(Joy of the Gospel prelude homily) March 2 Homily: Trimming, Pruning, and Cutting the Asplundh way!

Homily Last Ordinary Sunday before Lent 8th Sunday of the Year “A”

Some excerpts from Sunday’s (3/2) Liturgy of the Word
From Psalm 62 “Trust in him at all times, O my people! Pour out your hearts before him.” From 1st Cor. 4 “God judges me…He will bring all things to light…and will manifest the motives of each one of our hearts” From Matthew 6 “So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’or ‘What are we to drink?’or ‘What are we to wear?’ But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness,and all these things will be given you besides.”
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Homily thought: Could we entrust things over to God as readily as we have let the Orange Truck company in here to handle things?
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The Asplundh Company that cuts and trims trees has been in the neighborhood. We have seen them everyday for about a month, all along the Mitchellville Road corridor. Their presence posed a Parable of the Tree-Cutter for me. Their work reminded me that God has trimming, pruning and cutting that is necessary for Him to do in our own lives, if we are each to grow.

The neighborhood has been fairly much in agreement with this tree-cutting work. After losing power or having power flicker a lot off and on in recent years in the “A” and “P” sections of Bowie along here, now we are quite open to Asplundh’s measures to upgrade our safety concerns so to keep the Pepco power on for these cold days, without any icy or dead boughs breaking and downing the lines. However, in comparison: Could we be so open as to let God have His Way of Renewal in us, for the sake of what God would say was to be trimmed and cut from any frivolous, careless living of ours? Do we care for our own good and well-being of soul, and our keeping in God’s power and supply of aid? Could we entrust things over to God as readily as we have let the Orange Truck company in here to handle things? Hmmm…

Have you seen just how much cutting and pruning has been going on? Those Asplundh (Gesundheit!) guys are going to town! There are logs and woodchips all over. There are clearings where once there were big heavy limbs looming over power lines. So, in comparison, in the Parable of The Lord as Treecutter, how busy is the work of the Lord in His Church for renewal and how is it going for each of us? What of God’s work on our souls? Are HIS orange trucks of renewal pulling into the neighborhood, too? Well, hello, it’s Ash Wednesday this week, so I would suppose the Lord’s TreeCutter Trucks would be all in purple, in the correct liturgical color! His workers would all be in purple, too. His trucks would be arriving on Ash Wednesday.

I have been pondering how John 15’s Gospel fits into this modern day parable of The Tree Pruner. Jesus said: I am the Vine, you are the branches. Every branch of Mine that is dead and bears no fruit, I take away. Every limb that does bear fruit, but could do better, I prune, so to help it.” You have already been in this operation, being made right, by the Word I have spoken to you. John 15:1-3a. Oh, I guess it fits pretty well!

The Orange Trucks of Asplundh come when there is concern from power supply companies and their customers that tree damage from foul weather could result in power loss. They come to fix the situation–they come to do some positive, “clear-out” preventive work.
The Purple Trucks of the Lord are here, too, and staying through Lent, as God sees our looming limbs of poor discipline to His Word, our laxity or lapsed judgments that have resulted in power losses in the soul before. Jesus also has His concern over our soul’s health, and parish’s health, from having maybe been distracted of our giving too much attention to minor cares to the neglect of the much Higher matters. God offers renewal and righteousness to the situation to those who will let Him have His will in them. It is advised hightly by Jesus in His Sermon On The Mount for us to have a “Kingdom of God First” attitude. He sends this message to us just days before our 2014 Lent.

Here in Matthew chapter 6 He tells us that we worry or over-worry or over-focus frequently on the minor matters of food, drink, possessions, or adorning the body with clothing. For instance, He said: “Do not be oh-so-anxious about what you are to wear.” So, let’s take that to heart. However, if you were an actor/actress or the media coverage for the Red Carpet and Oscars show tonight– The Lord probably would give you a break about worrying on what you are to wear! Like, Judi Dench, Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett or Matthew McConoughay will try to be adorned like Solomon tonight, in all array. God says He still thinks His flowers look prettier. Matthew 6:29 says so. Hey, since Sandra Bullock was in a spacesuit for her whole time in her Oscar-nominated film called “Gravity,” she should just surprise everyone and wear an astronaut suit down the Red Carpet. In the film, she looked pretty good in it. In fact, she looked out of this world!

