Often the mail brings thank you notes from organizations that we support. I opened one this week from the Tosa Community Food Pantry, thanking us for our support. They noted, “We need your donations to keep our shelves full at this time of need.” Our support does make a big difference for these organizations. Thank you.
I am writing the first draft of this letter on Friday, February 26th, the first anniversary of the shooting at the Miller brewery. The community where I live is right behind the brewery and we were locked down into the night.
Shortly after it happened, I described for you what two of my community members experienced. Fr. Jim, who is White, approached the check point closest to our house, showed his driver’s license with his address, and was allowed to go home. Simon, who is Black, did exactly the same thing and was refused entry multiple times. There is no explanation for the difference except skin color.
This incident came to mind, as well as what happened to George Floyd and others, as I reflected on this weekend’s Gospel. Jesus is angry at what is happening in the temple: vendors, conspiring with the religious leaders, are fleecing the poorest of the poor and lining their own pockets. The “perfect Jesus” was angry and took action, but it was a righteous anger, an anger directed at those who would take advantage of the poor and vulnerable.
If we are to be true followers of Jesus, if we want to live as he lived, we, too, need to have righteous anger about social injustices. However, it needs to be a righteous anger that impels us to positive commitment and action towards correcting the social injustices that surround us.
It is much easier to pray, go to church, and follow the Ten Commandments than to get involved in trying to help and protect those who are poor and vulnerable. Sr. Mary McGlone, a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet, stated this very clearly in a recent reflection. She said, “We join ranks with those who rejected Jesus' message to the extent that we allow a focus on Christ's presence in our temples and tabernacles to dwarf our awareness of his real and much more disturbing presence outside the church walls. The host in the tabernacle is silent, but the prophetic poor tend to clamor for justice, dignity and even love”.
Jesus suffered consequences for His actions in today’s Gospel. It is generally accepted that this happened on Monday of Holy Week and was the last straw that led to His arrest and crucifixion. We need to be willing to sacrifice our comfort, and even security, to bring justice to our world.
Standing up to injustices is an integral part of bringing about the Kingdom of God in this world. I invite us to reflect on this Gospel challenge: am I doing my part to bring justice and equality to our world? Am I willing to sacrifice so that others can be safe? How can I do better? As we struggle to be better disciples, let us support each other in prayer. God bless.
Church sign of the week: The reason a dog has so many friends is because he wags his tail instead of his tongue.
Congratulations to Br. Silas Henderson, SDS, who was ordained a permanent deacon on February 20th in Tucson. Silas gave many workshops and adult formation classes here at Pius before he moved to Arizona, where he is the director of Jordan Ministry. Jordan Ministry’s online faith formation events can be found here. We accompany Silas in prayer as he continues his ministry of faith formation for adults.
I thank those who attended our reflection this past Tuesday. I hope it was a spiritually fulfilling experience for you. Please note the information in the bulletin and online for the diocesan Lenten retreat on the Gift of Sunday. The retreat is this Wednesday evening from 7:00 to 8:30 pm.
A main focus of our first readings during cycle B in Lent is on the various covenants God made with His people. Last week we heard the covenant with Noah, this week God repeats His covenant with Abraham, and next week we will have the covenant God made through Moses with the 10 commandments. We then hear, in week four, how the infidelity of the Jews caused the exile, but God, with his infinite faithfulness and mercy, used the King of the Persians to call all Jews back to Jerusalem and to rebuild the temple. Finally, the week before Palm Sunday and Holy Week, we hear Jeremiah’s prophesy that there will be a new covenant, written in our hearts.
We are living that new covenant, “the new and eternal covenant,” as we say in the consecration of the wine at every Mass. There will be no more covenants between God and us. It is no accident that Jesus died at the same time the Passover lambs were being sacrificed!
What does this mean for us today?
Jesus suffered and died for our salvation: that is God’s part of the covenant. We accepted it and entered into the covenant with our baptismal promise to live our lives according to the Gospel. When we fail, we are breaking the promise we made through baptism. The good news is that God is patient, God is compassionate, God is the Prodigal Father always waiting for us to come back to Him.
