June 26 Homily Hold on! Before you promote that Judgment Fire from Heaven Plan…

Summer is here but the wrong question of the day, taken from today’s Gospel, is:
Shall we call down fire from Heaven?!IMAG0299_1_2. pic/DC Summer Sun, view of Wash. Mall from Lincoln Mem. steps. Red filter.

Today’s Year of Mercy phrase could very well be Spare the Judgment, brothers and sisters.

Our Gospel of James and John’s fast fury request upon a Samaritan town tells us how we all need to understand more about the Mercy part of God’s plan for saving the world, since people in the world seem to be quick to judgment, anger and scorn of others. In the Christian body today, some followers of Christ Jesus mistakenly think they have carte blanche to acting in self-righteousness, in jumping into judgment, as we heard James and John do it in this Luke 9 episode. The sons of thunder were back to their old ways of the flesh, and we can get tempted likewise.

Here’s what I am saying: Some Christians sort of self-appoint themselves as judge for The Faith, with a look-down-upon-others superior attitude, as if they (the judger) have earned it or have been given it interiorly from above. (Oh, really?!) In those times of quick judgment, they think they are better than others, and they show it in their actions and words against others–even unto other believers in Christ. It can get pretty ugly, for such practices are wrong, and only the truth is beautiful, but some Christians take this business of their self-importance way out. It is so unlike the model of Jesus’ life.

As Jesus hears the scout apostles’ rash recommendation, you can hear Jesus saying back to them and all his close followers: ‘It’s Mercy from the Lord’s Anointed, right now, brothers! Mercy will lead us. It will lead us to another town. You have much to learn still in your attitude towards others. God is the One reserved for all righteous judgment, and His day cometh! But it the Lord of Mercy Who works now…’

Right within the Catholic Faithful today, and I mean across the board in parishes and various places, haven’t you noticed a little pride here, a little hate there, with some rash opinions and ideas and actions going on from a fellow member of the Church? I am talking about not just rich or advantaged members among us, of whom you might expect them to be tempted by their situations, but also in seeing it in ordinary people in the flock, sinning with this *I am better attitude. I am not directing my comments locally here in this parish, but in general, of how some Christians seem to be known more from their pride, than of their humility. All of this is not a good practice within our ranks. To have fellow believers (or ourselves) doing or saying things that are rude, selfish, and hurtful to others–this is sad! Why is it that we say or do such rash things on one another and to non-believers? The pope brought up a similar question this week, as he probably was looking, too, at this Sunday Gospel case of James and John being embarrassingly off-the-mark, and seeing how they will need reproof from Jesus. They also will need to better know their Christ ahead from a Cross of Mercy.

We know what the Lord said of the requirement of becoming His disciple. He began by saying: “Deny your very self.” He meant that we should un-exalt “Self” from our way of being. Or look to be humble. Jesus was now expecting this development from his apostles. He would want them to later learn to bring all judgment to His Cross and for God alone to deal with sizing up people.

In today’s Gospel, we are hearing and reading about a turning point. Luke’s text today says it this way: “In the days He was taken up….” which means that the rest of the story from here on in is involved with Jesus being lifted up: On the Cross, In His Resurrection, In His Ascension, and in Exaltation at God’s Right Hand.
In noting James and John and the other disciples poor attitude toward the Samaritans, Jesus has purposely taken this faster but “unclean” route (through Samaria) to get directly to Jerusalem. In his lesson via walking this way, He is saying: ‘Let’s not skirt or go around some issues here– I am Mercy to be poured out to all peoples.’ You see, Luke’s Gospel was written out to all the world, not just to the familiar Jewish peoples (like for whom Matthew’s Gospel was written). Though the apostles in this occasion of Luke’s story saw the Samaritans as unfit, unclean, unworthy, undesirable people, it is interesting how later the apostles were converted to Mercy, as Acts tells of them evangelizing and loving the Samaritans (in Luke’s telling in Acts, for instance).

Let’s re-examine that time the sons of thunder apostles had sinned and judged their neighbor in hated. In some sort of conniption and anti-Samaritan rage, they asked Jesus about some punishment being deserved on the Samaritan town: “Should we call down fire on these people, Lord?” This episode shows us of the ugliness of a follower of Jesus going off and doing their own thing, heading away from Mercy, and making a wrong viewpoint or assessment of things, with an arrogant attitude in their minds and hearts. Jesus has to rebuke James and John, and perhaps a few others. The sons of thunder need to cool down their pride and stop acting in their former ways of the flesh.

Notice today how the epistle has a similar message to the Galatians. Paul says to them: “Love your neighbor as yourself, and do not go on biting and devouring one another (in your sinful flesh), I say, then, live by the Spirit… if you are guided by the Spirit, you are not under just the legal system, but under God’s Way, to not be slaves of the flesh.”

The best part of James and John’s actions in this Gospel account in Luke 9 is probably that they first asked Jesus about what to do, before acting so rashly. They wanted fire and punishment on those ‘lousy’ Samaritans, but they asked Him about how to respond to their angry feelings. Jesus calmed them down. He did not let them act out on the sinful thoughts they were harboring. Someday ahead in ministry, they would learn to not even sin by that way of thought again. We can so learn from this aspect of the story to check in with Jesus before acting on our anger and get back at others feelings.

We need Jesus to be the Calming Help for us. He is Mercy–the path away from hate or contention.

In another comment, the strange thing about this account told is that James and John first thought they were saying and doing the right thing. It was popular to knock a Samaritan, to curse him, to avoid him, or to put him and all his lot down. Those stinking Samaritans–they had it coming! ‘Oh no they don’t and no you don’t,’ says Jesus.

He will need to teach His disciples many more lessons about Mercy and its freedom–about what it’s influence must be. This also, by the way, has been the perspective of Pope Francis, and it’s a reason for this current Year of Mercy. The pope will probably comment on these readings himself, as to why anyone is biting or devouring another, or wishing harm, or making quick rash judgment on others– looking for fire to come down on someone they are at odds with. He will remind everyone how we are in a Year of Mercy to learn the Way of Jesus. What are you learning of Mercy this year?…

In the final stretch of this homily, let me provide a few applications. Here are a four everyday lessons to point out for everyday people in applying this Gospel. 1/We are not free to hurl criticisms, 2/ nor offer hearsay judgment, 3/ nor make slanted remarks, 4/ nor give wicked glances at others! Especially not towards those in the body of Christ, as we have to start in our witness at home.

The Word says: “They will know we are Christians by our love (says John 13:35).” In successful ministry of mutual love and mercy in the Church, hopefully those outside of it will say of us, ‘See how they love one another?’ Hopefully, too, they will say of us towards them, ‘See how they are merciful and loving towards us, even though we are not living like them, but reportedly living as sinners to God?’

