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Fr. Tom’s Reflections

May 26, 2019: A Council and Counsel

On this Sixth Sunday of Easter we hear of the first of many councils of the Church as it is described in the Acts of the Apostles. (The most recent council was the Second Vatican Council in 1963-1965.) The Council of Jerusalem, as it is called, dealt with how to integrate Jewish and non-Jewish (Gentile) people who were becoming Christian. Their council led to this marvelous statement: “It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us not to place on you any burden beyond these necessities…”

This reading is paired with the gospel in which Jesus promises the coming of the Holy Spirit who is called the Advocate or Paraclete. One of the roles of the Holy Spirit is to offer us counsel, guiding us in a spirit-led way of living. The Holy Spirit reminds us of everything that Jesus himself has taught us through his words and actions.

As we draw closer to the great feast of Pentecost, prayerfully think about how you experience the guidance of the Holy Spirt in gatherings with other people and in reminders of what Jesus said and did.

 


May 19, 2019: It Is All New for Us

One of our readings in this cycle of Easter Season Sundays comes from the Book of Revelation, the last book of our Bible. In today’s verses we hear the Risen Christ proclaiming, “Behold, I make all things new.” The author has a mystical vision in which he sees a new heaven and a new earth. The imagery is about God’s ongoing creative energy, constantly renewing the earth, constantly re-creating us in closer conformity with Christ.

The “new” theme continues in the gospel with the new commandment Jesus gives us – to love one another as he loves us. Wonderful renewal happens in our lives and in our relationships when we love others with this self-sacrificing love. It is a love that proclaims, “I am here for you.” It is how Christ is toward us. We are to be Christ-like.

How do you experience God’s renewing power at work in your life? How is God asking you to help others to experience this re-creation?

 


May 12, 2019: We Must Be Willing To Be Led

Each year on this Fourth Sunday of Easter the Liturgy highlights the imagery of the risen Christ being our Good Shepherd. Today’s gospel begins with the words, “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” In the Book of Revelation today the risen Christ says, I will “shepherd them and lead them to springs of life-giving water.” Christ leads and we follow.

The grace of this Easter message is that we do not journey through life aimlessly. We are not headed down a dead-end street. Our Christian faith is about allowing ourselves to be led. Christ has opened up the way for us. As we gather Sunday after Sunday for the Eucharist we are told more and more about what this way looks like for us. So this way has two dimensions to it: we must be willing to be led by Christ who goes before us. And we are to follow faithfully and sincerely.

 How willing are you to be led by the Spirit of the risen Christ? What helps you to be a faithful follower?

 


May 5, 2019: With What Kind of Love?

On this Third Sunday of Easter we hear the haunting gospel story where Jesus asks Peter three times, “Do you love me?” It becomes a kind of rehabilitation for Peter after his three-fold denial of knowing Jesus on the way to the cross. It reminds us of the importance of making relationships right. There is another thing to see in this scene that is not noticed in English but is very clear in the original Greek. The first two times Jesus asks the question, the verb “love” is the Greek word agape, which is a self-sacrificing love. Peter responds by saying he loves Jesus as a friend. He doesn’t seem ready to acknowledge a self-sacrificing love for Jesus. Finally, the third time, Jesus asks Peter if he loves him as friend. Peter responds affirmatively.

This gospel scene invites us to stand in Peter’s shoes and imagine this important question asked of us. How far are we willing to go? Do we love the Lord Jesus as we love a friend? Are we able to say that we love the Lord Jesus with self-sacrificing love?

 


April 28, 2019: Entering the Door of Doubt

Entering the Door of Doubt

Each year on this Second Sunday of Easter we hear the gospel story of the encounter between the Risen Christ and St. Thomas the Apostle. To our day he is familiarly known as “the doubting Thomas.” Because of this scene, doubt regarding things of faith often has a negative connotation. Doubt often rattles people and makes them feel uncomfortable.

But Thomas shows us another dimension about doubt. Instead of being a brick wall, doubt is a doorway into deeper faith. By being present to his experience of doubt and because of Jesus’ invitation to see and believe, he becomes a model for believers with his acclamation, “My Lord and my God!”

When has doubt been part of your faith-life? When have you, like Thomas, passed through doubt to deeper faith?

 


April 21, 2019: The Easter Awakening

All four of the gospels begin the Resurrection Narrative with a reference to what happened early in the morning on the first Easter Sunday. Luke's account begins this way: "At daybreak on the first day of the week the women who had come from Galilee with Jesus took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb."

This imagery of daybreak, the dawning of a new day, is about more than the time of day. It points to the experience of spiritually waking up, an awakening of faith on the part of the first followers of Christ and us who live in the twenty first century of Christianity. Something new is happening. It all begins to dawn on us. So Easter is about what happened to Jesus and what happens in us.

