Jul 14, 2017

Leaving our front door unlocked

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time

“On that day, Jesus went out of the house and sat down by the sea. Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat down, and the whole crowd stood along the shore. And he spoke to them at length in parables”. Matthew 13:1

We can’t keep Christ under house arrest.  And sometimes, that’s what we do. We keep him private, away from the crowds. Our Lord went down to the harbor, where the crowds where. He didn’t stand on the shore and look into the vastness of the ocean. Instead he get’s into a boat (which is often used as a symbol of the Church), and from there He looks at the whole crowd of humanity, upon the faces of everyone – yours and mine. Christ wants to look into my face, into my eyes. And what will he see?

Every face in the crowd tells a story, a life.  Christ does not speak to a crowd. He speaks to the individual soul.  For that reason he speaks in parables – coded language because not one of our lives is really the same. His parables can sometimes go over someone’s head.  Sometimes they appear to be just nice stories, like storybook illustrations. But if we ask the Holy Spirit to open our minds and our souls to the Word of God, taking time to listen, to read his parables again and again, slowly, and carefully we will often see our lives somehow reflected in the images Christ creates in his illustrations - there often reaches that sacred moment in our lives, when we know that he is speaking to me, individually, personally in the uniqueness of my life and circumstances. Christ is looking into my eyes, into my life!

Back to that first line – “Jesus went out of the house”.  How did he get in the house to begin with? The final verses of the previous chapter of the Gospel we heard today tell us that Our Blessed Mother came to visit Him while He was preaching in the middle of a great crowd of people.  No doubt, after He had finished, Our Lord took His mother to a private house to spend some time with her.  And then what we heard read in the Gospel today picks up what happened next.   “On that day, Jesus went out of the house and sat down by the sea. Such large crowds gathered around… And he spoke to them at length in parables”

Having spent some quiet time with His Mother, which parable did He go on to speak to the crowd about? God as the sower and the Word of God as the seed! Could our Lord have been thinking of His Mother when He told the crowd that “But some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit”?  For what do we say concerning Our Blessed Mother, “Blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus”.  

If we are to hear God’s Word speaking to us in the secret of our lives, let us do so imitating Mary who not only received and understood that Word but who in turn gave that Word to the world so that we might hear Him speaking into the depths of and circumstances of our lives.

Jul 8, 2017

Relationships are a burden!

14th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Matthew 11:25-30

But listen again to what Jesus says in the Gospel portion of the Scriptures today. “No one knows the Father except the Son and anyone whom the Son wishes to reveal him”.  Let’s look at the first part of that sentence. “No one knows the Father except the Son”.  

Husbands and wives - you should know each other better than you know anyone else.  You should know your children better than their teachers. Children should know their brothers and sisters better than their friends or classmates.  Why? Because the family is a place of intimacy, where we waste time with each other, where we help each other to grow, mature –it is where our personalities have the greatest opportunity to be developed and formed.

I can look at photographs of you through social media, at birthday parties, your graduation or wedding photographs. I can read your biography or, follow you on your facebook or twitter. Or if you are famous, a celebrity or a VIP, maybe I can watch a movie or documentary about you. But do I know you? Do I really know you in the way that your family does, your spouse does, your brothers or sisters or your close and intimate friends? Not really, unless I am invited into your whole life, adopted into your family, allowed to live with you every moment of the day. And that would be hard work!

Back to the words of Christ, “No one knows the Father, except the Son”.  Yes, we may know the Father from the outside looking in. But Christ knows the Father from the inside - as his Father, a unique Father-Son relationship, with an intimacy that we cannot even start to imagine.   

Yes, we can look at everything from the outside, study the images, read all the books and follow all the programs, but we will never get to know who Jesus really is unless He himself invites us into His hidden life, His life “behind the scenes” into the deep and secret intimacy of His Heart, His relationship with His Father. Not everyone gets to go there.  How do we?

