Dear Parish Family,
In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells us three parables to describe the Kingdom of Heaven. The wheat and the weeds, the mustard seed, and the yeast. He speaks in parables (stories) because not everyone is ready to hear the truth. Just like when we have something difficult to explain to a child, we choose our words and how much detail we share, especially if we feel it will be perceived as very sad or scary. Jesus spoke to us in the same way; not everyone is ready to hear the truth clearly. This gives us time to absorb and be able to understand what has been revealed to us.
All three parables use commonplace experiences to describe aspects of the Kingdom of Heaven. The parables give us a warning and much encouragement. Jesus’ explanation to the disciples cautions, any effort to judge the progress of the Kingdom of Heaven is premature. As the wheat and the weeds must grow together until the harvest, so we may not know whether our actions contribute to God’s Kingdom until God’s final judgment. With this word of caution in mind, we act always in prayer that our actions will be consistent with God’s plans. How often are we quick to judge others’ behavior and not see our own? To judge and uproot the “weeds” prematurely will harm the wheat; final judgment rests with God.
In the parables of the mustard seed and the yeast, we are consoled by the message that God can work wonders and produce abundance from even the smallest beginnings of the Kingdom of Heaven. Just as a mustard seed — the smallest of all seeds — will become a large bush, so too God will bring His Kingdom to full bloom. As a small amount of yeast will leaven the entire batch of bread, so too God will bring about the expansion of his Kingdom.
This means that even the little things that we do can make a big difference in the lives of others. What are some of the little things that we can do in our family that help to make things better for others?
What exactly is a parable? In C.H. Dodd’s book, The Parables of the Kingdom, he defines a parable as “a metaphor or simile drawn from nature or common life, arresting the hearer by its vividness or strangeness, and leaving the mind in sufficient doubt about its precise application to tease it into active thought.”
In today’s gospel the Parable of the Sower from Matthew would have been contemporary to a Jewish farming culture. Dry, rocky or thorny soil would have been understood as foolish for a favorable future harvest. This parable of the soil teaching by Jesus was offered to the inquiring or non-believing “large crowds because they do not see and hear and do not listen or understand” his prior teachings that the revelation of the Kingdom of God was at hand.
If we “tease” today’s parable into “active thought” we need to ask ourselves are we too part of the “large crowds” Jesus was speaking to who did not see or hear, listen or understand him? Or are we truly a disciple of Jesus encountering him and living his teachings in good soil of our own lives? Maybe we find ourselves at one moment being an inquirer in the “large crowd” and at another time an active disciple living in Jesus.
Contemporary times for us present different types of challenging “soil” to be tilled with good seed. Contemporary dry soil may be our growing and enveloping secular and materialism culture or the challenge of living a life filled with the rocky soil of anxiety, busyness, loneliness, and siren songs distracting us from balance, solitude and silence. Thorny soil abounds with challenging political and cultural divisions, civic unrest, collapse of families, injustices in education, health and economics, and least we forget a pandemic with many deaths and the social and economic effects of the lock down.
Like so many Americans, in the past few months, I've felt confused, fearful, sad, and outraged related to the recent black deaths, peaceful protest being met with police violence, and violent protests causing destruction in major cities across the United States. I've engaged in conversations with family members and friends about the anxieties that we are carrying. During one conversation, my niece stated, "It's different for you. You have Jesus!" To which I wanted to balk and ask, "What difference does that make?" Instead, I took a deep breath and let her continue talking.
At that time, I had no idea that the text for this Sunday included these words of Jesus: "Come to me, all you who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart, and you and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."
During the past few weeks, I've thought about the words my friend said to me, "It's different for you." I've asked myself what Jesus' words about our anxieties and burdens mean in the context of the world of coronavirus and civil unrest.
Today's gospel begins with Jesus praising His Father for revealing to little ones what remains hidden to the wise and the learned. He adds a declaration that the Father has delivered into His hands all power, authority, and judgment. He knows all our weaknesses and that sometimes the little strength we have can fail us. Therefore, He invites us to offload all our problems on Him and in return, He will give us His yoke, to learn from him, which is easy to bear and light. Jesus tells us that in Him, we will find rest.
Don't we all seek this deep-down sense of peace, of healing, of rest and refreshment? Why do we struggle along with so many things? We often do, though. We forget to pray. We forget to turn to Jesus and give Him our cares and concerns, our worries, our heartaches. We carry them like weights sometimes on our shoulders, disturbing the peace of our hearts. Jesus said, "learn from me", and this is excellent advice.
His life was founded in prayer. We, too, need to revive our prayer life. In a single moment, God can impact the grace we need to handle the things that cause us the most heartache if we only give him half a chance.
Some of us have had our coronavirus birthdays and wedding anniversaries. Too many young people had covid-graduations – that was not what we wanted for them! Celebrations on Zoom are fine, and very worth doing. Drive-by revelries are SO much more festive, but both of these leave something unfulfilled. Today, we have our own great parish event to remember and celebrate, most certainly in a way less than it deserves. So, my dear Padre Serra parishioners, happy 25th Anniversary of our church building to you!
Twenty-five years ago, on July 1st, 1995, the founding families of the parish dedicated the beautiful church in which we worship. Those of us who came later owe them a debt of gratitude for their generosity, courage and faith. They worked long and hard to raise the money to buy the land and build our campus. They were daring and spirited, designing a beautiful, innovative church in the round, with Chumash and Mission touches, celebrating both our predecessors and our patron saint. Their actions flowed from their deep trust in God, and their admirable willingness to build up the Kingdom, not primarily by building a building, but foremost, by gathering a community. If we can hold onto that sense of kinship in these coronavirus-ridden days, it will be because we stand on their shoulders.
The church that we are celebrating on this anniversary is a beautiful house of prayer, for the praise of God’s name. One of my great pleasures these last ten years is watching people take their first look at the church’s interior. Their reaction is invariably one of pleasure and intrigue. It’s different, and yet its many components work so harmoniously. It both shelters us when we are at prayer, and invites us into contemplation and a rich spiritual experience. Its forms, colors, architectural elements of walls, windows, ceilings and pillars all work together, in an experience of beauty and grandeur, to make an interior experience of God possible.
The great irony of this year, of course, is that the quarantine prevents most parishioners from even coming to our parish home. Even when Masses are possible, most can’t and many shouldn’t come quite yet.