Anne Lamott says it this way: "This is the Easter message, that awakening is possible, to the goodness of God, the sacredness of human life, the sisterhood and brotherhood of all."

On this Easter day, think about the difference the Resurrection of Christ makes in your life. What kind of awakening does it stir up in you?                                           

 


April 14, 2019: Enter Into the Mystery of God’s Saving Love

Today we celebrate Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord. It is the beginning of Holy Week. About these holy days the introduction to the Roman Missal says this: “Since Christ accomplished his work of human redemption and of the perfect glorification of God principally through his Paschal Mystery, in which by dying he has destroyed our death, and by rising restored our life, the sacred Paschal Triduum of the Passion and Resurrection of the Lord shines forth as the high point of the entire liturgical year” (n. 18).

 

The Liturgy today begins by recalling Jesus’ entry into the city of Jerusalem humbly riding a donkey – a beast of burden – rather than a mighty fiery stallion. The people honor him with their cloaks and palm branches. That entry of Jesus into Jerusalem helps us to think about how we humbly welcome Christ into our lives and honor his presence with virtuous living. I hope that you are able to participate in the various liturgies of this week as ways to enter more fully into the mystery of God’s saving love.

 


April 7, 2019: Jesus’ Words for All of Us

Today we hear the haunting gospel story of the people who wanted to stone to death a woman who had committed adultery. This was permitted according to Jewish law at that time. Death was seen to be the penalty for such a sin. Her partner could also receive the same sentence. Why wasn’t he brought forward? The people back off when Jesus says, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” What were their sins? Had some of them also secretly committed adultery?

 

We hear this gospel in the Lenten season because the words of Jesus are words for all us: “Go, and from now on do not sin any more.” Whatever our sin, whatever our need for repentance, the Lenten season beckons us to turn more and more to God and what is of God, and, to turn more and more away from behaviors, words, thoughts, and attitudes that are not of God.

 

What kind of turning is God asking of you this Lent?

 


March 31, 2019: Celebrating God's Acceptance and Mercy

On this Fourth Sunday of Lent we hear a familiar parable proclaimed in our Eucharistic celebration. It is often titled "The Parable of the Prodigal Son" to highlight the younger son who became lost and then came to his senses. But there are two other characters in the parable -- the older son who was resentful and didn't join in the celebration as well as the father who is gracious and merciful and accepting to both of his sons.

Luke gives us this parable to ponder something about God in this Lenten time. It is meant to help us accept and celebrate God's mercy toward all of us. How comfortable are you with the way God (like the father in the parable) is toward any of us in our foolish wastefulness or resistance and resentment? (Clearly both of the sons in the parable have issues!) How can this parable help you to really know God and how God is toward us in our weaknesses?

 


March 24, 2019: Seeing Something of God

On each Sunday of Lent the first reading relates a story from the Old Testament that is important in our salvation history. Today we hear about Moses standing before the burning bush that is not consumed. When Moses asks for God's name, "I AM who am" is God's response (in our translation). This name is more literally translated "I AM the One who causes to be what comes into existence."

The interchange between God and Moses demonstrates the mysteriousness of God. We never completely figure God out. We simply stand in awe of God's presence.

In what ways have you been faced with the incomprehensibility of God? What has been your response?

 


March 17, 2019: Glimpses of Glory

 

Each year on the Second Sunday of Lent we hear the gospel of Jesus’ transfiguration proclaimed in our Eucharistic gathering. Jesus and his three close friends have a marvelous mystical experience. They all experience a glimpse of glory. “It is good that we are here,” Peter proclaims. It gives them and us a renewed sense of the hope of  transforming light and glory that are in store for all the faithful who journey in this Lenten time.

We had Mass at the Church of the Transfiguration on Mount Tabor during our pilgrimage in the Holy Land. It is a mountain that rises up from the valley below. The Church is filled with sunlight and helped us to imagine the gospel story. It was an uplifting experience.

When do you experience a glimpse of glory? In what ways is our celebration of the Eucharist a way to taste of this glory?

 

 


March 3, 2019: Desire Sobiech's Reflection

As this bulletin is being prepared while I am on pilgrimage in the Holy Land, I have asked Desire Sobiech to write an article.  Desire is on staff and also one of our lay Word and Communion presiders.

 

The image on the left is a popular classroom poster.  As the coordinator of our family faith formation program for grades 1-4, I have seen first-hand how lessons aimed at kids can provide profound insights for adults.  This is, I think, one of those lessons.

