We are to be doers, not just hearers

Twenty Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-8

James 1:17-18, 21-22, 27

Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

After the Gospel, have servers bring me the silver hand washing bowl, the pitcher, and the towel, and wash my hands. I dry them and say, “There, I am made holy and new!” That is what the Pharisees are saying in our gospel. Just because a ritual is done does not make one holy. Later in the mass, the servers will bring me those things and I will pray quietly, “Wash me, O Lord, from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.” At that time, I will try with all my might to be changed as I do this ritual. We do simple rituals all the time, but do we do them with meaning?  We say, “I love you!” But do we really mean it? “I am sorry!” But are we really sorry? Our readings challenge us to give real meaning to the rituals we do.

In our first reading Moses stands before the people and says, “Hear the statutes and the decrees which I teach you today from the Lord God and live them.”  In ancient times, laws of other nations were done to find favor with their gods. Israel’s laws were given to them as a favor by God. When the people followed God’s laws they would show their wisdom and intelligence. 

In our second reading, the writer James says, “You must be listeners of the Word, but you also must be doers of the Word.”  God’s laws call us to action and there must be some evidence in our lives that we hear and understand.  

In our gospel, the Pharisees and the scribes are saying, “A good Jewish person knows they are to wash their hands before eating.” Jesus responds, “A good Jewish person knows they are to wash before eating and contemplate that they are to be also clean on the inside. Have you forgotten that the greatest evil is not from the outside, but from the inside of us? Change what is on the inside.”  

As we gather today, may we re-evaluate the rituals in our life and make sure they are all life giving and full of meaning. The Eucharist is given to us, not to miss this most important ritual of our lives; the transformation of simple bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. May this ritual bring live to all the rituals in our life this week.

 

God’s plan is better than our plan

Friday of the 21st Week

St. Augustine

I Thessalonians 4:1-8

Matthew 25:1-13

Every day I make a list of things that I want to get accomplished on that day. During my morning prayer, I lift that up to God and ask God to bless what I want to get done. During my evening prayer, I give thanks to God for what I got done on my list, but I also give thanks to God for those things that were not on my list that God accomplished and I did not know of. Our readings today and the feast day of St. Augustine that we celebrate is a great reminder to us that God’s plan for us is always better than our plans.

In our first reading, St. Paul writes to the Thessalonians, a very similar message. St. Paul is encouraging the Thessalonians to lives of faith and holiness, always ready to accept the will of God that is given to us and to be looking for the will of God in our lives.   

In our gospel, we hear a parable powerful parable about ten young girls. They are waiting for the groom to return with his wedding party; five were foolish and did not bring enough oil, and five were wise and had enough oil when the bridegroom arrived. The parable is a good reminder to us that we need to be ready for the will of God, when God acts in our lives for His plan is always better than our plan.  

There is no way that Augustine could have predicted how his life was going to turn out as he lived a very selfish, self-centered life and did what he wanted. It is only by the grace of God that Augustine had his whole life changed around as he is one of the most famous saints that we have in the church.

The Eucharist is our gift, to know that God has a plan for us. Simple bread and wine will be changed to the body and blood of Christ. That is a better plan then we could have ever imagined. Let us look to God for the help we need this day trust that his will is better than our plan.

Keep on Praying

Our feast day of St. Monica should give all of us parents hope and consolation that someday that our prayers are going to be answered for our children. St. Monica prayed for years for her son Augustine to return to the faith. Perhaps many of us who are parents know the pain and anguish that our children at times can cause us by their behaviors and decisions not to go to church. Be sure to never give up on our prayer for our kids.

Augustine, in his early years, was far from being the Saint whom he is today.  In fact, he had no faith and lived a very scandalous life.  His mother, Monica, prayed for him every day, for seventeen years.  She prayed that his heart and life would be turned away from his sinful life, and that he would come to know Jesus Christ in his life.  When she consulted her bishop, St. Ambrose, he said, “God’s time will come. It is not possible that the son of so many tears should perish.” After seventeen years of praying, and just before her death Augustine would have his heart converted to Christ. 

St. Paul shows the same concern to the Thessalonians.  St. Paul speaks about his nightly prayers for this community and his desire to see them be strengthened in their faith.  All that St. Paul wants is for them to grow in their love for God and in each other, just as St. Monica wanted her son to grow in Christ.

In our gospel, Jesus uses the parable of the faithful servant who needs to stay awake, guarding his master’s property while the master is away.  Jesus wanted his disciples to have a vigilant prayer life. Just as we are to do, pray always, let go, and let God, be God.

We gather today, and I would bet all of us have someone who we have been praying for.  My experience with children is as they grow older the problems just get bigger.  St. Monica never gave up and her prayers would be answered, and we too should never give up praying for those whom we love.  

The Eucharist is our sign of hope to continue to pray for all those in need in our lives.

What needs attention in our life?

Wednesday of the 21 Week

Ordinary Time

I Thessalonians 2:9-13

Matthew 23:27-32

Great! Our readings are a continuation from yesterday’s readings, and they contain the same sort of ideas. With that being said, I do believe the Church in her great wisdom wants for us to focus on our spiritual lives and asks ourselves, “Are we hypocrites in any part of our lives?” To do this, there are three areas of our lives we should look at. 1.) How is our relationship with God? How is our prayer life? 2.) How is our relationship with ourselves? Do we love and respect ourselves today? 3.) How is our relationship with others? Do we allow our loved ones to give us feedback on what they see in us? Are we hypocrites in any of these areas?

St. Paul is given us a picture of where we want to be as he says, “We give thanks to God unceasingly, for you received the word of God not as a man speaking it but as God speaking, which is at work in you, who believe.” 

