Mass Schedules

This Week

Saturday Vigil
5 p.m.

Sunday
8:30 a.m. & 11:00 a.m.

Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday: 8 a.m.

Wednesday: 7 p.m.

  * Subject to change

The Word from Fr. Mark

Father Mark Homily

The Word from Father Mark

Entries for 'mcook'

17
Back in 2011, I was only vaguely aware of the ancient pilgrimage route in Spain, The Camino de Santiago (or “Way of St. James”) but one of my seminary classmates had seen a new film called “The Way” by Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez that was filmed on location and tells the powerful story of a father and son, and the profound spiritual changes that take place while walking the 500 mile journey from St. Jean Pied de Port in Southern France, to the place where legend holds St. James the Apostle is buried ...

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10
As I was entering the final week along the Camino de Santiago in Spain (after 5 weeks and a few hundred miles!) my mind began to turn to the future.  I wondered how the walk would end in Santiago de Compostela, and the rest of my sabbatical, and different kinds of fears and anxieties began to pop into my mind as I was walking along.  In addition to the beautiful landscapes that greeted us daily, there were also numerous places where graffiti would be painted on surfaces (some in Spanish and some in English, and some quite beautiful from an artistic point of view!)  As my thoughts were bouncing around, I looked up ...

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03
I will give “seed to the one who sows and bread to the one who eats.”  This paraphrase of a promise of the Lord through the prophet Isaiah (cf. Is 55:10-13) speaks eloquently about the power of God’s word in bringing new life to God’s people.  This beautiful passage was presented very early in my long retreat during the time of my sabbatical this past summer.  As I prayed with those moving verses from Isaiah, it seemed as if God were speaking very personally to me.  “Not only will I nourish you with the bread of my own word, but I will also plant seeds in your soul that will grow and flourish for the sake of my people in your priestly ministry when you return to St. Matthew.”  That image has ...

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26
“…Nothing that enters a person from outside can make him impure…” but only “what emerges from within… wicked designs come from the deep recesses of the heart…fornication, theft, murder, adultery, greed, maliciousness, deceit, sensuality, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, an obtuse spirit…” (cf. Mark 7: 17-23)  These words of Jesus remind us that we must tend very carefully to the garden of our hearts. The last two commandments ...

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20
The original meaning of the 8th commandment:  “Thou shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” applied principally to matters where one was called to testify in court (or at the city gate in ancient Israel).  Truth telling in such a situation was critically important in determining the guilt and innocence of persons accused of a crime, and remains fundamental to this day.  It is important that we be real and genuine in our speech and actions ...

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16
Although all the earth belongs to the Lord and is given to us that we might be good stewards of creation in service to each other, we also recognize a fundamental right that each person has to their property.  One may not take from another that which belongs to him or her.  To steal is to violate the dignity of the human person.  It destroys trust in human relationships and leads to a dehumanized society.  When I was a freshman in college ...

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05
When couples enter the sacrament of marriage, rarely do they ever expect that the outcome will one day end in a broken relationship, but too often these days relationships do in fact end in separation or divorce. This happens sometimes even though one or both of the spouses sincerely desires to make the marriage survive. Divorce is often accompanied with a great deal of pain and sadness. Persons who find themselves in this situation should not despair of living their faith ...

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05
In the Old Testament the full meaning of the marriage covenant developed gradually over time.  The early patriarchs and kings had multiple wives, but the bond of marriage was not something to be violated.  In some cases the wife was seen as part of the “possessions”  of the husband (in Exodus the wife is included in the list of items in the house of the man not to be coveted!)  By the New Testament, Jesus makes it clear that the bond of marriage is so sacred that even Moses’ allowance of a decree of divorce is a result of human hardness of heart.  Being faithful entails a fundamental commitment to the exclusive bond ...

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22

There is a lovely quote attributed to St. Augustine:  “God loves each one of us as if there was only one of us.”  Every single human being, created in the image and likeness of God, has a fundamental dignity that no one can remove.  For this reason, the right to life is the most basic of all human rights and must be guarded preciously.  The fifth commandment:  “Thou shall not kill!” expresses this core conviction.  No one may unjustly take the life of an innocent person ...

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19

With the fourth commandment we move from our fundamental obligations to God toward our fundamental obligations to each other.  It is the first commandment to involve a promise:  “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land which the Lord your God gives you.”  As children most of us thought this commandment applied mostly to small children and teenagers who were to obey our parents!  In fact, the commandment involves much more ...

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09

We can thank our Jewish ancestors for handing on the third commandment of Sabbath rest.  “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy…”  The scriptures remind us that in the great work of creation, God himself rested on the 7th day and thus made it holy.  They also remind us that because we were once slaves in Egypt when the Lord set us free, that no one (even our “servants” or aliens) must work on the Sabbath.  As Christians we observe the first day of the week, or Day of the Lord, for on this day the Lord Jesus rose from the dead.  It becomes a day set apart from all others ...

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01

The second commandment continues our reflection on our obligations to the God who created us.  “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain…”  In the ancient world names were very important because they signified the reality that was named.  It is significant in Genesis that God gives Adam the ability to name the animals, showing a certain dominion and responsibility toward those creatures.  When God calls Moses at the burning bush, Moses wants to know God’s name.  (The answer:  “I am who I am” or “I will be who I will be” reveals God, but also maintains God’s transcendence over Moses!)  God does not allow the use of his name to be manipulated ...

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25

The first and pivotal commandment of the Covenant given on Mount Sinai is a strong reminder of the God to whom we belong.  “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.  You shall have no other gods before me…” Dt. 5:6ff.  Exodus further prohibits images of any kind that reflect things in the heavens, on the earth, or in the seas.  In ancient cultures, such realities were often worshipped as idols.  The Old Testament often pokes fun at those who carry wooden idols that cannot save them! The Lord insisted on absolute loyalty ...

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17

The Decalogue, or Ten Commandments, of the Old Testament may be among the best known literature in the world. They may be found, with slight variations, in Exodus 20:2-17 and Deuteronomy 5:6-21.  They have been seen by both Jews and Christians as great summations of the ethical obligations that God gave his people. The narrative tells us that God inscribed them with his own finger on tablets of stone on Mt. Sinai, and that Moses brought them to the people waiting below.   They are prefaced by a reminder of all that God has done ...

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12

In this final reflection on the person of Jesus, one of the most consoling is his promise to remain with us always.  When we reflect on the beauty of the person of Jesus in the Gospels it is incredible to realize that he remains with us to this very day.  The resurrection enabled the Risen Jesus to be present to all times and places through the power of the Holy Spirit.  “Know that I am with you always” ...

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05

One unique quality of Jesus is the remarkable freedom that characterized his life and actions.  It was a freedom that came from his lasting communion with the Father.  So often in life we choose our actions on the basis of patterns ingrained from early life, the expectations of others, and the fears and desires we don’t even recognize.  Jesus is truly free, and those around him grow in freedom ...

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27

A very beautiful quality about the human life of Jesus is his radical openness to the mystery of God the Father.  He speaks intimately about God as “Abba,” an Aramaic term best translated as “dad.”  It is a term of unspeakable intimacy and affection between child and father.  Jesus often went off into the wilderness to be alone with the Father:  up onto mountains, out into the desert.  This communion with the Father undoubtedly filled the ministry of Jesus with great grace ...

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20

One of the most moving aspects of Jesus’ life is the way he died for us.  Even when he faced the hostility of the crowds and the religious leaders in the face of his love of the least, and when it must have become clear that this would not go well, he went resolutely to Jerusalem.  When James and John wanted lightning called down from heaven to destroy those who would not accept him, Jesus said “let’s move on.”  He laid down his life for us freely, so much did he love us ...

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19

One of the most powerful qualities of Jesus is that he calls forth the very best in us.  He is never satisfied that we be mediocre followers!  “If any of you wants to be my disciple, you must deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow in my footsteps.  If your hand causes you problems, cut it off!  If your eye is the source of your sin, pluck it out!”  Jesus calls us to be fully and truly human—no half-hearted measures will do ...

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09

One of the hallmarks of Jesus’ life and ministry was his outreach to the “least,” the outsiders who were often overlooked or left out.  At the end of his ministry in Matthew he tells the disciples that they will be judged by what they have done for the least ones (the hungry, thirsty, sick, imprisoned, naked, and strangers).  Jesus made a point of dining with those who most needed him ...

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02

In the early centuries of Christianity the question of Jesus’ identity became very central.  Great theological debates (by bishops and ordinary folks) became very intense as various perspectives about Jesus’ identity came into conflict.  Some believed that Jesus was greater than an ordinary human but not quite God (a creature somewhere between the two.)  Others argued that Jesus just appeared to be human but was in fact God.  Some said Jesus was originally a human person who became God’s adopted Son.  Some argued that we should simply stick with the words of Scripture (which didn’t clarify the point, since all those who made arguments used the Scriptures in their support.)  It was out of this great ferment of theological debate and discussion that the lines of true Christological teaching emerged ...

