St. Peter Parish, Pacifica, California

A Reflection For The Week

Past Reflections from our Archives

THIRTY-SECOND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

Kings 17:10-16; Hebrews 9:24-28; Mark 12:38-44
This poor woman put in more than all the others.

Reflections from Father Jerry:

Our prayers this morning include a remembrance for all those who we remember on this Veteran’s Day as well as those who have lost their lives in the recent fires and the shooting in Southern California.

Our challenge in reflecting upon scripture, today, is to ask ourselves these questions: am I rich or poor? And, what treasures would God be pleased to receive from me?

A nameless widow is included in each of the readings from Kings and the Gospel of Mark. In Kings, Elijah encounters a widow and asks for water and something to eat. But she has only a handful of flour and a bit of oil for her and her son. She knows that if she shares it she and her son will surely die. But Elijah asks her to do what he asks and reminds her of the power of God to provide what is needed. Ultimately, the widow trusts that Elijah and God will deliver and, miraculously, the flour and oil do not go empty and allow enough for her and her son to eat for a year.

In Mark’s gospel, a widow in the temple knows she is poor; but, like the widow in Kings, she has but a pittance in “treasures”. And also like the first widow, she trusts in God and gives until it hurts. Because of this, she becomes the greatest in God’s eyes.

Our challenge is to consider how much we are able to take out of our pockets to serve others, with empathy and forgiveness, to give until it hurts.

In Oscar Wilde’s story, The Happy Prince, a statue of the “Happy Prince” sits atop a column in a city. The Happy Prince appears to be “happy” because he has lived a life without sorrow and his expression depicts a beautiful smile. A swallow who has been left behind alights upon the statue and, as the Prince views the various scenes of suffering and poverty from his tall monument he asks the swallow to take the ruby from his hilt, the sapphires from his eyes and the golden leaf covering his body to give to the poor. The swallow does so and, warmed by his friendship, the swallow ignores the winter and dies on the statue. Stripped of all his beauty, his lead heart breaks. The town brings down the statue and melts it in a furnace leaving behind the broken heart and the dead sparrow.

They are taken up to heaven as God is pleased and deemed them to be the two most precious things in the city. Happiness comes to both, rich and poor.

Ask yourself, what treasures would God be pleased to receive from me? What sacrifice would be required from me to receive God’s blessing?

THIRTY-FIRST SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

Deuteronomy 6:2-6; Hebrews 7:23-28; Mark 12:28b-34
Love the Lord your God, Love your neighbor.

Reflections from Father Jerry:

Some of our older parishioners may recall the old Frank Sinatra song which includes the lyrics “Love and marriage…go together like a horse and carriage”. In fact, you can’t separate love from marriage. In the gospel today, Jesus remind us that love of God and love of neighbor also go hand in hand.

The challenge, for us, as we reflect on the scripture is that there are various forms of “love” for those who gave us life, for example. In this case, “love” is used as a noun. But Jesus wants us to live our lives using “love” as a verb.

For the people of Israel, their history teaches of the power of God’s love. Moses stresses the need to obey God’s law which is God’s loving gift to us but this love does not cramp our style. It’s a living, loving, spiritual gift to us. The law is God’s gift given through self-revelation as only God can do. In keeping God’s commandments the people demonstrate their love for God.

In the Gospel, Jesus is asked to provide an “elevator pitch” in response to a scribes question. He asks Jesus which is the first commandment. Jesus is given approximately two minutes or less to provide a quick answer. Yet he provides the scribe with a gift. He names two inseparable commandments instead of one because these two are inseparable. He teaches that loving God and our neighbors is an act of love that cannot be separated. We must show love for God and love for our neighbors.

Some may be familiar with the writings of Flannery O’Connor. She converted to Catholicism and much of her work focused on the hypocrisy of people who called themselves “Christian” who said one thing but did another. In her story entitled “Revelation” her main character, Ruby Turpin, is waiting in a doctor’s waiting room and speaks critically of the hard working, clean, even tempered people and also expresses thanks for what has been given to her. She believes she is a paragon of all good virtue, superior to everyone else, especially black people and others whom she describes as “white trash”. The college aged daughter of a woman and Ruby strike up a conversation. The daughter gets angry with Ruby and her self-congratulatory speech and erupts in anger. Ruby receives a whispered message from the daughter: “go back to hell where you came from warthog!” Ruby is unsettled by the message and considers it might be a message from God. Later, upon reflection, Ruby alternates between two thoughts. She wonders whether God is telling her she is an “old warthog” and also scolds God with a “who do you think you are?” As the sun sets, Ruby envisions a bridge to heaven—a vision of a pathway to heaven. She imagines a hoard of people, a large crowd of souls all tumbling toward heaven. She sees black people and “white trash” ahead of respectable Christian people—her and her kind. She’s shocked to realize that all those who are on this bridge are going toward a loving God and the hypocritical forces are burned away as she experiences a “revelation”.

