Sunday, November 11, 2018

5th Resumed Sunday after Epiphany @ Holy Family

NOVEMBER 11, 2018

Howard William Osterkamp from Dent, Ohio served for nine months of his two-years of service on the 38th parallel in Korea with C Company, 5th Regimental Combat Team.

About half-way through those nine months, he was wounded in the leg with schrapnel, and suffered two breaks in his leg, but this was misdiagnosed by Army doctors, and he was returned to the front lines for four more months.

Osterkamp is credited with the phrase: “All gave some; some gave all.”

Today, is Veteran’s Day – which originated as Armistice Day 99 years ago at the end of the First World War. It took 19 years for Congress to declare it a national holiday.

It is also the memorial of St. Martin of Tours, who originally was a military man from a military family, and lived in the fourth century.

Pious legend tells us that Martin, seeing a poor beggar in the cold, took his sword and cut his own military cloak in half – sharing it with the shivering man. That night he had a dream where Christ appeared and repeated that well-known phrase “what you did for this the least of my brethren, you did for me.” And upon waking up, Martin saw that his cloak was no longer half, but 100%.

This led to his conversion, and eventually becoming a bishop in France.

Interestingly, the words “chapel” and “chaplain” supposedly arise from the French word for cloak or cape … and refer to the buildings where St. Martin’s cloak was displayed for prayer, and to the clergy who attended to the cloak as it moved from place to place.

In today’s Epistle from St. Paul’s letter to the Colossians, we hear: “But above all these things, put on charity, which is the bond of perfection.” Also of interest is that this is the Scripture that gives rise to the prayer all priests pray when they assume the chasuble – the outer cloak of the sacred vestments used for Mass.

In the Gospel, we hear one of the parables of weeds and the wheat. When the good seed came up as weeds, the servants are puzzled, while the master knows: “An enemy hath done this.

In our own time, there is much bad fruit to be found in business, politics, and just about everywhere. There are weeds among the clergy – among those who have claimed to serve the Church. Yet, those men  no longer seek to serve Holy Mother Church, but rather viciously now seek to be served by the Church. This has caused much damage to souls, and indeed “An enemy hath done this.

Our solution is a call to arms – but not with swords or troops or calvary. Rather, our weapons against the Enemy of our souls are virtue, prayer, and charity … as St. Paul has told us in today’s Epistle.
In order to know this Enemy, we must examine the fruits. And where the fruit is rotten and weeds grow in place of wheat – we know what has happened, and we know what it is we must do.

As we approach this altar to receive the Sacred Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ … let us never forget that He, and He alone has given everything. And indeed, while “all gave some, and some gave all” Yet we know that it is God alone Who has given us every good thing. Let us, in following Christ – Who gave His Life for our salvation – and those good examples of service – both to country and to Church – seek to return to God all the good He has given us … for the Greater Glory of the Almighty.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

31st Sunday OT @ St. Apollinaris Parish

NOVEMBER 3 / 4, 2018

Call waiting is a telecom service offered by phone companies so that a person may switch from a call already in progress to accept a second incoming call. The person receiving the calls can also switch between the two calls.

To let you know that there is a second call coming in, a 440 Hz (four hundred forty hertz) tone is played in the earpiece every 10 seconds. If you want to disable this, you dial *70 (star seven zero) before making a call.

Call waiting was rolled out in the US starting in the early 1970s, when the old dial phone switches were replaced with electronic touch tone switches.

These days, it seems, call waiting is a normal part of any phone service; and it would seem strange to not have call waiting on any phone line.

Today is the 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time.

In the first reading and the Gospel, we hear the Jewish prayer known as the Sh’ma (שְׁמַע) – Sh’ma Israel, Adonia elohenu, Adonai ehad. Or:
Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone!
This prayer is the centerpiece of Jewish morning and evening prayer, and it’s twice daily recitation by devout Jews is considered a mitzvah – that is, a religious precept commanded by God. Since the 3rd century, rabbis have held that there are a total of 613 precepts or mitzvah – 365 negative commandments (i.e. “Thou shalt nots”) and 248 positive commandments (i.e. “Thou shalts”). 

The number 365 was thought to be to the number of tendons in the human body, while 248 was thought to be the number of bones in the human body by medieval rabbis. 

