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Reflections on Catholic Faith - April 2009 - The Power of God is Coming To Life!

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April 27, 2009

You probably know there are sections of the Holy Bible that have topic titles applied to them. One segment that has a consistent title applied to it is that of John’s Gospel – Chapter Six, verses 22 to 59, the so-called Bread of Life Discourse. This is what we begin in this morning’s Gospel reading. And in recent days, what we have read has been a foreshadowing of the Eucharist.

A few days ago on Friday, we read was a fourth sign foretelling of Christ’s miraculous way of feeding His followers… that miracle was the multiplication of the loaves and is the only story found in all four Gospels… that fact that it was a fourth Gospel inclusion tells us this is an important note about its reality and teaching for us.

The Eucharist is a powerful sacramental gift. If properly disposed of mind and heart, the ‘Bread of Life’ can expunge our venial sins. If properly disposed, it can help change our lives and bring about unity in the people who are the body of Christ. But – today I want to share about the Eucharist as a sign of division and conflict.

The Eucharist is one of the dividing matters between Christians – well – perhaps I should say, what we believe about the Eucharist is seen as a dividing matter by others.

I recall attending a family funeral … it was held at the Cathedral in Cheyenne, Wyoming. There were a great many in attendance. I remember the presider giving instructions about Catholic Communion practices.

The priest announced that in keeping with our belief concerning the Eucharist – Holy Communion is only to be received by practicing Catholics in the state of grace. Others were invited to come forward and receive a blessing by the Eucharistic Minister. And it was stated that this instruction is a sad sign of the division that exists between us until such time as we are all united again.

I remember seeing nearby people – presumably Protestants turning to each other and making visual or verbal signs of disgust… How dare we Catholics? How unkind to refuse them Communion at a time when we were all united in grief for a deceased loved one.

Well – it is sad that we have divisions among Christians… there are said to be some 25,000 or more Christian churches… with varying ideas of belief – ranging from no practice of a communion ceremony… to beliefs that are very much like ours. The fact that a conservative Anglican denomination believes that their Communion is truly the Body and Blood of Christ doesn’t mean that it is… and it doesn’t mean that we are the same as them or they are the same as us.

There was a woman in our parish back in Colorado – she wanted to marry a non-Catholic man who had been married multiple times and who couldn’t or wouldn’t seek marriage annulments. So what did they do? They went to the nearby Anglican Catholic Church in town and got married. She later explained to me, “Well, they’re Catholic just like we are.”

What was interesting was that after the wedding – they both came back to our Roman Catholic Church. You’d wonder why she didn’t -- or they didn’t continue going to the Anglican Church if she thought it was the same.  

And of course – it isn’t the same… and the reality of all this is that the Eucharist has been a matter of division since it was first announced by Christ. Jesus drove away many of his followers who said His words were tough to believe or accept. He didn’t chase after them…. Oh, wait, wait – it’s just a symbol. He let them go…

Such divisions have continued in so many ways. In the early Church, there were those who thought that the Eucharistic teaching of the Catholic Church was a form of cannibalism… that Catholics ate flesh. Later Christians succumbed to belief that Communion was symbolic… and among the 25,000 Christian churches – they explain symbolic in lots of different ways: Let’s eat together and Jesus will be present at our meal. Or the eating of this bread symbolizes the union of humanity with the divinity… eating the meal is an indication of the timeless presence of Christ, etc.

Some denominations think it is horrendous that we genuflect and worship Christ present in a piece of bread. Some confuse matters by saying how far off the mark the Catholic Church has become because we allow murderers and child molesters (who have gone to Confession) to receive our Communion but we won’t allow good Protestants or multiply married people to receive it. The Catholic belief about marriage is that we cannot have it as a sacrament and channel of grace and be married to two people at the same time. Civil divorce is just that – a legal matter. It has nothing to do with Catholic sacraments.

And so – people go on say, ‘yeah I understand but I don’t agree…’ And some wrongly receive.

Those who knowingly violate this holiest of holy practices are eating and drinking condemnation upon themselves – and this isn’t a conservative deacon or bishop saying this – that is what St. Paul said.

Let us genuflect with our minds and hearts and knees before the greatest gift and mystery: a gift that even the angels have never had and never will… the gift of Christ, eaten and made one with mankind. No wonder the prayer:  My Lord and My God.

