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Please note that the construction equipment in the Cowley parking lot has restricted the spaces available. There are three spaces available near the 16th Street entrance. You may also access the Cowley lot through the west School staff parking lot. There are eight spaces available on the west side of the construction fence. The fence between the two lots has been removed for access during construction through October. 

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One of my nephews joined a very small non-denominational Christian church on Long Island. While the number of people who attend in person is about two dozen, their on-line following is in the thousands. One of the sermons I heard the leader preach used the Bible to build the case that there is no need for me to care about or address what is happening in our society and world. Indeed, he said, I simply need to care about my own individual salvation. And that salvation would be found between me and God alone.

The clarity and confidence in which he spoke was startling. As he ran through a litany of injustices and tensions in the community, he negated any call to action. They will have their own way to salvation. I will have mine. 

Our Catholic faith directly challenges and contradicts this detached understanding of our role in the world. Jesus teaches, and our Church echoes, the core need to see the other—to help the other—to know the other. To live compassion. 

The word compassion is derived from the Latin words pati and cum, which together mean "to suffer with." In his book Compassion: A Reflection on the Christian Life, Henri Nouwen suggests that the mystery of God’s love is not that our pain is taken away, but that God first wants to share that pain with us. God chooses to be with us, willing to enter into our problems, confusions, and questions. We, in turn, are asked to do the same.

Compassion asks us to go where it hurts and let go of power. We’re called to share in brokenness, fear, confusion, and anguish. Compassion dares us to cry out with those in misery, and may challenge us to sacrifice personal freedom or even personal safety, in love. 

This is not a faith of isolation. This is a faith of radical relationship. It challenges us to create community that builds faith, hope and love “on earth as it is in heaven.” 
This is a faith that places a primacy on the “common good.” Pope John XXIII states, “The common good embraces the sum total of all those conditions of social life which enable individuals, families, and organizations to achieve complete and effective fulfillment.” (Mater et Magistra, 1961 #74) Indeed, it is our responsibility as Catholic Christians to engage in the public arena to work for the common good. 

It is imperative that no one...indulge in a merely individualistic morality. The best way to fulfill one's obligations of justice and love is to contribute to the common good… and also to promote and help public and private organizations devoted to bettering the conditions of life. (Gaudium et Spes, 1965 #30)

This is our faith. We know this. Yet, we are challenged to examine our hearts and actions: Who are we ignoring? What are we staying silent about? Where are we falling short? Let us commit to a life of prayer—opening our hearts, minds and arms to those most in need. Let us find courage in the Spirit to speak and act boldly about the injustices of our time, and work to create a world of justice and peace. 

For this Sunday’s readings click in the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. http://usccb.org/bible/readings/072119.cfm 

This Sunday we celebrate the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time.   Our Gospel this Sunday is the familiar story of Jesus visiting the home of Martha and Mary.   We are told that Martha was busy with the details of hospitality, while Mary sat at the feet of Jesus.   Martha came to Jesus and said:  “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving?  Tell her to help me.”   In reply, Jesus said to her:  “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.  There is need of only one thing.   Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”    

Since I identify much more with Martha than Mary, I had always struggled with this particular Gospel.   Many years ago when I was on retreat, my retreat director asked me to meditate on this passage.  I resisted, but my retreat director insisted.   And so, I took the passage to prayer and in my prayer it suddenly occurred to me that from my perspective three words were missing from Jesus response:   “at this moment.”   I inserted these three words after “There is need only of one thing, at this moment…………”   Mary had realized that at that moment the important thing was attend to the Lord.   Martha, rightly concerned about hospitality, had allowed that concern to become dominant, and as a result she missed the opportunity to attend to the Lord.   This same thing continues to occur in each of our lives.  We can become so focused on something --- sometimes things that are good and important --- that we can fail to be conscious of and attend to God.   The challenge for us is recognize the moments of God’s presence when they occur and then, like Mary, to attend to them. 

