You are here
I remember the 2016 closing Eucharist for the Holy Year of Mercy well. We were in Rome with our Schola Cantorum to sing at St. Peter’s Basilica. At the end of the liturgy Pope Francis unexpectedly announced the establishment of a World Sunday of the Poor as a way to live out the Holy Year of Mercy into the future.
In the Apostolic Letter, Misericordia et misera Pope Francis wrote that marking a World Sunday of the Poor on the 33rd Sunday of the liturgical year “would be the worthiest way to prepare for the celebration of the 34th and last Sunday of the liturgical year, the Solemnity of Christ the King who identified with the little ones and the poor and who will judge us on our works of mercy” (cf. Mt 25:31-46). He expressed his hope that it would be a day to “help communities and each of the baptized to reflect on how poverty is at the very heart of the Gospel and that, as long as Lazarus lies at the door of our homes (cf. Lk 16:19-21), there can be no justice or social peace.”
For every World Sunday of the Poor Pope Francis has written a message. In this year’s message, entitled “The hope of the poor will not perish for ever” (Ps 9:19). Francis holds that our world desperately needs God’s love made visible by “the saints next door.”
Pope Francis affirms our Christian duty to provide those who are hungry with food and those who are homeless with shelter. It is our Christian duty to work hard to change the systems and politics that favor a few over the many and perpetuate the endless cycles of poverty. However, he also writes that people who are living in desperate situations need more than that. They “need our hands, to be lifted up; our hearts, to feel anew the warmth of affection; our presence, to overcome loneliness. In a word, they need love.”
For political and sometimes religious reasons people in need are often reduced to statistics we cite when discussing the success or failure of our works and projects. However, rather than statistics those who are in need are “persons waiting to be encountered;” they are young and old people waiting to be offered a meal; they are men and women who look for a friendly word. In turn they “enable us to encounter the face of Jesus Christ.”
On November 19, 2017, the first World Day of the Poor we dedicated our Homeless Jesus sculpture by Timothy Schmalz. Today, this sculpture can be found in almost 100 cities throughout the world, including Vatican City. On this third World Day of the Poor all of us who are home to a Homeless Jesus will mark this day by rededicating. While doing that we not only express our love for this work of art but more importantly we recommit ourselves to work toward ending homelessness, hunger, poverty and injustice in our world by accepting the invitation to encounter Christ in the face of all those who are in need.
May the Homeless Jesus and Mary, Untier of Knots guide us on our way.
For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. http://usccb.org/bible/readings/111719.cfm
This Sunday we celebrate the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time. As we come close to the end of this liturgical year, which will end next weekend with the celebration of the Feast of Christ the King, our Gospel reading focuses on the end times. It begins with Jesus reminding people that: “All that you see here --- the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.”
The people naturally ask: “Teacher, when will this happen? And what sign will there be when all these things are about to happen?” In response to this question Jesus tells the people not to follow anyone who comes in his name saying: “The time has come.” He then describes catastrophes and calamities that will occur before the end times. He ends, though, with a note of consolation: “You will be hated by all because of my name, but not a hair of your head will be destroyed. By your perseverance you will secure your lives.” Notice that Jesus doesn’t promise that his disciples won’t experience pain or difficulties. He does promise, though, that ultimately God will triumph.
Our first reading this Sunday is from the prophet Malachi. It shares the apocalyptic theme of the Gospel. Like the Gospel, though, it also offers a promise of consolation and hope: “But for you who fear my name, there will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays.”
For our second reading this Sunday, we continue to read from the second Letter of St. Paul to the Thessalonians. In this reading, Paul reminds the Thessalonians (and us) that while we await the end times, we are not to grow slack or idle. Rather, Paul is clear that we are to work diligently as we await the return of the Lord and “if anyone was unwilling to work, neither should that one eat.”
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
- There seems to be a constant ebb and flow in regard to interest in the “end times” Why do you think this is?
- When have you felt God’s comforting grace in the face of difficulties or pain?
- Has there been a time when you have grown slack or been idle in your faith? What re-energized your faith?
