Dear Parish Family,
As I reflect over today’s readings, I am reminded that our God loves us and knows us so well, better than we know ourselves. He gives us what we need, including the gift of his Mother Mary, our advocate and intercessor.
In the second reading, St. Paul tells us that our Lord gives each of us spiritual gifts. Giving each of us perhaps a different gift, not one that we might have asked for, but what we each need. “To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.” 1 Cor 12:7 The gift of which we may have most need of and through which we can give Glory to God.
In our Gospel today, as Jesus, his mother Mary and the apostles were celebrating at a wedding. Jesus is asked by his Mother Mary to help, they had run out of wine, and Mary wanted to spare the couple any embarrassment. Jesus reminds his mother it is not yet his time. Yet Mary says to the servants to “Do whatever he tells you”. Mary had full and complete faith in Jesus that he would do what was best for this couple. She never specifically told him what to do. That is not her role, She just brought up the problem to her son. Even though he was not yet ready to reveal himself, she had unconditional faith and trust that it would be handled. In our Mother Mary we have the best advocate, and intercessor.
Our Mother Mary, from her perfect “Yes” at the annunciation and continuously having unconditional faith and trust in God. Mary endured so much, being pregnant out of wedlock could have had her stoned to death. Having to flee to save the life of her Son. Enduring seeing how her Son was tortured and killed. Yet her faith and trust never waivered. Mary’s words to the servants can be directed to us as well: “Do whatever he tells you.” We know what he has told us, our Lord Jesus put it simply, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” The second is this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30
As we live our daily lives, let us Trust that our Lord has given us the tools that we need to navigate this life. And the Faith that no matter the challenges, Our God is at our side. Let us be a reflection of God’s love to all those we encounter.
Faith Formation Minister
Dear Faith Family,
I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and a blessed New Year.
This Sunday, we celebrate the Baptism of Jesus. Within the Gospel, we recognize the humility of John the Baptist. We also see the pride that God the Father has for His Son, when he says “You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased”.
At first glance, this makes all the sense in the world. Of course God, the Father, would be pleased with the actions of His perfect Son. Jesus is truly God, so he would never fail at pursuing what is asked of Him. At second glance though, we need to recognize that this Baptism, is to remind us of our own Baptisms as well.
Sometimes when we think of the Sacrament of Baptism, we think that it is a necessary step for us to be card-carrying Catholics. Original Sin must be washed away from us to we can cease to be scumbags or something.
In reality though, when we were Baptized (or when we are Baptized), we are not only without Original Sin, but it is also an establishment of a covenant with the God who loves us.
So, that sounds nice, but what exactly is a covenant? We tend to think that a covenant as an agreement between two parties, a fancy way of saying contract. In terms of our faith, though, it is quite more profound than that. A covenant is an act of establishing kinship. We see this throughout Salvation History (Adam, Moses, David, etc.). Simply put, a covenant is an agreement between us and God to be family. He is our Father and we are his children.
Because of that, whenever one is Baptized, God essentially says the same thing to us as he did to Jesus, “You are my beloved son/daughter, with you I am well pleased”.Not only does Baptism purify us from Original Sin, it also is a Sacramental Act where we accept God as our Father and God accepts up as their kin. It is quite a beautiful Sacrament and a really big deal!
While we celebrate wonderful feasts and holidays throughout our liturgical year, I also recommend that we find ways to celebrate our personal Baptism days! We celebrate birthdays in celebration of the past, why not celebrate our formalized kinship with the God who loves us?
Dear friends on the journey,
Well, it is officially 2022! Another crazy year is in the books. I hope you experienced more celebrations of life and love than turmoil. Though I know for many among us, 2021 brought heartbreaking loss and grief. Please be assured of my prayers and the support of our parish family as you navigate a new reality in this coming year. I pray this New Year brings us more joy than sadness, more peace than conflict, more wonderment than weariness, more God centeredness than worldliness.
Today’s readings for the Feast of the Epiphany are rich with so many messages. We could focus on the theme of gifts. As the Magi brought gifts to the baby Jesus, we can discern the gifts we offer to Jesus using our God given talents, abilities, and gifts for the betterment of our families, neighborhoods, parish, and the world.