In our first reading this Sunday Abraham extends hospitality to three visitors who were passing by.   At some point, Abraham recognized that God was one of his visitors.  As a result, as often happens after a divine visitation, there is an announcement: “One of them said, ‘I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah will then have a son.’”   Abraham’s generous hospitality had resulted in the announcement that in her old age, Sarah would have a son.  

In our second reading this Sunday Paul wrote from prison to the Colossians.   Paul is clear that even in our suffering Christ is “the hope for glory.”   

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. Can you think of a time when you have been so preoccupied that you almost missed a moment of God’s presence? 
  2. Has there been a time when in extending hospitality you have felt the presence of God?
  3. In times of pain or suffering have you ever found hope in Christ?   

God Never Forgets Us

A few weeks ago I did some much needed grocery shopping on my day off. (My refrigerator and pantry were bearing a strong resemblance to Old Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard.) I stopped at the local CUB store and was surprised at how many people were there in mid-afternoon on a Monday. Pleased that it took me only about 30 minutes to find everything on my list, I approached the checkout lanes. Unfortunately, I was dismayed to see at least three people in each line. I made my best guess at which would be the fastest and for once I was right. The line I picked moved very quickly. When it came my turn to check out, I dutifully pulled out my reusable bags and tried to keep up with the checkout person. Unfortunately, she was much faster than I was, and I only had half my items packed when it was time for me to pay. I took out my wallet with my credit card and went through the usual process. I continued packing but I noticed that the person behind me didn’t have that many items and they were speedily packing them. The person after them started to check out, and it was obvious that my side of the counter was needed for their purchases. I hastily piled my remaining items in my bags, and finished just as their first few items started down the conveyer belt toward the bagging area. Pleased that I hadn’t caused any major disruption, I headed for home.

Unfortunately, when I got home I realized I had left my wallet at the check out counter. I immediately called CUB and asked for customer service. After describing my predicament, the person at custom service told me that indeed my wallet had been turned in. After a big sigh of relief and a quick prayer of thanksgiving, I headed back to the grocery story to pick up my wallet. After waiting my turn I explained that I had called about a lost wallet. The customer service representative asked me to describe it, and after locating it in a box in the safe, said: “Can I see some I.D?” I immediately burst into laughter, since my I.D. was, of course, in my wallet. Since this must have been a standard question, the customer service rep didn’t immediately realize the absurdity of their question. It wasn’t until I suggested that they look at the driver’s license in the wallet to confirm that it was mine, that they finally got it. A slow smile spread across their face as they handed my wallet back to me. 

Over the years, I have known parishioners and friends who have lost their I.D. or had it stolen. Not only is this enormously inconvenient, it can be very frightening and time consuming to try to “recreate” one’s life with a new I.D. and new credit cards. Given this, in my prayer that evening I definitely expanded on my earlier and briefer prayer of thanksgiving. 

Also in my prayer that evening, as I reflected the events of the day, I was reminded how fortunate we are that we never have to worry about losing our identity when it comes to God. In Isaiah 49:15-16 we read: “Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you. See, upon the palms of my hands I have carved your name.” The words remind us very forcefully that God knows us through and through, and even if we should forget God, God will never forget us. 

As I closed my prayer that night I was struck once again at how blessed and fortunate we are that God loves us so much that God never forgets us and never needs to ask for our I.D. 

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.  http://usccb.org/bible/readings/071419.cfm 

Our Gospel this Sunday is the familiar story of the Good Samarian.   Now as background to this parable, it is important to note that Jews and Samaritans had no contact with each other and in fact were very  hostile to each other.  What elicited the parable of the Good Samaritan was a question raised by a “scholar of the law” as to what he must do to inherit eternal life.   Jesus responded by asking him:  “What is written in the law?”  The scholar of the law replied: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”   Jesus told him that he had answered correctly.  We are told, though, that “because he wished to justify himself, he said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’”   In response, Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan.   