For the parish, God might look all of what parishioners are spending money on, and see some mixed-up priorities here and there, and remind us that “You cannot serve God and mammon. Mammon is the semitic word for money or riches. Jesus says that a full focus can only be properly given to one major thing. What will it be? God or mammon? Matthew 6:33 says we should put attention on our spiritual maturity first and foremost, and “seek first the kingdom of God.” We can still put good attention on money or things, just that it wouldn’t be dominating our lives–as too often it does for people.

But back to the comparison of the Asplundh Tree Service and the Lord’s Renewal Service. If we are to grow, then God the Surveyor of our soul’s condition will want our openness to what will need his trimming, cutting and removal. 1st Corinthians says that “the Spirit scrutinizes us… (and, as what the epistle proclaims to us today) God judges us… to bring all things to light the things hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart (1 Cor. 4:5b RSV).” This verse means that God is a good judge of what renewal we need, and He will offer the way for good growth and development of our person. The result of following 1st Corinthians 4 is concluded in verse 5 which says is that “every person” who lets God work within them “will receive their commendation and praise from God in the final say.” As the Great Surveyor, God can see our lives clearly, with Good Judgment, and He can lead us to the next blessed thing. I’ll repeat that gem: God can see our lives clearly, with Good Judgment, and He can lead us to the next blessed thing. We can trust Him for it. He is trustworthy for trimming, pruning and cutting in our lives. He reminds us how our Catholic-Christian lives are a work in process. Our Responsorial Psalm 62 advises us to therefore “trust Him and pour out our hearts to Him” for renewal. There in that Psalm Line is more advice for a Good Lent.

The Gospel urges us to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.” God, the High Surveyor of All, would ask us personally: What might be in the way of that Jesus First operation, as in your life? To the Church, God has spoken already of a need for us all. He inspired Pope Francis to write to us and tell us: we need more Joy In The Gospel. Imagine Pope Francis in a purple outfit and hard hat, besides a cherry-picker truck, and saying: “We see what the ‘problem wood’ is for the Catholic Church. We need to be freed up and cleared to have Joy in the Good News of Jesus. There are some icy old boughs are near breaking point inside you, so we are ready for them to be addressed now. The diagnosis is in the papal exhortation called “The Joy of the Gospel” and St. Edward the Confessor parish has many copies by the east doors for you to start reading it. We have Book Clubs and homilies and bulletin inserts coming thorugh Lent to help us apply its words and knowledge to our lives.

So–can we get to work? Shall Ash Wednesday be a good date to commence–for God to bring the purple trucks and all the equipment by for His Lenten operation in His Church, for the cutting off of all that is decaying, unyielding, unfruitful, twisted, drooping over, and unsafe in My Church…and its renewal and improvement to be more fruitful and joyful ahead?
So be it. Amen.
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Photo of mine from the front yard of church END

Keep it Short

I wrote a very long blog. It was on The Priesthood, and it was on what it means to me in the mind.

It was originally meant just as a letter to one seminarian, but then I liked it so much that I wanted to share the message as a blog, though it was just written as a letter just for one person.

So I finished the letter and I saw that it was a four page letter! I tried loading it up as a blog…… and it was way too long to read there. At least for this method of communication. I think I need to keep my blogs normally short.

So, you won’t be seeing it. Every once in a while I do write something long, and I so label it as “long and deep teaching.” It gives you a heads-up that its long and you may not have the time to digest it, if you are just quickly peeking in here.
Just a few days ago I published the notes of a teaching on meekness that I thought I’d share. It was a long and deep entry. It was good, but it is for just whomever might be interested in studying that Beatitude.

With this latest near entry, well, I just couldn’t add another really long blog. You might give up on reading my WordPress posts ahead– just being too blown away by the volume here.

Conclusion: The letters of the word “blog” might just mean: better leave out grandiosity!

