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Father Dennis’ Past Reflections

God’s Living Word for Today - Wednesday, August 5, 2020

[Jer 31:1-7 and Matt 15:21-28]
"O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish." And her daughter was healed from that hour. [Matthew]

     The story of the Canaanite (Syro-phoenician) woman speaks to us on a number of levels.  The first, and most obvious, is the interaction between Jew and non-Jew in the mission of the early church.  Were non-Jews welcome?  The behavior of the disciples suggests that there were some who felt that pagans ("dogs") were not welcome.  They urge Jesus to "send her away."  This tension would come to a head when St. Paul and other Christian missionaries began to receive Gentile converts. [Acts 15:1-12]  Jesus, in this account, clearly opens the way to the faith of outsiders.

     As we must always do with the scriptures, we fast forward to our own time and circumstances.  How welcoming are we to "outsiders" in our church?  On an institutional level, we may see this as a matter for the RCIA program.  As important and powerful as that process is of formal admission to our community, it is not the only way.  In my own pastoral experience, I have had to instruct persons in the faith who could not participate for various reasons in that program.  On another level, I have known non-Catholic spouses who have attended Mass with their Catholic spouse for years and found it spiritually helpful.  

     Jesus teaches us that faith is where one finds it in others.  It takes discernment and gentle challenge to respond to and nurture that faith, which sometimes can be expressed in inconvenient ways!  The Canaanite woman interrupted the focused attention of the disciples.  We can become so focused on our own faith that we fail to see faith in others.

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word for Today - Tuesday, August 4, 2020

[Jer 30:1-2, 12-15, 18-22 and Matt 14:22-36 or, in Year A, Matt 15:1-2, 10-14,480]
    "Hear and understand. It is not what enters one's mount that defiles the man; but what comes out of the mouth is what defiles one."

 AUGUST 4 ST. JOHN VIANNEY

Jesus rejects the notion that food could make a person unclean and tells the disciples - in the verses that follow this passage - that it is what comes out of the mouth, not what goes into it, that can make a person unclean because it would come from the heart.

     The dispute with the Pharisees shouldn't distract us from the question of what we say as a reflection of who we are! There is a sign that says, "Be sure that your brain is in gear before setting your mouth in motion!"  Language can become a matter of habit, but it can truly reflect what is going on inside of us at a given time.  The current expression, "Words matter!" reflects concern about the importance of language.  We should not be blinded or distracted from a consideration of our own language patterns and how we personally use words.  How much does our own language reflect our hearts?

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word for Today - Monday, August 3, 2020

[Jer 28:1-17 and Matt 14:22-36]
But when he saw how strong the wind was he became frightened; and beginning to sink he cried out, "Lord, save me!" Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him, and said to him, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt:"

 It was only when Peter allowed fear to overcome him that he began to sink.  When our fear is stronger than our faith, we will be in trouble and truly have to call on Christ to take us by the hand.

It takes a lot of courage to do what Peter did, but one might ask if Peter was bluffing!  If so, his bluff was called and honor required him to make the effort to walk on the storm-tossed sea!  Others might say Peter was faced with what is called a "Hobson's choice" - a forced choice between two or more difficult alternatives. 

We may "all be in the same boat" but how many of us can hear Jesus' challenge to focus on him? It should be noted that Jesus eventually gets in that boat and that's when the storm calms down.  Maybe there's a lesson for our church in that thought!  Instead of clinging to our fears, we should invite Jesus into the boat.  Or maybe we might just have the courage to walk on the sea toward him? 

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word for Today - Sunday, August 2, 2020

EIGHTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

[Isaiah 55:1-3; Romans 8:35, 37-39; and Matthew 14:13-21]
     "There is no need for them to go away; give them some food yourselves."  But they said to him, "Five loaves and two fish are all we have here."  Then he said, "Bring them here to me."  [Matthew]

     The multiplication of the loaves and fishes was important enough in the traditions about Jesus to appear in all four of the gospels.  The Eucharistic overtones are rather prominent in this first of two reports in the Gospel According to Matthew. Note that Jesus says a blessing, breaks the bread and gives it to the disciples to distribute.  That sequence of gestures should be familiar to all of us.    

     What captures our attention, however, is the dialog between Jesus and the disciples at the beginning of the story in which the disciples ask him to dismiss the crowds to go and find food to eat.  Jesus challenges them to feed the crowd.  It is then that the disciples learn that with the help of Jesus they can participate in one of his mighty deeds.  We know from our own personal experience the sense of helplessness that can overwhelm in the face of all the needs presented in our daily.  Sometimes one has to give the situation to God and a way forward providentially appears. Isaiah's image in the first scripture for today speaks of God feeding the people.  Today we celebrate this at every Eucharist.  As the theologian, John Shea, says, "Gather the people, tell the story, break the bread!"  Or, "Say the blessing, break the bread and give it to the hungry ones."  

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word for Today - Saturday, August 1, 2020

[Jer 26:11-16, 24 and Matt 14:1-12]
"This man deserves death; he has prophesied against this city, as you have heard with your own ears." [Jeremiah] "Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist." [Matthew]

AUGUST 1  ST. ALPHONSUS LIGOURI, cssr

If truly prophetic voices are hard to find sometimes, the fates of Jeremiah, John the Baptist and, yes, Jesus may be the reason.  Prophetic voices disturb the status quo of power.  Jeremiah faced a lynch mob!  John the Baptist faced an outraged Herodias.  Jesus faced religious (scribes, Pharisees, Saduccees) and political (Roman empire) authorities.  Jeremiah confronted his adversaries with their dependence on foreign allies and foreign/false gods. John the Baptist confronted Herod and his incestuous marriage to the wife of his half-brother.  Jesus confronted the religious authorities for their narrow and manipulative interpretation of the Mosaic Law and preached a "kingdom" which aroused the suspicion of Roman authorities.  Prophets, who are truth-tellers make people uncomfortable.  Rather than be converted, it is easier to get rid of that uncomfortable voice.

We are hearing uncomfortable voices in our own time. When truth speaks to power it causes tension and friction. For example we are being confronted with racism and our individualistic and political resistance to efforts to control a pandemic. The voice we need to hear is that the truth will you free.

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word for Today - Friday, July 31, 2020

MATTHEW 13:54-58

Jesus had returned home to Nazareth, to the people who knew him best. But their familiarity with Jesus biased them; all they saw was the carpenter’s son. So they missed out on the new life Jesus offered. How frustrating this must have been for Jesus! But he didn’t let the unbelief he encountered at home keep him from teaching and working miracles everywhere else. Jesus kept himself faithful whether people believed in him or not. Even when his closest friends rejected him, Jesus remained obedient to the Father’s will, to his last breath.

How can we tap into the source of Jesus’ perseverance and follow in his footsteps? Our first step is to learn to rely on the strength and wisdom that come from God. This means turning to him in daily prayer and in the course of our day. It means being real with God and telling him when we are tempted to give up or when we don’t understand situations in our lives. It means asking for help and guidance when we need it—and even when we think we don’t.

The second step is to try to obey the Lord. When we choose God’s preferences and desires over our own, we open ourselves to receive his grace. Over his thirty-three years, Jesus learned the disposition that allowed him to say to the Father, “Not my will but yours be done” (Luke 22:42). In our daily obedience, in the ordinary tasks of our jobs and our families, we can grow in strength and willingness to say the same thing.              

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word for Today - Thursday, July 30, 2020

He tried again, making of the clay another object. (Jeremiah 18:4)

Israel had wandered from the Lord—not once, but multiple times, over many years. The people were worshipping false gods, breaking the commandments, and cozying up to foreign enemies. It was into this state of chaos that God sent Jeremiah to prophesy. Often, Jeremiah’s words were upbraiding. But in today’s first reading, he gives a word of hope. God isn’t done with Israel—and he never will be. He will never give up his love for them. As a potter refashions clay, God will always work to mold them into the people he created them to be.

Our Father never stops trying to form and mold his children’s hearts—and that includes every one of our loved ones. He will always try again, “making of the clay another object” (Jeremiah 18:4). He refashioned Israel time and again, and he will do the same for each of us.

“Divine Potter, I surrender my loved ones to you. Mold them how-ever you desire.”

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word for Today - Wednesday, July 29, 2020
St. Martha

[1 John 4:7-16 and John 11:19-27 or Luke 10:38-42,678]

"Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died...." [John] "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me." [Luke]

    In the Gospel According to Luke, the story of Mary and Martha appears right after the parable of the Good Samaritan, the challenge of compassionate service to all.  Martha is certainly a busy servant.  But she is so busy doing the work of the Lord that she may be forgetting the Lord of the work!  Mary sits at Jesus' feet and listens to him.  Finding the right balance will ever be a challenge to any Christian.

     In the Gospel According to John, Martha again conforts Jesus for not coming earlier to save her brother.  Jesus reminds her that he is in charge of life and death and faith in him will mean life not only to Martha but to Lazarus.  "I am the resurrection and the life!"  She remains worried even at the tomb: "Lord, by now there will be a stench; he has been dead for four days!"  Jesus takes care of that worry in a very definite way by raising Lazarus!

     Martha remains Martha and those of us who have a measure of her in ourselves can rejoice that we are well represented in the gospels.

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word for Today - Tuesday, July 28, 2020

[Jer 14:17-22 and Matt 13:36-43]

Let my eyes stream with tears day and night, without rest, over the great destruction which overwhelms the virgin daughter of my people, over her incurable wound. [Jeremiah]

     Jeremiah is noted for his laments.  His name has even entered the English language in the term "jeremiad" which means a lament or long complaint.  The first scripture today is taken from one of his laments which refers to disasters that befell Judah and Jerusalem.  War and famine are the two disasters.  War comes from political alliances that led to the destruction of Jerusalem.  The famine is a punishment for idolatry because much of it focused on fertility rites which included temple prostitution.  Idols could not produce rain.  Only God could.  In the case of both disasters, the cause is direct - lack of faith in God.

     War and drought remain human disasters.  One of them is within human resources to prevent - war!  The other can be mitigated by proper care of the environment to lessen the possible effects.  Political solutions and greedy exploitation of the environment seem to be lessons humanity has a hard time learning.  There are Jeremiahs in our midst, but like the original prophet, we often turn a deaf ear or do the equivalent of what happened to Jeremiah.  He was thrown into a cistern to die.  Only a court official with a conscience saved him. [Jer. 38]  Jesus, in his turn, would weep over Jerusalem.  Tears of frustration are the fate of all prophets.  

Father Dennis

 


 

To prepare yourself for the Zoom that I have the privilege of hosting on Mondays at 7:00pm, please the below reflection in preparation for Monday evening’s (7-27-20) zoom for the 18th Sunday in ordinary time (8-02-20).

Father Dennis

 

Gospel
Matthew 14:13-21

1. Feeding 5,000 would be a large task for most of us. Are some problems too big to handle? How do you look at “insurmountable” tasks in your own life? Do you think there are any problems that can’t be resolved with Christ’s presence in our midst? Environmental? Racial? Viral?

2. Discuss Pope Francis remarks in his homily at Mass on Corpus Christi at St. John Lateran on May 30, 2013:

And it is the disciples, bewildered by the inability of their means, by the poverty of  what they have at their disposal, who invite the people to sit down, and—trusting the Word of Jesus—distribute the loaves and fishes that feed the crowd. This … knowing how to place what we have at God’s disposal: our humble abilities, because [it is] only in the sharing, in the giving of them, that our lives will be fecund, will bear fruit. … because the power of God, which is that of love, descends into our poverty to transform it.

 


 

God’s Living Word for Today - Monday, July 27, 2020

[Jer 13:1-11 and Matt 13:31-35]
"The Kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a person took and sowed in a field. It is the smallest of all the seeds, yet when full=grown it is the largest of plants. It becomes a large bush, and the 'birds of the air come and dwell in its branches.'"......The Kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch was leavened." [Matthew]

     Gardening and baking are two of people’s favorite hobbies.  During the current pandemic, both are receiving a lot more attention.  Apparently, baking has become more common during the pandemic because there was, for a while, a shortage of yeast in the country.  These two activities bring us into almost daily contact with the two parables that make up the gospel scripture for today.

     In the first parable, Jesus engages in a bit of hyperbole because the mustard plant does not get big enough for birds to perch.  However, the small size of the seed does contrast with the size of the plant! Very small things can yield very big results, for better or for worse.  In the case of the gospel, a word of encouragement, a smile, a random kindness - all of these can make the "Kingdom" very real for the person who needs them.

     Yeast looks like desert dust!  In the parable, the "measure" that Jesus refers to is much larger than the three cups of flour that we use for baking bread.  In addition to the contrast in size, there is the patience required to let the process occur. The "Kingdom" does require time, patience and prayer.  One might recall that the Israelites had to eat unleavened bread before leaving Egypt because there wasn't time to let the bread rise!!!  

     The parables show us things that we can do that are ordinary, yet powerful if only we are attentive to the small opportunities that each day offers to us. 

