Oct 17, 2020

High Priest Lobbyist

Payment of Prayer

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time

In the context of the First Reading (Isaiah 45:1,4-6) the People of Israel were exiled - far from home. They were persecuted, discriminated against and they were forced to lay low. However, the huge mechanism of the imperial state and government they found themselves living under, did not crush their souls. They prayed quietly for deliverance. And then it came as a surprise. 

The first reading from the Old Testament demonstrates that God can use whomever he pleases to be his instrument of salvation – even the pagan King Cyrus. God heard the prayers of His people. That is why it’s so important to pray for our legislators and those running for office that the unseen God will influence them in their conscience, and even surprise us even in office as the pagan King Cyrus did to the exiled Jewish People. 

But even when they returned home, the Jewish people would once again find  themselves once again exiled. This time in their own land that was controlled by the Roman Empire and its powerful military and propaganda machines. They was plenty of taxation, but with no representation, except by puppet kings and compromised religious leaders. 

Into this arena steps Jesus. He does not entertain the question of paying civil taxes. Instead asking for the Roman coin used by Jews to pay taxes, He looks at the image fashioned on the coin with the inscription around it. The Image would be that of the Roman Emperor and the inscription would be the name of Caesar followed by his imperial office - of High Priest. In other words, the emperor and his money are portrayed as the chief lobbyists of an untouchable pagan high priest. 

Christ simply says, not so. You can lobby and buy the emperor’s influence with money, but don’t dare to even think you can do the same with God. God has only one High Priest who lobbies for us, not with gold or silver, but with His Body and Blood, interceding for us before the throne of heaven. This is why the Eucharist is so crucial for us as Catholic Christians. 

Through the Holy Mass, what Christ our High Priest began in Calvary 2000 years ago, interceding for us from His Sacrificial offering on the Cross, Our High Priest, Risen from the dead, continues to do so on our behalf before the throne of our Heavenly Father. His wounds still speak of the sins of human injustice and cruelty, of humanity’s disregard for the most vulnerable, especially an innocent child waiting to be born. 

Christ’s words of intercession for us from the Cross when He lobbied His Heavenly Father on our behalf were “Forgive them, they know not what they do”. But today, we do know what we do, what we have done, what we have failed to do. Our hands are so often guilty of trading in the gold coins of bargaining and compromising.

As a people and as a nation, do we deserve to be forgiven of our sins, be they public or private, behind closed doors or pushed through the corridors of power?  How many times, did Christ warn us to repent and in doing so, to prepare ourselves for the Kingdom of God. 

That is why, it is so important that, before we approach Holy Communion with Christ our High Priest, we always examine our own conscience with humility and, like the thief who was caught with Caesar's money that did not belong to him, he hung on a cross beside Christ on Calvary and begged Our Lord to remember him, to intercede for Him.

Let us do the same, for ourselves, for our family and loved ones, and for our nation. 

Oct 10, 2020

Picking Wounds

Many people are not comfortable with this parable Jesus tells as recorded by Matthew 22.15-22. Especially if they actually listened to it and reflected upon it. Our own memories are not as good as those who first heard Jesus telling the parable (I would even challenge you to remember last week’s parable Jesus told us through the Gospel)!

Previously the Lord told us a parable about a landowner of a vineyard leasing his land out to tenants who end up killing his son who arrived on the scene to collect the harvest. It doesn’t take a scholar to figure out that Jesus was talking about himself and our own selfishness by robbing God of his rightful place after all he does for us. 

Now, Jesus tells us a parable about a king throwing a great wedding reception for his son, inviting us to it, but we’re not interested. He then invites public and notorious sinners, drop outs and anyone we have a tendency to marginalize or forget about. 

We can often be tempted to think of Jesus simply opening up the great hall for everyone to simply come and go - that God loves us just the way we are. The truth is he doesn’t. The only ones God loves just the way they are, are those who are with him in heaven. This is not heaven. Even though he still loves us, he doesn't love us as we are right now. 

When the sick came to him, Jesus did not say “You are fine, just the way you are”. He healed them.  When sinners and extortionists came to him, he did not say “You’re okay as you are”. His love met them where they were, but his love refused to leave them “as” they were. It’s a bit like being a parent. You love your children but you don’t want them to remain children or adolescents. Instead God wants us to learn that every action and moral choice we make, has consequences… consequences that and even ripple out affecting other people’s lives. 