John

Pieces of a Blessing

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God’s Mercy, Good Friends, and Chocolate Chip-less Cookies A light, short reflection from our Lenten speaker this March 14. Fr. Charles Sikorsky

It started as a normal Monday evening. I had been thinking that day about how God desires mercy over sacrifice. I imagined that this applied to big things, like life decisions, or at least things like deciding whether to criticize someone or hold your tongue. But one Monday night’s rather memorable dinner experience gave me a new perspective on what Jesus means in the Gospel when he says “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”

Dinner proceeded normally, and then dessert rolled around. Well, actually it was passed around, on a plate (we do TRY to be civilized). Seeing that the plate contained chocolate chip cookies, I quietly refrained because at the time I wasn’t supposed to eat anything with chocolate. I didn’t want to leave the dining room to go get another dessert, so I decided just to pass on dessert all together. In my mind it was just a miniscule sacrifice that I was happy to offer up. “No big deal,” I thought.

However, God and my classmates had another idea.
One of my good friends who happened to be sitting across from me noticed that I hadn’t taken anything, and then, with a subtle, rather mischievous smile, unexpectedly found a piece of her own cookie that didn’t have any chocolate chips on it, broke it off, and set it on my plate. The others at the table either liked the idea or simply found it amusing, so one by one everyone at the table handed me pieces of cookie until there was a small pile of chocolate chip-less cookies on my plate. It took me a couple minutes to eat them because I was laughing so hard that I was almost crying. Maybe it wasn’t a big deal for them, but for me it was a providential example of God dipping his gentle hand of joy and mercy into the ocean of my heart and making a few waves just to mix things up a bit and make me smile.

“I desire mercy, not sacrifice…” I saw that night that God’s will isn’t always the hardest path. He has a sense of humor just like us. Christ desires that we make sacrifices, of course…But other times, he just wants us to laugh at ourselves, and with others, and enjoy the little things in life, those priceless gifts that we so often miss or take for granted. We can’t forget to thank him for those moments of simple joy. So as I headed to bed that night, I fell asleep thanking God for showing me his mercy through wonderful sisters and delicious chocolate chip-less cookies.

Meekness Study, continued (Part 2)

This is Part 2 of 2 of a Study of Meekness

We are now ready to review some examples of meekness, as shown in the Scriptures.
Then, we shall hear from a Christian author and from numerous saints on their definition of meekness.

IV. SOME BIBLICAL EXAMPLES OF MEEKNESS.

Abraham.
He was God’s chosen to be the father of the Jewish nation. Through him the Messiah would come. But he was also meek. Instead of demanding his own rights, Abraham sought to keep the peace between his herdsmen and Lot’s. Genesis 13:7-9 “And there was a strife between the herdsmen of Abram’s cattle and the herdsmen of Lot’s cattle: and the Canaanites and the Perizzites who dwelt in the common land. And Abram said to Lot, “Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdsmen and your herdsmen; for we our brethren. Is not the whole land before us? Separate yourself, I pray, from me: if you will take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if you go to the right hand, then I will go to the left.” Abram was acting very humbly and meekly here, so that the will of God could be lived in these two tribes.

David.
He was God’s chosen to replace King Saul, whom God had rejected because of disobedience. He was a mighty warrior and a great leader. But David was also meek. Look at how he mourned the death of Saul, who had sought repeatedly to kill him. 2 Samuel 1:11,12 – “Then David took hold on his clothes, and rent them; and likewise all the men that were with him: And they mourned, and wept, and fasted until even, for Saul, and for Jonathan his son, and for the people of the Lord, and for the house of Israel; because they were fallen by the sword.”

Jesus
Our powerful Lord and Savior, Who could cast out demons and stand boldly against the religious leaders of his day, once said to Pilate that He could have called on legions of angels from beyond, but it was not His choice to do so—He was acting in meekness from the start to the end of his public ministry! Look at his meekness in the Garden of Gethsemane when he knew that he would die on the cross soon. Matthew 26:39, 42 – “And He went a little farther, and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt…He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, Thy will be done.”

V. THE MEEK “SHALL INHERIT THE EARTH.” There is an inheritance here on earth that we receive spiritually from taking part in “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth” living, while later there is as the great inheritance given to us beyond in the New Heaven, New Earth. Jesus said in His Beatitudes: “your reward shall be great in Heaven.”

Those who are meek (faithful Christians) have an inheritance here in this life. What is it? They can be truly satisfied and content. They have found meaning in life. They have reconnected in friendship with God, the Lord of Heaven and earth.
This contrasts to the wicked, who in their rush to possess, usually miss or overlook the best of this world, or else, having seen it, they refuse to pay the price to gain it, or having gained it, they are miserable.
Listen to Paul describe it. Philippians 4:11 – “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.”

