St. Augustine and Love Message for Aug. 28

We have the opportunity today, Aug. 28th, of a Sunday on the Feast of St. Augustine. I would like to highlight a certain homily that Augustine gave, while at a Mass in Carthage, Africa, sometime in June of 404 a.d. I will do that in a few minutes but need to set it up for you in relation to a few pertinent things. Let us know this Bishop Augustine who served the Church for many years as a good apostle, and what things were like in this eighth year of his episcopacy in Africa.

A Carthage community had gathered for Eucharist in 404 a.d. The ancient liturgy of that time had the Mass Of Sacrifice and Eucharist, with the Holy Word of God shared first, and the bishop’s speaking of applying the mind and heart of Christ to living out the Scriptures. Augustine would be preaching from the text of St. Paul to the Corinthians, that if “one has not love, thou art a noisy, bothersome gong, and even if thou showed prophecies and or many talents given to the poor… if not in authentic love, thou art nothing. Love is all.” That was Augustine’s theme for this Mass. Augustine With our own 2016 texts on this St. Augustine Sunday, we are not in 1st Cor. 13, but in Hebrews 12 (the festal gathering in Zion–or Heaven) and in Luke 14 (the misbehaving guests at a banquet). Perhaps we can tie our readings, though, back to Augustine’s love message of that day in Carthage.

Sixteen centuries ago, Augustine saw things as one festal gathering in Heaven and for one people, but in his time there were heretics, separating the Flock (the Church) from one gathering. That’s was a violation of (today’s text) of Hebrews 12. Augustine also saw many misbehaving persons at the banquet that is for the Flock of Christ, as the heretic Donatists and Manicheans of his time in Church history were acting to break up The Church. While Manicheans felt that Christians could sin away without remorse, since ‘their soul was saved’ (‘sound familiar today?); Donatists were almost the opposite, trying to re-make the Church as re-purified, and in denying how Christ as Sacrament could be involved with sinners or through sinners at all, in an imperfect Church. Donatist claimed no toleration for any sin in the faithful, that only a re-made, parting church could be the continuation of Christ’ work on earth. You can see that this misbehavior was much like Luke 14′s warnings from Jesus. Augustine saw it clearly. They needed him to speak up on it.

So he came to speak on love at Carthage. He was the bishop of authority. We know that Carthage was a key city of Christianity in Africa back then. Because too many people were calling themselves Christian, but divided by their proud and arrogant Christian tangents into Donatism and Manicheanism, Augustine saw that only Christ’ Love would be the answer. These heretics were deviating away from the apostolic teaching and unity of the Church, of the one love and one mind in Christ. Donatists were set in their ways of a new so-called “better” position on practicing Christianity, as if they were given some special knowledge about Christ, that He could make them the only sanctified followers. And, with all their tangents away from the apostolic teaching, Augustine probably felt the Donatists of Carthage main sin was not of theological speculation and error, but simply of being now un-loving. Donatists were the modern gongs of Paul’s definition of unloving believers. What use were they–even with all their spiritual jargon?! They were turned against the original Church, acting like they were superior and enlightened, pitying the traditional backward Church of Peter.

The Manicheans were the classic Excusers from living the Faith in love. Manicheans were not of the original Church either, saying that all matter was evil, but only the spirit was pure, and therefore: ‘All sins against love could be excused, since it just was the evil flesh acting itself out. Excuse me for stabbing you in the back– my bad! But not my fault! Excuse for not practicing core beliefs anymore! My bad, and I am personally opposed to them, but just can’t help it, and what does it matter? (‘Sound familiar in 2016?) Excuse me for not embracing the rest of the Church, with its holy martyrs and heroes that passed on the Faith with blood and toil– I need not join you for you are too strict on your position versus evil. But excuse me, it’s just my so-called bad side. Yet there’s hardly any real evil people, just evil inclinations of the flesh. All can be excused, including my terrible looking down on you. I am of bad matter, but I am of pure soul.’ (Sik)

Augustine in his ministry said: No, your are lost in sin, and you can’t claim purity of soul without the responsibility of your body and mind to God. You lack love and responsibility. Come back to the truth. Yes, it’s hard to struggle in sin, but don’t say they devil made me do it or I couldn’t help it. We all are sinners, but are called to a witness of love though a repentant life. (If you recognize St. John Paul the Great’s teaching from this, then you see how much a student of Augustine he was. If you recall Mother Teresa’s example was like this, then you see Augustine’s influence again.) saint Augustine said to them, and to us today: No, you are all in body, mind and soul a Christian– loving God and others with all you have- and loving Christ– or you are nothing at all. Come back to the truth, brothers and sisters of the Manichean Way.

So in his homily that day Augustine preached to them about the way of Christ always being the way of love. He spoke on the pre-eminence of love. In Sermon 162A.1 he opens saying: “It is a good thing to speak about love to those who love [in God's love], by which very love, whatever is loved, is loved well.” The opening sentence of the sermon mentions love six times! Augustine preached an hour in that homily. Taking his cue from Paul’s own words, that love is the “supereminentissima via” —the most excellent way (1 Cor. 12:31) : Augustine’s says that God’s Love is the “superlative superlative”: It is all. Nothing does surpass Love, and nothing should cancel it out or change it.

Augustine preached to them: “No matter what our accomplishments, if they do not flow from and are not built upon love, they are worthless. Augustine insists upon a truth that we know is at the heart of his spirituality: love.” Do you hear the message of Pope Francis in that?! Francis is saying it a lot.

