Knowing the Spirit Better

I am doing a personal three day retreat IMAG1390_2on The Holy Spirit.   I have a series of 14 half-hour talks on the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity.   The series is done by a Franciscan priest I have met several times and been on retreat with for several Summers.

I am on my own instead of a communal retreat, so to concentrate just on this topic.

Fr. Barry

Live Christ Seminars on Saturday, Pentecost on Sunday

IMAG0047countrysidegirl-lookingthF4AYAH4ZcadleWe pray for the renewal of our parish on this Saturday of the Pentecost Novena…

in the Live Christ Seminars.

Sat. 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. 6-3-17

Lord, come renew us!  Come and renew the face of the earth, Sweet Spirit and Life to us all!

Lord, I look to Your Presence.  I want to become more holy in You.

As for we, the Church– it’s Happy Birthday time.   A.D. 33 right up to Pentecost 2017 A.D.    IMAG0375_1

 

 

CWA and Cameroon Catholic support ministry

Several years ago, a group of Cameroon women in the parish or county region came together to begin an ecclesial group.   We started a chapter of the CWA (Catholic Women’s Association) here at St. Edwards.   It involved our joining into an existing ministry branching out from Cameroon and Nigeria, which is making efforts to form parish groups on USA’s east coast, to where more Cameroons have moved.   The first one in the region came in 2006-07 in Burtonsville.  Ours followed afterward.

 

The Burtonsville Maryland start at Resurrection Parish was honored last Sunday, with a bishops visit there.   It was Bishop George Nkuo from Kumbo diocese.IMAG1323

My own closer involvement with Cameroons in St. Edwards began with a wedding of a couple in the parish, one that brought many Cameroons into our church.  That bride and many other Catholic women soon were gathering, upon my invitation, twice-a-month, after the 1130 St. Edward Sunday Mass for rosary, doctrine and Bible study, lunch, charity planning, and socializing. I have joined and led them for several years now.

This past Sunday was a Mass and social time for hundreds of CWA CMA chapters and of other Cameroon men and women Catholic organizations in the DC/Baltimore area gathered in Burtonsville.  The bishop from Cameroon was the celebrant of an almost 3- hour Mass, filled with all sorts of ethnic traditions, songs, testimonies, and prayer in the Eucharistic Lord.   It was long for me, of course, but it was a rich experience.   It was another act of support I could give for a group of vigorous Catholic African immigrants, whom I value as an asset to the local Church.   I was one of only two white persons of color in the celebration, but that was fine with me, as I act in solidarity with these new members to the Catholic USA community. IMAG0461  I am getting used to being with them now.  Above is a picture from an African style wedding celebration from a few months back.  The program from Sunday also shows above.  In it you see one of about 20 songs we sang in worship. IMAG1324_1n

I did not take photos within last Sunday’s celebration.

Pentecost Novena starts Thursday

Sunday’s parish bulletin has a special inset on May 21 st.  It is a sheet with the Novena to the Holy Spirit prayers.

This prayer originated with Jesus at His Ascension, asking His followers to wait to be clothed from on high by the Holy Spirit. After nine days of expectant prayer, the Spirit came upon the believers at Pentecost, birthing the Church.

We need to take seriously this novena for asking the Holy Spirit to fall afresh on us. The 40th day of Easter is when Jesus ascended; and today is day 36.  Pentecost is on the 50th day, which is on June 4th this year.   Make this 2017 Pentecost a special one by your own Novena to the Holy Spirit, starting it this Thursday.

The Church’s Mass of Ascension is now held on the weekend after the 40 th day.   It will fall on May 28th.  Yet the Novena starts on Thursday.

