Feb 16, 2019

H2O, H2O, H20

Lk 5:1-11

The language of fishing in the gospel is not a simple observation of particular events. In the light of our faith, it is a metaphor for the work of Jesus and a picture of what God is doing through His Church. 

There is a long history of the Church being described as a large boat. We are not a museum ship, nor do we board this mighty tied up old vessel that has seen better days. Christ Himself is still giving orders to set sail. 

Whether he stands on the shoreline and calls out to us, at rest in one of the cabins, or at the helm, there is work to be done, places to go, battles to fight, new worlds to be discovered. Reflecting on the Gospel this Sunday, what course does Christ plot for us. We are to be "fishers of men". 

"Catching men alive". How? Christ gives us the grace to attract.  That grace of attraction is manifested in so many beautiful ways: through the preaching of the Gospel, through the beauty of the liturgy, through the gentle power of the sacraments, but especially, through the witness of men and women, of families whose lives are lived with a sense of hope, that Christ is with us every part of the journey.  Admittedly, we can find ourselves naturally afraid of what lies beyond the horizon. Sometimes, be might be afraid of storms, getting lost, even encountering pirate ships (!) Maybe we would prefer staying closer to land.  But the first prayer we made in public during the Mass was: "Keep your family safe, O Lord, with unfailing care, that relying on the hope of heavenly grace, we may be defended always by your protection" (Collect)

Christians we should not be afraid of the water. After all, for our first nine months, we swam around it. And just when we were dried off, into the baptism font we went! Water should be our second nature. In fact, it should be our first! We are nearly 70 percent of water, so it should come naturally to us!  So what's stopping us when we are told by Christ to go out into the deep waters. Remember, Christ can walk on the water, and so can we, as long as we keep Christ always in view, and never despair.

And this brings us to the example of St. Peter the fisherman.  Peter was reluctant to change his ways. He had a system of fishing that was, for him, predictable and well rehearsed.  But, we also discover through the reading of the New Testament Scriptures, that he was not a very good fisherman in the traditional sense. It was Christ Himself who did all the fishing for Him! 

 If Peter allowed his pride to get the better of him, he would have blatantly disobeyed Our Lord when He instructed him to sail out into the deep water and prepare for a catch of fish. Underneath his rough exterior, Peter allowed the voice of Christ to penetrate his heart. And although Christ was telling him to goes against his natural instincts and what the textbook said, Peter obeyed the voice of the Lord, even though he did not, for him, make sense.

Did Peter and the fishermen apostles know what would be their future work and responsibilities? Could they have even dreamt of their lives beyond their little village? We get a hint when Saint Peter, overwhelmed at the thought of what would be expected of him, presumed wrongly that he must carry the burden all by himself and fears he does not have the strength. Standing in the light of God, even in His shadow, our own unworthiness, helplessness becomes so obvious. St. Peter needs, like you and me, to be assured that Christ will never abandon us.

To be a Christian, to be on board with the Church and to heed to the direction Our Lord steers us, we have to be courageous, daring, trusting. What does this mean?  Maybe it is to leave behind at times, our little well rehearsed lives and, at the Lord's command to venture out into the unknown - whatever that might be.  

Maybe to go out into the deep waters is a call to a more deeper attitude of prayer, leaving superficiality behind. Maybe, it is the call to not be lazy or complacent in our family duties and responsibilities to our brothers and sisters. To go out, at the Lord's command, into the depths of the ocean, might be to finally open up in confession to a sinful past that we want to leave behind. God's mercy is bigger than the vastness of the oceans. His love reaches even the darkest, murky waters of our lives. And for this reason, Christ tells us not to be afraid - to have faith in the grace He gives us and in the strength of His Church, a sacred vessel that can hold the entire world and still never be overwhelmed. 

Let us pray for courage, strength, and endurance, with the assurance that God's mercy and grace will always endure.

Feb 9, 2019

Go Fund Them

The Annual Appeal to Catholics 

Why? Before the beginning of the season of Lent, we initiate the Annual Catholic Appeal.  It's our opportunity to assess the needs of our Local Church, remind each other what we are doing and why. It is also an appeal for help to ensure we can continue the mission and ministries that we, too often, can take for granted and are in need of continual help and support.

