January 31, 2023
Still Christmas? We leave His infancy. This week we celebrate 40days after Jesus was presented in the temple. Luke 2:22ff 'When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, Mary and Joseph took Jesus up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, just as it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord. ...Simeon said 'now, master, you may let our servant go in peace, according to your word, my eyes have seen your salvation...a light of revelation to the gentiles and glory for your people Israel. … Simeon said to his mother, 'behold this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel...and you yourself a sword shall pierce.' ...there was also Anna..advanced in years . ..and then lived as a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple, but worshiped night and day' There are so many things here to ponder. First of all some would say that Joseph and Mary could not have gotten to Jerusalem for the 40th day. Actually it is quite possible. Herod had killed all boys two and younger on the information from the wisemen saying they followed the star for two years. The star was most likely an angel getting them there at the time of the birth just as angels led the shepherds. They were told to return home another way so it is mostly likely when Joseph heard in a dream to head for Egypt he would have hit the trail the next day. It would only take 3 or 4 days to get to the edge of Egypt 70 miles from Bethlehem. Then retrace those miles after 20 days and be back in Jerusalem before heading another 70 miles to Nazareth. In this Gospel Luke is making a point that Jesus is a first-born son that opened the womb. Some think that means there was a second and so on. Does that really mean so any more than saying she remained a widow until she was 84 doesn't mean she got married then. Nor does saying she never left the temple, but worshiped day and night, mean she never took a bathroom break or got some food. One has to be careful how they read some words like 'before, until, first' without taking into context the entire Gospel. Did you also notice that in a patriarchal society Luke points out “Mary and Joseph took Jesus” or Simeon addressing Mary and not Joseph. Did you ever notice too how Joseph never says a word in Scripture while Mary begins “Be it done to me according to Thy word” and ends with “Do whatever He tells you.” As we come to the end of the infancy narratives we do well to heed those statements.” We will look forward to Jesus being lost in the temple for the next episode.
January 24, 2023
'I knit you in your mothers womb': Ps 119 While I am writing this I would normally have been in Washington DC for the National March for Life. I need a new hip. Even though the Supreme Court nullified the horrendous Roe vs. Wade decision just before this 50th anniversary; it does not mean it is over. As we have already seen, some seem determined to kill every innocent child possible with a number of new national laws being proposed. There are certainly some who advocate that the earth would be better off if we could eliminate every human who is seen as a scourge to greening the earth. Even without Roe vs Wade there is still a tremendous battle for the soul of each state. Mother Theresa of Calcutta years ago said that abortion is the greatest enemy of peace. If we want peace in the world we have to learn to love every human being as Jesus said 'what you do to the least you do to me.' So, if we can't love the most innocent and defenseless, how are going to pretend to love others? All lives become dispensable; just decide which category is most inconvenient for our prosperity. The truth is, that contrary to Malthus' evolutionary theory about the human race growing beyond our ability to feed itself, we have discovered many ways in agriculture to far surpass our needs. The greatest problem is still in getting the product to where the need is. Right now, the Ukraine, which is the bread basket in Europe, is unable to ship to countries which have been dependent on it. And it will most likely be worse this year as they are able to grow less with the war. Other countries experience starvation not because the food is not available but because the powers that be use food as a political tool. What about housing? This past week Elon Musk demonstrated that he can build a house for $15,000 with modern manufacturing techniques. As Christians you and I are challenged to listen to Jesus' words identifying with the most vulnerable and ask ourselves how we can help others meet their needs. Certainly your contributions to the Outreach speaks volumes. How much do we hoard that we will never use? The unborn, of course, are not able to do anything to meet their needs and therefore it becomes incumbent for us to find ways to help them; beginning with saving their lives. I pray God gives each of you the grace to welcome every child that is conceived and help show them a caring world. How can we help? There is a fairly new Birthright center in Marble Hill that accepts donations for bassinets. We could do the same more locally. We can show the world that there are more couples desiring to adopt than children available. We can, as foster-parents, show that every child who no longer has a home for one reason or another is welcome to the table. Or, we can support one of the many organizations working to end abortion. Let us all love these children whom God already loves.