We could reflect on the theme of light as the prophet Isaiah describes the Lord’s light that will break through the darkness to shine upon and guide all peoples. The Magi followed the brightest star in the sky, trusting the light would lead them to something wonderful. We could ponder what or whom lights our path. Is it Jesus in his Eucharistic and sacramental presence? Is it God’s Word? If it’s not, should it be?
The theme of unity could be a topic of conversation. Epiphany means manifestation and so the first and second readings and the gospel speak of Jesus’ manifestation in his birth as a gift not just for the Hebrews but also the Gentiles, including the Magi who traveled to pay homage to Jesus. People from all nations and generations are now “coheirs, members of the same body” (Eph 3:6). How can we be more inclusive?
In preparation for this litter, I used the practice of Lectio Divina in order for the Holy Spirit to guide me. What was God calling me to hear in that space and time? The phrase that stood out to me, or the echo, was “having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way.” God spoke to them and they listened. Such wisdom and trust to follow God’s prompting!
How do we listen for God? First, we must acknowledge God’s ever presence, desire for us, and constant communication with us. Once we grasp this, the next step is attunement, slowing down to become aware of God’s voice and nudges. God speaks in many ways: prayer, dreams, nudges other people and situations. I am becoming particularly aware of God’s nudges and shoulder taps, those promptings to take action, to do for others. It might be something as simple as paying for the order of the person behind you in a drive-thru; calling a loved one just to say hello; making eye contact with the homeless person; bringing up the neighbor’s garbage cans. How do we listen to God? Well, simply put it is responding to God’s shoulder taps by stepping out and just doing it. You cannot go wrong with kindness and generosity.
Today, with all the sounds, sights, smells and tastes of Christmas fresh in our minds, we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family, and well we should. Never has there been such a family where dad is a saint (but he did consider divorce), mom is the (unwed) mother of God, and Jesus – well, he is divine (and an illegitimate child by the human standards of the time). The scriptures tell us that Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and favor. Today’s Gospel tells us of the wrenching experience for Mary and Joseph of discovering that their precious boy has somehow gone missing on the trip back from Passover in Jerusalem. They find him in the temple back in Jerusalem after searching for an entire day among their relatives and acquaintances and three more days in Jerusalem. Can you imagine their anxiety? And Jesus response to them seems markedly unapologetic (though the Gospel also says that he went with them back to Nazareth and was obedient).
I think most of us have heard something like “God writes straight with crooked lines.” That idea is often (rightly, I think) invoked as reassurance that our weakness, lack of courage, and sinfulness will not ultimately frustrate God’s loving plan. But I also think it can help us get a more balanced view of the Holy Family when we think about Jesus’ human ancestry. See the beginning of Matthew’s gospel. Jesus’ human forbears included wonderful people, but also included ordinary people, and some bad people: thieves, adulterers, murderers, and the like. Fr. Ron Rolheiser, writing about Jesus and the Holy Family as an example of God writing straight with crooked lines, quotes theologian Raymond Brown:
“The God who wrote the beginnings with crooked lines also writes the sequence with crooked lines, and some of those lines are our own lives and witness. A God who did not hesitate to use the scheming as well as the noble, the impure as well as the pure, men to whom the world harkened and women upon whom the world frowned – this God continues to work through the same mélange. If it is a challenge to recognize in the last part of Matthew’s genealogy that totally unknown people were part of the story of Jesus Christ, it may be a greater challenge to recognize that the unknown characters of today are an essential part of the sequence.”
So I’d like to suggest that on this Feast, we find encouragement and the inspiration, perhaps, to recommit ourselves to our baptismal promises, conscious that not only can God save humanity in spite of all our imperfections, but that God can – and will – create something new and beautiful. Even with us. Even in our families with all of their beauty and all of their ... everything else. For a long time, it has been Catholic church teaching that we are all called to holiness, nothing less. The call is universal and the call is irrevocable. No one is exempt, no matter how humble or exalted they may be. It’s rooted in our baptism and in the Paschal Mystery that we celebrate at every Mass.
