The Mountain

First Sunday of Advent Reflection 11/27/2022

Isaiah 2:1-5; Romans 13:11-14; Matthew 24:37-44

Welcome to the beginning of a new year in the Church. That’s right, today, the first Sunday of Advent, is the New Year’s Day for the Catholic Church. The new year starts today, liturgical cycle year A, where the Gospel of Matthew will be read each Sunday and the daily Masses will follow year I for 2023. What does that have to do with anything, one might ask? Well, it’s human nature to be a procrastinator, and we often like to put new, virtuous habits off until the “new year.” Today is that day. Today is New Year’s Day in the Church; and we can even go one step further, this is whole week is week one, so, even if you’re getting a late start like I did this morning, you’re still at the right time to start. Start what, you might ask? Well, let’s look at today’s Mass readings for that answer.

Isaiah tells us that “in days to come, the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest mountain…All nations shall stream toward it.” Mountains are something that we can see from afar. From mountaintops we can also see really far as well, sometimes 100 miles or more on a clear day. Isaiah is letting us know that we will see the Lord coming… from afar. We are in the valley at the moment, and we shall climb the Lord’s mountain to go to the Lord’s house. Climbing a mountain takes work, commitment, determination. It takes conditioning. I know I certainly couldn’t do it in the shape I’m in at the moment. This metaphor is meant for you to reflect on the condition of your soul. If you were to start that ascent up the spiritual mountain of heaven, the House of the Lord, how far up would you get before you had an obstacle to cross? With your current conditioning, would you be able to maneuver over, around, or remove the obstacle or would it obstruct your way? You can’t get to the top of the mountain unless you can overcome that obstacle. Yes, this metaphor is still very effective.

The spiritual obstacles in the way are habitual sin. The way we remove these obstacles is to replace sin with virtue. For every sin there is corresponding virtue. So, if you find that “dealing with people and all their glory” invites you to sin, then build up the virtue of charity. Grab one or more of those angels off of the parish Christmas tree and commit to give a gift to a child who has an incarcerated parent. Most of us can’t imagine the situations that these children and families live each day. They’re daily reality is much different than ours. So, put yourself in their shoes for a moment, and be generous. The lesson that your generosity gives is much more than that toy on a list. The humility that the incarcerated parent feels when his/her child receives a gift that he/she could not provide is healing for both that parent and you. Suddenly, that individual or group of people that invited you to sin are different and your compassion for your fellow man has overcome this spat of sinful anger. Remember, God is more powerful than anything or anyone. That also translates to virtue because virtue comes from God. This is what Paul is talking about when he says to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” Don virtue instead of sin.

Jesus reminds us that we don’t know when the Son of Man will return, but we need to be prepared. So, as in the metaphor of the mountain, we need to condition ourselves for this climb. We will see Him coming, and if we start then, it will be too late. Start with virtue today. It’s the New Year, it’s time. Your parish will have some sort of charitable works going on. Be involved in that. It will change how you see your fellow man. And it will invite you to repent. This is why your parish will have an Advent Penance service. Go to that too and bring your family. It’s time to start conditioning for that climb. I’ll see you there.

Ms. Renee Valenzuela, OP

Remember Me

November 20, 2022

Mrs. Helen Hawkins, OP

The impossible question, “Why does God allow suffering?”

Even worse, the suffering of humankind goes beyond the natural world in which all living beings are destined to suffer and die. The suffering of mankind is so often the deliberate inflicting of horror by human beings, one on another. The crucifixion of Christ and the two men who suffered with him, exemplifies this capacity of humankind for cruelty.

Although I cannot understand the “why of suffering” I do know that suffering and death must be necessary for life.  Simplistic as it may seem, silk flowers do not wilt and die.  But silk flowers, no matter how beautiful, cannot match the exquisite loveliness of a blooming yellow rose.  There is no inanimate object in the world that can match the laughter of a small child. Painfully, we are forced to acknowledge that since we are alive, we will suffer and we will die.  

