I am getting adjusted in my new "home" - St Jude Catholic Church in Pearl, just outside of Jackson. It is a wonderful, vibrant parish and an easy place to adjust to. I have had a very warm welcome - could not ask for more. Looking forward to many years of ministry here.
Sunday, August 20, 2017
“Your friends make known, O Lord, the glorious splendor of your Kingdom.” What a wonderful message we hear today in our psalm response as we celebrate St Bartholomew today, one of the members of Christ group of apostles. All of us as Christ’s disciples in the modern world are to make the glory of his message known in our words and our actions.
The Gospel today refers to Bartholomew as Nathaniel. It recounts the beginning of Jesus’ friendship with Nathaniel. Upon seeing Bartholomew from a distance, Jesus states that there is no duplicity in him, meaning the he is not two-faced, not deceitful, not dishonest, not divided in his loyalty. We can intuit from the description that Bartholomew is a good, honest man of Israel, a man of prayer and devotion who was called to be a follower of Jesus. And Bartholomew responds to this invitation by professing what he sees in Jesus: you are the Son of God - you are the King of Israel. In the Beatitudes, Jesus stated: “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.” That definitely describes Bartholomew and his recognition of Jesus as the Son of God in today’s Gospel.
The Bible does not say what happened to Bartholomew in the establishment of the Early Church after Christ’s death and resurrection. Tradition has passed down that he went to the East on his missionary travels and died a martyr’s death in Armenia, which is in West Asia near the countries of Turkey, Iran, Azerbaijan and Georgia.
As you are still at the beginning of a new school year, continuing on your journey of faith and journey through life, we might ask ourselves: If Jesus saw us today, just like he saw Bartholomew that day, how would Jesus see us according to our words and actions? Would we be seen as a young man or young woman of prayer, as a disciple of Christ who is commitment to a life of faith, who lives the true value of the Gospel in his or her life. Let us ask to the Lord to bless us on our journeys this school, through the joys and the challenges, through the ups and downs we will have on our journey of faith.
Thursday, August 17, 2017
Our first reading is from the book of Judges, a book from the Hebrew Scriptures that perhaps is not very familiar to us. The Book of Judges tells the story of the different Judges and Prophets who call Israel back to its covenant with the Lord. In today’s reading, Abimelech, the son of the great judge Gideon, is made the ruler to succeed his father. However, he does so treacherously, having killed his 69 half-brothers to eliminate all of his rivals, with his youngest half brother Jotham the only one surviving. His reign is recorded as being unprincipled and ambitious, with him often battling his own subjects for power and control.
When Jotham is told about his brother Abimelech being made ruler of Israel, he recounts a parable about some trees. All of the trees who bear great fruit and who produce much for society do not want to be made king, because that would compromise their productivity and their gifts. However, the briar, which produces no fruit and has the leisure to accept this position, is the one who consents to being king, even though it cannot even provide shade or anything of worth for the other trees.
Israel wanted a king because their other neighbors had one. They were not content with God alone. We all have heroes and people we admire in life, and hopefully we all have heroes and people we admire for their faith. Do we admire them for the right reasons, or is this just folly? May we choose our leaders and our heroes wisely, guided by the truth and the values of our faith.
This week, our first readings during daily mass have been coming from the Book of Judges, telling the story of the different prophets and judges who were called by God to try to bring his people back to the faith after they had strayed and had worshipped other foreign gods. Today’s reading comes from the book that comes directly after the Book of Judges in the Old Testament – the book of Ruth. What a different tone we find in this book compared to Judges and the Pentateuch. Ruth was not an Israelite herself – she was a Gentile, a Moabite, but she married an Israelite man. Rather than go back to her people after her husband dies, she stays with her mother-in-law Naomi. The book of Ruth tells the story of this selfless, courageous woman of faith, a woman devoted to her family. I was just remarking to someone the other day how we live in a throw-away society. How we get rid of a cell phone that is only a year or two old because we think it is ancient and of no use anymore. We sometimes don’t have the loyalty and commitment we should have for our family, community and parish. In a world where we see things as ephemeral and impermanent, what commitment are we willing to make to God? We commitment are we willing to make for our faith. Are we willing to be as tenacious and forthright as Ruth? Or are we willing to just walk away?
