Saturday, February 18, 2023

7th Sunday in Ordinary Time @ Ss. Francis and Clare

The first federal courthouse in Detroit was built in 1896 on Lafayette Street. The original cost of that building was roughly $1,000,000.

By the early 1930s, the federal courts had outgrown the original 19th century building, which was targeted for demolition, to be replaced by a newer, larger building.

Enter Chief Judge Arthur J. Tuttle, dubbed “The Judge who would not budge.” Tuttle refused to approve the destruction of the first building and the subsequent construction of the new building – unless that particular courtroom was preserved.

That room consisted of an elaborately carved judge’s bench made of East Indian mahogany; and flanked by two 12-foot columns made of white marble with pink marble bases; each capped with four lions holding up a globe. Around the room are symbols from Greek mythology and Biblical themes … all related to the administration of justice and the law.

By the 1930s, the value of the marble alone exceeded $1,000,000. Leading the press to refer to it as “The Million Dollar Courtroom.”

It currently sits atop the Theodore Levin courthouse, as rooms 732, 733, and 734; reserved for the chief judge of that federal court.

Today is the 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time.

Both the Gospel reading from St. Matthew and the first reading from Leviticus address the second half of the Ten Commandments – which address the laws on interactions with others. 

The Gospel is a continuation of last Sunday’s, where Jesus states the Commandment, but then raises the bar by changing the idea from one of external observance to one of internal conversion.

St. Paul, in his First Letter to the Corinthians, speaks of our role as being the “Temple of God,” filled with the Spirit of God. As in any building, it is important that we build on a proper foundation, using appropriate materials, following an approved plan, and doing so with proper motives.

For us, as Christians, the Foundation is always Christ and the Gospel. The materials are Scripture and Tradition. The plan is God’s will. And the motive is for the Greater Glory of God.

The overall goal can be found in the Greek word, DIKAIOSYNE. A word often translated as justice or righteousness; but which has a broader and deeper meaning that perhaps is best translated as “right relationship.” Meaning our relationship with God and with one another.

On Wednesday, we will begin the Season of Holy Lent. The time where we take 40 days to repent, renew, and rebuild our hearts, our minds, and our lives. 

In the 19th century, every day of Lent was a day of fast. Meat was off the schedule on Fridays and Saturdays; and for the rest of the week could only be eaten at the principal meal. 

Now, we are asked to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday; and abstain from meat on the Fridays of Lent. Sounds easy on paper, but is not always easy in practice.

Traditionally Lent is marked by Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving. 

I would encourage you to consider attending weekday Mass. 

Stations of the Cross will be prayed immediately following the Wednesday Mass. 

And starting March 1 (here) we will have Wednesday evening soup suppers and talks rotating among our church the other Christian denominations in Birch Run, Burt, and Taymouth.

As we approach this altar to receive the Sacred Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ; let us prepare ourselves for Lent. Let us take this coming period of 40 days, and seek to strengthen our relationship with God and with one other. Let us seek reconciliation with those we may be estranged from. And let us build up ourselves and our Church as a majestic temple to the greater glory of God.

Sunday, January 29, 2023

4th Sunday in Ordinary Time @ Ss. Francis and Clare


You Can’t Take It With You is a comedic play that premiered in 1936, and was adapted for the screen in 1938. It won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1937; and the Academy Award for Best Picture and Best Director in 1938. It was also re-made in 1979 starring Art Carney and Jean Stapleton.

The story is about two families. One a strait-laced family of bankers; and the other an erratic and wacky family of incompetent madcaps. The banker’s son falls in love with the daughter of the other family. Simple, right? What could go wrong?

Near the end of the play, the patriarch of the other family tells the patriarch of the bankers: 

You’ve got all the money you need. You can’t take it with you. … And what’s it got you? Same kind of mail every morning, same kind of deals, same kind of meetings, same dinners at night, same indigestion. Where does the fun come in? Don’t you think there ought to be something more. … We haven’t got too much time, you know–any of us. 

Today is the 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time.

In our first reading we hear from the Prophet Zephaniah – one of the 12 minor prophets, and dating from the 7th century BC. He admonishes his listeners to submit to God’s direction in the Law.

