Planning Ahead for the Ultimate 18th Sun. “C” Homily

The Parable of the Rich Fool Homily 19th Sunday C 7/31/16

In these trying or more fearful times of the world, insurance companies are trying to make more business of it. You’ve seen all the ads. Now, to buy insurance these days for your assurance of peace of mind and protection, one does need to be sure you are covered for the kind of threats possibly coming your way. ‘Say, like, if you live on a Chesapeake or Potomac waterfront property and place, then some substantial flooding coverage for your property and home should be in your policy and agreement with the insurance or government agency. ‘Right?

But you won’t necessarily need volcanic lava coverage here in Maryland, now will you?! If you are looking to buy lava coverage, then I know of an agent named Mr. Desoto of the Hawaiian Insurance Agency who would like to sell it to you. Insurance companies love to make money on taking money to cover threats that likely will not occur.

In this Gospel today, the Agent Who has come from Heaven is present and interested in helping people out of their worst peril. He is Jesus and the peril is everlasting death. It is a threat on every man, woman and child. What kind of coverage is there from death and eternal separation? Only one. It’s in God’s Son and our Savior Jesus Christ.

As one famous insurance ad boasts, like a good neighbor… Jesus is there.
And, compared to another insurance ad, He is not just interested in saving you 15%, rather, He is going for 100% in saving you.

Do you recall the Sunday gospels of this July? They have been saying that God wants to be our very good neighbor (i.e. Mary and Martha learn to draw close to Jesus, but a rich man here in today’s story and a self-justified man in last weeks won’t see their total need for God and salvation). Indeed, as Jesus is seeing, there aren’t many ‘buyers’ for His plan. But Jesus is come from Heaven to be our life and super-essence, our re-creation by His Mercy and ongoing help. Last week we examined the word in the Our Father prayer as epiousios, as by Jesus we ask the Father for His supply of life, of His Son in us today. THIS IS THE INSURANCE PLAN OFFERING OF GOD. The Lord is our Rock for all things lasting, even if the Prudential Rock might be your earthly one for earthly matters.

Jesus comments about the serious nature of this offer, so don’t let my joking on insurance advertising connections mislead you. Jesus is clear and direct of the need of humankind to turn to trust in God, and not “self”, as by telling this parable about a rich fool living as if he had no need for any kind of Godly assistance. That well-off man only lived for the moment and took care of things just for himself, storing up, even hoarding up, what he felt was ‘his insurance policy.’ But the man wasn’t covered for death and judgment, and it came calling that very night for him, and he’d lose all his possessions with his last breath. Whoa!

Indeed, there were the plenty of people back then 2000 years ago (as it is true of folks today) who did NOT (or do NOT) see a need for what Jesus has come to cover for them. They saw (or see) NOT themselves as sinners desperate for a Savior AND for a kingdom-of-God transfer within them of their daily lives. Nor did they get how JESUS is come as God’s Agent there in person for them. Like those insurance agents in commercials who just magically appear to people in need, Jesus was on the scene here in Luke 12, as He is still on the scene. Jesus has said, “I AM always working.”

Usually the catastrophic claims evaluator comes AFTER the tragic event in insurance stories, yet here was Jesus coming much before it. He says to us in this Gospel lesson that we humans have a peril to face, and He can point it out and save us from it before it happens, if we’ll humble ourselves and honor HIM by choosing His help. Last Sunday, you’ll recall, Jesus said HE was our Daily Bread and the One helping us and our side to save us when we get tempted by sin and are fighting to be delivered versus evil.

If Nationwide insurance boasts of being “on our side,” how much more eternally is Our Lord Jesus, worldwide for His people?

He the Son of God and Lord-in-the-flesh will help us with Divine Mercy coverage for all our sins and for the resulting consequence of all our sins, which is eternal death, met after our human condition expires.

He is very acquainted with all our threats and problems and pains, so much more than, like, Farmer’s Insurance, who say “they’ve seen a thing or two.” But God’s Son has seen it all! He has the Spirit on His Side, too, to respond to every situation, body and soul.

How do we get covered for sins and death? Well! As we are remembering throughout this Year of mercy, Jesus said it is absorbed by His Cross and in His saving Sacrifice. We can all be returned prodigals into His care. We can be baptized and be put into this coverage, and be taught to abide along in it. We can participate in it by The Blessed Eucharist. We can receive the Super-Essence Bread of Life help daily. We can even then equipped to be His Mercy helpers ourselves for God. For Jesus says, as you receive, so freely give. As we get Mercy, we are to pass it on, too.

To be an agent or disciple of Mercy, Jesus asks us to do three things: to “deny our very self, take up the Cross and Christ’ Sacrifice, and to follow Him in His Way.” And as a Christian song puts the mystery in its message: “We can choose to die before we die.” That’s really our death coverage.

We can die to self–that is, to the self-saving self, so as then to live into a new life under the Savior Jesus, becoming born again into God’s reign daily. What happens by this self-surrender is that we are begun into our eternal relationship with God now, so that, when death comes, it is just only a physical one, but our essence and soul will have already passed into a new existence, as a new creation in Christ Jesus. That is all in the coverage Jesus offers to humanity. New hearts, new lives for old! It’s a great plan of God for us!!

Are we prepared into it? That’s a question posed between the lines in the Word today, as the opening Ecclesiastes reading of this morning is a cry out from Qoheleth to watch out for being swallowed up in vain pursuits. The wise author rather calls us wisely to invest and insure ourselves well for the Big Picture and God’s plan of humankind’s deliverance.

As Luke tells the story of Jesus in his 11th and 12th gospel chapters, Jesus was teaching the people that death was the ultimate stormy threat that few were prepared for–but He shows how we ought to be prepared. In the parable about a foolish rich man, Jesus says that when it came down to it, all the many filled silos of grain that the boastful, ‘insured-man-for-the-future’ put up would be of no help when death came suddenly knocking. His soul was NOT prepared for that to happen. And why not? The Wisdom Scripture today answers it–that there is folly of amassing fortunes at the expense of one’s soul. Yet, we should pray the petitions of The Lord’s Prayer and turn to a more meaningful life. We invest ourselves either in God or mammon (things of this world), as Jesus lays it out squarely in the Sermon on the Mount. He advised Martha and Mary, too, to seek the better portion of a close relationship with Him, as we live on earth. All these Summer Gospels are linked, aren’t they?

