Jesus, what would you do?

Sunday, April 3, 2022

The early morning in the temple area was a beautiful place to be. Jesus enjoyed this time alone; praying and listening to his Father before the people sought him out for teaching. As he made his way to the temple the people had already started gathering to hear his teachings for the day. 

The day started as any other day, with a prayer and thanksgiving to God the Father, when suddenly a crowd of scribes and pharisees came into the middle of the group dragging a disheveled young woman with them, she was caught in the act of adultery they were screaming at her and she was screaming right back at them,” how dare you judge me.”  The Pharisees wanted to stone her, as the law of Moses commanded, what would you have us do, Jesus? 

Jesus began writing on the ground with his finger, but they continued, “Jesus! this is a sinful woman, she must be put to death, she is an enticer and an evil doer from a bad neighborhood. She is just a prostitute; the world would be better off without her.” Jesus, tell us what you would do? They wanted to trap Jesus in his own words so they could accuse him. Jesus stood up and said to them, “Let the one among you who is without sin cast the first stone; one by one they dropped their stones and left, and Jesus was left alone with Mary of Magdalene. Jesus forgave Mary and gave her a new life, through reconciliation and mercy. We too can have the same forgiveness. As we travel through the desert. Christ is always waiting for us on the other side. 

Mrs. Denise Fedie, OP

The Parable of the Prodigal Son

Sunday, 27 Mar 22

Luke 15:11-32

I have always like this parable. In fact, I have been something of a prodigal myself. But whenever I hear or read it, my heart trulygoes out to the elder son. In this world, how easy it is for the ‘good’ child, for the ‘good’ man or the ‘good’ woman to come to the conclusion that they are overlooked and under appreciated.

​Here’s a metaphor:  How you know which pair of new shoesreally fit?  Are they the expensive, fine-looking ones?  You know, the uncomfortable ones; the shoes that break down too soon; the ones you’ve folded under your heel because of that blister they caused? Nahh. The best shoes are the ones that you can’t even tell you have on!  They don’t pinch your toes or rub your heels; they don’t fall off or gape at the sides – yep, you don’t even know you’re wearing them.  

​So, are we to conclude that the expensive, uncomfortable shoesare the best ones to have because we pay so much attention to them?  The Prodigal Son was expensive when it wasn’t convenient; he hurt feelings and eventually hurt himself.  He was fussed over when he finally did the right thing – he was well-loved, after all.  

​But what about the elder son; the one who never asked for anything?  The one who was always obedient and reliable?  His father comes to him when he’s being peevish and reassures him that of course he is well-loved, and always has been.  That he – even he – can have whatever he asks for and will be given his inheritance at the proper time.

The two sons are truly the children of their father. Both are loved. We are truly the children of our Father. We’re loved when we make mistakes. We’re loved when we do what is right. We will be celebrated when the time is right. We will receive our inheritance at the proper time. We are, after all, well-loved and always have been.

Sunday March 20, 2022

Ex. 3:1-8a, 13-15; 1 Cor. 10:1-6, 10-12; Lk.13: 1-9

Our readings today reflect God’s tender care of His people. He allows trials to awaken the people to the consequences of turning from Him but assures them of His hearing their cry as they seek Him. He reveals He is the center and creator of everything as His name, I AM who am. St. Paul tells of God fulfilling His promise of care comparing the Jews baptism in the water of the Red Sea to liberate them to the much greater next step. The baptism into Jesus is the fulfillment of redemption. But, like the Jewish people experienced, we must not turn away from Him to evil or He will call us back to Himself through chastisements. God gave the Egyptian Pharaoh many chances to repent through the wake up calls of plagues. But Pharaoh hardened his heart and demanded he be served rather than God. He eventually harvested the fruit of punishment.

God does not give up on us when we fail Him. He always gives us another chance to repent. He is patient and persistent in pursuing us. Like the fig tree that didn’t produce fruit, we often fail to live the gospel commands and then fail to produce fruit. The Lord sends “gardeners” who teach and enrich us with spiritual nourishment in hopes that we will repent. Lent is great time to evaluate what is really important and Who we serve. We will eventually harvest the good fruit produced in our lives or the deserved punishment of serving self rather than God. Let’s soften, not harden our hearts.

