07 Jul

Gospel July 7 2019

The First Reading is from the Prophet Isaiah. This passage announces the Israelites return to Israel after their 50 years captivity in Babylon. It proclaims the end of a time of suffering and the beginning of a new era of peace for Jerusalem and her inhabitants: “Rejoice with Jerusalem!” The prophet teaches that if they trust in God and worship Him faithfully, they will again have the spiritual wealth, prosperity and good fortune that they once had. Peace “Shalom!” 

The Second Reading is from St. Paul's Letter to the Galatians. Paul experienced opposition from a certain group of converts that insisted the Gentiles must be circumcised before they could be baptized into Christianity. For Paul, circumcision means nothing. For Paul to boast of the Cross of Christ is amazing when we realize how crucifixion is regarded in his time. Paul also stated all that was necessary was faith and trust in Jesus Christ who gives peace to his followers. 

The Gospel Reading is from the Gospel of St. Luke. Jesus commissions 72 disciples in pairs to share the Good News to all who are ready to listen. Before they depart, Jesus warns them that they will not be received warmly. He also tells them to travel lightly and to trust him. If people open their hearts to you, accept their offer of hospitality. Cure the sick, cast out demons. If people close their hearts to you, do not waste time arguing with them. Move on to the next town. The reading ends with the return of the 72 disciples and their stories of success. 

07 Jul

Becoming a Deacon

The day of D iaconate ordination is huge in the life of a seminarian. It is a major step in saying “yes” to Christ. For one, it is the first time we physically lay down our lives and make seven promises to the bishop.

There were many memorable moments. The one that I want to reflect on is the moment when we receive the Book of the Gospels.

After the laying on of hands, thus receiving from the Holy Spirit the office of Diaconate, and being vested in the vestments of a Deacon, the stole and the Dalmatic (which is a shorter robe with sleeves that is worn over everything else), one by one my brother deacons and I knelt before the Cardinal for a third time. This was the moment when we received the tool for our labor, the Book of the Gospels.

30 Jun

God is Our Inheritance

Father James baptized the children of some recent SJS alumni. Congratulations!

Letters from a Pastor to His People- June 30, 2019

Dear Parishioners,

In the Old Testament, each of the Twelve Tribes of Israel were given parcels of land throughout Israel, following the Exodus and return to the Holy Land.   That is, all of the tribes except the tribe of Levi.  The Levites were set apart as priests for Israel.  This was determined by Moses when he came down from Mount Sinai with the Law.  The Levites would not farm, goat and sheep herd.  They would not have to worry about land disputes.  Their whole task was to care for the Temple in Jerusalem.  How would they be sustained?  From where would their livelihood come?  One word answer: God.

30 Jun

Two Hearts United

Sacred Heart of Jesus - Jesuit Retreat House on Lake Winnebago in Oshkosh, Wisconsin

One of the more unique depictions of the Sacred Heart of Jesus can be found at the Jesuit Retreat House on Lake Winnebago in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.  The statue is of Jesus sitting down with his arm wrapped around a small boy.  The boy, clearly in distress, rests his head on our Lord's shoulder.  Jesus' entire attention is on the child.  He is not thinking about anything else.  He is like a good parent completely present to his child who is upset about something.  The child finds comfort in being able to simply be with someone who offers unconditional love.  Jesus does not need to say or do anything.  The boy is not asking for anything.  The two hearts—one taking in, the other offering out--are united.

Jesus desires us to be like children (see Matthew 18:3). He tells the apostles to let the children come unto him (see Matthew 19:14).  Children are completely dependent and vulnerable and authentic.  When we acknowledge our pain and open ourselves to God, the Sacred Heart begins to beat.  Christ pours his love and comfort out upon us.  Our heart communes with his--this is the essence of mystery of the Sacred Heart.

We are called to take our sorrow and nothingness to the Lord and sit with him, surrounded by his love.  We can trust that Jesus will be attuned to us. Whatever wound we bear will be silently healed.

There is a second part, then, to this Sacred Heart image. We are called to be like Christ and offer that love and comfort to another.  Whether we are parents or not, the challenge is for us to focus our complete attention, in love and desire, upon those before us.  We can be an alter Christus.