Augustine, in his homily, goes to show some examples in Scripture of arrogant men in the Bible, who think, by still doing religiousity (but without love) that they are ok. King Saul, even after his one-time favor with God, lost God’s favor, and became a persecutor of David (see 1 Kings 19:18-24, LXX), even though one sees that he still was able to prophesy—he had prophesy, but not love. Augustine gives a second example in his Sermon 162 of one prophesying or acting religious, but being empty or very short on love. The high priest Caiphas, of Jesus’ time, was heard prophesying during the trial of Jesus (Jn.11: 50-51)—he had the religious gift. Yet he was on the team to put Christ to death. No love there in his heart. Caiphas and Saul, and Donatists and Manaccheans–all have a common problem of being unloving. I think some of the hearers of the Sermon got the connection. Augustine went to great lengths in the Sermon to highlight how outstanding were the gifts of Saul and Caiphas—suggesting the seductive attractiveness of “attention-getting” accomplishments in their story. Hence, Augustine compared it to be like the heretics who now were the loud, noisy gongs of the Church, but sums it up saying “to have great gifts and, by way of implication, do great things, without love, leads to judgment, not accomplishment (non ad adiutorium sed ad iudicium). It is nothing great to have great gifts, only to use them well is; and only love does this.” The Latin Augustine uses in the homily is carefully constructed: non magna habere magnum est, sed bene uti magnis magnum est; non autem utitur bene, qui non habet caritatem. ” It is nothing great to have great gifts, only to use them well is; and only love does this.”

Augustine’s message of 404 a.d. does resonate now in 2016 a.d.: Surrender first into the Love of God. Mercy will make the way. Keeping priorities straight— Love is the Mission.
Do you recognize that phrase? Yes, it is from Pope Francis, and it was his theme to America last Fall season. It was draped over the Basilica Shrine of Mary entrance. ‘See it in my photo?

And lest his listeners in Carthage began to see all of this message as one for only the mind to agree on–as theoretical, Augustine makes a deliberate finish in the homily summarizing his message: “Bene Vivere.” (Live well.) “Male Vivere” (to live badly), “…means one has sought to live without deep loving, without caritas.”
In the Sermon, Augustine reminds us of the love command of the gospel. “Jesus said: Love one another, as I have loved you.” and “Forgive one another, as the Lord has forgiven you.” Bishop Augustine says there is no excuse for avoiding the truth of our own behavior, for not loving or forgiving. Augustine says we need to live the two ways: Of how “God is love” to us AND how “love is God.” Love in us actively shown indicates the truth that “love is God.” And we’re the ones to love and show it.

So “Bene Vivere!” Live Well. Love well.

The Essential Point in the ‘Marriage Debate’ Part 2

In the new terms being dictated out in society (media, government, rich and powerful), marriage hardly isn’t understood anymore within the realm of religious commitment. Yet marriage IS a religious act and commitment of life–with its meaning mostly based on God’s part in their love. They ask HIM to join their hearts and lives as one, usually with witnesses around, including family and friends and The Church’s witness/ witnesses (best man and m.of honor).

Hence, I offer my proposal for a new term! In that last blog you heard my plea for “coupling” to be the new term of the land for people in whatever sexual unions they fancy. Society calls it ‘marriages’ today, as their adopted term of loving unions of two partners, but take note how the houses of worship are mostly getting left out of it now, and people divorce today quite freely (out of ‘marriages’ before ‘God’) and people are going casual without much affiliation to what becomes of their soul’s state before God in their sexual bonding with others. Even the raising of children seems to be a much lesser consideration of modern marriages, and it is seen in the shocking percentages of boys and girls in this generation who do not have a home with a mom and dad both in it to personally and mutually care for them there. Clearly, marriage and the family are assailed in our culture. The culture is moving away from marriage being a one-time, one partner, promise for life bind of man and woman.

Marriage used to be in a church or synagogue or worship place. Most “marriage” unions today are secularized, or compromised religiously, or just held as a civil union, as in a courthouse. They might not have the qualifications to be called a marriage, since marriage is a religious definition.

Thus, we have a separation going about, with marriage meaning one thing and the secular humanist “coupling” meaning another whole thing. They are similar but not matching lifestyles. Truly just one is given to glorify God– in engagement of shared sexuality, intimate love, and full co-existence of lives and hearts. It’s marriage!

If government presses further against believers and religious liberty ahead (which is obvious that worse things are ahead), then I just hope someday I am not legally dictated to marry someone to another in a situation that my Catholic Faith teaches is an immoral act. I can see that not too far in the distant future there might be demands for some new, very uncomfortable things. Would I agree to witness the wedding for an under-age person to an adult one–and of the same sex? I can think of an actual situation of a Catholic girl who got involved with a female adult teacher in a public school–some years ago– and I did not have proof of the wrongdoing while it was happening, but later on a few years hence, they were a couple together. The girl might have asked me to marry her to the older woman, if the State of Maryland had allowed it and had demanded that. We are not there, yet, but it’s coming when priests will be forced to ‘fairly consider’ all persons for marriage. (Or be charged with a discrimination crime.) Would I do such a wedding like the above? Nope.

Even though I still know and like the young woman, I don’t understand what has taken place with her over the course of time, and how this union she got into can be a good one. Yet, I am polite to her when I rarely do see her. (She doesn’t frequent the Church anymore except for funerals and maybe Christmas.) I remain curious to see if her coupling situation stays together and if it will satisfy her and seem true to her before God and herself.