Just to get serious again, let us hear Jesus’ words, that what yields for power in this world, like grain or gold or silver or a fat bank account or an influential name, may al be diddlysquat once we face death and the afterlife. Jesus is quite abrupt and dramatic in the parable, noting how the rich fool is told by God in the story: “This very night your life will be demanded from you.” The Greek New Testament word for your life is “psyche” meaning one’s “life” or “soul.” Jesus explains the situation: ‘Your life is demanded’ means that you will die, maybe more suddenly than you expect, and your soul life is then required to meet God, to render an account. Your deep true self is to meet God, with no hiding, but just your very self. You bring no thing with you. The Hebrew New Testament equivalent word here for your life (as in “your life will be demanded of you) is “nefesh.” This unique word by Jesus, as taken from the Hebrew translation, means one’s very “life force” is to be leave you and be headed ultimately somewhere. “Nefesh” is the same exact warning word used by the Lord in Exodus 31:17 to the foolish Exodus people. In that account, they were worshipping the golden calf, rather than Him, the Lord Who had just delivered them out of bondage in Egypt, and Who was appearing still to Moses. These fool pilgrims were caught by God to be already led by greed, not to faith. The gold they brought along was more precious to them that the faith through suffering they had built up in the past. Faith was discarded; possessions were now the value. The pilgrim people were supposed to be people filled with faith. However, the Lord observes that greed can be a pilgrimage killer. One can die in the desert of their things, with no way to be refreshed to get up and complete the journey Home. The Hebrew word nefesh in this parable (a rarely used word, purposely picked out by Jesus) also implies that He is the updated and greater Deliverer figure for the pilgrimage from earth’s desert to God’s paradise, and He alone can give that new life and refreshment within us for the Way Home.

So let’s sum it up: Our Agent Jesus is giving us lots of help that we may get this Divine Mercy coverage through and through by Him and into us. Don’t be envious of the worldly rich, for the needed thing is to be close to God, and that is to be rich. And God has given us all assurance and insurance and protection for living a Kingdom Come life, and we’re in good hands with Him, which is much better than AllState. And, You may be with Farmer’s Insurance in the world, but on higher matters of trust, make that all be in Divine Mercy Insurance with Jesus. Bum da da bum dah dah dum dum dum!

Father, Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread . Homily–Kingdom Living

Today’s Gospel is St. Luke’s version of The Lord’s Prayer. I call your attention to the fourth petition in it which is “(Father,) Give us this day our daily bread.”

So often we pray the words in the Lord’s Prayer, as in this petition in it-—but do we remember what is its meaning? It’s a prayer for Kingdom living. Let’s examine what Jesus asked us to pray,
as well as the general context of prayer and petition to God.

We pray for The Bread which God Gives us in this 4th petition of the Lord’s Prayer. “Give us this day our daily bread” implies first and foremost a dependent life upon God, in a prayer for His supply for now and for what’s just ahead, for those positive needs of our body and soul in this world. We ask for God’s help. This attitude shows how we shouldn’t act as if independent or alone and apart from God. Our prayer should indicate how we believe God is near,of how His Hand is beside us. He is ever-giving, frequently supplying our needs even before we ask Him for it. God loves us. Yet He doesn’t want to be ignored or taken for granted either. He actually is supplying help to every living creature in the world. We could give Him due praise and thanks. He IS listening and watching.

Jesus shows this example of kingdom living– how we are to direct ourselves towards the Immanence of God. Jesus knows the Father, and the Father knows Him. Now, Jesus wants to say that He will include us in His dear relationship to the Father. He wants us to pray with HIM and say “Our Father.” “Our” as in the Blessed Son prays to His Father, and we join in with Him, making it our prayer with Jesus to His Father. Elsewhere in Scripture, we learn that we are abiding in the Holy Spirit, too, for that trusting realization that God is ABBA (Father) to us.

The “our” is Our Father isn’t just the believers prayer with one another, but it is our prayer together with the blessed Son Who makes it possible to be heard and be “one” with the Father as through Him (The Only Worthy One).
The “Father” part of the Our Father teaches us to start off our prayer seeking a tender, merciful God Who wants our communication and to connect lovingly with us. Our God is not vengeful or angry and upset with us; at the start He is Mercy. Reflect on Psalm 145:8 on that point.

Since we now dare ask the Father for help, what do we deem is the greatest thing He now can offer us back? It is Jesus. He is the gift. “Give us Our Daily Bread” is really translated as our asking for an extra-ordinary “bread” Who can meet so many needs. It will be no mere bread— it will be Christ as Our Daily Bread.

The Church Father named Origin (d. 254 a.d) helped Christianity to know what this 4th petition truly means. He said that the word in Greek for “Daily Bread” was an invented new word for something super, super substantial, super real, or super spiritual. The Greek Bible word for daily was epi-ousios, meaning super-essential. So the petition asks the Father for His supply of the Son. The Son will compassionately supply natural needs, but even more superbly, He will supply supernatural needs and Grace from Heaven. He will supply Himself into us, via Sacraments like Baptism and Eucharist and the others, and blessings to our hearts, as well as to bodily needs. Pope Benedict wrote a work on The Lord’s Prayer during his papacy on Origen’s point of the Greek word epiousios. He tells us this Daily Bread of ours then can be Jesus, the ‘medicine of immortality,’ without which we have no life within us” (CCC 2837).

St. Jerome interpreted this same petition as being about the “super-substantial bread”. Jerome mostly connected Holy Communion with the Christian’s regular prayer request, as hoping the world could always and ever day have access to the Eucharist. As the people as in John 6, THE Eucharist chapter in John’s Gospel, “give us this bread always.” They had heard Jesus say how He was The Living Bread for eternal life. St. Peter Chrysologus defined the words “our daily bread” also to mean Eucharist but also to mean of any super gift of Christ. He said that “The Father urges us children of heaven to ask for the bread of heaven. Christ himself is the bread who furnishes the faithful each day with food from heaven.” He basically continued on to say: ‘Jesus is to be received—so receive Him! Don’t pass Him by. He comes (falls from the Heavens or is already on your path to see)!’

To better appreciate this ‘super-essential bread,” we need to look more closely and biblically at the related terms: give us THIS DAY (semeron) our daily bread (epiousios).
1. Meaning of ‘this day’ (semeron)
The theological and eschatological meaning of “this day” (“Give us this day our daily bread”) refers above all to His Word and to the Body of His Son. This ‘today’ is not only our mortal time, but also the today of God. ‘If you receive the bread each day’, writes St. Ambrose, ‘each day is today for you. If Christ is yours today, He rises for you every day. How can this be? He said: ‘You are my Son, today I have begotten You.’ Therefore, ‘today’ is when Christ rises'” (CCC 2836; De Sacramentis 5,4,26). So Ambrose says we are invited to rise daily with Jesus. Every time we ask the Father, “Give us this day our daily bread”, we plead for that sharing in Christ to unite in His resurrected life. This points to the full meaning of ‘this day’, which is the entire Paschal Mystery of the Passion, Death, Resurrection and Glory of Jesus. Another Church Father writes: “The Father in heaven urges us, as children of heaven, to ask for the bread of heaven. [Christ] Himself is the Bread Who, sown in the Virgin, raised up in the flesh, kneaded in the Passion, baked in the oven of the tomb, reserved in Churches, brought to altars, furnishes the faithful each day with food from heaven” (Sermon 67; cf. CCC 2837). These words are from St. Peter Chrysologus again. He points to the Eucharist as our participation in Christ as our living anew in God’s Day, as each reception is to say ‘I long for union with God.
2. Meaning of the words Our “Daily” Bread (epiousios)
The word for ‘daily’ (epiousios) that Jesus selects here to say was an uncommon and new phrase; in fact, it is found nowhere else in Scripture nor anywhere else in ancient Greek literature. Since patristic times its meaning has been debated. Some try to derive epiousios from epi-enai (to come near, approach), thus giving it a temporal sense, meaning the bread of the current or even of the coming day. And since this happens every day, we get ‘daily’ bread in our translation of the Our Father. But in following the tradition more common among the Greek Fathers, the Catechism of the Catholic Church says that we want to feed for eternal life. A word Jesus used for eating Him as Bread was “to gnaw away.” This implies a deliberate, daily action meant to fully consume in the end, though it take a long eating. Since Christ as Bread is so phenomenal, we are given each day until our calling Home to God to receive Him in.

