Happy Mother’s Day Mama!!

Happy Mother’s Day Mama!!

I just wanted to tell you some things that might not fit in a traditional card. I hope that is o.k.

You have been such a wonderful mom to all of us. Now that I am a mother myself, I get it. There is so much involved that it’s hard to even put it into words. But I understand the emotion and the love that is so great it hurts sometimes. I understand the sacrifices that you made for all of us. I understand pushing through difficult circumstances and trying so hard to be a good role model. You did it all without a second thought. God crafted you so perfectly and I just love you so much.

When we were little you did all the right little kid things. You were there for us, you took us to our games, you helped us with our rooms, and our schoolwork. You loved us and played with us and helped shape us into respectful, decent human beings. As we got a little older, you stepped it up and armed yourself with a tough exterior for all the times we were stupid teenagers and were mean to you. ☹ I’ll never forgive myself for being so rude to you in the mornings when I was a teenager. You were so sweet! You just took it in stride.

When we all stepped into adulthood, you made it easy and supported our decisions and listened so patiently. You genuinely just wanted us to be happy and whole, whatever that meant for each of us. You didn’t push your opinions or your idea of what we should be doing, you just listened and supported us with so much love. I always felt so safe with you. It wasn’t until I was a young adult that I realized not everyone has that beautiful circumstance. It was such a gift.

Through all the different phases, there was a steady and solid theme of prayer and faith. That’s the piece that takes my breath away. It’s such a blessing to know that someone is always praying behind the scenes. Even when we don’t ask you for specific prayers, I know you are praying for us. If I thanked you a million times, it still wouldn’t be enough.

I’m in such a bittersweet season right now with Joey and I catch myself often reflecting on my own relationship with you and I’m just always so grateful for you Mama. You have been such an amazing role model and I know I wouldn’t be the mom I am without having you to model the way for me.

This year has been quite emotional. Receiving the news of your stroke was…. I don’t even know the word. It was heavy and hard and emotionally crippling. I watched you fight through all your heart issues over the years and I know it was so hard on you, but you were still you and you were communicating, and healing and I got to see your grit and your strength.

This stroke though…. I don’t know, it felt different. I didn’t know what to expect. I was afraid. I was afraid I might never hear your sweet voice again. You have such joy in your voice and it has been a constant consolation to me, and I was so afraid. We prayed and we prayed, and we prayed. And you…. You fought through it with such grace and such strength and such tenacity.

You were determined to have your voice heard again and I have never loved you more. I am so proud of the hard work you have done and selfishly I am so happy to hear your sweet voice again. I will never take that for granted. Being able to call you and hear the joy and the happiness in your greeting. I don’t know how you do it, but you manage to fit joy and love and happiness in the simple words “Hello! How are you?”

I don’t know how you do it, but it fills me with gratitude and makes me feel safe and loved so very much.  Just four little words and everything is right again. I’m so proud of you. I know you were afraid too, but you used it to your advantage. You forged through the frustration and confusion and came out victorious!

You are an amazing woman. You are filled with God’s grace, compassion, and pure love for others. I’m sobbing typing this letter and my heart feels like it will burst any moment. I love you Mom. I’m so grateful for you, for your gentle spirit and your deep love for us and for the Lord. Thank you seems very inadequate, but thank you for all the things, small and large that you have done for all of us.

Happy Mother’s Day! I love you and I can’t wait to see you very soon. I hope you have a great day today. You are the best.

Love, Jennifer

John 3:16, Homily, Euch. Service

John 3:16

When I think of this Gospel from John 3:16, I am struck with two memories. The first memory is of Rainbow Head, the man who used to show up at sporting events with a large white Afro wig that had every color of the rainbow streaked through it. He would locate himself so that every camera covering the event showed him in the background.

He stood as a solitary figure holding a white placard with John 3:16 written on it. This was his way of spreading the good news. Somehow his attempt at witness backfired. When I saw him, I was to remember John 3:16, but in fact when I see John 3:16, I think of Rainbow Head, rather than Jesus. A number of people pointed this out and he stopped.

The other memory that comes to mind is the question, “Wasn’t God the Father being cruel for allowing His Son to be killed for the sake of all of us”?  Am I the only one who has considered this?

