Because by Your Holy Cross…

“We adore You. O Christ, and we praise Thee, because by Thy Holy Cross, Thou hast redeemed the world.”

This is the prayer that is used in the Way of the Cross old devotional books.  IIMAG1093_1t reminds me of Maryland’s saint of The Redeemer, John Neumann.

Neumann is a saint who became most well-known as a bishop in Philadelphia, but before that time he lived in Maryland for some of his priesthood, both in pastoring a parish in Elkridge-Laurel and in Baltimore, while also serving many other parishes and places in his circuit riding ministry.  His missionary religious order, The Redemptorists, did well to evangelize the Annapolis- Baltimore area in particular. Today they shepherd many of the Annapolis Catholics at their two large parishes and with several priests.

Below is a photo of a statue of St. John Neumann.  Yet one can see him still in his glass coffin in St. Mary’s Church in Philadelphia, the saint’s body remains preserved there– uncorrupted.  I have made the pilgrimage twice.

Another picture I took was of a stained- glass window in St. Mary’s church in their downtown Annapolis church which shines hope and comfort to its people.

I walked  around and into the church on a day this month to enjoy its sights and presence.   My favorite photo taken from my visit is of the cross draped in purple with a glorious image Our Lord near behind it.  (See pic far down below.) 

IMAG1078It shows the Passion and the Glory in one shot.   They were lined up just so, for the faithful to note the connection.  And, The Redeemer, so well heralded by Neumann and his religious and faith community, looks to take people from The Cross to His Rising, drawing more people into His Saving Body and Blood.

St. Mary’s of the Redemptorist order of the Catholic Church is one of the oldest in Maryland– and a real gem.  I am glad I stopped in.
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4th Sunday of Lent Homily “Redemptive Suffering”

Live Homily was trimmed short.  Here’s the fuller, blog version…

The Help of Redemptive Suffering

A man goes into the doctor complaining of aches all over, and points and touches his kneecap and says to the doc: “I have pain here.”  Then he points and touches his elbow and says:  “I have pain here.”   Then he points and touches the back of his neck, and says:  “I have pain here, too.”   Then, he’s ready to point to something else, but the doctor interrupts him and says: “ Sir, I think I already know what’s wrong with you.”  The patient is elated—saying: “’You do, Doc?  That’s great, because I need help.  What is it– arthritis, bone degeneration, injuries?”   The doc says:  “Just let me look at your pointer finger—I think you must have injured it.  Ah yes—you’ve cut your pointer finger!   Nothing else is wrong!  (Everything you touch therefore just feels like it’s hurting…)”  :)   Oh, if suffering only had easy solutions like that one, in the joke!

But when we are in some serious pain, it’s no laughing matter.

We also can struggle in the spiritual life when we suffer.   Like the false assumption made in today’s gospel about the blind person, some people can think that suffering happens just to bad people, or to people who have it coming to them from God, or suffering happens to dumb people.  So when suffering comes to them, they are looking for how the sufferer might be at fault, for being bad, deserving of hurt, or just dumb.  Wrong assumption.  Jesus says that suffering was not the fault of the man born blind, nor the fault of his parents.  But then Jesus adds something important, that the man’s suffering will be involved with God’s compassionate help.  Jesus says the man’s blindness was there that the works of God might be made visible through him.

What? People must have wondered.  Did Jesus just say God is with suffering?

God is with sufferers, though He’s not the cause of suffering.  Yet God can work with any suffering person to have the experience be redemptive and saving.   Yes, we are already broken people to start with—but God is a healer.  God is a Redeemer, too.

Redemptive Suffering might be hard to believe of Jesus, but for the fact that He practiced it in a grand way in saving sinners by His crucifixion on a Cross, and then in His rising up afterwards in a victory to share with us—and it won our salvation and our right to have Him live inside our souls– so we take heed of Him to listen and learn.

Suffering, first, causes the person acting in soul and conscience to reflect on life.   You or I ask: Where is God in my suffering? Did I do something wrong? What will be the quality of my life from here on out?  Simply, we want to make sense out of that which doesn’t seem to make sense.

Understanding a share of the meaning of suffering has come via some experiences in my own life.  While my pains have been small compared to others, one big accident I had suffered in life pointed me to a higher meaning for my life (since I survived it—and looked to know why), another incident showed that I need to exercise some caution over my need for success and acceptance of others, and another suffering situation showed me that I cannot always be in control of things, even my own life, but that it’s ok.    These are some life lessons in redemptive suffering.   I came out better due to the suffering.   I used the suffering for good.   I accepted it as part of God’s plan to shape me, or to shape another via me.   It’s not an easy thing, but it is reassuring that, as Jesus said, “the works of God might be made visible” through me in some episodes of life.

Jesus has redemptive power.    It is part of His whole being of Grace.   He answers our questions of suffering in some simple lessons— like that of the pearl fisherman seeking a treasure embedded in the dark heart of the oyster, so we have shining pearls of grace hidden in the darkness of our suffering.  God will bring forth His grace and pearls in our own oyster’s to open.   (So let’s start shucking, rather than ducking, our pain.)

When we survey human history, it becomes evident that suffering is an inextricable part of the human condition. It’s not a matter of whether we will suffer during our lives, but when. And more specifically, how will we suffer: poorly or well?

When we fail to find meaning in our suffering, we can easily fall into despair. But once we find meaning in our suffering, it is astounding what we can endure, both mentally and physically. The key is not the suffering itself, but the meaning found within it.   Here is where our Lent and our standing at the foot of Jesus’ Cross might truly help us.  Jesus calls us to join Him, to even become His body, or an embodiment of believers under Him, the Head of the Church.   He permits us to give our suffering with His perfect suffering, again in trust of the Father Almighty. Christ asks for us to offer our suffering as part of our becoming fully one with Him.  Jesus did this redemptive work as one of us, suffering many things, all with a goal in mind—to present it to the Father as a perfect, saving act of service and love.   When Jesus perfectly offered it all at the Cross, as His final act, the Father received it as “redeeming.”  Jesus is Risen.   Our path in His paschal mystery now can lead us to gains from our pains, victory over any misery.   Trust in God.

Let us understand that we are called to co-suffer with Him.   You see—some people want a convenient and easy theology or faith approach that claims that Jesus suffered so that we wouldn’t have to?  But that’s wrong teaching.   Jesus suffered the Cross, because we couldn’t save ourselves, so that we gladly have had Him stand in for us.   But Jesus didn’t eliminate suffering here on earth.   His believers were expected to go through some of it, even as the Beatitudes say of our life in Him.  We are blessed, but we suffer some for it, too.   Also, not everybody was healed by Jesus from states of suffering.  For one, He did not overthrow the Roman Empire in His 33 year visit to Israel, so there would be much persecution and suffering ahead to the Church because of that.   Yet Jesus does say a whole healing is coming to His people, and an eternal life.   That is a very good thing He promised, so to make all the ordeals worth it.   We won’t suffer damnation nor separation from God any longer, provided we cling to the Lord and His salvation.   We need to suffer through what He allows to happen to us.

Pope John Paul wrote an apostolic letter on suffering, and in it he says that the work of Christ doesn’t guarantee an escape from suffering.  No-instead, Jesus has changed the meaning of suffering. We are now joined through baptism with Christ in His death and resurrection, and we have become intimately united to Him, so much so that we are His Body. Because of our union with Christ, even our suffering is changed; it becomes redemptive. Because Christ loves us so much, He invites us to participate in His redeeming work by allowing us to offer up our sufferings in union with His.  Pope John Paul II said, “in the cross of Christ not only is the redemption accomplished through suffering, but also human suffering itself has been redeemed” (Salvifici Doloris, 19). In other words, our suffering is changed and is worth something if it is in union with Christ. Every time we suffer, we have an opportunity to either run from Christ, or embrace the suffering as an opportunity to love and walk as He walked.

St. Paul experienced much weakness and suffering, but when he prayed about it, Christ answered: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” As a result, the apostle could proclaim, “I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Cor. 12:7-9). Paul understood that our life is a cooperation with the work of Christ when he wrote: “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the Church” (Colossians 1:24). Think about that: Paul said that something is lacking in Christ’s afflictions. What could possibly be lacking in Christ’s afflictions? Answer: Our part!  While that is miniscule compared to Christ, “we still have little part to play in the world’s Redemption.” (SD27–Pope JPII)  It’s a grace of “redemptive suffering.”

