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Gospel Reflections

Gospel Reflection Oct 14 – Deacon Alfonso

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Gospel Reflection
October 14, 2018

Sunday, October 14

Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Mark 10: 17 – 30

Gospel:
As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up,
knelt down before him, and asked him,
“Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus answered him, “Why do you call me good?
No one is good but God alone.
You know the commandments: You shall not kill;
you shall not commit adultery;
you shall not steal;
you shall not bear false witness;
you shall not defraud;
honor your father and your mother.”
He replied and said to him,
“Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth.”
Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him,
“You are lacking in one thing.
Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor
and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”
At that statement his face fell,
and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.

Jesus looked around and said to his disciples,
“How hard it is for those who have wealth
to enter the kingdom of God!”
The disciples were amazed at his words.
So Jesus again said to them in reply,
“Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God!
It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle
than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
They were exceedingly astonished and said among themselves,
“Then who can be saved?”
Jesus looked at them and said,
“For human beings it is impossible, but not for God.
All things are possible for God.”
Peter began to say to him,
“We have given up everything and followed you.”
Jesus said, “Amen, I say to you,
there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters
or mother or father or children or lands
for my sake and for the sake of the gospel
who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age:
houses and brothers and sisters
and mothers and children and lands,
with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come.”

Reflection:
In our lives we can come to crossroads in which the decisions that we are faced with paralyzes us. We experience this greater tension even more so whenever what we want to do conflicts with what we ought to do. In today’s reading, we see the deep desire for everlasting life is manifested by the man that approaches Jesus. Jesus in turn gives him the road map to that path of holiness and salvation. When the man expresses that he has already fulfilled these, Jesus raises the bar and his imperfections come to light. He is stuck, unfree to follow Jesus because of his attachments and he becomes sad. But Jesus does not want him to become a lesser version of himself in sacrificing these things. Rather, Jesus knows that we become more of ourselves, and therefore more holy, more joyful more fulfilled in the measure we give of ourselves freely. Thus in order to be free to live the life of holiness, we must give of ourselves freely.

Deacon Alfonso Gámez Alanís

Gospel Reflection Oct 7 – Sr. Teresa

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Gospel Reflection
October 7, 2018

Sunday, October 7

Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Mark 10: 2 – 16

Gospel:
The Pharisees approached Jesus and asked,
“Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?”
They were testing him.
He said to them in reply, “What did Moses command you?”
They replied,
“Moses permitted a husband to write a bill of divorce
and dismiss her.”
But Jesus told them,
“Because of the hardness of your hearts
he wrote you this commandment.
But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female.
For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother
and be joined to his wife,
and the two shall become one flesh.
So they are no longer two but one flesh.
Therefore what God has joined together,
no human being must separate.”
In the house the disciples again questioned Jesus about this.
He said to them,
“Whoever divorces his wife and marries another
commits adultery against her;
and if she divorces her husband and marries another,
she commits adultery.”

And people were bringing children to him that he might touch them,
but the disciples rebuked them.
When Jesus saw this he became indignant and said to them,
“Let the children come to me;
do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to
such as these.
Amen, I say to you,
whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child
will not enter it.”
Then he embraced them and blessed them,
placing his hands on them.

Reflection:
There are certain words or phrases that are HOT BUTTONS in religion (outside of politics). Abortion, Death Penalty, Marriage, Same-sex marriage – just to name a few. Another one is the focus of today’s passage – DIVORCE. In any congregation there will be people who are divorced and single, divorced and remarried, should be divorced, engaged couples, single people and married people, widows and widowers. People have very definite views on each and some to the point of demonizing anyone who may have an alternate view or those who can see the grey area in any “black/white” issue. According to Pope Francis, it is not careful legal interpretation but the integration of mercy and justice that is needed when we are encountering people in pain.

It helps to understand the Law that the Pharisees are asking about. Divorce was an issue that was and is and probably always will be debated among religious teachers. In Jewish tradition “debate” is the most common way of probing an issue hoping to discover a deeper and perhaps bigger truth. Jesus responds to the Pharisees’ question with a question. “What does Moses command?” Pharisees were masters of the law; they knew the teaching (their goal was almost always to trap Jesus not to discover a bigger truth). The Mosaic law they are speaking of goes back to Deuteronomy 24:1 – “Suppose a man enters into marriage with a woman, but she does not please him because he finds something objectionable about her, so he writes her a certificate of divorce….” Ending a marriage was that easy — say “I divorce you” and have the certificate written. Keep in mind that it was only the husband who could do this. Women had no say, no rights and no voice in the matter. “…something objectionable about her,” is the key phrase.