1931 - 2021
Saturday, January 22, 2022
Padre Serra Parish
Sometimes hearing how difficult things are for others can help us put our own life and difficulties into perspective. I thought it might be good to do a short, somewhat deeper dive into the first Christmas, so that we can look at our own with a little more grace.
Please consider the journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem. It’s about 70 miles if you can fly from one to the other. If you have to walk on ancient roads that meander according to a very hilly topography, avoiding unfriendly Samaritans, the journey was probably between 80 and 90 difficult miles. As for the donkey who shows up in all the art, it’s not impossible that a carpenter would have owned a donkey, but maybe not likely. The Roman military paid for pack animals, but also were known to confiscate them from defenseless peasants ... and yes, both Mary and Joseph were peasants. Do you bother to invest in a pack animal in those circumstances? There is no beast of burden included in the birth accounts of Matthew or Luke. Mary, who was very pregnant and about to give birth, very likely walked the four to six days this journey would have taken. That is tough prenatal care.
As for Joseph, he was likely carrying any possessions or food they brought with them each day. The peasant salary was often paid on the day of work, and all spent that day for food. Saving was difficult when living hand to mouth, so how he came up with the resources for making the trip, in both directions, remains a question. It had to weigh on him, especially as the journey was required so that an oppressive foreign power could tax him more efficiently. I have wondered how that sat with Joseph.
As for archaeological evidence of what kind of town they encountered, we don’t have much. Even the word “inn” is questionably translated, as it wasn’t the usual word for a traveler’s dwelling. Rather, it implied the upper room where local residents might welcome guests in their own living quarters. The implication is that this place was full of people, and Mary and Joseph retired to the ground level room, below, where the local family guarded their animals. There is no mention of a cave or barn. It still seems quite unpleasant, but I can’t imagine that giving birth in a room crowded with strangers would have been any better.
In all of human history, only the God become human chose the timing, the place and the characters who occupy his birth. And he chose a messy, difficult time to drag Joseph and Mary into a pregnancy that would fulfill an ancient prophecy:
But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, least among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient times (Micah 5:1).
For the great things of Jesus’ birth to happen, Mary and Joseph had to struggle and endure great difficulties. Jesus, who prompted it all, to become Emanuele, “God with us,” obviously thought our
difficult human condition was worth it.
These last years have had their own share of struggles for all of us. But we are pulling through it all.
Dear parish family,
The feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe is one I look forward to every year. As a MexicanAmerican this feast holds a very special place in my heart. As a child my parents instilled in us a deep love and devotion for Our Lady of Guadalupe. As children, we participated in a beautiful tradition of dressing up in Native Tarasco outfits to make our pilgrimage to the parish and present ourselves to her and give her our gift of love and gratitude through a bouquet of roses. This was no easy task for a young child to get up at 3 in the morning, if we wanted to make it inside the packed church, but we all did it with such love and joy. We participated in the “Mañanitas” and sunrise Mass, where the parish choirs and members of the community would serenade with traditional songs and the Matachines and Aztec dancers offer their dance as an expression of prayer. It made such an impact to see her surrounded in what seemed like an ocean of fragrant flowers, all gifts of hope, love and gratitude for the miracles that through the intercession of Our Lady have been granted. A fitting tribute to offer our gifts of time and talent to celebrate Our Holy Mother.
As I have grown up I have been able to see past the deserved fanfare celebration. I recognize now how Our Lady has been our Advent countdown to prepare to welcome Jesus in our hearts and homes. Just like every week of Advent is dedicated to a virtue, through Our Lady we get to experience this as well. We come to her filled with HOPE, knowing that she will take our petitions to our God. We experience God’s PEACE as we are held in her comforting and loving embrace, knowing she has heard us and will be our advocate. We are filled with JOY, in the answer to our prayers. Even in those moments that the answer may not be what we wanted, but recognize God’s response to our prayers is perfect and better than what we could have imagined. We become enveloped in LOVE, in knowing we are valuable, seen and heard by our loving God and his mother. Knowing this only makes my love for Our Blessed Mother grow stronger.
