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.

Monday, October 25, 2021

30th Sunday OT @ Ss. Francis and Clare

OCTOBER 23/24, 2021

In the United States, roughly 1 million people are blind. There are an additional roughly 3 million people who have an uncorrectable visual impairment, and another 3 million who have a correctable visual impairment, but are unable to obtain medical intervention. Meaning, nearly 7 million “blind people” in the US.

While there are many things that can cause blindness, three of the top several diseases are (1) Cataracts, (2) Age-related Macular Degeneration (or AMD), and (3) Glaucoma. These aren’t the only causes, but for the point of illustration, they are the three I’ll be discussing.

Cataracts are caused by a clouding of the lens or lenses. AMD is caused by a degeneration of the back of the eye, obstructing the image coming into the eye right in the middle. Glaucoma, on the other hand, damages the optic nerve, causing the edges off the image to be lost to the viewer.

Blindness is in the top 10 disabilities, ranking at number nine, falling just before stroke (at number 10) and after diabetes (at number 8.)

Today is the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time.

Our Gospel Reading is the story of the blind man known to us as Bartimaeus … which is Aramaic for “son of Timaeus.” 

The story in itself is remarkable. He is a beggar. And when he hears that Jesus is passing by, he begins crying out. The crowd tries to shut him up … not a very nice thing to do … especially when the person passing by is a noted healer. And when he does go to Jesus, he gets up and throws aside his cloak … which is his coat, his umbrella, and most likely his home.

This chapter from St. Mark’s Gospel begins with Jesus speaking about the divine plan for marriage which was stricter than the practice of the time. The disciples shooing away children, and Jesus reversing that and allowing the children to come to Him and blessing them. Next, Jesus sets a high bar for a rich young man, who goes away sad … not willing to come to Jesus with nothing. Jesus then begins to speak of His passion, death, and resurrection.

As if oblivious to this, two of the apostles ask for top spots in the Kingdom of Heaven … ticking off the other 10 apostles who wish they had thought of it first. And then we have today’s story of Bartimaeus.
Why this story here?

Well, the apostles have been missing the mark so far, being confused on marriage, children, property, and power. The placement of a story of a blind man right after these seems to point to Spiritual Blindness.

There are three ways to look at Spiritual Blindness. One can be ignorant … not knowing, or not wanting to know about God or Jesus or the Gospel. One can be cynical … not seeing the goodness of God or thinking that everyone is out for themselves. And finally, one can have a hardness of heart … not wanting to love, or not feeling worthy of love.

These three causes of Spiritual Blindness … ignorance, cynicism, or heart-heartedness … do have cures. And the physician is Jesus … the Divine Healer … who comes to us with Faith, Hope, and Love.

Faith overcomes spiritual ignorance … Hope overcomes spiritual cynicism … and Love overcomes hardness of heart.

Finally, the last two stories in this chapter from St. Mark have Jesus asking the same question … first of his two power-hungry disciples and second of blind Bartimaeus. The question is:

What do you want me to do for you?

And that is the question I’ll leave you with. “What do you want Jesus to do for you?” 

As we approach this altar to receive the Sacred Body and Blood, Soul and DIvinity of Jesus Christ … as we receive Him … materially and spiritually … ask Him for whatever you want. And if you’re not sure what you want, ask Him for a deeper outpouring of Faith, and Hope, and Love. And as you receive from Him the graces of this Sacrament, know that “your faith has saved you,” and renewed by that faith … go on your way through, with, and in Christ Jesus Our Lord.

Saturday, October 9, 2021

28th Sunday OT @ Ss. Francis & Clare

OCTOBER 9/10, 2021

Thin-slicing is a psychological and philosophical term that describes the ability to make snap decisions based on limited information or narrow windows of experience. Many studies have demonstrated that brief observations can be used to analyze complex situations at higher levels of probability than mere random chance.

These are what we might call  ‘hunches’ or a ‘gut feelings.’ There is the old saying that “the first impression is the most lasting,” and this, too – they say – comes from thin-slicing.

In his popular book titled Blink, author Malcolm Gladwell presents several examples and case studies where thin-slicing has proved more accurate than detailed research.

