Promises made by human beings are often broken, but a promise made by God is something altogether different. It is essential article of belief in the Hebrews Scriptures that God always keeps his promises. St Paul mentions the promise that God made to Abraham, a promise of Abraham and his future generations. But, perhaps this was preposterous at the time, since Abraham and his wife were barren, with no children, and Abraham was a wandering stranger in the land of Canaan with no land to his name. If God is indeed faithful to his promises, than Israel is to respond by being faithful to God’s commandments. Yet, if Israel is ever unfaithful, then God will still keep his promises. In many ways, the entirety of the Hebrew Scriptures is a promise that is fulfilled in God’s son, Jesus Christ. Even when Israel was sent into exile, the promise was kept in Jesus, which was not the promise of an earthly kingdom, but rather the promise of an eternal kingdom, a kingdom of God’s mercy, holiness and grace. All powerful God, as you made a promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as those promises were fulfilled in Christ, may you give us the courage to to receive your promise in our own life in faith and joy.
Saturday, October 21, 2017
O holy St. Jude, apostle of Jesus Christ, you who have so faithfully spread Jesus’ Gospel of Light and Love, I ask and beg you to remember me and my deepest needs. St. Jude, please especially pray for…
(State your intentions)
Grant that I may always pray with fervor and devotion, resigning myself and my needs humbly to my loving God. Grant that I may see God’s purpose in all my trials and that I may be open to God’s answers to my sincere prayers. Amen.
St Jude, pray for me!
Lord Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner!
Glory be to the Father…
Friday, October 20, 2017
In the Exodus story that we hear this weekend, as the Israelites are escaping the bondage and oppression of their lives in Egypt, as they travel to the promised land, Moses presents God’s law to the people. The laws of conduct that God gives them at Mount Sinai are reiterated again and again by the prophets as the people repeatedly stray from God and turn their back on him throughout the history of the people of Israel.
The widows, the orphans, the poor, the oppressed, the stranger – they were the most vulnerable and the most at risk in the ancient Mediterranean world. Today, in our world and in our own community right here in Pearl, we may think that we can easily identify these members who are most at risk, who are orphans and the strangers. But some individuals may feel like they are orphans or strangers in their own community and they are not so readily identifiable. What we see on the outside and on the surface can be so different from the reality that is going on inside a person. We may see someone who appears happy and content, confident and successful in life, but inside they may be struggling just to make it from one day to the next, they may be insecure and lacking in self-worth and confidence.
God tells the people of Israel that if they do wrong against those who are most vulnerable in their society, those they’ve wronged will cry out to God, and God will surely hear their cry. God’s wrath will flare up at the people of Israel, and the Israelites themselves will become widows and orphans. The point of all of this is not to instill fear in our hearts, to make us afraid of God and be fearful of punishment or retribution, but rather it is a call to awareness, to look at how we treat others, especially the least among us in our society. Since it is often so difficult to determine who the least among us are, we are to be watchful in how we treat all of God’s children.
Many times the message we hear in Sacred Scripture gives us pause to think, it gives us a reason to be challenged. This weekend, we also celebrate our parish’s patron saint, St Jude, also known as Judas Thaddaeus, He was one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus. Tradition holds that Saint Jude preached the Gospel in Judea, Samaria, Syria, Mesopotamia and Libya. Tradition states that Jude suffered martyrdom about 65 AD in Beirut, together with the apostle Simon the Zealot, with whom he is usually connected. The axe that he is often shown holding in pictures symbolizes the way in which he was killed. He is known to help out people in desperate situations, which is one of the reason so many of the faithful have a great love for St Jude and a devotion to him. St Jude, pray for us.
World Mission Sunday is organized by the Society of the Propagation of the Faith in the Catholic Church. This year, it is celebrated on Sunday, October 22, 2017. It is a day set aside for Catholics worldwide to recommit themselves to the Church’s missionary activity through prayer and sacrifice.
We just celebrate the feast day of St Jean de Brebeuf, St Isaac Jogues, and their Jesuit companions who were martyred while serving as missions to the native people of Canada in the 17th century. Our Church has been blessed with so many dedicated missionaries, many of whom gave up their lives for the faith.