The meek will also inherit the glorious “new heaven and earth” in their afterlife.
Romans 8:17 – “And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.”

The Bible speaks of our eternal life to involve a “new heavens and a new earth,” as told in the Book of Revelation. We shall live in that new and perfected world and Heaven with God.
Revelation 21: 1-5 “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God…I heard a loud voice from the throne saying:…God will (now) dwell with them and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be with them… He Who sat upon the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new… To the thirsty I will give from the fountain of the water of life without payment. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the polluted, as for murderers, fornicators, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their lot shall be in the lake that burns with fire and sulphur.”

It indeed shows in the last summation of the Word of God that the meek SHALL inherit the earth, and all those living in opposition and rebellion and utter resistance to God will wind up in separation from God, which sounds pretty bad (the lake of fire).

VI. QUOTES ON MEEKNESS AND HUMILITY

A.W. Tozer once wrote, “The meek man is not a human mouse afflicted with a sense of his own inferiority. Rather, he may be in his moral life as bold as a lion and as strong as Samson; but he has stopped being fooled about himself. He has accepted God’s estimate of his own life. He knows he is as weak and helpless as God declared him to be, but paradoxically, he knows at the same time that he is in the sight of God of more importance than angels. In himself, nothing; in God, everything. That is his motto.”

What do the Catholic saints and Doctors of the Church say on it?

Here below is a sampling. They seem to highly recommend meekness!

“There is something in humility which strangely exalts the heart….“It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as like angels (heavenly creatures).”
–Saint Augustine

”Go and exhort men to penance for the remission of their sins and for peace. You will find some among the faithful, mild and good, who will receive you with pleasure, and willingly listen to you; others, on the contrary, without religion, proud and violent, will censure you, and be very hostile to you; but make up your minds to bear all this with humble patience and let nothing alarm you. Be patient in tribulations, fervent in prayer, and fearless in labor.”
-Saint Francis of Assisi, on Meekness

The soul’s true greatness is in loving God and in humbling oneself in His presence, completely forgetting oneself and believing oneself to be nothing; because the Lord is great, but He is well-pleased only with the humble; He always opposes the proud.
— St Faustina, Divine Mercy in my Soul

”We should also use meekness toward ourselves when we have committed a fault. To be in a passion with ourselves after a fault, is not humility but pride; it is depressing to acknowledge that we are weak and miserable creatures. Saint Teresa did say that all humility which disturbs the soul does not proceed from God, but the devil. To be angry with ourselves, after the commission of sin, is a greater fault than the former; a fault which brings many others in its train; such as the omission of our usual devotions, of prayer, of Communion, or the imperfect performance of them. Saint Aloysius Gonzaga said that the devil fishes in troubled waters. When the soul is in trouble, it has but a weak knowledge of God and its duty. When we have committed a fault, let us address God with humility and confidence and ask His pardon; saying to Him, with Saint Catherine of Genoa: “O Lord, these are the fruits of my garden. I love Thee with my whole heart. I have offended Thee; I am sorry for it, and will never do so again. Grant me Thy holy grace.”
-Saint Alphonsus Liguori, Doctor of the Church, on Letting Meekness lead our vocation to God.

We should let God be the One to praise us and not praise ourselves. For God detests those who commend themselves. Let others applaud our good deeds (because they are recognizing God’s light as reflecting through us, and being blessed into Him).
–Pope St. Clement I, on submitting to God and just living our life without fanfare

The most powerful weapon to conquer the devil is humility and/or meekness. For, as he does not know at all how to employ it, neither does he know how to defend himself from it.
–Saint Vincent de Paul

”Meekness, the greatest of virtues, is reckoned among the beatitudes. “Blessed are the meek, for they shall possess the land.” For that blessed land, the heavenly Jerusalem, is not the spoil of warriors who have conquered, but the hoped-for inheritance of the meek, who patiently endure the evils of this life.”
-Saint Basil the Great, Father and Doctor of the Church
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A Long Study on Meekness (for your devotional use) Part 1 of 2

We all could use meekness in our lives. It is a crucial beatitude for the believer.

It might be helpful to do a holy time of prayer on the topic, as I did last Saturday. I kept the notes.
They follow below.

