Sunday, December 20, 2015

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Life in Transition
I have not written since before the beginning of Advent.  Life got in the way, but I look forward to resuming with the New Year.

I had some health issues that, through the prayers of many good people and the skills and dedication of my doctors, nurses and caregivers I appear to be on the mend.

Also, during this time I made a change in parish assignments and beginning with the 4th Sunday n Advent,I am serving at the Bishop's pleasure, the community of St. Anthony of Padua in Red Bank.  I am happy and excited to be among these fine people in their growing and diverse community.

I want to wish everyone a blessed and joyful Christmas and peaceful New Year.

Deacon Don

Saturday, October 17, 2015

"A Radical New Way" - 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Mark 10:35-45

Last Sunday we heard in the Gospel how difficult it is for a rich person to get into heaven.  The burden of possessions weighs heavily.

The young man proclaimed himself to be a ‘good person’ but could not bring himself to face the truth Jesus called him into living as his disciple.  For the young man, giving up his worldly possessions was more than he was willing to sacrifice for the kingdom of God. 

It was more than material possessions Jesus was calling the young man to sacrifice.  He challenged him to change his whole way of life; his whole world view.  Jesus called him look at the poor and the whole world in a radical new way.  Behind the young man’s sad face was his fear of changing his heart; of sacrificing his long held understandings of this world.
The Lord said:

“I will sprinkle clean water over you to make you clean; from all your impurities and from all your idols I will cleanse you. I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36: 25-26

Jesus called the young man away from himself.  He called him to seek fulfillment in service to ‘the other’.  To see ‘the other’ with the love of God; taking responsibility for their well-being, their justice and their peace.

Jesus, in today’s Gospel, calls James and John away from seeking glory for themselves into seeking fulfillment in a life of service to ‘the other’.  James and John sought to possess Jesus in a material way; riding on his coat-tails into positions of power and honor. 

But Jesus calls them away from themselves.  He calls them into a radical new way of looking at the world.  He tells all the disciples that those who serve others are true leaders.  They, who give up their lives in service to the needs of ‘the other’, are the ones who gain true glory in the eyes of God.  They shall receive their reward in the love of God; becoming inheritors of His eternal kingdom.

Jesus calls his disciples into a life of sacrifice.  But this sacrifice is not one of loss, as the world thinks of sacrifice. It is a sacrifice of love, of joy and of fulfillment found in the embrace of God. 

Those who serve the least of His children find their reward not in the material things of this world: which decay and do not last; but receive the reward in the ever-lasting glory of God and the peace of His heavenly kingdom. ~Amen

Deacon Don

Sunday, October 11, 2015

"Let Go - Let God" - 28th Sunday Ordinary Time - Mark 10:17-30

“There is a story about a tribe in North Africa with an interesting method for catching monkeys.  The hunter hollows out a gourd; making a hole in its side just big enough for a monkey to insert his open hand.  He then fills the gourd with nuts; tying it to a tree.  The monkey attracted by the smell of the contents, reaches into the opening in the gourd and grabs a handful of the nuts.  Here comes the trick: The hole in the gourd however, is too narrow for the monkey to withdraw his hand while holding a fistful of nuts.  In his greed, the monkey refuses to release the delicacies to extract his hand; allowing him to become easy prey for the hunter. 

If only the monkey would relax his grip on his desired treasure, he would escape capture.  But because of his stubborn refusal to let go of his prized possession, the monkey is easily trapped.”

Let go and let God.  We are called to let go of the things of this world, the things that trap us; keeping us tied to this world: for Jesus came into this world to release us from the world so we can enter with Him into the next: God’s eternal kingdom of glory.

As we see in the Gospel, the act of being holy and holiness are not the same.  We rely on God, through His Holy Spirit, to touch our hearts; making us truly holy, enabling us to keep the things of God ever on our minds and in our hearts; releasing us from the traps of the evil-one through the things of this world.  It is the evil-one’s distractions that keep us from being truly holy.

We are called to trust in God; relying on Him for all our true needs, the desires of our hearts – that lead us to eternal life and the peace of His kingdom.  We are never truly free until we let our Lord free us from enslavement to the things of this world. We do not reject this world, but are called to hold it in proper perspective, so that in our heart – God’s love and His gift of eternal life are held – as our true heart’s desire.

The evil-one sets many attractive traps using very persuasive arguments; attempting to turn us away from becoming fully human, as intended by our Creator.  In the evil-one’s jealousy, because he objects that God made us in God’s image, the evil-one hopes to lure us from the light and salvation through Jesus Christ into the darkness of disobedience and sin, thus thwarting God’s desire for His children to dwell with Him for all eternity.

The evil-one uses the things of this world, - those ever-changing fads, created needs, and must-have-now’s of our secular culture.  His toadies tell us that these things are ever so important and necessary to finding true happiness and fulfillment.  We know them very well.  We are daily bombarded with their messages; playing to our fears and insecurities, our weaknesses and frustrations, our longings and loneliness. – they become the false desires of our heart; turning us away from God and eternal life; trapping us forever in this finite world.

The act of being holy and holiness are not the same.  We can follow the rules and say the prayers, but if we don’t love with the love of God; sharing truly a life in Christ – we can be like the young man, sad - for lacking a heart that loves others with the love we have from God.