January 10, 2023
Last week was a profound experience for me, in ways I didn't expect. I went to a conference in St Louis which had a couple keynote speakers I wanted to hear but it was something else which touched me profoundly. There were 17,000 people at the Dome for conferences on Evangelization. Of those, 15,000 were college youth, 15,000. wow. In an age when we think young people are leaving the church it was amazing to see this many committed youth taking their Christmas vacation to come together and hear about Jesus and the Good News. To think, that many people have an awareness of their responsibility of sharing the faith. Yes, responsibility. In Luke 10:1 we hear “the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them, 'the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. God! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road. '” now, the disciples were not the apostles. That reminds us that we are all disciples, one who takes on the discipline of the master. When you and I were baptized we became disciples and consequently have a responsibility to share the Gospel. I say responsibility not in a negative way as something we got to do but rather as the natural consequence of being in love with the Lord. When one is in love one has to share it, let others know. Is there anything you really love, baseball, football, hockey, hunting, or people that you don't tell others about? You learn something new, you share it. You hear of something exciting that is going to happen, you share it. How much more so the gift of faith. If you love Jesus you want to share Him with others. You don't lose anything. It's not like in the song the Tennessee Waltz where it says 'I introduced him to my loved one … and my friend stole my sweetheart from me.' when you share Jesus you not only gain a better friend but you come closer to Jesus as well. You can't lose. And if you do, what kind of friendship was it? Besides your eternal salvation what has Jesus done for you that you would like to share? Take time to really know the scriptures, God's love letter to you. Take time in prayer to know Him better so that you are not just sharing things about Jesus but sharing someone who is important to you. What better way to make this 2023 Anno Domine than to be willing to share what the Lord has done.
January 3, 2023
Last year I said we would look at the 12 days of Christmas another time. This covers from Christmas to January 6 with the Three Kings. This summary is from Christianity Editorial staff.
1. On the First Day of Christmas, My True Love Gave to Me: A Partridge in a Pear Tree.
The partridge in a pear tree represents Jesus, the Son of God,
whose birthday we celebrate on the first day of Christmas. Christ is
symbolically presented as a mother partridge, the only bird that will die to
protect its young.
2. On the Second Day of Christmas, My True Love Gave to Me: Two Turtledoves. These twin birds represent the Old and New Testaments. So in this gift, the singer finds the complete story of the Christian faith and God’s plan for the world. The doves are the biblical roadmap that is available to everyone. 3. On the Third Day of Christmas, My True Love Gave to Me:
Three French Hens. These birds represent faith, hope, and love. This gift hearkens back to 1 Corinthians 13, the love chapter written by the Apostle Paul. 4. On the Fourth Day of Christmas, My True Love Gave to Me: Four Calling Birds. One of the easiest facets of the song’s code to figure out, these fowl are the four Gospels — Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
5. On the Fifth Day of Christmas, My True Love Gave to Me: Five Gold Rings. The gift of the rings represents the first five books of the Old Testament, known as the Torah or the Pentateuch 6. On the Sixth Day of Christmas, My True Love Gave to Me: Six Geese a-Laying. These lyrics can be traced back to the first story found in the Bible. Each egg is a day in creation, a time when the world was “hatched” or formed by God. 7. On the Seventh Day of Christmas, My True Love Gave to Me:Seven Swans a-Swimming. It would take someone quite familiar with the Bible to identify this gift. Hidden in the code are the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: prophecy, ministry, teaching, exhortation, giving, leading, and compassion. As swans are one of the most beautiful and graceful creatures on earth, they would seem to be a perfect symbol for the spiritual gifts.8. On the Eighth Day of Christmas, My True Love Gave to Me: Eight Maids-a-Milking. As Christ came to save even the lowest of the low, this gift represents the ones who would receive his word and accept his grace. Being a milkmaid was about the worst job one could have in England during this period; this code conveyed that Jesus cared as much about servants as he did those of royal blood. The eight who were blessed included the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake. 9. On the Ninth Day of Christmas, My True Love Gave to Me: Nine Ladies Dancing. These nine dancers were really the gifts known as the fruit of the Spirit. The fruits are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. 10. On the Tenth Day of Christmas, My True Love Gave to Me: Ten Lords a-leaping. This is probably the easiest gift to understand. As lords were judges and in charge of the law, this code for the Ten Commandments was fairly straightforward to Catholics. 11. On the Eleventh Day of Christmas, My True Love Gave to Me: Eleven Pipers Piping. This is almost a trick question, as most think of the disciples in terms of the dozen. But when Judas betrayed Jesus and committed suicide, there were only eleven men who carried out the gospel message.12. On the Twelfth Day of Christmas, My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Drummers Drumming.The final gift is tied directly to the Catholic Church. The drummers are the 12 points of doctrine in the Apostles’ Creed. “I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell. On the third day, he rose again. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and life everlasting.