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BLESSED ARE THE MEEK One of the Eight Beatitudes Matthew 5:5
A Meditation: Used and re-composed by Fr. Barry

J. Upton Dickson was a fun-loving fellow who said he was writing a book entitled Cower Power. With some humor, he also founded a group of submissive people. It was called DOORMATS. That stood for “Dependent Organization of Really Meek And Timid Souls — if there are no objections.” Their motto was: “The meek shall inherit the earth — if that’s okay with everybody.” Their symbol was the yellow traffic light. 

That is the opinion many people have of meekness. They think that Jesus must have meant this when he said that the meek were blessed (happy). What was Jesus speaking of? That His believers should be happy when they are used, stepped-upon, and mocked for choosing to be weak?! I don’t think so!

I. A MISUNDERSTANDING ABOUT MEEKNESS. Many equate meekness with weakness. Many associate meekness with an attitude of allowing everyone to run over you because you are afraid of them. This is not meekness. In fact, some of the strongest men who have ever lived have been meek. Look at a list of some people that the Bible says were meek and see the fallacy of such thought.
1. Moses was a great leader. He stood up to the most powerful leader in the world, Pharaoh Ramses. He led God’s people through the wilderness to the border of the Promised Land.
Numbers 12:3 – “Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth.”
2. Jesus was the greatest of leaders. He could stand up to the winds and the waves and command them. He could deliver demons from people. He also chased the moneychangers out of the temple twice with a whip made out of chords. This is no wimp. Yet He was meek. He described Himself as such. Matthew 11:29 – “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.”

II. WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE MEEK?
An understanding of the root definition of meek in the original language and how it was used will help us in understanding what Jesus meant. It’s Greek word is praus and it is a word used to describe a soothing medicine, and used by sailors to describe a gentle breeze, and used by farmers to describe a broken colt. So, what do all these definitions have in common? They all describe great power under control.

What is a good working definition of biblical meekness?
1. It is strength under control. It is a chosen cooperation or submission of self to a high goal for God. Examine these verses:
Matthew 11:28, 29 – “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” –Jesus
Ephesians 4:1,2 – “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love.” –St. Paul
2. Meekness means walking according to the precepts of our vocation and controlling our attitudes toward our brothers and sisters in Christ for the purpose of goodness. See this verse:
Colossians 3:12 – “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering;”
Thus meekness is curbing the “natural” desires to rebel, fight, have our own way, push ourselves forward, etc. We submit to the Lord in obedience to His will.

III. WHAT IS THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THIS BEATITUDE AND THE OTHERS BEFORE AND AFTER IT?
A. Notice the first two beatitudes.
1. “Blessed are the poor in spirit” – The person who realizes their spiritual poverty. They understand that they are powerless to save themselves.
2. “Blessed are they that mourn” – This person not only realizes that they are sinners and powerless to save themselves but also act upon that knowledge in grieving over their sinful state of separation from God. They let their heart care about what is real, and they let the Comfort of God (The Holy Spirit) come into them to deal with the true fallen state of things to be re-directed or reborn to the Hope in Christ Jesus. Mourning people (for the world) care enough to look at things in the Light of Christ and to act in a manner to receive God’s help for our conditions in this world.

B. Notice the next two beatitudes.
1. “Blessed are the meek” – These are the individuals who understand that they have a call to walk in a certain path after the Lord and they are willing to submit their lives to the will of God. This person of meekness is willing to live in self-control by the help of the Living Lord Jesus in their heart. They are willing to be yoked to Jesus, that is, aligned side by side with Him.
2. “Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness” – Those who submit their lives to the will of God will naturally desire to learn all of God’s will for them and do that will. They understand that this hunger leads them to participate in The Holy Eucharist, their filling of the Sacrament of Jesus to them and to the whole community. It is especially a hunger of The Lord’s Day to start their new week aright.

In our next lesson, in Part 2, we shall look at Biblical and Saintly examples of meekness.

A “Come Away…” Retreat

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Our RCIA Team, under Ron Dolan, took themselves and the RCIA candidates up for a weekend retreat to the Bon Sequors Retreat facility in Mariottsville Maryland. I went along. We had retreat talks on several things (e.g prayer, the theology of grace) along with Masses and prayers and praise time and lots of sharing and meals and quiet time. The photos above show the retreat center, which is a great facility with a nice chapel inside, and great grounds and countryside views. The photos below show us gathered in a session. The RCIA candidates who took the retreat are preparing for their full reception into the Catholic Faith this April in the Easter Vigil.

