St. Peter Parish, Pacifica, California

A Reflection For The Week

Past Reflections from our Archives

THIRTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

Wisdom 1:13-15, 2:23-24; 2 Corinthians 8:7, 9, 13-15; Mark 21-43

Reflections from Father Jerry:

The 2016 TV show “Goliath” is based on a memoir by Sarco Brierley entitled “A Long Way Home”. It’s about a poor man who, at five years old, would steal coal with his brother in order to trade it for food. At one point, Sarco falls asleep on a train station bench. He awakes to find his brother gone and assumes he got on a train. Sarco follows on a train in search of his brother and, again, falls into a deep sleep. He awakes far from home without finding his brother.

The boy’s lot in life improves after he is adopted by an Australian Christian couple who bring him home to Tasmania. Years later, Sarco reflects on the devastation his disappearance may have caused his family. He searches Google Earth for his hometown and relentlessly looks for his mother, his family. It could be a discouraging search but he persists until he finds his birth mother, his sister and reunites with them. This story is a good example of how persistence, encouraged by faith, can bring wonderful results. This is the core of the message in today’s Gospel.

In Mark, we learn of a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years. Under Mosaic Law, her faith is unshakeable and, through faith, Jesus succeeds where doctors over many years have failed. A synagogue official, Jairus, trusts in Jesus to heal his daughter, yet the people from Jairus’ synagogue told him his daughter had died.

In 1970, a translation of this scripture in the New American Bible includes the message from Jesus as “Fear is useless; what is needed is trust”. Jairus does trust and has faith. Death gives way when Jesus takes the child by the hand and says “Little girl, I say to you, arise!” The point is, ours is a God of life and many surprises; God changes mourning and tears into dancing.

Today, we should seek to resist those days when all we see is darkness. Jesus is life and light for our darkness. If we cling to the promise of our faith—daily—we may not get the cure we want; but we will always receive the healing we need.

Ask yourself: When has my trust in God, under seemingly impossible challenges, resulted in a final resolution that has impacted my faith?

THE MOST HOLY BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST, SOLEMNITY

Exodus 24:3-8; Hebrews 9:11-15; Mark 14:12-16, 22-26

Reflections from Father Jerry:

Last week, we celebrated the Feast of the Holy Trinity and today we celebrate the Feast of Corpus Christi, the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. These two events are celebrated during each liturgical year and provide us an opportunity to appreciate, at a greater level, the Trinity and the Eucharist; and helps us develop a greater understanding and commitment to the truth of meaning of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Jesus’ sole divinity of Christ.

Today’s important feast urges us to broaden our understanding of Eucharist and reflect on what it means to us as Catholics. This understanding separates us from our Protestant brothers and sisters because, as the saying goes, “You are what you eat”. For us, as Catholics, the spiritual experience of Eucharist takes on a new and beautiful meaning. The Risen Christ becomes the true body, blood, soul and divinity, the outward sign of God.

When we eat and drink, we are being fed. It’s not a symbol, a biscuit or wafer. The Blood and Body of Christ is present to us as Catholics. It is important that we not take it if we do not believe this fundamental truth. For us, the blood, body, soul and divinity of God himself is present to us.

It’s also important to understand how divinity was understood by the people of the middle ages. When they saw the consecrated Host, they believed that the longer they gazed upon the Body and Blood, the longer their lives would be a reflection of the Glory of God. Today, we continue this experience through the Exposition of the Eucharist, the Adoration, on the first Friday of the month. This experience provides a beautiful opportunity to more fully reflect on the Risen Christ today.

Our challenge today is to review our faith in this context and to consider how our faith may be moved to a deeper understanding through the Holy Communion. It is more than a symbol or metaphor. It is what we are as church. When we received communion, we accept our mission to become what we receive. We go in peace, glorying God in our lives and look for ways to reflect that faith with others we encounter, to show how Christ is encountered through us.