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25

During the course of the Liturgical year, we Catholics are invited to reflect more deeply on the person of Jesus Christ and to model our lives on his.  In Advent we, like the early church, await the return of the Risen Christ to bring us into the Kingdom.  At Christmas we celebrate the marvelous reality that God chose to become human—one of us!—in the person of Jesus.  In Lent we are called to conversion back to a life of following Christ more intensively; and in Holy Week we focus on his passion, death and resurrection.  The days of ordinary time allow us to focus on all the facets of Jesus’ life and teachings.  Each of us in baptism has been united to Christ; and we are called to bring Jesus to a waiting world ...

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11
Holy Week is the annual celebration of the central mystery of the Christian faith: the saving death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. 
Palm Sunday
We begin with Passion or Palm Sunday. In a way it serves as a “prologue” to Holy Week. We begin outside as we commemorate the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. This begins in a festive spirit. At the Gospel, the Passion of Matthew is proclaimed this year, and the tone of the Liturgy becomes more somber.
Holy Week Begins
In the first days of Holy Week (Monday through Wednesday)  the focus is on the approaching death of Jesus ...

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04

For those of you who were wondering if we would ever make it through the alphabet, we have finally arrived at “Z.”  For those interested, you can trace the entire alphabet of virtues at our website (churchofstmatthew.org).  In the end, all of the other qualities need “zeal.”  Zeal is the energy and devotion that continues to inspire us to live the good life for God’s sake.  The opposite of zeal might be characterized as “sloth” or “apathy.”  But if we are to have a true “zest” for life (another great “Z” word!) then we need the ongoing fire of zeal to keep us going ...

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28

While there are many things in life that we are called to say “No!” to, for example, anything unworthy, destructive, hurtful or sinful, the most important word we can ever utter with our lives is our great “Yes!” to God.  When the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary with the invitation to become the bearer of God’s Son, Mary’s simple reply, despite her initial fear and hesitation, was “Let it be done to me according to your word!”  That great moment of Mary’s yes to God was lived out for her entire life, and all of us are invited to live our own great “Yes” to the One who created us, redeems us, and desires that we live with him for all eternity ...

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21

Truthfully, when I am going through the alphabet at night seeking good qualities, I often get stuck when I get to the letter “X” and have yet to find the right word.  That isn’t all bad.  Even the meditative exercise of thinking of good qualities can’t be done perfectly, and that reminds me that I am still in progress.  The blessed imperfection of life!  I kind of like it that way, and have no qualms about skipping this letter.  Often “X” marks the spot of mythical treasures on maps.  Maybe “X” can be for me the goal of heaven, and I will only understand the goodness of God and all the good he has done in my imperfect life, when God willing, I stand before his face ...

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14

One of the most important of human qualities is the gift of “wisdom.”  We can know a lot of things in life, but without wisdom, none of it matters.  When Solomon was asked to present his request to God for anything, he did not choose wealth or power, or any of the other things that the powerful of this world also seek.  Not status, admiration, position or prestige, but wisdom.  True wisdom is an understanding heart that knows the will of God for us, and is able to discern how God desires us to live at any given moment ...

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07

Lent is the time each year when we are immersed more deeply in the mystery of Jesus Christ. During the course of the year, it is easy to lose track of what being a Christian is really all about. On Ash Wednesday, we were marked in ashes in the form of a cross, we were asked to renew deeply the promises we made in our baptism and to grow in our commitment to Christ. The ashes are a sign of our failure to live up to the noble commitments of our baptism, and of renewed hope ...

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28

We begin the journey of Lent this Wednesday, March 5, with the celebration of Ash Wednesday. The words we hear as we receive ashes are: “Remember that you are dust, and unto dust you shall return.”  It is a reminder of our mortality.  We will not live forever.  It is also a reminder of the impermanence of this whole created world. But the ashes also remind us where we come from ...

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23
Virtue has been described as the “power to do good.”  Or in the more eloquent language of the “Encyclo-

pedia of Catholicism” (Harper Collins, Richard P. McBrien, general editor, 1995):  Virtue is an “enduring quality of character or intellect, through which an individual is enabled to act in praiseworthy ways or to live the morally good life.”  This view of virtue is rooted in the philosophy of Aristotle who taught that virtue was a “stable quality of the intellect, will, or passions through which an individual can do what morality demands in a particular instance, and do it in the right way ...

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15

Sometimes what we most need from another human being is simple human understanding.  When we are down or troubled and reach out to others, we often don’t seek solutions to our problems, but an understanding heart to hear us out and be with us in our need.  When teaching a group of high school students one year in peer ministry the importance of listening and understanding from the heart, I noted that people rarely want us to tell them what to do, but simply to be there ...

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07

The two great descriptions of God in the Old Testament in Hebrew are “hesed” and “emet.”  “Hesed” is often translated as heartfelt compassion or tender mercy.  “Emet” is often rendered as “faithful” or “true.”  To be true in that sense isn’t so much the opposite of falsehood, but of fickleness.   It is never desirable to be labelled a “fair weather friend.”  To be true means that we will stick with those we love and our commitments even when the challenges of life arrive ...

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31

One of my favorite prayers is the Serenity Prayer:  “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”  Apparently the original form asked that we be given the “grace to accept with serenity the things we cannot change.”  There is much in the world that we are powerless over, but with the grace of God we are able to meet the ups and downs of life with true serenity.  The surface of life can get very stormy indeed, but when I am aware that I am held by Christ in all things ...

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27

As a child, Sunday was a very different day than the rest of the week.  Not only did we go to Mass as a family, but we also spent the entire day very differently.  In those days, in our hometown, nothing was open!  (No fast food, big box stores, etc.)  So, we often drove around to visit relatives and would end up at our grandparents for the evening meal.  We still need Sabbath rest, but because our culture has become a “24/7” world we must be much more intentional about creating a space for Sabbath in our lives.  “Remember to keep holy the Sabbath day.  Six days you may labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord, your God ...

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18

Often in this modern world it is the loudest and noisiest people who claim the center of attention.  It is then that we must be reminded of the great value of “quietness of heart and mind.”  First, I must become aware of the noisy mess that my own mind and heart have often become.  I read recently an author who compared our busy minds to a “cocktail party of which we are often the unwilling guests.” (From “Into the Silent Land” by Martin Laird, a great book!) What a great image!  Oh, if we could only be a bit more like Mary, the sister of Martha, who placed herself at the Lord’s feet, listening intently to his words.  We need the Lord to speak within us ...

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03

As we celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany today, we are reminded of the great generosity of the Magi who brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the Christ child.  Each gift was an expression of the gift of self which they offered to Christ the Lord.  In this season of Christmas, Fr. Nick and I are especially filled with gratitude over the goodness of you, the people of St. Matthew!  Your generosity has been humbling! ...

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30

January 1st marks the beginning of a New Year. My prayer is that this time of new beginnings will be marked by gratitude, peace, and joyful service.
First, gratitude. For all that God has done for us, Deo gratias! For all of you, the people of St. Matthew, for your goodness and generosity to Fr. Nick and I during this Christmas season. Thanks for your kind words, cards, and Christmas greetings. You are truly a blessing! For all who made our Christmas Liturgies so beautiful, Deo gratias! You are a gift to our entire community.
Second, the gift of peace. In a world so marked by violence and division, war and terror, may Christ, the Prince of Peace, bring peace to our troubled hearts, our troubled homes, and the troubled nations of our planet ...

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20

The Twenty-fifth Day of December, when ages beyond number had run their course from the creation of the world, when God in the beginning created heaven and earth, and formed man in his own likeness; when century upon century had passed since the Almighty set his bow in the clouds ...

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13
One of the most important, and often least talked about, qualities of the spiritual life is a fundamental “open-mindedness.”  How many of us get stuck in ruts of thought and behavior?  One is reminded of the cynical perspective in the Book of Ecclesiastes, “There is nothing new under the sun.”  Or as some put it more colloquially, “Been there, done that.”  To have an alertness to new possibilities in life, to accept that my old ways of thinking might be the greatest cause of my suffering, and to open myself to new vantage points allows the grace and wisdom of the Holy Spirit to break into my life ...

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06
Noble has been defined as having or possessing “very high or excellent” qualities. When I think of nobility, I especially think of a “nobleness of spirit.”  Someone who possesses such a quality is rarely drawn into “pettiness” of mind.  Able to look beyond the unimportant things in life, seeing the best in others, quick to forgive others, to bear wrongs patiently, all reflect such an expansiveness of soul.  Sometimes while one is walking on the path of life one is consumed by the roots and rocks along the path, so much so that one can no longer get a sense of perspective ...

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29
Christians have celebrated the season of Advent, which means “coming,” even before the celebration of Christmas.  Originally it referred to the return or  coming of Christ the Lord at the end of time.  Christians watched and waited  with eager expectation for the return of the Lord Jesus to bring them the Kingdom. This is still the first and primary meaning of the season of Advent.  It is a time to prepare our hearts and minds for the final coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, both at the end of human history, and at the end of our lives on earth ...

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26
“Mercy” is another one of those old-fashioned words that has had deep meaning in the Jewish-Christian tradition for thousands of years.  It is rooted in the Hebrew word “hesed” which refers to the fundamental orientation God has toward his people:  translated best as “heartfelt mercy” or “tender compassion.”  “Can a mother be without tenderness for the child of her womb?”  the Lord asks,  “Even could she, I would never forget you.  I have carved you on the palm of my hand.”  This quality of God is never stronger than when we have wandered away from God and experience the brokenness and woundedness of sin ...