Our Lord opens His Heart and invites into the relationship He enjoys with His father, first and foremost, to those who labor and are burdened. I’m not talking about those who are hard workers or if you feel the weight of the world pressing down on you.  (Prayer is itself is a labor. Trying to live a Christian life every hour of the day is a burden – it’s hard work.)   “Come to me all you who labor and are burdened and I will give you rest”, says the Lord. He does not say, “take it easy and rest, and you’ll float right into my heart!”

So, what do we have to do? It’s a bit like physical exercise. Don’t expect results if you are not committed to making sacrifices. If there is no sacrifice, no labor, no burden in our relationship with Christ and His Holy Church, then God is easily turned into an ornament, the Church treated like a convenience store, the parish community into a mutual admiration society!

It’s the same with Sunday Mass. Sometimes it’s easier to demand that the preacher do all the work so you can just sit back and listen. Sometimes we demand that the Church accommodate my personal tastes in language, music, architecture, styles so that I myself don’t have to make any efforts, any sacrifices - it’s easier to want everything on my own terms so that I don’t have to make much of an effort. If that’s the logistics of family life, parish life, the spiritual life, at home, school or at work - you’re going to get bored very quickly and God help anyone who disturbs a sleeping bear! Christ tells us, “Come to me all you who labor and are burdened”. He did not say, “Come to me all you who go with the flow and who do not want to be burdened”.  

Let us pray for the courage to go beyond superficialities in our relationship with the Lord. Let us never feel put out that we are expected to work hard in our relationships, and learn from Christ how to carry and accept the burdens, even when they are not of our own making. For when we learn to swallow our pride, face our fear, are humble, authentic and sincere, the strength of God’s grace will carry us, deeper and deeper into the strong and enduring Sacred Heart of Jesus.

It is for this reason that we should build up a relationship with Mary.  No other person on this earth knew better the real Jesus, the secret burdens of His heart and the sufferings of His Life, than His mother.  Let us ask her who followed her Son to the Cross, to find a place for us also in her heart and also in her joy being our mother also.

Jul 3, 2017

The Echo of Two Bells

On the Fourth of July, we observe the anniversary of the writing and proclamation in 1776 of the Declaration of Independence.

From the City of Brotherly Love, a new political experiment was born.  From there it slowly made its way westward.  It would not be until 1850 that California would finally admitted into the union of these United States of America.

It is well worth reflecting upon what was happening in California in 1776.  On that historic day when the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia announced the birth of the United States, the bells of six of the Californian Missions were already ringing throughout California.  These bells were announcing the beginning of Mass, the times for prayer and when food was served for anyone who was hungry.

Even today, these bells have been immortalized along the 600 miles of the El Camino Real that begins in San Diego, passes through the middle of our parish and stretches north to Sonoma, just north of San Francisco where Saint Junipero Serra who was living and witnessing to the Gospel on the first 4th of July in 1776.

Today's commemoration of that date should allow us to reflect on the fact that we have dual citizenship. I am not talking about US and Californian. Every single person, all of us are first and foremost citizens of heaven and of earth with the rights, duties and obligations to treat and love our neighbor as we would ourselves. Of course, Christ has given us a template in the parable of the Good Samaritan and also to model His own example as the Good Shepherd to who care for all His flock and seeks out the lost and the abandoned.

And whether we are local, native, a visitor or immigrant, we all owe our faith to the missionaries and exiles who came before us. We are therefore duty bound to be always grateful that we have found a home and a land where we have, at least, the freedom to worship. Today, in particular, even we are far from perfect and we wrestle to understand divine providence, we pray for our land, for the nation, for our government and for all who find themselves within this sacred union of brotherly love and Christian discipleship.  

And let us also not forget all our men and women in uniform, both past and present. They often find themselves in the heat of the battle to save lives, to protect the innocent and to uphold our common values.  May they find protection under the wings of St. Michael the Archangel and inspiration from the many, many Martyrs and Saints of heaven who lived their heroic lives throughout these lands.

And may our nation under the patronage of the most Immaculate Mary, Queen of Heaven and Earth become a credible witness, after the manner of Christ Himself, of a sacrificial love that will ring out loud and clear for the whole world to notice and give praise to God.