In the second reading, from the First Letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul tells them to consider how the ways of the world are not always in line with God’s ways.

And in St. Matthew’s Gospel, we hear the – perhaps all-to-familiar – Beatitudes. 

Matthew’s version of the Beatitudes are read on this particular Sunday, as well as on a Monday in June. It is also read on (1) All Saints Day and (2) All Souls Day; (3) at Funerals, and (4) Ordinations, and (5) Confirmations. And it is offered as one of many options for (6) Marriage.

Eight times in the Lectionary. Eight uniquely different events. Maybe the Church is trying to tell us something?

Blessedness – or

Beatitude is a possession of all things held to be good, 
from which nothing is absent that a good desire may want.

At least according to the 4th century Saint, Gregory of Nyssa. But he goes on to say that Beatitude – being blessed – can only be fully understood in comparison to it’s opposite: misery, affliction, and suffering. 

We need to look at what we have, and what we don’t have … both materially and spiritually. Where are we lacking, and where are we fulfilled. 

Material things may make us comfortable in this world. But sometimes, the things we own end up owning us. And to possess the good things described in the Beatitudes … those spiritual goods that we actually can take with us … into Eternity.

The Beatitudes have been called the commandments for the Kingdom. And, indeed, they are guides to Eternal Happiness and Divine Joy.

The Beatitudes are our guide to the path into Eternity, and the goods they embrace are eternal goods the draw us closer to God’s eternal Kingdom.

As we approach this altar to receive the Most Holy Body and Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, may the graces we receive in this Sacrament empower all the other Sacraments we have received … for a deeper outpouring of Faith, Hope, and Love. May these Divine gifts fill us to overflowing, and guide us – ever closer – to union with God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and direct our actions in this world, so that we might be eternally blessed in the next.

Saturday, March 26, 2022

4th Sunday of Lent @ Ss. Francis & Clare

MARCH 25/26, 2022

Today is the 4th Sunday of Lent.

We’re past the half-way point of the six weeks of Lent. The vestments are rose-colored as a sign … giving us an opportunity to re-evaluate our Lenten practices. Are we being too hard on ourselves? Or have we missed out on the past 25 days, and maybe need to step up our game.

Today is known as “Laetare” Sunday, from the first word of the Entrance Antiphon, which begins, “Rejoice, Jerusalem, and all who love her. * Be joyful, all who were in mourning; * exult,” taken from chapter 66 of the Prophet Isaiah.

Also, today, we heard the Gospel reading of the Parable of the Prodigal Son.

I spoke about this on Ash Wednesday, borrowing the acronym AHA to give us a formula for repentance: Awakening, Honestly, and Action as a means to change our spiritual situation for the better.

That lengthy reading, which is most likely almost too familiar to us, presumes some things that may escape us 2,000 years after its first telling.

In the Jewish inheritance laws, the older son gets double what his siblings get. So, in this case of the two sons, the younger Son made off with one-third of the Father’s estate. Oddly, this is not only legal – to request your inheritance before your Father’s death – but to cash in and spend it was also legal. 

Legal, but not necessarily the most loving thing to do, and speaks to a broken relationship.

Continuing in the Law, Deuteronomy 21:18-21 says: “If someone has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not listen . . . bring him out . . . [and] all his fellow citizens shall stone him to death.” 

This is not the Pharisees and the Scribes adding extra burdens to the Mosaic Law. This is the Mosaic Law. 

What was due to the Prodigal Son on his return to his home town? Death.

Which raises a question: Why did the Father run out to meet his Son? To get there first? Before he was stoned to death? Is the Father’s embrace a paternal human shield to keep his Son alive?

After all, wealthy Middle-Eastern patriarchs don’t run as a rule. But here, the Father ran out not only to meet his wayward Son, but possibly to save his life.

The Son’s plan was to return as a servant – as a slave – on his Father’s estate. But slaves don’t wear sandals, robes, or rings.

The Father’s actions make the point that the Son is his Son … no matter what has happened.

This is the joy of the Son’s return.

This is the joy of the Father’s forgiveness.

But, the flip-side of this is seen in the actions of the older Son. 

Here the sin is not external, but internal.

The older Son is offended by the generous love shown by his Father, while he also refuses to forgive his errant Brother.