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15
One of the great classics on love written in the 20th century is the beautiful book by C. S. Lewis, “The Four Loves.”  It is well worth the read.  He speaks in an engaging way about the various sorts of love we are privileged to experience as human persons.  The simplest is the affection we have for animals and places like our homes.  It is a warmth of feeling for something that we are drawn to.  The love of friendship draws persons together in the joy of ...

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08
‘Kindness somehow transcends the distinctions of religion and nation, a truly universally admired human quality.  Yet we also know what it is like to experience the absence of kindness.  One dictionary definition of kindness speaks of “showing a gentle, considerate nature” which implies “sympathy and humaneness and interest in another’s welfare,” or a “disposition to be helpful” (Webster’s New 7th Collegiate Dictionary).  Kindness begins in the heart but always expresses itself in actions of love and service for the other ...

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04
The name of Jesus says it all.  From the Old Testament Hebrew, the name means, “The Lord saves” - “Joshua” or “Yeshua” in its original form.  One of the most ancient and simple practices of prayer involves the silent repetition of the name “Jesus.”  We can quietly repeat it until our minds rest in simple stillness with the Lord.  That is the great beauty of contemplative prayer ...

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25
True intimacy is one of the greatest gifts of the human journey.  It brings us out of our isolation.  “No man is an island” to quote the title of one of Thomas Merton’s best known works.  We are ultimately made for an eternal relationship of love with God who in the mystery of Oneness is a Trinity of Persons, a communion of love!  One good definition of intimacy is “into-me-see.”  Learning to share one’s heart appropriately with another is the core reality of intimacy ...

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18
Perhaps you may recall the mythological story of Pandora.  She was given a box by the gods and told not to open it.  Of course, curiosity got the better of her, and one day she gave in and opened the box.  All the troubles of the world flowed out of it and only at the last moment did she slam it closed.  The small thing that didn’t get away, still left in the bottom of the box, was hope.  Perhaps the story is meant to tell us in its own fanciful way, that we may have to go through a lot of pain and suffering in life, but to do so without hope would not be possible ...

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11
One of the most important qualities of the spiritual life is gratitude.  Many years ago I read the story of a woman who took her rosary in hand every night before bed and moved her fingers from bead to bead.  Her husband noted her hands moved too quickly to be saying the typical “Our Fathers” and “Hail Marys” and asked her about it one evening.  “Oh, I am counting the blessings God has given me today on each of the beads,” she explained.  At the time they were missionaries in the Third World and daily life was often profoundly challenging ...

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04
Fidelity or faithfulness describes an attitude of heart and way of life that enables us to sustain our commitments over the long haul.  In marriage couples say:  “I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health.  I will love and honor you all the days of my life.”  Sometimes these words are spoken very quickly.  But the faithfulness demanded of lifetime commitments is never easy as we move into the unknown future ...

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26
It was Aristotle who first said:  “We are what we repeatedly do…Excellence, then, is a habit, not an act.”  This is a reminder that as Christians, becoming persons of virtue who live the way of the Gospel requires ongoing daily commitment and effort.  Truly excellent athletes make their sport look effortless, but we know that it is the countless unseen grueling hours of training that enable their innate talent to shine forth on the field or course.  It is the ongoing cooperation with God’s grace in many daily hidden ways ...

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20
Devotion is an old-fashioned sounding sort of word, yet full of meaning, like the word “cherish.”  When I cherish another, I become devoted to the other.  If someone loves soccer and is willing to do anything to become a great soccer player, we say they are “devoted” to soccer!  Ah, but the question of what truly merits our devotion! ...

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13
Compassion is one of the most truly human qualities of which any one of us is capable.  The word literally means:  “to suffer with.”  How many of us have experienced moments when we have suffered alone, with no one to share our pain?  How consoling it is to find another who will walk with us through the valleys of sorrow that inevitably touch every human life.  Often it is simply being there for another with true compassion that brings healing ...

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06
“Beatitude” or “blessedness” is a great Gospel word.  It describes a sense of true and deep happiness, a sense of being blessed by the goodness of God!  Surface feelings of happiness come and go, depending on our circumstances and how well we are feeling today.  But there is an abiding sense of true “blessedness” that can touch us even in very difficult moments of life and even when we are suffering ...

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30
Two wonderful “A” words that often vie for my attention are “acceptance” and “adoration.”  The first step toward a deeper spiritual life almost always begins with acceptance…accepting others as they are, myself as I am today, and the world on its own terms.  It is only when I can graciously accept reality as it is, that God will give me the wisdom to change that which I have the power to change and ought to change (usually beginning with my own attitude!)...

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23
On the occasions when I have wakened in the middle of the night and been unable to fall back to sleep, one of the temptations is to begin worrying about something in my life.  Counting sheep has never been all that interesting to me, so some years ago I discovered a simple method that normally puts me right back to sleep.  Using the letters of the alphabet I gradually go through some category or another.  For example, I might think of interesting places and start with the letter “A”… Alaska, Belgium, Canada, etc.  I have used foods, persons I am grateful for, biblical persons, and one of my favorites, virtues or good qualities ...

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16
The first words of Jesus’ public ministry are the proclamation of the Kingdom of God: “The Kingdom of God is at hand, repent (change your minds!) and believe the Good News!” God’s rule over his people and his creation is dawning in the person and ministry of Jesus. He is the “kingdom in person.” When our minds are renewed and we are converted, then God’s rule transforms our lives as it will transform all creation, a new heavens and a new earth. Jesus never tires of announcing the reign of God ...

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09
Meals are so often the most intimate way we share life with loved ones, and throughout his ministry Jesus shares meals with many persons: scribes and Pharisees, tax collectors, prostitutes and sinners. All are welcome to dine with Jesus, even the prodigal son or daughter come home. At the final meal he is to share with the community of the Twelve, he lovingly washes their feet and speaks to them of his approaching death, the love he has for them to the end, the love of the Father, the coming of the Paraclete. He offers himself ...

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02
“Acceptance is the answer to all of my problems today.” It has been pointed out that whenever I find myself disturbed, irritable, resentful or unhappy it is because I find some reality in my life acceptable. There is little spiritual growth, peace or joy in my life when I can’t accept life on life’s terms. That means accepting myself as I am, other people as they are, and life as it is given to me today. The serenity prayer has always helped me with this ...

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26
Pain and suffering are realities we usually seek to avoid, yet they are part of every human life. Although we should never inflict pain and suffering on another, and do what we can to alleviate them, all of us inevitably experience suffering in life. Pain has been one of my best teachers. I have discovered that much of my suffering is actually caused by me! When I can’t accept the reality of my life, I suffer ...

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11
Prayer and meditation often seem to be mysterious things. But in essence, prayer and meditation are simply taking time to be with God. A good way to begin each day is with prayer, something that used to be called the “morning offering.” I take time to thank God for the start of the new day, ask his guidance today in my life, and offer myself to his service today. It is best if I don’t spend all my time trying to convince God how my day should go, but simply asking God to move my heart to seek his will in all things today ...

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04
In the modern world, in the midst of busy schedules and all the conveniences of life, including electricity, we are often out of touch with the natural world around us. Not too long ago we marked the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. It was only six months ago that we marked the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. The summer solstice also ushers in the season of summer. Centuries ago our ancestors paid much more attention to these events ...

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28
As we mark the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence on the 4th of July this week, many families celebrate with picnics and fireworks. It is worth pondering the deeper meaning of this occasion. Over two centuries ago our founding fathers and mothers set about declaring a freedom from tyranny that included a lack of representation for those who governed colonies here in North America. This set off a conflict with a nation that we now regard as one of our closest allies. Sometimes those closest to one another can end up in the most bitter of disputes ...

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21
These days we are surrounded by the “green” of summer, a sign of the renewal of life all about us. You may have noticed that we have green banners again in the church, as well as green vestments. This is a sure sign that “ordinary time” is back. It has been many months since we last had green banners in that small stretch of time between the season of Christmas and the beginning of Lent with Ash Wednesday. Now we have an almost six month  stretch until we come to the great Feast of Christ the King at the end of the liturgical year in late November ...

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14
It has been said that the two greatest blessings parents give to their children are roots and wings. Being a father is one of the most important vocations in the world today. Fathers (along with mothers) help to provide the secure foundation early in childhood that gives sons and daughters a sense of place, a home, with spiritual roots. Being father also means helping children to develop a sense of inner respect so that they are able to find confidence in becoming the persons God created them to be. What an awesome vocation!

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08
The first creation story in Genesis gives us a beautiful and poetic account of the origins of the universe using the seven-day week as a structure. On the seventh day the Lord God completed creation by the great “Sabbath rest.” We, too, as humans need Sabbath rest!  The Lord God announced that we have six days a week in which to work, but on the seventh we must rest from all of our labors. Sabbath rest gives us the opportunity to reflect on our lives, to cultivate our relationship with the Lord and with those we love.