During this year’s 90th anniversary, World Mission Sunday celebration relates to the mercy of the Lord: “Mercy Changes the World.” Pope Francis notes, “The mercy of God is His loving concern for each one of us…. As the Father loves, so do His children. Just as He is merciful, so we are called to be merciful to each other.”
As I served as a missionary myself in Canada, in Ecuador, and in South Texas from 1992 to 2000, I think of the Mennonite Voluntary Service and the Combine Missisionaries with whom I served. I thin of all the dedicated missionaries that I met and worked with. We lift up all the dedicated missionaries to the loving arms of the Lord.
Swiss Reformed theologian Karl Barth once stated that preachers of God's word ought to preach with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other. Barth saw an important relationship between the word of God and the word of the day that was important in the way we live out our faith in the reality of the modern world. God’s word and the reality of our day are intrinsically bound together in such a way that one always interprets the other. The Second Vatican Council understood this as well, as the fourth paragraph of Guadium et Spes, the Pastoral Constitution of the Church in the modern world, states that: "At all times the Church carries the responsibility of reading the signs of the times and interpreting them in the light of the Gospel." Today's Gospel from Luke addresses how some in Jesus' day could interpret the weather from the clouds and the appearance of the earth, but they were not able to discern the signs that Jesus put before their very eyes in his proclamation of God's kingdom. And isn't it even more true today? We are so technologically advanced, we pride ourselves in our scientific advances and all the technology we use in our everyday lives, yet we so often miss the message that God is trying to convey to us. Yes, according to the Second Vatican Council, we are call to dialogue with our modern era and to infuse our world with our faith, yet we are also called to be true to the original message of Jesus and the message preached by the early Church fathers. May we never forget this connection.
“Blessed are they who hope in the Lord” – this is the refrain we hear in the psalm today. The message in the psalm brings us a message of hope, as we as disciples of Christ are to place our hope in our faith, in the salvation we have in Christ. Yet, the readings also hold us accountable and responsible as disciples of Christ as well. This hope is not just a promise that demands no action on our own part. Paul tells the Romans that before they were slaves to impurity and lawlessness, but now they are to live in righteousness as disciples of Christ. Sometimes in what we are going through in our daily lives, it can be difficult to have hope. When we have no hope, perhaps we need to look at what we can change in our lives to bring us hope. At a workshop we had in our Diocese in early October, we were told that in order to have hope in our lives, we had to seek out and foster healthy relationships in our lives. We do not feel hope on our own or in isolation. The importance of community in our Catholic faith reinforces this concept. The friends and healthy relationships around us can help us have joy in our heart no matter the struggles and the challenges we are facing. Let us have hope. Let us put our trust in our Lord.
We are disciples of Christ. To become his disciples, we die to our old life in the waters of baptism, rising to new life in him. Even though we strive toward perfection as disciples of Christ on our journey of faith, that does not me we still don’t struggle with sin, that we don’t face temptations on our journey. In his letter to the Romans, Paul acknowledges the reality of sin. He acknowledges that sin is still powerful and active in the world of believers. That is one of the aspects of our Catholic faith that I really like, that our faith openly acknowledges this power that sin can have over us even as we continue on our journey through life as believers. We are called to an on-going cycle of conversion and repentance on our journey of faith. We are called to confess our sins, to repent, to do penance and to strive to do better.
I remember reading an article in America Magazine in which Pope Francis was asked: "Who is Jorge Mario Bergoglio?" He answered: “I am a sinner. This is the most accurate definition. It is not a figure of speech, a literary genre. I am a sinner.” We are all sinners, this is true, but we have the help of God’s grace, which Paul says is the source of our liberty and our security. It is hard to believe that it is nearing the end of October, which means that Thanksgiving and Advent are around the corner, as we will start our preparations for the Christmas season. We have the sacrament of reconciliation each Saturday afternoon here at St Jude before our Vigil Mass. We also will be having our Advent Reconciliation Service the first week of Advent. We ask the Lord to lead us and guide us in our fight against temptation, against the sins we struggle with in our lives. Without his help, we cannot do anything.