Divorce for a woman of Jesus’ time would put her in dire straits. For the most part women did not own property and were not allowed to work. Marriage would provide them and their children support and protection. On their own they would be hard-pressed to find life’s essentials. Hence, the law was crucial for protection of women and their children from the more powerful forces aligned against them. Jesus always reaches out to protect the most vulnerable.

In the strictest sense it could only be adultery that could lead to divorce, but in practice it could be any reason from the sublime to the ridiculous. Therefore, the law was crucial for protection of women and their children. Women and children were considered property and easily disposed of.

Today we could debate the issue of divorce and remarriage as simply right or wrong, and never get to the underlying pain in a marriage that often leads to divorce. Divorce is serious, and society is affected by a blasé attitude towards it. Society is also affected by a rigid opposition to ending unhealthy and unholy relationships. Divorce involves legal issues, family issues, and deep relationship issues. It is complex and most of it lies in the grey areas of life issues.

Jesus takes the Pharisees back to Genesis and the story of creation. Human beings are meant to be in relationship. To sit in the judgement seat and make “divorce” a black and white issue, is to go right to the letter of the law and miss the spirit of the law, for which Jesus always advocates. We must step back and ask the pastoral questions. We need to know that some marriages should never have been and should not continue. Marriage is a serious commitment. It is not an easy choice and not something that should end without thinking things through.

Marriage is meant to be permanent, but the reality is that many are not and should not be. Many marriages should never have happened. And some should never continue. I have sat with too many people whose lives and families were ruined because they stayed in a bad and almost always toxic marriage. Marriage should not be entered into lightly or casually. Nor should it be ended lightly or casually. It is not easy to be married. The wife and the husband need to work at their marriage, to help it to grow into a holy union; to be mutually faithful; to become one flesh.

Jesus does not reject law. He wants the spirit of the law to have order, structure and to provide nurturing for those most in need. We must ask how we, as a Church, help those who are married to grow in that relationship to make it stronger? Often the emphasis is on pre-Cana and there is barely anything for post-Cana. We also must ask, how we as a Church community walk with those who divorce and, in many cases, remarry?

In speaking of divorce and remarriage, Pope Francis urges that we hold justice and mercy together and not rigidly hold or become obsessed with legal interpretation. Each case needs to be approached with a pastoral heart.

Children are the second part of today’s gospel. Considering our ongoing crisis of clergy abuse of children and the abuse of power on the part of some of the hierarchy of the Church, and our obligations to protect our vulnerable members, Jesus’ words are empowering. One way of “embracing,” and “blessing” children, as Jesus does, is for church members, clergy and laity, to call for full and appropriate disclosure, the removing of violators from working in the church and to do whatever we can to facilitate healing among those who have been betrayed and violated.

Jesus’ rebuke of the behavior of his disciples and his instructions to them about proper behavior towards the least, challenge and empower all of us disciples not to take a “wait and see” attitude, but to do what we can now to move us out of the muck in which we now find ourselves.

POST NOTE
I would encourage those who are suffering the pains of divorce or remarriage make an appointment to talk with Msgr. Hendricks or Fr. Morris or one of our deacons. You might also want to consider joining a DIVORCE CARE GROUP. It is a caring group of people who will walk alongside you through one of life’s most difficult experiences. A new session begins at St. Matthew Church (Gahanna) on October 17, 2018.

Sister Teresa Tuite

Gospel Reflection Sept 30 – Msgr. Hendricks

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Sunday, September 30

Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-48

Gospel:
At that time, John said to Jesus,
“Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name,
and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us.”
Jesus replied, “Do not prevent him.
There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name
who can at the same time speak ill of me.
For whoever is not against us is for us.
Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink
because you belong to Christ,
amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward.

