Two of our readings this weekend show disciples bent out of shape because of people “not in our group” doing good, first in the name of Moses and then in the name of Jesus. Both Moses and Jesus tell their
disciples to let it alone: the “other” people are doing good.
Divisions. Competition. They are such a part of our human existence, even in religion. The message I got growing up was that Catholicism was the only true religion and everyone else was doomed. Why do we have to put ourselves first and then dismiss everyone else?
Yes, I believe our tradition goes all the way back to Jesus and His first disciples and that is one of the reasons that I stay Catholic. But I think it is important to concentrate on ourselves, on how we are living Gospel values as a denomination and as individuals, rather than competing with, judging, or dismissing other denominations. We need to do our best to live Gospel centered lives and leave the judging to God.
To go one step further: when someone is doing good in the name of Christ, why wouldn’t we want to be supportive? That is why I am so pleased with our supportive relationship with Kingdom Prep Lutheran High School. They are doing such a good job of giving at-risk boys a solid, faith-filled background for success. What would be gained by dismissing something like that because “they are not of our group”?
In summary, I would suggest the following:
Nothing makes my point better than the words of Moses at the end of our first reading: Would that all the people of the LORD were prophets! Would that the LORD might bestow his spirit on them all! Concentrating on improving ourselves and doing good will have a better outcome than competition. God bless.
Church sign of the week: A person wrapped up in themselves makes a very small package.
Fr. Keith Brennan, SDS, who was pastor at St. Pius X from 1994 to 2000, died September 9th. Please keep him, his family, and his Salvatorian family in your prayers.
Our Welcome Back Mass and Reception was a great success. I found it invigorating to be back together with community members. Thank you to the Community Life Committee and all who pitched in to make this event happen. God bless.
My retreat went very well: quiet and reflective and the weather was great! Thank you to all who accompanied me in prayer.
In our Gospel this weekend, Jesus asks his disciples what they were discussing among themselves as they walked toward Jerusalem. Perhaps he puts the same question to us, in effect, by asking us, “What were you thinking about or preoccupied about today?”
Our scriptures are very clear about what is important: serving other people. The disciples give us an example of the opposite when they argued over who would be the most important, the most powerful in the Kingdom. St. James reinforces it in our second reading, saying Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every foul practice. Jesus puts it this way: If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.
Jesus modeled this for us. He was always able to be concerned about the welfare of others. Not only was his heart moved to pity, but he did something to help those in need. The story of the Last Judgment makes it clear what is important: …for I was hungry and you gave me to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me to drink…
This is hard. It goes against worldly wisdom and our natural inclinations. But it is what being a Christian is all about. It is so clear and so simple to understand, but we can be like the disciples and resist “getting it” or putting it into action.
We will never be perfect but we must be growing in our ability to serve others. A good question to ponder this week is what Jesus asked his disciples: “What were you thinking about or preoccupied about today?” God bless.
Church sign of the week: There is an exception to every rule, and most people think that they are it.
In our Gospel today, we hear something that can be very disturbing. Jesus says, Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. If I were trying to attract someone to follow me, I wouldn’t choose that as an invite!
When Jesus tells us to take up our cross and follow him, he is not saying that suffering is a good thing for its own sake and we should look for it. But difficulties, stress, and suffering are an inevitable part of every life. Jesus is saying, when we embrace these aspects of life with the right attitude and for the right reasons, they can have life giving value.
For example, it is stressful to be a parent of a newborn, waking up many times during the night to a crying baby. Or being patient with a rebellious teenager. But when we can embrace these crosses with the right attitude, much good comes about. Another example is confronting someone who is treating others with prejudice: while it might be uncomfortable, it is necessary to help bring justice to our world. Or how about deteriorating health and mobility as I age? I can fight it and be miserable, making those around me miserable or I can embrace it and make my environment more positive.