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A Book Club on the Pope’s JOTG, our Lenten Parish Theme too

What is the Pope really saying? Let’s probe it and let’s talk about it all through Lent.
Yes, the Holy Father has had a book out called Joy of the Gospel (JOTG for short). We should digest it to our minds and souls. So I propose.

What do you make of the popularity of Pope Francis? He has been granting lots of interviews and giving much media access to him, thus up to this 11th month of his papacy. Juxtaposed with the previous pope’s (Benedict XVI) more reserved personality (who choose to write as his main vehicle of communication), Francis’ style is more engaging, immediate and popular to the media driven world. As a result, he has been a focus of their attention. Maybe since this pope is less predictable to them, and a little out-of-the-box in their view, they have taken to him.

The thing is–the media likes sound bytes and attending-grabbing words– so we can realize that much of what we are getting from the media (on the pope) will be measured and limited and even angled (presented a certain way) by them to us. Thus, we should realize that the pope’s full message in words or deeds may not be understood clearly by any of us unless one goes to read or listen/watch what the pope actually is communicating. He has had two main written works, The Light of Faith , and The Joy of The Gospel. Have you perused them? Francis has been in media coverage for all sorts of things, from A World Youth Day with hundreds of thousands of young people (not thorough coverage, but snippet coverage) to a visit to a one-on-one visit to a prisoner to bodily care for him (photos taken of such, though it wasn’t a photo op) moment, like some celebrities do stage. Yet did you see some of these images?

We ARE glad that the media has taken to Pope Francis and has given such attention to him. It is a good thing. What we must be careful about is that our interpretation of the pope needs not just to be shaped by media attention, but of our faith and involvement with the Church, and to know first-hand what the Holy Father is saying and doing, and what he really is meaning by it all. We need our own sources, or to get it right from the pope himself via Catholic venues (e.g. reading the actual papal works, and/or going to Vatican.org or other Catholic internet places or to read from The Pope Speaks or another such periodical, or even find out from words of our own bishops of what they interpret the Vicar of Christ is saying. These choices are important. Why? Because of media limitations and media spin and bias.

It was of interest to me that on Jan. 22/23 when Pope Francis tweeted a message to a couple hundred thousand people on the Mall in Washington (who were standing there in the bitter cold so to protest abortion in America), that his message of support was not reported by any secular news network or newspaper that I was following. A pope tweet that communicated a message of the sacredness of life to those throngs of people gathered by the U.S. Capitol was not of interest to the press. Even on a slow press day. So, one could have missed hearing it. It was a serious omission, I’d say.

We followers of Jesus Christ, living in this information age of exchange, should not be missing these vital messages of information coming from our Vicar of Christ. We should be getting them more often, rather than letting the secular press overpass them and choose the same for us (who rely much on them for our news and information).
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Several months ago in the late Fall season, when the pope had released the Joy of the Gospel book(encyclical), the press took a few lines out of it (quotes about economic justice, for instance)—and they passed those lines onto us, along with some commentary about it, and then they just moved on. An encyclical was more of pope jargon to them, and they figured that just Catholics would read that sort of stuff. If the media brought on any so-called Catholic expert to share their opinions on JOTG, then it wasn’t any official bishop (except for a brief comment), but some entertaining ‘likable’ Catholic person that they chose. Thus, the spin sometimes wasn’t always on the mark about JOTG or many other things the pope was saying or doing. That’s where we Catholics need to make that ground up.

Well, have we studied JOTG? Have we seriously read it and prayed with “The Joy of the Gospel?” Have we let this papal work shape our opinions on the Holy Father and his thought and direction? This is where we must do the research and study ourselves, as sound bytes and quick images will not suffice.

The media is quite curious, I’d offer in opinion, that the Holy Father might have The Message to help the world out. The media sees up close all the hurt and bad news of the world. The world is in crisis all over and there is misery and fear and unhappiness on Planet Earth, so it is understandable that they would like to hear a word of hope or see a great example of love from a surprising source (to them). It was thought that popes pontificate, not gravitate to the poor. But not so. The pope is first a Catholic Christian who is a sinner seeking the saving life of Jesus Christ and to live by His ways and walk in His footsteps.
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I am encouraging our parish to read Joy of the Gospel (the Latin title is “Evangelii Gaudium”).. It is available free online via a few ways (but our parish secretary can also send you an email with the document). It can be ordered for your tablet (Kindle?). It also is available as a paper book. We ordered 100 copies to be at the east door of church by next Sunday. Bring $10 (cash or check) and deposit it in the money box next to the display in the east entrance of the church, that is, if you easily want a book for yourself. It is also available at bookstores and sites like Amazon.com.