A Big Family of Parishes.  Of course, although our experience of the Catholic Church is first and foremost through our local parish, each faith community is not a Church unto itself. We are a living cell, united to other parishes throughout the San Diego and Imperial Counties- one of 99 parishes.

Shepherds.  United with them in our common Catholic faith we form what is called a diocese, a Local Church. Our bishop, Bishop McElroy is the chief shepherd of our diocese, responsible for the souls of over one million local Catholics, including yours and mine! There are 2167 dioceses in the world held together in unity and charity through the mission and ministry of Pope Francis.  1 billion, 254 million members of the Catholic Church through the world!

Sheepfolds.  Each year locally, every parish in our diocese, like muscles of a body working together, demonstrates the ability to coordinate with other parishes in a unique feat of strength. No one part of the body of the diocese is able to take on the entire burden. In fact, all parts of the body need to coordinate in order to contribute to the mission and ministry of Christ and his Church.

Our desert flock. To make this happen, we first give attention to the part of our Local Church which finds itself continually feeling the strain. We have twelve parishes in the Imperial Valley. This area has the highest concentration of Catholics, the lowest per capita income and the greatest unemployment figure in our local Church. (I know this area well having been a priest there, first in Calexico within stone's throw of the border with Mexico, and as a pastor of a farmers parish in Brawley not far from the Salton Sea.  Our brothers and sisters there need our support to help build churches and provide resources for their pastors to be effective in their ministry.)

Pastors and Apprentices. All our priests are in need of your support and encouragement so that our ministry can be effective and enduring throughout our diocese. That support begins at the local level. Our own parish has been the starting post of a number of fine men who have responded to discerning Christ's call to them to be priests. In these past years we have seen four men from St. Margaret's, ordained to the priesthood - two presently serving in our diocese and two further afield. Our parish also hails three seminarians, one presently studying for our diocese and two studying for with religious orders. Our support for them in prayer and practical help continue to afford them the proper environment to test out their vocation to the priesthood, be it in the seminary, the college or the parish church.

Hungry Lambs and Newborns. Another area of our Local Church body which needs continual support is the organization we call Catholic Charities. Every year almost 300,000 of our brothers and sisters, from every part of our diocese, are given practical assistance for food, clothing, and shelter- what we call in our Catholic tradition, the “Corporal Works of Mercy”. This work is ongoing as God’s mercy is everlasting.

Protecting the Family. However, a body is only as strong as its defenses are. In a world where we too often experience the effects of sin and find ourselves vulnerable to many attacks from every side, our mind must always be kept sharp, our heart should find comfort and our soul must always be nourished.  This goes hand in hand with helping young couples in particular with their preparation for marriage. The diocese provides workshops, presentations, and retreats to help men and women marry well and to create the environment necessary for stable and wholesome family life to begin.

Teaching the Faith. Of course, like anybody, we are always growing and learning how to adapt to ever-changing surroundings. We are often challenged to explain and defend our way of life and our faith. Our investment in Catholic education is essential in providing support for Catholic schools, training the catechists and teachers to ensure our Catholic identity is strong and credible.

Doing Our Part.  Each parish in the diocese, small or large, rich or poor, is asked to contribute their energy to furthering these goals. Naturally each parish, like that muscle in the body, has a particular function. Each parish gives of itself accordingly to an assessment of its own strength and ability towards our Annual Catholic Appeal.

Support the Annual Catholic Appeal. One person makes a difference, one parish cooperating with others, one Church continuing the mission and ministry of Christ.

Father Cávana Wallace

Pastor of Saint Margaret's, Oceanside

Please use the following secure link 
to send us a token of that support, wherever you are. 

(Scroll down from Sunday Offering) 

Thank you! 

Responding to God's Grace: A Video Message from the Diocese of San Diego.

Feb 5, 2019

Silence of the Lamb


Luke 4:21-30  

Today’s gospel continues where we left off last week. Here's what's happening.

