Loss and Hope

Luke 15:1-10 ~ 11 Sep 2022 ~ by Ms. Catherine Lambert, OP

                When Jesus explained to the Pharisees why he was ‘consorting’ with sinners; he tells them a couple stories – parables we call them. 

                The first story was about a shepherd.  Jesus often told stories about sheep and the shepherds who looked after them.  Although lambs and sheep were a food staple for first century Israel, and were often given in sacrifice to God, there seemed to be something more in a shepherd-sheep relationship.  A good shepherd, Jesus said, was willing to lay down his life for his sheep.  And the sheep would follow a good shepherd because he would call each of them by name.  Wow.  I had trouble enough coming up with names for my two children – just think about trying to name 50 or a hundred!

Well, this particular shepherd actually did have a 100 sheep.  And although I can’t quite figure how someone could count 100 milling, roaming sheep, this shepherd noticed that one of them was missing!  One.  The shepherd was, of course, rightly concerned about the 99 sheep that were still where they should be, but the idea of that one missing sheep made him gnaw his lip in worry.  Anything could have happened to his well-loved Georgie, anything at all! 

The shepherd looked back at the 99.  They seemed pretty much okay, so he spiraled around and out further and further, looking and calling for his lost one.  He angled up a hillside,  then angled down it; he muddied his feet by the stream – almost lost a sandal; he wove in and out and around piles and pillars and scatterings of rocks.  “Georgie!” he called.  “Geoooor-gyyy!”

It was starting to get dark, he needed to get back to the 99 and herd them close together for the night.  He came across Sam, another shepherd watching after his own flock as he cornered briefly into the next little valley.  “Hey, Sam!  Have you seen one of my sheep anywhere?”

“No, man.  Just my own 58.  Which one you looking for?”

“Georgie.”

“Aww, that’s tough, man!  Georgie’s a prince!”

The shepherd decided he’d search all night if he had to.  He could duck back to his 99 every now and again to make sure they were still alright.  “Geoooor-gyyy!  Georgie!  Where are you?”  Wait.  What was that?  Was that a ‘bleep’, a ‘blatt’?  It was!  Over there by the stream! And there was Georgie himself, stuck in the mud up to his curly-wool belly.

“Georgie!  Georgie, there you are!  What in the world are you doing way over here?”

“Bleep.”  Georgie wasn’t much of a talker, but the shepherd could tell he was really sorry for causing so much trouble… and really happy to be found.  The shepherd did loose a sandal in the mud this time – but it was okay because he had his Georgie back.  He pulled and pushed and twisted Georgie out of the mud and up across his shoulders.

“You’re puttin’ on weight, Georgie!” quipped the shepherd.  “I won’t be able to carry you like this much longer.  HEY SAM! I FOUND GEORGIE – HE’S OKAY!”

“That’s great, man,” came the distant reply.

The shepherd turned his head so he could look Georgie in the eye.  “You stay with me, Georgie!  You’re safe with me.  I’ll take good care of you right to the very end.  You know that, right?”

“Blaaaatttt!”  Georgie seemed pretty confident about that.

What’s this got to do with eating dinner with sinners?  Well, although it would be quite the coincidence if even one of those sinners reclining at the table was named Georgie, there was no doubt at all that those rough and tumble, sly hucksters were in the presence of The Good Shepherd…  The Good Shepherd who was trying to find and rescue them.  The Good Shepherd who would take good care of them right to the very end.  Some of them had the feeling something like that was in the offing.

