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

Sunday, June 14, 2015

11th Sunday in Ordinary Time - "The Kingdom of God is like . . ."

Out of curiosity I ‘Googled’ mustard plant, to see just how large they grew.  There were several photos showing a rather large, rambling, unruly, bushy plant.  Some were more than 10 feet tall and looking very tree-like. It was interesting to see how they appeared to be their own habitat environment; supporting not only nesting birds, but a place where other animals could seek refuge beneath them; making shady homes for themselves in the harsh desert.  All-in-all, the mustard plant is quite amazing.  It not only serves as home and shelter, but it is edible too.  Who doesn’t love mustard on hot dogs!

It is easy to see why Jesus chose the mustard plant for His parable on God’s Kingdom, but before we go there, let’s look at His first parable of the farmer and the seed.

As far as plants go, I fall into the category of “accidental gardener”.  My house plants grow and flower (occasionally) despite my interference.  I provide water on an irregular basis, dust them off sporadically and, when I remember, open the shades to let in sunlight. How my plants survive, let alone thrive, is a mystery to me.  It is only through God’s grace that they grow.

Being a farmer in the time of Jesus was difficult.  Without modern farming methods, fertilizers, pesticides and mechanical equipment: raising a crop bordered on the miraculous.  It is no wonder we have so many prayers for the success of farmers and their harvests.  

Farmer’s and others very lives depended on the success of their crops. But despite all their hard work and worry, all that farmers could do was: furrow the ground, spread the seed, hand pull weeds, chase away birds and rabbits, while praying for God’s merciful help to make crops grow.  Although this may seem like a lot to do, it was really up to God to do what man could not – the impossible: give life to the seed; making it grow.

Today, we, who are commissioned by Christ to ‘make disciples of all nations’ can be likened to those farmers.  
In living Christian lives we furrow the ground through good example of Christian living.  
We spread the seed of God’s Word in sharing the Good News of the Gospel message.  
In community, we encourage and support; giving hope to one another: keeping strong and alive our faith.  
We weed out secular intrusions through our study of scripture; giving instruction and correcting errors that form the evil-one’s designs.  
But most importantly, we pray: keeping faith in God; trusting in Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit to bring forth the abundant harvest of faithful disciples.

Through our prayer, practice and participation, we do the will of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, but it is He who does the impossible – He brings us life everlasting and the means of salvation through His love and mercy.

God works in mysterious ways and according to His timetable.  We are not to worry or fret, but trust in Him by doing His will. It is He who makes the seeds of faith sprout and hope rise, not we.  His grace brings forth the grain and fruit of His mercy and love.  He provides nourishment and shelter for all his children: as he cares for the birds of the sky, - the creatures in the sea - and all the beasts of the forest.  It is His love that gives life and makes manifest His kingdom.

In the parable of the mustard seed we hear the phrase, “birds of the sky” which was an old Jewish phrase used to describe the Gentiles.  Those who were not descendants of the tribes of Israel were known as “birds of the sky.”  I’m not sure, but it may have been because they were not tied to the Promised Land.  But Jesus using this phrase puts a different spin on His parable of the mustard plant.

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

By this Jesus announces that God’s love is for all people, not just for the tribes Israel.  Jesus tells us that all God’s beloved children can find a home – a place of rest and refuge - in the Father’s Kingdom.  God’s love excludes no one, but invites all to come into the shelter if His loving embrace.

While we work doing the will of God here in this world– it is He who provides the fruit of our labors – life - abundantly and everlasting.  In remaining ever faithful: through prayer, practice and participation, we spread the seeds of faith: sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ. It is God’s love and mercy – that brings forth from the seeds we scatter, “large branches, so that the ‘birds of the sky’ – (all God’s beloved) - can dwell in its shade,” in His heavenly Kingdom forever and ever. ~Amen

Deacon Don

The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ - Inspiration

You never know where you will find inspiration and spirituality.  Marks’ Gospel reminds me of a story I heard a few years ago.  

An elder Cherokee Native American was teaching his tribe’s grandchildren about life. 