Nats Win- Remain secure in 1st

On a Mother’s Day night game, Michael Taylor of the Nationals hits an 8th-inning 2 run homer into the LF fair pole, helping the NATS come from behind, win, and send Nats mothers and fans to bed happy.  IMAG1259_1

I watched it on TV.  I just love the baseball season, with so many games to watch.  The Nats are mostly winning, making it real enjoyable.   In the post game comments by the manager, Dusty Baker, (pic below), imagine his comment, like: ‘… that was a Taylor-made ending”   or  “He was trying to hit that ball to his mother, who lives on Capitol Hill.  We settled on it just being a homer.  But we’ll make sure his Mom gets the ball.’   or “Did you fans know that Wow turned upside down spells Mom?!  Wow, what a night!’

IMAG1258_1.Nats 6, Phils 5= final score.

Ripping Weather

Tornados are usually associated with mid- America, and not the DC area.   We look at the sudden devastation and carnage with alarm, but from a distance.  It must be a terrible thing to lose one’s residence upon a ripping storm of wind.

I was in a Rockville Md. restaurant a couple of weeks back when the DC area went into sudden alarm.   Nearly every cell phone near me went buzzing in the early- warning mode.  It turned out that the wind storm hit elsewhere, such as upon Gonzaga High School (near DC’s Union Station), tearing off a chapel roof. Other places in Maryland/D.C. received damage.

The National Weather Service says that their detection services only give minutes in warning time, and they are reluctant to give false warnings out in a half- hour/ hour’s lead, except in super cell cases. The regular funnels in the sky form quite unpredictably.

People feel quite helpless with this info.  At least in mid- America, as in Oklahoma, they have shelters built for the expected tornados of the year.   Yet who can be ready for life’s storms?

Spiritually, we know that we will have our physical sufferings and calamities to last through, but the Great Storm to fear is for any person to go against the Lord in the end.  Jeremiah 23:19 says “Behold, the whirlwind of the Lord’s indignation shall come forth, and a tempest shall break out and come upon the head of the wicked.”

The Lord will reveal a fury on those who have dared flaunt His laws, as in committing the deadly sins.  Jeremiah’s Word of the Lord addressed those Israelites who had fallen from grace in following false prophets of idolatry.  They were sooooooo guilty before God in their bad sin.  Yet, in 2017 we Christians are also caught up in some serious business before God, in our falling into temptation in joining the modern world of idolatry and falseness, with all its associated pain.

For example, the culture is drug abusive, child eliminating, and greed run.   That right there would have a Jeremiah word to earth today.  The drug culture is everywhere,  bringing bad crime with it, such as here in Maryland.  We are guilty as Marylanders of it dominating society.   I think of Baltimore’s homicide reports being up so high already in 2017.   Protecting innocent life is also lost to us in society, with the rampant abortions still going on in America of millions of children gone (including Maryland or DC babies).  But what of how bad greed is– “the lust of money is the root of all evil” says the Word to us today, as we pursue it as a god, and watch some of our more powerful or talented people be sorely tempted into terrific sin of hidden corporate greed, as it does serious harm upon any people in their path.  Love of others is little considered here.

Whether it is personal sin or what is done in our society, there very obvious things in which such a prophetic message like Jeremiah 23:19 could be levied upon us, with Heaven saying:  “Stop!” “Repent of these ways!”  “Follow Me, not these false gods.  Turn to Me and be saved!– (while you can).”

There is a storm coming upon evildoers that needs immediate attention and address on this earth.  God is a judge of truth.   He will come in truth one day and nothing of darkness will be able to last before Him.  The Lord reigns and He sends His word down to us now:  ‘Be humbled, O people, I, your God, AM a force not to be reckoned with.  If you think a reckless wind storm in your fallen world is bad, then you are little prepared for what is so much greater and devastating. Amen.’

That was a spiritual message that God was looking to get across to me, and pass on.

In finish, in this blog entry, I look at a funnel picture from the newspaper, and I see a another similar message in it:  ‘Warn My people of my wrath.  Have them come to find shelter in My Mercy.  Lead them to repent, while they still can, to find their refuge in Me.’

Or, in the words of the old rock band BTO, whose song I just heard on the XM 70′s channel, the world’s storm winds are bad, but The Lord’s are…. well… You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet.