December 27, 2022
Fascinating gospel this week . In the first chapter of Matthew he makes it abundantly clear that Jesus is descendant of David. We have the 14, 14, 14 generations, literally David's name 6 times. Jesus will be the seventh. This Sunday's Gospel seeks to make it clear that Mary was ever virgin. She did not know man and before they came together. That itself has to be made clear for English hearers 'before or until' does not signify the opposite is true afterwards. If I say 'I'll wait here until you get home does not mean I'll will leave immediately, I may be waiting to visit.' 'she did not have a child before she was 80 does not mean she had one after.' Matthews only intention is to make one know Jesus is in fact the first born, born of a virgin. Tradition has held that Mary was vowed to virginity. It never made sense to me knowing the emphasis Jews have on having children, 'may your quiver be filled with them.' but then, recent studies into the Dead Sea Scrolls which were discovered in 1948 have revealed much. From the New Testament we hear much about the Sadducees and the Pharisees because they were always trying to trip Jesus up. We don't hear much about the Essenes about whom Josephus, the historian wrote a great deal. We know John the Baptist belonged to this strange group. And the Qumran group was strange in that it was more like a Christian monastery with its members being pledged to celibacy. Why? Because sexual relations made one impure for offering sacrifice; not immoral, but undisciplined enough. And so we see David attesting to his men having abstained for three days before battle and Zachariah taking a turn at the temple (staying abstinate to offer daily sacrifice). With John we also know Andrew and others were his followers. After all the grounds for a new apostle was that it would be someone who had been with them from the baptism of Jesus. Since John was a cousin how possible is it that Mary and Joseph were also extended members of the Essenes? One of their rules was that every community, made up of celibate and married had to have guest quarters available for traveling members. Is that what Mary and Joseph were expecting to find when there was no room at the inn? Is that why Jesus assumed the ability to use a large guest room in Jerusalem for the Last Supper? In any case Mary may well have been committed to celibacy, and Joseph as well. If the average person getting married today would have enough integrity to let their intended know of serious circumstances which might affect their marriage you know Mary had to have much greater integrity and make sure she told Joseph right away before going to see Elizabeth. Joseph's fear then in Mary having a child whether his or not would have been the embarrassment of failing to live celibate. By divorcing Mary he would have been proving he was willing to try again. Can you identify with Joseph? Have you ever been falsely judged even for something you knew was good? Turn to Joseph when others judge you. And by the way: you see where the Roman church gets having its priests celibate and why the Orthodox may still require three days abstinence and consequently have mass twice a week?
December 20, 2022
In Luke we read the beautiful words that most quickly get us in touch with the birth of our savior. First of all it is hard to wrap one's mind around the fact that the almighty God would want to or even could, take on human flesh. And if so, why not come fully grown in full power? But he didn't, he came in as a kid as the song Violet in Snow says: 'wrinkly and pink and crying just like you and I.” And then, He chooses to be born in a place where animals dwell, a stable. Here's what St. Luke says: “And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn...and in the region there were shepherds...and he will be lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of heavenly hosts praising God and saying 'Glory to God in the highest.' “ What an introduction! How does it affect me? I don't remember my first Midnight Mass 76 years ago but I know my parents were in the choir and would take me to the loft with them. By the time I was 5 Midnight Mass was already a tradition for me. I'm still grateful to St. Francis of Assisi for coming up with the idea of a manger scene because that manger in church helped make it so visible what Luke was saying. I can still see the way the different pieces were arranged. And there would be many more creches after that in different churches all calling me to sing with the angels 'glory to God in the highest.' By 7 I was helping at the altar with the bells (voice of angels), the incense (prayers of the people), the many candles (the stars of the night). Only after the Midnight mass did we return home to open what presents there might be. This Sunday will be the 50th time for me to lead as the priest this wonderful event which I pray leaves lasting memories for others. Even though I don't feel able to celebrate at midnight anymore we still call it Midnight Mass and it will be the new day by the time it is over. Why do we focus on Midnight? I think one reason is because children always seem to come at an inconvenient time. What time were you born? But mainly, I think, when we celebrate something special we can't seem to wait for it to get here so we want to welcome this special day in. Of course, now-a-days Christmas is preempted by all the trappings including Christmas parties, dinners, and present giving days before Christmas itself. In some way I feel sorry for those who will not have memories of a special Christmas Day tradition. But, on the other hand I pray it means they will spend more time reflecting, consciously or otherwise, on this sacred event and maybe on Christmas Day itself they will be more free to just be, in the presence of this Christ Child, Son of God and Mary.
