Author Archives: Deacon Joe Shriver

About Deacon Joe Shriver

Deacon Joe is a Roman Catholic Deacon who served at Holy Cross Parish, Lake Stevens, WA in the Archdiocese of Seattle. Deacon Joe was ordained in 2007 at Saint James Cathedral in Seattle, WA. In the spring of 2018, we moved to Pennsylvania to be closer to family. Deacon Joe is currently serving at Saint Joseph Parish in York, PA.

20190419 Good Friday

Jim Caviezel, the actor from Mt Vernon who portrayed Jesus Christ in The Passion, made the following statements in a speech at a FOCUS conference.  He talked about the sacrifices he made during his time playing Jesus in The Passion of the Christ.  

“When I was up there on the Cross, I learned that in His suffering was our redemption.  Remember the servant is no greater than the master.  Each of us must carry our own cross.  There is a price for our faith, for our freedoms.  I have been literally scourged, hit by the whips, crucified, struck by lightning, yes, open heart surgery — that’s what happens after five and a half months of hypothermia.” 

He recounted a moment during the filming of The Passion, when he was wedged under the cross and someone else pulled it the wrong way, causing his shoulder to become dislocated.  He said this footage remains in the final cut of the film and commented that had the production taken place in a studio, we might never have seen such an authentic performance.  “The suffering made my performance, just as it makes our lives.” 

“There was a lot of pain and suffering before the resurrection and your path will be no different.  So embrace your cross and race towards your goal.  I want you to go out into this pagan world and shamelessly profess your faith in public.  The world needs proud warriors, animated by their faith.  Warriors like St. Paul and St. Luke who risk their names and reputations to take their faith, their love for Jesus into the world.” 

What a challenge!  Christ suffered a lot of pain during his trial and while carrying his cross to Calvary.  He suffered even more by his crucifixion.  Yet he willingly accepted his Father’s will in the cup of suffering and death to provide salvation for us. 

Jim Caviezel said that “Each of us must carry our own cross.  There is a price for our faith, for our freedoms”.  What crosses will we endure for our faith?  Many of us have pain and suffering in our lives, many of us ask “Why?”, “Why me?”, “Why my spouse?”, “Why our child?” or “Why our parent?” 

Jim said, “The suffering made my performance, just as it makes our lives.”  Jim emphasized that the suffering makes our faith strong.  That’s difficult to understand and accept when we are suffering.  Jesus endured his Passion and cross to bring us salvation.  We too must endure the suffering and pain of this world to gain the eternal life that Jesus died to obtain for us. 

Jim Caviezel experienced some of the pain that Jesus experienced in his Passion and Crucifixion.  It was not close to the actual pain Jesus felt but it left an impact on Jim that changed his life.  Many of us experience severe physical pain in our lives.  Others experience emotional and mental anguish which is just as difficult.  It’s hard to understand that the pain makes our faith strong when we are living that pain.  But we do not walk life’s journey alone.  Jesus walks with us, to comforts and encourage us, in our pain. 

Jim told the college students at the FOCUS convention: “So embrace your cross and race towards your goal.  I want you to go out into this pagan world and shamelessly profess your faith in public.  The world needs proud warriors, animated by their faith.  Warriors like St. Paul and St. Luke who risk their names and reputations to take their faith, their love for Jesus into the world.” 

I sometimes wonder what the world would be like if I had the zeal for Christ that the early disciples lived.  What would happen in the world if each of us lived our lives with the same fervor of St Paul, St Luke, St John or St Peter?  Each of them endured suffering in their lifetimes.  Peter denied Our Lord three times.  Was he weak?  Yes, he failed.  Are we weak in our suffering?  Yes, we fail.  Will Jesus forgive us like he forgave Peter?  Yes, he will.  His love is grater than any force in the universe. 

As we pray the Stations of the Cross and venerate the Cross where Jesus died, let us meditate on the suffering that Jesus endured to provide salvation for us.  What great love it took to accept his Father’s will and endure such suffering to provide salvation for us.  May we commit to forgive others and help someone else in their suffering as Christ forgives us. 

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20190418 Holy Thursday

It seems that we forget that Jesus was not a Christian; he was a Jew.  The book of Acts tells us that it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians.  It was a very derogatory name used by unbelievers to identify the group who believed in Christ. 

As a Jew, Jesus was raised by his parents to observe his Jewish faith.  Joseph and Mary taught Jesus and he learned from the Rabbi and leaders.  As a boy Jesus attended classes and practiced his faith just as our youth do today.  He was twelve when Joseph and Mary and Jesus went to Jerusalem for the Feast of Passover as was their custom

Here it is thirty years later, and Jesus is going to Jerusalem to observe the Passover as he has done since he was child.  But it is different this time.  Jesus is going to Jerusalem not as a child being obedient to his parents but as a man completely responsible for his actions.  During the Transfiguration, Moses and Elijah discussed with Jesus how he would suffer and die.  He is going to Jerusalem knowing his Passion and Death.  Yet, he still goes to Jerusalem for the Feast of Passover.  John states “Jesus knew that his hour had come to pass from this world to the Father.” 