Maybe the clue is in the words “deny self.” When we put ourselves in the center, when we are thinking about “poor me,” we are not denying ourselves and taking up the cross. But when we can put others in the center, then we are taking up the cross, as Jesus did, and (to go back to our examples above) we raise wonderful children, we help our world be a more just place, and we create a pleasant living environment for those around us AND FOR OURSELVES!!! As Jesus added, whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it. In a sense, it is like, “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”
I invite us to reflect this week on how well we do at embracing the difficulties of life. Do we let them drag us down? Or are we able to embrace them with an attitude that brings life and peace to ourselves and those around us? God bless.
Church sign of the week: The world is divided into people who think they are right.
This coming Sunday, September 12th, we will be celebrating a special “Welcome Back” Mass at 10:30 followed by a luncheon in the gym. Please join us (click here for more information and to register).
Today is the feast day of Blessed Mary of the Apostles, who joined Francis Jordan in founding the Salvatorian Sisters. Blessed Mary felt called to be a missionary, to bring Christ to others in the world. But, in the mid-19th century, the role of women religious was very limited. Blessed Mary joined and left several religious communities, before beginning her own ministry of running a community house for poor, working women. She was attracted by the openness and inclusivity of Jordan’s attempt to involve all baptized people in active
ministry. I invite us to ask Blessed Mary of the Apostles to
accompany us as we strive to grow in our ability to bring the goodness and kindness of Christ to the world around us.
Now the reflection for the week: If you were perfectly healthy but blind and you could be given one wish, what would it be? If you were deaf? If you were paralyzed? If because of changes in weather there was no water where you made your living by farming?
Our first reading from Isaiah tells us that God will come with exactly the thing that a person needs: Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared; then will the lame leap like a stag…Streams will burst forth in the desert… Our Gospel gives us an example of Jesus curing a deaf man. Jesus truly is the one promised: here is your God…he comes to save you.
What do I want? What do I really need? Are they the same thing or not? How do I know? Our faith tells us that God will give us what we need, not what we want. Do I believe that?
As I have aged, I have come to realize that I don’t always know what I REALLY need. I certainly know what I want, but I am never sure it is what is best for me or for those for whom I am praying. As a result, my manner of praying has changed. I used to tell God what to do, e.g. “Dear God, make Mrs. Lozano better” or “Take this pandemic away.” Now I share my concerns with the Lord as I pray, without being so bossy, e.g., “Please watch over Mrs. Lozano and her family, according to your will” or “Lord, help us to know how we are to act in this pandemic.”
The Lord will give us what we need, but we have to be open to what He is saying. It might not be what we want or what we think is best, but He will come through. My prayer is that we can believe and give Him the space to do it. God bless.
Church sign of the week: This is a CH—CH. What is missing? “UR” (Come to our welcome back Sunday)
I will be on retreat this week, Monday through Friday. Please keep me in your prayers, as you will be in mine.
When I was a child, my mother would ask us if we listened to her. I would answer “yes” and later on, when confronted for not telling the truth, I would insist that I DID tell the truth: she didn’t ask if I OBEYED her, she asked if I LISTENED! “Listening” by hearing and “listening” by obeying are two different things! Somehow, she couldn’t see the truth in that, because I still got punished! NOT FAIR!
St. James is addressing our human tendency to “listen” but not obey in our second reading this weekend, when he says, Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves.
One way that we can be “hearers” only, thus deluding ourselves, is to act as though religious practice is what religion is all about. People who do this feel they have fulfilled their religious obligations by
attending Mass, receiving the sacraments, and praying. St. James makes it clear this is NOT what religion is about, when he continues, Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
There are two obligations here and notice which one is first: to care for the most vulnerable in society (widows and orphans were the most vulnerable in that society, since, with no male to protect them, they had no rights). Working for justice and peace is not an optional part of our faith; it is central, as Catholic Social Teaching tells us. But for many it is easier and more comfortable to go to Mass and forget about this.
The second obligation is to “keep ourselves unstained by the world,” that is, to live a good personal life, according to the commandments and Gospel values.