The basic concept is simple, and at first glance, we may see ourselves as adhering to it fairly well.  We wave to our neighbors, smile and say thank you to the cashier, and hold the door for strangers.  But look a little closer, and I think we can all find areas of our life in which following these guidelines would require some changes to our behavior.  For example, consider your interactions with those people you see most often and know best.  Our First Reading tells us that our words reveal our true selves.  Are the words we are using with our spouses, children or parents Inspiring?  When we speak to, or about, our co-workers or those in our social circles, are our words Kind?  Is what we are saying Necessary, or is it idle gossip?

Those of us who are active on social media also need to check our online behavior.  Is the meme, tweet, or article I’m about to share Helpful?  Do I know if it’s even True?  When responding or reacting to those who disagree with me, am I Inspiring or simply attacking?

How might our world look if everyone strove to follow these basic rules for communication?  But, alas, we can not control others’ behavior.  Trying to do so will only lead us to focus on the splinters in others’ eyes while ignoring the plank in our own.  Instead, we are called to recognize our words and actions as the seeds we plant in the world; when we plant good seeds, we will bear good fruit.

 


February 24, 2019: Be Like God

Jesus has some very challenging things to say to us in today’s Mass: love your enemies; do good to those who hate you; turn the other cheek; stop judging; stop condemning; forgive. The challenge is so strong that it can take our breath away. It seems so unnatural and against our human instinct. We wonder how it is possible.

The expectations for our conduct can be summarized with Jesus’ guiding principle in today’s gospel: “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” We are to be like God. We are to imitate the mindset and conduct of Jesus himself. St. Paul sets up the contrast between Adam (representing all of us) as the earthly and natural one whereas Jesus is the heavenly and spiritual one. Jesus shows us the way.

Who is a good example for you of striving to be like God? How does your conscience help you to conduct your life as Jesus teaches?

 


February 17, 2019: Two Ways Are Set Before Us

Today we sing the first Psalm in the Eucharistic Liturgy. This psalm introduces the whole psalter with its imagery of the two ways: those who hear and ponder and incorporate the Word of God into their daily living versus those who ignore God’s Word and lead a life of wickedness. This psalm serves as a wonderful bridge between the reading from Jeremiah and the gospel from Luke. Jeremiah and the psalm use the imagery of a fruitful tree planted near running water to describe those who trust in God. Luke has a list of blessings for those who are receptive to the reign of God and a list of woes for  those who have no place for God’s reign in their lives.

The drama of the Liturgy of the Word today is that there are two basic ways for us human beings to live – a way of blessing and a way of woe, a way of Spirit-led fruitful living and a way of desolation and barrenness. We have a choice. Which way is the major chord in your life?

 


February 10, 2019: The Grace of God At Work

The gospel reading today begins with very descriptive imagery of a crowd of people “pressing in on Jesus and listening to the word of God.” We see this kind of “pressing” in various crowds today that almost become mob-like. There is great energy and movement. What is at work in this gospel scene is the attractive presence of Christ that draws people to himself.

St. Paul speaks of this wonderful truth in another way today in naming the “grace of God that is with me.” Paul is very tuned into how the grace-full presence of the Risen Christ is present and active in his life. Paul realizes that his proclamation of the Good News is not so much his work but the work of Christ.

When does your participation in community prayer feel like “pressing in” on Jesus? When are you especially aware that the grace of God is at work in you?

 


February 3, 2019: What Is Your Response To the Message of Jesus?

What Is Your Response To the Message of Jesus?

There is a huge difference between the response of people to Jesus’ words in today’s gospel compared to last Sunday. The setting is the synagogue in Nazareth where Jesus grew up. Last Sunday we heard of the people’s response of looking at him attentively, taking in his message. Today the response if very different. They want to throw him off a cliff! Even in this century the response of people to Jesus’ gospel message varies from attentive listening and embracing of his Good News to partial and even total rejection.

St. Paul describes the heart of Jesus’ message in his lovely poem on love. It is sacrificial love. It is a mature love. It is a way of saying by our words and deeds “I am here for you.” It is manifested in humble, respectful, generous, loving service of other people. Some people choose to live this way. Other people choose a lifestyle of childish selfishness.

How do you respond to the gospel message of Jesus? How would people around you describe your response?

 


January 27, 2019: From the Parish Staff: We Feel It, Too.

As this bulletin is being prepared while I am on vacation, the parish staff has written a letter for parishioners.

From the Parish Staff: We Feel It, Too.

The uncovering of abuse and betrayal in our Church has been upsetting to all of us. The lay staff here at Risen Savior wants you to know – we feel it, too. Although Father Tom and our guest presiders have addressed this issue in their homilies, we have heard questions and concerns from many members of our community; we want to address those questions as honestly and openly as we are able. Here are the most common questions we have been getting.