What kind of merciful Church can we be? What kind of merciful parish or household or individual Catholic can we be? There is no place for any harbored hate or animosity or fighting in the ranks of the Faithful, nor of the mindset among us of anyone’s being better and more favored than another for our place in the Church. Listen to Pope Francis, as he made similar points on this week in the Year of Mercy.

Let us walk with Jesus and learn more of being merciful like Him.IMAG0503_1

Dads help themselves by making bonding experiences with their kids

What’s a Dad to do to help his vocation out? Rick Johnson, the founder of Better Dads Ministries, and speaker and bestselling author of 11 books on parenting and marriage, says that bonding with children and making memories together is his recommendation. Dads should do things with their sons and daughters, the key phrase is to “do things,” and he thinks that preserving a memory with a photo or something to capture the moment could even help a lot to savor a good time for recollections ahead. Memories can enkindle the good times spent together.

So let’s eavesdrop on six things Johnson was explaining last Father’s Day about this… and he seemed to suggest that Summers are good times to make time to do them.

Six Bonding Experiences

1. Outdoor Adventures
Johnson says that such things as camping, fishing, hunting, (skiing), and sky diving (!) are good shared things for Dads and children. He says to “take a sweat-drenched selfie as you climb, or a nature shot of a tree-lined path.” The whole idea of doing something away from machines and phones and an electronic environment can be good, and then when all return back to civilization, pics can be seen to re-live it all when you were roughing it.
2. Working together on a project
Dads are often doing something, as in grilling, building or fixing something, where the shared task suffices for easy conversation and shared purpose and attention. Johnson says it is a way to connect Dads and his kids. Maybe the finished product can be photographed for showing the project’s end through. Johnson says such a thing are old photos he has kept from when he was a Cub Scout as a boy working with (dad) on a classic Pinewood Derby car.
3. Family vacations
Whether for taking a week, a day, or even a Saturday afternoon, Dads and families ought to take an intentional trip together. Get a group photo of everyone on the beach or the Liberty Bell or Statue of Liberty or wherever. Even funnier–put on the foam green crowns of Lady Liberty on people’s heads. Sometimes a “stay-cation” is more in order, like Christmas week together in the house and some special times made for memories.
4. Hobbies
These are good to bond Dads and children. Hobbies can be anything from chess to pinochle or cribbage tournaments. Johnson says that flying gas powered model airplanes were big when he was a kid. Working on cars together, stamp collecting, bird watching, scale model miniature train sets, and a wide variety of sporting activities are all hobbies that need to be a part of our lives through memories if nothing else.
5. Natural milestones
These should be marked and efforts made to celebrate them. These might include graduations, generational photos, birthdays, father-daughter dances, religious ceremonies, the first day of a new job, a baby’s first steps, or crossing the finish line of one’s first 5k race. Somebody has a video of their dad posing next his daughter in her prom dress.
6. Business trips (in the Summer)
Johnson says that for business travelers, an opportunity might pop up to take family members on a trip sometime. This time might create a lasting memory of a place spent “on the road.” One family remembers the nice pool and water slides at a hotel, and the family dinners out, and a weekend of sightseeing together at a place, where part of the trip was paid for (the room, Dad’s meals, the car trip out).

These above ideas are just six ones, but there are plenty others I am sure people can come up with.

Homily: Father’s Day in the Word and in the news

FOR DADS
HOMILY FOR JUNE 19
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The Scriptures for a Father’s Day weekend are not purposely picked out for the occasion, but just for a Summer’s Sunday Bible reading, falling randomly on this June day for a “Year C” selection.
But what did they say?

The Word opened with: “Thus says the LORD: I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and petition; and they shall look on him whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him as one mourns for an only son.”
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It says from the Hebrew Testament that a Father in Heaven would promise to send an only Son, as a gift of grace. If people would look upon Him, upon His suffering love, their proper mourning for their sins would deliver them free. On this Father’s Day, we hear of the Almighty Father promising to do something very special for His wayward children on earth. It will come in a Blessed Redeemer.

So the opening Word today is a prophetic message on the Cross of Jesus. We know how it is fulfilled for our own hearing; Favor comes from what Jesus did at Calvary. He is the Sacrifice given for our sins, to offer reconciliation from God to humankind. Yet the Gift does involve a mourning to receive the divine favor. The prophecy says “they shall mourn for Him.” A mourning for who and for what? It is a mourning, involving tears and a gripping reality that dawns on us over Father God’s cost for saving us via His Son. The cost of God is Jesus’ offering! The Person of Jesus dies on the Cross for sinners. We mourn that gripping Event which occurred to save our souls. And when we do–the beatitude goes into effect: Blessed are those who mourn; for they shall be comforted.

Mourning starts with Cross sorrow; then Comfort comes from the One of Love on that Cross who steps into our mess and blesses it and becomes our Mercy and Peace.

Relate this mystery to the news of those recent tragedies in Florida involving lost children and adult children to their fathers and mothers. In one horrible occurrence, there was great grieving down in Disney World over a parent’s child who perished to a sudden wildlife attack. We have learned that the father of that deceased Disney-vacationing child is a Catholic, who just let his little boy get out of his sight for a few seconds, not knowing the danger lurking. His son was snatched by a gator at the lake shoreline and the dad couldn’t rescue his boy. The Dad’s names is Matt Graves, and the wife and mother is Melissa Graves. They hail from Elkhorn, Nebraska and a Catholic parish up there near Omaha. They both are having a fairly terrible Father’s Day 2016. They are in deep mourning over what happened to their boy, Lane, on this vacation.

The dad Matt and his priest pastor did speak to Catholic press on Friday morn. They said that the whole home parish is rallied together in love and deep hurt together for Lane and his loss to the family and church. Imagine how the readings impact them today in their parish for Father’s Day. You heard them here. The Word refers to the Cross and to the Death of The Christ. “They shall mourn for him as one mourns for an only son,” says that haunting line of Scripture. In the Omaha parish, they mourn for their son, the little boy.

And, in their Sunday Mass, as we do here in Bowie of Maryland, we mourn that our sins have caused separation from God to happen and for death as its consequence, and that a Savior was necessary to bear our wrongs on a Cross that would free us into God’s Mercy. We pray for the Blood of Jesus to bear us Peace. We pray for the goodness of Jesus to get into us deeply and save us. We pray for this broken world, where lots of lives were lost in Orlando these past days, and elsewhere– and that we focus on Jesus as the only Way to deal with our lost situations.