Father Dennis 

 


 

God’s Living Word for Today - Sunday, July 26, 2020

The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. (Matthew 13:45)

Today’s Gospel introduces us to someone who is also a seeker: a merchant on a quest for fine pearls. Like many of us, this merchant is searching for something specific. And in the midst of his search, he finds something far more wonderful than what he expected: one single pearl of surpassing value, a “pearl of great price” (Matthew 13:46). Seeing it, he gives up the search for those “fine pearls.” He commits himself fully to obtaining that one beautiful pearl—so much so that he sells everything else so that he can buy it.

Jesus says this merchant shows us what the kingdom of heaven is like. It is made up of people like us, searching for happiness. In some ways, the things we seek can make us happy. But finding Jesus and being part of his kingdom far surpasses the happiness that anything else can give. In him we find the answer to our deepest longings for love and reconciliation. For security and fulfillment. For purpose and meaning.

Make no mistake: things we long for can often be good things. But remember the merchant. There was nothing wrong with the pearls he was trading in. Yet he sold all of them for that one pearl of great price.

“Lord, help me to see you as a priceless pearl worth everything in my life.”

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word for Today - Friday, July 24, 2020

There’s one way we are not like the seeds in this parable. We have the ability to jump out of the thorns and weeds, fend off the birds, and roll off the worn footpaths that might trip us up. In other words, we have the ability to seek out the proper spiritual environment and set down our roots there.

So how is your environment? Are there aspects of it that threaten to choke off your faith or keep it shallow and without deep roots? Of course, there’s no such thing as a perfect environment—except in heaven—and there are some things we just can’t change. But we still can make choices that improve the “field” in which we live.

Sometimes small things can make a big difference, like a little bit of fertilizer mixed into the soil of a garden. Maybe all you need is to wake up just ten minutes earlier so that you can spend a little more time in prayer. And perhaps your effort to be a little more patient around the house can create an environment that will help the entire family become more patient.

You have within you the potential to grow into a saint. All it takes is the right environment.

“Lord, help me grow into the person that you know I can become.”

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word for Today - Thursday, July 23, 2020

[Jer 2:1-3, 7-8, 12-13 and Matt 13:10-17]
The disciples approached Jesus and said, "Why do you speak to the crowd in parables?" He said to them in reply, "Because knowledge of the mysteries of the Kingdom of heaven has been granted to you, but to them it has not been granted." [Matthew]

     One of the most distinct characteristics of Jesus' teaching is his use of parables.  This was not unique to him.  Colorful metaphors that communicate wisdom are part of many cultures.  Aesop's Fables would be an example.  In Jesus' case, the parables become a means of understanding who he is and what he has come to reveal to us.  Scripture scholars, who write big books on the parables, point out that the Hebrew word for parable. mashal, can mean both a metaphor that communicates or it can mean a riddle!  For those who are open to Jesus' words, the parables are revelations of the mystery of the Kingdom of God.  To those who are not open, the parables are like mysterious riddles.  The point of this is RESPONSE.  

     One does not have to read very far into the gospels to encounter people whose minds and hearts were closed to Jesus.  One does not have to live very long to encounter people who claim to be Christian but whose minds and hearts are closed to the gospels.  Jesus' words can conflict with deeply ingrained political and social customs and beliefs.  The words from Isaiah, quoted by Jesus, are as true now as they were when they were first spoken.  If, having read the Sermon on the Mount or the parables, we find ourselves RESPONDING, "What if.....?, this can mean that a parable or teaching has touched one of those ingrained political or social beliefs.    That can be a call to conversion and to opening our minds and hearts to the gospels.  For all of us, from Pope to pew person the situation is the same.  Jesus has spoken to us.  What is our RESPONSE? 

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word for Today - Wednesday, July 22, 2020
St. Mary Magdalene

[Canticle 3:1-4b or 2 Cor 5:14-17 and John 20:1-2, 11-18]
Jesus said to her, 'Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and tell them, 'I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'" Mary Magdalen went and announced to the disciples, "I have seen the Lord," and then reported what he told her. [John]

     After Mary, the mother of Jesus, Mary Magdalen surely stands out as one of the most vivid and important female characters in the gospels.  Some interpreters have unjustifiably identified her with the woman in the Gospel According to Luke who washes the feet of Jesus [Luke 7:36-50] and have branded her as a prostitute.  The Gospel According to Mark states that she was someone from whom Jesus had cast out seven demons. [Mark 16:9 - longer appendix].  The early church gave her the title APOSTLE TO THE APOSTLES because, in the Gospel According to John, she became the first to announce the resurrection of Jesus.  She became the first Christian preacher. 

     The Gospel According to John seems to make every encounter between Jesus and someone else a kind of mini-drama.  The encounter with Mary Magdalen after the resurrection is no exception.  There is a comic moment when Jesus asks her, "Woman, why are you weeping?" and she thinks he is the gardener!  But when he speaks her name, her impulse is to embrace him.  He instead sends her to announce that the empty tomb which seemed to be the end of hope had become the symbol of hope because Jesus is risen from the dead!  Her faith ["I have seen the Lord!] is not just personal but becomes the faith of the church. St. Paul would make the same claim to be an apostle because of a similar experience with the Risen Lord. [1Cor 9:1]  Her role in making this announcement has become a symbol of hope to women. Today we celebrate this woman of faith. 

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word Today - Tuesday, July 21, 2020

[Mic 7:14-15, 18-20 and Matt 12:46-50]
"Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?" And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother." [Matthew]

     Jesus says that blood kinship to him carries no privileges - only following him through acceptance and action according to his teachings. The point of the story is the same: natural kinship with Jesus counts for nothing; only one who does the will of his heavenly Father belongs to his true family.

     Jesus did not create a kingdom with a hereditary monarchy of the sort that some people love to see in Great Britain and elsewhere.  There is no "royal family" of princes and princesses, or dukes and duchesses - no matter how much pageantry we may surround the pope with.   Indeed, Jesus warned his disciples not to become like "the rulers of the Gentiles."  He rejected the notion that James and John had of privileged seats.  Whoever does the will of "my heavenly Father" is the brother, sister or mother of Jesus.  Therein is the kingdom.

     Nor does the kingdom start at the walls of a church building or the boundaries of a diocese.  It begins wherever there is faith in Jesus and love of God and neighbor.  It spreads from there to all humanity, Christian or not, as long as we follow in the steps of Jesus.  We can choose to be brother, sister or mother of Jesus Christ. 

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word Today - Monday, July 20, 2020

[Mic 6:1-4, 6-8 and Matt 12:38-42]
You have been told, O man, what is good, and what the Lord requires of you: only to do the right and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God. [Micah]

    In an older translation the Bible verse noted above read "Act justly, love tenderly, and walk humbly with your God." For couples who are engaged, that verse is a good way to think about their marriage!  Faith, love and justice go together to sum up the right relationships between humans and with God.

     The verses just before that line show how many in Micah's time thought they should behave toward God.  The emphasis is on sacrifice and worship, but Micah, like so many of the prophets, moves the emphasis to love and justice.  What should mark a Jew and Christian is not how they worship, but how they treat one another and how they relate to God:  love of God and neighbor!  Worship should spring from that.  The "Final Judgment" scene in Matthew 25:31-45 is a graphic reminder that what we do to our neighbor, we do to God!  Micah is a good reminder to us of this fundamental truth. 

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word Today - Sunday, July 19, 2020

[Wis 12:13, 16-19; Rom 8:26-27; Matt 13:24-43]
The Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes with inexpressible groanings. And the one who searches hearts knows that is the intention of the Spirit, because he intercedes for the holy ones according to God's will. [Romans]

     People have always found this passage from St. Pauls' Letter to the Romans very comforting.  There are times when words of prayer simply don't come or else are inadequate to express what we feel or help another in their distress.  There are times when nothing seems to "work."  Those are the times when we have to stop, take a deep breath and let the Spirit find a way to express what we are feeling.  Sitting still and letting a situation work itself through without our active words or deeds is not easy, but the passage from the Book of Wisdom in today's first scripture assures us that God will find a way: And you gave your children good ground for hope that you would permit repentance for their sins.

     The feeling of helplessness or of being overwhelmed by circumstances, whether they be in matters of education, health, employment, relationships, etc. are never comfortable.  Those who face not just the possibility of becoming ill during the current pandemic, but also of losing their livelihood because of necessary measures to fight the virus could easily find themselves overwhelmed by it all.  The future seems to shut down and we are forced into a day to day existence just making sure we wear masks, keep distance, wash hands, etc.  Even some of the comforts of sacramental life such as Eucharist become difficult.  Weddings, baptisms, graduations all are postponed until "safer times."  We can pray that a vaccine be found as soon as possible so that we can find a "new normal" for our lives, but even there we have to leave this to the work of the Spirit in those who are doing the development. 

     The Spirit is praying with us as we move forward with the help of one another and the medical and scientific community toward a new future, a new normal.

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word Today - Friday, July 17, 2020

[Isa 38:1-6, 21-22, 7-8 and Matt 12:1-8]
"If you knew what this meant, I desire mercy, not sacrifice, you would not have condemned these innocent men. For the Son of Man is Lord of the sabbath." [Matthew]

     The "innocent men" in Jesus' words above were his disciples.  They were condemned by the Pharisees for pulling grain to eat as they walked behind Jesus.  It was a sabbath and pulling grain/reaping grain would have been considered "work" in the very legalistic and meticulous world of the Pharisees.  Jesus turns their arguments back on them by citing the example of King David and companions eating bread that was supposed to be for the temple priests, and the example of the priests themselves who had to "work" on the sabbath!!  But, in the end, it is not the casuistic argument that Jesus uses.  It is hunger and mercy!!  The temple of sacrifice would be replaced by the temple of Jesus. The ultimate justification for the disciples’ violation of the sabbath rest is that Jesus, the Son of Man, has supreme authority over the law.

      This was not the first time Jesus said this to the religious authorities.  When he called Matthew [Levi], the tax collector, Matthew invited him to dinner with other tax collectors and "sinners."  The Pharisees and scribes objected to Jesus eating with them.  Jesus spoke the same quote from Hosea 6:6 to them about God's preference for mercy over sacrifice.  Matters would come to a head in chapter 23 of this gospel when Jesus really unloads on the Pharisees and scribes about the burdens they had created through their narrow interpretation of the Mosaic Law.  The accounts may well have reflected conflicts between the first followers of Jesus and the religious authorities in the time after Jesus' death and resurrection.  The conflict lives on today when some folks take on the cloak of liturgical "vigilantes" and report any tiny deviation from rubrics at Mass or accuse the preacher of "politics in the pulpit" when the needs of the poor and hungry are being ignored by public authorities.  

     Jesus' conflict with the religious "powers" of his time unquestionably led to his death.  He warned his disciples that they too may suffer the same consequences for following him.  Do we have the courage to stand up to those who put small matters of liturgical etiquette or political opinions ahead of the mercy that God desires?  The current need to dispense from Sunday observance to help battle the COVID-19 pandemic and the necessity of wearing facial coverings along with distancing when we do have Mass comes to mind.  

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word Today - Thursday, July 16, 2020

[Isa 26:7-9, 12, 16-19 and Matt 11:28-30]
"Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light." [Matthew]

      The image of the "yoke" for many of us is probably something we see once in awhile in the pages of National Geographic magazine, reporting on agriculture far away!  The oxen or other "beasts of burden" seem weighed down by the plow or wagon they are pulling.  The audience in Jesus' day would have been aware of a popular analogy for the word "yoke."  It referred to the duties and requirements of the Mosaic Law and its enforcement by religious authorities.  The Gospel According to Matthew is especially sensitive to this subject since Jesus' is portrayed as a "new Moses," bringing a new way of looking at the law.

     The passage from this gospel today is popular because faith can be a great comfort in times of stress and difficulty, like the present COVID-19 pandemic.  We long for some kind of comfort and a reassuring way forward for ourselves and our loved ones and for our country as well.  However, the challenges of the Sermon on the Mount in this gospel remind us that Jesus and his teachings are not some kind of spiritual narcotic!  There is peace to be had if we are willing to let go of the very prejudices and practices that form the burden that is weighing us down.  Jesus offers a different "yoke!"  We will still have to carry life's ordinary burdens and some extraordinary ones as well, but we will be able to do this with his comfort and support and without unhelpful formalities. 

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word Today - Wednesday, July 15, 2020

[Isa 10:5-7, 13b-16 and Matt 11:25-27]
At that time Jesus exclaimed: "I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike.

     There are moments in the gospels when the day to day preaching and healing actions of Jesus pause and a curtain is briefly lifted to show the full identity of Jesus.  The example many of us would immediately think of would be the "transfiguration" experience on Mt. Tabor.  Another would be the voice at Jesus' baptism in Matthew 3:17.  In both experiences we hear a voice that says, "This is my beloved Son...."The gospel scripture for today from the Gospel According to Matthew has Jesus himself speaking to his relationship with his Father.  It is this relationship that underlies everything in the gospels.  It is this relationship that keeps Jesus going to his death and resurrection.

     The "wise and learned" is not meant to discourage us from study of Jesus' revelation but rather to emphasize that our faith comes first and foremost from an encounter with a God of love.  Jesus invites us to this encounter.  Today's passage will be followed by the words, "Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened...."  [v. 28].  The encounter in faith must come before we can undertake a study of what it all means.  That is the field of "Christology!"  A relationship in faith, an openness to a love greater than any we could imagine, must come first.  Can we accept this invitation?  

