May 8, 2021

The Point of Love

 6th Sunday of Easter:  


What if you went up to a mother holding with her adorable baby in her arms and told her, “Ma’am, you’re loving your baby the wrong way!”   Imagine telling a father that the way he loves his daughter, his little princess, isn’t right. Or, what would happen if you told a married couple, celebrating their 25th anniversary, “Excuse me, but your love for each other seems inadequate.” What would be the reaction if I told two close friends that their relationship was not based on love? Or telling a priest, it doesn’t seem that he really loves his flock!  

Dare tell anyone that the way they love is wrong, misguided or not healthy, and you risk evoking its opposite - anger, rage and even violence.  So how do we judge our own way of loving, the manner in which we dare love, or how do we define it, and keep ourselves accountable?

The Christian always goes back to Christ himself, not just His words, but His actions.  “As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love”. We can not remain in our own love. Why? We are lousy lovers. We mess things up. We exaggerate love, we ignore it, we go from one extreme to another.

A Christian has to be instead grounded in Christ’s love, His manner and His example of loving. He tells us to “remain in HIS love”, he tells to “learn from him”, to “keep his commandments”. And we must, because faith in Christ is also trusting in His way of loving.  We are obedient to Christ because we trust Him over ourselves, better than ourselves - because all of us have been loved poorly in life. Many of us bear the wounds of cheap love and the scars of its many imitations - through broken promises, control, dependency, and even slavery in all its forms.  

Christ is here to show us a love that will set us free - that brings joy and a peace that no other can. I may not think myself worthy of His loving me, and no doubt, I am not. But we have to be reminded, again and again, of His words, “ It was not you who choose me,” He says “but I who choose you.”  He loves me to death. He loves you to death. You are worthy of Christ dying for you, regardless if you wish Him to or not. The fact is He did, not only does it show us how much He thinks of us in His heart, God respects us, give us our dignity, even if all we can see and experience are our wounds.

Maybe, this is why Christ, to save us from our oftentimes crude and confusing experiences of love, does not call us His lovers - He calls us His friends.  Friendship, we understand a bit better than love. Friendship goes beyond feelings, emotions - it is natural as well as born from a duty of the heart - it comes to the rescue and yet it is respectful. It can be as tender as it can be forthright.  Because it concerns itself with our human dignity, it is willing to tell us our faults and suffer loss to help make us what God intends us to be - to be truly and fully human - life to the full, fruit in abundance.

“What a friend we have in Jesus”.

May 1, 2021

Going Under The Knife!


5th Sunday of Easter 2021


As I come to the end of my tenure of twenty years here at St. Margaret’s, the Lord has given me, over time, different models of how to be a pastor. 


Christ the priest has allowed me to bring all your prayers and offer them through sacrifice of His Body and Blood at the Altar during Mass. Christ the Good Shepherd has allowed me to tend and protect the flock leading it safely through dangers and by restful waters. Christ the Prophet has allowed me to choose my words wisely and prudently to offer encouragement, give direction and provide hope of the future. 


Over the years, I have also found myself inspired by another model - that of the example of Christ the Gardener!  After all, it was in a garden it all began. And on Easter Sunday, the place where Christ rose from the dead, was also in a garden - a reminder that all things are made new and begin afresh. 


How has this image of the garden inspired me, and will continue to do so as I will begin my ministry, come July, at the parish of St. Therese, who is providentially called “The Little Flower”?


Listen again to the perennial words of Christ. 


Jesus said to his disciples: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and every one that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit. You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you.”


A better word used by other English versions of this passage in Scripture (Father John Knox's translation), instead of using the word "prune", they render it "to trim clean". Now let us apply Christ's analogy to ourselves, allowing him to discern the state of the garden of your soul. 


The spiritual life, as our physical bodies, likewise need discipline, nurturing, training. If we are to be rooted in Christ, not just planted in a flower pot, but deeply rooted in Him as the roots of a vine which go deep into the rich soil, we must allow ourselves to be, periodically, trimmed clean.


Nobody likes going under the knife. But the secret of trimming clean a part of a vine or a rose bush that is either growing out of control or getting itself tied up in a knot, the secret is the type of blade that is used.