The older Son’s un-forgiveness also speaks of broken relationships.

The Father is free to do as he pleases with his possessions, but the older Son is not justified in his un-righteous anger, pride, or selfishness.

Forgiveness is the key here. Forgiveness heals relationships … brings joy … and restores what was lost. 

As we approach this altar to receive the Sacred Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ; let us pray to forgive. Five weeks ago, we exercised the Eastern practice of asking for and giving forgiveness – “Forgive me, a sinner.” and “God forgives, and so do I.” 

As we move through the central point of the Lenten Season, may we engage and exercise the graces of forgiveness in our own lives and our personal situations. 

Let us experience the joy, healing, and restoration of forgiveness as we move closer to Holy Week, the Paschal Triduum, and Easter.

Saturday, February 12, 2022

6th Sunday of OT @ Ss. Francis and Clare

FEBRUARY 12/13, 2022

The 1987 movie, The Princess Bride, was produced and directed by Rob Reiner (Meathead from All in the Family), and had among its cast Andre the Giant, Peter Falk (Columbo), Fred Savage (The Wonder Years), and Billy Crystal (Saturday Night Live.)

The movie is the acting out of a book that a grandfather reads to his sick grandson – who is not at first impressed. It’s a love story, after all. And it’s dull – all that mushy stuff – until the sword fights, soldiers, and pirates.

Eventually, at what seems the end, the future princess Buttercup is about to be wed to the evil prince Humperdink. And a character known only as “The Impressive Clergyman” in the credits begins the ceremony.

MAWAGE is wot bwings us togeder tooday,
MAWAGE, that bwessed awangment,
that dweam wifin a dweam...
And wuv, tru wuv, will fowow you foweva...
So tweasure your wuv.

Thankfully, the wedding is interrupted before the vows are completed by the Dread Pirate Roberts, Buttercup is kidnapped by the pirate, who turns out to be her childhood love, Westley. After a sword fight and a seeming loss, Westley chases off the prince, and our lovers ride off on horseback … assumedly to a life lived happily ever after.

It’s available on Hulu and Disney+ if you have a subscription, or for $5 on Amazon Prime, Apple TV, and Vudu. YouTube wants $14,99 … but I don’t recommend spending that much money for a 34 year old movie.

Today is the 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time.

It is also World Marriage Day.

And our first two readings sort of make that really difficult. But maybe not.

Yes, Jeremiah speaks of curses, but he goes on to speak of blessings. 

Paul speaks of futility and death, but brings us back to eternal life in the midst of faith and hope.

And the Gospel. 

The reading of the Beatitudes may seem to be so familiar that we don’t really listen. Out of the four Gospels, they are only found in Matthew and Luke.

This reading from Luke only occurs twice in the entire Lectionary. Today, once every three years, and on a Wednesday some time in September.

Matthew’s version, on the other hand, would have been two weekends ago last year, and on a Monday in June. 

It is also read on All Saints Day and All Souls Day; at Funerals, Ordinations, and Confirmations. And last, but not least, it is one of the many options for celebrations of Matrimony.

The word translated here as “blessed” has also been rendered as “happy.” Depending who’s approving what translation, it goes back and forth every 20 or 30 years. Blessedness – or

Beatitude is a possession of all things held to be good,
from which nothing is absent that a good desire may want.

At least according to the 4th century Saint, Gregory of Nyssa. And he goes on to say that Beatitude – being blessed – can only be fully understood in comparison to it’s opposite: misery, affliction, and suffering. 

And so, our readings may very well have a point. There are blessings, and there are curses. And hopefully you are married to the former, and not the latter. There is at times futility, and we all do die; but faith, and hope, and love help us to chart the stormy waters of the messiness of life … leading us to resurrection with Christ. 

And, of course, there are blessings and woes … but in the end, eternal life and in-between some happiness.

As we approach this altar to receive the Most Holy Body and Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, may the graces we receive in this Sacrament empower all the other Sacraments we have received … for a deeper outpouring of Faith, Hope, and Love … and may we receive, at the table of the Lord, many blessings … and much joy and happiness.