“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin,
it would be better for him if a great millstone
were put around his neck
and he were thrown into the sea.
If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off.
It is better for you to enter into life maimed
than with two hands to go into Gehenna,
into the unquenchable fire.
And if your foot causes you to sin, cut if off.
It is better for you to enter into life crippled
than with two feet to be thrown into Gehenna.
And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out.
Better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye
than with two eyes to be thrown into Gehenna,
where ‘their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.'”

Reflection:
Lots of things are going on in today’s gospel passage from St. Mark.

First, we hear that Jesus is happy with those who perform mighty works by driving out demons even though they are not in his company of followers. John the brother of James seeks purity of motive on behalf of the healer, but the message is clear, anyone who speaks in the name of Jesus cannot be against him. This is a great lesson for us all.

Second, there is a great price to pay for one who destroys or attempts to destroy the faith of a new follower of Jesus. This is not a reference to children, but a reference to one who is new to the faith and is tempted to go astray. We must always care for the newly initiated in Christ.

Third, whatever causes us to sin but be dealt with in the most correct and dramatic way. Here we are not looking for physical harm done to oneself but a spiritual healing that takes place at the source of our sin. We are asked to examine what it is that directs us away from Christ and forces us to selfishness and entitlement. The warning is to act quickly when one recognizes the sin so as not to prolong the downward spiral that only makes things worse.

These three practical lessons are a part of how we live the message of Jesus each day. This is a good examination for each of us as we begin a new week.

Monsignor Hendricks

Gospel Reflection Sept 21 – Fr. Morris

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Sunday, September 23

Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Mark 9: 30 – 37

Gospel:
Jesus and his disciples left from there and began a journey through Galilee,
but he did not wish anyone to know about it.
He was teaching his disciples and telling them,
“The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him,
and three days after his death the Son of Man will rise.”
But they did not understand the saying, and they were afraid to question him.

They came to Capernaum and, once inside the house,
he began to ask them,
“What were you arguing about on the way?”
But they remained silent.
They had been discussing among themselves on the way
who was the greatest.
Then he sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them,
“If anyone wishes to be first,
he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.”
Taking a child, he placed it in their midst,
and putting his arms around it, he said to them,
“Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me;
and whoever receives me,
receives not me but the One who sent me.”

Reflection:
Today’s Gospel can make us wince at the end. Any talk about children and the Christian faith during this year that Catholic commentator George Weigel has dubbed annus horribilis 2018 can make us instinctively steel ourselves for more horrible news. But today’s Gospel in fact reinforces the importance of the steps the Church has taken in the past decade and a half to ensure a safe environment for God’s children.

The often-complained about requirement for our volunteers to undergo criminal background checks and fingerprinting; the inconvenient school and religious education start and dismissal procedures; the onerous requirement of having two adults present when only a couple of children are involved in a Church activity — it is in a year like this that we remember why these things are needed.

It is also a year in which we can be hopeful that the mandated training for laity and clergy on identifying child abuse and abusers will also help us protect children in those places that are not in the headlines but where abuse occurs with shocking statistical regularity. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, about 30% of abusers are family members, while another 60% are close acquaintances of the child or family. This means that a shocking 90% of all abuse cases involve someone that the child already knows and likely trusts. And if we have found such evil acts in the Church of Christ, one shudders to think what is occurring in other institutions or organizations with no mandated training or screening safeguards of any sort.

St. Augustine wrote that God is so powerful that He can make Good come out of even the Evil that Men do. So we need to pray and trust that God can bring about a Church that will for centuries to come not only be a safe place for children, but a Church that will also be in the forefront of efforts to protect all children, wherever they may be, from the atrocity of child sexual abuse. Jesus reminds us again and again not only how important children are for their own sakes as human persons, but how important their instinctive, pure, and clear-eyed Faith is as an example for us jaded and cynical adults. As Our Lord taught so well, only when we truly love, cherish, and protect children can we adults fully realize how much we are loved, cherished, and protected by a loving personal God, the Creator and Father of us all.

Father Matthew Morris

Gospel Reflection Sept 16 – Deacon Paul

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Sunday, September 16

Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Mark 8: 27 – 35

Gospel:
Jesus and his disciples set out
for the villages of Caesarea Philippi.
Along the way he asked his disciples,
“Who do people say that I am?”
They said in reply,
“John the Baptist, others Elijah,
still others one of the prophets.”
And he asked them,
“But who do you say that I am?”
Peter said to him in reply,
“You are the Christ.”
Then he warned them not to tell anyone about him.

