I have a new tree in my backyard. It has multiple fruits grafted onto it, including plums, apricots, peaches and one other stone fruit that I have forgotten, perhaps nectarines, all selected for their ability to self-pollinate and grow in our warmer climate. We’ll see if this works. I was told that if the major trunk comes to dominate on the tree, the other varieties will die off, so I have to prune it carefully. After it was planted, it was clear that two of the varieties had begun to dominate in growth already. I have no idea, which ones yet, as the tree came without leaf or fruit on it. So, I read everything I could find on the internet on pruning this tree correctly, and watched YouTube videos on the subject, both done in Australia, curiously. With trepidation, I took pruners in hand and did my best to restore some balance, and prepare the tree for spring growth. I admit that I am fearful that I cut off too much.
Within just the last couple of days of my writing this, though, the first white blossoms have opened on some of the branches. I’m getting hopeful that there might be fruit in my future. Again, we’ll see, but it’s hopeful.
And that is the point of my story. You do your best, and then you hope.
You try, and try hard, and then you hope.
You fail, even, and you pick yourself back up, and you continue to hope.
You’ve all made the best health choices you could in these last two difficult years. We’ve all had our hopes disappointed with ongoing waves and total and partial shutdowns. And yet there are signs, early and yet still hopeful signs, with falling infections rates, easier symptoms, fewer hospitalizations, etc. Perhaps this time things will work out.
Might there be reason to hope?
we were to recycle right back into a new wave of infections, perhaps pi, or rho, or sigma? Both Delta and Omicron were surprises. It could happen, dear Lord forfend! What would we do? We’d hope for the future, and carry on.
On the other hand, this could be the beginning of something better, even if not entirely as things were before, but much more open and less constrained. Truth to tell, none of us know. But we have dealt with hard times, and we have endured. We have had losses, real and painful, but we have survived. In essence, like my fruit tree, we’ve been pruned. There could be hard times ahead, but we are hardened. We aren’t weak. We can do this. We can hope.
I encourage you, in light of today’s Gospel, that we need to bear fruit under both good and bad circumstances. Whatever happens, please do not become disheartened. Be a person of faith and hope. As 1 Peter 1:6-7 says, “In this you rejoice, although now for a little while you may have to suffer through various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold that is perishable even though tested by fire, may prove to be for praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
1957 - 2022
Tuesday, March 8
Padre Serra Parish
Preceding Memorial Mass
Friday, March 4, 2:30 pm
1944 - 2022
Wednesday, March 9
Padre Serra Parish
Santa Clara Cemetery
Our Homo Sapiens species has been continually evolving both biologically and socially for over 300,000 years. Some distant time in the past our species had a marked moment in time, as noted by the Jesuit paleontologist Pierre de Chardin, when he said instinct gave way to thought. We became thinking Homo Sapiens (wise man) capable of abstract thought.
Throughout our biologic and cultural history as thinking human beings we have often responded to challenges with primordial instinctual reciprocity. You hurt me, I hurt you. An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. In today’s Gospel Jesus says we are to let go of reciprocal thinking when he says “love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”
Love your enemies? Two thousand years ago this certainly would have challenged the Jewish authorities and the Jewish people. Today, we also may be challenged with our own reactional and emotional response to “love your enemies” and then with reciprocal reaction we may say “No way.” Yet, that is exactly what Jesus asked us to do. Love our enemies.
So, who are our enemies? Cambridge dictionary says “a person who hates or opposes another person” and Merriam-Webster defines enemy as “ one that is antagonistic to another.” These may be personal relational definitions and not necessarily militaristic. This could be our lives inside our families, or broken friendships, or with adversaries, acquaintances, in work places or politics, and other everyday life experiences. At times in daily life the words, actions, or emotions of others by way of slights, insults, or misunderstandings may be mistreatment but we are to be aware there are those times the offender may not even know there was an offense. Our ego may play a role creating an enemy.
It has been said that in some ways “liking our enemy” may be more difficult than loving our enemy which emotionally may offer some truth. But Jesus does not ask us to “like” our enemies. He asks us to love them. Bishop Robert Barron has said “love is not a feeling or a sentiment, a private subjective conviction” when he quotes St. Thomas Aquinas’ “Love is willing the good of the other, as other.” At times the “other” is the enemy and we are to will them good.
