Monday, July 27, 2015

7/31/2015 – Friday of the 17th week in Ordinary Time – St Ignatius of Loyola – Matthew 13:54-58

     The 16th century was a tumultuous time in the history of the Church – the era of the Protestant Reformation, the Catholic response to the Reformation, and the Spanish Inquisition.  It was the time when the explorers and conquistadors were exploring the Americas, accompanied by many priests and Catholic missionaries who founded many Catholic missions.  The list of saints to come out of the country of Spain in this era is impressive as well:  Ignatius of Loyola, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Francis Xavier, John of Avila, John of God, and Juan de Ribera.  Three of these saints are included on the list of the 36 doctors of the Church - quite an impressive showing.
     Today we celebrate one of these Spanish saints – Ignatius of Loyola. Even though Ignatius has not yet been named a Doctor of the Church, his influence in his own day and today is remarkable and wide-spread.  Ignatius was a knight and a nobleman from the Basque country in Spain when he was bedridden with an injury.  He read some books of the lives of the saints while convalescing, from which he felt a call to search for God in his life, a life in which God and the Catholic Church previously had not been very important. Ignatius visited the shire of Our Lady of Montserrat in Catalonia in Spain as a part of this spiritual quest.  He placed his sword in front of the statue of the Blessed Mother there at Montserrat – he knew that he was giving up his life as a soldier for the state and instead was dedicating his life to being a solider for God.  His observations and reflections about his search for God became the basis of his spiritual exercises. Ignatius went on to become a priest and the founder of the Society of Jesus.  The Jesuits continue to be a great influence in our world today.  The spirit of Ignatius lives on in so many ways, including in the bold messages from our first Jesuit pope, Pope Francis. As we hear about Jesus being questioned and doubted in his preaching in his hometown synagogue, we can imagine that Ignatius was also met with doubts and incredulity when he changed his life and starting preaching the Gospel to others.   Even though the Jesuits were officially approved by the Church under Pope Paul III in 1540, even though they were instrumental in setting up the missions in the Americas in the 16th century, many modern Catholics forget how the Jesuits were dissolved as a Catholic religious congregation by Pope Clement XIV in 1773, and remained dissolved until 1814.  Sometimes the proclamation of the Good News of Jesus has a very rocky reception and a very difficult path with a lot of twists and turns.  Yet, we trust in the Lord and we never give up.  May Ignatius of Loyola and his witness to the Gospel inspire us to be modern evangelizers of Christ’s Good News in the world. 

7/29/2015 – St Martha – John 11:19-27

7/29/2015 – St Martha – John 11:19-27
     Last week we celebrated the feast day of St Mary Magdalene and today we celebrate another well know woman from the New Testament, another woman who was Jesus' good friend and disciple - St Martha.   We all know the story about Mary and Martha from the Gospel of Luke, about how Martha was the one busy cooking and serving and taking care of her guests, but how Mary was wanting to listen to Jesus and to learn from him rather than bother herself with housework.  That reading is one of the options for today’s memorial for St Martha. I prefer to use today’s reading from John's Gospel that we hear today.  Indeed, the fact that the Church has a memorial feast in honor of Martha in our liturgical calendar says a lot about what a great witness she is to the Good News of the Gospel.  Martha’s belief in Jesus was a shining light for her in a time of great darkness in her life.  Martha is able to testify: “Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.” Martha is able to proclaim that he is the light and the resurrection.  Like most of us, Martha is a complex and complicated human being with her strengths and her weaknesses.  As we are trying to implement greeters at our masses, I very much appreciate Martha’s gift of generosity and hospitality, of taking care of others and getting the work done.  We give thanks for Martha, for her great example of faith in the Gospel, for her role as a disciple of Christ in the Early Church.  And we give thanks for all those who work so hard to serve our parish and to serve our parishioners day in and day out, for their example of faith and tenacity. 

What about St Christopher? Is he still a saint? Did he exist?

It is interesting - July 25 is the feast of St James, one of the most revered saints in the Catholic faith. His martyrdom - the first of the Apostles to be martyred - is recorded in the Acts of the Apostles.  James is mentioned numerous times in the New Testament.  Jesus even had a nickname for him and his brother John - the Sons of Thunder.  James is one of the three apostles who accompanied Jesus to the mountain at the Transfiguration.  And tradition has it that James is the first person to whom an apparition of the Blessed Mother appeared - Our Lady of the Pillar - to encourage him in his missionary work in Spain.  Our parish in Tupelo is named after James the Greater, and five of us here at the parish (including me) have made the trek to Santiago de Compostela, the pilgrimage in St James' honor.

But what about St Christopher?  His feast day is also July 25.  He was revered for centuries, but later his feast day was removed from the Church's liturgical calendar because the Church is not sure about the details of his life or if he really existed.  From what I can tell, Christopher is still recognized as a saint by the Catholic Church.  However, his feast day is no longer in our Church’s liturgical calendar.  It is said by tradition that he was an early martyr in the Church, but not much is known about him.  His name Christopher means “Christ bearer.”  It is said that he carried the little child Jesus across a river to safety.  Maybe his real name was never known and he was given that name for what he did.  Christopher and many of the early saints were never formally canonized in Rome, but instead were recognized as a saint by one of the Christian communities.  Christopher’s feast day is still recognized by parish’s bearing his name and those who have a devotion to that saint. 

