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Father Michael

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About Father Michael

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  • Birthday 11/13/1946

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  • Full Real Name:
    Father Michael Schamp
  • Reason for registering:
    Live and/or work in Chiriqui
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    In Chiriqui
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  1. 16 February, 2020 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time Today’s Theme: “God’s Law is Freedom” You may have noticed my episcopal crest in the masthead, above. The banner under it reads, “God’s Law is Freedom.” Considering the general opinion of most people, that all law is negative,in that it seems to always “prohibit” some particular activity, that ensign might seem to be a contradiction. However, let me offer some perspective: The “freedom” to which that motto refers is “freedom from sin.” In observing the Ten Commandments, their collectively proscribed abstinence from moral abuses define a life lived in accordance to what human beings believe to be the “Will of God.” Since we conceive of God as all good, all powerful, all knowing, all just, and all loving, it follows that to observe tenets of behavior that promote those qualities in our own lives will similarly be “Godly.” As author Mark Rushdoony recently wrote: “The essence of a Godly society is a Godly people, not a state-imposed legal structure. Laws that get ahead of the willingness of a people to submit to them may only teach contempt for both law and morality in general. Conversion and persuasion must come before the political process.” He continues: “The greatest hurdle most people have…is their assumption about God's law itself. Quite simply, they often assume God's law is repressive and necessitates a denial of liberty. This perspective comes from a very non-Christian view of liberty…. The equating of sin with freedom comes naturally to man as a result of his sin nature. Men in rebellion against God want to see their rebellion as freedom. Those who daily repeat Adam's sin desire freedom from God and His governing law. They define their sinful rebellion as normative and God as an intruder into their freedom. †Paul, however, saw nonbelievers as slaves to sin…moving toward certain [spiritual] death. His exhortation to those freed from such slavery was to become servants to God (Romans 6:15-23.) [In doing so,] we observe God's "perfect law of liberty" (James 1:25.) In order for Christians to put “teeth” to their faith and make it applicable to all of life and thought, they must first get past an understanding of sin as true freedom…. Biblical law was given to a Hebrew society under a decentralized tribal government. It is moral law, though certainly intended for social and civil application. Only later did the Hebrews have a monarchy, [which was...] on the whole, perhaps more conducive to the corruption of God's law than to its implementation. As moral law from God, it was directed to individual self-government, family government, and social and cultural standards that certainly had very real and necessary applications at the civil level. The essential thing to remember is that Biblical law is God's law because He was, is, and always shall be the Sovereign Ruler of all of His creation. God rules; the only remaining issue is whether we acknowledge His rule or rebel against it. The first response will always bring us to Biblical law; the latter returns us to Adam's rebellion and slavery to sin.” Jesus and the Law All civilized human beings are subject to law. Jesus, being no exception, was subject to both human and divine law. He obeyed Joseph and Mary, the laws of the land and the divine laws of God...finding no fault with law. Rather, He objected to the narrow way it was interpreted and applied by the religious leaders of His day. For them, observing the letter of the law was sufficient. Jesus knew it was the “spirit” of the law that was most important—not just observing its “jot and tittle.” For the Pharisees, only a person’s outward acts merited scrutiny. Jesus said we must not only be judicious in our acts, but also our unexpressed, hostile thoughts and desires—even though they may never actually lead us to commit sin. He also noted, for most people, obedience to law was rooted in fear—stemming from the consequences of running afoul of the law. Jesus’ whole relationship with His heavenly Father was based upon love. His new and significant message was: Where there is love, there is no need of law. Far from contradicting or abolishing the Old Law, Jesus’ New Law of love went beyond it, bringing it to perfection. When we live within the confines of the law of love, we achieve ultimate freedom. As Jesus’ disciples, we are, in essence, urged to be truthful. Jesus interpreted law in a positive way. For example, the fifth commandment: “Thou shalt not murder,” was expressed as, “You must love your neighbor.” The seventh: “Thou shalt not steal,” was restated, “You must share your goods with your neighbor, when he is in need.” The act of obedience, which was usually based in fear, was reimagined as an act of love, because, when you love someone, you avoid doing anything to hurt them. Where there is love, there is really no need for law. To reiterate, then, Jesus’ New Law brings the Old Law to perfection. He taught us that all of God’s laws could be reduced to two: Love of God; and Love of neighbor. In truth, there is only one law—the law of love. Handling Anger When Jesus tell us, “Do not harbor anger for your brother” (Matthew 5:22,) He was not condemning anger, in itself. All of us have anger within us. Many of us learned from our childhood that anger was a sin—in fact one of the “seven deadly sins.” No wonder then, that we feel guilt when we get angry—and oftentimes we attempt to deny or repress it. We must accept that anger is normal, and even healthy. If we love and value ourselves, we will naturally get angry if we are treated badly. Whenever we find ourselves getting angry, we should look inwardly to find its cause. It may spring from a tendency to be hypersensitive, overly impatient or from suffering some “hurt,” with which we haven’t adequately dealt. Oftentimes, an “attitude adjustment” may alleviate the problem. Psychologists tell us that shouldn’t deny our anger, but allow ourselves to feel it and deal with it. Anger is neither “good,” nor “bad,” from a moral perspective; nonetheless, anger can be a “dangerous” emotion. A saying from the Talmud illustrates this: “Anger in the heart is like a worm in a plant.” Therefore, anger should not routinely be stifled. Acknowledgement will help to overcome its destructive power in our lives. But the longer we hold our anger inside, the more agitated we become, so when it erupts, the outcome will always be ugly. Repressed anger may result in self-hatred, depression or even bodily ills. It needs to be released, but in a wholesome way. When anger is given a means of expression, relief follows. If anger persists, we should seek out some trusted, disinterested, third party, and discuss what we are feeling. Remembering that sometimes we ought to become angry—like when we encounter unjust situations—our anger need not give rise to hatred. Anger becomes dangerous when it turns into hostility. Hostility can cause us to “act out” our anger; leading us to harbor deep resentments, negative attitudes, insults, etc., which are then directed at the object of our anger. There may be times when the cause of our anger lies with others, and we may have to reevaluate our relationship(s) with them. We all know how very difficult it can be to live with a perennially angry person. If you can’t change the person or circumstance, which has angered you, then change yourself (“attitude adjustment,” again….) Anyone can return evil for evil, but it takes a courageous person to allow love to flow from their hearts instead of hatred. Even if your mind wants to take revenge, prayerful meditation may help to find the willpower to offer forgiveness. It might not change the external problem, but it will change your internal ability to handle the situation. Once you have truly forgiven someone for their having wronged you, they will then be thought of as “forgiven” in your subconscious mind (re: Sigmund Freud,) and you will not continue to dwell on their offense. We must also realize that those whose hearts are filled with anger are, themselves, disadvantaged, possibly because of difficulty sleeping, eating properly…or even smiling. Anger can destroy a person’s health, friendships—virtually every aspect of their lives—thereby becoming sources for perpetuating anger. If the cause of our anger is an unjust situation, we should look for ways to put things “right,” having given the problem proper scrutiny. Righteous anger can spur us to rectify a grievous wrong. (Remember that Jesus expressed His righteous anger driving the unjust moneychangers from the Temple.) An old saying comes to mind: “You measure the size of a person’s soul by the size of the things that make them angry.” Here, “size” could be interpreted as “importance.” While we cannot always avoid getting angry, we can control our attitude and our reaction to it. We must remember Jesus’ teaching, and lovingly seek to be reconciled of our anger. May God Richly Bless You! “Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things pare pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” (Philippians 4:8) Thee Will I Love.docx Thee Will I Love.mp3
  2. February 9, 2020 Fifth Sunday-Ordinary Time Today’s Theme: “Our Christian Identity” Scripture Note In the Liturgy for the Third Sunday-Ordinary Time, we were introduced to Jesus as “the Light of the World” (Matthew 4:12-23.) Today, our Gospel Reading relates Christ’s function of enlightening and guiding a morally confused humanity (Matthew 5:13-16.) In the ancient world, as is so today, salt was one of the most important necessities of life, particularly for preserving and seasoning food. So too was the importance of light, for obvious reasons. We shouldn’t turn “salt” and “light” into allegories. They are simply images. Both of them make the same point, however: Jesus’ disciples have a vital role to play in the world by virtue of their good deeds. When disciples stop witnessing through their endeavors, they become as useless as salt that has lost its taste, or a lamp that doesn’t give light. Salt of the Earth; Light of the World At this point some of our evangelical brethren might feel their hackles rising, concerning the “faith vs. works” debate. This stems from, perhaps, religious teaching concerning the doctrines: Sola Scriptura, Sola fide and Sola gratiae. It’s no secret that abuses were legion in the 16thcentury Church, as concerns indulgences—merits(for the amelioration of temporal punishment for sin,)which could be gained by performing specific tasks, or donating sums of money on behalf of Church projects. (Condemnation of these practices was part and parcel of Martin Luther’s infamous ’95 Treatises.) The subject for discussion here, however, is "good deeds" that spring from efforts of faithful Christians on behalf of those in need, and which serve as examples of faith—which precedes them. Jesus knew when religious practice is divorced from life, a vital element is missing—like salt that has lost its taste, or a lamp that no longer gives light. But when it leads to good deeds, a very effective witnessis given. This story from the life of Mother Teresa might serve to illustrate this: One day a man visited Mother Teresa’s home for the poor and dying in Calcutta. Arriving just as the Sisters were bringing some of the dying from the streets, he saw a man picked from the gutter, covered with dirt and sores. Without knowing she was being watched, one of the Sisters began to care for him. Meanwhile the visitor watching her noticed how tenderly the nun worked and cared for her patient—washing him and smiling, not missing a single detail in caring for the dying man. Turning to Mother Teresa he said, “When I came here today I didn’t believe in God, and my heart was full of hate. But now I am leaving believing in God. But now I have seen the love of God in action, through the hands of that Sister—through her tenderness, her gestures and her love for that wretched man. I have seen God’s love descend upon him, and now I believe.” This surely is an example of what Jesus had in mind. When He tells us we must “let our light shine,” the light is our good deeds, especially our deeds of love. People take notice of our good deeds, but usually, they will be much simpler, much more ordinary--not as remarkable as the one in this example. But that doesn’t mean they can’t give effective witness to the light. When Jesus tells us to “let our light shine before all,” He doesn’t mean we should advertise our good deeds, much less “crow” about them. He is asking us to do them; and they will speak for themselves. A good life is a strong and effective witness in and of itself, because it is a proclamation of the Gospel. The light will shine when one is a genuine person; when one sees that the truth is told and justice is done; when one exercises mercy and shows compassion and love. In order to produce its effect, salt must be mixed with food. And a light has to be put in a high place in order to reach the widest area. As Christians we are “in the world,” but we must not allow ourselves to be absorbed “by the world.” As Christians, then, we have a very positive role to play. We have something to offer; something the world desperately needs, even though it may not always be welcomed. We should not be shy or apologetic about our role. A judicious amount of boldness and courage are required. This task is not only for the individual Christian, but for the whole Christian community. It is easier—and more effective—to witness to Christ as a member of a supportive community. Let Your Light Shine We are not called to leave our place in the community in a rush to get involved in a whirlwind of good works. Rather, we are encouraged to practice our Christianity, not just in church, but “out in the world,” in whatever situation we happen to find ourselves--all the more so, by reason of our position in society, if we happen to be situated on some “hilltop” where all can see us, and where people look to us for light. Consider these examples: As a teacher, I am expected to teach well, and refrain from showing favoritism. If I do not, I may bring light to some, and darkness to others. If a Christian teacher shows any kind of favoritism, it should be towards those who find learning difficult. As a judge, justice is expected from me. Justice is the “salt” of society. Solzhenitsyn once said, “A corrupt judge is worse than highway