Saturday, August 10, 2019

19th Sunday OT @ St. Vincent de Paul Parish

AUGUST 10-11, 2019

Born in 1913 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Albert Ellis studied psychology in the 1940s, and in 1953 broke with classical psychoanalysis to put forward his own theories that became known as Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy.

Taking a cue from the ancient Greek Stoic philosophers, he emphasized a philosophy of personal ethics informed by logic and reason.

Although slow to be accepted by other therapists, Ellis founded the Rational Living Institute in the 1960s; and twenty years later he was considered to be one of the top three influential psychotherapists in history, ranking second between Carl Rogers and Sigmund Freud.

In addressing anxiety or worry, Ellis classified three types of worry. (1) Worrying about yourself – which he called ego anxiety, (2) Worrying about things outside of yourself – which he called discomfort anxiety, and (3) Worrying about worrying – which he saw as an amplifier of internal tension.

In all three of these, the anxiety or worrying acts as an obstacle to moving forward. In most things, Ellis’ therapy involved examining and evaluating the situation rationally and reasonably. … breaking down the situation into bite-sized pieces … and examining things in the light of logic.

Until his death in 2007 at the age of 93, Ellis worked 16 hour days writing books, meeting with clients, and teaching. He has left behind an enormous legacy of books, talks, and papers.

Today is the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time.

In the first line of the Gospel, Jesus tells us:
Do not be afraid any longer …For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.

The Letter to the Hebrews and the reading from the Book of Wisdom both provide examples of Faith taken from various historical figures and events in Scripture.

In the pericope from the eleventh chapter of Hebrews, the author points out several ancient heroes of Faith who worshipped God, walked with God, worked with God, and waited with God.

That chapter begins with a beautiful definition of Faith as:
the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.
We are called to go beyond a mere natural or human faith. In Baptism Christians are given Supernatural Faith … a spiritual gift … a theological virtue … indeed, infused at Baptism and strengthened by all the Sacraments.

Supernatural Faith, as well as Supernatural Hope, and Supernatural Love allow a Christian to transcend human limitations – but requires us to exercise these virtues in order to receive the divine treasure … the gifts and the fruits of the Holy Spirit.

Pope St. John Paul called Faith and Reason the
two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth … [that is] to know …and lov[e] God
Let us, in Faith, ascend to that divine truth in confidence and hope, knowing that God who “deliver[s] … and preserve[s]” us … is, indeed, “our help and our shield.

As we approach this altar to receive the Sacred Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ – let us put aside any worry or anxiety, and place our trust in God … Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Let us engage our Supernatural gifts of Faith, Hope, and Love … realizing the unseen evidence of God’s power in our lives.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

18th Sunday OT @ St. Vincent de Paul Parish

AUGUST 3-4, 2019

Samuel Langhorne Clemens, more commonly known by the pen name Mark Twain, was a writer, humorist, entrepreneur, publisher, and lecturer. He has been called “the father of American literature” and praised as the "greatest humorist this country has produced.

Clemens began his career writing light, humorous verse, and later became a chronicler of the vanities, hypocrisies, and cruel acts of mankind. He combined rich humor, sturdy narrative, and social criticism in his books; and was a master of transcribing colloquial speech into print creating a uniquely American literature emphasizing American themes and language.

He was in great demand as a speaker, performing solo humorous talks similar to modern stand-up comedy. In this, he travelled throughout the United States and Canada, Great Britain, Europe, and even Australia.

Some of his one-liners include:
Civilization is a limitless multiplication of unnecessary necessaries.We ought never to do wrong when people are looking.What, then is the true Gospel of consistency? Change.

He was born shortly after the appearance of Halley's Comet in 1835, and predicted that he would "go out with it" as well; dying the day after the comet returned in 1910.

For the record, Halley’s Comet has an orbital period of 75 years, 3 months, 26 days, 19 hours, and 12 minutes.

Today is the Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time.

Our first reading comes from the Book of Ecclesiastes – one of the 24 books of the Hebrew Tanakh, which dates from about the 5th century before the time of Christ. The word “vanity” is used 38 times in it’s 12 chapters.

Ecclesiastes has been quoted by politicians (Abraham Lincoln), writers (William Shakespeare, Leo Tolstoy, Ernest Hemingway, Ray Bradbury), and musicians (Pete Seeger).