The Pharisees were invited to the party – all sinners welcomed.  They sneered, rolled their eyes and shuffled down the road with an occasional backward glance.  ‘Well,’ thought The Good Shepherd, ‘there’ll be time to pull them out of the mud… if they want to be pulled out, that is.’  He turned back to the dinner-folk who were politely waiting for him.  He had some pretty important things to talk over with them…

Sunday Reflection

Reflection for 08-21-2022

By Ms. C. A. Riley, OP

The Gospel according to Luke 13:22-30

In a world full of “I need it now, and everything according to me.” We listen to Jesus tell us that the path to Heaven is narrow and even though many will try to make it, few will.  He tells us that when the time comes, and the feast begins many will be looking on from the other side, grinding and wailing their teeth, for evil cannot enter the Kingdom of God.  I pray my brothers and sisters that we are able to detach from sin here in this life, so that when we are called to the feast of our Lord that we may all enter the Kingdom with ease. As Father Mike would say, “I am praying for you, will you pray for me?”

Entrusted

19th Sunday in Ordinary Time

I would like to call to mind the word, “entrusted,” a key word in today’s gospel reading. When we trust someone, we have faith that the person will do as they should. If you trust someone with money or property, you’re essentially saying that you don’t believe that this person would cause you or your property harm. You believe that they will not steal what is yours, destroy it, or cause injury with it. The word “entrust” goes several steps farther. Not only will the person not cause harm with it, but that they will do good with it. When you are entrusted with something, you not only safeguard it, but you also use it with your gifts for holy purposes. With that in mind, let’s look at today’s gospel reading.

“Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.” What does this mean? Let’s take a look at who is entrusted with what. We are all entrusted with something, such as our call to build the kingdom. Some of us are teachers, some are police officers, some are doctors. To the world, these are careers, but when God calls you to do a particular type of work for His kingdom, He blesses you with gifts in order to do that work well. This is what we mean by the word, “vocation.” God is not going to call you to do something that He has not equipped you to do. Does everyone have a vocation?

I believe that we do. The Lord blesses each of us in so many ways. He has written His law on our hearts. That alone is quite the gift. This is the foundation of our morals. This is how we intuitively know right from wrong. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that we act appropriately. It just means that we’ve been entrusted with this gift to build up the kingdom in our vocation as a Christian. Others are entrusted with more, such as being a parent, a teacher or catechist, a priest, a bishop, a pope. The Lord gives you the gifts you need for each of your vocations. He equips you to do the jobs that He as entrusted you to do. As a catechist, you are entrusted with teaching the faith and you’re equipped to do so. As a doctor, you are entrusted to heal the sick by learning biology, anatomy, chemistry, and math. As a priest, you are entrusted to be the confessor and spiritual director of the faithful. As a pastor, you act with apostolic authority to occupy the seat in your parish. As a married person, the Lord has written love on your heart and has entrusted you to raise your family in the faith. As a parent, you’re entrusted to raise your children to be faithful servants of God. Of all of these examples, I would argue that the parent is entrusted with the most. As Jesus cautions us 

Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of things that cause sin! Such things must come, but woe to the one through whom they come!

Matthew 18:6-7

Quite a vivid image, isn’t it? At my own particular judgment, I hope to hear, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” Therefore, I must act according to what God has planned for me by utilizing the gifts he has given me to build up the kingdom of God. I have been entrusted with much and I will be judged accordingly. When we accept this reality, we are capable of doing the work God has called us to do by using the skills and talents he has gifted us.

Another thing to keep in mind is that God does not judge us on our successes or failures, he judges us according to our efforts. People will believe what they allow themselves to believe. We don’t fail to convert people; people fail to accept conversion. But that topic is for another day.

I hope this helps to bring this lesson into perspective. May God bless you abundantly.

Ms. Renee Valenzuela, OP

The Other Side of the Coin

So . . . let’s talk about the idea of prayer.  That’s right, I want you to think about praying.  Not so much whether or not to do it.  And not so much which prayers to pray at any given time.  Not even so much about the quality of your prayers.  Or whether you pray out loud, silently, slowly, or as quickly as you have breath for . . . that’s all in the Up-to-You category as far as I’m concerned.  Well, you and The Big Guy.

What I want to know is how you address your prayers.  How you approach them.  Mmm.  Let’s try this:  Do you go through your prayers for the same reason the chicken crossed the road?  To get to the other side? 