Thin slicing, however is not without its detractors. Prejudices and racial profiling also stem from drawing conclusions with limited knowledge. And research shows that emotions distort the accuracy of thin-slicing.

Gladwell acknowledges the limitations of thin-slicing, and argues that this type of intuition is developed by training, knowledge, and experience. 

Today is the 28th Sunday of Ordinary Time.

In our Gospel reading from St. Mark today, we hear the story of the Rich Young Man. 

He has lived a life in accordance with the Ten Commandments, and proudly proclaims that he has “observed them [all] from [his] youth.

Jesus tells him that he is “lacking in one thing”, and tells him to go and sell everything he has and give the proceeds to the poor.

The Rich Young Man obviously knew about Jesus. He was most likely not unfamiliar with Jesus’ teaching. And he revered Him, kneeling down before Him to ask his question.

He had a hunch that there was something extraordinary in these teachings … something extraordinary in the Person of Jesus Christ. And his first impression proves to be true.

But on second thought, he has misgivings. And he are told that “he went away sad, for he had many possessions.

In the first reading from the Book of Wisdom, the author – considered to be King Solomon himself – tells how he treasured God’s Wisdom above scepter and throne, riches and gems, silver and gold, health and good looks … pointing out that “all good things together came to me in [the] company [of Wisdom] and countless riches [as well.]

Too often we become creatures of habit, operating on instinct alone, and becoming immersed in the cares and concerns of the world.

God takes a back seat. His Wisdom is ignored for the ideas of society and culture. And God falls into second, third, fifth, tenth, or worse place.

What is that “one thing” that keeps us from truly following Jesus? For one person it might one thing … for another something entirely different.

The Letter to the Hebrews compares “the word of God … [to a] two-edged sword”. Slicing through our illusions and confusions to help us “discern [our] reflections and thoughts” in the Light of God’s Wisdom.

Jesus Christ calls each of us to follow Him. And to do this, we all must discern what that “one thing” is … give it up .. and follow Him. Otherwise we may end up going away sad.

As we approach this altar to receive the Sacred Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, let us pray to slice through our thoughts and ideas … and clearly see in the Light of God’s Word – what is the one thing holding us back from a deeper relationship with God in Christ. May the graces of the Sacrament of the Altar truly “[f]ill us with [God’s] love” through all our days … every day … in the power and glory of the Holy Spirit.

Sunday, October 3, 2021

27th Sunday OT @ Ss. Francis and Clare

OCTOBER 2/3, 2021

St. Francis of Assisi has been given a bad reputation in the modern era. He’s been co-opted by hippies, environmentalists, and others . . . for themselves, and without regard to who he really was. 

Francis felt called to serve in a heroic way. Twice, he tried to go to war. The second time, he had a dream with instructions sending him home. And so, he did – selling his armor and sword, and giving it to the poor. He spent time in prayer, seeking to know . . . more and more perfectly . . .  the will of God for his life. 

While in the chapel of the Monastery of San Damiano, the crucifix spoke to him . . . telling him three times: “go and repair my church which, as you see, is all in ruins!

Initially, Francis thought that the point of the message was to rebuild that particular chapel. Later, he would realize that he was called to rebuild the Church – the big “C” church – reforming the Church, by demonstrating that the Gospel was not beyond being lived out day-by-day by ordinary people . . . in a spirit of charity and poverty.

He founded three orders: (1) the friars minor – or the “little brothers,” (2) the “poor Clares,” and (3) the “brothers and sisters of penance” – or what is now known as the “Third Order.”

Francis embraced the Gospel literally and radically, and this should give us all pause . . . begging the question: “Do we really allow the message of the Gospel to penetrate into the depths of our being?

Francis realized that God had given us everything, and he desired to give everything to God. 

Today’s readings, for the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, speak of the first covenant given by God to humanity – that is, Marriage.

A covenant is similar to a contract. But, where a contract is an exchange of goods . . . a covenant is an exchange of persons . . . that is, the establishment of a relationship. 

The best example of this is Matrimony, where husband and wife give themselves to each other completely: “in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health.” to love and honor each other ”all the days of [their lives].” Marriage reflects the relationship of Christ and His Church.

In the same way, the other six Sacraments are also covenants – where we are brought into a deeper relationship with God in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist – the Sacraments of Initiation – bring us into relationship with the Most Holy Trinity.