December 13, 2022
the Child with a hand on the adder's lair
Do you have your creche up yet? Ever since St. Francis came up with the idea of replicating what one envisioned the circumstances of Jesus' birth to be, people have been fascinated, even nostalgic as they meditated on what it was to have been turned away from decent housing and given a cave barn to be born in. Was it clean, now that the animals were supposedly back out in the pasture? Was it loaded with manure after the animals had been pent up for some time? What animals might have been there? What was it like for the shepherds to have been directed to go there and discover myriads of angels singing 'Glory to God'? It leaves so much room for the imagination. So, what animals do you have in your creche? How about a lion, a wolf, an adder? What? Many have envisioned the birth of Jesus among animals as symbolic of Isaiah's prophecy; and for Christians all the Old Testament is revealing of Christ who was to come. So, what did Isaiah say? Is. 11:5 “Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist, and faithfulness the belt of his loins. The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid and the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall feed; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The sucking child shall play over the hold of the asp and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder's den … on that day the root of Jesse shall stand as an ensign to the peoples; him shall the nations seek, and his dwellings shall be glorious.” Jesus was born during a time we call the Pax Romana, a time when no country was fighting another. And just as we still have mascots today for teams, for countries, animals have always been an identity for different nations. So Isaiah describes a time when all nations shall be at peace with one another. Not only that but the child shall have his hand on the adder's lair. Jesus could have been born in Nazareth which was some distance from Herod but he was born in Bethlehem, right under Herod's hand so to speak. So, if you wonder why I sometimes will have a lion in my creche, now you know. Some even include fish and birds as I discovered on my first trip to Mexico during a Christmas season. Maybe you could include other things in your creche and then be ready to share the why with others. What Old Testament prophecies do you see as making a reference to Christ?
December 6, 2022
Eighty-one years ago this December 7th 2,403 people lost their lives; 1,246 were injured. Were they prepared? All branches of the military were included. Unlike the 2,700 who were suddenly killed in the World Towers in a matter of minutes. Unlike the lost lives with the eruption of the volcano at Mt. Vesuvius in 79 AD buried two cities of 25,000 population, those at Pearl Harbor were called to always be alert. Whether some in government were aware or not of the possibility some country 4,000 miles away might strike is not the issue here. The issue here; the point here, is that we all get caught off guard in so many different things. The real tragedy of life will be if we get caught off guard in regard to our spiritual lives. This Sunday we will hear the Gospel from Mt. 3: John the Baptist says: 'you brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce good fruit...every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.....one coming after me has a winnowing fan in his hand. He will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn.” John warns not to be comfortable thinking that you are children of Abraham. Jesus warns that not everyone who says “lord, lord”. It is all too easy to get comfortable. The Vesuvians were comfortable in living in some of the richest land in Italy. Those in the World Towers were comfortable in knowing they were working within the most powerful money structure perhaps in the world. Those in Pearl Harbor knew they were in paradise; they had a cush assignment; there was no need to fear unknown enemies thousands of miles away. No, the reality is; it is too easy to get comfortable, physically, socially, spiritually. How many get comfortable in their married relationship and begin taking it for granted thinking it doesn't need any work. And then, find themselves facing a seemingly sudden divorce. How many take their relationship with the Lord for granted and see no need to do as St. Paul says: 'stir up the flame of faith within you.' We get comfortable thinking 'I'm not all that bad' and then invest nothing in our prayer life or in our need to bear fruit as a sign of our love for the Lord. All love demands bearing fruit. For us as Christians that involves serving the less fortunate and when we fail to be all God has called us to be we are called to repentance. Again, the same thing applies to marriage. When a couple's love fails to bear fruit they are called to repent to one another. One thing, and only one thing, is a given. Our lives will come to an end and we will each hear the words of our Lord in Matthew 25:35 “I was hungry and you gave me to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me to drink....' Will you hear those words or the others: 'I was hungry and you did not give me to eat. I was thirsty and you did not give me to drink.'? My prayer is that each of you find yourself prepared each day. Even in the midst of Christmas don't lose sight of the fact that we are looking to Jesus' second coming. The first coming which we celebrate right now is a historical event. The second is yet to come.
