Fr. Alex’s Corner, June 17, 2018
11th Sunday in Ordinary Time
“Lord, it is good to give thanks to you.”
(Psalm 92, Responsorial Psalm for this Sunday)
My dear Friends:
By the time you read this, I will be in Buffalo, NY, preparing to participate in our Provincial Chapter. Pray that the Lord will guide us, and make us Friars generous in responding to His inspirations.
Some of my family still resides in Buffalo, so I will see them. Since it will be Father’s Day, of course I will visit the graves of my Dad and Mom.
Because I will be away for a few weeks, there will be no Blog published until July 8th. If you are in need of some inspiration, you can google “Busted Halos” on the internet and find plenty of things to think about. It is a good Catholic site.
This Sunday, June 17th, marks the 53rd anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood. Eight of us were ordained on what was the Feast of Corpus Christi that year. Only two of us are left. I am so fortunate that God has given me all these years to serve Him and His people as a Catholic priest. And I appreciate His patience with me. “Lord, it is good to give thanks to YOU!”
So much has changed in the world, in the Church, and in our Franciscan Order, too, in these years. Through all those changes, I believe that God has been with us and continued to inspire us. It hasn’t always been easy, but it’s always been good.
My assignments in Baltimore, Clifton, NJ, Holyoke, MA, and now in California have allowed me to meet some wonderful people. As I have said so many times, “when I was a young priest, I always thought it my task to come to a place and make saints of its people. What I learned is that when I get to a place, the saints are already there. It is my task to get to know them, love them, and be worthy to serve them.” The generosity of my friends and former parishioners has been truly humbling.
I am also grateful to my Franciscan Community and all my brother-friars for opportunities that I never would have merited or afforded without them. At this time, I am living in California with our young novices who will be taking their first vows in a few weeks. They are good guys! I keep telling them that “when you dance with the Lord, it’s never a two-step. Be ready for a dip or two.” Or, as one of our late friars often said, “If you want to hear God laugh, tell Him YOUR plans.” Only God knows what lies ahead, but I have total faith in His plans and His ability to make them happen.
There is a shortage of priests today. In some places, for every priest ordained, four are buried. Here, there is a lack of priests to celebrate Mass in English. This shortage is reflected in other religious faiths too, as well as many service industries.
On the final day of our Provincial Chapter we will ordain four new priests for our Province. What a blessing that is!
So, may I ask that you pray for vocations and for the sanctification of priests. Here is a prayer:
Gracious and loving God, we thank you for our priests. Through them, we experience your presence in the sacraments. Help our priests to be strong in their vocation. Set their souls on fire with love for your people.
Grant them the wisdom, understanding, and strength they need to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. Inspire them with the vision of your Kingdom.
Give them the words they need to spread the Gospel. Allow them to experience joy in their ministry. Help them to become instruments of your divine grace.
We ask this through Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns as our Eternal Priest. Amen.
On this Father’s day, we ask God’s blessing on our Dads. When God wanted to be called something other than “God,” He inspired His Son to have us call Him “Abba,” that is “Father.” Dads, think about it: God so respects who you are and what you do that He wants to called “Dad,” just like you. No Father’s Day card can say it better.
HAPPY FATHER’S DAY. PEACE!
Fr. Alex’s Corner, June 10, 2018
10th Sunday in Ordinary Time
“Who are my mother and my brothers?
Whoever does the will of God
is my brother and sister and mother.”
(Jesus of Nazareth, Mark 3:34-35)
And YOU think YOU have problems? Let me tell you what happened to me this week! All our friars were out on Wednesday so I got myself a takeout Chinese dinner. The dinner was delightful and I looked forward to the Chinese Fortune Cookie at the end of my meal. I cracked open that little cookie, and guess what! NO MESSAGE! No “nice guy” stuff, no predictions, no lucky lottery numbers. Nothing! That is the pinnacle of insults: the Chinese Fortune Cookie has nothing to say to me! I was crushed!
Thank Heaven that the Lord continues to speak to me, even though we are back in “Ordinary” Time! Mark’s Gospel story this week is a strange one. It quotes Jesus talking about FAMILY.
Many, many years ago, a foreign-born guest joined us to watch the Olympics Opening Ceremony. The athletes marched proudly, waving their country’s flags. All that youthful enthusiasm was delightful. Then our guest made a strange comment. “I feel so sorry for you Americans,” he said. “When my country’s athletes come to the field, I can almost identify them. They have a certain facial structure and demeanor. Your American Athletes look like everyone else in the world. They don’t look like family.” (I may not be quoting him exactly, but the idea is there, and he did use the word “family” in that context.) Another friar reacted, but I was so stunned, I didn’t know what to say, So, I said nothing. After all these years, that statement still irks me and I’m angry with myself that I didn’t respond. Frankly, that variety is what I love and cherish about America! The question remains, “who is family?”