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02
Today we celebrate an awesome and wondrous mystery — that the God who created the whole universe in all its wonder and splendor not only chose to take on our humanity in the person of Jesus Christ, but has also desired to remain among us in the mystery of the Eucharist. As the people of Israel were once fed with manna in the desert, so the Lord comes to fill our hungry hearts with the gift of himself as we journey through life. He is truly the Food for our journey ...

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24
Although most of us don’t stop to ponder the Trinity in our daily lives very often, we were marked with the Trinity from the beginning of our life of faith when we were baptized. As we were immersed in the waters of baptism the minister said: “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” That simple utterance of faith remains with us throughout our lives when we mark ourselves with the Sign of the Cross at the beginning and end of Mass, and as we begin and end our daily prayers. That simple gesture is a constant reminder to us that we have been marked with the Trinity ...

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17
We come at last to the end of the great 50 Days of Easter, when the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles at Pentecost. It is the birthday of the church, and therefore our birth as well. We share in the same Holy Spirit in our baptism and confirmation. The Spirit comes to us with the fire of love to sanctify our hearts, with the breath of God’s power to live the Good News in the world.

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10
Some of the great barriers in growing spiritually are the hurts that happen in life, the harm done. A wise person once pointed out that learning to love others is a lot like learning to dance, and sometimes we step on each other’s toes in the process. As I become aware of the hurts that others have caused me, I find healing when I am able to forgive them. (Often they didn’t realize what they were doing anyway.) Equally important, I have to be honest enough to recognize when I have caused harm to others ...

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03
Faith is a journey as much as it is a destination. In the journey of faith we take life one step at a time, one day at a time. Faith is like tending a garden. As long as we are alive there is still work to be done in us to become more like Christ. Day by day I discover areas of my life that are still in conflict with what God wants for me. When I become aware of these areas of weakness that still need work, I know that I can turn to God and seek his help in being healed of these. I have also learned that change is a slow process ...

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26
If Jesus is the great Sacrament of the Father, then the community that has its origins in Christ is the principal Sacrament of Jesus. The pilgrim people of God in this world, called forth from the nations to be a living sign of God’s Kingdom for the whole world, is the living and enduring presence of Jesus the Christ in our world of time and history. We embody the presence of the Risen Lord in our very being and life ...

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19
As the church progressed in history it defined clearly the seven principal moments of encounter with the Divine that surpass the others, called Sacraments in the proper sense. (Other ways of encountering the sacred are called “sacramentals.”) The difference: In Sacraments, God himself is active and present, truly here; in sacramentals (such as a cross, image, candle, etc.) we are reminded of the presence of God. In each of the seven sacraments (Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Penance, Anointing of the Sick, Marriage, and Holy Orders) God is active and working, the Holy Spirit is operative, and we encounter the Risen Lord Jesus Christ.

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12
In the first centuries of Christianity, countless realities, symbols, and celebrations were seen as “sacramental” in the broad sense of that term, ways of encountering the Divine Presence in this world. The church had not yet clearly defined the seven principal sacraments in the more restricted sense of that term. Christians lived in a “universe of sacraments,” seeing the signs of God’s hidden presence all through creation and human life. Although it is true that God is always and everywhere present, that in God “we live, and move, and have our being,” yet there have been times in human history when God revealed himself in particularly focused ways ...

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05
The silence of Good Friday and the rest of Holy Saturday give way to the Resurrection. Christ is Risen as he said, alleluia, alleluia! By the power of the Spirit, the Father has raised his Son from death. No mortal witnesses the resurrection of the Son of God. Yet it is the women who discover his empty tomb. They who had watched him be crucified and buried receive the angelic proclamation: “Why do you seek the living one among the dead? He is not here, he has been raised up!” ...

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01
“Sing to the Lord a new song; his praise in the assembly of the saints. We are urged to sing a new song to the Lord, as new [persons] who have learned a new song. A song is a thing of joy; more profoundly, it is a thing of love…The new man, the new song, the new covenant, all belong to the one kingdom of God…

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25
“I will say more: we must sacrifice ourselves to God, each day and in everything we do, accepting all that happens to us for the sake of the Word, imitating his passion by our sufferings…We must be ready to be crucified. If you are Simon of Cyrene, take up your cross and follow Christ. If you are crucified beside him like one of the thieves…acknowledge your God…Worship him who was hung on the cross because of you, even if you are hanging there yourself ...

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16

Holy Week is the annual celebration of the central mystery of the Christian faith: the saving death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Palm Sunday
We begin with Passion or Palm Sunday. In a way it serves as a “prologue” to Holy Week. We begin outside as we commemorate the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. This begins in a festive spirit. At the Gospel, the Passion of Matthew is proclaimed this year, and the tone of the Liturgy becomes more somber.

Holy Week Begins ...

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08
“The perfection…of love lies in the love of one’s enemies. We can find no greater inspiration for this than grateful remembrance of the wonderful patience of Christ.” On the cross as he was dying he prayed: “Father, forgive them.” “Who could listen to that wonderful prayer, so full of warmth, of love, of unshakable serenity…and hesitate to embrace his enemies with overflowing love?” “Is any gentleness, any love, lacking in this prayer?” But there is more.

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01
“My soul, have you found what you are looking for? …My soul longs for [God]… it stands on tiptoe to see more… The light is which you dwell, Lord, is beyond my understanding…It is so brilliant I cannot bear it. I am dazzled by its brightness, amazed by its grandeur, overwhelmed by its immensity, bewildered by its abundance…O God, let me know you and love you so that I may find my joy in you; and if I cannot do so fully in this life, let me at least ...

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24
“We believe that the Word became flesh and that we receive his flesh in the Lord’s Supper. How then can we fail to believe that he really dwells within us? When he became a man, he actually clothed himself in our flesh, uniting it to himself for ever. In the sacrament of his body he actually gives us his own flesh, which he has united to his divinity. This is why we are all one, because the Father is in Christ, and Christ is in us.

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16
“God could give no greater gift to [us] than to make his Word, through whom he created all things, [our] head and to join [us] to him as his members, so that the Word might be both Son of God and son of man, one with God the Father, and one man with all men.” Our Lord Jesus Christ “prays for us and in us and is himself the object of our prayers. He prays for us as our priest, he prays in us as our head, he is the object of our prayers as God. Let us then recognize...

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09
“There are three things…by which faith stands firm, devotion remains constant, and virtue endures. They are prayer, fasting and mercy. Prayer knocks at the door, fasting obtains, mercy receives…these three are one, and they give life to each other. Fasting is the soul of prayer, mercy is the lifeblood of fasting… if you want your petition to be heard, hear the petition of others. If you do not close your ear to others you open God’s ear to yourself…

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01
“Beloved, Jesus Christ is our salvation…the helper who supports us in our weakness. Through him our gaze penetrates the heights of heaven and we see, as in a mirror, the most holy face of God. Through Christ the eyes of our hearts are opened, and our weak and clouded understanding reaches up toward the light…So, then, my brothers [and sisters], let us do battle with all our might…Let the strong care for the weak and weak respect the strong ...

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25
“There is no doubt that the Son of God took our human nature into so close a union with himself that one and the same Christ is present, not only in the firstborn of all creation, but in all his saints as well.  The head cannot be separated from the members, nor the members from the head…even now he dwells, whole and undivided, in his temple the Church… I am with you always, even to the end of the world ...

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21
“Prayer and converse with God is a supreme good:  it is a partnership and union with God.  As the eyes of the body are enlightened when they see light, so our spirit, when it is intent on God, is illumined by his infinite light.  I do not mean the prayer of outward observance but the prayer of the heart, not confined to fixed times or periods but continuous throughout the day and night ...

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11
In the coming weeks I will be offering some “nuggets” for the Spiritual Life as we begin a New Year. Living a good human life, like planting and growing a garden, requires ongoing effort throughout our lives. There is something to be done each day. And yet the fruits we receive are truly a gift that we can’t “make happen” ...

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04
As we celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany today, we are reminded of the great generosity of the Magi who brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the Christ child. Each gift was an expression of the gift of self which they offered to Christ the Lord. In this season of joy, Fr. Nick and I are especially filled with gratitude over the goodness of you, the people of St. Matthew!

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28
January 1st marks the beginning of a New Year. My prayer is that this time of new beginnings will be marked by gratitude, peace, joyful service and faith. First, gratitude. For all that God has done for us, Deo gratias! For all of you, the people of St. Matthew, for your goodness and generosity to Fr. Nick Allen and I during this Christmas season. Thanks for your kind words, cards, and Christmas greetings. You are truly a blessing! For all who made our Christmas Liturgies so beautiful, Deo gratias! You are a gift to our entire community. Second, the gift of peace. In a world so marked by violence and division, war and terror may Christ, the Prince of Peace, bring peace to our ...

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21
The Twenty-fifth Day of December, when ages beyond number had run their course from the creation of the world,
when God in the beginning created
heaven and earth, and formed man in his own likeness;
when century upon century had passed
since the Almighty set his bow in the clouds after the Great Flood, as a sign of covenant and peace;
in the twenty-first century since Abraham, our father in faith, came out of Ur of the Chaldees;
in the thirteenth century since the People of Israel were led by Moses in the Exodus from Egypt;
around the thousandth year since David was anointed King;
in the sixty-fifth week of the prophecy of Daniel...