It's not  a kitchen knife or a pair of scissors from the drawer. The blade has to be carefully crafted, particularly sharp and immaculately clean, and not everyone is gifted as to how to use it with precision and to full effect.  


And so for the disciple - we have to trust this particular blade in Our Lord’s hands.  We even have to be willing to suffer a bit for the sake of heavenward growth and not be afraid of the gardener of our souls. Being trimmed clean by our Lord allows us to become stronger in our attachment to Him and more appreciative of His mercy in our lives.  


And even though at times we might feel spiritually dead or dormant, and at times have to weather sickness or disease or find ourselves all tied up or totally confused at times, always remain planted in His own vineyard. Allow our souls to be trimmed clean by the Sacrament of His mercy through confession and be nourished by his Eucharistic Body and Blood. Then we can be assured that as we travel through the seasons of life, at the proper time, we will rejoice in producing a rich harvest and bear much fruit.

Apr 24, 2021

Good and True Shepherd



We call this Sunday after Easter, Good Shepherd Sunday. Indeed, Christ is the Good Shepherd. And that image of Him as such has inspired the most beautiful images and songs, poems and painting. 

But we should be careful not to stop there. Someone might appear good, or brings us comfort and calms our fears. But that does not necessarily mean that we open our mouths and allow ourselves to be fed. The reason we sin is because it tries to exploit our natural vulnerabilities. The our senses fool us into thinking that the sin is good, actually good to do, or will have good results. 

Even throughout the political history of Israel, many individuals, from kings to politicians, from military commanders to revolutionaries, had at various times proclaimed themselves as good shepherds who were to lead their people to freedom. Christ calls them thieves and robbers! Instead of feeding the flock with true food, they themselves feed off the fears and vulnerabilities of others.


This happens to us too, when we idealize someone or something, even to the point of ignoring the faults. When the reality hits that we made a terrible investment, that you were deceived, or betrayed by someone close, our love can easily turn into hatred. Oftentimes, we have only ourselves to blame, and it takes humility to even forgive oneself for our own stupidity. 


So it’s not just about trying to be good or being attracted to what we perceive as good. Christ calls us to go deeper. He puts Himself forward, not simply as the Good Shepherd. He goes further. He presents Himself as the “True Shepherd”. 


Anyone can present themselves as a “good shepherd”. But Christ is only the Good Shepherd because He alone is the True Shepherd. How can you tell? Listen to His voice. 


Christ’s voice not only speaks the truth, but His voice, even if we do not fully understand it with our minds, His voice reaches into the heart and soul. And we know, in our heart of hearts that we must follow Him, trust Him and love Him, obey Him, even when we know we are still weak and vulnerable, still hungry and afraid. The True Shepherd will always keep His promises, and will even lay down His life, because He is a man of His Word.


And what is His Promise and His Word to us? “I have come that you may have life, and life abundantly”.  Here in this Eucharist, we call out to God who hears us, hears you and me crying out from the depth of our hearts and souls, NOT, “Feed me so I can feel good”. Instead our prayer should be “Feed me with everlasting life so I can authentically know you and love you more and more”. 


He responds to us most intimately through the Sacrament of the Eucharist, the Mass, not only as a Good Shepherd who feeds us, but the True Shepherd who dares to nourish us with His own authentic Body and Blood, and at what cost? Does He feel like a Good Shepherd doing so, or does He know Himself as an authentic Shepherd because He sacrifices Himself for the one He loves, even if it is not returned or even appreciated. 


When we were children, we never truly understood the sacrifices our parents made for us, the pain and suffering that often endured while we as children complained that we didn’t get what we deserved. 


We don’t deserve good things. We deserve the truth. The truth is that you are worth dying for, and the Good Shepherd has done just so, because He is true to His name. All we can do is respond to Christ is gratitude and Thanksgiving. We do so now. 


Because the Lord alone is my shepherd, there is nothing else I shall want, no-one else who hears me when I call, knows where I am, what I need, where I belong."  Call to Him and you will be saved!

Apr 18, 2021

All Good Things Come to a Beginning



Dear friends,

A few days ago, Bishop McElroy called to ask me to accept a new assignment as the pastor of a parish in San Diego beginning July 1st.


