Changed by Grace
Dear Faith Family,
Can you imagine being so impacted by grace, that others won’t believe it?
In today’s Gospel, Jesus heals a blind man. Obviously, since we are so versed in the life of Christ, that is no surprise to us. We know and believe of Jesus’ miracles, so we don’t doubt it. We also have people and a parish that supports our belief in Jesus Christ.
Some of the formerly blind man’s neighbors though, who have seen that the man was healed from blindness, still could not believe Jesus was God. Even with the evidence being so striking.
When asked about who healed him, the man not only explained who did it, but also explained how it was done. He also explained who Jesus is. What was the response of some of the neighbors? Disbelief and admonishment of Jesus Christ. Not only that, some of the neighbors discredited his whole story.
We have been changed by grace. We were once blind, like the blind man was. If we were asked, do we have the courage to attribute our goodness to Jesus Christ, knowing that some people will still deny the obvious evidence of grace?
This Lent, are we able to reflect on the miracles of our lives, in light of the Resurrection? The man who was once blind was so obviously impacted by Jesus, do we believe we have been impacted in a similar way? We live in an era where self help and self reflection is on the forefront (justifiably), how many times have used that time to reflect on the tiny miracles of our lives. If we were to reflect on these miracles, how many of us are able to share them and attribute it to our Lord?
The truth is, some people won’t believe us when we attribute the goodness of our lives to Jesus. Are we prepared to share that same testimony with those who don’t believe? Are we prepared to be disciples in the face of rejection?
I ask this question, knowing that discipleship is in the forefront of our culture at Padre Serra.
I ask this question, knowing confidently that you have already said yes.
Youth and Young Adult Minister
If you can find a better offer ...
Near the end of this weekend’s gospel account of the Samaritan woman’s encounter with Jesus at Jacob’s well, John the evangelist writes: “Many of the Samaritans of that town began to believe in him because of the word of the woman ...”
This passage strikes me as encouraging. Let me try to explain. For a long time, and with greater intensity since the election of Pope Francis, we have been hearing that the Church’s mission — our mission! — is to evangelize. In other words, we are all called, required, commanded to share with others the Good News of Jesus Christ. No one is exempt. It’s not just the job of Pope Francis, nor of the bishops, nor the clergy, nor lay people like me employed by the Church. We are all expected to do this; in fact, it has to be done for the Church to continue.
I don’t know about you, but I find that a little intimidating. Knowing my faults and weaknesses so well, I question how I can possibly be an effective evangelizer. I guess the reason I find the passage about the Samaritan woman’s success in leading people to belief in Jesus encouraging is because, let’s face it – she had her issues. Never mind her domestic history (Jesus points out that she’s had five husbands – and Fr. Patrick has explained to us that it’s entirely possible she was quite innocent). She also seems a bit obtuse. When Jesus offers her living water she responds with a protest about his lack of a bucket. When he repeats his offer, she again narrows the focus to plain old H2O: “Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”
It was only then that Jesus broached the subject of her personal history and interestingly it was that—sharing her experience of Jesus in her own brokenness—that brought her community to him: “‘Come and see a man who told me everything I have done. Could he possibly be the Christ?’ Many of the Samaritans of that town began to believe in him because of the word of the woman who testified ‘He told me everything I have done.’”
So let’s all take courage. If the Lord can use the Samaritan woman, the Lord can use us. Let’s share our experiences of Jesus. They may be hidden where we least expect—in the most broken parts of our lives. And let’s not worry about looking foolish. Moses in the first reading might have looked foolish striking a rock with a stick. But it was the Lord who caused water to flow from it for the people to drink. He will bless our good faith yet imperfect efforts to trust him too, we can be assured.
Fr. Eugene Walsh, SS put it this way: “Jesus promises you two things: Your life has meaning and you’re going to live forever. If you can find a better offer, take it.”
Director of Liturgy & Music
Up on the mountain top ...
Dear parish family,
Our Gospel this Sunday, is about the Transfiguration of the Lord. We hear about a moment on the mountain top, where Jesus shares a glimpse of his Glory, with his close friends Peter, James and John. Peter may not have fully understood at that moment the greatness that he and the others were fortunate enough to experience. Perhaps all he could understand is how perfect that moment with Moses (the law) and Elijah (the prophet) was on the mountain top. So perfect, that it makes Peter ask Jesus if he should set tents for them. The revelation of Jesus the Son of God in his Glory, hearing God’s voice, perhaps too much to handle all at once, that it left all three in fear. Till they feel Jesus’ touch and peace as he tells them “Rise, and do not be afraid.”
With so much going on in our world today, the business of work, raising a family, caring for a loved one, and the huge list of things that need to be done at home, we may be desperately seeking that mountain top moment, where everything is so perfect. But friends, I think these moments of perfection, when all is well, are meant to inspire us, to fill our spirits, rest our bodies and minds, but it also is meant just for a moment; we can not built our tents there yet.
The past two weeks I was blessed with several opportunities “at the mountain top.” First was the Confirmation retreat, with our parish teens who will be making their sacrament this May. Wow, what a wonderful weekend, to see the young people so open to the opportunity to encounter Jesus, to continue to build their relationship with our God. We had the gift of being joined on retreat by Fr. Tim Grumbach and he invited us all to join him for Mass outdoors at 7:00 am. This was an open invitation without obligation. The teens could have slept in longer if they wished; however, we had a good crowd that very cold, beautiful morning. Then again with so much reverence and love at adoration, The Holy Spirit was present with us, transforming and healing hearts and souls. The amazing team of young adults and peer leaders who worked so hard to prepare themselves and lead the retreat, without a complaint. They would stay up late preparing for the next day, and wake up early to pray together before starting the next day. Wow! This is one of the highlights of my year, just like Peter, James and John, allowed to be witness of God in action. This sets my soul on fire, and propels me to continue in ministry, to know how blessed we are to be Jesus’ hands, feet and at times voice for others.