In those days, practically everybody walked to get where they were going.  People wore sandals and a person’s feet would get dirty from the dusty roads.  It was custom for a servant to wash visitor’s feet when they arrived.  The servant had to kneel down and wash the visitor’s feet.  This task was relegated to the newest or worst of the servants. 

Today’s Gospel starts when Jesus and the disciples arrived in the Upper Room.  Jesus takes off his outer garments to assume the role of the servant to wash the disciple’s feet.  When Jesus comes to Peter, Peter asks Jesus if he is going to wash his feet.  Peter is trying to preserve the Master – Disciple relationship.  But Jesus is teaching a different way, a life of service to others.  And Jesus starts by being an example of what he is teaching. 

After Jesus washed the disciple’s feet, he asks them “Do you realize what I have done for you?”  Jesus gives his disciples a mandate when he said, “I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”  Jesus was telling them more than literally washing each other’s feet.  He was telling them to serve and help each other, to love others more that themselves. 

Tonight, we will literally follow Jesus’ mandate and symbolically wash one another’s foot.  While this is a great symbol of showing how we humble ourselves to serve others, it is more important that we follow the real mission that Jesus mandated.  We must serve others who are in need. 

Holy Cross Parish truly serves the community around us.  The Out Reach Program is unlike any other around the area.  Being known as the Potato Parish is gratitude for what you bring to the Food Banks for miles around. 

While we are an example of service to others as a community, which is important, we also need to serve others in our daily lives.  It’s easy to dislike the neighbor whose children play loud music, play ball in our yard or whose dog comes into our lawn and digs or makes a mess.  Sometimes we even tell our neighbor about the things they do that irritate us.  Will others view us as Christians when we act that way? 

Jesus asks us to accept our neighbors without harsh feelings just the way they are, just the way that Jesus accepts us as we are – with all our faults and sinfulness. 

As we wash each other’s foot this evening, let us remember to take this love that Jesus has for us into our lives and share his love through service to others – even those we may dislike. 

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This I Command You

Gospel Jn 15:9-17

Jesus said to his disciples:
“As the Father loves me, so I also love you.
Remain in my love.
If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love,
just as I have kept my Father’s commandments
and remain in his love.

“I have told you this so that my joy might be in you
and your joy might be complete.
This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.
No one has greater love than this,
to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
You are my friends if you do what I command you.
I no longer call you slaves,
because a slave does not know what his master is doing.
I have called you friends,
because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.
It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you
and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain,
so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you.
This I command you:  love one another.”

This I command you:  love one another.

It was Tuesday morning and I was reading the Daily Readings on my phone.  When I reached the end of the Gospel, this stood out to me. 

Jesus was always telling us to love one another, love one another as I have loved you, etc.  But here Jesus gave it as a Command!!!  “Love one another.” 

If we love one another, we treat each person with respect, with dignity and we defend them and support then when they are in trouble.  This is difficult if the person(s) are homeless wearing tattered clothes with unkept hair.  It may be even more difficult if we know them and they are mean to us. 

Jesus did not give any room for exceptions.  This I command you:  love one another. 

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20190407 Lent 5 C

Reflection for St Joseph Bulletin Cover during Lent

We have spent time on our Lenten Journey contemplating God’s love and mercy and our sinfulness and loneliness. We have asked God to forgive us for the times we failed and to teach us to follow him every day. As we searched our hearts for the times we failed, we may have found circumstances that still bother us, that still trouble us, sometimes from long ago.

It seems easier for us to hold onto the past and our loneliness than to open our hearts to God’s ever-present love. The prophet Isaiah wrote “Remember not the events of the past, the things of long ago consider not; see, I am doing something new!”

Our minds find change very difficult to accept. We get into our routines and don’t like to get outside of them. There is something unnerving about change. But Isaiah said that God was doing something new! Then Isaiah asks “Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? Then Isaiah explains how God will provide water for his people to drink in the wastelands and the desert.

Water gives life. We can survive without food for a long period, but we can survive about three days without water. God provides the water; the healing our hearts need in the wasteland and desert. We have all spent time in the wasteland and desert of our lives. The times when we were lonely and even afraid of what would happen to us. Maybe it was a time of addition or a time when we were out of work and didn’t know how we would provide food or shelter for our family. Maybe it was an abusive relationship that we struggled to get out of for our own safety. Maybe it was a relationship with a family member that ended in a bitter fight and still eats at us today.

The prophets did not speak on their own. They were God’s spokesperson telling the people the message that God gave to the prophet. That message is still as valuable to us today as it was to the Israelites in Isaiah’s time. God promised that he would do something new for us.

Now it is up to us to reflect with penitent hearts the words of the prophet: “Remember not the events of the past, the things of long ago consider not; see, I am doing something new!”