Our Blessed Lord has entered into this hometown and has announced the beginning of a new era in the relationship between God and humanity, a new initiative. Jesus announces the Kingdom of God and that the very words he had spoken were being fulfilled right in front of their eyes.

However, his townsfolk are impressed with the eloquence of his delivery. They are proud he has returned home for they had heard stories of his ministry and miracles in the surrounding towns. They joined in the excitement of how crowds were following him with great hope and expectation. But then something happens. They started to have second thoughts. Jesus had just read from the Old Testament prophecy about what the Messiah would do. Now he adds, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing”.

His own townspeople could not fathom that the Scriptures, which spoke of the coming of the Messiah and the initiation of a new type of Kingdom, was actually present in the here and now. It seemed that the townspeople, although very religious and devote, somehow only could see the power of God in the world tied up to past events in times remote and distant. Nostalgia seems to be more powerful the present.

We must be careful not to fall into this trap also, of securing God to events in the past, failing to believe that our Lord can and does work in the here and now.  Often, images and memories of what we can selectively remember as the "good old days", events in frozen storage, can seem more persuasive when we are fearful of the future. The temptation to despair will often extinguish any sense of hope.  When one is so used to living in a cave anyone who forces us to look outside of it and into a new day with fresh eyes can seem like a threat.

The people of Nazareth seemed unable or unwilling to reflecting and contemplate the bigger picture. Almost like a knee jerk reaction, they quickly changed the subject and then became "offended", personally offended. And then few reactions turn into a crowd of discontent. The discontent goes viral and it generates into a mob. And all this, before the days of Twitter!

Notice how Christ, after being swept up into this raging wave, saves himself. He doesn’t plead with them, nor does he try to rationalize. His friends do not save him and nor does the law of the land protect him. Our Blessed Lord saves himself through his divine power as God and walks away from the hostility. It doesn't seem fair that he should use his divine influence to get himself out of a battle! Why put up a forcefield? Simply put, the Lord will not be forced into giving his life away. His life is his own, and he will wait for the right time so that he can offer it freely, without coercion.

At the end of his public ministry, when our Blessed Lord was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, he could have also walked away. When he was to be brutally abused and tortured by the Roman soldiers, he had it within his power to switch off any feeling of pain or agony. When he was slowly crucified, he could have easily come down from the cross and brushed off from his body all the injuries and scars. No one mob can force Christ into loving them. He freely gives his life and does so out of the most intensive love unimaginable while considering me and you worth the suffering, the pain, the sacrifice and even the silence he offered.

Yes, there are battles which we must surely fight. But we must never rush into any of them and never compulsively or do so just to make a point.  Sometimes, we also have to ride out the wave of hostility and, yes, with God's grace, slip through an angry mob to save our skin. There is no shame in that. Our shame will be revealed if we mistake the hill outside Nazareth with another hill outside Jerusalem. In the meantime, we pray that our faith will give us the strength to carry our cross willingly and lovingly even though it is heavy and it hurts. If we can do so freely, then the good news is that the Kingdom of God is in fact very near.

May our Blessed Mother, who pondered all these things in her heart, help us to appreciate the Good News of our salvation and the sacrifice our Blessed Lord freely offered so that we might experience lives of true freedom and authentic love.

Jan 27, 2019

Windows to the Soul

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Lk 1:1-4; 4:14-21

When Jesus entered the synagogue of his home town and announced the beginning of his ministry as God's Anointed One, we are told that "the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him." We must do likewise. As important and necessary it is to see the face of Jesus in others, how easy we can disappoint each other when we are not Christ-like and we can become obstacles to others who sincerely seek the face of God.

As important as our Christian witness should be, all who seek Christ must seek Him above all and everyone. We set ourselves up for disappointment and disillusionment when we judge Christianity by her members. We are sinners. It is difficult for us all, indeed for all who seek Him to look directly into the eyes of Christ. We know He sees everything that we are – there are no secrets from His gaze. And His look into our eyes can be as beautiful as it can be so frightening to behold.