Years ago, at another parish, a Religious Education Program given by the Sisters and Catechists included a tour of the church for the children. It was a great way for the children, who often know more about the elements and purpose of the various things in the church than we adults could see and learn. So on this tour, the children walked through the church and all the various elements were explained: The altar, the furnishings, the stained glass, the statues, the sign of the cross, vestments—each was explained in detail.

At the end of the tour, the pastor asked the children to think about what they had seen and tell him what element made the deepest impression. As frequently happens, with a group of children or adults, there was one ‘smart aleck’ in the group so the priest called on this child last. When the child was finally called upon to share what made the deepest impression on him, the child answered, “the exits”. The priest’s first thought was that the child was, again, living up to his reputation. But he asked the child why he felt that way. The response was profound….

The child said, “It seems to me that as we pass under the exit sign we are called to think about what we did inside the Church and to think about whether that makes any difference whatsoever, when, in fact, when we leave the church we can make a bigger difference. From the mouths of children often comes profound truth….

Our challenge today, and beyond, is to consider this enormous mission, through our identity as Catholics, as we take communion, how does this experience help us act or think differently when we exit the church. How do we experience Eucharist which gives life and is sent by God? How will Eucharist give us life today and throughout the week?

MOST HOLY TRINITY, SOLEMNITY

Deuteronomy 4:32-34, 39-40; Romans 8:14-17; Matthew 28:16-20

Reflections from Father Jerry:

If we come to church at this Feast of the Most Holy Trinity expecting detailed answers, we could be disappointed.

As adults, we often call on God to provide answers in our lives.  But we may also find possible answers more complicated than we need to. In defining the Holy Trinity, we often can’t explain it—completely, totally, fully. However, children can often help simplify the complicated. For example, a child—not much older than the children we sent forth a few minutes ago—explained to her father that it is not difficult to explain how God can be three persons while remaining one. It’s the complex question of the mystery of the Trinity—how can three equal one? The girl explained that it is not that hard. “Look at you, daddy. You are a husband to mom, a daddy to me and a son to granddad. But you are unique, an individual and yet one and three.” Her dad replied “Ah HA! I get it!”

The little girl explained it. While you and I grapple with a confusing mystery—it’s Okay. It’s a mystery but we have great familiarity with it as a key part of our prayer life. When we dip our fingers into the Holy Water and make the sign of the cross: In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we recall our Baptism. It’s an automatic response. But we must remember that the Sign of the Cross is a prayer in itself: both communally and individually. It is a prayer from the heart not from our lips alone. It remains a great mystery as we pray to God as Trinity--three in one. There is no hesitation, no fear.

As we reflect on scripture this morning we gain some understanding and insight as to why this mystery is so comfortable to us. As it begins with God, thankfully. In scripture we are reminded that God chose the Israelites; the Israelites didn’t choose God. God chose you and me and sent a perfect reflection of God to us through Jesus. Jesus speaks God’s truth, not yours, not mine. Jesus, as the Son made flesh, completed his mission through His actions, death and resurrection. This gives all creation the freedom to draw us nearer to God.

At Baptism, Jesus shares His noble power and asks us—not by force, not as slaves--but as He asked the Apostles to “Go, and make disciples of all nations, in the Name of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit”. We share the great commission entrusted to the Apostles. This is our inheritance, an obligation directly sent from God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit to gather all people together.

As we reflect on today’s scriptures, we have three challenges. First, to more fully understand, daily, our call to discipleship and how we put that understanding into action. Second, we ask ourselves if we are prepared to assist God in drawing others to Him; and, third, can we more fully reflect on the Sign of the Cross as a prayer itself—to really think ,as we say it…slowly…and reflect what we are saying, demonstrating and giving, when we say that prayer.

PENTECOST SUNDAY, SOLEMNITY

Acts 2:1-11; 1 Corinthians 12:3b-7, 12,13; John 20:19-23

Reflections from Father Jerry:

Today we celebrate the great Feast of Pentecost which concludes the Easter season. Our challenge today is to consider the gifts of the Holy Spirit which were given to the apostles and, today, celebrate that gift to us in order to ‘build up’ our faith and relationship to God.

