26 January 2013

O! How He loves us!

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to sit for three hours and listen to confessions at the Youth 2000 retreat that is taking place right now at St. Stephen’s.  At a certain point, while listening to the young person in front of me, someone opened the door and in flooded a song which spoke of God’s great and amazing love.  I’ve used it before in homilies but every time, this song moves me and serves as a reminder of the goodness of God that I, that we are invited to live out every day, especially through the most Holy Eucharist!  As I heard the song, I asked the young person to listen, and just at that moment, the chorus of the song was ringing through the hall, “O, how He loves us!  O, how He loves us, O, how He loves us O.”  Teary eyed, and moved by the Spirit, I told the young person to listen and to become that song!  
We hear in today’s first reading that Ezra, the priest, brought the law before the assembly, we hear that he read the Word of God and interpreted what had been handed to them so long ago.  We also hear how the people wept.  Now, this point is quite interesting, because to have been next to me yesterday, one could easily have said that the reasons I teared up and the young person teared up were very different, and this is also true for any large crowd, but the first reading today speaks of the people weeping because of what they had experienced,  in their own lives, they had clearly chosen to go away from God, to a certain degree, they had chosen to become silent, to stop singing, to stop knowing and loving God, and yet, here they stood, a people out of exile who now heard the Word of God and were shaken and inspired by the words of love.  Here, they, and we listen to the movement of the Spirit within us that invites us to proclaim before all, just how good the Lord is, here, in Christ the Word, and at this Eucharistic feast, we are called upon to recognize what it is that we need to change, what it is that we must give up, that which robs us of our song. We are called to stop and listen, and to become aware of how it is that God is daily inviting us to live in truth. In Christ!.  We are enjoined upon to recognize that God has sent to us Christ, through whom we have found life, and in whom we love.  The readings today are an invitation to move!  To sing!  To do that which glorifies God in our living, it is a call to know the will of the Father in our lives and to have the faith to act so as to find fulfillment.  Today, God calls upon us to stop our weeping, to know who we are in His eyes, and to proclaim to all the world that in Christ and through God’s great and immense love, we too have become bearers of the words of Jesus: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me 
to bring glad tidings to the poor.”  And so, we must roll up our fears and uncertainties and go, for in our living with Christ the Scripture passage is fulfilled!. And we too proclaim, “O how He loves us O, how He loves us O, how he loves us O.”*David Crowder, "How He Loves Us"

As always, know that you are loved.  God bless you.  Fr Ricky

19 January 2013

Fill the jars with water...

Upon hearing the Gospel passage for the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time (what happened to the first?)  there are many routes that one can choose to take in reflection and thought.  Due to events that happened this past week, I couldn't help but focus on the fact that water was brought up.  Sure, there was intercession by Mary, there was Jesus' first sign (not miracles for John, they're always signs, Mr. Hoity Toity over here!) and there were other elements in this Gospel that could so easily become a great homily.  In all of that though, I was touched by the water.  The servants took the jugs and "They filled them to the brim."  And that's all it took.  There must have been some mumbling among them and perhaps even some hesitancy, after all, these jugs were not your average milk jug with handle and all, they were stone or clay jugs that held twenty to thirty gallons of water, (its like taking one third off of those 55 gallon barrels).  Either way, the servants did as they were told, after all, they were servants, and then something happened... almost from no where, the water is turned into wine!  and not just your average Albertsons (or Publix or Vons)  aisle #13 wine, but your HEB (or Trader Joe's or Whole Foods)  wine!  (Now that's fine wine!)  And that is what is amazing to me, here, in his great love and mercy, Jesus shows us the measure of what he is willing to do for us!  Yes, this sign is a precursor to the great banquet which is set before us at every Eucharist, and yes, it is a foretelling of the sacrifice that Jesus Himself will make, but it is also a sign of what our Loving God is willing to do to make us happy.  He takes what we can give, (which by the way, we give what we have been given) and creates from that a person restored.  He takes our brokenness and begins to send His Spirit into us, and just as water is changed into wine, I, a sinner, is changed into love, into sanctity, into hope, into life!  And so I reflect on this reading and think back to what God has done in my own life, I cannot take credit for the good which I have received,  I can only praise God and hope that out of this water, that out of me, he can make great wine, (or at least a good priest).  No matter what, I pray that just as He has entrusted me with the great gift of the priesthood, and all of us with being a part of the Body of Christ, so too I may be able to witness and testify to the great works that He can do with my, your, our hearts no matter where they've been.  Mary tells the servants: "Do as He says."  and today too, we are told, to come, to bring what we have, for in His love and in His mercy, we will be wine!  As always, know that I love you, and may God bless you.  Fr. Ricky

18 January 2013

Good luck lowering me through the roof!

