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. 


A comfortable cross?

 

Good Friday

...It happens all the time. People get arrested. We are used to the sight, whether we see it be as we drive by minding our own business, or watching it on tv or the internet, even from the perspective of someone recording it with their phone or playing back footage from law enforcement. We are used to it. Unless we are the actual victim, instead of being traumatized, we are more often worked up emotionally. 

Individuals get executed. We are used to reading about it, following the appeals process, the back and forth legal arguments about drugs used to administer lethal injections, photographs of the convicted on death row.  And when it’s over, for many of the curious, their life goes on as usual.

During the time of Jesus, arrests and executions were part of daily life. Although oftentimes cruel, it was nothing particularly unusual for someone who lived in the Holy Land two thousand years ago. A daily walk in and out of the city, along the roads, guilty or innocent, you would pass by dead and half dead bodies hung on crosses. They littered the landscape with billboards displayed what offense they committed. Back then, you would have probably learned to keep your eyes down and move on.

The same was true regarding the slaughtering of animals at the temple and the smearing of blood on the altar. Jewish pilgrims continually arrived in great numbers at the temple of Jerusalem. Some brought their own livestock to be slaughtered and sacrifices as the price of sins committed. Others bought an animal in the temple market. Even when Christ had disrupted the buying and selling of the sacrificial animals a few days before, it wouldn’t take long until they got back to business as usual again. The point he was making, was quickly forgotten.

There was even, to all appearances, nothing unusual about Christ’s crucifixion and public execution. Every week leading up to Good Friday and every week thereafter, someone was being nailed to a cross and crucified. Mangled bodies, blood-drenched crosses, hanging corpses. Unfortunately, that was the usual sight people were so used to. If you had seen one, you saw them all.

Our familiarity with the cross, even the figure of the crucified Christ, is today something that we are very much used to. It is displayed on buildings both outside and inside. We represent Christ’s crucifixion visually in art, fashion its image into fabrics and jewelry and adorn our holy places with it. We are used to seeing it.

Historically, there is nothing unusual about a man being arrested, tortured, and crucified to death, be he innocent or guilty. We are used to that by now. What is unusual and unique is that this innocent and sinless man secretly planned his whole life towards the hour of his death by crucifixion by being slaughtered on the cross. Why?

We can easily say, "Because He loved us". But many have and are willing to die for the love of someone. No doubt, during Christ time, many were crucified because they put their family, their nation, their loved ones first before their own lives and were willing to pay the price. We might say that He was doing the will of His Father. And of course, He does. But Christ’s death on the cross was not a lesson for us in obedience, come what may. In fact, the Romans used the cross to teach obedience.

So why is Christ’s cross and His death so different from everyone else’s, so unique in all of history? A clue takes us to what he did a few days back with his arrival into Jerusalem and what he did in the temple that sealed his fate on the cross. He forcefully drove out the money changes and the animals being sold for slaughter. He was telling us in more words than one, “All these ritualistic sin-offerings - this is over. You don’t need to sacrifice these animals any more to be cleansed from sin. I am your sacrifice. I am all you need to take away your sins. I am the sacrificial lamb. I, not these dumb beasts, these burnt offerings, I must be slaughtered in sacrifice because I alone, through my body and blood, can cleanse deep all the sins of the whole world."

For you and me to be cleansed of our sins, it is not simply enough that Christ freely went to His death on the Cross as the eternal Passover lamb. We get that right in our sacred images and spiritual reflections. But in order to be cleansed of our sins, we have to literally be cleansed, and cleansed deep. That is why Christ’s death was so horrific. To disentangle us from the messiness of our sins, God had to plunge Himself into the sewage of fallen humanity  and quite literary pull us out. His precious blood as to mix with the filth of our sin in order to wash it away. If we don’t allow him, we are passive onlookers, observing from a distance without getting our hands dirty. That's now how salvation works. It's messy for you and for Christ.