Is  it something that’s in the way of other, more important things you actually have to do?  That’s the way it has been for me.  Sacred Scripture says it’s important – so I do want to do it.  But.  Well.  This other – stuff – is really important.  It’s the reason I finally decide to get out of bed in the morning.  It’s my goal – you know, my Goal for the Day.  Whether I do this stuff well, whether I complete this job, determines the kind of day I’ll have had.  If I’ve finished doing this stuff, and done it well, tonight I’ll be able to slide between the sheets with a sigh of satisfaction.  If I haven’t quite finished it, or if I had to rush through it . . . well, then . . .  tonight when I shove myself between the sheets, it will be with a groan of frustration – it’s been a bad day.  I hate bad days; I want to have as few of them as possible.

You know what I’m talking about, right?  This stuff is not just on my To Do List, it is on my Must Do List.  And it takes time and energy.  Yeah.  Thing is, prayer takes time and energy, too.  So, sometimes – not all the time – but sometimes everything for the day comes down to a matter of priorities.  I.  Have.  To do.  This.  Stuff!  My family depends on me doing it.  Praying’s important.  I’ll give you that.  But maybe a quick Hail Mary is OK this time.  I’ll do better tomorrow.  But.  You know – this is Life.

Then something really weird happened to me; not spooky weird, but kinda “Oh, Gosh” weird.  It was as if I suddenly understood, with my mind and my heart, just how important prayer is.  I knew; I actually knew I could pray for a really long time; I don’t know, like an hour, and still be that chicken crossing the road.  Just to get to the other side.  At the same time – this is the weird part – I also knew; actually knew that whether I pray out loud, silently, slowly, or as quickly as I have breath for . . .  that that’s not ITIT is whether I approach  prayer as something that has value in and of itself;  whether it is on my Must Do List.  If it’s on my List, then it is something I DO rather than something I get through.  It’s something that determines the kind of day I’ll have had.

Would you think I was crazy if I told you that prayer is now the thing I like doing best?  You see, it’s not in the way of my Life anymore.  And it’s no longer something I skate through with the least amount of effort and time.  It’s something I DO.  Some days it’s a bit of a chore to get started.  Then I remind myself that prayer is not a Side Hussle, it is the alpha and omega of my day.  The rest of the stuff?  It comes along, it gets done.  Somehow, there is time and energy for that, as well. 

It’s like those drawings that are really two pictures in one.  Look at it one way, it’s a vase. Look at it another way, it’s a couple of faces . . .   

Now that you’ve seen both pictures, you can’t ever go back to seeing just one of them.  Something’s clicked in your mind, in your perception of reality, and it can’t ever be undone.

Don’t be a chicken . . .  Stare at the idea of praying for awhile, listen for that click in your brain … the one where, for the very first time, you put the Kingdom of God in your day – first and last.  And all that very important stuff will fill in the cracks and spaces around it, and it will all fit.  For the very first time in your life.

3 Aug 2022

Ms. Catherine Lambert, OP

Office of Readings Reflection

2 Corinthians 7:2-16 and a homily on the second letter to the Corinthians by St. John Chrysostom

24 July 2022

I was struck by the theme of the opening psalm in today’s Office of Readings, “There are two ways a man may take.” In the Didache, the very first lesson is that there are two paths: one that leads to life and one that leads to death. There is a great difference between the two. The path that leads to life is the way of the cross. We must die to sin and to this world by choosing to repent of our sinful ways. We do that by ordering our lives to all that Jesus taught us in the Gospels; that God should be our very first priority in life. This isn’t easy to do because it involves making radical changes in our behavior, in our habits, in our priorities. These are fundamental changes that must take place. This leads to the next part: the sadness.