Lent is a special time of evaluating how we are living out our baptismal promises, resolving to “come back” to the God who is calling. That is why we renew our baptismal commitment as we celebrate Easter: we are celebrating God’s part in the covenant, so we repeat our part, reminding ourselves how we are to live.
As we enter into the second week of Lent, I urge all of us to make the best use possible of this time of renewal, listening as the Lord says to us, “Come back to me, with all your heart; don’t let fear, keep us apart.”
You are in my prayers for the most spiritually renewing Lent that you have ever had! God bless.
PS. I come across clever church signs, but often they are too long for the sign out in front of our church. So I have decided to start a CHURCH SIGN OF THE WEEK at the end of every letter. Here is this week’s: Prayer is talking to God. Meditation is listening. Be good at both.
I hope your observance of Lent is off to a good start and that you are using the Little Black Book provided by the parish to help you focus and pray each day. Copies of that reflection book and the Little Purple Book of activities for children can be picked up in the back of church after Mass or in the parish office. You can also drive by the main door of the church and pick them up from the container set out there.
This Tuesday evening from 7:00 to 8:00 pm we will be holding our Lenten Reflection and Adoration/Benediction in the church. I will give a presentation on forgiveness and then expose the Blessed Sacrament. After some quiet time with the Lord, we will close with Benediction. Please join us. Safety procedures will be in place.
The First Sunday of Lent always presents the temptations of Jesus in the desert. While the other evangelists give a lot of detail, Mark simply tells us that Jesus was tempted. Jesus’ temptations were basically to use his gifts and power for himself, rather than others. He resisted the temptations and that clarified for Him what He had to do: He immediately began His ministry of healing, while proclaiming the Kingdom of God.
I would like to point out three small details that Mark mentions, details that shed light on our temptations and times of difficulty or “desert experiences.” We are told, “The Spirit drove Jesus out in to the desert.” Jesus didn’t want to have a desert experience. The desert experience was necessary for Him to discern how He was to live His life. Sometimes our difficulties in life, our “desert experiences,” are really a blessing, an opportunity for us to reflect and rearrange our priorities in life. They can help us find a whole new direction!
Then we are told He was “among wild beasts.” Wild beasts are dangerous; they want to devour us. The same is true of our untamed desires and emotions: they can devour us. They are always with us.
But we are also told that angels ministered to Him. So, He was not alone, He had the help he needed, as do we. God does not leave us alone. We have the sacraments, we have the scriptures, we have our faith community, and we have friends and mentors who can be with us and help protect us from our wild beasts.
Lent is a time to voluntarily look at the temptations and wild beasts that are keeping us from growing as disciples of Christ who bring love and peace to the world. I like to ask myself, “how do I want to be different when I celebrate the Resurrection this year and what practical steps can I take to make sure it happens?” I invite you to ask yourself the same question. And as we struggle to grow as disciples, let us support each other in prayer.
Our total for the Salvatorian Sunday collection is now at $4,752. I thank you for your generosity.
This week Lent begins with Ash Wednesday. A generous parishioner has donated the Little Black Book for Lent, as well as a Little Purple Lent activities book for children. They are available, starting today, in the back of church and in the parish office. After Ash Wednesday, they will be available on a table outside the main door of the church, for those who wish to drive by and pick up their copies. Please use these excellent resources to enter into the season of Lent.
On Tuesday, February 23rd, we will hold our Lenten Reflection and Benediction from 7:00 to 8:00 pm. Please join us in the church for a short presentation and quiet time with the Lord.
The Wauwatosa Common Council has unanimously approved Cardinal Capital’s plans for senior housing on our parking lot. Now they will work with city officials to make sure everything is meeting codes, but it is almost certain the project will move forward. I thank our Director of Operations and Finance, Dean Weyer, for his tireless efforts over the years to bring this to fruition.
Our Gospel this weekend is about the cure of a leper who approaches Jesus and says, “If you wish, you can cure me.” There are a number of points we can reflect on. First, notice the faith of the man. He believes that Jesus can heal him and he asks. He approaches Jesus, he takes the initiative.