He began to teach them
that the Son of Man must suffer greatly
and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes,
and be killed, and rise after three days.
He spoke this openly.
Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.
At this he turned around and, looking at his disciples,
rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan.
You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”

He summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to them,
“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself,
take up his cross, and follow me.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake
and that of the gospel will save it.”

Reflection:
“You are the Christ.” In today’s Gospel, Peter makes this powerful declaration of faith when Jesus asks his disciples, “Who do you say that I am.” While Peter gets the answer right, he still didn’t totally understand Jesus. Jesus began to explain the true meaning of being God’s anointed one: that He would suffer greatly, be put to death on a cross, but would rise again. Peter could not comprehend a suffering Messiah and he rebuked Jesus for teaching them this. However, Jesus came right back at him and said, “Get behind me, Satan! You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”

Peter was allowing Satan to cloud his understanding and impede God’s will. So, not only would the Son of Man suffer and die, but those who wanted to follow Jesus, truly follow Him, they too must suffer and die. This is not exactly an easy plan or the best recruitment slogan to be a disciple of Jesus. Any of us who wish to follow Jesus must take up the cross and share in Jesus’ struggles and sufferings.

Jesus made it clear from the very beginning that it wasn’t going to be easy to be a disciple. To be a true follower of Christ means we need to change our entire lifestyle. It means that we need to change the way we act, think, and speak. In order to be a follower of Jesus we need to change our entire life, dying to who we used to be, and becoming a new person. So, is your heart ready for this kind of commitment? Are you ready to give it your all? Jesus tells us the reward will be great… for “whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it.”

Deacon Paul Zemanek

Gospel Reflection Sept 9 – Deacon Don

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Sunday, September 9

Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Mark 7:31-37

Gospel:
Again Jesus left the district of Tyre
and went by way of Sidon to the Sea of Galilee,
into the district of the Decapolis.
And people brought to him a deaf man who had a speech impediment
and begged him to lay his hand on him.
He took him off by himself away from the crowd.
He put his finger into the man’s ears
and, spitting, touched his tongue;
then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him,
“Ephphatha!”- that is, “Be opened!” –
And immediately the man’s ears were opened,
his speech impediment was removed,
and he spoke plainly.
He ordered them not to tell anyone.
But the more he ordered them not to,
the more they proclaimed it.
They were exceedingly astonished and they said,
“He has done all things well.
He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

Reflection:
In today’s Gospel, we see an example what modern Scripture Scholars have labeled, “The Messianic Secret!” This happens often where Jesus performs a miracle and then, “He ordered them not to tell anyone.” Jesus has not fully revealed Himself to be the Messiah, so others see him still as simply a man with unusual skills. His miracles would get in the way of His true mission on earth – to provide salvation to us all. Today, we can see Jesus as more than simply a “light show” or entertainment. But this miracle as with all of Jesus’ healings, there is more going on here than a physical healing.

In our Catholic Baptisms rituals, there is an “Ephphatha” rite, where the priest or deacon touches the baby’s ears and mouth that one day they may hear the word of God and on another day, they may speak it. All the Baptized are so instructed and burdened. We all need to have our ears opened so that we can hear and understand in its fullness the message of Jesus. In addition to that, once we have heard and understood, the natural consequence is that we go out and speak openly to the world about what we have heard and understood. Both hearing and speaking are inseparable for the Christian disciple.

As in today’s Gospel, when we have truly experienced the power of that message and the love of God in our own lives, we cannot but do what that man did – broadcast it far and wide. With all the added drama and evolving consequences of the Church’s sex abuse crisis affecting each of us, this is the time to listen more than ever to the Word of God and to preach it to others. While it may be more prudent to hunker down and lay in the weeds waiting for this crisis to blow over, it is our time to proclaim that Jesus’ Church is more than a “light show,” more than a crisis in the hierarchy, more than a silencing of our moral voice in a world without Objective Truth. It is a time to reflect that our ears and eyes are open and the Truth and hope of the Gospels remain and are needed – now more than ever.