This coming week we have a wedding in our church (Fr. Weibel will do it) and I have a wedding to witness, too, in a matter of days right after Labor Day,of a bride and groom marrying in the Church, but who also want a public ceremony and reception at a military base and hotel that week, too. They are trying to mix tradition and contemporary things together. I am hoping it works out. thBRW1CV09
I think of today’s (Monday 8-22) feast of Our Lady, Queen of the Universe. She sits in perfect love and purity and wonder in the Heavens, and sees all our human folly, but sees all our faith and love, too. She is so united with the Eternal Son, the One with Whom she cooperated to bring into the earth via her pregnancy and motherhood, and now Mary intercedes for us as one very special person advocating for marriage and family life in the Church. Mary, Queen of the Universe, and Seat of Wisdom, pray for us!

My first official wedding was in the Summer of 1988 at Our Lady, Queen of the Universe parish. I hope the couple’s 28th anniversary is a good one, wherever they have moved on to!

What’s the Essential Point in the ‘Marriage Debate?’ to the honor of the Queenship of Mary–August 22

The following blog was a combo of a 4-part blog that just went too long. Perhaps I will make a cd of the Marriage thoughts and meaning of Holy Matrimony for us Catholics.

What is the essential point about marriage?

I believe that the point of marriage is that it is for a life-unifying and live-giving existence before God, which is given by God, for one man and woman to uniquely unite in a love relationship, in service to God and for one another’s contentment and good.
I also believe it is an institution the Holy Trinity began for humanity and for Love’s good, which was made for God’s Own Pleasure with relationship to His creatures on earth. Likewise, this point of it being a participation in the Divine was for the couple’s pleasure, too, in living as inspired by God’s love in their bond, and coming together in a calling of love to experience a lasting unity.

This unity was for a special relationship of man and woman on this earth, and it came from God. Humanity did not invent it. After our fall in sin, the experience on earth dramatically changed for the worse, and the middle experience of intimacy with God for the couple’s sharing, was fractured. Yet God kept His original design going, led man and woman to still come together, and still populate the earth by their offspring, and find some love and meaning in marriage’s union.

Marriage suffered an imbalance in it with the sexes, and suffered changes to it (polygamy, homosexuality, other), and its freedom suffered (over-arranged marriages, forced ones, infidelity and adultery and divorce occurrences to marriage, etc.), and the bond of marriage has been weak and broken along the way, like humankind has been in her fallen condition through the ages. The Church followed Christ’ teaching on it and pronounced it as a sacrament, and a vocation, and sacred journey to know God and image God’s love. The Church championed love and marriage as pleasing to God and to be honored and protected in society. Catholics celebrated an elevated Holy Matrimony for her members, mostly for Catholic-to-Catholic, but eventually for mixed religion unions. Other non-Sacrament unions were called marriage, as by separated Christians from the Church, but also as used in society. Men and women got married. It became used as an institution in society, even if not under the Church, as most of Western society became influenced by Christianity.

In the modern era, marriage has taken a real hit. From the rise of the individual, the enlightenment, the so-called sexual revolution, the rise of secularism, and a floundering period for the Church, and so many more factors— Marriage suffered and the Church’s Holy Matrimony vows were not lived out well. Divorces abounded, relationships broke up, selfishness soared, and the lust for materialism and secularist humanism soared, and nihilism had captured many peoples. The meaning of life and such experiences as love (including marriage and family) has emptied for too many. Alternate ways of loving or social attention have been experimented to fill the void.

God remains as the only One to satisfy the human longing. He is love’s origin and its destination. This remains the Church’s position all throughout, and we seek to live in the Spirit of Love outpoured for God, for friendships, fellowships, neighborly accord, and for special marital unions.
God still wants us experience Love’s good with one another.

This special relationship of marriage was designed by Him to have life-giving couples, and so He inspires believers to live in His design. Even amid financial issues and other worldly strife on the marriage and family, He leads His own into the meaning and mystery of Himself, and God names Himself as Love (1st John 4:7-8).

God blessed marriage as a blessing of unity and mutual identity of spouses. It is the first of two fundamental experiences in the union. God blesses marriage as fruitful for life-making, the means of bringing new children into the world and to a loving home. It is the second of fundamental experiences in the union. I remember learning of that simple definition in school when a pope said it (Pope Paul VI) and our Church taught it. The pope was speaking as a prophet to the world, as marriage was beginning to take a dive. Now, in 2016, marriage has reached some real lows.

That society and government and peoples in power and the media are advancing new definitions for marriage is certainly a sign of the valley we are crawling into. It’s an affront to God.
People who want these changes in defining life and love are trying to play God.

It is like the episode in Genesis 11 when man’s audacity had him building temples to the skies, in exulting himself to the Creator. Folly.
Real confusion resulted on the earth after that. We call it the Babel experience. Independence from God and one another was not a good idea, and it’s still not working out on earth. Now people want to mess with marriage. It’s an institution of God, so what’s their point? That humankind can do better than God. (We haven’t so far! What a mess this planet is in!)

Marriage is made so as to be a high means of imaging God, in the couple’s practice of joined, abiding love. It’s become a special way, too, to receive love from God by those two persons who make their own free choices to partake in Oneness together.
I am so happy that there are so many couples that still believe in marriage, and its elevated Holy Matrimony promise. Catholics and other believers have really tried to honor marriage, even when the circumstances of life get stacked against them. Bravo to the believers in love, marriage and family.

The above point and its other supporting ones are things I learned of marriage along the way in my Christian formation. I was ready to one day put them into practice, but then the Lord called me to celibate priesthood. Now, instead, I encourage others to value marriage and to practice it in Christ. I also feel called to defend marriage against those who would belittle or devalue it. Marriage is a most splendid gift for a man and woman to experience. In Christian experience, it can be a most profound blessing and way for someone to grow in the life of faith that leads one Home to God and to Heaven.

