Friday, July 29, 2011

Homilia – 31 de Julio de 2011 – Décimo octavo domingo del Tiempo Ordinario – Mateo 14, 13-21 –

El cuento en el Evangelio de hoy es mas de un milagro que Jesús hizo en la multiplicación de los panes y los peces.  La muchedumbre estaba buscando algo. La muchedumbre tenía hambre, y ella estaba buscando algo para llenar esta  hambre.   Pero, ellos estaban buscando un Salvador, un Mesías, un centro de su espiritualidad.  Nostoros, los hombres de nuestro mundo moderno, buscamos algo  tambien.  Buscamos algo para satisfacher la hambre en nuestro espiritu, la hambre en nuestro corazón.
 Hoy, como un don de Dios, tenemos el milagro de la Eucaristia, el milagro de su cuerpo y su sangre.  Hoy en la misa recibimos a Cristo como alimento de nuestra vida nueva.  Estamos unidos en la Iglesia, en la Eucaristia.  Estamos unidos como el Cuerpo de Cristo en el mundo, el Cuerpo de Cristo para continuar sus obras aqui.  Los discípulos han mirado la muchedumbre y ellos tenían miedo – ellos querían dispersar la muchedumbre porque ella tenía hambre.  Jesucristo no quería dispersar la muchedumbre.  Al contrario, Jesus quería unir. ¿Y nosotros?  ¿Qué vamos a hacer? 

Thursday, July 28, 2011

7/31/2011 – Homily for the 18th Sunday of ordinary time: Isaiah 55:1-3; Matthew 14: 13 - 21

     Come, all of you who are thirsty.  Come to the waters, quench your thirst.  Come, eat, & satisfy your hunger.  It doesn’t matter if you’re poor or if you don’t have any money.  Come to me in your need and in your poverty.  Isaiah spoke to the people of ancient Israel in the midst of their exile from the promised land.  They were poor, hungry, thirsty.  They were needy, confused, broken, with very little hope.  The Lord promises them a banquet that will satisfy their hunger.  Isaiah spoke to those with physical hunger and physical poverty, but also a hunger for God.  They hungered for a return to their promised land, to their Temple in Jerusalem.  They hungered to make right their relationship with God, to renew their covenant with him, to make a connection with the divine.  They hungered for peace, for reconciliation, for wholeness in the midst of a very broken world. 
         Isaiah spoke to the people in midst of their very harsh reality.  Many centuries after Isaiah’s prophecy, Jesus encountered a people who had a deep hunger, a deep thirst.  A great crowd had come to see him in person, many traveling from a great distance on foot.  They came to hear his proclamation of God’s kingdom.  They came to be in his presence, to see first-hand what the people were saying about him.  Jesus looked into their eyes, recognizing their spiritual hunger, having pity for the deep longing they had to connect to God. 
         Here was this vast crowd, hungry and searching.  Jesus’ disciples saw this crowd as well.  Yet, instead feeling compassion, the disciples wanted to send the people away.  Perhaps the disciples were thinking:  This crowd is so hungry and tired.  How can we meet their needs?  We don’t have any food.  Perhaps we can find a few items to feed a few people, but not much more than that. The people have so many needs. We don’t have the answers to their questions.  We can’t fill the longing in their hearts.
         Imagine a similar situation here at our parish with all of us gathered at the mass of the anointing, like we did here in our parish center a couple weeks ago.  We came to Jesus in the Eucharist and in the sacrament of anointing, we came to him with all of our hunger and our yearnings, in all of the ways we need healing in our lives.  Yet, imagine if at the end of mass, Natalie and Marian coming out and saying: “Goodbye everyone – you go home and get something to eat now.  We don’t have any food today.  We don’t have anything to fill your hunger, to satisfy your needs.  You go now, and we’ll see you at next month’s healing mass.”  But, in reality, Natalie and Marian do the opposite.  They have a wonderful meal prepared each time we gather for the mass of the anointing and at many other parish events.  The meals that we share together are symbolic of Christian hospitality and of a warm welcome, of the heavenly banquet that God prepares for us, of the Eucharist that feeds us on so many different levels. 
         In our adult Sunday school class in Yazoo City, we’re watching a DVD on the Eucharist by Father Robert Barron, a popular priest who teaches up at Mundelein seminary in the Archdiocese of Chicago.  Father Barron remarks that in this Gospel story about the hungry crowds, the disciples want to scatter, they want to disperse, they want to send the people away hungry and unfulfilled.  This is the opposite of Jesus and his proclamation of God’s kingdom, of how he gathers and unifies, of how he brings peace, fulfillment and healing into our lives. 
         I’ve told you a lot of stories about the strange foods and jungle creatures I used to regularly eat when I was a missionary in South America.  I traveled to one village every weekend in the vast rainforest jungle in Ecuador to run a small high school and to work with some small community groups there.  After my long journey, I would go to the church to get set up for my weekend.  Every time I arrived, one of the ladies from the church would come over with a plate of food they had prepared for me.  Perhaps it would be a small piece of meat with some boiled plantains and rice – nothing fancy.  Indeed, the people in this village had very little to eat themselves, they struggled to make it from day to day, but they fed me out of what they had like Jesus did with the crowds.  And I felt their love and hospitality in the food they brought me. 
         Many of the images that are brought to our minds through today’s readings are symbolic of the Eucharist that we share together.  The Eucharist is the heavenly banquet that God will prepare for us in the end times, the banquet that the prophet Isaiah invites us to that will satisfy our deep-seeded hunger and thirst.  The Eucharist is that which Jesus gathers us to, unifying us as the people of God.  The Eucharist is that miracle of God’s abundant grace that we celebrate each day as the Church, the Body of Christ here on earth.  Just as Jesus multiplied the loaves and the fish to nurture the hungry crowds in body and soul, the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist nurtures us in the real presence of Christ among us.  Just as Jesus looked at the crowds with compassion and empathy, Jesus looks at all of us coming to mass today wanting to satisfy our hunger, wanting to nurture us and to give us strength through his Body and Blood that was sacrificed for us, that he feeds us with in this Eucharist. 
         The miracle of multiplying the loaves and the fishes is not just some miracle performed by Jesus 2000 years ago.  The truth and symbolism of this action nurtures our faith today and feeds our souls.  May we give pause to recognize the many ways that God feeds us as we journey through life as Jesus’ disciples.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Year of the Eucharist - Diocese of Jackson