There are at least three things worth noting in this parable.  First, the logical people to help the injured man should have been the priest and the Levite.  We are told, though, that they passed by.  Perhaps the best face we can put on their refusal to help was that they feared the man was dead and if they had come in contact with him it would have rendered them ritually impure.   Second, notice that the Samaritan not only was an unlikely person to offer assistance, but the assistance he offered went above and beyond what anyone would have expected.  Third, note that at the very end of the parable, Jesus asked the scholar of the law “Which of these three………..was neighbor to the victim?”   The man couldn’t even say it was the Samaritan.  Instead he answered: “The one who treated him with mercy.”  

Our first reading this weekend is taken from the Book of Deuteronomy.   In it Moses invited the people to “heed the voice of the Lord, your God, and keep his commandments and statues……………. for it is already in your mouths and in your hearts; you have only to carry it out.”  

For our second reading this weekend we switch from the Letter to the Galatians, from which we have been reading the past several weeks, to the Letter of Saint Paul to the Colossians.  The section we read today is an early Christological hymn.  It begins: “Christ is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.”   

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. Who is your neighbor?
  2. When have you failed to help your neighbor?
  3. What do you think Paul meant when he said that Christ is the image of the invisible God?   

When Home Won’t Let You Stay: Stories of Refugees in America

Photographs by Jim Bowey

Exhibition: June 15 – July 28, 2019

Community Event:  Thursday July 18, 6-8:00 PM

 

 

WHEN HOME WON’T LET YOU STAY

 

“When Home Won’t Let You Stay” is a poignant traveling photography exhibition and community event series about refugees in Minnesota by documentary artist James A. Bowey. It provides a new perspective on the often hidden lives and compelling experiences of refugees in our communities. The number of globally displaced people has risen dramatically in recent years and is expected to continue to rise in response to ongoing conflicts, poverty, and climate change. International and national events have prompted debates in communities across the country about our duty to refugees, our American roots, and national identity. The exhibition consists of contemporary color portraits accompanied by first-person poetic stories that create an empathic experience of the plight and resilience of refugees working to make a new home in this country.

 

COMMUNITY EVENT

 

As part of the exhibition, James Bowey will present a live community event to consider the experiences of refugees, and our responses to the needs of displaced people around the world. Accompanied by live music and narrators from the community, he will present photographs, stories and reflections from “When Home Won’t Let You Stay,” and lead a community conversation about how current refugee policies and attitudes reflect the state of the empathetic imagination in our civic life. This compelling talk explores how we can bear witness in a contentious world, and awaken our imagination to the possibilities of hope, justice and human connection.

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. 
http://usccb.org/bible/readings/070719.cfm 

This Sunday we celebrate the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time.   In our Gospel this weekend Jesus “appointed seventy-two others whom he sent ahead of him in pairs to every town and place he intended to visit.”   They are to greet the households they enter with the words: “Peace to this household.”  and say to them: “The kingdom of God is at hand for you.”    

Clearly these 72 were to “prepare the ground” so that people would be receptive to the message of Jesus.  As I thought about this, it occurred to me that the practice of people “preparing the ground” for Jesus has never stopped.  Perhaps people have not been as intentional as the disciples in this Gospel, yet in my own life, I can think of countless people who by their lives, by their words and actions, have “prepared the ground” so that I would be receptive to the message of Jesus Christ.   I would guess this is true for all of us.   The challenge for us is to be aware that we too are called to “prepare the ground” so that those we encounter will be receptive to the message of Jesus.    

Our first reading this Sunday is taken from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah.   It is a vision of Jerusalem at the end times.  Isaiah tells the people:  “Lo, I will spread prosperity over Jerusalem like a river, and the wealth of the nations like an overflowing torrent………………… in Jerusalem you shall find your comfort.”    

In our second reading this Sunday, we continue to read from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Galatians.   Paul is clear and eloquent that if he has anything to boast about it is not status or rank, but the crucified Christ:  “may I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the Lord had been crucified to me and I to the world.”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
1. Who “prepared the ground” for you, so that you were receptive to the message of Jesus? 
2. To whom are you called to “prepare the ground” so that they might be receptive to Christ?  
3. Why was it so important for Paul to boast in the cross of Jesus?  