We can participate with Christ in redeeming the world.  So offer up your pain.

‘Twere True? ‘Tis True

Long Teaching      There is a Part One, Part Two, and a Part Two all in here

Part 1

I heard a phrase this week: “If ’twere true, then it’d be most obvious.”  That twere word is from an old-fashioned English usage as in meaning if it were true (’twere), then it would be ( it’d be or ‘tidbe) thus and such.  I haven’t heard those phrases used in a while… but some folksy speakers favor them still today.  Listening to S.C. nominee Gorsuch speak this week shows that the homespun terminology is still much in circulation.

But how I heard the ’twere phrase was not in a good light.   It was used by some Christian anti-Catholic person, one who unfortunately, was speaking publicly in dead-set opposition to a Living Jesus with us in the Blessed Sacrament.  They said that the Eucharist couldn’t be real because the amazement and convincing factor wasn’t there, in their view.  So, in the folksy, olde-fashioned sentence, they said “if ’twere true, then it’d be most obvious,” meaning that they were trying to debunk the Eucharist*, saying “it,*” was not really Christ Jesus, in their demanding that, if “it*” were true, some special effects would be seen and felt to support the claim of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, in our Catholic belief and practice.  

Cut to chase, the Eucharistic Jesus isn’t exciting enough for them to be real.  “It” seems too ordinary to them.  

What a short-sighted point of view this seems to be.   The “it” actually is a Person: Jesus.  There view does slight the Lord in some certain way.  

I am reminded of the account in Mark 6 when people also dismissed Jesus by saying that “they knew” how he was only (merely) a carpenter, just an ordinary relative from Nazareth, son of Joseph.  They “knew” it.  They made noise that Jesus could NOT be anything more (and surely not Messiah).   We know now how very wrong they were in belittling Jesus.  

Same thing with belittling Him as Sacrament and Bread of Life among us today. That’s a big mistake to make. It leaves out a major, personal experience of Christ from their lives.  Yet we Catholics will need to be the witness to His Real Presence, so that all Christians can be led to Him, the Bread of Life, for their full nourishment.

To those statements above of expecting a sign, or refusing to believe, I thought: ‘Like what special effects are they looking for to have prove to themselves the Eucharist is really Jesus?! A tingling sensation? A taste of true blood? A stupendous, instantaneous, miraculous healing to the communicant?’ What ‘special effects’ were they seeking of Christ or of the Church’s relationship to Jesus as Eucharistic Lord for our pilgrimage Home?   In their current faith practice, is it all a big feelings kind-of-experience they demand to have called their Christianity?  There is fault in that orientation, if so.

There are clear descriptions in the Bible (as proof) for the Real Presence, too, if they are searching.  I wondered:  How more clear in The Word can it be that John the Baptist or John the Apostle call Jesus the Lamb of God, or that Jesus calls Himself as “the Bread of Life” or the “Living Bread of Heaven,” as for us to “take and eat?!” of Him? ! (John 6, Luke 22)  Or, that He offered Himself purposefully on the exact Jewish Passover for sacrifice (John 13, Matt. 26), which was unnecessarily dramatic of Jesus if twere only a symbolic gesture He was making.  Yet, what if the Blood of the Lamb, Jesus, is Real Presence Blood to save us from death in sin?   Hebrews 9:11-28 has something to say about that, of this Church today in a living practice of Christ’ offering, as while we seek His Glory to come.  (Read it.)

Experientially, at each Mass, I get a sense of the blood on the doorpost of our hearts being applied onto us and into us, who want to be saved from death and our sins.  This, of course, is an update to the exodus story, as we live under the Exodus march now of Jesus.  As the author of Hebrews writes to the believers to experience in their present-time:  “How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!” (Heb. 9:14)

Oh my!   The anti-Catholic said “if ’twere true”– scoffing as he said it… but hallelujah, “TIS TRUE.   JESUS IS AMONG US IN HIS BODY AND BLOOD in the work of salvation, and He is building us up to serve Him for His kingdom!  The “I AM with you always” so promised Jesus at His Ascension (Mt. 28:16-20).  Jesus IS Sacrament and Paschal Mystery for us now, so that the great I AM has been and is now and will be ministering to us of His feast of salvation.

As for a convincing proof of Himself as Bread, back in Jesus’ public ministry in Israel, do your remember the big deal Jesus made of it about Himself.  In John 6, it says how even many disciples and the apostles did not get it, of what Jesus did after the Miracle of the Loaves.   Due to that, Our Lord said:  “You had your fill of the miracle loaves, but do you still not believe?”   The people had missed the sign (sacrament) unveiling of Jesus.  So, even with much of an amazing thing occur on the hill with the multitudes with all them getting fed from practically nothing at hand, they still didn’t believe.   Why not?  Because it was not to be any special effects or spectacle that would win hearts.  Jesus knew it was all about faith and its desire to catch on and believe.   In that John 6 dialogue text, Jesus asked His apostles, ‘as many have left, over this hard teaching, do you also want to leave?’  Peter spoke for the Twelve that they were staying; faith helped them see the Living God before them in Jesus–and in His signs.  ‘You offer Everlasting Life, Master!,’ says Peter, indicating that he and the band of apostles were remaining with The Lord.

So, it is true that some sincere disciples for Jesus today can get it wrong, at first, about Jesus as the Sign of God, the Sacrament for a living encounter in the Divine.   But we wish for them to “get it.” (Only by Grace did we, too.)

These denials of fundamentalists and charismatic Protestants and other non-Catholics about the truth of the Eucharistic Christ today are familiar.  Many do say something like the man did (If t’were true, tid’be most obvious); but they are exercising their prideful demands a bit too far.  Faith seeks understanding, and we hope they will arrive there to know Jesus as Sacrament.

There’s hope people will come to The Eucharist.  The Holy Spirit will be looking to draw them in to glorifying God by such an embrace of Jesus Real Presence.

In seeking such a demanding physical proof of God (sign, on their terms), maybe by faith they can really become surprised, because God IS offering a physical manifestation of His works in the 7 Sacraments.  It’s just not of the double-wow factor.   Jesus comes meek and humble among us.  That’s so vital a lesson to see in the Gospel story. Jesus says: “Come to Me… for I Am meek and gentle of heart… I will help your soul find its rest.”  That is the same Lord of the Gospels Who is Sacrament today.  We meet Him on those humble terms.  We kneel often in His Sign Presence to us, as in Mass or Reconciliation or in a Matrimonial union or Holy Orders consecration.   It’s a humble thing to experience God in Christ in Sacrament..

Part Two.   ‘TIS THE LAMB LEADING US!  IMAG0206

Our Lord And Savior Jesus presented Himself humbly before the Father.  See our Mediator kneeling in the Garden of Gethsename in our illustration on the page.

He kneels in a humble offering to God, doing so in the time directly which had followed the First Mass, the Last Supper.  Only in our own exercise of humility will we take note of God come to us in all humility.

Jesus Himself in His public ministry (as told in the gospels) was not touring around like a rock-star of today.  He did not have elaborate clothes, house musicians, magnetic appeal, and an oversized, look-at-Me personality.   As some Nazarenes commented of Him:  ‘You’re just a poor carpenter’s son, and a lone carpenter yourself now and widows son (with Joseph gone), and merely a relative of people we know, a man of no privilege (Mark 6).  How at all could you, Jesus, be God (?), the Messiah?’ they scoffed.

This denial of Jesus Christ as God in the flesh was a regular thing as Our Lord was in ministry, and that of some of the Jews rejecting Him when He came is clearly told in the New Testament.

Later, the rejection of Jesus as God in the flesh was the break of the first heretics of Christianity.   Interestingly, there is a tie-in to the same rejection of Jesus as Eucharist.  This has also been going on from early on in Christianity, though very much more in recent decades and centuries.   Many non-Catholic Christians insist on living apart from the Sacraments of the Church of the 2000-year-old Church begun by Jesus.  Why such resistance??