They do say, though, that “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” I’m hoping that’s true for you, that the separation leaves you hungry for the beauty of the church, and even more for the warmth of the community. It really needs to be a combination of both. The shape and configuration of the church invites us into an awareness of, and an appreciation of, one another.
We had all kinds of plans for how we were going to remember. You may remember we asked our founders to share their memories, their participation and their important family events. Our intent, which we’ve had to scrap, was to have some of our pioneers share those moments and light one of the consecration candles in the church for us at all the Masses this weekend. We were also going to have a BBQ, and maybe dance a little in the backyard of the parish…Sigh. The pastor proposes; the coronavirus disposes.
While I usually prefer the scripture readings of the day as the subject when it’s my turn to write this letter I find this time that it’s Father’s Day, and specifically some of what my dad taught me that are on my mind. Perhaps some of what is in the day’s readings will connect.
I’m not a perfect dad by any means, nor, in spite of my best efforts, a perfect grandfather. It turns out I wasn’t a perfect son either. For that matter – spoiler alert – my dad is also imperfect. But I remember as a young boy when my dad was with me in a challenging situation, I always felt protected. The middle part of today’s first reading has the prophet Jeremiah (after complaining about how he is mistreated as a result of his obedience to God by all who surround him) expressing complete confidence in the Lord:
But the LORD is with me, like a mighty champion: my persecutors will stumble, they will not triumph.
This is how I hope those of us who are dads and grandfathers are experienced by those we try to love and nurture and protect, at least in our best moments. For those whose fathers did not give you that gift, know that Jesus, the perfect son of the perfect father grieves with you. And he asks his Father to be with you, to be your mighty champion.
One lesson my dad taught me early on was to always be the first to apologize, the first to ask forgiveness, because restoring the relationship is more important than being right. Dad didn’t just preach this, he lived it, and modeled it, time and time again.
I have tried to treat my kids and grandkids the same way (in fact, I hope I treat everyone that way). God knows I’ve had lots of opportunities to apologize and try to repair relationships. I’m grateful for my dad’s humble example as a way forward, over and over again.
But what about when I am in the right, when I am truly the one who “has the right” to be offended? I’ve found that to be hollow comfort or none at all, compared to reconciling with the other person. Often when I make the first conciliatory move, then we can talk honestly about whatever the conflict was in an atmosphere where the tension and anger have been discharged. But not always. Sometimes I, or the other person, just can’t or won’t have that conversation. In that case, I’ve been taught to pray for the other person and not that God “change” them to suit me. Then the resentment which poisons only me when I carry it can recede and I can be free. Do I do this perfectly, every time? Not at all. But it’s a path my dad (and other mentors) have taught me that I’ve found useful, so I share it with you.
Dear Faith Family,
It has been more than 80 days since we have had to shut down the world. I don’t know about you, but whenever I look at the number, it is quite surreal. 2020 has been a difficult year with a lot of changes we have had to make in multiple facets. The world looks different right now, some for the better and some for the worse, and it has brought plenty of challenges to us as individuals, our families and to our nation.
Sometimes it is hard for me to grasp the idea of God (like everyone else, I’m sure). But in moments of clarity I realize that our God is not a shape-shifter, but is an eternal God of mercy and justice that never ceases to change. In times of weakness, I find comfort in the fact that our God never changes. He will always love and always yearn for us.
We need our God not to change, but we need to allow Him to change our world right now.
In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus expresses that he is the Bread of Life. When those who heard started to become appalled, Jesus did not change his stance, but he doubled down. Christ never wavered when it came to the importance of the Eucharist, he never changed the plan to dwell with us physically, and he never will.
A lot of us have been unable to receive Communion for a while. There is a strong sense of yearning for the Sacrament within our community and Catholics everywhere. Since we haven’t received Christ in the Eucharist in a while, does that mean we are lacking in grace? The answer is no. There is so much power in the Eucharist that you received before this pandemic and it would be a shame to not recognize that Christ dwells with you because of that Eucharist and that he won’t cease to do so.
Yearning for the Eucharist is good. Yearning for the eternal God is very much imprinted on our souls. Let us remember that the yearning will help us have a more vibrant experience in this intimate Sacrament.
Dear friends on the journey,
Have you ever been amazed, or even baffled, by the deep love someone has for you? Or received a gift so unexpected that you are mystified by the thoughtfulness and love behind it? Got it in your mind? How did you respond? Did you see that person in a new way? Did their love cause you to act differently, and not by way of reciprocation but because their love just changed you?
Now multiply that love by a gazillion. That is God’s love for you and his gift to you is Jesus, the way of salvation. Today’s gospel is John 3:16, probably the most quoted and known scripture passage of all time. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son…” God’s love is manifested in gifts to us. At the beginning of salvation history, God gave us the earth and all her creatures and plants to enjoy. Through the chosen people, the Israelites, God called us into a covenantal relationship. Then God’s ultimate gift of Jesus fulfilled the covenant and brings us believers back to God’s self to live a glorious eternal life.
As Christians, our salvation comes through belief that Jesus is our way to eternal life. I have known this intellectually but to be quite honest, it wasn’t until my Fundamental Theology class at the seminary five years ago when I had a profound moment that my heart just suddenly knew it. I truly felt God’s love for ME and knew that Jesus died for ME. When our hearts know it, our natural and only response is to live it by being the best Christian we can be and sharing that reality with other.
Our response is to see the world as God sees it, to see all of God’s creation as good, to love others just like God loves us and be in relationship with one another. It sounds simple but to our human eyes and hearts it can be much more complex. Focusing on the cultures and peoples that please us is much easier but dangerously comforts us. Relating to and loving the others becomes more difficult or impossible.
We are not seeing much love these days. News and social feeds are filled with images of death, hate, destruction, and division. From Covid-19 to acts of racism to looting to earthquakes to our own personal traumas, we are suffering and hurting. We are frustrated and angry. What do we do with all of us this?
I think we take it step by step. First, we care for ourselves. Sit with our thoughts and feelings, taking it to God in prayer then listening. Embody scripture especially today’s gospel and second reading: “mend your ways, encourage one another, agree with one another, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss.” We remember that we are called to act with love, patience, kindness, humility, compassion, and empathy. We remind ourselves that the God made every human being beautiful and good, in a wide array of color, voices, and smiles among many cultures, foods, dances, and traditions. All life is sacred, and no one should be left behind to be sick, hungry, homeless, devalued, dehumanized, discarded.