We trust in God; relying on His Holy Spirit, to touch our hearts to make us truly holy.  For us holiness is difficult, but with God all things are possible.  Through His grace we keep the things of God ever in our hearts and on our minds, so we find true freedom and peace in letting go of the evil-one’s enticements of this world that distract us; keeping us from finding perfection in God.

If it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven, then we too must ask the same question today that the disciples asked of Jesus, “Then who can be saved?”

I want to finish with this little story from the pages of life.

I knew a man many years ago who owned his own business.  He was a humble worker gifted with a savvy business sense and the ability to make friends easily. As his business grew, as expected, so did his wealth.  Early in his business life he purchased a prized possession - a Corvette.  It bore the license plate ‘Toy’.   In place of pride in his office he had a gilded plaque that read: “He who dies with the most toys -- wins.”

As the business grew over the years he added to his collection of ‘Toys’. Each an increasingly expensive and exotic sports cars.  The license plates of each of these cars also sported the “Toy” license plate, with a little sub-numeral counting up his prize possessions.  When I last saw him he had added four more Toys for himself, not including the one’s he purchased for his wife and children.  Together, they had quite a collection. 

I often wondered about that little sign on his office wall.  It had a prominent position right behind his desk for everyone to see.  What I wondered was, when he died what did he expect to win?

Deacon Don

Sunday, September 27, 2015

"So all might be saved" 26th Sunday Ordinary Time

I haven’t had an opportunity to see all Francis’ speeches or read through them yet, but I have kept up with the highlights of his visit to the United States.  I don’t know how you’ve reacted to what the Vicar of Christ has had to say, but his words have certainly made me squirm a bit and somewhat uncomfortable.  I find his words refreshing – not that he is saying anything new, - saying things I haven’t heard before.  I find them a refreshing reminder of our baptismal call as disciples of Jesus Christ, children of the One God: Father of us all.  He, who’s Holy Spirit fills us, so we may live in His love.

Francis reminds us to love one another as we are loved by God.  He reminds us that we are called to express our love for God in how well we love “The Other” – the least of His children: the poor, the vulnerable, the forgotten.  Our love of God is made manifest in our love for those who are helpless, lost and despairing – the ones damaged by life and left behind by the grind of this world.

Francis reminds us that we are God’s heralds – called to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ to the world.  Jesus’ message of salvation and reconciliation with God, our Father needs to be heard by everyone.  His disciples are called, - we are called, - to go out into the world, especially those dark lonely corners - to bring His Good News to our brothers and sisters trapped in the grip of the evil one.  We are called to speak the words of truth and life in the shadows, so those who live in despair may find hope and walk in the light of Christ.

(And) Just as God gave Adam responsibility for care of the Garden of Eden and all the plants and animals that dwell within, His Holiness reminds us of our responsibility of the stewardship of the God’s gift of this world.  This too, is how we love God in our love for one another, by ensuring that this gift to all people – our earthly home – is kept healthy, vibrant and nurturing - for all people today and for all future generations – until the Lord returns to bring us into our new home – His heavenly kingdom.  How well we care for our earthly home and share its bounty with one another is our legacy of love for our children, their children and their children’s children - until the end time.

By the crowds we see wherever the Pope goes we encouraged by how he inspires people, this remarkable man, this Vicar of Christ.  Francis attracts so many by his life of love for others and his humble simplicity.  As far as discipleship goes – Francis is the real thing!

It is our hope and prayer that the upsurge of attention Francis brings to the Catholic Church will translate into genuine conversions, returns and renewals in Jesus Christ and His Church.   But Francis cannot do this alone.  He encourages each one of us to follow the words of our Lord and Savior, to live out our baptism, by going forth to “make disciples of all nations.”  Francis reminds us that we are called by Jesus to bring the Good News to the world. 

This is what I find refreshing in the words of Francis – his reminder of that Jesus calls all of us to live out our vocation as disciples by loving as we are loved by sharing His Word of salvation, so all might be saved. ~Amen.

Deacon Don

Saturday, September 19, 2015

25th Sunday Ordinary Time - "Teachers of the Faith" - Catechetical Sunday

Today we celebrate Catechetical Sunday

In the Rite of Baptism parents are asked what they desire of the Church in the name of their child.  They always respond (with some prompting) – ‘Baptism’.  The celebrant then says, “In doing so you are accepting the responsibility of training (your child) in the practice of the faith.  It will be your duty to bring them up to keep God’s commandments as Christ taught us, by loving God and neighbor.  Do you clearly understand what you are undertaking?”  And they always answer with an enthusiastic – “Yes!”

From the very beginning parents are the primary catechists in the Church.  They are the ones who plant the seeds of faith in their children and develop their practices of our faith traditions and belief in Christ Jesus.  They develop their child’s knowledge of God and keep God’s love for his people alive in the hearts of future generations.

It is often heard that our young are falling away from the faith and its practices. But there is great evidence that young people today are yearning for faith and a more involved spiritual life.  Statistics in the western world indicate a moderate to sharp increase in young people seeking God.  But who will give them direction toward the One God and the teachings of Our Lord, Jesus Christ?

Where are these young people to learn about Jesus, our Savior? Where are they to hear of the love of God for His people? From whom will they discover and practice the traditions of our Church?  Who will be their guides and leaders in word and example of the teachings of our Lord, Jesus that will lead them into salvation and life eternal?

