Aug 7, 2020

Grab on + Hold fast

 

The Sunday Scriptures the Church gives us to begin the week, once again bring us outside and into the open where God meets us. This is apt as Mass is now offered in the piazza where we are naturally exposed to the elements of God’s creation, and when we leave the security of the parish grounds, we find ourselves sailing into a storm surrounding us. Will we encounter Christ standing on the waves, or do we fear drowning amidst all the confusion and panic. 

First, a thought on miracles. Although the rationally minded might try to explain Christ’s “walking on water” as an optical illusion or offer a natural or scientific explanation, it is well worth reflecting on the interplay between the “whispering breeze” (the breath of God) and the primordial waters of creation as described in the first ten verses of the Book of Genesis. Crack open your Bible at the first page of Scripture. Is it any wonder that the substance of the waters at the very beginning of creation into which God breathed His Spirit, would now remember, welcome, and literally uphold the physical substance of its Creator-God made man when He walked upon it? 

Scientists tell us that our bodies are at least two thirds water. That includes Christ’s body, Peter’s, and our own. At Christ’s invitation, Peter was able to also walk on the waters towards his Lord, albeit baby steps, because the waters of the sea also recognized in Peter, the life of God’s Spirit breathed into man when Adam was first created. But the fisherman became distracted. He ran out of breath, afraid of the power of the raging wind and the hidden terrors of the deep. 

Is that not also our story - attracted to the invitation to reach out to the unexplainable and unpredictable mystery of God, but afraid that we will lose control of what is familiar in our lives? In the midst of the storm, Peter could have stayed on the boat and resigned himself to going down with his ship. But he didn’t. 

Was Peter a fool for thinking he could walk on water? No. He did so only when he could see and recognize Christ standing on the waves in the midst of the storm. Did Christ then set up Peter for failure, knowing that he would eventually sink? No. Our Lord has no wish to humiliate us with failure or teach us a cruel lesson. Instead, Christ wants us, not only to see Him in the storm, but for us to call out when we are afraid, “Lord, save me!”  Peter was not humiliated. Instead, Peter the big strong fisherman, had to trust in Christ’s power to save him. 

What can we take from this?  

Like Peter, when our surroundings are turned upside down and we find ourselves lost in a storm that threatens our lives and livelihoods, we have to look to Christ standing in the midst of it. But beware! We will get wet! There are many false messiahs who can also “walk on water”.  Peter had to first be sure it was actually the ‘flesh and blood’ Jesus, not a ghost nor an impersonator. Only then would Peter put his life and livelihood on the line. The fisherman didn’t test the waters first. He tested the identity and the power of the one standing on the waters before he stepped out. As Peter would write later in one of his letters, “Be calm and vigilant”. (1 Peter 5:8). 

And we must also do the same!  In the midst of crisis, confusion and pandemic hysteria, we can be tempted to blindly jump out in the direction of false messiahs, or mythological sirens (dangerous creatures who lured passing sailors to their death with their enchanting music and songs). A well-seasoned fisherman like Peter instinctively knew how to read the signs even though he knew the dangers of being caught off guard by a change of weather. 

Even though our own faith journey towards God can easily be compromised by our fears, and we can find ourselves sinking or overwhelmed by the headwinds, it doesn’t take a mountain of faith to call out to Christ “Lord, save me.” But it does take humility. Yes, we are people of little faith. But we need only the faith the size of a mustard seed! (Matthew 17:20)

Now notice how Christ responds. He “immediately” stretched out His hand and physically caught the big fisherman. That takes both quick reflexes and physical strength. That's the strength and power of the carpenter’s strong arm that Jesus inherited from His foster father Joseph! I imagine our Lord, like a fireman to the rescue, carrying the heavy and exhausted Peter on His shoulders, back across the waters to the boat in the open seas as the waves turned to ripples under the Lord’s feet.  

