Dear Faith Family,
I hope you are all doing well.
We have had small glimpses of normal life recently. At least for me, normal life showed a small glimpse of itself when live sports began. Not only is it comforting for me to see these events because of my addiction to live sports, but it is also comforting because it reminds me of what life was like before this unfortunate pandemic.
I, like most of you, have found myself to feel a wide range of emotions these past months. I have felt the anxiety that has come with the “new normal,” I have found myself overthinking my relationships with loved ones and I also have felt plenty of doubt when thinking about when this will end.
In this weekend’s Gospel, Jesus explains to His disciples that he will suffer, be put to death and raised on the last day. If I were Peter, I would have also been hyper focused on the whole “suffering and dying” part, just like he did. That’s why I don’t blame him for his response of wanting to save Jesus from this suffering.
Obviously, Jesus set him straight.
While Jesus’ response seems harsh, it is definitely just. How many times in our lives have we focused on just suffering without the positives that God can bring through them? While Jesus did mention his suffering and death, he also explicitly mentions that he will be raised from the dead. How many times in our lives have we focused on the suffering in our lives and have ignored the miracles that are right in front of us?
I know that this time has been difficult. And for all those who have lost loved ones, or have loved ones that are currently sick, you are absolutely in my prayers.
Somehow though, in the face of real tragedy, we have to try our hardest to embrace eternal life and understand that where sin is present, grace is present even more. How do we do this? Somehow, through the virtue of faith, we have to stop “thinking not as God thinks, but as humans do.”
1930 - 2020
Saturday, August 29
Padre Serra Parish
1955 - 2020
Friday, September 11
Padre Serra Parish
1920 - 2020
Saturday, September 12
Padre Serra Parish
1939 - 2020
Saturday, September 19
Padre Serra Parish
Here we are in late August, nearing the end of a summer unlike any other we have experienced. Many of us pine for the experiences of the previous summer during which graduations, Confirmations, weddings, vacations and other communal gatherings and celebrations were taken for granted, but now seem like a dream. While we have adapted and adjusted to live within the COVID19 pandemic, we have also had to come to terms with our limitations.
Trying to make sense of our present reality, we hear from lots of voices who, exercising some authority, are asking us to make sacrifices and conduct ourselves for the greater good. Unfortunately, not all these voices agree with each other and many offer contradictory views. For many, these conflicting voices and views are not exclusive to elected officials and public health authorities. Sometimes differing views manifest themselves within the smaller circle of family and friends and even within ourselves.
Our gospel today provides us guidance on how to discern the voices we should be attentive to. Jesus asks his disciples (and us) “who do you say that I am?” (Matt 16:15) Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Son of the living God comes not from human authority but from God directly. For Peter to “hear” God, he had to create a space in his heart to be receptive to God’s message. This required him to block out other distracting voices including his own internal voices of doubt. You may recall the gospel from two Sundays ago when Peter tried to walk on the water toward Jesus but started sinking when he doubted Jesus’ message and authority (Matt 14:2233). Jesus commissions Peter to be the rock of his Church not because Peter came up with the correct answer, but because Peter was willing to see past the limitations of human authority and seek the greater wisdom that only God can provide.
Listening for God’s voice amidst our distractions and doubts is not easy. The demands of juggling work, school and family often within the physical confines of isolation within our homes does not seem to allow for any time for us to hear God’s voice. Also, we have become so accustomed to the constant barrage of news and social media that it is difficult for us to spiritually “sit still.” Like Peter, we are invited to listen for the authentic voice of God for the answers that will guide us through the current storm we are experiencing.
Doing this requires setting aside some part of the day for prayer and reflection. This will seem like an impossible task especially for those of you with children at home just starting up the fall term having to start the school year via online and virtual instruction. Bishop Robert Barron, in a homily he shared during a recent Confirmation liturgy, suggested a simple but powerful prayer. Whether you are experiencing a moment of happiness or a time of great challenge, praying “Come Holy Spirit” is an effective way of inviting God into your life.
Over the main doors at the entrance to our Cathedral (Our Lady of the Angels), there is an inscription that reads “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” If that sounds familiar, it’s because it comes from this weekend’s first reading. Here the LORD is telling the Chosen People that foreigners who act justly will be welcomed to his holy mountain and their sacrifices will be acceptable to him. This is just one of many instances in the Hebrew scriptures where the LORD is teaching his people that the door is wider open than they thought; that there are more seats at the table than they knew.