November 29, 2022
Are You Prepared
Mt. 24:37 As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. In those days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark...so too you must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the son of Man will come.`` That's the scripture all Catholics and mainline churches heard this past Sunday. You don't think it didn't grab my attention after having celebrated Thanksgiving a couple times and still dealing with leftovers. Then I had a wedding for Jean Boldreghini and Roy Boyer. Jean has been our secretary here for over 40 years so it was a special celebration for me. We keep living day to day as if there will always be another day. It is a reality though that all things will come to an end, including the sun and the earth. Certainly, as individuals we can guarantee we will all die. The big question is when. And so, Jesus warns us to be prepared. He doesn't do so as a threat but because he wants us to spend eternity with Him and nothing sinful can enter heaven. That would be the antithesis of God's love. One of the most beautiful ways scripture describes our relationship with God is by the analogy of a marriage. The Church is the bride of the Lamb who laid down his life for us. If we are the bride, then like any bride we need to be prepared. An example I sometimes think of is the kind of incident which happened a number of times when there was a draft and guys were quickly being shipped out. Sometimes the couple would hastily get married before shipping out; others would make promises to wait until the loved one returned. How many relationships were tested in that kind of scenario. The war would drag on and on and perhaps the bride would begin to see no problem just going out with a male friend; after all, her loved one wouldn't want her to be lonely or never have any fun. Maybe she would even go out with a number of different guys. So one day her loved one is discharged and wants to surprise her in coming home unannounced, only to be surprised himself that she is with someone else. So much for, 'I'll wait for you always.' So Jesus expects us to be prepared always and not have any strange gods, any values which would conflict with His. We are the bride of the Lamb and are called to be faithful to Him throughout this life so we can know His love throughout eternity. Are you prepared?
November 8, 2022
To lay down one's life for one's friend
Last week we spoke of saints. All of us are called to be saints, to reflect Jesus by our lives. This week we celebrate, or remember a particular group of people who have heard the call: 'there is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friend.' with Veterans Day I can't help but think of my dad who survived a plane crash in France during WWII. He never talked about his experience and suffered a lot so you know I will stop at the Veteran's Memorial. By the way, if you have never seen it you might stop at the Vietnam Memorial in Perryville. Today we might reflect on the scripture that says if you are drafted to go one mile, go two, as an indicator that one must serve with all one's heart. Isn't there a contradiction though in 'loving one's neighbor; turning the other cheek' and 'going two miles'. That's the tension. One may certainly defend their loved ones and by extension, their country. When a person encounters a brick wall, a command to do something which goes against their conscience, then, like anyone else, they have an obligation to be true to their conscience regardless of the consequences. Such was the case in the first couple centuries when soldiers were called to offer sacrifice to false gods. The refusal to do so could mean their lives and then like St. Thomas More they might say “I am the good kings servant, but God's first.” the willingness to give one's life does not then take away the responsibility and accountability that go with. Such was the experience of many who were convicted in the Nuremberg Trial and said 'they were simply following orders. One might pray that they are never be put in such a situation but it can occur in all walks of life; as for instance when medical personnel are called upon to assist in any way with abortion. Today though, let us honor our Veterans, and, as with others, trust that they served in good conscience. They need not have served in a war but showed that they were ready. Stop by a Veterans Memorial and show your honor. Be sure to keep all our service people in prayer as they make great sacrifices of separation from family; and the responsibility of making more difficult judgments concerning what is right and just. And pray, pray that we have honorable men and women who are willing to serve.
November 1, 2022
Holloween! How was it? I am always amazed at how generous people are around here. I mean, we just finished having the Festival where tons of candy were thrown out to children and follow it up with treats for them demonstrating their costumes. In one those in the parade dressed up and brought the candy to the children; in the other the children dress up to go and get candy from the adults. What's it all about? Obviously, we want to be givers; we want to imitate those we celebrate this day. After all Holloween is 'hollowed evening' or holy evening looking forward to the day we celebrate today, All Saints day. Many saints are recognized on individual days but in 607 when Emperor Phocas donated the Pantheon (many gods) to the church the church blessed what had been a pagan temple and used it to remember the thousands of martyrs who had died in the first several centuries. The bones of many martyrs where brought to this building when it was rededicated. And, what a building it is. I remember being astounded at the quality of the architecture that allowed it to stand all these centuries. Anyway, what are saints except those who have given it all to Christ. In doing so they became models for us to find ways of giving of ourselves so our giving out of candy is a nice little reminder of how we are, or can, give of ourselves in many little acts. It is well for us then to not think of it as a , one and done, kind of experience but rather challenge us to think of the many ways we can give of ourselves to our families, our churches, and our community. As a matter of fact, next Tuesday is a time of elections. Taking time to vote is certainly a way of giving of our self. What little ways can you think of adding to your life in serving the above three important support systems in your life?