It is up to each of us, parents, guardians, family members AND catechists to pass on our belief in Jesus Christ found in His Church.

Parents are always the primary catechists of the Church, the heads of the domestic Church where children learn from watching and listening to their parents.  The most important formative and learning time in a child’s life is in the first five years, but continues with reinforcement throughout their young lives. When they are home with their parents and family they learn to do and say what they see and hear.  It is in the home where the strength of what they learn about God will prevail over the teachings of the world, where the prince of evil prevails.

Any teacher will tell you, if you want to know the views of the parents, ask their children the questions for an unfiltered response.

Young children are like little sponges, absorbing everything parents and family members do and say.  It is where they learn all the basic about life and survival. 
  • Home is where they learn about God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. 
  • In the home is where they learn the teachings and practices of the faith: saying prayers, going to Church and loving others. 
  • Home is where they develop their moral theology and ethical outlooks which they bring into the world. 
  • At home they learn to express love and care for others and a respect and dignity of their own humanness.

Our catechists build on the faith practices the child has learned in the home.  Catechists are not the primary teachers of the faith, but are they who, with an expertise in teachings of the Church, help our young people learn more fully of the details of living our faith.  
  • Catechists bring a more developed grasp of the teachings of our Lord to young persons and help them in their understanding and development of our faith practices.  They do not instill faith, but augment existing beliefs found and practiced in the home. 
  • Catechists do not teach young people of the existence of God and His love for His children, but build on what they learn in the home about the many ways God loves us and His desire for us to be with Him for all eternity. 
  • Catechists bring a fuller understanding of our faith practices through explanation, but it is in the home where young people learn to practice their faith by watching, listening and following the faith lived out in their family.

We owe a great debt of gratitude to our catechists, who prepare themselves to teach our young people; sacrificing their time to teach and showing their love of God through their care and concern for our young people. 

We also want to celebrate all our families and guardians who pass on their belief in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior to their children by word and practice in the home.  They are the primary teachers of God’s love to all our young people.  It is in the home where the seeds of faith fall on fertile ground to be nourished and fed to grow fruitfully and multiply.

May God bless you abundantly in all you do in His Holy Name. ~Amen

Deacon Don

Monday, September 14, 2015

24th Sunday Ordinary Time - "Taking Up Our Cross" - Mark 8:27-35

Every time I hear or read this passage of Mark’s Gospel I am reminded of the Flip Wilson Show character, Geraldine.  Geraldine was always being tempted by the devil into doing things that were bad for her.  In one particular episode Geraldine was shopping.  She spotted a very fine dress with a very high price tag. 
The devil said to her, “That’s a very nice looking dress.”
And Geraldine replied, “But, its’ too expensive.”
The devil said, “Killa (her boyfriend) would like you in that dress, go ahead - try it on.”
Geraldine replied, “Yeah, Killa likes me looking good, but the dress is still too expensive.”
The devil said, “You deserve a nice dress like that – you look good in red.”
Geraldine answered, “Devil, you are tempting me bad – Get behind me Satan! – and tell me just how fine this dress looks from the back.”

Jesus admonishes Peter with these same words, “Get behind me, Satan.  You are not thinking as God does, but as human beings do.” 

Is this not the challenge for human beings – to think as God thinks while we struggle through this secular world? 
Is it possible – to live in this world and think as God does?

Each day we are challenged to think like God; in our families, in our workplace, in our politics, in our social relationships.  The secular world expects us to conform our faith and our beliefs to its expectations – often requiring and sometimes even legislating us to blot out God; keeping Him from our daily lives.

With such obstacles always before us, it is a great challenge to think like God in the everyday.  How do we reconcile the world’s expectations with our own Christian identity as we juggle family obligations, work and social pressures?

We do so by remembering the two greatest commandments: “Love God above all else and love one another as we would love ourselves”.  Living this way is to live as a disciple of Christ, -- to wear the name Christian; -- to live in this world, but to be from above; conducting our lives true to the Word of God; removing ourselves from secular world’s measures; viewing the world with God’s eyes -- by His measures.  Using the Word of God as the measure by which we live and make decisions; taking up our Cross, not as a burden of sorrows and sins, but as a banner of triumph and truth.

Jesus tells his disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the Gospel will save it.”

When we shoulder our cross – we stand tall – recognized as Christians, believers in the Word of God; -- standard bearers of God’s truth in the world. 

  • In His Word we find truth – as we pray, study and meditate on Christ’s teachings, His truth and His wisdom is revealed to us.
  • We see His truth in respect for all life – from conception to natural death – That each of us receives life as a precious gift from God.
  • We see His truth in the dignity of all mankind – we see each person as equal; a child of God who deserves the same love, respect and opportunities to life we each desire.
  • We see His truth in our oneness as a human family – we see everyone - everywhere as our brother and sister – that when one suffers we all suffer -- our local actions have global consequences; making us responsible for each other.
  • We see His truth in our treatment of the poor – that those with the least must have a share in God’s bounty.
  • We see His truth in His love for us and in His command to love one another – love, like God, is our alpha and omega.