The answer has to do with the fact that the Father did not kill the Son. He allowed Him to be put to death for the sake of all the other sons and daughters of His creation. And, more importantly, Jesus arrived at the decision to allow His life to be taken for the sake of us, His brothers, and His sisters.

Jesus had spiritually matured to the point (level six on the Kohlberg chart of emotional maturity) where He realized what He needed to do and likely discussed it with His Father during one of His late-night prayer sessions with His Father.

That gives us a different way to view this otherwise difficult, bordering on the barbaric, view that jumps into our minds from time to time.

Born of the Spirit, Homily, Euch. Service

John 3:7B-15

In our Gospel we hear a conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus in which Jesus tells him that he must be ‘born from above’. Jesus continues with the phrase of ‘born of the Spirit’.

Poor Nicodemus, in return, asks Jesus, ‘how can this happen’?

Each of us might ask the very same question; how can I be born from above and born of the Spirit. It sounds like Jesus is describing an event.

I believe there are two ways. One happened to me 48 years and one week ago when I literally asked a group of people to pray for me that I would be immersed or baptized in the Holy Spirit. The prayers were very plain and honestly did not sound super spiritual.

But, they changed almost every aspect of my life, a true paradigm shift. Scripture came alive. My heart seemed to resonate with it. On the down side I lost all of my friends and they were replaced with a whole new group, some of whom I had previously known but didn’t care for. Six weeks later I lost my job at the beginning of a whole different life style that lasted one year, almost to the day.

During that year we welcomed a forth child born without insurance and a series of other events that moved our hearts closer to the good Lord.

As I mentioned earlier, there are two ways. The second way is most likely the normal way that most people experience – that is, they grow over time into that same endpoint. As we mature, scripture comes alive if we give ourselves to it. Our hearts learn to resonate with it and the normal things of God. We experience hard times that draw us closer to God through our need.

So, in the end, one way is not really better than the other. It is my guess that the quick way is used by the Lord with those of us who are truly weak and needy.  That is surely where I was at the time, hanging by a thread.

The Holy Spirit brings practical solutions to practical problems and we would all do well to reach out specifically to Him in our daily needs.

Pride in the Book of Daniel

God Gives Ample Warning for Us to Make Amends for Our Sins

In the 4th and 5th chapters of the Book of Daniel, we are shown God’s great concern with the sin of pride in His people and how He tries to give warnings to us when we slip into that prideful state.

After being shown how God could protect Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednego from being destroyed in the white-hot furnace, and for a time repenting of the attempt on their lives by King Nebuchadnezzar, still, as time went by, the King returned to his prideful ways.

So, the Lord tried again by giving the King a terrifying dream. King Nebuchadnezzar called all his magicians, enchanters, Chaldeans, and astrologers to come into his presence, hear of the dream, and then interpret it. None were able to explain the meaning of the dream to the King. Finally, Daniel came before the King and gave him the frightening explanation that, he the King, was about to have his Kingdom taken from him. And, that his mind would become like that of a beast, insensate, until seven years passed over him and he learned that it was heaven that ruled.

Daniel counseled the King to atone for his sins by good deeds, and for his misdeeds by kindness to the poor.

After twelve months, when nothing bad had happened to the King, he again grew prideful and stated from the rooftop, “Babylon the great! Was it not I, with my great strength who built it as a royal residence for my splendor and majesty?” Obviously, the King had slipped back to his previous level of pride.

While these words were still on his lips, a voice spoke from heaven, the very words that Daniel had spoken to the King in the beginning. “It has been decreed for you, King Nebuchadnezzar, that your kingdom is taken from you. You shall be cast out from among men and shall dwell with wild beasts. You shall be given grass to eat like an ox, and seven years shall pass over you until you learn that the most high rules over the kingdom of men and gives it to whom He will.”

When the seven years had passed, Nebuchadnezzar raised his eyes to heaven and his reason was restored to him. He blessed the Most High and praised and glorified Him who lives forever. At the same time his reason was returned to him, his majesty and splendor was returned to him as well, and his nobles and lords sought him out and restored him to his kingdom and he became much greater than before.

So, the King was finally broken of his pride and lived out his life because all his works were right and his ways just, realizing that all who walk in pride the Lord is able to humble.

