If I remember correctly, my plan to convince my wife went something like this: “I can absolutely justify borrowing the money. That device will meet all my future needs. Just think, all the parts are individually replaceable. I know it’s big, but it’s also extremely fast for a 1985 model.”
Unfortunately, even the best computer ever made was never updated as I had planned. Five years later and every five years thereafter, we purchased a new laptop that outpaced, outlasted and surpassed even what I thought was the most impressive of all systems at the time.
Most of us can substitute some material possession in this story that over time becomes less appealing. We buy the next ‘one thing’ we believe will provide the answer, but it does not. Whether bigger, faster, newer, or for some other reason, we are continually seeking more. A reflection on Ecclesiastes might help us find what we really need.
“Vanity of vanities! All things are vanity.” The book begins and ends with these powerful words. The phrase itself conjures images of the superficial, the meaningless, or futile. The author leaves little to the imagination.
There’s nothing wrong with liking our belongings or appreciating something new. Even so, our material possessions cannot take the place of our call towards greater holiness. We do, however, need a reminder from time to time. Fortunately, there are some strategies we can implement to anchor our focus beyond vanity. Consider the following as lifestyle opportunities:
Our relationship with God is the antidote to vanity. A complete investment in the Lord does not weaken over time. Ours is to choose well and know that even the smallest of steps can make an enormous difference.
Deacon Luc and Diana Papillon
Part of the formation that music and liturgical ministers undergo teaches us to look for the bridge that connects the First Reading at mass to the Gospel. At first glance, this week’s connection eluded me (and, if I’m honest, at several glances beyond the first). But with the help of others wiser than I, a bridge became visible and I’d like to share it with you.
In the First Reading from Genesis, we have Abraham pleading with God to spare Sodom and Gomorrah from destruction. In a way that reminds me a bit of the tireless negotiating my seven-year-old granddaughter subjects me to, Abraham asks God if he will spare the city if there are fifty righteous people there. But he doesn’t stop there. With occasional respectful phrases (“See how I am presuming to speak to my Lord though I am but dust and ashes!”), Abraham secures the commitment from God that even if there are only forty, only thirty, only twenty, and finally, only ten innocent people there, the city shall be spared.
The Gospel has Jesus’ disciples asking the Lord to teach them to pray. Presumably they can see how prayer grounds every moment of Jesus’ life, and they want to follow their master’s example. In response, Jesus teaches them the Lord’s Prayer, the Our Father that we say every Sunday at mass. But he doesn’t stop there. As a good Rabbi, he tells them stories of friends and neighbors, late night disturbance and request, and fathers who care well for their sons. He says, “I tell you, even if he does not get up to give the visitor the loaves because of their friendship, he will get up ... because of his persistence.”
As Christians we are used to the idea that we can come to Jesus with any request, that God encourages and desires intimacy with us like a loving father who dotes on his children. But in Abraham’s time, there was not yet such a conception. The God Abraham bargained with was holy, wholly other, all powerful, mysterious, remote and prone to anger. Yet he was persistent, and God was merciful, ultimately granting Abraham’s request to spare Sodom.
Here is the bridge: Jesus wants us to be persistent in prayer, just as Abraham was. The answer we get may be “yes” or it may be “no.” It may be silence. But we know that God is loving, merciful, just, and powerful, and that he wants us to ask boldly for what we need.
One last thought: It didn’t hurt that what Abraham was asking for was in accord with God’s merciful nature. It doesn’t hurt either if we try to discern what God might want us to ask
for when we aren’t sure.
So in addition to persistent requests, we can
also ask God to reveal to us what God wants. And we can be patient.
On the other hand, the neighbor in the middle of the night
demanding bread was anything but!
Dear Parish Family,
In today’s Gospel, Luke tells us about a time when Jesus was visiting with his friends in Bethany. Most likely Jesus was accompanied by his disciples and perhaps others who also wanted to visit and hear Jesus’ teachings. Martha, the good host, was diligently making sure everything was just right for Jesus and his friends. While Mary made herself comfortable at Jesus’ feet and was eagerly listening.
I often like to imagine myself in the gospels as I hear them and think where I would be. I think I would be like Martha, making sure the house was perfectly clean to receive Jesus. Did everyone have a drink or food, are they comfortable? I take joy in being able to serve, and to be busy, have a purpose. Yet this can be problematic too, because in the desire to be a good host and have everything perfect, I often forget to enjoy the food and miss the opportunity to spend time with the guests. At times I can see myself as Mary, sitting at Jesus’ feet. Just listening intently to every word he would say. Being truly present in the moment, taking it all in, not worried about anything. To place myself in this moment reminds me of the moments I get to experience Adoration. To be in God’s presence, allowing myself not to “Do” anything else other than to just “Be Present.”
When Martha complains to Jesus about Mary not helping, Jesus made Martha realize that in any kind of activity and service to God, faith is essential, so that there is no need to worry and be anxious. One must take time to be still and listen to the Word of God with full faith and trust in His wisdom and providence. We see this in Mary’s attentiveness to the words of Jesus, which fill her with the peace that only Jesus can give, freeing her from all worry and anxiety.