My Dear Fellow Parishioners,
Today, fifty days after Easter, we celebrate Pentecost Sunday which marks the end of the Church’s glorious Easter Season. What a strange season it has been as we isolate ourselves in our homes and celebrate Mass via livestream! Under normal circumstances, today also would have marked the end of the initiation process (RCIA) for those who would have been initiated at the Easter Vigil. Alas, they are still awaiting the day when it will be safe to gather in the church building again to celebrate baptisms, Confirmations and the reception of Eucharist. Also longing for the sacraments are our First Communion and Confirmation candidates and the parents of little ones waiting to be baptized. Let us hold them all in prayer that they do not become discouraged, rather that this time of anticipation will bring its own unique graces.
Pentecost is also considered the “birthday of the Church” as described in our first reading today from The Acts of the Apostles. This year, sequestered in my home with my husband for fear of COVID-19, I can relate more than ever before to the account of the disciples hiding for fear of meeting the same death as Jesus. Yet, with the coming of the Holy Spirit whom Jesus had promised to send as an Advocate, we hear that their fear was replaced by a fervor to spread the Good News of Jesus who is Messiah and Lord, crucified and risen.
Reflecting on all this, I feel a connection between the Church’s first birthday at Pentecost and the rebirth of the Domestic Church (the Church lived in our households) that we see re-surging under the guidance of the Holy Spirit during the current pandemic. On the parish website, Facebook and Instagram pages you can see photos of home prayer centers (little altars), children working on their Faith Formation lessons under the guidance of parents or older siblings, and (most importantly) families participating in, not just watching, Sunday Mass livestreamed from our parish church. Some households are making banners, posters or sidewalk chalk drawings to thank the delivery people serving them. In many various ways we are witnessing the Good News to one another in our homes and in our neighborhoods.
Last words can mean so much to us. When I sit down with a family to talk about a deceased family member, they will occasionally tell me they thought their mom or dad waited for someone to arrive before passing on. Sometimes they tell me the deceased’s last words. It seems so significant when a family member or friend says, just before dying, “I love you,” or “I forgive you,” or “I’ll still be with you from the far side.” We cherish these kinds of last things. They resonate like tympani in our hearts.
In that spirit, it is so very important for us to attend carefully to Jesus’ last words: “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”
His communication starts with power – if the Father gave all authority to him, then we must attend to his last command. “All authority” includes power over us. We’re left free, but if we’re wise, we’ll listen carefully and obey. We are told to “go.” We’re not to be static, but on the move. Complacency is insufficient. Sleepiness can only be temporary. Naps may be cherished, but they can’t rule our lives. The camino of fidelity to our Lord is calling, and we have to follow.
And then we get to the heart of Jesus’ last directive: “Make disciples of all nations.” He doesn’t ask us either to be, or to make, demanding consumers who come to church expecting to be entertained. He doesn’t look for blind obedience. He doesn’t seek people who will say that they are Christian, or who will choose only the most shallow forms of observance. He’s looking for people who will take their faith to heart and act. Disciples work to grow in their understanding and application of their faith. Disciples are active doers, servants of the Lord, and ministers to the broken world around them. Ultimately, if we accept that Jesus has all authority, as he claims, then we can’t be content until “all nations” have been taught to observe all that he has commanded, until “all nations” are caring, active and living as disciples, imitating Jesus’ words and actions.
The parish mission statement embraces this Gospel with enthusiasm: “Encounter Jesus. Be disciples.” The first invitation, “encounter Jesus,” stands on the truth that everything begins and ends with Jesus, the Alpha and the Omega. Encountering him is much more than simply “knowing” him. I knew many people in my doctoral studies, who knew all kinds of facts about Jesus, but in spite of their academic pursuits, lost their faith. All their knowledge was for naught. “Encounter Jesus” means to dive into the experience of the sacraments. It requires us to pray, and invites contemplation. It leads to a relationship that is real, accompanying Jesus in all our activities. This will inevitably lead us into a loving bond, for to encounter Jesus is to love him. When we, in fact, love him, we make it about him, and not ourselves.
And there is where we become disciples, actively imitating Jesus in our daily lives. He fed people; so do we. He healed, taught, and answered his world’s questions; so do we. He accompanied others and comforted them in their struggles; so do we. He laid down his life for the sake of a broken world that crucified him; so must we, hard as this one is.
Twenty eight years ago, at just about this time, I was out in the garage looking for something when I came across some of Terrie’s things. She had died that January and I was still struggling with her loss. It triggered what was a persistent questioning and struggle for me at that time. Life was not supposed to be like this. Why did she have to suffer with and die of cancer? Why do I have to go through this? The grief group that I was a part of helped me to navigate through this pain and suffering. We were a diverse group of individuals of similar ages, different backgrounds, different faiths or none at all. Although the suffering we experienced was not equally distributed, in this community the one thing that that we all had in common, however, was the loss of a spouse. We were able to remind each other that we were not the only broken hearted people in the world and the pain of loss so present in our lives was not ours alone. As I looked into the box I found some of the crafts Terrie had made. There were hair bows and other things she had made that helped her to rediscover the beauty in the world and in her own life in the midst of incredible struggle with cancer over which she had no control. In the midst of her own suffering she found a way to find joy and beauty. She found a way to share that joy and beauty with others around her.
I find that the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting shelter in place restrictions bring back some of those same feelings. Why do so many have to suffer with and die of as a result of this virus? Why do I have to go through this isolation and being closed off from so many of the things that I find life giving? The gentle reminder from so many years ago returns as well: We are not the only broken hearted people in the world and the pain of loss so present in our lives is not ours alone.
The gospel today calls out to remind us of the presence of the Spirit. “You know the Spirit, because the Spirit remains with you, and will be in you.” The fact is that hardly anything in life turns out the way we expected it to, and we are so often ready to write life off as too difficult and retreat. But we all must be willing to take a moment to recognize the presence of the Spirit that remains with and in us. Stretch to find the beauty that surrounds us in the midst of suffering and struggle. This may be in simple things like finding some rocks and painting them and adding our own design; perhaps it’s playing a musical instrument; maybe it is spending some time in prayerful silence and deep listening. It doesn’t matter that we lack any artistic talent, musical ability, or even a sense of deep spirituality. It is a willingness to be open to the spirit within.