As time goes by, Nebuchadnezzar lives his life in good fashion and finally dies. His son, Belshazzar, takes over Babylon as the crown prince and apparently inherits the pride gene of his father. He ignores the stories likely told to him by his father about how the Lord dealt with him concerning his pride and warned his son of the dangers of pride.

The warnings went unheeded and the son, Belshazzar, grew in pride just as is father had when he was a young King. At a great banquet given by Belshazzar, he ordered the gold and silver vessels which his father had taken from the temple in Jerusalem so that the King, his lords, his wives, and entertainers might drink from them.

While they were drinking from the sacred vessels, an abhorrent sacrilege, they praised their own gods of gold and silver. In the midst of the debauchery, suddenly the fingers of a human hand appeared, writing on the plaster of the wall.

The face of King Belshazzar blanched, his thoughts terrified him, and his knees knocked. At that moment he likely remembered the stories his father had told about his own pride issues and how the Lord dealt with him. The King shouted for help from his enchanters and astrologers. No one could interpret the words that had been written on the wall.

The queen reminded him of man in his kingdom who had helped his father, Nebuchadnezzar, and urged him to call forth that man, Daniel, to interpret the writing. Daniel reminded him that when his father had become proud and his spirit hardened by insolence he was cast out from among men and was made insensate for seven years.

Then he stated, “You, his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, though you knew all this. You have rebelled against the Lord of Heaven.”

Daniel stated his interpretation of the words written on the wall as, Mene, meaning God has numbered your kingdom and put an end to it; Tekel meaning you have been weighed on the scales and found wanting; Peres meaning your kingdom has been divided and given to the Medes and the Persians. That same night King Belshazzar was slain, and Darius the Mede succeeded to the kingdom.

So, here we have seen two examples where God interacted with two Kings about their sins of pride. In the first case, He gave Nebuchadnezzar a warning and a year to respond. When he did not change his ways, then He increased the level of discipline and the king was made insensate for seven years. That finally got through to Nebuchadnezzar and he made a permanent change.

Surely, he passed on the lesson to his son Belshazzar, but his son did not take the lesson to heart. That’s likely why God did not go through the steps of increasing discipline with him. His father’s experience should have been enough.

My belief is that pride is the reservoir for almost every sin and as such, God knowing the destructive power it wields in our lives tries to help us see that. As such, He tries to show us in advance of taking serious action.

I know in my own life I can point to several times when I was shown in advance what I needed to do to deal with effects of pride in my life. While I was never made insensate for seven years, I did have a job that wore me down to a nub for four years. When I finally stopped complaining about the job and in fact thanked Him for it and promised to make the best of it even if it never changed, within three weeks it did change.

That moment of promising to not complain anymore and to work my best even if it did not change was the equivalent of Nebuchadnezzar looking up to heaven and having his reason restored to him. At that moment I knew I had reached the point I was supposed to reach and within three weeks I received a job offer for a much better job.

God loves us and tries His best to protect us from ourselves and our proclivity for sin.

What Must I Do for Eternal Life, Homily

Ezekiel 24:15-23

Today in our First Reading we hear Ezekiel wanting to mourn the death of his wife, but the Lord calls him to groan in silence and ‘continue on’ with the work to which God has called him.

As we remember from last week, Ezekiel was calling his people to accept their exile in Babylon where they were taken in 597 by Nebuchadnezzar, and to accept the destruction of Jerusalem which was coming in 587.

Ezekiel believed that the exiles were the hope of Israel’s restoration once the allotted time for the exile had been accomplished.

In our Gospel from Matthew we hear the story of the young man who came up to Jesus asking what he must do to gain eternal life.

Jesus gives him a few examples from the 10 commandments to which the young man tells Him that he has observed all of these, and asks, what more must he must do.

You can almost see Jesus smile as He says, if you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, then come follow me.

We’re told the young man went away sad for he had many possessions. While that is probably true, it seems Jesus saw him coming a long way off and understood his deeper problem was his Richness of Spirit. Otherwise, Jesus would have increased the load he placed on the young man’s shoulders incrementally without going to the limit that He did.

