Some years ago, one of the computer technicians assisting the parish shared that his family had been Mormon for almost 200 years. It stopped me in my tracks. For the first time, I considered just how long my own family had been Catholic. There is no way to fill in the historical gaps over the millennia involved. I can only guess that I have a long line of alternately spiritually devout and apathetic ancestors, both saints and sinners, and probably many that were both saintly and sinners. The fact remains that both family lines, three quarters Irish and one quarter Italian, are from areas that have had a consistently Catholic tenor to them. The Sicilian part of the family could have come to faith as early as the 2nd or 3rd Century. It’s hard to know as my family might also have participated in one of the many invasions of Sicily that happened later. Most of Ireland came to the faith by the 6th Century. I responded to the technician that, to the best of my knowledge, most of my family had probably been Catholic for between 1,500 and 1,700 years. Those numbers caused both of us to pause for a moment.
We all have our own history, and a greater or lesser openness to influence from ancestors, parents and peers. As far back as I know anything of my grandparents and great-grandparents, that I am the product of a short line of loving and good predecessors…and a physically abusive alcoholic grandfather. That’s the human story, isn’t it?
This July 1st, we’re celebrating the fourth year since the canonization of Junipero Serra. He was himself, a richly gifted and heroically good figure, with a shadow side. His mission system both shared the faith with, and dominated the lives of, the native peoples of California that he came to serve. His missions have influenced the architecture of our buildings and the names of our cities, counties and streets. Our visions of “old California” are colored by memories of Spanish rodeos and tri-tip barbacoa. Our farms still grow produce and wines first introduced by his confreres. We stand, sometimes awkwardly, on his shoulders.
Our past should inform our present. Serra came to a world that had not heard of the faith; we live in a world where people question faith’s utility in their lives. Like Serra, we have to find ways to proclaim the beauty and goodness of what we believe for others’ benefit. Like him, too, we will probably stumble in living out consistently all the best values of our beliefs. At our weakest moments, our own lives may get in the way of what we want the world to know of the Lord, our heart’s desire.
Our inability to do things perfectly should not get in the way of our willingness to try, even with enthusiasm, to accomplish the good we can do. God preserve us from our own worst instincts. God grant us the insight to know our world’s deepest needs and hungers, and the generosity to respond to and answer them. God forgive us when we err. God give us the courage to pick ourselves right back up and keep on trying. Lord knows, until this world’s end, that there are, perhaps, generations waiting to stand on our shoulders to accomplish their own great deeds (and errors).
On this weekend, closest to our patron’s feast, I wish you every joy!
This Sunday we celebrate The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. The three readings today are threaded together through food and drink with words we hear from the Last Supper. The first reading from Genesis has Melchizedek offering “bread and wine.” In the second reading St. Paul references the Eucharistic Prayer and in Luke’s Gospel Christ takes five loaves and two fish “and looking up to heaven, said the blessing over them, broke them and gave them to the disciples.”
In the ancient Greek world before Christ, the Greek mother god Demeter was reverenced for giving the gift of grain to the world through sacrifice. Grain was considered a power for salvation while the Greek god of wine Dionysus identified death by the blood of the grape to make wine to give new life. The history of God’s journey of love for his children winds through the imagery of God creating the grain and the grape. When we bring the gifts of bread and wine to the altar, we are bringing the toils and stories of our lives to Christ to become Christ, as an offering for us, for our salvation.
Jesus is the incarnational indwelling sent by God to feed us eternal life. It is all part of the continued love story of God given for our transformation. Fr. Richard Rohr in his book The Universal Christ writes, “Jesus did not come to change God’s mind about us. Jesus came to change our minds about God.” God loves us relentlessly.
In the breaking of the bread Christ’s love is multiplied over and over again. It is in the sharing of the broken bread that we are a part of the Body of Christ sharing our own brokenness to open our hearts to God and each other. We are all in communion with the truth of Christ’s rising in the bread and wine to heal our own sorrows and brokenness to live forever with the Father.
When we hear today in the Eucharistic prayer “this is my body and this is my blood” we are to hear Christ inviting us to take him in……all of him. It has been said when we taste a sip of the ocean all of the ocean is now inside of us. So too with Christ in Holy Communion……we take all of him inside of us. We are then a tabernacle for Christ inside of us. Do we know that?
Do we live that?