At our mass of dedication in 1995 the song “All Are Welcome” by Marty Haugen was sung, and we’ve sung it occasionally since. It’s a beautiful tune with great lyrics. The 5th verse (which often enough we don’t get to sing because of the length of the entrance procession) says this (emphases mine):
Let us build a house where all are named, their songs and visions heard
And loved and treasured, taught and claimed as words within the Word.
Built of tears and cries and laughter, prayers of faith and songs of grace,
Let this house proclaim from floor to rafter: all are welcome in this place.1
I’m sure we aspire to be the kind of community and church where all truly are welcome, but are we? Do we still have work to do? I think we do. But if our understanding of what it means to be a welcoming inclusive community is still unfolding, we must just keep trying to be better. When this pandemic is resolved and we are able to gather once again, what will it look like? What will it be like?
This brings us to this weekend’s Gospel reading where Jesus is a bit harsh with a Canaanite woman begging for help for her daughter who is in torment. “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” Eventually Jesus relents and heals her daughter because of the woman’s great persistence and great faith. “But sir, even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from their masters’ tables.”
Some whose wisdom and knowledge I respect have said that this story is evidence of Jesus “growing in wisdom” (Luke 2:52). In other words, his understanding of his ministry, and for whom he was sent grew from just being savior to Israel to having been sent to all people – and it was the Canaanite woman’s “badgering” that helped him to come to that realization. Of course, no one wants to be on the wrong side of a Mama Bear advocating for her child!
That’s not to say that great faith and persistence in prayer are not great values – of course they are. But if Jesus’ understanding of his mission evolved, then we need not be discouraged if ours must also. Then we can sing “All are welcome” and it can be far more than just self-congratulatory. So, let’s “build a house”!
Dear friend on the journey,
During this global pandemic of Covid-19, I heard repeatedly, “At least we’re all in the same boat.” A more accurate rebuttal is, “We are in the same storm, not the same boat.” Everyone’s experience of the lockdown is varied, not necessarily better or worse, just different. My fears of the virus are not the same as my dear friend, a cancer survivor living with type 1 diabetes. An ICU nurse’s experience of the pandemic is not the same as the corporate executive working at home. Same storm, different boats.
In today’s gospel, a storm is overwhelming the boat carrying the disciples across the Sea of Galilee. In the darkest of night, the wind and rain are churning the waves, violently tossing the boat and its passengers. Seeing this from afar, Jesus knows very well how the apostles are feeling. Fear and despair are consuming them. They desperately want safety and comfort. Jesus walks out on the water to meet them in the middle of the stormy sea to encourage them not to be afraid; he is there for them. This gospel offers two messages. In our personal storms, Jesus knows our fears and anxiety and comes to us, offering courage and a refuge of love and grace. The other message is how to act like Jesus by becoming more aware of another’s fears and needs. His actions in this gospel are an example and invitation to us to be his hands, feet and a refuge for family, friends and neighbors in their stormy times.
In the midst of this pandemic storm, there still exists the storms of illness, hunger, poverty, homelessness, addictions, abuse, grief, and right now the storm of racism has intensified. Each storm churns up fear, worry, concern, pain and suffering. If the storm affects one, it affects all because we are all children of God, equally made in God’s image, equally loved by God. Jesus gave us two commands: love God and love each other. They are not mutually exclusive; they are one in the same.
In the storm of racism, as Christian disciples we can no longer be idle and say “it’s not my problem.” Racism in all its forms is a life issue and we are called to respond, not react, no matter the discomfort. This is a big issue so how do we start? A place to begin is by simply learning. Educating ourselves about the issue involves prayer, reading, researching, and listening. Only then can we act with confidence. Remember the boats are different so listening to another’s story is key. Stories can soften hearts, provide deeper insight and generate compassion.
I invite you Tuesday via Zoom to listen to personal stories, really listen with open hearts and minds to the stories of three parishioners, three mothers who parent their children of color with unique challenges, concerns, fears. Page two of today’s bulletin has details or visit our website www.padreserra.org/news/our-truths. Upon registration you will receive an email with the Zoom login.
1948 - 2020
Monday, Aug 17
Serra Center Backyard