Refusal to acknowledge Jesus as Sacrifice and Sacrament in the Eucharist has been going around for centuries, even so in the time of Christ ministry itself (e.g. “How can He give us His flesh to eat?!” –John 6) ‘and many no longer followed Him (after His Bread of Life teaching).’

The connection of God coming as human and as flesh/sacrament are much related– The Word is Flesh; The Word is also Eucharist.  He is the same Word, expressed as flesh.   Think of the many times in bible stories when people would not acknowledge Jesus as God among them, because He was of the flesh.  They couldn’t imagine God as flesh, therefore, they would not believe.  The Lord in flesh was an automatic disqualifier for them.   Even the crucifixion of Jesus was about some Jewish leaders asking for the death sentence for a man claiming to be God among them as a man.   But, oh how wrong those Sanhedrin were!

Jesus said that He was giving His flesh for the life of the world, and that His Body offered was becoming Eucharist for the faithful:  God was extending His visit as flesh and His Presence to us via Sacrament.   The God Who became small as an embryo once was even becoming present as hosts and parts of bread transubstantiated.  Amazing this Lord of Heaven is!

It is important, then, to see how the objection of Jesus as God/man is tied together with the objection to Him as the Eucharistic Sacrifice today.  They are closely related.  As a person like this twere person goes so vehemently against Jesus as Bread of Life Sacrament, I suppose that they would have also missed Jesus as the Man of Galilee too.  Jesus just wasn’t spectacular or obvious enough for some people, I suppose. 

The recognition of the mystery of God among us is by faith, and that recognition is a Gift.  This is so true a point.   At some time in our lives we Christians all need to become like Thomas the apostle, who was missing from the assembly, and to come in and see what the others had said was true.   Thomas examines “the Body and Blood Jesus– even the nailmarks–and gets that it is all indeed true, so to exclaim “My Lord and My God.”  Believers outside of the Eucharist need to come in to those believers with the Eucharist and to recognize Jesus as the Eucharist, so to say “My Lord and My God” to the Blessed Sacrament.

Jesus said something very important to Thomas upon the doubting apostles’ coming back into the fold:  “Blessed are those who have not seen (nailmarks like you have here), yet who will still believe.”  

Because it is all by faith that we see.   No tingling or sensations, no fireworks, no overwhelming feelings– just Jesus recognition. 

The Jesus received in Mass from the faithful is related to same Man of Galilee, the man so often spurned, because of denials by so many that He was God in the flesh with them.  Read the Bible accounts. They are many detailing the above rejection.   When the Lord Jesus was in public ministry, numbers of people also demanded certain signs or amazing proofs from Him, in that same special effects mode, but Jesus did not serve them in that flashy way.  In fact, Mark’s Gospel shows Jesus doing many works among them in humble ways, almost as in secret.  Faith not flash was the way into intimacy with Christ.  The Gospels all communicate how Jesus was indeed already their Sign of Signs right in their midst.  He was Sacrament; He was sign– but not to the demand of people for a spectacular sign.  He came as one of us, not to wow but to gently meet us and heal us and save us. He once concluded, “This is a people making demands but no more sign shall be given them but for the sign of Jonah ( referring to His Rising from the dead).”. That would be His major sign, but it would only be manifest to people who were in faith with Him.

Jesus comes to us, maybe more humbly in surprise to us than we could ever expect.

Yet He is here.   Humankind, in our folly, make our demands on God, rather than roll out the red carpet and ask however might receive Him in. It is all due to our want to deny our sin and our need for help and transformation, and of our resistance to let it happen on GOD’ S terms, not our own.   It’s a problem of pride.   Believers who say they belong to Christ have such problems sometimes in pride, though given by word of promise to Christ the Lord.  Yet they fully don’t know Him yet.  They also are prone to errors.  Just read the epistles of the New Testament from James through Jude, and you hear the apostles trying to keep the Church one and true and moving to deeper conversion and convictions, rather they might lose their faith.  (John’s letters are particularly strong.)

Yet Jesus IS a challenge to us.   Anyone who says He is peachy and easy and just a buddy Savior has much more to know of Him.   When Jesus came, He knew that He would experience rejection or refusal from people to Who His True Identity.  John’s Gospel leads off with the real challenge before us:  “The Word became flesh… and to as many as received Him, to them He gave right to be becoming as children of God.”

Even while getting rejected as the Son of God meekly ‘sneaking’ (past our prideful eyes) into our world and history, Jesus continued to affirm His identity as The I AM.  He was God in human existence with us, and the God of eternity.  He said basic things (as recorded further in John’s Gospel) such as “he(she) who believes in Me (as such) has eternal life.”. “I AM the Bread of Life… anyone who eats of Me, this bread, has life eternal, and anyone who does not, does not have eternal life.”   Jesus says this.   The gospel records it.

‘Tis True.

Ah, the Irish like this word, ‘Tis!      And with the Real Presence, we Catholics can say of its truth:  ‘Tis!!

It also says clearly in John than many people left Jesus, because of not accepting who He was or what He said, as in looking for a different Messiah.  In His teaching on the Eucharist, particularly, they left Him. (See John 6.) These were those ’twere true, then followers.  They stopped following the Real Jesus due to stipulations, one might say.  Could they have been saying;  “Jesus, you are too much of the ordinary and sublime to actually be the Divine One you claim to be.’

Oh how wrong they were then.  And now.

Part 3.   Our Catholic testimony.   People undeserving but who have been blessed to see.

What the non-Catholics (who kid us about wafer worship) just don’t know!  Jesus is Eucharist for His people on the journey home to Him.   This is so dear to us who are Catholics.  It also startles us about Jesus.  Our God Who becomes small, whether as baby and man, or as Eucharist host– He does risk being missed or unnoticed or even disrespected or rejected.

By grace, we in the Catholic Church (and other Real Presence believers) have recognized Him, like those who did when on the Road to Emmaus (Luke 24).  Praise be Jesus for His revelation to His people, and for His Gift to the Church.  The hidden part of the Emmaus story is of persons who had walked along as if without Jesus, and even heard His words, still had not caught on Who He was until the breaking of the bread.  Then, they knew Him.

We Catholics claim and believe God is with us, and even in ordinary-style signs and sacraments.  The Lord is right here among us, yet He still can be missed, as by those who will not see.  He is Sacrament to continue a physical reality with His Church, yet people just will not abide with Him in this Way.   I think of many ex- Catholics who have voted so with their departure from Mass-going. They had been right near Jesus, even to receive Him in as gift, but have departed away from this intimacy with Jesus to prefer some other place or experience.  Sad.  

Some of the younger generations are going off preferring a more dynamic, entertaining style of Jesus.  Even some of the older folks, too.  Yet the Word says “He came meekly.”  Notice it in Him as the babe in Bethlehem (Mt. 2).  Or the man of Galilee walking up to John the Baptizer (Mt. 11).   Or the man preaching on the hillsides (blessed are the meek–Mt. 5).   Or the one describing Himself:  “I AM meek and humble of heart.  Come to me, and rest. (Mt. 11:29).”   This One Person also proclaims I AM Food in John 6, to “eat and drink of Me,” as does He say in the Last Supper Gospels.

‘Twere true?   It really is true that the Humble Jesus, as in Mystery among us as Eucharist, is missed, or even dis-missed by people today.  Yet He is Real-ly there. Those who seek, find– says Jesus.  May they find Him as Eucharist among us.

How I love the EWTN tv show that has all the testimonials of people of other religions or denominations who have come to recognize Jesus in the Breaking of the Bread.   The show is called “Journey Home.”   Other live call-in radio shows on EWTN’s network feature many more such testimonies.   Catholic Answers Live is full of Eucharistic Jesus confessors.  ‘Tis True, they say.

Of my hurts as a priest is to know of former Catholics or former practicing Catholics who are not with us in Sacred Liturgy now.  I dearly pray for them to Come Home.

‘Twere is probably a poor relative of ’twas, as in “once before, He was my Eucharist, but not now.” As in someone saying: “I don’t want Him to be.  I want something more amazing or appealing.”   Would they demand it to not be so, of this Eucharist not to be Him?

