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