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.