Sharing Our Faith

Reflections from Father Mike, Parochial Vicar


Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Parochial Vicar Reflections

The people of Nazareth had an agenda. Their agenda influenced how they interacted with people, and how they viewed a situation. We too have different agendas within our lives. Some of them are spoken, while others are unspoken. For example, “What are your plans for today?” We can ask because we truly care and want to know. There are other times we ask, because we already have our own plans, our own agenda, and we are just trying to figure out when and how we can accomplish our own agenda.

When our agendas have a common theme, amazing things can happen. Our relationships can deepen, our love can flourish, our faith can grow deeper, and many other good and productive things can happen. Yet, how often we tend to think first of our own needs, before others. There are times that we view ourselves above others before God. We do this anytime we see our group as more deserving than another of God’s goodness and grace. We do this anytime we feel entitled, to the exclusion of others, of God’s life and love.

When we live this way, we are living like the people of Nazareth. The ones who sought their own way of doing things. They did not want to see things from a possibly different perspective. Our Lord challenges the people of Nazareth and us here today, to not be confined by our own views. To allow Him to guide our lives, so we will be able to do His will. We will then be empowered to say daily, “Here I am Lord, I come to do your will”.

Cuarto Domingo del Tiempo Ordinario

Reflexiones del Vicario Parroquial

La gente de Nazaret tenía una agenda. Su agenda influyó en cómo interactuaban con las personas y cómo veían una situación. Nosotros también tenemos diferentes agendas dentro de nuestras vidas. Algunos de ellos se hablan, mientras que otros no se hablan. Por ejemplo, “¿Cuáles son sus planes para hoy?” Podemos preguntar porque realmente nos importa y queremos saber. Otras veces preguntamos, porque ya tenemos nuestros propios planes, nuestra propia agenda y sólo estamos tratando de averiguar cuándo y cómo podemos lograr nuestra propia agenda.

Cuando nuestras agendas tienen un tema común, pueden suceder cosas asombrosas. Nuestras relaciones pueden profundizarse, nuestro amor puede florecer, nuestra fe puede profundizarse y muchas otras cosas buenas y productivas pueden suceder. Sin embargo, con qué frecuencia tendemos a pensar primero en nuestras propias necesidades, antes que en otras. Hay veces en que nos vemos por encima de los demás ante Dios. Hacemos esto cada vez que vemos a nuestro grupo como más merecedor que otro de la bondad y la gracia de Dios. Hacemos esto cada vez que nos sentimos con derecho, a la exclusión de otros, de la vida y el amor de Dios.

Cuando vivimos de esta manera, estamos viviendo como la gente de Nazaret. Lo que buscaban su propia manera de hacer las cosas. No querían ver las cosas desde una perspectiva posiblemente diferente. Nuestro Señor desafía a la gente de Nazaret y a nosotros aquí hoy, a no ser confinados por nuestros propios puntos de vista. Permitir que Él guíe nuestras vidas, para que podamos hacer su voluntad. Entonces tendremos la facultad de decir diariamente: “Aquí estoy Señor, para hacer tu voluntad”.


Baptism of the Lord

January 13, 2019

I am sure that almost everyone here, has seen photo albums before. Most parents have photo albums, which are filled with pictures taken of their family, as they grow up. I have several of my own, of my boys as they were growing up. I bet many of us here took many pictures during this past Christmas season and New Year’s.

Photo albums are filled with pictures, that help us to remember events from the past. They also help us to reflect on how proud we are of those we have taken pictures of. For example, we are proud of our children as they grow up. Be not afraid to tell our children that we are proud of them. They may make numerous mistakes in their lives, but sometimes that is how we learn.

The gospel today, tells us that God the father is also proud of his son Jesus. When Jesus was baptized, the gospel tells us that there was a voice from heaven. This voice told the people, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” God was pleased with His son, because he was obedient, to what he asked of him. Thus, he grew in wisdom, stature, and in favor with God. So, that raises an interesting question.

What would God say of us here today, about how we are following his will for us. Do we always do what we are asked to do? I doubt if many of us could answer “yes” to that question. I know that I cannot answer “yes”. For I make many mistakes and do not do all that I can to follow God’s will for me. But Jesus could answer “yes” to that question. For he said “I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.” Being obedient and accepting God’s will, “isn’t easy”. Just look at Adam and Eve, who chose to follow their own will. Our Lord also battled with this, for he was tempted in the desert to follow his own will. We are also tempted to follow our own will, instead of our Heavenly Father’s will. Our Lord is trying to show us that obedience to the will of God, is the path to holiness. This path to Holiness, is what our Lord desires for each of us to follow. Even though we struggle trying to control our will, let us not give up, but keep trying.

As we go through life, we come to know that we cannot do this all on our own, but we need his help.