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word Today - Tuesday, July 14, 2020

[Isa 7:1-9 and Matt 11:20-24]
Unless your faith is firm you shall not be firm! [Isaiah] Jesus began to reproach the towns where most of his mighty deeds had been done, since they had not repented. [Matthew]

 Some lessons seem destined to be repeated and remain unlearned.  The words of Isaiah were spoken 700 years before Jesus' life.  Jesus' words were spoken more than 2,000 years before our time.  Prophetic warnings seem fated to be disregarded because they mean change and conversion, which appear unacceptable or inconvenient.  Our ears and eyes are being filled with news of the spread of the COVID-19 virus, yet there are people who still refuse to wear a mask, stay home, and observe "social distancing!"   Science is often the prophetic voice nowadays on many important issues and finds itself denounced as a "hoax!"   The denunciations by Isaiah, Jeremiah and other prophets were aimed at lifestyle and political choices made by rulers and the people.  Jesus wept over the future of Jerusalem [Matthew 23:37-39; Luke 19:41-44] because it did not "recognize the time of your visitation."  

      Isaiah's words, "Unless your faith is firm, you shall not be firm!" should lead us to recognize the prophetic voices and make the necessary changes to avoid loss of life and health. [Those who "recover" from COVID-19 may still be dealing with lung and kidney damage!]   Our "delivery" may come from the very same science being denounced as a "hoax!"  Vaccines do not invent themselves.  God's mighty deeds may come in that form.  We can do our part by accepting the penitential practices of wearing a mask, staying home, observing appropriate social distancing and hand hygiene.  

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word Today - Monday, July 13, 2020

[Isa 1:10-17 and Matt 10:34-11:1]
Put away your misdeed from before my eyes; cease doing evil; learn to do good. Make justice your aim: redress the wronged, hear the orphan's plea, defend the widow. [Isaiah]

The passage today from the very first chapter, written during the time the Assyrians were attacking the northern kingdom (700's BC), attacks a central problem.  Faith is more than liturgical splendor!  Faith must be expressed in words and deeds of love not just for God but for neighbor as well.  God rejects the worship that ignores the widow and orphan.  Preachers in our own day sometimes find themselves criticized when they address the challenges of the widow and orphan because some think this is a matter of politics.  Isaiah reminds us that God cares not one bit for our political affiliation but for how we take care of one another.  Our worship should reflect this care and not be an escape from it.

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word Today - Saturday, July 11, 2020

I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send?” (Isaiah 6:8)
Let’s try to put ourselves in Isaiah’s shoes. It seems that he was praying in the Temple when he received this amazing vision. So he was already a worshipper of the Lord. But on this particular day, he saw the majesty of God in a new way and was overcome. He recognized his sinfulness as compared to the infinite holiness of the Lord. But he also experienced God’s mercy and was transformed by it. Now he was ready to serve God with his whole heart.

Isaiah’s vision can help us understand the power of prayer to change us. Like Isaiah, we too can experience a transforming encounter with the Lord in prayer—perhaps without the smoke, seraphim, and burning ember. How?

First, you need to detach yourself from your everyday environment. Whether it’s in church or at home, try to find a place and time free from distractions.

Then, place yourself in God’s presence, whether you feel him or not. Of course, God is always present to you, but this is a time for you to focus exclusively on him. It may help to meditate on a psalm, gaze at a crucifix or an icon, or even imagine Jesus standing before you. Whatever you do, it should help you realize how awesome God is. You may remember, as Isaiah did, that God is “Holy, holy, holy” (Isaiah 6:3). Your very breath—and every moment you’re alive—is a gift from him. This should lead you to give him thanks and praise.

As you worship, you may start to see yourself in his light. Like Isaiah, you might see aspects of your character that need to change. You may be led to say, “I’m sorry, Lord!” But if you’re seeing yourself through his eyes, you will also realize how merciful he is. No matter what you’ve done—or haven’t done—you can seek forgiveness and be cleansed.

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word Today - Friday, July 10, 2020

I am sending you. . . . Do not worry. (Matthew 10:16, 19)
Jesus makes it clear: there are consequences to being sent out in his name. He tells his disciples that they will be handed over, persecuted, and rejected. But then he says something unexpected: “Do not worry” (Matthew 10:19). The Holy Spirit will be with them, he promises, speaking through them and showing them what they are to say and do.

Few of us will face imprisonment, beatings, or execution for sharing the gospel. Nevertheless, every time we open our mouths to talk about the Lord, there is always the risk that someone will reject us or ridicule us. To which Jesus says, “Do not worry.”

God has equipped you to bring his love to a hurting world. So don’t worry! He has great confidence in you—a confidence based not just on your own gifts and abilities but on who you are in Christ Jesus.

“Father, thank you for making me a new creation. Give me the courage to share your good news.

Father Dennis

Our way of acting should be different from the world’s way. The love of Christ must come before all else

 


 

God’s Living Word Today - Thursday, July 9, 2020

[Hos 11:1-4, 8e-9 and Matt 10:7-15]
The more I called them, the father they went from me, sacrificing to the Baals and burning incense to idols. Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk, who took them in my arms; I drew them with human cords, with bands of love; I fostered them like one who raises an infant to his cheeks; yet, thought I stopped to feel my child, they did not know that I was their healer! [Hosea]

     In this very moving passage, Hosea speaks with the voice of God the loving Father/Mother who is saddened and frustrated by the rebellious and unfaithful conduct of his/her child!!  God can act through human love! Similar complaints from parents and grandparents over and over again have been voiced and heard.  The challenge for the parent is to see their role much like the father in the parable of the prodigal son.  Both sons show themselves to be difficult each in his own way.  The father does not give up on either one of them but "goes out" to meet them and invite them in!

     Perhaps the most poignant modern form of this love is the parent who must cope with an addicted offspring!  Another form that we have heard more often is the son or daughter who has abandoned their religious faith to "burn incense to Baal."  On occasion parents or grandparents actually disown their children or grandchildren when the latter go astray.  If only they could read God's words in Hosea today.  God expresses the same frustration and pain: "My heart is overwhelmed, my compassion is stirred.  God will pick us up and hold us to his face if we will let it happen! 

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word Today - Wednesday, July 8, 2020

It is time to seek the Lord. (Hosea 10:12) Idolatry was everywhere. Israel had begun to place their faith in military strength and foreign alliances instead of trusting in God. At the same time, they began erecting altars and offering sacrifices to honor Baal, the pagan god of fertility (Hosea 10:1). How could God’s precious chosen people have fallen so low?

The truth is, we all have a tendency to worship “false gods,” sometimes without even realizing it. It happens when we let anything take priority over the Lord. When we allow other things to grab our attention or our hearts more than God, or when we seek our joy and comfort in things God has created more than in God himself, we have in essence made them idols.

What’s the solution? Hosea tells the people, quite simply, “It is time to seek the Lord” (10:12). Seek the Lord when you cling to your own strength instead of relying on God’s grace. Seek the Lord when you find yourself rearranging your schedule to fit in more screen time and end up squeezing out your prayer time. Seek the Lord when you realize you are doing things to please other people because you care more about their opinion of you than what God thinks. Seek the Lord when you are tempted to place career success above time with your family.

Today, make time to seek the Lord. Ask him, “What things am I tempted to place before you? What can I do to put you first?” By asking these questions on a regular basis, God can open your eyes and heart to show you what steps you might need to take to knock those “gods” off their pedestals. It might mean easing up on Netflix for a few weeks to spend extra time in prayer. It might mean making it a point to go to Confession on a regular basis. Or it might mean putting a little extra money into the poor box after Mass.

It is always a good time to seek the Lord. As you do, he will show you how you can place him at the center of your life.

“Lord, what am I tempted to place above you? Show me how to make a change.”

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word Today - Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest. (Matthew 9:38)

Be careful what you pray for; you might be called upon to answer your own prayer! Or as one paraphrase renders the verse right after today’s Gospel, “The prayer was no sooner prayed than it was answered. Jesus called twelve of his followers and sent them into the ripe fields” (Matthew 10:1).

Intercession may be a very important form of prayer, but we need to remember that all prayer originates with Jesus, not with us. When a need strikes us, whether we see that need in the world, the Church, our neighborhood, or our family, we can be confident that this need is on Jesus’ own heart. He is the One who has opened our eyes to it and has moved us to pray for this need to be met.

Sometimes we clearly know what to pray for: “Heal this sickness, Lord.” “Let food aid get to this starving child.” “Give me the strength to make the right decision.” But at other times we don’t know how to pray; we just sense that something is wrong and that we need to take action. The best thing we can do in these situations is to place them in God’s hands and ask him to act in whatever way he knows is best.

Intercessory prayer is a beautiful way to work with the harvest master, but it’s not the only way. As we pray for people, we can also ask, “Lord, is there something you want me to do for him or her?”                                            

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word Today - Monday, July 6, 2020

[Hos 2:16, 17c-18, 21-22 and Matt 9:18-26]
I will espouse you to me forever: I will espouse you in right and in justice, in love and in mercy; I will espouse you in fidelity and you shall know the Lord. [Hosea]

     Our daily first scriptures move now to a prophet very different from the thunder of Amos.  Amos aimed at rulers and society.  Hosea looks to fidelity to the covenant and knowledge of God.  God asks Hosea to marry a prostitute named Gomer, who is constantly unfaithful to him (Hosea).  Gomer becomes a symbol of Israel's infidelity to the covenant and Hosea becomes a symbol of God's love, loyalty and mercy in his efforts to get Israel (Gomer) to return.  The lines quoted above are an eloquent summary of Hosea's (God's) efforts.

     When our baptismal covenant becomes a thing of the past, we too can wander off.  We take a "that was then, this is now" attitude.  Many marriages and close friendships have been destroyed by that attitude.  "You are no longer the person I married!" is a line one might hear.  The answer to that is, "Yes I am and no I'm not!"  Knowledge of God requires that we continue to grow in our relationship to God.  For this to happen, we have to be continually faithful to the covenant.  Mistakes and failures will be a part of this effort, but Hosea assures us that God is not going to give up on us. 

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word Today - Sunday, July 5, 2020

We are not debtors to the flesh. (Romans 8:12)

In today’s second reading, St. Paul uses this image of indebtedness to encourage us: “We are not debtors to the flesh” (Romans 8:12). The flesh—that part of you that is attracted to sin—has no more power over you. Because you have been baptized into Jesus’ death and resurrection, you have died and risen with him. You have died to sin and no longer owe it any allegiance. Raised up with Christ, you now have a way out when temptation arises.

Think how wonderful it feels to walk through a temptation and come out on the other side unharmed. Or think about how comforting it is to know that you don’t have to be bound by guilt or destined to repeat your past sins.

Of course, this is easier said than done. We know how strong our fallen desires can be, especially when it comes to habitual sins that have woven their way into our lives. But Paul is announcing a truth that can sustain us if we should fall into sin, just as it can inspire us in the midst of temptation.

So if you lose a battle here or there, you can pray, “Lord, you know how weak I am, but I believe that this sin does not define me. Thank you, Jesus, for abolishing my debt to the flesh!”

Jesus has broken the yoke of sin. So take up his yoke—the yoke of faith and trust—and let him give you rest (Matthew 11:29). Let his good news wash over you today: you are not bound to sin. You don’t owe it anything!     

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word Today - Saturday, July 4, 2020

[Amos 9:11-15 and Matt 9:14-17]

     History has a way of putting perspective on human endeavors that can be humbling.  What would an ancient Egyptian, Assyrian, Babylonian or, in more modern times, Incan, Mayan or Aztec think of the pictures they could now see of archaeological sites representing the ruins of what they thought were divinely inspired civilizations?  It's hard for us to project that far into the future, just as it would have been for them!  The Jewish people thought that God had ordained their own geographical kingdom to last forever, and learned that the Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians and Romans did not agree!  Prophets like Amos, Isaiah and Jeremiah were ignored or persecuted, only to be shown to have been true voices of God.  Are those voices speaking to us now?

     As we celebrate today the 244th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and give thanks for those "liberties" that characterize our American multi-ethnic culture, we are in a world-wide pandemic that is sorely trying our political and religious foundations.  As we struggle to maintain the balance between human health and economic health, our political beliefs are proving to be a challenge!!!  Our spiritual health is no exception, either!  The tenacity of our faith is what is inspiring to me right now, and I think we can celebrate God's blessing of that stubborn faith, which will see us through the pandemic.  The Holy Spirit will have to work hard - perhaps even harder with certain political leaders - to fulfill the promises enshrined in the Declaration of Independence.  Those "self-evident truths" enshrined in the Declaration need to become flesh and blood reality for a lot more people in our land.  With God's help, we can leave a much better historical record for the archaeologists of the future!