Here’s one thing I clearly know of what marriage is not: Marriage is not humanity’s invention. Nor, then, should humanity be interested now in redefining it or de-emphasizing it. (Yet that is precisely what is going on today.) Marriage belongs to God, just as the sun belongs to God. Here’s an interesting thought: Would we want to monkey around with re-making the sun, so to adjust it for our whims and pleasures? What if some scientists would want to convince our planet’s leaders to send a thousand rocket ships with heat-protected nuclear bombs to redefine our sun? Would that seem like a good idea for us to do?

Fortunately, the sun is out of reach of such folly, but marriage and family are not. People have aimed their rockets at it saying that marriage needs an adjustment of definition and ‘equality.’ They also want to blast the religious meaning out of it. These folks, who seem not to know the Maker and Designer of Marriage, clearly don’t realize Who and What they are messing with. And there lies the fundamental problem. Marriage was offered to humanity from the beginning by God. People asked Jesus about it, and He said: “As it was in the beginning, as God designed it, the two shall become one flesh… therefore, let no one separate what God has united (and authored).”
Society has developed a practice of marriage that is become distinct and distant from what Christians have practiced, and what was known as “marriage” is still in title by the government and legal practices, but mostly what is called marriage, in the secular world, is NOT marriage. It really is “Coupling Up.” (That’s my invented term.) For those who do “couple up” with spiritual aspects to their union, one could call it “Spiritually Coupling Up” (or even Deistic Coupling if done as an act under God), but most of the time it is not a “marriage” anymore but just a coupling.

‘But we just want equal rights for everybody to use it (marriage) as they like,’ so says proponents for a change to marriage. Well, perhaps the equal rights people should then be working towards this different definition of ‘marriage.’ Catholics and some other Christians would like their religious idea of living in love to God with a lifetime mate of the opposite sex–that’s marriage to us. The world can have some other name and practice for what they do, and I think “Coupling” defines it just fine. We could write in Webster’s Dictionary that Coupling is the free and loose joining up of partners in any manner they see fit, associated by society with some commitment and legality of union..

THAT’S what the secular world is in fact promoting today: “Official Coupling.”

Marriage is far from what these equal rights folks want. They need not to pretend to practice what marriage was authored to be–for they are looking for ANOTHER model for couples or peoples in a living-together situation. If leaders for a more secular America keep heading on as they do, why not have them stop issuing Marriage licenses and instead give out Coupling licenses and certificates? It could become the new, legal word for people joining up. After all, secular humanists cry for separation of church and state. They can separate and have “Coupling” and we’ll keep “Marriage.” Since Coupling won’t follow any religious or moral guides legal to it, think of all the new kinds of mating and hooking up that could be possible for them ?! (Oh dear, I just thought of the terrible possibilities!) IMAG0399 As they say: “Aye, yay, yai! Que ridiculo!”

Well, if that’s where they want to go—but the Church and some other good people who believe in God and marriage do not want to take that path. We will follow God. labyrinth1

This weekend’s readings at Mass were much about paths laid out for humankind to take. The Old Testament one speaks of humankind finding a sacrificial path, with a Sacrifice Sign in a Person. The Hebrews letter speaks of our keep on walking in ways of the Spirit of God, even with flailing arms and wobbly knees. The Gospel speaks of the Narrow Way that leads into everlasting Love, but a wide road off to the side for wayward travelers heading to destruction. Which will it be America? Which will it be, Church? thDNHZGYSJ
We Catholics would just rather stick to Marriage and its Sacrament called Matrimony of which we have practiced through the ages. Nothing new, please.

What’s In A Name? The Nominals An August 24th St. Bartholomew’s Day thought

More and more people these days are calling themselves “Jews” without believing in God, and calling themselves “Christians” without believing in Jesus.

Cathy Lynn Grossman of RNS refers to folks who identify with a religion, but not its key doctrines, as “Nominals.” In other words, they “may live it [their self-proclaimed religion] in name only.”

For example, a recent Pew survey showed that 62 percent of Jewish Americans “said Jewishness is largely about culture or ancestry,” and only 15 percent said that it is about “religious belief.”

A 2008 study called Sacraments Today found that 77 percent of Catholics are proud to be so, but only 55 percent “say they are practicing their faith.” Only 61 percent “see the Sacraments as essential,” and only 43 percent “look to the pope and bishops when they make moral choices.”

‘Really? Well, then, that makes one a Nominal version of a Catholic, according to Grossman’s label.

Protestants are also often what Thom Rainer of LifeWay Christian Resources calls “mushy Christians.” A LifeWay study of 1200 adults below the age of 30 revealed the following: Almost three-quarters called themselves as “more spiritual than religious,” more than one-quarter said that “God is just a concept,” and only half stated that belief in Jesus Christ “is the only way to get to heaven.” Yet Protestant faith is based on a religious and personal and Jesus-centered salvation (much in comparison to Catholic faith). I think we have some more nominals here…

To be something in name only is a questionable membership, to say the least.

I recall somebody wanted me to join some Catholic organization, of which they belonged, but I responded that I couldn’t because I hadn’t the time for participation in it nor any strong interest in the group and their mission. They responded to me saying: “Oh, we could just sign you up as a member, but you don’t have to actually go to meetings or do anything. We just want more members!” I commented that I could not ever call myself a member of something to which I put no identity into or participation with. “I can’t just be in name only,” I concluded, “I must either truly be an active agreeable member or not one at all.”

They didn’t understand my viewpoint. It might be because they are used to people ascribing to something, without actually living it through. Nominalism is not the way of membership in the Church or her supporting ministries and organizations.

Jesus said: “Let your Yes mean yes, and your no mean do.” He also said: ” I’d rather you be hot or cold, but not lukewarm. Those types I will spew from my mouth.” Jesus gave a parable of two sons– one was all talk, and the other walked the walk, even though resistant to doing his father’s will at first. Jesus praised the second son.