IMAG1222_1

 

Easter Sunday III and April 19 Emmaus homily message at St. Edward

admin-ajaxzzHappy Easter time!

The Four Gospels preach that the Lord Jesus Crucified is He Who is Alive from the dead.  Jesus is Risen!  In the Wednesday Octave Mass of Easter, as in the 3rd Sunday of Easter, the Gospel of the day gives us the Emmaus journey account of a man (Cleophas) and friend walking downcast from out of Jerusalem.  The evangelist’s account of this walk describes how a fellow traveler on the road joins along with them and raises some conversation with them,  Cleophas says of how he had thought before that the prophet Jesus was their hope, but that He and the dream died in Jerusalem on Friday.  He asks the Jewish stranger:  ‘How is it that you are not downcast, too?  Are you ignorant of who Jesus was, and how His death crushed people’s hopes?’ 

As Cleophas and companion travel on, the stranger who has joined them shares a different take on the ministry of Christ and its hope born through the suffering.  This brilliant man of faith tells them how Jesus was, is, rather, an amazing fulfillment of all the Messianic hopes, meeting all prophecies for a Hebrew to come and be a savior to people Israel and to the world.   Cleophas and the other man had probably looked incredulous at the stranger at first, but now after an hour or two’s walk, they are moved by the man’s words, and they invite Him, rather, plead with Him, to stay with them, and really enlighten them, over a meal and a complimentary stay there in Emmaus.

Then they the tell the stranger with them that Jesus had been the One upon whom they had trusted all their hopes to– and He suggests to them that they break bread together and pray.   They do so, and all of a sudden, the two men now recognize the stranger who has travelled with them.   It is the newly Risen Jesus.   “They recognized Him in the breaking of the bread.”  This is the summation of the whole story.   Then, poof, Jesus goes.  They react by going to gather with Jesus’ core faith community, the apostles and Mary, and to share the Good News.   They run back to Jerusalem and the Upper Room.  When the arrive, they hear joyfully that the Lord Jesus had appeared to Simon Peter too.   A community of Jesus Alive is forming now.

These two actions–the journeying with a listening ear and heart—AND the welcome spirit and breaking bread action–are what we do at every Mass.   We do the Emmaus story every Sunday!   (And even in daily Masses, really.)  We do the Emmaus story in holding a Liturgy of the Word and a Liturgy of the Eucharist.   Part A is the journey to Emmaus–the Liturgy of the Word.   Part B is the gathering at table with the Lord, recognizing Him as our Eucharist in the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

Have you considered this comparison with this Gospel before?  It’s all clearly there.  What we do as Catholics in Holy Mass has its model right here in a story from the first Easter day, on the road to Emmaus and in Emmaus.

We listen to the Word of God, taking a Sunday walk with it, and then we break bread with God on High in Christ. The difference is that with us, compared to the gospel persons in today’s account, we know Jesus is alive–or at least we have been told that Jesus rose from the dead.   They didn’t.

Yet sometimes, even knowing about the Resurrection, we still might not respond to this joyous Mystery of God, even upon hearing God’s Word, but like the first Emmaus walk and the two disciples, God will plant His Living Word in us, letting our hearts burn with it, touch us, and have us desire it all the more.

Did you know that the town name of Emmaus actually is translated to mean:  Yearning desired place.   What is your yearning and desired place?  Is it the Glory of God?  Then you have the burning in you.   It calls forth for a response and welcome and it leads to a greater recognition (or even first AHA recognition of Jesus Alive). Will we let the Word lead you to the Wedding Supper union?   It is designed to bring you to sup with God, at His table.

We the Church in Holy Mass call Jesus our Redeemer and we pray that the Spirit help us to be moved by Jesus, in Word and Sacrament.   The Spirit is given to us to magnify Jesus in our being.   Will it create light in the burning desire in our hearts for His Word?   Will we then flashed recognition of Our Lord in the breaking of the Bread?