“I know well the plans I have for you says the Lord . . . Plans for your wellbeing,
not your woe . . . Plans to give you a future full of hope. Jeremiah 29:11
Have you heard about the “Nones?” A Pew Research Study identified increasing numbers of young adults who no longer choose to affiliate with organized religion and named them the “Nones.” Critical downward trends face many churches and raise serious questions about the future. Fewer people attending church, downward changes in financial giving habits, and volunteering are just a few of the troubling trends impacting many faiths, especially Catholics.
The Basilica has been successful in attracting young adults and we are grateful for their involvement and that of all our parishioners, but we know we can’t simply sit back and relax. That’s why the work of our volunteer leaders to implement the Our Parish, Our Future strategic plan is so important.
This fall it’s been exciting as parish leaders have gathered for deep dives into pressing questions about creating a future full of hope for our parish. Fifty ministry leaders have agreed to serve as plan ambassadors, to share their ideas and feedback. Another 25 leaders are serving as a Change Management Team and to shepherd this work. They have focused on critical questions:
- What do we want to see in place in 3 -5 years?
- What blocks us from realizing these hopes, and how can we deal with them?
- What underlying contradictions keep us from achieving our goals?
- What innovative, substantial actions will address these underlying contradictions and move us toward our achieving our vision?
In depth conversations have resulted in an initial approach to practical goals. Central to our work is an ongoing commitment to living our Catholic faith in the world through our liturgies, learning, and Christian life. As a dynamic Catholic parish, we are committed to our responsibility to minister to our members and to invite and challenge them to minister to those in need.
We’ve set a goal to broaden and deepen engagement through a focus (both internal and external) on arts, inclusivity and preventing homelessness through a commitment to a continuous process of improvement and accountability. Our work will move us towards:
- Increasing engagement
- Strengthening our presence and partnerships—to leverage and extend our reach and engagement
- Enhancing belonging and excellence in ministry
- Stewarding our resources
Staff from all parish departments have participated in goal setting sessions to identify how to move forward practically and successfully. Together, volunteers and staff have identified one year accomplishments and two year success indicators necessary to achieve our goals. The resulting SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely) goals will guide our work in the coming years. Our conversations have turned toward ways to evaluate the impacts and effectiveness of our ministries, programs, and operations.
At the end of the day, our goal is to put our faith into action. We strive to accept the challenge of St. Teresa of Avila to take up the work of Jesus Christ and live our faith in the world – “Christ has no body now, but yours. No hands, no feet on earth, but yours.”
For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. http://usccb.org/bible/readings/111019.cfm
In our Gospel this Sunday the Sadducees, who denied the resurrection, posed a question to Jesus that presumed there would be a resurrection. Not only was their question insincere, but also it was rather implausible. As background to their question, though, it is important to remember that for many Jewish people there was/is no clear belief in an afterlife. Rather, it was their belief that you lived on through your descendants. Given this, having children was very important. In fact, having children was so important that if a woman’s husband died without offspring, it was the responsibility of the next unattached male from the husband’s family to marry the widow and try to have children. Knowing this, the Sadducees invented a story about a woman who married seven brothers, each of whom died without producing any children. When the woman died, the Sadducees wanted to know “at the resurrection whose wife will that woman be? For all seven had been married to her.”
Jesus’ response to this question was masterful. He implied that the Sadducees’ question was completely irrelevant because: “The children of this age marry and remarry; but those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age and to the resurrection of the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage.”
Our first reading this Sunday is taken from the second Book of Maccabees. This is the only time during our three year cycle of readings that we read from this book. It tells the story of seven brothers who died rather than “eat pork in violation of God’s law.” The reason they were willing to die was because of their belief in an afterlife: “you are depriving us of this present life, but the King of the world will raise us up to live again forever.”
For our second reading this Sunday we continue to read from the second Letter of St. Paul to the Thessalonians. In it Paul exhorts the Thessalonians to continue to live a life of faith. “May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting encouragement and good hope through his grace encourage your hearts and strengthen them in every good deed and word.”
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
- What causes or helps you to believe in an afterlife?
- How would you describe the resurrection to someone who didn’t believe in an afterlife?
- What causes you to live a Christian life? Is it hope of heaven or fear of hell?