April 20, 2009
Well blessings and greetings the day after Divine Mercy Sunday. We had a modest number of participants as we did this devotion from 2:30 till 3:30, complete with adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, readings from Sister Faustina’s Diary, Divine Mercy Prayers and Benediction. It was certainly a disappointment that we didn’t have standing room only. One lady in our parish who has a great devotion to the Divine Mercy of Jesus – she urged everyone present to promote this area of practice and prayer – promoting it as if Jesus was giving away a million dollars… when the ‘only’ thing He’s really giving away is found in the offer of the remission of all atonement for sin.

During a short reflection (a so-called homilette) – I talked about John Paul II and his support for Divine Mercy… and that it was no coincidence that the Gospel for yesterday contained the commissioning of the Apostles with the power to forgive sins in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The confessional is a place where miracles still take place all the time… People are coming back to this sacrament… thanks be to God. And people are coming back to life – resurrecting because of the confessional.

I hope you were able to participate in Divine Mercy activities in your parish. I hope that you will remember to recite the Divine Mercy Chaplet often – perhaps daily. And certainly say the Chaplet for anyone who is dying.

And now, today’s Gospel (and continuing on tomorrow, April 21st) has the Nicodemus story. It contains a foreshadowing of our theology of Baptism. In this sacrament, the Church teaches that one is freed from the power of darkness.

Unfortunately, to show us that the devil has had some success, we can tell that the darkness I mentioned is one that many don’t see or have lost belief in. We see a beautiful little baby who is to be baptized; we say what darkness? What sin could possibly be present here?

Or a spouse – an adult we’ve known for years in the parish – he or she decides to join the faith of the partner and become a Catholic even though he’s been coming to Church for years and has been a good and faithful husband. He’s helped do work around the Church for years. And so we say, ‘what sin could possibly be present here? And on and on it goes.

We’ve lost the sense and reality of sin in our lives. We have relegated the idea of Original Sin to ‘those old days.’ We have let modernity convince us that Baptism is, like a Jewish rite of passage – it’s something we do – and then we go to Denny’s or Village Inn to celebrate because we’ve gotten the family together.

Not only is Baptism an important step in removing an ‘effect’ of the sin of Adam and Eve, Baptism joins us to Christ’s death, burial and resurrection. We become adopted members of His family – and oh so important: we become members of the parish family.

I have had struggles with families who come for Baptism and who are not evidencing any meaningful faith participation. I try to be patient and welcoming – but I also speak fairly directly about the reality of this area.

Some months ago – I suggested to a couple who were seeking Baptism for their baby to start attending Church regularly and to start doing some ‘service work’ in the parish. Then we would discuss Baptism.

They became ‘huffy’ and their parents and grandparents wrote a letter of complaint to the bishop and to me. Their side of this was: I wasn’t being tolerant; I wasn’t being welcoming. My representation to them? Baptism isn’t a social sacrament because there isn’t any sacrament which is a social event.

Sacraments are outward signs of inward realities – Christ participates in the sacraments. And we’d best bring forward our understanding and intention of what it means to be Catholic and be members of His Church. Anything else is a form of mockery.

Disagree? Think this is toughly stated? I’d like to hear from you.

Blessings. Deacon Tom

Reading 1
Acts 4:23-31

After their release Peter and John went back to their own people
and reported what the chief priests and elders had told them.
And when they heard it, they raised their voices to God with one accord
and said, "Sovereign Lord, maker of heaven and earth and the sea and all that is in them, you said by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of our father David, your servant: Why did the Gentiles rage and the peoples entertain folly? The kings of the earth took their stand and the princes gathered together against the Lord and against his anointed.
Indeed they gathered in this city against your holy servant Jesus whom you anointed, Herod and Pontius Pilate, together with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do what your hand and your will had long ago planned to take place. And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and enable your servants to speak your word with all boldness, as you stretch forth your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are done through the name of your holy servant Jesus."
As they prayed, the place where they were gathered shook, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.

Responsorial Psalm
Ps 2:1-3, 4-7a, 7b-9

R. (see 11d) Blessed are all who take refuge in the Lord.
R. Alleluia.
Why do the nations rage
and the peoples utter folly?
The kings of the earth rise up,
and the princes conspire together
against the LORD and against his anointed:
"Let us break their fetters
and cast their bonds from us!"
R. Blessed are all who take refuge in the Lord.
R. Alleluia.
He who is throned in heaven laughs;
the LORD derides them.
Then in anger he speaks to them;
he terrifies them in his wrath:
"I myself have set up my king
on Zion, my holy mountain."
I will proclaim the decree of the LORD.
R. Blessed are all who take refuge in the Lord.
R. Alleluia.
The LORD said to me, "You are my Son;
this day I have begotten you.
Ask of me and I will give you
the nations for an inheritance
and the ends of the earth for your possession.
You shall rule them with an iron rod;
you shall shatter them like an earthen dish."
R. Blessed are all who take refuge in the Lord.
R. Alleluia.