Ask our Lord to help us to believe, live, and say daily “Here I am Lord; I come to do your will.” When we believe and live these words deep in our heart, then the path of holiness starts to unfold before us. For that is the plan of God, that his will be done in each of us, so that God’s plan of salvation, may be accomplished.” It is important that we strive to try to do his will each day. Even though we may fail, we must not give up, but keep trying. It makes a father proud to watch his children grow in maturity, wisdom, and holiness. For any of us to have any chance of accomplishing this, we need to seek our Lord’s help.

First, by praying to know God’s will.

Secondly, by praying for the desire to do His will.

And thirdly, once we know his will, to pray for the strength to do his will.

For what joy there will be in heaven, when we stand before God someday, and we hear him say to us. You are my beloved Son, my beloved daughter, in whom I am well pleased.


Feast of the Epiphany

January 6, 2019

Did you notice that there seems to be three different groups of people found in today’s Gospel reading.

Each group seems to have a unique attitude or behavior. These same three groups of behaviors are also very much present in our own world today.

The first group, are like the wise men.They are the seekers of God’s truth, and they continuously look for it. They are focused on putting a lot of their efforts into their spiritual journey. They look forward to walking with our Lord each and every day. They want to discover our Lord, more and more each day. They encounter him at Mass, in the sacraments, in personal prayer, and in the people, they encounter. They are deeply involved in sharing their faith with others. Especially within families, workplaces, and everywhere else they encounter the people God sends into their lives.

The second group are like the Herods of the world. They claim to have noble intentions, but deep down inside, they are motivated by self-interest and self-gain. They tend to be two-faced. They will say kind things to you when they are with you, but then they will go behind your back, and trash your reputation and encourage division. They often say they are religious, but don’t want to participate in religious activities. They let their feelings and emotions decide what is morally right.

The third group are like the citizens of Bethlehem.  They tend to be very self-focused. For the Messiah was growing up right in their midst, and they failed to even notice or appreciate it. Many of them are like modern-day Christians, who profess a belief in our Lord, yet they tend to act apathetic toward him. They may show up to church one hour each Sunday. Yet for them, Mass is looked upon as something to “check off the list” each week, like getting groceries or paying bills. The other days of the week, they live their lives as if God is not an important priority. They typically know about Jesus, but they do not really know Jesus. For them, sports, money, business, pleasure, or other worldly pursuits are more important, than an encounter with our Lord. They do not listen for the knock of our Lord on the door of their hearts each day. Worldly pursuits are preferred over walking with our Lord through prayer, each and every day.

So, that raises an interesting question. Which of these three groups, do we find ourselves in?

Our grouping is defined by our actions, and not by our desires. Just because we warm a seat in a pew, or a presiders chair on the altar, does not mean we are like the wise men.

Take some time, and ask the Holy Spirit to help us to know which group we are in.

The story we heard in today’s Gospel, is calling all of us, to notice and follow our Lord’s star. His star is like the Holy Spirit leading us to Christ. Our hearts are being drawn to seek our Lord each day. The star is leading us to an encounter with our Lord. Through this encounter, we will find purpose and fulfillment.

For our Lord tells us, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly”.

There are many stars in this world beckoning for our attention, and are seeking us to follow them. Some lead us to a life of loving service to others.  While others lead us to a life of loving service to ourselves.The journey of the wise men, like our own journeys, involve highs and lows, filled with times of insights and doubts.

Through all of our challenges, always remember to keep our eyes on his star. When we encounter our Lord, approach him with humble hearts and with open hands filled with the gifts that we each have. Do not hold too tightly to the gifts we carry, but loosely, so we can share them generously, in the service of our Lord.

Pray for inspiration, and ask our Lord, to send us out each day to be bearers of his love, to all whom we encounter. To help others to come to encounter the merciful love and compassion of our Lord.

Seek him, then follow him.


Feast of the Holy Family

December 30, 2018

Just a few days ago we celebrated the birth of Christ. As we have celebrated our redeemer’s birth, we now celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family. A family filled with much joy, but also carrying their share of distress and sorrow.

Most every parent knows the panic that shoots through us, when we notice one of our children are not where they are supposed to be.Perhaps we are at the airport, mall, or in a sports arena and we let go of our little one’s hand just for a second, and we reach for it again, and it’s not there.

I’ve experienced that panic feeling before and I’m sure many of you have as well.If we’re a parent and haven’t experienced that feeling yet don’t worry, we probably will someday. I would not wish those feelings upon anyone.

Can you try to imagine the emptiness in the pit of their stomach has Mary and Joseph first discover that their precious son is missing. Asking everyone if they’ve seen a young boy about so tall, with this color of hair and wearing these kinds of clothes. I can’t imagine the three days of frantic searching.

An interesting side note, to this gospel reading is that this is the only account I found, where Jesus is a boy. He is referenced in other places as a baby and then as a man. We know so little about his years as a youth.