This sadness isn’t for the life that we leave. It’s a different kind of sorrow; it’s deeper, more terrifying. As St. Paul states, being filled with a sorrow that comes from God, leads to repentance. Now the choice is to accept that the sorrow that we feel so deeply in our souls… or not. When we realize that this sorrow is aligned with our Father’s sorrowful pity for His child, we ought to rejoice that we have contrite hearts, the sacrifice that God will not spurn. The sorrow that we have for leading a sinful life is shared with God; it turns to consolation, because those who mourn will be consoled. This leads to a radical conversion. This powerful experience is something that we desire for others. It leads us into a spiritual unity with St. Paul in his second letter to the Corinthians. He rejoiced at their repentance and conversion.

St. John Chrysostom explains to us that the consolation that we feel for another’s change for the better is so strong that our tribulations become meaningless. Imagine loving so intensely that we are consoled at another’s repentance. This is the kind of love that Jesus commands of us: Love one another as I have loved you. Jesus’ passion and death on the cross is more extreme tribulation than we could ever endure. Yet, He willingly gave His life for us, that we may have eternal life with Him. He rejoices exceedingly when we repent of our sins and amend our lives; so much so, that His awareness of the suffering that He endured for our benefit has been extinguished by the surpassing consolation that our repentance effected. Indeed, we are called to this depth of love, and it begins with choosing the path that leads to life.

Ms. Renee Valenzuela, OP

The Better Part

Sunday, 17 July 2022

By Ms. Catherine Lambert, OP

                This Sunday’s readings are about “A Message”.  In the First Reading, the angel of the Lord (or the Lord himself) came to the man Abraham.  Abraham had stepped out for God, he’d made that proverbial leap of faith and left everything he knew behind.  That day, Abraham and Sarah were made a promise:  Within a year, they would be visited again and they would be able to show off their own son.  Abraham trusted, believed the divine promise.  But Sarah despaired of ever having children and, in Genesis 18:12, not a part of today’s Reading:  Sarah laughed.  Do you suppose she laughed for joy at hearing she would finally bear a son; or was her laugh drenched in bitterness, knowing she would not?  Who chose ‘the better part’?  Abraham or Sarah?

                Sometimes we don’t know what ‘the better part’ might be.  Then, sometimes God pierces the mystery and pours the very answer into the laps of the most unlikely of people.  St. Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, explains that the answer to the Mystery of the Ages is that Christ is among them . . . among us.  In that day, not all chose ‘the better part’, but many did.

                Life can be so distracting, shifting our attention this way and that.  Jesus’ friend Martha found this out one day.  She fretted about her duty to hospitality.  Abraham had done the same, rousing his household to quickly, quickly provide for the unexpected guests.  Hospitality was of great consequence and both Abraham and Martha knew that many little details needed to be put into play in order to do it well.  Jesus was important – Martha knew – and she so wanted to do it well for him.  But her sister – lazy girl – did not help her.  Mary sat at Jesus’ feet, as close as she could get, and was attentive to the only thing that was needed.  Martha cried out for help to do her will for Jesus; but Mary chose ‘the better part’, she chose to do Jesus’ will for her.

                Jesus was proud of Mary’s decision, but loved Martha no less.  He gently admonished Martha, pointing out her error.  What do you suppose Martha did then?  Do you think she scurried off to get refills for her honored guests?  Or do you think she dried her hands, put her towel down – rather thoughtfully – and joined her sister at the feet of Jesus? 

                What about us?  We’ve learned the answer to the Mystery of the Ages – we’ve learned that Jesus Christ is among us.  What do we do with that information?  Do we still bow to the gods of our time:  to a full schedule, to responsibilities to others, to an inflated sense of self?  Or, do we choose . . . The Better Part?

The Good Samaritan

Sunday, July 10, 2022

“Go and do likewise.” There are a couple very important points in our Mass readings today. The first comes from Moses in the Book of Deuteronomy. Recall that Moses is a prophet, meaning that God speaks to His people through Moses, so these are God’s words to His people (you and me). This entire reading tells us how and why to be the “Good Samaritan.” God wrote His commandments on our hearts. He wrote natural law on our hearts. These are our morals. When we turn from our morals, we turn away from God. When we accept God’s will as our own, we can’t help but follow His commandments with all our hearts and all our souls. It comes naturally. Jesus illustrates this lesson in the Parable of the Good Samaritan.