Jn 3:1-8

There was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. He came to Jesus at night and said to him, "Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God, for no one can do these signs that you are doing
unless God is with him." Jesus answered and said to him, "Amen, amen, I say to you, unless one is born from above, he cannot see the Kingdom of God."
Nicodemus said to him, "How can a man once grown old be born again?
Surely he cannot reenter his mother's womb and be born again, can he?"
Jesus answered, "Amen, amen, I say to you, unless one is born of water and Spirit he cannot enter the Kingdom of God. What is born of flesh is flesh and what is born of spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I told you,
'You must be born from above.'

The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes,
but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit."

April 6, 2009
Covenant in Jesus and Mary

My thoughts this morning turn to the promise found in the word Covenant… covenant has been mentioned today and in recent Scripture readings at Masses. Covenant isn’t like a contract – I just signed a contract to have someone work on a patio cover for a cement deck in our back yard. The contract says this firm will do all such and such work – and when it’s done, I’ll give them a final payment. They do something – they get paid. Goods are delivered under a contract…

Covenant is different. God offers us covenant just as he offered covenant countless times to the Jewish people… God’s covenant is free – well virtually free. It is simply stated: “I will be your God, and you will be my people.” He promises to be with us through thick and thin, in times of joy and in times of loss and great sadness. He will not leave us orphan. His remaining with us ought to give ‘resurrection’ to the hope we have as Christians. Covenant means He is with us no matter how we feel.

And speaking of ‘not leaving us’ no matter how we feel… let me read some words attributed to Jesus from a woman who is alleged to have Jesus speak with her each month… The works of this woman have been reviewed by her bishop and he has given her permission to release these sorts of communications. And so, at the beginning of April, Jesus said to her: “My beloved, please know that you obtain a constant stream of grace for the world. You do this by serving so generously. Your generosity obtains for others sublime graces of calm and peace, sublime graces of charity and truth, and sublime graces of conversion and perseverance.

…. “My friends, you should not be distracted by your feelings. Your feelings are like the smallest stems of grass blowing in the wind, so quickly do they pass. Do not be tormented. Simply allow feelings of temptation to move along and concentrate on the truth which is that you have remained in My holy company.

“If you do this you will be less distracted. You will be able to say, “Today I am sad, tomorrow I may be happy, the next day I may feel fear and afterwards rejoicing. What difference does it make as long as I am united to My Jesus and serving His kingdom.” Yes, many in this time find that they are so distracted by their feelings that they question their decision to serve at all. This is the ultimate degree of temptation. If I did not wish you to serve, I would not have called you into service. I need My chosen ones to remain closely tied to their decision to bring My light to others. Only in this way will the renewal push further into the world. Submit your feelings to me. When your feelings make you doubtful, sit with Me and together we will examine them, one by one. If examined in My company, you will see that your feelings in no way change My truth which is that you have been formed to serve Me and truly, I need your service. Please be loyal to your decision for heavenly service as you live your time on earth. If you remain faithful, I can do many things. I am with you. I am directing all that occurs in your life. We walk together and together we will triumph over all temptations.” (End of Jesus speaking through this lady named Anne)

Now speaking of covenant and God being with us – did you happen to hear in the opening of this past Saturday’s Gospel? The words were: “Many of the Jews came to Mary. “

Yes – even then, people who were seeking truth – people seeking Jesus – they came to Mary. And I received an email from a friend in Colorado – this friend went to a Denver Church to see and hear a man named Ivan who is said to be hearing and talking with the Blessed Virgin Mary. Here is what my friend’s email said: “Some of us went early and it was a good thing... by the time the Rosary began there was standing room only, in the Church and out into the overflow area.

They say that the Blessed Virgin Mary appears to Ivan every day at a certain time. I think it was 5:45 -- while we were saying the Rosary. Ivan came to the altar to present a basket filled with petitions from all of us. Suddenly, his whole countenance changed and you knew Mary was there -- we could see him on the big screen. He talked (to her)... he smiled... he listened... She was there about 15 minutes. Then he returned to his seat and Mass began. It was a beautiful Mass with a beautiful choir. After the Mass, Ivan talked for almost 1 and 1/2 hours. Apparently Mary tells him things for his ears only... except (she gave) a short message for us: PRAY, FAST, PENANCE and say the ROSARY. She said the world is in trouble and we need to fast on bread and water on Wednesdays and Fridays... "

Some of us may be too old or too weak to fast on bread and water – but the purpose of this homily is to tell you that God’s covenant is still in effect… Let us come to life in that He is our God and we are His people… and His people are still coming to Him through Mary, the Most Holy Mother of Jesus….  And they are finding new life… a life promised to us in the resurrection soon to come.

