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Reflections on Catholic Faith - September 2008 - Passionate Christianity

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September 29, 2008

I have preached about this before – this meaning the topic of angels. The reality of angels – the great power and importance of angels. I have a weekly set of prayer intentions that I regularly refer to – and on Sunday mornings, I give thanks to God for my Guardian Angel – and I ask my angel for help and protection.

I’ve also talked about a hair stylist out in San Francisco who had her working area completely and neatly decorated with wispy cottony film – and every here and there you’d find an angel pinned to some-thing… angels attached to a mirror or in a tree branch. I guess the vision of the hair lady was that angels were wispy and ethereal holy spirits – and in part I guess they are. But I don’t think they’re wispy – in fact I hope I only ever have a holy encounter with one if God so desires.

The San Francisco woman didn’t have a picture of Jesus or Mary or any of the saints – so I suspect she had a pretty limited theology of what angels are in God’s scheme of creation. There seems to be a lot of this ‘feel good’ imagery of the powers of the ‘other side.’

From the Catholic Encyclopedia – the word we use has a couple origins -- the Latin word ‘angelus’ or from a Hebrew word meaning ‘one going’ or ‘one sent’ or ‘messenger.’ In Hebrew, the word for angel can mean a divine or a human messenger. (Hmmm… human messenger, huh?

So I guess I can say my wife is an angel and be on safe ground. I’m sure God sent her to me! This is not guaranteed to lead to brownie points or a home-cooked meal – but, hey, it’s worth a try!).


It is with the spirit-messenger that we are concerned. Again, from the Catholic Encyclopedia, we can spend time studying about the angels. We can look into:

  • the meaning of the term angel in the Bible,
  • the offices of the angels,
  • the names assigned to the angels,
  • the distinction between good and evil spirits,
  • the divisions of the angelic choirs,
  • the question of angelic appearances, and
  • the development of the scriptural idea of angels.

Today we celebrate a special class of Angels – those named Saints Michael, Gabriel and Raphael. They are a part of the mystic seven who stand before God. The term Archangel occurs in St. Jude and 1 Thessalonians 4:16. (“For the Lord Himself, with a word of command, with the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of God, will come down from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first.”)

St. Paul has furnished us with two other lists of names of the heavenly cohorts. I’ve done a little bit of reading about the names of the Archangels – the letters ‘El’ means ‘of God.’ So it is possible to study Raphael and Michael and Gabriel and find that each of their prefaces has a different function: Messenger – of God, etc.

This isn’t meant to be anything other than recognition of angelic spirits who are close to God and perform duties and tasks for Him. Someday, I’d like to research and then teach a couple hour class on angels. Or go to a good Catholic theology class on Angels. But for today – for each day – each night of our lives, we need only remember this:

“St. Michael, the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him we humbly pray. And do thou oh prince of the heavenly hosts, by the power of God, cast into hell, Satan and all the evil spirits who roam about the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.”

That’s what we really need to know. And is it every powerful. Yes it is! Thanks be to God.

Reading 1
Dn 7:9-10, 13-14
As I watched: Thrones were set up and the Ancient One took his throne. His clothing was bright as snow, and the hair on his head as white as wool; His throne was flames of fire, with wheels of burning fire. A surging stream of fire flowed out from where he sat; Thousands upon thousands were ministering to him, and myriads upon myriads attended him.

The court was convened, and the books were opened. As the visions during the night continued, I saw One like a son of man coming, on the clouds of heaven; When he reached the Ancient One and was presented before him, He received dominion, glory, and kingship;
nations and peoples of every language serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away, his kingship shall not be destroyed.

Rv 12:7-12ab

War broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels battled against the dragon. The dragon and its angels fought back, but they did not prevail and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. The huge dragon, the ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan,
who deceived the whole world, was thrown down to earth, and its angels were thrown down with it. Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have salvation and power come, and the Kingdom of our God and the authority of his Anointed. For the accuser of our brothers is cast out, who accuses them before our God day and night. They conquered him by the Blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; love for life did not deter them from death. Therefore, rejoice, you heavens, and you who dwell in them.”