Jul 1, 2017

Being a a Good Loser

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Matthew 10:37ff

“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 their cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” 

These words of the Lord spoken through the Gospel might seem harsh. But simply said, from the perspective of someone who dares give their life, their whole life to Christ it makes perfect but painful sense. 

How? The ultimate reality each of us will face is that we can not sustain or hold onto earthly relationships forever. Our relationships with family, friends and even with this world will come to pass. 

When we look to, or expect from, family, friends or even ourselves, a perfect love that will last forever, then we are setting ourselves up for disappointment and much unnecessary pain and suffering. Only God can offer perfect love perfectly, a relationship that spills over from this world and into eternity. 

Because we live in this imperfect world, because we are a fallen humanity our love for each other, our relationships are far from perfect.  Dependent on God’s grace, we must be purified by by a love, the source of which is not temporal, but eternal. 

Those who dare enter into an intimate friendship with Christ, serve as examples for us to follow. The Church still identifies from her own family countless witnesses, individuals we today call saints whose love for Christ took precedence over every other type of relationship. As an example, this Sunday sees the Church canonizing Mother Teresa of Calcutta as a saint. Her life is shown to us today, as a worthy example of a life lived in continual intimacy with Christ. 

We will often remember her as a tireless advocate for the poor, a woman who bandaged the wounds of the sick, who held in her arms the dying, the diseased, the neglected, the abused and the forgotten. 

However, her own ministry and work among the poor is no more, it’s over, it’s finished! But, the secret intimate relationship she fostered with Christ during her time on earth, now continues and is perfected with him in eternity. That is the life of a saint - to be in love with Christ forever. 

A story once told about her will illustrate this point.  Every morning Mother Teresa would spend at least an hour kneeling before the Tabernacle, the Eucharistic Presence of Christ, simply gazing with the eyes of her soul upon the heavenly face of our Blessed Lord.  

In the community of her nuns, they too would follow her example.  One afternoon, one of her young energetic sisters, who was involved in so many good works, told Mother Teresa that because of the daily demands of looking after the hospital, bandaging the wounds of the sick and feeding the orphans, on top of going to Mass and praying her daily rosary, this young nun did not have enough time to spend an hour before Blessed Sacrament. Mother Teresa responded to her: “I agree sister, you are doing all this good work and so many depend on you. Indeed, you are so very much busy. I agree, you can not spend one hour before the Blessed Sacrament every day. And so, form now on, you will spend two hours before the Blessed Sacrament every day!

From our perspective, with our eyes we saw Mother Teresa caring for the poor, washing tenderly the bed sores of the elderly and neglected, cradling in her arms the dying. Why did she do it? But what did she see in it?  She would say? I see Christ himself in each one of them, I see Christ, wounded and sick. “I see Christ alone and neglected. I see Christ dying in my arms, and because I love him I cannot but still be moved to see him and love him in each of my suffering brothers and sisters.”

Mother Teresa could not and did not cure, save or heal everyone who entered into her care. That was not the point. Countless who were forgotten and unloved, or loved badly by this world, even abandoned by their own family and friends literally died in her arms. She would say, that she wanted the neglected of this world to at least in their final moments, to look into her eyes and know in their heart of hearts that there was indeed someone who did in fact love them, that they were worthy of being loved, and in fact were loved.  

Because Mother Teresa had first looked into the eyes of Christ and knew herself loved by God, she was able to look into the eyes of others, whoever they were and whatever condition they were in and love them with that same love of Christ that she now enjoys beautifully and perfectly in heaven. That’s all it takes - that is the firm foundation our faith is built upon, to “become a sign of the absolute supremacy of Christ’s love” in a fallen world (Comp. CCC 342).

Regardless of what you think of yourself, do not be afraid of the gaze of Christ and being a saint on earth as we are destined to be in heaven, to look upon the Lamb of God who, by his tender and sacrificial love, takes away the sins of the world.

Holy Mary, mother of God, Pray for us.

Saint Mother Teresa, Pray for us.