Mrs. Marilyn Pipkin, OP

The Transfiguration

Sunday, March 13, 2022

Jesus wants to increase the faith of his disciples by his transfiguration; to strengthen them for what
will soon take place, his crucifixion and death. By giving them a taste of his future glory he is giving
them a taste of their own future glory. His clothes become dazzlingly white. He is accompanied by
Moses and Elijah who spoke of the exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem.

Peter, James and John, who accompanied Jesus, are blinded by an excess of light which is above human
power and hear a voice from the cloud saying, “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.”

How well do we listen to Jesus?

Unlike Peter, we need to be quiet before the Lord. We need to go to that place in our soul where we can speak to Jesus and, more importantly, listen to him speak to us.

This takes practice.

We should never become discouraged by distractions, but keep on striving to meet Jesus in that peaceful place where he communes with us.

Spending time in Adoration will increase our ability to achieve this through the power of the Holy Spirit. This Lent make an effort to attend Adoration and, also, to practice Lectio Divina.

Mrs. Peggy Brechtel, OP

What Does Lent Mean to You?

As we prepare for the beginning of Lent we are reminded of the forty days Jesus spent in the desert being tempted by Satan. Through His obedience to God, and His love for us, Jesus knew that this was the only way to ensure salvation for the world.

How are you going to spend the next 40 days? Are you giving up something like chocolate, or sweets all together, maybe caffeine, or soda, maybe you are going to be nice to others, or even give to the food bank or shelters? Do you give up the same thing every year? Do you fall away from your promise halfway through the season, or give up on it all together? 

Might I suggest that we in the community of St. Philip’s and St. Michael’s pledge to pray for the conversion of sinners throughout the world this Lent?

So, whatever your plan is for this Lent, I pray that you are able keep your Lenten pledge, and if you feel yourself slipping away, remember, we are not in this alone and all we have to do is ask God for help. May the Holy Spirit guide you now and forever.

Ms. Cheryl Riley, OP

Sunday, February 20, 2022

1 Samuel 26:2, 7, 9, 12-13, 22-23

1 Corinthians 15:45-49

Luke 6:27-38

Today we hear an important message in all three of the Mass readings: All that the Lord God has created is to be treated as holy and belongs to Him; therefore, we are called to love others as God has loved us. Let me expand on that a bit.  

In the first reading, David refused to harm King Saul because Saul was God’s anointed one. He treated Saul as he wanted to be treated, as God’s anointed one. David had been anointed also, as boy, a young shepherd. This was unknown to Saul, but David knew and did not flaunt it. He respected God’s timing, trusted God with all of his heart, and obeyed the Lord. In fact, during his kingship, David would go on to write most of the Psalms, describing to us 3000 years later, his confidence in God and we, too, can trust the Lord, especially in times of difficulty. Remaining faithful in times of hardship is how our faith is tested. And, when we fall, David teaches us repentance in Psalm 51 and reminds us in Psalm 95, what happens to those who test God with their insolence. David, even though he sinned greatly, was God’s anointed one. He repented of his sins and remained in God’s favor. God loves us too, despite our sinfulness.

In the second reading Paul reminds us that although we are physical beings, we are also spiritual beings. As Jesus is both fully man and fully divine, we also, made in His image and likeness, are fully human and fully spiritual. Both natures, our physical and spiritual, must be lived well. In order to live well, we must be fed well. Our physical nature is fed with good food, our spiritual nature must also be fed well by reading, studying, and putting our faith into practice every day. When we eat, we need to remember that it is God who created the food that we receive and thank Him for it, with a contrite heart. When we attend Mass and receive the True Bread from heaven, the Eucharist, the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, we truly need to be thankful with every essence of our being: our mind, body, and soul. Being thankful at this level is a complete and total submission to God and His will. God only wills the good for us, because that is what love is: willing the good for another.