Responsorial Psalm
Ps 138:1-2ab, 2cde-3, 4-5
R. (1) In the sight of the angels I will sing your praises, Lord.
I will give thanks to you, O LORD, with all my heart, for you have heard the words of my mouth; in the presence of the angels I will sing your praise; I will worship at your holy temple and give thanks to your name.
R. In the sight of the angels I will sing your praises, Lord.
Because of your kindness and your truth; for you have made great above all things your name and your promise. When I called, you answered me; you built up strength within me.
R. In the sight of the angels I will sing your praises, Lord.
All the kings of the earth shall give thanks to you, O LORD when they hear the words of your mouth; And they shall sing of the ways of the LORD “Great is the glory of the LORD
R. In the sight of the angels I will sing your praises, Lord.

Jn 1:47-51
Jesus saw Nathaniel coming toward him and said of him, “Here is a true child of Israel. There is no duplicity in him.” Nathaniel said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.” Nathaniel answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than this.” And he said to him, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

September 22, 2008

There is an Irish priest from my past, although from more recent years. He mentions his mom fairly often – God rest her soul and the soul of my dead mother. This priest is Fr. Pat O’Doherty – a loving curmudgeon that I have mentioned in homilies, Communion Service reflections and in my Internet work. He must have had a sufficient enough impact that I carry forward the work he started in me (through the gift of God’s grace working in him and in me, God willing!).

Fr. Pat’s mom must have made an impression on him… he mentions her often. And I notice that our new priest from Nigeria often mentions his mom… he calls her ‘mommy dearest.’ And he means it. He recently bought her a wheel chair and shipped it to Africa for her.

All of this is by way of lead in to my mom – whom I pray for almost daily… and I hope she is praying for me as well. One time, I heard Fr. Pat say that when his mother died – one of the things that worried him most is that she would then be able to see all of what he had kept from her… That thought came from today’s Gospel that said, “ For there is nothing hidden that will not become visible, and nothing secret that will not be known and come to light.”

I think about my mom – dear mom who now sees in a heavenly sense all that I am – all that I’m not. She sees the good that I do – but she also sees the subtle intention – the self-defense and self-promotion that sometimes accompanies what I do.

I hope that she is gifted with recall of her own weaknesses so that she is not so disappointed in me that she gives up hope (or prayer!).

In some intellectual way – we may recognize that God knows all and sees all… but we forget that all that is hidden from others – at some point it will be known. Sometimes politician who are crooked and shameful – their deeds are seen while they are still living. Others are found to have lived a double life – but only when they are deceased.

The point of Fr. Pat – and the point of this reflection today is that nothing is ever really hidden. And if I have any prayer at all – it is that I ask Jesus to purify my heart and motives. Help me to love as I ought for no reason other than that it is in perfect alignment with God’s plan which is love. Total love. May what I do – and perhaps what you do become like a pure light… a brilliant light placed on a lamp stand so that those who enter may see the (true) light.

Mommy dearest – I love you.

Blessings, as always from

Deacon Tom

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Reading 1
Prv 3:27-34

Refuse no one the good on which he has a claim when it is in your power to do it for him. Say not to your neighbor, “Go, and come again, tomorrow I will give,” when you can give at once.

Plot no evil against your neighbor, against one who lives at peace with you. Quarrel not with a man without cause, with one who has done you no harm. Envy not the lawless man and choose none of his ways: To the LORD the perverse one is an abomination, but with the upright is his friendship.

The curse of the LORD is on the house of the wicked, but the dwelling of the just he blesses; When dealing with the arrogant, he is stern, but to the humble he shows kindness.