It’s hard to let go of the past: the hurt, to let go of the pain caused by someone we knew, loved and respected. We have a chance to open our hearts to God and ask him to forgive the past and to provide healing for our hearts. May the rest of this Lenten Journey bring each of us closer to what new events God has in store for us.

Deacon Joe

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20190331 Lent 4 C

The parable of the Prodigal Son is the wonderful story of a father’s love for his child.  A young and rambunctious child asks for the Father’s inheritance.  In a small town where everyone knew everyone else, word would travel about his act of disrespect.  This act would bring shame on the family, but the youngest son just wants to enjoy life.  After losing everything, the young man comes to his senses and returns home to become a hired servant but at least a fed, clothed and housed person who could live a better life than he was living feeding hogs. 

When the father sees the young son he thought he had lost forever coming, he acts out of love and rushes to him and accepts him back as a son.  This is more than the son was hoping for even though he knew that he would not get an inheritance when his father died. 

When the brother, who was out working hard in the fields, comes into the house in the evening, he hears music, dancing and smells the meat cooking.  He asks one of the servants what is happening and learns that his youngest brother has returned home, and his father butchered the fattened calf.  A fattened calf would feed over a hundred people so the he knew the father was inviting the whole town.  What would the town people say?  What a disgrace to be talked about like that. 

The older brother is angry and refuses to come into the house.  This act of defiance hurts the father as much as losing his youngest son when the youngest took his inheritance and left home for a foreign land.  The wonderful part of this parable is that the father has the same compassion for the eldest son that the father has for the Prodigal Son. 

The father comes out and pleads with his oldest son, tries to reason with him but the oldest son will have nothing to do with the celebration.  He is resentful that the father is celebrating and accepting his no-good brother back as a son.  It would be bad enough to accept him as a servant after the shame his younger brother brought upon the family but to accept him back as a son was unforgivable! 

The older brother throws it back in his father’s face the terrible life that his no-good brother lived and how good a life he lived.  He always obeyed his father and worked hard in the fields to increase the value of his father and his land.  Not that he had ever asked for a feast with his friends in the past, but now it becomes important to him in his jealousy of his brother and he throws it up to his father. 

We often hear homilies about the father’s great love to accept the Prodigal Son back as his son, but we seldom address the older brother.  It is doubtful that many of us are like the youngest son; for one thing, it is even rarer to receive an inheritance early today than it was back then.  And most of us have not spent our lives living off our parents when we were in our twenties, thirties or forties. 

We consider ourselves good Christians; maybe even cradle Catholics who have attended mass all our lives, we always followed the rules and helped others.  We consider ourselves better than those who live a shameful life injecting drugs and living a life of prostitution or stealing to pay for the drugs they so desperately need, just like the Prodigal Son.  We may even look down on those people who live like that, just like the Pharisees and scribes that Jesus was addressing in this parable. 

We live in our own little world in the United States that is unlike the reality that the rest of the world lives in today and throughout history.  We would not consider ourselves wealthy in our society in the United States today, but we are wealthy beyond belief to most of the world.  Indeed, God has blessed us as a nation and that is evidenced by the throngs of immigrants trying to enter our country to live in a land of plenty. 

Our society and social media teach us that these immigrants are bad people.  Yes, a few of them probably are bad, but the majority only want safety for their family with food and shelter for them.  They want the same freedoms we have that they could never obtain in the countries where they were born.  How do we feel about the immigrant?  Do we consider them “Those people”?  The term “Those people” usually refers to someone we look down on as less than us. 

Do we feel that the immigrants trying to enter our country are individual people, families with spouses and children, trying to find a better life?  Do we wish they would go home, or do we pray that they will be able to enter our country and find the life they only dream of for their family? 

How do we feel about drug addicts?  Do we wish the addict would disappear from the street corner where we see them?  Or do we pray that they find the help they need to be able to quit the drugs that are destroying them?  Would we welcome them if they came to our church and sat next to us for mass in their tattered and torn clothing? 

The father loved both of his sons.  He accepted the wayward son who shamed the family and the son who resented his father’s love for the wayward son.  Which son are we?  Have we squandered the opportunities that came our way?  Or do we act like the older brother; resentful that our father cares for the sinner who disobeys God’s law and the law and order of the land? 

As we continue our Lenten Journey, let us examine our hearts and conscience to honestly determine how we really look at others.  Which son are we?  Are we like the son who sinned in public view where all could see?  Or are we like the son who followed the rules but sinned in our hearts?  It really doesn’t matter.  God loves both us the same.  Let us prayerfully ask God for his love and mercy to consume us with forgiveness for our sins and compassion for others. 

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20190217 Ordinary 6 C

We are blessed to live in the United States.  Even with all the dis-function of our political system and our inability to work together, it is still the greatest country to live in today.  We sometimes forget that when we listen to the news.  The freedoms and culture we enjoy also make it difficult for us to understand the background in today’s Gospel. 