         As I mentioned in an earlier post, this year we are observing the Year of the Eucharist in our Diocese of Jackson, Mississippi as declared by Bishop Joseph Latino.  Not only is our diocese having many events throughout the year, but each parish is having different events to commemorate and observe this year, which began on the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ on June 26, 2011. 
Right now I am reading the newest book by Father Ron Rolhesier, entitled Our One Great Act of Fidelity: Waiting for Christ in the Eucharist.  Father Rolheiser happens to be one of my favorite Catholic authors. He ends his book on the Eucharist with several of St Augustine's homilies on the Eucharist, linking us to the tradition of the early Church fathers and mothers.  So many of us Catholics take the Eucharist for granted, not recognizing all of the dimensions of Christ’s real presence in the Eucharist, not allowing the Eucharist to have a real affect on the way we live our lives.  There are a lot of good books and materials out there helping to catechize the faithful about the real presence in the Eucharist.  Our adult Sunday school class in Yazoo City will start going over Rolheiser’s book in a couple of weeks after we finish viewing Father Robert Barron’s DVD on the Eucharist.  

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Photos - Sunday morning - on my way to the 8:00 am mass at St Francis of Assisi parish - a beautiful Mississippi Delta morning -

Shotgun shack located a block away from St Francis parish. 

Old brick wall 

The old St Clara school building - has not been used in many years.  

A look down Main Street - just down from St Mary Church. 

Yazoo County Courthouse - just across the street from our parish house. 

Old house - on my walk to St Francis parish

7/25/2011 - Feast of St James, Apostle

(This is a photo of the scallop shell that I carried with me on the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. The scallop shell is the symbol of that pilgrimage.)

       There are signs everywhere that there is a renewed interest in the community of saints in our modern Church.  Maybe it is because of the influence of Pope John Paul II, who had a great devotion to the saints and who beatified and canonized many men and women during the papacy.  Maybe it is the way the saints ignite our imagination with their courageous stories and adventurous travels from ages past.  But, perhaps it is because many modern Catholics today feel the help and guidance of the saints in their lives.  Father James Martin’s wonderful book, My Life with the Saints, even won acclaim from the secular media.
         July 25 is the feast day of one of my favorite saints – the Apostle James the Greater.  Perhaps some of you have wondered why for web address for my blog is “peregrinolincoln”.  “Peregrino” is the Spanish word for “pilgrim”.  I am proud to identify myself as a pilgrim, specifically a pilgrim who has hiked the Camino to the resting place of St James in the town of Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain.  I went to Spain in the summer of 2003 with my dear friend Nancy Sowa, whom I met as a Peace Corps volunteer in Guinea, West Africa.   Nancy and I started in the city of Burgos and traveled throughout northern Spain until we arrived in Santiago de Compostela.  I will be ever grateful to Nancy for that wonderful journey week took together.  I am currently a part of a group from St Richard parish in Jackson, Mississippi that has been meeting for about a year now with our goal of being able to hike together this same pilgrimage route in April 2012.  Ever since I was in Spain in 2003, I’ve been hoping to get back there, to once again trace the footsteps leading to St James.  I am excited to be a part of this wonderful group that will journey together as pilgrims this spring. 
         Thank you, St. James, for your witness of faith, for the call of pilgrimage you have brought to our modern Church.  On this feast day of St James, I send out my prayers to all the pilgrims throughout the world who make this great leap of faith, who cross time and space to search for a greater spirituality in their lives.  I also pray for the people of Spain, for their wonderful country, and for the gift they are to our Church.  Spain is the homeland of Ignatius of Loyola, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, three of my favorite saints.
         Long ago, I wrote down this quote by theologian Richard Niebuhr about pilgrimage, that I think I originally saw in Parabola magazine: “Pilgrims are persons in motion, passing through territories not their own and seeking something we might call completion, or perhaps the word clarity will do as well--a goal to which only the spirit's compass points the way.” That quote really captures the spirit of pilgrimage for me.  Thank you, St James, for directing our spirit’s compass to Spain, to your final resting place.  Thank you for the adventurous spirit of pilgrimage that lives in so many of us.  As the pilgrims in Spain say as they greet each other on the pilgrimage route: “Buen Camino” – have a good journey!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

7/29/2011 – Homily - Memorial of St Martha – Friday – Luke 10:38-42

If you’re like me, you might find the story of Mary and Martha in today's Gospel somewhat troubling, since it hits home to our busy lives and the responsibilities we have in our modern American world. While I sympathize with Martha's need to get her work done and to show hospitality to her guest, I also can identify with Mary's need to be at the feet of our Lord, to be in his presence, to learn all she can from him. So, as we celebrate the memorial of St Martha today, what exactly can we learn from the story of Mary and Martha; how can we incorporate these lessons into our own journey of faith?
On any given day, most of us probably feel pulled in so many directions. Perhaps that is at the heart of what Martha is feeling, why she comes to Jesus out of frustration and exasperation: I am so busy with trying to serve you as my guest.  Can't you tell Martha to help me?  Look at our own busy modern lives.  If you're like me, you cannot  schedule an appointment without first consulting the calendar on an iphone or a day planner.  Usually, I cannot even remember what meeting or activity I have set up for the next day. Like Martha in ancient Israel, we also wonder how we can get everything done, how we can fit everything into our schedule. Yet, look at the answer Jesus gives to Martha: Don't be so worried and stressed out. Look at the better part that Mary has chosen. Don't try to take that away from her.
As we think about Martha and what she is trying to do, maybe we shouldn't see Jesus' response to Martha as a rebuke, but rather as a way of pointing out how our faith can get lost in the shuffle of our over-loaded schedules, how recognizing God's presence in our lives can be overwhelmed by all we’re trying to get done.  No matter where we are in our journey of faith, no matter what we’re called to do in our lives, no matter what mundane activities we perform each day, may we allow our relationship with Jesus to help us see the sacred and divine elements of our lives, to see the holiness present to us in each and every moment. 