October 18, 2022
This is the third week in a row where Jesus has addressed ‘faith’; he says that if we had faith the size of a mustard seed we could tell this bush to be transplanted into the sea and it would do so. Who has that kind of faith? In other words in his normal hyperbole Jesus is saying don’t be afraid to ask impossible things. We have a God of the impossible. Then last week I shared on Luke's story of the 10 lepers who were healed and of the Samaritan one who returns to Jesus acknowledging Him as God and Jesus says his faith has saved him. He was not only healed by faith but even as a Samaritan he was saved by faith. Then this week we hear another parable from Jesus where he speaks of an unjust judge being moved by a woman’s persistence. Lk. 18:1 Jesus calls on us to ‘pray always’ and not give up, for God will secure justice for his chosen ones.Then he says ‘will he find such faith?’ Wouldn’t it seem that if you had to pray constantly about something it would indicate you didn’t have faith. If you had faith you would think that you could mention it once; leave it in God’s hands and be confident about that like the example I used last week: if you’re going to pray for rain carry an umbrella. It seems therefore that in asking us to pray day and night he is not telling us that we can force God’s hands but rather we are living in God’s presence and whatever the need is we are praying about is just the way of helping us to focus on such. The bottom line seems to be: if you have faith, pray all the time and don’t think that just going to church Sunday morning suffices. A Christian needs to have a disciplined prayer life to help be aware of God’s presence at all times. How is your prayer life? Does it witness to your praying always; always living with an awareness that the Lord is truly with you. He is. So, as a child of God, don't be afraid to ask for great things, for miracles. Then, in doing so trust that God truly knows what is best and thank Him for whatever the outcome. If it's not what you wanted, remember the words of St. Paul: 'we continue to bear within ourselves the completion of the sufferings of Christ.' After all, Jesus himself prayed 'Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me.' Trust God, He still knows what He is doing.
October 11, 2022
As I was preparing for this week's sermon I thought it might be a good idea to share with you. It's an interesting story in several ways that appears only in Luke. It's Luke 17:11. Luke has already been narrating his gospel as Jesus on his way to Jerusalem for crucifixion. He is the only evangelist that tells the story of 10 lepers which includes 1 Samaritan. Luke describes Jesus as going through Samaria and Galilee which doesn't work out in that order but he really has a love for Samaritans and wants to highlight this one. First off the fact that this Samaritan is with the 9 Jews is a sign that misery loves company. The lepers are already at the bottom of the totem pole. Being lepers they are outcasts; they must live outside of town; could not participate even in worship; they had to say 'unclean, unclean' if anyone approached them as to have contact with them was to make that person unclean. Samaritans are disdained by the Jews so it doesn't make much difference to these lepers that the Samaritan hangs out with them. By saying that there were 10 Luke is indicating a gathering of believers as it took 10 men to establish a synagogue. Now, at a distance, they proclaim loudly that they want mercy; they want to be healed. They must have heard of what Jesus could do and so they call Him, Master, demonstrating a real faith. Jesus doesn't heal them on the spot as he would normally do but has them to step out in faith and go to the priests. When they did so it showed they had real faith. There is no way they were going to get near a priest if they weren't healed. But, the Samaritan, even though he was also healed he knew good and well he wasn't going to get near the priests so he goes back to Jesus to give praise and thanks to God and getting on his knees showed that he believed Jesus was God and the true high priest. Now, what has it got to do with us? Are you one of those people who, when you pray asking for rain, carry an umbrella? Do you act as if your prayer will be answered affirmatively? When you read God's word and hear Him calling you to step out in faith and do something do you do so? Just as your father used to have you jump off a cabinet into his arms as a sign of faith in him so your heavenly Father calls you to step out in faith and trust Him. We really never know if we have faith until we do so. This past week we celebrated St. Francis of Assisi who when he saw the words in scripture: 'go sell all you have and give to the poor and come follow me' became one of the most remembered saints in history. Now, God is not asking that of everyone but He is asking that you trust him as when God calls us to tithe and then says: 'trust me in this.' What has He asked of you lately? How have you responded? Are you still wondering, waiting? Check it out with a trusted Christian friend and be amazed what God does in your life.
