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.