Yes, we arrive at God’s open invitation banquet as sinners. And we are given an opportunity to wear a new type of garment. Think of it as bandages God can place carefully and tenderly around us, that promotes healing of mind, body and soul. The healing power of God’s mercy and forgiveness is that he wants to heal and restore us. And if we, likewise want that healing, you have to stop picking at your wounds. Unfortunately, some of us do exactly that, picking at our own wounds and not allowing them to heal. The worst is when such a person, in their own pain and anger, starts trying to pull the bandages off others. 

There is no place for recklessness at God’s wedding banquet, let alone, even secretly, or anywhere in our own lives. That is why some of us, even though we may go through all the motions, do not experience healing in our own lives - our pride gets in the way of having to wear a bandage over our wounds, even though the fabric has been woven out of God’s love and mercy!

Christ is the doctor of our bodies and souls. And as such, his love of you and me is clearly written out in the prescription of what we believe as proclaimed now in the Creed - the forgiveness of sins, our eventual resurrection from the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen

28th Sunday of Ordinary Time 2020

Oct 3, 2020

Hedge Funds and Finds


27th Sunday in Ordinary Time:

Christ in this Gospel parable tells us that our heavenly Father planted a vineyard, set a hedge around it, dug a winepress in it and built a tower. When you think of it, it sounds like a beautiful resort (or like one of those many wineries we have nearby in Temecula!)

We arrive at this carefully designed vineyard, and there is really not much hard work for us to do.  The scene is set – everything is in place (c.f. St. John Chrysostom Homily 68.1).  We are entrusted with its upkeep but most importantly, to ensure that it is productive and that the produce is not simply stored in warehouses, but is sent out from here as nourishment for the world.  

There is, in Christ’s parable, a message for us too, even though we remain outside celebrating Mass in the piazza. We are all grateful to the many who contributed funds for our new worship environment. Thanks to a “hedge fund” are now outside under a beautiful shaded area, surrounded by olive trees and the natural backdrop of Californian coyote brush and chaparral. But the parish church is not a resort, a spiritual health spa or a one-stop sacramental snack bar! There is no product sampling here. God does not ask us to operate our parish like a theme park or watch over it like museum caretakers. Our Sunday Mass is not a spectator sports event.

Instead, God's grace continually flows out from the Sacraments we celebrate here. The explosion of new life at every baptism should always spill over into the everyday lives and responsibilities of parents, godparents and all of family life. When every confession is heard and God's forgiveness assured, mercy and peace should influence all our future choices and relationships. When a man and woman vow their lives to each other before the altar in marriage it can not be simply captured and confined to a photograph in church - the sacred vows bear fruit when children are born and nurtured in homes and neighborhoods building up our communities. 

And our celebration of Sunday Mass - this banquet feast between heaven and earth is not a quick fix for a hungry soul. Christ's heavenly Body and Blood is strength and food for our journey throughout the week, bringing our Lord's life and ministry into our streets and neighborhoods where countless people still wait for Him. So how can we not keep what happens here a best kept secret when God wants us to collaborate in His urgent work to extend the fruits of His grace from here and into every aspect of our daily lives - into the whole world.  

Our parish campus has to provide at best an initial glimpse of heaven, an encouragement of the plan God has for our homes, our workplaces, our gardens and city - "Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven". In other words, everything that happens here, must happen out there too, or we shortchange God, and ourselves too.

This month of October, dedicated to the Rosary, invites us to enter into the memories of Our Blessed Mother Mary. She didn't simply give birth to Christ and then send Him out to save the world, while she stayed at home.  When Christ traveled the streets and roads, she was not far behind.  When He was out of sight, she went looking for Him. When He went to the Cross, she pushed through the crowds.

Even though we may have to maintain physical distance from each other, we can never be socially distant. That is not our nature. Nor was it or is it Christ’s. He may wear a mask, disguising Himself as often did while touring His harvest. May every day of our working week produce an abundant harvest for the Lord so that when we return here next Sunday, we will have much to celebrate and offer to God in thanksgiving for the good things He has done.