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15
Christians have celebrated the season of Advent, which means “coming,” even before the celebration of Christmas. Originally it referred to the return of the coming of Christ the Lord at the end of time. Christians watched and waited with eager expectation for the return of the Lord Jesus to bring them the Kingdom. This is still the first and primary meaning of the season of Advent. It is a time to prepare our hearts and minds for the final coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, both at the end of human history, and at the end of our lives on earth.

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09
Our ancestors in Northern Europe found this time of year to be a very dark and difficult time. The days would grow markedly colder and shorter and the rains would turn the primitive wagon roads to mud. Travel was often ruled out until the arrival of spring. So our ancestors did something very interesting: They took the wagon wheels off their wagons and hung them from the rafters of their barns, placing lighted candles or oil lamps atop them and gathering fresh greens to place around them. It was a sign of hope for the return of light and life in the coming of spring.

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01
Christians have celebrated the season of Advent, which means “coming,” even before the celebration of Christmas. Originally it referred to the return or coming of Christ the Lord at the end of time. Christians watched and waited with eager expectation for the return of the Lord Jesus to bring them the Kingdom. This is still the first and primary meaning of the season of Advent. It is a time to prepare our hearts and minds for the final coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, both at the end of human history, and at the end of our lives on earth.

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23
This weekend offers us a good vantage point to pause and ponder anew the tremendous bounty and goodness of God. It enfolds us and unfolds around us, beginning with physical creation – the immense beauty of creation and of what we experience through our senses, our nourishment by the fruits of the earth, the light and warmth of the sun. All of it is gift! And that we also have been given the ability to know and love the Creator of this amazing universe is even more profound.

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16
One of the great themes of Vatican II was the importance of the Church for the whole world. One of the four constitutions of the council makes this clear in its very title: The Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World. It speaks not only of the service that the Church offers the world, but also of what the Church receives from the world. This deep awareness of our bonds with all humanity is expressed in many beautiful ways throughout the documents of Vatican II, but perhaps most eloquently ...

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09
Prior to Vatican II there often seemed to be a great distance between the clergy and religious in the church (often placed on pedestals) and the “people in the pews (whose role was sometimes described as: “to pray, pay, and obey.”) At Vatican II there was a renewed reflection on the mystery of the Church. All the baptized are called by God to holiness, a holiness to be lived out in the ordinary course of life. All are part of the great Pilgrim People of God advancing along the ways of time and history toward the fullness of God’s Kingdom...

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04
Celebrating the Paschal Mystery:
One of the major reforms initiated by Vatican II was the reform of the Liturgy. Catholics had experienced little change in the Mass for centuries prior to the council, and were unprepared for the dramatic changes that would follow it. For the first time modern Catholics experienced the Eucharist being celebrated in their own languages throughout the world, and that very reform enabled Catholics to participate in the Liturgy in a “full, conscious and active way.”

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27
One of the great blessings of the Second Vatican Council was a renewed emphasis on Sacred Scripture. For the prior few centuries, in reaction to the Protestant Reformation, Catholics emphasized the “Tradition” of the Church and were less familiar with the Bible than their Protestant brothers and sisters. Vatican II called Sacred Scripture the “soul of theology” and encouraged Catholics to immerse themselves in God’s Word. Quoting St. Jerome, “Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ,” the council’s documents are rich in Scriptural passages and imagery.

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19
“Mother Church rejoices that, by the singular gift of Divine Providence, the longed-for day has finally dawned…the Second Vatican Council is being solemnly opened here beside St. Peter’s Tomb…” The idea for the council “was completely unexpected, like a flash of heavenly light, shedding sweetness in eyes and hearts…it gave rise to a great fervor throughout the world…

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12
As I stand on the threshold of the Third Millennium ‘in medio Essclesiae’ [in the midst of the church] I would like once again to express my gratitude to the Holy Spirit for the great gift of the Second Vatican Council to which, together with the whole Church…I feel indebted. I am convinced that it will long be granted to new generations to draw from the treasures that this 20th century Council has lavished upon us.

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06
“At 8:30 in the gradually clearing morning light of October 11, 1962, the procession began to make its way across the great piazza, now thronged with an applauding, sometimes cheering, crowd… tens of thousands gathered in St. Peter’s Square, millions more witnessed the grand spectacle on television. The setting itself was magnificent…

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29
I remember when I had the chance to visit the Holy Land. It was a once in a lifetime experience. I stood on the Mount of Calvary and placed my hand against the stone where the cross of Jesus most likely stood, and later that day entered the tomb where the Body of Jesus had been laid; an incredible feeling overwhelmed me. “This is it!” I thought. This is where the reality of the death and resurrection of Jesus occurred. I could be no closer anywhere on earth!

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22
The night before he died for us, Jesus gathered the disciples into a large upper room and began the ancient celebration of Passover, when faithful Jews annually remember the great event of being liberated from slavery by the marvelous power of God. In Hebrew this remembering was called a “zikkaron” which implies remembering the past in such a way that we are now present ourselves at the original event. Jesus acted quite remarkably that particular evening, however, when he gave a new meaning to that ancient ritual.

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15
I make time for the things that really matter to me. When I was a boy and read the book Where the Red Fern Grows I remember having the desire to get hunting dogs and to go raccoon hunting in the night. (I really wanted to relive the marvelous adventures I found in the book!) My parents were very wise when I approached them about the subject. “Okay,” they noted, “hunting dogs are very expensive. Why don’t you start saving your allowance each week, and when you have collected enough, you can start learning how to hunt.”

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08
During my years working with young people at Father Ryan and in the Search program the question would sometimes come up: “Why do I have to go to Mass on Sunday?” (Sometimes it was phrased in the form of a statement: “I don’t see why I have to go to church on Sunday; I feel just as close to God when I am alone in the woods, etc.”) And increasingly I hear adult Catholics, many of whom consider themselves good Christians, asking the same question in different ways.

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31
All seven sacraments find their origins in Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus proclaimed the Kingdom and called people to conversion (symbolized by baptism, which brings people into the new life of grace). After he had risen, he breathed the Holy Spirit upon the apostles gathered in the upper room (in John’s account), which had descended in the form of a dove at his baptism, and as Luke records in Acts, descended upon the disciples like a mighty wind and tongues of flame, an anointing conferred through laying on of hands (confirmation).

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24
The three sacred orders of the diaconate (deacons), presbyterate (priests) and episcopacy (bishops) are the second sacrament of vocation and commitment. Ordination is a gift of God given through the laying on of hands and the invocation of the Holy Spirit. The bishop alone can confer the sacrament of orders. Ordination, like baptism and confirmation, is permanent and unrepeatable.

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17
The most commonly received of these sacraments is that of matrimony or marriage. In this sacrament it is the couple themselves who are the ministers of the sacrament, and it is the consent given to one another in words of promise that form the heart of the Rite of Marriage. “Love is our origin, love is our constant calling, love is our fulfillment in heaven,” to paraphrase one of the prefaces of marriage. The love of husband and wife becomes a mirror of God’s everlasting love, because it ...

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10
Anointing of the Sick is the second sacrament of healing and forgiveness for those who are already baptized. Those who are seriously ill or infirm by reason of age or chronic illness often find great hope and healing when receiving this sacrament. It is no longer reserved for those who are at “death’s door” so one should not be afraid to request this sacrament when the need arises.

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03
The first sacrament of healing and forgiveness most of us receive is called penance or reconciliation (or sometimes “confession”), although in the early church one was permitted to receive this sacrament only once for a serious failing (the ancient Order of Penitents was a public, and sometimes very difficult, way that this sacrament was first celebrated). In later centuries the Irish monks initiated the more direct form of confession that most of us grew up with ...

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27
In God’s great love he has given us a sacrament in which we receive the gift of God’s very self—the body, blood, soul and divinity of the Risen Lord Jesus Christ. Eucharist is the third sacrament of initiation, and of continuing growth in the church. It is our food for the journey. Just as we need food and water, rest and breath to live each day, so the Eucharist is our spiritual food for the journey.

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20
In the early church the sacraments of baptism and confirmation ordinarily occurred together. The gift of new life in baptism and the communication of the Holy Spirit through anointing with oil and the laying on of hands were most often part of the same liturgical celebration. The laying on of hands and the sealing with oil from very early were associated with the bishop.

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13
Besides water, other important symbols in baptism include a candle that is lighted from the Paschal Candle (a symbol that the newly baptized has been enlightened by Christ), oil (often used as a symbol of healing and strengthening in the ancient world) for as Christ was anointed Priest, Prophet, and King we are to live as members of His Body, sharing everlasting life. The newly baptized is also clothed in white, a symbol of being clothed in Christ.

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07
Baptism is ordinarily celebrated by a priest or deacon, but in danger of death any person may baptize another. All that is required is water, the intention to baptize, and the words “N, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” God’s grace is living and effective and works through the sacrament to communicate salvation. This does not mean that those who are not baptized are denied salvation, for God, in ways known to him alone, at times also saves those who have not had the opportunity for baptism.