This present year in the Church’s calendar will very much focus on the Gospel according to St. Luke. How does this evangelist invite us to look at Jesus? St. Luke, as the beginning of this written Gospel first explains interviewed eye-witnesses who could tell him about the historical life of Jesus. ‘With them, we are back to ground level, because they did not become disciples as a result of what they heard from others. Rather they were eyewitnesses and servants of God the Word” (St. Athanasius, Festal Letter 2.7). We are thus able to be invited into the events of the Lord’s life and ministry, to see Him as those who were His friends and disciples saw Him.

And how did his disciples see Him? In the early Church, the symbol for the Gospel according to St. Luke was an ox. During the time of Jesus, when pilgrims went to the temple to offer sacrifices, many would bring a lamb to be slaughtered, or a small dove. However, only the really wealthy could afford to sacrifice a prize bull or ox.

St. Luke sees Jesus as that choice sacrifice. He sees Him as strong, able to carry the great burden of the world's sins on His shoulders. He sees Him as the offering on the altar of sacrifice to take away the sins of the world. But because He does so freely, we see Jesus as the priest mading the offering, as well as being the offering itself. We see the face of our merciful God, the cost He is willing to make to take away our sins, to cleanse us, free us from despair.

Because we see the Mercy of God for the world in the sacrifice Jesus offers on the cross at the beginning of His public ministry, Our Lord is able to proclaim liberty to captives and sight to the blind. Our own sins have made us blind - blind to God's mercy, blind to the great sacrifice Jesus made on the cross for you and me to free us from the captivity of fear and death.

It is for this reason that we must constantly ask that the Holy Spirit will help us, not only to see ourselves as we truly are but to have the courage to look into the eyes of Christ and see the Merciful One who loves us to the point of sacrificing everything so that I might be set free from all forms of slavery and darkness.

St. Luke had a close and beautiful relationship with Mary. Through her, the evangelist was given a unique window into the events of Christ's infancy, not shared with the other gospel writers. St. Luke must have been able to look into the eyes of Mary as she told him how the angel came to her, how she traveled to Bethlehem, how she reared Our Lord as her child, and how she saw Him leave home to begin His public ministry.  As she told him the stories that she, no doubt pondered and reflected on for so many years, St. Luke, must have seen Jesus through her eyes.

And so must we.  Never close your eyes to Our Lord, and tell the story of His life so that with Mary and so many others, we too can be eye-witnesses of the great things that God has done for us too.

Jan 20, 2019

Raise your glass!

The Wedding Feast of Heaven and Earth:  

The wedding celebration at Cana provides a unique opportunity for us to take note of how God interacts in ordinary events of human life and changes the ordinary into the extraordinary.

At this stage in Jesus' growing up, he has left home, Nazareth - a very conservative and traditional religious and isolated town. Jesus went to Capernaum, a lakeside fishing resort that attracted people of every walk of life. He mixed with the local fisherman - that's where he meets up with Peter and Andrew. There are also Roman soldiers, merchants, Jews and Greeks, tourists and businessmen, pagans and tax collectors. Could any place be so far removed from the quiet and prayerful Nazareth?

The small village of Cana, located between Capernaum and Nazareth, was hosting a wedding party. Both Mary and Jesus were invited. Jesus arrives from Capernaum with his new disciples. Mary arrives from Nazareth with the extended family.  They would bring together two parties who would have been strangers to each other.  No doubt Mary was introduced to every one of her Son’s new friends.  Jesus also introduces us to her. Having accepted us all now as part of the family, it would be at the foot of the cross on Calvary that her Son would tell us to take her into our own home – to make Mary a part of our families.

The choice of the story of the Wedding Feast of Cana is not so much given to us as a reminder of the events of Christ’s early life, or his first sign. Cana was only the beginning of Christ’s miracles, miracles that continues right to this very day and into this very hour. This Mass is Christ's Wedding Banquet. The Gospel we have just listened to is an appetizer to this event here and now.