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word Today - Friday, July 3, 2020
St. Thomas, Apostle

John 20:24-29]
"Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed." [John]

     There are times when reading the Gospel According to John that I feel as if various characters become almost archetypes of classes of people in the process of hearing the gospel and coming to faith.  The sheer vividness of the characters makes it seem as if they are more than just themselves.  The apostle Thomas, with his ominous comment about going back with Jesus to Judea to mourn Lazarus ("Let us also go to die with him! John 11:16) and his question at the Last Supper, ("Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?" John 14:5) and his confession of faith in the Risen Christ, after doubting the initial message ("My Lord and my God!" John 14:28) seems to come off the page into our imagination.  He is like so many other colorful characters in the Gospel According to John:  Nicodemus, the Samaritan woman, the Man Born Blind, not to mention Peter and "the disciple whom he loved."  We can find ourselves identifying with these people.  We are those whom Jesus speaks of in replying to Thomas' confession: "Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed."  We are the ones who "are no longer strangers and sojourners, but...are fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the Apostles and prophets.." as we read in the first scripture for today from Ephesians.

     Characters, like Thomas, of the kind we encounter in the Gospel According to John remind us that Jesus did not choose plaster of Paris or porcelain figurines as his followers, but rather imperfect flesh and blood people who would struggle to know him and then risk their lives to tell others about him.  We are the others who know Jesus because of their preaching.  Like Thomas, we may find it hard to believe at times.  Perhaps, like Thomas, we need to have a personal experience of Christ or at least meet someone who personifies Jesus and inspires us.  Thomas waves to us from the page and says, "I did it.  So can you!" 

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word Today - Thursday, July 2, 2020

I was a shepherd and a dresser of sycamores. the Lord took me from following the flock, and said to me, 'God, prophesy to my people Israel.' Now here the word of the Lord." [Amos]
I am not a prophet: Amos reacts strongly to Amaziah’s attempt to classify him as a “prophet-for-hire” who “earns [his] bread” by giving oracles in exchange for payment (cf. 1 Sm 9:3–10; Mi 3:5). To disassociate himself from this kind of “professional” prophet, Amos rejects outright the title of nabi’ (“prophet”). By profession he is a herdsman/sheepbreeder and a dresser of sycamore trees, but God’s call has commissioned him to prophesy to Israel.

Amos made powerful people very uncomfortable.  He condemned their lifestyles at the expense of the poor and their cocky belief that the Assyrians would not be able to conquer them.  So, he became a real nuisance and in the passage for today's first scripture, he is confronted by one of the chief religious authorities in the "northern kingdom," - Israel or Samaria.  The role of a prophet in those days was more formal and accepted than in our own, but the results were the same.  Great prophets make the powerful and the complacent very uncomfortable.  In our own time, the advent of social media can spread statements far and wide in a matter of seconds!  As in Amos' time, there were many "prophets of prosperity" who calmed the nerves of the powerful and assured them that they were in no danger. Yet, as he points out to Amaziah, God called him from nowhere and Amos intended to do what God has asked him to do.

Time and again both in Old Testament times, New Testament times, and in our own times, a complacent social consensus can take over and act as a kind of narcotic that cloaks real problems.  That consensus led to the introduction, even by Solomon, of foreign deities into the temple and the beggaring of the people to build that temple in the first place!  In our own history, our congress actually passed the Alien and Sedition Acts that punished speech critical of the government. 

As we approach the 244th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence and give thanks to God for the blessings of liberty, we would do well to remember those in our land who are unable to enjoy those blessings, and work ever more to make these blessings more accessible.  Amos is watching

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word Today - Wednesday, July 1, 2020

[Amos 5:14-15, 21-24 and Matt 8:28-34]
I hate, I spurn your feasts, says the Lord, I take no pleasure in your solemnities; your cereal offerings I will not accept, nor consider your stall-fed peace offerings. Away with your noisy songs! I will not listen to the melodies of your harps. But if you would offer me burnt offerings, then let justice surge like water, and goodness like an unfailing stream. [Amos]

     Amos was one "tell it like it is" prophet!  He denounced empty religious devotion that cloaked injustice.  He is not the only Old Testament prophet who did this.  However, he is certainly one of the most colorful ones.  Can we imagine someone showing up at a big church celebration with all its pomp and circumstance and denouncing all of us for our failures to care for the poor, the sick, the immigrant, the imprisoned, the hungry!  Our first reaction would be, "Who invited him?"  Then we would get angry and have him thrown out for "disturbing the peace" or worse!  This is exactly what happened to Jesus about 700 years later, and is generally the fate of anyone (prophet/prophetess) who dares to disturb the peace of the powerful in the land!

     The Letter to the Hebrews in the New Testament says, "Indeed, the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart.  No creature is concealed from him but everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must render an account." (Heb. 4:12-13).  We cannot dismiss Amos as some quaint Old Testament figure, let alone Jesus whom we worship as our savior, and at the same time ignore those whom he considers as "the least of my brothers and sisters." [Matt. 25:31-45].  Can the Book of Amos and the Gospel According to Matthew be "living and effective" in us?  Or do we throw them out of our celebration for disturbing our peace? 

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word Today - Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Prepare to meet your God, O Israel. (Amos 4:12)
Amos prophesied during the reign of King Jeroboam of Israel (786–746 BC). A shepherd and farmer from the southern kingdom of Judah, Amos urged the people of the north to return to God. Israel’s wealth and military success had led them astray; sadly, they began to live like the nations around them instead of following the Lord’s commands. In their prosperity, Israel’s moral standards collapsed. The rich oppressed the poor, might made right, and corruption ran rampant. Even worse, the people fell into idolatry and worshipped foreign gods. Amos warned the people of God’s coming judgment: “Prepare to meet your God” (Amos 4:12).

Like the Israelites, we can drift away from God and his commands. We can forget that the God we worship is holy and worthy of our obedience. None of us are worthy to stand in God’s presence; we have all sinned. Even so, we never have to be afraid to meet him. Through the death and resurrection of Jesus, we know for certain that God will always welcome us. He will always gather us in his loving arms, just as the father did in Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32).

With the psalmist, we can marvel, “I, because of your abundant mercy, will enter your house” (5:8).

“Lord, by your steadfast love, I will enter your presence today.” (Psalm 5)

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word Today - Monday, June 29, 2020
SS. Peter and Paul, Apostles

[Acts 12:1-11; 2 Tim 4:6-8, 17-18; Matt 16:13-19]
"I, Paul, am already being poured out like a libation, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith." [2 Timothy] "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church...." [Matthew]

     Peter became the principal representative of the original Twelve Apostles.  That leadership was conferred on him by Jesus, as we learn in today's gospel scripture.  The shape and form of that leadership has varied over the centuries - something we need to remember.  The most important function of the "Petrine Ministry" is the unity of the faith!  That unity, battle-scarred as it is, still exists and is now represented by Pope Francis.  Peter's personal response to Jesus as impulsive and rash as it could be, showed that Jesus knew well the humanity and shortcomings of his disciples.  The cardinals do not elect spiritual robots to be pope.

     Paul has come to represent the "charismatic" side of the Church - the enthusiasm and tremendous gifts of the faithful that give flesh to the Body of Christ.  His own personal experience of Jesus motivated him to incredible efforts to preach the gospel well beyond the original territory of Palestine. It motivated him to confront Peter on the subject of requiring Gentile converts to be circumcised and observe the Mosaic Law!!  His passionate writings are a major source of our faith and understanding of "the Church."  He is justly regarded by some church historians as "the second founder" of Christianity.

     In celebrating this feast, we are reminded that for each of these two men, the basis of all that they did was their faith in the Risen Lord.  It is that relationship that underlies everything.  If we turn the Church into just another institution and forget what the Body of Christ truly means, we betray not only Peter and Paul but the Lord himself.  All of us baptized carry on their work.

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word Today - Sunday, June 28, 2020
13th Sunday in Ordinary Time

[2 Kgs 4:8-11, 14-16a; Rom 6:3-4, 8-11; Matt 10:37-42]
"Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me. [Matthew]

The Sermon on the Mount (Chs. 5-7), the "missionary discourse" (Ch. 10 - from which today's gospel scripture is taken), the condemnation of the scribes and Pharisees (Ch 23), the parable of the Last Judgment (25:31-45) - these words can make us uncomfortable, to say the least.  Some people just do a "cafeteria style Jesus" and pick and choose bits and pieces to put together a Jesus of their own designs.  What could be most indicative of their faith are the pieces that don't make it into their image!  This is the very stuff of spiritual direction!

     The gospel scripture for today gathers into one chapter many of Jesus' sayings about what it means to follow him.  Yes, we do have the other three gospels to help us in putting together our own image, as well as the other New Testament writers (with the Old Testament as background, too), but once we do that, it might be helpful to look at what we have left out!  If we leave out what Dietrich Bonhoeffer's classic, THE COST OF DISCIPLESHIP shows us, we may find ourselves outside Jesus' own description of what a disciple should be. 

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word Today - Saturday, June 27, 2020

[Lam 2:2, 10-14, 18-19 and Matt 8:5-17,448]
"Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed." [Matthew]

These words should be familiar to us.  We say them just before we move out of the pews and into the aisles (observing, of course, "social distancing!") to go and receive communion. In place of "servant," we say "soul." Like so many Catholic devotional words, the sheer familiarity and ritual use of the words has robbed them of much of their original power as an act of faith!  The story in today's gospel scripture of the centurion is also familiar to us, and its familiarity can cause us to let it go by without a lot of thought.  A closer look might help us pay more attention.

     A centurion would have been a combination of lieutenant and sergeant in charge of a group of one hundred foot soldiers.  He would have complete power of command over that group.  His command would be law!  It was said that the Roman army depended on the quality of its centurions.  The centurion in the gospel story would not have been Jewish or Christian.  If anything, he would have followed the customary polytheistic Roman religious system except that he would have been required to pay homage to Caesar, who was considered a divinity.  His acknowledgment of Jesus' power to heal would have been quite surprising, and Jesus admits to his own astonishment: "Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith."  

     The centurion did not need Jesus to come to his house to perform a public miracle.  His faith and experience told him that Jesus' command would be enough.  When we make his words of faith our own at Mass, do they express a similar faith? 

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word Today - Friday June 26, 2020

Matthew’s Gospel 8:1-4 The Cleansing of a Leper
He stretched out his hand, touched him, and said,
“I will do it.  Be made clean.”
His leprosy was cleansed immediately.

This narrative section of the second book of the gospel is composed of nine miracle stories, most of which are found in Mark, although Matthew does not follow St. Mark’s order and abbreviates the stories radically. The stories are arranged in three groups of three, each group followed by a section composed principally of sayings of Jesus about discipleship.

From the moment he exhibited signs of leprosy, this poor man was separated from his family. He had to ring a bell and call out “Unclean!” whenever a healthy person approached him.

We may feel “unclean” at times, or undeserving of the little blessings—or certainly the big miracles—that God wants to give us. We may hesitate to call out to Jesus for help, to ask for forgiveness, or even to try going deeper in our faith or drawing closer to Christ. We might avoid going to Eucharistic Adoration because we don’t believe God would speak to us there. Or we might go to Confession but doubt that God has truly forgiven our sins.

Just as this fellow courageously called out to Jesus and asked for healing, you can do the same. So come to Jesus. Believe in your heart that he welcomes you and he wants to speak with you. Ask him to heal you. Right now, imagine him placing his hands on you and giving you an extra supply of his grace and healing power. Be made clean!

“Heal me, Lord, of whatever keeps me from you.

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word Today - Thursday, June 25, 2020

[2 Kgs 24:8-17 and Matt 7:21-29]
"Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock. [Matthew]

     With these words, the evangelist Matthew brings the Sermon on the Mount to a close.  Because Jesus' teachings in the "sermon" are so challenging, one might be tempted to feel relieved - of guilt, if nothing else!  But the closing words are just as challenging as everything that preceded them.  The operative words are "listen" and "act."  Just before these words, in the same passage for today's Mass, we read: "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven."  It will not be enough to be "astonished at his teaching," there must be action and conversion.

     This conversion and action are not simply in the external and physical realm but also the interior realm of mind and heart.  Throughout the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus stresses that interior thoughts and motivation can be just as important as exterior actions, but BOTH are necessary.  The scene, later on in this gospel, of the Last Judgment will tell us what action means.  But the ultimate goal is integrity which means the right thing is done for the right reason.  This is why Jesus' teaching was so threatening to some of the scribes and Pharisees.  They were taking a good thing, the Law of Moses, and using it as a means (cf. Matt. 23:1-36) to enrich themselves.  

     After laying the foundation of his ministry in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus will begin his ministry in Galilee.  This would be a good opportunity, before we follow him, to examine our thoughts and actions to see how we are listening and acting on his words.  Chapters 5 through 7 of the Gospel According to Matthew are a catechism of Christian life.  How firm is our foundation?

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word Today - Wednesday, June 24, 2020
The Nativity of St. John the Baptist

[Isa 49:1-6; Acts 13:22-26; Luke 1:57-66, 80]
John heralded his coming by proclaiming a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel; and as John was completing his course, he would say, 'What do you suppose that I am? I am not he. Behold, one is coming after me; I am not worthy to unfasten the sandals of his feet.' [Acts]

This feast, dating from the 4th century in both the East and the West, came to be celebrated in accord with Luke 1:36, six months before the Lord’s birth; quoting John 3:30, Augustine found this date (near the summer solstice) appropriate for, after the birth of John, daylight begins to grow shorter, whereas after the birth of Jesus daylight begins to increase.  Luke writes that the Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary in the "sixth month" and mentions that "Elizabeth, your kinswoman has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren."  So, if the Christian community adopted December 25th as the date to celebrate Jesus' birth, then the annunciation to Mary had to be nine months earlier, March 25, and John the Baptist's birthday had to be six months earlier, June 24th!   When composing his Gospel narrative and the Acts of the Apostles, the evangelist Luke found a way to "put John in his place" - an important figure, to be sure, but not more important than Jesus!