St. Hilary, a Doctor of the Church, explains that Jesus the Son does a lot for us as the Daily Bread Sacrament: “In the sacrament of His Body He actually gives us His own Flesh, which He has united to His divinity. This is why we are all one, because the Father is in Christ, and Christ is in us. He is in us through His flesh and we are in Him. With Him we form a unity which is in God. … He is in us through the mystery of the sacraments. This is how we attain to unity with the Father” (De Trinitate 8, 13-16). This is why the petition for the Eucharist is directed to the Father, because in Christ we come to the Father.

Wow. When we consider the depths of The Lord’s Prayer, we realize it must be more than just a few dozen words spoken aloud or just seven petitions made aloud. Jesus has us asking with Him for a lot– all of eternity and God’s love.

Even so, it can great have meaning without the Scriptural exposition or theological examination. I learned that this week when I ask for prayer at a table with a family, and I suggested The Lord’s Prayer. As we prepared to start, hands quickly reached out for one another to create a prayer circle. This action, with the words coming forth to our Heavenly Father, showed a unity among us that was truly God-inspired, loving, and God-breathed. Perhaps this was the greatest research I received about the meaning of The Lord’s Prayer. It brings forth unity.

Since I should stop here, perhaps next Sunday we can go a little further in our look at The Lord’s Prayer, and beyond just the 4th petition in it. Let us for today in this Mass to pray this offering anew in Jesus. We’ll do His prayer again with Him in Mass after the Great Amen.

Recently… thanksgivings and blessings.

IMG_20150105_211951In this blog, I will just share a potpourri of thanksgivings and blessings that has a patriotic tone and/or a ‘glad-it’s-Summer feeling: IMAG0326 I am thankful for getting to the Statue of Liberty in this 2016 year (‘see my pic?)…and for seeing “Hamilton”in NYC (*through a Catholic’s tip on getting the tix)… and for praying Mass on July 4th at the Mary’s National Shrine in DC (and with the Little Sister’s present at it)…and for taking in a local “Freedom!” concert by David Phelps, a fine faith-filled contemporary Christian artist… and in service, I was glad to preside over a Mass with military burial and honors this Summer… and in my usual trips into Washington for things, it’s always nice to drive along the Mall area and by the monuments, and to even just stop and get out and walk around there.

IMG_20150924_085938 So, you see, I have been pretty patriotic. Part of being a 4th degree Knight of Columbus member (and Friar), also, is to be a Catholic who is a patriot: it is our responsibility to pray for this nation in these ‘interesting’ political and governmental times for her. (The pic is of the Knights’ Tower at the Shrine, in some replica to the Washington Monument–and in showing devoted Catholics’ interest to serve for America’s good.)

In continuing on about thanksgivings and blessings, I have had a nice time out with Mom for some activities, like recently in our taking in a very good, local, musical show and going out to eat afterwards. I am thankful for that closeness to her here in Bowie to easily get together (which wasn’t the case in my last three parishes). Oh yeah, it was back in late Spring, but the C.S. Lewis production which Mom and I saw at the Shakespeare theatre still gives me satisfying feelings… I am reading Lewis’ Weight of Glory this Summer, and I even preached on it at a funeral this past week. Knowing Our Lord and His measure of grace and mercy is so good—given the challenges people are under–so we need to recall what His Word says in 2 Cor. 4:17-18 “For this momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, as we look not to what is seen but to what is unseen; for what is seen is transitory, but what is unseen is eternal.” These verses refer back to the chapter’s first sixteen verses, to what the word “for” (vs. 17) IS FOR! 2 Corinthians 4 is good spiritual nourishment. Lewis wrote a whole book based on this Bible chapter from St. Paul.

Onto natural things of blessing, I have been to a good number of Major League baseball games, too, for the real American past time of Summer. It’s a happy surprise, too, that the local Orioles and Nationals teams are in first place in baseball past the half-point of the season. (Could we have a BW Parkway World Series in October?!) While some say baseball has little to do with Christian faith, I can offer a point: In what other game is the object to get Home, and to do all you can to help others get to Home? Though one fails often in baseball, like in life, a one-third success rate at bat in baseball is enough to be a champion. The sport is forgiving! In can encourage us in our reality in the game of life! God is Mercy and He is always working, too, to get us Home… photo
In the blessings category, I am happy, as well, for one-on-one opportunities to share faith in regular appointments in teaching Catholic basics to a youth, a young adult, and an adult this Summer… I was happy to meet a joyful “re-vert” who returned to the RC Faith and Flock due to a Catholic’s sharing faith with them… PTLA!… I have been happy to offer support to our parish’s first FOCUS college missionary, as I help her this Summer to reach her goal to go and serve two years for the Church on a university campus… I am also blessed to know that twice-hand we have a parishioner’s son continuing on in the seminary for priesthood. I remember them in my personal petitions at Mass often. The Church needs priests in her immediate future.

It’s been a Summer of a relaxed schedule but also one with regular prayer and Masses and other things that keep going on in a parish (hint: we don’t close for the Summer!). God has me keep working at helping families, such as for presiding over several recent baby baptisms at church, helping out some families or persons in crisis, getting some people ready for marriage, going on sick calls and emergency calls, and in re-organizing for the next Fall-Summer cycle our RCIA and parish programs and maintenance and budget plans. One thing I like about Summer is the possibility in my just catching up with some parishioners or friends while we both have the free time to do so.

I am happy, though, for some down time for recreation… My vacation now is more a stay-cation. I hope to see a beach by Summer’s end for a few days. I am playing a little billiards now for ‘breaks’ from work. I usually play it with others, not alone. I make sure I am playing no hustler pool players, but just hacks like me. IMG_2733 Summer is a time to get to some “stop” in our lives, if we can. I am amused by this photo at the side, as there is nowhere to go but to stop, even one follows the signs. Perhaps the photo is meant to say: It’s Summer. Just stop your constantly moving about from before, and just “be” for awhile, and enjoy it. Pause and calm yourself, for you are loved that for all that you do, but first know that God loves you for who you are to Him, the person He created for “His good purpose and favor (2 Tim. 1:9).”
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Ah, it’s Summertime. A backyard cook-out is always a nice experience, even amidst this heat. A cool wine or beer to go with grilled food makes for a good combination. Some corn-hole or bocce is even a better triple play, but alas, only twice have I had the company for that (90-100 degree weather) at my house. Yet in all of this, we have much to be thankful for. The heat gives us new focus to our thanks. For example, even while it’s been a hot Summer, I try to appreciate the occasional ice cream or frozen custard/yogurt treat… and the fruity Summer salads… and even a little walk in a light shower rain as the steam rises off the ground and pavement… and in my daily coming home to an air-conditioned home. There is always something to remind me of how good it is to be alive and living for God–Who helps me in His Spirit to see the many blessings given by God’s Hand.