Reconciliation and Anointing – restore us spiritually and physically according to God’s Will. 

And Matrimony and Orders create a visible community . . . a family of Faith, Hope, and Love . . . to build up the Kingdom of God in the world.

St. Francis saw himself as the herald of a great King – that is, he proclaimed the Kingdom of God in a world . . . which like our own . . . had grown cold. Francis was a fire burning in that cold world . . . an intense fire of Divine Love.

Francis sought to live the Gospel in such a way as to be a living Gospel. His message was the message of Christ. And his life was lived for Christ.

And, as his mission found it’s origin with a message from the cross . . . toward the end of his life, he bore the stigmata – the wounds of Christ – in his own body . . . for the last two years of his life. And up and until he died, he was a living image of Our Savior on the Cross.

As we approach this altar to receive the Sacred Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ . . . let us, in this covenant meal of the Eucharist, receive Christ totally . . . as we give ourselves totally to Him. And through the intercession of St. Francis . . . and in following his example . . . let us strive to give ourselves entirely to Christ . . . “through Him, with Him, and in Him” . . . may we – in all that we say, and in all that we do – bring the Gospel to the world by the manner of our own lives . . . in relationship to God and to His Church. 

Saturday, September 11, 2021

24th Sunday in OT @ Ss. Francis and Clare, Birch Run

SEPTEMBER 11/12, 2021

Where were you last Tuesday? What did you have for dinner? What about breakfast? Who did you see that day? 

What about Tuesday, September 11, 2001? 

Strange, isn’t it? Why is it easier to remember?

It’s hard to believe that was 20 years ago.

For those younger than 20 … all this may feel like ancient history.

For myself, I was on the Chassis Electrical floor in the Ford Motor Engineering Building on Rotunda Drive in Dearborn. I had plans to go to lunch with my brother, and that evening had my second session of my first night school theology class. I’d even come in to work a bit earlier so that I could leave earlier in order to go over the reading for class and study.

I didn’t go to lunch with my brother. And there was no school that evening.

Here, in the Diocese of Saginaw, Bishop Ken Untener put out a statement at 5:30 pm that day. It reads:

Our first thoughts and prayers go out to the victims of today’s tragedy, and their families. This is not a time for words. It is a time for prayers.

. . .

Whatever was important to us when we got up this morning is not important now. We’re all stunned. The suffering is so massive that it’s hard to thing of anything. If Jesus, the Son of God, wept over Jerusalem, we can weep now.

The tenderness of God goes out to everyone touched by this – which is all of us.

Today is the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time. And today is [yesterday was] the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy. 

Our readings carry with them a theme of “suffering.” 

The Old Testament reading from Isaiah chapter 50 is known as the 3rd Suffering Servant Song. In this ‘song,’ the prophet gives a vivid description of sufferings, and lays out a three point plan of submission in order to persevere in suffering. 

He speaks of (1) a submission of the mind, (2) a submission of the will, and (3) a submission of faith.

A submission of the mind so that we might learn . . . a submission of the will so that we might accept God’s will … and a submission of faith that we might learn to trust in God.

The world is confused about suffering. For the most part, the world sees suffering as meaningless and seeks to obliterate it. As Catholics, we believe that suffering can have meaning – so long as we unite our own sufferings with the suffering of Christ.

In the Gospel, Jesus gives the First Prediction of His Passion. Peter has just confessed his faith that Jesus is the Christ . . . the Messiah . . . the Anointed One of God. But Peter is confused about what this means. Jesus goes on to speak of His coming Passion . . . that He “must suffer greatly . . . be rejected . . . and be killed.” And Peter doesn’t like how that sounds. Jesus corrects Peter, and confirms that not only will He suffer, but that He is calling His disciples – and us – to suffer with Him . . . to: 

take up [your] cross, and follow [Him].
[to] lose [. . . your lives] for [His] sake 
and [for the sake] of the [G]ospel . . .

Saint James explains this further when he points out that our faith must be expressed in our works . . . or perhaps a better translation of works could be ‘acts, deeds, doings, or labors.’

Our Faith must be expressed in actions, not just in words. 