Up till now, Jesus did everything good Jewish boys did. When they find him in the temple, they are very relieved.Yet he responds by saying, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?

This incident was not disobedience on Jesus’ part. It was not to show that Joseph and Mary were irresponsible parents.  This situation seems to show a shift from Jesus obeying his earthly father, to obeying his Heavenly Father.

Our Lord feels the call to do his father’s will, to be near him, and to teach and guide other, as a good shepherd does. He starts on a little different journey at this point.

We should take some time and reflect on our journey with our Lord. Have we left Jesus behind, because of our ambitions and priorities in life? We need to take the time to ensure that our priorities align and match with God’s priorities.

Our world teaches us that we should find our own way. That we don’t need someone telling us what to do. Yet, our Lord tells us that he is the way, and the truth, and the life.

Take some time to ponder, if we are making the correct journey by reflecting on our daily actions. For example, when was the last time we came into church early, to prepare our hearts and minds to meet him. When was the last time we set aside time on our weekends to pray or to spend a little time reading some scripture. What is so important, in our lives that we leave Mass early and don’t want to pray together as a community of faith.

I have a question for the children and young people here.What would you have been doing if you were left alone for three days, like Jesus was?

This is an important thing for us to reflect on. We see that at age 12, Jesus was very responsible. He could have been doing anything he wanted. Yet what did he choose, but to be obedient to his heavenly Father. He chose to pray and to share his understand of God with others.I believe the age of maturity is increasing, instead of decreasing. I think our culture is less mature now at age 12 for example, than it was in the past.

I remember soon as our feet could reach the clutch peddle on the tractor, my brother and I were helping in the fields on the farm. As I was pondering this age of maturity, I came across some great words of wisdom from the previous generations.

It is something we should reflect on as we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family. We don’t hear people speaking of these things much now a days. If you’re old enough to do wrong, you’re old enough to do right. If you’re old enough to talk, you’re old enough to pray. If you’re old enough to read, you’re old enough to read the Bible. If you’re old enough to play video games, you’re old enough to keep your room clean and to help around the house

That last one, is one that I thought should be added to the list.

During this Christmas season, let us reflect on our journey of faith. Let us pray that there will be an awakening in our hearts, minds, and lives.

Our Lord invites us to have a personal encounter with him. If we are serious about encountering our Lord, we need to seek him through prayer and daily devotions.

One of the best ways I know of doing this is to join a small prayer group. If there is not one in your neighborhood, then start one.

Our Lord gave us the key, as to how we are to encounter him.He said,“Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.”

Seek him…


Fourth Week of Advent

December 23, 2018

Mary and Elizabeth, the two pregnant women in today’s Advent gospel, recognized in each other, signs from God.  Mary sees the hand of God at work in Elizabeth’s conception in her old age. Elizabeth in her turn, senses in the movement of the child in her womb, on Mary’s arrival, that something extraordinary was happening.

Each of the women, experienced in themselves the possibility of the impossible.

The visitation of Mary to Elizabeth turned out to be a divine visitation. Elizabeth in her old age, gives thanks to God and trusts in his providence. Unlike Sarah, in her old age, who had laughed at the notion that she could conceive and bear a child for Abraham. Mary, for her part, deserved to be acclaimed by Elizabeth for she is praised for being the mother of our Lord and savior.

Mary’s Magnificat celebrates the wonders of God’s graciousness in her life.

As we ponder her Magnificat, we should also reflect on the wonders the Mighty One has done in our lives. Both women had good reason to be very preoccupied with their pregnancies and all that new life brings. But what does Mary do, soon as she becomes aware of Elizabeth’s pregnancy Mary’s quick response and movement, shows clearly that her heart is filled with love and compassion for others.

Already filled with the Holy Spirit, she did not allow anyone or anything to stop her. She reaches out immediately to Elizabeth, to offer her help and also, to be helped by her. They console each another, by sharing their stories, and by giving each other, the gift of themselves. They do this in the midst of the new life that they are both experiencing. Mary’s actions reflect a decision, made deep within her heart, followed by immediate action.

How many things exist in our lives, that we dreamed of doing, that should have been done, but never were. Phone calls and letters that should have been made, dreams that should have been realized, gratitude that was not expressed, love and affection never shown, and words that should have been spoken, but never were.

When we postpone things, they can weigh heavily upon us, wearing us down and discouraging us. Today’s gospel, teaches us a very important lesson. Never delay in showing love and compassion for God and neighbor. It is when our Lord’s spirit is growing inside of us, that we will be led to encounter people, places and situations that we never dreamed of.

When our faith is growing, we will be lead and called to action. We will be bearers of words of consolation and hope, that are not our own. In the very act of consoling others, we will also be consoled and we will be more at peace. If we find that we are not lead and inspired into action, our faith may have become weak, self-center, and stagnant.