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

One is the wolf of fear, anger, envy, ego, sorrow, guilt, regret, self-pity, insecurity, greed, arrogance, lies, false pride, blame, superiority, and resentment. 

The other is the wolf of joy, peace, serenity, faith, hope, kindness, empathy, benevolence, compassion, friendship, generosity, truth, humility, forgiveness and love. 

These two wolves fight inside each one of us; inside every person." 

The children were silent for a while and then one child asked, 
“Grandfather, which wolf will win?" 

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

If we take on Christ, especially in the Eucharist, this communal sharing of a thanksgiving of the love of God found in Jesus Christ:  we feed on His Body, and Blood - Soul and Divinity.  Real Food and Real Drink that brings us to life everlasting.

In this communion we take within each one of us the Body and Blood of Christ; sharing in His gifts of:

  • joy, peace, and serenity, 
  • We receive faith, which gives us hope, 
  • We take on His kindness and empathy; sharing His love with our suffering brothers and sisters.
  • Partaking of this life-giving meal, we open ourselves to Christ’s compassion and friendship, 
  • Which fills us with His generosity, His truth, and His humility; enabling us to forgive and love as we are loved.  

This is the real Food of Life. The Body and Blood – Soul and Divinity - very substance and essence of Jesus Christ.

At the sacrifice of each mass we are witness to a great miracle.  This is something so extraordinary, so amazing, so magnificent and so unique to Catholics: that we have a special word to describe it, “transubstantiation.” -The changing of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

This miracle is Consecration, of mere bread and wine that are more than transformed – they are transubstantiated: becoming the Body and Blood of Jesus.

This is the moment that distinguishes Catholics from other Christians – our belief in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist – We believe Jesus is present in the consecrated bread and wine.  We reverence the Consecrated bread and wine for it is Jesus himself.  As we consume His Body and Blood in the form of the bread and wine – we take Christ into ourselves – the perfect food and perfect drink; nourishing our souls, leading us to eternal life.

But taking into ourselves this Blessed Sacrament - is more than just consuming the Body and Blood – Soul and Divinity of Jesus – It is also our acceptance of Christ – the Word of God Incarnate - and all that He teaches.  

  • Love of God and love of neighbor.  
  • Care for those in need – 
  • Comfort to the suffering – 
  • Shelter for the homeless – 
  • Food for the hungry and drink for the thirsty – 
  • Welcome for the stranger.  

The more we partake the Body and Blood of Christ - the more our lives grow in Him.  We, in discipleship, grow closer to Him; seeking to love God above all things – and to love our neighbor - as we love ourselves.

This Eucharist is a call to abandon our secular-selves – to leave the lure of this world behind – turning away from those things that are fleeting and transitory – taking onto ourselves, the better part – our life in Christ Jesus.

When we take Christ onto ourselves, how can we – who have consumed His Body and Blood – Soul and Divinity –, return to our former lives?  
How can we be unchanged – unaffected by this profound encounter, this experience of Jesus? 
Being fed on His most precious gift - this Bread of Life, this Wine of the Everlasting Covenant - How can we, as His disciples, not take up our cross and allow Him to dwell within us. 

As His disciples how can we – 

  • fail to hear, as He hears - the cries of the poor  
  • fail to see, as He sees - those in most need 
  • fail to feel, as He feels -  the pain of those who suffer and mourn
  • How can we not weep with His tears - for those in need of comfort and consolation
  • How can we not reach out with His compassionate heart to those who are sorrowed and despaired; bringing them His hope and joy, 
  • How can we fail to love, as He loves - all our brothers and sisters

The Real Presence of Christ exists in the Blessed Sacrament, but the Real Presence of Christ also dwells within each one of us.  We are His hands – we are His eyes – we are His voice.  We are called to do His will; speaking His Truth - to all the world.

And in doing so, we feed the wolf of our better nature and in our Christian sense - take on Christ - who is – all those good attributes summed up in just one word - love. ~Amen

Deacon Don