     To us now, 2000+ years later this all seems obvious, but the influence of John the Baptist must have been a challenge for the early Christian preachers.  St. Paul encountered "Christians" who had been baptized "with the baptism of John." [Acts 8:16].  The narrative we are accustomed to, especially in Advent, makes John the Baptist the great "advance man" for Jesus.  We celebrate his birth as a reminder of his "place" in the story of Jesus' life for he must decrease and Jesus must increase.  We also can remember that our own baptism into the death and resurrection of Jesus makes us participants in the job description given to John the Baptist!

Father Dennis 

 


 

God’s Living Word Today - Tuesday, June 23, 2020

[2 Kgs 19:9b-11, 14-21, 31-35a, 36 and Matt 7:6, 12-14]
"Do to others whatever you would have them do to you. This is the Law and the Prophets." [Matthew]

The scripture passage noted above is known as the ‘golden rule.’ It appears in the Bible explicitly in the Book of Tobias (4:15) but stated negatively, which was the way it was known in Jesus' time. (Do not do unto others what you would not want them to do unto you.) Jesus states it positively and says that it sums up "the Law and the Prophets."

In its ancient form, the roots were probably in the "laws" of retribution and revenge.  For Jesus it is stated as a law of love.  The Sermon on the Mount goes beyond physical action to motives.  Jesus asks us to give without expectation of return.  If our giving is conditioned by the expectation that someone will reciprocate, then our giving is tainted.  [Luke 14:13-21].  The refusal of some invitees to attend a banquet could be based on an inability to reciprocate!  Jesus urges us to do more than "random acts of kindness."  Kindness is to be a way of life for Christians.  Others may or may not reciprocate, but Jesus promises that our actions will not go unnoticed and unrewarded if done from love of God and neighbor.

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word Today - Monday June 22, 2020

Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye? (Matthew 7:3)

This is not a prohibition against recognizing the faults of others, but against passing judgment in a spirit of arrogance, forgetful of one’s own faults. The designation hypocrite previously given to the scribes and Pharisees is here given to the Christian disciple who is concerned with the faults of another and ignores his own more serious offenses.

Just how sensitive we are to Jesus' words might be illustrated by Pope Francis' reply to a journalist on the papal plane when asked something about gay people.  The pope replied, "Who am I to judge?

Wisdom coming from the Holy Spirit can help us to make the "judgments" that life requires from time to time.  That will tell us it is not a good thing to be wasting time looking for the splinters in other peoples' eyes.

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word Today - Sunday, June 21, 2020
12th Sunday in Ordinary Time

[Jer 20:10-13; Rom 5:12-15; Matt 10:26-33]
Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father's knowledge. Even all the hairs of your head are counted. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. [Matthew]

The context for Jesus' wonderful statement about sparrows is what scripture scholars call the "missionary discourse"  in the Gospel According to Matthew.  At the beginning of this chapter, Jesus "summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits to drive them out and to cure every disease and every illness."  He gives them their marching orders and warns them to expect resistance and even persecution.  With all that in mind, God's providence will guide them just as it guides the little sparrows!

In the church courtyard at the fountain small sparrows come and sit on top tier to drink water then fly away only to return later. The feeling of God's providence, the image of sparrows and the passage quoted above helps us realize that God cares for each one of us just as God cares for them.  The beautiful old hymn says it well: "His eye is on the sparrow, and I know he watches me."

Happy Father’s Day

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word Today - Saturday, June 20, 2020
IMMACULATE HEART OF MARY

[2 Chronicles 24:17-25 and Luke 2:41-51]
He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart.  [Luke]

My mother often times said the everyday should be mother’s day and today we celebrate our beautiful and blessed Mother, who is Mary, whose heart beats with love for each one of us. The same spirituality that fostered devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus also gave rise to a similar devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.  A mother's heart beats for and in each child!   The Gospel According to Luke twice makes mention of Mary keeping events and circumstances about Jesus "in her heart."  This is mentioned in Luke 2:19, after the visit of the shepherds to the manger site after Jesus' birth, and in the passage above after the anxious lost and found incident when Jesus stayed behind after his parents had left Jerusalem.  The scene of the presentation in the temple could be included when Simeon promises Mary that the life of her son will mean a sword in her own person. [Luke 2:34]

God's providence in choosing a young Palestinian Jewish woman to be an instrument in the plan of salvation must be kept in front when telling the story of Jesus.  Mary is not an incidental person.  The celebration of the Immaculate Heart of Mary may seem sentimental to some, but the sheer fact that she gave birth to Jesus remains before us.  The celebration of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary is not about a physical organ but about two persons to whom we owe everything.  Yes, Mary's life must be seen in the light of Jesus' life but we see her life in the Church and accept her important intercessory care in the Communion of Saints.  The rosary serves as a reminder of this, as do the various liturgical celebrations in her honor.  Today is one of those reminders.

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word for Today - Friday, June 19, 2020
The Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus

[Deut 7:6-11; 1 John 4:7-16; Matt 11:25-30,61]
In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also must love one another. No one has ever seen God. Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us. [1 John]

 One might wonder why this feast does not happen on February 14th when our entire world seems to be focused on the heart and love! As it is, this celebration occurs in summer and during the week.  Nevertheless, it has the rank of a "solemnity" which puts it on a par with other very important celebrations in the liturgical calendar.  It is the basis for the First Friday devotional observance.  This is a testimony to the popularity of the devotion to the heart of Jesus, which really began to gain prominence in the 17th century with the private revelations to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque which included a promise that anyone who attended Mass and received communion worthily for seven straight First Fridays would not die without the final sacraments of the Church.  That is a powerful incentive, but achieving that number of First Friday observances alone may cloud over the real meaning of the feast.

     The second scripture assigned for the feast makes it clear that God's love for us carries an imperative to love one another.  If we go to confession and receive communion on seven straight First Fridays without gaining in love for our neighbor, we frustrate the whole purpose of the devotion. The feast celebrates God's love for us which must "overflow" to our neighbor. 

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word Today - Thursday, June 18, 2020

[Sir 48:1-14 and Matt 6:7-15, 44]
This is how you are to pray: 'Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, they Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.' If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions." [Matthew]

The English translation of the Greek text cannot capture the urgency of Jesus' prayer because we lack a verb tense that Greek has, called "aorist."  This carries with it the idea of "right now" and not pie in the sky, by and by.  We can get lost in the familiarity of Jesus' prayer and ignore the actual words and petitions which place us in complete dependence on God's providence and mercy.  Pope Francis recently caused a stir because he called attention to the line "and lead us not into temptation" and made it clear that God does not lead anyone into temptation.  The petition is a prayer for protection and guidance and not to ask God to avoid doing something! 

The petition for forgiveness is reinforced by the words that follow the prayer.  If we expect forgiveness of our sins by God, we must also forgive our neighbor their transgressions against us.  This should remind us that the Sacrament of Reconciliation is just the beginning of the process.  We receive God's forgiveness there, but it requires a further action on our part - that we forgive others!  

We pray the words Jesus has given us thousands of times, but that repetition can numb us to the strength of Jesus' words which we make our own.  It must not be just one prayer among thousands. 

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word Today - Wednesday, June 17, 2020

[2 Kgs 2:1, 6-14 and Matt 6:1-6, 16-18]
"Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father...." [Matthew]

 Jesus today is speaking about prayer, fasting, and almsgiving as He takes aim at the scribes and Pharisees but what he says is meant for all of us.  Our motives are just as important as our behavior.  It is a warning against doing the right thing for the wrong reason.  Prayer, fasting and almsgiving are all good things to do, but when they are done for the wrong or less than noble intentions, their value for the one who does them is diminished. 

One might wonder how Jesus' teaching in this passage connects with his earlier teaching about being "a light to the world" so that people may see our good deeds and glorify God.  It comes down to the connection between the mind/heart on one hand and the behavior on the other.  Some might say, "Who cares where the money came from.  The new building was built!"  Others might have the idea that good deeds are put into some kind of heavenly bank account that will guarantee admission in spite of other motives and actions that are much less honorable - in short, money talks to God.   

Jesus teaches us that doing the right thing for the wrong reason is not going to get us any closer to the Kingdom of heaven.  If his teaching took hold in the political arena, we might witness a moral revolution!   

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word Today - Tuesday, June 16, 2020

[1 Kgs 21:17-29 and Matt 5:43-48]
"You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust......So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect. [Matthew]

     Scholars have studied the various religious and ethical cultures that existed in the Middle East in Old Testament times and compared them with Jesus' teachings.  Many things were found that are similar, but Jesus is unique in one respect.  He challenges us to love our enemy!!  He says that when we do this, we are showing the same kind of love that God has for all people.  The Greek word that is translated as "perfect" in English has the meaning of "complete" or "wholeness."  If we wish to love as Jesus loves us, we have to love our enemy.

     One does not have to be at war to have an enemy.  Anyone we see as "alien" or "other" in a fearful or negative way becomes an "enemy" in the gospel understanding.  The current demonstrations over racial discrimination may have policing behavior as a focus, but they are about a lot more than police behavior, just as the demonstrations many of us who are older remember from the time of the Vietnam War.  Discrimination of a negative kind, by definition, declares a person or group of persons as an "enemy."  The tragic and terrible history of slavery, destruction of Native Americans, exclusion of Asian peoples or any non-Anglo ethnic group that marks our country's story and is being featured in the current protests is a reminder that we who are Christians need to do a far better job of living Jesus' teachings.

     The Last Judgment scene in the Gospel According to Matthew (25:31-45) tells us how we will be judged at the end of time.  It could be a difficult but necessary exercise on our part to ask ourselves, "Who is my enemy?" and then examine our feelings and behavior in their regard.  Are we loving (perfect) as Jesus loves us? 

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word Today - Monday, June 15, 2020

[1 Kgs 21:1-16 and Matt 5:38-42]
"You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one to him as well." [Matthew]

 It has been said that if we all lived by the maxim ‘an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’ everyone would eventually be toothless and blind. The desire for revenge and retaliation when someone hurts us can be very strong.   Is it the old saying, "I don't get mad.  I get even?"  If we have any responses in our head or heart towards getting even we are facing the challenge of being a Christian.  The Sermon on the Mount goes beyond external behavior into the recesses of the mind and heart and says that revenge and "getting even" are wrong - period!  Reasonable defense, yes.  Revenge, no. 

Jesus gives to us six examples of the conduct demanded of the Christian disciple. Each deals with a commandment of the law, introduced by You have heard that it was said to your ancestors or an equivalent formula, followed by Jesus’ teaching in respect to that commandment, But I say to you; thus their designation as “antitheses.” Three of them accept the Mosaic law but extend or deepen it; three reject it as a standard of conduct for the disciples.

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word Today - Saturday, June 13, 2020

[1 Kgs 19:19-21 and Matt 5:33-37]
"You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, do not take a false oath, but make good to the Lord all that you vow. But I say to you, do not swear at all; not by heaven, for it is God's throne; nor by the earth, for it is his footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King.

 JUNE 13th ST. ANTHONY OF PADUA Priest, Doctor of the Church who died in 1231 at the age of 36. He was from Lisbon and a member of the Order of Friars Minor, the Franciscans. He was a devoted student of scripture; the first friar to teach theology to his fellow friars. He was a gifted orator and preacher; known as the Evangelical Doctor. He is the patron saint of Portugal, of the poor, and of lost articles.

 We have seen and heard it a thousand times in courtroom scenes: "Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?"  Or we may have attended a ceremony where leadership of some kind is "sworn in." or watched the inauguration of a newly elected president of the USA or governor of the state as they take the oath of office.  We may not "swear" but "promise" (as in a wedding ceremony or religious profession) but the intended effect is the same:  we want someone or some group to believe that we will do what we say we will do.  Will we be "true" to our oath or promise?

     Jesus teaches us that an oath is only as good as the integrity of the person making the oath, so invoking some higher reality or penalty) as evidence of our intentions is unnecessary.  A plain "yes" or "no" means exactly that from a person with integrity.  "Lying under oath" is no different from lying any other way except that there may be some physical or spiritual penalty to serve as an incentive to tell the truth or keep the promise.  For the person of integrity, the incentive is unnecessary.

     The challenge can be a difficult one, if what is mentioned in the sacrament of reconciliation is any indication.  Lying can become an addiction and it can destroy a person's credibility and erode trust.  It matters not whether the statement or behavior is "a little white lie" or a serious misrepresentation.  The erosion takes place both inside the person and in their relationships with others.  It can be a useful spiritual exercise at the end of the day to ask if we have told the truth in our words and in our deeds.  Can we look at ourselves in the mirror without self-deception or look the Lord in the eye and say, "I told the truth."