The missing dark stories in the news: Planned Parenthood

Last Sunday in the homily I brought up the Contemplative Way and the Active Way of being disciples of Christ, in imitation of Martha and Mary. I said that these two paths can be used in combatting evil and darkness in our times.

I will offer here a personal example of how I have myself responded in these sacred ways versus the violence of our times.

This Summer disturbs me because of how our ‘alarmed’ culture has carefully selected aside NOT TO pay attention to the MOST graphic and horrific form of violence in our society today. THIS news of tragic deaths doesn’t make the daily reports. It’s the abortion crisis.

We still have thousands of Americans dying at the hands of abortionists each week, even greatly outnumbering the other numbers of deaths from violence, yet it is ignored and excused away from many’s attention. Why so? While terrorists’ bombs alarm us or gun shots on our streets rightly upset us, so to be decried–where is the outcry over the scores of abortions going on in our society, home or abroad? This taking of innocent life by the thousands and millions is terrorism and abuse and senselessness many, many, many times worse over.

I was talking to a Black Lives Matter proponent. I asked them to widen their scope. I said: “Doesn’t it bother you that the most Black lives killed are via abortion, by about 10,000 times over?! The culprits are many black parents, duped to let an abortionist eliminate their children. In your movement to protect lives, why aren’t you most outraged by this occurrence in our society everydayi? If so, then tell me of your protests and prayers, that THESE lives matter.” Why aren’t you protesting Planned Parenthood?

The major contributor to abortions in America is by Planned Parenthood. They take the most Black lives away in America. As I was in Houston this past week, I saw many of the tall buildings in the city belonging to rich and powerful corporations and companies, like of the oil industry. Yet standing mightily among them was the high, multi-story Planned Parenthood building, the outfit who is rich from profits not of oil but from abortion, which IS the eliminating of innocent life of tiny Americans. PP is even a re-seller of baby parts, and hides other gruesome practices, while claiming to be a health organization!

Why are we not outraged by them? Isn’t it troubling, too, of how much they are involved in the politics of choosing our next president? It’s outrageous.

I see PP as a dark force in our land. In contemplative response, I pray Masses and rosaries for the unborn. I pray for Americans to open their eyes, too, to the wrongful actions and influences in our government and politics. I pray for the sake of human life and digity to children, and for our curbing of this grave offense to God–which PP promotes. That’s my Contemplative Way of response, to sit with Jesus and to mourn. I do believe Jesus weeps for the aborted with equal emotion as to the Holy Innocents who died in Bethlehem over Herod’s fury of Jesus becoming his rival.

In the Active path, I declare how PP is involved in evil. I march for life in protest of abortion. I am also opposed publicly to the Capitol Hill PP center now being planned. I will protest at the site, and go on radio nationally against these plans to put up their center, their brazen national symbol of power, right in Washington’s center. That protest is my Martha side coming out. I will proclaim a Lord of Life and Light. I will act.

To conclude, I just urge you to let some cause grab you in your Faith in Jesus and pray and act in it, letting your Martha and Mary side come forth. You have heard how this Summer of dusturbances has me disturbed over something passed over in social justice.

We each need to be in conteplative prayer and active justice for Something in Jesus’ Name. What is yours?

Homily: Martha & Mary Ways 16th Sun. July 17

We are told about Friends of God in Holy Scripture today. Abraham had a welcome, intimate, how-can-I-serve you home for God. So did Martha and Mary. I’d like to talk on this good nrighbor to God theme today, and to sing a song on it.

Plus, in the Gospel story today we hear of the two different ways Mary and Martha responded to Jesus, and I’d like to speak to it today, as well.
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As Genesis described, Abraham and his wife Sarah had such a close covenant relationship with God that they recognized the three passersby as God’s agents. They reached out generously in welcome to them, because God should be welcomed when He comes.
As Luke described, Martha and Mary came to believe in Jesus and welcomed Him and His apostles into their home. This wonderful rabbi, they pondered, could be perhaps the Christ Himself. These Bethany sisters, along with their brother Lazarus, wanted to be true neighbors and supporters to Jesus. Can our parish and our own household be friends with God like by their example and practice? Can we be a welcome neighbor to God?

You’ll notice that last week my homily perspective was on who we would permit into our circle as our helping neighbor, as we were focusing on people. This Sunday we look to letting God into our circle to be our Neighbor, and we the good neighbor to Him.

I wrote a song for this Mass about the joy of being such neighbors to God, as the ones who will welcome Him in. The song urges us to celebrate God’s visitation among us, for He comes to know us and to be known, and He comes to save us. The sinful world wants to clutch to their sins, while keeping in a distanced fear from God, or poor disregard. Yet WE know how we greatly need God to be near us and close to us, and are so pleased that He comes to us. We are not afraid of the Divine Intimacy. ( Song lines…”You came to meet us, not defeat us.”) 5266

Part two of this homily is to examine Martha and Mary’s varied good responses to Jesus.

St. Luke’s Martha and Mary Story shows the two main, good ways of giving neighborly response to God. There is the Contemplative Way and the Active Way, seen with these two Bethany women in this story. Martha serves Jesus busily in the kitchen, readying a meal for her special guest. She is on the Active path. Mary chooses differently, in by sitting quietly at the feet of Jesus, taking advantage of some quiet and close moments with The Lord. She is on the Contemplative path.

Both ways of welcoming Jesus were honoring to Him, though in the moment, Jesus had favored the latter one. Why? Because Jesus wanted to disciple women too, and have them to sit down with him, just like male disciples of the Rabbi did. So, Mary chose the better part, or path, that particular occasion, in helping her sister Martha realize that Jesus wanted not just service from the kitchen but companionship and service in His ministry. They were called as disciples. It was an important lesson, which required to be quiet and to listen to Jesus and to His teachings. So Martha came in to the living room and joined in the circle of Jesus, at His feet. She switched over to the contemplative side for awhile. (More and more Catholics are feeling called to the contemplative life today, in this ‘Martha move.’)

In this lesson of “being neighbor to God,” some of you who are used to the doing-doing-doing way probably need to borrow from Mary’s Way and spend some time in just living the being-being-being way with the Lord. And vice versa. Some contemplatives equally might need more concrete action in their lives, following Martha’s usual Way.

Let’s now apply this Gospel in the light of the 2016 news of some civil unrest in America, along with the reports of more world terrorism attacks going on. How can these two ways of Martha and Martha be used for response to all that’s going on in the world?. It’s been a Summer of bad news so far, and it asks of us: “What is our response to it?”