There is great struggle and responsibility in living truly as disciples of Christ – bearing the cross of Christ; wearing the name Christian.  We have many forces working against us each and every day.  As disciples we are called to think, speak and act in the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ – bringing His Word of salvation to the world.
  • As disciples we know we can rely on God’s grace to give us strength and courage to stand up to evil and work for good.
  • As Christians, we stand together with Christ, against those who would diminish us; working to remove God from our lives. 
  • As believers in the Word made flesh, we resist the work of the evil-one who uses cunning and violence under the guise of worldliness and necessity to enrich themselves and oppress others.
  • As brothers and sisters of Christ, children of God, we are stewards of this world – reaping what we sow, -- let us sow the seeds of love, good will and peace; replacing the weeds of hate, malice and discord.
Let us be recognized as Christians by our lives in Christ Jesus.  Let our eyes be filled with the Truth and glory of God as we look to a life everlasting in His heavenly kingdom.  Let us put Satan and all his distractions behind us; -- taking up our cross, walking with Christ, losing our lives to this world, so we may gain salvation and life eternal in the glory of God’s Kingdom. ~Amen

Deacon Don

Sunday, August 30, 2015

"Quality Time - 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time - Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

We may well ask ourselves why the disciples did not follow the traditions of the Pharisees, after all they too were Jews raised in the practices of Judaism.  Did they stop following the traditional rituals when they became disciples of Jesus?  Were they rebelling against their traditional rituals because of Jesus’ teachings?

The short answer is - no.  

Jesus’s followers did not follow the rituals as did the Pharisees because of the lives they led.  They were not in the habit of washing before meals or ritually cleaning their cups, bowls and vessels because these practices were not practical to their life style.  As laborers, fishermen, carpenters or outcast sinners like tax collectors, these ritual practices were not realistic in their everyday world.  

Where would these common working folk find clean water to wash or clean cups while fishing in the sea or working in the fields?  As public sinners, why would tax collectors or anyone from any other ‘sinful’ profession, practice these rituals of holiness– what would be the point? As far as the Pharisees were concerned – these sinners could never be acceptable to God?

So, the Pharisee’s criticism against the disciples was really a criticism against Jesus for not gathering the righteous as His followers. Pharisees, who through their privileged lives, were able to follow the rules of righteousness: Rules of holy practice, where they had the time do follow the rituals and impress one another with their elaborate outward signs of holiness. These were just too impractical for the common person to follow.  

The faith rituals of the Pharisee’s were only for those whose life styles afforded them the time to practice.  To them, God’s love was not for the common man, the lowly, the poor, the working class because those people, made unclean by their lifestyles of labor, were unable to follow the rules. Therefore, these disciples of Jesus could not be considered righteous enough to follow a true prophet.

The Pharisees lost sight of the real purpose behind their devotion to God.  They allowed following the rules to replace true faith in and worship of God.  For them it was easier to perform outward signs of holiness than to be filled with the Spirit of God.  Their rituals replaced turning to their Creator in prayer and contemplation to love and praise Him for all He had done for them.  Their outward signs of ritual served only to show others their faith; replacing their inner devotion to God.

In our own lives, do we take time to examine our faith practices?  Do we ask ourselves if our faith practices and rituals lead us into an ever closer relationship with God?  Do we renew and refresh our faith devotions, so they lead us into a deeper and ever more fruitful relationship with our Lord?

One of my pet peeves in my daily travels to Newark is seeing young people wearing the Rosary around their necks, like jewelry.  I like to delude myself that the Arch-Diocese is having a resurgence in vocations or their new evangelizing efforts are truly amazing, but sadly I come to realize it is just a cool thing, an accessorizing thing, among the young.  I’m often tempted to ask them if they pray that Rosary.  (This may be a good starting point for evangelizing.)

In our lives, when we say the Rosary, do we sometimes rush through the prayers to ‘get-'er-done' or do we make the time to really contemplate on the mysteries?  

  • Do we carry a Rosary because it’s what Catholics do or do we take the time to say the prayers; allowing them to lead us into a deeper communion with Jesus in our devotion and supplications through Mary, His Mother?
  • Do we make the sign of the cross as we pass in front of a Catholic Church?  If we practice this devotion, is it merely a rote reaction or do we take that moment to remind ourselves of our Lord’s loving sacrifice on the cross and His presence in the Tabernacle?
  • When we pray, do we focus on speaking and listening to the Lord or do our thoughts wander to other things?  

Now, just to be perfectly clear - I must confess that this is auto-biographical - I struggle with each of these and more.

I know, we are not nuns living in cloister or monks dedicated to a life of work and prayer within the walls of our monastery – we are living in the world, as is our station in life.  Our lives are our vocation: To live in the world, but to not be part of the world.  To live out this vocation we are called to keep our mind and our heart on God, our Creator and our Savior, Jesus and the Holy Spirit through our devotions and practices.  We do these things so they may lead us into a closer relationship with God.

We all have our work, our families and friends, our interests and activities that constantly demand our attention; calling us away, but we are also called to make room for the Lord in our lives.  Our devotions should always remind us to take that moment to open our hearts to God’s love and spend time with Him, who loves us and is always calling us to return to His embrace.

So, no matter what our station in life or how much time we devote to our Lord, no matter what devotional habits we may practice – do them with sincerity of heart and openness to God.  Be in awe of God’s love.  Spend that moment, that devotional hour, those precious minutes set aside for prayer or whatever other ‘Catholic-thing’ we do - as quality time with the Lord.  Let that time, even if it’s just a quick moment, be fruitful.  Let Him gaze upon you as you contemplate Him and allow His love to penetrate your heart. ~Amen

Deacon Don

Sunday, August 16, 2015

20th Sunday Ordinary Time - John 6:51-58 - "The Goodness of the Lord"

“Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.”