We are planning to have a Book Club to discuss it. There are five major chapters in (JOTG) Joy of the Gospel, so we need five sessions to do it. One of the Book Club times we will offer will be Sunday morn at 10:35 in the library end of our hall area. I am looking to when two other times might work. Some possibilities are some Friday morns after Mass (how’s that time?), some Friday evenings after 7 p.m. Stations of the Cross, or Wednesday morn after Mass or at 7:00-7:50. The club will meet for 50 minutes. We will discuss a section that we have read as well as the same one that St. Edward’s clergy preached about in a homily or was put in a bulletin insert. Joy of the Gospel homilies also will be posted on this blog.

This pope and his impact and his words and deeds is a subject worth exploring through Lent. It’s all very current and pertinent: It is the Vicar of Christ’ challenge for Catholics to be joyful and that joy to be connected to our Gospel Living.

Finally, the kind of pope we have in Francis was evident in the Civilta Cattolica interview (and its sixteen Jesuit sponsored journals that carried it). While the media was in a sort of frenzy that the Catholic Church might be in the midst of a turn in her morals and doctrines and basic practices, with a ‘maverick pope dragging an old institution in modernity’ (as someone defined things), Pope Francis answered some simple questions in a revealing way in that granted, lengthy interview. They asked: “Who is Jorge Mario Bergoglio (his given name)?” After a substantial pause, he said, “a sinner whom the Lord has looked upon.”

So at the heart of the matter, at the core of the “Catholic thing” going on, we hear a new pope tell us of the Gospel basics: Jesus Christ came to save sinners. We all fit into that category. We are sinners in need of God’s grace. The Church is in the cooperative work of serving Jesus’ life-saving operation for souls. Pope Francis aptly illustrated his observation of what ‘revolution’ was going on by drawing attention to Caravaggio’s masterpiece, “The Conversion of St. Matthew,” which depicts the instant when Matthew, a thoroughly self-absorbed and materialistic man, found himself being looked upon by Christ’s merciful gaze. Because of that look, Matthew (once known as Levi the Tax Collector) became utterly changed, becoming first a follower, then a disciple and apostle, then a missionary, and finally a martyr. The Church’s revolution remains the same: we are promoting the ‘salvation thing’ of Jesus.

So, we hope it will be interesting to read Francis’ vision of how we can do it in these days. We’ll see if we agree that the Holy Spirit is empowering this plan, with hopes of employing the Church in His service to that plan..

Here’s comes the snow (it’s alright)

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“Little darlin’ it’s been a long cold lonely winter…” sang the Beatles in “Here Comes the Sun.”

We could change the words to the chorus> Here comes the snow, du du du du, Here comes the snow, and I say, It’s alright…. Snow, snow, snow: Here we go! Snow, snow, snow: Here we go!

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Our early Valentine in 2014 comes in the form of a snowstorm to Bowie, DC and the whole area. It’s due by midnight tonight (though everything seems calm right now–except at the stores).

50 years ago this week the storm that hit DC was not in snowflakes and cold, but rather the first Beatles concert, held at the U-Line Arena. A few hundred persons crammed inside the place (now a parking garage) downtown, hearing the music of the sensation from the UK. George, Paul, Ringo and John were on their first tour here. Their national tv debut on the CBS-TV Ed Sullivan Show had made quite a splash. The Beatles music would take America by storm.
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I was 6 years old. Later that year I would be hearing lots of teens in the area playing the Beatles records. I would be hearing lots of Beatles songs on my handy transistor radio (which I had won the previous Summer via lots of exchanged tickets from high Ski-ball scores at an Atlantic City arcade). It seemed that the Beatles songs were playing all the time when I was that age and through to middle school (jr. high). Then, I transitioned into a Paul McCartney fan. Last Summer I kept up my allegiance by going to the McCartney concert at Nationals Park. It was quite a great show (especially considering how Paul was still playing after all these years).