 

The 16th century mystic, Saint John of the Cross, once wrote: “God’s first language is silence.” In commenting on this insight of Saint John of the Cross, the late Trappist monk, Thomas Keating, in his book Invitation to Love, said: “Everything else is a poor translation. In order to understand this language, we must learn to be silent and to rest in God.” 

Now certainly the above words sound good, pious and important. Let us not fool ourselves, though, Silence is not easy. We live in a world that is filled with noise and distraction. From the moment we get up on the morning, to the time we go to bed at night, we are bombarded with a variety of stimuli. Our phones talk to us and remind us what we are to do, whom we are to call, where we are to go, and how we are to get there. Siri and Alexa address us like old friends, and are ever present in our lives. In the face of this stream of noise and distractions, finding time for silence is more than important; it is a necessity. For it is in silence that God speaks to our hearts, our minds and our spirits. 

With all the extraneous noise in our lives and in our world today, though, how do we learn to enter into silence and allow God access to our lives? Well, it seems to me the solution is simple. Unfortunately simple does not equate to easy. It is simple. in that we merely need to learn not to be held captive by our electronic devices and other stimuli. We need to train ourselves to grow quiet on a regular basis and simply be at peace in the silence of God’s love. 

But the above is by no means easy. In a very real sense we are victims of the superficiality, selfishness and worldly spirit that are spread by our media-driven society. Unfortunately, we are not unwilling victims. Given this, we need to take control of our devices and not let them control us. Now to be honest, this is clearly a case of “do like I say, and not do like I do.” I constantly struggle to find silence in the midst of the noise and hustle of the world. And when I do find it, it is fleeting at best. And yet, when I can turn off my phone, sit in silence, and quiet my mind, my heart and my spirit, I feel the presence and peace of God. And I am reminded that God abides with me. 

Silence is important. Because it is in the silence that God comes to us and dwells with us. Silence; provides the space for God to enter into our lives. That is why it is so important to be silent so that we rediscover the abiding presence of God. For it is only in silence that we discover that God alone can satisfy the longings of the human heart. God’s first language is silence. And it is in the silence that God waits to reveal God’s Self to us. 

For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into you browser.  http://usccb.org/bible/readings/063019.cfm 

Our Gospel this Sunday comes in two sections.  In the first section we find an example of the hostility that existed between the Jews and Samaritans.   (While there is debate over the exact origins of the Samaritans, a common explanation suggests they were descendants of two of the tribes of Israel who were not deported from Israel during the Assyrian conquest of the kingdom of Israel in 721 BCE.)    Both the Samaritans and the Jews believed they represented the true “Israel,” and as a result there was great animosity between them.   As Jesus and his disciples were passing through Samaria they tried to stop at a Samaritan village, but they were not welcomed.  James and John suggested calling “down fire from heaven to consume them.”  but Jesus rebuked them for their suggestion. 

In the second half of this Sunday’s Gospel three potential followers approach Jesus.  Two of them place conditions on their discipleship.   Jesus’ response to them reminds us that we cannot place conditions on following him.  Our discipleship needs to be single-minded and whole hearted.  

Our first reading this Sunday shares the theme of the demands of discipleship.  It records the call of the Elisha to be a prophet.  When called, Elisha expressed the desire to “kiss my father and mother goodbye.”  After being told by Elijah to: “Go back!” Elisha realized his response needed to be unconditional.   And so as a sign of his unconditional commitment to his call, he slaughtered his yoke of oxen and “used the plowing equipment for fuel to boil their flesh and gave it to his people to eat.”   The destruction of plowing equipment and the oxen was a clear indication that he did not intend to return to his former way of life.  

We continue to read from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Galatians for our second reading this Sunday.  In the section we read this weekend, Paul reminds us:  “For the whole law is fulfilled in one statement, namely, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:

  1. Have you ever felt a tension between the call to discipleship and doing something else? 
  2. Is there something you need to put aside in order to follow Christ better?
  3. What is one concrete way that you are called to express your love for your neighbor?  

The MCTC parking ramp will be $10 for event parking for the Pride Parade next weekend. Parking is free in the lot under I-94.

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