We are told that Jesus was “moved with pity.” How often do we hear of his compassion? And what does Jesus do? He reaches out and TOUCHES the unclean man with two possible negative consequences: Jesus instantly became ritually unclean and he could have become contaminated himself. What a model for us of compassion and love!
How does the man react? Even though Jesus told him not to say anything, the man could not contain his joy. We hear, The man went away and began to publicize the whole matter. He spread the report abroad…
That, my friends, is evangelization: spreading the Good News. The man knew what Jesus had done for him and could not avoid sharing the news with others.
This helps me realize how important it is for me to make myself consciously aware of all the ways the Lord blesses me, all the good things the Lord has done for me. With that realization, I will hopefully react as did the leper, sharing the Good News with others.
That, I think, is the wisdom behind the spiritual practice of listing blessings on a regular basis and thanking God for them. Perhaps it is a good Lenten practice: before going to bed, take a few moments to reflect on the good things you have experienced that day and thank God for His generosity. Hopefully, that realization will help us to joyfully share with others “all that the Lord has done for us.”
My prayer is that this Lenten season may be a period of spiritual renewal for each one of us. Please enter into it wholeheartedly. God bless.
Thank you to all who supported our Salvatorian Sunday collection. As of February 1st, $3,957 was collected. I appreciate your support of my community.
Reflections in the Little Black Books for adults and Little Purple Books for children begin with this coming Sunday, the Sunday before Lent. We are beginning to distribute them after Masses this weekend. There will also be prayer cards from the diocese. You can also pick up copies in the back of church and in the parish office. After Ash Wednesday, I will have them outside the main door of the church in a box on a table, as I did for Advent, so you can drive by and get a copy. Please take advantage of these wonderful resources to enter more fully into the season of preparation to celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord. And don’t forget about our Lenten Reflection at 7:00 pm on Tuesday, February 23rd, in the church!
In our Gospel today, Jesus cures Simon’s mother-in-law of an unnamed illness. There are two points I would like to make about this reading.
First, notice the three verbs that are used to describe what Jesus does: he approached her. Jesus always approaches us. He is always there, waiting for us to turn to Him. Grasped her hand: notice how often Jesus uses touch in His cures. But He needs to be close to us in order to touch us. Finally, helped her up. The verb used here is the same verb that is used for Jesus’ resurrection. The implication is that He did more than help her out of bed; He saved her. The point for us is to make sure we are spending time with the Lord, allowing the Lord to approach us and touch us. We need to do that every day.
Second, notice the mother-in-law’s response: she waited on them. The literal meaning of the word used for “waited” is “to give service,” the word from which we get “deacon.” The point for us is that our response to this generous love of the Lord toward us is to go forth in service to others, generously sharing that love as it has been shared with us.
That is one way to describe a Christian: one who allows the Lord to approach, touch, and save and then goes forth in service to others. I invite us to reflect this week on how we are doing with those two aspects of being a Christian, that is, spending quiet time with the Lord and being of service to others. Where do I need to grow the most? What practical steps can I take to make sure that growth happens?
As we strive to grow as disciples, let us support each other in prayer.
Last week Mark had Jesus begin his public ministry by inviting people to “repent and believe in the Gospel” and by calling His first disciples. Our Gospel this weekend continues with Jesus preaching in the synagogue and curing a man possessed by a demon.
The Jewish tradition was that, in the synagogue on the Sabbath after an opening prayer, any male could get up and speak about a scripture passage, which is what Jesus did. The people were captivated because He “taught them as one having authority, and not like the scribes.” We hear about his authority twice in this short reading: after his preaching and after his cure of the possessed man.
Since the scribes were the ones who had the “official” authority, people were captivated by a personal authority that came from who Jesus was and how he conducted Himself. The scribes used their authority to lord it over people; Jesus used it to heal and cure, to drive away evil. His authority was a healing authority, not a controlling authority. The scribes would have thrown the MAN with the unclean spirit out of the synagogue; Jesus cast out the unclean spirit, not the man.
