October 17, 2021
Let me talk to you a little bit about the Synod.
- Last weekend pope Francis opened the Synod for the church of Rome at Saint Peter’s
- Now this weekend in every Catholic cathedral and church in the entire world people are gathering to pray to the Holy Spirit as we begin the Synod process locally.
- A synod is a gathering of bishops coming together to consider significant issues in the life of the church and discern the movement of the Holy Spirit.
- A Synod is one level less than an Ecumenical Council.
- The last Ecumenical Council was Vatican II which gathered some 3000 bishops from throughout the world.
- The Synod which will be held in October of 2023 will gather a representation of bishops from around the world.
- I estimate there will probably be 300 or 400 gathering at the Vatican.
- This gathering will be the most significant one in the life of the Church since the Second Vatican Council.
VIDEO. I want to show you a short video that comes from the Vatican. However, it’s in various languages and unfortunately English is not one of them. There are subtitles.
Here’s a question: “How well are we walking together as a Church? Are we walking together the way Jesus walked with people”?
The theme chosen for the Synod is Communion, Participation, and Mission.”
- It could be summarized with the phrase “walking together.”
- That is what synod means – to walk on the same road together.
- We are called as Church to be a place where people are walking together the way Jesus did.
- How well are we walking together in communion as a Church?
- Are we walking together the way Jesus walked with people?
Encounter, Listen, Discern
Pope Francis used three verbs to guide the synodal process:
encounter, listen, discern.
- He invites us to encounter others, listen to them, and discern God’s will in the manner that Jesus did in his ministry.
Presence of the Holy Spirit
The first thing to remember is that Jesus walked under the influence of the Holy Spirit.
- Every action of his life was guided by the Holy Spirit
- God has breathed forth the gift of his Holy Spirit upon the church.
- The Spirit has guided the church over the last 20 centuries.
- This gift of the Holy Spirit must characterize our journey.
- We should walk together under the influence of the Holy Spirit.
- In the Synod process the presence of the Holy Spirit will guarantee that the Church remains faithful to the gospel.
- The Holy Spirit renews the Church in every age and keeps the Church young.
Participation and Guidance of the Holy Spirit
The preparation for the Synod offers us a unique opportunity.
- For the first time in modern history there will be a worldwide consultation involving parishioners in preparation for the Synod gathering in October 2023.
- From October through March 2022, each diocese is asked to coordinate gatherings for people to reflect on how well we are being Church, walking together in communion, participation, and mission.
- The pope has asked that we have as many people as possible at these gatherings.
- It’s important to know that we will look at two questions:
- How are we walking together as church?
- And secondly: where is the Holy Spirit leading the church?
This is not so much an issue of gathering people’s opinions.
- To the contrary, in the power of God‘s Holy Spirit we discern together what the signs of the times are and where God is calling the Church to respond.
- All of this has to be under the direction of God‘s Holy Spirit.
- We have to trust the Holy Spirit because the Holy Spirit has guided the church in every age.
- At the heart of this process is faithfulness to the gospel.
Invitation to participate
In the next several months there will be gatherings to enable us to listen to the Holy Spirit.
- The church needs to hear from you.
- How have we been drawn together as God’s people?
- Where do you see the Holy Spirit leading the church into the future.
- It’s important that we listen to each other and also to the movement of the Holy Spirit.
I want to conclude this afternoon/morning with the Synod prayer.
- This prayer was composed by Saint Isidore of Seville in the sixth century.
- It has frequently been used at the opening of Synods and Ecumenical Councils throughout the history of the church.
We stand before You, Holy Spirit,
as we gather together in Your name.
With You alone to guide us,
make Yourself at home in our hearts;
Teach us the way we must go
and how we are to pursue it.
We are weak and sinful;
do not let us promote disorder.
Do not let ignorance lead us down the wrong path
nor partiality influence our actions.
Let us find in You our unity
so that we may journey together to eternal life
and not stray from the way of truth
and what is right.