I love the saints and believe that there is something we can learn from each of them.  St James is certainly a big presence in my life.  When I get discouraged as priest, which definitely can happened, when I am insulted or criticized or ostracized by someone, which believe me has happened, I think of St James and his courage and tenacity.  Some days I wonder if I can make to the next day as a priest.  With St James and the Blessed Mother and many of the other members of the community of saints, I feel their help and encouragement to carry on to the next day. 

Friday, July 24, 2015

7/26/2016 – decimoséptimo domingo del tiempo ordinario – Juan 6, 1-15

      Jesús y sus discípulos quieren ir a un lugar solitario para descansar.  Pero, la muchedumbre quiere seguir.  La muchedumbre tiene hambre – hambre de comer – hambre en otros sentidos también.   Jesús se da cuenta que la muchedumbre tiene mucha hambre.  Con su milagro de la multiplicación de los panes y los peces, Jesús y sus discípulos pueden dar comida a la muchedumbre hambriento.  La gente coge toda la comida que quiere – y mucha comida de sobra.   En este milagro, la muchedumbre se da cuenta que Jesús es el profeta verdadero de Dios – él está presente con ellos en su realidad y en su proclamación del reino de Dios.
      Venimos a Jesucristo – venimos a la Iglesia -  por razones diferentes en nuestra vida por supuesto.  A veces venimos a Jesucristo en una manera egoísta, sólo de pensar en nosotros mismos.  Ayer, el sábado 25 de julio, celebramos la fiesta de Santiago el Mayor, el patrón de nuestra parroquia aquí en Tupelo.  En muchas maneras, en el Evangelio, podemos mirar la realidad de Santiago ya su hermano Juan.  Los valores del mundo – los  valores temporales – estaban al entro de la vida de Santiago cuando entraba en el grupo de discípulos de Cristo.  Santiago y su hermano Juan querían tener el puesto del poder al lado de Cristo.  Querían tener el puesto más importante y más apreciado en el grupo de discípulos.  Por la parte de Cristo, Santiago y su hermano Juan tenían el sobrenombre “los hijos del trueno,” un apodo que ganaban probablemente de su temperamento ardiente.  Sabemos el resto de la historia de la vida de Santiago y su discipulado.  Santiago fue obedientemente a España como misionero, donde encontraba muchas dificultades.  Regresó a Jerusalén humillado y derrotado, donde fue el primer apóstol martirizado por la fe.   La Buena Nueva de Jesucristo tiene el poder de transformarnos, como la transformación que miramos en la vida de Santiago el Mayor.  El Cuerpo y la Sangre de Cristo que nos alimenta cada vez que nos reunimos alrededor de la mesa del Señor tiene el poder de transformarnos.  En esta transformación, podemos vivir como siervos a Dios y siervos a nuestros hermanos, podemos vivir como testigo de los valores de Cristo y su ministerio, y podemos servir como levadura en un mundo que lo necesita urgentemente el mensaje del Evangelio.
      En efecto, existe una tensión en nuestra vida de fe entre lo temporal y lo divino - entre las cosas que son de la tierra y las cosas que son de Dios. Nosotros como cristianos vivimos en la realidad del presente y de nuestra existencia terrenal, pero nuestros ojos se fijan en la vida eterna que tenemos en nuestro Señor.  Nuestra misa es la fuente y cumbre de nuestra vida como católicos, pero necesitamos vivir la Eucaristía en nuestra vida diaria como parte de nuestra fe.  Llegamos a cabo en las obras de caridad y misericordia.  En nuestra parroquia, ayudamos a los necesitados y en nuestra comunidad y en el mundo.  Nuestro pan de cada día llega a alimentar nuestra hambre espiritual. Nuestro pan diario alcanza para alimentar a nuestras necesidades terrenales y nuestra hambre física.
       Santiago, el patrón de nuestra parroquia, trascendió su necesidad de poder y significado en un sentido terrenal para convertirse en siervo del Señor que voluntariamente sacrificó su vida por el Evangelio.  El pan del cielo y de la Palabra de Dios que le dio de comer lo transformó a Santiago en un verdadero discípulo de Cristo.  Nosotros, como discípulos de Cristo, necesitamos seguir en sus pasos.