We are taught to get a good education, work hard, and enjoy the rewards of wealth that comes with the hard work.  Those with wealth obtain power over others.  Because of their wealth, they pretty much get what they want, even to the detriment of others, as evidenced in our society today.  Our system is based on the economic principle that wealth will bring power. 

In Jesus’ day it was the exact opposite.  John Pilch explains that power came first in Jesus’ time.  Wealth was obtained by those who had power.  The powerful could take whatever they wanted.  It was the reverse of now; it was a principle of social standing or power versus an economic accomplishment. 

The cultural differences between Middle Eastern culture and our Western culture are significant.  Middle Eastern culture has changed very little in the past two thousand years.  Any means necessary to preserve honor or to retaliate when shamed were considered acceptable.  This included lying, bribing someone to lie, cheating, destroying someone’s reputation and, if necessary, killing a person to save honor. 

This is appalling for Catholics who respect the dignity of the human person from conception to natural death.  But it is a reality in many parts of the world.  Once we understand these differences in culture, we can better understand today’s readings. 

Jeremiah, who lived six hundred years before Christ wrote “Blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose hope is the LORD.”  While Jeremiah warned of a curse for those who turned from God and trusted in human strength to overcome obstacles, he gave hope for the person who trusts in the Lord to survive the hardships and difficulties of life.  Even the Psalmist tells us “Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.” 

Jesus gave that same hope of a blessing in heaven for those who suffer at the hands of others.  

When Jesus said, “Blessed are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God is yours.” we think of someone who is homeless and hungry.  However, the poor in that culture consisted of those who were socially disadvantaged; the widow, the orphan and the immigrant. 

When a woman lost her husband, it was custom for one of their sons to take her into his home to care and provide for her as part of his family.  Jesus followed this custom when he was dying on the cross.  He asked John to take, Mary, his mother into his home to care for her as his own mother.  A widow could have several million dollars but is still considered “a poor widow” even today without a son to look out for her, to protect her. 

The orphan had no one to look out for them so the powerful took advantage of them.  The orphan would work for a powerful person for little if any wages.  The immigrant had the same disadvantage; they didn’t speak the language nor understand the laws and customs. 

Jesus said Blessed are those who are hungry for you will be satisfied and Blessed are those who weep for you will laugh.  Then Jesus gave warnings to the rich who seemed to have everything, especially in the eyes of the poor that Jesus was talking with that day.  These blessings for the poor and warnings to the rich provided hope to a downtrodden and discouraged people.  It gave them hope in a world of oppression and suffering.  Though it seemed hopeless now, they would receive their reward in heaven. 

Jesus was providing hope to the socially disadvantaged of his time.  The good news is that he provides us with that same hope today.  When we are discouraged and see no end to the misery in our life, it is easy for us to revert to the principles of Middle Eastern culture of saving face, preserving honor.  Many of our public figures are a prime example.  They criticize and belittle anyone who disagrees with them.  It’s so easy for us to criticize the public figures for their actions and demeaning behavior, but how often do those same attitudes and acts infiltrate into our lives? 

We belittle and lash out at someone, a family member or friend, who has hurt us, disagreed with us or failed to support our view in a critical matter.  There are family members who don’t speak to each other because they are on different sides of the political issues or because of hurt feelings from an event that happened decades ago. 

When we try to save face, to preserve honor; we always end up hurting someone when we lash out at or ignore the person we think caused us the pain we feel right now. 

We too can find the hope that Jesus gave the multitude that day.  Will we trust in ourselves to make others feel the pain that we feel?  Or will we be satisfied knowing that one day we will laugh? 

Will we trust in our ability to make it happen on our own?  Or will we trust in God to sustain us when our life is coming apart at the seams?  Will we blame others for the disasters in our life or will we pray that God will sustain us; will feed us, will give us his peace with the hope of our reward in heaven? 

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20181216 Advent 3 C

The crowds asked John the Baptist “What Should We Do?”  “Teacher, What Should We Do?” 

When you hear the name John the Baptist what comes to mind?  “A voice crying out in the wilderness.”  Mark tells us “John [the] Baptist appeared in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” 

Just before the start of today’s Gospel, Luke tells us that John the Baptist was preaching to the crowds that came out to be baptized.  He told them“Produce good fruits as evidence of your repentance …”  John was telling the people that their baptism changed their lives; that they should live a life of holiness from that point.  This helps us to understand why the people asked the first question at the beginning of today’s Gospel “What should we do?” 

A person would think that the people who asked these questions of John the Baptist would know what to do!  They were Jewish for the most part, so they had the Commandments and instruction from the Rabbis to guide them.  But they still asked, “What should we do?” 

John told them to take care of their neighbor.  He basically reiterated the Ten Commandments and “The Jewish Approach to Repairing the World (Tikkun Olam)” through Acts of Kindness.  In other words, to treat everyone with respect and to love your neighbor.  John said “Whoever has two cloaks should share with the person who has none.  And whoever has food should do likewise.” 