There are dangers and sunken debris on the bottom of the sea, in our own depths.  Storms will often bring them to the surface. There are hidden dangers below us, within us and around us - the cellar, the attic, a box under the bed, the storage unit, even in the dark corner of our garage or garden shed. That’s where we often place memories, old, good and bad - memories that we revisit every so often. Storms can bring them to the surface. Sometimes we bring them into the light. Sometimes it’s best to put them back in their place. Our lives are cluttered enough. There are some things we should store and bring out for a rainy day. There are some things that should rest in peace without being disturbed. The final word goes to the first line of the Sunday gospel. We are told that after feeding the crowds, Christ made his disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side of the sea. Did He, through whom all creation was made, not know there was a storm approaching? Of course He did! From His place on the mountaintop, I imagine He could also see the storm brewing in the distance and sense the change in the wind. But He had told His disciples to sail to the other side. Coming from the mouth of God made flesh, what does that imply? It simply means, we will get to the other side safely, despite any storm. He is a man of His Word. The Word of the Lord. That’s good news to hear!

Gospel Selection

Matthew 14:22–33

Command me to come to you on the water.

After he had fed the people, Jesus made the disciples get into a boat and precede him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. After doing so, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When it was evening he was there alone. Meanwhile the boat, already a few miles offshore, was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it. During the fourth watch of the night, he came toward them walking on the sea. When the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified. “It is a ghost, ” they said, and they cried out in fear. At once Jesus spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” Peter said to him in reply, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw how strong the wind was he became frightened; and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught Peter, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” After they got into the boat, the wind died down. Those who were in the boat did him homage, saying, “Truly, you are the Son of God.”



Aug 1, 2020

Outside Miracles



Outside Miracles 

Gospel for the Week of Sunday, August 2, 2020

Matthew 14:13–21

They all ate and were satisfied.


“He ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds. They all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up the fragments left over— twelve wicker baskets full. Those who ate were about five thousand men, not counting women and children.”


When Our Lord blessed and broke the loaves of bread and fed the multitudes, it was, in a way, an outside “dress rehearsal” for the Last Supper He would eventually share with His disciples inside the Upper Room, the first church building. How true this is for us!


Like the biblical account, we too are sitting outside. Christ, once again, feeds us through the blessing and breaking of the Eucharistic Bread - His substantial presence on earth as it is in heaven. We may not be literally sitting on the grass, nor numbering over five thousand, but until Mass is offered inside the church building without restrictions, our outside numbers continue to multiply like the loaves and fishes recounted in the Gospel. 


Just like the hungry crowds Our Lord responded to, we will likely have to get used to being outside for the summer and probably for the weeks that follow. We have multiplied the chairs and the sanitizers - not exactly a miracle! But we have to also be prepared for an increase in sun and summer temperatures. That is why the outside Masses are short, no spoken sermon, and we quickly transit through the church for Holy Communion. 


To that end, we have a few practical issues that we will need to address. Unlike the hardy people Our Lord preached to at length while outside under the beating sun, we have to be conscious of sunburn and heatstroke. In other words, use sunscreen, bring bottled water, wear a hat as needed or bring an umbrella for shade. There are not enough trees for shade to go around for everyone! 


Although in January I had shared the desire to build a permanent shaded area around the piazza for small gatherings, the pandemic has put a hold on that for now. We are now looking at some sort of outside shade for as much of the piazza itself as possible in order to “buy” us enough time for the rest of the year. 


Suggestions surfaced about purchasing some kind of wedding tent, but with too much open access to the church grounds, especially after hours, and with an increasing transient population, tents might invite overnight camping ( which we are not zoned for!) Prudence suggests we will have to secure the parish perimeter better to more adequately address health and safety concerns.


Presently, we are looking at some semi-permanent shade structures over the piazza that will not cheapen our sense of the sacred while offering the Sacraments outside. 


Added to this, with the fire season upon us and with the church grounds located around a residential area, you will begin to see a lot of work during these coming weeks, clearing out brush, dangerous trees from around the hall and hillside and practical landscaping maintenance. So, just when I thought we would be saving money by not running the air conditioners inside, the outside environmental controls are just as taxing!


Why can it not be as simple as it was in the biblical days when we could just sit on the hills and grassy meadows and listen to our Lord and partake of the free gift of His presence among us?


In short, it is because the outside world has become so complicated, politicized, and much more challenging. But even still, Our Lord, as does the church, meets us where we are. And that’s where He finds us today - in the trenches, in a field hospital, and still feeding us by His Sacramental presence. He is our shield in the battle, the healer of wounds and our shade in the heat of the day. 