What does the Psalm say on this Father’s Day? Psalm 63, in song, gives us Jesus’ prayer on the Cross. Jesus says He thirsts on The Cross, and we recall Jesus’ words at Calvary, even saying aloud: “I Thirst.” What did He mean? It tells us that Psalm 63 was in Christ’ heart: “My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God. O God, you are my God whom I seek; for you my flesh pines and my soul thirsts
like the earth, parched, lifeless and without water.”

Jesus means that He thirsts for His communion to the Father, for Their oneness, and He prays in a new way in history as something is opened up, that as He is given Communion back to Heaven with the Father, that He, the Anointed One, the Only Son, can also bring us with Him in His Body. Jesus thirsts for souls on that Cross, to be presented to the Father in salvation. What souls? Any of them, anyone, who comes in a repentant (mournful and sorry) life to the Father. What that mournfulness does is that it then becomes the way a person is united into the Sacrifice of Jesus. It is the mystery of Holy Mass. We mourn Christ’ Sacrifice, yet present it to the Father, with our “Lord, have mercy” and “Lamb of God, have mercy” prayers in Mass, and Jesus presents Himself to us, so we can unite Sacramentally to His body, and let us receive Communion with God. It is a reason we call it Holy Communion. Uniting ourselves to Christ’ Sacrifice frees us to not have to stand alone on our own merit, but be presented by Christ to the Father. Holy Eucharist, of course, relates us into the same Mystery started in us and our souls at our baptism (our baptism into Christ’ death).

The Graves family of Nebraska have been presenting themselves to God over and over in this manner and Mystery of Faith. The Dad and Mom and daughter and little son were Mass-goers. Jesus will remind and assure them again, and to their whole parish up there in Nebraska, that He is a reliable Savior to trust in. Jesus will help them remember again that it was for their tears and loss (for a life such as Lane’s) that Jesus came to save us. We hope the Graves family, with all their hurt and loss, will find blessed assurance of their boy Lane being in Jesus’ hands, the hands of a caring Savior, who took death upon Himself, so to keep death from taking Lane (or any of us) away when it comes upon us in this broken world. Death will be a door for Lane–into Heaven–and not oblivion. Lane was already baptized into Jesus’ death. Lane has salvation.

We can be co-realizers of that reality, and have Communion in it today.

Jesus thirsted for Lane, as well as for each and every one of our souls, that seeing our need and our looming death, He offered us a way to be united in Him and presented to the Father by Him. This is what the Mass is all about. Jesus saves. Jesus gives us to His Father.

When the Heavenly Father receives His children home, through the Blessed Son, and the Spirit’s power—He always has a happy Father’s Day.
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You earthly fathers who are here today, and grandfathers, and other kinds of fathers– you know what the best thing you can offer you children, besides your first love, is in teaching your children to love and honor God and to be repentant of sin and to live humbled before the Almighty. And to respect the Holy Mass as how we present ourselves to God every week of our lives, in a Holy Day.

If children see their own dads humbled and before God in need, then they can follow and be saved in that example.

God bless you men who are doing this, or turning the corner on doing this. Pray for the grace to life on in this way of life! It comes from the Christ in you.

I’d like us to look at the two New Testament readings from Mass today, as well, for its messages on a Father’s Day in America.

We go to the epistle for a connection to “fatherhood.” In Galatians it says: “And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s children, heirs according to the promise.” You are Father Abraham’s children, if you belong to Christ, so says the text.
When we go back into Salvation History, the road leads us back 4000 years to Father Abraham. As told in the Book of Genesus, Abraham was the man who pleased God, and who inspired a covenant with God the Father to bring forth an Eternal Son to save us. Abraham was a strong man, and strong father, who was strong in his faith practice, and God honored it so. God was moved by Abraham’s own willingness to move where He directed him, and then later, in Jerusalem and as a dad with a miracle birth son–God was moved that Abraham was willing to give Isaac over to him. Abraham was a man who really loved his son deeply, and yet, Abraham loved God even more and was willing to share or offer his son. This act on the mount led God to make a covenant with Abraham, and to the whole human race, which would lead the Almighty to later give us The Christ, so that we could live in the blessing of Father Abraham, and by faith be heirs to promises from God, recipients of eternal, heavenly favor.

And this leads us to today’s Gospel from Matthew 16. Peter realizes that the Covenant of Israel for the ages, to be realized in an Anointed One, a Christ, was right there on earth standing before Him. Here He is! The Savior, The Redeemer, The Lord Jesus Christ. Peter is asked by Jesus, “…and Who do you say that I Am? Have you come to know Who I Am?” Peter says: “You are the Christ of God.”

To our strong men, who are strong in spirit, and here today to be in the Presence of The Lord, say it in your prayers of Whom You know and honor: I believe I am in the Presence of The Christ of God! Say “I believe… and I trust in You, Jesus, and I follow You.” Dear men, who do this act of faith, we thank you for it. The world needs men and fathers like you!

Final line: Last weekend I was with two fathers and their new babies at baptism. One of them is a second-time dad, and I had baptized his first child, a girl, and now her baby bro was there and baptized in the same font. It was a few years ago when I witnessed this dad’s wedding to his lovely bride’s wedding here, now the mother of two children with him. They live down near Annapolis, now, but grand-mom still lives and attends here in our parish. Occasionally the couple does worship here, too. So the party was over there, in a house near Allen’s Pond, where actually the mother of the little one grew up. It was a real happy day, perhaps even an early Father’s Day last Saturday to Eric! It was good to be the spiritual father in the middle of that family and couple’s joy.
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End of Homily
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Bonus– see a short message on celebrating Dads and their vocation… right below

PART TWO here of this message is just a celebration of the vocation or role in life as being a dad today.
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The USA National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse (NRFC) produces lots of resources dedicated to furthering the work of fatherhood professionals, with their research and information available to all in fatherhood to ponder in their higher role in life. They asked men: What has been your greatest “fatherhood” moment? Answers were:
• Welcoming my baby girl to this world when she was born. Holding her in my arms and humming songs to her in the middle of the night. Every moment is precious! (From A. Harrer)
• My son is the love of my life, he is my everything. 11-years-old and he’s out there with me working on our car, helping me wash her, and get her showroom ready…great kid in the classroom, and a great kid out in public being well mannered as well! (From L. Perez)
• Just watching my kids be themselves and being silly with them. And knowing they love me as much as I love them. (From L. Cusic)
• Being a single dad, raising my daughter myself since she was 18 months old, and she is a great kid, works [hard] in school, and is in the gifted program. She makes me so proud everyday…If someone’s in trouble, she wants to help. (From A. Redden)
• ‘Favorite Moment? Taking off a training wheel to teach my young one to ride a two wheel bike. Phone rang, ‘had to answer, and when I got back with my son, my 5-year-old had taken the other wheel off by himself (having seen me remove the first one) and was riding like it was nobody’s business. (From J. Bowman)

And, then, the NRFC survey asked the men: What advice they would you give to young dad raising their newborns today? Answers were:
• Be gentle, be patient, be loving. Always be there. (From T. Berntson)
• Read to your child 30 minutes a day. By the time he reaches Kindergarten he will have learned hundreds of words or more. (From T. Spencer), then he added practically, • With $100, open a 529 College investment plan. Do it at any Federal Credit Union.
• Tell your kids that you love them every moment and play with them. Don’t get discouraged – be strong. (From B. Bearbow)
• Turn the T.V. off and spend time with your baby, as much as you can, they grow fast. Set a good example to be a man and gentleman. (From A. Avila)

There is some good advice, and there’s much more good advice waiting out there for Dads by other good men who have been Dads and who have cherished it.