Responsorial Psalm
Ps 15:2-3a, 3bc-4ab, 5

R. (1) The just one shall live on your holy mountain, O Lord.
He who walks blamelessly and does justice;
who thinks the truth in his heart
and slanders not with his tongue.
R. The just one shall live on your holy mountain, O Lord.
Who harms not his fellow man,
nor takes up a reproach against his neighbor;
By whom the reprobate is despised,
while he honors those who fear the LORD.
R. The just one shall live on your holy mountain, O Lord.
Who lends not his money at usury
and accepts no bribe against the innocent.
He who does these things
shall never be disturbed.
R. The just one shall live on your holy mountain, O Lord.

Lk 8:16-18

Jesus said to the crowd: “No one who lights a lamp conceals it with a vessel or sets it under a bed; rather, he places it on a lamp stand so that those who enter may see the light. For there is nothing hidden that will not become visible, and nothing secret that will not be known and come to light. Take care, then, how you hear. To anyone who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he seems to have will be taken away.”

September 8, 2008

If I may paraphrase two thoughts… one from the first reading and the other from the Gospel – here is what I will start with this morning: “ I am preaching to you not to shame you, but to admonish you as my beloved…” And the second thought from today’s Gospel: “Why are you doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”

So – the reason for putting the two Scripture thoughts together is, like picking two melodies that when linked together, give us a composition that we can expound on. I don’t want to shame or be critical of anyone’s faith practice – but I wish to exhort you, to encourage you to grow. Underneath my words is a theme that since my childhood – society has turned away from the ways in which it respected and honored the Sabbath – to now – having it be a day that is no different than any other day –with only a 58 minute sometimes superficial exception. Let’s open this up a bit. I primarily address my words here and now to you ladies of the Sodality of the Blessed Virgin --- ladies here for the wonderful monthly custom of your Corporate Communion liturgy… ladies who have so much to do with the example of faith practice – whether your families are young or all grown up.

Some of you may have read the widely known author Father Henri Nouwen. Writing after his mother’s death, Nouwen noted that there were few days in her adult life that she did not go to Mass and Communion. Her great devotion was, in Nouwen’s judgment, perhaps the main factor in his decision to become a priest. That example – that faith practice was the way many of us were raised.

Unless they were farmers or quite isolated – people didn’t miss Sunday Mass. They wouldn’t think of it. They dressed up. Ladies wore a covering over their heads. We know that stores mostly were closed. In many ways, people had to do shopping, get gasoline and do other activities on Saturdays or Fridays.

How times have changed… Nowadays, I see women coming to church in clothes that simply flaunt the message – “I can’t be responsible for what someone else thinks if he looks at me the wrong way.” To which there is a quiet voice that speaks to an malleable heart: “Yes, you can be responsible for what someone thinks – I want you to be an icon of my mother Mary. We have people who come to Mass once a week and they will sit in their cars until 5 minutes before Mass so they don’t have to spend extra time inside Church…. I mean we only have the Son of God present here…. Don’t we????

For Catholics – attendance at Sunday Mass (and Holy Days of Obligation) continues to be a serious obligation…. And yet you would be amazed at the Catholics or so-called Catholics who want to get a letter to be a Baptismal Sponsor or some such – and when you ask them if or how they are practicing their faith… they start getting edgy… or they act indignant that you would question them.

You and I have heard these words before – they are from the Catechism of the Catholic Church and from John Paul II. “The celebration of this Mystery – the Mass – is the source and summit of Christian life….

Through the Mass, we unite ourselves with the heavenly liturgy.” In plain English – heavenly worship and liturgy is going on now in Heaven… and for eternity. Mass is the way we humans can join with the heavenly throng now… each Mass… and especially on Sundays when we join with more of the Christian community of believers. To give you a larger perspective on what this suggests, in 2004, we went to Italy – and among our many wonderful experiences – we attended Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica with the Holy Father and perhaps 4-5,000 Catholics from around the world. Readings were done in multiple languages… and when other parts were done in Italian – we knew exactly what prayers were being said – and mostly what they meant. We were in prayerful union with Italians, Poles, French, Spaniards, Latin Americans, etc. It was a vivid foretaste of heaven – except when and if we get there – we will be praising Almighty God and we will fully comprehend each other.