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01
Sacraments of initiation are those that join us to Christ and to the Church, they make us part of the Living Body of Christ. The first of these is baptism. In baptism water is used as a symbol of the grace we receive in the sacrament. The blessing of water speaks eloquently about its rich use in salvation history: God’s spirit breathed over the waters at creation, making them the well-spring of all holiness.

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24
As the church progressed in history it defined clearly seven principal moments of encounter with the Divine that surpass the others, called Sacraments in the proper sense. (Others ways of encountering the sacred are called “sacramentals.”) The difference: in Sacraments God himself is active and present, truly here; in sacramentals (such as a cross, image, candle, etc.) we are reminded of the presence of God.

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15
If Jesus is the great Sacrament of the Father, then the community that has its origins in Christ is the principal Sacrament of Jesus. The pilgrim people of God in this world, called forth from the nations to be a living sign of God’s Kingdom for the whole world, is the living and enduring presence of Jesus the Christ in our world of time and history. We embody the presence of the Risen Lord in our very being and life.

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08
In the first centuries of Christianity countless realities, symbols, and celebrations were seen as “sacramental” in the broad sense of that term, ways of encountering the Divine Presence in this world. The church had not yet clearly defined the seven principal sacraments in the more restricted sense of that term. Christians lived in a “universe of sacraments” seeing the signs of God’s hidden presence all through creation and human life.

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02
In the next few weeks we will be taking a look at the sacraments of new life that we as Christians celebrate. This is especially fitting during these weeks after our Easter season since we have in our midst those who were recently baptized, confirmed and received their first Eucharist. In the early church the Greek language gave us the word “mysterion” translated into English as “mystery” to remind us that God comes to us through sacred mysteries. Catholics have a “sacramental vision” of the world. We are able to experience the presence of God in and through this created world.

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26
We come at last to the end of the great 50 Days of Easter, when the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles at Pentecost. It is the birthday of the church, and therefore our birth as well. We share in the same Holy Spirit in our baptism and confirmation. The Spirit comes to us with the fire of love to sanctify our hearts, with the breath of God’s power to live the Good News in the world.

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18
The Ascension of the Lord 40 days after Easter is a moment of departure and of new beginnings. After experiencing a time of fullness with the Risen Lord, the disciples must now say goodbye. Letting go of the Lord must have brought a sense of sadness and disorientation. They gaze into the sky. The angel asks: “Why do you stand and look?” The next days will be a time of transition as they await the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. It is also a reminder that this world is not all we are made for.

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11
One of the most beautiful childhood memories I have is of the annual May devotions we shared at Sacred Heart Church in Lawrenceburg. As children we delighted in singing the popular Marian songs like “On This Day—On this day, O beautiful Mother, on this day we give you our love, near you Madonna fondly we hover…” and “Bring Flowers of the Fairest—from garden and woodland and hillside and vale…O Mary we crown you with blossoms today, Queen of the Angels, Queen of the May…” Mary, the Mother of Jesus, is our mother, too, “the loveliest Rose of the Vale.”

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04
Jesus, as the Son of God who took on our humanity, is the great model of all prayer. The Catechism of the Catholic Church notes he “learned to pray according to his human heart … He learns … from his mother … He learns to pray in the words and rhythms of the prayer of his people, in the synagogue at Nazareth and the Temple in Jerusalem.” (CCC 2599) The prayer of Jesus also emerges from a deeper place. It ‘‘springs from an otherwise secret source,” which is the eternal relationship of Son to Father, something our tradition speaks of as “filial prayer.”

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26
The Book of Psalms truly gives us an open window into our relationship with God. They are the prayers of God’s people, par excellence, but “embrace all creation” as the Catechism of the Catholic Church notes (CCC 2586). The Psalms of the Old Testament are a “masterwork of prayer” that nourishes and expresses the faith of God’s people. They are profoundly personal and yet communal.

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20
The story of Elijah, the “father of prophets,” at the Mountain of God has much to teach us about prayer. Elijah has gone to be alone with God on the mountain (and we very often need such solitude to meet God) when God reveals himself to the prophet. There is a strong driving wind, a mighty fire and an earthquake but God is to be found in none of these. It is only afterward, in the “tiny whispering sound” or as an old translation called it, “a still, small voice” that Elijah meets God.

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13
David, the shepherd boy, who would become a king after God’s own heart, has much to teach us of prayer. The Psalms of the Old Testament are attributed to David because of his unashamed praise of God. Though David has his own weakness and sinfulness (think of his affair with a married woman and his murder of her husband!) yet he truly repents in sorrow for his sin. One of the great moments of prayer is the way David “dances with abandon” before the presence of the Lord in the Ark of the Covenant.

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08
The silence of Good Friday and the rest of Holy Saturday give way to the Resurrection. Christ is Risen as he said, alleluia, alleluia! By the power of the Spirit, the Father has raised his Son from death. No mortal witnesses the resurrection of the Son of God. Yet it is the women who discover his empty tomb. They who had watched him crucified and buried receive the angelic proclamation: “Why do you seek the living one among the dead? He is not here, he has been raised up!”

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01
The hands that touched the sick and fed the hungry, that washed the feet of the disciples, are now pierced with nails. The feet that carried glad tidings have been opened. Jesus, Son of God, is nailed to the wood of the cross. He dies after six hours of agony, crying “My God, My God why have you forsaken me?” Yet he gives himself completely for us in that final moment.

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23
Perhaps the greatest “man of prayer” in the Old Testament is Moses who the Scriptures tell us met God “face to face” as one friend speaks to another, even though “one may not see the face of God and live!” What unparalleled intimacy with God. After being with God on the mountain, Moses would have to “veil his face” because of the brightness of the reflected glory of God!

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16
In the Book of Genesis we hear of a couple of mysterious encounters that Jacob has during the night. In one such encounter he experiences the presence of a mysterious “ladder” between heaven and earth with the angels of God ascending and descending. This reminds us that prayer is a “link” as it were between heaven and earth, often surrounded by great mystery.

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09
Abraham is often called our “father in faith” and stands at the beginning of the three great religions of the West: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. All of these acknowledge the One Merciful God who is the Creator of all. Abraham is a model of faith and prayer, first of all in action. When he is called by God to begin a journey to a “land that I will show you” he trusts God and obeys.

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02
After the first humans have broken away from God and are hiding in the garden in fear, God takes the initiative in reaching out to them. “Where are you? ...What is this you have done?” This is “God’s sorrowful call to his first children.” (CCC 2568) Since then God has never ceased to reach out to us, especially when we are feeling estranged from God, when we find ourselves alone and afraid.

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24
As we begin the Lenten journey we walk with Christ into his temptation in the wilderness. We experience temptation on many levels in life: temptations of flesh, world and spirit. Jesus was tempted in every way that we are, yet never sinned. In our union with Christ, we too are victorious.

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18
We begin the journey of Lent this Wednesday, February 22nd, with the celebration of Ash Wednesday. The words we hear as we receive ashes are: “Remember that you are dust, and unto dust you shall return.” It is a reminder of our mortality. We will not live forever.

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10
Abraham Joshua Heschel, the distinguished Jewish scholar of the 20th century, wrote a beautiful book entitled God in Search of Man in which he reminds us that God first and foremost begins the great search for humanity even before we begin our search for God. There is in the depths of our being what has been called a “God-shaped hole” which we try to fill with many different things throughout our lives.

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03
Prayer is an “encounter” with the God who created us, a sometimes unexpected “meeting” with the One who loves us from the first moment of our conception all the days of our lives. The beautiful scene of Jesus sitting down in the heat of the day, tired from his journey, waiting at the well of Jacob speaks eloquently about the life of prayer.

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29
Prayer is first and foremost a gift from God. It requires on our part a willingness to recognize our own need for God and for his help. Many years ago I heard someone quoting St. Augustine to the effect that “God desires to give us so many good things, but the problem is our hands are already full so we can’t receive what God wants to give us!”

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22
As disciples we know that prayer is at the heart of the Christian life, yet very often we don’t take time to be alone with God. St. Ignatius of Antioch on his way to face death for Christ noted that he was still a “beginner” in the Christian life! In some ways we are all still beginners in the life of prayer. This should give us some encouragement.

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13

Prayer and meditation often seem to be mysterious things. But in essence, prayer and meditation are simply taking time to be with God. A good way to begin each day is with prayer, something that used to be called the “morning offering.”

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06

As we celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany today, we are reminded of the great generosity of the Magi who brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the Christ child. Each gift was an expression of the gift of self which they offered to Christ the Lord.

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31

As we gather to celebrate the season of Christmas, the words of the Prefaces of our Eucharistic Prayers from the former Sacramentary have much to say about the deeper beauty and meaning of this celebration.

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24

The Twenty-fifth Day of December,
when ages beyond number had run their course from the creation of the world,
when God in the beginning created heaven and earth,
and formed man in his own likeness;
when century upon century had passed
since the Almighty set his bow in the clouds after the Great Flood,
as a sign of covenant and peace ...

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16

As we ponder moments in our own life when an announcement brought us great joy, we might have some idea of the joy Mary felt when the angel, Gabriel, appeared to her. Think of when we have received good news...

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11

Our ancestors in Northern Europe found this time of year to be a very dark and difficult time. The days would grow markedly colder and shorter and the rains would turn the primitive wagon roads to mud. Travel was often ruled out until the arrival of spring. So our ancestors did something very interesting ...