Dear Family in Christ,
My late mother was everything a mother should be—loving, caring, watchful, protective—until I reached adolescence and started having opinions of my own. From that point on she was incapable of releasing me to make my own decisions, and our adult relationship was difficult. Our society’s ritual of selecting Mother’s Day cards put me in an annual moral dilemma. I could spend an hour searching through the card selection at Target or CVS trying to find a message that didn’t make a liar out of me. “The best mother in the world” and “You were always there for me” just didn’t cut it. One year I sent her flowers instead, and she refused delivery. Sometime during my youth, I discovered I was better off relying on God for my motherly nurturing.
My mother and I never abandoned our relationship, as difficult as it was. Near the end of her long life it became necessary for me to mother her, but along the way I found others who lovingly nurtured me. Older and more experienced friends gently coached me how to be a wise mother to my own children, and members of the church taught us all by example how to hold one another close and to let go when appropriate.
But the one who has constantly held me and truly mothered me from my birth has been God. Scripture, Christian tradition, and our own experience teach us that God’s love, comfort, and care know no bounds. In Isaiah 66:13, the Lord tells Jerusalem, “As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you.” Jesus’ lament over Jerusalem illustrates a mother’s concern as he says, “How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings.” (Luke 13:34 and Matt. 23:37) Early Christian mystics speak of the maternal nature of God. Julian of Norwich describes God as both Father and Mother: “As truly as God is our Father, so truly is God our Mother.” Anselm of Canterbury describes Christ as “the great Mother” who comforts the frightened with gentleness. And every recent pope since John Paul I has made some reference to the value of understanding God as a mother.
We are God’s children, and God knows how to protect us, where to correct us, how to guide us, and when to let us learn from mistakes. God wants us to explore and learn and love, and God is always there to kiss our booboos and put bandaids on our knees when we fall off our bikes. Give thanks to God—the source and embodiment of motherhood!
Dear Padre Serra Family,
This weekend, May 2 and 3, 2020, was to be the wonderful celebration of First Holy Communion for our Faith Formation children. They have been readily preparing for their sacraments for almost two years now but the current situation in our community and across the globe has rearranged our schedules. We in Faith Formation completely understand the concept of altered plans (almost daily!), and often have a Plan B or Plan C if needed. Yet, the past weeks have the formation staff taking a few steps back and allowing the Holy Spirit to influence our creative abilities so that we can continue to share the Catholic faith via the Gospel stories.
Today in John’s Gospel, Jesus portrays a true image of daily life to illustrate the depth of his desired relationship with us. He reminds us that He is the shepherd: “Amen, amen, I say to you ... Whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.” (John 10:1-10) Amen, amen, truly, absolutely, yes! How emphatically He tells us that we belong to Him! “The shepherd calls his own sheep by name and leads them out ... they recognize his voice.” Just as the relationship of a shepherd to his sheep is personal, so is our own relationship to Jesus through the Holy Eucharist. The fact that we cannot physically partake of the sustenance that is the bread and wine become body and blood does not exclude us from the First Sacrament, Jesus. Our good shepherds here on earth, Pope Francis, Bishop Gomez, Father Patrick and others, entreat us to enter a deeper spiritual communion with God, present in the Blessed Sacrament. The Lord wants to remain with us in the Eucharist, and therefore, we become the tabernacle, carrying Him with us.
And if we do not understand Jesus as our Shepherd, the Gospel continues and tells us He is also the gate. The ideal image of a good and caring shepherd becomes even more evident when we learn that it was customary for the shepherd to sleep on the ground across the threshold of the sheepfold in order to protect his flock. In other words, a watchful shepherd became, literally, the gate. Jesus is not any door, but THE door through which all people come to the Father. “Whoever enters through me will be saved and will come in and go out and find pasture ... I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” What a gift Jesus offers to us — the opportunity of eternal life with Him! He has created a picture of total freedom, coupled with total security. We need only to recognize his voice and desire his presence in our hearts to be truly united.
Persist in your warm prayers for our First Communion children and adults through their ongoing preparation. I humbly request that Padre Serra parishioners wear a white garment today, not only to continue celebrating the glorious Resurrection of Jesus, but as a reminder of our own Baptisms and First Communions. When our faith family returns to communal liturgy within our sacred walls, it will be as if everyone is receiving Jesus for the first time in the Eucharist!
Dear Faith Family,
I hope you are doing well. I know times are difficult and it may be hard to find silver linings throughout the quarantine, but even if we cannot see it, God is still at work.
For years as Youth and Young Adult Minister here at Padre Serra, I have been incredibly blessed to minister to hundreds of youth and young adults. I know it is cliché, but it’s absolutely true when I say that they minister to me as much as I minister to them. They have made my faith more real and I am blessed to have encountered so many examples of young people pursuing Christ and becoming disciples.
I’m not sure about you, but I tend to fall under the trap of exploring my faith mostly at church functions.
Whether it’s Mass, gatherings with other youth ministers or the events that we run at Padre Serra. While these are important to our faith lives, this quarantine has got me thinking about the importance of the Domestic Church. I mentioned silver linings, this may be one of them; through this quarantine, I have learned to bring my faith home in a new way.
We are blessed to have Mass livestreamed, thank you to all of you who have tuned in, and in Youth and Young Adult Ministry we have been very active with digital gatherings, trying to keep to the norm before all of this mess. My challenge though, since we are adhering to social distancing, is who to share the good news with beyond the Church event. What better place to do this than at home?
I am lucky to say that my family’s prayer life at home has been more intentional than ever. Like all of you, my family and I are yearning for the day where we can gather in person again, but somehow, even without being able to physically be at church, a new spirituality has been on my heart. I truly believe that by allowing God in our homes in a more intentional way, we will continue to make disciples of all nations, even if we are stuck at home.
Again, I know things are difficult. Just the thought of the amount of Zoom meetings I’ve had make my eyes hurt. But I promise you it is not without benefit! When Christ commissioned his Apostles to spread His good news, what was the major step? To gather in homes to allow the Holy Spirit to dwell within them. This is such a great opportunity to strengthen our homes with grace.