Deacon Don Poirier

Gospel Reflection Sep 2 – Deacon Frank

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Sunday, September 2
 
Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Gospel:
When the Pharisees with some scribes who had come from Jerusalem
gathered around Jesus,
they observed that some of his disciples ate their meals
with unclean, that is, unwashed, hands.
-For the Pharisees and, in fact, all Jews,
do not eat without carefully washing their hands,
keeping the tradition of the elders.
And on coming from the marketplace
they do not eat without purifying themselves.
And there are many other things that they have traditionally observed,
the purification of cups and jugs and kettles and beds. –
So the Pharisees and scribes questioned him,
“Why do your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders
but instead eat a meal with unclean hands?”
He responded,
“Well did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites, as it is written:
This people honors me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines human precepts.
You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition.”He summoned the crowd again and said to them,
“Hear me, all of you, and understand.
Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person;
but the things that come out from within are what defile.

“From within people, from their hearts,
come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder,
adultery, greed, malice, deceit,
licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly.
All these evils come from within and they defile.”

Reflection:

There is a tremendous challenge placed before us in this Sunday’s gospel by St. Mark.  The established religious leaders of Jesus’ time focused on the failure of Jesus’ disciples to wash their hands.  We all know that it is a good idea to wash our hands before we eat, but in Jesus’ day, failure to do so made a person sinful according to the Pharisees. To that complaint Jesus answers that religion must be a matter of the heart.  Only in keeping our hearts filled with compassion can we fulfill the law of Christ.

In the late 1990’s a book entitled Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff became quite popular in the “self-help” category.  The author was Richard Carlson, a clinical psychologist who had a significant following because of the talks and workshops he developed to help people keep their lives productive, well-adjusted and fulfilling.  In this weekend’s gospel, Jesus goes right to the matter of the heart, not the small stuff.  He taught about attitudes that his disciples should develop and live, every day of their lives.

In short, we should not sweat the small stuff, we should focus on the heart of our faith.  Love of God and love of neighbor should be our core values, our witness to the world.

Gospel Reflection Sep 2 – Sr. Teresa

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Sunday, September 2
 
Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Gospel:
When the Pharisees with some scribes who had come from Jerusalem
gathered around Jesus,
they observed that some of his disciples ate their meals
with unclean, that is, unwashed, hands.
-For the Pharisees and, in fact, all Jews,
do not eat without carefully washing their hands,
keeping the tradition of the elders.
And on coming from the marketplace
they do not eat without purifying themselves.
And there are many other things that they have traditionally observed,
the purification of cups and jugs and kettles and beds. –
So the Pharisees and scribes questioned him,
“Why do your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders
but instead eat a meal with unclean hands?”
He responded,
“Well did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites, as it is written:
This people honors me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines human precepts.
You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition.”

He summoned the crowd again and said to them,
“Hear me, all of you, and understand.
Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person;
but the things that come out from within are what defile.

“From within people, from their hearts,
come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder,
adultery, greed, malice, deceit,
licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly.
All these evils come from within and they defile.”

 