For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. http://usccb.org/bible/readings/110319.cfm
This Sunday we celebrate the 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time. In our Gospel this Sunday we read the familiar story of Zacchaeus, a tax collector, but more importantly the chief tax collector, and therefore a very wealthy man. Since taxes were no more popular at the time of Jesus than they are today, Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector, would have been held in low esteem, if not contempt, by the people of that time. When it came to Jesus, though, Zacchaeus was not concerned about people’s opinion of him. We are told that “he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus.”
When Jesus came to the spot where Zacchaeus was, he said: “Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house.” People began to grumble at this, but Zacchaeus “stood there and said to the Lord, ‘Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone I shall repay it four times over.” Clearly the encounter with Jesus changed Zacchaeus’ life.
Our first reading this Sunday is taken from the Book of Wisdom. It shares the theme of the Gospel in that it reminds people that: “you (Lord) have mercy on all, because you can do all things, and you overlook people’s sins that they may repent…………………Therefore you rebuke offenders little by little, warn them and remind them of the sins they are committing, that they may abandon their wickedness and believe in you, O Lord.” The message of both the first reading and the Gospel is clear. God wants the sinner to be saved and will give ample opportunity for people to turn away from their sins and back to God.
Our second reading this Sunday is taken from the second Letter of St. Paul to the Thessalonians. In the section we read today, Paul prays for the Thessalonians (and us) that “our God may make you worthy of his calling and powerfully bring to fulfillment every good purpose and every effort of faith…………”
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
- Zacchaeus was unwilling to let his short stature keep him from Jesus. What keeps you from Jesus?
- The encounter with Jesus changed Zacchaeus’ life. Where changes might you need to make in your life need for you to follow Jesus more closely?
- I love the image of God making us worthy of God’s calling, but how does God do this?
For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste in into your browser. http://usccb.org/bible/readings/102719.cfm
In our Gospel this weekend Jesus addressed a parable to "those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else.” The parable begins: “two men who went up to the temple to pray: one was a Pharisee, the other a tax collector.” We are told that the Pharisee “Spoke this prayer to himself. ‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity --- greedy, dishonest, adulterous --- or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week. I pay tithes on my whole income.’” The tax collector, though, “stood off at a distance, and would not even raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’”
The difference between these two people in terms of their prayer is striking. The Pharisee was not so much praying as he was giving a report on his “supposed” goodness. The tax collector, though, had a clear since of his own sinfulness and his need for God’s mercy. His prayer was honest and heartfelt.
Our first reading this Sunday is taken from the Book of Sirach. It shares the theme of our Gospel in regard to prayer. It is clear that “The prayer of the lowly pierces the clouds, it does not rest till it reaches its goal.”
In our second reading this Sunday, we continue to read from the second Letter of St. Paul to Timothy. In it Paul writes very personally about feeling abandoned by those who whose support he had anticipated. He also is clear, though, about his trust in God: “The Lord will rescue me from every evil threat and will bring me safe to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory forever and ever. Amen.”
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
- I don’t think many of us pray as the Pharisee did in our Gospel for this weekend. (Few of us are that grandiose.) I also don’t think that many of us pray as the tax collector did. (Few of us are that honest.) How do you approach God in prayer?
- How do you know when God has heard your prayer?
- Even though he felt abandoned, Paul was sure of God’s presence and grace. Have you ever experienced God’s grace at a time when you have felt abandoned or betrayed.?
“But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:8)
These last Sundays of the liturgical year are filled with apocalyptic imagery as they speak about the end of time. This is intended to gradually prepare us for the last Sunday of the Liturgical Year, the Solemnity of Christ the King. My granny Yolanda loved and hated these Sundays, for on the one hand she anticipated the end of time while on the other hand she feared it. Her big question always was: “When I see God face-to-face will my faith have been deep enough and my love been generous enough?”
Today’s Gospel ends with a somewhat ominous question: “But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:8) This question or a similar question: “Are people losing their faith” is on the mind of many of us. Several studies on religious behavior indicate that there is a clear downward trend in terms of religious identification. Many churches see their congregations grow older and smaller and eventually have to close. And where in the past the Catholic Church wielded great influence in many parts of the world, that is no longer the case today. Is this cause for alarm?