Jesus tells us “what you did not do for the least ones, you did not do for me. Our challenge is to consider whether we live with love in our lives as a noun or a verb. Do we express our love for all God’s people, especially the least among us? How do we see love—as a noun or a verb? How do we work to persuade people of God’s love for people and others.

TWENTY-EIGHTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

Wisdom 7:7-11; Hebrews 4:12-13; Mark 10:17-30
Sell what you have, and follow me.

Reflections from Father Jerry:

The scriptures today present a common theme which asks us to consider what are the riches that God provides for us. In the reading from Wisdom a woman is represented as having great wisdom. Consider the story of a hungry traveler, who encounters a woman. He asks for food and he sees and asks for a beautiful gem stone she has; because he knows it is worth a lot. She presents it to him without hesitation. He’s happy to have received such a valuable item. But, days later he seeks out the woman and returns the stone to her. He says he has been thinking about the value of the stone versus what the woman has. He then asks her if she can give him something more precious than the gem. “Can you give me what you have within you”, he asks? He seeks that which is within the woman. That, which prompted the woman to give the gem to the man so willingly.

Wisdom has an alluring appeal. The truth is our wisdom and Wisdom of God are incompatible. Jesus reminds us that knowledge alone does not bring us salvation. It’s not important what we know but rather what we can learn from God the creator. God, who sends us Jesus to teach the value of what lies within. God’s wisdom fills our hearts. The truth today is that we seem to place human wisdom at the same level of importance as human power. Some believe that the more wisdom is acquired, the more power is attained.

The message of God is not predictable by human means. God’s wisdom endures and is revealed to us through Jesus. It does not pass away. God is mysterious and through Jesus wants us to follow God to heights we have never thought possible. Through God’s grace, we are invited on a path of true wisdom, beyond this world’s treasurers, God wants us to seek him and man is drawn to wisdom.

It may appear costly to say “yes” to give up all of one’s wealth. The young may hesitate to do so as it requires too much sacrifice. Jesus’ provides a beautiful model through his suffering and death. With are given an either or invitation. Jesus hopes for us to make the right decisions tucked into the corner of our hearts. Every disciple is invited to assess what are riches to be gained and what have we to offer.

This week, ask yourself what must we do and what must we seek to live more simply? And, what 3 things would we give up if God asked us today?

TWENTY-SEVENTH SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME

Genesis 2:18-24; Hebrews 2:9-11; Mark 10:2-16,
Let the children come to me.

Reflections from Father Jerry:

As we reflect on today’s scriptures, it’s important to note that these reflections might trigger a mixed response. Married people are inspired regarding the joining of husband and wife into the sacrament of marriage. The commitment of a husband and wife, holding each other in high esteem, respectfully so, is a wonderful spiritual gift. Their vows enrich them, they grow closer and are reminded of the daily gift of the sacrament through their marriage vows.

Pope Francis writes beautifully on the honor of this sacrament, the concern for each other, the intimacy, stability, fidelity that a shared life together brings.

Some, however, hear might have negative feelings after reflection due to the language of permanence and what that might mean in terms of the message. The harder message may be a reminder of the anger, pain and unhealed wounds that impact the separated and divorced. There can be a strong reaction to the challenge of achieving the standard set by Jesus’ ideal. This can lead to unhappy memories.

Pope Francis, in response, reminds us of the responsibility of the church community to care for those persons who suffer from divorce and separation. And that these circumstances do not naturally equate to a weakening faith. Care and understanding by the church community of faith specially to those impacted in this way can demonstrate, instead, the special and particular acts of charity for those who suffer as a reflection of the love of God.

The church proclaims the message of Christ—that these words may present difficulties for some but the proper answer is addressed to all of God’s people in order to build the church and society. We work to hold up the Church as a model of compassion—for all God’s people.

Sometimes it’s difficult for people to listen to Jesus’ words because it can be a reminder of a basic human weakness is found in all people who follow in Jesus’ footsteps. Remember, no one is perfect—yet God is merciful and loves those who may not ‘measure up’ by our past mistakes.