robbery.” A good judge causes the light of justice to shine on everyone. A good politician can bring light into people’s lives. As a politician, people expect me to work for the good of my constituency, and not for myself. A good doctor should treat all patients alike, regardless of their station in life. In doing so, they bring the light of healing to many. If I am a police officer, people expect me to uphold and enforce the law impartially—never trying to bend or break it. Employers must pay fair wages and create working environments in which employees can be productive, thrive and know their contributions are valued. In turn, workers must know and do their jobs to the best of their ability. Journalists must deal in facts—not half-truths and likes. They must strive to present balanced reporting and eschew trivialities and sensationalism. Good reporters can shine light of truth into many dark corners of the world. Business peoplewill find they are spreading light by offering equitable goods and services to the public at fair prices. Shriving to provide value to customers is not just the surest way to success, but affords opportunities for reasonable competition. As a parent, I am charged with bringing the light of caring, wisdom and guidance into the lives of my children. I know I must put their welfare above my own—and above my personal career ambitions. As a member of the clergy, I must strive to be a beacon of righteousness within the community. My life must reflect the principles that I preach, and I must make myself available to anyone who seeks my counsel, without restriction. One could multiply the examples and still not cover every situation. Each of us must ask ourselves how we can best practice our Christianity within our individual spheres of influence. We must determine how we can be the “salt,” and “light” for people we meet every day, in the ordinary, routine occasions of life. We may not always be a “beacon,” but we can at least be a humble “candle,” shedding light in its own immediate vicinity. There is a tendency to take big matters seriously and neglect small ones. Therein is where corruption begins—where the “light goes out,” and the “salt” loses its savor. There is only one remedy: We must set aside time for the big things while also taking the small things seriously—as we turn our attention to the tasks of the moment. The Gospel is basically about “goodness.” But “goodness” can’t be “put on.” The good deeds I do must be an expression of my faith and of the kind of person I am. The authenticity of our lives is the best Christian witness we can give. May God Richly Bless You! “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” (Ephesians 4:2) Let Your Light Shine.docx Let Your Light Shine.mp3
  3. A Message from Father †Michael 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time Today’s Theme: “Humility” Scripture Note Our Liturgy of the Word begins today with a reading that holds out hope and salvation for those who seek integrity and humility in the same way as a person would seek treasure, or a shepherd would seek lost sheep (Zephaniah 2:3, 3:12-13.) In this way, they will live with ethical principles, in accord with God’s Law. As a result, they hope to be worthy of eternal salvation. †Paul’s message to reminds us that God chooses the poor, the weak and the lowly people, who are conscious of their limitations, and who rely on God rather than on themselves (1 Corinthians 1:26-31.) The wealthy new Christians in Corinth would routinely host the Eucharistic Meal in their homes, and †Paul chides them to also include those less fortunate among their ranks—in a truly communal manner—staying true to the intention of our Blessed Lord at the Last Supper. The Sermon on the Mount contains the essence of Christ’s teaching (Matthew 5:1-12.) "The Beatitudes" list the qualities Christ wishes to see in His followers, qualities exemplified in His own life. (The Latin, “beatitudo,” means a feeling of supreme happiness, a state of bliss…in effect, “to be joyful.”) A mere glance shows them to be a complete reversal of conventional standards and values. In nine simple how-to steps, Jesus lays out how we can find that harmony with God. Nothing fancy, nothing obscure, just “Christianity for Dummies*…” a shortcut for folks intimidated by the vast canon of our beliefs. The words come not from a Church Father or a theologian, but right from the heart of Jesus, cutting through any confusion or reluctance. Jesus tells us: “IF you want to follow me--IF You want to be a Christian--here’s how to do it.” (*Referencing Wiley Publishing’s tremendously successful book series, whose intention is to pare away everything but the “essentials” from a given subject.) Deciphering the Beatitudes The word for “blessed” has two Scriptural meanings: The “blessed one" is described as the recipient of divine favor, and secondly, as one who is “happy,” or “fortunate.” Jesus combined both these meanings in the Beatitudes, giving us a “roadmap” to help us find not only happiness, but also the blessing and grace of God in our lives. How jarring the Beatitudes must have seemed to the people of Jesus’ day—and they retain their curiosity even today for modern readers. One might naturally ask, “How can the poor and the meek, the merciful and pure in heart, even the persecuted, consider themselves ‘happy?’” Wouldn’t a person naturally recoil from such a description? This is precisely why Jesus’ words can be so challenging. Reality is not always what we see directly in front of us! Sampling from this far-from-secret formula for happiness, the first Beatitude is: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven” (v. 3.) "Right out of the box," Jesus takes on the bane of humanity, the source of original sin and subsequently most of the world’s mischief--the mighty "I am…the poor little me…the ego run wild…the gimme—I deserve it”-attitude of human pride in all its perverse permutations. If you think that you are of such importance that you deserve the kingdom of heaven, you’d better guess again. If you think your powerful intellect is the arbiter of right and wrong, you’re in big trouble. Humility is the only highway to heaven. We must do what Christ says; do what He does. He is God’s love in the world—here on earth, in total submission to the will of the Father. He is poor in spirit—unassuming, reaching out to the powerless, despised and broken. He’s not “slumming,” nor “sampling the local color.” He’s teaching us. This is His life. It must be ours, if we would follow Him…all the way home to the Kingdom of Heaven. Jumping ahead in Christ’s instructions, all the way to the last Beatitude, we have: “Blessed are you when people reproach you and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, for my sake” (v. 11.) At the outset, Jesus lets us know that following Him won’t be a “day at the beach.” Yes, we will have the joyful serenity of living in God’s love, but everyone is not going to be thrilled by that idea. If you purport to live by the Beatitudes, you can expect lots and lots of “push back.” The proud, the greedy, the lustful, the angry will never be content to let us humbly pursue our salvation in peace. Christian virtue is a window into what Jesus told us is God’s will. It “takes the fun” from those “delicious” vices. Actively or passively, a follower of Jesus must expect to be marginalized, reviled and persecuted. But know too, that when you are abused you are blessed: “For great is your reward in heaven. For that is how they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (v. 12.) Jesus had nowhere to lay His head (Matthew 8:20,) and was often misunderstood and treated with suspicion. Yet He was the most peaceful and joyful Man to ever walk the earth. The reason was because He treasured His Father’s presence and His commands above all else. Jesus had learned that those who entrust themselves to God will never be disappointed, and He invited His disciples to experience this blessing for themselves. He invites us all to become like Him: poor in spirit; meek; merciful; hungering after righteousness; and pure in heart. And, ever true to His promises, He has given us His Holy Spirit to teach us, and empower us to follow this path. His life within us will always bring us true happiness. When He described the rewards of such a life, Jesus used the future tense, because He wanted to extend our vision beyond our earthly life to the kingdom He had come to inaugurate. We willbe comforted; we willbe satisfied; we willobtain mercy; and we will see God. By faithfully answering God’s invitation to participate in His divine nature on earth (Jesus,) we are sure to receive untold blessings in the life to come. The Beatitudes require that we reorientour thinking. The Beatitudes are the “badges” of a disciple of Christ. They make us rich in the sight of God, opening our minds and hearts to a new way of seeing and judging life. They give us a new set of bearings. The Life God offers may seem too costly, at first. We may think we are too weak to accept it. We may not want to embrace a life that seems so demanding. With eyes of faith, however, we can trust in Jesus’ promises. A person living according to the Beatitudes is already living in the Kingdom of Heaven. Eternal life will merely be the full blossoming of a plant that is green with life. Our life in Christ will bring blessings to ourselves as well as others here on earth, and even greater blessings in heaven. Are You Blessed? We shouldn't be too quick to answer. What first seems like a blessing–winning the Powerball Sweepstakes, to put it in the extreme–may prove to be your demise. And what seems like a stroke of bad luck–losing your job, for example–may turn out to be a blessing, if it leads you to your true calling in life. An old Oriental parable may offer a perspective: A young man asked his father for a horse. All of his friends had horses. He wanted one, too. But his father said no. Feeling dejected, he went for a walk out in the woods. Suddenly, a beautiful mare appeared out of nowhere. It was strong and gentle and easy to ride. He rode it back to the village and told his father, “Look father! This horse came to me. What a blessing!” The father replied, “You never know; it could be a curse.” Sure enough, the boy was riding his new horse with his friends when the horse shied and threw him to the ground, breaking his leg. The friends carried him back to the village, and he told his father, “You were right; it was a curse, after all.” The father replied, “You never know; it could be a blessing.” One day a neighboring tribe declared war on his village. Every able-bodied man was expected to fight. But because he had a broken leg, the boy was exempt. He told his father, “You were right; turns out it was a blessing.” That which constitutes a blessing depends solely on the circumstances of the moment. Something which perhaps "appears to be a blessing" can be our undoing, whereas what "appears to be misfortunate" sometimes can be a blessing in disguise. May God Richly Bless You! “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” (Ephesians 4:2) Blessed Is He.docx Blessed Is He.mp3
  4. 26 January 2020 Third Sunday in Ordinary Time Today's Theme: "Discipleship" Jesus Calls His Disciples Scripture Note Regarding our First Reading today: (Isaiah 8:23-9:3,) the land known as Israel was given to the patriarch Israel, more commonly known as Jacob, the grandson of Abraham. (Remember that Jacob = Israel, and Israel = Jacob.) The “nation of Israel” was given to Israel’s descendants after the Exodus from Egypt...”Israel” then being roughly the area we know as “Israel” today. And named for the descendants of two of Israel’s 12 sons (Zebulun and Naphtali,) was the territory northeast of Israel (situated similarly to the way New England, New York and Pennsylvania are in the U.S.) And Isaiah called it “a place of darkness,” because by Isaiah’s time, it was populated primarily by pagans; thus presenting the few Jews remaining no small amount of difficulty in holding onto their ancestral faith and tradition. Now by Jesus’ time, this area of Israel was called Galilee (actually, “Galilee of the Gentiles” to which it is referred in the Gospel,) because though mostly Jewish by then, it was surrounded by Gentile peoples; and Gentile cultural influences were “looked down upon” by many Jews. Galilee was special because it was (and is) the most fertile region of Palestine, and thus it was also the most populous. Being surrounded by so many different cultures, Galileans were also a people often exposed to new ideas. (Alexander the Great had “romped” through the region a few hundred years before Jesus, and the classic Greek love of new ideas and philosophies was still prevalent.) Because it was highly populated and open to new ideas, it’s no coincidence It was there that Jesus could reach the most people, most quickly, in the few years of His public ministry. In our Gospel today, we hear that John the Baptist had been arrested, and Jesus takes up John’s call for “Repentance” (Matthew 4:12-23.) But Jesus takes the Gospel—the Good News—much further...to its highest fulfillment: preaching the Gospel of God’s salvation for His people; showing that He had come to lead us to God for eternity. John the Baptist was the “preface”—the introduction. Jesus is the real story. The Gospel tells us that Jesus moved from Nazareth to Capernaum, on the sea of Galilee, making a definitive and symbolic break with His former, quiet life in Nazareth, to His new public life and mission—bringing the Gospel to the world. Therein, we see the meaning of Isaiah’s prophecy: “The people who sit in darkness (in the lesser sense, meaning the Galileans; in the greater sense: the whole world) have seen a great light (Jesus.) Well then, what should be our response to this "great light" which has risen for us? We read that Jesus calls Simon Peter and his brother Andrew... James and his brother John: “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” They were nobody special—not rich; not educated, certainly; not influential. They were persons of no worldly importance whatsoever--simply hard-working fishermen. We know from our reading the Gospel of John that this is not the first time these men had encountered Jesus. In fact, Andrew had already declared his faith that Jesus was the Messiah (John 1:41) and had introduced Him to Peter. But now Jesus came to them and calls specifically: “Follow me!” and they made a conscious decision to stop living their routine, safe, comfortable lives, drop their nets, and set off on a new life following Him. To do what? To heal the sick, to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, and teach the way of God to those who do not know God. When we contemplate this response to Jesus, we can only assume that His was the ultimate Charismatic presence. (In modern memory, only