I promise when we do that, the next time we all get to receive Communion together, we will be more joined in community than ever!
Dear friends on the journey, Here we are on day 31 and 5th Sunday of quarantine. What we’re living right now seems like a movie doesn’t it? For our family, comedy might be the best description and I suspect there’s not too many living a romance. I’ve heard several people compare their experience to a science fiction film and even Groundhog Day. Perhaps for others it might parallel horror, suspense, adventure, crime, drama, fantasy, mystery or satire. No matter the movie genre, this pandemic and our stay-at-home response is something surreal, unbelievable and unprecedented. We’re all wondering if this is for real. Everyone is locked in their homes in comfy clothes, only going out for groceries. Masks and gloves are wardrobe musts. Essentials are the basics for survival. School and graduations canceled. Telecommuting to work. And our liturgy is now on YouTube! It’s certainly an emotional roller coaster with ups and downs, fears and joys, calm and frenzy, tears and laughter, and everything in between. We are living moment to moment, not knowing what will happen next.
Today’s gospel story about Jesus’ post resurrection appearance to the disciples in the locked room is also a roller coaster of emotions from fear and worry to doubt. They are filled with disbelief and uncertainty, likely wondering if the recent events were real and what was going to happen without their teacher. Then Jesus appears to them and they rejoice, three times he offers peace, gives the Holy Spirit to them, and sends them out to be believers and to forgive. Then Jesus challenges their belief. Does it come only from their seeing Jesus in person?
This gospel’s message is for us as well. Now more than ever, we need Jesus’ peace. We need belief and the Holy Spirit to get us through this time. Only Jesus can give us this peace and he offers it every day. It’s our response that will make a difference, especially when we have no certainty of the immediate future. I have found much hope, comfort and peace in this time of quarantine and see the Holy Spirit at work. Here is where social media has shined for me. Seeing stories of courage, charity given, appreciation, gratitude, humanity at its best. I am beyond proud of our parish for acting so quickly to live stream Mass, to be willing to shop for seniors, to make wellness calls, to donate food, to give generously so the parish can stay afloat.
So today I encourage all of us to rely on our faith that Jesus has us. Rest in his peace that with him and through him, we will come out on the other side stronger and better. Lean on the belief that the Holy Spirit is working and look for even her small, simple movements in our lockdown. Celebrate them. Take comfort that the disciples who were locked in that room in fear and disbelief eventually came out stronger and better and with greater conviction.
The coronavirus has gripped us in its teeth, and within only weeks, left many with the sense that it would never end. We remember the pleasures of everyday life, often take so much for granted: trips to the store without fear, time spent in crowds, the hugs of friends, our children’s soccer games, crowded concerts, noisy restaurants. Is it possible to miss crowded restaurants? We can’t pretend it’s not happening, yet…
Jesus is risen – He is truly risen!
Every generation, throughout human history, has its own story to tell about death and rebirth, be it rooted in financial ruin,
warfare, flood or drought, tornado, violence, tyranny…or plague. Our greatest struggles all too often, betray our weaknesses: we become frightened or rebellious against restraints, we hoard, we struggle with authorities making decisions for us, we grow angry and aggravated with the people we live with, our friends, family and neighbors. Familiarity (and forced enclosure) breeds…aggravation. We can’t pretend it’s not happening, yet…
Jesus is risen – He is truly risen!
Jesus experiences the Passion first, death second, and only then renewed life and reunion with the Father in the Ascension. So, even on this otherwise joyful day, when we are experiencing a national passion, where many have died and many are still dying, there remains the hope of renewal and reunion, with family and friends, and with Jesus. This too may happen…
Jesus is risen – He is truly risen!
On the other hand, our resistance to the crisis also helps us grow immensely when, through self reflection, we refine our rough edges and recover from our relationship problems. Through our struggles, we grow stronger and find clarity as we seek new visions and purpose for our lives. How much more life giving that rebirth is when coupled with the intimate experience of God’s presence, giving renewed meaning to our sufferings, accompanying us in our struggles, and giving our hearts reason for rejoicing. This growth, too, is happening…
Jesus is risen – He is truly risen!
If I can give you any encouragement in this confused, unwell time, it would be to in the face of an uncertain future. It would be to cherish small joys, celebrate courageous actions and be grateful for the generous help of the essential services going on around us. Don’t wait for a trouble free, coronavirus free, aggravation free time to live fully. Choose happiness. Choose family and friends. Choose your neighborhood. Choose your co-workers. Choose life.
Jesus is risen – He is truly risen! And he would have us rise, too, both here and now, from our covid ridden weeks, and on into eternity.
My prayers are, of course, for your health, for a strong trust in God, and for an Easter that is joyfully full of the people who matter to you, whether in person, or on the phone, or the internet.
Jesus is risen – He is truly risen!
This is written for submission fourteen days before it will be published. What a significance that number of days has become for us and for our global community. We have only to look across The Pond to see where we will be two weeks from the day you read this. Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble. It is something many of us have never seen, many are not now seeing, and many will not see.
“See you on the other side” is a phrase I have seen in print among the Tweets I follow in my attempt to understand from the epidemiologists, immunologists, historians and others who analyze factual data in my quest to confront FEAR, which I see as False Evidence Appearing Real. The ambiguity of whether the phrase pertains to the other side of this crisis or the other side of a transformed life; yes, even a resurrected life does not escape me. However, for me having knowledge of what is ahead allays fear. Both the angel [28: 5] and Jesus [28: 10] say, “Do not be afraid,” then they follow up with information as to what is ahead of the listener. So, it is with the Gospel readings of this day. The followers are told what lay ahead.
In the Gospel of the Procession, “... you will find an ass tethered ...” and instructions as to where to go and what to do. Throughout the Passion Jesus is telling his people what to do, who will do what, and what is to come. A drama unfolds. Certainly, I jumped ahead to Easter in the preceding paragraph, but the conclusion of that drama is important to me in the passion in which we are today involved. I quote from the Gospel reflection offered in Living Liturgy,
“There is a mob mentality at work and it should give us pause, not only for what happened in Jesus’ day but for how such actions continue today. False testimony, deceit, betrayal, even physical force and violence leading to death are prominently on display. The crowd, humanity itself, is only too eager to believe the worst, to mock, taunt, scourge, and kill the incarnation of love itself ... The response demanded by God of humans is faith. When faced with deceit, lies, violence, and death, God has another way, and we are invited to enter into this new way of life.”