Jesus knew that the young man’s possessions likely fed into his Richness of Spirit and that it takes a long time in life to reach the level of Poverty of Spirit to be truly useful to the Kingdom. But, since the young man persisted in pushing Jesus to make himself look good to those around Him, Jesus gave him the whole enchilada since nothing less would appeal to him or change him quick enough to be useful to Jesus in His short public ministry here on Earth.

Reminder of Forgiveness, Homily

Ezekiel 12:1-12

In our First Reading today, we find the Lord calling Ezekiel to perform acts symbolic of going into exile. He has him packing up all his belongings and leaving the city through a hole in the wall.

The Lord is hoping that the people who have so far been oblivious to the prophet’s words about a coming exile, will at last see the symbolism of preparing for exile and take heed.

There are times in our lives, when it seems the same things happen over and over, we jokingly refer to those as Yogi Berra did, by calling those incidents déjà vu, all over again.

But, in fact, it could be the Lord’s way of trying to get our attention about something He wants us to understand.

In our Gospel from Matthew 18, we find Peter trying to ingratiate himself by asking the Lord how many times we are to forgive others, seven times, he asks.

The Lord responds, “Not seven but seventy-seven times.” In other words, we are to forgive an indeterminate number of times just like He forgives us.

The story of the forgiven servant, going out and treating another servant harshly to be repaid a debt he owed, is a look at ourselves and our normal tendencies. We forgot how gracious the Lord is with us when it comes to forgiveness being applied to others.

Eucharist and Poverty of Spirit, Homily

Ezekiel 2:8 – 3:4

As I read the first reading today from Ezekiel, I couldn’t help but think I was reading a very old description say from the OT of a future reality say from the NT, about the Eucharist. The words, “Open your mouth and eat what I shall give you” engenders a graphic to me of receiving communion.

The words, “Eat what is before you and then go speak to the House of Israel” should remind us to fill ourselves with the strength of the Eucharist before we ever go out and try to spread the good news to others.

Otherwise, we find ourselves speaking from human strength only, rather than the Divine.

Our Gospel today from Matthew, with its reference to becoming like little children, reminds us once again of the call to Poverty of Spirit. He says, “Whoever makes himself lowly, becoming like this child, is of greatest importance in the Heavenly reign.”

So, when we find ourselves wanting to be important, more than we really are, we have our first indication of our heart being filled with Richness of Spirit rather than the Poverty of Spirit to which He calls us all.

Miracles of Jesus, Homily

Ezekiel 1:2-5, 24-28c

If any of you are History channel buffs, you will recognize our first reading today from Ezekiel as a passage often used by the program “Ancient Aliens” as a proof text that we have been visited in the past by other life forms.

If we could get as much enthusiasm generated for the coming of Jesus Christ as we do for that program about the Ancient Alien possibility, we could go a long way in converting the world for Him.

Our Gospel from Matthew shares with us the story of the temple tax and Jesus’ miraculous solution. He has Simon Peter catch a fish and take from its mouth a coin that was worth twice the amount required, enough for both of them.

We’ve heard that story and others so many times that we have lost our enthusiasm for some of the physical miracles that Jesus did perform. The impact is that we forget that Jesus said we, today, would perform miracles just like he performed and even more besides, unquote.

Consequently, we miss seeing miracles happen today or worse rationalize them away.

Yet, I would be willing to bet that every living one us here today has witnessed miracles that defy logic and probability. Wouldn’t it be interesting to sit down one day and have everyone share their experiences? But, not today…

We Don’t Murmur, Homily

Homily, Aug 12th, Cyc B 19th Sun Ord Time: Murmuring

Today’s Gospel reading, the third of the five Sundays from the Sixth chapter of the Gospel of John, begins with the Jews murmuring.  That’s a great word, murmur.  It’s a word that sounds like its meaning.

Murmur. Mom makes a large meatloaf on Sunday.  On Monday it returns to the table with red sauce on it.  On Tuesday it’s mixed in with vegetables, and all the family murmurs.  Or school starts on a Wednesday, and on Friday the teacher assigns two hours of homework, and among the students there is murmuring.

The Hebrews of the Bible were world-class murmurers, especially those who lived in the times of Moses and the Exodus from Egypt.  These people murmured because the Pharaoh increased their work load.