June 11 homily. Your treasure.

HOMILY Gospel Luke 7 The woman with the alabaster jar in the Pharisee’s house with Jesus.
JUNE 12TH 2016 (11th Sun. “C”) FR. BARRY (930 & 1130 Masses)
[BONUS After the homily– Stewardship Considerations from the same Gospel]

Your Treasure.
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The woman with the alabaster jar teaches us all a lesson – – it is that- – giving one’s treasure to Jesus and towards the expression of loving His work on Earth– it does mean a lot to God!

She came into the Pharisee’s house as a woman already touched by the Lord Jesus. She was arriving in repentance and thanksgiving to Him. With large flowing tears running down her cheeks and off of her face, and with her greatest possession in hand, she managed to get into a spot in the room right close behind and nearby Jesus. I sense that Jesus knew she was right behind him, and sensed keenly her coming to Him in faith for mercy. He knew that this beating heart and sobbing breath of the woman behind him was a special visitor in the room, the kind of person that always caught His attention.

The woman was needy for mercy. (Shouldn’t we be such the person nearby Him, too?)

He likely could smell a little bit of the perfumed ointment, fragrant right off the rim of that alabaster jar she had carried in and laid down right near His feet. I guess that the Pharisee of the home was delivering a self-congratulatory speech, concurrently, and thus, it distracted him from noticing how Jesus had looked back at the woman and gestured to her His permission for her to pray and to cling onto His leg. She clung onto Him as her newest most valued attention in her life; it was not the perfume in the jar anymore. Jesus looked lovingly into her eyes and nodded, and she knew right then and there that she was a forgiven woman. She likely had heard Jesus speak before, or had someone relay to her His message of mercy for sinners, and it had encouraged her to draw in close to Him, even into this Pharisee’s house.

Her big tears of repentance and joy ran off of her face and splashed onto Jesus’ dusty feet and sandals. The Pharisee has not done the customary and proper etiquette of offering water to clean his Guest’s feet as He entered the house. In contrast, she was doing it, if by her own tears. She dried the wet feet of the Master Rabbi with her hair, as she lacked a towel. Again, there were none afforded in this house to Him, for this celebrated Man of Galilee, the holy teacher and rabbi named Yeshua. So, she improvised.

It is thought by Bible commenters that this woman’s hair and lips had been misused before with men for attraction or seduction, as so maybe with her body with the expensive ointment she carried and used sensually, but now (the important point here!) she was humbly using them to honor and respect this Man. Jesus. She was so glad and relieved to be given Mercy to her life. She needed it so much! Jesus takes notice of it.

Maybe after she opened the alabaster jar and poured forth the rich and fragrant ointment and applied it to Jesus, did anyone really pay attention to the woman. Luke doesn’t give her name in the account, sending a message of how little she was regarded. Jesus will ask the Pharisee, of her, “Do you see this woman?” I think this question means–’Mr. Pharisee, do you consider this type of woman as so low and inferior that she is invisible to you, as in, not worthy of notice?’ Jesus was tipping off the Pharisee, in this exchange, that His host was a man with a self-centered life with some blind spots of serious sin. ‘Like, what kind? For openers–it was the sin of being unloving and cruel, despite his religious title or position in society. For seconds— it was his sin of pride, for this man didn’t think he needed Mercy from God, and it showed by his impolite treatment of the Rabbi with the Mercy message. His pride and non-need for Mercy was an awful condition to have, to be a needy sinner and to not know it! (Or really want to admit and know it!)

Let’s call the unnamed woman in Luke 7 as “Beth” for this homily, to give her more identity and meaning. Beth pours out her one valued treasure out upon Jesus, emptying the perfumed mixture onto Jesus. Some people there got disgusted, but because of misinterpretation of her action. Some might have thought she was coming on to Jesus, but that wasn’t what was happening here. An apostle, Judas Iscariot, had another bad view of it, as he thought her actions as careless and wasteful and inappropriate, as he probably shouted: ‘What a waste! The ointment is being wasted on the Master, and what’s the point of it, for the jar could have been at least sold for its good worth and monies used on the poor!’ But Jesus scolds Judas for that comment (found in another parallel gospel account), saying: ‘The poor you will always have with you to help, but Me, the Son of Man, you will only have for a little while longer. Haven’t you been listening to My words, Judas?’

Jesus had been predicting His imminent death. It would be a sacrificial offering of love. Like a Lamb of God, as He once was prophetically called by John the Baptist, Jesus would be slain. He would freely consent to be this Sacrifice, for to save sinners, as being the God/man Bridge to Heaven. Jesus was explaining this to His apostles in private teachings now. It would jell with the Hebrew prophecies of Messiah. The Christ would come to establish a Mercy throne, as it said in Isaiah “And in mercy shall the throne be established: and he shall sit upon it in truth in the tabernacle of David, judging, and seeking judgment, and hasting righteousness.” The Messiah would come in Peaceful Mercy, as it said in Micah. “And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they shall dwell
secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth. And he shall be their peace.”

No, Judas hadn’t listened well to those recent teachings of Jesus, nor made connections as to the Messiah Who was with them. It was as if Judas had blocked them out. Why so?

Because, like the Pharisee, Judas hadn’t sensed the need for a Savior of Mercy, for to forgive each person of their sins. Judas couldn’t fathom a Messiah dying like that, to accomplish His purpose of salvation for sinners. So Jesus awakens them by explaining the woman’s actions as prophetic. Jesus says aloud to Judas and the Twelve: ’She is anointing Me for my burial. It’s what you do for a person in a death situation. Perhaps she has heard me, in My teachings, that I am going to the Father, as the Offering for sin.’

Beth’s spilling of the tears and the perfume on Jesus certainly were not wasted, but rather, her gift of thanks and surrender has gone down in remembrance as one of the sweetest responses to Mercy ever. She “got” Jesus. He was Mercy. She was a sinner. The two belonged together.