How do we contemplate on the manna, the bread provided by God for the people in the desert and the Bread of Life found in Jesus Christ?

Manna filled the people’s bodily needs, but did not satisfy their spiritual want.  This bread provided by God for the people came down in response to their complaining of hunger, but was not the bread of salvation.  This was not the Bread of Everlasting Life.  For they ate it, but were still hungry the next day and still died in their time.

While their bellies were filled each day, the manna did not satisfy their spiritual hunger, it did not advance them in the ways of understanding.  Manna was not bread prepared by Wisdom.  Despite all God had done for the people in delivering them from slavery and hardship in Egypt, they still complained against Him.  In their foolishness, they failed to understand the will of God and His great love for them.  Despite all they had witnessed of God’s power and protection; delivering them from the hands of Pharaoh, they persisted in their complaints and grumbling; failing to give thanks to God for all they received.

Manna was not the bread of salvation.  It was not the bread of everlasting life.  Taking this bread into them did not given them more than immediate; fleeting satisfaction.  Each day they had to gather up what God provided and remained foolish, not making the most of the opportunity to understand.

“Whoever eats this bread and drinks this blood has eternal life and I will raise him on the last day.”

Jesus is”  

"(This) . . . is the bread which came down out of heaven; not as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever."

Jesus is the one who satisfies our hunger and thirst – He is real food and real drink.  Taking in His flesh and drinking His blood brings us eternal life and understanding of the Truth of God.  He is the table prepared by Wisdom, so we may partake and advance in understanding.

Jesus gave us the Eucharist as a reminder to give Thanksgiving to God for all He has done for us and to remember Him: His life, death and resurrection – that brings us salvation and everlasting life.  Eating the body and blood of Jesus is much more than consuming the Eucharist at mass.  Jesus wants us to remember not just what was, but what is: – our newness of life, our life changed forever – our life given to us in baptism, sealed in the Holy Spirit and strengthened in the Eucharist when we take on Christ - Body and Blood, His Soul and Divinity.  

The full understanding of taking the Bread of Life within ourselves, I believe is best summed up by the Apostle Paul when he declared, 

“It is no longer I who live, but Christ (who) lives in me; and the life which I now live - in the flesh - I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”

Our vocation as believers in Jesus Christ is to live in the fullness of all He teaches, imitating His life within our station – loving as we are loved all our brothers and sisters.  We are baptized to live in this world as Christians, followers of Jesus Christ, but not to be of this world - the dominion of the evil-one.  We surrender our lives to Jesus in the Eucharist – taking within ourselves the fullness of His life, death and resurrection: guided by the Spirit; living as He lived – with love, mercy and compassion for all our heavenly Father’s children.  

For Jesus is the Bread of Everlasting Life, food: unlike the manna in the desert that was sufficient only for the day.  He is that everlasting food that satisfies our every need; giving us eternal peace, joy, love and life that leads us home - into the heavenly kingdom, where He lives and reigns with the Father and Holy Spirit – One God forever and ever. ~Amen
Deacon Don

Sunday, August 9, 2015

19th Sunday Ordinary Time - John 6:41-51 - "Feasting on the Bread of Life"

Jesus proclaims, “I am the Bread of Life.”  
”I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I give is my flesh for the life of the world.”

What is this teaching?  What is Jesus saying to us? 

As God fed the Jews in the desert with manna, the ‘bread of angels’, to sustain them on their journey to the promise land, we too are fed by Jesus, the Bread of Life, on our journey toward the heavenly kingdom.  But how are we fed?  How do we ‘eat the flesh’ of Christ?  How do we consume Jesus, taking Him within ourselves, so we may have life?

Of course, we have the Eucharist.  We have the bread and wine consecrated in the sacrifice of the mass, established by Jesus at the Last Supper.  Bread and wine transubstantiated – miraculously changed – becoming His Body and Blood – Soul and Divinity.  The Bread we eat, the flesh of Christ, given for the life of the world.

There is more to our understanding though.  The scholars of Israel saw the Torah, the Law given to them by God, as being bread of heaven.  They consumed this “bread” through study and adherence to the Law of God.  Many of the prophets described their study of God’s Law as ‘eating the scrolls’ upon which God’s Law was written.  The Jewish people understood that this was the only way to God – faithful learning and practice of the Law.  So, the idea of consuming God’s word – eating the bread of God - was already an established concept in the time of Jesus. 

Jesus is the Word of God, the Bread come down from heaven.  He is the Way, the Truth and the Life.  We can only come to the Father through Him, who is the Truth of God that leads to eternal Life.  Through Him we come to know God’s love and mercy.  In the giving of his flesh on the cross we have salvation; leading to eternal life.

But how does this Bread of Life act on my life?  
How am I changed when I eat the Bread of Life, the flesh of Jesus Christ?  
What did the Lord mean when He told Elijah to get up and eat the cake He gave him, ‘else the journey will be too long for him’?  
How do we understand the Lord when He said, ‘Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God?’