The section we heard read today at Mass is actually short snippets from the beginning and the end of the first segment of the book which seems to pose the question:
Is life really worth living?
St. Paul, in his letter to the Colossians, admonishes us to put aside those things that separate us from God – that is, the many sins he enumerates; as well as what might separate us from one another – such as social or national distinctions … and to allow Christ to become our “all in all” … to be “renewed” in “the new self” … since, having died with Christ – in Baptism – we are now raised with Him, and must “seek what is above”.

In the continuation of chapter 12 of St. Luke’s Gospel, Jesus admonishes us “to guard against all greed, for … life does not consist of possessions.” Calling us to be “rich in what matters to God.

Which begs an additional question:
What matters to God?
An answer can be found at the end of Ecclesiastes, in the twelfth chapter, the last line (vv. 13-14) of that final chapter reads:
The last word, when all is heard: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this concerns all humankind; because God will bring to judgment every work, with all its hidden qualities, whether good or bad.
Despite the cries of “vanity” and the admonitions to “fear God” and the calls for “judgment,” five times throughout those twelve chapters, like exclamation points scattered through the entire book are also admonitions to enjoy life – not mindlessly for its own sake – but rather by praising God for the the things He has given us, and receiving them with joy – recognizing that while all things are passing, God Himself alone is eternal.

For we are called – ultimately – to eternal life with God. And the joys of this passing world, are but shadows and reflections of the joys to come.

As we approach this altar to receive the Sacred Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ; let us aspire – in our daily life, to always give thanks to God for everything. In the midst of the many good and bad things that make up any given moment of any given life – let us continue to praise Him, thank Him, and love Him … knowing that we are called to live our lives – not here, but in Eternity – as God’s beloved children; through, with, and in Christ Jesus; and renewed in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

17th Sunday in Ordinary Time @ St. Vincent de Paul Parish

JULY 27-28, 2019
5:00 PM (SAT), 7:30 AM, 9:00 AM, 10:30 AM (SUN) ORDINARY FORM MASSES

Child development stages are theoretical milestones that involve studying patterns of growth and development. While each child develops in a unique way, there are general patterns of development despite wide variations between individual children.

For instance, most children over a couple of months begin to hold their head up, followed by rolling, grasping, sitting, crawling, standing, walking, climbing, and running. These stages represent motor development over the course of about two years.

Or, regarding speech milestones, a child will coo and babble, laugh, make vowel sounds, then syllables, perhaps musically, begin saying words, making up words, and then joining words – working up to sentences, questions, and eventual fluency over the course of 4 or 5 years.

There are also physical milestones in regards to length, weight, and proportion.

What is remarkable about this, is it’s relative consistency among humans. There is no course on walking or talking. No textbooks or classrooms. Rather, the home and the world – daily life and family interaction – for the most part – results in a reasonably normal child after a couple of years.

Today is the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time.

In the Gospel from St. Luke chapter 11, we hear one of the disciples ask Our Lord,
Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples.
What we hear in Luke’s Gospel is a bit of a reduced version of what is recorded in St. Matthew’s Gospel – what we know as the Lord’s Prayer, which we we all recite together at the beginning of the Communion Rite today at Mass.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church calls the Lord’s Prayer “truly the summary of the whole Gospel.

Most analyses of the Our Father prayer consider that there are 7 petitions. And while quite a bit of ink has been spent on how the prayer is being translated into modern Italian, the English translation dates from the middle 17th century with minor early 20th century revisions.

This part of Luke’s Gospel follows immediately on the heels of last week’s reading which ended:
Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.
It could, perhaps, be posited that the “one thing” … “the better part” … in last week’s Gospel is an admonition to greater prayer – emphasizing the primacy of prayer in the life of a follower of Christ.

In His response to the disciple, Jesus first gives the “Our Father” as a pattern of prayer. The prayer we all memorized as children, which we can recite – perhaps without too much thought (for better or for worse) – consisting of an introduction and seven petitions.

Jesus then goes on to speak of the need for persistence in prayer, and finishes by indicating the promises to those who pray.