In the gospel reading, Jesus tells us to love our enemy, because that is what distinguishes us from all others. So, if love is willing the good of another, then to love one’s enemy is to provide for their good. How do we do this? We pray for those who do harm to us. Lord have mercy; they know not what they do. We do not speak ill of those who do not love us. Lord, help him change his ways. We do not commit the sin of detraction against those who hate us. Lord, show her the path to you. We do not commit the sin of calumny against those who hold grudges against us. Lord, show her how to be merciful. We do not seek vengeance against those who have hurt us. Lord, be merciful in your judgement of him.  

We do not waiver in our faith that God is the One who will judge us all, and therefore we shall not judge others. If we do, we will be held to the same standard at our own judgement. We ask God to be merciful on us, thus we must be merciful to all others. In the Our Father, we ask God to forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. We will be judged in the same measure that we judge others. Let us all reflect on this lesson that David, Paul, and Jesus teaches us: All that the Lord God has created is to be treated as holy and belongs to Him; therefore, we are called to love others as God has loved us.

Ms. Renee Valenzuela, OP

31 Dec 2021

                I nearly died – a couple of months ago – from a really bad case of COVID.  No, I didn’t get the vaccine.  It bothered me that the tissue of an aborted or miscarried fetus was used to develop and test at least some of these vaccines, and I dithered one way and the next, trying to find a valid reason to either get the vaccine or not.  I must admit that one of my core traits came into play as well:  procrastination.  It wasn’t two weeks after talking to my doctor about the pros and cons of the vaccine that I contracted COVID.

                I wasn’t just stay-in-bed sick… I was have-your-son-take-you-to-the-hospital sick.  By the time I got to the hospital (the wrong one at first since I get my medical care through the Veterans Admin.) I was so sick I couldn’t stand up – could barely sit up in the wheelchair in which they brought me in.  They asked me, “Do you have pain?”

                “Yes.”

                “Do you have a ‘booming’ headache?”  I wasn’t too sure what they meant by that, but ‘looking within’, I did discover that my eyeballs and eardrums were swelling and shrinking in time to my labored heartbeat. 

                “Yes!” 

                “Okay, just wait here.”

                Finally they shuffled me into an ambulance and drove me the two miles to the Veterans’ hospital.  They stuffed me into a tiny room which evidently hadn’t been used in a while:  I made this determination after one of the nurses said, “What is wrong with this bed?  I can’t get it to go down!”  Then, glory of glories, two things happed which gave me the greatest relief:  They hooked me up to oxygen – I could finally catch my breath (and my snot bubbles dried up) and; they carefully led me to the bathroom – no need to explain the relief I got from that.  Then they placed me in an adult diaper and tucked me in.

                I was in the hospital for twelve days, getting the tiniest bit better each day.  At first I was given what I later found out was a massive amount of ‘heated, high-flow oxygen’.  It basically came blasting through my canula, forcing oxygen into my poor lungs even when I was exhaling.  (It worked and later I was weaned down to the amount of oxygen that could be handled by a home oxygen concentrator.)

                Then there was the food – but that was actually pretty good!  My favorite was the ‘hamburger’ which looked, smelled, and tasted nothing like a hamburger – but was really good.  I did my best to be a ‘good’ patient – being polite to everyone who came into my room and even writing little ‘thank you’ notes to the kitchen crew on the menu selection sheet for the next day.  The kitchen liked my notes so much that I started getting ice cream along with breakfast!  Not a usual selection.

                On the second or third day, I texted my Dominican sisters and brother to tell them what was going on.  Rene texted back right away.  She reminded me that I really should have the Anointing of the Sick.  (Didn’t they used to call that Last Rites?  Huh.) 

                I hadn’t really thought about the possibility of dying.  I wasn’t afraid (strange that my greatest fear about dying is being afraid).  I wasn’t regretful or sad.  I was, I think, just… waiting.  That night, my respiratory therapist told me with great enthusiasm, “You’re going to make it!  I know you’re going to make it!  Do you know why?  Because you want to live!”  I want to live?  That was news to me.  Though not burdened with dire trials as many are, I had never relished living.  I remember as a teenager, looking at an old, tottering, white haired woman.  I envied her… because she was so much nearer ‘the end’ of all this than I was.  Of course God could always throw a bus at me any time and I would happily precede even those on their death beds.  I had, I think, kind of felt like St. Paul  – you know the verse: 

For to me life is Christ, and death is gain.  If I go on living in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. And I do not know which I shall choose.   I am caught between the two. I long to depart this life and be with Christ, [for] that is far better.  Yet that I remain [in] the flesh is more necessary…  (NABRE, Phil 1:20-24a)

                I texted my parish priest and asked if he would Anoint me because I was pretty sick.  He was there within minutes of my text.  I can’t but admire him for coming – in truth, it was an act of bravery.  I was, of course, on the “COVID Floor” of the hospital – no visitors, you know.  He came in with a face mask on and those blue gloves instead of the ‘CDC space suit’.