Jun 24, 2017

Fear No One

"Do not be afraid of the past. If people tell you that it is irrevocable, do not believe them. The past, the present and the future are but one moment in the sight of God, in whose sight we should try to live." 

12th Sunday in Ordinary time

We often think of religion as a set of rules and commandments - directives as to what to believe and how to live our lives.

But if there is any one command that comes down from God, a commandment that is repeated in the Bible 365 times - in other words, an order to be followed for each day of the year, it is this - “Do not be afraid”. This simple divine directive should always be at the forefront of our minds, when we are trying to live our Christian discipleship in the midst of the everyday battlefields of life. “Do not be afraid”, God assures us.

But you might say that, looking out into the world, there is so much to be afraid of. Not only do I sometimes fear for myself, but also I fear for my family, the future generations, my nation - I am afraid of what the world is turning into.

Of course, these are concerns. But listen carefully to why Our Lord tells we should not be afraid.

He doesn't say that we need not be afraid because we will not experience pain or suffering or even that He will quickly come to our rescue. Instead we should not be afraid because, “Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known”.  

In other words, there is no need for you to be afraid - why? Because every hidden thought you have, every email you have sent, every webpage you have browsed, every secret conversation you have had, every dream, every feeling, every word and every action you have every made, in public, private or secret, will be brought to light!

Oh dear! - now I am really afraid!

We all have been wounded in battles and conflicts. Our scars might be hidden from public view, but our memories of past conflicts still have the power to haunt us. But what are we afraid of? We are afraid of the world, the world’s judgement, opinion, whether I will be liked or not, whether I can meet its expectations or not.  Often I am more afraid of my ego being damaged or how I will look in a photograph that can easily be deleted, than being afraid that my soul, which will never die, might be lost and damned for all eternity.

But if I allow all my sins to be brought to light, that is to God’s light, His light is gentle, purifying, healing - if I have repented of my past sins, opened my wounds to the healing power of God’s mercy and forgiveness, particularly through the Sacrament of Confession, and have done my penance and resolved to sin no more, I have no need to be afraid- not even to fear God.

Of course, this is easier said than done. So we need to be constantly reminded not not sell ourselves to the world but to instead offer our bodies and our souls willingly to God the creator of all that is.

Do not be afraid to reveal your fears and anxieties to our loving Father and trust in His grace
He gives strength to the humble and repentant soul.

Do not be afraid to get down on your knees and trust in the power of our loving Father -
He gives strength to the body so that through it, we can give public witness our Christian discipleship, even if we are pushed around a bit, bruised a little or even hung upon a cross.

Of course, we bring all our fears, our hopes and our gifts to the Altar of the Lord, so that uniting them to the Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, we can likewise be assured of our invitation to rise from the dead with Him who now lives and reigns, beyond the reach and judgement of this passing world.

Jun 17, 2017

The Body and Blood of Christ

Today’s great feast day of Corpus Christi, reminds us that the bread that he gives us, is not the stuff that fills our stomach. Christ feeds us through his eternal priesthood – by the sacrifice of his body and blood he offers to his Father on our behalf. This is what priesthood is ordered towards and does – offering sacrifice.    

The bread and wine that we place on this altar, counts for little – it is little.  But in the hands of Christ the eternal priest, it becomes his own life-giving body and blood – Christ becomes our food in the wilderness of the world. 

This is by no means allegorical, or a metaphor. Time and space as we experience it, blocks our vision of what angels and the saints of heaven perceive. From our perspective, we have only a temporal reference point to look towards - our bread and wine. But when we do what the Lord commanded us to do at his Last Supper, God reaches out through eternity and touches our offerings of bread and wine, bringing them into complete and perfected union with the resurrected and eternal Christ. In such a unique encounter between heaven and earth, between time and eternity, our bread and wine have no choice but to become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ who in all his power and glory intercedes for us before the throne of our heavenly Father. 

Even though from here, we can not see, nor taste this heaven on earth, when we eat and drink of the Eucharistic elements, our frail and broken bodies are guided, locked into communion with Christ's. This can be as painful as it is beautiful. Painful, because Holy Communion alerts us to our unworthiness, our sinfulness - we are imperfect, unfinished. It is beautiful because the gift of Holy Communion gives us hope that we, and all of creation, will be brought to our finality in Christ himself.