Recall who the Samaritans were. They were once Israelites, united under King David. After David’s death, his son Solomon became King; when Solomon died, his son Rehoboam became King. A man named Jeroboam went to the new King to redress the issue of the place of worship.  Rehoboam refused to alter the place of worship designated by his father Solomon. This ultimately split the kingdom of Israel into the Northern Kingdom (10 tribes) and the Southern Kingdom (2 tribes). The Samaritans are part of the Northern Kingdom, all who turned away from the House of David. They built altars to false gods, namely Baal. See 1 Kings chapter 12 for the secession and the errors of the Northern Kingdom. This is important to understand how the Jews viewed Samaritans in this reading today.

Jesus reiterates that God has written His commandments (our morals) on the hearts of all humans. By using a Samaritan, He illustrates for us that even those who are far from God can heed the call for moral stewardship because God has written that on our hearts. Moses says that we don’t need any external training or formation (someone to go fetch this knowledge for us) to hear and heed this commandment, and Jesus sums up that point in the character of the Samaritan.

We might also take a cue of who this Samaritan could be by the phrase, “I shall repay you on my way back.” Samaritans were foreign to the Judeans, just as Jesus was foreign to the Pharisees and the Sadducees. They tried to kill Him on many occasions because he was a threat to their authority, since they worshipped the law more than God. They often missed the opportunity to show mercy because they loved the law so much. Thus, Jews would purposely travel around Samaria as though it were a leper colony. Recall John chapter 4, the story of the Woman at the Well. Jesus often used hyperbole to accentuate his points, so this is not really a stretch when you really think about it. Double meanings are another tool that Jesus used, especially in parables, to drive home an important message. The point is to ask yourself how far are you from God? Do you trust Him enough to allow His will in your life or to yield your will to His?

So, in order to “go and do likewise,” we must let go of self and let God’s ways flow from our hearts naturally. Act according to the morals that God has written on our hearts, without anxiety over what others will think or say about it. We don’t need special training or formation to do what’s right. And God’s will is always the right thing to do.

Ms. Renee Valenzuela, OP

Reflection for Sunday, July 3, 2022

In today’s first reading, Isaiah says “As nurslings, you shall be carried in her arms, and fondled in her lap; as a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; in Jerusalem you shall find your comfort.” This poignantly reminds us of what Jesus said “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!” (Matt 23:37)

Psalm 66 talks about the mighty deeds of the Lord. The last strophe says, “Hear now, all you who fear God, while I declare what he has done for me.” Do we declare and proclaim what the Lord has done for us? Grace is given us in our trials to overcome temptation, anxiety, anger, all the things that keep us “out of peace” with God and neighbor. Have we shared events in our lives with others that demonstrate God’s goodness to us?

The Gospel in the Letter of Saint Paul to the Galatians (6:14-18) teaches that God gives us the power through the Holy Spirit to love others. When we are a “new creation” in Christ (Gal.6:15), we have the power of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:16-26) to move away from our own self-centeredness and to think of others.

Mrs. Peggy Brechtel, OP

Are we following God or man?

Reflection for the 13th Sunday in ordinary time.

26 June 2022; by Ms. C. A. Riley, OP

Are we taking the time when confronted with options to discern whether the choices we are making is our own will or the will of God? How many times do I just go about my day and make choices without first asking if its God’s will that I am doing, or do I get caught up in all the commotion and make a quick decision because I know what is best?

We see in the Gospel when Jesus asked the man to follow him, he quickly and selfishly replied: “Lord let me go first and bury my father.” Now most would say that Jesus’ answer was a bit harsh, but sometimes we need more than a gentle reminder, we need that proverbial shove into reality. “Let the dead bury their dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God,” this was Jesus’ way of saying that God’s will is more important than any matter of the flesh and we should always strive to follow God and not try to be God.

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