7/28/2011 – Homily - Thursday of the 17th week of ordinary time – Matthew 13:47-53

        In our Gospel readings for both the weekday and Sunday liturgies, these past few weeks have been filled with vivid parables and images from the Gospel of Matthew, comparing the kingdom of God to many different things.  Today, we hear about the kingdom of God being compared to a fisherman who hauls in this huge net full of all kinds of sea creatures.  There are many wonderful treasures found in this catch, but there are also sea creatures that are not very useful to us humans, so the fisherman just throws them away.  We are told that the kingdom of God is like this, that at the end times, our Lord will recognize the righteous and they will enter his kingdom, yet the wicked will enter the fiery furnace where there will be gnashing of teeth.  That fiery furnace doesn’t sound like a very pleasant place.
         When I heard this story about hauling a net from the sea, I thought about a story that recently was all over the internet, of how a team of marine biologists was working in its boat off the coast of Cape Town, South Africa when a white shark of more than 9 feet long and more than 1,100 pounds jumped into the boat.  The research team could not get this gigantic shark out of the boat while at sea, so the boat had to carefully make its way to port, where a crane had to lift the shark out of the boat and put it back into the ocean.  Sometimes we don’t know what treasure is going to come out of the sea and right into our laps, do we?
         Our lives can be like that as well. We can think about the unexpected often happens to us in our lives, how we have to deal with a crisis or an unusual problem.  We, too, are called to remove the bad from our lives, just as God will remove the wicked at the judgment in the end times.  We need to remove the debris in our lives in order to make space for God in all that we do.  Perhaps that is easier said than done, but it’s something we need to work on each day.  

Friday, July 22, 2011

HOMILY - 7/26/2011 – TUESDAY - Memorial of St Joachim & St Anne – Matthew 13:16-17

     Today, we celebrate the memorial of St Joachim & St Anne, the parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  They are not mentioned by name in the Bible, but they have been honored since the days of the early Church.  The Tradition that has been passed down from our early Church fathers & mothers tells us that Joachim and Anne were an older couple without child when they were given the gift of a daughter.  This same apostolic Tradition tells us that when their daughter, the Blessed Virgin Mary, was with child herself, both Joachim & Anne were notified separately by an angel of the Lord of this good news, which was the same way Joseph & Mary both heard.  Since their daughter was specifically chosen for this special role in the history of salvation, we can only imagine the holiness & example of faith that Anne & Joachim gave her.
         We live in an age when the motives behind our faith are questioned by many in our society, when many people can’t believe that we are sincere & grounded in what we believe.  Jesus tells us in today Gospel from Matthew: Blessed are your eyes because they see, blessed are your ears because they hear.  Being able to believe in our modern world is a grace from God.  Yes, indeed our faith is a grace; our faith would not exist without the way that God & the Holy Spirit interact in our lives.  If we look at the faith of Anne & Joachim, the faith of Mary & Joseph, our faith is in the same tradition of theirs, our faith finds strength in the prayers of the community of saints.  Just as Joachim & Anne accepted the plan that God had for them, may we also see & hear the way God is calling us, & may we follow that plan in faith. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

7/24/2011 – homilia del Décimoseptimo domingo del Tiempo Ordinario – Mateo 13:44-46

        En las épocas antiguas, si alguien tenía un tesoro o algo valioso, esta person puso este tesoro bajo de la tierra para esconderlo.  En el Evangelio, una persona escondió su tesoro en un campo. Este tesoro escondido era su mayor riqueza, mas importante que cualquiera cosa en su vida.  Jesús nos explica en esta parábola que el reino de Dios es este tesoro para nosotros. 
         Cada persona tiene algo de valor en su vida. Necesitamos decidir cual es nuestro tesoro.  Nuestro tesoro puede ser muchas cosas – puede ser nuestras riquezas materiales, nuestro trajabo, nuestra reputación, el poder, la popularidad, o la fama. O nuestro tesoro puede ser la vida nueva que tenemos en Jesucristo, en el reino de Dios que es una realidad en nuestro mundo. 
         Antonio Machado era un poeta de España.  El escribió un poema sobre un tesoro que él no reconocía.  Machado escribió:
Llamó a mi corazón, un claro día,
con un perfume de jazmín, el viento.

(El viento dijo:) —A cambio de este aroma,
todo el aroma de tus rosas quiero.

(Yo dije:) —No tengo rosas; flores
en mi jardín no hay ya; todas han muerto.

(Pues el viento dijo:) Me llevaré los llantos de las fuentes,
las hojas amarillas y los mustios pétalos.

Y el viento huyó... Mi corazón sangraba...
Alma, ¿qué has hecho de tu pobre huerto? 

         Si tenemos nuestro tesoro en las cosas del mundo, no tenemos nuestro tesoro en el reino de Dios.  ¿Si no cuidamos nuestra alma, nuestro espiritu, nuestro corazon, en verdad que tenemos?