This Advent season let us follow Mary’s example and prepare our hearts to receive Jesus in our midst. She is the best example on how to love him. She left her image for us to be reminded she is
with us, we are not alone as we face life’s challenges. She will be there to pick
us up when we stumble and lead us back on our path.
1945 - 2021
Saturday, December 18, 2021
Padre Serra Parish
1957 - 2021
Saturday, December 11, 2021
Padre Serra Parish
Dear Faith Family,
I always need reminders of what Christmas is about. Apparently, I am a walking version of a “Charlie Brown Christmas”.
In the second week of Advent, the Gospel of Luke has no problem setting me straight. The author of the Gospel quotes the Old Testament Book of Isaiah and asks us to “prepare the way of the Lord”.
I feel like I write this often, but I feel like it’s a good reminder. When we experience all the good things during Christmas (family, gifts, Starbucks holiday line, etc.) it is to help us to truly prepare for our God coming again in glory. Joy might be the most appropriate response when we experience our loving God. We should prepare our souls to react in this way.
Subconsciously, the idea of the new heaven and the new earth from can cause some apprehension. We’ve seen so many movies and heard many songs with themes of the end of the world. These things are meant to make us uneasy. The unknown can be terrifying. But to experience change with joy is truly how we are preparing during Advent.
While we may not know details, or when it will happen, we do know for certain that Christ will come again to make all things new, because He loves us.
During Christmas, we not only celebrate the Incarnation of our God (which bears extreme celebration), but we also prepare for our future celebration of the second coming of Christ. Sometimes I forget that this beautiful season is not just meant to celebrate the past, or to revel in the present joys in our lives, but this season also urges us to prepare ourselves for the joys of the future.
So yeah, Advent and Christmas is a big deal. There is a reason why millions of us travel just to spend time with family for Christmas. And I would say that when we immerse ourselves in the joys of family and friends, that it is actual preparation for our Lord coming again. If we really focus on why we celebrate, it will equip us to celebrate His second coming. Jesus coming home to us, again.
I know this week we aren’t wearing pink (I’m sorry, rose), but the joy of the season should be pursued throughout this time. Because of this, we are also responsible to help others that are struggling to experience this joy.
Dear friends on the journey,
Jesus is of the past, the present and the future. We know from scripture that he has already come into our world in history and that he will come again at the end of time, though we do not know when. But every Advent is a time to renew ourselves to welcome Jesus in the present, at Christmas when he comes to dwell in our homes, consciousness, and hearts.
As I read today’s gospel, I was struck by Luke’s use of the words drunkenness and anxieties, things that cause drowsiness and keep us from being alert. Recently I heard a simplistic explanation of depression and anxiety: depression looks to the past while anxiety looks to the future. Drunkenness, or any substance or addiction, masks the pain of our past. Anxiety thrusts us into the future worrying about things that have not happened yet and may not ever occur. Both keep us from living in the present, the only time we truly have.
The Advent season is our opportunity to embrace the present. Stillness helps us to pay attention to where Jesus is active in our lives. Who or what has he set in your path as a messenger? Stillness allows us to be attentive to the stirrings of our hearts and minds. What might God be calling you to right now? Stillness affords us the opportunity to engage our whole being and senses to see the kindness in people, hear the music and sounds around us, feel the breeze on our skin, smell the seasonal scents, and taste the goodness of food and drink. Who or what needs your attention this week?
Our parish offers many ways to be present in our relationship with God, to ready our hearts and homes, and to simply enjoy the season. On this first Sunday of Advent, I invite you to consider one or two of these spiritual activities:
It just might be possible that you’re too worn out for gratitude, but I hope not. It’s my sincere hope that you are filled with gratitude, and empowered by it. Why?