Thank you for your great patience, your example of sacrifice and perseverance, generosity and practical help that give assurance that we will endure and offer up to God the challenges we all face inside or out. 




Jul 24, 2020

Field Service



This week’s Sunday Gospel: Matthew 13:44–46


Jesus said to his disciples: “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.”


Pastor’s Message


As we are now offering the Mass in the outside setting of the piazza in the morning and evening throughout the week, we are naturally exposed to the elements trying to figure out how we got here. We might as well be sitting in the middle of a field. In fact we are! 


Hearing Confessions during the week while sitting in my designated place behind the church, hugging the shade, I noticed the rabbits scurrying up the hill, the lizards darting across the pathway and a battalion of ants marching across the confessional screen! 


If you are sitting in the piazza during Mass, like me you will also hear the neighbor’s dog barking, the siren from a fire truck whizzing by, see birds perched on the roof catching flying insects in midair, and children playing with twigs and bits of bark or mulch. Yes, indeed. We are in a field - there is no escaping it! We may call it the “new” normal. But maybe, it is the real normal. 


It is worth reflecting upon that our Christian faith and spirituality was not brewed inside a laboratory or produced from a classroom project. Nor is it the fruit of philosophical thinking pondered in an ivory tower. Our Faith, like a seed, has been planted into the raw and untidy soil of our human experience, where the weeds grow with the wheat. The Son of God was born in a field. Shepherds were the first to seek Him. 


This language of a field is common to many of us. A field exercise is the place of testing of physical endurance for our marines. The battlefield is that place where we strategically and spiritually wrestle with vice and virtue. The field hospital is a passing oasis in a storm of conflict and confusion. The invisible field is that energy of unseen power permeating through the cosmos that holds all things together that we attempt to reach out to tap into and utilize. Our own field is that familiar place of our expertise we seldom like to venture outside of. 


No matter what field we find ourselves in, Christ the gardener has planted a seed, a pearl of great price - His life, hidden in the undergrowth, buried in places unexpected, deeply rooted in the soil, often unnoticed and even walked over by the unsuspecting passersby as we hurry for cover inside buildings and fortifications. His life and presence is often right before our eyes and under our feet without us knowing. 


As He reminds us in the Sunday Gospel for this week which we might describe as the “Hide and Seek God”, in order to discover this holy hidden treasure, we have to dig deep in a field we are often unfamiliar with. And when we do so at His prompting, and to then find in that secret place, it’s possible, without any sermon at Mass in the piazza, to see our whole landscape around us preach of His life, death and resurrection. 


As Joseph Plunket, an Irish poet (and rebel) wrote one hundred years ago:


I see his blood upon the rose

And in the stars the glory of his eyes,

His body gleams amid eternal snows,

His tears fall from the skies.


I see his face in every flower;

The thunder and the singing of the birds

Are but his voice—and carven by his power

Rocks are his written words.


All pathways by his feet are worn,

His strong heart stirs the ever-beating sea,

His crown of thorns is twined with every thorn,

His cross is every tree.



In grateful thanks to God for your sacrifices, patience and courage during these challenging times. 


Father Cávana Wallace


Pastor



P. S. 


Our parish young adults are teaming up with a group of young marines to distribute food to the vulnerable and homeless around Oceanside. Please consider, once again, bringing non-perishable and sealed food items, as well as bottled water, to the church if and when you visit. They can be placed inside the doors or at St. Joseph’s Altar. Thank you. 


Present legal restrictions due to the pandemic do not allow any outside or inside gatherings on church grounds, except for “outside worship services” and with particular limitations. As we have already been offering online home religious education programs for children in the past, we will be sending out details soon regarding registration for the upcoming “academic year”. 

Jul 17, 2020

Bodies and Antibodies




Pastor’s Reflection on Matthew 13:24–30 for the week of July 19, 2020


Those who listened to Jesus speak about weeds growing among wheat were people who depended on the land and its produce for survival. Even to this day, many of the political and religious conflicts of the Middle East stem from who controls the land and its produce. 