Reflection:
In light of the news that has unfolded in our world about our church these past few weeks, the words of today’s gospel carry great impact.
The small group of Pharisees had evidently been sent from Jerusalem to see if the things they had been hearing about Jesus and his followers were true. We might say they were sent to catch Jesus and his disciples not following the rules! As he so often does, Jesus will turn things around and the Pharisees and each of us and our Church will be challenged. Jesus’ words will penetrate and confront us with a searching question: Are we following the teachings of Jesus?
As the passage goes on and we take the time to lift it up and see what is beneath the words, we find it will be bigger than what starts out as proper table etiquette.
These Pharisees were super vigilant in trying to catch Jesus and the disciples breaking with traditional practices. The traditions and customs had been so intertwined into the Jewish culture over many years, the Pharisees considered them to be as binding as the Law of Moses. Jesus is not so much against the practices as he is against making the practice equivalent to, and sometimes even greater than, the spirit of the Law.
This passage is asking us to look at the religious practices we engage in and observe regularly. Invitations to look at our lives to see if stringent external practices may have polluted our heart and soul, and we have made them more important than the spirit of God’s love and law.
The last verses made my blood run cold and my conscience go on high alert, especially in the midst of the shame and scandal rocking our church now.
He summoned the crowd again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand.
Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile.
“From within people, from their hearts, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly. All these evils come from within and they defile.”
We received a “Listen up!” notice from Jesus. This is a “let me make myself perfectly clear, so there is no misunderstanding” message from Jesus. The list Jesus gave the Pharisees of his day could be the same today: sex, abuse of power, control, money, greed. Perhaps, like many of you, I am so distressed by the state of our country and our world. The horrific war in Syria and atrocities in Yemen rage on. The number of shootings in our schools continues to escalate. The growing rejection to offer asylum that we witnessed as far too many children were separated from their families (and still not reunited).   The growing rejection of migrants and immigrants seeking asylum frightens and angers me.
As painful as all of that chilling reality is, it has not cut my heart as deeply as the increasing exposition of the sexual scandal and abuse of ecclesial power in our church that has been kept hidden for decades. The past weeks have brought revelations of horrors inflicted on children and others by some in the Catholic clergy. The complicity of many in the church hierarchy in abusing their power by covering up the actions of the perpetrators but neglecting the survivors of the abuse shocks us. Such criminal and immoral acts have brought our church to its knees. Perhaps like you I am sickened by the reports that get worse each day. Perhaps like you, I feel emotions that range from intense anger, to the point of rage, to absolute powerlessness.
Many have expressed their intention to leave the church. Others have expressed a confusion and sorrow that comes when you lose trust and confidence in something or someone you deeply love. It seems critical for all of us to hold on to hope and to hold on to each other. Our trust in the church may be shattered or badly broken but don’t equate that with faith. Hold on to your faith in Christ Jesus. Jesus Christ is our center. Jesus Christ is our rock. Jesus Christ is the source of our hope.
For the past several weeks our gospels have focused on the most precious gift Jesus has given us — the gift of his Body and Blood. This is a gift he left us, not because we were worthy, but because he knew we would be hungry, over and over again. We are certainly very hungry right now. Hungry for forgiveness, hungry for understanding, hungry for compassion, hungry for wisdom, and hungry for hope and understanding, hungry to find the way to Jesus Christ. We are, in a very real sense, starving for the Bread of Life in these perilous times.
Indeed, our church has been brought to its knees in shame and disgrace because of the actions and behaviors of some. We must also be brought to our knees to offer deep prayer. It is a time, not to turn our back on the church, but a time to open our arms wider to embrace the deep teachings of Jesus. It is time to look on this horrific scandal with the eyes and heart of Jesus Christ. A scandal which will get worse before it gets better, because the problem is bigger than the scandal. The problem is systemic in scope. We will have to listen and heed the warning given in today’s gospel as Jesus reminded the group of Pharisees, and us, of Isaiah’s words:
           Well did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites, as it is written:
This people honors me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines human precepts.
You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition.”
These times will test our faith and erode our hope, unless we cling to Jesus Christ as we make the long and difficult journey back to the heart of God.
Today’s gospel calls us: as individuals, as a parish community, as a country and as a total Institutional Church to ask, “What is flowing out of our hearts and spoken from our lips, and lived in our behavior?”  
Today, in this gospel passage, Jesus invites us and gives us a very stern warning to step back and look to see if we are only giving lip service to God while our heart remains very far from God. If I faithfully go to Church and yet continue to hate my neighbor, cheat others or refuse to forgive others then I must ask if going to Mass is just lip service to the heart of the law.
If my lips say, “I love my neighbor and care for the needy,” but I still ruthlessly accumulate power and material possessions at the expense of others, then I must ask myself if I am just giving lip service to the social teachings of my faith. I may choose to say extra prayers for peace and reconciliation and yet, ignore how I use my attitudes and words to hurt others. If I make it a practice to frequently receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation, but I am more diligent in doing or saying my penance than I am in changing my behavior toward self or others, am I being faithful? If I profess that we are temples of the Holy Spirit and yet turn my eyes from the escalating sickness of human trafficking, does that make my words meaningless?   If I pray the Our Father and yet I demonstrate prejudice toward others who are not like me, forgetting that we are brother and sister to all, is the prayer mere lip service?
If as a Church we fail to do all that we can to protect our children and fail to faithfully exercise the authority entrusted to us in Jesus’ name, should we not be held accountable?
If we look closely at this passage from Mark, we discover that there is a little bit of Pharisee in each of us. The sexual scandal and gross misuse of ecclesial power has shown us that there is a lot of Pharisee in our Institutional Church.  It is time to pay close attention to Jesus’ instruction and “Listen up!” It is time to pay very close attention to what comes from our heart and what is shown in our actions and heard in our words. It is time to depollute, not only as individuals, but as an Institutional Church, our attitudes, our behaviors, our inner and outer prejudices and judgements. Let there be no mistake, the words of Jesus have made it very clear today. We are responsible and must be held accountable. No one is above or exempt from the words of Jesus given to us in today’s gospel.
Sister Teresa Tuite, OP