When we receive the Bread of Life, Jesus in the Eucharist, we are called to put on Christ, to surrender to the Holy Spirit and allow God to dwell within us.  We are called to be changed.  We are called to enter into a closer relationship with Jesus; living fully in God’s image and likeness.

To enter into this closer relationship with Jesus: to become His disciple, is to be like the prophets ‘eating the scrolls’.  It is to live more fully in the Lord Jesus as His disciples.  To be His disciple be His follower; bringing His Good News to the world, living as He lived, and loving as He loves.  Discipleship is learning to be like Jesus – watching Him, listening to Him, sharing with Him, imitating Him: entering fully into His life.  Coming into a close, personal relationship with Jesus; calling Him our Lord and Savior.

As with all relationships, we get out of them what we put into them.  If they are casual and occasional relationships, they cannot be called really close and personal – they are more of a nodding acquaintanceship rather than a true relationship.  But if our relationships are filled with interest in and intimate knowledge of the other: marked by daily encounters and intimacy, they become intense and personal: loving, caring and enduring - very much like the relationship Jesus desires to have with each one of us.  

We grow our relationship with Jesus through a lifetime of prayer, reading scripture (to know scripture is to know Christ) and Eucharist, which brings us ever closer to Him.  Our relationship becomes a comfortable friendship, like the relationship God had with Adam and Eve in the Garden before the fall.  As we speak with Jesus, listen to Jesus and be present with Him, we move into this ever closer personal relationship with Him.  

In this way we receive Jesus in the fullest – feasting on the Bread of Life – the food that fills us and satisfies our hunger for the holy.  He is the One who provides for us and the whole world, so we may have enough to eat, “else the journey will be too long” for us as we move toward eternal life. ~Amen

Deacon Don

Sunday, August 2, 2015

18th Sunday Ordinary Time - John 6:24-35 - 'Food for Life'

We are a fickle people.  In this we must be truly amazed at God’s faithfulness and His love for us.

We hear of the Israelites complaining to Moses and Aaron that their new life of liberation was too hard for them.  In slavery they were given food to eat and places to rest – no matter how poor and despicable.  In their short and convenient memory, living in slavery was not so bad compared to their present lives of living in God’s promise of a land of their own and freedom from captivity.  Despite all they witnessed of what God has done for them, they cry out against Him; lacking in faith and trust in His word of promise.
Their immediate comforts take precedence over God’s promise.  The growling in their empty bellies and their parched throats are enough for them to desire a return to their miserable life in slavery over God’s promised gift of freedom.  The expediency of immediate gratification surpasses the sacrifice needed for true liberation and a new life of eternal joy and peace.

During their captivity in Egypt, the people cried out to God to set them free from bondage.  They cried for release from the hardship of their desperate lives, so they may have a new life – a life of peace and prosperity; living in a land of milk and honey.  
While bearing their yoke of enslavement, they prayed to God to hear and answer their cries for mercy.  They swore faithfulness to the God of their fathers, the God who promised to set them free.    For all their years in slavery, they held true to their faith in God as their hope for freedom and a new life.

God calls us all, His children, to this new life.  This new life is not our old life without the things that are bothersome or troubling.  No, this is not our old life with a do-over.  This call to new life is a radical departure from the old ways in which we live.  By our baptism we are called to put on this new life in Christ Jesus.  H calls us away from who we were to become who we really are – children of God - a new creation – “renewed in the spirit of our (your) minds and putting (put) on a (the) new self, created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth.” 

John’s Gospel, tells us of how the people followed after Jesus because he fed them.  Their immediate need for nourishment were met and they worried about receiving their next meal – such is life.  They worried about this life and this world, not knowing or understanding the truth of Jesus.  Still thinking about filling their bellies, they ask Jesus what they must do to get their next meal.  

He tells them that they are to seek the food that will bring them eternal life.  Food, not sufficient for the day, but lasting food for all eternity – belief in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, whom the Father has sent into the world.

It is Jesus who is this food of everlasting life, the bread that comes down from heaven.  Jesus is the food the Father sends His children, in His love and faithfulness, to nourish them and fill them.  Belief in the Father through His Son, Jesus brings us to our new life.  Jesus Christ is the One who brings us new life in His Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity; sustaining and renewing us, so we may never be hungry: never be thirsty again – Jesus Christ is the Bread of Life Eternal.  ~ Amen.
Deacon Don

Sunday, July 12, 2015

15th Sunday Ordinary Time - Mark 6: 7-13 - "Blessed and Sent"

Today we hear of the prophet Amos, a messenger sent by God to warn the people of Israel to turn away from their corrupt ways.  At this time the land of Israel was divided into two kingdoms, Judah in the south and Israel in the north.  While Judah was poor and humble, Israel was rich and powerful.  With their vast wealth and power came corruption and wanton living.  In their social depravity they worshipped many gods of their own making, turning away from the Law of the One True God.

The people of Israel lived in a land of plenty; sharing its bounty only among the rich and powerful.  They built temples to their own gods and created festivals and feasts to celebrate those things they held in high esteem – wealth and pleasure, fortified by sacrilegious practices.  They exploited the poor and sold them into slavery.  They created unjust laws that benefited their luxuriant ways of life, betraying the innocent and powerless; having no pity on the lowly, especially those who without a voice.