There is a Latin motto, “facta non verba” meaning “deeds not words” and there are countless organizations that embrace that motto – fraternities, schools, civic entities, police and military units. My own Michigan State Defense Force, First Battalion, Alpha Company has adopted this motto as it’s own. And I think it is a good motto for us as Christians.

As we approach this altar to receive the Sacred Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ – let us pray that our faith may always move us to action. Let us remember the Sacrifice of Christ, and take up our own crosses with Him. And let us remember those who have sacrificed for us . . . for our freedom . . . and for our country. Knowing that there is meaning in their sacrifices and suffering . . . and let us take action for the future.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord . . . 

Below are JPG graphics of the bulletin insert on my background. 


Sunday, September 5, 2021

23rd Sunday in OT


People are afraid of all sorts of things. There are lists and lists of different phobias.

A friend of mine is afraid of frogs. That’s a form of zoophobia – the fear of animals, which can be broken down further to batchophobia – the fear of amphibians, all the way down to ranidaphobia – the fear of frogs.

There are more commonly known fears, like arachnophobia – which is a fear of spiders, triskaidekaphobia – which is the fear of the number 13 (thirteen). And there are lesser known phobias like entomophobia – which is the fear of bugs, or scoleciphobia – which is the fear of worms. There is chiroptophobia – which is the fear of bats, and selachophobia – which is the fear of sharks.

Xanthophobia is the fear of the color yellow, spectophobia is the fear of mirrors, coulrophobia is the fear of clowns, and kleptophobia is the fear of being robbed.

Ecclesiophobia is the fear of churches, ouranophobia is the fear of heaven, and theophobia is the fear of God,

There’s even barophobia – which is the fear of gravity, autophobia – the fear of being alone, and panphobia – the fear of everything.

It seems that people can be afraid of just about anything – person, place, thing, feeling, temperature, sounds, ideas, activities … if you can experience it, you can be afraid of it.

Today is the Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary time. 

In the first reading from the prophet Isaiah, we hear a prophecy of three miracles done by the hand of God. God restores the land, He heals physical ailments and disabilities, and He relieves fear. 

The prophet says first, at the beginning of today’s text: 
to those whose hearts are frightened:
Be strong, fear not!
Here is your God,
he comes with vindication;
with divine recompense
he comes to save you.

And only after this, does he continue, saying: “[then] will the eyes of the blind be opened” as he enumerates the cures and the other miracles that God will perform.

But first – before any miraculous healings or restorations – God addresses fear. Miracles second. Fear gets dealt with first.

And I believe this is a very important point. Because just like there are fears for anything and everything under the sun, fear in a person’s life touches and affects everything in their life.

God first comes, not to heal us – but to save us. And He saves us from fear. Before we can move on to miracles and healings, we need to do something about fear.

Fear takes away your freedom. Fear drags you out of the present moment – leaving you ruminating in the past or worried about the future. Fear destroys your quality of life. Fear clouds your judgment. It upsets your emotions. Fear has some very serious consequences – in relationships, in the workplace, in daily activities, on physical and mental health.

There are all sorts of programs to get people to conquer fear by confronting their phobias. 

But perhaps, as Christians, we need to address our fears by first recognizing that it is God who can conquer our fears … God can destroy our phobias and vindicate us … It is God who saves us. But we need to give Him permission to act in our lives with His power … the power of His grace and His mercy … to right the wrongs of the past, and to take away the worries of the future. 

And when we have “let go” … and “let God,” only then we can address the other things – our own limitations and the world around us … with the freedom we have received in Christ as the children of God.

Once we have given our fears over to God, and are free from them … then our eyes and our ears will be opened … to God’s action and miracles in our lives. Our tongues will be loosened to praise God and to speak words of encouragement … to proclaim the truth of the Gospel. Then we will recognize in all people our brothers and sisters in Christ.

And it all starts … or stops with fear.

As we approach this altar to receive the Sacred Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ … may the light of Christ poured out in the Holy Spirit enlighten us … that when Jesus tells us to “be opened” to His grace and His mercy … to receive the divine gifts of Faith, Hope, and Love … that we will let Him into our lives … our hearts … our souls … and allow God to save us … to heal us, and to restore us so that we might “be rich in faith and [inherit] the kingdom that [God has] promised to those who love him.