, she refers to him as the Christ, the Messiah.

This remarkable transition – from unbelief and sin - to belief and grace - mirrors the faith journey of those who come to faith in Jesus through the Church’s Rite of Christian Initiation.  Each traveler on the journey of faith begins in an unsuspecting way – unknowingly responding to the call of the Father in their hearts through the Holy Spirit.  In His love and mercy, He moves each person’s heart into an ever closer encounter and understanding of His Word, Jesus Christ.  Each heart is called and purified – moved from indifference and unbelief – to engagement and belief – so in faith they may rise up proclaiming that Jesus Christ is Lord!

We, like Jesus in the story, are each evangelizers whether we realize it or not.  By our lives, - we walk in faith, - leading others to Jesus.  We speak volumes:
 – In our thoughts,
- In our words and
- In our deeds –
- Of the love of God in our lives. 

We are doing God’s will – calling others to His loving embrace - Calling our family, - Our co-workers - Calling those with whom we socialize - And all other people – whom we encounter in the ordinary moments of our day –
For we are known as Christians by our lives
Our lives in Christ, in the love of God and in the Holy Spirit
Amen ~

Deacon Don Ron