Our Gospel reading this weekend calls us to “love our neighbor as ourselves” as a sign that we truly love God. While the typical Jew would have identified “love of God” as the greatest commandment, this was a new twist that Jesus put on it. The man who questioned Jesus showed he “got it” when he replied, To love God with all your heart, with all your understanding, with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself' is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices (emphasis mine).
The point to us is to make sure we don’t substitute going to Mass, adoring the Eucharist, praying the rosary, etc. (our modern day burnt offerings and ritual sacrifices) for loving our neighbor as ourselves. These practices are important, but as a HELP, not a substitute. And the parable of the Good Samaritan, which follows this encounter in Luke’s Gospel, makes sure we understand that Jesus is talking about the most needy or vulnerable as our “neighbor,” not just those we interact with in our families, workplaces, etc. The Last Judgement reinforces this: the questions are not about ritual practice, but feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, etc.
What does it mean to “love our neighbor as ourselves”? Probably people love themselves differently and some “self-love” can be
egotistical and selfish. Perhaps a more objective and clearer
command is “love one another as I have loved you,” which Jesus gave to His disciples at the Last Supper.
How has Jesus loved us? First, he brought us into being as a unique reflection of Himself. Second, he became one of us to model for us how we are to live, so that we can be truly happy. Finally, He was willing to give His life for us. “No greater love...” He was centered on others, not himself. This is the ideal we are called to.
Reflection for the week: we are called to love “as Jesus has loved us.” None of us will reach that ideal, but we need to be growing. Am I able to allow others to be the center of my attention, rather than just myself? How can I grow?
Let us support each other in prayer, as we struggle to be disciples who love as the Master has loved us.
Instead of a church sign this week, we have a “pumpkin patch parable,” that someone put in my mailbox:
Sometimes I feel like I’m a pumpkin. Please don’t think it’s odd. I’m growing in a pumpkin patch that’s planted there by God.
God picks me from the pumpkin patch and washes off the dirt. Scoops out the seeds of sin and hate and anger, greed and hurt.
And then, to show how much I’m loved, God marks me with a sign And opens up my eyes and mouth: all part of God’s design.
Then filled with light God sets me out for everyone to see.
So all the pumpkins in the patch can see God’s love through me.
Have a safe and enjoyable Halloween. On Monday we honor our relatives and friends in heaven as we celebrate All Saints Day. On Tuesday we pray for our dead who still need our support. Join us for Mass at 8:00 am. God bless.
I am pleased to report we have found a new Director of Liturgy and Music, Catherine Reich, who will begin on November 1st. We thank Kathy Wellenstein for her faithful and dedicatedservice to our community. Kathy will work with Catherine for a short while before completely retiring. A profile of Catherine will be in the November Parish Press, which will be out shortly. Please give Catherine a warm Pius welcome and keep her in your prayers as she adjusts to the many aspects of her new ministry.
We have received word (and pictures) that three more wells have been completed in Tanzania. That makes 8 that Pius parishioners have built in that country this year, in addition to contributing to the well in Deacon Simon’s Kenyan hometown. PACT!! More information on the wells will be included in the Parish Press.
Some of you might not have noticed, but we have a container with bulletins on the wall of the church, to the left of the three entrance doors. Bulletins for the upcoming weekend are placed there on Friday afternoons. Past and current bulletins are also available on our website.
In our Gospel readings over the summer months, we have been following Jesus and his disciples as they make their way to
Jerusalem, where Jesus will enter the city on a donkey and begin the events of Holy Week. Remember I said that Jesus had turned his focus from preaching to the crowds and healing to instructing his small group of disciples, his leadership team, so to speak. Over the course of this journey, we have had three predictions of his passion and death with inappropriate responses each time from the disciples.
Mark emphasizes the blindness of the disciples – and us – by placing the cure of a blind man at Bethsaida right at the beginning of this final journey and the cure of the blind man, Bartimaeus, our Gospel this weekend, at the very end of the journey. (The entry into Jerusalem follows immediately after today’s Gospel in Mark).