All this we ask of You,
who are at work in every place and time,
in the communion of the Father and the Son,
forever and ever. Amen.
October 10, 2021 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time
The unnamed young man in today’s gospel asks a significant question, he approaches Jesus and asks simply, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
- In other words, “what must I do in order to be saved?”
- The young man is obviously a person of great goodness.
- He has kept all of God‘s Commandments, yet there is something stirring in his heart.
- He is eager for more. He has a restlessness in his heart.
What Jesus asks of him is difficult.
The coffee mug
Let me use your imagination for a moment. Imagine that you are at Starbucks and you’re holding a warm mug of your favorite coffee
- You like coffee and whenever you go to Starbucks you bring your coffee mug and always order the same thing.
- However, you are thinking to yourself, “maybe there might be a better kind of coffee”.
- So you bring your mug up to the counter to the barista and ask for something more satisfying.
- The man replies, “sure we have just the thing, a special brew. It tastes fantastic, fills you up and the taste will last the entire day.”
- So he asks for your coffee mug.
- You hesitate for a moment because you’ve never tried this special brew and you’re a bit suspicious
- You ask yourself, “what happens if I don’t like it”
- You think, “maybe I should just stick with the kind of coffee that I like because it’s familiar.”
- You have only one coffee mug and you can’t have both.
- To get the special brew, you will have to pour out your favorite coffee.
This is a bit like the situation that the young man finds himself in the gospel.
- His spiritual mug is full of wealth and possessions.
- Jesus is offering him something more.
- However, it means that he must empty his cup so that Jesus can fill it.
The gospel records an interesting dialogue between Jesus and the rich young man.
- It is obvious that the young man is seeking something more.
- He yearns to be filled. He approaches Jesus and says, “good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
- It’s strange but Jesus doesn’t answer his question. To the contrary he has another question, “why do you call me good?”
- After this opening dialogue Jesus challenges him.
- He says “well then keep all God‘s Commandments if you want eternal life.”
- The young man, probably in his early twenties responds, “teacher I have done all of these things since I was very young.”
Jesus loves him
A curious statement follows. St Mark tells us that Jesus looks at him and loves him.
- Jesus sees in him the potential for greatness
- . Jesus sees in him the potential for great holiness. Then he offers the surprising invitation, “come, follow me.”
- In order for that to happen Jesus tells him that he must abandon everything that would prevent him from doing so.
- Jesus makes an unexpected demand: “go sell everything you have, give the money to the poor and begin the adventure of discipleship”.
- This may seem a bit surprising.
- He tells the man to let go of everything that he is most attached to.
- You would think that if Jesus really loved him, why would he ask him to give up everything that he valued most?
- If Jesus really loved him why would he be so demanding.
- The answer is because he loved him so much that he wanted what is best for him.
- So Jesus asked him to follow the path of wisdom instead of the path of comfort.
- God is demanding with those he loves.
- The response of the young man is disappointing.
- His face falls and his heart sinks because he has too many possessions and can’t let go of them.
- Essentially he prefers the satisfaction of his possessions and security to the rewards of discipleship.
Ultimately in answer to his question, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus responds simply, “follow me!
Jesus looks at us in the same way that he looked at the rich young man. He looks at us and loves us.
- He doesn’t call us to a life of comfort.
- Instead, He calls us to a life of wisdom for his kingdom.
- God sees in each of us our full potential.
- He sees in us the possibility for great holiness.
He wants each of us to be the best version of ourselves. As a result, God is demanding.
Possessions and wealth
In the second part of the gospel Jesus talks about possessions and wealth as obstacles to the kingdom of God.
- He infers that one must divest them self of all of these things.
- It’s not so much that possessions and wealth are evil in themselves.
- What Jesus sees is that they can become an end in themselves.
- It is so easy for a person’s life to be totally dominated by possessions, popularity and power.
- All of these things prevent one from totally following Jesus and his way of life.