Father Dennis 

 


 

God’s Living Word Today - Friday June 12, 2020

There was a tiny whispering sound. (1 Kings 19:12)
Israel was at a critical juncture. The weak King Ahab, along with his pagan wife, Jezebel, had led the people into deep idolatry and sin. What’s more, the prophet Elijah had just overcome the false prophets of Baal and fled to Mount Horeb to seek help from the Lord. First a strong wind, then an earthquake, then a fire passed before Elijah—each one seeming to bear the kind of majesty that befitted Israel’s need. But God was in none of them. Instead, Elijah heard the Lord through a “tiny whispering sound” that was so intimate and so intense that it made him hide his face in his cloak (1 Kings 19:12).

We may think that heroes like Elijah found it easy to hear God, but history shows that they were ordinary people just like us. They too had to learn the art of discernment. In our spiritual life we might ask ourselves where is God is this? What is God asking of me? What is God wanting to show me? What is God wanting to learn from this situation?

So how do we begin? It’s really quite simple. Jesus once said, “By their fruits you will know them” (Matthew 7:16). We typically apply this verse to how we think about other people, but it applies to our spiritual lives as well. For instance, if a thought in your mind helps you love God more or be a little kinder to someone, it’s probably from the Lord. But if something makes you anxious, fearful, angry, or resentful, it’s probably not coming from God or his Spirit.

“Holy Spirit, open the ears of my heart. Teach me to hear you clearly so that I can follow your plan for my life.”

Father Dennis

 

“Discernment” in common usage is the ability to judge wisely and to be able to choose carefully among many choices. For the Jesuit, however, “discernment” means something much more. It is the art of prayerful decision-making

“Discernment for St. Ignatius means being aware that God wants us to make good decisions, that God will help us make good decisions—but that we are often moved by competing forces: ones that pull us toward God and ones that push us away. Anyone who has ever made an important decision knows this experience. You feel pushed and pulled by a variety of inner forces: selfish versus generous motives, free versus unfree motives, and healthy versus unhealthy motives.”

First, you try to be “indifferent”—that is, free of anything keeping you from following God’s desires. Second, you ask for God’s help. Discernment is not done on your own. You need God’s help to choose the right path. Third, you weigh the various “movements” within oneself, to see which may be coming from God, and which may not be. For someone progressing in the spiritual life, says St. Ignatius, the “good spirit” will bring support, encouragement and peace of mind. Fourth, if there is no clear answer, you can rely on other practices, each suggested by Ignatius. Imagine what you would want to tell Jesus at the Last Judgment. (That doesn’t work for every decision, but particularly for complex ethical decisions it can be clarifying.) Or think of how you would judge your decision on your deathbed. (This can help prioritizing what is most important in your life.)

Finally, after making a good discernment you will feel a sense of what Ignatius calls “confirmation,” or a sense of rightness. You feel in line with God’s desires for you because you are in line with them. And this naturally brings peace.

Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.
Martin Luther King Jr.

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word Today - Thursday, June 11, 2020 (St. Barnabas, Apostle)

[Acts 11:21b-26; 13:1-3 and Matt 10:7-13]
In those days a great number who believed turned to the Lord. The news about them reached the ears of the Church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabus to go to Antioch. When he arrived and saw the grace of God, he rejoiced and encouraged them all to remain faithful to the LOrd in firmness of heart, for he was a good man, filled with the Holy Spirit and faith. And a large number of people was added to the Lord. Then he went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him he brought him to Antioch. [Acts]

Today the Church celebrates St. Barnabas, Apostle. Barnabas lived in the first century and preached the gospel in Antioch. He was a missionary companion of St. Paul and attended the first church council in Jerusalem. St. Barnabas was martyred on, and patron of, the island of his birth, Cyprus.


     There are moments in the history of Christianity that were pivotal for the future of the Church which can easily escape us.  St. Paul might have remained a tentmaker in Tarsus if it hadn't been for St. Barnabas who remembered the conversion experience of Saul, the former zealous bounty hunter of Christians.  Barnabas knew talent and took Paul under his wing (Acts 9:27) until things got too hot for Paul (his conversion made him suspect to Jew and Christian) He (Paul) had to get away from Jerusalem.  He returned to Tarsus and was a tentmaker by trade [Acts 18:3].  When Barnabas needed somebody to help with the preaching in Antioch, he knew just the man to get! The rest is history, as the saying goes.  

     We generally use the word "apostle" to refer to one of THE TWELVE.  However, others like Paul, Barnabas and Mary Magdalen have been considered "apostles" as well.  The word comes from Greek and means someone who is sent to do something.  Some of the apostles were personally chosen by Jesus, but others were appointed either by the original twelve or by their successors. Paul and Barnabas are examples.  We profess faith in a church that is one, holy, catholic and APOSTOLIC.  We owe a lot to St. Barnabas for his role in making that ministry possible. 

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word for Today - Wednesday, June 10, 2020

[1 Kgs 18:20-39 and Matt 5:17-19] 
But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments
will be called greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.”

There is an important lesson for us Catholics in the Gospel today.  The love of God and neighbor, which comes to us from the Law of Moses, remains in effect.  The essential elements of Catholicism: creed and sacraments have taken the place of the rest of the Law of Moses.  But there is an incredible variety of devotional forms that have also developed - the rosary being an obvious example.  These are very much a part of daily Catholic life, but are not the same as the Creed and the Sacraments.  This has been brought home to us dramatically in the requirements imposed by the coronavirus crisis when the celebration of the sacraments has been curtailed by the need to stay healthy.  Our devotional life has been a source of comfort, but the return of normal sacramental celebration is what we long for.  Our faith remains intact, but our expression of it has been stifled to some extent.  We should remember above all that the coronavirus cannot conquer love of God and neighbor which we can find in Matthew 25:31-45: "When I was hungry, etc......"  This, too, requires caution just as the requirements of Church attendance does right now, but all of this remains for our reflection and determined effort to continue. 

Let us continue to live out in our daily lives the great commandment of love of God and neighbor as we go forward in the current groundswell to end racism seeking to preserve peace and justice for all. Let us teach by our example so our children may learn that ‘But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.”

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word Today - Tuesday, June 9, 2020

[1 Kgs 17:7-16 and Matt 5:13-16]
"You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? You are the light of the world......Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father." [Matthew]

We know that the evangelist Matthew put many of Jesus' teachings together in creating the Sermon on the Mount, but the overall intent of Jesus becomes clear as we read through the Sermon.  To be salt of the earth and light of the world requires a great deal of wisdom and courage to accompany our faith.

     We commonly use the expression, "salt of the earth," to describe a reliable, wise and unpretentious person who is always willing to "do their part" and show the common sense that comes from wisdom.  To hear someone described as "the light of the world" is less common except, perhaps, in the descriptions we hear at canonization ceremonies.  Those words could have been used when St. Teresa of Calcutta was canonized, her life comes to mind when we think of a life that is "the light of the world."

Take some time to think about the people around you. Do you know someone who is thirsting for the Lord but who doesn’t even know it yet? Is there someone who might respond to an invitation to take a drink from the living waters of Christ? By all means pray for that person, but make sure to ask the Spirit to help you become the salt that will awaken in other people a thirst and lead them to Jesus.

Fr. Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word Today - Monday, June 8, 2020

[1 Kgs 17:1-6 and Matt 5:1-12] 
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him. He began to teach them, saying: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven......" [Matthew]


What might the final exam consist of when we meet the Teacher

The "Beatitudes" that begin the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel According to Matthew are some of the best known of all the teachings of Jesus. 

The first thing is that Jesus goes "up the mountain."  Matthew's portrait of Jesus presents him as a kind of "new Moses," with some new "commandments" ("You have heard it said.....but I say to you."  Moses received the Ten Commandments on a mountain.  When Jesus is "transfigured," this takes place on a mountain [Matt. 17:1].  When Jesus commissions the disciples at the end of this gospel, it is on a mountain. [Matt. 28:16].  In short, a mountain is a place of revelation, which means that when Jesus went up the mountain in today's passage, we are being warned that revelation is going to happen.

The second thing is that Jesus "sat down."  In Jesus' time, real "teachers" did not stand in front of a classroom.  They sat on something and their disciples would sit at their feet.  Jesus, the son of a carpenter from Nazareth, who had no recognized background as a rabbi or teacher, assumes a position of authority.

If we understand those two points, it can make a difference in how we understand the whole Sermon on the Mount!  If what Jesus says in that "sermon" is divine revelation and we recognize him as our teacher, then after reading the whole sermon, would we pass a test on it - not just on content but on our way of living?  If we are curious about what will be on the Final Exam, we can find it in Matthew 25:31-45: "When I was hungry......"  

Blessings 
Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word Today - Saturday, June 6, 2020

[2 Tim 4:1-8 and Mark 12:38-44]
[Jesus] sat down opposite the treasury and observed how the crowd put money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents. Calling his disciples to himself, he said to them, "Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood." [Mark]

 The central character in the Gospel is the poor widow who comes to pay her temple tax reminding us perhaps of Mother Teresa, a great servant of the poor, of the Church and of the whole world. Her life is a testimony to the dignity and the privilege of humble service. She had chosen to be not just the least but to be the servant of the least. As a real mother to the poor, she bent down to those suffering various forms of poverty. Her greatness lies in her ability to give without counting the cost, to give "until it hurts". Her life was a radical living and a bold proclamation of the Gospel.

An interpretation would emphasize the radical generosity of the widow and note that Jesus' own generosity in sacrificing his life is being foretold here by Jesus. How does the widow in the Gospel and the example of Mother Teresa challenge our own willingness to give and share?  Does our generosity come from our "surplus" or from our "poverty?"  What impacts our generosity toward the poor and vulnerable, or even to our local church?  The Gospel scene can give rise to much that we need to think about. Mother Theresa said ‘give love until it hurts with a smile.’

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word for Today - Friday, June 5, 2020

[2 Tim 3:10-17 and Mark 12:35-37] 
But you, remain faithful to what you have learned and believed, because you know from whom you learned it, and that from infancy you have known the sacred Scriptures, which are capable of giving you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that one who belongs to God may be competent, equipped for every good work. [2 Timothy]

One of the greatest achievements of the Second Vatican Council was its document on divine revelation, DEI VERBUM (The Word of God)This document began the gradual reversal of centuries of ignorance of the Bible among Catholics. The Word of God is "living and effective" [Heb. 4:12] and we remember St. Jerome’s favorite quote ‘Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.  The Second Vatican Council took place 1962-65 and the People of God were just then being encouraged to read the scriptures on their own instead of hearing them only in the gospel at Mass.  Now there are literally thousands of "aids" for every age of Catholic to understand the Word of God and have it "living and effective" in their lives.

We are encouraged to adopt the Gospel Reflection Process (Lectio Divina) as a way by which the living Word of God can touch and transform us; challenging us to change in our ongoing conversion of conformity to Christ. One is encouraged to begin by praying to the Holy Spirit; then to read the Gospel for the day. One chooses an echo (a phrase that calls/catches your attention or speaks to your heart; then relating the ‘echo’ you have chosen to a story or an experience of why you choose that echo. The last step is an action step promising to do something practical that you will do as a result of reflecting on the Gospel for that day. This gospel reflection process can be prayed personally and with others, namely your own family members or in a group at work.

We just need to be open to what the Holy Spirit, who guided the authors, enables us to understand.  Yes, we do have the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the Tradition of the church.  Our goal should be the one offered to Timothy: [S]o that one who belongs to God may be competent, equipped for every good work.  

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word Today - Thursday, June 4, 2020

[2 Tim 2:8-15 and Mark 12:28b-34]
The scribe said and to love God with all your heart, with all your understanding, with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices." And when Jesus saw that he answered with understanding, he said to him, "You are not far from the Kingdom of God." [Mark]

 The scribe in this Gospel scene is not looking at Jesus with the same eyes of faith that we do.  Jesus was, to him, one among many other "teachers."  His dialogue with Jesus would have been a common interaction.  Scribes were considered the experts in the Law of Moses.  What sets this scribe apart is the priority he gives to this commandment of love among the 613 precepts in the law.  Jesus' response is basically, "You're headed in the right direction...."  Jesus creates with his encounter with the scribe ‘a teachable moment’.

 We meet people who have a terrific knowledge of all the traditions and rules of Catholicism, some of them not even Catholic!  What seems missing in their "faith" is the priority commandment that Jesus approves.  Occasionally we learn that what is keeping the non-Catholics in this group from becoming a Catholic or Christian at all is our failure to demonstrate our commitment to the priority of love that Jesus approves!       And from those who are Catholic-by-baptism, we learn, especially from young adults, that rigid enforcement of rules and regulations concerning customs from of old has "turned them off" to our wonderful tradition.  In this regard it is helpful to see earlier in the Gospel According to Mark 7:7-8: "You disregard God's commandment but cling to human tradition."  Learning the difference between the two is an important "step in the right direction." 

We May be the only Bible some people read…. We may be the only Jesus some people see…. How we carry ourselves as a committed believers in Jesus Christ is as important as what we say. Francis of Assisi said, "It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching."