                It was just us in my little room.  He pinched off the tip of his glove on his index finger and thumb.  He then opened a tiny jar with the holy oil in it.  The scent was so warm, subtle, and comforting!  He put some on the palms of my hands and my forehead and I just felt so relieved of all worries, I felt I didn’t have to struggle any more… I just had to rest and wait with the mildest of curiosities, to see how things would turn out.  I share with you now the fruits my my contemplation.  I thought, ‘Huh.  I guess I really do believe this stuff.’ 

                It may not sound particularly profound, but like all of us, I have my faith, but I also have my doubts.  They’re like potholes in the road.  Some of them I see and avoid, but a significant number sort of sneak under the tire and give you quite a jolt.  Okay, I would think, that’s a Doubt which I can neither prove nor disprove… therefore – it doesn’t matter.  Keep on driving.

                But this Anointing of the Sick thing showed me something I hadn’t realized before.   See, I had decided to believe all this Jesus stuff, this Catholic stuff.  I’d made up my mind.  But what haunted me was that I’d made decisions like this before… and been wrong.  I wasn’t sure I could trust my ‘gut instinct’ – but I’d decided and I was darn well going to follow through – but I’d been wrong so many times before, what made this decision any different?  That is where the tire meets the pothole!

                After being Anointed though – I ceased to doubt myself and my decision – it all just drifted away.  I hadn’t so much doubted the veracity of Jesus or even the Catholic Church… I had doubted my ability to make a true and good decision regarding them.  But my reaction to being Anointed was so smooth, so calming, and… right, that the pothole-doubts were just – there.  They were part of the road but not a part of me.  I could chunk through them or swish around them, it really didn’t matter.  They were just there.  I knew… I know what I believe and – thank God – I know that I really do believe it.

                What a relief.  If I have to live some more – though that bus could come flying through the air a squash me at any time – then this is the way to do it.  I somehow always knew that ‘… to die is gain…’ but now I truly know that ‘… to live is Christ… ‘.  And I’m okay with that.  At last.

Ms. Catherine Lambert, OP

The Visit

                She gazed at her left hand which was caressing her growing belly.  Such a study in contradiction, she thought.  This belly so smooth and taut beneath her plain work-a-day garment – the badge of a young woman with the first of many children within her; then there – her hand, swathed in unexpected blotches and wrinkles (she tugged her sleeve down a bit) – the badge of an old woman with few and dwindling years foreseen.

                She fretted, and was shamed that she should do so.  It had been said – there could be no doubt – that her son, John, would have a momentous future.  Yet she worried.  The babe had not stirred, had not pressed against his confines even once.  Could he . . . could her babe be merely waiting to be born for the grave?  Was he resting within her, or was he already d…

                “Zechariah!  Husband.  How are you today, my Love?”  His shoulders shrugged, his wise old hands out, palm up; well-known, well-loved lips tightened in a self-depreciatory half-smile.  Elizabeth’s thoughtful hand grasped his – gave it a reassuring squeeze.  He, with his free hand, gently patted her distended belly.  His eye was quizzical.  Elizabeth’s head drooped.  A tear fell, darkening the fabric obscuring the object in question.  “No.  Nothing . . . yet,”  Elizabeth forlornly admitted.  Zechariah’s age-smoothed, gentle fingers stroked her forehead with just a wisp of connection, lovingly tucked a stray lock of grey-lightened hair back under her head shawl.  His thumb passed beneath her damp eye and lingered on her cheek.