How does this happen? “Unless you eat of the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life within you”. Our engagement with the sacrifice of Christ and the cleansing of our sins takes place at this altar every Sunday, the day of hope.

When we approach the Cross of Christ we might say in our hearts “You died to take away my sins. I am sorry you had to, but I am grateful you did. I do not want to prolong your agony as you fight to save me. Rescue me. With your help, I will sin no more.”

Apr 1, 2021

The Substance of God is no accident




Holy Thursday

There is a simple time honored test to illustrate trust between two people. It is used as a bit of fun with children, as an icebreaker by a team captain and also with seriousness by the psychologist. 

It basically involves two people. One stands behind the other, who says “close your eyes and fall back and I will catch you”. What typically follows is a silence. The one with their eyes closed, being asked to fall back, must make a decision of the mind. 


Do they believe in the presence of someone being there that they can not see, or feel, who is silent? Could it be a prank, a set up, that would have me foolishly fall back with no one there to catch me?


Not only must I decide to believe in their word.  I must believe that they are present, even though I am in darkness. 


Of course, this helps us understand and appreciate the Real and substantial Presence of Christ in the Eucharist at a particular moment in the Mass, marked by our ringing of the bell - the call, as it were, to abandon our natural senses, our instinct to judge by appearances, in a way to hear the mystical voice of Christ saying, not “Here is my Body” or “Here is my Blood”.  Instead Christ says, “This is my Body”. “This is my Blood”, even though you cannot see. 


With the priestly words of consecration, making present in the Mass the reality of Christ’s unseen presence, let go of your earth down senses. For it is not bread that will cushion you, not shapes that will assure you, colors that will guide you, or symbols that will assure you. They are but accidents of what is natural, not the substance of the supernatural. 


Earthly bread, what you see in this world of natural light, is not the here and now of the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar. Instead “This” is the eternal Christ, all of Him, on earth as He is in heaven, for He is the bodily substance of the light of heaven, a light that darkness can not understand. 


Of course at the Last Supper, His Body and Blood shared with the disciples around the table on that first Holy Thursday night was substantially present to the apostles before their eyes, before their senses. 


Young John, for example, was able to physically “snuggle” into the chest of our Lord and physically feel and draw comfort from the security and warmth of Christ’s body. But years later, in his maturity, John would recall the words of the resurrected Christ to the doubting Thomas who had wanted to return to the sensual proof of the Lord’s new bodily presence, Christ reminded him, “blessed are those who can not see, but yet believe”.


We can not see, or even feel Christ’s presence in the same way as John, Thomas or the other apostles did during the Last Supper. But that is not what we should want, nor seek for. Those who saw Him in broad daylight, felt his bodily warmth up close and personal, and heard His voice with their ears, would after the Last Supper, run away into the darkness to hide from Him. 


We find ourselves still living in the shadows, but with a difference. “Even though I should walk in the valley of darkness, you are at my side”.  Our mind, when enlightened by the Holy Spirit, will assure us that when we perceive the Blessed Sacrament, that our senses are defective. It is only with the gift of supernatural faith that we know, albeit intellectually that Christ is substantially present at the words of consecration when bread and wine are changed into the reality of the Risen Lord standing before us, beside us, in front of us. 


But even knowing that He is present in the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar, however reassuring it is. It is not enough. 


Going back to the example I began with. He, in a way, asks us to let go, to allow ourselves to fall into His embrace, trusting that He will in fact catch us, and enfold us within the strength of His glorified Body. In short, rather than leaving Him standing in the dark, we dare to enter into the embrace of Holy Communion with Him. 


So where do we begin? We must begin in the same way as His early disciples first came to know Christ. They did so personally, and intimately, through listening for His voice, searching for His presence, and by the repentance and the confession of their sins, trusting in His Divine Mercy. 


Gardening Kingdom

  We often hear this phrase, “The Kingdom of God ''.  We even pray, “Thy Kingdom Come”.  This “Kingdom” was the hallmark of Our Lord...