You may have heard the expression “diamond in the rough”. The most beautiful and largest diamond in the world is the Hope Diamond. Those who gaze upon and enjoy this beautiful jewel are amazed that it was transformed from a huge piece of black coal into an exquisite diamond.

Each of us is a “diamond in the rough.” Just as the diamond is transformed from a huge black piece of coal, God sees the good in us, the beautiful “diamond” that can be transformed.

The apostles, also were amazed and touched as they gazed at the early growth of the church after Jesus was raised from the dead. The Church became a “diamond in the rough”, transforming from a piece of coal over time, to a beautiful jewel through the talents and gifts of its members. The Church needed Pentecost to give the breath of the risen body of Christ through the Holy Spirit. Without Pentecost there would be no transformed ‘sparkle’ of the Church. All the stories of Jesus’ love, sacrifice would be missing the intimacy of salvation. This coming of God provides an intimacy that allows us to call Jesus, God “Brother” through our Baptism. The Holy Spirit gives all of us a communal relationship with Him and with others. The Holy Spirit, through wind and fire, inspires the church’s mission and continues the apostles journey through us from Baptism to Heaven itself.

Enjoying a daily conversation with God allows us to experience that transformation—from coal to diamond. God sees what we don’t. Transformation of the Holy Spirit directs, helps us to cut through the huge pieces of black coal to the exquisite jewel.

Peter’s homily to the 5,000, delivering God’s message to His church continued to attract diverse people all over the world. We know God loves all equally. No matter the time – God invites us to see others as God sees them. We know that without distinction by race, gender or social status, Jesus brings us home.

We know that the role of the Church is to remind us that we are one Spirit, transformed into one Body. The Holy Spirit breathes where it will—transforming us like the Hope Diamond is transformed to an exquisite jewel. The Holy Spirit continues to transform believers; those of us who see the lump of coal but also the potential for transformation into an exquisite jewel.

We are invited, challenged to consider the openness of the Holy Spirit carefully and look for ways we can transform from a simple piece of coal into the beautiful, exquisite jewel that we are in God’s eyes.

THE ASCENSION OF THE LORD, SOLEMNITY

Acts 1:1-11; Ephesians 1:17-23; Mark 16:15-20

Reflections from Father Jerry:

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Ascension and, coincidentally, the secular celebration of Mother’s Day. Today’s scripture invites us, challenges us to consider how we have experienced a sense of loss in our lives and how that experience fits into our lives today. Shakespeare’s Benedict in Much Ado About Nothing says “Everyone cannot master a grief but he that has it”. At the Feast of Ascension we share the grief of the apostles as Jesus slips from their sight. We share their loss of loss, their grief, their pain.

In the past weeks, we have walked and talked with Jesus. We have shared that closeness, that intimacy was a joy beyond what the disciples thought possible. We shared their deep sense of loss. Jesus was ready to take his seat at the right hand of the Father. He returned with a deep sense of contentment.

Jesus became one of us because God wanted us to be free of the inherited sins of Adam and Eve. Jesus suffered pain, tribulation. But He remained faithful, obedient and loyal to His mission, to his faith.

As followers, we are commissioned to the same mission as the disciples who looked up into the sky. We abide with the unique gifts bestowed on us by God. We too are sent to share today’s goodness – right now. We do so when we bring a bright smile to a sad face, we do it when we change sadness to joy. We do it with a simple greeting, with a comforting sound, a gift of hope bringing light to the world. We offer a kind word to a friend who is grieving over the loss of a spouse.

Jesus sends us to go forth and serve others in His name. God sends the Holy Spirit to bring light and meaning us to us. We go on with Jesus’ memory in our hearts and souls with the knowledge that one day we will join in His glory.

Today, we are challenged to reflect on how our sense of loss fits into our faith.