In this Holy Mass, we are the invited guests of the wedding feast of the Lamb where heaven and earth embrace. The priest is the stand-in for Christ the bridegroom. Even the servers and the ministers can be seen to take the place of his groomsmen and bridesmaids.  And a miracle also takes place here, in the presence of the disciples and the invited guests.  At that event in the village of Cana, water had been changed into wine.  At the event of this Mass, the bread and the wine is changed into the eternal body and blood of Christ- Christ the bridegroom who gives himself to the bride, his Church. 

This is the wedding between heaven and earth and we have been invited, not only to attend but also to participate. Christ the bridegroom gives his life for the Church his bride in the one eternal sacrifice of Calvary, where Mary is likewise in attendance. When we enter into this "joining",  our vows to Christ are renewed. Like the changing of water into wine – our own lives can also be changed, to take on a new rich character. Like any wine-tasting event, we don’t stop with an admiration of the label.  We have to open the bottle. We have to drink of God’s grace so that what is natural in our own lives can be fortified with enduring supernatural realities.

May our presence at and our participation in this Mass in the company of our mother Mary, give us a taste, here on earth, of the Banquet of Heaven. Whether we all partake of the wedding cake or not, we are all invited guests around the top table.  Simply being here in the presence of Christ, our hunger is satisfied, our thirst quenched. Raise a glass of praise and thanksgiving and be of good cheer!

Los milagros de la multiplicación de los panes, cuando el Señor dijo la bendición, partió y distribuyó los panes por medio de sus discípulos para alimentar la multitud, prefiguran la sobreabundancia de este único pan de su Eucaristía. El signo del agua convertida en vino en Caná anuncia ya la Hora de la glorificación de Jesús. Manifiesta el cumplimiento del banquete de las bodas en el Reino del Padre, donde los fieles beberán el vino nuevo convertido en Sangre de Cristo.

Jan 13, 2019

Inside Water

Ritual And Reality...  

When we talk about the baptism of the Lord, what immediately comes to mind is a church baptism – typically a baby, parents and godparents. 

The word baptism hears “to dip, immerse in water”. When St. John was baptizing people in the river, he was using the water as a symbol of cleansing. Those willing to leave behind their old lives, repenting of their offenses against God, could now formally recommit themselves to God and they could “see” their sins being washed away down stream.  No, of course, they did not literally “see” their sins floating away down the river or dissolving in the water.  But the ritual was very important.  

Rituals seek to communicate what sometimes words cannot. We remember the event of a ritual. It helps us place something that is personally important for our interior lives, within the timeframe and history of our public life. 

For any ritual to be authentic, what is being communicated visibly must be genuinely happening invisibly within our heart and souls.  That’s the difference between a ritual and a performance.  In a simple performance, we learn our lines, we understand our role and do what we are expected. And after the performance is over we go back to the same type of life we were living before the play.  

However, when we perform a ritual, we seek to express publicly through our actions, what is happening invisibly to our souls. Whether we can understand it or not, our senses tell us that the ritual communicates something that is authentic, meaningful, sacred.

Christ was sinless. He did not need to have his sins washed away. He didn't have any.  Why then was be baptized? Did he just go through all the motions? Was it just a performance? No.

Consider the crowds of people who came to the waters seeking to turn away from sin and wanting to express this by having their sins symbolically washed away.  Consider that this was taking place in the desert, and that the villages upstream were using this river for water, for washing, for laundry and also for waste disposal.  Now you are downstream. What color would that water be when it reached the desert? How clean would it be?  Now consider that this water was being used to symbolically wash away sins. Not only at this stage was the river unhygienic, but also because John was using it to baptize, the water was symbolically polluted with sins, the sins of the whole world.

Now consider what Christ does. The Son of God, the embodiment of all purity and innocence, freely steps into, immerses himself into the dark and murky waters of our sins – he is literally “up to his neck in it!”.   In order to save us from our sins, Christ dives into the deadly waters to free us, to takes upon himself all the sins of the world, so that he would make safe the waters for us and we can emerge alive.

Unlike our own baptism which, when you think about it, is accomplished almost in an instant – we could say it happened in a “splash”, Christ’s baptism is a tsunami - it’s powerful, it generates waves that spill out in every direction through time and history, into the past, the present and to the future and beyond – a shockwave that rattles even heaven itself!