Modern physiology says that a newborn has over 300 bones, while an adult has about 206; and that there are about 1,320 tendons in an adult body.

And while not particularly accurate, the idea being taught is that the precepts of God were uniquely suited to humanity, and if God created Adam and Eve with 365 tendons and 248 bones, then it was fitting that God should give that many commandments to keep us upright and connected. 

Today is also the beginning of “National Vocations Awareness Week.” 

And while all of us have a vocation – that is, a call from God. God calls us from our first moments in the womb, and strengthens our call sacramentally in baptism and confirmation, as well as in marriage and holy orders.

Each person’s call is as unique as each person is unique … each call is configured to a particular  and unique individual. Our call originates with God … but it is part of us … it is in our bones … a reflex … a gut response … in response to the action of the three Divine Persons … operating in our lives.

When we hear the word “vocation,” we tend to think of religious sisters and brothers; or deacons and priests. 

And while “religious vocations” seem to be front and center in service to the Church – the Church in actuality is the People of God. And there are a whole lot more of you than there are of me.

Nonetheless, I would like to speak briefly about my own vocation – not because it’s particularly important or fascinating, but because with this being “National Vocations Awareness Week,” my own vocation is the one vocation of which I am most aware.

I am a late vocation. That means, I was NOT in my 20s when I was ordained. For the record, I was 46 when I was finally ordained a priest, and turned 47 three days later. I used to tell diocesan Vocation Directors that I had “call waiting.” I’m not sure they found it as funny as I did, but that was OK.

Throughout my life, I knew I had a call. But there were things I needed to do, and places I needed to go … before I ended up “settling down” as a priest.

And so, by the time I reached the day of my ordination to the priesthood, at the age of 46 years, 11 months, and 362 days … I had worked in the automotive industry, designed electronics for factory systems, written safety software for vehicle brake and traction systems, served in the US Naval Air Corps, flown on reconnaissance missions, studied languages, travelled and lived abroad, held a US Patent, did a brief stint as a public defender … and had seen and experienced and done … an awful lot of different things.

When I acted on my call – after many years of “call waiting,” … I took the plunge. The rest is history. This coming June, will be my 10 year anniversary. 

God’s call requires a response from us. A call needs to be heard. Like the words of the sh’ma prayer: “Hear O Israel the Lord is your God.

As we approach this altar to receive the Sacred Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, let us be attentive to the voice of God … calling out to us in the Person of His Son … and in the power of the Holy Spirit. Let us listen to, and hear the call … and respond: “I love you, Lord, my strength.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

30th Sunday OT @ St. Apollinaris Parish

OCTOBER 28, 2018

The Jesus Prayer” or the “Prayer of the Heart” is an eastern Church prayer form consisting of repetitions of the prayer “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner” oftentimes synchronized with ones breathing.

The 19th century book “The Way of a Pilgrim” tells the tale of a wandering pilgrim who travels through southern and central Ukraine, Russia, and Siberia.

The pilgrim’s journey begins when he is struck by the words of St. Paul in First Thessalonians to “pray without ceasing.” He visits monasteries and churches hoping to find someone who will explain to him … how … to pray without ceasing – but without much success.

He finally meets a wizened old religious, who teaches him the Jesus Prayer.

The remainder of the book details the progression of spiritual development of the author – amidst his own struggles – and how his practice of the Jesus prayer affects him … and those around him.

Today is the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time.

We hear in the Psalm Response:
The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.
Do we recognize the great things God has done for us? Are we filled with joy?

The first reading from the Prophet Jeremiah speaks of the same things that the verses of the Psalm speak of … restoration of the people of God … and the joy that they have experienced in response to that restoration.

In a sense, Israel has experienced a loss – and God has restored what they have lost.

The Letter to the Hebrews speaks of Christ’s priesthood – and His “offer[ing of] gifts and sacrifices for sin” in order to restore us – the members of His Body – to what our spiritual inheritance.

And in the Gospel, we hear the story of Blind Bartimaeus.

He cries out:
Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.
And despite the crowd telling him to stop,
he kept calling out all the more.
As Bartimaeus continues calling out, Jesus calls him.

He gets up. Throws aside his cloak, and goes to Jesus.

In a short exchange, Jesus asks him what he wants, he responds in the simplest of petitions, and immediately he received what he asked for, and followed Jesus on the way.