On Calvary, I see two men crucified on either side of Christ. Each man is suffering the evil horror of the crucifixion. One man is filled with the anger and bitterness in his suffering and the other recognizes Christ, and inspite of the pain and fear, he reaches out to our Lord and asks to be remembered.

As far as we can know, human beings are the only creature who asks the question why suffering exists. The question, as echoed throughout human history, and no matter how logical or wise the answers have been given as to why God allows suffering, none of these explanations touch the heart and soul of a person while he or she is in great physical or emotional pain.

Tough (Self-)Love

by Ms. Catherine “Cathie” Lambert, OP

for the weekend mass readings

of 12-13 Nov 22

  The Second Reading today contains one of St. Paul’s really cool bits of advice.  You remember:  “Do not let anyone have any food if he refuses to do any work.”  (ca. 2 Thessalonians 3:10)

     Apparently, in St. Paul’s time, this rule was more than just good advice that no one could figure out how to implement without getting thrown into jail.  What was that like, I wonder?  Tough times, huh.  Well, ‘tough times’ require tough decisions.  Right?  Yeah, right.  You know… Mama used to say that the only one we can really change is ourselves.  So… Get.  Real.  … with yourself. 

     Let’s say you’ve got the feeling you should be praying more, and more often?  Then do it.  How?  How about a little tough (self-)love?  Start off slow, you can only really tackle one thing at a time – and it does!  I mean, it also does take time to accomplish.  And something else; that is, it takes something else in order to get your bad self to your better self.  It takes the ‘grace of God’. 

     Well, how do I get that, you ask?  That’s it!  That’s exactly what you do!  You.  Ask.  Yep, you ask God for grace… the grace to want to do it.  Didn’t know grace could do that?  I didn’t either until recently.  Then I heard about it, then I thought, ‘Well, heck!  Let’s give it a try.’

     Someone suggested saying twenty decades of the Rosary – all in one day.  Twenty decades.  Twenty decades?  Oh, my gosh!  That’s… that’s… let me see – one, two, three, fffff…  That’s four whole regular Rosaries!  One for every set of the Mysteries.  All in one day.  Huu-huh.  Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time.

     I kept praying about it though – asking for the grace to want to do it.  And what’ll you know?  Slowly, bit-by-bit, I actually started to want to do it.  No, really!  Then I started praying for the grace to figure out how to get it going…  Come on, grace-of-God, I need you.  I need you a lot.  G’me some ideas here.  And ideas started whistling through my brain almost too fast to grab.  But, I did.  Grab one, I mean.  You know, an idea of how to get myself praying twenty decades of the Rosary a day… and loving it.

     Do you know, they say that if you put a live frog in a pot of cool water, and slowly heat it up.  You know, s-l-o-w-l-y… that the frog will never even know it’s being turned into frog soup (yuck).  Yeah, it’s true.  The frog will never even try to jump out of the pot!

     Not that I was making frog soup, or anything.  I was training myself to pray twenty decades a day.  That’s a lot better than frog soup!  But that’s what the idea I caught suggested.  No!  Not frog soup, you Silly!  Start out slow and easy, just adding a decade a week, for instance.  And keep praying that until it seems entirely normal.  Then adding another decade until that seems normal, and then… well, you get the idea, right? 

     And after – oh, say forty days (you know, about the length of Lent) – yeah, after about forty days, well there you go!  Frog soup!  Nawwh.  I’m pullin’ your leg.  Not frog soup, but saying four whole Rosaries every day – and feeling like it’s nothing much.  Feeling like it’s just what I’ve always done.  And that’s grace for ya:  the greatest way to want to work for your dinner since St. Paul suggested it. 

     Yeah.  Mama was right – can only change myself.  So how do I want to change myself?  I mean, what kind of person do I want to be?  Don’t know?  Start praying for the grace to be able to know.  Then grab one of those ideas that start whistling through your brain and, you know… Make frog soup!