September 27, 2022
The Rich man and Lazarus
Have you noticed the phenomena that seems to be increasing in our area? It used to be pretty normal to go to Memphis or another big city and find people sitting at stop lights hoping to receive a handout. Now you experience it every time you go to Walmart in the Bluff or Cape. How does it affect you? If you see a sign saying: 'work for food.' Does it have more effect than one which says: 'I'm hungry.' Chances are you hope the light is green by the time you get there. Still, those who beg certainly do better than they would by trying to find a food pantry or Rescue Mission or Salvation Army. In Mexico we were always told not to give to panhandlers because it creates greater problems at major intersections. We were told to have them go to the agencies which we supported with our benevolence funds. Does that apply here? Whatever the situation, the reality is here and we each have to make decisions. Should I? Could I? This week we heard the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Lk 16:19ff) where the rich man dined sumptuously each day and Lazarus simply wanted the bread the rich man would wipe his greasy fingers on and throw on the floor for the dogs. (the original hush puppies) Jesus tells us what kind of man the rich man was when he says he had five brothers. He made number six; always an evil number. He and his brothers had the same life view: what's mine is mine and what's yours is mine. The great sin then becomes not being rich but not even noticing that Lazarus exists. This is why it is so important that even when we have nothing to offer we have an obligation to acknowledge the other person's presence, their dignity. The rich man is not even given a name whereas the poor man, Lazarus, one who trusts in God, is given a recognition not only in heaven but even on earth as long as earth exists. This lesson really came home for me this week when I heard a song played by John McCutcheon. I used to go to the world flat-picking contests in Wakefield, Kansas to hear him. Anyway he played 'Deportee' by Woody Gutherie. It's a song about 28 Mexican nationals whose green cards had expired. They were to be deported; flown on a plane with the immigration services agent and three others. The plane went down in California killing everyone. The saddest thing was not that they were being deported but that the four Americans were recognized and had graves while all 28 Mexicans were put in a mass grave; no markers, no names. They were to be forgotten as if they didn't exist. Every human being has a dignity which demands to be recognized. How will we recognize the more unfortunate around us? Many of us feel like the abortion tragedy was taken care of by the reversal of Roe vs. Wade this year. That is not the case, as millions of dollars are being funneled into Missouri by the rich to mislead us through attractive advertising so that we will ensconce abortion rights into the Missouri constitution as Kansas surprisingly did recently. Even the unborn have a dignity, a right to a name. This coming Sunday there will be the annual Life-Chain witness outside the courthouse in Poplar Bluff. Meet me there at 2:00 Sunday.
September 20, 2022
'You shall have no strange God before me.' 'You cannot serve two masters, either you will hate the one and love the other.' 'Husbands, love your wives as God loves his church.' 'This is why a man shall leave his mother and father and cling to his wife.' For the last couple weeks we have been considering how God desires the most intimate of relationships with us. This is why He created marriage to be a witness of that love. A person is to forsake all other relationships in order to build the oneness of marriage. Just so, one must subjugate all other things and relations, including spouse, in putting God first. Scripture even goes so far as to say: 'Woman, if your husband will keep you, remain with him; if not, you may leave him and be as if you have never been married.' in referring to a marriage where the man might not allow wife to be a Christian. Our relationship with God is simply not to be compromised with any other relationship. And yet, and yet, how often do we put almost anything and anybody above that relationship? For example, someone the other day said they could not make it to church a couple Sundays ago because they didn't know where church was. Really? This person was smart enough to be able to schedule a tournament in another town, arrange transportation for the team, find accommodations for the team and arrange all the meals but could not simply pick up the phone and say: 'Google, where is the closest ? Church to such and such stadium.' Christians are called to worship God every Sunday as a way of proclaiming to the world that He comes first. Scripture says: 'Do not forsake the gathering of the assembly on the day of the Resurrection.' And yet, how many times do I hear someone say: 'Oh, we had company and they were going to be leaving about the time we would leave for church.' Really? If you had something else of importance you wanted to do on that day, like tickets to a special ball game or a shower would you not have talked with them about that before they ever came? Just think of the witness you could be giving if you unequivocally shared with them that you find taking time for public worship a priority. How many times in the past I heard the testimony of a man who said when asked why they came into the church: 'you know when I was on ship or in college we used to go out partying late into the night but I noticed so and so always made it a point to get up and go to church; that said something to me.' Your example can be powerful without flaunting your religion. The simple fact is God more than deserves the little time we give him. When Jesus says that we cannot serve two masters as He does in this week's scripture He is asking us to make it clear in our lives that He does come before 'mother or father, brother or sister and all things for His sake and the Gospel.' Make it a habit to join public worship, even when you are out of town or have company.