In an interview with America Magazine, recently created Cardinal Michael Czerny, S.J. stated that the Church “is not here to run the world… but the world should feel that the Church, that Christ, that God is with us, with them, as we face the great difficulties of our lives and of our times.” He went on to say that the mission of the Church “is the embodiment or the implementation of the Gospel in human society and human history. That is what we are really about.” In other words, we are foremost called to be Christ in the world, not to explain Christ to the world or impose Christ on the world.
So, when Christ returns at the end of time will He find faith on earth? He may not find a lot of people who are able to speak to the fineries of Christology or Pneumatology. But hopefully he will find many of us embodying and implementing the Gospel in our world. And paraphrasing the Gospel of Matthew: by our fruits He will know us (Matt. 7:20). For indeed, “Ubi caritas est vera, Deus ibi est” or “Where true charity is, there is God.” So let’s not dwell on loss of power or numbers and let us commit ourselves to embodying the Gospel so others will take note of us and want to learn about what motivates us, i.e. our faith, not unlike what happened during the time of the Apostles. Words rarely convert, actions do.
So, in response to today’s Gospel question and in anticipation of the end of time I think I will adopt my granny’s question yet turn it around a bit: “When I see God face-to-face will my love have been generous enough and my faith been deep enough?"
For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste in into your browser.
This Sunday we celebrate the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time. In our Gospel this Sunday we read the parable of the unjust judge. This parable is unique to Luke. It is introduced with the words: “Jesus told his disciples a parable about the necessity for them to pray always.” He then tells the story of a widow who continually comes to an unjust judge demanding her rights. Eventually the judge said to himeself: “While it is true that I neither fear God nor respect any human being, because this widow keeps bothering me I shall deliver a just decision for her lest she finally come and strike me.”
Our first reading this Sunday is taken from the Book of Exodus. It tells the story of a battle between the forces of Amalek and those of Israel. During the battle: “As long as Moses kept his hands raised up, Israel had the better of the fight, but when he let his hands rest, Amalek had the better of the fight.” So “Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side and one on the other, so this hands remained steady till sunset.”
The Gospel and the first reading together remind us of two essential elements of prayer: 1. persistence; and 2. the support of others. At times it is easy to become discouraged in prayer. The support of others, though, can help us persevere in prayer. We persevere in prayer, though, not to change God’s mind, but to discern how God might be responding to our prayer.
In our second reading this Sunday we continue to read from the second Letter of St. Paul to Timothy. In it Paul urges Timothy to “proclaim the word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching.”
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
1. Has there been a time when you have been discouraged in prayer? What helped you to persist?
2. When have others been helpful to you in your spiritual life?
3. Are you persistent in prayer whether it is convenient or inconvenient?
For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. http://usccb.org/bible/readings/101319.cfm
The Gospel and our first reading this Sunday deal with the healing of lepers. In the Gospel, ten lepers meet Jesus as he is entering a village. “They stood at a distance from him and raised their voices, saying, ‘Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!’” Jesus told them “Go show yourselves to the priests.” They set off “And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice, and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. He was a Samaritan.” In response, Jesus wondered aloud where the other nine were. Then he said to the one leper who returned, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.”
In the first reading Naaman, the army commander of the king of Aram, is cured of his leprosy. He asked if he could give a gift to Elisha for his cure, but Elisha declined the offer. In response Naaman said: “If you will not accept, please let me, your servant, have two mule-loads of earth, for I will not longer offer holocaust or sacrifice to any other god except to the Lord.”
The message of both these readings is clear. When we realize that God has touched our lives, it should change us. The challenge, of course, is to realize when God has touched our lives, and then to be open to God’s grace changing our lives.
In our second reading this Sunday we continue to read from the second Letter of St. Paul to Timothy. Paul is suffering for the Gospel “even to the point of chains, like a criminal.” But he reminds Timothy that “the word of God is not chained.” And it is the word of God that brings us salvation in Christ Jesus.
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
- Have there been times/moments when you have felt God touch your life?
- Why do you think only one leper came back to thank Jesus?
- Paul suffered because he preached the Gospel. Have you ever suffered any repercussions because of your beliefs?