                “Elizabeth?” a soft, almost childlike enquiry, wary of intruding perhaps.  Elizabeth violently swayed sideways and back.  Zechariah frantically gripped her shoulders to keep her on her feet.  Alarmed, he hastily questioned her eyes with his own – What’s going on?!  Are you alright?!  Surprisingly, Elizabeth’s face was alight with joy!  ‘The baby!’ she mouthed, ‘Our John!’

                The sweet voice behind her, “Elizabeth, I’ve. . . I’ve come for. . . for a visit.  I thought I could be of some – help?”

                Elizabeth turned, Zechariah keeping a cautionary hand on her shoulder, “O Mary, sweet cousin!  Don’t question how I know, but . . . I do know.  It has been explained to me in the most wonderful way!”  Hands extended, she laughed.  Her son was rolling, and pushing, and kicking!  “Mary.  Mary, you are the most blessed of all women!”  Mary stepped back in astonishment as Elizabeth continued, “The fruit of your womb is blessed!”  Mary shook her head in puzzlement.  How could Elizabeth know – and Zechariah, too, standing behind is wife, holding her shoulders and grinning wide enough to display the missing tooth which he was always at great pains to conceal.  How could they know?  “I am a humble woman . . .”  Elizabeth glanced back and up at her dear husband, “We are just ordinary people!  How does this happen to me – to us?”  Mary’s eyes, no longer confused, were steady, serene, radiant. 

                “How does it happen, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”  Elizabeth giggled like the girl that Mary was.  “The moment – the very moment – the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped!  He.  He who had not yet moved to admit to life – he leaped for joy!”  Elizabeth approached Mary with a rolling gait as her John still cavorted within her.  She embraced Mary’s slight form and whispered with elation into her ear, “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled!”

                Mary leaned away from Elizabeth’s embrace, yet held tightly to her hands with nervous fingers.  It was true then.  It hadn’t been a dream or a hallucination.  It was . . . True.  Mary drew in a deep breath.  Then her breath burst out in synchrony with Elizabeth’s.  They locked eyes, grinning and laughing in their shared joy.  Elizabeth’s son was alive!  And . . . the Messiah was on his way!

Ms. Catherine Lambert, O.P.

Incident at Jacob’s Well

God couldn’t have been happy with the split between the Southern Kingdom of Judah – ruled by Solomon’s heir and the Northern Kingdom of Israel – the rebellious majority who broke away and established their own kingdom.  The North . . . Israel . . . was indeed rebellious.  It would not consent to be ruled by Solomon’s heir, would not acknowledge Jerusalem as the capital, would not even worship the True God but degenerated into idolatry.  No.  God-the-Father could not have been happy with them at all.  And yet . . .

            I think that God-the-Son had a soft spot in his heart for the remnant of the Northern Kingdom – those left behind as the greater number was led into Assyrian exile.  There’s always a ‘remnant’, right?  Well, this remnant was not the ‘faithful few’ who often become the seed of a resurgence of worship and loyalty to God.  No; this remnant became the scorned Samaritans.  The  Assyrian exile had come and gone.  The staunch Southern Kingdom ended up molding generations Jews would rather walk m-i-l-e-s out of their way to avoid stepping foot in what was no longer the Northern Kingdom, but what had become the disparaged Samaria.  And yet . . .

            Jesus and the disciples were travelling, as they often did.  They came to the border town of Sychar.  Heading for Galilee, it was time to walk the wearying detour around Samaria.  However, despite the disciples’ sound advice to the contrary, Jesus not only stepped foot in Samaria, but actually rested on the lip of Jacob’s Well which was just on the edge of town. 

            While Jesus’ followers had been sent on into town to scare up something for them all to eat,  Jesus had a nice little chat with not just any Samaritan, but with a Samaritan woman.  A woman who even her fellow Samaritans agreed was ‘fallen’. . .

            The woman approaches the Well with an empty water jug on her right shoulder.  It’s not the usual time for getting one’s daily water – already it’s mid-day.  It’s staggeringly hot.  The sun pries at the woman’s eyes; she idly squints at her sandaled feet as they scuff up little puffs of dust with each tired step.  She’s not in a hurry.  Why should she be?  She’s wondering if it is worth the effort to cook an evening meal – her husband has not deigned to grace his home in two days.  Maybe he won’t come home tonight either . . . maybe he won’t ever come home.