Catholics, more than any other religion, believe in the respect for the human dignity of every individual person from conception to natural death. When we respect and care for another person, we will look out for them and try to make their life better.  We will provide clothing, food and help them find housing.  We live out our faith exactly as John was telling the people whom he baptized. 

Many people came out into the desert to be baptized by John the Baptist. Some of them were tax collectors and soldiers. 

John Pilch helps us to understand the culture of that time.  Tax collectors did not collect taxes as we know taxes today. They collected tariffs on goods that were imported and tolls for travel over a bridge or on a highway. 

Tax collectors collected the tax (or tolls) for the Roman Emperor which only reminded them of the occupation by the Gentile oppressor.  The Roman Empire typically used locals to collect the taxes so many of the tax collectors were Jews.  Using locals for tax collectors would direct the people’s resentment of paying the taxes away from the Roman rulers and solders stationed in the region and toward the tax collector.  Middle Eastern culture accepts bribes and deceit as a part of business dealings. Tax collectors were not paid very much. It was common practice for the tax collector to charge more than the tax levied by the Roman government, so the tax collector could live a better life. 

After the tax collectors were baptized, they asked John “Teacher, what should we do?”  He told them, “Stop collecting more than what is prescribed.”  John did not try to reform the Roman tax rules of the method of collecting the taxes.  That would have brought the Roman government down on him immediately.  Instead, John tells them to do what is right; be satisfied with the commission that they received for collecting the taxes and not to gouge the people for more. 

There weren’t any Roman Legions stationed in the region at that time. John Pilch explains that Palestinian Judeans were exempt from serving in the Roman Armies.  So, these soldiers are probably Judeans who enlisted in the service of Herod.  The people resented the soldiers because,like the tax collectors, they were Jews who worked for the occupying power and enforced Rome’s rules.  After the soldiers were baptized, they asked John the Baptist: “And what is it that we should do?”  He told them, “Do not practice extortion, do not falsely accuse anyone, and be satisfied with your wages.” 

It is interesting that John did not tell the tax collector or the soldier to change their occupation.  He did not tell them to change the unjust tax system or not to serve in Herod’s army.  John told them to change the way they lived their lives, to live Acts of Kindness toward every person they met.  Rabbi Judah stated “… engaging in acts of kindness is nothing less than modeling yourself after God.”  That was John’s message to the people who came out to be baptized. 

Acts tell us that Paul established the first Christian community in Europe at Philippi.  In the second reading, Paul wrote to the Philippians to encourage them.  He said“I shall say it again: rejoice!  Your kindness should be known to all.” 

During this holiday season, many people show acts of kindness by helping those who are in need.  We donate to charities, we donate our time and we try to be a little cheerier to everyone we meet. 

Advent is a time of preparation for us to celebrate the anniversary of Jesus’ arrival on Christmas Day and to prepare our hearts for his second coming.  It’s very difficult to find time to spend quietly with God any time but especially at this time of year. 

We are rushing at a hectic pace trying to prepare for the social celebration of Christmas.  Besides all the preparation of buying gifts for everyone and planning the get togethers, there are meals to plan and prepare; and we need to figure out how to have family over without slighting anyone because some of them won’t come if a certain family member or person is there. 

In the caustic environment of our culture today, it seems that hate rules over kindness.  It is so prevalent that it seems to consume us to the point that we are unable to get anything done.  The noise overtakes our hearts and leaves us no time to quiet ourselves and wait for God to speak to us. 

With all this emphasis on preparation for the social Christmas, does it ever seem like we don’t know what to do to prepare ourselves?  It’s so easy to get caught up in all the rush and drama that we can forget the real reason for Advent and Christmas.  “What should we do?” 

The crowds were filled with expectation that John the Baptist might be the Messiah.  But John pointed the crowds to Christ.  We too must point others to Christ.  We do that by the way we live our lives –through Acts of Kindness so others will ask “What makes you so kind, even when people are mean to you?”  Then we can explain that we are Catholic and point them to Christ. 

Blessed Mother Theresa said “Let no one come to you without leaving better and happier.  Be the living expression of God’s loving kindness: Kindness in your face, Kindness in your eyes, Kindness in your smile.” 

What should we do?  Will we continue to live the same as the world around us?  Will we look the other way when we pass a homeless person?  Or will we look at them, smile and shake their hand, showing them respect as a person in God’s image who is having a difficult time? 

Will we despise the person who lives in the margins of society like the people despised the tax collectors and soldiers?  Or will we reach out to the widow, the orphan, the stranger and the immigrant? 

Will we let the squabbling of family and friends tear us apart inside? Or will we make some time in the busy rush of the season to spend quietly with God to renew our hearts?  Will we engage in acts of kindness to others, so we model ourselves after God? 