Again – our Catechism tells us that Sunday is to be observed as the foremost holy day of obligation in the universal Church. The faithful are bound to participate in the Mass… participate… celebrate Christ’s resurrection each and every Sabbath Day… a day in which the Church teaches us to allow sufficient time for rest and leisure, after worship rendered to God. We are to abstain from labors and business concerns which impede this rendering to God… we are to cultivate familial, cultural, social, and religious lives. We are to avoid making unnecessary demands on others that would hinder them from observing the Lord’s Day.

One tiny example from our life – we don’t make this like picking heads of grain that can’t be violated… often, we don’t do laundry or significant physical labor on Sundays. You may think that’s silly – the machine does the work. We strive to be in the peace of the Lord on His day. Some like physical labor -- you can say that it relaxes you – sometimes people will make those excuses… Let God give you relaxation… God is to be your rest. Sit down with Scripture or a well-written life of a saint. Take a Sunday walk with a spouse or friend. Share special moments and feelings about your faith journey.

And – in conclusion – and speaking predominantly to you women of the Sodality – women have always… always been the leaders in spiritual practice and in teaching by example. What things DO YOU DO? What things are you WILLING TO CONSIDER NOT DOING which will give Sabbath example to others? Whether they live in the same house as you do… or if they are distant family? Just as a lady politician recently made a big difference by apparently being believable and genuine – can you apply that to your Sabbath example to others?

There was a Kansas City church that printed these words in their bulletin: Wake up, sing up, preach up, pray up, stay up, pay up, but never give up or back up or shut up until the cause of Christ in the church in this world is built up. Now… can I get an AMEN on that?

Dr. Scott Hahn contributed to the above thoughts. Thank you Dr. Scott. Blessings upon the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology.

Reading 1
1 Cor 4:6b-15

Brothers and sisters:
Learn from myself and Apollos not to go beyond what is written,
so that none of you will be inflated with pride
in favor of one person over against another.
Who confers distinction upon you?
What do you possess that you have not received?
But if you have received it,
why are you boasting as if you did not receive it?
You are already satisfied; you have already grown rich;
you have become kings without us!
Indeed, I wish that you had become kings,
so that we also might become kings with you.

For as I see it, God has exhibited us Apostles as the last of all,
like people sentenced to death,
since we have become a spectacle to the world,
to angels and men alike.
We are fools on Christ’s account, but you are wise in Christ;
we are weak, but you are strong;
you are held in honor, but we in disrepute.
To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty,
we are poorly clad and roughly treated,
we wander about homeless and we toil, working with our own hands.
When ridiculed, we bless; when persecuted, we endure;
when slandered, we respond gently.
We have become like the world’s rubbish, the scum of all,
to this very moment.

I am writing you this not to shame you,
but to admonish you as my beloved children.
Even if you should have countless guides to Christ,
yet you do not have many fathers,
for I became your father in Christ Jesus through the Gospel.

Responsorial Psalm
Ps 145:17-18, 19-20, 21

R. (18) The Lord is near to all who call upon him.
The LORD is just in all his ways
and holy in all his works.
The LORD is near to all who call upon him,
to all who call upon him in truth.
R. The Lord is near to all who call upon him.
He fulfills the desire of those who fear him,
he hears their cry and saves them.
The LORD keeps all who love him,
but all the wicked he will destroy.
R. The Lord is near to all who call upon him.
May my mouth speak the praise of the LORD,
and may all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever.
R. The Lord is near to all who call upon him.

Lk 6:1-5

While Jesus was going through a field of grain on a Sabbath, his disciples were picking the heads of grain, rubbing them in their hands, and eating them. Some Pharisees said, “Why are you doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?” Jesus said to them in reply,
“Have you not read what David did when he and those who were with him were hungry? How he went into the house of God, took the bread of offering, which only the priests could lawfully eat, ate of it, and shared it with his companions?” Then he said to them, “The Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.”

© 2006-2009 Deacon Tom Online

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