 

30 Jun

Gospel June 30 2019

In the First Reading, from the First Book of Kings, Elijah is told by God to transfer his authority to Elisha. He is very willing to respond to his call, but first asks if he can bid farewell to his parents. Elijah’s harsh remark is no harsher than Jesus’ in today’s Gospel. This is a story of prophetic succession. It is done not only by spoken word, but also by symbolic action, i.e., passing of the mantle which represents the handing down of prophetic authority from Elijah to Elisha. 

The Second Reading is taken from Paul’s Letter to the Galatians. Paul speaks about Christian freedom. Christian freedom is not a license to do what we want especially not a license to follow every urging of the flesh. Rather, Christian freedom calls us to be free to serve others in love. The Spirit, on the other hand, is that part of us that seeks to follow God’s promptings. If we submit to the Holy Spirit, he will help us to resist the inclinations of the flesh and embrace the ways of Jesus. 

The Gospel Reading is from the Gospel of Luke. Several disciples claim to be His followers, but first they have to fulfill other obligations. The point here is that following Jesus is not a question or action of getting up and walking in His footsteps. Rather, it is a change of heart and focus of those actions that relate to our commitment to follow Jesus whenever or wherever He leads us.

30 Jun

Evangelical Counsels

 

Returning to our topic of pairing theological virtues with the three evangelical counsels, I want to first say more about the term "evangelical counsels.”

These counsels of obedience, poverty, and chastity are guides to imitating Christ and are described as being evangelical. The use of this term is not to be confused with the Evangelical church. The original meaning has always been connected with the work of evangelization, coming from the Greek word, euangelizesthai, which means to bring the good news. During the time of the Roman Empire, this term carried the connotation that whatever the good news was it meant that Rome was being strengthened and had achieved something.

The pairing of poverty with hope should direct our minds to recognize our own poverty compared to God. We are always in need of such things like, material necessities, peace, rest, happiness, forgiveness, help, guidance, etc. There is an inclination in our material oriented society to label "being in need" as always a negative. It is better to be independent, and this is the guarantee for reaching fulfillment. But if this is the case, then there is no point in having a relationship with God. Now here is the hope, we have a loving heavenly Father who so desires to provide for us. Consider chapter six in the book of Matthew, Jesus outright says it is the Father's desire to care for our every need.

In our relationship with God, it is good to share with Him what we are in need of. Let Him know what is lacking in your life. We can pray for these things, but there is also a deeper trust when we simply place our needs before God, and like a trusting child, we rest in the hope that God will provide according to what is best for our sanctification.

This aspect of our faith is counter-cultural, because with the gift of Hope we do not have to worry when we are in need. Hope bears witness to Our Lord's Resurrection and Ascension, that He reigns in heaven with all authority, seated at the right hand of God the Father interceding for us. Thus, poverty coupled with hope is evangelical; it shares the good news. And this is the good news, our souls and minds are being strengthened by Christ, who, by His grace, is sanctifying us.

 

23 Jun

Feast of Corpus Christi

 

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, historically known by its Latin name, Corpus Christi, celebrates the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist—Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. It is traditionally celebrated on the Thursday following the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity. The feast dates to the Middle Ages and originated with a visionary nun and a Eucharistic miracle.

THE STORY

In 1263 a German priest, Fr. Peter of Prague, made a pilgrimage to Rome. He stopped in Bolsena, Italy, to celebrate Mass at the Church of St. Christina. At the time he was having doubts about Jesus being truly present in the Blessed Sacrament. He was affected by the growing debate among certain theologians who, for the first time in the history of the Church, began introducing doubts about the Body and Blood of Christ being actually present in the consecrated bread and wine. In response to his doubt, when he recited the prayer of consecration as he celebrated the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, blood started seeping from the consecrated host and onto the altar and corporal.

Fr. Peter reported this miracle to Pope Urban IV, who at the time was nearby in Orvieto. The pope sent delegates to investigate and ordered that host and blood-stained corporal be brought to Orvieto. The relics were then placed in the Cathedral of Orvieto, where they remain today (see photo below).

This Eucharistic Miracle confirmed the visions given to St. Juliana of Mont Cornillon in Belgium (1193-1258). St. Juliana was a nun and mystic who had a series of visions in which she was instructed by Our Lord to work to establish a liturgical feast for the Holy Eucharist, to which she had a great devotion.