The weeds Jesus talked about were “cockle-seed”. In its early stages, it looks very much like wheat and even to the farmer, it is practically impossible to tell the two apart. If, however, any part of the root or stem makes its way into the grain supply in large numbers, because of its toxicity, it can have disastrous effects on any product with wheat. 


As with every parable spoken to us by Christ, this one is loaded, packed and layered with so much to reflect on. His illustration of the weeds and wheat having to grow alongside until harvest time doesn't need much explanation. We get the point. But too often, we fail to apply it to our own lives. 


This might be because, simply put, we tend to think of ourselves as problem solvers. We don't like to sit on the fence and allow complex and unpredictable situations to unravel freely.  When Our Lord had the landowner ask where the weeds came from, maybe it was one of us who jumped up first and yelled, “Aha! An enemy has done this.” And so, conspiracy theories are born and we rush out where even angels dare not to tread!


“Do you want us to go and pull out the weeds”, the servants said to the landowner. “No! That type of attitude [and I’m paraphrasing] will cause more damage than good. For now, you have to allow them to grow together, taking whatever steps not to get tangled up in the weeds. And anyway, Our Lord reminds his servants, “you’re not qualified to make that judgment call.” It takes a trained harvester, angels of God, to distinguish the saint from the sinner. This might make us reflect that, for the foreseeable future, we all might have to live with many of the restrictions we are forced to accept as part of our present landscape. 


I see weeds and wheat growing together in the rich soil of many an individual’s life, in each one of us. They grow together within the tensions and challenges of this pandemic. They grow within the fabric of family life, in relationships of marriage and between friends, and yes, even within the structures of government.


But I also see the incredible patience of those who live with sickness or a disease, or with the fear of living with an underlying health condition. I have come to admire the patience of parents with screaming babies, or the dedication and sacrifices made by families who look after a child with special needs, or have a loved one struggling with addiction or depression. I am encouraged by those who are not afraid to climb out of their painted flower pot and enter into the ever expanding field or into a formidable forest, befriending those they meet along the way as Christ did, not afraid of saints and sinners.


We all live with weeds and wheat in our own lives, and yes, often there is a tension between the two. But Christ himself is the Lord of the Harvest which will come in due time, His own time. He will not allow any of us to force his hand. Instead, as today’s Sunday psalm reminds us, we should join our voice to the psalmist and pray “You, O LORD, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in kindness and fidelity. Turn toward me, and have pity on me; give your strength to your servant.” (Psalm 84). And your patience.


Father Cávana Wallace

Pastor

Jul 11, 2020

Getting Outside



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


Even though we find ourselves, more than ever, under lockdown or quarantined, Our Blessed Lord never allowed Himself to be held involuntarily under house arrest.  During His time on this earth, He was more of an outdoors-type rather than a stay-at-home guy! 


Often, we read of the many times Our Lord went down to the harbor, the shoreline, the crowded marketplaces and town squares where the crowds had gathered. He didn’t stand on the shore and look into the vastness of the ocean. Instead He gets 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. Even though we may be wearing coverings over our mouth and nose, Christ’s look focuses on eyes. And what does He see?


Each face in the crowd, covered or uncovered, tells a story, a life.  Christ does not speak to a crowd. He speaks to the individual, to one’s soul.  For that reason, He often speaks in parables – coded language because not one of our lives is really the same. 


His parables can sometimes go over our 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. His parables can reach those unique moments 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!


Go back to that first line – “Jesus went out of the house”.  How did He get in the house to begin with? Was He escaping a “stay-at-home order”. The final verses of the previous chapter of this portion of the Gospel (take a look at it) tells us that Our Blessed Mother came to visit Him at that time. He had just completed a preaching mission. Maybe, after He had finished, Our Lord took His mother to a private house to spend some time with her.  And then the portion of the Gospel we read for this week 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? Open up your Bible and read Matthew 13: 1-23. It’s the Parable of the Sower and the Seeds. God is 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”.  


While we are at home, read this portion of the Gospel and allow it to unmask the circumstances of your life right now. How does the Seed of God find you? What type of soil do you find your life rooted in right now? The Lord’s parable allows us to test our soil, the garden of our souls. 