Jesus made His view known on this subject!

So when Jesus met Bartholomew (who is also the one called Nathaniel), He liked him, saying of the man: “In him I find no guile.” Jesus appreciated this Galilean man and called him to follow Him. Eventually Nathaniel become an apostle for Jesus. The Savior noted how Bartholomew was a straight-on person, seeking what was true and good, and that his sitting under the fig tree (pondering what makes for a true Israelite person of faith) was just the kind of example He was looking for in the Holy Land.

August 24th is St. Bartholomew’s Feast Day, saint and apostle-martyr.

Listing of Blogs Aug 21 back to President’s Day

Christ the King Insurance
Kingdom Living Homily and I-II-III-IV (On Lord’s Prayer)
Homily Summer of Luke (and Mercy) and Acquire the Fire
A Mass of Resurrection
Homily Planning Ahead
Recent Thanks and Blessings
The Missing Dark Stories in the News (Planned Parenthood)
Homily Martha and Mary and the Importance of Intimacy with God
Catholic Music Convention
Homily The Good Sam Story–reverse application
Homily Freedom
More about Freedom
Homily Hold On before making your judgment plans (for others)
Dads helping themselves (bonding with their kids)
A Sign of Mercy
Homily Father’s Day
Homily Your Treasure
Waning church communities
Ojiaku Wedding
Homily Giving a Son to His Mother
Today’s Birthday Celeb
Immaculate Mary
Corpus Christi
Homily Eucharistic Christ
The Trinity and the Human Family
Homily The Holy Trinity
Change on the Church calendar
Happy Birthday, Church
Homily The Spirit’s Anointing
Sacraments of Christ
Homily The Ascension–Run for the Roses
Cinco Today
Kinard Wedding
Homily Easter 6th Sunday (spontaneous thoughts & Novena push)
Go Fly a Kite
Homily Love One Another
Lapsed Catholics and Non-C’s at funerals
Homily The meaning of goodbyes
Homily Square One Spirituality
Parish Socials
Ugghh to Aaahhh!
Bible Book Pronunciations
Long Teaching on Mercy
Comfort the Afflicted (Resurrection healing in Mercy)
Homily The Easter Message
Forgive Injuries (A Good Friday perspective)
Homily Sent Ones of Mercy (from Holy Thursday’s Table)
Sacred Triduum–it’s meaning
Pray for the Living and Dead
Instruct the Ignorant
John 5:2-15
The Film “Risen”
Homily The Fascinating Father in the Mercy Parable
Counsel the Doubtful
A Parish Mission
Chipotle wisdom
Rest in Peace

Christ the King Insurance Company Sunday Message Aug. 21

what does it look like for the Lord and the angels to come down to claim another soul for the kingdom, and see the believer’s body placed in the grave in hope of its rising?countryside
I went to a graveside to pray and then to a funeral reception last Monday. It was for Fr. Joe Jenkins’ mother (our neighboring pastor at Holy Family). She had passed at 78 years young.

At the funeral reception, there someone was telling me a story… it was about insurance.

In LaPlata, Md. a large increase of people began buying tornado insurance some decades ago, to the surprise of some. ‘What tornados?! Those are in Oklahoma or someplace else, not here. ‘ That’s what some people said around that area. There hadn’t been much in the way of catastrophic weather in the area before, but due to new observations by farmers, watermen, and government and military officials, it was confirmed that the middle of Charles County could be subject to more future storms involving 50 mph. or higher winds, particularly over that stretch south-east of the Potomac River, with the center of that path being LaPlata.

They bought some special insurance to be ready for the inevitable. So did churches down there.

Sure enough, the predictions were right. Over the recent years, the tornados have come. This person told me of being there in LaPlata when the worst of storms suddenly hit the area. They had experienced F-1’s, but this time (in the Spring of 2002), it was a big one, an F-4 Tornado, which blasted its way through Charles County, leveling and destroying buildings in LaPlata. Many people were scared breathless, including them.

The Archdiocese of Washington (ADW) had Leonard Neale Catholic School destroyed that April day, which was their local parochial school. Yet the ADW had bought insurance for tornados, and the catastrophic claim insurance evaluator met with the Church officials and principal and administrator, and monies came to cover the cost of a brand new school. It got build back up, brand new, in about a year to replace the old one. Leonard Neale School also is made to last through storms in the future.

The survivors are happy to tell the account, since they made it through it. They said that an F-1 storm or two has passed through over the decade since, but all is aok.

In the context of the account being told, at a priest mother’s funeral, here was someone prepared for the day of reckoning (Mrs. Jenkins). The lesson all around was that– we all know we are in the path of our eventual death– yet how is it that many people remain ill prepared? Do they not see their end coming, via all the daily deaths in the world that keep on happening? Humankind has a short time on earth.

Mrs. Jenkins was ready for this day, and her Mass of Christian Burial told that. She had the King’s Insurance of Jesus Christ.

On Mary’s Assumption Day, Mrs. Jenkins was laid to rest, knowing that her mortal remains also will be called up, not immediately like Mary’s, but upon the Last Day. As sure as the disciple (and mother) Mary, we too will be offered the greatest of futures. While the world passes away, we shall go to God in our soul, and then at the Second Coming, we shall have our bodies resurrected, perfected, and reunited to God (paired with our pure souls). It is a glorious hope.