Caring for the vulnerable and keeping ourselves unstained is what our faith is all about. Mass and the sacraments are crucial, as is the support of the community, but as help so we can live our true faith, not as ends in themselves.
I invite us to reflect this week on the two quotes from the letter of St. James given above. Do I have my priorities straight? Am I using my religious practice to help me grow in my care for the vulnerable, as well as to live a virtuous life? How can I do better?
Church sign of the week: Try to make your mark on the world by not making so many marks on the world.
Please keep our school staff and students in your prayers, as another school year begins. I am proud of Wauwatosa Catholic: it provides a wonderful education through its International Baccalaureate and Catholic curriculums.
Sometimes parents, and especially grandparents, ask me what they should do when the younger generation is not going to church. While you might feel strongly that it is for their own good to do so, you cannot force them. Therefore, shaming or coercing is not
In our first reading, Joshua gives us a good example of what to do: freedom and example. He doesn’t lecture the Israelites, he doesn’t shame them, he simply tells them that they are free to decide whether or not they will be true to the Covenant. But then he adds, “as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” He will give good example: he and his family will faithfully follow the Lord.
The most important thing you can do in this situation is to be a good role model, showing your children and grandchildren how fulfilling it is to live Gospel values. They KNOW what you believe; you don’t have to tell them. But they need to see you living it out in a meaningful, life-giving way.
I don’t mean simply going to Mass, receiving the sacraments, saying prayers in the home, etc. Those things are a first step in good example, but the next steps are crucial: does living your faith give meaning to your life? Does it enable you to be forgiving, compassionate, and at peace with all? Does it help you not to judge others harshly? Does it help you to be generous and giving of your time, talent, and treasure to help others?
If your children and grandchildren see a loving, faith-filled person who is happy and at peace, they will be attracted. You have done your best: the rest is God’s work.
The words of St. Francis of Assisi are relevant here and they can be our Church sign of the week: Preach the Gospel at all times and, if necessary, use words!
On the feast day of St. Pius X, August 21st, parish leaders will participate in a retreat focused on what we have experienced and learned during the pandemic that can help our community, as we move into the future. Please keep us in your prayers.
August 20th is the feast day of St. Bernard of Clairvaux. We remember our neighboring community in our prayers that day, asking God to bless them.
This weekend we celebrate the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, our belief that Mary was taken, body and soul, into heaven, when she died. It reaffirms that our bodies are an important part of who we are and that our body and soul will be reunited in heaven.
The Gospel chosen for this feast is the Visitation, Mary’s visit to her cousin Elizabeth, immediately after she said “yes” to God’s request that she bear a son.
What is so striking is Mary’s first reaction to the incredible
experience she had. It wasn’t, “Oh my goodness, wait until I tell everyone about this!” It wasn’t, “What do I have to do, now, to prepare myself for this?” It wasn’t “How am I going to explain this to Joseph?” Her first thought was about her older cousin who was pregnant and might need her help, so she went “in haste” to help her.
What a wonderful example for us of thinking of the needs of others, instead of concentrating only on ourselves.
Self-preservation is part of our DNA and we need to take care of ourselves and those we are responsible for. But it does not have to be at the exclusion of thinking of others. The problem comes when we want more and more and more, while others don’t have what they need. Or when we spend all our free time indulging our personal whims and comforts, when there are elderly relatives and neighbors for whom a visit would be worth more than gold.
God has given all of us time, talent, and treasure. How are we using them? Do we tend to concentrate only on ourselves and our family? Or, like Mary, are we able to think of others, especially those in need? God bless.
Church sign of the week: Ask not what God can do for you, but what you can do for God.
Please remember to mark your calendar and join us for a “Welcome Back” Mass and reception on Sunday, September 12th, beginning with Mass in the church at 10:30 am and then moving to the gym for fellowship and a delicious meal.