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02

When the newly consecrated Body of the Lord is lifted up at the altar before communion we will now hear the words: “Behold the Lamb of God…blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.” We will respond: “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof…”

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25

During the Eucharistic Prayer the presider at Liturgy repeats the words of Christ uttered at the Last Supper as the elements of bread and wine are consecrated to become the Body and Blood of Christ. Instead of “Then he took the cup…” we will now hear the word “chalice” which is from the Latin word for cup.

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13

“Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again” is one of the strongest and most memorable statements of our faith and expresses a core belief of Christian faith. It will not be among the new acclamations of faith during the Eucharistic Prayer because it is not a prayer addressed to Christ, but a statement about him.

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04

Other changes in the Creed many of us will notice focus on the person of Jesus. We will soon say “begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father.” Formerly we said “one in being” with the Father.

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28

The new translation of the Creed has many slight changes, but there are a few changes that will probably stand out the most. Instead of saying “We believe” we will be saying “I believe.” The origin of the Profession of Faith or Creed has its roots in the baptismal Liturgy ...

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23

The Gloria originally became part of the Liturgy during the celebration of Christmas in the city of Rome. Later it spread throughout the world and is now used on Sundays and solemnities throughout the year, except during the seasons of Advent and Lent. The new translation, given below, will be experienced here at St. Matthew ...

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16

The new translation of the Confiteor has some modifications. We will now say “I have greatly sinned… through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault” rather than the simpler “I have sinned through my own fault.” This reflects the Latin text which is admittedly more poetic in language at this point than the English.

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09

By now you may be wondering what the words will be in our new translation of the Mass. This week we begin the survey. The first change many will notice is the response we offer when the priest or deacon says: “The Lord be with you.” Like well-trained students, we automatically say “And also with you.” The new translation will be: “And with your spirit.”

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03

When Pope John Paul II issued a Third Edition of the Roman Missal on April 10, 2000, we began a new chapter in the post-Vatican II Liturgy. The guidelines for translation into the many languages of the world were spelled out in 2001 and called for the use of “formal equivalency” when translating the Mass texts.

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24

During the Second Vatican Council, when the Mass began to be translated into the many languages of the world from Latin, Pope Paul VI formed a Consilium to prepare for a new Roman Missal. It would be the first time in centuries that the Liturgy would be celebrated in the ordinary language of the people.

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24

For those old enough to remember, the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) brought about the greatest changes in the way Catholics celebrate Liturgy in many centuries.

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10

The earliest description of the Mass given about 150 AD by Justin Martyr has the same basic structure that we still follow today: the community gathers, hears the Word proclaimed, a presider prays the Eucharistic Prayer over the elements of bread and wine, the gathered faithful receive communion. They return to the world strengthened by the presence of Christ that they have received.

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03

Preparing for the new translation of the Mass is a bit like experiencing a home renovation. Many things will feel a bit different, but a doorway is opened for new insights into the familiar home that is the Mass. It is important to remember what remains constant in the midst of the change.

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28

As we prepare for a new English translation of the Mass, it is important to remember that while many of the words will be new, the great mystery that unfolds during the Eucharistic celebration remains the same. The great mysteries of our faith are always “ever ancient, ever new.”

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20

This Fall we will be saying goodbye to a good friend that most of us have been familiar with for the past 40 years or so. That “good friend” has been the current translation of the Mass that many of us have grown up with. For those under 50 it is probably the only way we remember the Mass being celebrated. On November 27 we will have a new translation of most of the prayers that we pray at Mass.

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14

Faith is a journey as much as it is a destination. In the journey of faith we take life one step at a time, one day at a time. Faith is like tending a garden. As long as we are alive there is still work to be done in us to become more like Christ.

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05

I was once asked, “Would you rather be right, or would you rather have peace?” Sometimes I want so much to be right that I lose all peace of mind. One of the great challenges of the spiritual life is learning to “let go” of the need to be in control.

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31

Trusting God in our daily life can be a frightening proposition, especially if we have lived our lives with the idea that we have to be in control and take care of ourselves. Sometimes our desire to be in control of our own life can become a very fearful and self-centered way of living. How ready and willing am I to let God truly guide and direct my life?

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24

“…Nothing that enters a person from outside can make him impure…” but only “what emerges from within… wicked designs come from the deep recesses of the heart…fornication, theft, murder, adultery, greed, maliciousness, deceit, sensuality, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, an obtuse spirit…” (cf. Mark 7: 17-23) These words of Jesus remind us that we must tend very carefully to the garden of our hearts.

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18

The original meaning of the 8th commandment: “Thou shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” applied principally to matters where one was called to testify in court (or at the city gate in ancient Israel). Truth telling in such a situation was critically important in determining the guilt and innocence of persons accused of a crime, and remains fundamental to this day.

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10

Although all the earth belongs to the Lord and is given to us that we might be good stewards of creation in service to each other, we also recognize a fundamental right that each person has to their property. One may not take from another that which belongs to him or her. To steal is to violate the dignity of the human person.

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04

When couples enter the sacrament of marriage, rarely do they ever expect that the outcome will one day end in a broken relationship, but too often these days relationships do in fact end in separation or divorce. This happens sometimes even though one or both of the spouses sincerely desires to make the marriage survive. 

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27

 In the Old Testament the full meaning of the marriage covenant developed gradually over time.  The early patriarchs and kings had multiple wives, but the bond of marriage was not something to be violated ...

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06

The Ascension of the Lord 40 days after Easter is a moment of departure and of new beginnings. After experiencing a time of fullness with the Risen Lord, the disciples must now say goodbye. Letting go of the Lord must have brought a sense of sadness and disorientation ...

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31

With the fourth commandment we move from our fundamental obligations to God toward our fundamental obligations to each other. It is the first commandment to involve a promise: “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land which the Lord your God gives you.” 

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21

We can thank our Jewish ancestors for handing on the third commandment of Sabbath rest. “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy…” The scriptures remind us that in the great work of creation, God himself rested on the 7th day and thus made it holy. 

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15

The second commandment continues our reflection on our obligations to the God who created us. “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain…” 
In the ancient world names were very important because they signified the reality that was named. 

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09

The first and pivotal commandment of the Covenant given on Mount Sinai is a strong reminder of the God to whom we belong. “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before me…”

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01

The Decalogue, or Ten Commandments, of the Old Testament may be among the best known literature in the world. They may be found, with slight variations, in Exodus 20:2-17 and Deuteronomy 5:6-21. They have been seen by both Jews and Christians as great summations of the ethical obligations that God gave his people. 

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24

The silence of Good Friday and the rest of Holy Saturday give way to the Resurrection. Christ is Risen as he said, alleluia, alleluia! By the power of the Spirit, the Father has raised his Son from death. No mortal witnesses the resurrection of the Son of God. Yet it is the women who discover his empty tomb.

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17

Chastity, as the catechism defines it, is about integrating our sexuality into the whole of our life. It is about the right balance, discovering and using the energy that God has given us in a way that is respectful of ourselves and others.

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12

Some of us have thought it our job to control everyone and everything around us. Such an attitude often leads to frustration and resentment on our part (and irritation on the part of others!) In fact, I am invited to live as a person of self-control, graciously responding to the challenges life throws at me daily.

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03

Modesty is perhaps one of the least valued virtues today. Society is telling us we need more and better and exalts those who “have made it” and are “at the top of their game.” “If we don’t toot our own horn, no one else will,” is the attitude of the modern world. How different is the way of the Son of God. 

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27

When the Lord reveals himself in the burning bush on Mount Sinai Moses wants to know God’s name. The reply is mysterious: “I am who I am” or “I will be who I will be.” Though God remains Awesome and Holy Mystery, he allows Moses to know he will be there for him and his people over the long haul ,,,

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20

It was said of Moses that he was the “meekest” or gentlest man of all the earth. One of our beatitudes speaks of the meek or gentle, who shall inherit the earth. But it is in the face of Jesus himself that we meet true gentleness. 

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13

During my years at St. Ambrose College the rector of the seminary, Fr. Ed Dunn, was a man of remarkable generosity. I recall late one evening knocking on his door, needing someone to listen ...

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06

I love the phrase “Good-bye” not because of the sadness of parting, but because of its deeper meaning. It comes from the old English phrase: “God be with you.” What a wonderful wish when we are leaving the presence of another... that God would be with them as we journey separately for a time. It reminds us ...

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26

Sometimes it is the smallest and simplest acts of kindness that matter most in life. It is not that I show up to watch a child’s ballgame, but the gracefulness with which I am present for him or her when I am there ...

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20

A good barometer of where I am today is when I get behind the wheel of my car. When I am in a hurry, I can find no peace in the present moment. Every other car becomes an obstacle in my way. Why is she taking so long? Why can’t he move faster? Such thoughts cloud my mind and I lose charity and thoughtfulness. Patience is the refreshing antidote. 

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13

In my home there is a beautiful image of Jesus stilling the storm. He ommands: “Peace! Be still!” Above the boat, the clouds are opening to a quiet stillness, the disciples hovering below. I have discovered that I have little control over the storms around me in life. 