I have accepted his invitation and do so with true gratitude for the 20 years I have been pastor here at St. Margaret’s. 


Naturally, I consider Oceanside to be home (and it will always be), with all the blessings, challenges and opportunities God, in His providence, has afforded me. And I am grateful to our Lord for the enduring friendships that I have fostered and the privilege of being invited into so many lives here in North County. 


Of course, I know that for many, this news will come as a bit of a shock and even worry. Don’t let it be. To be a pastor for twenty years in one place is a rare privilege that I have never taken for granted. 


And in a parish community which has served many families who crossed our threshold while passing through, I have been accustomed to welcoming newcomers as well as saying farewell to the many who, while with us have contributed so much to our parish community and with whom I have established deep and enduring friendships. 


To that end, I am truly delighted to welcome St. Margaret’s fourth pastor, Father Bill Kernan. I have known him since my days in the seminary and we have been good friends for 33 years. Some would say we are even “cut from the same cloth”! The below link to his short biography will highlight that he will be an incredible perfect fit for where St. Margaret’s is now. He will arrive here on the 6th of July!


For me, on that same Sunday I will be offering myself as shepherd to the parish community of St. Therese down in San Diego, just north of SDSU. Founded in 1955, my new parish is also a large community with many young families, close to the Marines at Miramar, but it also comes with a parish school community and a well established convent of religious sisters. 


In the meantime, until July, please, please be assured that during the next couple of months, my full attention will be, as it has always been, to this parish.  At the same time I will be ensuring that our next pastor will find a welcome home at St. Margaret’s where I know he will seamlessly carry on the enduring spirit and faithful witness of prayer and worship that has been the hallmark of our parish experience. Some things will never change! For this, I am so grateful to God and for you. 


May Our Blessed Mother continue to always see the face of her Son reflected always in yours.


Father Cávana Wallace

Pastor


https://www.stelizabethjulian.org/father-bills-bio.html






Apr 17, 2021

Christ and Conflict Resolutions


Third Sunday of Easter:

With the crucifixion of Jesus, the disciples had been witnesses to great violence. Whether or not they actually were close enough to see the nails driven through our Blessed Lord’s hands and feet and his bloodied and punctured body, hoisted up on the cross, the curse of violence and the trauma of death were very much part of their lives. How many times would they have to pass by the hanging corpses of victims of “Roman justice”?  

Growing up, living and constantly exposed to violence and death, be it real or imagined, or through media, movies, or even in a culture of abortions or shootings
- it has an effect on the mind, the body and the soul. 

It is into this culture of death, our Lord steps. He does so with a new body of evidence that can finally bring an end to conflicts, violence, wars and needless deaths.  This body of evidence he brings is his own body - his resurrected body, a transformed body. He is not a ghost of a past memory when all was peaceful and pleasant. Nor is he a dreamt up image of wishful thinking.  

He gives his disciples solid food evidence that who they see before them is real, not a vision, or apparition nor the mind playing games.  Christ stands before them as God’s plan of victory for every conflict resolution not only throughout the world, but first within our lives (cf. “beginning in Jerusalem”) 

Standing before his disciples, our Lord now reaches into their troubled and wounded minds, with divine and brotherly compassion and gentleness. And deeper still, to touch His disciples in the depth of their lives, the Prince of Peace bestows upon them the gift of peace, a profound peace, a peace that this world can not give.

This gift of peace, given to the Church by our Lord is not simply for us to be strengthened and secured in our faith. We are duty bound to offer this gift of peace to the world, a world that still picks at its own wounds and often resists the gentle grace of God at work in so many unassuming ways. How?


Our Lord gives us clear instructions. “That repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations”. We preach to the world by our words and our actions, by how we live our lives, and especially how we meet our death (as beautifully captured in the closing lines of the responsorial Psalm, “As soon as I lie down, I fall peacefully asleep, for you alone, O LORD, bring security to my dwelling”).