First of all, gratitude is a biblical value. The psalmist proclaimed, “Oh Lord, my God, forever will I give you thanks (Psa 30:12), and repeatedly commanded us to be grateful (30:2; 107:1; 118:1; etc.), as did the prophets Isaiah (Isa 12:4; 38:19) and Daniel (3:8990). The Israelite people gave thanks for all God had done for them (1 Chron 16:8). Paul thanked God for the faith of the Roman Christians (Rom 1:8), for the grace given to the Corinthians (1 Cor 1:4), for the the joy he experienced when remembering the Philippians (Phil 1:3), and for the love and faith of Philemon (Philem 4).
Jesus was moved by the gratitude of the Samaritan who, healed of his leprosy, fell at His feet, giving thanks (Luke 17:16). In the moment of greatest intimacy with us, before offering Himself on the cross, Jesus picked up a cup, gave thanks, and invited us to share in His blood of the covenant (Matt 26:27).
Why would the Scriptures both model gratitude and then require it from us? Well, as we pray at every Mass, when invited to “give thanks to the Lord our God,” it is “right and just.” Our lives are filled with blessings, if we look for them, and it’s right that we recognize that. It’s also just that we lift up our voices and hearts to say as much. So, gratitude is at the heart of the prayer of the church since the earliest recorded Eucharistic Prayer of St. Hippolytus 1,800 years ago.
Beyond being right and just, it is also good for us. This is no surprise. God always wants the good for us. If only we’d cooperate with God’s plan for our happiness! So what is the evidence of this? Well, if you want to be a happier person, have increased sense of wellbeing, live with positive feelings, have an increased sense of your own value, then live in gratitude. The social scientists tell us that this is true.
If you want people to like you, have more romance in your life, be closer to your friends, enlarge your circle of friends and strengthen your closeness with your family, even in stressed times, then live in gratitude. If you want to have a more optimistic outlook, to improve your spiritual outlook, to increase your generosity, and to move beyond materialism, then live in gratitude. If you want to manage your home and business more effectively, to move beyond impatience, to find deeper meaning in your work, and to improve your mental outlook while at work, then live in gratitude. If you’re trying to move beyond depression, to improve your blood pressure numbers, to have better sleep, to have more energy for exercise, and to improve your general health and wellbeing, then live in gratitude.
All of these benefits of gratitude are amply tested and proven in one study after another.
1998 - 2021
Saturday, December 4, 2021
Padre Serra Parish
Griffin Family Funeral Home
1935 - 2021
Friday, November 19, 2021
5:00 to 8:00 pm
Griffin Family Funeral Home - Camarillo
Saturday, November 20, 2021
Padre Serra Parish
Burial will be in Wisconsin
Two days at the beginning of this month set the tone for our spiritual practice. On November 1, All Saints’ Day, we celebrate all those who have gone before us rejoicing in the Lord’s presence, interceding for us, and giving us an example of how to live holy lives. We also call to mind the saints among us who are still living who also pray for us and with us, and inspire us. The next day, November 2, we commemorate All Souls, praying for God’s infinite mercy on all those we have lost.
The church’s focus on death and resurrection, and on the last days of creation before the Second Coming of Christ permeates the Scripture readings at this time of year as well. In today’s readings, we first hear in the reading from Daniel that there shall be “a time unsurpassed in distress” but that “your people shall escape”. We are told that “the wise shall shine brightly… and those who lead the many to justice shall be like the stars…” Then, in hopeful faith, we sing from Psalm 16 “You are my inheritance, O Lord”.
In Mark’s gospel, we hear a lot of apocalyptic imagery juxtaposed with reassurance. Jesus tells his disciples of tribulation and cosmic disturbances, but “then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in the clouds’ with great power and glory, and then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the end of the earth to the end of the sky…when you see these things happening, know that he is near…”
I don’t know about you, but I feel an uneasy tension in all these readings between the warnings and the reassurances. Many have grappled with the question of God’s infinite mercy vs. God’s infinite justice. I am not aware of any that have resolved the question definitively. Like much in our faith, there is mystery here. What can we do but try to embrace it? What can we do but trust in God’s mercy while we do our best (and repeatedly fail anyway) to become holy, to become just? It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized that even the saints were not perfect.