The requirements of prayer are (1) a recitation – a prayer can be spoken audibly or recited internally … in the mind … from the heart. (2) Prayer requires a relationship – we are praying to someone; and that someone is God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit … with whom we have some sort of relationship through Baptism and the life of grace. (3) There are responsibilities we take on in prayer – to live within God’s will, to abide in His kingdom, to forgive others as He has forgiven us. And finally, (4) there are the rewards of prayer – the graces, mercies, and strengths we receive daily from Almighty God.

As we approach this altar to receive the Sacred Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, let us enter into the Lord’s prayer – as a summary of the Gospel, but also as a “school of prayer.” Let us commit to deepen our own life of prayer … every day … as God’s blessed children, members of Christ, and vessels of the Holy Spirit.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time @ St. Vincent de Paul Parish

JULY 13-14, 2019
5:00 PM (SAT), 7:30 AM, 9:00 AM, 10:30 AM (SUN) ORDINARY FORM MASSES

Ikkyu Sojun was a Zen Buddhist monk and poet from the Muromachi period of Japanese history. He was born at the end of the 14th century, and lived 87 years.

He was known to be a bit of an iconoclast – going outside of the boundaries of normal polite society – and was considered as a bit of an eccentric as well. He was also a bit of a troublemaker – drinking too much, living outside his temple, in a word: mischievous.

While he was made the dharma heir – that is the lawful successor – to his own master … within the Rinzai sect – to which he belonged – he is considered both a saint and a heretic.
He wrote his poetry in classical Chinese. One of which is:
Many paths lead from
The foot of the mountain,
But at the peak
We all gaze at the
Single bright moon.
Today is the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time.

St. Paul in his Epistle to the Colossians, speaks on the pre-eminence of Christ in four distinct points:
Christ is Savior,Christ is Creator,Christ is Head of the Church,Christ is the Beloved of the Father.
In this particular section, St. Paul develops a very emphatic Christology – that is, a solid theological defense – against those who might consider Jesus to be merely “a way, a truth, and a life” as opposed to “the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

In the Gospel, we hear the familiar story of the Good Samaritan. While the story is known to us, perhaps we may miss what goes before the parable – which is Jesus’s response to a challenge from a scholar of the law asking how to obtain eternal life.

Jesus answers the question with a question, and the man’s response is the prayer known to pious Jews as the Sh’ma Yisrael – from its first two words. In Hebrew, the prayer is:
שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ יְהוָה אֶחָֽד
Sh'ma Yisrael Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Eḥad.
That is,
Hear, O Israel: the LORD is our God, the LORD is One.
This prayer is the centerpiece of Jewish morning and evening prayer. It’s twice-daily recitation is considered a mitzvah – a religious commandment. It’s meaning is simple – a profession of faith in the One God, and an acknowledgement of the Kingship of God.

The Old Testament reading from the end of Deuteronomy has Moses re-iterating the Law for the people of Israel. He points out that they have a choice to accept the Law and receive the blessings of God, or to reject it and recieve a curse.

In a short time, we will all make our own Profession of Faith – in the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed. We will profess our faith in One God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; and our belief in One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.

Yet, this is not a question of rigidity on our own part, but rather our acceptance that God has revealed the Truth through His Son Jesus Christ and has established a Church through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Just before today’s reading from the Letter to the Colossians, St. Paul offers a prayer for spiritual intelligence, practical obedience, and moral excellence. We would do well to imitate his prayer and conform our minds, our wills, and our lives to Christ Jesus.

In regard to Ikkyu Sojun, there is indeed one mountain – one God. And for those who are called by God, in Christ through Holy Baptism, we each possess a unique vocation – an individual path of grace in our own daily ascent to God – as we work to grow in holiness and virtue.

As we approach this altar to receive the Sacred Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, let us pray to not neglect our call. Let us pray that the graces we receive in this Eucharist today may unite us more closely with Christ and His Church, and through the power of the Holy Spirit, may we offer ourselves to God as an acceptable sacrifice.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

14th Sunday in Ordinary Time @ St. Vincent de Paul Parish

JULY 6-7, 2019
5:00 PM (SAT), 7:30 AM, 9:00 AM, 10:30 AM (SUN) ORDINARY FORM MASSES

The Temple of Concordia in Agrigento, Sicily, is the best preserved Greek temple, of the Doric style, in the world next to the Parthenon, in Greece.