- In the gospel Jesus goes so far as to say that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter into the kingdom of God.
- The disciples are amazed.
- Imagine the impossibility of a large camel trying to pass through the eye of a needle.
- The bottom line is that it is impossible.
In the gospel today we hear the story of the rich young man who remains nameless.
- He missed the opportunity of a lifetime.
- Jesus invited him to come, and follow him.
- He could have been remembered in history as one of Jesus’ disciples
- However, he chose to hang on to his possessions and melt into history.
- God made us for more.
- In the spiritual life we can form unhealthy attachment to things like wealth, health or relationships.
- Nevertheless, Jesus invites us to follow him.
- He is the answer to the question, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Here’s the gospel challenge for this week.
- Carve out some quiet time maybe 10 or 15 minutes. Invite Jesus into your heart,
- Ask him to remove any distractions.
- Let him touch your heart and be with you in these moments.
- Ask Jesus what things in your life you need to give up.
- Ask him what things are preventing you from a closer relationship with him and then ask Him to give you the grace to let go of those things.
- In short, leave nothing off-limits to God.
- Don’t worry, remember what Jesus said in the gospel, “all things are possible with God.”
October 3, 2021 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time
This weekend’s readings remind us that God has a wonderful plan for the human race and at the very heart of that plan are two things: love, and all is a gift.
First Reading from Genesis
Our first reading from Genesis takes us back to the very beginning of creation.
- Creation is new and pristine.
- It radiates the beauty that has come from the creative mind of a God who loves.
- All of creation exists as an explosion or overflowing of his love.
The author of Genesis then speaks to us of original innocence.
- It is an innocence that was intended from the beginning by God for humanity.
- Men and women are created by a loving God.
- God creates woman as a partner for man, equal, but different.
- Their sexuality is a gift from God.
- He intends that they be complementary and work with each other.
- Furthermore, the union of husband and wife is a part of the divine plan.
- That is why Jesus quotes this passage in the gospel, “for this reason a man shall leave his mother and father and cling to his wife and the two shall become one flesh.”
Jesus’ statement of the gospel is not without controversy.
- The religious leaders ask him, “is it permissible for a man to divorce his wife?”
- Of course at that time according to Jewish practice a man could write up a bill of divorce for just about anything and divorce his wife.
- It was not the case for the wife however.
- Jesus goes back to the original innocence of creation.
- He speaks that it is the hardness of the human heart caused by a failure to love that divorce was permitted.
- God never intended it that way Jesus announces.
- The religious leaders find his words difficult to accept.
- Furthermore, his disciples question Jesus as well.
- Notice however, Jesus does not back down.
- He boldly proclaims the bond God has joined together no human being has the right to separate.
- Divorce was never meant to be a part of Gods plan.
Pain of divorce
However, I am aware that some who hear this message have experienced the suffering of a breakup of a marriage not through their own fault.
- I’m sensitive of the pain and difficulty that you may have gone through.
- You are not alone. Be assured, Jesus is with you.
Sacrament of Marriage
The faithful union of a husband and wife ensures the continuation of human life and the unfolding of Gods plan for the human race.
- The sacrament of marriage is the confirmation that what God has joined no one must divide.
- The bond of marriage is intended to be permanent, faithful and indissoluble.
- It speaks to us of the love of God and the faithfulness that God shows to each of us.
- The sacrament of marriage remains the enduring sign of God‘s love for his people. It is always a faithful and creative love.
- Similarly, the love of a husband and wife is a faithful and creative love that brings new life.
- That love is a gift and participates in Gods overflowing love.
Witness to Love
Our diocese is about to embark on a new marriage program called “Witness to Love.”
The purpose of our marriage preparation is to enable couples to better communicate and to have the best marriage possible.
- There are two basic underlying ideas in this process.
- First it involves the entire parish preparing couples for marriage and enabling them to participate in parish life.