In the meantime, as a people of faith and hope, as children of Abraham we journey through this world with the expectation that it will blossom with new life. As we do so, let us be ever more conscious of humanity's deepest hunger for the Bread that feeds and satisfies angels and heavenly saints - the Bread of Eternity, Christ himself. As the Lord gives us His Body and Blood to nourish and sustain us, if we have been feed by Him, your own body and blood, now feed, nourish and sustain your brothers and sisters, through Christ our Lord.

Jun 10, 2017

Within God

The Most Blessed Trinity

During these past 10 days our parish has seen two of our sons ordained into Holy Orders - one as a deacon, the other as a priest. During each of their ordination Masses much attention was given to the ritual of the liturgy, the choice of Scripture, the power of the prayers, the laying on of hands, and the vesting with the sacred robes of office. However, one sacred action, very personal to each one of them, not only brought them to their knees - it ensured that each one of them would would literally collapse into the very gentle hands and the most loving embrace of the Almighty God.  

Before being ordained, both Deacon Chuck and Father Nathan had to lie face down before the altar - they had to abandon themselves completely to the overwhelming power and purifying love of God - and to do so, trusting - not in some cosmic or supernatural higher power - but trusting their lives in the hands of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit - a God who is Fatherly, a God who has a human heart, a God who is a secret intimate friend.

Of course, in our theological language, we identify God as a Trinity. "What" the Almighty is, is one God. "Who" the one God is, is the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit. We can draw diagrams, use symbols and offer allegories to help explain the three distinct persons united in one God. But that's as far as we can go. Human language and imagination will never understand or fathom this divine mystery.

But, the Good News is that because our minds can only go so far, little by little, God gently reveals Himself to us, slowly unfolding for us the pattern of His unimaginable thoughts (Proverbs 8:22-33). We don’t have to be theologians or philosophers. Through the language of harmony and beauty that we sense in the universe, we gain some insight that God is the perfection of harmony and beauty, but so much more than our perceptions. (Psalm 8:4-9).

But proving his existence or trying to understanding what God is, is not our goal.  Experiencing God, is. Christ is God's very own self-portrait! But more than that. A portrait can be looked at from a distance. God, through Christ's humanity, from that first instant of His conception in the womb of Mary, brings us into direct union with Him. 

God, allowed Himself to be mothered (for our sake). God allowed himself to live in the limitations of flesh and blood, God with us, reaching out to us, wanting to draw us closer and closer into his divine life, talking to us directly with words we can understand, lives with us intimately in a love that we can experience, sharing in our joys, in our sorrows, in our pain and also our suffering. To know Christ is to know the love and compassion of God.

Christ is God being personal with you and me, inviting us even into His own experience of being God - the love between Father and Son.  Of course, our experience of this type of relationship is limited to our own experience or only as great as our best imagination. But Christ invites you and me into His very own perfect relationship that He enjoys with the Father - a relationship of the most perfect love between two persons that can ever exist, not contained or constrained by time itself. 

Christ invites all of us, all humanity, through His Body and Blood, into the very "divine life" of the One He dares to call “Father”, “Abba”. And that Divine Love - is not a force or a feeling - it has It's own personality - the Holy Spirit. A Christian, in that same Spirit also dares to call God, Father - "Abba".

So, don't try to get your head around this. Instead, get your heart around Christ and you will find and experience the greatest intimacy, the closeness that God desires to share and draw us into.

This is relational, not conceptual nor imaginative.  It is insufficient to simply bow down or even kneel before God. Like Deacon Chuck and Father Nathan on the day of their ordination, we too, and every day, must have the courageous faith to simply abandon ourselves into the very life of God, trusting in His power, His Heart and His life-giving love, on earth as it is in heaven!

Leaving our front door unlocked

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time “On that day, Jesus went out of the house and sat down by the sea. Such large crowds gathered around h...