As the destiny of the believer is to gather around the Throne in praise of the Lamb, in the Liturgy of Heaven, going to Mass is a getting ready and acquainted with the Lord as He is worshipped forever.   The Holy Mass is our connection even now to Heaven’s liturgy, as they go on simultaneously.   Scott Hahn’s book “The Lamb’s Supper” is a great read for someone to see the message of the Book of Revelation as of a communion of the Church triumphant in Heaven, united to believers of the Church Militant (fighting the good fight soulfully on earth’s pilgrimage) and the Church Suffering.   All are united into the Sacrifice of the Lamb, and we are made worthy only in the Lamb’s Offering.   Again, this is all about the meaning and mystery of Holy Mass.

As John’s Gospel proclaims, Jesus is God in the flesh… and then Jesus says “my flesh is real food, eat it in remembrance of Me… this is My Body…My Blood for you.”   In each Mass, we acknowledge this Truth.  ‘Tis True.   Blessed is the Lamb Who was slain, who reigns now.  This is the celebration of Heaven, of and in and by The Lamb Jesus.

And on earth we pray in every Mass:  “Lamb of God… have mercy on us… grant us peace.”

Mary, our model believer, embraces the Word made flesh among us. At the start to finish.IMAG0820_1IMAG0244

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Twere.  ‘Tis.   Two shall be one, Bride to BrideGroom.

Twain is another old English language word with a tw start.  It’s used in phrases like “never the twain shall meet” but also in wedded lines like “twain thee, one love now.”

Which shall it be of the Eucharistic Lord Jesus: Never the twain shall meet (me and Jesus as Bread of Life)–or– twain us, one Communion and bond, Lord?

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I think I will sign off on that.  (I’d tweet off, but this is a blog!  If it ’twere a tweet, then this message would have been over in the first sentence! )

Photo:  San Juan Cathedral in the week of Epiphany.  I con-celebrated some Masses here.   In Spanish.

Jokes St. Joseph could have told. Funny St. Joe stuff. Maybe.

Jokes

1.  They asked me, “Joseph, when did your son Jesus first take an interest in carpentry work?”  I, Joseph, answered: “It was very early on.”  “How early, like when he was 12?” they asked.  I, Joe, replied:  “Just weeks after Jesus’ 40th day of life and his blessing of presentation in the Temple, our family moved hastily to Africa.  It was there where and when I decided to build him a crib, using rare Egyptian wood.  I was half-way through finished making it, when I left the tools and materials down, to get to it the next day, but that next morning, I saw that Jesus had awoken overnight and finished it Himself!… that’s when I knew he’d surely want to become a carpenter!”

Ok, folks, it’s just a joke!   Really!

2.   Joseph was an expert carpenter, and was training Jesus in his trade.  He said, “Now, don’t be like those two silly carpenters working over there on that house across the way.”  Jesus asked:  “Why not?”  Joseph said, “Excuse me for saying it so, but it’s because they are not too bright.  I was listening to one of them who was nailing down a wall for a house, and each time he would reach into his nail pouch, to pull out a nail, I would see him, then, either toss it over his shoulder or nail it in.”  Jesus asked, “Well, why was he throwing those nails away?”   Joseph explained, “The first guy thought they if he pulled a nail out of his pouch and it was pointed towards him, that it was defective!  So he’d toss it away!  Heh!  Yet if the nail was pointing away, then he’d nail it in.”   Jesus asked, “Well, why didn’t the second carpenter on the project tell him he was mistaken?”  Joseph explained:   “I know, but listen to this: The second carpenter was overheard saying to the first:  ‘Dummy, those nails which are pointed away aren’t defective, nor to be thrown away! They’re for the other side of the house!’”

Smile.   Hey, unless the Lord build the house, the builders labor in vain, anyway, right?

3.  Continuing, Jesus said:  Their carpentry business is not going to do well, is it?  Joseph said: I am afraid not.  Just yesterday I heard how one of them silly guys went to the lumber yard and he asked the seller there if he could have twenty four-by-two’s.  The seller corrected him, “You mean two-by-fours—that’s how we call ‘em.  Now, how long do you want them?”    The silly carpenter said:  “How long?  Well…. I guess, ‘er, that we’d like to keep them after buying them, sir, as they are going onto a fence.  :)   We don’t want any loaner wood.”  (Jesus groans.)  Joseph adds: “Of course, two-by-fours also have length, as you know, son!  So I don’t know about those silly neighbor carpenters!”

Riddles/Questions

A.  If Joseph hits his thumb with a hammer, then what does he take for the pain?        B.  When Joseph fled with the Holy Family to Egypt, what transpo might have he used? C.  What American cities might be this saint’s favorites?   D. What university is his favorite?  E.  What mistaken occupation did a bad Bible translater give to Joseph?       F. What is St. Joseph’s favorite pop song?   G. What did Joseph use to stay awake all night on that special Dec. 25th?

It happened at St. Joseph’s parish

Little Andy was restless at Mass, as St. Joseph’s 11 a.m. Sunday Mass was going now past 12:30 p.m., in Communion time.   Walking up with his dad in the Communion line, for a blessing tap on the head, Andy saw the Sanctuary Light in its lamp up near the tabernacle.   He looked up innocently at the priest, and asked:  “Father, when that light over there turns green, then can we all go home?!”

Former pastor Monsignor Robinson had reached 99 years old, but was now failing on this Lord’s Day, likely his last.  This Josephite parish happened to have a dairy farm connected to it.  Msgr.’s final request after last rites was to drink some fresh milk from one of the cows.  As a favor, young cleric Johnson, knowing that monsignor liked a nightcap on Sunday nights, put a little whiskey into the milk.  Monsignor drank up.   Getting ready to close his eyes, the young cleric requested some parting advice from his senior.  Then, Monsignor beckoned him close, and whispered some final advice to him:  “Fr. Johnson, don’t ever sell the cow that gave out this delicious milk!”

Riddles/Questions Answers    A.  St. Joseph’s Aspirin (lots of them!)    B. Cara-van.    C.  Toss up between St. Joseph’s, Missouri and Nazareth, KY or Nazareth, PA or Bethlehem, PA.   (Maryville, OH he also likes.)    D.  St. Joseph University, Philadelphia.   E.  Mistakenly called him a car-painter.   F.  “Do you know the way (to) San Jose?”   G. Cup-a-Joe 

Unscramble the Letters to discover a famous saint’s name of the month of March

O S E P H J        ________________

Religious Orders

A Dominican, a Jesuit, a Josephite, and a Trappist

A Dominican, a Jesuit, a Josephite, and a Trappist were marooned on a desert island. But they met an angel flying by, who came to these religious and said, “Quickly, I can grant you all one prayer answered, then I must leave.”  The Dominican quickly spoke up, “Get me out of here and into a church assignment to preach in one of the finest Cathedral churches of my language in the world.”  Poof, he was gone.  The Jesuit chirped in fast after that:  “I’d like to be sent to a great Jesuit University with a fine library and a special teaching position.”  Poof, he was gone.   The Josephite humbly deferred to the Trappist to make his choice, but the Trappist said: “No, you first.”  The Josephite said to the angel, “I’d like to be sent to a big active urban parish with a large Black Catholic population.”  Poof!  Off he went, so the angel asked the final religious priest, “Now, humble man, what would you request? I’ll grant all your wishes and prayers, since you waited ’til last.”  The Trappist said:  “Oh no, I’m good!  I’ve already got what I basically want right here, deserted on this island!”  The angel was really surprised, so the Trappist said:  “Hey, I’m a Contemplative Monk, remember?!  Ok, just leave me a first aid kit, a tent, a stove and fuel, some prayer books, Catholic classic books and a Bible, and a fishing pole, thank you!”

Rel. Ed. classes

Covering the basic Catholic feast days, the catechist asked:  “What was the Annunciation?”  Billy’s answer:  When Mary became a nun.   Fiona’s answer:  When Joseph explained clearly and slowly to Mary his name and his job.    Celeste’s answer:  When Joseph found out angels were bringing a baby secretly to Mary, his girlfriend!