And it is still snowing in the Winter–though not so fiercely as it used to do. There has been a warming climate to our winters, but tonight and tomorrow we can get back, get back, get back to where we once belonged– in the snow, Jo Jo.

Brother and Sister Saints: Literally!

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Image: Sts. Benedict and Scholastica, St. Gabriel Church, Prague

I enjoyed reading this below information on sibling saints, featuring the twin siblings, Saints Scholastica and Benedict. Thus, I have copied it over to you. (I have some difficulties sending links, so please oblige me.) Just on Friday, I had a Mass for 4th Graders at St. Pius X School, and we discussed the relationship of the fishing brothers, Simon and Andrew, and James and John. They liked hearing of the family angle of Mark 1’s gospel. On Feb. 10, this past Monday, the Church had a feast in honor of Scholastica and Benedict, who came from the same house and family.

Brother and Sister Saints
Over the centuries God has raised up countless saints in his Church, leading men and women from all walks of life along various paths to sanctity. Particularly striking are those saints who came from the same family. One thinks, for example, of St. Monica, whose perseverance in prayer we can thank for the conversion of St. Augustine, one of the greatest minds in the history of the Church. Among the first disciples of Jesus, St. Andrew brought his brother Simon, who was to become head of the Church, to Jesus (Jn 1:40-42). In the fourth century, St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory of Nyssa, two of the great defenders and definers of orthodoxy, drew their inspiration from their elder sister, St. Macrina.

Given the common phenomenon of sibling rivalry, sibling saints are all the more remarkable. Whereas our natural inclinations urge us to competition and envy, these holy men and women spurred each other on to grow in holiness, with no hint of rivalry. Andrew could easily have become jealous that Peter became the leading member of Jesus’ inner circle (which included another pair of sibling saints, James and John the sons of Zebedee), but instead he rejoiced in his proper role, recognizing the gift of his own vocation. For all their brilliance, Saints Gregory and Basil deferred to the wisdom of their sister Macrina, learning from her the value of asceticism for growth in holiness. Today* the Church celebrates a member of another saintly brother and sister pair, St. Scholastica. [*Feb. 10, that is]

St. Scholastica was the twin sister of her more well-known brother, St. Benedict of Nursia, the father of Western monasticism. In one of the texts for her feast day in the Liturgy of the Hours, St. Gregory the Great recounts a wonderful tale about these saintly siblings. One day St. Benedict and a few of his disciples visited St. Scholastica at her monastery. The group spent the entire day praising God and speaking of spiritual things, continuing over their evening meal, and as night drew on, Scholastica begged Benedict to stay and continue their conversation. Benedict refused, insisting that he must return to his cell for the night. Undaunted, St. Scholastica put her head down and began to pray. At once, a freak storm broke out, and Benedict and his companions had no choice but to stay. They ended up spending the whole night in conversation about the things of God, and the next day St. Benedict returned to his monastery. A few days later, St. Gregory tells us, Benedict saw Scholastica’s soul, in the form of a dove, flying off to heaven.

One can draw many lessons from this story, but the one that St. Gregory highlights is the superiority of St. Scholastica’s love: “It is not surprising that she was more effective than he, since as John says, God is love, it was absolutely right that she could do more, as she loved more.” One of the beautiful things about the story is how it illustrates the close relationship between love of God and love of neighbor, the two greatest commandments (Mk 12:29-31). The saintly siblings’ conversation that day was sparked by the love of God, but it wasn’t enough for Scholastica to meditate on this love by herself – she felt compelled to share it with her brother and his companions, even to the point of spending the whole night in conversation. St. Scholastica illustrates a point Pope Francis makes in Evangelii Gaudium:

We become fully human when we become more than human, when we let God bring us beyond ourselves in order to attain the fullest truth of our being. Here we find the source and inspiration of all our efforts at evangelization. For if we have received the love which restores meaning to our lives, how can we fail to share that love with others? (EG 8).

St. Scholastica allowed the love of God to transform her natural love for her brother into a supernatural love that knew no bounds. Imagine how the world would be transformed if all brothers and sisters accepted the love that drove St. Scholastica! Through her intercession, and through the intercession of all the Church’s sibling saints, may families be healed of sibling rivalry and set on fire to spread the gospel to all the world.