The prayer of Bartimaeus is nothing more than the prayer of the heart. He was single-minded in what he wanted. He threw aside the only thing he had to come when Christ called him, and in faith made his request, and received.

As we continue with our prayer in this Holy Sacrifice of the Mass; and as we approach this altar to receive the Sacred Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ … let us pray from our heart … in simplicity … and focused on Christ alone – who can save us … let us recognize the Great High Priest here before us, and crying out to Him:
Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner
May we recognize the great things God has done for us, and let us receive … and be filled with joy.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

29th Sunday OT @ St. Apollinaris Parish

OCTOBER 20 / 21, 2018

Barbara Kellerman is a professor of public leadership at the JFK School of Government at Harvard University; and was one of the founders of the International Leadership Association. Forbes ranked her among the top 50 business thinkers, and she is considered one of the top 15 best minds on leadership.

Her recent works have focused on the role of what she calls “followership,” as well as bad leadership, and the waning of traditional models of leadership.

She enumerates seven categories of “bad” leaders: (1) incompetent, (2) rigid, (3) intemperate, (4) callous, (5) corrupt, (6) insular, and (7) evil. While enumerating five types of followers: (1) isolates, (2) bystanders, (3) participants, (4) activists, and (4) diehards – categorized by their levels of engagement and participation.

Dr. Kellerman has indicated that there is a lot a person can learn about being a good leader by being a good follower.

Today is the Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time.

Our first reading is from the 53rd Chapter of Isaiah – one of the “Suffering Servant Songs.” Christians have considered this to be the Person of Jesus Christ as evidenced in its being referenced in the Gospels of Matthew and John, the Acts of the Apostles, and St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans.

The “Servant” is Jesus, and His offering to God is His Life, Passion, and Death.

The author of the Letter to the Hebrews portrays Our Lord’s self-offering into the role of High Priest, encouraging Christians (ourselves included) to approach the Throne of Almighty God through Christ Jesus, in order “to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.

The short Gospel reading from St. Mark is part of an optional longer reading, where first James and John are looking for prime seating in the Kingdom – that is, they want to sit at Jesus’s left and right. He, however, calls them to a higher purpose – to share in His “cup” and in His “baptism.” And indeed, James was the first Apostle to suffer martyrdom in Jerusalem, and John lived a life of suffering in exile.

We see in succession how last week the man who approached Jesus “went away sad, for he had many possessions.” Instead of bringing him happiness, the things he owned ended up owning him … and holding him back from following Jesus.

And today, the disciples are lobbying and jockeying for power … focusing on defective, worldly models of leadership … instead of focusing on following Christ – who is right there, in front of them.

Jesus’s call to follow Him requires us to re-evaluate how, who, and what we are following. And in choosing to follow Christ, we must follow His example of service to God’s Most Holy Will. We must follow Him, and Him alone, so that we can share in His power … and can reign with Him in the Glory of the Kingdom.

When we hear the word “authority,” we should recognize our own need to surrender to God who is the “Author” of life and the “Author” of all things. Further reading in the Book of Hebrews, would bring us to reflect on our own self-surrender to Christ Jesus, who is called the Author “and Perfecter of our faith,” and how that should influence us in our daily life as followers of Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.

As we approach this altar to receive the Sacred Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ – let us pray to let go of worldly ideas of power, possession, and prestige – and surrender everything to God through Christ Jesus in the grace and mercy of the Holy Spirit. May we serve as Jesus served – through a complete self-gift and through a complete self-offering to God… in every thought, word, and deed.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

27th Sunday OT @ St. Apollinaris Parish

OCTOBER 7, 2018

On July 22, 1962 … the deep space probe Mariner 1 was launched. Due to a software glitch, the range safety officer ordered it to self-destruct less than 300 seconds after launch.

38 days later, on August 27, its successor probe, Mariner 2, was launched. 110 days later, on December 14, it became the first spacecraft to encounter the planet Venus.

No photographs were taken. Rather, its instrumentation consisted of a microwave radiometer, an infrared radiometer, a magnetometer, and a Geiger counter.

19 days later, it stopped transmitting radio signals; but remains in a solar orbit to this day.

Mariner 3 was launched 23 months later with the intention of encountering Mars. However, it failed to deploy its solar panels, and eight (8) hours into the flight, the batteries died.