The catechist asked:  What, then, is the Nativity?     Jimbo’s answer:  I’m not sure, has it got something to do with the Nat’s spring training baseball?  Nat-tivity!   Pervis’ answer:  It’s a lack of activity, as like with sleeping cherubs.   Pedro’s answer:  It’s some kind of secret code word for Christmas, a little like saying X-mas or Navidad.

Why did Joseph go to Bethlehem with Mary?   Bennie’s answer:  He didn’t want his family to miss Christmas.    Wynne’s answer:  He was going to register to vote, I think, but you can do that online now.   Pete’s answer:  He went because of taxes, or tuxes, or tickets or something that sounds like that.    Adriana’s answer:  It was their honeymoon.

What is the Holy Family’s Flight into Egypt?   Welford’s answer:  I ‘dunno, because ‘dey didn’t have no jets or planes in ‘dose Bible days of Jesus, Mary and Joe.  Just donkeys. Pierra’s retort:   Perhaps they took Delta, because it was in Egypt even in Moses’ time!

Why did Mary and Joseph take Jesus to the Temple for the Presentation Mystery?   Seamus’ answer:  Because they couldn’t find a babysitter?

HAD ENOUGH?!!

th131IG1CFA Josephite priest dies, goes to Heaven, tells an angel on the way that he’d just love to see Joseph. He’s taken to a little mansion, and out its front door comes a person to greet him.  The priest inquires:  “Joseph, of the Holy Family?!!  My holy model?!!” The man in white robes and sandals responds:  “What?!” The priest asks again:”Are you not Joseph of Nazareth, holy saint, married to Mary, and fill-in papa to Jesus?!”  The saintly-looking man smiles and says: “No, it’s Joe, from Newark, New Jersey.   Air traffic controller, member of Sacred Heart Cathedral.  Newly arrived.” The priest looks at the angel, who says to him:  “You’ve got to be more specific, Father–there’s a lot of holy Joes up here.”

Hey, what does the former pope have for breakfast each day?   Eggs Benedict.

‘Yep. I’ve got a million of them!   I’m here thru’ Thursday. Try the meatloaf sandwich!  Best on the menu!

Hey–is it raining hard outside?   Do you need a boat, or Ark? Because I Noah guy…

Hook.

 

Homily Sun. St. Joseph Day

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HOMILY

When I think of St. Joseph on this March 19th, there are a few words or phrases that come to mind to describe him.  One is “good” St. Joseph. Another is Joseph the “just man.”. A third phrase to describe his life is how he was a man committed to “redemptive suffering,” as how he knew it.

Let me expound on each.

And, as we look at St. Joseph (and to Jesus by him), may we ask ourselves:  How am I good?  How am I just?  How do I live out “redemptive suffering?” or make my own sacrifices for good to come about to God’s glory?

Joseph the Good.

Good St. Joseph is a fitting first description of this saint.  The goodness in his character is certainly something that won the loving heart of Mary to him. There was deep goodness in this man, which spoke of what Israel was supposed to produce in its holy nation.  Mary saw that model goodness in Joseph; she loved him for that good fidelity to God’s call, and she knew he would likewise be true to her.  She became betrothed to him, seeing goodness in her future.

Joseph, thus, can be contrasted with the kind of Jews that gave Moses a stubborn, selfish time. In that opening Exodus text today in Mass, Moses loses his temper over the lack of good, courageous people he has to work with in his exodus company.  Yet Joseph, caretaker of the Holy Family, was indeed good, and so reliably good.  Joseph would be a worthy assistant in the Kingdom of God coming in his foster-son, Jesus, in the Savior’s “new exodus” promise, delivered in the Good News, for a new covenant of God to be kept.  

Joseph was a very good father figure to the Lord God Incarnate.  Jesus learned from his promise-keeper, covenant-keeper Joseph, and could trust to be submissive to him (Lk. 2:51-52)– and He was.  Jesus would grow to shine in Joseph’ good example – modeled so well in the Holy Family home.

Joseph the Just

St. Joseph is truly a just man; he is fair in every godly way, and reverent in the soul.  He was just in his work and how he treated people daily. Joseph was respectful always, not just to his family, but also to others he met.  Joseph’s life and social and just influence on Jesus is evident, as I see it, in today’s gospel, as one observes Jesus’ just behavior to the Samaritan woman and her townsfolk.  For instance, Jesus was fair (in some imitation of Joseph) in not excluding the Samaritans in his mission, nor to exclude, particularly, this public female sinner at the well of Sychar.  Hear Jesus’ just, fair approach to her in the John 4 account.  Note his respect to the woman who didn’t even have respect from anybody in her own home town.  She only was their town sinner. Yet, amazingly, she is given respect by this kind man at the well.  He sees her as a human being, somebody made in God’s image first.

Jesus puts her in control by asking her for a favor, a drink. This justly opens a dialogue. It breaks down barriers.   He draws out of her guarded self, even to some reference of faith (as she speaks of Jacob and this well at which they meet at, which was where Jacob’s Ladder had appeared in history).  Jesus is not harsh, but fair, in then raising in the verbal exchange about her immoral activity, to point that she might be thirsty for God’s help. She is.  He notices how her isolation in her sins do cry for mercy, freedom and justice  She responds openly by saying that maybe one day God would use that holy Jacob’s ladder to come down to help people.  Jesus then says:  ‘That day is here. I am the Christ, and I have come to help my people, such as yourself.  I can now offer you a drink in the Spirit of God.’  Friends, this exchange of Jesus, in such total respect to the sinful Samaritan woman, is a tribute to Joseph’s influence, so I think. Sure, the Holy Spirit helped Jesus a lot, as well as His divine nature to his humanity was a big factor to His actions, but do not doubt, for a second, how noticeable Joseph’s great mark is on how Jesus lived His ministry.

St. Joseph the just man helped form Jesus for us.*  Jesus’ own perfect fairness was in Him at birth, surely, but you could say it was planned to be nurtured by the one whom God chose to foster the Christ Child, the model just man:  Joseph.   Into Jesus’ development towards manhood, he and Joseph even worked together in the Nazareth workshop, and perhaps in nearby Sepphoris, as just workers in a just trade, doing it all inspired by faith.  Joseph died before Jesus went into ministry, though we don’t know what year it was.  Jesus’ carpentry times probably stopped at that time, with Him then looking for preparation for the ministry life, once Joseph passed on. 

By the way, and of course, Joseph certainly would have been most blessed in the relationship with Jesus.   He is the most holy male saint in history, just due to the fact that he was in close family contact with God Incarnate, Jesus, for many years.  Being with divinity, in caring for Jesus, The Lord, would highly rub off on him.   He was receiving, even much more than giving, in the pairing with Jesus, and the spousal relationship with Mary, Jesus’ mother.   He would have been aglow in holiness with them.                  

Joseph, the Redemptive Sufferer 

There is a third aspect of Joseph’s life– most apropos to our Lenten season in this Year of Grace–it is the example the Joseph of redemptive suffering.  Redemptive suffering is a term that Deacon and I will address a few times during Lent.  It is defined easily as a holy suffering experience with the good-of-others in mind, pertaining to salvation and God’s glory.

Joseph knew the Old Testament version of redemptive suffering.   It was an involvement, surely, to be “poor in spirit.”   When Jesus began His ministry, His first sermon line was “blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God.”   I believe Jesus was thinking of his foster-father’s example here.  His foster dad was a man of the remnant faithful of Israel, the “anawim,” as they were called.  Joseph’s poor- in-spirit example touched on Jesus.  He had seen Joseph live out Israel’s call to be willing to live in sacrifice and other-centeredness.   Joseph was willing to sacrifice something, endure something, and bear something—in self-suffering—for the cost of someone else’s good.  (Even especially for Jesus Himself.) Jesus would be blessed by that example, then go on to show in Himself just how elevated (in His Grace) that redemptive suffering could go.  (It would save the world via Him.)   sorrow2

Why did Joseph live this way, of being “poor in spirit?”   To live to the glory of God!

When Jesus preached the Beatitudes, He also included the eighth one:  “Blessed are those persecuted, of those who suffer for the sake of My Name and the gospel of the Kingdom come, for theirs is the kingdom of God.”  Again, I think he was remembering Joseph’s example here—never minimize the contribution of a godly father (even foster-father). Joseph had been persecuted by many, such as Herod’s family, but he did not waver.  Jesus says that He came to offer the kingdom of heaven to such as these.