It was all Moses’ fault they said angrily.  They murmured when they camped next to the Red Sea and heard that the Pharaoh’s chariots were approaching.  They murmured when they had no bread, or no meat, or no water.  You would have thought that they would have had faith in God who had cared for their every need, but no, instead of faith there was murmuring.

The murmuring of the Jews of the Exodus was recalled in the murmuring of the Jews in the beginning of today’s Gospel.  They complained about Jesus. He had fed them with loaves and fish, but now He said that He was all the bread they needed.  He was the Bread of Life that came down from heaven.

They were convinced that He did not come down from heaven.  They said that they knew his family.  And they would have been correct if that was all there was to Jesus.  If He was simply human, He could not be the Bread from heaven.

He could not give them that which was infinitely greater than the Bread their ancestors ate, the manna.

To accept the gift of the Bread of Life, they had to first accept that Jesus was more than human.  He was Divine.

This is the same for us.  To understand the miracle and mystery of communion, our starting point must be that Jesus is Divine, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. He gives us who He is, Eternal Life.

Our Founding Fathers, Washington, Adams, Franklin, Jefferson, etc, gave us liberty, but they were not liberty.  Abraham Lincoln gave the slaves freedom, but he was not freedom.

But Jesus gave the Bread of the Eternal Life because He is the Bread of Life. He is not just a great man.  He is Divine. The Bread of Life is Jesus, our Divine Sustenance.

And, we take Him into ourselves.  When we receive the Eucharist, we are united to Him, to each other and to the whole Body of Christ.  It is no wonder that those who wish to destroy the Church begin by attacking the Eucharist.

In England of the Sixteenth Century, France of the Eighteenth Century, Mexico of the Twentieth Century, and throughout the world in the Twenty-first century, wherever ISIS or its affiliates rears its head, Christianity is attacked by attacking the Eucharist as well as those who can provide the Eucharist for others.

Throughout history and continuing to the present-day priests are tortured and killed for saying Mass for the people who long for the Bread of Life.

You can see the hand of the evil here.  In the diabolical battle against God’s people, the devil attacks that which binds them to God, the Eucharist.  His attacks are not just overt, though. The Father of Lies works subtlety.

He tries to convince us that Jesus was a wonderful man, but just that, a man.  When Jesus is equated with other great men of history, then the Eucharist has no meaning.  It then becomes a pious Catholic practice with no real significance beyond that of holy water, a sacramental.

The next time you hear someone say that Jesus was a good man just like, Mohammad, or the Dali Lama remind them that only Jesus died for His people.

The unbelieving, murmur that Catholics are not really receiving the Lord when they go to communion. Some Catholics are swayed by their arguments.

When Mass is celebrated people receive the Bread of Life.  Every Sunday, and for some of us, every day, we enter into the Mystery of the Eucharist.  We receive the One who is the Bread of Life.

This is Jesus who unites Himself to Us with His Body and Blood.

This is the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, the Eternal Son of the Father, who humbled Himself to become one of us, to die for us, and then gave the gift of His Life and Death to us in the form to the Blessed Sacrament.

This is Jesus whom we will take into ourselves today when we receive communion.

We don’t murmur.

We proclaim.

Wait for the Vision, Homily

Habakkuk 1:12 – 2:4

In our first reading today from Habakkuk, near the end, we find an interesting passage.

“For the vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint.

“If it delays, wait for it, it will surely come, it will not be late.”

A few years ago, while trying to listen to the Lord about a minor issue, I heard in that small voice, the Lord referring to an entirely different issue. Since it didn’t seem to be of consequence in that I did not care one way or the other, I just noted what He said and forgot about it.

As it turned out, as time went by, I found myself actually warming to the idea and looking forward to it and became somewhat aggravated that the Lord had not done, what I thought He said He was going to do.

That little exchange went on and on for almost two years. And my only recourse was remembering the original words, “If it delays, wait for it, it will surely come, it will not be late.”

As with most of these sorts of things, when it did come, it came with no fanfare. It was just a cold day in February and out of the blue, when least expected, there it was.

When I reflected on it, and looked back over the two-year waiting period, I realized I was not as ready for it then, as I thought I was.

What was that two-year period all about? It was about the Lord expanding my faith. Honestly, if He had completed His vision earlier, it would not have been the blessing it turned out to be.

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