         Es muy apropiado que estamos hablando sobre el tesoro que tenemos en el reino de Dios, porque tenemos dos jovenes de nuestra comunidad que van a recibir la Eucaristía por la primera vez esta tarde.  La Eucaristía - la presencia de Jesucristo en su cuerpo & su sangre – es un tesoro para nuestra vida espiritual.  Estamos muy felices para celebrar con estos jovenes y su familia hoy dia.  Es un dia muy gozoso para ellos y para nosotros. 

7/24/2011 – Homily for the 17th Sunday in ordinary time - Cycle A – Matthew 13:44-46 -

When I traveled to the country of Spain in the summer of 2003 to hike the pilgrimage route of Santiago de Compostela in honor of the Apostle James the Greater, I also had the wonderful opportunity to wander around the country of Spain with a friend of mine after completing the pilgrimage hike.   One of the most enlightening places we visited was the city of Segovia, which is not only the city where St. John of Cross spent his last days & where he is buried, but it is also the place where the famous Spanish poet Antonio Machado spent many years of his life.  I visited the small set of rooms where Machado lived for many years, where he wrote some of his most famous poems. Recently, I came across a poem of Machado’s that talks about the state of his soul.  This is what Machado wrote:

One clear day the wind with the
aroma of jasmine called my heart:

( The wind said:) "In exchange for my aroma I'd love to
 have the fragrance of all your roses."

(I replied:) " I have no roses, there aren't any
 flowers in my garden; all have died."

(The wind then said:) " I will then take the fountain's waters,
the yellow leaves and the withered petals."

The wind left...My heart wailed....
" Soul, what have you done to your garden?"

         There are a lot of things we can claim for our treasure in life, many, many things.  Recently, there have been a couple of series on TV that have addressed the issue of hoarding in our society, how some people take the accumulation of material possessions to the extreme, to the extent that they accumulate so many stacks and piles of different material objects that they barely even have space to move around in their homes. 
         Jesus’ parable today addresses the great treasures that people find in the lives – buried treasure in a field that is so wonderful that one is willing to sell everything in order to obtain it, or a pearl that a merchant finally finds after many years of searching.  The point of all of these stories is that the kingdom of God is that treasure for us, far more valuable than anything we can obtain here on earth.  Yet, somehow we can be so caught up with the treasures we have in the here and now of our earthly existence.  There are some in our society who are ready to sell their souls for the accumulation of material wealth and riches here on earth.  Many of them end up compromising their salvation for the sake of fame, or power, or popularity, or success in the jobs.   That is the sentiment that Antonio Machado tried to capture in his poem.  The Lord can come to us in a quiet whisper & a calm breeze with the good news of salvation, with a call for us to follow him that can be as subtle and as beautiful as the smell of jasmine blooming on a hot summer’s night.  Yet, if we’ve neglected our faith, if the garden of our soul has not been cultivated, we might not be ready to receive his message, no matter how beautiful and inviting it may be. 
         When I was in Rome with the youth choir from Jackson last December, we visited St Paul’s basilica outside of the walls of the ancient city of Rome.  For centuries, the Church officials had tried to find the exact place where Paul’s tomb was buried.  One spot of ground was ruled out because it looked like it was solid rock, so they thought that there was no way Paul could have been buried on that spot.  However, it turned out not to be rock, it was just soil that had been hardened for so long that it was hard as rock.  This is the place where the treasure was eventually found, below that hard, hard soil, where the tomb of St. Paul was finally found not that long ago.  Just like soil that can become hard as a rock, our hearts can become so hard that we might not think that this is the place where we’ll find our treasure, so we start looking for that treasure in other places, in those external activities & things that fill up our lives.  But Jesus tells us that we need to keep searching for the treasure that we will only find in God’s kingdom, for this is the only treasure that is worth such a great price. 
         The great Catholic writer Ron Rolheiser writes that there are many tragic ways to die in our world, but there are two ways that are most tragic of all.  If we die without expressing the love we have in our hearts for God & for our brothers & sisters, or if we die without feeling the love that God has for us, without feeling the love of our brothers & sisters for us, that is the greatest tragedy of all.  Indeed, God is love.  And since we were made in the image of God, we are called to love, we are called to experience the love of others.  May we keep searching, may we never give up until we find the treasure that awaits us in God’s kingdom, in God’s love.  

Monday, July 18, 2011

7/22/2011 – Friday - Homily for the Memorial of St Mary Magdalene – John 20:1-2, 11-18

     Mary Magdalene is certainly one of the most interesting personalities & one of the most controversial figures from the New Testament.  We celebrate her memorial today, which indicates the importance Mary Magdalene has had in the history of our faith.  In the reading from the Gospel of John that we hear today, she is the one out of all the apostles who finds the empty tomb before anyone else.  She is the first one to whom Jesus appears after his resurrection.  Since Mary Magdalene loyally stood by the Virgin Mary at the cross when so many other disciples had abandoned him & had fled in fear, since she was a trusted friend & follower, we can in all honesty say that Mary Magdalene is one of the most honored women & one of the most loyal of all the disciples in the New Testament. 
         There is a lot of controversy about Mary Magdalene.  Some biblical scholars claim that Mary Magdalene was falsely identified as a fallen woman, that she was confused with another Mary in the Bible.   Yet, in the long run, perhaps it doesn’t even matter who Mary was before she became one of Jesus’ trusted followers.  What matters most is how she changed & converted, since we are all sinners on some level,  since we are all called to turn away from the sins that we’ve committed, to repent from all that has ruptured our relationship with God. 
         In today’s Gospel, even though Jesus tried to prepare his disciples for his death & his second coming, Mary Magdalene is at the tomb weeping, wondering where Jesus’ body has gone.  As she speaks to Jesus at the empty tomb, as soon as he calls her by name, Mary Magdalene recognizes him & calls him “Rabbouni, Teacher.”  She then reports back to the other disciples that she had indeed seen the Lord.   May the faith & discipleship of Mary Magdalene be an example for us all.  May we all recognize him as our Savoir, as our great teacher.  And may we all go out to the world & proclaim our faith to all.  