I held on to a Christian tract from 30 years ago of which I thought was a clever one. It was called the King’s Insurance Company tract. I like it because it was not an in-your-face tract but more like a take-and-think-about-it tract. I found it in a treasure trunk, and I will put a 2016 update on it:
IMG_20150611_154623_362 Christ The King Insurance Company
The first and oldest insurance company in the world.
Fully underwritten against loss in Judgment Day.
Eternal coverage. Never-changing policies nor management switch.
Huge Assets. Always pays the premiums.

Your Pledge from Christ the King:
A FUTURE AND A HOPE For I know the plans I have for you… for your welfare… a future and a hope, not calamity. Jer. 33. LIFE
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3
He forgives all your iniquities; heals all your diseases . . . Psalms 103
God shall supply all your needs according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus. Phil. 4 Pray: Give us this day our Daily Bread. What Father like Mine shall not give you all things? Lk 11
Let not your heart be troubled: you believe in God, so believe also in Me (His Son and Revelation). I am the Way. I go prepare a place for you in the heavenlies. John 14
Jesus said: I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Matthew 28
Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you: not as the world gives, do I give to you. It’s a peace that passes all understanding. John 14

But God commends His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5
Grace… this is a gift to you from God. You are created for good works in Christ Jesus, for His good pleasure. Phil. 2, 4
Rest assured: You are purchased and in the possession of God, done at great price and worth: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s. 1 Cor. 6

Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins. . . Acts 2:38
Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved. . . Acts 16
Walk by faith, not by sight. (St. Paul’s advice) Let Him wash not just your feet, but whole body. (St. Peter’s advice) Let he who has ears in the Church, listen and obey God. (St. John) Live the Beatitudes and Walk in the Narrow Way. (St. Matthew’s tips from Sermon on the Mount)
Trust in the Lord, and lean not on your own limited understanding Prov. 4
Humankind, the LORD has told you what is good and what it is He requires of you–for your prosperity: to act justly, to love faithfulness, and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6
Live in the Eucharist and be the body of Christ –The Catholic Church


Kingdom Living IV The ending petitions of the Lord’s Prayer

IMAG0557_2 I have written on the Lord’s Prayer and about five out of the seven petitions in it on prayer. Now I can wrap up some comments on the final two petitions in the “Our Father.”

Petitions six and seven of The “Our Father” is for relief in temptation, and for deliverance from evil. Here is where we learn again to petition God for help. It’s all about Divine Reliance! If we’d ever get it about Jesus, then we’d see this being lived out in His part in humanity with us, and in His spiritual part, where His equality with God was not something He grasped at (as a Bible verse says), He also made the soulful choices that He now asks of us as His followers. IMAG0502_1 Jesus cried out for help to His Father. Jesus relied on The Spirit for power and strength.

Now in these last two petitions we really get honest and serious in calling for help to God. So we won’t kid ourselves, and think we alone can resist sin and evil and its idolatrous pull. We beg for help because we know how we still are tempted and how we still do commit our sins, which may be less obvious to us, but they are there. They may be ones of commission or be made in the guilt of omission of doing the good or our disregard for living out God’s commandments.

Of course, some Christians really have their act together, and this prayer is simply a couple of petitions for God to keep them safe and strong where they are at in faith.

We pray the Lord’s Prayer as a prayer with Jesus, hoping that nothing will keep us from being the full Christian we are meant to be, in giving Christ His full channel through and in us.

Why would we deny God room in us? Maybe it is our acting out of fear or reluctance, or shame or pride. Well, let us respect God’s coming to free us into the Light. We wouldn’t want to dare God by our sins, in our extending over boundaries and lines of temptation. It’s the mature believer who knows how there may come some situations and ways in which we would be pushed or misguided or misdirected into sins of weakness, so to fall away from God’s plan, so we cry “Lead us not to be tempted.” Or, ‘Lord, I am weak on my own! I can fall to sin. Lead me aright, and help me to trust and obey you right through temptations enticements.’

In closing out the Lord’s Prayer, again we also don’t want to take the existence of evil lightly, as we know it is real. If it encroaches in on us in intimidation and accusation and domination, then we cry out “deliver us, Lord!” Save us! Our hand is out for Your Hand of Deliverance! (We also need to call on the help of the Church here.)

So pilgrims are now on the move, living towards our full reunion with God, praying with Jesus in Our Lord’s Prayer.

Homily: 8-14. A Summer of Luke– and Jesus hopes that we fully Acquire the Fire

Jesus desires that we fully Acquire the Fire. He speaks a line in today’s Luke 12:49 that says that He came to earth as Son of God to bring a Fire of Love and Life into us. He hopes it were already enkindled and ablaze, too.

Yet we will need to generously and openly and deeply receive this Holy Fire, and this is what God is waiting upon. The Fire of Faith outpouring is in the receiving phase. How will we freely comply in and cooperate with in God’s works?!

(This Luke 12:49 verse is the one I put on my 1988 ordination holy card, praying for a renewed Church ahead and a fired- up and inspired me!)

As we go through the Summer of 2016 in the Gospel of Luke, via chapters 9-13, we are given lessons on prayer, kingdom living, discipleship, intimacy with God, and now on The Holy Spirit. We also have been admonished this Summer about greed and vanity, or falling to foolish temptations. We heard the surprise word to Martha that her sister Mary had chosen the better part, which was sitting in an intimate circle with Rabbi Jesus. That was meant to unsettle those Gospel hearers who only want to be doers, to the exclusion of taking some quiet time of simply being with Jesus to learn from Him and to be personally loved.

We also had Jesus spell out who is our neighbor and where we might have problems with putting distances up to shut away certain people from us, in an unwelcome spirit. There are indeed some places God’s Word is pointing out of how we can better Acquire the Fire.