When Jesus indeed died on the Cross, we know it was these women mentioned in Luke 7 and 8 who came to the Tomb of Christ that Good Friday afternoon (Luke 23:55) to bring the spices to put around Him before the place was closed and sealed. It was Mary of Magdala, Susanna, Joanne, another Mary, perhaps, and likely Beth. It was the loving thing to do for Jesus, and these women returned at dawn on the First Easter Sunday to offer to do it again. It was how the Empty Tomb was discovered, leading to Mary of Magdala staying and first seeing the Risen Lord.

Luke tells a lot of good stories of women in his Gospel, but in this special case, Beth is the one who gives up her treasure to Jesus, her alabaster jar of the precious ointment, because Jesus now is who is precious in her life. I see her following Jesus devotedly after this account at the Pharisees’ house. (It’s why I put her in the Luke 23:55-56 group, though she is unnamed, but for Luke’s comments about “the women with Him who were followers… returned and prepared spices and perfumed oils.” That sounds like Beth would be one of them.)

She was a new woman and new creation in Jesus. She had delighted in Jesus’ defending her when accused by the Pharisee host in Luke 7 (by his enraged eyes and thoughts): ’Do you realize, Jesus, what sort of woman this is before you?’ Jesus answered it with: ‘She’s a woman opening up to much mercy. She is a woman who has shown love for Me. She is a person that treated Me with respect here. She is a woman forgiven and now in peace.’

I see her as a model of giving our worldly treasure away to the possession of Jesus. All we have has now is Jesus, and our possessions and goods and life are His possessions, and always have been, however, God is so pleased when we realize it and give expression to that truth. I recall an elderly, well,-off Catholic single man finally catching on to that reality in his dying days, and he put his old city parish of his youth in his will. It ended up being a God-send to that parish’s modern needs, when that alabaster jar was left to dealing with a big repair to their old roof and ceiling costs.

Bonus Message>>>>>> Post Homily

Considering Stewardship in the Luke 7 Story

In some conversion stories of the Bible and of Church history, you have basically two types of surrender to God. There are those people inspired (and personally commanded by God) to give away a lot of what they have, and to do so soon (think of Zacchaeus or this Beth woman of Luke 7-8 or of St. Francis). Yet in other conversion stories, there are people who give something away every day to Jesus, but it’s not a large lump sum at any time, it’s what they can do for today. (Think of Timothy in the Scriptures or our recent DC saint-in-the-making Venerable Aloysius Schwartz, who lived a day-to-day surrender as a missionary saint. Or think of St. Therese and her little ways of daily loving God.)

And God likes the conversions to come by either way. He is just looking for heart conversions. In the gospel of today, the Pharisee isn’t ready for any conversion to Mercy, but the woman with the alabaster jar is ready.

The Bible says that “God loves a cheerful giver.” The Bible also says that “where one’s heart is, there also is their treasure (or put backwards, show me what or who a person treasures, and I’ll show you what or whom they love).”

We know what person Jesus wants us each to be.

Have you your alabaster jar for Jesus? Have you gifts of time, talent or treasure for God? Now, this wasn’t planned on being a stewardship message today, but just one more homily on the Mercy of Jesus in this Year of Mercy theme. Yet, think about it: Doesn’t Mercy inspire giving?!

When we realize what God has already mercifully given to us, then it dawns on us that a responsive heart to God is in order. So, see the woman (which we called “Beth”) to be a model of stewardship.

And can I personally ask as your pastor/priest: Do you support the mission of the Church, and the local parish? Do you know that in many parishes, it is a group of about 20% or less that provide most of the financial support for the whole parish? Do you realize how helpful it is, also, to offer service of time or talent to a parish or to the Church’s mission– the proclamation of the Kingdom of God, as Jesus put it?

Some get caught in the lust of the world, and using much resources towards that– even good God believers fall into this. It is why the first reading is paired with this gospel today. King David had to be admonished for his lustful turn of life, as by the prophet Nathan for his king’s falling into a sin rut of self-glory. Yet, in Psalm 32 of today’s Mass, we hear of David’s turn-around back fully to God and living the inspired, anointed life again as king. When people also practice a healthy life of stewardship to God and to His Church of Christ Jesus, then you know a turning fully to God lifestyle is probably happening.

The woman Beth had been doing worldly things in her past, too, but it all was over in this episode of being with the Mercy of God, Jesus. She could be free now to serve God better.

I think of some of the treasures and talents and gifts of time that has been given to Jesus in gifts of thankful generosity and faith in parishes through the years. I have seen alabaster jars emptied in various ways.
I have seen volunteer religious ed. teachers or volunteer youth ministers being very giving of their time to youth and their becoming Christian in the parish. I have seen K of C men be generous in service to parishes and their councils and assemblies. I have seen people in families be quite merciful and giving to a person in their family, who is in need. I have noticed how an unknown person to me evangelized a couple in the parish, which not only led that couple into the parish church, but it also led to about a dozen more couples/families coming into the parish right after that (and after them).

Stewardship and generosity do good things—it brings about the Kingdom. And it doesn’t have to be a big, obvious thing (like the gospel account today); I have seen an adult do a simple action to bring a godly environment to his home and work, and it has led from a little witness to making a good impact around him.

These are alabaster jars emptied out are bringing the Kingdom of God.
They testify to Jesus as being one’s treasure.

Two more parish examples have I for you on stewardship blessings here.
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This past week at our St. Pius the Tenth Regional School graduation, the speech by an eighth grader, our parishioner, was her recognition of people in her school and parish that were helpful and generous to her family, when her family were going through some tough challenges. She was deeply affected by it, and saw Jesus in it, and that was her testimony last Wednesday night…. We also had a parish man who took the whole lot of donated food, brought here last weekend by you, over to the Bowie pantry, and he said it was a great to see all the donations. That man, and several others, do projects of social action on a regular basis here. He gives service time to a men’s shelter, and he runs a social justice committee in the parish, which looks for things our parish could get involved in, if we would have the volunteers for the needs out there. He is the example of giving slowly from his jar. It has been a lifestyle of faith for him.

So, you are asked today to consider your treasure and where your heart is.

As a stewardship reminder, hear from me how the parish is always in need of your part in your financial support, and/or your giving of time or talent. It is also your path to being a follower of Jesus, and in reaching Glory someday. As Jesus told in a parable, God will welcome people home into Heaven by saying, “Well done, my good and faithful steward.”

All cheerful givers, delight in the Christ Who is with you now, and forever. We are the many colors of the charity of The Lord.
s

Waning church communities

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On Monday, I saw a couple of stories in the print newspapers about waning churches. The Washington Post and Baltimore Sun had a coincidence in how they ran very similar stories on the same day. Local church closing.

They were sad stories. The articles’ bottom line was that the long-time familiar church on the street was to be open no longer.