Let us ask for the prayers of our mother Mary. She witnessed, yes, the barbarity of her son’s violent death. But she witnessed the repentance of the good thief and Christ’s appeal to his heavenly Father for the forgiveness of those who crucified him. We must allow her openness to the grace of God’s words and her obedience to God’s commandments (cf. Second Reading), not simply to inspire us, but embolden us to continue and accomplish Christ’s vocation -  reconciling the world to His heavenly Father. His work is never done. As His witnesses, neither is ours!

Apr 4, 2021

The Blast from the Past, Present

 



Easter Morning 2021


Nearly two thousand years ago, a crowd of witnesses to his death on the Cross and his burial in a nearby tomb, discovered it was now lying empty. So incredible was the mere thought of a resurrection from the dead, even the women presumed that his grave was desecrated and his body stolen. But in a few hours into that first day of the week, Sunday, what followed would change the whole course of human history and salvation. 


Even though all but a few of his frightened disciples had abandoned Jesus in his last hours when he was arrested and killed, they were now talking about his Resurrection from the dead; Christ standing physically before them even with the wounds from the nails in his hands and feet. They could not have invented such a story, for such an event was impossible to them, unthinkable. It was clearly a Resurrection from the Dead, not resuscitation back to life. In fact, the Risen Christ scolded them for their lack of faith, if not their limited imagination. After all, before his death, they witnessed his many miracles, even rising others from the dead. 


On that first Good Friday, God experienced death in the most cruel and barbaric manner possible. On that first Easter Sunday, he sends death into its rightful place forever – to Hell. So, Easter Sunday doesn’t just see us celebrating the historical event of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from death. His Resurrection has cosmic dimensions, sending a mighty wave throughout the whole universe in every direction, even beyond the dimensions of our own human experiences. Only through the gift of faith can a disciple reach out into this new form of life and living, becoming one with Christ so completely, that nothing can interfere or get in the way, even our own death. This is why the Sunday Mass are so crucial. 


It is my prayer that, as disciples, having been granted that gift of faith in the Resurrection of Christ that we many never let go of his hand only to fall into darkness. May every Sunday see our grip on our faith becoming stronger and stronger, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen

Apr 2, 2021

Death will come



You, your loved ones, your family and your friends - all of us, you and me will die. That is certain. 

It could be said that if there was no death, there would be no need for faith, or even religion. If Adam and Eve did not sin, they would not need faith in God, as God was always present to them and they innocently shared their lives with Him and God with them - heaven on earth, as it was in the beginning. 


But because we sin, we die. Death will come to us all, that is certain. 


In the meantime we often think that we are firmly planted on this earth, and that we can, in the meantime, busy ourselves with living our lives. Heaven, we imagine is so far away, and hell too we imagine, is a dungeon, buried so deep it can be forgotten.


A parishioner once told me that a local cemetery had a very beautiful name, “Eternal Hills”. It seemed for them so peaceful and reassuring. I thought to myself later, that hell has also eternal hills. And that is seriously no laughing matter. 


This planet earth we live on is tiny, and heaven and hell are immense. Our world, our life is only but a thin membrane between heaven and hell and we can easily puncture it, one way or another, in fact we do. 


The Cross of Jesus Christ is the only thing that can hold up heaven and hold down hell. We are all walking on thin ice but a time will come when the ice will break and death will open up beneath us. We will not be saved from death. But we can be saved from its doom if we are holding on to Christ’s Cross and believe that eternal life worth living for comes from Him alone. 


A Christian does not fear the Cross of Christ or even death. We will not be distracted by the world’s false advertising that we can live as we are now, forever. Nor can a Christian be indifferent to the Cross of Christ, for it shows in living color what evil hearts can do when provoked by the truth. A Christian can not despair either by looking at the Cross. Christ’s body upon it is a sacrificial love offering to His Heavenly Father that proves that you and I are worth dying for, regardless of what we think about ourselves. A Christian can not place their faith or hope in solutions to help us avoid the Cross, that would be, not to create heaven on earth, but hell. 


Instead, the Christian who holds onto the venerates the cross of Christ and believes in the saving power of Christ’s body and blood, receives the medicine of immortality and the anecdote eternal life with God forever. 


The Point of Love

  6th Sunday of Easter:   What if you went up to a mother holding with her adorable baby in her arms and told her, “Ma’am, you’re loving you...