These are all inter-related Summer lessons in Luke, positive or biting, and they are all leading us to the same place– to be enkindled in God’s life, love and light. Luke is an inspired Gospel taking us somewhere– to become surrendered enough to be in God’s possession over us. This may bring some friction even with family members who don’t want a relationship with God. Jesus says to believe and get fired up in Him anyway.

That we become enkindled in God and fulfill in Him is Jesus’ dream in Luke 12:49

Jesus says His friendship now can be in our hearts, as He sends the Holy Spirit.
God helps us to be stirred up to a new life with Him, no longer as distant or lost people away from Him, nor from others in His Body, but to now follow Him closely in faith and love right towards Heaven– the pilgrim’s destination.

Christian Life is participating together into Christ via the Spirit. He’s the mover and inspiration. He’s the full Fire to Acquire.

So–Pray! Love! Be thankful! Be glad! Serve! For we are children of God now, as pilgrims for paradise. When we act so, The Holy Spirit is upon us, and we’re being led to victory.

Just to repeat it: In Luke 12:49, Jesus is praying in hope that the fire of The Spirit would catch on and spread to a full blaze. He has come as Light to the world, and now will people freely and fully receive Him and His Spirit? That’s His pondering in Luke 12. He would ponder about it with us today.

The more we can get fired up about the Gospel of Jesus and His call–the better we’d all be. Jesus desires that the Fire be ablazing, but alas! It isn’t fully yet. Yet His Spirit will be offered and poured out on believers.

We are heading onto victory, if we follow Jesus. Sunday’s epistle today pictures Jesus as the pioneer and perfector of our Faith (Phil.3). The Word asks us to strive or strain forward to our goal and victory in Christ. The language sounds like Olympic talk, and it’s intended so. Paul was writing to Greeks in Phillipi who loved athletic competition. They’d be the ones to lay the ground for what are today our Olympic games.

As we watch the end of the Olympics, realize that those games will end, with a limited few athletes going home with the gold. Even so, Jesus intends for US to be winners in the Game of Life, to come up to Heaven one fine day and walk the streets of gold in glory.

We are proud our Olympians of the USA. We had some speedy swimmers, like Katy Ladecki and Michael Phelps, and nimble gymnasts like 4 ft. 8″ Simone Biles, and some fast track racers in the Games like that Jeff Henderson long-jump guy.

May THEIR great earthly striving for a medal, encourage US to compete in the FAITH for a life well-lived and trained in righteousness for the ultimate reward: “I press on to take hold of that which Christ Jesus has for me… straining to what is ahead… toward the goal and prize of the upward call in Christ Jesus… In the end, God will transform us, even from our lowly bodies.”

Mary’s Assumption—some of the special plusses

th8UXRGELI O Blessed God of Heaven, I sit for awhile on a Summer evening, pondering the wonders that are still hidden from my eyes and my mind. Yet, by faith, I grasp some things. Like that Mary is in Heaven, body and soul. Images in Revelations of Mary tell me so, and, like 2000 years of Church believers, I do believe in Our Lady of Victory, the Blessed Assumption, Mary.

I am glad we Catholic Christians can celebrate Mary’s Assumption. It gives us some real plusses for our Christian faith to have Mary’s Victory to honor and her relationship to us as Mother and First Christian to bless us. I will mention four plusses.

Firstly, the Assumption of Mary is a gift of joy to us. Pope Emeritus Benedict has said: “The feast of the Assumption is a day of joy. God has won. Love has won. Love has shown that it is stronger than death, that God possesses the true strength and that this strength is goodness and love. Mary was taken up body and soul into heaven: there is even room in God for the body. Heaven is no longer a very remote sphere unknown to us. We have a mother in heaven. And the Mother of God, the Mother of the Son of God, is our Mother too. He Himself has said so. He made her our Mother when He said to the disciples and to all of us: ‘Behold Your Mother.’ We have a Mother in heaven. Heaven is open. Heaven has a heart. What a plus–to see it via joyful favors by Mary.”

Secondly, the Assumption of Mary, as related to her becoming pregnant with God’s Son incarnate (as told in tonight’s Gospel), shows her as a Gateway for salvation and the Savior. Mary was God’s gateway to earth and mankind, as Jesus is born in her (and hear the excitement about it in Elizabeth in tonight’s gospel). And now, by her blessed Assumption, she is our gateway to heaven. As the saints and wise believers of the Church have said for about two millennia, as God’s Son chooses to get to us through Mary, so now we get to Jesus through Mary’s help, as she is the model Christian and trusting disciple. Elizabeth shows this initial honor to Mary, as Mary’s relative was “full of the Holy Spirit” as she showered blessed words of Mary. We should pass through the heart of Mary if we are to be truly full-in-faith and children of the Father, while also brothers and sisters of Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit. This is a plus part of our faith to have Mary, the Gateway.

My third point and “plus” sign is how The Assumption is an effective sign of hope. One of the great rallying cries of Marian-centered groups is that victory comes through Mary. She has conquered death through the power of her Son. She has vanquished Satan and destroyed sin. The Assumption of Our Lady assures us that in the fierce and relentless battle between good and evil in our world and in our own interior lives, if we stay in union with Mary, she will give us the last word and lead us to Jesus her Son. This is a powerful aspect of hope. There are no limits to her maternal love for us and no restrictions on the power of her intercession on our behalf. Our Sunday prayer group, the Catholic Women’s Association, is grounded in this kind of hope and attitude. It is good to be around them.

As for being Our Lady of Hope, in her Assumption, a II Vatican Council statement puts it very simply: “Mary shines forth on earth … as a sign of certain hope and comfort to the Pilgrim people of God.” Back to Benedict’s words. He points out that “only openness to the mystery of God, who is Love, can quench the thirst for truth and happiness in our hearts; only the prospect of eternity can give authentic value to historical events and especially to the mystery of human frailty, suffering and death. The mystery of the Assumption points us to eternity as the ultimate meaning and horizon of our lives.” Amen! What a hope! What a plus!