We could be like Mary in taking some more personal prayer time in sensitive response to the bad news on humankind’s ills. I can invite you to visit the church for our Tues/Thurs weeknight Masses, and to be stilled and to pray. We often add on a rosary after the half-hour Thursday liturgy. Yet, wherever or wherever you can find some intimate time with Our Lord–take it. The world needs prayer and petition right now. The dark spirit in the world needs to be countered by Christ’ followers being bathed in His Light and guided by His personal messages to us of His friendship.

We can follow Martha of Bethany’s path of action, too, by looking to do some action, like in peacemaking or justice promoting. For example, writing in support of troops you know of could be an action. We can show some support to those who combat the evil in the world. Some good police officers could use your encouragement, too. Do you know any? In another suggestion, you can get active in social justice issues, taking a stand by your real involvement.

Martha was a doer, with many good works in her life, including her cooking for the radical Rabbi Jesus and welcoming His apostles to freely lodge in her big place. Her actions were big-hearted, including her testifying that Jesus was the Christ, in open public affirmation. She was overjoyed to be Jesus’ friend– a friend of God. Are we?!

So –what kind of neighbor are we to The Lord? Hopefully we want to be filled with Light from being close to God, and we want to have an open, honest and seeking relationship with Him. We will want to please God by doing things that please Him. In imitating Mary and Martha, can we think of contemplative prayer and discipleship moments we can take, as well as courses of action we can make to counter this violence and utter selfishness of the world? Can we celebrate the Light Who has come among us as Neighbor and Presence? It can take away darkness. Can our relationship with God extend blessings to this world in need? ‘Hope so.

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Catholic Music Convention

I am away until Friday the 15th at a Catholic convention. As a photo below shows, the gathering was for hundreds of persons who have an interest and/or participation in Catholic music (used in liturgies). We were gathered together yesterday in singing “worthy is The Lamb to receive power and wealth, and wisdom and might, honor, glory, blessing!” We had a group of musicians leading thw throng, mostly made up of members of an organization called NPM–the National Pastoral Musicians. In this moment captured, our musical instruments were mainly of 2000 voices, joined by a few persons in accompaniment with instruments of strings and keys and horns.

This convention gathers people to bring together some music and praise to God, and to fellowship in the experience, and to go to various workshops and conferences to learn how to enhance Catholic liturgies. People also come to grow in faith and just be inspired by all the music. It’s real enjoyable.

This blog would be served better today if I had audio samples from this week’s convention … with all the musical styles represented and the great teachings. It has been a great feast here for me for the heart and ears.
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I was in a grand closing Mass when everything here seemed to hit its peak. Also, our final plenum was by Fr. Paul Turner as he taught on how our ultimate goal is to praise God in unity, even in our blend of diversity.

In a workshop today, also, a songwriter/liturgist shared some blessings in his life. One such blessing was in how he experiences the prayed Psalms at Mass as truly an act where he prays it WITH CHRIST to the FATHER. He says that The Spirit enables this dynamic prayer orientation. He said this revelation and enhanced prayer at Mass was in realization of how Jesus prayed those same Psalms in His life on earth and as one of us, and how the speaker started entering into the present reality that Jesus still is present to lead and prays the Psalms with His Body on earth. His Word remains active and living! Jesus truly prays the Psalm with us as the grand Mediator of earth to Heaven.

This participation was our subject for discussion and for singing some Psalms together afterwards, using this mindset.

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I come back to pray all the weekend Masses, the confessions, a baptism, and join along with a prayer/Bible study group. ‘See you then!

15th Sun. Homily– The Good Sam Story In Reverse Application

Homily

The way we often hear the familiar Good Samaritan story of Luke 11 is in figuring that the lawyer is being asked by Jesus to be nice, at least, to a few Samaritan folks in his life, since Jesus has shown him that some Samaritans are actually good people. Indeed–Jesus tells of one Samaritan who rescued a true Jewish person who had been suffering badly in a ditch, and the said Samaritan had even paid for the victim’s initial recovery costs from the highway robbery and assault. The application is made, then, by modern Church folk of this parable, that we should go on and be kind to some strangers or even to some people we don’t like in the slightest, because, after all, God notices the unconditional kind acts we do for others. Thus, we ought to do a few such good or even great deeds for some seemingly undeserving folks. It’s what a Christian would do!

That IS a popular interpretation and application of the famous Good Samaritan parable.

Can I show you a more challenging one in this Year of Mercy? I would suggest we hear ANEW the familiar question of today’s gospel as NOT only “what new neighbor ought I to love?” …but also to apply the parable by asking: “What new neighbor need I let in to love ME and so help me get to Heaven?” Plus: “How do I humble myself so? Where are my defenses up versus God’s love coming to me via others, even the unlikeliest of others? Where are my pride walls?”
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Take note that Jesus’ parable lesson here is about an outsider (and disliked) Samaritan who is helping a Jew. It’s not the other way around! The Jewish lawyer who was given this parable story would have been very surprised and flabbergasted by it. Yet he DID ASK Jesus for a teaching on getting into eternal life, right? That surprise response really puts him (the well- off Jew) in the story as the rich Jew in the ditch, desperate for help, needing the compassionate Samaritan traveler to stop and help.

Jesus truly wants to answer and guide the man to eternal life. He knows that the limits this man puts on “who is my neighbor?” and that it would likely be the attitude that has the lawyer miss his need to be saved by God’s Son. At this point, the scholar only was relying on the law. Jesus doesn’t want the man to fail on his own merit, by the law, so He challenges his heart to be more open to love from outside of himself. In this way, the scholar can find eternal life.

Luke’s Gospel has this lawyer typically checking all the angles out on this salvation matter, so as to not be missing something. It turns out that the lawyer was missing something quite big, but Jesus will point it out for him AND to us.

Jesus taught publicly that a basic Jewish requirement of a believer was to love one’s neighbor as they loved their own self. 0k–says that lawyer–but his blind spot is revealed in how the evangelist frames this inquirer’s question. Luke includes the line: “And looking to justify himself to Jesus, the lawyer said: “And who is my neighbor?”

Jesus answered him with a parable of a man in a ditch. We know now that this person in the ditch is really any one of us who are wounded by sin and pride, left to eventually to die in our lost situation from God. The one in the ditch,ourselves, is in clear need of outside help. (Like in Jesus and His people coming by to save us.)

If the lawyer could imagine just for a moment, the story depicts HIMSELF as the Jew robbed and beaten and in need of a neighbor’s help, WHO would he let help him?

Jesus asks: Who is YOUR neighbor now, in that spot? Who would you let to love and save you? Who’d be that neighbor? You see–this is the parable’s OTHER SIDE.

Could someone at great odds with you even be allowed to be merciful to you, then, in that moment? He asks the lawyer via the parable: “How about a Samaritan coming along as your good neighbor?”

Remember in context that this Jewish lawyer never wanted anything to do with the Samaritans, in not EVER wanting to reach out to help a Samaritan, and certainly NEVER to want to be helped by a Samaritan or ever be in the position of needing help from someone like that.
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Jesus’ parable will challenge that man’s closed position. And ours.