a very few human leaders have held sufficient sway over their followers to command such devotion. One can think of Hitler and Mao Tse Tung as examples, and their influence came on the heels of great economic depression, and not without a large measure of political influence to enable them to marshal the people's adulation.) Because Christianity is not simply a passive thing, which happens to us; we must actively choose, and DO it. This is what Simon, Andrew, James, John and millions of others have done for nearly 2000 years—made conscious choices to “drop their nets and follow Jesus,” thereby become intentional, purpose-filled disciples. Christians throughout almost two millennia have realized the futility of working for the “things of the world” that we inevitably must lose, and the wisdom of pursuing that which we cannot lose. The celebration of the Holy Mass ends right after communion. However, you are not given the Holy Eucharist as simply a “sterile token,” but rather, by it, you become part of the “Mystical Body of Christ” and are strengthened to go on your own mission, and spread the Gospel to the world. The final sentence of the Declaration of Independence reads:“... with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor…,” words that were written to establish a nation “under God.” Should we not be ready to do at least as much for God Himself? So why shouldn't we make a “leap” into active discipleship...a leap of faith…and therein find fulfillment, joy and an adventure, the possibility of which you would have never have believed. A Light in the Darkness In order to appreciate the true impact of light, a person must first be conscious of darkness and possess a desire to escape from it. One must realize the need, and want to change. In most cases, before people seek redemption, their lives must go badly for them. They must have experienced the darkness of sorrow and disappointment. Only then are they ripe for the light of salvation. Usually, the parts of ourselves and of our society that are in most need of redemption are those we tend to hide. It’s the reason we don’t allow the “light to shine” into the “dark areas” of our lives. Each of us has areas of darkness in our lives—such places like “basements,” where old hurts, hates, fears, illnesses, pains, sins, guilts, loneliness and painful memories are locked away. We don’t find it easy to talk about such things. Instead, we try to cover and hide them. These hidden recesses enable us to show the world a tidy, even beautiful “face” while having a real “dump” somewhere behind the scenes. Yet, these are where the light is needed and could benefit most. One might ask, “But what can I do about these unseemly places/things in my life?” The answer: Open them to the light of Christ! Jesus shed His light through His teaching, but more especially through the way He treated people. Many rulers and leaders have brought immense darkness and pain into the lives of others by the harsh and oppressive way they have treated them. Indeed, even some of us are guilty of causing such darkness to overshadow those we know. But everyone who came to Jesus, with their obscurity, went away bathed in His refreshing light. However, even when the light comes as a friend, it also disturbs, because it shows what is wrong in our lives. Many people continue to live in darkness, and in the shadow of death. These are people who have rejected Jesus’ illumination—denouncing their need of it. This is why He began His public ministry with the call, ”Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is close at hand!”(Matthew 3:2.) To repent is to admit our darkness and to open ourselves to the light. Those who open themselves to Jesus will always have the light of life. Thereby, we become welcome sources of light for others—a lamp for their paths. Our Need of Salvation Mother Teresa gives a beautiful example of a man who was brought out of darkness into the light. One day, in Melbourne, Australia, she visited a poor man whom nobody knew existed. The room in which he lived was in a terrible state, untidy, neglected. He lived without light, rarely, if ever opening the blinds. He had no friends. When she started to clean his room, he protested, saying, “Leave it alone. It’s all right as it is.” But she went ahead, anyway. Under a pile of rubbish she found a beautiful oil lamp, covered with dust. She cleaned and polished it, and asked the man, “How come you never light the lamp?” “Why should I light it?” came his reply. No one ever comes to see me…I never see anybody. She asked, “Will you promise to light it, if one of my sisters comes to visit?” “Yes,” he said, “If I hear a human voice, I’ll light the lamp.” Thereafter, two of Mother’s nuns began to visit him on a regular basis, and things gradually improved. One day he told them, “I think I’ll be able to manage on my own, from now on. But do me a favor. Tell that first sister who came to see me that the light she lit in my life is still burning.” At first he didn’t like the light. He felt threatened and uncomfortable, because it showed him the misery in which he was living—first all the physical misery, then the misery of spirit. But gradually he came to see the light as a friend, bringing with it comfort and hope. With this beginning, he turned his life around. The light saved him. Of course, it wasn’t the lamp that had done all this by itself, but the kindness and goodness it symbolized—first in Mother Teresa, and then in her sisters. This story reinforces our initial premise that we must be conscious of our darkness before we can appreciate a light. We must realize our need for change, and then want to do it. Before seeking redemption, people must be made aware of their darkness, sorrow and disappointment. Then they are ripe for salvation. Each of us can be a source of light to a darkened world. In fact, we are each called to that task, as Jesus’ disciples. But first we have to be sure our own lamp is lit, before we are able to enlighten anyone else! There is great joy in the light. And there is an even greater joy in being a source of light to others. May God Richly Bless You! “For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord; and ourselves as servants for Jesus’ sake.” (2 Corinthians 4-5) Give Me the Wings of Faith.docx Give Me the Wings of Faith to Rise.mp3
  5. A Message from Father †Michael January 19, 2020: Second Sunday-Ordinary Time Today's Theme: "Getting to Know Jesus" A Lesson from John the Baptist It is said that we see other people not as they are, but as we are. Consider the following story: Once there was a king who called one of his servants. This servant was known as a cruel, mean man, with few, if any friends. The king said to him, “I want you to travel the length and breadth of my kingdom, and find for me a truly good person.” In the course of the servant’s travels, he met and spoke with many people, however, after a long time her returned to the king, saying, “I have searched the whole kingdom, as you asked, but I couldn’t find even one truly good person. All of them, without exception, were mean, cruel, deceitful and evil. The good person you seek is nowhere to be found.” Then the king called another servant, one who was known for his generosity and kindness and was loved by everyone. In contrast, he was given the task to find a truly wicked person. After diligently traversing the entirety of the kingdom, he returned to the king, lamenting, “I have done as you have tasked me to do—I found people who are misguided; people who are misled; people who act in blindness or passion; but nowhere could I find a truly evil person. All of them are good at heart, despite the bad things they may have done.” This leads us to conclude: “We tend to see people, not as they are, but as we are.” Today’s Gospel provides us with another illustration of this truth. Jesus, only having recently arrived from Nazareth, was completely unknown. Needing someone to introduce Him to the community, and launch Him on His public mission, He found John the Baptist (John 1:29-34.) This story tells us a great deal about the identity and mission of Jesus—but these words also tell us much about the character of John the Baptist. John could have ignored Jesus, or criticized Him. But far from doing this, He pointed Him out to the people; he built Him up before them. John realized his task was to “draw back the curtain,” introduce the “Main Character” and then withdraw into the shadows. In doing so John knew he was inviting his disciples to leave him. Yet he felt no jealousy. He did not see Jesus as a threat, but as a friend and ally (we know He was Jesus’ Cousin….) In fact, his reaction facilitated the start of Jesus’ mission. In this we see John’s greatness (--there is no more difficult task than to take second place, especially when one has enjoyed first place--) and shows his goodness and generosity. The important lesson here is this: If we always find fault with other people—and always put people down—then we should look inward! We may be saying more about us that about them. Once our hearts are open to others, we discover good in them, even when it is hidden. Jesus is our Supreme Example—the Paschal Lamb of the Christian Passover, Who by His death delivered the world from sin, just as the original paschal lamb’s blood delivered the Israelites from the destroying angel. He is the ultimate Servant of God, described as being led without complaint “…like a lamb before the shearers; a man of sorrows, Whobore the sins of many and made intercession for the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:12;) Taking Away Our Sins When John the Baptist said of Jesus, “Behold the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world…”(John 1:29,) he uttered a great truth about Jesus’ mission, which was directed at sinners. Christ’s mission was to bring them back to God. Some historical context might serve to illuminate this quotation: In Old Testament times, on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur, in today’s Jewish calendar,) Jews would choose a goat. The priest made a list of the sins of the people, while at the same time, calling on the people to repent. Then, placing his hands on the goat’s head, he pressed down, thereby imposing the sins on the goat, as if the animal alone were guilty. Then, laden with the sins of the people, the goat was sent out into the desert to die. (This is the origin of the epithet “scapegoat,” in today’s vernacular.) We could interpret John the Baptist’s calling Jesus the “lamb of God” similarly—and make the assumption that all we have to do is “dump our sins on Jesus” and then forget them. In some Christian denominations, the act of being convicted of sin, and then accepting Jesus as one's “personal Lord and Savior,” perhaps might be interpreted as just such an act—in so far as such an idea might promote the “once saved—always saved” proposition we hear now and then. Jesus does, indeed, take away our sins in the sense, that through Him, we have forgiveness. So, we are able to put our sins “behind us.” In becoming forgiven, a very “real” load—a great burden—is lifted from us, allowing us to “go forward” freely and joyfully. But we also must accept responsibility for our sins, even though we are forgiven, because everything doesn’t automatically come “right” for us. We don’t suddenly become “new” people. We still are subject to our old weaknesses, habits and compulsions. This means we must still struggle to maintain sinlessness (forgiveness,) once having received it. Further, there is the matter of “atonement” for sins. Oftentimes, this aspect of sin is overlooked. Sin is not an “object” that can be removed from us. We are a sinful people—that is the plain truth. If we believe that sin is "an evil" that also affects others, even when we obtain forgiveness there will be tangible consequences for our sin. This is the whole rationale for imprisonment of criminals. As "sinners" they must “learn their lesson,” so to speak, and become "rehabilitated" before returning to society. This holds true, even if the victim of the sin has deigned to absolve us for our sinful act. If we sin against another person, we have an obligation to “make amends” for our actions even after we are forgiven. (One of the “twelve steps” of AA requires just that. The tenet is that alcoholism harms not only the abuser, but those who interact, and oftentimes, “love” the alcoholic.) This is true because personal sin and personal redemption do not stand alone; there is social sin and social redemption. The whole human family is damaged because of sin. Then, too, there is the doctrine of "temporal punishment due to sin," which has led to the understanding of "Purgatory"--a place where such reparations are exacted from sinners after death. Additionally, we must realize that our sinfulness is not the same as our sins. The first is the disease, the second the symptoms. Sin is a condition in which we live, a condition from which we need to be redeemed. Jesus came to redeem us from that condition, and to enable us to live a new life. He encouraged sinners to change their lives, not by condemning usand keeping His distance from them, but by “befriending” us. He puts us "in touch" with the core of goodness, which exists in everyone. Through His own luminous goodness, He induces goodness in us. That is the only way we can overcome sin. Getting rid of sins is not an impersonal activity. Rather, it is a loving encounter with Jesus, our Savior, Who calls us away from sin to goodness of life. Victory over sin can occur only after a lifelong struggle. We must not become depressed when we see ourselves making what seems very little progress. It is the struggle for goodness that is important. The purpose of a good life is not to win the battle, but to wage it unceasingly. Jesus came to bring us back into the relationship with God--and with one another. Jesus the Chosen One of God Mark Twain once said: “When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.” We come to realize, sometimes all too late, that the wisdom of age is a priceless thing. St. Augustine (in His “Confessions,”) said of God, “Beauty, you were always there with me, so old and yet so new.” The essence of both these anecdotal references is that the wisdom of ages may be in our midst, even directly in front of us. For people of Jesus’ time, they had in their midst the greatest human being Who ever graced the planet. But like they, our own biases may prevent us from benefitting from it. Nonetheless, as they must have known, we also have difficulty accepting Jesus for Who He is. Through our baptism we have been called to be Jesus’ disciples. This great honor and privilege is also a "call to service." To do this, we need the Holy Spirit to touch our hearts and to learn from John the Baptist not to make ourselves the center of the world. We must put our gifts at the service of others. In the Kingdom of God there is no room for competition or rivalry. In the Kingdom each person is precious and unique. May God Richly Bless You! “For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord; and ourselves as servants for Jesus’ sake.” (2 Corinthians 4-5) There is as Longing.docx There is a Longing.mp3