The Gospel recognizes our human weaknesses yet reminds us of God’s mercy—He doesn’t measure us harshly. We should find ways to help those who suffer from human pain. Jesus wants us to be open and love one another. It delights and elicits joy from Him.

Pope Francis too reminds us that we should strive to be open to love one another, to elicit joy in one another as a portent of heaven.

Our challenge today, as we consider today’s scripture readings further, is to consider: Do we believe marriage is a beautiful, sacramental experience and work each day to refresh and renew our commitment?

Also, ask yourself, if you were to provide counsel to a newly married couple, what three things would you suggest they do?

TWENTY-FIFTH SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME

Wisdom 2:12, 17-20; James 3:16-4:3; Mark 9:30-37
The Son of Man is to be handed over … Whoever wishes to be first will be the servant of all.

Reflections from Father Jerry:

The scriptures today present us with an important challenge. We are asked to consider what greatness really means. In Los Angeles there is a wonderful group called Home Boy Industries. The organization was founded more than 30 years ago by Father Gregory Boyle, S.J. You may not have heard about this group as it doesn’t get wide coverage in the press, but it should. Since 1992 Home Boy Industries have worked to remediate gang members. These young men and women come from nothing, against all odds, and they seem to be without hope or a chance to improve.

Father Boyle has written a wonderful book about his experience in serving more than half of the gangs in Los Angeles, entitled “Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion”. In the book he tells of a young man, Luis who was once one of the most troubled men, a drug dealer. In working with Home Boy Industries, Luis’ life was transformed when he became the father of a little girl. After this event, Luis went straight and began working for the Home Boy’s Bakery where he ultimately became a foreman. Later, he took a job giving tours to visitors who were impressed by the good work being done.

After leading the tour for some time, Luis asked Father Boyle “What is up with all these white people saying everything was “great”? Some months later when Tiffany, Luis’ new daughter, was brought to their new home, a modest apartment, Luis smiled and said “this is great!” In a moment of shocked silence, Luis and Father Boyle looked at each other. Father Boyle said “Luis, you now have a home and are a new father. Now you understand what you have and that you have done this. Luis, you are great!”

Perhaps unexpectedly Luis received a child in Jesus’s name, just as Father Boyle received the child in Luis. Both received Jesus as the one who had sent him.

St. James describes what happens when we live with disorder in our lives and what makes us “one of the wicked” but reminds us that wisdom from above brings love, peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits. The love is present in those who believe and is shown in the example of Luis who was transformed into a peaceful, gentle compliant, child of God, he understands what he could have. Luis’ story is a beautiful reminder of what it means to be great.

Have we known people who have been dismissed and mocked? Do we consider how God’s love can transform them?

How different would our lives be if we lived in purity and gentleness with mercy in our hearts?

TWENTY-FOURTH SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME

Isaiah 50:5-9a; James 2:14-18; Mark 8:27-35
You are the Christ…the Son of Man must suffer greatly.

Reflections from Father Jerry:

Today we celebrate Catechetical Sunday when we share communion with those good people who share their gift of faith with the children of our parish and thank them for their service.

Our scripture readings today provides challenges to us, children and adults, to connect the dots with what our faith means in word and practice. Our culture abhors pain and there is no greater confirmation of this today than how the medical community has embraced opioid prescriptions for pain. These medications can be powerfully addictive and this has resulted in a national epidemic which claims thousands of lives every year. We are not big on pain—physical or emotional pain. In the 1980’s the discovery of anti-depressants resulted in over prescribing with the assumption that they would work for all. But in some cases, these drugs were not effective or any more effective than placebos offered as an alternative. Culture abhors pain. But faith, confronts the reality of suffering head on.

We know that pain is the way that our bodies respond to the fact that something is wrong. Scripture reminds us that when we see needless suffering we have a duty to respond. In the letter from St. James today we are reminded that without giving attention to the needs of others, with only a “go in peace” without providing the needs of the body what good is such a message. The challenges is that not all pain can be reduced or dispensed with just words.

Austrian psychiatrist Viktor Frankl endured the challenge of great pain and endeavored to find meaning in the midst of it. Through his work, he shared his experience in a concentration camp in WWII and noted that what kept many prisoners alive was working to find a reason in the midst of the pain, a reason to endure. In Mark’s gospel the Pascal mystery reminds us of that the suffering and death of Christ gives us reason to hope that we might know, in our suffering and death, that we are not alone. God does understand and tells us that without Christ’s suffering and death we cannot understand that the ultimate source of hope comes from God.

We are never alone. God does understand suffering is not the end but the beginning. Have we experienced faith at the source of our suffering? Our challenge is to understand the doctrines and creeds and the reality of service to our neighbors.