These two were Protestant churches that had closed up last Sunday. In the lead story in the WP Metro (June 5), “Farewell to a house of prayer” told of an 86-year-old Arlington Va. Presbyterian church on Columbia Pike and South Glebe Road which had closed up; its Sunday service was the last one there under Rev. Sharon Core.
On page 2 of the Sun, “Worshippers bid farewell to Darlington church” was about their 184-year-old community church holding their last Sunday service on June 4th, under Rev. Kimberly Secrist Ashby.

There are many reasons why these church closures happen, as the newspapers sought to find a few explanations. The main one for the Baltimore church was that there was hardly anybody coming anymore to it. A house of worship needs worshippers. I am reminded of a line of a song: “A house is not a home, when there’s no one there.” The Northern Virginia church’s closing was a little different, as they got an offer for the property and decided to sell it, I think since less members lived nearby it. The report said they are headed to a temporary space. (That frequently means that people will eventually go elsewhere to church, or not to church anymore–from what studies do say.) Is there a future with those church-less Presbyterians? Can they ever copy what they had for 86 years in the big red-brick church with its recognizable steeple?

It got me to thinking of the many reasons for a church closure and people emptying the pews. With a hundred reasons out there–here are ten explanations that are often given: (1)the neighborhood changed…the church people have moved (2) other things now occupy people’s Sunday (3) the church changed its practices/core beliefs/ views/orientation (4) community members got lazy or just tired of going; they now think they can still be “good persons” without church or organized religion (5)some members or leaders of the church were hard to deal with–as in un-Christ-like (and chased folks away) (6) the pastor or lead music minister left (7) running the church became too expensive (staff, projects, building-maintenance costs) and people didn’t want to pay for it (8) family break-ups and divorce and living together are emptying houses of God (9) the younger adult people don’t like the old ways of church–they aren’t coming (but new ‘fun’ mega ones might be considered). And (10) secular humanism and enough material prosperity has converted people into narcissists (ego-centric, ‘entitled’ people), which isn’t agreeable with Beatitude living.

Pick one or a combo of the above. Or, think of what might be the ninety other reasons.

As a pastor, my first response was sadness to these closed-church cases. They were traditional denominational churches, it seems, except maybe for the female pastors. Yet many small (and even not so small) churches are closing up in America these days.

Catholic pastors like myself are always keeping an eye on the attendance on Sundays and also pondering ways to reach people with the Gospel and its follow through with having them live in Christ’ Body. We also see how easily a parish congregation can drift into a spiritual malaise or a disinterest with Christ’ Great Commission to form disciples and to be “Church.” There are many pressures going against church-going today.
I grieve for fellow priests who may be in a community church in fast decline, with themselves and staff worrying how to keep the parish going. Someone yesterday gave me a bulletin (photo below) from a rural Catholic parish church (Arch. of Baltimore) where they guest-attended, and the situation there was a declining church community struggling to pay its bills. IMAG0495 In presenting their annual stewardship report, St. Joseph’s noted the major cuts going on, due to the poor attendance and the weak financial help from much of her members there in Buckeystown. Just reading that bulletin and insert myself told me the pastor and remaining staff there would be under lots of stress, with some long-time members in worry for St. Joseph’s future. The pastor wrote in his bulletin with alarm at the poor numbers of parishioners going to Mass–about only one-quarter of their members coming on any given Sunday…and he noted that half of their registered people were not on record of giving good support (save for a spare dollar thrown into the collection basket) and that only a dedicated 5% of the congregation was carrying the financial load for the many. He informed members how the parish had spent out all their cash reserves, and were now cutting out staff positions and regular liturgical expenses, so to save themselves from immediate debt. I felt sorry for the pastor there. One day the parish may need to merge into St. John’s in Frederick, and go attend there. Sad probability. (It is then, I guess, that the boo birds will come out and blame the Archbishop for so his so-called insensitivity for closing/merging the parish. It happens so often that way unfairly to a bishop.)

Local Church participation is important because it is in the mission to save souls and to fulfil the love-one-another commandment of Jesus and to be in unity (see John ch. 15-17. Jesus is the Vine and we are the branches… the Sheep hear My Voice and follow Me…. they shall all be one.). They are key messages for any disciple of Jesus who follows after Him to band together in His Name and Body.

As I head to a Parish Council meeting tonight, I am bringing along the Archdiocesan/Bishop’s Pastoral Council Policy Guidelines and its written main reason for the parish council: It’s to save souls.
A parish is here to bring people to Jesus. It would be nice to have an active growing church to bring them into. I will mention tonight to the council my concern to them about how so many children and teens (and their parents) were absent from Masses last weekend (even though school is still in session for two more weeks). Where were they and why? I will ask them to share my passion and pastoral concern. We’ll also briefly discuss the phenomena of people taking all Summer off from church going. I just don’t know what excuses people for this, as it doesn’t help a parish any.

Keeping the Lord’s Day as a Catholic is always a basic practice of a healthy, growing believer. It’s been a necessary practice from the start of the Church, while even in the letter to the Hebrews, an appeal had to be made for it. From Hebrews 10: Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the Truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment…”

Final word:
VVVVVVVVVV
(sorry cant get it out of italics)

If you often read and pray the New Testament, you know the witness from the First Church of what we can be in Christ Jesus. In the bulletin last Sunday, I gave some advice for spiritual attention in the Summer. One was to watch the whole series “A.D. The Church continues.” If one does that, then you see on film how dynamic the Acts of the Apostles and life behind the epistles and first churches was possibly like.

Ojiaku Wedding: Comments/photos

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IMAG0478IMAG0477Alamezie and Chioma Ojiaku were wed here on Saturday, bringing some Nigerian customs to the celebration at church and the reception. It’s relatively new for African-born Catholics to be at St. Edwards, with my praying some wedding Masses here for members now. Over the last few years our staff has been looking to welcome and accommodate our new brothers and sisters to The Fold in our south Bowie parish. The Nuptial Mass was late afternoon, and the reception followed in Lanham. As I joined in at the reception for 3 1/2 hours, the family was pleased to see me there and how I already was familiar with their foods and customs.
The reception was filled with colorful clothing, much spicy African dishes, parade-style dances in and around to introduce and honor the families and the wedding party and couple. There was lots of rhythmic African music. An animated mc directed the festivities. Much was done in honoring tradition, in recognizing parents, honored peoples and tribal lines, and in making presentations. The couple sat in a distinguished, white leather sofa, befitting their place as the center of it all. There were mentions of God in all of this, too.

The eye-witness value of the wedding and reception was noticeable. People took note of a big wedding going on at the church, and of the after-glow on the church lawn. The hotel guests took note, too, of a couple who were wed in a Catholic Church, and now having a reception. It has an evangelizing effect.