I have a fourth “plus” point for our Catholic Faith and Dogma on the Assumption of Mary. It is that the blessed Assumption of Mary is a source of Encouragement. It has sometimes been said very beautifully that both humanity and divinity are completely at home in Mary. Certainly, God made the perfect home for His Son in her heart. Our Lord spent thirty times more time with His Mother than He did in His public ministry. One of the homeliest reasons for the Assumption is simply because Jesus wanted his Mother to be with Him in Heaven. They were inseparable in life and it is only fitting they should be inseparable for all eternity. And how can we forget her humanity? She is utterly and completely one of us. She lived the life of grace in this world. She cooked meals and did the washing up, she kept the house clean and met the demands for hospitality and neighborliness, she loved Joseph and then we’d expect took special care of him before his death– far preceding her own sleep to death and assumption. Mary likely quietly and unobtrusively helped people, and no doubt did she inspire people to live gracefully (for she was so lovely, without the stain of sin), and because of that purity she had wisdom to dispense those who turned to her advice. We now can take to her wisdom and care for us, and it is another big plus in our Christianity.

She is joy, and a gateway, and our hope and encouragement to us– all Heaven sent!

In closing, all of this attention from Mary or on Mary never stops on her or comes alone from her. She is Jesus’ gift to us. He is the goal and the One Whom we love, and He lets us have His mother so that we can come Home to Him, and the Blessed Trinity. Mary does not come alone to us, but it is God Who comes and blesses us through her servant-hood. His love, through Mary, is being poured out. All Christians ultimately get to be this undivided love and heart with the Son. We now get to be God-bearers like Mary. We get to be vessels for the Holy Spirit to lead us to glory.

O Sacred Heart of Jesus, pray for us.
O Immaculate Heart of Mary, assist us in turning away sin, so as to be totally open to God and say Yes every time to Him. Amen, and Amen!

Kingdom Living III. That Tough 5th Petition of the Lord’s Prayer.

I’d like to cover one point, which comes from our July 17th gospel on the Lord’s Prayer, which I didn’t have time to put into the homily. I consider it to be an important lesson for our good practice of this ongoing Church Year of Mercy.

As we hear the Lord’s Prayer in Luke 11, the fifth petition of the seven ones in it says we should pray for mercy from God inasmuch as “we forgive those who trespass against us.”

It is very likely that the Spirit could blaze more within Christians if this fifth petition were practiced more honestly by us. This Gospel passage in the Lord’s Prayer say to us that we Catholics need to be more mercifully close to others. Sins and division and the lack of love and truth keep us apart, yet God wants to draw us really close as His people, via His own holiness, purity and love. We need less pretense going on in life that we don’t need one another, and more reality that we ARE truly each but as broken persons with our own sins, and also with hurts and problems and fears and issues of pride that need to come into the Light, so the Faith can shine better.

I will give a quick example of a need for mercy. There is a family acting as if all is fine with them, but I have learned that they have shunned a son who was raised there. Because of a choice of the son to marry an outsider of much worldly vanity, against their right advice, the family has shunned him since, spoken nary a word to him, and then gloated that the marriage failed, and would remain not talking to him.

They think they are good Christians. Are they? Then the father of the estranged young man could not remain aloof anymore, but in Mercy went in unconditional love to him. The boy reconciled with his dad. Do you know what happened next? The family now has cut of the dad from any conversation too, and moved him into the basement. That man came to me in great grief and in pity for his kin. And to think some say these Gospels don’t relate to modern life! The Mercy of God calls out to sinners, let go of pride and humbly let in the Holy Spirit, the fire of God.

That true story from this month tells me that God is still asking us to strain forward to the goal of our upward call… since we have not yet obviously attained all we are meant to be as His followers and imitators.

I was about done on the comments of the 5th Petition in the Lord’s Prayer, but I have a few more, taken from the pilgrim theme I hear in the Lord’s Prayer.

By our Lord’s asking us to be merciful to others, the pilgrim is shown and taught that he/she is not so much the isolated individualistic Christian, but one of many pilgrims walking the same hope and pilgrimage, who needcto cooperate to reach their destiny. Christians are a communion of persons on pilgrimage, going to and getting Home together.

Since, then, the pilgrim to Heaven walks not alone, he/she also is asked to pray for the cooperative spirit to walk with a two-way forgiveness and mercy with others on the exodus path from sin and death. Like those first Exodus people grumbling and stumbling and complaining under Moses in the desert, the Church needs to get all together and walk this pilgrimage as one people. Our own criticizing and complaining and prideful bickering would be much more foolish than of Moses’ people, for WE have the Anointed One and His Spirit poured out for OUR unity. The Lord’s Prayer is then our praying WITH HIM to get to His Father in Heaven.

About that exodus bickering, hear Jesus say elsewhere “If you cannot love one another, then you cannot truly love God, for God is love.” (In Jn. 15) So we pray for God’s Mercy to come upon us, just like we give out mercy to others who even might have been short, or unfair, or cold, or uncaring towards us.

“Forgive us as we forgive others who trespass against us.” What does that two-way forgiveness do? It bathes us in Jesus’ Blood of Mercy and gets us to the last two petitions of The Lord’s Prayer.

If we want to find some treasures this 2016 (in the kind Jesus describes), as the Sunday gospel said a few weekends ago, then why not consider how we can do some searching around for it in this Year of Mercy? Maybe it’s time to practice something profound! There are perhaps some buried treasures that need to be unearthed.