(It will be like how Pope Francis challenges us now in this Year of Mercy, too.) In the parable, the SAMARITAN acted like a good neighbor to the fallen, hurting person in the ditch. That is the new definition of a neighbor suddenly! Jesus is teaching a change here by this parable. Parables always have such surprise lessons.

Jesus let the lawyer see that a new merciful heart on the RECEIVING END might be the key to eternal life for him. The lawyer had money and could give it away to others, but how would he fare in the harder part of opening up his own needs to the saving help of others (as well) and to be saved by love from a stranger, too?!

The lawyer certainly did not expect that kind of lesson from Jesus. He was looking outward to help, but not looking back at his own need. The lawyer was doing well enough for himself that he could help others. But in THIS case, Jesus is saying to the lawyer (and to us): Could you be the one of whom a neighbor could love and help? Can Jesus see YOU as the one to be on the receiving end of neighborly love?

Aha! This makes the parable more interesting but also more challenging! This teaching is a continuous lesson from last week’s Matthew chapter 10 account. You remember when Jesus asked His 72 disciples to allow for others to provide for their needs, as they went to towns with His ministry message of the Kingdom and works of care? He said to them to “take only a little with you, so that you’ll depend on what others will offer for you.” Jesus wants them to experience their being dependent on others’ care. He wants them to let the townspeople to be neighborly to His disciples. He wants them to RECEIVE and not just to give out in their mission work. Jesus says “eat what they set before you and to stay in the lodging they provide you, for the laborer is worth his keep.” Their lesson? That the 72 disciples had to be willing to let others be neighborly to them. Jesus is assembling a new neighborhood called the kingdom of God. So, do you catch that continuing connection and message to today’s Gospel Parable?

The self-sufficiency of the lawyer is likely in the way of his spiritual progress and his ultimate salvation to Heaven! (It could be in some of us, too.) Jesus challenges the lawyer’s attitude of justifying himself. The lawyer was looking to prove by his charitable giving that he was already worthy to God. Yet Jesus sees that the inquirer was not yet really needy for God, nor was he truly open in his mind and heart to love and to see the new entrance of the kingdom of God. If this man could become humbled enough to take on friendship and love from a Samaritan neighbor, and even spiritual favors from them, then he would have Heaven started in him! In Luke’ s writing of his Gospel, this interchange of Jew and Samaritan or Gentile was underway in the First Church.

This is an uncomfortable interpretation of Luke 11 and its parable for some people because of their spending so much time, energy and money trying to be non-vulnerable or invulnerable persons. We try precisely to need as little as possible from those around us. Why do we live that way? Perhaps it’s a fear of being a burden to others. Or maybe it’s a concern about “owing to others.” Or could it be that we are just afraid of being vulnerable, BECAUSE if we show our need or our true self to others, might it happen that we will not be accepted and loved or not cared for? Would we be afraid to be seen as weak or dependent, and thus treated poorly by this world’s aggressive system? Or can we be neighbors to others in the new kingdom of God here emerging among us?

The dominant system and way of the world is oriented around serving #1 and taking care of yourself. Perhaps Jesus saw that this lawyer was trapped in living for #1 back then, and he might not be saved to Heaven, unless he opened up more to Jesus and the Divine Mercy loving the lawyer/religious man. Jesus needs to be the start of a new neighborhood in the world of His saving life. Can we respond to Him more for that? For whatever reason, some people are so mortified by the idea of showing their deepest needs and true self into this community of Jesus. Yet we need Him and one another so desperately. Don’t we get this? Let us become one in His Mercy.IMAG0502_1

More about Freedom (thoughts after Sunday…)

Post Homily thoughts….
As I mentioned in Sunday’s homily opening, when Pope and (now new) Saint John Paul II came to the United States some years ago, someone greeted him by saying: “Welcome to the land of the free!” The Holy Father then asked the man a question: “Free for what?! Free for what?!”saint

Pope John Paul II saw clearly then ( back a couple of decades ago) how America’s definition and practice of freedom was getting blurred. John Paul II was once a man named Karol Woltija living in Poland, who saw his whole countries’ freedoms taken away by the Nazi’s, and then after WW2 to begun to be controlled by the Communist Russians. From his youth into adulthood, he knew what true freedom looked like, and what freedom lost looked like, or what freedom denied felt like. He saw the threat to freedom lurking in America.

Now in 2016 America, we see persecution regularly in that too often now we see how immorality is defended by authorities instead of the practice of Christian godliness, and our clear movement away from the nation’s founding. The false god of man-centeredness “or secular humanism” has led people back to the original sin, of arrogance and pride before God, as if to make themselves equals to God. From our open, legalized abortion sins in America to the sexual immorality of abortion and contraception (to deny children in illicit unions or materialistic ones, e.g.)– we have been heading down a poor path. Dishonesty reigns, vulgarity walks openly down the street, and impetousity demands that fervent Christians keep their religion to themselves and reserved for inside of churches.

A crisis for truth has emerged. People in true Catholicism have choices ahead of whether to side for God or for bug compromise into this new secularism. It is getting that the two paths are obvious and distinct. Secularism is getting bold and insulting and determined to deny any forces/peoples against it that would convict her poor behaviors or dull consciences. Thusly, there are people getting hurt or punished for their Godly respect to the Lord Jesus Christ today, and worse treatment should be coming, even in America, if we would continue on in our dulled consciences in this culture of death, or march on in disrespect for the family or to the human body as God’s temple, or if we would further decline in our cursed and unbridled gross behaviors going on.

These past days in the Daily Word at Mass, it has been the prophet Hosea speaking to a corrupted Isreal to reform, but Hosea could be speaking to Christians all over America in a similar warning.

As Pope John Paul II was getting at in asking “free for what?!,” we see odd things today. Liars and killers and sellers of infant parts get protected by officials, and the people exposing Planned Parenthood’s atrocities get punished (not the PP ones doing the dark deeds). You see, friends of Jesus, the land of the free was not to be the land for people to be encouraged for freedom to be immoral and anti-godly! Freedom is a gift from the Creator; slavery and inhumanity comes from below. Yet people do always have a choice to make. Freedom also is about an unforced choice. Can we pursue the good for ourselves and for all?

Planned Parenthood is a major player in the upcoming election. Voter choices will have religious freedom and faith factors ahead, such issues will need to be weighed.

In my last blog, I mentioned how religious freedoms have been impinged upon in America, resulting in even the good Little Sisters of the Poor being attacked, with their need of legal defense and counter measures to the persecution of the national government upon them (in Obamacare demands).
Catholics have needed to come forward and choose to fight versus these affronts. It takes courage, but we must choose Christ as Whom we will first serve, much like John Fisher and Sir Thomas More did as they chose Christ and His Church for their highest service in England, even while being good citizens. They did not sit idly by under a government going against Catholicism and principles of God in its society. It was their saintly witness a few hundred years ago.

A lesson here: Oftentimes, one becomes what they choose. When we come to Communion next at Mass, please confirm by your “Amen” to become one into the Body of Christ and be His faithful member. Say yes or “Amen” to your freedom in the Lordship of Christ Jesus. He said: “Truly, if the Son sets you free, you shall be free indeed. (John 8)” Choose the reign of God over you anew, as our Gospel called for you to do in Luke 10, as proclaimed last Sunday.