- Secondly, it’s an opportunity for evangelization.
- Disciples make disciples who witness to the presence of Jesus in their lives.
- The new diocesan pre-marriage program is a mentor-based marriage preparation that helps to prepare engaged couples not only for marriage but to help them transition into the parish and a community of faith after they are married.
The marriage preparation involves several components.
- First of all, couples meet with the priest and take a pre-marriage compatibility survey. T
- The purpose of this survey is to give couples a snapshot of their relationship.
- It gives them an idea of the strengths in their relationship as well as areas that need work.
As in the past, the engaged couple meets with the priest to review the results of the compatibility survey.
In addition to the compatibility survey, engaged couples will have the opportunity to meet with a mentoring couple.
- This will enable them to walk with a married couple in the months prior to their marriage.
- The mentoring couple and engaged couple will have a chance to meet six or seven times as part of the marriage preparation.
- At the heart of this is the understanding that disciples make disciples.
- In our faith journey we don’t walk alone but we walk together.
- This will enable engaged couples not to only to become familiar with married life, but also be absorbed into the life of the parish once they are married.
- This is a new component of the marriage preparation of engaged couples.
- I suspect most engaged couples will find this different but enriching over a period of time.
- Not only that, but mentoring couples will also grow in their own relationship as husband and wife.
Invitation to couples
Here is where I need your help. I need seven or eight married couples who would be willing to serve as mentoring couples.
The requirements are simple.
- First be married more than five years.
- Second be married in the Catholic Church by a priest and third have a healthy marriage.
We have many couples in our parish who have strong and beautiful marriages.
- You are witnesses to the faithfulness and the during quality of married life.
- Through your sacrifices and love you have preserved the union and vows that you graciously and generously spoke on your wedding day.
- We need your witness!
- Our diocese will help prepare you as a mentoring couple.
- It will be an enriching experience for you not only as a married couple, but also help you to grow in your own faith journey.
- You will have the satisfaction of knowing that you have made a difference in the life of an engaged couple as they prepare for their marriage.
- Over the next couple of weeks, I will be contacting some couples.
- When you receive that invitation, be open to the workings of God‘s Holy Spirit.
- Open your hearts to the possibility that you will be involved in an important marriage ministry.
I ask you to consider this and respond with a generous heart.
Marriage preparation is really a ministry of the whole parish.
- We are a family that gathers weekly to praise the Lord.
- We are together in our own faith journey as Catholics.
- None of us does this alone. We are God’s people.
- Preparation for Baptism, preparation for First Holy Communion, preparation for Confirmation and preparation for Marriage is a part of the faith journey for all of us.
- We journey together.
- The Lord invites all of us to be bearers of the good news of his kingdom. His plan is one of love.
- Let us pray for all those who are preparing for marriage.
- Let us pray that the Lord will bless and strengthen the marriages in our parish.
- May those marriages be a sign of God’s faithful love for his people
September 26. 2021 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Wouldn’t it be boring if there was only one kind of tree?
- Wouldn’t it be boring if there was only one kind of flower?
- Wouldn’t it be boring if there was only one kind of dog?
- And yes, wouldn’t it be boring if there was only one kind of person and personality?
In creation God always deals with abundance. This stands in contrast with the way most people think. Most of the time we have a scarcity mentality.
Our readings for this weekend exemplify that exclusive attitude.
In the first reading from the Book of Numbers we meet two individuals, Eldad and Medad.
- Prior to this passage, Moses complains to the Lord that he is overwhelmed by the burden of leadership and taking care of all these people in the desert.
- So, the Lord tells him to draw up a list of people to help him.
- The Lord instructs him to tell all of those people, 70 in number, to come outside of the camp to the place where God dwells in the meeting tent.
- So, everybody gathers out there and the power and authority of the Lord that had been given to him Moses is shared with all of those people.
- However, there are only 68 people present and for some reason Eldad and Medad are not there.
- A very strange thing happens.