My second mountain top moment was at the yearly Religious Education Congress. “Embrace Grace, Abraza la Gracia.” Another opportunity to be inspired, to learn and to pray deeply.
Then again yesterday at the First Reconciliation of 90 children. To witness the powerful healing of the sacrament of reconciliation. Seeing though the children were nervous at first, the beaming smiles as they walk away. Many family members who too return to this healing and renewing sacrament, filling them with God’s peace. Two of these events are only 3 days, then we return back to our reality. They are long enough to make an impact. In the days or weeks that follow I know we will continue to unpack what we have experienced. We can return to our daily tasks with new energy and perhaps even a new vision, and better understanding of our mission.
Dear friends on the journey,
Have you seen the meme depicting a remote cozy cabin in the woods with the caption, “Could you stay here without internet, phone, or television for thirty days?” Some memes offer a bonus condition of receiving a million dollars at the end of the month. Money or no money, my response is always and without hesitation, “Why yes; yes I could and would.” I would love to experience something like that. Just me, a stack of books, my Bible and journal, a retreat plan from my spiritual direction, comfy clothes and blankets, good food and snacks, coffee, and maybe some wine.
Today’s gospel story is a slightly similar situation in that Jesus retreats to the wilderness for forty days following his baptism. But this is where the similarities end between Jesus’ wilderness experience and my cabin retreat. Matthew tells us that Jesus was taken by the Spirit to the desert to be tempted by the devil three times. The first temptation is to get Jesus to rely on his own power, not God’s. The second temptation is to test God’s promise of protection and the third offers Jesus the promise of all the world’s kingdoms if he just worships the devil. But each time Jesus resists the temptation, rebuking the devil. Jesus will not test God, nor doubt God’s faithfulness.
These temptations are not dissimilar to our own. We are tempted by a culture that tells us to be self-reliant, trust only ourselves, strive for money and power, that worldly goods provide happiness and self worth. It shames us into thinking we’re not good enough until we’re thinner, richer, more educated, living in a bigger house. It tells us to keep up with the Jones’.
Fortunately, there’s a remedy. This forty-day season and retreat of Lent is rooted in the remedies of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Prayer centers ourselves in relationship with God. In giving of our resources like money, we trust that God will provide for our needs. Fasting not only unites our suffering with Jesus’ and others’, but creates space, time, and focus for prayer and almsgiving. Lent invites us to grow in the same confidence that Jesus had in the desert to turn away from temptation to trust in God’s power, protection, forgiveness, mercy, and love.
We may not be able to go away for the next month to a comfortable cabin to ponder all this, and really, we shouldn’t, because the real growth happens in doing the work in the midst of busy normal lives. So as we begin this Lenten season, I offer a few questions to ponder:
● How can you use the forty days of Lent as a retreat?
● How are you going to incorporate prayer, fasting, and almsgiving?
● What are the temptations in your life that need to be addressed
● How can you become a better person on Easter Monday than you
were on Ash Wednesday?
To Infinity and Beyond
Recently, I watched a rebroadcast of the movie, “Toy Story.” Andy received for his birthday the latest and greatest toy on the market, a Buzz Lightyear. Much to the dismay of his formerly beloved action figure Sheriff Woody, Andy loved his new Buzz Lightyear “to infinity and beyond.” Eventually, and through many adventures, Woody and all of the toys recalled their own moments in the spotlight of Andy’s love and they reciprocated in kind. Woody and Buzz and Mr. Potato Head and Rex and Slinky Dog understood the timelessness of true unconditional love and shared it with each other.
Through today’s Gospel, Jesus calls us to this kind of enduring, persistent love. He suggests that we turn the other cheek and go the extra mile. He asks his listeners then and now to share a radical new love — to love as God loves – and that includes even those we call our enemies. Who are the people in your life you find difficult to love? What must we do to love as God loves? Jesus is challenging us to move away from our old way of doing things (judgment, anger, resentment, envy) and approach others with a generous heart. He wants us to go beyond what is fair and do what is kind. We need a conversion. After all, He accepted the challenge himself — stripped of his garments, never resisting ill treatment, offering forgiveness from the cross, and dying for all of us.
In further instruction, Jesus tells us “to be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” How can we possibly reach perfection in the eyes of God?! Jesus understands the imperfections of being human. He knows we will try and fail in our efforts to be holy. He does not want us to “go it alone.” In community, as a people of God, we learn and grow and love and support, striving for wholeness with God in the sacraments. Only by turning toward God, could we hope to experience, share, and reciprocate such complete love.
This weekend, Padre Serra Parish will send 13 fallible and flawed humans to the Rite of Election, answering a call to a relationship with Christ through the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and First Holy Communion. They hear the Good News and allow it to guide them to make the necessary changes to follow Jesus. They pray, study, and complete the work of discipleship. With the help of the Holy Spirit, the catechumens eagerly express their intention to receive the sacraments. The all-encompassing love of Christ has changed their hearts. We, the parishioners, offer our prayers and example, encouraging them to oneness in the body of Christ. We contribute to the sense of trust and belonging that brings them to a life with God
Woody and Buzz belonged to Andy, and Andy used all of his toys in fun and creative ways. However difficult it may be to “see the face of God” in everyone we meet, we all belong to God. The Spirit of God lives in each one us, therefore, we all have an immense capacity for unconditional love. As the Church, may we continue to model loving as God loves, drawing his people home.
Peace and joy,
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