The second reading from Hebrews tells us “But this one [Jesus Christ] offered one sacrifice for sins…For by one offering he has made perfect forever those who are being consecrated.” We are told earlier in the letter to the Hebrews (proclaimed at Mass a few weeks ago) that Jesus, our High Priest, is able “to sympathize with our weaknesses.” Why? Because he “has similarly been tested in every way, yet
And, brothers and sisters, we have each other. It is in community that we “work out our salvation in fear and trembling” and yet with assurance.
1942 - 2021
Wednesday, Dec. 22, 2021
Padre Serra Parish
Burial following Mass
Santa Clara Cemetery
Dear Parish Family,
Today’s readings remind and challenge us to be generous, all is given to us by our God. When we share what we have (time, talent and treasures), our Lord blesses it once again, and multiples it.
In the first reading a widow shares what little she has with Elijah, and she is rewarded with abundance. In the gospel, Jesus observes the poor widow who generously gives what little she has to the treasury. What is giving and generosity all about? Is it about how much money we have? Certainly not, it's not about the monetary value of what we give, but more of the value of which we ourselves give it.
The two coins the widow gave may be insignificant in monetary value to most, but for the woman, it is all she possessed. This is why it was much more valuable than those who gave of their excess.
The reminder to be generous is not just about money; we are to give of ourselves too in our time and in our talents. What is our contribution to building God’s Kingdom? When we give and do for others we are doing it for our God. “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” Matt. 25:40
Let us think of some of the great saints’ lives as an example, such as St. Thérèse of Lisieux, who gave her life to Christ in countless small ways. She lived within the walls of her convent and had little interaction with the world. Therefore, from a worldly perspective, she gave very little and made little difference. However, today she is considered one of the greatest doctors of the Church thanks to the small gift of her spiritual autobiography and the witness of her life. Doing little things with great love.
The same may be able to be said of us. In our busyness with what seems to be small and insignificant daily tasks, like cooking, cleaning, caring for the family and the like occupies our days. Or perhaps our employment takes up most of what we do each day. We may feel we have little time left for “great” things offered to Christ. The question is really this: How does God see our daily service?
Even if we feel that we are not called or able to do “great things” from a public and worldly perspective, or may not even be visible within the Church. Yet God sees the daily acts of love we do in the smallest of ways. Embracing our daily duties, loving our family, friends and neighbors, offering daily prayers, etc., are treasures that we can offer God every day. He sees these and, most importantly, He sees the love and devotion with which we do them. So do not give in to a false and worldly notion of greatness.
Do small things with great love and you will be
giving an abundance to God in service of His holy will.
Let us be generous like our God is generous with us.
Faith Formation Minister
During the month of October, the Church asked us to reflect more deeply on the dignity of every human life. In November we remember the dead. It is also Indigenous Peoples month. Recently those involved in parish ministry signed that we received and would comply with the guidelines of the Archdiocese for those adults who interact with minors.
I offer an article, Young Women, #MeToo and Clergy Sex Abuse: Lessons from My Students,* in America Magazine. Written by Jessica Coblentz, an assistant professor in the Department of Religious Studies and Theology at Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Ind., she provides insight of the impact the changes made by the Church have had in the fifteen years since she was their age when the guidelines and training began.
Hearing victims’ stories and the acknowledgment of their victimization were crucial to this process. I believe such action has brought us closer to what is meant by the Kingdom.
I mention the article in the hope that such transformation of hearts by hearing and minds by recognizing the truth of oppression, violence, and the apartheid that instilled self-hate, despair, and death. My return to daily mass was greeted by the massive statue of St. Junipero while my heart and spirit were dealing with the discoveries at Kamloops Residential School in Canada. I pray for the intercession of our patron that we might receive the grace to know the stories of the women of Juarez, the Red Dresses of Canada, and the horse-whipped of Haiti. May the God of love inspire us to transformative love.
The love God desires is not for him alone, but for all the people he has created. Jesus affirms God cannot be loved without loving his creation, his image in our neighbor. Jesus tells us to what degree and with what we are to love. Our strength and understanding include loving ourselves. May it be so for our neighbor.