In the Gospel, Jesus is insulting the scribes and Pharisees in the worst way. Jesus says, “You are like whitewashed tombs, beautiful on the outside, but filthy on the inside. You hypocrites! You pretend to hear the word of God, but you do not act on the word, and it does not change your life.” Jesus compares them to whitewashed tombs.  What he is referring to here is the practice of whitewashing tombs so that their presence would be obvious, and no one would accidentally touch one and become impure. 

Today let us examine all three aspects of our lives and ask Jesus “Is there an area that needs more of our attention?” The Eucharist is given to us to motivate us to turn closer to Christ and may we see his loving hand active in our lives.

 

Are we ready for the Lord?

Tuesday Twenty -First Week Ordinary Time

I Thessalonians 2:1-8

Matthew 23: 23-26

All School Mass

What did you do to get ready for school today? Answer: Got up early, ate breakfast, washed, get dressed, said good-bye to your family.

What we do here at St. Patrick’s to get ready for a new school year is to be ready to teach you about math, science, reading and history, but we also are ready to teach about our faith in Jesus Christ and how we are to live by the teachings of the Church.

In our first reading, St. Paul says, “I came ready to teach you about the good news of Jesus Christ. I came ready with great affection as a mother cares for her children.” All of the staff here are ready and committed to doing the very same thing.

In our Gospel, Jesus says to scribes and the Pharisees, you need to be ready not to be a hypocrite. Do you know what that means? A hypocrite is someone who says one thing and does another. Jesus says, “Be ready to live for Jesus Christ, in all you think, say and do. Do not be a hypocrite.”

All of us are going to learn many things this year, but we are also going to learn a lot about our God and our Catholic faith. It is more than just knowing something. It is about acting in a different way, with mercy, forgiveness and justice.

As we gather on this first day of school, our school is a perfect place to allow our hearts and our minds to be ready to grow in Christ. I wish all of you the best of a school year! 

   

Who will we serve?

Twenty First Sunday in Ordinary Time

Joshua 24: 1-2, 15-17, 18

Ephesians 5:25-32

John 6:60-69

What do we do when life gets confusing and hard to understand? “I am not sure what to do or say anymore in our marriage. I am confused, scared, and nervous, can we find a way to turn this madness around? I am confused about my work, if I should go, or if I should stay?” I am confused about a decision I know I need to make about something in my life, and I am not sure who to turn to?” Our readings help us with these questions and help us to keep in mind who are we going to serve and are we going to leave or are we going to stay? 

In our first reading from the book of Joshua, the people are confused on what to do since they have been living in the Promised Land. All the surrounding nations have their own pagan gods, and the Israelites are confused on who to serve. Joshua asks, “Decide right now, who you are going to serve? As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord God.”  The people respond, “We also will serve the Lord.”   

I love our reading from Ephesians because the hardest job, the most confusing job, the most rewarding job is marriage, and the writer speaks pure wisdom. A few lines before our reading today the writer says, “Be subordinated to each other in marriage out of reverence for Christ.” Then he speaks right to the husbands to say, “Love your wives as you love the church, and as you love yourself.” A few years of marriage and you will know it is all about compromise! It is not about getting our own individual way. It is about getting the way that leads the two of you forward as a couple. “Who will you serve? Are you going to leave, or are you going to stay?”

In our gospel, the many followers of Jesus have heard Jesus say, “Unless you eat of my body and drink of my blood you will not have eternal life.” The disciples are confused and begin to grumble about what this means as they say, “This saying is too hard, we cannot accept it” many turn and walk away. Notice Jesus does not back down from his teaching, he does not ask them to stay, and he does not make a move to bring them back. He turns to the apostles, the twelve and asks, “Are you going to stay or are you to go?” Simon Peter steps forward and says, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”   

What are we to do, when life gets confusing and hard to understand? What we are not to do, is try and control the situation to where the will of God gets lost. What we are to do is run to the Eucharist! The Eucharist nourishes us with the Body and Blood of Christ. It is our quickest way to eternal life. It teaches us to pray, and to seek those in community that can help us. As we come to the Eucharist may it remind us who we are to serve, and who we are to run to.  

 

Loyalty, Faithfulness and Love

Friday of the 20th Week Ordinary Time

Ruth 1:1, 3-6, 14-16, 22

Matthew 22: 34-40

St. Pius X

It has been over two weeks that our seminarian Stephen, has been gone. I am having a moment where I am really missing him. We got along very well, and Thursday evening was our time to pray, share a good steak and share our lives. So last night I ate a two-pound steak in memory of him. I miss his loyalty, his love and his faithfulness to our friendship. Our theme in our readings today speaks to us about love, loyalty and faithfulness.

Our first reading is about Naomi her husband, and their two sons who flee Bethlehem because of a famine in the land and they settle in Moab. Their two sons marry Moabite woman. The husband dies and years later the two son’s die. Naomi wants to return to her native land and says, three times to her daughter-in-laws, “You may return to your families as I return home.” One does go home, but Ruth decides to stay. Ruth says to Naomi, “Where you go, I will go. Your people shall be my people and your God my God.” Ruth shows to Naomi great loyalty, love and faithfulness, that all of us desire from someone.

Jesus is asked, “What is the greatest commandment?” He responds, “To love the Lord, with your heart, with your soul, and with your mind and to love your neighbor as yourself.” How are we able to do all this as Jesus wants us to?

The only way to keep these two commandments and to live committed to loved ones like Ruth did with Naomi is by frequent reception of the Eucharist. We can thank Pope Pius X for encouraging this practice. He recommended that everyone receive Communion daily if possible. He said, “Holy Communion is the shortest and safest way to Heaven.”

We come to the Eucharist because otherwise we would starve to death. This spiritual nourishment will strengthen us to love God and one another will all our heart, soul, and mind. We are to be loyal, faithful and loving by God’s grace today through the Eucharist we share.