Gospel Reflection Aug 26 – Msgr. Hendricks

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Sunday, August 26

Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time

John 6: 60-69

Gospel:
Many of Jesus’ disciples who were listening said,
“This saying is hard; who can accept it?”
Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this,
he said to them, “Does this shock you?
What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending
to where he was before?
It is the spirit that gives life,
while the flesh is of no avail.
The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and life.
But there are some of you who do not believe.”
Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe
and the one who would betray him.
And he said,
“For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me
unless it is granted him by my Father.”

As a result of this,
many of his disciples returned to their former way of life
and no longer accompanied him.
Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?”
Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go?
You have the words of eternal life.
We have come to believe
and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”

Reflection:
For the past five weeks we have been engaged with reading the sixth chapter of the gospel of John. This is his Eucharistic discourse and meditation on the Eucharist. Last week he told us that Jesus is the living bread come down from heaven and anyone who eats this bead will live forever, and further, that this bread is His flesh for the life of the world. This is an amazing gift. It continues to nourish and feed the souls of us and allows us to bond with Jesus Christ in all His glory.

Today we hear the end of chapter six. Jesus offers us Spirit and Life if we hold on to our faith in Him as the Holy One sent by the Father. The gospel is clear. Jesus does not want to hold anybody by force and we should see His miracles as a pathway to faith. As always, Jesus is here for us to offer salvation and peace. In the end the choice is ours to make. Choose Life!

Monsignor Hendricks

Gospel Reflection Aug 19 – Fr. Morris

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Sunday, August 19

Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

John 6: 51 – 58

Gospel:
Jesus said to the crowds:
“I am the living bread that came down from heaven;
whoever eats this bread will live forever;
and the bread that I will give
is my flesh for the life of the world.”

The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying,
“How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”
Jesus said to them,
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood,
you do not have life within you.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood
has eternal life,
and I will raise him on the last day.
For my flesh is true food,
and my blood is true drink.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood
remains in me and I in him.
Just as the living Father sent me
and I have life because of the Father,
so also the one who feeds on me
will have life because of me.
This is the bread that came down from heaven.
Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died,
whoever eats this bread will live forever.”

Reflection:
In today’s Gospel, we have a succinct passage of Sacred Scripture illustrating what Sacred Tradition has consistently taught and emphasized: the importance of receiving the Holy Eucharist for our lives of Christian discipleship and conversion.

To pick but one recent example of Church teaching, Vatican 2’s document on the Church, Lumen Gentium, states that “[Christ] is continually active in the world that He might lead men to the Church and through it join them to Himself; and that He might make them partakers of His glorious life by nourishing them with His own Body and Blood.”

We don’t HAVE to go to Mass, we GET to go to Mass. Our Savior has given us the unique privilege of receiving Himself in the bread-made-Body, the wine-made-Blood. By receiving the Holy Eucharist, we are nourished spiritually by Our Savior and kept close to Him; we remain in Him, we participate in a mysterious fashion in His glorious life.

If we don’t receive the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar worthily and consistently, we are only hurting ourselves, eschewing that life of grace that Christ wishes to give to us. Life ain’t going to be perfect because we receive Holy Communion; but it is for darn sure going to be better than trying to “go it alone” and live our lives separated from the Bread of Life: Jesus Christ.

Father Matthew Morris