At a nearby parish in Lanham, St. Matthias has been having large changes to its demographics, with West African-born Catholics becoming a strong presence there. (And more African-Catholic style weddings.) It’s a trend going on stretches of P.G. County for a while. In a parish I formerly pastored in the county two decades ago, we were just beginning to welcome new members in from immigration from Africa. That was in 1996. Now, they make up a significant portion of the faith community.

The Church in this Archdiocese of Washington has so much variety and diversity going on in it! (My first parish had a Chinese Mission in it, so I have been observing our international blend for a while in the local Church.)

As we call ourselves “Catholic,” its meaning as “universal” is important to live out in the local parish setting, starting with the clergy. I am a white, Irish-American priest whose last two weddings here were 90-95% African.

Al and Chioma are a fine young couple, whose relationship was inter-state, due to school and job locations. I was grateful to the Symbolon ministry, too, a new online or dvd course of marriage prep to serve to them, which they used to help them prepare for Holy Matrimony. .IMAG0488IMAG0471_1IMAG0466IMAG0465

Wedding Homily Words:
For your Wedding Scriptures, Alamezie and Chioma, we chose a text on love and harmony from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans. He sees that, as in God’s own life, love is harmony and harmony is love. Paul sees that our godliness, from baptism, will supply us with the grace to gain such a holy blend to our shared lives. Marriage is a very special place for that holy blend.

It using the word “blend” it may sound like I’m speaking coffee or wine(!), but not so, as in St. Paul’s case, he is probably referring to a Christian couple he well knew, who once lived in Rome as original Christians. Prisca and Aquila were a holy married couple, and when they moved to Corinth (and later Ephesus), it was in the time that the apostle Paul was there. He was seeing in them what a sacred marriage looked like. They lived side-by-side in harmony. They worshipped as one, ran a tent-making business together, likely hosted the apostle in their house (for a time of eighteen months), loved one another deeply, and let that love spill over to bless the new growing church in Corinth. This couple probably knew the lesson of Paul’s 1st Corinthians 13 list of love is/ love is not details. Perhaps they helped Paul to write it, as they sought to live in integrity of love and not be lost in lust. Prisca (the woman–also called Priscilla) and Aquila are mentioned in Romans 16, Acts 18, 1st Corinthians chapters 1 and 16, and 2nd Timothy 4. I’d say that all those mentions by him in the Bible means that St. Paul (and Luke) were convinced that they were a model couple for the new Christian faith. Use them as a Biblical model for yourselves, Alamezie and Chioma.

In some wisdom on love from our present times, hear Maya Angelou say how “love receives no barriers, it jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls–all to arrive at its destination, full of hope.” Hear Gandhi say: “Where there is love, there is life.” (Does loving one another fully make you feel really alive?!) Author Elizabeth Gilbert of “Committed,” who once was a skeptic on love and marriage, writes “to be fully seen by somebody, and then to be loved anyhow–this is a human offering than can border on the miraculous.” St. and Pope John Paul the Great wrote that love bears responsibility in a mystery of acceptance, and to live out a call of “mutual self-giving” is the secret of a blessed marriage. In another more everyday comment, actress Aubrey Hepburn (who played roles of wives in films) said, of real life: “If I get married, I want to be very married.” In the poetic 100 Sonnets, one fine message of it is succinctly said: ‘I love you for our times to simply be together.” Lastly, we take some advice from a happy Dr. Suess. He says, ‘You’re in love when reality is better than fantasy, or your dream life asleep.’IMAG0470_1_1IMAG0483_1IMAG0464

June 5 Homily Giving a son to his mother, a mother to his son

In many Gospel stories, like today’s, we observe Jesus showing great mercy by helping others in need. Jesus reaches out to a mourning woman, whose tears and fears and problems were only just beginning, as she was facing a lonely, ostracised and poor life ahead of her as an alone Jewish widow.

Yet, God will intervene with that. God hears the lady’s plea.

It happened during one of His journeys (Luke 7:12), as Jesus approached the city of Nain, when He and His disciples got interrupted by a passing funeral procession, going right into their path.

The Father in Heaven probably set it all up. Why or how so? We’ll see in a minute.

As Luke 7 tells it, Jesus came upon the situation of “a dead man being carried along, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow.” It today’s terms, this is describing a funeral procession. Often, we just move aside on the road if we can, away from the hearse and vehicles processing behind, while having little clue as to who the person was or about their surviving family in these processions heading to some unknown internment spot.

In Jesus’ days, though, the funeral procession was a slow-moving one through the streets and quite a public spectacle, with many people knowing quite well who died and why and who survived them. Mourners wailed and, without comprehending any hope of resurrection, headed to a burial place for the departed, that stark and utter end of a life’s existence. The mourners believed the person to be no more, and to eventually turn to dust and bones in the earth. The mourners saw a cemetery or burial place as going down a dead-end road–literally. dead-end-cemetary-400x273

In a observation during my personal ministry, by the way, I saw a cemetery with such a sign up (reading “dead end”), placed on a back-end lane, evidently to discourage drivers from trying to go out that way, which had no exit. I had heard of this inappropriate sign showing up in other places of rest, too, and I told the cemetery manager in his office later on how it was a really bad choice of a sign placement, and a message not meant for a Catholic cemetery. I said “dead end” should be changed.
He suggested, then, “No exit?”
I said, “No, that’s about as bad.”
“No way out?”
I said, “No, that’s worse.”
“’How about our putting up an arrow sign saying: Front entrance—this way back to road?”
I said: “That’s better!”

But in Jesus’ time, before hope in resurrection dawned to eternal life (in Him), death was the end, with no escape.

Death also left a Jewish widow, like this one in Nain, in a cursed predicament. In an odd Jewish interpretation, any neighboring people whose husband and only son had died early or suddenly or tragically–could only be seen as one thing: Cursed. They were seen as being given a thumbs-down from God. As if to say to such a widow of Nain: “She must have deserved it,” and “This is definitely a punishment from God for something.” That would have been their hasty judgment.

Don’t you really dislike that attitude going on here in this Gospel?!
How about in life around us today? Or possibly in a couple of us here today?

People, then AND now, are so quick to bad judgment and so apt to play God in their ‘self-wisdom.’ Aren’t they? And, why so? I see that kind of behavior way too much, even right within the Church. It’s ugly. Why do people play so superior to others, as if they are the more favored, or the vastly more worthy person?

Jesus caught on quickly to the situation as to see it for all it was. “Our Lord looked with compassion upon the sorrowing mother, now bereft of both husband and son (says the Gospel); and, feeling in Himself the pain of her grief, (and of her sadly being on the receiving end of such harshness), Jesus said in a gentle tone, ‘Weep not.’