If we are to hear God’s Word speaking to us in the secret of our lives, let us aim to do so by 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. He does so by first looking into our eyes, the windows of our soul, and addresses this parable to us. Sometimes, stay-at-home is not a bad thing after all, if we do so looking after our garden. 


Jul 2, 2020

Fourth of July

Every 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 1849 that California would finally be 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 was living and witnessing to the Gospel on that historic first 4th of July in 1776. 


His legacy is not the image of statues bearing his likeness. Rather, it is the endurance of the Mission churches he built in his effort to usher in the Kingdom of God. In their own lifespan, many of the Missions were burnt, torn down, set upon by mobs, even confiscated by the government. But today, they still stand as enduring and historical witnesses, despite the odds, continuing to communicate the Good News of Jesus Christ throughout California. 


Whether we are local, natives, out-of-staters, visitors or immigrants, we all owe our faith and our industrial ingenuity to the first missionaries and those 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 in principle, the freedom to worship and pursuit of happiness. 


Today, in particular, even though we are far from perfect and we wrestle to understand divine providence, we are duty-bound to pray for our land, for the nation, and for our government.  


And let us also not forget all our brave 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 cherished values. They are joined today with those who are also helping us in the battle of an unseen enemy in the form of Covid 19. To that end, we also pray in gratitude for our nurses, doctors, medics and researchers and all those enlisted in the fight against the virus while caring and supporting those who are sick and have been weakened by this pandemic.  May the shield of St. Michael protect us and the remedies of St Raphael bring healing.


And may our nation, under the patronage of the most Immaculate Mary, Queen of Heaven and Earth, become a credible witness to the Good News of Christ Himself and the Kingdom of God to come. 


Jun 25, 2020

Judgement Day


Pastor’s Message for the Week of June 28th, 2020


The Church's opening prayer for the 13th Week in Ordinary Time which will carry us through the upcoming week is worth reflecting upon: “O God, who through the grace of adoption chose us to be children of light, grant, we pray, that we may not be wrapped in the darkness of error but always be seen to stand in the bright light of truth. Through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen”


To be a witness to the “bright light of truth”, implies we can judge wisely between good and evil. To refuse to engage the Holy Spirit’s gift of Right Judgement would imply we do not care about distinguishing truth from falsity, that there is no difference between being “wrapped in the darkness of error” or standing “in the bright light of truth”. 


But the Holy Spirit's gift of Right Judgement allows us in every situation or circumstance to see our surroundings and those around us with fresh eyes. Prejudice distorts our vision of God and His world. It stifles the work of the Holy Spirit to renew the face of the earth. Within this context, when we prejudge someone based on irrelevant criteria such as language, culture, race, education, career etc., we effectively say we do not want to see “them” sharing the same dignity of being made in the image and likeness of God as “us”. 


I know firsthand how difficult it is not to prejudge people and their cultures. I grew up in Northern Ireland where religious, political, and cultural prejudices were very much ingrained into the daily fabric of society, even passed down from one generation to another for hundreds of years. It affected what neighborhood you could live in, the type of job available to you, and the type of sport you might engage in. I was part of a generation who remember well what it was like to live daily life within what many called a “military and police state” where checkpoints and soldiers on the streets were commonplace. 


Too often, there is a “muscle memory” that we have all inherited that unfairly haunts us. Events, behaviors or sights and sounds can easily trigger a personal or collective history of discrimination, abuse, neglect or warfare that one may never really have healed from - “a thorn in the side”, to borrow a phrase from St. Paul. 


Yes, we should discriminate when it comes to ideas and actions, but not against individuals. And we should continually pray that the Holy Spirit will always guide us towards Right Judgement. When we reflect on the opening prayer the Church gives us for this coming week, we can also remember the words a famous preacher once remarked, (in the language of the 1960’s) that “the good neighbor looks beyond the external accidents and discerns those inner qualities that make all men human and, therefore brothers.” 


May our Blessed Mother Mary be able to look upon all her children’s faces and see reflected back to her, the recognizable face of Christ, the Prince of Peace, who will judge us rightly in the spirit of justice and mercy. 


Father Cávana Wallace

Pastor

Grab on + Hold fast

  The Sunday Scriptures the Church gives us to begin the week, once again bring us outside and into the open where God meets us . This is ap...