Jesus takes up that question in today’s rather odd Gospel story. It’s the beginning of Mark’s narration of Jesus’ preaching and healing ministry, and His “family” is understandably concerned because He is alienating the religious power structure of the Jerusalem Temple. That’s dangerous. These guys are powerful and they will crush all opposition.
There is discussion whether Jesus is in cahoots with the devil (another matter entirely), and then the talk comes back to “family.”
If mention of Jesus’ “brothers and sisters” concerns us, it shouldn’t. St. Jerome, who translated (in the 4th century) the Scriptures into Latin from the various languages in which they were written, used words similar to “kinfolk.” They may have been relatives, maybe close friends, but not necessarily blood-brothers or sisters. Odd? Not so. In our own time, fraternities and sororities welcome “brothers” and “sisters.” We call all Friars “our brothers.” And how many times, at Mass, does the priest call you “my dear sisters and brothers?”
What Jesus does say (and THIS IS REVOLUTIONARY) is “whoever does the will of God” is family to Him.
Now that’s a mouthful. If “they” are His family, what are “they” to us, who along with “them,” are striving to do the will of God…?
That concept, my friends, revolutionized the Roman Empire: anyone baptized into the Christian faith was “family.” Male or female, Jew or Gentile, rich or poor, young or old; yes, even slaves and their masters. All FAMILY to Christ, all FAMILY in Christ.
So how do we “look upon” people of other ethnic groups, other colors, the poor or the rich, sinners and saints, in-laws or outlaws? How do we “see” people from other parishes or other Christian communities? How do we resolve conflicts within the Church faith-family? There is a lot of thinking to do here! And we haven’t yet heard Jesus telling us to “love our ENEMIES!”
Maybe that’s why my Chinese Fortune Cookie was silent! When Jesus speaks, what else is there to say? Do you think this idea of “family” might pave the way to PEACE?!?
Fr. Alex’s Corner, June 3, 2018
The MOST HOLY BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST
“I am the living bread that came down from Heaven;
whoever eats this bread will live forever.”
(Jesus of Nazareth, John 6:51)
We know all about “John 3:16.” We’ve seen it on signs, T-shirts, even printed in black wax under the eyes of a football player. “For God so loved the world…..” But I wondered when a friar wore a T-shirt with “John 6:51” printed on the back. Was it a misprint, or perhaps one of his passwords…? I checked my Bible, and I found those most significant words of the Lord Jesus Himself.
Read the entire sixth chapter of St. John’s Gospel (a good homework assignment for today!) to hear how Jesus fed thousands of people – in the desert – with that little boy’s historically fabulous Happy Meal: five loaves and two fish. Whether they were sardines or two dolphin steaks, it was indeed a miracle, don’t you think?
In Exodus, Chapter 16, we read how God’s Chosen People, on their way to the Promised Land, feared that they would run out of food. We understand their fear. There were thousands of them, flocks included, and they were in the desert. I would be afraid, too. They complained to Moses, Moses complained to God. God promised to send food: quail in the evening; and in the morning a DEW-LIKE substance covering the sands that would be as tasteful and nourishing as bread. And so it was. GOD GAVE THEM BREAD FROM HEAVEN. The people of Israel remembered that forever.
(In the words of consecration of our Second Eucharistic Prayer, we pray over the bread and wine: “make holy these gifts, we pray, by sending down your Spirit upon them LIKE THE DEWFALL….” Like the dewfall in the desert which fed the people for 40 years! I absolutely love that prayer!)
So, when Jesus fed thousands – in the desert – that sign was not lost on the people. Who else fed people in the desert? God Himself! And now, Jesus did it. As John’s narrative tells us, people began to follow Jesus because they saw something BIG here. What would happen next? At one point Jesus complained that some are following Him because they expect free food. He is NOT a butcher or baker…. Rather, HE IS THE BREAD FROM HEAVEN. Whoever eats this bread will live forever! This began an animated conversation which thinned the crowd of Jesus’ followers. But for those who stayed with Him, it was a whole new day.
This past week (Thursday), on the Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we recalled how the pregnant Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth, who was six-months pregnant with John the Baptist. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby in her womb jumped for joy. We have always believed that the infant John jumped for joy at the sanctifying presence of Jesus in Mary’s womb. There is power in the Lord’s presence, even when He is present in and through others.
So, my friends, let’s think about that as we receive Jesus in Holy Communion. It is more than private devotion. Much more…!
Like our Blessed Mother, YOU AND I carry the Lord and all He stands for into a world that needs Him so very much. His presence is powerful and always miraculous. He heals, forgives sins, and promises eternal life. Now THAT IS A HAPPY MEAL!
When the Church celebrates this mystery on Holy Thursday the Passion and Death of Jesus pre-occupy our minds. We need to celebrate again the wonder and joy of God sending us Bread from Heaven. Today is the day to celebrate….
Welcome the Lord Jesus, the Bread of Life, with all the joy and fervor you can. Carry that Divine Presence into your own little world, where you and those you love will jump for joy.
God gave them Bread from Heaven,
Containing in itself all delight!
May the Lord bless you with His PEACE!