Fifth Sunday of Easter

Acts 9:26-31; 1 John 3:18-24; John 15:1-8
Whoever remains in me and in him will bear much fruit.

From Father Jerry’s Homily….

When we think of ‘bitter fruit’ we often think of lemons, limes, unripened grapes because they are so bitter. In the Old Testament, the symbol of the vine often represents God’s people, the people of Israel. God’s people, who as the choice vine are lead from Egypt to the Land of Promise, where they took deep roots and filed the land. In the Old Testament, this symbol was not always fruitful. In Isaiah God tended the vineyard but the yield also produced ‘rotten grapes’.

Jesus tells us how to avoid bearing bad fruit—or no fruit. He says “I am the true vine and my Father is the vine grower. They have a mutual dependency and without God and his Son the vine cannot flourish. The grower needs the vine, the relationship is intimate.

A wonderful example of this mutual dependency is reflected in the story of Helen Keller. Due to a fever in infancy, she became blind and deaf, cut off from visual and oral input. She grew into a feral child. She communicated through guttural sounds and wild gestures. Luckily, Ann Sullivan, who was legally blind, was asked to be her tutor. Through patience and persistence, by connecting through body sensations and with sign language in her hand, Ann Sullivan was able to reach her. Playwright and novelist William Gibson brought the story of Helen Keller to us where we learned how she connected the feeling of water with the spelling of water in her hand essentially brings Helen, a withered branch, to life.

Ultimately Helen Keller sees the full of humanity of life and demands to know more. A human vine when well tended goes on to bear much fruit. Helen becomes an author, an activist and lecturer. The message here is that with Jesus, we needn’t fear that the vine will not offer abundant life. We need to stay connected to Him and that is why we gather together to share the Eucharist.

We have three challenges to reflect on in the coming days:

1. Do we experience Jesus as a vital source of our entire life?
2. Do we tender loving care of this source of God’s love daily?
3. Are there aspects of our own lives where we ourselves may be withering?

Fourth Sunday of Easter

Acts 4:8-12; 1 John 3:-1-2; John 10:11-18

From Father Jerry’s Homily….

The Fourth Sunday of Easter is often called “Good Shepherd Sunday”. This year the Gospel comes to us from the Gospel of John where Jesus lays down his life for his sheep. Hopefully, we find encouragement by this news. In the Old Testament, however, the ‘shepherd’ is not always represented as a positive image.

Ezekiel denounces the ‘bad shepherd’. The shepherds targeted by Ezekiel work for pay and have no concern for their sheep and certainly no interest in laying down their lives for their sheep.

In the Gospel of John, however, the shepherd image is clear. It presents Jesus as a good shepherd who is caring, vigilant and a protector. Even after Calvary, Jesus presents Peter as his successor as “Pastor” which means “shepherd”. Shortly thereafter, 5,000 people who receive the Word of Jesus through Peter “join the flock”.

A beautiful illustration of this caring, vigilance and protection today is the experience of parenthood. The best parents are caring, vigilant, protectors….and they love each of their children equally. How many of us have heard our parents say “you are all my favorites”? Yesterday, during the First Communion celebration, several of our children who received their First Communion Sacrament, several of whom are here today, were asked “what do you think was the happiest moment in your parents’ lives”. One child answered “when a baby is born”. This humble response is correct but in truth each child brought great joy to their parents. So, each parent believes each child is their favorite—and they mean it.

Children bring a uniqueness that is remarkable. Through sports, as a “book worm”, a “tom boy” or a child with a delicate constitution, they are each loved in equal measure. Most parents’ hearts are full of love even when their children go astray. For example, a Dean of a college once called a father to tell him his child was in trouble. The father’s response was: “I don’t want to interfere with the college discipline program, I don’t want to ‘rescue” him. But I want him to know that we love him and will be there to pick him up when it's over”. This young person is very lucky to have such parents.

This week we are challenged to consider how we are consoled by the image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd. We should ask ourselves: “How do I recognize God’s voice as the Good Shepherd in my life”