What should we do? 

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20180218 Lent 1 B

The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among wild beast …. When we think of a desert, we usually think of an extremely hot place with sand everywhere. It is a place without water and a person could very easily die from the heat and dehydration. This description defines an absolute desert like the Sahara Desert which is located is in Northern Africa instead of the Holy Land.

A desert in ancient times defined something other than an absolute desert. A desert was a place that was uninhabited or sparsely inhabited. It was any area outside the cities. It was a desolate area or wilderness; a place where wild animals, criminals and spirits roamed to attack anyone who ventured into the area.

Jesus went out into the desert to pray and prepare for his earthly ministry. Jesus always found time throughout his life to slip away from the pressing crowds, the noisy cities and even the disciples to find a quiet place to pray to his Heavenly Father. We too need to find time to slip away from the cares of life to find time to pray for help and strength each day.

Prayer is a very personal experience. It is different for each person. In our time, it is hard to find time to become quiet and pray. As soon as we stop for a few minutes and try to quiet our minds and hearts, we start thinking about all that has to be done – all the people we need to contact, all the things we forgot to do. How do we listen and communicate with Jesus with all these thoughts racing through our minds?

Several weeks ago, Father Jay talked about the voices calling us. “Sometimes I wonder if we are hard of hearing when it comes to Jesus; Are we listening to his voice and hearing what he says and then doing what he tells us to do?” Father talked about all the thoughts and voices that call to us. “Every day you and I hear a lot of diverse voices. So many voices – it is overwhelming sometimes. How do we discern what voice to listen to, which voice to follow? There are a lot of voices out there telling you who you are, what you should want, who you should be. What voice, whose voice are you listening to?”

Jesus heard voices too. Jesus heard Satan trying to distract him from following his Father’s plan for his life. Satan calls us too with promises of fun and an easier life. That makes it difficult for us to be quiet and listen for God’s will. Jesus was able to resist Satan’s promises through prayer.

Prayer is very different for each of us. Some of us may use a prayer book while others may pray from our hearts. Some use both methods. Finding time for prayer is so difficult in all the stress and hurry of our daily lives.

Even when we pray, it is also easy to rush through our prayers, especially the ones we have memorized like the Our Father and the Rosary. We really recite them instead of praying them. To pray them, we must slow down and mean it from our hearts. Try to think of the words as we pray these prayers so that we they are truly a prayer instead of just a recitation.

We seldom think about the beautiful prayers in the Eucharist. It is easy for our minds to slip away to the things we need to do on the way home from mass, the problem at work that doesn’t seem to go away and the relative that is always such a pain to be around. Listen to the words carefully when Father celebrates the Liturgy of the Eucharist and let the prayers change our hearts.

Many of us have been in the desert in the past and there will be more deserts in the future. Some of us will face layoffs from work, others will hear that they or a loved one has cancer or another serious disease, others may have to deal with addictions or watch a loved one struggle with it, depression and mental illness are hard for us to cope with and a person who struggles with suicide can be a daunting shadow that we fear. These voices call to us to discourage us and cause fear in our hearts. Then we begin to doubt God’s promises to care for us.

We are not alone in the challenges that we face in the desert because Jesus has been there before us. Jesus faced many challenges in the desert. The desert was a scary place where spirits, criminals and wild beasts lived. Anything could happen in the desert. He was tempted by Satan and he could see the evil spirits roaming around. At night, he could hear the cries of the wild beasts that could tear a person to pieces in a few moments.

When Jesus was tempted by Satan and among wild beasts, the angels ministered to him. The angels will minister to us too when we are distressed and weary from the cares and discouragements of daily life. We can pray to our Guardian Angel and to the Saints to intercede for us. We are not alone in the desert of our lives just as Jesus was not alone in the desert for forty days as he prepared for his ministry.

This Lent, let us step outside our comfort zone and do something radical for Jesus. Listen to the voice of Jesus who said “The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” Believe that God’s mercy and love will provide for us. We do this by praying for God’s help each day.

In addition to Morning and Evening prayers, I have added several prayers that I found on the internet or in books that have touched me. Some of these I have prayed for a long time and others may be included for a few months and are discontinued.

I came across the Prayer of Abandonment around Christmas and started praying it each evening. I have really struggled to pray this prayer sincerely from my heart.

Blessed Charles de Foucauld was martyred in December 1916 in northern Africa. Here is his prayer:

Father,

I abandon myself into your hands;
do with me what you will.
Whatever you may do, I thank you:
I am ready for all, I accept all.

Let only your will be done in me,
and in all your creatures –
I wish no more than this, O Lord.
Into your hands I commend my soul:

I offer it to you with all the love of my heart,
for I love you, Lord, and so need to give myself,
to surrender myself into your hands without reserve,
and with boundless confidence,
for you are my Father.

Amen

This is a prayer that I need to be able to pray – to accept whatever God has for me in the future. It is so hard to relinquish control to any one – even to God.