            The woman rests her water jug on the Well’s rim.  There’s something not quite right, she thinks.  She narrows her eyes a bit more, trying the figure out what is different.  The sun is beating down on her head making a sharp, little pain over her left eye.  It’s hard to think . . . but . . .   there’s a shadowy silhouette upon the Well’s sun baked stones . . .  Someone must  be . . .  there’s never anyone here at this time of day!  That’s why she comes at this hour!  She knows right enough what she is . . . she doesn’t need to hear it shouted out by sundry and all.  Haltingly, she raises her sun-narrowed eyes.  Which of the village women is casting that shadow?  The one with the strident shriek that pierces her ears?  Or the one who says nothing but is dismayingly accurate with her spit?

            It is neither.  It’s a man.  He’s looking at her in no particular way . . . just looking.  Most unusual.  By his dress, he’s a Jew, one of those hated and hating people.  It’s a puzzle.  The man says to her, “Give me a drink.”  It’s not unusual for a man – for any man to make this demand . . . though his words are soft, gentle.

            “How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?”  She’d more expect a flung stone than a soft spoken request from any Jew.  It was a mystery. . . a curiosity which – as considerable as it seems now – becomes all the larger as the kindly man continues to speak with her.  By the conversation’s end, there is a catch in her chest.  She can hardly draw breathe! 

            Then she’s running, running in the stifling heat, the blinding light of the noonday sun.  She’ll tell someone . . . anyone!  There.  There is her husband-who-is-not-her-husband.  Somehow, she’s no longer angry with him.  She grabs his sleeve with urgent fingers.  “Come see a man who told me everything I have done!”  He starts to shake her off but is captured by the elation in her face.   “Could he possibly be the Messiah?” she asks.

            You know the story.  Sure you do.  Jesus and the boys stayed in Sychar of Samaria for a couple of days.  Jesus boarded at the woman’s house with her sometime husband hanging on his every word.  Of course, there wasn’t enough room for all of them there, so the rest were parceled out to the neighborhood; neighbors were amazed at the riveting conversation and cheerful comradery of these Jews.  The people became thoughtful – these rowdy men, these hard-faced women, these rough day-laborers and poor traders, these idolatrous, sinful people – as the man who told the woman at the Well all she had ever done, spoke to them . . . to them . . .  of the things of God and of the things soon to come.   Jesus was no respecter of persons – which is a funny way of saying that he respected everyone – equally. 

           The Northern Kingdom had been most thoroughly punished.  Those who were hauled off to Assyria made poor decisions.  They intermarried with the locals and disappeared as a people.  Those who had escaped being exiled became the hated and scorned dregs of Jewish society.  But God-the-Son (with his Father’s nod and the Spirit’s go-ahead) loved them anyway. . . loved them as his own – which, of course, they were.

by Ms. Catherine Lambert, O.P.

Death Insurance

            You’ve heard the joke, right?  You know, it goes like this:  All religion is, is Death Insurance!  You pay the premium, but when it’s time to make a claim . . . The Insurance Company is more than willing to pay up – but YOU are NO WHERE TO BE FOUND!  YUCK.  Yuck.  Yuck.

            Weird thing is – that’s not far wrong.  No, no.  Don’t worry.  I’m not going to go all atheist on you.  But.  The fact of the matter is that Death is the Big Scary – and that’s for sure.  We don’t know what’s on the other side.  We think.  We hope.  We believe . . . then we hope some more. 

            But I say, “Why worry about it!”  It happens to us all – at least at this point in time (yeah, I do read sci-fi).  We’re going to go whether our Grand Exit is accompanied by organ music:  “duh-duh-duh – DUH!” or by a choir of angels:  “Ahhhhhhh . . . “

            Yup.  Yup.  Yup.  But that’s not really The Thing, is it?  It’s not so much how we are going to die or where we go after that (well, it sorta is).  It’s how we make our way there, don’t ya think?  We don’t need Death Insurance . . . we need Gettin’-Through-Life Insurance!  And Brother…  Sister…  do I have a policy for you!

Ms. Catherine Lambert, OP

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