7/21/2011 – Homily for Thursday of the 16th week of ordinary time - Exodus 19:1-2, 9-11, 16-20b

     The people of Israel had been wandering around the desert for three months after having been liberated from their slavery in Egypt.  God saw that they needed a real sign of his presence in their lives, so he told them to sanctify themselves, to wash their clothes, to prepare for his arrival.   He came to them in dramatic fashion: in the clash of thunder & lightening, in the blasts of trumpets.  Great Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke as the Lord appeared to the people in a great fire. 
         Wouldn’t we like such a profound sign from God in our lives?  Don’t we all long for a dramatic sign of his presence?  We want the Lord to speak to us in a dramatic dream or in a loud, clear voice.  We want him to give us a sign, & we often have a very distinct vision of what we want that sign to be. Yet, so often God does not give us the sign that we want.  He often appears to us in much more subtle, much less grandiose ways.  He may speak to us in our lives through the beauty of nature, in the kind gesture of a friend, in the words of good book, in a surprise phone call from a friend, in a moment of calm & silence in our busy lives.  God may be speaking to us in a quiet breeze when we are looking for an earthquake or a mighty wind.  May we open our ears, our eyes, & our hearts to all the ways God in speaking to us in those common, ordinary moments of our daily lives. 

7/19/2011 – Homily for Tuesday of the 16th week of ordinary time – Exodus 14:21-15:1

The people of Israel made their way to safety through the parting of the Red Sea through a miracle performed by the Lord, while the Egyptian forces drowned when the Lord caused the waters of the sea to engulf them.  Then the people of Israel sing this song: “I will sing to the Lord, for he is gloriously triumphant; horse & chariot he has cast into the sea.”  The Exodus out of Egypt & the parting of the Red Sea are familiar stories for us.  Yet, we know the rest of the story, how the joy that the people of Israel felt was very short-lived.  Very soon, they grumbled at the uncertainty and the discomfort of wandering through the desert on the way to the promised land.  They lost hope, they even longed for their familiar days back in Egypt, even those days were filled with the back-breaking work and oppression.  
         Fear of the unknown, uncertainty of the future – perhaps we feel that way sometimes as well.  Perhaps we lash out at God in anger for the uncertainly we feel in our lives, for the lack of hope we feel about the future, for the struggles we are going through in the present moment in our lives.  No matter what we’re going through, we need to remember that song of joy that the people of Israel sang after the Lord rescued them from bondage in Egypt.  Even when it’s difficult to have hope, we are called to put our faith and trust in the Lord, to live out our faith as best we can.  We need to remember how the Lord led the people of Israel to the promised land, he kept his promise to them.  Even though time and time again the people of ancient Israel strayed from their relationship with God, he never gave up on them, he never forgot his covenant with them.  The Lord will not abandon us either.  

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Photos of Glenwood Cemetery - Yazoo City, Mississippi -

Entrance to Glenwood Cemetery, Yazoo City, MS. 

View near the entrance of the cemetery 

Angel grave markers in the cemetery

Gravestone of the "Witch of Yazoo City".  She supposedly burned down most of the city in 1904, including St Mary Catholic Church.  She was made famous by native Yazoo City author Willie Morris.  She is referred to on this grave marker as a "vengeful woman and her shameful deed".  

These are the large chains that surround the grave site of the Witch of Yazoo City.  She supposedly broke out of these chains when she burned down the city in 1904. 

Grave marker and stone for famous Yazoo City author Willie Morris, who wrote My Dog Skip.  The stone reads: "Even across the divide of death, friendship remains an echo forever in the heart."

A hot, muggy Sunday morning at St Mary's in Yazoo City - selected photos from around our grounds

Friday, July 15, 2011

7/17/2011 – 16th Sunday of ordinary time – Matthew 13: 24 - 43

Today, we hear another parable from Jesus about sowing seeds.  Last week, we heard about the sower who scattered seed in different places: on rocky ground, among the thorns, & in fertile soil.  Today, we hear about two sowers who have very different motives.  The farmer sows good seed in his field, preparing for a bountiful harvest, while his enemy sows weeds amongst the wheat, hoping to destroy & sabotage what the farmer has planted.
Biblical scholars claim that Matthew was talking about a weed called darnel, a very common destructive weed in Israel that resembles wheat.  When wheat & the darnel grow next to each other as small plants, they look exactly alike.  The farmer can only tell the difference between them when they become mature plants & when the grain start to form. 
What’s wonderful about Jesus’ parables is that they’re rather simple on the surface, but they give us a lot of rich teachings when we delve into them & break them open.  In today’s parable, the servants ask the master if he wants them to pull up the weeds & get rid of them, but the master warns them that if they try pulling them up, they’ll uproot the wheat, destroying the harvest.  The master wants to allow the wheat & the weeds to grow together in the field, not separating them until harvest time.  It’s interesting that the parable doesn’t tell us if the master’s judgment was correct, if this ended up as the right decision for a successful harvest.
As we reflect upon this parable, we might ask ourselves what Jesus’ goal could be in telling about the weeds & the wheat.  If we assume that the master’s judgment was right & provided for a bountiful harvest, today’s parable might be trying to assure us that the wheat will survive the attack of the weeds sown by the enemy, that the forces of good in the world will survive the forces of evil.  We’re called to trust in the Lord, to trust the Lord’s judgment in the end times, to trust in his ability to do the separating of the wheat from the weeds when that time comes.
You know, we live in a modern world today where intolerance & judgment are so pervasive.  Even within our own Church, sometimes we might think that there is only one way of being a true Catholic.  We might want everyone else to live out our Catholic faith the same way we live it out.  We might be unwilling to listen to other voices within our Church that are perhaps a bit different than our own.  Perhaps we don’t want to recognize the diverse ways our Catholic faith is expressed & lived out in the world.  When you go to mass in a different culture or in a different part of our country, the mass is very recognizable even if you don’t know the language, even though there are different styles & approaches that give a unique flavor to the mass.  The same could be said about the different ways we will out our faith based upon different cultures, personalities, & interests.  We are all recognizably Catholic, but there is also a diversity of expression within the realm of Catholicism. I remember that as a seminarian up in Milwaukee, I was sitting around the table at lunch in the cafeteria with several other seminarians, when one of them told me that the missionaries were the main problem in our Church, that we were not loyal to the pope & that we did not properly follow what our Church teaches.  Well, you all know that I have the heart of a missionary, how my missionary work has really influenced my faith journey. I remember being speechless, not knowing what to say or how to respond.  I know first-hand the many sacrifices missionaries make as they live in very challenging circumstances to bring the word of God to the world & to serve the poorest of the poor.  Here I was being told that we missionaries are not loyal to the Church!   In seminary I learned how important it was for all of us to tell our stories, to share our faith & our experiences of God. I realized that I had to share my missionary experiences with others in order from to hear about this important part of our Catholic faith.  But I also I want to be clear in what I am saying today – this does not mean that we can practice our Catholic in any old way we want to without any regard to the doctrines of our faith or in disobedience to our Church leaders.  But this does mean that there are different ways to live out are faith in the realm of the Church, that we all have different gifts & experiences that have a big impact on our faith.