After the Epiphany, I learned that one of our priests told his parish that he was diagnosed with ALS. My mind immediately went to the first paragraph of this prayer:

I abandon myself into your hands;
do with me what you will.
Whatever you may do, I thank you:
I am ready for all, I accept all.

Even to accepting ALS? Am I strong enough to accept your will O Lord, no matter what it brings?

Fran and I too will face many challenges in the coming months; moving to Pennsylvania, finding new doctors and health insurance, moving into a new house to make our home and a new parish where we can worship and serve. My prayer is that I will be able to accept God’s will in our lives regardless of what that brings.

Will we put the voices around us out of our mind long enough to pray each day? Or are we so busy that we just don’t have time to spend a few minutes asking God to help us overcome the voices? Will we spend some time in prayer, so God can enrich us with his mercy and love to bring hope to those around us? Or will we turn the other way, so we don’t see the homeless person on the street?

My prayer for each of us is that we will abandon ourselves to let God do what he wants in our lives. May the angels and saints intercede for you. May God bless and care for each of you and give you strength to overcome the challenges of the desert that are ahead in your life.

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S20160929 Ordinary 26 C

El hombre rico y Lázaro fueron ambos creados igualmente en imagen de Dios.  Ambos tenían misericordia y amor de Dios.  Ambos tenían un deseo por las cosas buenas en la vida.  Ambos, como seres humanos, tenían que morir al final de su vida.  Ambos recibieron el juicio después de su muerte.  Es donde la similitud termina en la parábola de hoy.

Una de las primeras diferencias que notamos fue su posición en la vida.  El hombre rico “vestido en prendas de vestir púrpura y finos lino y cenaba suntuosamente cada día.”  El pobre hombre acostado en la puerta del hombre rico estaba cubierto de llagas y con mucho gusto habría comido hasta saciarse de las migajas que caían de la mesa del rico.  Para agregar el hambre del pobre, Lázaro tuvo que aguantar a los perros, que se consideraban un animal impuro, lamían sus llagas.  Esto había añadido insulto a la vergüenza del pobre.

Es interesante notar que cuando el pobre murió, él fue llevado por Ángeles al seno de Abraham.  El lugar de Abraham era el lugar donde las almas de los justos fueron después de la muerte esperando el Mesías por venir a la tierra.  Era un lugar de tranquilidad y reposo para el alma.  Cristo descendió a los infiernos para liberar a las almas que estaban esperando en el seno de Abraham.

Sin embargo, cuando el hombre rico murió, simplemente indica que fue enterrado.  Estaba en el inframundo donde él estaba en tormento.  ¿Estaba en tormento porque tenía riqueza?  ¡No! El hombre rico estaba en tormento porque no mostró ningún respeto por Lázaro como persona en esta vida.  El pecado para el hombre rico era el trato que le daba a otros; la falta de respeto para quienes lo rodeaban.

El respeto.  Es algo que todos queremos y sin embargo con frecuencia no recibimos.  ¿Pero siempre tenemos respeto para todas las personas que conocemos?  ¿En todo el mundo?  No nada más a quienes son como nosotros.  ¡Si no a todo el mundo!

Recuerda que la diferencia en donde el hombre rico y Lázaro finalmente terminaron después de la muerte fue basada en el trato hacia a los demás durante su vida.  Lázaro no fue rencoroso ni deseo odio o alguna otra cosa para el hombre rico.  Hubiera sido fácil de Lázaro hacer eso ya que tenía tan poco y el hombre rico tenía mucho y no le dejaba tener las sobras de la mesa.

Nosotros podemos desearle el mal a personas que parecen tenerlo todo y se niegan a compartir con los necesitados o a quienes nos critican constantemente.  Es fácil molestarlos o incluso desear cosas malas para una persona como esa.  Pero, Jesús y nuestra fe católica nos enseña que debemos respetar a todos.  Que seamos sinceros, que a veces es realmente difícil.

La misericordia y gracia de Dios están allí para nosotros cuando caemos en el resentimiento u odiamos a otros por sus acciones hacia nosotros.  Podemos todavía pedir perdón y misericordia de Dios para que podamos ser como Lázaro en nuestras acciones y ser llevados al cielo por los Ángeles al final de nuestra vida.

¿Cómo realmente nos sentimos al ver a una persona mendigando en la esquina del semáforo?  ¿Cómo realmente nos sentimos acerca de la familia musulmana que vive al lado?  ¿Cómo nos sentimos acerca de la familia que tiene un adolescente que tiene el pelo verde y toca fuerte el rap?  ¿Cómo nos sentimos acerca de la pareja que al cruzar la calle siempre están gritando y llamándose nombres feos?  ¿Cómo nos sentimos sobre el pariente o familiar que siempre crítica por todo lo que hacemos?

Al final de nuestras vidas recibiremos nuestra recompensa si hemos tratado a otros con respeto y amabilidad.  ¿Nuestra vida está llena de respeto y bondad para los demás que podamos recibir la recompensa del cielo?