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word Today - Wednesday June 3, 2020

I remind you to stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control. [2 Timothy]

The Holy Spirit empowers, enlightens, and encourages all of us who are baptized to be strong, loving, and wise in serving the Lord Jesus.


There has been a loss of understanding of the power of baptism that remains in us all our lives but which becomes dormant because baptism is seen as a one-time event that produces a certificate of the past rather than testimony to a power of the present.

We are anointed by the Holy Spirit and are drawn into the very life of the Trinity, the inner of life of God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit that we will celebrate this coming Sunday (Holy Trinity Sunday)

Where do I need to be made stronger in my faith witness today? To whom do I need to be more loving today? Where in my life do I need self-control today?

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word Today  Tuesday, June 2, 2020

[2 Pet 3:12-15a, 17-18 and Mark 12:13-17]
"Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not? Should we pay or should we not pay?" Knowing their hypocrisy he said to them, "Why are you testing me? Bring me a denarius to look at." They brought one to him and he said to them, "Whose image and inscription is this?" The replied to him, "Caesar's." So Jesus said to them, "Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God." [Mark]

Having celebrated the Solemnity of Pentecost this past Sunday, the Easter season concludes and t
he Church returns to the liturgical season of "ordinary time" although it is hardly ordinary but very much extraordinary time considering the unprecedented Coronavirus pandemic and these past days of peace protests scared by violence, looting, arson, and destruction that is visible across the face of our nation.

God’s living word today reminds us of the importance and challenge of awaiting the Day of the Lord in peace, full of virtue and integrity. Most importantly obedience to civil authority must never interfere with the higher obedience owed to God, who alone is our refuge. When Caesar demands that Catholic hospitals engage in immoral procedures (abortion), we must say to Caesar that we cannot obey.

In light of our obedience to God first what is our Godly path ahead regarding peaceful protest and unrest? As civil unrest and protests continue in Los Angeles and cities across the nation, Archbishop Gomez calls for prayers and shares a message for peace and the respect for all life and human dignity in the following message. Friends, pray for our city and our nation. No one in America should suffer cruelty, violence, or unequal treatment because of their race or the color of their skin. Racism is a blasphemy against God who creates all men and women with equal dignity. But let our protests be peaceful. Nothing is gained by violence and so much is lost. Let’s keep working together to fulfill our nation’s sacred promise of life, liberty, and equality for all.

Let us pray for the grace to see that all people are created in God’s image and likeness with equal worth and dignity no matter what one’s race or color of skin. In our obedience owned to God first and foremost let us pray that we might all be spiritually color blind.

Father Dennis

  


 

God’s Living Word Today - June 1st, 2020

[Genesis 3:9-15, 20 or Acts of the Apostles 1:12-14 and John 19:25-34]
The man called his wife Eve, because she became the mother of all the living. [Genesis] When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, "Woman, behold, your son." Then he said to the disciple "Behold, your mother." And from that hour the disciple took her into his home. [John]

MONDAY AFTER PENTECOST:  THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY, MOTHER OF THE CHURCH

Pope Francis made the decision that the Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church be inscribed on the liturgical calendar for the Monday after Pentecost in March 2018, so it is very recent.  It is a reminder of the special relationship that we Catholics (and many other non-Catholic Christians as well) have to the mother of Jesus.

The Acts of the Apostles, authored by St. Luke, places Mary at the scene of the Pentecost event, which is regarded as the birth of the church.  It is by the power of that same Holy Spirit that Jesus was conceived in her and made her in a very real way the first disciple.  She is united physically with the body of Jesus as mother, but she is also united spiritually with the Body of Christ, the Church.

The Gospel According to John has Jesus as he is dying on the cross providing for his mother's immediate future by entrusting her to the disciple, John, at the foot of the cross.  It should be noted that he did not entrust her to any of the extended family of his relatives!  She was entrusted to a disciple and entrusted through him to all of us as our mother.  

Let us take time today to honor our blessed Mother by praying the rosary; perhaps placing a flower near a statue we may have of our Blessed Mother in our homes and as we may do that let us honor our own mothers at home with love and kindness.

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word Today  - Friday May 29, 2020

[Acts 25:13b-21 and John 21:15-19]
"Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go." [John]

     The gospel scriptures from the Farewell Discourse at the Last Supper are over and there is a complete shift of scene to the final chapter in the Gospel According to John - what is called the "Johannine Appendix."   

     Much attention is given to the triple question to Peter" "Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?" This section constitutes Peter’s rehabilitation and emphasizes his role in the church.  The threefold confession of Peter is meant to counteract his earlier threefold denial (Jn 18:17, 25, 27). The First Vatican Council cited these verses in defining that Jesus after his resurrection gave Peter the jurisdiction of supreme shepherd and ruler over the whole flock. 

But a verse much later on, quoted above, perhaps captures an elderly person’s attention. The words of Jesus about growing old are a challenge to acceptance, to gratitude and to grace.  The role of memories becomes more and more important even as the day to day physical challenges demand patience and acceptance. Acceptance of the past, gratitude for the present, and hope for the future even when the challenges get more and more difficult is what we pray for. 

Gospel challenge and opportunity for today:
Consider the elderly that you know and talk to them about what faith means to them at this time. 

Father Dennis

 


 

God’s Living Word for Today - Thursday, May 28, 2020

[Acts 22:30; 23:6-11 and John 17:20-26]
"I pray not only for these, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me." [John]

Many people in the midst of the Coronavirus Pandemic are grieving a loss in some fashion. We will not be able to go back to the way things were, but will experience a new normal as we move ahead in the days to come and we are never alone.
In the Gospel today Jesus prays not just for the disciples with him but for us and all those who will come to believe.  Jesus was (and is) praying for all who believe in him and for all those who will come to faith because of OUR faith. We can bring the assurance that Jesus is praying for all those we share our faith with and those who will come after us since Jesus desires that we be one.

     Parents may pray that after they are gone, their children will all get along and that there will be family unity.  We know from our own experiences that this is a challenging thing to accomplish and maintain.  Jesus' prayer for unity remains a challenge for us today and for the future.  The celebration of Pentecost this coming Sunday offers us an opportunity to reflect on how we help or hinder the work of the Holy Spirit in bringing about unity. Let us take to heart that the family who prays together stays together thereby fostering the unity that Jesus desires and the Holy Spirit can achieve when we are open. Let us pray together today ‘Come Holy Spirit.’  

With whom does Jesus want me to reach out too in order to in order to foster unity?

What is the blessing and benefit when we take to heart that the family who prays together stays together?

Father Dennis

 


 

Wednesday, May 27, 2020 - 7th Week of Easter - Wed

[Acts 20:28-38 and John 17:11b-19]
"I do not ask that you take them out of the world but that you keep them from the Evil One. They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth. As you sent me into the world so I sent them into the world. And I consecrate myself for them, so that they also may be consecrated in truth." [John]

     In this portion of Jesus' "High Priestly Prayer" in the Farewell Discourse, Jesus prays for the disciples. He speaks as intercessor, with words addressed directly to the Father and not to the disciples, who supposedly only overhear. Yet the prayer is one of petition, for immediate (Jn 17:619) and future (Jn 17:2021) disciples.   The disciples are being sent just as Jesus was sent.  Their mission is sacred just as Jesus' mission was sacred.  They are to preach the truth about Jesus and his Father with the help of the Holy Spirit.
     This "sending forth" will be celebrated in particular this coming Sunday, Pentecost Sunday, but it occurs every day around the world as the sacrament of baptism is administered.  We are "consecrated in the truth" and sent forth to proclaim it in word and deed.  Jesus is praying for us.  We can't get better help than that!  AMEN

Reflection Questions to consider
Where do I need Jesus’ prayerful help against the evil one today?
Where am I being called and sent to speak the truth to someone today?
As you pray with your children today at home what can you tell them of Jesus love for them?


Father Dennis

 


 

Monday, May 18, 2020 - 6th Week of Easter - Mon

[Acts 16:11-15 and John 15:26-16:4a]
"When the Advocate comes whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, he will testify to me. And you also testify,

Jesus, who never forgets nor forsakes us, promises to send "the Advocate" (older translations use the word "Paraclete") to enable and empower believers to bear witness.  He also promises that bearing witness (testimony) will lead to persecution.  The very word, "martyr," comes from the Greek word meaning "witness." 

Pope St. John Paul II promoted what he termed "the new evangelization."  This effort, still being promoted, is not directed to converting non-Christians or even non-Catholics to Catholicism but to those who are baptized and even practicing Catholics!!! 

The sad fact is that the second largest Christian denomination in the U.S.A., in numbers, would be former Catholics who have lost hope in our church! 

In the gospel, Jesus is assuring his followers that he will leave them a strong witness to assist them after he has gone from them. The witness is the Holy Spirit. Christ is fully aware of the trials and persecutions which are to befall his followers but he is equally aware that with the aid of the Holy Spirit they will be able to endure and so be victorious. We too will be strengthened if we allow the Spirit to work in us.

Hope in God; I will praise him still, *
my savior and my God. Psalm 42

Inspire us to yearn for you always

Father Dennis

 


 

Tuesday, May 5, 2020 - 4th Week of Easter - Tues

[Acts 11:19-26 and John 10:22-30]
Those who had been scattered by the persecution that arose because of Stephen went as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to no one but Jews. There were some Cypriots and Cyrenians among them, however, who came to Antioch and began to speak to the Greeks as well, proclaiming the Lord Jesus. [Acts]

The first historical moment is when Jewish Christians began preaching about Jesus to non-Jewish people.  A second historical moment occurred when to distinguish believers in Jesus from other Jews, the term "Christians" came into being!!  The third moment occurred when Barnabus went to Tarsus to find the recently converted Pharisee named Saul and brought him back to Antioch to help with the preaching.   On such little historical moments our very existence as "Christians" was founded!

The earliest believers in Jesus chose to share their faith with others and the faith spread.

From very small beginnings in Palestine and the Middle East, Christianity has spread to the whole planet!  The choice of Paul (Saul) to get involved in the mission had tremendous consequences.  We constantly read his teachings about Jesus!

Pope Francis has challenged all the baptized to become "missionary disciples."  All that may be required is the courage to share our faith with someone who may be curious about it.  The First Letter of Peter (3:15) says it best: "Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence...."  God will take care of the rest! 

Father Dennis

 


 

Sunday, May 3, 2020 - FOURTH SUNDAY OF EASTER: GOOD SHEPHERD SUNDAY

WE NEED THE GOOD SHEPHERD NOW AND JESUS IS WITH US. HE IS TRUSTING AND TRANSPARENT WITH NO HIDDEN AGENDA TO HURT OR HARM US, BUT HAS SAVED US. JESUS, THE GOOD SHEPHERD IS KIND, COMPASSIONATE AND FILLED WITH EMPATHY FOR ALL OF US AND FOR THE WHOLE WORLD.

JESUS AS OUR GOOD SHEPHERD LEADS US OUT AND FORWARD. WE PRAY THAT THE GOOD SHEPHERD WILL LEAD US OUT OF THIS DARK VALLEY OF PANDEMIC AND FORWARD INTO THE BRIGHTNESS OF A NEW NORMAL; INTO THE SILVER LINING OF NEW APPRECIATION, GRATEFULNESS AND GRATITUDE FOR ALL OF GOD’S BLESSINGS THAT PERHAPS AT TIMES WE HAVE TAKEN FOR GRANTED.

THE SHEPHERD’S TASK AT THE TIME OF JESUS WAS A CONSTANT AND DANGEROUS GUARDING OF HIS FLOCK. A GOOD SHEPHERD, WHO WAS RELIABLE AND RESPONSIBLE WAS ALSO Sleepless; far-sighted, weather beaten, leaning on his staff and looking out over THE sheep ENTRUSTED TO HIS CARE, every one of them DEAR TO his heart.

TODAY Jesus LEANS AND LOOKS OUT OVER ALL OF US WHO ARE DEAR TO HIS HEART LEADING US FORWARD by his own example of constant vigilance; fearless courage, AND patient love.


AFTER THE EXAMPLE OF THE GOOD SHEPHERD We are all shepherds for God’s people in one way or another AS WE LOOK AFTER EACH OTHER; FOR TOGETHER AND WITH THE GOOD SHEPHERD WE WILL GET THROUGH THIS.  Our SHEPHERDING may include our OWN children AT HOME, our ELDERLY parents WHO WE CARE FOR, or A VULNERABLE NEIGHBOR THAT WE CAN REACH OUT TOO BY PHONE OR FACEBOOK. We may be quiet shepherds THROUGH OUR ENCOURAGEMENT OF HOPE TO THOSE WHO ARE STRESSED, ANXIOUS, AND FEARFUL.

WE TRUST THAT JESUS THE GOOD SHEPHERD WILL LEAD US TO GREENER PASTURE AND TO FRESH WATER THAT REFRESHES AND RENEWS OUR WORLD, OUR COUNTRY AND OUR HOMES. WE PRAY THAT OUR CHURCHES WILL BE FILLED AGAIN TO A NEW CAPACITY ANOINTED AFRESH BY THE SAME HOLY SPIRIT. Following THE GOOD SHEPHERD we will be able to say, with the psalmist, “Even though I walk in the dark valley I fear no evil; for you are at my side. With your rod and your staff that give me courage.”