Reading 1
Ez 37:21-28
Thus says the Lord GOD: I will take the children of Israel from among the nations to which they have come, and gather them from all sides to bring them back to their land. I will make them one nation upon the land, in the mountains of Israel, and there shall be one prince for them all. Never again shall they be two nations, and never again shall they be divided into two kingdoms.  No longer shall they defile themselves with their idols, their abominations, and all their transgressions. I will deliver them from all their sins of apostasy, and cleanse them so that they may be my people and I may be their God.

My servant David shall be prince over them, and there shall be one shepherd for them all; they shall live by my statutes and carefully observe my decrees. They shall live on the land that I gave to my servant Jacob,
the land where their fathers lived; they shall live on it forever, they, and their children, and their children's children, with my servant David their prince forever. I will make with them a covenant of peace; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them, and I will multiply them, and put my sanctuary among them forever. My dwelling shall be with them; I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Thus the nations shall know that it is I, the LORD, who make Israel holy, when my sanctuary shall be set up among them forever.

Responsorial Psalm
Jeremiah 31:10, 11-12abcd, 13

R. (see 10d) The Lord will guard us, as a shepherd guards his flock.
Hear the word of the LORD, O nations, proclaim it on distant isles, and say:
He who scattered Israel, now gathers them together, he guards them as a shepherd his flock. 
R. The Lord will guard us, as a shepherd guards his flock.
The LORD shall ransom Jacob, he shall redeem him from the hand of his conqueror. Shouting, they shall mount the heights of Zion, they shall come streaming to the LORD's blessings: The grain, the wine, and the oil, the sheep and the oxen.
R. The Lord will guard us, as a shepherd guards his flock.
Then the virgins shall make merry and dance, and young men and old as well. I will turn their mourning into joy, I will console and gladden them after their sorrows.
R. The Lord will guard us, as a shepherd guards his flock.

Jn 11:45-56
Many of the Jews who had come to Mary and seen what Jesus had done began to believe in him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done.  So the chief priests and the Pharisees
convened the Sanhedrin and said, "What are we going to do? This man is performing many signs. If we leave him alone, all will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our land and our nation."

But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them,
"You know nothing, nor do you consider that it is better for you that one man should die instead of the people, so that the whole nation may not perish."

 He did not say this on his own, but since he was high priest for that year, he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation, and not only for the nation, but also to gather into one the dispersed children of God.

So from that day on they planned to kill him.

So Jesus no longer walked about in public among the Jews, but he left for the region near the desert, to a town called Ephraim, and there he remained with his disciples.

Now the Passover of the Jews was near, and many went up from the country to Jerusalem before Passover to purify themselves. They looked for Jesus and said to one another as they were in the temple area, "What do you think? That he will not come to the feast?"

April 1, 2009
All You Breezes Bless the Lord

So here’s a little background on the (Wednesday) first reading from the Book of Daniel. The king – named Nebuchadnezzar had a very large golden statue made – it was set up on a large, flat plains area in the province of Babylon. He ordered all the governors, prefects, treasurers, judges and others to come to the dedication ceremony. A herald yells out the instructions, “Nations and peoples of every language, when you hear the sound of the trumpet, flute and other instruments, you are ordered to fall down worship the golden statue which the king has set up.

At some point, people came to the king and squealed on men – Jewish administrators named Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. The king was told that they refused to follow the orders to worship. That’s the setup to the confrontation contained in the reading from Scripture… Threatening a fiery death, the king asks, "Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you will not serve my god, or worship the golden statue that I set up?

The faithful Jewish men respond: "There is no need for us to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If our God, whom we serve, can save us from the white-hot furnace and from your hands, O king, may he save us! But even if he will not, know, O king, that we will not serve your god or worship the golden statue that you set up."

There are many verses that I am skipping to get to the point of this reflection – and that is – that the story tells that God is watching over these men – in the furnace… and they are ministered to in such a manner that they survived in this fiery inferno…

And starting in verse 52 is one of my favorite verses from the Old Testament – it is a prayer used even to this day in the Liturgy of the Hours – most often on Sundays and Feast Days...

I don’t have the time or space to include it all – but I’d like to repeat parts of it here – imagine this as the prayer of people (of any age) saved by God’s loving care…

Blessed are you, O Lord, the God of our fathers, praiseworthy and exalted above all forever… And blessed in your holy and glorious name…

Bless the Lord all you works of the Lord, praise and exalt him above all forever.