Before we finish the Luke 7 text, let’s reflect on those words.

What mercy there is in Jesus! He looked with compassion on her. While others in Nain looked disagreeably on her, and many too had probably even avoided the funeral, due to its so-called scandal, Jesus entered INTO her grief. Noting her walking alone there in the procession, with no family, He probably asked: ‘Is this your last family member? An only son?…’ She might have sobbed and nodded. I can hear Jesus then whispering to her, ‘I am an only son, and my Joseph has been gone for years. I just have Mary, and my Mother Mary has me.”

Mercy not only reaches out, but it identifies within our soul, too. It was that way with Jesus.

Being merciful to others will actually lead to God being merciful to us. That is a Matthew 5 Beatitude, of course. It’s a key principle of the kingdom, according to Jesus. Let’s apply it to His life, then ours.

Can you imagine here how Jesus, in all that compassion to give to the widow, how, then, it probably caused Him to look ahead to His looming end, at The Cross, with all its consequences of Him leaving behind His mother Mary?
He would be the one and only son, dead.

He glimpsed it ahead in His mind. His burial, too, He thought, would likely bring a situation where many wouldn’t turn out for Him neither, and His mother would be likewise the victim of some omnious interpretation (by some Jews) that He and her were cursed. A son cut down in the height of life, and a mother left alone without a husband nor only son? What (seemingly) an unholy pair, under a dark cloud from God!

Oh, really!

I think Jesus saw revealed here the prelude to His own future situation. The Father gave this moment to Him to see the pain that Mary would bear for His death and for His burial.

He saw that the Resurrection would relieve Mary by the Third Day, but what of this grieving mama of Nain?

Now—let us return to the Gospel text. It says of Jesus that “He touched the stretcher [and] … addressing the corpse He said: ‘Young man, I say unto thee, Arise.’ And the dead son heard the voice of Him who is Lord of all, and immediately sat up and spoke. Graciously Jesus delivered the young man to his mother.”

Jesus acted out something that would later be given Him by the Father. He would be the son dead. Mary would be the widow of the only Son. Jesus would be raised from the dead. Mary would have her wounded heart mended, as she realized her son indeed is the Lord of Glory and Risen and Victorious, Alive forever!
Isn’t that a neat tie-in to today’s gospel? Do you see the parallels?

Jesus lived in great Mercy, and it would have its reward, even for Him in the earthly journey He took.
So, when He would see Mary in the predicament that the widow of Nain once was in, He wanted the goodness of God to win the day again.
The Divine Mercy brings triumph!

As Jesus was dying, He gave His mother away to St. John, and basically to the Church (all of us). In His last words, He said: “Behold, your mother.” It was a parting gift to us, and, plus, He didn’t want Mary to be alone, but in our care (though, really, we are the ones needing her love and care!). As Jesus saw her from the Cross, her heart was pierced, as like by a sword, but an arrow to the soul. The prophecy had come true from Simeon.

Now the triumphant could come right out of death! The Father had set up the widow of Nain son’s burial procession. Hope came to the widow that day. Later, the very Son of God was dead and buried, on a Sabbath after Passover. Yet, Jesus would trust the Father, that, even from a Cross, there would be resurrection. He cried out, even as His Mother Mary cried and prayed out in some private place, and on that First Easter, Mercy would win the day again. Death would lose.

My friends, this past Friday and Saturday of this Year of Mercy were the two feasts of hearts, the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Their innocent, loving hearts are our ideal. Saints Justin and John Eudes and Margaret Mary Aloquette and John Neumann would appeal to us to go to plead the help of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Immaculate Heart. We have much to learn there of Mercy.

In this Year of Mercy, we keep pondering Jesus as God’s Mercy, and our inspiration to live mercifully. We will have more examples to come from Jesus’ life, of Him being merciful to people during times of need. He healed a leper, calmed the sea, and raised Jairus’s daughter from the dead. He made whole an infirm man at the pool of Bethesda, healed a deaf man with a speech impediment, and cleansed 10 lepers. Each was in desperate need.

You and I are too.

To those who would be hasty to judgment, easily critical of others, and being bothered by the opportunities the Father puts in your path (that look to you like situations to avoid)— I say especially to you: Look again at things with the Sacred Heart and Immaculate Heart of Mary. They can set things right. You need the grace, you know. You aren’t well on your own, as much as you think you might be. Choose Life. Choose Grace. Choose Mercy.

This Widow of Nain story comes in a Year of Mercy, with its many lessons ready to learn. IMG_20150923_162526_229IMG_20150924_085006 Papal Mass last September, in DC, photo from my place in the concelebrant’s area.

Today’s Birthday celebrant…

thUHK4C6VHHappy Birthday

on this June 2nd to

our regional school’s patron,

St. Pius X,

who was born in Italy on June 2, 1835.

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The side picture is of our shared regional Catholic school (and where I once attended as a boy). St. Pius the Tenth school has been around almost 54 years now, and all the four RC parishes in Bowie support it financially and send our own parish family students to study there. We also have members who are on the faculty there, and each parish sends priestly support, such as regular teaching in the classrooms. In this past school year, six priests regularly helped in the school. The 8th grade graduation and Mass is next Wednesday night at St. Pius X church. This will be the first time in my priesthood that I have remained in a parish long enough (St. Edward the Confessor) to see a class go through the school from 1st to 8th. [*They also have K and Pre-K classes]

The statue of the patron is in the main lobby of the school, with another one outside of the church.
The parish and school were given this pious Pius name to honor the saint whose feast is August 21st on the Church calendar. He was canonized in 1954, so he was a rather new saint when the school was founded. He had been the 259th pope, and evidently the tenth pope named Pius, and he did a marvelous job as pontiff, and in much evidence of sanctity of life. Pius X inaugurated a worldwide liturgical renewal and the restoration of frequent Communion from childhood (2nd graders could receive). His papal motto was “to renew all things in Christ.”

His birth name was Giuseppe Melchoirre Sarto.

The prayer to St. Pius X:

Glorious Pope of the Eucharist, Saint Pius X, you sought “to restore all things in Christ.” Obtain for me a true love of Jesus so that I may live only for Him. Help me to acquire a lively fervor and a sincere will to strive for sanctity of life, and that I may avail myself of the riches of the Holy Eucharist in sacrifice and sacrament. By your love for Mary, mother and queen of all, inflame my heart with tender devotion to her.

Blessed model of the priesthood, obtain for us holy, dedicated priests, and increase vocations to the religious life. Dispel confusion and hatred and anxiety, and incline our hearts to peace and concord. so that all nations will place themselves under the sweet reign of Christ. Amen.

Saint Pius X, pray for me.