  6. A Message from Father †Michael Feast of the Baptism of Our Blessed Lord, Jesus Today’s Theme: “The Servant of Yahweh” Identifying with Sinners When leprosy broke out among the people of the Hawaiian Islands in the middle of the 19th century, authorities responded by establishing a leper colony on the remote island of Molokai. The victims were snatched by force from their families and sent to this island, where they were expected to perish. Moved by their terrible plight, a young Belgian priest, Fr. Damien de Veuster, asked King Kamehameha V to be allowed to minister to them. Receiving permission, he went to Molokai, at first, trying to minister from a safe distance. Immediately he realized the effective way to do gain their trust was to live among the people, and become immersed in their culture. Eventually, after 11 years of work, he discovered he had contracted leprosy, too.* The reaction of the people on Molokai was immediate and wholehearted. They embraced Fr. de Veuster, and took him to their hearts, as “one of them.” There was no need—no point—to keep his distance from them any longer. The afflicted had someone to whom they could talk about their disease, their brokenness, their rejection and their shame. Jesus’ baptism was a source of embarrassment for the early Christians. Even John the Baptist found it incongruous and, as we saw in today’s Gospel, tried to prevent it (Matthew 3:13-17.) As John’s baptism was a call to repentance, it was for sinners, to promote consciousness of their sinfulness. He and all the early Christians were certain Jesus was no sinner! He did not stand in need of any repentance. The relevance of John’s baptism for Jesus was that of “symbolism.” He wanted to show solidarity with the people who had come for help. For this reason, it was important that He be baptized–publicly. When He stepped into the water of the Jordan, he was effectively saying to them: “I am on your side!” On the day of His baptism, Jesus "joined the ranks" of sinners. The Father showed His approval of what He was doing, setting His seal upon Him, sending the Holy Spirit in the form of a descending dove, and anointing Him with compassion for His mission. From that point in His public mission, Jesus was never apart from sinners. He sought them out; went among them; befriended them. He placed himself among the people, so much so, that the authorities identified Him as a sinner, too. This eventually led to His fate, dying as a condemned criminal. Jesus took our sinful condition upon Himself, placing Himself beside us as an older brother. He revealed to us that we are God’s precious children. In this way He showed His love for us—and likewise, showed us what we have to do if we want to help those who are downcast. The Call to Service Nelson Mandela will go down as one of the greatest leaders of the 20th century. A member of he Xhosa people, Mandela grew up in the Transkei. Instrumental in ending apartheid, he brought about a multicultural society in South Africa. In his autobiography, he tells that all the currents of his life were taking him away from the Transkei. Yet, he had no epiphany, singular revelation, nor moment of truth. He says: “A steady accumulation of insights helped me see that my duty was to the people as a whole, not just to a particular section of it. The memory of a thousand indignities produced in me an anger, a rebelliousness, a desire to fight the system that imprisoned my people. There was no particular day on which I said, ‘Henceforth I will devote myself to the liberation of my people.’ Instead, I simply found myself doing so, and could not do otherwise. (A Long Walk to Freedom (1994---Little, Brown and Co.,) Jesus was 30 years old when He began His public ministry. How He came to that decision, and why He waited until then to begin the real work of His life is, simply, that prior to that, He wasn’t ready…. Jesus was a teacher, not of a subject such as history, which can be learned from books, but of religion, or better, spirituality. Spirituality has to be lived before it can be effectively taught. This is why time is important. Before the age of 30, most people have little experience from which they can draw. Jesus’ life in Nazareth was uneventful, (as far as we can tell—Scripture tells us virtually nothing of His life from age 12, to 30 years of age.) We are only told that “He grew in wisdom and stature, in favor with God and Man” (Luke 2:52,) quietly, in the shadows of Nazareth, but those years were crucial for Him. Quietly, He heard a call away from Nazareth, to the service of His brothers and sisters in the wider community. The day He was baptized by John He didn’t suddenly become a different person, but He had reached a crossroads. On that day He left behind His comparatively quiet life and began to reap the harvest from what had been growing within Him. His baptism was a very special moment in His life—a moment when He decided to embark upon His public mission. No doubt He came to that moment after much meditative prayer and reflection, and it surely wouldn’t have been easy for Him. His “human self” would have experienced some uncertainty and anxiety. He needed affirmation, which came when He heard those wonderful words: “This is My beloved Son; with Whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17.) These words set a divine seal of approval on His mission, which was to bring sinners back to God. Our Heavenly Father’s words would have put the “wind in His sails,” so to speak. Not only did He receive approval from on high for his mission, but He also received power with which to accomplish it. This was signified by the simultaneous descent of the Holy Spirit as a dove above His head (Matthew 3:16.) The Holy Spirit was to remain with Him throughout His entire ministry. . There is a great lesson for us in all this. We must not “write off” any part of our lives as useless, nor any experience as a waste. Everything gives us an opportunity to grow. Life calls for much patient waiting. But we must not wait for something “great” to happen. We must fully live in the moment, as therein are contained the seeds for the future—blossoming in the present. We also are called to grow in wisdom and grace, as Jesus did. He required 30 years to reach maturity and acquire sufficient wisdom. It may well require us a lifetime to grow, mature and ripen as human beings into true children of God. The feast of the Baptism of Jesus reminds us of our own Baptism, renewing its grace within us, and providing us an opportunity to commit ourselves again to the Christian life, which is essentially, a life of service. We are not called to save the world, nor to solve all its problems. Nevertheless, each of us has our own unique call—in our families, in our work, in our world. We need help from the Spirit of God, within us, to be able to be faithful to that call. Faithfulness to small, everyday tasks is our way of responding to the problems of our time, and participating in the work of Jesus. May God Richly Bless You! “The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.” (John 1:33.) * Leprosy, having afflicted humans for thousands of years, is along-term infection by the bacteria: Mycobacterium leprae. Initially, a person who is infected does not have symptoms and typically remains this way for five to 20 years. Infected persons may experience weakness, poor eyesight, damage of the nerves, respiratory tract, skin, and lack the ability to feel pain. This last symptom can lead to the loss of parts of a person's extremities from repeated injuries or infection due to unnoticed wounds. Since the 20thCentury, Leprosy is curable with multidrug therapy (MDT.) Diagnosis and treatment with MDT are easy and effective, and worldwide, a 45% decline in the disease has occurred since MDT has become widely available. Canonized in 2009, Fr. Damien is considered the patron saint of leprosy and outcasts. Trinitarian Blessings.docx Trinitarian Blessings.mp3
  7. A Message from Father †Michael 5 January 2020 The Feast of the Epiphany Today’s Theme: “A Light for the Gentiles” A Revolutionary Feast Today, we celebrate the appearance of Our Blessed Lord, Jesus, on the human scene. The feast of Epiphany is celebrated in order to bring out a prominent aspect of the Christmas Mystery: the manifestation or “epiphany” of the universal dominion of the newborn King, to the whole world—not simply to the Jews through the Scriptures. As was dramatized in the Lord Jesus’ manifestation to the Magi, or “wise men” from the East, Christian tradition has always seen the “first fruits of the Gentiles” in the Magi. They lead all the peoples of the earth in their wake, thus making the Epiphany a universal affirmation of eternal salvation. The perfect equality of all mankind is stressed, particularly, in today’s Second Reading (Ephesians 3:2-6,) wherein we all become “one body” in Christ. Today’s feast shows that election by God is not a privilege for some, but a hope for all, eliminating every kind of exclusivism. Although Jesus’ ministry was primarily restricted to His own people, He also reached out to Samaritans, Canaanites, foreigners and all kinds of the socially outcast. In that, He angered the Jewish leaders by telling them the Kingdom of God was open to everyone. The news that Gentiles would be accepted on equal terms to their own caused shock and bewilderment to the Jews. And He reinforced this in His final commissioning of the apostles, saying, “Go out into the whole world, making disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19.) Entrusted by God with our sanctification, the Church’s public worship, rites and sacraments, official prayers, feasts and liturgical seasons are the methods used to unite us to Christ, and to transform our souls to the likeness of His unrelenting light. This is emphasized in the words from today’s blessing: “This day Christ appeared to the world as a light shining in the darkness. May you follow Him in faith and be a light to others.” Every year, from Advent to Pentecost, we celebrate the principal events of our Savior’s life, not as a mere commemoration, but to renew us by the application of the special graces, which the celebration of each event brings to us. This living communication of the mysteries of Christ permeates our souls with authentic Christian life. The significance and spirit of these liturgical celebrations teaches us to allow ourselves to be guided by them in order to penetrate into the heart of the Christian mystery, and derive full benefit from their supernatural efficacy. The principal purpose of the Christmas season is to remind us of the radical transformation that took place in all human lives due to the Incarnation of the Word. God’s own Son became not only one of us, He gave us the power to truly become children of God; a new and holy people whom He quickens with His divine Life and leads to heaven. The Incarnation began here on earth as a “new order,” the final consequence of which is to be our definitive union with God in heaven. In the sacred humanity of our Savior, we find the ever-flowing spring of our supernatural life that draws down upon all mankind the full accomplishment of the redemptive work begun by His coming into this world. Significance of the Magi After the devastation of the world by sin and the darkening of humanity; after centuries of preparation and longing, (which included no less than the founding of an entire people set apart from God;) after wars, division, exile and foreign domination; after a lowly birth to a humble Jewish couple...after all this, the revelation of Christ as the eternal Son of God was finally manifested to the nations. Only a work of God in their hearts could have moved men of learning--sages from the East--who were comfortable in their own kingdoms, to be drawn to Him. What power could have moved them to leave their homes and positions of prominence behind to undertake such an uncertain journey? And then, what could inspire them to recognize the One they were coming to worship. These were men who were steeped in astrology (an early form of what has become today our science of astrophysics,) were guided by their appreciation of the natural world. As such, it was an imperfect revelation, for it told them of the birth of the “King of the Jews,” not where they could find Him. The ultimate secret of His whereabouts was locked in the special revelation of God to Israel, namely, in the Scriptures--about which they would have had little or no knowledge. †Matthew contrasts the faith of these pagan visitors and the unbelief of the Jewish leaders (civil and religious.) The pagans have answered the call to faith in Christ, whereas the “chosen people” have, for the most part, rejected it. Fathers of the Church have held that the sages’ giftsreveal that they recognized—even if only to a small extent—Who this Baby was: Gold as tribute for a king; incense offered as praise to God; and myrrh, the ointment used to soothe the sufferings of humanity. Yet all three were presented to Jesus, because, as true God and true man, He had been given all royal authority and holy dominion. By offering their gifts, the wise men pointed to Jesus’ deity, nobility and the fact that long-awaited salvation could only come about through His suffering and death. Theirs was a bold and courageous journey—appearing to many as foolhardy. It couldn’t have been an easy undertaking. No doubt they encountered many difficulties, and moments of doubt and danger. Every time their “guiding star” would have disappeared under clouds, or in the light of day, they would have temporarily lost their bearings. They must have questioned whether they were wasting their time. Nonetheless, †Matthew relates they still journeyed on faith—having no idea where the star was leading them. Ultimately, they were rewarded with finding the Christ Child (but then, too, “seeing does not necessarily mean believing.”) We cannot help but be amazed by the fruit that was borne from the journey of these wise men! In their wake, generation after generation of the wise have bowed down before the humble Child of Nazareth. Like the wealth of the nations, in the prophet’s words (Isaiah 60:5,) men and women from every age have laid their treasures before Christ, renouncing the apparent wealth of this world to embrace the real wealth that is found in repentance, faith, and humility. We have a striking advantage over the Magi—we have encountered Christ in our faith, aided by two millennia of teaching and belief. We intimately know Christ as the “Light of the World,” and as the “Star” that we follow. Nevertheless, we should not be surprised when we have doubts and when we encounter difficulties in our journey of faith. Faith doesn’t guarantee we will have an easy path, only a meaningful one. Like the Magi, we do not travel alone—we are part of a community of believers to support us. A holy Native American, Black Elk, is quoted as having said; “It is hard to follow one great vision in this world of darkness and changing shadows. Among those shadows people get lost.”* This is exactly what the Magi did—setting out in pursuit of a great vision and following that vision to its end. Blessed Are Those Who Believe The essence of the Good News is this: God made Himself present to us in the life of One Who walked upon this earth--indeed so truly present that this One, Jesus, was His Son. This revelation was an offence and contradiction to some, but salvation to those who had eyes to see, and hearts to believe. The Magi serve as the forerunners of all those who would come to worship the risen Jesus proclaimed by the apostles. Their story shows us the great benefits of faith. Herod and many in Jerusalem were troubled because of their unbelief. Their fear contrasts with the great joy the Magi felt as they followed the star on the road to Bethlehem. An overall theme of the happiness and blessedness pervades the Gospel for those who believe. All of Jesus’ preaching was intended to elicit faith in people’s hearts. However, it was not simply a matter of believing, but believing and acting on that belief, and living according to it. It is a question of hearing the Word and doing it; taking risks on it; and making sacrifices because of it. May God Richly Bless You! “Out of the Darkness, Into the Light: The Time of Christmas is the Time of Light and mutual Love.” (Sir Kristian Goldmund Aumann) * Nebraska poet laureate, John G. Neihardt: “Black Elk Speaks.” (1932) Let Your Light Shine.docx Let Your Light Shine.mp3