Sunday, February 6, 2022

5th Sunday of OT @ Ss. Francis and Clare

FEBRUARY 5/6, 2022

Regula Sancti Benedicti The Rule of Saint Benedict, was written in 516 AD by Saint Benedict of Nursia. It followed most community rules up to that point, but it sought to moderate monastic life between personal zeal and institutional formalism. In its original Latin, it consists of 13,317 words, 638 sentences, in 73 chapters. It’s not that big of a book. My own copy is only 111 pages, including the table of contents and the translator’s notes.250 years after it was written, Charlemagne had it copied and distributed throughout western Europe to encourage monks to follow it as a standard. Perhaps its most important influence was to set forth the idea of a written constitution and a rule of law.

The majority of the text covers the “how, what, whys, and whens” of operating a Monastery. Who gets what, how much, when and why. Everything from food, clothing, work, prayer, sleep, and punishment.

There are two chapters which perhaps we can take up on our own – Chapter 4 and Chapter 7.

Chapter 4 provides 73 Tools for the Christian Life, and Chapter 7 lists Twelve Steps of Humility.

Both of which are going to get really important in 3-1/2 weeks when Lent comes around!

The twelve steps of humility from Chapter 7 of the Rule are:

i. Fear God, ii. Follow God’s Will, iii. Follow Church Authority, iv. Even When It’s Hard, v. Confess Sins, vi. Reject Entitlement, vii. Esteem Others, viii. Stay in Community, ix. Listen Before Speaking, x. Don’t Be Silly, xi. Watch What You Say, xii. Be Your True Self.

And far from being a “self-help” chapter, the emphasis throughout is that it is God’s work in us … not our own work … that can help us grow in humility.

Today is the 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time. 

Our readings today have an undercurrent of Humility.

Isaiah has a vision of God, and in this vision he receives an insight – who he is before God Almighty:

Woe is me, I am doomed!
For I am a man of unclean lips,
living among a people of unclean lips.

Yet, God sends a seraphim – the angels that burn with a passion and love of God – to remove any wickedness and purge any sin. And at that moment, Isaiah responds to God: “Here I am, send me!”

In our second reading, St. Paul speaks of the proofs of the resurrection – Salvation, Scripture, and the many witnesses. And although Paul, himself, is an Apostle and a witness of Christ, he downplays it, calling himself:

the least of the apostles,
not fit to be called an apostle,
... [a persecutor of] the church of God.

Like Isaiah, Paul’s solution comes from above … God’s effective grace working within him.

And in the Gospel, Luke chapter 5, Jesus calls His disciples. But the story is perhaps too familiar.

If we place ourselves in the story, what do we see? 

A local carpenter walking on the beach gets into somebody else boat, talks for a while, and then starts to tell a group of fishermen, who are done for the day, what they should do to improve production. After an initial protest, they comply. And the result is “a great number of fish … that filled both boats.

St. Peter sees this for what it is – a miracle – and falls “at the knees of Jesus and [says], ‘Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.’

Humility. Humility. Humility.

Humility can be defined as “the virtue that … leads people to … a true appreciation of their position with respect to God and … neighbor.”

Isaiah, St. Paul, and St. Peter all found themselves in the Presence of God … whether in a vision or in the flesh. And all three were led to a humble recognition of who they were … and through God’s power were called to a greater mission.

As we approach this altar to receive the Sacred Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ – when we find ourselves in the Presence of Christ Jesus under the appearances of Bread and Wine – may we gain the strength to truly appreciate who we are before God … and through God’s love and grace and mercy, may we recognize who He is calling us to become … as we strive to follow Him … He Who is our Way, our Truth, and our Life.

Saturday, December 4, 2021

2nd Sunday of Advent @ Ss. Francis and Clare

OCTOBER 30/31, 2021

Born in Birmingham, England in 1849, Frederick Langbridge studied at King Edward VI’s School, and then matriculated at Oxford University, earning his Bachelors at St. Alban Hall, and his Masters from Merton College. 

He was an Anglican cleric, ordained in 1876; and was a canon of St. Munchin’s, as well as rector of St. John’s in Limerick, Ireland. 

He was a poet, an author, a playright, and a noted preacher.  

He is credited with the couplet:

Two men look out the same prison bars; 
one sees mud and the other stars. 

Langbridge retired in 1921 due to ill health, and died in 1922 at the age of 72.  