September 19, 2022
When was the last time you sinned? Did you ask God for forgiveness? When was the last time you hurt someone else and asked them for forgiveness? Has anyone asked you for forgiveness lately? I bet it has been awhile in each of these situations. What has happened? Is nothing a sin any more? In each of these situations we seem to have forgotten who decides what is hurtful, what is a sin? Is it the do-er or the do-ee? Scripture tells us that a time would come when good would be deemed evil and evil good. Have we reached that point? Today it seems sin is never recognized, simply because we have deemed ourselves the judge of what is right or wrong. The Ten Commandments are only seen as wrong if I say so; if it meets my interpretation. Otherwise they are just God's helpful suggestions. Really? Again, who should decide? If someone steps on my toes is it okay for me to mention it and expect an apology? If the owner of a car or some other thing, or the CEO of a company says they do not want their property or business used in a certain way do they have a right of an apology or the right to prevent its further misuse? Surely a sane, normal, rational person would say 'of course.' Well then; does God, the creator and designer of all, not have a right to have certain stipulations in how we relate to Him, or others, or other of His creation? If so, then how are we so readily blowing off what He asks of us in terms of not using His name in vain or keeping holy the Lord's day which in the New Testament was clarified in saying 'do not forsake the gathering of the assembly on the day of the Resurrection.' How do we dismiss the sixth commandment, yes, the sex commandment with every form of aberration against it? How do we think nothing of bearing false witness against our neighbor? Are there any of His commandments, which He gave us for our own good, that you think ought to be held on to yet? If you have found yourself buying into the values of modern society and becoming lackadaisical about their value; or have even gone against them; even all of them, don't be afraid to truly come before the Lord in repentance and discover how ready He is to forgive. When Jesus gave us the story of the prodigal son He described the love of a father unlike any human you can imagine. Trust Him and say 'I'm sorry' and fully embrace ALL His commandments again. Know that He does love you; that He knows better the order in which things should go; for our happiness here on earth and our ability to be happy forever.
August 23, 2022
What would you rate as the greatest value? Your car, or someone else's baby playing in the street? Would you rescue your child from a burning house first or take time to find a fire extinguisher? Your own life or freedom for all? Inherently I think most people do value human life over things even though they don't sometimes seem to express it that way as was exemplified by a letter to the editor last week. This past week I had the opportunity to watch a recent movie produced by Ron Howard called '13 Lives'. It was not a Christian movie but it demonstrated the extent people will go to save the lives of others. It seems there were 13 young people caught in a cave in Thailand by an early Monsoon season which flooded the mine. The monsoon season would last a couple months so there was no hope of just waiting for the rain to stop. Word got out and a couple volunteer scuba rescue workers from England immediately left the comfort of their home and family to fly around the world in hopes of saving these young boys. The boys had already been 10 days in the cave. Do you give them up for dead or at least try? It took them 5 hours of difficult swimming to find them safe deep in the cave. Being they could not take them out it took another 5 hours to get out and let everyone know they were okay even though the oxygen level was going down in the cave. The local Navy Seals were ready then to go in with food while they tried to figure a way to retrieve them. In the process one of the Seals died. Alongside this was another great story of sacrifice. Efforts were being made to divert the rain on the mountain from going into the many shafts feeding the cave. To do this they would need to destroy a local rice harvest. In meeting with the owners of the rice paddies to seek their permission to do such a thing they told them that even with the loss of their crop they could not guarantee saving the boys. The farmers met and agreed to the loss of their crop even though it could mean a meager year and perhaps starvation. There was no government program promising support. What would you have done? At what point do you say that human life is not worth saving? 90 year olds; how about 60; or 12; or 2; or 1; or 9 months in the womb; 6 months; how about 3 months? To save any of these different lives it is only a matter of a trade off of things or inconveniences, or both, or our own life. 'There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for another'. Why is it so difficult for some to see the inherent value of every human life from that person's earliest moment until their natural end?