  8. 29 December 2019 A Message from Father † Michael Feast of the Holy Family Today’s Theme: “Family Life” Scripture Note Today’s Readings are replete with references to the “family,” beginning with a brief commentary on the fourth commandment: “Honor thy father and mother” (Sirach 3:2-14.) By extension, this has import to the obligations a society has for the well-being of all its members, and in particular, as a directive for focus on the welfare of older citizens’ need for comfort and dignity. †Paul focuses on “community” and the Christian household (Colossians 3:12-21.) Herein, fraternal love is the hallmark, which begins at home. In this context, parents are seen to be the examples that will be followed by their children as adults. Meanwhile †Matthew sees Jesus as reliving the history of His people. Our Gospel story today is colored by the story of Moses in Egypt (Matthew 2:13- 23.) Just as he had to be rescued from Pharaoh, Jesus had to be rescued from Herod. The story also contains echoes of the Exodus. Even though the evangelist’s intentions are theological, he does characterize the plight of Jesus, Mary and Joseph as homeless refugees. The Role of the Family A tree planted in an exposed place is very vulnerable, at the mercy of every wind. If it survives at all, it will likely be stunted—a poor specimen of its species. To achieve its potential, it must be planted in a sheltered environment, and most beneficially, and properly spaced among other trees. They will form a community, in which resources can be shared, and protection afforded. Like trees, it is not good for people to be alone, either. Our wholeness, our mental health and our need for “ties” to love and friendship with other human beings is essential for our wellbeing. Human nature thrives in community. Deficient by ourselves, other people enable us to develop more completely. This is evident in results observed among children who have been sheltered from others lacking many social skills and the facility for cooperative learning. It is one of the dangers faced in today’s thriving “homeschool” movement. Other examples include the experiences of “parochial” school students who faced difficulties when integrated into a “secular” school environment. While they may possess superior intellectual development, some of these children were also inadequately prepared. In the arena of social interaction, a loving family unit shines. A forest of healthy trees is a good image of the family—exemplifying closeness and space. Closeness allows for intimacy, warmth and collegial support, while space ensures individuals are not stifled, and are allowed to grow to full expression. The challenge faced by families is to consistently maintain balance. Healthy family relationships equip us to interact with others, something of vital importance in the world. Without the ability to form close relationships, we are handicapped, like a single tree, at the mercy of “cold winds” of anguish and loneliness. We learn how to bond with others in the little community of the family, to make room for others in our lives. We learn to share, cooperate and be responsible to and for one another. †Paul highlights virtues of kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, mutual forgiveness and above all, love, as qualities necessary for building communities in today’s Second Reading. Lacking some or all of these can lead to serious psychological frustrations, and destroy harmony. Our modern world puts inordinate pressure on today’s families. It isn’t that we no longer value them, but we many times lack the discipline, commitment, fidelity and self-sacrifice that make them work. Our Scriptural example of life of the Holy Family, albeit sparse in detail, shows us a loving community, in which Jesus was allowed to grow “in wisdom age and in grace, with God and men”(Luke 2:52.) In our family community we have our place: with bonds, identity and roots. And it is not necessarily a bad thing if a family shares hardships. Hardship can be a grace. Studies have given credence to the strength that comes from difficult times in a family. Struggles often breed sturdiness in people that bear witness to the grace that comes from weathering difficulties in “togetherness.” The dilemmas observed in the lives of children of one- parent and no-parent homes stand in stark contrast to other families that have stayed united to face problems in the face of crippling distress. Trees that grow on hard ground have firmer roots and are better equipped to meet the inevitable storms. Parents and Children We have learned that at Nazareth, Jesus grew quietly, in the shadows. We make presumptions about His early years, as we have only the history of Jewish life of His time to guide us. We suppose he learned a trade—carpentry, from Joseph. We envision Him attending Hebrew school with other children of his small town, learning Hebrew, along with the requisite prayers in the Synagogue, and the Torah. During those years we imagine Him growing, maturing and “ripening.” The Holy Family serves as a model for all families, and we can cull many lessons from both the few extant Scripture accounts, and idealized scenarios of simple, peasant life in and around Galilee in the first century A.D. Jesus’ family life gave Him a basis for His relationships that He would form as an adult. No doubt, He also learned acceptable parameters of human behavior from Mary and Joseph. (But since He was God incarnate, a Man without sin, we don’t conceive of any instance where He required behavioral correction!) The last Scripture story of the Holy Family is a journey to Jerusalem taken by the Holy Family, wherein a 12-year-old Jesus was found studying and lecturing to the elders of the Temple (Luke 2:41- 52.) Upon being chastised by His mother, Mary, for distressing them by his absence, He shows obligate deference and obediently returns to Nazareth with them. The extension of child rearing that we must also consider is the particular relevance for our times when the elderly are pushed to the margins of society. In our strength it is easy to forget those who are weak and perhaps a little senile. There is a saying: “One mother can take care of ten children, but ten children can’t take care of one mother.” Under God, we owe everything to our parents. The author of Sirach asserts that kindness to parents is especially pleasing to God Who accepts it as atonement for one’s sins. Here again the Holy Family serves as a model. As Jesus was dying on the cross He thought of His mother, and entrusted her to the care of his disciple(John 19:26.) (According to tradition, Joseph had already died.) Caring for one’s own kin is no easy task. No circumstances present greater difficulties than in nursing one’s own. No one is more demanding; nevertheless, our first and holiest duty is kindness towards our ageing parents. God is served when we give the thirsty a “cup of water” in His name (Matthew 25:35.) Reflection If Children live... With criticism, they learn to condemn; With hostility, they learn to fight; With ridicule, they learn to be shy; With shame, they learn to be guilty; With tolerance, they learn to be patient; With encouragement, they learn to have confidence; With praise, they learn to appreciate; With fairness, they learn about justice; With security, they learn to trust; With approval, they learn self-respect; With acceptance and friendship, They learn to find love and God in the world. (Anonymous) May God Richly Bless You! “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.” – Psalm 127:3-5 Kneeling at the Manger.docx Kneeling at the Manger.mp3
  9. 25 December 2019 A Message from Father † Michael Today’s Theme: “For Unto Us a Son is Given” The Incarnation Our faith teaches that God sent His only-begotten Son to earth in the form of a Man. This was accomplished by the will of God in an act called the “Incarnation,” in which the body, soul and divinity of God, Himself, became like one of us—a human being. Taking on our human nature He conferred upon us the dignity of children of God. The mystery of the Incarnation is a mystery of love, constituting the very heart of our Christian faith. It is no wonder, then, that Christmas is such an important feast. If you really want to understand and be “in touch” with people, you must go where nobody recognizes you. You must “immerse yourself” in their particular culture—in order to see what the people see; hear what they hear; and live like they live. Simply understanding it in an abstract way is much less effective than experiencing it with your whole being. People who want to really learn a foreign language, for instance, know that this is the most effective method. God became integrated into the culture of humankind in the person of Jesus. Becoming one of us, He became the ultimate gift of Christmas. This was no “loving from a distance”—it was “loving at extremely close quarters.” God meets us where we are. Taking our humanity upon Himself means we don’t have to deny or reject our humanity in order to know God. He showed us how to live life to its fullest. Religion and holiness became very real, thereby—not merely concerned with the spirit and with heaven, but with the body and the earth. By becoming a Child, completely dependent upon human care, God eliminated the distance between the divine and the human, which made it impossible for us to even conceive His nature. No one fears a little child. Jesus became a Brother to us. Abstract talking about God can leave us empty. We need God made flesh, a human being like us, walking in our streets, even in our shoes, teaching us the way of God. And that is precisely what we celebrate at Christmas. The Son of God comes to us not as a judge, but as a Savior. He comes to reveal to us our divine dignity as His children, and show us the glory of our eternal destiny in heaven. This is the Good News—the great joy the angels announced to the shepherds, and that is announced to us in Holy Scripture. We have only to open our hearts to receive it. Shepherds It is sometimes said that religion is an escape from the harsh realities of life. But this is a complete misunderstanding. Religion is not an escape from life. Rather, it is a path toward a deeper commitment to life. The following analogy may make this more clear: Considering the world of Jesus’ time, and even today, we find the life of a shepherd to be a lowly estate. Although they performed an important task, shepherds were obscure, and unrecognized by society-at-large. It was to such people as these that Jesus’ birth was first announced—and who first welcomed it. Picturing a quiet, dark, poor countryside, with men and boys keeping watch over flocks of sheep, we imagine people who were truly “ripe” for Good News! Scripture suggests God seems to favor coming to those who are poor and who are not afraid to admit it. We might see material poverty as the most obvious kind, but spiritual poverty is worse. God made His presence known in the midst of customary life, as they were diligently caring for their charges, unsuspecting of any abnormal event. Most often we find Him within our lives, rather than outside them—where we live, in the midst of our daily occupations, in our homes, workplaces, etc. Recovering from the initial fright, we learn that the shepherds did not sit back, however, as the angels’ message demanded action. They went in search of the Child, journeying to Bethlehem as the angels instructed. Outwardly, they encountered a Child, simply clad, lying in a manger. But inwardly, they recognized Him with the eyes of faith as the Savior, sent by God! Still, when the excitement faded, and the brightness dimmed, they had to face their dark and cold lives once again. But the Gospel tells us they returned to their fields—rejoicing, glorifying and praising God for all they had seen and heard! Ostensibly, nothing had changed.... However, even as their lives continued as before, their hearts must have been filled with wonder. With new vision, and hope, they possessed a sense of the love of God, and His presence among them. Their formerly obscure lives now glowed with meaning— their old world becoming like a “new country” where everything glistened with marvel. Even though few, if any of us, have seen angels, we have heard their message. When we worship today, we also see the Child. Unlike the shepherds, we can only see Him with the “eyes of faith”—not simply as an Infant, but as our Savior, Christ, the Lord. Like the shepherds, we too will also leave His presence and return to our ordinary lives. But perhaps we will do so glorifying and praising God, as they did, for His goodness to us. For in the divine Child, we will also comprehend our own divinity! Each of us must learn, in our own way, how to be close to God, and how close God can be to us, in the midst of our sometimes painful and sometimes joyful existence. Religion