Today is the Second Sunday of Advent.

Our first reading is from the Prophet Baruch, who was the secretary of the Prophet Jeremiah. The book is considered apocryphal by non-Catholics, but is similar to the writings of Jeremiah during the Babylonian captivity.

In today’s reading, from the last chapter of Baruch, we hear the prophet admonishing the people to move from “mourning and misery” and look toward a future of “glory from God forever.” He speaks of “justice,” “peace,” “joy,” “mercy,” and “light.” 

In the second reading, from St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, Paul also is in custody. Yet, he too speaks of “joy,” “confidence,” “good works,” “affection,” “love,” “knowledge,” “discernment,” “purity,” “righteousness,” and “glory.”

Two men, indeed, both held captive in a prison of sorts … both calling upon their listeners – and us as well – to look up from mud, and see beyond the starts … to the glory of God.

St. Luke speaks of St. John the Baptist, quoting Isaiah 40, which parallels sections of today’s reading from Baruch:

God has commanded
    that every lofty mountain be made low,
that the age-old depths and gorges
   be filled to level ground.

As we approach this altar to receive the Sacred Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ … let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus … gazing beyond the heavens to the glory of God … promised to us through, with, and in Christ.

And as we continue to proceed through these 4 weeks of Advent … may we draw ever closer to Him … glory to glory … grace upon grace … as we prepare ourselves for the three comings of Christ … historically at Christmas … imminently in the Sacrament of the Altar … and ultimately when we meet Him face-to-face.

Saturday, October 30, 2021

31st Sunday OT @ Ss. Francis and Clare

OCTOBER 30/31, 2021

Barbara Woodhouse was born in 1910 in County Dublin, Ireland. She is best known for her 1980s British television show, and her series of books on Dog Training. Her motto was “no bad dogs,” and her particular style of Obedience Training continues to be taught in Britain and the US to this day. 

Obedience training for dogs has its roots in pre-history. Over 100 years before the time of Christ, a Roman farmer recorded advice for training dogs to herd livestock.

In the 19th century, a British Army Officer published a book titled: “Dog Breaking: The Most Expeditious, Certain and Easy Method, Whether Great Excellence or Only Mediocrity Be Required, With Odds and Ends for Those Who Love the Dog and the Gun,” intended to train hunting dogs.

And in 1911, a German military officer published his book, titled: “Training Dogs: A Manual,” still used today to train police and military dogs.

Woodhouse died in 1988 at the age of 78; but her method lives on. Her American protege, Brian Kilcommons, is an expert trainer and counts among his clients Diana Ross, Morley Safer, and Diane Sawyer. 

Today is the 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time.

Our Old Testament and Gospel readings both focus in on a single prayer, known to Jews as the Sh’ma.

Hear, O Israel!
The Lord our God is Lord alone!
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,
with all your soul, 
with all your mind,
and with all your strength.

Looking at the original languages for the two readings it would appear that something has gotten lost in the translation from Hebrew to Greek to English.

The English word, hear, is defined by the Oxford dictionary as “to be aware of sounds with your ears.” And, interestingly, this comports pretty much with the Greek word used in the Gospel for ‘hear’ which is “akoue” and is where we get the English word “acoustic.”

Both the Greek and the English words imply what appears to be a passive event – mere sounds flowing into our ears.

But the Hebrew word “sh’ma” means more than just ‘hear.’ It also means to ‘listen, consent, understand, and obey.’ To hear God is to conform your will to God’s and to act on God’s word and to obey God’s word.

Hearing implies obedience, and obedience implies action.

In the Letter to the Hebrews, we hear at the end of the reading the phrase “the word of the oath” which points back to a covenant. And the covenant for us is found in our encounter with Christ in the Sacraments of the Church … and in the superabundant sacramental grace provided by the Sacraments in order for us to live out our lives in the world by leveraging the Supernatural virtues of Faith, Hope, and Love.

As we approach this altar to receive the Sacred Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, may His “once for all” offering on the Cross “always … save [us] who approach God through [H]im,” with Him, and in Him. May the graces we receive this day in the Sacrament of the Altar help us to hear, listen, obey, and act upon the Word of God in our daily lives by what we say and do out and about in the world.