Being open to different facets of our faith & learning to grow in the ways we see God are perhaps connected to the attributes that are prescribed to God in our 1st reading from the book of Wisdom, attributes that we are called to emulate & practice in our lives.  The book of Wisdom sees God’s justice & leniency coming from his power & mastery & strength – quite a paradox, isn’t it?  Wisdom sees God governing us & judging us in justice, in clemency, in kindness.  God could use his power over us in a very heavy-handed way, but he doesn’t.  He calls us to trust in his love & mercy, to respect him & honor him, not in a fearful way, but in a healthy, loving way.  And showing that same sense of justice mercy, love & respect in the way we interact with our neighbors, in the way we live out our Catholic faith in the great diversity of expression that exist – that is what we are called to do. Perhaps you were not expecting this message in today’s homily, which reflects the richness & beauty of the parables that Jesus give us in his teachings & ministry.  As we live out the spirit of the Eucharist in our lives, as we are nourished by the body & blood of Christ, as Christ lives within us in this very special way, may we marvel & respect the rich diversity that exists within our Catholic faith.  That is truly a way for the Eucharist to have an affect on our lives.  

Celebrating the Year of the Eucharist in the Diocese of Jackson

     Starting this Sunday for four Sunday mornings in a row, we will watch a DVD about the Eucharist by Father Robert Barron, a priest in the Archdiocese of Chicago and one of the most popular theologians we have in our Church today.  Father Barron will address the Eucharist as the Sacred Banquet, as Sacrifice, and as the real presence of Christ in his Body and Blood.  The Year of the Eucharist that is being celebrated this year in the Diocese of Jackson came out of a question that Bishop Joseph Latino asked the priests council, wondering what we thought about the attitudes of the faithful in our diocese concerning the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, about the general attitude of respect and dignity we give the Eucharist.  The Year of the Eucharist will continue until Corpus Christi Sunday in 2012.  We are very excited about celebrating this year in a special way.  I hope we have a big crowd joining us for the adult religious eduction classes these next four Sundays at the parish hall in Yazoo City at 9:15 am, as I know we will have a great discussion.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Catfish statues - located all over the town of Belzoni, the catfish capital of the world. There are many ponds of farm-raised catfish in the Mississippi Delta. This statue is located across the street from All Saints Catholic Church.

Our Lady of Guadalupe - located in front of baptismal font at St Mary Catholic Church - a contribution from our Hispanic community (we have a Spanish mass each Sunday at 1:00 pm)

Honda Fit - the car that I drive throughout the Mississippi Delta - and to Jackson and back!

Church and Parish House - All Saints Catholic Church - Belzoni, Humphreys County, Mississippi

Stained glass windows - St Mary Catholic Church - Yazoo City, Mississippi

7/17/2011 – El Décimosexto domingo del Tiempo Ordinario – Mateo 13, 24 – 43

Como la semana pasada, hoy en nuestra misa, escuchamos una parábola del décimotercer capítulo del Evangelio segun San Mateo.  En esta parábola, Jesús habla sobre la maldad & la bondad que existen en nuestro mundo.  En la historia de nuestro mundo, siempre preguntamos: ¿Por qué existe el mal? ¿Por qué  existe el sufrimiento? ¿Si Dios es poderoso, si Dios es omnipotente, como podemos entender nuestro Señor con la existencia de la maldad en nuestro mundo?  ¿Como podemos vivir como discípulos de Jesucrito, como podemos proclamar su Buena Noticia y el reino de Dios si tenemos estas preguntas? Si, hay otros mensajes en nuestro mundo que son más atractivos que el mensaje de nuestro Señor.  Es muy difícil para ser fieles a nuestra fe si tenemos muchas preguntas, si no entendemos.  Hay muchas voces diferentes en nuestra Iglesia Católica tambien.  ¿Como podemos ser fieles a la palabra de Dios y al mismo tiempo respetar los derechos humanos, respetar a los demás, y tener tolerancia en nuestros corazones? ¿Como podemos roconocer la presencia de Dios en todos los mensajes que tenemos en nuestro mundo moderno?  En la parábola que Jesús nos da en el Evangelio de hoy, el explica que: el bien es al lado del mal por el mismo camino en nuestro mundo, por las mismas sendas que estamos caminando.  El trigo crece en el campo al lado de la hierba mala.  Pero, podemos entender en las enseñanzas de Jesucristo que el mal va a desvanecer al final del camino, al final de nuestra vida con la fuerza  del bien de Dios.
En la parábola, cuando el trigo y la hierba mala empiezan a crecer, no podemos reconocer cual es malo y cual es bueno. Podemos decir que en nuestra realidad humana, el bien y el mal andando juntos.  En el Reino de Dios, necesitamos sembrar, necesitamos vivir con sinceridad. El mal va a crecer en nuestro mundo, pero podemos sembrar el bien donde hay mal.  Necesitamos tener confianza.  Necesitamos tener esperanza, la esperanza que hay la posibilidad de transformar la vida y nuestro mundo, y esta transformación viene de Dios.  Cuando empieza, la palabra de Dios es como una pequeña semilla, casi insignificante al inicio.  Pero las ambas siembras la de la bondad de Dios en su palabra y el mal que existe en el mundo se hacen casi al mismo tiempo.  Cada uno de nosotros, cada seguidor de Jesucristo, debe decidir qué cosecha el escogerá.
Para saber lo que es bien y lo que es mal, tenemos que recibir diaria la palabra de Dios a nuestros corazones como nuestra comida espiritual,  coma una experiencia  que va a darnos fortaleza en nuestra vida.  En verdad, no somos jueces de nuestros hermanos y hermanas. Tenemos la llamada de fe de dejar el juicio para Dios. En lugar de juzgar, necesitamos sembrar y amar.  