Mariner 4 was launched 3 weeks later, and after 7 and a half months, reached Mars. Over the course of six hours, 22 photographs were transmitted (twice), and the data was hand drawn – like a paint-by-number – while waiting for the computers to digitally process the data.

In total, 634 kilobytes of data was returned, and after 3 years and 23 days, the mission was terminated.

Now, over 50 years later, the search for Martian life remains on-going, with a long-term goal of attempting to return samples from Mars to Earth for more in-depth testing.

Our efforts to encounter extra-terrestrial life continues, without success … yet.

Today is the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time.

Our readings focus on relationships – in particular marriage, children, and family.

Beyond mere interpersonal relationships – family relationships can cause great joy, or great stress. In life and in death, people oftentimes struggle to express the emotional and familial relationships in a positive way; while others experience deep and constructive levels of understanding, trust, and affection.

I have often wondered how – when it is so hard for so many to communicate within our own households and families … let alone between nations and ethnicities – how we expect to ever communicate with intelligent extra-terrestrial life … should we ever encounter it.

From infancy to old age, perhaps the best summary statement on relationships within families … and without … is that they are complex, often awkward, and many times difficult.

In the letter to the Hebrews, we hear that Jesus, in becoming “lower than the angels” for “a little while” is not “ashamed to call [us]” family. And that should give us pause.

The Sacrament of Baptism gives us new birth into the family of God; while the Sacrament of Matrimony makes husbands and wives sharers in God’s creative act, and presents the saving reality of Jesus Christ as a symbol of His love for the Church.

Our role, in all of this – whether in familial, parochial, or other relationships – is to unite ourselves with God in Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit … so that we might manifest in all of our relationships the power of divine love as expressed in the relationships found within the Most Holy Trinity.

The Sacrament of the Eucharist gives us the strength to do that on a regular basis, while the Sacrament of Confirmation configures us for mission in the power of the Holy Spirit. And the Sacrament of Penance provides us with a means to bring God’s power into our struggles and weaknesses … so that we might better – day by day – put into practice the Faith we profess to believe.

In all the Sacraments, God has provided us the means to grow in Faith, Hope, and Love with Him … and to express His saving presence in our lives with those we encounter in our lives.

As we approach this altar to receive the Sacred Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ – may we encounter the Divine Persons in an extra-temporal and extra-spatial way. Let us engage the saving power of the Cross in our every thought, word, and deed … so that in all of our relationships – both human and Divine – we may find an encounter with the living Christ … Jesus Christ … as Brother, and Savior, and Lord.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

26th Sunday OT @ St. Apollinaris Parish

SEPTEMBER 30, 2018

This past week, a word has re-surfaced, which it would seem has a vague meaning. But a word without much meaning is not much of a word in itself – as the whole purpose of words is to convey meaning.

The word is “clericalism.”

Clericalism can mean the over-esteem of the clergy by the faithful, the artificial separation of the clergy from the people, or even micro-management by clergy in their day-to-day work.

In a word, if you want to curse a priest, deacon, or bishop in the twenty-first century, just use the word “clericalism.” It seems it can mean just about anything in any situation.

But the word does have a meaning. And that meaning is profound.

Clericalism refers to an “ecclesiolatry” – that is, an “excessive devotion to the institutional aspects of organized religion … over and against the religion’s own beliefs and faith.” It can also refer to the “cronyism and cloistered [politics]” that often arise in organized religions.

It results in the creation of cliques and clubs, a separation of people at the top and the bottom, and the misuse of persons, assets, and power in ways that are outright toxic and grossly dysfunctional.

The idea of “my church – right or wrong” without examining the facts and issues; and without giving quarter to the rule of law – leaves nothing but an rotten shell … a failing human-led organization … devoid of God, and devoid of love.

Today is the 26th Sunday of Ordinary Time.

St. James gets our attention with the opening words of Chapter 5 of his Epistle:
Come now, you rich, weep and wail over your impending miseries.
But looking at the Greek word here rendered as “you rich”, it could perhaps be translated as “you who are overly satisfied.” 

In this we can hear the echo of the words of Our Lord in St. Luke’s Gospel, where He says four times “Blessed are you who …” – in an abbreviated form of the eight Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Plain – followed by four times saying, “woe to you …

Both our Lord and St. James are pushing back against a certain “self-satisfaction” or a “smugness” in how people were living out their lives. This is less about how full their bank account was, and more about how full of themselves they were.