For the record, Concordia is the illegitimate love child of the god Mars and the goddess Venus.

Many of the stories about the Greek gods and goddesses seem to have filled the role in the ancient world of modern day soap operas. The goddess Venus was married to the god Vulcan, but was having an affair with the god Mars. So, the children of Venus and Mars were Phobos and Deimos – the gods of fear and terror, respectively – as well as Concordia, the goddess of harmony; and the Cupids – winged deities representing the many facets of love.

She was thus often associated with the “Pax Romana” – representing a stable and harmonious society.

The Temple of Concordia was built in the 5th century BC, and nearly 1,000 years later in the 6th century AD was converted into a Christian basilica dedicated to the apostles Peter and Paul.
Twelve hundred [1200] years later, it was the Christian refurbishments were removed, and the original temple restored.

Today is the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time.

In the first reading from the Prophet Isaiah, we hear the Lord God say, through the prophet:
I will spread prosperity over Jerusalem like a river,
and the wealth of the nations like an overflowing torrent.
The word translated as “prosperity” is the Hebrew word “shalom” which is often translated as “peace” – which, indeed, it is; both in the King James translation and the Douay Rheims as well.

In the Epistle of St. Paul to the Galatians, he tells them – and us as well, to:
never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.
And to “all who follow this rule” he prays that they receive “[p]eace and mercy”.

St. Luke’s Gospel is the story of the sending of the seventy-two [72] “others” … “whom” … “the Lord appointed … [and] sent ahead of him in pairs”. They are instructed to go forth and upon entering a house to say:
'Peace to this household.'[And i]f a peaceful person lives there,
[their] peace will rest on him;
but if not, it will return to [them]. 
Now this word “peace” for us as 21st century American elicits thoughts of “peace talks,” “peace and love,” and perhaps “world peace.

And this reflects as distinctly Western view of peace. Our culture is descended from the Roman empire, and in the language of the Romans – Latin – the word for peace is “pax,” which while meaning “peace” also carries the meanings of “truce” and “treaty.”

The letter of St. Paul was written in Greek, and the Greek word for peace is “eirene,” which while meaning “peace” also can mean “peace of mind,” “unity,” “quiet,” and “rest.”

And in Isaiah, we hear the Hebrew word, “shalom” which means “peace,” but also means “prosperity,” “completeness,” “soundness,” and “welfare.”

This presents us with many layers, and many flavors of “peace” which we can contemplate and digest. And perhaps, the best admonition is found in the Gospel Acclamation – sandwiched between the Alleluias we hear:
Let the peace of Christ [rule in] your hearts;
[and] let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.
As we approach this altar to receive the Sacred Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, let us pray to receive the graces of peace – many layered and with many meanings – so that this Fruit of the Holy Spirit may rule in our hearts, and in our minds, and in our souls.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Trinity Sunday @ St. Apollinaris Parish

JUNE 15/16, 2019

Released in November of 1967, and having the distinction of being both #1 and #2 on the British singles chart simultaneously due to being released on both a single and an EP, the Beatle’s song I am the Walrus was written by John Lennon the previous summer.

The lyrics are a combination of poetry, nursery rhymes, and nonsense syllables and phrases – the result of three failed attempts at songs that when joined together is the iconic tune known to us over 50 years later. 

It was the first studio recording made after the accidental death of their first manager, the recording featured orchestral accompaniment that included violins, cellos, horns, and clarinet as well as a 16-voice choir of professional studio vocalists.

Today is Trinity Sunday.

While many aspects of the Roman Liturgy have included the Trinity – namely in doxologies, Sunday prefaces, a particular Sunday honoring the Trinity was not included in the calendar until Pope John XXII (the twenty-second) in the early 14th century.

The feast was elevated to the highest solemnity by Pope Saint Pius X (the tenth) in 1911.

Now, anytime we speak of Theology – which is the study of God (theos = God, logos = study) … whether that be the Trinitarian theology, Christology (the theology of the Person of Jesus Christ), Pneumatology (the theology of the Holy Spirit), or Theology proper of itself … we run two difficulties.

What you say can either come out sounding like jibberish. That’s the first risk. When you start bandying about with words like perichoresis in the Greek, or circumincession in the Latin – both are words referring to the relationship and the interpenetration of the three Persons of the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then there are the theological distinctions between the Immanent Trinity and the Economic Trinity.