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Downtown shopping district of Yazoo CIty - just down the street from St Mary Catholic Church

Photo of St Mary Catholic Church from the Amtrak station in Yazoo City (Photo by Glen Tannehill)

St Mary Catholic Church - Yazoo City, MS (photo by Glen Tannehill)

7/15/2011 – St. Bonaventure – Friday of 15th week in ordinary time – Matthew 12:1-8

St. Bonaventure is a doctor of the Church, an honor given only to a select group of only 33 men & women who have contributed greatly to our Catholic faith in theology & doctrine.  St. Bonaventure lived way back in the 13th century; he became a Franciscan friar after having been very sickly as a young boy & after have been inspired by St Francis of Assisi through that illness.  Bonaventure not only gives us the example of a great theologian & accomplished scholar, but he also led a life of great holiness & devotion.  This is one of Bonaventure’s famous quotes: “When we pray, the voice of the heart must be heard more than that (voice) proceeding from the mouth.” 
In the Gospel today, heard in the light of this quote from St. Bonaventure, we wonder why the Pharisees thought with just their minds & their intellects, why they did not open their hearts to all of the teachings & wisdom that he had for them.  The Pharisees tried to trap & ensnare Jesus; they were always trying to accuse him of something, trying to get him into trouble with the religious authorities.  And we can practice our faith in that manner as well. We can try to trick Jesus or accuse him, we can try to follow a rigid form of religion in which our hearts are completely closed to Jesus.  Yet, we know that this is not what our faith demands of us.  May the spirituality & devotion of St Bonaventure & the rest of the saints inspire us to open our hearts to the Lord, even when it is difficult to do so. 

7/14/2011 – Thursday of 15th week of Ordinary time – Exodus 3:13-20, Psalm 105 – Bless Kateri Tekakwitha –

     “The Lord remembers his covenant forever.”  So declares our psalmist this afternoon.  Yet, we hear this knowing the complexity of the relationship that God had with the people of Israel.  How that relationship could be so rocky at times.  How the people of Israel would often openly rebel or turn their backs on the Lord.  Yet, we hear Moses receive the call from God in our reading from Exodus, as God calls Moses to lead his people.  God speaks to Moses through the flames of the burning bush.  For us, flames are symbolic not only of God’s divine presence, but also of the power of the Holy Spirit who is with us in the world today to guide us & lead us.
         Moses may have been a very unlikely leader for the people of Israel.  Yet, in the midst of the covenant relationship that God has with his chosen people, we celebrate today the memorial of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, a young native American woman who survived so much & who took so many risks to follow the faith. She was born to the chief of the Mohawk tribe, yet she was struck ill & disfigured from a smallpox epidemic that killed most of her family.  Blessed Kateri had to flee from her uncle’s household in order to practice the Catholic faith that was the guiding light in her life.  Although she was born after the death of Jean de Brebeuf & the other Jesuit North American martyrs in the mid-17th century, the light of the faith that they brought to the Americas found root in Blessed Kateri & other native people.  She died at the young age of 24 more than 3 centuries ago, yet her faith remains a witness to us today, reflected in her beatification by Pope John Paul II in 1980.
         When times are difficult, when we struggle through life, perhaps it is difficult for us to remember that God keeps his covenant with us, that he keeps his covenant with his people.  May we honor & give thanks to God for the blessings he has given us in our lives, even in the midst of the struggles we must endure.  

7/12/2011 – Tuesday of the 15th week of ordinary time – mass of the anointing of the sick – Exodus 2:1-15; Psalm 69