After many years of trying, she finally convinced the bishop, the future Pope Urban IV, to create this special feast in honor of the Blessed Sacrament, where none had existed before. Soon after her death, Pope Urban instituted Corpus Christi for the Universal Church and celebrated it for the first time in Orvieto in 1264, a year after the Eucharistic Miracle in Bolsena.

23 Jun

The Feast of Corpus Christi

Father James with a recent SJS graduate

Dear Parishioners,

We celebrate Corpus Christi today.  The Eucharist is the real body and blood of Christ our Savior, which means the Eucharist is powerful.  It has a real effect on us.  There are three things the Eucharist does, each corresponding with one of the readings. 

1) The Eucharist gives us strength to perform our duties and obligations in life.  Abram had just defeated several tribes in the Palestine region to establish his position.  Soon after, a priest named Melchizedek brings an offering of bread and wine (cf. Gen 14:18-20).  In turn, Abram gives the priest a tenth of his spoils.  The bread and wine offered by this priest Melchizedek is a foreshadowing of the Eucharist.  It not only celebrated Abram's success, it gave Abram strength to be both King and father of the Israelite people.  When we go to Mass or pray in front of the Blessed Sacrament, we are given strength to be the best spouse, parent, sibling, student, worker, priest that we are called to be.

23 Jun

JRR Tolkien

JRR Tolkien was a devout Catholic. He said on one occasion the Lord of the Rings is "a fundamentally religious and Catholic work; unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision." Lord of the Rings, while not an allegory, like C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia (Tolkien was instrumental in Lewis' conversion from atheism to Christianity, by the way) is simply meant to make us feel Catholic.

The hobbits are innocent.  Only Frodo, who is celibate, can carry the ring. He is assisted by the Lady Galadriel and other strong women who are inspired, in Tolkien's mind, by the Blessed Mother.  (Tolkien had a great devotion to the Virgin Mary—he had part of the Litany of Loreto memorized and even translated it into his created language.) And Frodo is fed on his journey by lembas, the special elven bread that does not have much taste but is sustaining.  Yes, the Eucharist!   

Tolkien had a great love for the Eucharist.  A priest, Fr. Francis Morgan, took care of JRR and his brother after they orphaned at an early age.  JRR served Mass and participated in the 40 Hours Devotion, which involves adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.  And, towards the end of his life, Tolkien wrote this to his son Christopher:

Out of the darkness of my life, so much frustrated, I put before you the one great thing to love on earth: the Blessed Sacrament ... There you will find romance, glory, honour, fidelity, and the true way of all your loves upon earth ... which every man's heart desires.

Not just Christopher, but Tolkien's oldest son, John, took to himself his father's love of the Eucharist.  John became a Catholic priest and celebrated daily that which directed JRR's life and was the guiding light for middle earth.

23 Jun

Gospel June 23, 2019

In the First Reading, from the Book of Genesis, we have a story about Melchizedek, King of Salem (early name for Jerusalem) who comes to greet Abram by returning from a victorious battle. Melchizedek, who is also a priest, blesses Abram with bread and wine. The bread and wine are taken to prefigure the bread and wine of the Eucharistic sacrifice that celebrate Jesus’ victory over death, evil and sin, and enable us to remember our union with Jesus.

The Second Reading is taken from St. Paul's First letter to the Corinthians. This is the most ancient text we have on the origin of the Eucharistic sacrifice of Christ. Since Paul was not present at the Last Supper, he is passing on what he himself received. Jesus gave us the Eucharist and the command to continue the practice of participating in the Eucharist to nourish our souls and spirit, but also to give our bodies in loving service and example just as Jesus did. This is what "Do this in remembrance of me" means.

The Gospel Reading is from the Gospel of St. Luke. This is the only miracle story recorded in all four Gospels. Jesus is out in the desert with a large crowd of people, teaching them about the reign of God and healing their sick. Jesus is feeding the multitude with a few loaves of bread and a few fish with more than enough for everyone and much left over. It is a prelude to His institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper. “All are satisfied” and there are 12 baskets left over. “Give them something to eat yourselves” is a challenge to the Church to feed the physical and soul-hungers of people.