In his poor-in-spirit attitude and suffering for God’s good to come by him, Joseph was most willing to sacrifice himself for the care of Mary and her son, Jesus, the Christ Child.    Joseph was willing to go through confusing times, without God’s full explanation, when he had to give up his home in Nazareth, so to move on to Bethlehem, Jerusalem, and onto Africa for a number of years, for the sake of his family.    As Jesus matured and began ministry, He was also without a home-place (”the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head” Mt. 8:20), but he could lean a bit on Joseph’s life.   He also knew how Joseph toiled with the world and his beloved Israel all under Roman rule.   Jesus would borrow from that strength of his foster-father to toil to set the world free, one caught  under sin and Satan’s hold, and Jesus would work to the very end on his human strength for our freedom.  Jesus saw how his strong foster dad had worked hard to provide for the Holy Family; thus would Jesus strives for the human family, to save us, and He’d do it for His Heavenly Father as a gift as one of us on the earth.  We are heading to the Cross and Resurrection this Lent, and for ourselves, like Sychar’s Samaritans, to be saved by The Savior.  Amen.

 

1st Sunday of Lent thoughts on Gospel; 2nd Sunday off from preaching– more guests in the pulpit.

The 2ND Sunday of Lent has guest clergy preaching on the Transfiguration of Jesus. I have thought that this day of Jesus’ life is befitting as a Holy Day.  It’s just a huge event!  We’ll, at least it gets a Lenten Sunday for some emphasis.

The First Sunday of Lent. Thoughts.

We look at the temptation of the human race in the opening reading of Sunday, and it leads us to ponder the Gospel message of Jesus under heavy temptation (but of how He prevailed over it).   Jesus is presented much as the “new Adam” in the Gospel, as, after He is anointed in the Spirit for His Messianic time of ministry, and told He is the favored One of the Father (of the human race), then He is tested.  Jesus is tempted in some huge ways out there in the desert (following His over-a-month fast); however, Jesus does not succumb to these temptations; rather, He wins out over them.  They were major temptations to Jesus to become all self-focused (self-obsessed) in His person, but Jesus would not do it.   His attention was outward and upward; serving us in HIs life and glorifying the Father in it all.   The devil must have been stupefied that this blessed man of Nazareth had turned down his offers– who turns down such things?!  (he would ask)  The devil would flee from Jesus here in this moment of his being rejected; but he would come back another time for more distraction, accusation, and attack.

I will comment briefly on one of the devil’s attack on Jesus.   He tempted Jesus to misuse His power in self-direction to turn desert stones instead warm, fresh bread.    The devil’s tactics was to play on Jesus’ hunger and practical desire for the satisfaction of food,  After all, what’s wrong with that?—was the cunning temptation.

“Man does not live on bread alone” was Jesus’ reply.   He completed the sentence by saying that “we live to live upon God and in giving our Maker pleasure.”

Jesus would live in that manner of life and faith for all the rest of His earthly ministry.    He would be utterly faithful to the call.   He longed for the pure bread of Heaven and to be with the Father and Spirit concretely.

I wonder if Jesus remembered the temptation to turn rocks into stones when He reached the end of his ministry 2 1/2 to 3 years later that from the start of the Church.      For Jesus had a special surprise coming soon.   He was to NOT turn stones to bread to satiate his hunger, but He was to later turn bread into His Body.

Jesus would come to be THE sacrifice for sin for all humanity, and hooray–  and He WOULD be  give us a communication of His love at Calvary of One would worn turn Himself to bread.   (Stones was an easier miracle or trick; a person out of turn Himself into becoming bread, not that was a FEAT.)

So I was just caught up in the drama between the devil asking Jesus to make bread (a selfish act in it s situation) towards the Savior making Himself out to be bread (and wine) later in ministry.

The devil wanted to tempt  Jesus to be inward and self- centered, but The Master had other plans to be humble and other- centered.  He would become bread Dorothee’s’ hunger.  That was an amazing response.    No to rocks being bread, but of a plan  on  becoming the “true bread” from Heaven offered out in Himself. Wow.

It was a short, dynamic advice.  Jesus would be giving out Himself as the New Manna.    HE would be bread.

So, we reflect on today’s Gospel of Luke story and we hear a Gospel later in Lent of Jesus becoming food for eternal life Himself.

Quite an interesting turn ahead for Our Lord.

 

Parish Mission finished

IMG_3151Passionist Fr. Blaise Czaja came here to do our 4 day/night  parish Mission, and he preached at all the Masses last weekend, too.  It went well.  Previewing our parish community, he preaches on Grace, Repentance,  Eucharist, and The Communion of Saints for the four nights of mission talks.  Thanks for the attendance and the financial free will offering for his Passionist order.

I had a nice time hosting him, and sharing meals, and doing a little Annapolis sightseeing for 2 afternoons with him.

I am off from the blog for a few days.  IMAG0195

Movies Review

My favorite film, among the Oscar 2017 nominees, was Hacksaw Ridge.   It was an inspiring story of a self-giving Christian, doing heroic things while amid the horrific theatre of war.  Andrew Garfield acted quite well in it (deserving of an Oscar for best actor) as the unarmed medic, the focus of the story, who is willing to go all out to save his wounded comrades off the field of war.   Mel Gibson was the right choice of director of this film, and the intensity of the film’s war scenes is equal to the great Saving Private Ryan movie (but just as disturbing to watch, for sensitive or young viewers to be forewarned).  The Christian faith and motivation of the main character of this film is very clear and uplifting.  The violence in it (of war) is intense, which highlights the great bravery of the story’s hero.

I contrast an uplifting film with a downcast one:  Silence.  It casts the same Andrew Garfield in a lead role, but Silence was not so good a film (intense, yes– realistic of missionary ordeals, yes– a likeable flick, no).  Garfield didn’t seem right in the film, all showing you can win an Oscar in one show and be only so-so in another film.  Liam Neeson also had one of his poorest performances on film, also miscast in the film–the casting director under film-maker Scorsese is at fault here.  The first two thirds of the film is shot in a misty, cloud, unsure lens– as if giving the feeling that maybe the Jesuit missionaries should never have come.  Then the last third of the film has the missionary priests all cloudy of mind and heart, while bedazzled and outsmarted by their Japanese warlord opponent– enough for them to give up.  I was quite disgusted in this film story’s ending and final message, with its ‘excuse’ for apostasy.  It was Endo’s same ending (book author), so I am told, leaving a believer with just two ways to take the story/film– understanding the missionary’s choice in sympathy for their choice or disagreeing with it altogether. This filmmaker favors the first– giving only a scant reference in the end of the saga of a sign of continued private faith of the clerics.  (I favor the second way of reaction–disagreement.)  The common ground for the two divergent opinions on the story’s end is the shared disgust you have for the cruelty of the anti-Church forces trying so hard to stop the missionary enterprise in Japan. The psychological warfare employed reminds people of a repeat of it in the Japanese war versus the USA a few hundred years later.  I just found the film was mostly a waste of my time, with me even wishing I hadn’t seen it.  (I went because Scorsese had showed it to the pope.  I should have remembered that the same director made the hideous Last Temptation of Christ.)

Arrival was another nominated film for best of the year, and the sci-fi film indeed was quite interesting to watch, and a PG-13 film at that, making it the best family film of the year.  I reviewed months ago, but summarize it here how It is about some mysterious space-crafts that have come around the earth, which are trying unsuccessfully to communicate to earth’s inhabitants.   The story is about two scientists and a military officer who take all lengths to find the way to communicate to the aliens, and they to us.   The film’s message really might be about how we earthlings need to try harder in reaching and understanding one another, without fighting – all set in a sci- do spin.  Arrival is like a 2016 version of Close Encounters of the Third Kind.   In speaking to how casting can really make a movie, the three main actors were just right for their parts in this film, as played by Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker.  None had Oscar performances, but they worked well into the story. I liked this film.  It wasn’t a best picture, though. Even Star Wars R-1 had more spectacle.