helps us address our deepest longings, adding dimensions that fuel our innermost spirituality. Let us hope to share, in some small way, the same great joy felt by those shepherds long ago. Our joy springs from a sense of God’s presence within us and His love for us. In fact, joy itself is one of the greatest signs of His presence, a glimpse into the sublime. Christmas: A Feast of the Heart The prolific Irish writer, Frank O’Connor tells howSanta Claus once brought him a toy train for Christmas (An Only Child, Memoir, 1961.) He took it with him to visit some nuns at a local convent. While there, the nuns showed him the crib in the chapel. Seeing the Child Jesus without any presents, he was quite upset, feeling utter despondency at His being “forgotten.” Asking why, he heard the nun say, “His mother is too poor to afford any gifts.” Determined to correct this grave oversight, O’Connor unceremoniously climbed into the crib, and placed his toy train between the outstretched arms of the Baby Jesus! This story shows the power of Christmas. In this special season, God has given us the opportunity to show our potential for compassion and generosity. Of course, His was the perfect example—He sent us the gift of His only Son! Scripture tells us “...Who, though He was in the form of God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped...instead He emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant...in the likeness of men...accepting the state of man” (Phillipians 2:6-7.) Our Savior made Himself “small,” “humble” and “insignificant.” In doing so, we don’t feel we have an obligation to bow down before Him, as royalty, but rather, we are made aware of our own poverty. By coming in weakness, He made us aware of our own riches, and evoked a feeling of our compassion to bring our hearts to life. It was the seeming neglect of the Child Jesus that brought out a reckless act of generosity in a young Frank O’Connor, and it was Jesus’ poverty that spurred the Magi to open their “treasures” before Him so long ago. It also serves as a challenge for us, giving us an opportunity to open our hearts. Jesus no longer needs our gifts. But other people may. He wants us to share ourselves with one another. Christmas, then, is an affair of the heart. It is a feast that gives us a concept of the heart of God; and at the same time, reveals the depth of our own willingness to share with others. What makes us human is not so much our ability to think as our ability to love. To the extent that we open our hearts to God and to one another, we will experience something of this “great joy,” which is the fruit of love. May God Richly Bless You! “Into this world, this demented inn in which there is absolutely no room for him at all, Christ comes uninvited.” Thomas Merton Promise, The.docx Promise, The.mp3
  10. 22 December 2019 Fourth Sunday of Advent A Message from Father † Michael Today’s Theme: “Preparing for Christmas” Scripture Note The Liturgy of the Word today deals with “The One Who is to come.” Isaiah vaguely glimpsed the identity of the “child” in our First Reading (Isaiah 7:10-14.)Foretelling the coming of a very special Child to be called “Immanuel,”—God-With-Us—there is no reason to believe that he knew just how special that Child would be. (No prophecy is fully understood until after its fulfillment.) In our Second Reading, †Paul draws the Romans’ attention to Jesus’ human and divine roots (Romans 1:1-7.) Both †Paul and †Matthew make it clear that Jesus was the Son of David—because he was descended from Joseph, his legal father (Matthew 1:18- 25.) But, of course, He was more than that—He was the Son of God! Matthew’s genesis, or origin account of Christ shares a family history that might seem monotonous at a glance (Matthew 1:1-17.) Moreover, at face value, his opening genealogy is a fiction, (in the sense that Jesus shares no biological relationship to Joseph and the 14 generations that preceded Him.)Nonetheless, we do find numerous examples of people within Jesus’ lineage who were totally reprehensible in their lives—beginning with Abraham, the father of nations, through David, the royal king—and many others who, at times, acted far from “saintly.” However, each repented for their sins, and in turn, received the Lord’s favor throughout the family descent. It is in this that we stake our claim for forgiveness for our misdeeds, promised by Jesus, when we sincerely repent. Therefore, we see in Matthew’s family tree achronological reasoning establishing Jewish roots for Jesus, offering a telescopic view of God’s enduring redemptive work among the people of God. Debating Christmas When we consider the seasonal celebration of the Christmas holy days (“holidays?”) each year, it is not uncommon to uncover pockets of dissent among people. Those who may have been avid participants in seasonal festivities throughout their lives may later take a contrary view to what they believe may has become a totally commercial enterprise for most people. We often hear Christmas has “...nothing to do with the birth of Christ, and should, therefore, be abandoned!” Exponents claim Christmas is little more than a “spending spree” for those who can afford it. They think of the gifts, decorations, food, drink, parties and so on, purporting the season is only of benefit to merchants who laugh “all the way to the bank.” While most businesses catering to the gift-buying public count on the Christmas season for a large portion of their yearly gross sales, no one is forced to buy anything.... In any case, most of the things people buy are given to others. Having said that, one could hardly disagree that commerce has taken center stage in the minds of most people. This aspect disturbs many who cherish the real meaning of Christmas, so it’s quite human to expect inevitable abuses. If you open a window to allow fresh air to flow, flies will come in, too. Increased instances of eating and drinking are commonly reported around holidays, and for some people, they’re simply another excuse to indulge. Nonetheless, Christmas is not a cause of people’s excesses, nor is it a time for “long faces.” It’s a time for joy and celebration, as attested to the songs of the angels: “Glory to God in the highest...” etc.—some of the sweetest music on earth. Other human extravagances and the myriad travels made to gather with family and friends, often lead to a host of family tension, squabbles and even traffic accidents. Encouraging selfishness, especially in children, is another common complaint about this season. But isn’t it true that the spirit of the season also causes the best in people to be displayed? Generosity is encouraged; heartfelt giving to the poor, the needy and the lonely is commonplace during this time. In fact, more charity is given to people during the Christmas season than at any other time of year. As regards children, the birth of the Christ-Child makes us realize how precious they are. It’s only natural to concentrate on their happiness; after all, they grow up so quickly! Without doubt, Christmas inspires dramatic expressions of goodwill. Barriers between people are dismantled, and a good deal of togetherness results. Neighbors reach across fences to greet each other, and people forgotten during the rest of the year are fondly remembered. Scattered families are reunited. Even though it doesn’t last as long one might like, at least it shows us the way we ought to go. Surely it’s better to glimpse the light than to live in perpetual darkness! Religion, as a whole, gets a mixed review during the Christmas holidays, as the spiritual sometimes is relegated to second place. However, it does act as a “spiritual tonic” for many people. Churches boast record attendance during this period, and many prodigals “return to God.” Christmas prepares a way for the Lord to come to us. Since the coming of Christ, a bright fire has been burning and the glow of human fellowship has ignited in the hearts of mankind. The warmth of God’s love, expressed in the fellowship of loving human beings beckons many to come to the feast. Even though the headlines remain crowded with reports of human strife in our crises-addled world, and it may seem there is little room for Christ within it, we must remember that there was very little welcome for Christ when He came to earth, the first time! When all is said and done, Christmas recalls the greatest event in history, namely, the Incarnation—when God’s Son came down on earth to confer upon humanity the dignity of the Children of God. We must not deprive a world drowning in bad news from hearing the Good News of Jesus. Fear at Christmas Some people fear, perhaps even dread the approach of Christmas. But it’s not Christmas itself that sparks this fear—at least not the religious side of it. The source of their fear lies elsewhere. For some, it’s the perceived “hassle” and extra work that makes them fearful. For others, it’s the strain on already overstretched finances causing trepidation. Most of us feel the pressure of other people’s expectations upon us, and conflicts that often arise between family members. For some, a rekindling of painful memories can bring on something akin to depression, when they remember tragedy or death. When there has been a loss associated with Christmas, the sight of others surrounded by loved ones can reopen wounds, maybe just beginning to heal. The resulting intense loneliness can be crippling. Still others fear advancing age, with its infirmities and palpable mortality. But those in fear can take heart and hope from the story of the first Christmas. Most of the characters in that story were afraid at one time or other: Joseph certainly was afraid when he learned Mary was expecting a child—even though they hadn’t lived as man and wife. The angel’s appearance to him was of great comfort, surely, advising him of the truth of the matter, but it probably didn’t alleve all his concerns; Mary most likely was most fearful of all. A young virgin in a closed society becoming pregnant in a mysterious manner would have brought her great shame and misgivings. Her acquiescence to Gabriel’s message—her “fiat”—was the most important agreement ever made by a human being; and how could simple shepherds avoid being fearful at the sight of an astronomical event and heavenly choirs? We all are all touched by fears, but we must move from fear to faith! It is in this realm that Christmas is the most help. It’s easier to trust in God at Christmas than any other time, because we feel His closeness and love. After all, He came in the form of a sweet Child—something none of us fear! Each of us is challenged to enter into an intimate relationship with God, and trust that we have been given His love—unconditionally. Having done all we can to improve our individual situations, by sincerely making the most prudent choices at our disposal, we can then leave what is outside our control “in His hands.” May God Richly Bless You! “Out of the Darkness, Into the Light: The Time before Christmas is the Time of Light and mutual Love.” Sir Kristian Goldmund Aumann—24 Days Until Christmas: 24 Christmas Poems Advent Song.docx Advent Song.mp3
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    Special Announcement!!! If your regular church family Is not holding worship services You can still come and hail the Birth of Our Blessed Lord And “sample” our sacred Liturgy! Everyone is welcome to join us at The Old Catholic Church. Come, for Holy Mass, 10 a.m., Christmas Morning In The Chapel @ Valle Escondido! Today’s Theme: “For Unto Us A Son Is Given” Most Reverend Monsignor †Michael Schamp D.D. Pastor and Presiding Bishop Email: fathermichaelschamp@gmail.com
  12. 28 July 2019 A Message from Father † Michael 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time Today’s Theme: “Ask, Seek and Knock” Jesus urges us to ask, seek and knock. This means ours must be an active faith. However, sometimes we may be too proud to ask, so we don’t receive counsel. We might be too lazy to seek, so we don’t find solutions to our problems. Or, we become too timid to knock, so “the door” to spiritual discovery doesn’t open to us. We must not wait for things to “happen” or to “fall into our hands.” If we are to receive the good things available due to the provisions of our Father in heaven, we must be humble and trustful, yet proactive, exercising boldness and energy. The Lord’s Prayer Today, we revisit the giving of the Lord’s Prayer to the Apostles (Luke 11:1-13,) as the “way to pray.” As the first, and arguably, the greatest of all (rote)Christian prayers (particularly, Matthew 6:9-13,) its short, and simple phrases embrace every relation between God and us. It not only tells us for what to pray, but how to do it. Normally, however, we say it so hurriedly and without serious thought, that much of its meaning is lost. Properly understood, however, it contains the whole program for Christian living. If we were able to live up to these tenets, we would be perfectly “in tune” with the mind of Christ, because, as the text suggests, this is how He prayed and lived. Our Father, Who art in heaven.... The prayer begins by an acknowledgement of God as “Father.” As a parent to us, we are God’s children, with a child’s relationship to God. Hallowed be Thy name.... Next, we praise His name, using the word “hallowed,” certainly uncommon in modern parlance, meaning, “May It be honored,” or, “Understood as holy.” Thy kingdom come... We then pray for the coming of His kingdom—one of holiness, grace, justice, peace, truth, life and love. We have a part to play in making His kingdom a reality. Jesus often speaks of God’s kingdom, but He never defines the concept—most likely assuming it was thoroughly familiar with His audiences. The intention of the phrase probably comes from the hope of the people of Jesus’ time that a Messiah would come to earth to usher in a new kingdom, by the hands of those who would work for a better world. Such beliefs stem from Jesus’ admonition to feed the hungry and clothe the needy. A psychological meaning is also ascribed to the petition: one is also praying for the condition of the soul where one follows God’s will— which we consider next. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.... Our asking that “His will be done on earth,” contains philosophical depth that is often taken for granted, or merely “glossed over.” It is this point, perhaps more than any other, with which many people may take exception with me. “God’s will,” as a concept, suggests that such a thing can be “known,” when, in fact, it can only be “inferred.” And “inference” is a construct replete with personal interpretation. If we assume “God’s will” is the “ultimate best interest” for the universe, then It can be correctly understood as “goodness.” We believe our omniscient, omnipotent omnipresent divine creator has our “best interests” at heart. However, it does not mean we have a definable, concrete path to righteousness outlined for us to follow. In effect, because we have “free will,” we can choose whatever path to follow we prefer, from the myriad opportunities before us. Our plea to God, asking that we might follow “His will,” can be simply understood as having the wisdom to choose correctly for the “greatest good.” God is not a “puppet-master” and we are not “marionettes!” Give us, this day, our daily bread.... A presumption that God directly “controls the supply of bread,” is another misconception one might have about our prayer. We have learned that the Creator has made natural laws from which we obtain those essentials of life that are necessary for life. Members of the plant and animal kingdom exist for our use—as the primary, the apex life form on the planet, much as it does for those creatures below us on the “food chain.” This petition in the prayer can be seen as an inverse statement of gratitude for the benefices of nature—to satisfy all our material needs—subsumed into this request/thank-you. And forgive us our trespasses (debts) as we forgive those who trespass against us (our debtors).... We all are perpetrators of “sinful acts, because none of us are “perfect.” Asking for forgiveness once again gives homage to God as one from Whom forgiveness can originate. We know that sincere sorrow for our transgressions is a necessary component for receiving forgiveness, whether from God, or from our fellows. True forgiveness also entails that we pledge not to commit the same sin again! (This is often omitted....) However, predicating that forgiveness be meted out in accordance to our willingness to forgive others, is a very great condition in our prayer. Inability to forgive others, in fact makes it impossible for God to forgive us. And lead us not into temptation.... As the supreme source of all goodness, it would be strange to think that God would “lead us” into temptation. Therefore, to ask Him not to do this is somewhat curious. God does not put temptation in our path, but life does. And we walk into temptation of our own accord—our “free will.” We are asking God to help us cope with the temptations that come to us, unbidden, and to avoid those of our own choosing. But deliver us from evil.... Physical and moral evil is something that no reasonable person can expect to avoid completely. This petition asks that God protect us from—or rather, grant the wisdom to avoid—all evil, especially moral evil. We should also note that the whole of the Lord’s Prayer is couched in plural terms. This shows we are one family, under God, and there can be no salvation for us independent of others. For Thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, forever. Amen.... Sometimes seen as a “stumbling block” between Protestants and Catholics, this “doxology” is not found in the original text of Matthew, nor Luke. (Note: It is found in the reading of early English versions, especially the King James translation of the Bible (1611 a.d.) The Old Testament is a source (1 Chronicles 29:11,) and also the Didache (Teaching of the Apostles—ca. 100 a.d.) Traditionally Roman Catholics did not use the doxology when reciting the Lord’s Prayer, as it is not found in the Latin Vulgate of St. Jerome. However, Novus Ordo, the liturgy of Pope Paul VI (ca. 1963 a.d.,) includes it as an addendum following communal recitation of the Lord’s Prayer. As a point of contention between denominations, then, inclusion of the Doxology as part of the prayer should be considered a moot point.) On not punishing the Innocent We are presented with a fascinating picture of Abraham arguing with God to save Sodom and Gomorrah in today’s First Reading (Genesis 18:20-32.)(It further presumes that God and Abraham were in hypothetical “counsel” together to determine the fate of a large number of people.) We hear of a situation in which God will not punish a multitude of wicked people if it means punishing a handful of just ones at the same time. Finding none, the Genesis passage suggests ultimate punishment should result only when there is no possibility of finding innocent people, something seldom seen in our modern world. Today, it appears action taken for “the greater good,” is the goal for those who wield destructive power. Nonetheless “group accountability” often seems to be regarded as eminently wise and just. But it isn’t fair to punish many innocents so as to ensure one or a few guilty persons are punished. Such actions ultimately cause feelings of bitterness and resentment, and can deteriorate into class warfare. Often human beings are readily willing to punish many innocents as long as the guilty are dealt their due. Nonetheless, we can draw a lesson from this passage. Consider these examples: Governments fighting guerrillas often think nothing of wiping out whole villages of men, women and children, provided they rid themselves of a few insurgents...remember Viet Nam, Argentina (during their so-called “dirty war,”) and many other places, throughout history. (Similarly, guerrillas don’t hesitate to use such tactics;) teachers may punish a whole class with detention for the actions of a few (unknown) culprits; or closer to home, something gets spilled, or damaged when mother’s back is turned. Nobody owns up! So all the children are punished—no TV for the rest of the evening!!! Certainly, such actions are not Christian, nor humane solutions, in the model of Jesus’ “turning the other cheek.” The most important issue of our times is to resist or overcome evil without doing further evil in the process—always seeking to minimize, or prevent collateral damage. This may mean miscreants avoid immediate retribution in favor of protecting innocent bystanders. Our petitions to God for wisdom and strength take on increasingly more significance the more we think about them.... May God Richly Bless You “Nothing is impossible, if you have faith.” (Matthew 17:20) Leaning on the Everlasting Arms.mp3 Leaning on the Everlasting Arms.docx
  13. 15 December 2019 Third Sunday of Advent—“Gaudete” Sunday A Message from Father † Michael Today’s Theme: “Joyful in Hope” Scripture Note “Rejoice! The Lord is nigh!” (Phillipians 4:4- 5.) As Christmas draws near, we are reminded of the joy that should be in our hearts at all that the birth of our Savior means for us. During this coming week we recall the Gospel accounts of the Annunciation, and the Visitation, mysteries that are entirely “joyful!” †Paul bases Christian joy on the assurance of salvation brought to us by Jesus Christ. He desires it to be so firmly established in the soul that no reason of human anxiety or sadness can ever overcome it, since the great peace of God must forevermore predominate over every other feeling. Yet this coming of our Lord is not His birth at Bethlehem, but His Second Coming. The great joy of Christians is to see the day when the Lord will come again in His glory to lead them into His kingdom. The often-repeated “veni,” (L., come,) of Advent is an echo not only of the prophets but also of the conclusion of the Apocalypse of John (book of Revelation:) “Come, Lord Jesus!”—the final words of the New Testament. All our Readings today have comforting words: First, we hear “Be strong—fear not!” (Isaiah 35:1-10.) Then we are admonished to “Be Patient!” (James 5:7- 10.) Thirdly, Jesus tells His cousin John, “Blessed is the one who takes no offense in Me!” (Mathew 11:2-11.) Although not panaceas, these and other precepts from the collected wisdom of the ancients found in Scripture can serve us well as we face life’s challenges, and help us make prudent choices. Keeping the Faith John the Baptist’s situation was grim—locked away, awaiting death in a dark prison—and his faith was being sorely tested. Like him, we need reassurance and comfort. Each week, listening during the Liturgy of the Word, we can find strength and comfort, “drinking in” encouragement from Scripture. Sometimes we encounter an unexpected storm while quite nicely sailing along in life: i.e., unemployment, serious illness; or maybe sudden loss of a loved one to suicide. Such things can shatter our faith in the “right order” of things, and even, in God. At such times, we might hear: "Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is Yours. Yours, Lord, is the kingdom; You are exalted as Head over all” (1 Chronicles 29:11.) John ended up in a dungeon under a death sentence, even though he was a holy, God-fearing man. Even though we might do our best, things might go wrong for us, too, and we might feel “let down” by God. Then, we may doubt His love for us—even His very existence. At such times, we may hear: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10.) Modern life has become increasingly more stressful, despite technology, social networks, and politicians’ promises. Christmas also brings added work and more stress for many, perhaps overwhelming us, bringing us to wonder if we can cope with one more responsibility. At such times, we might hear: “The Lord will guide you always; He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail”(Isaiah 58:11.) Like it or not, we spend our lives in the “shadow of death”—sometimes severely testing our faith. At times when we have lost a loved one, and felt we were standing in darkness, we may hear Jesus’ words: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted”(Matthew 5:4) Many people are diligently working to bring about lasting peace in the world. Nonetheless, everyday we are engulfed by constant stories of people suffering oppression and strife, growing weary due to lack of progress. May the peacemakers hear the words: “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere” (James 3:17.) We may feel numbed and powerless by some of the things happening in our world—like tragic accidents, wars, famines, genocides—and we wonder why God hasn’t intervened. We must remind ourselves of our individual free will to choose, and in the midst of our confusion we may hear: “That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10.) When some parents despair, having seen their children abandon their faith in spite of having been given encouragement and good example, this can often be the source of great pain and sadness. May these parents hear: “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12) In recent years many people have been scandalized by the behavior of some of the clergy, and formerly respected notables, sports icons and celebrities. Their grave sins against children, youth, women and marginalized people have given many reason to doubt and lose respect and confidence for our once esteemed institutions. Those whose faith has taken a severe knock may hear: “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12.) Alcoholism and drug dependence is rampant among the populations of our world, causing misery and suffering, both to the addicts and those who love them—or live with them. In the attempt to encourage them to seek help, such people may recall: “Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear” (Isaiah 59:1.) Thousands of men and women, from all socio- economic groups, are incarcerated in our prison system—many with very little hope for their future, either on this earth, or in the hereafter. May all prisoners hear: “I love you, Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge,my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold” (Psalm 18:1-2.) Each of us knows of situations that cause us to be fearful and doubtful. We can’t stop ourselves from feeling afraid. But we must not allow our fears to cripple us. Courage is not “never feeling afraid;” it is feeling afraid and going on in spite of it. Dying in Darkness John the Baptist ushered in a new Age of Jesus. The last and greatest in a long line of prophets who prepared the people for the advent of the Christ, He was selfless and courageous, keeping alive the hopes of people during the long night of expectation. For his recalcitrant behavior in the age of Herod, he died in darkness. Similarly, fifteen centuries later, the great Florence astronomer, Galileo (b. 1564,) reminds us of John the Baptist. Using the empirical tools of his day, he confirmed what Copernicus had said, namely that it is the earth that orbits the sun, and not vice versa. His discoveries greatly enlarged our understanding and knowledge of the universe, yet he spent his last years in darkness. Challenging the prevailing Church doctrine of the day, the Roman Inquisition censured him, to a lifetime house arrest, where wrote (in 1615,): “Alas, poor Galileo, your devoted servant has been, for a month, totally and incurably blind, so that this heaven, this earth, this universe, which by my observations and demonstrations, I have enlarged a thousand fold beyond their previous limits, are not shriveled for me into such a narrow compass as is filled my my own bodily sensations.” Advent reminds us that whenever we feel we are plunged into darkness, we must remember that faith can be a fragile thing. It must be nourished with diligent care and frequent meditation. And we mustn’t be surprised when doubts arise within us. Surely God understands our meager humanity! Our supreme Creator endowed each of us with an indomitable Spirit, from Whom we can draw strength of character and wisdom, if only we center ourselves and listen for the voice of inspiration. Jesus has taught us that faith in Him and His teachings are all we need to weather any adversity. And twice blessed are we if we, like Him, can show forth our faith in deedsof love and mercy. Then people will encounter Jesus—in us! May God Richly Bless You! “Therefore, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” (Colossians 3:12) We Gather Together.docx We Gather Together.mp3