Life is a “both-and.” Paul gives a very clear example in our reading from Ephesians: we BOTH have to avoid certain things AND we have to do certain things. Not just avoid sinful behavior but also embrace good behavior. BOTH-AND!
What do we need to avoid? All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling must be removed from you, along with all malice. Notice the verb “removed.” These feelings will come: they are part of being a human being. But we can’t buy in to them, allow them to rule us.
What do we need to embrace instead? Be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ. Notice the emphasis here: it is on the other person. When we act out of anger or bitterness, we are focused on ourselves. When we can be kind to another, especially when they don’t deserve it, when we can be compassionate and forgiving, we are focused on the other.
The irony is that, when we can think of the other person and not just ourselves, we are more at peace. When I am angry and railing against someone or acting out against them, I am not happy. When I can forgive and let go, I am at peace. It is an example of Jesus’ saying, “the one who loses his life will find it.”
I invite us to reflect on this paradox, asking God to help us “let go” if we are clinging to any bitterness, resentment, or anger. God bless.
Church sign of the week: I trust the next chapter because I know the author.
Our campus is beautiful and full of color. Thank you to the volunteer Garden Angels, who take such good care of it.
Our first reading from the book of Exodus has a strong lesson for us on trusting in Divine Providence. The Jews, recently escaped from slavery and living in the desert, are complaining against God and Moses because of the lack of food. They would rather be slaves and have a secure food chain!
God hears their cries and gives them manna each morning, but strictly warns them “only to take enough for the day.” Why? God was testing their faith in Him, that He would provide for them each morning. Our human urge to make ourselves secure would have impelled them to gather as much as possible and store it for future use and security. God was asking them to trust that the One who freed them from slavery would take care of them.
The human need to make ourselves secure was driving the crowd to follow Jesus in our Gospel passage. He had multiplied the bread and given them food. They wanted more. That is why Jesus accuses them of following Him only to get food.
What do we say each time we pray the Our Father? “Give us THIS DAY our DAILY bread.” Do you see the connection? We are not asking God for long term investments that will make us safe when we retire; we are asking for what we need today!
This is not to say we can’t plan for the future. But, what is my focus in life: is it me and securing the future as best I can for myself (and my family)? Or is it trusting in God’s providence that, if I live Gospel values, caring not only for myself and my family, but also for others, He will provide for me and protect me by giving me “my daily bread”?
For reflection this week: how much do I rely on myself and how much do I rely on God’s Providence? Do I need to be more trusting, so that it frees me to be more generous to others? And let us support each other in prayer. God bless.
Church sign of the week: In the center of every sin is the letter “I”.
I hope you summer continues to go well. It certainly is flying by quickly.
In our second reading, St. Paul urges the Ephesians, and us, to “live in a manner worthy of the call you have received.” What is that “call”?
There were strong divisions in the Ephesian community, especially between Jewish and Gentile Christians. The “call” was to bring unity and Paul lists four virtues that will lead to unity: humility, gentleness, patience, and bearing with one another.
There are strong and hateful divisions in our country and Church today. The call for humility, gentleness, patience, and bearing with one another is as relevant now as it was then.
We can say to ourselves, “who am I? Just one little person. How can I make a difference?” But look at our first and Gospel readings, which present large numbers of people being fed with a small amount of bread. Both Elisha’s servant and Jesus’ disciples objected that such a little bit couldn’t make a difference. But with God, it was not only possible, but happened: the bread was enough for everyone.
The point is we DO make a difference when we are humble, gentle, patient, and forbearing. My kindness, with God’s help, can have a domino effect on others. If everyone who calls themselves Christian would live these virtues, our country would be different. We would respect each other, listen to each other, and be able to come to agreements that benefit everyone, not just “my group.” That is the “one hope” that Paul refers to.
I invite us this week to reflect on how we are living the virtues of humility, gentleness, patience, and forbearance. How can I do better? As we struggle to grow, let us support each other in prayer.
Church sign of the week: Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tire?