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20180117 Ordinary 2 B

John the Baptist saw Jesus walking by and said “Behold, the Lamb of God.”  Two of John’s disciples heard what John said and started to follow Jesus.  Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them, “What are you looking for?”

It’s interesting that the two disciples didn’t answer the question that Jesus asked.  Could it be that they really didn’t know what they were looking for?  So, they asked Jesus a question instead “Where are you staying?”

This seems like a simple question.  We would expect Jesus to reply that he is staying at the house of a relative or in a cave or possibly in a tent in the field.  But physical location is not the type of question the disciples asked.  Bishop Mueggenborg offers some insight into their question.  The word “staying” in Greek can also mean to “dwell” or “remain”.  John uses this term to describe the enduring permanent relationship that Jesus has with the Father and the Spirit.

In the context of our new understanding of the word “staying”, Jesus invites the two disciples to “Come and See”.  The Gospel tells us that the two disciples stayed with Jesus that day.  This was about four o’clock in the afternoon on a Friday, the eve of the Sabbath.

The disciples would not have traveled on the Sabbath in accordance with Jewish law, so they stayed with Jesus through the end of the Sabbath.  They would have seen Jesus attend the synagogue on the Sabbath and pray.  They would have seen how Jesus interacted with his Father and the Holy Spirit.

At the end of the Sabbath, Andrew was convinced that this was truly the Messiah.  Andrew then goes to find his brother to share what happened.  When we reach the point in our lives that we are convinced Jesus is the Messiah, that Jesus is our Savior, we must share that experience with others.

We are very independent people, and we take pride our independence, in our ability to make things happen and get it done.  We strive to be the best at work, the best on the soccer field, the best at everything we do.

This independence and competitiveness makes it difficult for us to turn over our lives to God and to follow his call.  But, Jesus calls each of us to a permanent relationship with him and the Father and the Holy Spirit.  And that relationship will change our lives.

In today’s Gospel, Andrew went out and found his brother to bring him to the Messiah.  When we accept Jesus’ invitation to “Come and See” we are changed and want to share what we experienced with others.

Jesus answered the disciples question of where he was staying by inviting them into a relationship God.  The disciples had to decide whether to accept Jesus’ invitation or to go their own way.  They had to decide whether to become active participants with Jesus or remain spectators watching the events around them.  They had to forsake their previous religious pursuits (following John the Baptist) and follow Jesus the Messiah.  The disciples had other plans than to follow Jesus that day but those plans were changed in an instant when Jesus said “Come and See”.

Bishop Mueggenborg writes: “As disciples, we also have to leave behind lesser attachments in order to follow Jesus.  Being a disciple doesn’t mean that we fit Jesus around our existing schedule.  Instead, being a disciple means that we seek the Lord first and foremost as our Savior and that we are obedient to His Word.”

Jesus invites each of us to “Come and See”.  Some things cannot be explained by words and that is the way it is here.  A person must experience a relationship with Jesus.  We are invited to Come and See, to stay with him in prayer and meditation, to study the bible, to attend mass and receive him into our hearts so we can declare to the world around us that, like Andrew, we have found the Messiah.

Pope Francis wrote: “That is why we tell everyone: “Come and see”! In every human situation, marked by frailty, sin and death, the Good News is no mere matter of words, but a testimony to unconditional and faithful love: it is about leaving ourselves behind and encountering others, being close to those crushed by life’s troubles, sharing with the needy, standing at the side of the sick, elderly and the outcast. …  “Come and see.”  Love is more powerful, love gives life, love makes hope blossom in the wilderness.”

Some of us will be invited to the sacrament of marriage to share their love as a married couple with others around them.  Others will be invited to teach our youth in the public schools or religious education in our parish.  Some of us may suffer from sickness and pain so we can show others that Jesus gives us hope in what most would consider a hopeless situation.  Others will be invited to care for another person with gentleness and love until their natural death to show the world that the dignity of each person is God’s plan.  Each of us are invited to live for God and to share the Gospel message with those we meet each day.

Some of us may be invited to vocations in the priesthood or religious life.  The Archdiocese of Seattle has “Come and See” Events for those who may be discerning a vocation as a priest or in a religious order as a nun or brother.  Many religious orders have lay programs where a person or a couple can serve in another country or here in the needy areas of the States for a week, a month or even longer if that is where Jesus invites us.

As we learned here, it is more than just seeing; Jesus is inviting us to participate in a relationship with him.  How will we respond?  It depends on his first question: “What you are looking for?”  Are we looking for material possessions?  Are we looking for success at work or on the sports field?  Are we looking for happiness?  Are we looking for peace?  Are we willing to become a disciple of Christ, to follow him and accept what ever he wants in our lives?

Jesus invites us to “Come and See”.  Now we must answer the question that Jesus asked “What are you looking for?”

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