- Although they were not present at the assigned spot, the spirit of the Lord comes upon them and they too prophesy.
- Of course, there’s a bit of jealousy on the part of Joshua.
- He wants to exclude them and complains to Moses that these men should not be counted among the number because they didn’t do what they were supposed to.
- However, God in his abundance showers his Spirit upon them nevertheless.
The same kind of thing happens in the gospel for this weekend.
- Prior to this particular passage Jesus has sent his disciples out with his power and his authority.
- They preach the good news of the kingdom and heal those who were sick. Things seem to go pretty well until they return.
- Then John comes up to Jesus and complains that there was somebody who didn’t belong to their inner circle who was using his name to cast out demons and cure the sick.
- Jesus’ response is somewhat surprising.
- Jesus tells him, “there is no one who can do these mighty deeds in my name and at the same time, speak ill of me.”
- He goes on to tell him, “anyone who is not against us is with us.”
- John wants to exclude as many people as he can.
- That’s not the case with Jesus.
God in his abundance delights in all of his children. Jesus excludes no one.
Furthermore, both of these stories tell us that God acts in unexpected ways.
- God delights to work outside of the box of human expectations.
- Sometimes He uses the most unanticipated and unexpected circumstances and people to do his work.
These Readings tell us several things.
First of all, they tell us that God is more interested in inclusion rather than exclusion.
- His plan includes everybody. God does not wish to exclude anyone.
- Not only that, but God will work in whatever ways and with whomever he chooses in order to fulfill his plan.
- That’s what happened in the readings for today.
- Although Eldad and Medad we’re not in the appointed place, God did not exclude them.
- The same thing is true in the gospel.
- Although Saint John objected, Jesus included those who believe in the power of his name even though they were not members of the company of disciples.
There is room at God’s table for every one of his children.
God chooses the unexpected
The other thing the readings tell us is that sometimes God chooses the most unexpected people and circumstances to be the channels for his plan.
- God doesn’t necessarily judge by human standards, but has his own.
- Sometimes God chooses the most unlikely people to be the bearers of his plan.
Birth of Christ
In antiquity shepherds, tax collectors and prostitutes were considered outcast, marginalized members of society.
- However, think of the people that Jesus chose to surround him.
- By the standards of the world, they really were insignificant and amounted to very little
- It’s a bit curious that God would choose shepherds to be the first representatives of humanity to greet Jesus at his birth.
- Shepherds were outcasts who lived in fields with sheep.
- They were mostly illiterate, unclean and not to be trusted.
- However, in God’s eyes they must’ve been special because he chose them to be the heralds of his son’s birth in Bethlehem.
How about choosing a former prostitute to be the one on Easter Sunday morning who would announce the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.
- Yes, that’s what happened.
- Jesus chose Mary Magdalene to be the one who announced to the apostles and to the whole world that Jesus was alive and had risen from the dead.
- By human estimation, it is strange that God would entrust this most important message to her.
- However, that’s exactly what he did.
Openness to all
As we hear the stories of the scripture for this weekend it really reminds us that God includes everybody in his plan.
- If God includes everybody then each of us should have an openness to all God’s people.
- Everyone is precious to him.
God excludes no one. Jesus would go so far as to say whoever is not against Him is for Him.
Openness to God’s working
Second of all we are reminded that God’s ways are not necessarily our ways.
- God can choose to work outside of the box of human expectation.
- Sometimes he chooses the most unlikely people, like shepherds and prostitutes, to be an integral part of the unfolding of his plan.
- Other times he chooses situations and events to be the channels of his grace.
The secret with God is this: expect the unexpected.
- No one has control over God and the unfolding of his plan.
- That seems obvious in the two scripture readings that we have today.
- God continues to work in our lives. We need to be attentive and sensitive to the unfolding of his plan.
- Just as in days of old with Joshua and John, God can burst into our lives in the most unexpected and surprising ways.
- All that is required of us is that we be ready