The Son of Man Has Come

Wis 11:22-12:2; 2 Thes 1:11-2:2; Lk 19:1-10

The readings today remind of who Jesus is. He is the Son of Man who has come into the world to seek us and to save us. We are the lost whom He seeks to save. In the first reading it says that God “rebuke[s] offenders little by little, warn[s] them and remind[s] them of the sins they are committing that they may abandon their wickedness and believe in [Him].” This rebuke is accomplished daily through our consciences.

One of the most important things that parents are responsible for teaching their children is knowing right from wrong. Our consciences are formed at a very young age. This is why the Church acknowledges the “age of reason” at 7 years. By this time, a child should know right from wrong, which is why children may receive the eucharist at this tender age after a period of sacramental catechesis. They can understand the need for confession and that the Eucharist is the body, blood, soul, and divinity of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Somehow, as we get older, this understanding unfortunately falls away for most Catholics.

This is where the first reading today comes into play. God rebukes us little by little, warns us and reminds us of the sins that we are committing in order that we may abandon our wickedness and believe in Him. God does this for us every single day. Why was this so easy to understand as a child as young as 7 but seems so foreign to us as an adult? The Lord knows us more intimately than we know ourselves, which is why He gave us the sacrament of mercy: Reconciliation. We confess our sins to a priest because he has been given apostolic authority to absolve us from the sins that we confess. That cannot happen without him. We cannot do it alone, through prayer, or by any other means. Get to confession as soon as you can. If it’s been a while, or a long time, make an appointment. You will be surprised at how you’ll be received, how relieved you’ll be afterward, how the enormous weight is lifted off of you. Please, don’t delay. It’s the only way to reconcile with God.

Paul reminds us in the second reading that we should not be surprised when Jesus returns. We’ve heard this over and over in so much of scripture. We believed that as a child, why wouldn’t we believe it as adults? God does not change. He is the same today as he was in ancient times and will be in the future. His commandments do not change. They tell each one of us who is to come first in our lives and how to treat others. Jesus sums up all ten commandments by telling us to love God first with all our hearts and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. That is a summary of all ten. Our Heavenly Father detailed it for us and Jesus bottom lined it for us. Paul reminds us not to be shaken or surprised when the day of the Lord is at hand. Be prepared for that day. The very best way to prepare is to reconcile with God. Go to confession as soon as you can.

The Gospel reading today underscores both of these messages. Zacchaeus puts in quite the effort to see Jesus. He doesn’t push and shove his way to the front; he climbs a tree to separate himself from the crowd. Jesus sees him immediately and calls him by name. In their one-on-one conversation Zacchaeus confesses his sins, makes his act of contrition through reparations, and Jesus tells Zacchaeus that salvation has come to his house. This is an excellent example of the sacrament of reconciliation. This is exactly what happens every single time. Please, go and seek the mercy of the One who loves you more than you love yourself. He is calling. Will you answer?

Ms. Renee Valenzuela, OP

Reflection Sunday, Oct. 23, 2022

Luke 18: 9-14
In today’s parable the Pharisee who went up to the temple reminds me of a prairie grouse blowing himself up and dancing around to impress a potential mate. He is all puffed up and saying to God, “Look at me! I’m not like the rest of humanity—- greedy, dishonest, adulterous— or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.” In other words, “God, look how righteous and wonderful I am. I deserve all your blessings.” Everything is about himself and nothing about God.

The publican, on the other hand, stood way off and did not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’

During the penitential rite we are supposed to beat our breast when we pray, ….’through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault.’ Maybe we should kneel before God more often and beat our breast and think about how merciful God is and how much we have offended him by our sins, and trust in his mercy and ask God for true contrition for our sins.

For the publican it’s as it says in Sirach today (Sirach 35:12-14, 16-18), “The prayer of the lowly pierces the clouds; it does not rest until it reaches its goal, nor will it withdraw until the Most High responds, judges justly and affirms the right, and the Lord will not delay.”

Mrs. Peggy Brechtel, OP

Hounds of the Lord

As Dominicans, we are the “Hounds of the Lord.

We howl and bark with great glee. Sometimes, a gentle nipping, but its all done with love. if you don’t believe me, attend one of our meetings; and bring your “outside voice”.