The message to us is this: whatever power or authority the Lord has given us, whether it be from a position we hold or our personality and talents, it is given to be used for the good of others, not to exercise control and build ourselves up (which is the way of the world). We need to keep reminding ourselves that all that we are and have came from God and God wants us to use them for the building up of His Kingdom of love, not to enhance ourselves. It is a challenge, especially since our culture can push us to succeed at the expense of others.
I invite us to reflect on how we use the positions, gifts and talents the Lord has given us. Do we use them to lord it over others or to show God’s love and compassion to others? Are we building up His Kingdom with our gifts?
Let our prayer be, Lord, thank you for the gifts you have given me. Help me to use them for others. And let us support each other in prayer.
Catholic Schools Week in the diocese will be held starting January 31st. Parents: please consider joining the virtual tour of Wauwatosa Catholic School this Thursday, January 28th, at 7:00 pm and see what a wonderful school we have.
The 99 Experience is a chance to grow in your faith life. Please consider virtual participation.
Some have suggested that I start up our Friday scripture reflection online. Br. Silas Henderson SDS, who began the discussions here, offers an online version each week. I suggest participating in that and we will begin again at Pius when we are able to meet in person.
I thank those who have supported my Salvatorian community in our Salvatorian Sunday collection. It is greatly appreciated. There is still time to donate, if you would like. You can place your donation marked “Salvatorian Sunday” in the collection basket in the back of church or mail/bring it to the parish office. You can also donate online.
Our readings this weekend continue the theme of “call.” God called Jonah to preach to the people of Nineveh. Jonah didn’t want to do it because of hostilities between the Jews and the people of Nineveh. He would have been happy if they perished. But his attempt to run away ended up with him in the belly of a whale. So he returned and preached and, despite his very half-hearted efforts, he was incredibly effective. He was angry and disgusted, because he didn’t want the Ninevites to repent and be saved.
In the Gospel we have Mark’s version of the call of four key disciples: Simon Peter, Andrew, James, and John. They answered the call, but had many ups and downs in their three years of walking with Jesus, doubting at times and ultimately leaving Him alone at the time of His greatest need. Only John returned to be at the foot of the Cross.
All of us have been called in Baptism to walk with the Lord. These readings assure us that we don’t have to be perfect, that there will be ups and downs, that sometimes God will work through us DESPITE ourselves, as he did with Jonah. That is very comforting. It is God’s work: all we have to do is show up, do our best, and rededicate
ourselves when we find that we have sloughed off.
We pray: Thank you, Jesus, for calling us to bring Your Love to all we meet. While we cannot do it perfectly, we will do our best, pulling ourselves up and moving on when we fail. Thank you, Lord, for always walking with us.
Please note the information in the bulletin for a “virtual open house” for our school, Wauwatosa Catholic, on Thursday evening, January 28th, at 7:00 pm. I ask parents to seriously consider sending your children to our school, which is both Catholic and International Baccalaureate (I.B.). The open house will help you understand what
International Baccalaureate means, but, in short, it helps the students become “world citizens,” opening them up to different cultures and ideas. “Catholic” means “universal,” so Catholic and I.B. curriculums reinforce each other in an awesome way. I highly recommend the school. Check it out on the 28th!
This is our annual “Salvatorian Sunday,” when I ask you to support my religious community that started St. Pius X and has ministered here over its entire history. Information on how to contribute can be found in this bulletin and online. Please be as generous as you can. Thank you.
This is the first opportunity I have had to write since the attack on our capitol building on January 6th. Among the signs I saw as people breeched the security to enter the building was “Jesus 2020.” This, plus all the divisive behavior and rhetoric we have seen over the past months and years by those who say they are “Christian” and fighting for a “Christian” nation, is deeply disturbing to me: what are we saying it means to be a “Christian”?
Our first and Gospel readings this weekend are very relevant to what I want to say. In the first reading, God is calling Samuel, but he needed Eli’s help in order to be able to hear God. In the Gospel, John the Baptist points out Jesus to his followers and some of them, including Andrew, follow Jesus. John the Baptist led them to Christ! Then Andrew goes and brings his brother, Simon Peter, to Christ.