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06

After many gray days in a row, when the sun makes its appearance, its warmth on our faces often brings smiles. Joy lived in the heart is contagious, and brings delight to the hearts of others. I have often recalled ...

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29

As we ponder the meaning of life, what our purpose is, I am reminded of the famous quote of John F. Kennedy: “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” That small quote captures one of two directions our life can take.

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23

As our journey continues this year looking at the “good life” (a life lived as God wills us to live it) we look more deeply into the fruits that flow from the action of the Holy Spirit in our life. The tradition of the church lists 12 fruits of the Holy Spirit ...

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16

As I indicated some weeks ago, the “fear of the Lord” is one of those often misunderstood phrases in Scripture. Someone who has been abused as a child often carries a lifetime of insecurity and fear before any authority figure, and can have a hard time relating to God as God truly is. Such persons must be reminded of the words of Jesus ...

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09

“Piety” is one of those old-fashioned words that are not often used in common speech today (unless you have made Cursillo!) Piety is closely related to the word “faith,” and it describes our total response to all that God has done for us in Christ.

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02

January 1st marks the beginning of a New Year. My prayer is that this time of new beginnings will be marked by gratitude, peace, joyful service and faith. First, gratitude. For all that God has done for us, Deo gratias!

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24

As we gather to celebrate the Feast of Christmas, the words of the Prefaces of our Eucharistic Prayers have much to say about the deeper beauty and meaning of this celebration. 

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19

The Hebrew word for knowing describes more than simply “head knowledge.” It is the word most often used to describe the intimate union of husband and wife in marriage. Adam knew Eve, and they gave birth to a son. When God’s people are oppressed in Egypt, Exodus tells us that God knew

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12

Often as I begin a new hike in a wilderness or park, I begin with great joy and enthusiasm. I am so excited at the beginning, I almost leap out the car and put my pack on. Especially if I have chosen a beautiful and challenging destination, I am eager to “hit the trail.” But often, once the first fervor has worn off, especially as the day drags into afternoon and I begin to tire, I begin to have doubts.

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05

None of us are our own best advisors or counselors! A doctor who treats himself has a fool for a physician! This is because all of us have blind spots, and we find it very easy to rationalize and convince ourselves of what we really want or need in life! 

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28

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,” the Scriptures often tell us. Such “fear” is not the craven fear or terror we feel when we are in some kind of danger, but a sense of “awe” and “reverence” before the God who is Holy...

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21

The first traditional gift of the Holy Spirit is Wisdom. One definition of wisdom is to “know what the Lord wills.” This type of wisdom is not about having all the right facts (although correct information is essential in gaining moral clarity) but more about having the right intuitive knowledge of what God desires of us.

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14

Socrates felt that the true cause of most human problems was due to “ignorance” or a lack of knowledge.” If only people understood what was truly right, then they would do it. My own experience is different. Sometimes I know the right thing, but have a hard time doing it.

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07

As a young child, I preferred to read books, even at recess when others were busily playing. One day a group of classmates were having a blast playing in a newly raked pile of leaves, and kept calling for me to join them. Absorbed as I was in my reading, I resisted the call, but finally gave in.

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31

Early one morning in the seminary, I walked into class a few minutes before it was to begin. My professor said with a sour disposition, “Beckman, you’re late!!!” I took my seat quietly. 

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24

It has been said that those of our generation are great multi-taskers (we can text, drive and eat a sandwich all at once, in addition to listening to our music!) Actually, this is a myth. Recent studies indicate that those who “multi-task” rarely do anything very well! Experience usually proves this so. So, it is not surprising that if our hearts are divided and we allow ourselves to be drawn in multiple directions at once, we never get very far down any particular path. 

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17

Two of the qualities most often used to describe God throughout the Old Testament are hesed and emet. My first Scripture professor described emet (often translated as “true”) as the kind of faithfulness or fidelity that true friends show. He described hesed (often translated as “mercy” or “steadfast love” or “graciousness”) as heartfelt mercy or tender compassion, the kind of tenderness a mother feels for her children.

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10

We hunger for much in life, for food indeed, but also for affirmation, acceptance, love and so much more! One contemporary song notes “everybody’s got a hungry heart.” All these yearnings and desires point us deeper into the soul where there is a far deeper and more profound hunger.

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03

Strength and power seem to be the goals of most people and nations. We admire those who have the ability to run big companies, officials who have established wealth, influence, and fame, the “stars” of this world! How different is the way of Jesus.

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26

There is probably no pain quite like the emptiness in our hearts when someone who is dear to us dies. Our modern world doesn’t face death very well. We try to hide from it, from the aging process, and we often hide from those who are close to death.

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12

Living the good life” has many meanings in our contemporary world, but true goodness is the purpose for which all of us are created. As we enter the third year of Why Catholic? our focus this year in our small faith communities and for our Sunday adult faith formation program will turn to the third part of the catechism, “Life in Christ.” 

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05

“Honesty is such a lonely word… when everyone is so untrue,” the lyrics from a Billy Joel song (from the 70’s I think) sometimes occasionally echo through my mind. Most of us probably consider ourselves fairly honest people. After all, we don’t usually tell direct lies about important things, do we? But how honest am I really? 

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29

“Acceptance is the answer to all of my problems today.” It has been pointed out that whenever I find myself disturbed, irritable, resentful or unhappy it is because I find some reality in my life unacceptable.

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22

We are called to be contemplatives in life. By this I am not suggesting that we abandon home and work and sneak off to a monastery or deserted place to find God (although occasional retreats can be wonderful … that’s a later topic) but a way of living life.

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15

Mary, who from the first moment of her conception was kept free from sin, who had uttered her great “yes” and become the bearer of the Word of God made flesh, is now taken body and soul into the glory of heaven. She is the new Eve, bright as the morning star.

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08

Pain and suffering are realities we usually seek to avoid, yet they are part of every human life. Although we should never inflict pain and suffering on another, and do what we can to alleviate them, all of us inevitably experience suffering in life.

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01

I was once asked, “Would you rather be right, or would you rather have peace?” Sometimes I want so much to be right that I lose all peace of mind. One of the great challenges of the spiritual life is learning to “let go” of the need to be in control.

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25

Gerald May in Will and Spirit writes about the difference between willfulness and willingness. When we are willful, we try to control reality. May points out that we are not open to the life of the Spirit in such a condition. Openness and willingness lead us to the place of surrender. 

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18

Some of the great barriers in growing spiritually are the hurts that happen in life, the harm done. A wise person once pointed out that learning to love others is a lot like learning to dance, and sometimes we step on each other’s toes in the process. 

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11

Paul once asked the Lord to remove a “thorn in the flesh” (we don’t know for sure what it was) that was causing great pain, but the Lord answered: “My grace is enough for you, for in weakness power reaches perfection…” So Paul became content with weakness for, as he says, “when I am powerless, it is then that I am strong.”

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04

Faith is a journey as much as it is a destination. In the journey of faith we take life one step at a time, one day at a time. Faith is like tending a garden. As long as we are alive there is still work to be done in us to become more like Christ.

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27

 

Trusting God in our daily life can be a frightening proposition, especially if we have lived our lives with the idea that we have to be in control and take care of ourselves. How ready and willing am I to let God truly guide and direct my life?

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20

Prayer and meditation often seem to be mysterious things. But in essence, prayer and meditation are simply taking time to be with God. A good way to begin each day is with prayer, something that used to be called the “morning offering.” I take time to thank God for the start of the new day, ask his guidance today in my life, and offer myself to his service today.

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15

Sometimes the picture of life and others that I have is very distorted by the chaos inside my own head and heart. When I am consumed with fear, hurt, anger, resentment, jealousy, envy, or any other dark emotion, I find little peace with myself ... I am gently reminded that it’s time for me to look inside and do a little “spring cleaning” in my own heart.

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06

In the Liturgy we know that the Lord Jesus Christ is present. He promised us that where “two or three gather in his name” he is with us. After he had risen from the dead, he told the disciples, “know that I am with you until the end of time.” (Mt 28)

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01

One of the most beautiful childhood memories I have is of the annual May Devotions we shared at Sacred Heart Church in Lawrenceburg.  Mary, the Mother of Jesus, is our mother, too,

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23

We come at last to the end of the great 50 Days of Easter, when the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles at Pentecost. It is the birthday of the church, and therefore our birth as well.

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14

 

Mary, who from the first moment of her conception was kept free from sin, who had uttered her great “yes” and become the bearer of the Word of God made flesh, is now taken body and soul into the glory of heaven. She is the new Eve, bright as the morning star. 

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02
Fifty days after the resurrection of Jesus, the promised Spirit descends upon the apostles gathered in the upper room. Mary is present there at the birth of the church. The Spirit enters as a strong, driving wind moving as it wills, and in tongues of flame. It is the fire of God’s love that will direct the church where God wills. 

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19

In these days of Easter joy, we turn our attention to the mysteries of our ultimate destiny founded on the resurrection of Jesus from the dead and the coming of the Holy Spirit. The silence of Good Friday and the rest of Holy Saturday have given way to the Resurrection. Christ is Risen as he said, alleluia, alleluia! By the power of the Spirit, the Father has raised his Son from death.

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