This week has been Vocation Awareness Week, and let me tell you, I am very much aware of my vocation! Thanks be to God.  I don't think that's what this week was supposed to be about, however.  As I reflected on today's readings, the friends lower the paralytic down into the room where Jesus is, I kept thinking of how this connects to the very real vocations that each of us has received.  Right off the bat, I wanted to share about the real and touching care with which these friends helped the paralytic man reach Jesus, I mean c'mon, in living out our vocation, we too help each other discern and respond to our vocation, whatever that may be.  And yes, while that is an amazing route to take, I want to focus a little more on the thought process that must have taken place among the friends.  The attitude with which the friends must have approached their situation was not a passive and "we'll see what happens" attitude, but as the Scriptures so often point out in people such as Zachaeus, or Bartimeus, they had a zealous and willing approach, one could almost say that like the Apostles, the followed or acted immediately.  This is something to be considered.  In my own life, or in the lives around me, perhaps children, loved ones or others, how is it that I take a role of encouragement that allows others to be comfortable in their discerning their vocation.  Or perhaps, the question can be, how can I help others discern, whether through prayer, through helping them see the different benefits and blessings, or in many other ways.  The reality is, that more and more, there is a general sense of "we need priests, but not my son!"    or... "we need nuns, but not my daughter!", and in an even more unfortunate.. "poor saps, they were no good as anything else."  Just this past month, I was approached by a young man in college who has been discerning God's call in his life, and while his parents pray for vocations every time they go to mass, they refuse to even let him go on a discernment retreat.  I understand that as a parent or a friend, seeing a son or a daughter go off and give their life to God must seem like a foreign and strange thing to do and even difficult, especially in an age when there are so many "better" jobs that one can do (i was even encouraged to become a plumber at one point in my discernment), but the reality is that sometimes, despite ourselves, God calls.  The question then becomes, will we take on a role of those friends who went to all sorts of weird measures to help out their friend, or will we take one look at the roof and decide that the law suit would be too much!  We mustn't be afraid!  In our own journeys of life, let us be those encouraging people who are willing to go to any extreme to help a our brother or sister in discernment, whether they are called to the priesthood, the religious life, the diaconate, married life or the single life, I hope that as a people of God, we can trust that after all is said and done, He will make the repairs needed on that roof, or pay the bills, as long as our brother or sister, my son or daughter, our friend, can say  that he or she has found the peace that is in saying yes to God.  As always, know that you are loved.  God bless you.  Fr. Ricky

10 January 2013

Do you preach the word?

Call me a bit over sensitive, but I had one of those experiences today that left me a bit reflective and bemused.  I was paying at a local thrift store here in Midland and was minding my own business when an older gentleman approached me like one would approach a dangerous or unknown animal.  He got close enough to talk but not close enough for me to bite him, not that I was hungry or anything.  Anyway,  after a brief moment of awkwardness ( he was staring at me quite intently) he asked me if I "preached the word."  To be honest, part of me wanted to question to which word he was referring. Presuming, he meant the word of God, I answered with a happy, almost jolly, yes.  (I mean c'mon!  I don't wear this for my health! Although it does keep my neck warm)  Upon hearing that I was indeed a preacher, he asked me where MY church was, again, I thought of the silliness of thinking that I possessed a church all to my own!  (mine, mine, mine).  I replied that I ministered at St. Ann's down the street, and after a brief moment of processing what that meant, he smirked and said, "oh, you're a Catholic, that's not the word."  and walked away.  I received my change and left, amused at the almost absurd experience I had just had.  This brief encounter, however, left me with several questions and thoughts to be processed, and perhaps shared, after all, this upcoming Sunday, we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord and in the Gospel according to Luke, we hear of the great expectation with which the people lived their lives.  Clearly, they awaited the arrival of the Messiah, the chosen one who would come to save his people.  They awaited the fulfillment of the Word.  This fulfillment, however, was not what they had expected, instead of a mighty warrior, we have a man born in a manger, a man who is adored by the shepherds and magi, we have a man who is come to be baptized by John, instead of the opposite.  This is the Christ, and unlike any of the expectations that had developed throughout the ages, he chose to do something different.  The liberation and life that he offers us is not a triumphant and earthly one filled with riches and things, instead, this humble man, who is the self-giving of God, or if you prefer, love taken on flesh, shows us that instead of coming through with our expectations, God often has a plan much greater than anything we can imagine, and often, it leaves us surprised and bemused, in awe of the elegant simplicity with which God does such great things.  In all of this however, much like the man that approached me, we sometimes let our expectations and false hopes to get the best of us, and instead of sharing a moment among people who believe in the Word, we get lost in the words.  Today, as always, we are called upon by God and invited by Christ, to enter the waters of unity and love, the same waters that are made clean by Christ, the one who takes upon himself our sin.  Today, we are welcomed into the arms of a loving redeemer who goes beyond our expectations and surprises us with things unimagined.  Today, we are called upon to hear the Word, and to let that Word ring true in our hearts, so that in our every day living, we may become engulfed in the Word, and not lost in the many words around us.  No sir, I don't have my own church, nor do I preach at a church like yours, but listen, do you hear him?  He, who has died for you and me, he calls us, and because we share in hearing, Him, the Word, we are one, and for that, I thank God.  Maybe I should have given him a hug (that would have really freaked him out!  too bad I don't like hugs).  As always, know that I love you.  God bless you.  Fr. Ricky