Deacon Jack Redmond
Padre Serra Parish presents
Our Scriptures do a lot to illuminate and underpin our belief in the Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, whose Solemnity we celebrate today. In the first reading from Proverbs we hear a beautiful and poetic declaration of the wonder of Creation. It’s written in the first person: “I was there when …” “I was his delight.” It speaks as the third person of the holy trinity: “Thus says the wisdom of God.”
For Christians there is a long tradition that Old Testament references to wisdom are in fact references to the Holy Spirit, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. So in this reading we have Wisdom detailing how he was there as all came to be. But it’s at the end of the passage that I think we hear something very important:
“… then was I beside him as his craftsman,
and I was his delight day by day,
playing before him all the while,
playing on the surface of his earth;
and I found delight in the human race.”
Here we have a description of creation from the very beginning, and God finding delight in us (and our ancestors). Sometimes we can lose sight of this very basic tenet of our faith – that God created us fundamentally good; so good, in fact, that God became one of us in order to redeem us and restore us to the union with him that we had broken. “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).
The gospel reading (John 16:12-15) has Jesus speaking to his disciples in a very comforting way, preparing them, perhaps, for the coming challenges of his mission – his passion, death, resurrection and ascension. “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth.”
"He [the Spirit] will glorify me,
because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you.
Everything that the Father has is mine;
for this reason I told you that he [again, the Spirit] will take from what is mine
and declare it to you.”
Friends, we can never fully understand the mystery of the Holy Trinity. We accept Three Persons, One God, on faith. Today’s Scriptures are there to help us contemplate these truths.
Dear Parish Family,
Happy Pentecost! Today we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles. Jesus promised to send us his spirit, an advocate; though Jesus would leave us, we would not be alone. This is the beginning of the Church, Jesus commissions his disciples to continue the work that he has begun, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” As he breathes the Holy Spirit upon them, Jesus sends his disciples to continue his work of reconciliation through the forgiveness of sins.
As Christians, we are called to be agents of peace and forgiveness. The act of Reconciliation is transformative, spiritually, emotionally and physically. In Reconciliation we must Recognize our sins (wrong doing), Repent (truly feel sorry) and Confess our sin, do our Penance (seek to make amends), allowing us to receive Sanctifying Grace. Forgiveness is our first commandment as a church. This is a sacrament of healing and love, always creating the path to come back to the loving arms of our Lord.
Whether we are the ones needing the forgiveness or the ones who are asked to forgive, let us know we all have an active part in each other’s salvation. Just like it is necessary to have the priest give us absolution, hearing him say, “I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.” We have been given the gift of the Holy Spirit to help us, calling on the Spirit’s many gifts of Wisdom, Knowledge, Understanding, Council, Fortitude, Piety and Fear of the Lord. Even when the hurt is so painful we are not yet ready to say I forgive you, remember, “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13); after all, forgiveness comes from God.
Let us celebrate our birthday, this Pentecost, and just like every birthday party there are many gifts. Which of the Gifts of the Spirit will you call on? I pray you are all filled with Peace and Joy of the Spirit.
Faith Formation Minister
Dear Faith Family,
This Sunday’s Gospel is a funny one. When the chief priests, scribes and elders approach Jesus to ask Him what seems to be a valid question, Jesus gives them a pretty complex answer. Why is that?
Growing up, I was always raised to believe that I should ask God any questions. While I do think it’s true, why is it that Jesus didn’t answer the questions posed in the Gospel?
If we look at the tone of the question asked, the chief priests, scribes and elders are obviously trying to bait Jesus into speaking some form of heresy. I would argue that they probably know the answer to the question asked, but are trying to find any way to weaken Christ’s impact on the world that he had at the time. Jesus, all the wiser, evaded the question, knowing it’s a trap.
I don’t know about you, but when I think of the personality of Jesus, I tend to think of His mercy, compassion and unconditional love. Sometimes on reflection, I fail to realize that Christ was also incredibly wise and understood the human person. His wisdom is evident in his “answer” to the question posed.
His answer didn’t lack love, nor was it intended to be snarky. Rather, his answer showed that his purpose on earth isn’t just for political gain, but his answer showed that he is indeed one with the Father.
I don’t know about you, but sometimes I try to bait God into questions that I already know the answers to. Instead of asking for change, I try to be clever to convince God that my way is the right way. These are the questions that tend to be unanswered in my life. Why? Because I don’t need to hear what I already know, sometimes.
So what’s the purpose of this passage? For me, personally, it teaches me to be earnest in my conversation with God. Our God is all-loving and wants the best for us and wants to answer the pressing questions in our lives. Let’s not waste our time asking questions that try to mold God into something that he is not.
Youth and Young Adult Minister