TWENTY-THIRD SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME

Isaiah 35:4-7a; James 2:1-5; Mark 7:31-37
He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.

Reflections from Father Jerry:

The scriptures today underscore the great difference between listening and hearing. Perhaps one of the greatest challenges today in this regard is the patience required by parents raising children. Most parents today have faced, the “selective hearing” of sons and daughters. Parents try to clearly communicate their requests: clean your room—NOW, finish your homework and get ready for bed. Strangely, children frequently become “hard of hearing” when they are asked to do these things.

Amazingly, many parents may also attempt to share information that whey wish to keep to themselves, such as where the Christmas presents are hidden or perhaps the planning of a surprise trip to Disney World; but in these instances, children often develop “super hearing”!

The truth is, this practice is not just the plight of children. We also live in an atmosphere of great division, in our nation, our church, divisions by race, politics, information is all over the place. We can try to listen attentively but the “truth” we hear may depend on our media choices. Many of us live in a news bubble--only hearing what we want to hear. Many kinds of deafness can be healed with high tech hearing aids.

In the gospel today we learn that Jesus is not afraid to draw close to and actively engage with the man who is deaf. Jesus puts his finger in his ears. He spit and touches his tongue. He’s is not afraid. We all need to work against our natural desire to draw away, to do no less than what Jesus does.

The second important point is that Jesus instructs the witnesses not to tell anyone what they have seen. But, what do they do? They proclaim the miracle anyway. Scripture, again, reminds us there is a great different between listening and hearing. Jesus provides spiritual healing of the crowd “he has done all things well”.

The challenge we have today is to ask ourselves if we have opened our ears and mouths to do the same? Do our ears opened and our tongues allow us to truly hear and proclaim the Word and act as an example?

TWENTY-FIRST SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME

Joshua 24:1-2a, 15-17, 18b; Ephesians 5:21-32; John 6:60-69
To whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.

Reflections from Father Jerry:

The theme of the scriptures today invite us to consider the depth of our loyalty to Jesus. Jesus’ message to his disciples, his followers is in unity in Him. Jesus loves diversity. One can only look at the chosen apostles to understand the great diversity in the group of twelve.

Jesus demanded one common thread among those who followed him: Loyalty to Jesus. Loyalty to his teachings; and living our faithfulness is central to each of the 3 readings today.

In the first reading from the Book of Joshua, Joshua decides it’s time for the people of Israel, and others to profess publically their faithfulness to the one true God: Yahweh. God who called his people, led them, delivered them and promised them through a covenant. The people of Israel, in turn, rededicated themselves to God, freely and publicly.

Jesus proposes a similar offer of the Living Bread from Heaven, His flesh to all those who come to Him. This Living Bread is sent through the generosity and goodness of God. This call to believe requires a leap of faith. The disciples, including you and I, have much to digest in this message. We are called to accept this truth or to resort to our old habits.

In the gospel reading, Peter asks “to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” And Paul reminds us in Ephesians that loving unions of husbands and wives are actually mirrors of Christ’s union with the Church. Husbands and wives should respond with mutual love and respect for each other. Today we ask of our church, in crisis yet again, and ourselves that through Christ that, no matter whatever we do, we must be who we profess to be. Whatever lifestyle we live we are to be who we are. Jesus will walk the earth with those who are who they profess to be.

In the story of King Lear, the King is old, sick and feeble, we learn of how he is abandoned by 2 of his 3 daughters. King Lear was helped, however by his third daughter, Cordelia who had been banished. Cordelia demonstrates a loyalty to her father. She cares for him, clothes him, honors him, without any grudges. She comes to him in his time of need. Through her love, she shows true loyalty. Jesus would approve of this.
Our challenge today is to ask ourselves: How do we display our loyalty to Jesus? Not to me, not the church. How do we, as husbands and wives, live out our love for each other?

Peter, again, asks “to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

What is our answer to Jesus’ question?

 

NINETEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

Kings 19:4-8; Ephesians 4:30-5:2; John 6:41-51
I am the living bread that came down from heaven.

Reflections from Father Jerry:

For the past several Sundays, we have reflected on John’s Gospel which describes Jesus as the bread of life that has come down from heaven. The reading from the Gospel of John today highlights the moment when Jesus’ followers were again reminded that Jesus us the bread of life. Jesus is comfortable in the reminder as he lays down his roots his connection to the Father. As he describes the bread from heaven, he is confident in his intimate relationship with God.