Sep 26, 2020

Cover and Move

The vineyard figures a lot in the parables of Christ. It provides the environment where the Kingdom of God takes root and the drama of salvation unfolds. There in the vineyard, the work is hard, patience is essential, the wages, as we saw last week, (Mathew 20) are unpredictable. The vineyard can also be a dangerous place to work. Scuffles between workers can erupt (Mark 9:33), and even blood is spilled (as next week's Gospel passage will show us, Matthew 21:33-43). "Go out and work in the vineyard" (Matthew 21:28). Our immediate attitude to such an invitation when we see the big picture is a certain reluctance. “You want to send me into the vineyard, into the midst of the storm, the conflict, battle, and bloodshed and even at the risk of my own life? (cf. Acts 13:46)

They say that attitude is everything. Consider then, the two attitudes in the Gospel when both sons are asked to work in the vineyard. (Matthew 21:28-32).  Why do they both have second thoughts? What is it about the vineyard of the Lord that reactions to working it are often mixed? Maybe it’s a bit like the wanting to take a first step, but afraid you might fall. Accepting a challenge but worried you might fail. Going into battle, but afraid you might get injured. Or, wanting to start something new but afraid you’ll get easily bored. 

As if to tease us, Our Lord reminds us that many tax collectors and harlots had no reluctance to accept His invitation to believe in His Sacred love and Divine mercy by repenting of their lust for creature comforts in whatever form or shape. 

But if we come to our senses, like the prodigal son (Luke 15: 17) and see in a moment of resistance or indecision an opportunity for grace, then a door is opened to a change of attitude. And what type of attitude? St. Paul provides the answer in the Second Reading when he tells us “Have in you the same attitude that is also in Christ Jesus..” (Phil.2). 

In other words, an attitude that reflects Christ is the attitude of a Christian. It is marked by being configured to Christ in such a way that His life, death and resurrection becomes yours and mine. This is not an intellectual journey or a symbolic re-alignment. In the Holy Mass a “portal” is opened up for us and, like the invitations given to the two sons in the Gospel parables, we too are invited through - through the gateway of the sacraments, first Confession and Reconciliation, and then Holy Communion with God. 

Only when I have faith in the command of the Lord and trust that He has me covered, do I dare move, step by step into the forever changing and unpredictable landscape of the vineyard of the Lord. 

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sep 19, 2020

Good Timing

For the next few Sundays, the Gospel message brings us once again outside. This time, we are not following Christ to see what He is going to do next, hoping we’ll witness a miracle or taking delight in Him silencing the opposition. Instead prepare yourself for some heavy lifting for He talks to us about the importance of hard work, not just for a living, but also for the sake of eternal life. 

Our salvation rests upon the solid foundation of our faith in Christ and the good works God’s grace allows us to do. Both faith and good works do not come naturally to us. They demand that we actively cooperate with God’s grace in every situation we encounter. Christ’s parable of the owner of the vineyard continually going out to search for workers, at dawn, then at noon and once again in the late afternoon and then in the evening giving every worker, regardless of how many hours the worked, the same salary, should remind us of a few simple but eternal truths. 

First, we may often complain that God isn’t fair. But that’s true! He does not play by our own rule book. If we wanted Him to do so, we would be trying to fashion God in our own image and likeness according to our own standards of fairness and justice. A small child may complain to their parent that they are not being fair. The parent does not need to explain their rationale, except to assure the child that tough love is indeed love. God reminds us in this Sunday’s first reading:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, 

nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD. 

As high as the heavens are above the earth, 

so high are my ways above your ways 

and my thoughts above your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:6–9

Second, this Sunday’s Gospel will also remind us that we should be always grateful to God for sending particular individuals into our lives at different times or for sending us into their life when the time is right. Because only God sees all time and human history (past, present and future), each one of us exist and interact at a certain time, in a particular place, within a unique context, but never by accident. St. Paul accepted this, without understanding why. In the second reading for Sunday he writes:

I long to depart this life and be with Christ, for that is far better. Yet that I remain in the flesh is more necessary for your benefit. Philippians 1:20c–24, 27a. 

In short, as we try to look at the big picture of the events of our lives and our nation that unfold before us, we can never see it from the perspective of eternity. Only God can and He does, knowing that His loving plan will unfold according to mind alone, not ours. If we trust Him, that makes God, in our sight, not reckless or laid back, but prudent! It’s always the right time to be prudent. 

Sunday’s Gospel

Matthew 20:1–16a

Jesus told his disciples this parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. Going out about nine o’clock, the landowner saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and he said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard, and I will give you what is just.’ So they went off. And he went out again around noon, and around three o’clock, and did likewise. Going out about five o’clock, the landowner found others standing around, and said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ They answered, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard.’ When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Summon the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and ending with the first.’ When those who had started about five o’clock came, each received the usual daily wage. So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more, but each of them also got the usual wage. And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner, saying, ‘These last ones worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us, who bore the day’s burden and the heat.’ He said to one of them in reply, ‘My friend, I am not cheating you. Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what is yours and go. What if I wish to give this last one the same as you? Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?’ Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

Sep 11, 2020

Wild Fire

Above: One of our own at the front lines. Keep them all in your prayers. 