Into this land of Israel the Lord sent His servant Amos.  Now, Amos was a simple man, a commoner who tended sheep and dressed sycamores (someone who, with a sharp stick, pierces the hard shell surrounding the small fig-like fruit of the sycamore tree, so they will ripen).  Amos was not a scholar of the Law or an experienced teacher, but he was a just man: faithful and obedient servant of the Lord.  

Amos came to the king of Israel’s high priest, Amaziah, to warn the king and the people to turn away from their corrupt ways and unacceptable practices.  He admonished them for their injustices to the poor and marginalized and their worship practices that were offensive to God.

For Amos’ preaching to the people to turn back to God and to, “. . . let justice flow like water and integrity like an unfailing stream.” Amaziah accuses Amos of plotting against the king and of being a prophet in the pay of one of the king’s enemies.  He denounces Amos; ordering him to leave the land of Israel, to go prophesy in his own land of Judah and cease haranguing the people of Israel.  

Amos counters Amaziah’s accusations and command to leave, telling him that he is a just and simple man, a humble servant of the Lord and that it was God himself who sent Amos to Israel, saying, “Go, prophesy to my people, Israel.”

Just as God sent Amos to the people of Israel, Jesus sends his disciples to preach among the people.  He sends them out two by two, on their first foray into a hostile world; warning them to take nothing extra, no food, no sack, no money – no second tunic, but only a walking stick and sandals on their feet.  They are to accept the hospitality of those who welcome them and shake the dust off their feet against those who will not accept their message of repentance of their sins.  

In doing so, Jesus echoes the encounter of Amos in the land of Israel.  His disciples are to be God’s messengers, simple and humble.  They are to have no attachments or burdens; relying solely upon God’s mercy for all their needs - for He will provide, as they go about preaching His word of repentance, healing the sick and casting out demons in His name.  
"For they are blessed by God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,who has blessed them in Christwith every spiritual blessing in the heavens,as he chose them in him, before the foundation of the world,to be holy and without blemish before him." 
We too have our commission and blessing from God, as his chosen ones: To make known His love for all His children and His gift of salvation through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus.   We are to rely on God’s love and mercy; taking nothing with us except His Word and the love with which we are loved, as we go about bringing His Good News to all the world.

God chooses the weak things of the world to humble the mighty in making his kingdom known.  We each, as disciples of our Lord, Jesus, are blessed and sent, like Amos and the ‘Twelve’, to “Go, prophesy to my people Israel.” We are called to speak the Word of God in faith and truth, with simplicity and humbleness of heart, His message of repentance of sins and His gift of salvation through His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Today, we are called to speak out God’s Word in a hard-hearted and sinful world, as did Amos, the ‘Twelve’ and all God’s messengers throughout the ages.  We faithful disciples of the Lord are called and blessed by God to speak His Truth, His Love and His desire for all His people so they may cling to Him in this world, and so they may take their rightful place in His kingdom of peace and everlasting life. ~ Amen


Deacon Don

Saturday, July 4, 2015

14th Sunday Ordinary Time - Mark 6:1-6 - "I am with you always"

“Do not be afraid!”
“Trust in the Lord!”
“Take heart! I have overcome the world”

These are trying times, especially for Christians.  It is never easy bringing the Word of God to the world.  The evil-one works hard to cloud people’s minds; preventing them from hearing the Truth, seeing the Way and gaining the Life of God’s promise to those who love Him.

We hear today of the challenges facing those who bring the Good News to the people; doing the good works of God and speaking God’s message of love and salvation for His children

God tells Ezekiel that he is sending him to prophecy among those who have rebelled against Him.  The “Hard of face and obstinate of heart. . .”  These are the ones who have completely rejected all that God has done for them. They have chosen to follow and worship gods of their own desires.  God tells Ezekiel that whether they heed him or not, they are to know, by his presence, in the power and truth of God’s message: that a prophet, a messenger from God, has been among them.

Now, being a prophet of God was a challenging task, especially when God tells you that He is sending you among those who are set against Him.  What we do not get in today’s reading is what God tells Ezekiel in the next line:

“But as for you, son of man, fear neither them nor their words when they contradict you and when you sit on scorpions.  Neither fear their words nor dismay at their looks for they are a rebellious house.”

“When you sit on scorpions . . .” Wow!  Fear not! Trust in the Lord! 
God takes care of His children, his chosen ones – those who speak His Truth even when they fall among the scorpions in a rebellious world.  Trust in God and be not afraid to speak the Truth even when we know the words we speak in His name will be despised, scorned and rejected.  If we love the Lord, we cannot do otherwise, but speak His Truth.

Paul cries, “. . . a thorn in the flesh was given me and an angel of Satan, to beat me . . .” begging God to relieve him of these afflictions, as he was bringing Christ to the people.  

Even this great Apostle to the Gentiles was afflicted with trials and challenges while doing the work of the Lord.  An easy pathway of discipleship is not promised to God’s chosen ones.  His grace and love is our only consolation in this world, giving us the courage and power to endure all things.

Paul was challenged by false prophets who sought to usurp and corrupt the Word of God to their own purposes, to their ways in the world.  They tried to discredit Paul and sway people to turn away from his message of God’s love and salvation through Jesus Christ.  Paul’s lament points the people to Jesus and away from himself.  It is in bringing the Truth of Jesus that gives Paul his strength, enabling him to endure all hardship, insults and persecutions, “for the sake of Christ.”