A Christian is someone who has been immersed with Christ into his life, death and resurrection. This is ritually communicated through our baptism.  But the waters of baptism can become stagnant and foul.  For this reason, when we turn back to God, our heavenly Father sends his Holy Spirit to breath upon the dark and deep waters of our souls, stirring our heart to repentance.  Through the sacrament of Confession, Christ in his love and mercy, filters out our sins and infuses oxygen once again into the waters of our baptism.

Keep the waters of baptism fresh, clean and full of life.  Express this with the simple ritual of blessing yourself with holy water every time you enter the church.  Fill up a bottle with holy water from the baptismal font and mark it as such. Every time you feel vulnerable to sin use it.  Have it close by when you are in danger. Bless yourself with it before you close your eyes into the darkness of sleep.  

Water is the most natural of all the elements, used by God himself in a ritual to communicate the most supernatural gift he offers us, the cleansing of our sins and the abundance of life in abundance. With God’s grace, let us keep this precious and life-giving gift fresh in our lives, free from the pollution of sin and safe from the decay of death and darkness.

Jan 1, 2019

New Year of Grace 2019

Mary, Mother of God:

As we are still within the Season of Christmas, the enduring image of the baby Jesus remains very much with us. It is "captured" in the manger scene before us. Indeed, for a whole week, Mary and Joseph, the shepherds, the ox, and the donkey haven't moved one inch! They seem to have frozen in time as they gaze into the crib where the child has been perfectly positioned as if someone has pressed the pause button. Rather than listening to the conversations, real or imagined, that take place inside the Bethlehem stable, or listening to the music of angels in the background, we are allowed instead to meditate on the relationships between each of those present.

Today, at the beginning of a New Year, we reflect on the most natural relationship a baby can have with anyone. We see this again and again in the enduring image of Mary holding the Christ child, close to her. Mary's femininity can never be divorced from her motherhood - bringing this child into the world is what every cell in her body has prepared for.

Even though her arms cradle the little child, God's Word that has now become Flesh in Jesus does not speak in sentences, sermons or soundbites. At least, not for now. This baby must first be nurtured, fed, loved, allowed to grow strong in earthly wisdom and strength to become the world's savior. This does not happen overnight nor within a vacuum. It begins within the natural embrace of this holy mother and child and the trust that deepens and evolves between them.

But this is not just the natural trust between a mother and her child. It is a divine trust as this child is the physical embodiment of "God with us". God does not simply use Mary as a means to enter into our world. That would make Mary simply a surrogate. Instead, God entrusts himself, his physical well being to her. God trusts her with Himself. He allows Himself, as a small and vulnerable child, to be subject to her, to be influenced by her, to be taught by her.

Under her supervision, the Son of God will learn to pray in the Jewish tradition and how to read the Sacred Scriptures. Under her watchful eye, the Son of God will learn the social skills to engage with other children, families, elders, friends, and strangers. God allows Himself to be mothered. In doing so, God trusts Himself and His whole plan of salvation for humanity completely to Mary's motherhood and in doing so allows her to cooperate in our salvation.

For each of us who are baptized, our baptism is not a simple membership status in the Church.  Through baptism, we take upon ourselves the image of Christ himself. We become Christ to others, to the world. We are not self-made Christians. With so many influences around us, before us, in front of us, each providing so many lessons of how to live the Christian life, let us not forget that Christ is not an orphan child. He is the Son of God the Father and the Son of Mary His Mother.  

And if we are likewise to grow and mature into the image and likeness of Christ by God’s grace, will not Mary's motherhood also extend to us because she sees her son in you and me, and she loves him still, she loves us too. If God can trust her motherhood, what stops us allowing her to be also our own mother, to reach out to us, to hold us and teach us as she taught her Son - how to pray, how to listen, how to walk, and how to speak and proclaim the message of salvation to the waiting world.

H2O, H2O, H20

Lk 5:1-11 The language of fishing in the gospel is not a simple observation of particular events. In the light of our faith, it is a me...