After a 2016 Oscars had far too much made of the fact that Black films and actors were not awarded enough in the Oscars (but there just weren’t any of note last year), one only had to wait until 2016 to see a wave of films that African/Black Americans and other minorities would be featured in.  Lion, Hidden Figures, Moonlight and Fences all were big films of the past year (by minority filmmakers and cast).   Of the bunch of them, Hidden Figures was the best of them and a most uplifting story.   If a ‘Black film’ were to win in 2017, and it seemed a politically-correct fix was in 2016 (sorry, my conspiracy theory working here), then it should have been give to Hidden Figures, for how talented it was acted by its three female actresses in the roles of unknown successful Black American scientists/ mathematicians in the 1960′s NASA program–who had remained mostly a secret until this film.  In the Oscar awards show, one of the real NASA ladies (depicted in the movie) came out on stage and received a standing ovation.  Kevin Costner also starred in Hidden Figures–he was just right in the part.  When I watched the film in a theatre, the audience cheered out loud during its showing.   I also watched Moonlight, the film that was given the Oscar for best of the year ( fix! fix!) , and no one was cheering in it, I can definitely say. More on that in a bit.

Lion was a film made of mostly persons of India in a heartwarming tale of a lost boy who is separated from his mother for 25 years, but seeks out how to track and find her.  The adopted boy becomes a man and part two of the film is his effort (as an Australian) of looking online to find where he came from and from whom.   It is a tearjerker film, and most of the film is of the tension of this lost person, Soo (Lion), first as a boy and then as a man, played so well by a cute child actor Sunny Pawar and by adult Dev Patel.

Moonlight was a film about Terrence, a black, abused, father-less boy living under an addict mom, in a coming-of-age story.  He struggles with sexual identity, and for any protection, which comes to him in the form of a drug pusher who shows care for him (even while keeping the boy’s mom in addiction).  Mahershala Ali plays the neighborhood father figure for Terrence, and Ali won the supporting actor award for his performance (justifiably, I’ll say).  The acting part of Terrence is shared, as he ages in the story.  Shariff Earp plays him as an adult; Ashton Sanders plays him as a teen.  Sanders did an amazing job with the part.  We see the young man Terrence try to make it into adulthood, and finding just one person who seems to love him.  He ends up having a sexual encounter with him.  Later in life, the main character has succeeded in a job (though in a very shady, prosperous one) and he’s a muscular guy in a solitary, single life for himself, and the movie audience is sympathetic of him, but Terrence comes home looking for the man who formerly had given him sexual love.  It is because Terrence is still incomplete.   It was difficult to watch this film all the way through, given the politics of films about gays and what the filmmaker likely intended with it.   I did not want to be so manipulated by it.  In any regard, I didn’t think it was even worthy of nomination for film of the year.  But Hollywood gave it their full- thumbs up. Politically-correct slaves, that they seem to be.  The same votes went to the OJ documentary that won an Oscar, too.  

They should have recognized Hidden Figures or Fences if they were voting for a great 2016 film with black Americans in it and behind it.

Fences is a good story on stage, based on the remarkable playright August Wilson’s story of a black family in Pittsburgh in the 1950′s.  I have seen the stage show.  It’s powerful.   The film version is acted well and stays mostly with Wilson’s story, too, as Viola Davis and Denzel Washington do a very good job with it.  Denzel did over-do it, a bit, with the overbearing father role, actually. (Since Denz also was the director, who was going to tell him to lighten it up a bit?) The supporting actor playing the character of the high school son, Cory, is in real life a Bowie State grad ( from our city); he is Jovan Adepo.   Fences was surely in the top ten of 2017 films.

Other films of 2017 that were among the biggest (which I saw) were Star Wars: Rogue One, Allied, Manchester by the Sea, Jackie, La La Land, Hell or High Water, Sully and Inferno.  Not on any list I saw for best of 2016 was last Winter’s Pawn Sacrifice, but it’s worth a mention here (and I reviewed it a year ago in these blogs).

Star Wars-Rogue 1 lived up to its series expectation, though this story was some in-between one that took a bit to figure out. (The series jumps around too much! Is this a prequel to the sequel?! And what would that be?) It still was a lot of fun to watch.   I look forward to its follow-up in 2017.     Allied was a war film, returning us back to World War II and it tried to give us a modern-day Casablanca film.  It failed at that, but it was still a good enough flick– as you wonder if the girlfriend of the spy is just a girlfriend, or a spy of the spy. Hmm. Brad Pitt has the part of trying to figure that out.   Manchester By the Sea was a sad tale of an ordinary, sad, unachieving kind-of-guy who is put in situations where he is challenged to be more.   It is a part played by Casey Afflect (who won the Oscar for it) where he imitates a guy half-awake, and out of it for the whole film, almost devoid of emotions, as sad Lee Chandler, a Manchester janitor who has little to live for, which the film reveals why in its middle.  His best pal is his brother, who dies, and our janitor guy Lee is pressed to care for the survivor nephew, while having very little in the tank for caring for himself even.   It is quite a depressing tale, but it’s very realistically played out, and it garners the viewer’s sympathy along the way.   Jackie was a film with Natalie Portman playing a convincing Jackie Kennedy, but the story really had little to say.  I was not moved by it, except I was glad to see a priest part in it who was counseling Mrs. Kennedy rather caringly.    La La Land was a modern and upbeat musical about two aspiring actors in Hollywood who link up and support and love each other.  It was played by Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone (the most likeable Oscar winner), and I thought it was a warm and cute film, quite different and welcome for not being like the other choices out there on screens these days.  Can musicals have a comeback in the near future?  Most people loved this one, so I think so, except for the people comparing LA LA to musicals of the great film age of musicals (of which it didn’t hold a candle, as like to putting LA LA up versus Singing in the Rain).  City of Stars was a nice song from it.    Hell or High Water was a bankrobber’s tale in Texas, set back a few decades.  Jeff Bridges made the film an event, as he is so good in his movie parts–with him being a Ranger detective in this one.  The other two stars, Chris Pine and Ben Foster were funny and decent enough in their robber parts, but sorry,  I was not rooting for their characters to get away with their heists, but wanted the Ranger to catch them.(Chris Pine plays Captain Kirk in the new Star Trek movies, so I suppose he could have had Scotty beam him up for an easy get away, but Pine had no starship communicator on him.)   Sully and Inferno were flicks both starring Tom Hanks, the first as the famous pilot who landed a jet on the Hudson River, saving all its passengers.  The second flick, Inferno, is Hanks playing the same investigator as other Dan Brown book/ movies before done, with him back investigating curious things going on in Rome and Florence, all in matter-of-fact details of saving the world, that’s all.   In both films (spoiler alert!), Hanks’ character is the savior.   Nice going, Tom.  (He’s just about always the hero- savior on film.)

Since I like movies, I see a bunch of them each year.

One more Ordinary Sunday homily on grace

Sermon on the Mount–The “Don’t Worry” Gospel.  Photo= Gary Zimak speaking here last Feb. about handling anxiety. ‘Remember? They were 3 great talks.

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I lead off with a reference to bulletin blurbs. This week we nearly printed the guidelines for giving up mean for Lent. Yes, we meant meat! But, hey, perhaps giving up being mean is really better!  It reminded me of another bulletin blunder that read: Don’t just let worry kill you, let the Church help.  Say what?!

No, the Church and Jesus ARE working AGAINST worry and stress, really.  It the Peace Rite at Mass we truly petition God for our wanting freedom from sin’s dominion (like fear) and to be safe from all distress, as we await the Blessed Hope and Coming of Jesus in Glory.

How to Let Grace Win out over Worrying

In this Year of Grace, we are especially pondering how to have God’s favor upon us lead us to more victorious and fruitful Catholic living.   One obstacle in our path is worry or anxiety—as Jesus pointed out in His message today.  The Savior in His sermon on the mount said:  “One cannot add a single moment to their life by worrying… do not worry.”

Recall those talks last year by our special guest speaker Gary Zimak—the author of the “Worriers Guide to the Bible.’   He came for three nights with different addresses to urge us to not let worry take away the joy of our Catholic faith.  He urged us to pray:  “Lord, help me again, for I have fallen again to worry, and I so reduce myself by it, let my faith and trust in You rise up instead.  Help me to trust You, again, right now, and turn this thing around.  I surrender once again—to You!”   Such prayers work!