These are deep questions for a people on the move, journeying with the Man from Galilee and heading to the place called Yearning Desire.

Can we be like Cleophas and the other person, all so touched by the Encounter with Jesus, so to become glad and to go seek others in the fold to share it with?  That is what our Parish Renewal program hopes to see happen, once people catch this fire.

Cleophas and that other person teach us to be glad like them– Jesus IS Alive and HE is the One to trust!

The children in Religious Ed were with me on Tuesday and Wednesday here in church and I told them that the lamb figure on the middle window in the east section was not just any ordinary lamb walking by.  The flag he was carrying was an Easter flag of victory, because, as I explained to them: He is Jesus, the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world, and happy are all called to His supper.

They caught on with recognition that Jesus is the Blessed Son of the Trinity, He is the babe of Christmas, He is the person that all the Good News describes being the best person ever to live on earth, and He is the Lamb of God, seen in the Heavens, too.   He is all of that.   They caught on to seeing that window anew.   And we adults need to catch on to seeing Jesus anew all the time.    He is (as our epistle describes) that “unblemished Lamb of Sacrifice” Who is Savior and Mercy to us, to Whom we are all indebted to.   Praise His Holy Name.0717132025

Movies Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Parish Mission is Coming

HEADLINES:  LENT AND A PARISH MISSION ARE SOON ARRIVING.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

From the Silly to Serious Signs– Part two

In my last blog, we were looking at Signs of the Times of the Second Coming of Christ.

I have two more “signs” of some historic notice to highlight in today’s column.  Yet first, here is an extended review of our Catholic beliefs on the ‘end things.’  I thought it necessary.

About the Second Coming, Catholics believe Jesus will come again. We teach that Jesus could come again at any time. His return is immanent. The Church’s Creed affirms that when Jesus returns, He will judge both the living and the dead. At that time, the world will come to an end. Catholics reject the belief in any coming “tribulation period” or a “rapture of the church” common among some other Christian denominations.  We believe Jesus will simply return, judge all of humanity, and bring an end to time.”

About the related idea of a Kingdom of God reign, Catholics see the Kingdom of God as something present and visible in the Catholic Church (and to wherever God will want to extend His body of believers into His elect), but we well also speak of it as something greater yet to come in experience in heaven. Catholics reject a literal millennial kingdom period, a belief common in some other Christian denominations. Saint Augustine first articulated kingdom view in his “City of God.” Yet he meant the age of the Church would be this kingdom period.  Catholics expect the Church and the gospel to spread to the entire world before the end comes, encompassing the entire earth in the made-available Kingdom of God.   That, indeed, is what we are trying to do presently.  Each Mass ends with a clergyman’s dismissal, such as “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord!”

Christ will come.  We need for people to come to know Him before He appears in Glory.

We Catholics, for our whole history, have professed our belief that Jesus will come again in a glorious Second Coming.  Our Mystery of Faith in the center of the Eucharistic Prayer of Mass (as prayed/sung by the people) proclaims it and pleads God for it: “Lord Jesus, come in glory!”  Our Scriptures proclaimed in our liturgies announces it, such as in Revelation 1:7 (New American Bible) “Behold, He is coming amid the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him. All the peoples of the earth will lament Him.  Yes. Amen.”  Or in Micah 1:2-4,11; 4:1,3 “Hear, you peoples, all of you; pay attention, O earth, and all that is in it, and let the Lord God be a witness against you, the Lord from his holy temple. For behold, the Lord is coming out of his place, and will come down and tread upon the high places of the earth. And the mountains will melt under him, and the valleys will split open, like wax before the fire, like waters poured down a steep place…I will again bring a conqueror to you, inhabitants of Mareshah; the glory of Israel shall come to Adullam (Canaan).”  “…In the latter days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of The Lord’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and peoples shall flow unto it…“And he will judge between many peoples, and will decide concerning strong nations afar off: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; and nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”  Matthew’s Gospel ending (Mt. 24:30; 26:64) are proclaim texts quite familiar to Catholic ears about the End Times- “And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in Heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory…(and Jesus said to him), You have said one thing, nevertheless, I say to you another, that, hereafter shall you see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and then coming in the clouds of heaven.”