In the unprecedented absence of an Easter Vigil, we pray especially for our Elect, whose initiation has been delayed, yet are invited into this new way of life in Baptism. May our faith lived out exemplify this new life to them.
I sense The Way of the Cross will be unprecedented for us even beyond Easter. May the LORD be present in our kindness and compassion. May we all be Cyrenians and live out the Corporal and Spiritual works of mercy. May we heed and give credence to the experts in the areas of health, safety, and security of our collective well-being.
Pray for Father Patrick, all spiritual and civic leaders that they convey a global community, compassion, humility and hope. Pray for those who put themselves at risk for the sake of our health and security. Pray for the sick and dying we know and those no longer strangers due to our common suffering. Pray for those who have died before us. Continue to love one another as Jesus loved.
Like most of you, I had no idea the circumstances under which I’d be writing this. Even two weeks ago, we thought our masses would continue on their regular schedule even if fewer of you could be there. Now we find ourselves under order to stay home and practice distancing in order to protect ourselves and one another. Our mass is being celebrated in an empty church and shared digitally with you. Many of you have sent us notes of appreciation and we are grateful and uplifted by them!
Today’s Scripture Readings have passages that can serve as prompts for reflection on where God is in our current reality. Since they are God’s Word, they bring hope and light, precious gifts that are sorely needed.
The first reading from the prophet Ezekiel where the LORD says that he will “open your graves and have you rise from them” is partly metaphorical, dealing with the future end of the Babylonian exile. But the notes of promise, restoration and God’s faithfulness are unmistakable. I say ”partly metaphorical” because in today’s Gospel reading an actual resurrection from the dead occurs when Jesus calls Lazarus out of the grave.
Friends, the pandemic through which we are living is scary, and on many levels. In addition to fear of the virus and for our own health, there is fear that we may lose someone we love. On top of that there is economic fear, fear of being cooped up, fear of things changing irrevocably, fear of shortage and scarcity, fear of civil unrest and any number of others. Where is God in this? He is right here, with us. The shortest verse in the Bible is in today’s gospel: “And Jesus wept” [at the death of his friend Lazarus, and at the pain of his family and friends].
On the other hand, there are many examples of courage and resilience, generosity and charity. If we are to be, as St. Teresa of Avila says, the hands and feet of Jesus Christ; if we are to look with his eyes of mercy on the world, then are not these stories of first responders and healthcare professionals; of families sharing with those in more dire straits than their own; of scientists and civic leaders collaborating reasons for hope and even for joy? Are these not the Body of the Risen Christ ministering to the Body? And what is that if not light in darkness?
Psalm 130 from which this Sunday’s responsorial psalm is taken expresses this duality well:
Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD;
LORD, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to my voice in supplication.
I trust in the LORD; my souls trusts in his word. More than sentinels wait for the dawn, let Israel wait for the LORD.
For with the LORD is kindness and with him is plenteous redemption; and he will redeem Israel.
When this pandemic has run its course and passes, and we are released from enforced isolation, as we first emerge and begin reordering our lives, maybe it will be a little like Lazarus emerging from the grave. And maybe we will live differently. Maybe we will be more patient, more grateful, more loving, and more attuned to God’s presence among us. May it be so.
Dear Parish Family,
Happy Laetare Sunday! “Rejoice Jerusalem.” On this Sunday, the Church expresses hope and joy in the midst of our Lenten fasts and penances. It gives us a glimpse of the Joy that awaits us for Easter, as we continue our Lenten journey.
I wonder if any of you have felt a similar experience this Lenten season. For me, with what is happening worldwide with the COVID 19, it has created an opportunity to have a more in depth Lenten experience. In our Lenten season, we are asked to Pray, Fast, and Give. With the big push to remind us to wash our hands for at least twenty seconds frequently, I found an excellent suggestion to say the Our Father and Hail Mary as I washed. As I mindfully pray the Our Father and Hail Mary with every hand washing or as I wipe down surfaces, I bring all my loved ones to mind, especially for all who are affected by this virus. I am grateful for the opportunity to add more prayer through the small things I do in my everyday life. Even some of the restrictions that are being implemented for our health and safety can be adopted as a Lenten sacrifice. The fact that we may have to sacrifice a planned trip to Disneyland, a canceled concert, or even attending a party. If we accept these sacrifices with patience and offer them up for the health and recovery of others, it makes it all more bearable and good for our soul.
Our readings this Sunday share the same common theme to SEE ... In our first reading David, by first glance, was not the obvious choice to be anointed king, yet he was the chosen one. Samuel tells us, “Not as man sees does God see because man sees the appearance, but the Lord looks into the heart” (1 Sm 16:7). In our Gospel, Jesus healed the man physically by giving him sight. He healed him spiritually, revealing that Jesus is the Son of Man, the Messiah. The man became a believer and worshiped Jesus.
Let us SEE the Light, to fill us with the much needed rest and joy within the sacrifices this Lenten season, as we look forward to Easter and the end of this pandemic. We are being called on our Christian virtues of Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and self control in the accepting of the changing conditions that make us feel out of control. Especially in how we treat each other, may all our works be pleasing to our God. That when he looks into our hearts, he will see how much we love him and our love for others in the way we are caring for each other. You are all loved and precious in the eyes of our Lord. Stay healthy and unafraid. “Even though I walk in the dark valley, I fear no evil; for you are at my side with your rod and your staff that give me courage. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.” Our Lord is with us always.
I’m not much of a plain water drinker but I so love my coffee. I absolutely cherish the aroma, the sound the coffee maker makes while it’s brewing and finally that first sip. Whether morning, midday or evening, it’s never too early or too late for that wonderful cup of java. Even so, I hate to admit it, but coffee generally does not completely satisfy my thirst. I do trust there’s nothing like plain water to quench a thirst and I believe I’m not alone to think so. Nonetheless, many of us convince ourselves that the right thing for the moment is that soda, sugar-free drink, or yes even coffee...after all, it tastes so good!
Much like satisfying a physical thirst, we also seek to quench something much greater within us on a daily basis. We recognize that there’s more to life than our five senses can provide so we continue to look for that perfect answer. The real challenge is making the right selection when faced with a choice to quench our spiritual desires. Sin promises us that it can fill that need and it may appear to do so initially. Eventually though, it will certainly worsen our thirst leaving us wanting more. We must therefore reflect on real satisfaction and real hope. This internal drive is our spiritual journey and in a very special way the next three weeks for our elect.