Even the disciples are constantly confused by all of the things Jesus is trying to tell them.

Or else you may find yourself spouting heresy … and all the big heresies revolve around mistakes about the Trinity or the Persons of the Trinity. 

So, Trinity Sunday can be a bit of a theological minefield.

But the Trinity should not be unfamiliar to us. 

We are baptized into the Divine life of the Trinity – as we are baptized “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

The Mass – the Divine Liturgy of the Church – is a sacrificial offering of the Son to the Father in the power of the Holy Spirit.

We begin our prayers with the Sign of the Cross – proclaiming Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. 

We end our liturgical prayers with a Trinitarian formula. 

And we memorize the Glory Be – which is a minor doxology to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Not to mention the Gloria and the Creed which again are Trinitarian in structure.

The difficulty, of course, is that God is beyond our comprehension – making the Trinity a mystery.
And a mystery is best expressed in silence, prayer, and song. 

As we approach this altar to receive the Sacred Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ – let us remember that we are children of God the Father, redeemed in Christ His Son, and have received an outpouring of the power of the Holy Spirit.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

6th Sunday OT @ St. Apollinaris Parish

MAY 26, 2019

The United States Bill of Rights is made up of the first 10 Amendments to the US Constitution, which add to the Constitution certain guarantees of personal rights and freedoms. They are based on previous, similar documents – among them the Virginia Declaration of Rights from 1776, The English Bill of Rights from 1689, and the Magna Carta from 1215.

The First Amendment was approved on December 15, 1791 and states:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
The first part of this amendment – covering Freedom of Religion – remains hotly debated to this day. Does this mean a wall or hedge of “separation of church and state?” as Thomas Jefferson proposed 10 years later? Or can it be reduced to “freedom of worship” as envisioned by Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1941?

Presently, there are 27 ratified amendments to the US Constitution, and six unratified proposed amendments still outstanding.

Today is the 6th Sunday of Easter.

We continue to move through the Acts of the Apostles, the Book of Revelation, and the Last Supper discourses of Jesus in John’s Gospel.

In the Book of Revelation Chapter 21, we hear of John’s vision of the “holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God.” John notes further along that he “saw no temple in the city for its temple is the Lord God almighty and the Lamb.

Our reading today is missing seven verses in the middle which describe this city as a fascinating construction of jewels and gems. But perhaps most fascinating is its size, which would be 1,500 miles square. This is roughly the distance from San Francisco to Nebraska, or from North Dakota to Texas.

In other words, this isn’t a city – this is a country!

The other feature is that the holy city is not merely the home of the Bride of Christ. Rather, this city itself is the Bride of Christ. So it isn’t made up of buildings – the holy city is made up of people.
And while John “saw no temple in the city” this was because the “temple is the Lord God almighty and the Lamb.

Instead of a separation of Church and State, what John sees is a city – which is big enough to be a country – coming down from God, and God Himself is the temple, from whom and out of whom the city itself has descended.

In a sense, what John is seeing is an unimaginable unity between God and man, and between Christ and His Bride, the Church.

In the first reading from Acts, we hear of the First Council (ever) of the Church. Yet St. Peter doesn’t indicate that things went to a vote, or that the Apostles lobbied or politicked for various positions. Rather, Peter says:
It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us …
implying that this unity seen by John in Revelation is already in place.

For ourselves, we tend to impose human and worldly models on the Church, which can cause separation from God and division among the people of God.

In the Gospel, Jesus bestows “peace” on the Apostles, that is – upon the Church. And this is not a worldly peace but a heavenly peace.

Perhaps a good rule of thumb in distinguishing the two is that the world’s peace (or the lack of peace) is more often than not based on resources or the lack of resources … while Christ’s peace – the peace that comes from God – is based upon relationships.

In all of this, we can be assured that through Holy Baptism we share in the divine life of the Most Holy Trinity … through Confirmation we have received the fullness of the Holy Spirit … and through the Eucharist we receive Jesus Christ, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity.

May the Eucharist we receive today incorporate us more and more into Christ and His Church. And may God’s saving grace draw us deeper into our relationship with Him – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – every day … and every moment of our lives.