The women of today’s Gospel, show us that it is possible to move beyond our own limitations and weaknesses. For many of our limitations and weaknesses are self-imposed. 

In this short time before Christmas, let us reflect on Mary and Elizabeth’s lives.  How they trusted in situations that were beyond their control. Situations that took them far outside of their comfort zones. To truly live what they believed, in times where all they could do was to trust.

Be not afraid, to open our hearts and to trust him who created us from love, for love. To take that love we have received, and share it with those in need. To encourage those that have become discouraged by life with our compassion and kindness. To forgive those who we feel have wronged us, and trust God to be the just judge in all situations. To allow our Lord to fill the loneliness that is in each of our lives with his great love.

Remember also that love takes us places that we are not always use to being. Love works in ways that are sometimes beyond our understanding. Pray and ask for his help and guidance. Allow him to draw us closer to his heart, which beats tirelessly for each one of us.

 Visitation, Mariotto Albertinelli, 1503

Visitation, Mariotto Albertinelli, 1503


Third Week of Advent

December 16, 2018

 

. . . Have you ever seen the movie, Miracle on 34th Street? It starts out with little 10-year-old Susie, sitting in a window. She is watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade taking place in the street below her window. To her, it’s just another parade, just like any other day. She does not seem to take seriously that Christmas is coming. She has lost her ability to wonder, and to dream. She has become distracted by this world.

Have our hearts become like little Susie’s?
Are we distracted, have we lost our wonder and anticipation of Christmas?
Do we see this advent season of Christmas, as just another day?. . .

. . . John the Baptist, in his preaching, reminds the Jewish people, and us here today also, that we should continuously be preparing ourselves for the coming of our Lord.
John is showing us that this is what true repentance looks like.
When we repent, we want to start again, we want to change and live our lives differently.
John calls us to share our gifts as a sign of our repentance. . .

. . .I challenge us this advent season, to not be like little Susie, who just sits in her window, watching life pass her by. Step out in faith and trust from our windows, and go out and encounter our Lord, this Advent, among his people.

Share with Him our hearts, and some of the gifts He has given us.

Seek his face in those that are struggling, and who need a friend, and a shoulder to lean on.

Ask Him to fill our hearts with joy and wonder, so we too may prepare our hearts, our families, and our Country, for the coming of the Lord.


Second Week of Advent

December 9, 2018

 

. . . John the Baptist’s message comes to us today as a visual image of human weakness, yet also shows us an image of virtue. He pleads with us to, “prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low.

What grudges and unforgiveness has our self-righteousness and self-centeredness turned into mountains. What sinful habits have we made into deep valleys and festering swamps? How has our pride, greed, and self-centeredness taken us onto crocked, winding, and dangerous paths?   

John is calling us:

To forgive and to not make mountains out of little molehills.

To seek the sacrament of reconciliation to help fill the valleys and drain the swamps of our sinful.

To seek the straight path of love of God and neighbor, so we are less likely to get lost on life’s crocked paths.

Some of us can probably add something for advent. Like more prayer time each day, or maybe trying to be more caring to those that are different. Some of us can also probably remove something for advent. Maybe turning off that TV and other devices, and spending more time with our families and friends.

. . . Take some time this advent season, to absorb into our hearts the words of John. For we are all called to prepare the way, for our Lord to come into our hearts.

Oh Lord, help us, to follow John the Baptist’s example, by helping others who are in need, out of our love for them.  Help us, to count it an honor to love and serve our neighbors.  Help us, to make room joyfully in our hearts for the coming of our savior.


First Week of Advent

December 2, 2018

 

. . . We are to stay awake, to be prepared, to be ready.

We are to prepare anew our hearts to receive our Lord.  We are to be vigilant in not allowing consumerism and materialism to distract us from our journey.  We are also to quiet our hearts and minds so, we can hear the gentle voice of our Lord.  To allow his birth to inspire us to share our love for him with others. . .

. . . our hearts can be like a manger. A place where our Lord can nourish us, and others. But before this can take place, our hearts must first be prepared to receive him. He cannot come into the manger of our hearts, if there is no room. Often our hearts are filled with anger, anxiety, selfishness, prejudice, and un-repented sins. When our hearts are filled with these things, then there is no room for the one we should most desire to be with us.

During this Advent season, our Lord wants us to seek an encounter with him. To prepare our hearts for his coming. To be vigilant, and to not get distracted in our preparation for him. To clean and prepare for him, the manger of our hearts. It will not be easy to accomplish this preparation, for we all get easily distracted. So pray, and seek out our Blessed Mother’s help, for she too prepared a manger for our savior. When our manger is ready, then invite baby Jesus to come and stay within our hearts. For he will fill our hearts with great joy. Then take that joy, and share it with others.

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