Even those who should have loved Jesus best, family, friends and hometown villagers, turned their back on him, questioning his word and the things that he had done, ‘healing the sick, raising the dead, giving sight to the blind and curing the deaf and the lame’.  Among his own people he was not able to do any of these things, except for a curing a few sick people – most likely visitors from out of town.

His own people failed to see the Truth of Jesus’ words.  They were blinded by their preconceptions of the Jesus whom they thought they knew so well.  Can you not hear them saying, ‘I know Jesus. I helped his Mother change his nappy!’ or ‘Isn’t that the kid who was always wandering off, worrying his parents to no end?’

  • How many of us have had this similar experience among our own family and friends?  
  • How many of us have known someone who became famous before they achieved their fame?  What did we say or think about them?

So, even Jesus was challenged to bringing His message of God’s love and salvation to the people.  His message fell on deaf ears and was outright rejected as being too hard to follow.  As Christians, as witnesses of the Truth of God’s love for the world, as evangelizers of the Word of God – Take heart! Be not afraid!

The love of Christ impels us to, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit . . .” But, we say, ‘How can we do this - these are challenging times, this is an increasingly hostile world!’  

Not more so than the times faced by Ezekiel or by Paul or by any others who speak God’s Truth to the world. And we have courage in Christ Jesus, who loves us so much that He overcame the world through His death on the cross.  

Jesus has not, nor will he ever, abandon us, for He continues His challenge of evangelizing the world with these words of encouragement and consolation, “And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”  Amen.

Deacon Don

Saturday, June 27, 2015

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time - "RETREAT!"

View from the Conference Room patio - San Alfonso Retreat House
The annual Diocese of Trenton retreat for Deacons is being held this weekend at 'God's Beach House', the San Alfonso Retreat House on the Jersey Shore.

This is such a peaceful place where one can be in prayer and meditation with the soft sounds of waves touching the shore; lulling you into a deeper contemplation of the Lord.  It is a time to relax, reflect and be reconciled as you recharge your spiritual battery for ministry.

Our retreat director, Father John McGowan, C.Ss.R. joked that a retreat, as once described by someone from the military, was "moving forward in a different direction."  I think this is a good description of what is needed for each of us in ministry - taking time to reassess, refresh and renew our efforts, so we may 'move forward in a different direction' to answering the Lord's call to 'make disciples of all nations' as we witness and bring the Word of God to the world.

May the peace of the Lord be with you always.

Deacon Don

Sunday, June 21, 2015

12th Sunday Ordinary Time - Mark 4:35-41 - "Where is the Love of God"

The tragic events of this past week cannot be ignored or forgotten.  This selfish act of violence of one person against another has left children without a mother, separated from a father: with deep wounds and hurt that will never be forgotten; carried beyond this generation.

We mourn and pray for these children, their suffering family and all others deeply affected by this senseless evil.  Our hearts fill with the compassion of Christ for these innocents.  In God’s love, forgiveness and mercy, we are called to support and care for those affected by this wickedness with the understanding that what affects one, affects all and the sufferings inflicted upon one child of God is a suffering inflicted upon all His beloved children.

As our community comes together in our Christian response to this terrible evil, with so many joining as one in the Body in Christ: each part of the whole doing what they are able to make the love of God present, we ponder this tragic story; asking for God’s help to understand; giving us strength and guiding us in our faith.

In the many conversations I’ve had with parishioners, staff and others, one image has remained with me.  It had to do with that ‘moment-in- time’ for our sister Tami near the end of this tragic event.  All the anger, sadness, confusion, denial, horror, – all the human emotions racing through her mind and heart that can be summed up in one word – fear.  It is in this ‘moment-in-time’ where we may well ask, “Where is the love of God?”

At the point where fear, pain and suffering reached beyond endurance – that is the moment where God’s love reached out to Tami. 

Quicker than light fills a dark room with the flick of a switch – the Glory of God filled Tami with His mercy and love. 

At that moment, when she felt most alone and afraid, - Jesus was there - reaching out; enfolding her in His arms – taking into His wounds all her pains, sorrows and suffering. 
At that moment, Jesus raised her up in the Glory of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit; bringing her home to her eternal dwelling place.

I ask you to take time to pray, read and contemplate on St. Paul’s 2nd letter to the Corinthian chapter 5: verses 1-10, and read again Mark’s Gospel of the power, majesty and glory of God, especially meditating on Jesus’ questions to His disciples, “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?

2 Corinthians 5:1-10
1a For we know that if our earthly dwelling,* a tent, should be destroyed, we have a building from God, a dwelling not made with hands, eternal in heaven.
2* For in this tent we groan, longing to be further clothed with our heavenly habitationb3 if indeed, when we have taken it off,* we shall not be found naked.
4 For while we are in this tent we groan and are weighed down, because we do not wish to be unclothed* but to be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.c5 Now the one who has prepared us for this very thing is God,d who has given us the Spirit as a first installment.*6* So we are always courageous, although we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord,
7 for we walk by faith, not by sight.8 Yet we are courageous, and we would rather leave the body and go home to the Lord.e9 Therefore, we aspire to please him, whether we are at home or away.10 For we must all appear* before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive recompense, according to what he did in the body, whether good or evil. 

Rest in Peace, Tamara Seidle
Deacon Don