Angels of the Lord, bless the Lord…You Heavens bless the Lord.

Sun and moon, bless the Lord…. Stars of the heavens, bless the Lord.

Every shower and dew, bless the Lord, all you winds bless the Lord…

Fire and heat bless the Lord… Cold and chill bless the Lord…

Dew and rain, bless the Lord, Nights and days, bless the Lord,

Praise and exalt him above all forever.

This most glorious prayer of praise includes light and darkness, lightening and clouds, mountains and hills, seas and rivers…. Dolphins and water creatures…

Just as St. Francis of Assisi and many other holy ones see that God is behind and in all things – that he watches over all things… this prayer voices that it is only right for all things to give praise to the Creator.

And so – on a day when the sun is shining… when you feel and sense God’s handiwork in your springtime yard, or the warm breeze that caresses you in the mid afternoon… you can lift your mind to our God and say, “All you budding plants and trees, bless the Lord. Gentle breezes bless the Lord… warming sun, bless the Lord.

In doing this – you will be echoing the prayer of the Old Testament writers – you will be echoing the prayers of Francis of Assisi and you will also be echoing the prayer of the Church even till this day…

All you Catholics… all people of good heart… Bless the Lord.






Reading 1
Dn 3:14-20, 91-92, 95

King Nebuchadnezzar said:
"Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego,
that you will not serve my god,
or worship the golden statue that I set up?

Be ready now to fall down and worship the statue I had made,
whenever you hear the sound of the trumpet,
flute, lyre, harp, psaltery, bagpipe,
and all the other musical instruments;
otherwise, you shall be instantly cast into the white-hot furnace;
and who is the God who can deliver you out of my hands?"
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered King Nebuchadnezzar,
"There is no need for us to defend ourselves before you
in this matter.
If our God, whom we serve,
can save us from the white-hot furnace
and from your hands, O king, may he save us!
But even if he will not, know, O king,
that we will not serve your god
or worship the golden statue that you set up."

King Nebuchadnezzar's face became livid with utter rage
against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
He ordered the furnace to be heated seven times more than usual
and had some of the strongest men in his army
bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego
and cast them into the white-hot furnace.

Nebuchadnezzar rose in haste and asked his nobles,
"Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?"
"Assuredly, O king," they answered.
"But," he replied, "I see four men unfettered and unhurt,
walking in the fire, and the fourth looks like a son of God."
Nebuchadnezzar exclaimed,
"Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego,
who sent his angel to deliver the servants who trusted in him;
they disobeyed the royal command and yielded their bodies
rather than serve or worship any god
except their own God."

Responsorial Psalm
Daniel 3:52, 53, 54, 55, 56

R. (52b) Glory and praise for ever!
"Blessed are you, O Lord, the God of our fathers,
praiseworthy and exalted above all forever;
And blessed is your holy and glorious name,
praiseworthy and exalted above all for all ages."
R. Glory and praise for ever!
"Blessed are you in the temple of your holy glory,
praiseworthy and exalted above all forever.
R. Glory and praise for ever!
"Blessed are you on the throne of your kingdom,
praiseworthy and exalted above all forever."
R. Glory and praise for ever!
"Blessed are you who look into the depths
from your throne upon the cherubim;
praiseworthy and exalted above all forever."
R. Glory and praise for ever!
"Blessed are you in the firmament of heaven,
praiseworthy and glorious forever."
R. Glory and praise for ever!

Jn 8:31-42

Jesus said to those Jews who believed in him,
"If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples,
and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."
They answered him, "We are descendants of Abraham
and have never been enslaved to anyone.
How can you say, 'You will become free'?"
Jesus answered them, "Amen, amen, I say to you,
everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin.
A slave does not remain in a household forever,
but a son always remains.
So if the Son frees you, then you will truly be free.
I know that you are descendants of Abraham.
But you are trying to kill me,
because my word has no room among you.
I tell you what I have seen in the Father's presence;
then do what you have heard from the Father."

They answered and said to him, "Our father is Abraham."
Jesus said to them, "If you were Abraham's children,
you would be doing the works of Abraham.
But now you are trying to kill me,
a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God;
Abraham did not do this.
You are doing the works of your father!"
So they said to him, "We were not born of fornication.
We have one Father, God."
Jesus said to them, "If God were your Father, you would love me,
for I came from God and am here;
I did not come on my own, but he sent me."

© 2006-2009 Deacon Tom Online

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