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More thoughts on Freedom and the State and Free Will… (borrowed)

The Catholic Church has been the most ardent defender of freedom in the history of the world — though it almost never gets credit for it. We live in an age of determinist ideologies, yet see how the Catholic Church appears to stands alone, at times, in radical defense of man’s free will.

What about our free will? Do we have grace to help us live in a holy will? Catholics say yes. The exercise of becoming true children of God by good,sound choices is Jesus’ offer of renewal to us (see John 1:12 and 1st John ch. 3-5 for Johannine teaching on this). So, when we sing “America the Beautiful” and its extra verse, which ends with the prayer to God “confirm thy soul, in self-control, Thy liberty in law– we do sing out that we have some mastery of our will, when helped by Grace. But when the media, non-Catholic Christians (in protest with our approach of faith), and all dissenters versus this Way of The Lord tells practicing Catholics that one’s impulse to sexual activity is too overwhelmingly powerful and can’t be controlled or renounced, and is just our nature to act out unrestrained, we Catholics say: No, it is a truth that man IS free. Humankind is called to chastity, it is what they are called to do, and what they can do. It is a revelation of Jesus to His people, and His gift to us for virtue and happiness of life. We even CAN take on chastity in relationships, and even some of her Church leaders can freely take on celibacy, used as a sacrifice to better serve God and His Church.

To confirm our soul in self-control and keep true liberty in law is a dream of America the Beautiful.

Free will can be blessed. Our choices in faith and by free will do have returns in reward from the Lord.
As a theologian pointed out in an article, when Maximus in the movie Gladiator rallies his ­cavalrymen with the words, “What we do in this life echoes in eternity,” he is speaking like a Catholic, not like a Reformed Protestant or a Muslim who believes that eternity is already written and that man has no free will.

When skeptics complain that the evidence for God is not clear or that a God who allows suffering and evil is Himself sadistic and evil, the Catholic responds: Our God has made us free persons. True freedom always comes with costs and challenges. Ours is not a religion of make-believe where actions have no consequences. Ours is a religion of life as it really is. And life as it really is, is a life we know of struggle versus sin andcour unruly Self. Catholicism is a religion of pilgrimage, freely accepted, to grow in Christ, to overcome sin.”

To take the comments of another blogger, “it is another oft-propounded myth that the Western world didn’t taste of freedom until the Protestant revolt of Martin Luther, which led to the division and state subordination of churches in northern Europe and eventually led, in some countries, to the separation of church and state and the irrelevance of church to state. But who would blatantly say that the Renaissance — against which Luther revolted — was not free? Who would deny that the great check on state power throughout the entirety of European history, from the conversion of Constantine until the twentieth century, was the Catholic Church?”

(They go on…) Think of the Roman Emperor Theodosius, commander of all Rome’s legions, stripping himself of all imperial insignia to do penance before an unarmed cleric, St. Ambrose, bishop of Milan. Here’s an example again how it has been the Catholic Church that has brought a moral check to bear on the exercise and perquisites of power.”

Interesting.

So let us move back to the example of Saints John Fisher and Thomas More. (The relics of these saints are in Washington this week.) We think of the martyrdom of these two English Catholics, whose names are on our St. Edward west santuary windows. In Thomas Beckett and Thomas More, we have victims of the Protestant revolt, which argued that the power of the state was scriptural and the power of the papacy — the power of Christ’s Church against the demands of the state — was not. The English would kill to make their point. They were wrong and they knew it, but did not back down. We Catholics (in the witness of Fisher and More) were right and would take the cost of The Cross to defend it.

We think of the Enlightenment, the French Revolution, the Kulturkampf of Bismarck, and later intellectual and political currents, including fascism, communism, and the liberalism of our own time, all of which saw — or see — the STATE as the essential thing, with centralization of state authority as the central task, and state direction as the essential instrument of reform. And what was the roadblock to these “reformers?” It was the Catholic Church. It was the Church that asserted the independence of “subsidiary institutions.” It was the Church that defended the rights of the family against the state. It was the Church that protested, in the words of Pope Pius XI, against the “pagan worship of the state.”. It is the Catholic Church still taking this path.

As someone said: The true Catholic is a natural Tory anarchist — someone who believes in loyalty to persons, institutions, and the faith (semper fidelis) – and in otherwise letting les bons temps rouler.

WE are a Church believing in people and our ability to be free and to be guided by God to good choices. While the Church has her Christ-appointed authority, our Catholic religion is not mainly a dictated Faith but one which puts the believers trust in God and a Kingdom come life as our shared reality. We are to become a body of believers, a Body under Christ.

Models of Freedom (Homily–July 3)

JULY 3RD Sunday Homily 14th Week of Ordinary Time
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Models of Freedom

When Pope and (now new) Saint John Paul II came to the United States some years ago, he was greeted by an American who said: “Welcome to the land of the free!” The Holy Father thought about that U.S. slogan expression, then asked the man a question: “Free for what?! Free for what?!”IMAG0511_10-
Friends, this is our national holiday weekend for pondering the meaning of freedom, and celebrating thanks upon what freedoms we enjoy and others enjoy in the United States of America. In defining freedom, it would not merely be to say it means that one is free to just do as they please, just for their own pleasure and gratification. Freedom involves the common good. THAT is the what JPII was asking about and inferring that freedom involves pleasing God more than one pleasing themselves. Freedom involves our neighbor and their rights, as well as our own. As Abraham Lincoln pointed out in his time, living out freedom is the doing (or possibility of doing) of what one ought to do, which not necessarily is doing what one always wants to do.

That definition is the starting place for what we are celebrating civilly this holiday. Then there also is the higher and “first freedom” that we Catholics follow. It is of our freedom to each our souls and of all of our being in the Gift and Way of Jesus Christ. When we live in Him, with He in us, then the true and eternal liberation is started, and the Spirit of God comes to support God’s plan for our full freedom. The Bible says: “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”

For the last six Sundays we have heard the epistle to the Galatians in our Masses. Have you studied it any? The main message of Galatians IS “Freedom in Christ.” It teaches us about our highest and fullest freedoms afforded us now are in Jesus Christ, in His incarnation and union with us and in His victory over sin and death for us. In Galatians 4:31-5:1 it tell us: “We are not children of the slave woman (i.e. bondage to sin, slaves to mankind’s fall) but of the free born woman (the Church, under the Immaculate Mary). For freedom Christ set us free, so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery (and captivity to sin)!” Read Galatians for messages on freedom. A fundamental lesson of the book is that if the soul is in captivity to anything but Jesus, then a person can never really be free, for they will
M have the law expose them as shortcomers of living in truth, as sinners stuck in selfish ways.