How are we to love our enemies? Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel that we are to reciprocate not with revenge but with goodness, blessings and prayers for them. The depth of the cardinal virtues of prudence, temperance and fortitude give us sight and insight into the divinity of the goodness in the “other” whom God sees as divine.
We are to know those who hate, curse or mistreat us at the same time receive gifted love and mercy from God. Today’s Gospel speaks of God’s mercy for all. We also are to live and offer that mercy for the wounding actions of others knowing our own wounding behaviors, actions and sins are also looked upon by God with mercy
It is in this loving, forgiving and letting go of those who have hated, cursed or mistreated us that we can receive the blessed reciprocity of interior freedom leading to holiness.
Deacon Jack Redmond
1955 - 2022
Tuesday, April 26
Padre Serra Parish
Joshua Mortuary Palmdale
Dear Faith Family,
One of my favorite things to experience is when I have the realization that our liturgies work seamlessly with each other. I especially enjoy when the readings have themes that have correlations that are impossible to ignore.
This Sunday’s second reading is quite striking and it is indeed true. If Christ has been raised from the dead, how can we ignore the promise that we will be raised as well? It’s a pretty direct message and it is quite powerful. God always keeps his promises, even those that we perceive to be impossible.
This Sunday’s Gospel fits perfectly with this idea. As humans, it is impossible to avoid suffering. We all have encountered the poor, hungry, weeping, etc., but I feel that it is safe to say that we have experienced these things as well. A lot of us have experienced times in our lives where it seems impossible that God is present.
When we experience these things, we can sometimes correlate them with death. When we are downtrodden with nowhere to look, it may feel like a glimpse of death. Our Lord helps us to see that although the pursuit of suffering is not something we should do, there is somehow blessing in our most difficult times.
Death is something that is not desired, but it is inevitable. But if Christ preaches perfect life after death, love still somehow conquers. If love conquers the unconquerable, God is not only present in the pleasant parts of our lives, but he is equally present in the difficult parts. What an amazing message that our God preaches. He is there, at all times, even when it is hard to see Him.
Notice though, that the theme of these readings aren’t “just be happy!”. God is simply letting us know that He is there, even when it seems like no one is. His love is eternal, not faltering when things become difficult. God meets us where we are, and we are truly blessed to have a God who will never fail in loving us, even in situations where we find it most difficult to love others or ourselves.
These past 2 years have been hard, but on reflection, hopefully we recognize the God that conquered death has been present the whole time and he continues to be present to this day.
In our second reading today, St. Paul, still addressing the community at Corinth (we’ve been hearing excerpts from his letter to them for a few weeks now), writes of handing on to them what he also received, that is, the Good News: “that Christ died for our sins…that he was buried; that he was raised on the last day…” After detailing many who actually saw the Risen One, he says that he too saw him, last of all, because as one who persecuted the church he is “the least of the apostles, not fit to be called an apostle”. He goes on to credit God’s grace for who and what he (Paul) is, for the effectiveness of his ministry, and for the toil he has put in to preach the Gospel.
His frank humility brings to mind the prophet Isaiah in the first reading. After seeing a vision of the Lord on his high and lofty throne with angels “stationed above” crying out “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts! All the earth is filled with his glory!” Isaiah believes he is doomed for being a sinner who has seen the Lord God. But one of the seraphim touches his lips with a burning coal from the altar and says “your wickedness is removed, your sin is purged.” He then answers the call of God “Here I am, send me!” Angels are God’s servants of course and are therefore agents of grace for the prophet Isaiah and for St. Paul.
Then, in the gospel, after Jesus fills the nets of fishermen who labored all night with no catch, Simon Peter recognizes that this is miraculous, and like Isaiah says “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” But Jesus tells him not to be afraid because from now on he (and the other apostles) would be catching people – again, by the grace of God.
Isaiah with his unclean lips. Paul who sought out and killed Christians. Simon Peter, a simple fisherman. All of them recipients of God’s grace, but always with a task of bringing the message of salvation to their people, to God’s people.
Is it any different with us? I think not. We are to “hand on what we also received” by the grace of God, the Good News of Jesus Christ. Here’s one way of putting it: “Your Creator loves you. Your life has meaning, and you’re going to live forever. If you can find a better deal, take it!”