The Sunday Scriptures see us standing before many fires - pandemic, civil, political, religious, environmental, ideological and sociological. 

Entering into this is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The word “Gospel” literally means Good News, but not in the sense of “happy thoughts”. The word has Roman military overtones! With the defeat of an enemy, an imperial proclamation officially announced the “good news” of an new era of peace - that the war was over, hostilities have ceased. At the birth of Christ, an army of angels marched to the edge of heaven and proclaimed “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to people of good will.” 

This does not mean that everything will now be rosy in the garden. A blossoming bougainvillea planted along a fence line with its bright colors but hidden thorns is a better picture of the reality of our landscape. The memories and scars of conflict are often still present. Battlefields still smolder, triggered by reminders of the stench of death and injury. But never forget the heroic and saintly efforts of those who endured or gave their lives defending the godly virtues to live lives “free from fear and saved from the hands of our foes” (Luke 1:74). 

The heavens have indeed proclaimed the Gospel message of victory and Resurrected Christ Himself embodies it in the combat uniform of His body and blood, but there are still pockets of ongoing resistance, fighting and hostility. This comes to us even though “God, the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of His Son has reconciled the world to Himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins” (words from the text of sacramental absolution). 

So what is there left to be done?

The final hotspot, fanned into flames by that relentless rebel, is often within our own heart and mind. Sunday’s Old Testament Reading (Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 27:30—28:7) reminds us how, like a tinderbox, we are so susceptible to bursting into eternal flames because of the environment we create or tolerate around us. “Wrath and anger are hateful things, yet the sinner hugs them tight.” But the Gospel of Christ offers us the peace terms if we are to live in the Kingdom of God. When Peter approached Jesus and asked him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive? As many as seven times?” And Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times (Matthew 18:21–35). In other words, “Forgive us our trespasses AS we forgive those who trespass against us”. 

It’s often easier to light a fire than to put one out. Let us pray for the strength of the firefighter St. Michael, the conviction of the messenger St. Gabriel and the healing touch of the medic St. Raphael - archangels sent before us to lead us onward and upward towards the mercy of God. 

Father Cávana Wallace


Sep 4, 2020

Find Shade

As we discern what God is expecting us to say and to do during the coming weeks and months, Sunday’s psalm is timely: “If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts”. 

Fresh from anchoring seven strong metal columns around our gathering place outside the church, reflect on the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit as our secure pillars under which we can find shade from the heat of the day. 

  1. The Holy Spirit’s Gift of Knowledge: We often have too much information at our fingertips that knowing what is truly good and truly evil often becomes distorted. Come Holy Spirit!

  2. The Holy Spirit’s Gift of Understanding: When we abdicate our ability to think rationally, it’s easy to allow “experts” to do our thinking for us. Come Holy Spirit!

  3. The Holy Spirit’s Gift of Wisdom:  It is sometimes too easy to react to the message of a strongman, the activist, or the celebrity. It takes time and effort to see the “big picture”. Come Holy Spirit!

  4. The Holy Spirit’s Gift of Right Judgement: The truth is alway attractive, but seldom popular. Christ’s whole life and His teachings bear testimony to this. There are times when we must swallow our pride and even change our minds. Come Holy Spirit!

  5. The Holy Spirit’s Gift of Courage: Without meaningful sacrifice, love of God, neighbor or self falls flat. Without embracing our own cross or shouldering the weight of someone else struggling to carry theirs, we are dead already. Come Holy Spirit!

  6. The Holy Spirit’s Gift of Reverence: All of creation, everything and everyone is gently marked by the loving fingerprints of God and aroma of His presence. If only our eyes could better see, and our words and actions always reflect His presence. Come Holy Spirit!

  7. The Holy Spirit’s Gift of Wonder and Awe: We can spend too much time and energy trying to make progress, trying to catch up, always being busy, worrying or fearful about the future. Come Holy Spirit!

Sunday’s Gospel Acclamation

2 Corinthians 5:19

Alleluia, alleluia.

God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ

and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.

Alleluia, alleluia.

High Priest Lobbyist

Payment of Prayer 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time In the context of the First Reading (Isaiah 45:1,4-6) the People of Israel were exiled - far ...