God in Deuteronomy teaches we write the law upon our heart such that our children will learn as we go about our daily life from the awakening to our sleeping. As Catholics, may they learn their call to cherish, defend, and protect those who are most vulnerable, from the beginning of life to its end.
1944 - 2021
Wednesday, November 17, 2021
Padre Serra Parish
The Courage to See
Dear Faith Family,
My favorite part about writing these letters, is that it gives me an excuse to really dive in the gospels with a different lens. This week’s gospel, for example, is interesting.
When I looked it what reading would be proclaimed, the term “blind man” comes up very early. Obviously, whenever we see this term, we probably will know that it’s the gospel where Jesus heals the blind man and is able to see. While it’s good that we know these stories like the back of our hands, it can be a temptation to say “oh, I know where this is going” and stop reading.
The temptation was there for me. I could’ve easily written a letter that explains that this miracle this proves that Jesus Christ is God (which is obviously true and life changing within itself), but I challenged myself to dive in further.
One thing that really stuck out to me is that Jesus asks his disciples to call the person who is calling out to Him. And even though the blind man obviously yearning for Christ, he was still instructed to “have courage” to approach the Lord.
This is interesting for two reasons. First, Jesus relied on his disciples to bring those to Him. Our parish takes discipleship very seriously, and the most important aspect of discipleship is bringing others to Christ. His disciples don’t shy away from their commission, and heeds to Jesus’ command to bring the blind man to him, even if they had no idea what Christ would do for the blind man.
Secondly, it takes courage to do what Christ asks us to do. It’s obvious that the blind man knew that Jesus can perform miracles, it still took courage to approach Him. It’s like that in our lives sometimes. There are times when we KNOW what God is capable of, but we still need the courage to ask God to be God and to intervene/perform miracles.
This is why scripture is interesting. Yes, we know the stories (the blind man). Yes, we know how they end (the blind now seeing). But sometimes we take that for granted. We know all the stories of the Old Testament and the miracles that Jesus performed, but when we dive in and meditate on scripture, it’s much more than a biography of God’s people, it’s an instruction manual.
1967 - 2021
Saturday, November 6, 2021
Padre Serra Parish
Today’s reading from Mark’s gospel is one of my favorites, but with some caveats. I love what Jesus teaches his apostles after his conversation with James and John (Zebedee’s sons):
Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant;
whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.
For the Son of Man did not come to be served
but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.
It reminds me of a story one of our well-loved parishioners tells about when he and his wife first arrived at Padre Serra. She asked him how they would ever get to know people and be part of this new community into which they had moved. His answer was something like this: “That’s easy. Whatever activity or event we go to, we just stay after and help clean up.” They did that, and, sure enough, their experience was exactly as he’d predicted. They got to know more and more people, good people, who came to love and value them and they felt themselves more and more deeply drawn into the life of the parish and its people.
It is taking me a little longer to learn this lesson but I can say that in some cases where I’d rather not, but it seemed the only right thing to do, when I pitched in and helped with post-party or post-meeting cleanup, it has proved to be a way of connecting to other people and I walk away with a sense of peace.
I have a long way to go. This willingness to be of service comes from a radical sense of the value of the person we try to help, indeed, from an awareness of their having been made in God’s image and likeness. Saints see that value readily, even in the most wretched (St. Teresa of Calcutta comes to mind). For me, I have to make an effort of will sometimes, and ask for God’s help to see it in the people I encounter at home, or at work, or in the news.
Returning to the conversation between Jesus, James and John before the passage above. It seems that the two apostles are looking for a shortcut to greatness. “Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left.” When Jesus says to them “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I drink or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” their glib response “we can” leaves me shaking my head at their apparent cluelessness. Of course James and John did go on to become great saints, so maybe there is hope for me when I am dense and self-absorbed, but not without cost:
The cup that I drink, you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized
If I read this correctly, there will be suffering for me, even were I to follow Jesus perfectly (which of course I can’t). It’s the second reading from the letter to the Hebrews that gives me (us) hope, in spite of my desire for glory and my reluctance sometimes to roll up my sleeves and serve. The author, referring to Jesus, says:
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin. So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.
