Maybe the theme of our readings this weekend could be summarized by a bumper sticker I saw recently: Love at first sight is easy to explain; after 50 years, love is a miracle!
As I have walked with couples preparing for marriage, I have been struck by how much energy and effort go into planning the wedding ceremony and reception; the same amount of energy and effort need to go into the relationship for the marriage to work. Because each of us is unique, because our personalities can be completely different, because of the family culture and practices we grew up with, etc., it is a struggle for “two to become one flesh.” None of us is perfect. We all fail. We need to be able to forgive each other and ourselves and start over. That is the challenge: not to be perfect, but to be able to forgive and continue to grow. But when a couple is willing to spend the energy and effort on their relationship, the miracle happens.
The same applies to all relationships, though to a different degree. The secret of bringing Christ’s love, forgiveness, and compassion into the world is to be able to accept the other as different and value that, rather than trying to change the person to be more like me. It is recognizing that we all fail and I need to be able to forgive, as I wish to be forgiven.
I invite us this week to reflect on how we relate to those around us? Do I basically accept people and try to get along or am I out to change them? Am I able to forgive and move on? Is the world a more loving place because of my presence? And let us pray in a special way for married couples, that they may continue growing in love.
Church sign of the week: Instead of showing someone the gate, try mending the fence.
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)