Father Dennis

 


 

Friday, May 1, 2020 - Today's Meditation: Acts 9:1-20

Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? (Acts 9:4)

Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus has all the elements of a dramatic film. Paul is suddenly stopped in his tracks by a light from the sky. A voice comes from heaven, and Paul undergoes an amazing conversion from Saul, the persecutor of Christians to Paul the great missionary preacher.

What about our own conversion story? How did Jesus get our attention and draw us to himself? Through an encounter with someone; an experience with Scripture or an event in our lives, the Lord awakens us to the importance of our relationship with Him and calls us to follow him.

Conversion in our own lives is rarely as dramatic as that of St. Paul, but is rather a daily on going call to conform our lives to the person of Jesus. Jesus is our model, our mentor, our master and our measure.

As the refrain to a popular worship song reminds us, “Step by step, you lead me.” Whatever our initial conversion was like, it’s still going on. Today, let us try to draw closer to Jesus. If we have fallen in some way, let us rededicate our life to him. We don’t have to look back. We just have to keep pursuing your goal: “the prize of God’s upward calling, in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14).

Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. Ephesians 3:17

Father Dennis

 


 

Wednesday, April 22, 2020 - 2nd Week of Easter - Wed

[Acts 5:17-26 and John 3:16-21]

"God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish might have eternal life." [John 3:16]

One of the major "themes" of the Gospel According to John is something scripture scholars refer to as "realized eschatology!"  This means that, in the Gospel According to John, eternal life begins with faith in Jesus and not only at physical death or the final resurrection.  Thus, in this gospel, THE one sin is failure to believe in Jesus.  The "world" in this gospel refers to all of humanity with its struggles and challenges.  God loves this world which He created by his Word and sent this word in human flesh to offer eternal life to the "world".  There are echoes of the Prologue to the gospel in this, and it is worthwhile to go back to the Prologue time and time again in reading this gospel.  For us, today, the assurance of God's love and the experience of eternal life through belief in Jesus as the one whom God has sent are powerful helps in a time of plague! 

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn- the world, but that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

Condemn: the Greek root means both judgment and condemnation. Jesus’ purpose is to save, but his coming provokes judgment; some condemn themselves by turning from the light.

Father Dennis

 

God so loved the world. (John 3:16)

In the midst of this coronavirus pandemic and the 3.7 earthquake at 12:03 this morning we might be feeling shaky, but God’s love for us is unshakable.

We might call to mind the song He’s got the whole world in His hands and not only that, but God has so loved the world


Did you know that this verse is not just talking about how much God loves the world? It’s also talking about the way God loves the world.

He gave: God loves without reservation. Love is not something God hoards to himself. God’s love is generous.

His only Son: God does not love begrudgingly. He gave us his only begotten Son most precious to his heart. Because God’s love holds nothing back.

So that everyone who believes: God loves without restriction or reservation. He has opened the door of his heart to anyone who believes, no conditions. He makes no exceptions. He pours his love out on each person who comes to him in faith. Because God’s love flows freely to everyone.

Might not perish: He does not withhold his love from us because we have sinned against him. He does not give us “what we deserve” but removes our guilt and restores us. Because God’s love is merciful.

But might have eternal life: God wants to be united with us. He has opened heaven’s gates and welcomes us in! Because God’s love is everlasting.           

Safety & Protection 

Father Dennis

 


 

Sunday, April 19, 2020 - THE SECOND SUNDAY OF EASTER: DIVINE MERCY SUNDAY

The Heart of Jesus is the ultimate symbol of God’s mercy – but it is not an imaginary symbol, it is a real symbol, which represents the center, the source from which salvation for all humanity gushed forth. Pope Francis

Divine Mercy Sunday: St. Faustina’s Diary records 14 occasions when Jesus requested that a Feast of Mercy (Divine Mercy Sunday)
My daughter, tell the whole world about My inconceivable mercy. I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls, and especially for poor sinners. On that day the very depths of My tender mercy are open. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the Fount of My mercy. Let no soul fear to draw near to Me.

On May 5, 2000, five days after the canonization of St. Faustina, the Vatican decreed that the Second Sunday of Easter would henceforth be known as Divine Mercy Sunday.

The Image:  Jesus appeared to St. Faustina in a vision, with his right hand raised in a blessing and his left touching his garment above his heart. Red and white rays emanate from his heart, symbolizing the blood and water that was poured out for our salvation and our sanctification. The Lord requested that “Jesus, I trust in You” be inscribed under his image. Jesus asked that his image be painted and venerated throughout the world: “I promise that the soul that will venerate this image will not perish” (Diary, no. 48) and “By means of this image I will grant many graces to souls” (Diary, no. 742).

“Do what the Catechism says,” the Jesuit Pope stressed, “it’s very clear: if you don’t find a priest to hear your Confession, talk with God, He is your Father, and tell Him the truth: ‘Lord, I’ve done this, and that, and that . . . I’m sorry,” and ask Him for forgiveness with all your heart, with the Act of Contrition and promise Him: “Afterwards I will go to Confession, but forgive me now.” If you do all this, Francis said, you will return to God’s grace immediately.

When our church doors can open and we can safely gather together the Sacrament of Confession will be lavishly provided for. Blessings to you and your families.

Father Dennis

 


 

Friday, April 10, 2020 - Good Friday of the Lord's Passion

But he was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins; upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole, by his stripes we were healed.

Perhaps for those who saw Mel Gibson’s THE PASSION each one may have come away with the personal realization that Jesus did that for me. But if one focuses only on the physical suffering, the meaning of what happened on that day can be lost.  Jesus suffered for us - for you and me and for every human who ever lived or will live or is living.

The somber mood of the Good Friday service this year is deepened by the necessity of an empty church because of the coronavirus pandemic.  There is worldwide suffering taking place.  Those of us who are not ill still suffer with and for the victims as well as for the sacrifices we make to mitigate the pandemic.  We suffer for others and not just for ourselves alone.  And we can be confident that Jesus fully understands and accompanies us. Today affords us the opportunity to begin the 9 day Divine Mercy Novena that will take us to Divine Mercy Sunday on April 19th. The words ‘Jesus I trust in you’ can bring each one of us and all of us great comfort during these days of testing and trial. Let us make those words our own in our daily prayer.

God demonstrated his love by sending Jesus to suffer and die on the cross for our sins. God's love is extravagant - it's a free gift of self-giving, self-sacrifice, and self-emptying that cost God His only Son. On Good Friday God Wrote His Love in Red in the blood of His Son shed on the cross for our sins.

Peace be with you this day

Father Dennis

 


 

Wednesday, April 8, 2020 - Holy Week – Wednesday

The Betrayal by Judas was a violation, a breaking of a trust that he had with Jesus in order To deliver Jesus into the hands of an enemy. The motive of avarice, meaning extreme greed, is introduced by Judas’s question about the price for betrayal: “what are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?” For mere money, Judas betrays Jesus.  Judas had participated in the ministry of the apostles and had been with Jesus from the beginning; for the three years of Jesus’ public ministry.  Thirty pieces of silver was the price of the betrayal which is found only in Matthew’s gospel; the wages paid to a rejected shepherd, a cheap price.

However, the shocking fact that the betrayer, Judas, is one who shares table fellowship with Jesus is emphasized and the enormity of the deed of betrayal is such that it would be better not to exist than to do it.

In pointing our fingers of judgment at Judas, we may be pointing at ourselves.  Judas' motives (other than money) are unknown to us.  Peter's motives of rejecting Jesus three times was clearly fear of being associated together with Jesus! 

Those of us who regularly gather around the table of intimacy with Christ in the Eucharist and yet engage consistently in the works of darkness are meant to see ourselves in the betrayer Judas. Reflect: How have we betrayed or denied Jesus? Jesus, surely it is I who have sinned against you. Forgive me and show me the way forward today.

"Churches may be closed, but 'Lord's heart remains' open to all

Christ is not quarantined and his Gospel is not in chains

Peace be with you all

Father Dennis

 


 

Monday, April 6, 2020

The Lord is my life’s refuge

In our responsorial psalm this morning we read that ‘the Lord is my life’s refuge of whom should I be afraid’ This Psalm 27 was written by King David and it is a reflection of how his faith in the power of God sustained him through many trials and difficulties

Refuge is that condition of being safe or sheltered from pursuit, danger, or trouble. In this Bible verse ‘the Lord is my life’s refuge’ there is the boundless hope that God will bring rescue to His people in our personal lives, within our own families and to this pandemic that has brought the world to its knees. Let this be our prayer that we commit to memory today: the Lord is our life’s refuge in whom we place our trust.

We are alone together physically distant spiritually united

Peace be with you

Father Dennis

 


 

Sunday, April 5, 2020 - Palm Sunday: At the Mass – ABC

The very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while other cut branches from the trees and strewed them on the road. The crowds preceding him and those following kept crying out and saying: "Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord; hosanna in the highest." And when he entered Jerusalem the whole city was shaken and asked, "Who is this?" And the crowds replied, "This is Jesus the prophet, from Nazareth in Galilee." [Matthew]

While Physically Distant we are Spiritually United​

This will be a Palm Sunday like no other in the lives of most of us.  The churches are closed.  The distribution of palms is prohibited because of fear of the coronavirus pandemic.  The faithful are urged to attend Mass through the televised or livestreamed services and to go out into their yard (for those who have one) and pick some kind of foliage to wave! 

Sorrow and joy are part of Holy Week, which we observe not only in the sorrow of Jesus' own sufferings, but also in the sorrows we are experiencing in the pandemic which will make this Holy Week one that will live in terrible memory as we participate in the services by the internet! Resurrection will take on new meaning as we slowly work toward conquering the virus that has brought the planet to its knees!  It is a special cross that we bear with Jesus this year. We must keep in mind that wherever there is the cross of suffering there is the promise of Resurrection and new life; that is the Paschal Mystery. Death and Resurrection is the Paschal Mystery woven into the fabric of our lives as Christian people. Let us be people of hope and prayer that God will bring this virus that has infected so many people throughout the world to an end.

Palm Sunday will begin this special drama of which we are all a part.  

Peace to you and your families. May God protect and keep you safe

Fr. Dennis

 


 

Friday, April 3, 2020 - 5th Week of Lent – Friday John 10:31-42

We are called to have a deep respect and reverence for God’s Holy name and not blaspheme

Today we read in the Gospel of St. John “Can you say that the one whom the Father has consecrated and sent into the world blasphemes because I said, 'I am the Son of God'? John 10:31

Recently I was in a store turning down an aisle where a new stock of hand sanitizer was newly stocked. People had gathered in that aisle and were stretching and grabbing as many bottles as possible. The air was filled with tension and expletives could be heard many of which using God’s name and the name of His Son not in a respectful and reverent way, but out of anger and frustration. The word ‘blasphemes’ stood out for me when hearing the gospel today.

At times when we become angry at ourselves, at others, and even at God our speech can dishonor and disrespect God whose name is holy. “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain” the Second Commandment tells us.

We must be careful in our speech not to take God’s name in vain out of anger. We must avoid blaspheming God’s holy name. So just what is blasphemy?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, in paragraph 2148, defines blasphemy like this: Blasphemy is directly opposed to the second commandment. It consists in uttering against God – inwardly or outwardly – words of hatred, reproach, or defiance; in speaking ill of God; in failing in respect toward God in one’s speech; in misusing God’s name. Blasphemy is contrary to the respect due to God’s holy name.

As we are at home within our domestic church, our families, and when going out for essentials to the store, let us strive to be calm, to be kind, to be humble, and respectful by honoring God’s name thanking Him for sending us his Son who is God with us, never to abandon nor forsake us.

The name of the Lord is holy, as He is holy. We are to esteem and honor His name as we revere and glorify God Himself.

God’s Peace and Protection

Father Dennis

 


 

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

From the Book of Daniel we heard

Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?”
“Assuredly, O king,” they answered
“But, the king replied, “I see four men unfettered and unhurt,
walking in the fire, and the fourth looks like a son of God.”

This morning we might feel somewhat like the three servants Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in our first reading from Daniel who had been cast into the white-hot furnace, yet they and we are not alone. As we look ahead in our own country to these next few critical and painful weeks feeling the heat from the Coronavirus we are reassured by God’s word that we are not alone; God is with us

The three servants in our first reading give us important insights as to how we can live our lives today, as we move forward in the midst of being tested and tried by the Corona pandemic. The three servants while in the midst of the white hot furnace remained steadfast in faith and in their service to God. Their first love was God to whom they remained faithful and they were not alone, God was with them.

*We too, in the midst of what we are experiencing alone/together, are called to remain steadfast in faith and in our service to God. We are being reminded that God must be the first love of our lives to whom we are to remain faithful as God is faithful to us; we are not alone, but the Lord is with us. Let us attach ourselves faithfully to God and pray the prayer of petition that the three servants prayed May God save us for God is with us who will never leave us nor forsake us.

Lord, thank you for always being with us, even when we feel the heat of these unprecedented times. Lord give us your peace and strength to calm our fear and anxiety.  You are Emmanuel God with us. We are not alone. Amen

 

 

 

Today's Reflections

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