This Lenten weekend, the elect from the RCIA process are invited to undergo the first of three Scrutinies. Their journey continues with contemplation in preparation to receive the Sacraments of Baptism, First Holy Communion and Confirmation. Not only the elect but our entire assembly is also invited to prepare. Each of us is called to reflect on our own life so to ready ourselves to greet the resurrected Christ at Easter. Whether elect or already baptized, we are challenged to find and uncover all that is weak, defective, and sinful within our souls and to strengthen all that is upright, strong and good. We are invited to seek what is truly needed to satisfy our spiritual longing. The greatest news of all is that we do not have wander and look for that spiritual drink alone. Jesus provides us a pathway through his words to the Samaritan woman: “Whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
In just a few weeks, we’ll pray, witness and celebrate the baptism of the elect. If already baptized, we will have an opportunity and privilege to renew our own baptismal promises. Our fervent preparation in the remaining days leading to the Easter Vigil will certainly add to the clarity we will experience. I guarantee that the effort put forth now will pay off on that day; there will be Jesus, arms wide open, welcoming us home once again with a wellspring like no other ... so much better than coffee.
Deacon Luc Papillon
My Dear Fellow Parishioners,
This Lent our parish is very blessed to have 16 members of the “Elect” – four adults, three teens, three middle schoolers and six elementary school children – who will be initiated into the Church through the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist at the Easter Vigil on April 11. On the First Sunday of Lent our parish community sent them, along with their godparents, to Bishop Barron who celebrated the Rite of Election with them and with the many other catechumens from throughout the region. During this important rite their godparents testified to the bishop about their readiness for initiation. The catechumens themselves publicly stated their desire to be baptized, and the bishop, at the high-point of the ceremony, proclaimed, “I declare you to be members of the Elect, chosen by God, to be initiated at the next Easter Vigil.”
What a joyful moment that was for all of us – newly elected, family members, friends, godparents and teachers!
Lent marks the Elect’s final period of preparation for the sacraments. They will celebrate three more rites called Scrutinies on the Third, Fourth and Fifth Sundays of Lent which will strengthen them as they strive to become more conformed to the ways of Jesus. They will increase their prayer life, fast and participate in charitable works along with us as they prepare for Baptism and we prepare to renew our own baptismal promises at Easter.
As they, and we, look to the remaining five weeks of Lent, it may all seem a little daunting. But I believe the readings for today can encourage all of us on our Lenten journey as well as on life’s journey. When I read in the account of the Transfiguration that Jesus’ clothes became “white as light,” I always think of the white garment we put on after we are baptized. The Transfiguration of Jesus, as well as our baptismal garment, give us a glimpse of his Resurrection which in turn gives hope of a new, transformed life for ourselves ... during Lent, throughout our lives and when we, too, rise from the dead.
The theme that God chooses and calls us is evident in all three readings. Also evident is that God guides us, blesses us and bestows grace on us that we may be holy. Our greatest guide and blessing is Jesus. At the end of today’s Gospel we are told, “Listen to him.” May our Lenten practices help us to listen to him more closely.
Dear Faith Family,
We are now 4 days into our change in eating habits. Chocolate companies are officially prepared for a decrease in sales in their most beloved products and fast food chains are now offering fish sandwiches at a discounted rate. Yes friends, it is indeed the first Sunday of Lent and our Lenten promises are now in full swing. I know like many of you, this is a go to Lenten sacrifice for me. There is something about 40 days of healthy eating that seems to be a wonderful benefit. While it is good to do this, every year I do ask myself, “why?”
Yes, it is proper to give up certain foods during this season and while the healthy result of this fast is indeed a good thing, sometimes we forget the reason why we give up the “good stuff” during Lent. It is in preparation for the glory of the Resurrection and also an opportunity to understand that all good things come from God.
In my mind, giving up certain foods or material pleasures aren’t a declaration that you are cleansing yourself from them, but rather, it is removing a thing from your life to replace with God, with the intent of creating more time and appreciation for our Creator. Hopefully at the end of our 40 days, we recognize that God is so great to allow humans the ability to provide and create these goods, allowing God’s imprint to be evident in all that we are surrounded by.
I know that it’s been said a million times, but the Lenten season is truly an opportunity to be with God further. And while giving up things can be very healthy, both spiritually and physically, we must remind ourselves to add an element to these 40 days that give us more intentional opportunity to be with God. Whether that is an increase in dedicated prayer at home, in the car, at the workplace or even an attempt to go to daily Mass, we must remember that this is not the season of taking away, but rather, a season of fasting, giving and prayer.
When we offer up the things we love to God, he cannot help but to smile. Our gifts of the world may seem so small compared to God, but I know our Father looks down on us with pride when we offer up these things to him.
So, good luck this Lenten season! I can’t wait to be celebrating the Resurrection with all of you while holding a Twix bar and a Double Double.
Youth and Young Adult Minister
Dear friends on the journey,
Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, “change is the only constant in life.” But who likes change? I generally do not, unless it involves moving furniture! Change can often bring discomfort, fear and uncertainty. The thought of any of my kids or family moving away is gut wrenching. Anything that disturbs our daily comforts is overwhelming. On the other side of that same coin, change can bring us new people, adventures, experiences, joy and personal growth, both on the surface and deep down.
One constant change are the seasons. In the next few weeks spring will arrive, bringing a new earth, new light and new life. This Wednesday our liturgical season changes too. Lent begins our annual 40-day spiritual retreat, a time to reflect on our spiritual life and relationship with God. If done right, that reflection can lead to change, the positive kind, the kind that transforms our hearts and minds to be more like Jesus.
Jesus is constantly challenging us to change. To be his disciple means to shed our old ways and move closer to living the gospel values. Today’s readings are a perfect example of the radicalness of Christian discipleship. The readings are bookended by Lord telling the Israelite through Moses to “be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy” and Jesus telling his disciples (the apostles and us) to “be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” How can we possibly be holy and perfect? In Luke perfect is synonymous with merciful. Well, in the middle we’re given part of the formula:
What old way of yours is God calling you to change? Is it an unhealthy habit or addiction, a quick temper, too much time on a smart device? Is it an old grudge, impatience with your nextdoor neighbor or the store clerk, rage on the road, a family member with a different political opinion? Is it a lack of tolerance for the outorwork man at the off ramp, the indifference to the homeless, the judgment of immigrants, the condemnation of those of other races, religions, sexual orientation?