I know that how, for some of you, Gary’s message was an ice-breaker for you to get finally free of the icy holds that you had been used to being shackled by.

Today’s gospel has Jesus addressing our need to trust in the Father Almighty’s plan.   There is a Master Plan and we can trust in it.   Jesus did so Himself, as He lived and made choices in our very position as a human person.  Jesus said:  Consider how nature relies on God: you too are a natural wonder of God, now act so!   You can take the lessons of the lilies of the field, dear disciple.  They don’t toil in living under God.  Why, then, do you?

When we feel that things are out of our control, that is when we tend to worry, but how do you stop worrying?  For starters, remember that God, not you, is in control.  Also, of about worrying, most of the awful things we imagine that will happen often never do. We can be thankful for that.  We should better understand that worrying never helps a situation get better. Worrying sends a message to ourselves and those around us that we are helpless and have nowhere to turn or no One to deliver us. However, as a Christian, we believe that God has everything in His control. If He really does, and we really believe that, then we have nothing to worry about. We only need to trust that God will take care of everything according to His plan.

Here are five more short tips from the Bible to help us to be free from our anxieties.

First, we can confess to God that we are falling into fear again, and ask Him to strengthen us.  The Bible says in Philippians 4:6,7 to “Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

Yes, we can be so cautious that it is not hesitancy or prudence in the lead, but timidity and fear and being overly concerned for something—as if we have to have it all under our control.  Why not remind yourself that God is in control, and ask God to help out, thanking Him that He is there.  Stop worrying by taking your requests to Him. You have a “go-to God.” Peace comes from being in Christ Jesus, rather than just self-reliance.  Yes, we do what we can, then we leave the rest up to God from there.

Secondly, that same verse reminds us to be thankful.  “O God, thanks, that You’ve Got This: Amen.”

Thirdly, if one goes on to the very next verse in Philippians 4, verse 8, the Word of God gives us more advice:   Quote:  Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”

Just after Paul’s comments about worry he says that we should think on good, godly things. When we focus on positive and wholesome events, memories, plans, etc., then it is hard to be worried about everything else.   Christians should be positive-minded people for we know God and His plan wins out in the end.  Yes, you might have a problem going on, like needing a new job—but what about the work of God (or job of God) in you?  Are you becoming more like Christ, as in being more a true self, honest person, with a good pure intention or loving heart in what you do?  Are you giving witness or good report of a life of faith, and do you have some virtue shining through, and can you praise God for something in your life?!  If so, then be of that mind, not of worry.

Fourthly, we have a Counselor to call upon.   We are blessed in the Holy Spirit, Who goes by the title Comforter and Counselor.   He is a Gift from Jesus to us to live the life of being His disciple.  It says in John 14:26, 27 “But the Comforter, Who is the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in My Name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your mind for peace….so let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”  Would we just let that Word be planted deep within us as real and reliable!

In John 14 Jesus is explaining to the disciples where He is going and that He will return. In the meantime the Holy Spirit of God will come and indwell the believers. This was something new to the people of Jesus’ day. They did not have the Holy Spirit living within them like we do as believers today.  Jesus could have been worried about His whole salvation plan working, but He turned it over, for the Spirit’s help of comfort.”   “Come, Sweet Comforter, and help me.  Live according to Your Name.   I need it.”

The Father comforts too.  The Word says in 1 Peter 5:6, 7 “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for He cares for you.”  O God, I may be suffering and low right now, but You are the exalter.  Lift me up in Your own Self.  Unite me to You via your Son and Spirit.

Fifthly, we should realize that there is an inner strength to us, if we have received Christ into us. Even the Psalmist, having some of the spirit of God, declares in:  Psalm 27:1-3 “The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?   So does Isaiah say in:  Isaiah 41:10 “Fear not; for I am with you: be not dismayed; for I am your God: I will strengthen you, and yes, I will help you; yes, I will uphold you with the right hand of my righteousness.”

Life was a lot less scary (and worrisome) when we were kids and we had parents who were bigger and stronger than us. When we had problems we could go to them and they would say that they would take care of it. We have a God that wants to do that for us today. Will you take your concerns to Him and rely on His strength?  He is waiting to take that burden from you.

And what if you just can’t see how all you are looking at adds up to Heavenly Aid?   Go to Romans 8:28 of God’s Promise, as He says to us: “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.”.  Amen to that.

Parish Mission is Coming

HEADLINES:  LENT AND A PARISH MISSION ARE SOON ARRIVING.

LENT BEGINS ON THIS WEDNESDAY, MARCH 1ST.   THIS DRAWING BELOW BY A MEMBER OF MY KINDERGARTEN CLASS AT ST. PIUS X SCHOOL PROVIDES YOU A VISUAL OF THE SPECIAL DAY OF PENITENCE IN THE CHURCH.          THE PARISH WILL HAVE A SOUP AND STATIONS ON TIMAG0955_1HE FIRST FRIDAY OF LENT, MARCH 3RD.  SOUP IS AT 630 IN THE HALL AND STATIONS ARE AT 730-800 P.M. IN CHURCH. 

THEN THE REAL BIG THING! THE PARISH MISSION BEGINS ON THE SUNDAY NIGHT FOLLOWING (MARCH 5TH AT 7 P.M.).  IMG_3151

IN NEXT WEEKEND’S MASSES, OUR MISSION PRIEST, FR. BLAISE CZAJA, WILL BE HERE TO SPEAK AT ALL MASSES (VIA HOMILIES, AND BEING AVAILABLE AFTERWARDS FOR A HELLO).  HE ALSO WILL BE AT OUR SOUP AND STATIONS, AS HE ARRIVES FRIDAY TO US. 

THE PARISH MISSION TALKS ARE AT 7 P.M. ON SUNDAY, MONDAY, TUESDAY, AND WEDNESDAY NIGHTS—MARCH 5TH THROUGH THE 8TH IN THE CHURCH. 

THERE ALSO WILL BE DAILY MASS AT 8:45 A.M. MON-WED. WITH FR. BLAISE PUTTING A MORNING REFLECTION ADDED ONTO THE MASS. 

14747641130451560106922WHOOOOOO SHOULD GO TO THE PARISH MISSION?  WHY SHOULD ONE GO TO IT?  THE WISE OWL QUOTES FROM THE BOOK OF WISDOM:  “Wisdom is glorious, and never fades away: Yes, indeed, she is easily seen of them that love her, and found of such as do seek her…  seek her early, and you shall find her sitting at your door, waiting to gift you…For wisdom goes about seeking to bless people… showing favor (grace) to them in their ways and thoughts.”

 

Why a Parish Mission?    Pope Francis keeps encouraging the Church to be alive, like it is “on mission,” remaining in the task to bring the Good News to the world.                 Firstly, we need to be alive to our own baptismal call, and with our common call as fellow believers, appreciative of the Presence of the Lord Jesus to us, as “head of the body, the church (Col. 1:18).”  So, a mission seeks the draw the parish together into Christ Jesus and to be rejuvenated where she needs to live afresh in God.   A mission priest comes to be the vehicle for that motivation to the parish.  Fr. Blaise is good at it, and our parish shows the need for his ministry at this time.

Secondly, we need opportunities like this to not only bless ourselves in this time, but to afford others the opportunity to come back to the Church, or investigate her for the first official time.  A mission can be uplifting both to the new person as well as the long-time practicing Catholic.

Thirdly, the parish mission draws the whole parish together.  Since we have four regular Sunday Masses, it does fragment us a bit, but a mission has us all gathered as one for four evenings.  We meet one another and we get recharged.  Everyone takes time for the truly important things like wonder, mystery and prayer. Faith is stirred.  Our sense of “parish” is re-awakened.  Lives experience healing and the love of God, via our welcome and availability to the work of the Holy Spirit.  We show we “seek first the Kingdom of God (Mt. 6:33);” God responds to our openness.

Fourthly, in a Year of Grace, we afford a special avenue of experience for it.

As our slogan says beneath the parish altar, we beseech you:  “Abide in Grace.”