     We welcome everyone to our mass of anointing today. On this day that we come to our Lord for healing in our lives through this special sacrament of the anointing of the sick, we hear the story of Moses, of how Moses started his life as an infant in a time of great danger & violence for the people of Israel.  Before Moses was even born, God had chosen the people of Israel as his special people.  Yet, the people of Israel were not the most powerful, or the smartest, or the most advanced civilization in the world at the time. To the contrary, they were slaves whose destiny was controlled by the mighty Egyptian empire.  God made a commitment to the people of Israel: he made them his people.  In honoring that commitment, God chose a leader who would bring them out of bondage.  So, today, we hear the story of a baby who was hidden in the a basket amongst the reeds in order to save his life, a baby who would be raised by Pharaoh’s daughter as her son, a baby who would grow up to be the leader chosen by God to free his people.  God works in remarkable ways, doesn’t he? 
         The Exodus story gives us all hope, of how God chooses the weak & makes them strong, of how God works so many miracles in our lives, miracles both big & small.  “Turn to the Lord in your need & you will live” – this is what the psalmist tells us today.  Like in this psalm, there may be times in our lives when we feel like we are stuck in a swamp without a foothold, when we are in pain & are afflicted, when we see God as our only hope.  The psalm assures us that the Lord indeed hears the cries of the poor, that he does not spurn his people who are oppressed & in bonds.  Like the followers of Christ throughout the ages, we put our trust in the Lord.  We know that the Lord hears our cries, that through him our struggles & our sufferings have meaning.
         So, we come to the Lord today, asking him for healing. We are all here at this mass for a reason today.  We are all asking for healing in our lives.  Perhaps we want to be healed in a very specific way, but we are called to be open to the healing that God desires for us. We also lift up today the shut-ins of our parish community, those at home, in the hospitals, at the nursing homes.  We ask God for healing for all of them as well.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

7/10/2011 – 15th Sunday of ordinary time – Matthew 13:1-23

         In today’s Gospel, we hear a parable comparing the kingdom of God to a sower who scatters seed in various places.  We’ll get used to hearing parables in the next few weeks, because for 3 Sundays in a row, we’ll hear a series of parables in our Gospel readings from the 13th chapter of Matthew.
         The prophet Isaiah sets the stage for what we hear in today’s Gospel.  Isaiah spoke to the people of ancient Israel during their exile in Babylon.  They’d seen their beloved Temple in Jerusalem destroyed, as they were taken away from the promised that God gave to them.  Thus, Isaiah & his people were living in a very broken, fragmented world.  You can imagine how they questioned their faith, how they wondered if God had abandoned them completely, if they’d ever recover & regain hope.  The people of Israel lived in a very arid desert climate; they understood the message that Isaiah delivered to them about the importance of moisture from the snow & the rain that would keep the soil fertile & that would produce abundant crops.  Just as the nurturing rain could change dry land into a lush oasis, so God’s word can bring about a dramatic transformation in our lives as well.   God word nurtures us & replenishes our souls, giving us new life & a renewal of spirit. God tells us that he has confidence in his word as it works in the soil of our lives, that his word will produce results, that it will not return to him empty & void. 
         So, in the context of what we hear Isaiah saying about how God’s word is planted here on earth, we hear Jesus explain the parable of the sower this morning.  Planting seeds would have been very familiar to the people of Jesus’ day just as they are familiar to most of us here in this part of Mississippi.  We have so many farmers in our parish community, & besides farmers, most of us have gardens that we tend during the spring & summer months.  I myself planted an herb garden this spring; I love watching the plants grow and develop.  We all know that a sower can plant his seeds in different places, in different types of soil, affecting how the seeds will take root & later produce the fruits of the harvest.  The word of the Lord is like that in our lives as well.  There may be times in our lives when we have a bunch of barriers & distractions & rocky ground taking up all the space in our lives, making it very difficult for God’s word to take root & to have a chance to grow. 
         In today’s Gospel, the disciples question Jesus about why he speaks to them in parables.  Jesus responds that some look but do not see, that some hear but do not listen or understand.  Even some who are searching for God’s kingdom are not able to find it because they’re not willing to open up their hearts to the Lord’s word.  Perhaps they don’t really want to hear what God’s message asks of them. 
         Jesus tells us to really hear the word of God in our lives; this recalls the prayer that Jesus prayed daily as part of his observance of the Jewish faith, a prayer that the Jewish people still pray today – the Shema: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord alone.  Blessed be the name of his glorious kingdom forever and ever.”  The Shema prayer emphasizes the unique relationship that God had with the people of ancient Israel.  In today’s Gospel, Jesus amplifies this special relationship with God beyond the people of Israel, to whomever hears his word and is willing to accept its teachings, to whomever is willing respond to the proclamation of God’s kingdom that Jesus makes to all.
         God presents his word to us in the reality of lives; we need to respond to his word in the midst of that reality as well.  We respond to God’s word in the midst of our strengths & weaknesses, in the middle of our joys & our sorrows. And we all see God in different ways: in the midst of our environment, our experiences, & the relationships we have in our lives.  We have the liturgy of the word in the mass we celebrate together. We have the liturgy of the Eucharist in the real presence of the body & blood of Christ.  These are two very concrete ways Jesus speaks to us as individuals & as a community of faith.  But it is also up to each one of us to seek out the ways in which God will best speak to us in the other facets of our lives.  Last fall, right before I came here to Yazoo City, one of my parishioners at St Richard came to me about going on a retreat.  He is a very outdoor, action oriented person, but he was asking about a silent retreat where he could to pray at one of the monasteries in Louisiana.  In the midst of our conversation, I mentioned to him the pilgrimage hike I had done in Spain, a hike which I am planning to do again next spring.  He ended up researching this pilgrimage, he prayed a lot about it, & in less than a month later he was in Spain hiking for 2 weeks.  Now that he’s been back for some months, he can very clearly see that this hike was the right place for him to encounter God in his life, especially since he loves physical activity & so directly sees God in nature & in creation.  He said that trying to go to a silent retreat would have been like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole at this point in his life.  Yes, we all need to see where God is speaking to us in the reality of our lives, in the context of our personalities & our interests.  God speaks to us in different ways: We may see God speaking to us in what is familiar & comfortable, but also need to be open to the new & creative ways that God is willing to speak to us as well.   
         It is through God’s grace & mercy that his word nurtures our lives & finds fertile ground.  Yet, it’s up to us to help provide fertile ground for God’s word in our lives.  In our lives are too busy, if we have too many distractions, if we just leave his word on the surface & don’t let it take root, then we are not really giving God’s word a chance to do all it can do.  Indeed, how can we help God’s word grow & grow in the rich soil of our lives?