We see in both the Old Testament and in the Gospel how even a little authority made some of the leaders of Israel … and some of the disciples … jealous of others’ exercising ministry in God’s Holy Spirit … and in Jesus’s Name.

Christians are called to be “in the world, but not of the world.” In His farewell discourse in John chapter 17, after asking God to do just that for His disciples, Jesus asks that we be “consecrate[d] … in the truth” as He then sends us into the world.

For us this can be tenuous. The culture worships money, power, and sex. And these false gods destroy lives – not only in the here and now, but in eternity. These false gods can warp our perceptions on how we are to utilize the gifts of God, the power of God, and our service to God within the Christian community. And these false gods can affect how we interact with one another … and with the poor.

In those situations, we need to indeed “weep and wail over [our] impending miseries” … and “woe to us” when we misuse what has been entrusted to us for the greater Glory of God and the building up of His Kingdom.

As we approach this altar to receive the Sacred Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, let us “cut off” any worldliness that stands between us and Him. Let us “pluck out” those false gods and warped perceptions of who we are and who we are called to be in Christ. May our only boast be in Our Lord Jesus Christ and in His Cross – “through which the world has been crucified to [us], and [we have been crucified] to the world.”

Saturday, September 22, 2018

25th Sunday OT @ St. Apollinaris Parish

SEPTEMBER 22/23, 2018

Human relationships are complicated.

Social scientists tell us that all human beings need to feel love and acceptance.

All human societies demonstrate social exchange – in the form of business relationships or aspects of interpersonal exchange.

Human beings are also influenced by their peer group – that is, relationships develop ones sense of self and influence behaviors.

Positive relationships are described by psychologists as flourishing, budding, blooming, or blossoming – indicating that they are not only happy, but also show characteristics of growth, intimacy, and resilience.

Pathological or negative relationships, on the other hand, do quite the opposite. There are abusive relationships – on all levels of interaction. Dysfunctional relationships can foster co-dependency. And supposedly narcissists seek to distance themselves from intimate relationships, maintaining only superficial, self-serving contact with others.

A word which was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2010 which describes an uneasy middle-ground relationship is “frenemy.” “Frenemy” is an oxymoronic portmanteau of the words “friend” and “enemy” joined into a single concept.

It could be described as the person you love to hate or someone who pretends to be a friend so they can betray you at a later time.

Although it was only officially added to the Oxford English Dictionary eight years ago, its earliest use was in 1953 in an article by the gossip columnist Walter Winchell in the Nevada State Journal. The title of the article was “Howz about calling the Russians our Frienemies?” Yet nearly 60 years later, it still seems to be a neologism – a newly coined word.

Today is the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time.

Saint James, in the second reading, provides us with a stern talking-to regarding how “jealousy … selfish ambition … [and] disorder” in our human relationships can impede our most important relationship – that is, our relationship with God almighty.

The reading from the Book of Wisdom shows that what James encountered is not unique to the first century. Written toward the end of the Classical Age, today’s first reading from Wisdom plays out the thinking and the efforts of the wicked who seek to undermine the righteous.

Sort of lends an ancient air to the early 19th century expression of “[darned] if you do, [darned] if you don’t.

Even among the disciples there were thoughts of competition. Jesus is trying to explain the mystery of the Cross, and they’re picking out carpet patterns, and arguing about who gets the corner office in the New Jerusalem.

Our Lord’s tells them:
If anyone wishes to be first,
he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.
And then uses a child as a brilliant example of this.

In traditional legal doctrine, children under the age of 7 are considered to be legally incapable of committing a crime. Similarly, in Church Law, a child older than 7 is considered to be of the “age of reason.

Jesus isn’t lionizing childishness – but rather, lifting up the example of simplicity and purity of heart. An openness and willingness to love our neighbor as ourselves. After first loving God with all our heart, all our mind, all our soul. Solely for God’s sake, and love of God alone – without any thought of self.

As we approach this altar to receive the Sacred Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ – let us pray that the graces we receive in this Most Blessed Sacrament may change us – heal us – transform us into a living icon of God as fully active members of Christ’s body. May the Holy Spirit energize us to live lives worthy of our calling – so we might be vehicles of evangelization in the world.