This Lent is a good time to pray on your own area of growth and reflect on the new way, the transformational change to which God is calling you to be holy and merciful and love your neighbor as yourself.
Faith Life Minister
Last October I had the opportunity of facilitating a Serra Seniors gathering on the “wisdom of seniors” and the following is a reflection on the experience.
In the bible, Job 12 says this: "Is wisdom with the aged, and understanding in length of days?" The question is rhetorical, because the answer was obvious: of course (or in today's lingo, "Duh!"). What was so obvious to other generations and other cultures has gotten lost in our generation and our culture. Older Americans have accepted the condescending and dismissive narrative that they are permanently in weekend mode, that now is the time for endless play and being entertained. Your services, your insight, your wisdom -- in short, you -- are no longer needed.
But in almost every society, the elderly are revered and consulted for their wisdom. All the great thinkers like Aristotle in the west and Confucius urge consulting the elderly on how to live or what gives life meaning, Don't consult the young; they have not lived enough. When Jesus is praised by the crowd for speaking with authority (Mt 7), they were perhaps praising him for having wisdom beyond his years, as Jesus was praised as a 12-year-old (Lk 2) for having wisdom beyond his years.
Retired people don't have to be retired. They don't even have to be tired! Sometimes an old person is asked to tell her life story. The old person can also be asked to tell what she has learned about life by living. The old person can be consulted for his philosophy, not just for his biography.
Here's advice from a popular self-help book: "Be true to your word." You need to buy a book for that? Old people don't have to read self-help books; they can write them. Seniors don't have to be told what to do; they know. The goal is not to feel better, but to think better.
Wisdom cannot be reduced to little sayings. Those little sayings need explanation, examples, and support -- as well as warnings about when they should be ignored. Each of these little sayings is the beginning of an insight, not the insight itself. Here is a small sample of wisdom from seniors here at Padre Serra, with suggestions on how to continue the insights.
You don't have to be old to start systematically questioning your own beliefs -- not so that you will give them up, but so that you understand them.
That verse from Job we started with is followed immediately by this one: "With God are wisdom and strength; God has counsel and understanding." Any wisdom we have is a gift from God. Pray for wisdom. When God favors you with it, write it down. Consult God, not a self-help book. Here is the final piece of advice. Have a regular prayer time each day that cannot be interrupted by anything.
Dr. Janice Daurio
Padre Serra’s annual golf tournament fundraiser, Fairways to Heaven, is just around the corner: Monday, March 16, at historic Las Posas Country Club here in Camarillo. Now in its fourth successful year, this fun-filled, all-day event features:
In advance of the event, everyone can participate in:
Whether you’re a golfer, sponsor, young, old, parishioner or new friend, this fabulous event is a lot of fun for everyone involved!
All Fairways to Heaven proceeds will benefit educational resources and technologies for our youth and young adult ministries.
The tournament committee needs your help to ensure this year’s tournament is the most successful yet! We are still looking for goods, services, vacation homes, sporting event tickets, unique experiences, a wine refrigerator, and much more to make our silent and live auctions even more spectacular, as well as additional golfers, dinner attendees, and sponsors at all levels.
The best part is that everyone can participate, even if he or she isn’t at the event. Whether it’s an auction donation, tee sponsorship, helicopter ball drop or dinner raffle ticket purchase, the more we all help and participate, the better!
Finally, this is a fantastic opportunity for your company or employer to sponsor a dinner table for eight, golf foursome,
or both as a team-building activity or department reward.
Thank you, everyone, for your support, and we look forward to seeing you at Fairways to Heaven on Monday, March 16!
Peace and blessings,
Paul and Eve Collier, Fairways Cochairs
Luke Cardella, Tournament Coordinator
Deserie Tyree and Mark Milner, Auction Coordinators
And the whole amazing committee!
It’s only every several years that the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord falls on a Sunday, so it may be more familiar to those who attend daily mass. But it’s an important enough feast that when it does fall on a Sunday of Ordinary Time, it replaces that Sunday’s usual prayers and readings. That is the case this year.
The reading from Luke’s gospel we hear this weekend is an account of how Mary and Joseph brought the child Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem in accordance with Jewish law, and of how two holy people who had been waiting faithfully for the Messiah (Simeon and Anna) reacted when they encountered Jesus. I’m struck by several things in the story. One is that Jesus was a Jew, as were his entire family and ancestry. He was brought up from the beginning to be observant of God’s law, to worship in the temple or synagogue, to observe the prescribed rituals, and to live justly and righteously, awaiting the fulfillment of God’s promise. Others much wiser than I have pondered at what point Jesus became aware that he was the Christ, the one that had been promised. The Scriptures tell us that he grew in grace, wisdom and favor.
The faith of Simeon and Anna is also significant. In particular, it seems that Simeon never doubted that God would fulfill what had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit – that he would not see death before he had seen the Christ of the Lord. I love the way Simeon addresses God upon meeting Jesus after having waited for so long: “Now, Master you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation”. And Anna embodies our parish mission statement: “And coming forward at that very time, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were waiting the redemption of Jerusalem.” She encountered Jesus. She became a disciple.
The humility of Mary and Joseph is also compelling. Here are two people who have experienced a lot of supernatural events: Gabriel’s annunciation to Mary that she would be the Mother of the Savior, Joseph being counseled in a dream to go ahead and take Mary into his home even though she was with child, the journey to Bethlehem, the birth of Jesus in the stable, the angels sending shepherds to worship the child, the star which guided the Magi with their gifts to the child, the escape from Herod’s slaughter of the innocent – again prompted by Joseph’s dream. One might think they would become used to strange
and wonderful events. Yet they were “amazed” at what Simeon said about the child.
In the letter to the Hebrews (our second reading) we hear a little more about the meaning of the gift of Jesus Christ: “…He had to become like his brothers and sisters in every way, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest before God to expiate the sins of the people. Because he himself was tested through what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.”
Brothers and sisters, that is us.
Liturgy and Music Minister