Dear friends on the journey,
Today’s gospel is really challenging, one that causes some discomfort and requires much reflection. The rich young man was strong in his desire to have eternal life and firmly believed he was doing his part by keeping the Ten Commandments. According to Jesus, this was not enough. Then he delivered the sucker punch: Go, sell what you have and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven. I can just imagine the look on his face, like a toddler caught sneaking a cookie or a teenager who has been grounded – surprised then sad.
Discarding his possessions was a step too steep for the rich young man. Perhaps he needed more time to process or his understanding of eternal life was slanted. His exact struggle is unknown but I think we can all relate when asking these questions: Does God really want me to sell my house, vehicles, furniture, and electronics? Does God want me to be homeless and without “things”? Does God want me to give up my relationships in order to give to the poor?
I turned to a few biblical commentaries to help wrestle with these questions and found Alice Camille’s reflection thought provoking. We come into this world to be in it, not of it. However, to live in this world means we need a home, food, water, clothing, relationships, and things to help facilitate daily living. Sometimes though these possessions can overwhelm and bind us. Camille’s reflection points out “whatever we have, it also has us” and that which has us – home, car, lawn, bank accounts, titles, relationships – demands our money, time, and effort.
This reminded me of a standing conversation with my husband about our lawn. Confession time. When the drought was in full effect a few years ago, I was adamant about not losing our lawn to artificial turf or the desert look. Horrible, I know! We dutifully reduced watering and watched it brown a bit. Eventually the rains came and the grass greened again. Now another drought is here and watering is restricted. This time around though we are better informed and ready to say farewell to (at least) our front lawn. The area is rather small but by giving it up, we are gaining so much more. We will replace the grass with native plants and those that help bees, butterflies and other creatures. Time and energy from weekly maintenance shifts to relational time, with each other or others in need. Limited water will better serve as drinking and bathing by others. Money used for equipment and supplies can now be given to the parish, St. Vincent de Paul, and other charities. Today’s gospel and reflection has convicted me to take action in this project. It might seem small or silly to some but by giving up the possession of our lawn, we are
freeing ourselves, opening ourselves to something greater the heaven of right now, and maybe even eternal life.
This week I encourage you to examine your possessions to consider what has a hold on you. Might it be an unhealthy relationship, an addiction, technology, politics, entertainment, vehicle, lawn, Starbucks?
Dear Parish Family,
This Sunday's readings speak on the gift and vocation of marriage. As a married woman, I can't help but think this week’s readings are meant for me. But the more I read and reflect on them it is clear this message is for us all.
In our first reading we are reminded that at creation, the Lord recognized we would need a companion. “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a suitable partner for him.” In God’s ultimate wisdom, a rib was taken from Adam’s side and from it he created Eve. I have always found this so interesting; God could have begun new, just like he did with Adam and his other creations. However for Eve, God created her from Adam, as to say you are both of the same substance, truly one body. In the same way that God made us in his image, we (his church) become One Body through Jesus.
In our second reading we are reminded of God’s love for us and his desire of our salvation is so great, he willingly takes on suffering and death. “He who consecrates and those who are being consecrated all have one origin.” And once again reminds us that we are one in Jesus.
Finally in our Gospel, Jesus is questioned about divorce. Even though as a married person I can and should take this literally; this speaks to us all, single, consecrated life, all ages. Many times in the Bible, the union of husband and wife has been compared to that of Christ and the church. Jesus is the bridegroom and the Church (us) is his bride. Just like a man and woman leave their parents and are joined and become one. When we truly follow Jesus, we too make a commitment to leave everything that is not of God behind, pick up our Cross and Follow Him. A marriage between a husband and wife, requires love, commitment, sacrifice, being present, giving of ourselves, and taking care of the needs of your beloved. Our relationship with God requires all the same things. The connection so close that you are no longer two but one being. When we are truly one, the wins of our beloved are also our own.