The first story emphasizes that having our blindness removed is a process:
The point for us is that the reduction and removal of our spiritual blindness (or we might say being able to see as GOD sees, not as humans see) is a process, a gradual, lifelong process, that happens through faith. We cannot do it alone: we need God and we need faith.
That is why it is so important for us to read and listen to scripture and homilies, to spend quiet time with the Lord, to worship with the community, to avail ourselves of the sacraments, to minister to those most in need. These are the principal helps that God gives us to move us along in our faith journey out of blindness to seeing as God sees.
Am I using all of these opportunities to move out of my spiritual blindness? Which one could I use more and how can I plan to do it, so that growth REALLY happens?
Let us thank God who is always there to help us and let us support each other in prayer, as we struggle to see as God sees.
Church sign of the week: If you want to talk to God, choose a quiet place and talk to Him. If you want to see him, send him a text while driving.
Our annual collection for our sister parish in Guatemala is taking place this month. If you have not yet contributed, please consider doing so.
Next weekend, Bishop Mark Rivituso of St. Louis will be the celebrant and preach at the 10:30 Mass. He will also baptize his grandniece and daughter of Emily and John Wisniewski. We welcome him to St. Pius X and congratulate the Wisniewski and Pokorny families.
If we had a chance to go first class or steerage on a boat, what would we pick? The normal, human response would be to grab the first-class berth. That is what James and John ask Jesus for in our Gospel today: to sit on his left and right in his glory. But Jesus tells them, and us, that if we really want to be his followers, we have to be content with steerage, that is, being the servant and slave to others.
While he was in a Nazi prison, the Lutheran theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, presented an interesting way to reflect on this Gospel challenge: “Cheap grace” is turning to God when we are in deep trouble, asking and trusting that God will help us. A true follower of Jesus, he says, turns to God when GOD is in deep trouble, that is, when God is grieving or homeless or hungry or thirsty or persecuted or… In other words, a true follower of Jesus doesn’t just use faith in God to get the first-class berth for themselves; a true follower is responding as a servant or slave to God, present in the most needy and vulnerable around them. A true follower is taking up the cross, as did Jesus, by helping others.
Jesus did grant the wish of James and John, but it was not what they originally were thinking of. As we read the Gospels, Jesus often asks someone, What do you want me to do for you? May our answer be, make me better able to serve others and bring your love to them. Then we are truly being a faithful follower of the Master.
Church sign of the week: By entering this church it may be possible that you’ll hear "the call of God." However, He probably won’t call you on your phone, so thank you for turning it off.
I remind you to be aware of scammers who are asking for gift cards, etc., in the name of the pastor. If you get a “request” from me, please be skeptical. Before you open it or click on anything, e-mail me to ask if I really sent it.
Do I own my things or do my things own me? That might be the question we are asked to reflect on by our readings this weekend.
In the first reading from Wisdom, we are told that wisdom, defined as “prudence” or being able to discern what is really important, is more valuable than power, position, possessions, good looks, and even health, because wisdom brings happiness and a true sense of the meaning of life.
In the Gospel, Jesus invites a rich young man to give away his possessions and join the crowd following Jesus. He is too attached to his things and goes away sad.
Nothing in the Gospels demands that we give away everything, as Jesus invited the rich young man and as did St. Francis of Assisi. But living Gospel values demands that we watch out for two things: always wanting more, no matter how much we have, thus making material things the central focus of our lives; and not being willing to share with those in need.
Having material goods can free me to live and share with others. For example, our sister parish collection is being taken up at this time. We have so much more than the parishioners at Santa Maria Nebaj. Am I free enough of my possessions to be able to share generously? Or am I allowing my possessions and desire for more to tie me down?
Jesus tells us at the end of this weekend’s Gospel that those who have given up things for the sake of the Gospel will receive a hundred times more in this life, that is, a sense of joy and purpose, followed by eternal life. Do our actions show we believe this?
I invite us to reflect this week on the question, do I own my things, so that I am free to share, or do they own me?
Church sign of the week: God’s grace gives us what we don’t deserve. God’s mercy saves us from what we do deserve.