So, while no one knows the day, nor should try to know it– of this Glorious Return of Jesus– He did leave some clues to the End Times signs.  Here, as promised, are two more such “signs.”  They are taken from the same Matthew 24 text.(vs. 3-8)

A) Growth of false teachers/ antichrists and deceivers of the Gospel message in the End Times.  B) Wars, earthquakes, famines as “birth pangs” of The End being near.

Jesus pointed to these things as He said in the finish of His ministry, while sitting on the slopes of the Mount of Olives. His disciples came to him privately and asked, ‘When will all this take place? And will there be any sign ahead of time to signal your return and the end of the world?’ Jesus told them, ‘Don’t let anyone mislead you. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Messiah.’ They will lead many astray. And wars will break out near and far, but don’t panic. Yes, these things must come, but the end won’t follow immediately. The nations and kingdoms will proclaim war against each other, and there will be famines and earthquakes in many parts of the world. But all this will be only the beginning of the horrors to come.‘”
This translation doesn’t spell out what the “horrors” mean, but Strong’s Concordance communicates that the end times will be analogous to the birthing process, because  the word “horrors” comes from the word “odin” which is best translated as “the pain of childbirth” or “birth pangs.”  This means that, much like birth pangs, signs of the end times will appear with greater frequency and intensity as Christ’s return draws near.

History shows that wars, famines and earthquakes are increasing in frequency and intensity.  Let’s see the figures.  According to a Wikipedia list of wars, the past 500 years have witnessed an increase in the frequency of wars:  15th Century – 29 wars.  16th C. – 59. 17th C. – 75.  18th C.- 69.  19th C. – 294.  20th Century – 278 wars.  The first decade of the 21st Century already did witness 55 wars, putting humanity on course for 550 wars over the next one hundred year period.
According to Wikipedia, the past 500 years have also witnessed an increase in the frequency of famines: 15th Century – 6 famines.  16th C. – 10.  17th – 24.  18th – 28.  19th – 30.  20th Century – 44 famines. The first decade of this century alone witnessed 12 famines already, putting humanity on course for 120 famines for this century!
As the population of the world has grown, famines have caused more and more death and destruction in their wake.  Yet is it a population problem?  No.  It’s a greed problem and a pride problem.  We have great capacity to feed the world, even of this size now.
According to a Wikipedia list of earthquakes, the past 500 years have witnessed the following number of earthquakes described as a magnitude 7.0 or greater:
15th Century – 2 earthquakes    16th – 3 of them.   17th – 7 of them.  18th – 13 of them.   19th – 29 of them.   20th Century – 123 of them!  The first decade of this 21st Century already witnessed 144 earthquakes with a magnitude of 7.0 or greater, putting humanity on course for 1,440 such earthquakes over the next century.  ‘Yikes!
The dramatic increase in devastating wars, famines, and earthquakes from the time of Jesus until today is one of clearest signs of the end times.  So it is a good thing to bring yourself to be ready for the Coming of The Lord.

As for false messiahs, antichrists and the like– just think of the big opposition to the Catholic Church today.  She seems to be a target for many.  Many would like to take her down.  Yet Jesus knew this from the start, saying to Simon Peter:  “The gates of hell shall not prevail against you.”  That comment from the Savior indicates how He knew they would definitely try to defeat or stop us.  Many today will indirectly be an opponent of The Church, with persons who will claim their own authority to bring a counter-message to that of the Church, as in preaching to “itching ears” as 2nd Timothy 4:3 describes.   Many declare their own versions of Christianity today, ignoring the One Jesus founded to be kept through time until His return.  The numbers of separate churches or communities calling themselves Christian is staggering in 2017.  The teachings of Jesus in John 17 are not much followed today, bringing on all the disunity of those called as “Christian.”  The “love one another” commandment of our Lord seems to be set aside instead for selfish things.  Even Gandhi said that perhaps the world’s biggest sin (amidst a world of people calling themselves ‘decent’) is greed of self.