7/26/2015 – 17th Sunday in ordinary time - Cycle B– John 6:1-15

       In our Gospel readings these past two weeks, we’ve heard how Jesus and his disciples are trying to get away for some rest and relaxation, but the crowds keep following them.  Jesus and his disciples have captured the imagination and the attention of the people wherever they go.  The crowds hunger for many things in their lives.  Jesus realizes that part of this hunger is a physical hunger, that feeding their physical appetite will not only satisfy one level of hunger that they have, but it will be a sign that he will be able to feed the other types of hunger that they have as well.  With the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and the fish, Jesus and the disciples feed the hungry crowds.  The crowds take as much food as they want until they are satisfied, with there being baskets and baskets of food left over.  Through this miracle, the crowds recognize Jesus as the true prophet of God who has come into their midst.
      We come to Jesus for different reasons in our lives, don’t we?  We sometimes come to Jesus in a self-center way, just thinking of ourselves.  Yesterday, on Saturday July 25, we celebrated the feast of St James the Greater, the patron saint in our parish in Tupelo.  In many way, in the Gospel, we can see how James and his brother John were obsessed with temporal things, with having a seat of power next to Jesus, of being more important and more esteemed than the other disciples that Jesus called.   Jesus even called James and John the Sons of Thunder, a nickname they earned probably because of their feisty, fiery temperament.   But we know the rest of the story of James’ life of discipleship, of how he obediently went off to Spain as a missionary, encountering much hardship and little acclaim, of how he returned to Jerusalem humbled and defeated, becoming the first apostle martyred for the faith.  The Good News of Jesus Christ has the power to transform us and change us. The Body and Blood of Christ that feeds us each time we gather around the table of the Lord has the power to transform us in order to us to be servants to God and our brothers and sisters, in order to witness to Christ’s values and his ministry, in order to be leaven in a world that so badly needs the Gospel message.
      The crowd in today’s Gospel was drawn to Jesus because they saw him as a great teacher.  The people hungered to hear his proclamation of God’s kingdom.  They followed Jesus into the wilderness perhaps because they knew that their souls were lost in the wilderness as well.  The crowds hungered for the words Jesus spoke.  They wanted something more.  They felt that there was something missing in their lives.  But we also see that while they were following Jesus, their earthly reality pressed upon them as well. They had a physical hunger for food that needed to be satisfied as well.  They hungered for God, but they hungered for things of this earth as well.
       There is indeed a tension in our lives between the temporal and the divine – between the things that are of the earth and the things that are of God.  We as Christians are to reach out in the reality of the here and now of our earthly existence, but our eyes are to be fixed on the eternal life that we have in our Lord.  Our liturgy is the source and summit of our lives as Catholics, but living out the Eucharist in our daily lives is essential as well.  We reach out in works of charity and mercy.  A big part of our parish budget goes to helping out those in need and reaching out to people in our community and throughout the world.  Our daily bread reaches out to feed our spiritual hunger.  Our daily breads reaches out to feed our earthly needs and our physical hunger.
       St James, our parish’s patron saint, transcended his need for power and significance in an earthly sense to become a humble servant of the Lord who willingly sacrificed his life for the Gospel.  The bread from heaven and the Word of God that fed him and nourished him transformed him into a true disciple of Christ.  May we as modern disciples follow in his footsteps.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

7/24/2015 – Friday of the 16th week in Ordinary Time – Exodus 20:1-17

     In our first reading today, as we hear God give Moses the commandments he wishes his people to follow, we might think about how following God’s laws and commandments are foundational to our Christian faith and to our lives of discipleship.  Having said that, we know that it is not always easy following those commandments and apply God’s law to the reality of our lives.  Reading those commandments, they might seem clear-cut and straight-forward, but when seen in the light of our complicated human lives, it is not so easy or straight-forward, is it?
      This month, in our calendar of saints, we have the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus.  I thought about them when I thought about the commandment of honoring God and his name and not taking his name in vain.  Supposedly there were seven young men named Maximian, Malchus, Marcian, John, Denis, Serapion, and Constantine.  During the persecutions conducted by the Emperor Decius in the middle of the 3rd century before Christianity became a recognized legal religion, they hid in a cave to save their lives because they refused to make pagan sacrifices.  The cave was sealed, and legend has it that they fell into a miraculous sleep and later woke up approximately 300 years later where they were seen by the townsfolk of the city.  This incident was revered by both the Christian and Muslim traditions because it was interpreted as validating the resurrection of the dead that is a part of our belief. Martyrdom was respected and honored in the early Church and was the true sign of sainthood for the sacrifices and testimony those individuals made for the faith.  Whether the story is true or not is not the point.  The point is: How are we honoring God and his holy name in our lives and what sacrifices and commitment are we making to follow our faith as disciples of Christ.
        A year ago, our Adult Faith Formation program here at St James read a book by Benedictine Sister Joan Chittister about the Ten Commandments.  What I liked most about that book was how it challenged us in the way we looked at those commandments, seeing them in different and new ways.  May we honor God in the way we try to follow the Ten Commandments in our lives.  May we honor him and praise him in our words and in our actions. 

Let Us Know Peace

I really like the peace prayer of St Francis of Assisi.  In a world where so many people are looking out for themselves and trying lift themselves above everyone else, it is refreshing to ask God to make us a true channel of his peace.  I had written down this peace prayer from a native American tradition a couple of years ago.  When I recently came across it, it reminded me of the peace prayer of St Francis, even though it is so much shorter.  May we all be channels of God's peace.  

God of all, let us know peace. 
For as long as the moon shall rise. 
For as long as the rivers shall flow. 
For as long as the sun shall shine. 
For as long as the grass shall grow. 
Let us know peace. Amen.

-      Adapted from a Cheyenne Native American prayer