See the pattern? God uses us to bring others to Him and to help others live His values of love of God as shown through love of neighbor, especially the most needy. Our behavior, both in words and action, ARE important. Our obligation is to promote justice, peace, unity, and equality, especially for the most vulnerable. Angry words that denigrate others are NOT acceptable and make it less
likely that we will be able to move forward for the good of all.
As individuals and as “one nation under God,” we need to ask God for forgiveness for anything we do that does not bring peace, unity, and justice. I invite us to spend some time this week reflecting on our words and actions: are we contributing to division or to unity? Let us also pray for our country, that we can better live up to the ideals that have been given to us by God and our founders. Like Eli, John the Baptist, and Andrew, may we lead others to Christ by who we are and what we say and do.
As we did last year, we will be having a second collection (on the weekend of January 16th & 17th) to support the Salvatorian Fathers and Brothers, who started this parish and have ministered here since then. Details can be found in the January newsletter and the bulletin, as well as on the SDS website. Please be as generous as you can. I thank you on behalf of all of my community.
Today we celebrate the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, the official end of the liturgical Christmas season. We now enter the first week of Ordinary time, which lasts until Ash Wednesday and picks up again after Pentecost, continuing until the Feast of Christ the King. Ordinary time is when we learn from Jesus’ words and example in the Gospels how we are to live as Christians.
It is important to see the progression of events in Christ’s life, so that we can imitate Him.
It is important for us to note the two actions of Jesus that helped lead Him to clarity about His purpose in life. First, He was part of the Jewish community, following their laws and participating in their rituals. He was with the people being baptized and He went to the synagogue on the Sabbath, along with the other faithful Jews. Second, He went off by Himself into the desert to be alone and discern. He prayed to and with His Father. He needed guidance and He allowed the time and space for it to happen.
Participation in the community and quiet, personal time with the Lord. Two things that are very important if we are to discover God’s will and how we can fulfil it.
I invite us this week to reflect on this example of Jesus, asking ourselves how we are doing at using both the community and personal, quiet time with the Lord to guide us in life. If we are weak in one or both of these areas, make a plan on how to do better.
As we struggle to be better disciples, let us support each other in prayer.
We continue recording Sunday liturgies to place on our website and Facebook pages. This week we will also post the January 1st liturgy for Mary, Mother of God.
This weekend we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family. Pictures idealize the Holy Family, but they had their challenges: an unexpected pregnancy, a long trip, no safe place to give birth, becoming refugees, etc. But Mary and Joseph had the courage and the faith to weather all of this and provide a nurturing home for the Child Jesus.
It is interesting to reflect on the effects of the pandemic and quarantine on families. The news tells us that domestic violence has risen significantly. And yet any number of people have expressed to me how being at home has strengthened their family life and brought them together more. Why such opposite effects?
Maybe there is a clue in our second reading from Colossians. The more family members are living these virtues that Paul presents, the more likely quarantine will bring them together. And the more someone isn’t, the more likelihood of unhappiness and trouble. And the key: am I able to think of others or do I just think of myself? The virtues Paul lists are the following: heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another…And over all these put on love… All of them have to do with thinking of the other, giving the other a break, being
understanding. Our reading from Sirach reinforces being aware of and acting on the needs of the other.
How have I been doing in the last nine months? Sure, we all have days that are better than others, but overall, have I shown that I am basically able to think of more than just myself and my needs? Where – and how – can I do better? Reflecting on our experience of these last nine months might help us grow in our ability to make our
families places of happiness and growth.
I wish you each a happy new year and a blessed 2021. Be assured of my prayers. I end with my favorite prayer for January 1st:
Dear Lord! So far this year I've done well. I haven't gossiped, I haven't lost my temper, I haven't been greedy, grumpy, nasty, selfish, or overindulgent. I'm very thankful for that. But in a few minutes, Lord, I'm going to get out of bed, and from then on I'm probably going to need a lot more help. Amen