The Loving Oneness of Christ Jesus was meant, most of all, to be expressed in the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist.  The Pauline mandate for the Eucharistic sacrifice by priests (as himself) to be prayed with the faithful, until Christ’ Return, is not followed at all outside the original Catholic orthodox Church.  “We proclaim the death (sacrificial offering) of Christ until He comes again,” said St. Paul in 1st Corinthians 11:26 in his epistle text on the Mass of the early church in Greece.  The true Church has the Eucharist to offer (re-present) to God.  The Church has the successor to Peter and the apostles, too.  Yet many choose to stand outside of her (or one might say: HIM).   Paul said that we are to strive to be “in Christ.”  He says it 160 times in his epistles.  Yup.

That is the sad state within Christendom–our division.

Then there is the awful state outside of Christendom, of people claiming to be equal or better than ‘regular’ or historic Christianity.  This time of history is full of many cults, some of the occult movements most obviously under Satan, others in new age movements under some spirit, not to the honor of Jesus, but still there are left the millions of others in false groups (cults) that claim some connection to Christ but not to His divinity.  Those cult members and false teachers are in a dire state themselves, outside of the salvation teaching of the Lord Jesus, Who very much IS Divine.  Jesus is God and man.   Scientology followers, Mormons, Christian Scientists, Unitarians, The Way members, Jehovah Witnesses and many more such cults claim to be godly, but there is not the acknowledgement of any to Jesus being as Lord God over them, that is, not in the way as He asked of His own.  thDNHZGYSJJohn’s epistles in the Bible are all about warnings of such false teachings and teachers.  The Early Church also has her hard fought accounts versus many heresies and distortions of the Truth of Christ.   Those original orthodox believers would be aghast at what is taking place today in these above false movements.thLK3WKK6Z

If one were to put up a road sign of all this spiritual confusion, then I think the one of the intersection depicted would be it.

Yet, more worse than the false teachings or astray ways going on is what’s ahead.   Gaining force to affront the Church is the real possibility for a global false leader of huge magnitude to mislead the world and to gain a massive following.  If the smaller antichrists of Hitler and Stalin weren’t bad enough last century, then we might shudder at who and what this century might bring us.  The rise of globalization and maybe a multinational world government and controlling system on the earth could bring the AntiChrist.  One day, a single man will rule all the people and nations on the earth, so seems to warn St. John’s Apocalypse vision: “And he was given authority to rule over every tribe and people and language and nation.” Revelation 13:7
Given the current global financial crisis and the potential catastrophe of a global war, more and more diplomatic leaders and world politicians are calling for global government.  And as human technology continues to advance and mature, we’re quickly reaching a point where global totalitarian rule will be possible.  Some great deceiver will come forth to persecute the Church and Christ’ own, while seemingly being the popular figure for worldly people to follow, right to their oblivion.  Yet there will be a people of great faith keeping obedient to Christ and His Truth and Headship of the Body.  “And I saw another angel flying through the sky, carrying the eternal Good News to proclaim to the people who belong to this world – to every nation, tribe, language, and people. ‘Fear God,’ he shouted. ‘Give glory to him. For the time has come when He will sit as judge. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and all the springs of water.’” Revelation 14:6-7 (NLT)      Or worship the Deceiver.

What an awful time of conflict that portends to be.   Let’s pray for the strength to “endure to the end and be saved.(Matthew 24:13).”

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Prophecy is telling us that Christ is coming.
“In the same way, when you see all these things, you can know His return is near, at the door.” Matthew 24:33

The time on the clock of time is ticking.  “Another reason for right living is that you know how late it is; time is running out. Wake up, for the coming of our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.” Romans 13:11.

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