“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him” he tells. Those who believe will be rewarded with the bread of life. The eyes, hearts, minds of all those who trust in Jesus will be rewarded. Jesus makes a distinction between what is promised through the bread of life and the bread offered by God to their ancestors. Jesus reminds them that their ancestors died but followers of Jesus, believing in the living bread, shall eat and never die. Again we are reminded that eternal life comes to followers of Jesus. We accept Jesus and all his teachings knowing that Jesus doesn’t offer shortcuts. Living bread, with the gift of resurrection, promises eternal life with God.

The disciples understand that anyone who accepts Jesus’ teachings understands this promise of eternal life through faith. St. Augustine writes that “faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe”. Through Him we are destined to eternal life. Jesus tells us: “Eat the Bread I give, it is my flesh, my life”.

As we reflect on these teachings, with the Eucharist we share today, we are invited to reflect upon what the Eucharist means to our spiritual life and how living bread within us becomes obvious to others.

EIGHTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

Exodus 16:2-4, 12-15; Ephesians 4:17, 20-24; John 6:24-35
Whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.

Reflections from Father Jerry:

As we reflect on scripture this morning we are challenged us to ask ourselves as the apostles do: How does one put on Christ? How do we answer the question: What do we do to “perform the works of God”?

Starting with John’s Gospel, it would seem that the people were following Jesus for the wrong reasons. He had faced them before. They chase after Jesus as the messiah of their own making rather than God’s chosen one in Christ. Through his message in scripture today Jesus reminds them, and us, that HE is the sign of God’s presence among us. Jesus says “I am the bread of life” Jesus is the true teaching of God the Father, visible in the works of Jesus. We are nourished with heavenly food that never needs replenishing.

The key element is to have faith in the Person of the Son of God and to see Him through good works. Only God has this presence. In Exodus, Moses asks for food; God sends an answer to his plea. This reminds us that that God, not Moses, is in charge. Our gifts come from heaven. Jesus is the Bread from heaven; sent by God, which lasts forever. Yet it is necessary that we accept this Bread, desire it, hunger for Jesus.

When we embrace Jesus we embrace God. Through the Father and Son, as one, we share a mission together. It’s not a snack; we desire Jesus every day. We desire God, hunger for God---everyday. Followers must consider all his teachings and not partake of God in a piecemeal manner. Jesus’ dying, rising requires loyalty, absolute and total loyalty, during the good and bad moments in our lives.

Jesus encapsulates all of heaven in the Bread we share. Once eaten, there is no more hunger. The reward is astonishing – we put on Christ the whole of God who cherishes us as we cherish God.

So, how do we perform works of God? We join as brothers and sisters to reach out to the dark corners of someone’s life through small acts of mercy. These are works of God which we should consider. When gloom holds sway in troubling situations, God is with us.

FIFTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

Amos 7:12-15; Ephesians 1:3-14; Mark 6:7-13

Reflections from Father Jerry:

You may have caught the theme of today’s Gospel from Mark which is gently woven through all of today’s scripture readings: Sometimes God’s work is invisible, yet lasting; and seeks to teach through his disciples. But, is anyone listening? Do we understand the message and the challenge?

Anyone who teaches, in the classroom, to the congregation, has experienced the “glazed-over” eyes from the audience. Sometimes there is a scarcely concealed yawn, a cough, fidgeting in the seat. Those who teach recognize that the most important thing is to try and measure if anyone is listening and understanding the message.

Those who teach also experience, on occasion, a self-doubt about their ability to reach the classroom, the congregation, yet they ‘soldier on’, trusting in the Holy Spirit.

Today, our mission is to trust in God that the joy of teaching bring great blessings. Sharing the Good News brings energy and passion to the experience. We trust that inside our listeners the message is taking root; and in reality, it is not for us to know if what we say is met with open mind and heart. We try to emulate the Master, Jesus Christ, in sharing the Word, in practicing evangelization, in pushing onward to near villages, by Word and example.

We are invited in the coming week to consider whether our efforts are failing or succeeding more that we might imagine. Take time to ponder the many blessings and grace that God gives us; yet God’s work invisible. Seeking an actual response or immediate answer to our prayers is not as important as understanding the wonder of the invisible nature of God’s presence in our lives.

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 movie “Lion” is based on a memoir by Saroo Brierley entitled “A Long Way Home”. It’s about a poor boy who, at five years old, would steal coal with his brother in order to trade it for food. At one point, Saroo falls asleep on a train station bench. He awakes to find his brother gone and assumes he got on a train. Saroo 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, Saroo 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. 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”