  14. 1 December 2019 A Message from Father † Michael First Sunday of Advent Today’s Theme: “A Wake-up Call” Scripture Note The chief function of Advent is to prepare us for Christmas. However, to understand Christmas, we have to start at the beginning— with the history of salvation. People in all cultures, throughout all of recorded history, have attempted to discern what is called “God’s Plan” for the human race. For the Jewish people, the whole of the Old Testament, or, as the people of Jesus’ time called it, “Holy Scripture,” can be understood as a chronology of events and a history of thought concerning “God’s Plan.” If you happened to be part of the group called the “chosen race,” in any particular part of this history, you likely would have seen yourself favored by “God’s Plan.” Those who were not “chosen,” in contrast, were seen as “outcasts,” “barbarians,” “wanton people,” etc. Of course, the absolute truth of the matter is still one of conjecture, from an empirical, rational or scientific point of view. However, we know that virtually nothing concerning the metaphysical realm of religion is completely discernible using empirical means. One’s belief system is contained within a paradigm of “faith,” and as such, cannot be subjected to such qualifications. That brings us to our study of The New Testament, (or, “The Sequel,” as some of my Jewish friends would term it,) and the teachings of our Blessed Lord, Jesus Christ. For Christians, God’s Plan for salvation is centered in Christ, and realized through Him. Advent looks back at the promise of His first coming, when that plan was announced in Holy Scripture. It also looks forward to His second coming, when that plan will reach its completefulfillment. And, of course, it celebrates His actual coming, in time, with the feast of Christmas. The First Readings we hear during our Advent Sundays (from Isaiah,) are concerned with the messiah and the messianic times. Isaiah kept the hopes of the people alive in very dark times. In today’s Reading we have the theme of universal peace and salvation (Isaiah 2:1-5.) The Gospel and the Second Reading deal with the Lord’s second coming, which the first Christians believed was imminent (Matthew 24:7-14; Romans 13:11-14.) Both Readings convey a sense of urgency through phrases such as “Wake Up!” “Stay Awake!” and “Stand Ready!” A Wake-Up Call †Paul’s letters addressed the immanency of the End Times (The "Parousia, supposed by many to occur during their lifetime,) with determination. Throughout literature, it has been common for harbingers of “the inevitable” to infuse their writings with immediacy to spur their readers to action. †Paul‘s intention was to discriminate between mere wakefulness and awareness—to alert the people to the importance of “taking themselves to task” for their moral well being; to prepare for their eventual entry into eternity. For most people, some sort of shock, or at least a jolt of some kind, is necessary for that to take place. Usually, most of us awaken from sleep in joyful anticipation; feeling good that we are alive, and thankful to God for the gift of a new day. It is another chance to embark upon some new task we have started or begin something we have been postponing, or repair some damage or neglect in our lives. Other times we may be apathetic about our waking, greeting the new day without enthusiasm. Life may seem monotonous or empty for us. Perhaps we might be unemployed, or recently retired, and we have nothing to which we can look forward. Some of us have even known times when we fear the approach of morning. Perhaps we awaken tearfully, approaching the dawn with apathy or dread. Then we may face daily tasks in a half-hearted manner, going into the day with a very severe handicap. No one has a perfect life—we all have difficulties to face. But what matter is what we make of these challenges. When they seem insurmountable, we should try to change our attitude about them. We know complaining does no good, and some circumstances really are beyond our control. However, our conduct is completely within our power, and makes the difference in our response to any particular situation. Advent issues a spiritual wake-up call, and has true power to influence our thinking. Unless we are spiritually awake we are only “half living!” In this respect, some people could be seen as little more than “sleepwalkers”—with eyes that do not see, and ears that do not hear. Their minds are narrow and closed; their hearts are hardened. To be awake spiritually means to be open, receptive, vigilant and active. Spirituality is about seeing, hearing and understanding beyond our circumstances. We must, necessarily, reflect and have the will to be wide- awake, not wile away our time in drowsiness. It means we must be attentive to the truths our faith teaches us and others; and to “living in love....” We have two choices: We can be a “watcher,” or a “sleeper.” Sleepers have easy lives...but waste their lives. Although it is much more challenging to be a watcher, it's also infinitely more rewarding. Watchers are awake, alert, concerned, active, interested and caring. In a word, to be a watcher is to be “responsible.” Jesus urges us to stay awake; to be on our guard; to be on the watch. We have nothing to fear, and everything to gain from answering Advent’s wake-up call. On this first Sunday of a new liturgical year, we realize another year has come and gone and we need to get on with our work. We must seize the day, not deferring or neglecting it — for we shall pass through this world but once; therefore any good that we can do, to and for any human being should be done NOW. Towards the Mountain Isaiah’s was a bold dream: he foresaw a time of universal peace in which people would come from all nations to God’s holy mountain and no longer harm one another. There would be no more war or preparing for war. Filled with the knowledge of the Lord, people would walk in His ways. It would be splendid, and some believed it would happen at the first coming of the Christ. Others believed it would be realized only at His second coming, at the end of time. Still others, even today, dismiss whole concept as mere daydreaming. But there were, and are, many who believe in it and pursue it. Even though the vision may only be an improbable goal in a troubled world, nevertheless the dream can shape our lives. The important thing is not to give up the quest or the search--the important thing is “the goal.” Today, humanity is at a crossroads. Technology has given us great power and brought material progress and economic wealth, enabling us to do practically anything--except bring people together in love, and thus make our world a happier and more peaceful place. When the Cold War ended, the world took a gigantic step towards peace. Nonetheless, wherever we go we see divisions among people, in families, communities, cities, countries. Our faith teaches us to believe God sent His only Son into the world to reconcile people with Him and with one another. Therefore, each of us can play a part in breaking down barriers and making peace. We can do this by welcoming others and seeking reconciliation with anyone with whom we have quarreled or fallen out. The work of reconciliation begins with a simple gesture, demanding those who do not normally speak to one another begin to do so. Practicing any kind of “apartheid,” or keeping one’s distance, only exacerbates differences. But we can’t do it without faith in God’s Plan. It can happen by walking in the way of truth, as our Blessed Lord has taught us. God did not leave mankind alone—He sent is beloved Son to inaugurate the new world (the Kingdom of God,) and to accompany us on our journey towards God’s Holy Mountain, which, in the final analysis, means eternal life. “At this Christmas when Christ comes, will He find a warm heart? Mark the season of Advent by loving and serving the others with God's own love and concern.” ― Mother Teresa, Love: A Fruit Always in Season Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah.docxGuide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah.mp3
  15. 8 December 2019 A Message from Father † Michael Second Sunday of Advent Today’s Theme: “Prepare a Way for the Lord” Scripture Note Isaiah (8th Century B.C.) foretells that even though a family tree of Jesse (King David’s father) has been reduced to a mere “stump” nevertheless, from that stump a new shoot would spring—a true king, filled with the Spirit and endowed with all the virtues of His ancestors. Our First Reading today tells of the coming Messiah and the kind of justice and peace He would bring (Isaiah 11:1-10.) The new King/Messiah would be a champion of the poor and restore paradisiac peace. Meanwhile †Paul (ca. 56-58 A.D.,) writing from Corinth, in Greece, to the Romans, in a letter that has long held pride of place, being the longest and most systematic unfolding of the apostle’s thought, expounds the righteousness of God, Who saves all who believe, and reflects an universal outlook, with special implications for Israel’s relation to the Church. Yet, like all his letters, Romans also arose from a specific situation. Our Second Reading talks about the importance of hope, and how we should treat others in the same friendly way Christ has treated us (Romans 15:4-9.) †Paul sees Jesus as the one through Whom God fulfilled his promises. Thereafter, Matthew introduces John the Baptist as the herald (also foretold by Isaiah,) of the long-awaited Messiah, and the one who prepared the people to receive Him. Matthew sees Jesus as fulfilling the Old Testament promises. Vision of a New World Astronauts were the first human beings to see the earth from “outside.” Gazing down on the earth from space, they realized as never before that we are one family, with “spaceship Earth’ as our common home. Sultan bin Salman al- Saud, (payload specialist, on the international astronaut space shuttle crew: Discovery-1985,)remarked, “The first day in space, we all pointed to our own countries. The second day, we pointed to our continents. By the third day, we were award of only one earth.” The ancient prophets of the Bible had the same kind of high and wide vision, one of how things could be. However, when one reads a history book or even just a daily news account, sometimes we might be ashamed to be human! We read of wars, wars, and more wars—so many dead—so many tears—so many fears. Our world is drenched in blood. We might despair and lose all hope! And as for the “wolf and the lamb” living together, often two neighbors, or even two members of the same family have serious “fallings out” and refuse to talk to one another! It might seem visions of peace and harmony among all peoples are but mere fairy tales.... But our faith teaches us they are not. Rather, they correspond to the deepest longings of the human heart and point mankind’s ultimate goal. These visions nurture our souls and our hearts, offering us hope and courage when we are to give up on life. They fuel our deepest aspirations, and give us the energy to overcome great obstacles and painful setbacks. Prophets lived in the real world and were just as dismayed by its horrors and injustices as we are; yet they had a dream of a new world free from injustice and war. Through their faith they were able to rise above their dismay. What saved them from despair was their messianic vision and sense of the human capacity for penitence. History is not a blind alley—there is always a way out—through repentance. The marvelous vision of the peaceable Kingdom, in which all violence has been overcome and all people live in loving unity with nature, calls for its realization in our daily lives. Instead of being an escapist dream, it challenges us to anticipate what it promises. Every time we forgive a neighbor; make a child smile; show compassion to a suffering person; care for animals; prevent pollution; and work for peace and justice among peoples and nations; we are making the vision a reality. We need to keep the vision before us, so it will give us new energy to live it out, right where we are. Instead of encouraging us to escape from real life, this beautiful dream summons us to get involved. We must open our hearts to the aspiration cherished by the prophets: a world rid of evil by human effort through the intercession of the Holy Spirit. Jesus had a word for the new world. He called it “The Kingdom of God.” He inaugurated it and wants his followers to build it...on earth. Ordinary people help spread that Kingdom by being kind, truthful, honest, just, etc. Even though it is a mêlée that we will never completely win, the struggle is good for us, as it awakens everything that is best and precious within us. Isaiah’s vision lives on in our midst as a task for today and a promise for tomorrow. A Place Called “Hope” Advent, at its essence, is a season that puts us in mind of a better existence. If all things and people were perfect, we would have no desires that weren’t fulfilled. It is required precisely because we live in an imperfect world that hope is necessary. With every election cycle we continually invest our hopes in flawed politicians to help us initiate new eras of peace and justice. Even though we are regularly distraught when we discover they have promised things that can’t be delivered, nonetheless, we “hope for the best.” Hope is a vital part of life. We spend our lives longing, waiting, hoping for one thing or another. It is impossible to live when one is completely without hope. Hope is as important for our soul as bread is for our body. Hope doesn’t mean sitting back and waiting for things to happen; rather it spurs us into action. We work hard to achieve our goals precisely because we have hope, believing our efforts will be worthwhile and will make a difference in our lives and those of our loved ones. Our strength and commitment depends, in great extent, on the degree and quality of our hope. Hope is not the same as optimism. In fact, hope and optimism are radically different. Optimism is the expectation things will get better, whatever the situation. Hope is the trust that the future will develop as a result of the collective choices made by human beings for the greater good. The “person of hope” lives in the present moment, with the knowledge and trust that the human spirit is indefatigable, and will not be subdued by evil forces. Hope springs from the faith that our Creator has given each one of us talents and abilities along with the free will to choose wisely among all our options. In Jesus’ teaching we are given reason to believe that God is the anchor for our lives. All great leaders were people of hope. They felt no need to know how the future would look. They just tried to do what was right in the present, and trusted that would be sufficient to promote a better future. Dissident, poet, playwright, and former president of the Czech Republic, Vaclav Havel, once said: “I am not an optimist, because I am not sure that everything ends well. Nor am I a pessimist, because I am not sure that everything ends badly. I just carry hope in my heart. Hope is the feeling that life and work have a meaning.” Cynicism is the enemy of hope. Many refuse to accept hope into their hearts, saying, “Things will never change. It’s no good.” Cynicism comes easy, requiring nothing from us—no trust; no effort; no love. It is the task of Christians to keep hope alive and set an example. We must not depend only on results but on the rightness and truth of the work itself. Meanwhile, we live in a place called hope—in which hope enables us to keep one foot in the world as it is, and the other in the world as it should be. “Therefore, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” (Colossians 3:12) May God Richly Bless You! “Therefore, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” (Colossians 3:12) Make Straight in the Desert a Highway.docx Make Straight in the Desert a Highway.mp3
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