Some years ago, Bishop Latino gave us priests a book for Christmas entitled Behold Your Mother: Priests Speak about Mary, edited by Stephen Rossetti. It talks about the special relationship that we priests have with Mary. It really touched my heart to read these reflections by different priests about how they see Mary in their lives and in their priesthood. We have a lot of different days in the Church in which we honor Mary; I enjoy being able to honor Mary in a special way through our Church’s liturgical celebrations. Mary is indeed the mother of Jesus, the King of Kings, so it is appropriate that we would celebrate the Queenship of Mary as Queen of Heaven and Earth one week after we celebrated her Assumption into Heaven Body and Soul. Pope Pius XII, who also established the Dogma of the Assumption of Mary in 1950, established the feast of the Queenship of Mary in 1954, but like most doctrines and dogma declared about Mary, the faithful for centuries had believed this before it was officially declared so by the Church.
Our psalm today declares: “The Lord speak of peace of his people.” We seen Jesus as the Prince of Peace. As well, one of the titles assigned to Mary is the Queen of Peace. In the Catholic faith, we see Mary bring us closer to the values of God’s kingdom, the values of peace, reconciliation, and justice. Mary indeed does all she can through her motherly love for us to guide us to the light of Christ and to help us grow ever closer to her Son.
On August 20, just a couple of days ago, we celebrated the memorial of St Bernard of Clairvaux, Abbot and Doctor of the Church, who lived in the 11th and 12th century and who was one of the most influential figures in the Church in the Middle Ages. Bernard had a great devotion to Mary; his spiritual writings on Mary still have a profound resonance in our modern world. I will close my homily with some of his thoughts: “Whoever you are that perceive yourself during this mortal existence to be rather drifting in treacherous waters, at the mercy of the winds and the waves, (rather) than walking on ﬁrm ground, turn not away your eyes from the splendor of this guiding star, unless thou wish to be submerged by the storm. Look at the star, call upon Mary. With her as guide, you shall not go astray, while invoking her, you shall never lose heart if she walks before you, you shall not grow weary; if she shows you favor, you shall reach the goal.” To that, I say “Amen.”
August 16th is the day in the liturgical calendar that we traditionally celebrate one of my favorite saints – St Roch. (He is celebrated on August 17th by the Third Order Franciscans.) He is known as St Rocco or St Rock or St Roque in different countries. He lived way back in the 13th century in France. His dad, the noble governor of Montpellier, died when Roch was 20, spurring Roch to go on a pilgrimage to Rome. Legend has it that Roch cared for the victims of the plague in Rome and in various other cities until he came down with the plague himself. He was banished to the forest, where he set up a small shelter where he lived. The dog of one of the villagers came to visit Roch each day, bringing him a piece of bread in his mouth to eat and licking his sores. Roch recovered, but was imprisoned when he came back to Montpellier, having been accused of being a spy. Roch refused to divulge his true identity, not wanting to revel in world glory, and he died while imprisoned. Roch’s interesting story and example of holy life made him a very popular saint in Europe in the Middle Ages.
We pray to God for courage and strength. We pray that we have the ability to praise God in whatever circumstances we experience in our lives. We pray for the intercession of St Roch, that we might have the courage to serve God and our brothers and sisters no matter where we are on our journey.
Prayer to St Roch –
O Great St. Roch, deliver us,
we beseech you,
from the scourges we face in life;
through your intercession,
preserve our bodies from contagious diseases,
and our souls from the contagion of sin.
Obtain for us salubrious air;
but, above all, purity of heart.
Assist us to make good use of health,
to bear suffering with patience;
and, after your example,
to live in the practice of penance and charity,
that we may one day enjoy the happiness
which you have merited by your virtues. AMEN
Wednesday, August 16, 2017
Forgiveness is the topic of today’s Gospel. Boy, is that s difficult subject to tackle, one of the most difficult things we are called to do as Christians. A couple of years ago, I was interviewed by the Tupelo Daily Journal for an article on forgiveness by the religion reporter. Several of us in ministry in the Tupelo area were interviewed for the article. Rev. Carson Overstreet, one of the ministers on staff of First Presbyterian Church in Tupelo had this to say: “From a Christian perspective, there are no limits to forgiveness. It’s a gift and a responsibility. Forgiveness isn’t created by us, but given to us by God through Christ.” I certainly agree with her assessment. But I don’t think a lot of us see forgiveness as a gift. I think many of us see it as anything but a gift, something that gnaws at us and challenges us and agonizes us.
Forgiveness is not like turning a light switch off and on – it is more like drops of water that slowing accumulate in a glass. And it might be harder to try to forgive someone who is close to you than to forgive a stranger. Most of the time, forgiveness is not easy, but it is a value of our faith that calls out to us. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is there to help us with forgiveness – to help us forgive others, to forgive ourselves, to seek forgiveness from God. And so many Catholics don’t take that opportunity to go to that Sacrament. May we heed Jesus advice and take those difficult steps to seek forgiveness in our lives.