When we are tempted to justify ourselves for not having time to pray by saying, “My work is my prayer,” let us remember this: It is all right to pray while we work, but it is not possible to work while we pray. Before working, we have to pray first so that there is guidance, enlightenment, inspiration and strength from God. If we know we will be very busy on that particular day, the more time we need to spend in prayer. Jesus said: “I am the vine, you are the branches; apart from me, you can do nothing.” So, the question is not, work or prayer? The answer is: prayer and work! Prayer will bless the work of our hands and remind us that ALL our work is meant to build God’s kingdom.
With this said we must also take time to rest and relax. God gave us the example, resting on the seventh day of creation. Bethany was the favorite resting place of Jesus with his dear friends Martha, Mary and Lazarus. The fact that Jesus had a favorite resting place and set of friends illustrates that he is like us
He was very busy, but he finds time to relax and enjoy
the company of friends.
Being busy in life is not an excuse to
forego vacations, days off or moments of relaxation.
Our body also needs some rest in order
to function properly and fruitfully.
Faith Formation Minister
Dear friends on the journey,
While scripture was written for a particular time, people and culture, it is no less relevant to us today in our own unique culture and situations. Understanding its original context can clear the field so we can get to the heart of the message and ask the question: What is God trying to tell me in this passage? For the message to have an impact requires meditation and action. So how can we do this?
Ignatian spirituality offers a way for the Holy Spirit to, as Fr. Kevin O’Brien says, “make present a mystery of Jesus’ life in a way that is meaningful for you now.” The spiritual practice of imaginative prayer guides us to immerse ourselves in a gospel story, engaging our senses and imagination so we can identify with the people and connect our own circumstances to theirs.
Today’s gospel of the Good Samaritan is a perfect passage to meditate on using imaginative prayer. The story contains the great commandment, a difficult situation, many characters and timeless messages for us. I invite you to take some time this week to use this spiritual practice, allowing the Holy Spirit to guide you to what God is saying just to you right now. I’d like to focus on the characters in the story and offer these questions as guides. Imagine you are the:
Jewish Lawyer: Am I more concerned with the law rather than humanity? Am I more devoted to the letter than the spirit, for instance immigrants seeking a safer life? Do I view situations only in black and white? Can I acknowledge the gray and look at it from another perspective?
Victim: When have I experienced suffering, trauma, or pain – physical, emotional, mentally, sexual, or otherwise? Did I ask for help? Who did help me in those moments? Have I expressed my gratitude to them? How am I better because of another’s kindness?
Priest/Levite: Am I too busy for others? Am I better than others because of my race, ethnicity, neighborhood, economic status? Am I afraid to get involved in a difficult situation, like a car accident, even though it will delay or cost me? Is it possible to move out of my comfort zone to help another?
Samaritan: How has my own experience of suffering shifted my view of others? Am I more empathetic because I know what it’s like to be invisible, misunderstood, or judged? Am I able to see another’s situation without judgment and help even though I may not agree with them?
Innkeeper: Have I ever been “dumped” on? How did I respond when a task or situation, like having to care for a sick relative, was thrust upon me without warning or permission? Did I roll up my sleeves or resist it?
Jesus: When I am in a difficult situation, do I recall a similar situation in scripture and consider his teachings or what he would do in my situation, and did it?
1923 - 2022
Monday, August 8
Padre Serra Parish
Monday, August 8
Dear Faith Family,
“Freedom is love, with no condition.”
This is one of my favorite quotes. I heard it as a teenager and it stuck with me. To me, it is somehow both simple and profound and It has helped me to understand what type of life I want to live. Freedom is vital to the human person and it is through freedom that we are able to be our best selves.
At first glance, the quote may seem like one developed for the American sentiment. Maybe it was given from one our great forefathers in American history? Maybe it’s from someone who signed the Declaration of Independence? Or since this is a bulletin letter, maybe it is a quote from a saint from our vibrant Church history?
Nah, it is a lyric from a ska band I grew up listening to. The song is called Every New Day by Five Iron Frenzy. Yes, a band with a horn section wrote a lyric that shaped the way I view life.
When we hear the concept of freedom, we tend to automatically associate it with American values (which is indeed proper and good). Sometimes though, we fail to realize the necessity of freedom/free will when it comes to our faith. Unconditional love means nothing without the ability to choose to give or receive freely. Our faith is dependent on the concept of freedom. God gave us freewill, because without free will, love does not exist.
Our God is not tyrannical. He does not force us to love. Our God is not a dictator and He does not force us to receive love. Our God though has given us free will to help us to understand Him fully. If our relationship with Him was forced, it would not be a relationship at all. God used His free will to create all things out of love, and He used his freewill to give himself on the cross to show us what love looks like. We use our free will to worship and to be charitable. Worship is not worship without free will. Charity ceases to be when it is forced.
This is one of main reasons why our faith holds so much beauty, none of it is forced. Once we do make the decision to love God and love our neighbor, the beauty of our faith becomes vibrant. We have made the choice to “encounter Jesus and be disciples” with our God given free will. Beauty lies within the choices that we make with our freedom. Hopefully we feel compelled enough to share the beauty of our faith, so others can know.
So freedom truly is love, and it brings about no condition. You will have free will even if you make the wrong choices in life. God gave free will to all sinners and saints. It is our choice to pick the path.