Our readings today speak of our Pastors and leadership in the Church, and how important it is to be a good shepherd to the flock. We know that the shepherd, always has his dogs to help him. The dogs step in on the outer perimeter to assist, one man cannot guard against the wolves alone.

We know that the mantle of shepherd can be heavy at times, The good shepherd will go through rivers and walk-through fire to protect the flock, and after all of that, still love the flock, andstill loves being a shepherd.

What happens if the Shepherd is injured and can no longer protect the flock? Or the shepherd flees from the flock when he sees the wolves coming; he’s afraid for his own life; leaving the flock helpless against the attack? 

YOU LET THE DOGS OUT!

When the shepherd is no longer able to protect the flock; thedogs surround the flock, against the wolves.    The dog’s help shepherd the flock and circle them; they take the bite of the wolf to protect the flock.

The dogs are always faithful to the flock, and never break their circle of protection. They will die for the flock.

Mrs. Denise Fedie, OP

The Insidiousness of Presumption

Luke 17:5-10

We expect so many things from everyone. We expect to be respected; we expect to be paid or repaid; we expect to be loved the way we want to be loved; we even expect God to repay our “good deeds.” This is presumptuous of us and is a result of our concupiscence. Our pride tells us that we’re “owed” something for our actions. Well, Jesus reminds us in today’s gospel, that we are not owed anything for doing what we are supposed to do.

We are called to be charitable to others, to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. When we do this, why would we expect anything in return? We are called to love, not to be loved. If our neighbor does not love us in return, are we called to retaliate or deprive another of our charity? No, Jesus says to love your neighbor and to love is to “will the good of another.” We can do that in so many ways, such as simply attending to their needs. If they’re naked, clothe them without expecting anything in return. If they’re hungry, feed them without expecting anything in return. If they thirst, give them something to drink without expecting anything in return. If they’re mourning, comfort them without expecting anything in return. If your charity is reciprocated, great! But don’t feel put out if it isn’t. Don’t think less of that person if it isn’t. This is the lesson here. By doing what is commanded of you by God, don’t expect a congratulations or special accolades. We are called to live a life of charitable actions as Christians and expect nothing in return. And after living according to what has been commanded of us, we might be welcomed into heaven. Don’t expect it, because only the Just Judge will determine where we go after particular judgement. Don’t presume that you’ve earned the beatific vision because you’ve been a disciple. Presumption is a pitfall that must be avoided at all costs.

Humility and presumption are absolutely incompatible. Presumption comes from pride, the wellspring of the most heinous sins. When we presume that we’ve done good things that warrant heaven, we are actually saying to God that we can judge ourselves and have no need for Him. Is that what we really want to say to our Creator? Certainly not, so please, don’t fall into the trap of presumption. That snare is from the devil, who we must resist and reject every single day. Satan wants to deprive us from heaven, not because he wants it, but because he does not want us to have it. His wickedness knows no boundaries and he will use every means possible to rob you of your faith and your trust in God.

To help avoid these traps, do the things that God has called us to do for one reason only: purely out of love for Him. Love all that He has created because He loves His creation. Discern His will in your life by praying to Him for guidance, by praising Him for all that He has done for you and ask Him to increase the gifts of the Holy Spirit in you. Then you can demonstrate your faith by trusting Him and His will in your life. Does this mean that we take a “hands off” approach? No, not by a long shot. We should pray earnestly daily because that is our ongoing conversation with God. We should thank Him daily for our blessings, gifts, and talents because they all come from Him alone. We should obey His commandments out of our love for Him, especially about loving our neighbor, because God loves that person, too. Maybe that’s why God entrusted that person’s needs to you at that moment. Sometimes we are the blessing that God bestows on that person and humbly accept that responsibility. Trust that God has our best interests at heart in all that we receive, whether it’s sickness or health, wealth or poverty, easy days or trials. That “No” to our prayers is actually a blessing that comes with a lesson in holiness.

Have faith and carry on. Give help where and when you can, not because it will get you something, but because God has called us to be a blessing unto others. Trust Him in everything.

Ms. Renee Valenzuela, OP

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

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