This freedom that Paul tells of to the Galatians is so real in Jesus. There have been many heroic witnesses to freedom from the Church’s story, of those who championed it in practice. Using the stories compiled in the U.S. Bishop’s Fortnight for Freedom web site for this Independence Day 2016, I will survey a few of them for you…

That website first heralds two women martyrs of The Faith. In the early Church, many a believer became a martyr as they lived for freedom versus the dominion of the Roman Empire. We know of Peter and Paul’s martyrdom, as well as those first martyrs of Rome–the Church calendar just honored them last Wednesday and Thursday. Yet the Roman Empire’s reign of tyranny lasted centuries, and in North Africa, Catholics like Saints Felicity and Perpetua boldly stood for freedom-in-Christ over bondage to Rome or worldly powers. They were martyred in Carthage in 203 a.d.. They lived and died in liberty. The Catholic Church honors these young mothers and their great intercession from God’s Heaven, with a feast day celebrated each March 7th, and their names put in Eucharistic Prayer 1.

From the early Church to modern times, people have witnessed to freedom even by blood, such as that of Blessed Jesuit Fr. Miguel Pro. He was shot by a firing squad in Mexico for serving as a priest in the land when the Mexican government outlawed Catholicism there. This strong persecution of the Church began about a century ago in Mexico (1914) and continued in practice for many years with severe persecution for any open Catholic practice in that nation. Fr. Pro’s public execution occurred seventy-nine years ago in 1927. In facing death by his government, this priest and once Guadalupe-born Catholic put his arms out in the sign of the cross and publicly shouted “Viva Cristo Rey!” preceding his being shot to death. His witness to Mexico’s government was that they could not take away inner freedom of a man, including his religious faith. This model of freedom saint showed how a person alone can be fully free—it is solely found in one’s complete surrender to Jesus Christ.

A contemporary example of witnesses to freedom are the 21 Coptic Martyrs of 2015. Remember the shocking video or photos of men being marched along a beach by ISIS terrorists to be beheaded? What was their crime? It was that they were practicing Coptic Christians, “people of the Cross, followers of the hostile Egyptian government” –as ISIS put it. Their story was included in the Fortnight to Freedom Witnesses, too. Christian Copts have lineage back to St. Mark in Egypt, 1st century. These believers are persecuted heavily today.

Faith and freedom are tied together. We also know how liberation and the open, full practice of religion in Jesus Christ will be persecuted, as our Savior told in His Beatitudes. Persecution of Catholics and other Christians is today on a major increase in the world. Religious freedoms are being challenged. (In my next blog, I will comment on that going on in America in new levels of religious intolerance of Catholics in society.)

On this 4th of July long weekend, let us also review some female witnesses to freedom (of the non-martyr kind). Do you know who Henrietta Delille was in American history?

Venerable Henrietta Delille lived in New Orleans as a devout Catholic in early 19th century America. A free woman of color, she descended of an enslaved African woman and a white slave owner. Her life’s story was that she was a Catholic with deep convictions and social justice ambitions, being a brave, outspoken witness of love for the Church and society (of her time) to affirm the God-given dignity of persons of African descent. This brave woman did fight for freedom and justice right in the tide of much racism in America. She deplored the conditions of black persons of the South, and sought ways to change them, such as moving the Church’ efforts of getting Sacramants and religious education to Southern Blacks. Her Lay Black Religious Association back then have become today’s Sisters of the Holy Family who still live out Henrietta’s models of freedom and faith, seeking to “proclaim the kingdom of God,” going out there to serve Jesus just like those 72 disciples in Luke 10’s gospel were willing to do.

Another model group for freedom have been the Little Sisters of the Poor of today. The Little Sisters have been around for 200 years already and have constantly cared for poor strangers, elderly and frail people, and old priests with poor health and little money. Locally, they have a St. Jeanne Jugan home on the road besides Catholic University in Washington. Usually these sisters and volunteers in DC (including one of our parishioner helpers there) just quietly go about their loving, caring business. Yet in recent times, with health care approaches being changed in America, they have become a target in the center of a religious freedom controversy in the USA in the past couple of years. There were some bad and demanding elements of secular humanism in the Obamacare renewals, put on Christians to comply versus their own conscience, and it gravely offended these Little Sisters, and other Catholics. It has been ghastly and almost ridiculous to see how the Little Sisters (as representatives for the rest of us Catholics) have been mistreated and dis-respected and mandated to put aside key parts of their Catholic Faith, for mandated participation in a new national health care plan that included immoral cooperation in serious sin. How the Little Sisters have suffered! You see them in their simple habits of service standing outside the Supreme Court steps protesting this aspect of the health care plan, which if they don’t comply with it mwill result in a fine of about $70 million a year. The Obamacare plan mistakenly (or blatantly) disregarded some long time faith practices of some of America’s most fervent health care promoters and caretakers of their neighbor: non-clergy Catholics. The director of the new health care plan (Kathleen Sebelius of HHS) even knew well of the good work done of the Little Sisters in DC and in her home state of Kansas and elsewhere, but she and others pushed the Plan (as it was) through, with demands for all (except some clergy and other narrowly-selected groups) to pay into abortion-inducing practices, sterilization, and free contraception provisions–which affront religious freedoms. These Little Sisters love their neighbor so much in America, that they give their lives to care for the neediest and poorest Americans in elderly health care. This action versus freedom prompted Pope Francis to make an unscheduled stop at their D.C. home last September, right after the Canonization Mass at the Basicila/Shrine. little sisters Now, after a Supreme Court consideration of the matter, after lawsuits–the Justices’ have recognized that so many other options and easy public access are out there for women’s choices in contraception, abortion and sterilization– that a mandate overstepping religious liberty may not be in order. Our own court case of the Archdiocese of Washington (and others) of the same complaint will likely get a second look ahead too. You and I and all ADW persons remain in this stand-by lawsuit vs. HHS. ‘You know that, right?

Are you concerned for America and her abuses of freedom, even in assertion versus the Church? I call your attention on it on this 240th birthday of our nation. Is freedom still an important issue? I think so. Look at the fervor for the play “Hamilton.” I saw the show recently and the cheering audience at the James Joyce theatre for this big Tony award winner was a sign to me how big a deal freedom is now, as it was 250 years ago. The Church is right in the midst of that human longing to be free, and to see Satan’s strongholds of slavery and bondage “fall like lightning,” as today’s Gospel says was those 72 disciples for liberation eye-+ testimony.

In finishing, I think of this Gospel and how it compares easily to the Little Sisters of the Poor. In Luke 10, Jesus sent out new disciples, but with only humble provisions (“carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals of comfort”), and He sent them to towns and villages who would welcome them. He sent these disciples to represent His love and mission in visiting and caring upon the sick and lost, with proclamation of that “God is come here to be among you.” He said to His sent out workers that they might feel like “lambs among wolves” but to take heart. That scenario sounds a lot like the Little Sisters’ service. We stand behind them in caring for the sick and showing God’s kingdom of care is here.

So we pray on this Independence Day weekend Mass: God bless America, this land that we love, stand beside her, and guide her, Lord of Mercy, and bring us Light, to get through this night, with Thy Help from above. Amen. Martha_Mary_140

thWBWL7RXKThe Freedom Mass at Mary’s IC Basilica/Shrine is July 4th with the Little Sisters present and honored, Cardinal Wuerl presiding.