Why would you continue to work for the Catholic Church? 

Though there is no one, complete answer to this question for all of us, at the core of our choice to stay is a deep commitment to the daily work and true mission of the Church.  We are privileged to see the good done every day by the people of God and the real difference God’s presence makes in the lives of our community members. As your staff, we continue to live out, alongside you, the Mission Statement of our parish: Our doors are open to all.  Our Eucharist is a Celebration of the Risen Savior. Our Call is to Love and Serve. Even in our anger and pain, we hold tight to our call to be a light in the darkness.  We will not let evil be the last word for us or for our Church.

Why should I continue to support the Catholic Church, the Archdiocese and Risen Savior?

Your continued support allows for the current and future operations of our parish.  In spite of the abuses by some clergy of the past, Risen Savior is an active, contributing member of our larger community, making a positive difference in the lives of many. We strive to be the change we hope to see in our Church and in our world.  The Archdiocese has, of course, had a change of leadership. We are optimistic about the leadership of Archbishop Hebda and see in him a shepherd who will always be honest with us, his flock, while doing what is right by the victims of the past.

Can I give to Risen Savior without my contributions being assessed by the Archdiocese?

Yes and no.  In-kind gifts, such as donating paint for the hallway (thank you again Knights of Columbus!) are not taxed or assessed by the Archdiocese. All funds spent by Risen Savior, though, are indeed assessed. The assessment rate is 9% for a parish without a school, like Risen Savior, and 8% for a parish with a school. This means that anything we pay for is added up at the end of the fiscal year, and we are assessed based on all expenditures, no matter their use. Until November 2018, we were allowed to have dedicated accounts that were essentially “side accounts” with lesser assessment for funds for special purposes; we are currently working with the archdiocesan accounting staff to find acceptable substitutes. Our assessment pays for many things at the archdiocesan level, among them are the Seminary, the Latino Ministry office, diocese operations (such as our deanery liaison, who serves as our contact for this area to the Archdiocese) and other services.

Though we are grateful for in-kind gifts and understand peoples’ desire to control how their donations are utilized, these types of gifts will not keep our doors open.  Regular Sunday giving is vital for daily operations, building upkeep, and staff salaries.

As a new year begins and the bankruptcy case in our Archdiocese draws to a close, we, the staff, are energized to work with you, our community, to heal and move forward in hope, doing the Lord’s work and worshiping together.

 


January 20, 2019: Scott Brazil's Reflection

As this bulletin is being prepared while I am on vacation, I have asked Scott Brazil to write an article.  Scott is on staff and also one of our lay Word and Communion presiders.

This is why I want a Church which is poor and for the poor.  They have much to teach us.  Not only do they share in the sensus fidei, but in their difficulties they know the suffering of Christ.  We need to let ourselves be evangelized by them. (Pope Francis, Joy of the Gospel #198)

I have a confession to make.  When our Social Justice groups schedule opportunities for parishioners to serve in the community, we are not simply trying to live out the preferential option for the poor, assisting those who are in need.  Sure, that’s part of our motivation, but only part of it. The truth is that we are also trying to help you, the parishioner.

Pope Francis has continued to invite the Church to embrace a “Culture of Encounter”.  Jack Jezreel, the founder of JustFaith Ministries, beautifully describes the desired effect of encounter (Spanish “encuentro”) in his recent book, A New Way to be Church: Parish Renewal from the Outside In:

Encuentro is not solely about changing something that is wrong; it is about a communion that changes everyone involved.  Encuentro changes those who leave home on mission, and it can change those who welcome them.  Yes, those of us tugged by love to wounded places might journey in the hope of changing some part of the world, but the experience of faithful people who leave home and family is that we must be prepared to change ourselves.  The Gospel promise of metanoia, and indeed the mission of encounter and love delivers on that promise.  Having formed relationships with brothers and sisters who have experienced hardship and abandonment, we will not remain the same.

Just in the past couple of months, I have personally witnessed Risen Savior parishioners experience what Jezreel describes and the Pope is calling us to embrace.  It has come in the form of parishioners encountering Haitians on mission trips, ministering to prisoners during a weekend retreat, feeding the homeless while volunteering at the Matrix Emergency Shelter, serving women who were once caught up in the cycle of prostitution who found their way out and were celebrating their new found freedom during a graduation, and taking the time to listen to immigrants share their stories, their hopes, and their fears.

I have a great hope for the future of our parish precisely because of the transformation that has been experienced by these parishioners.  They have a solid and rooted experience from which they can, literally, change the world.  And yet, I have to wonder what our experience of being members of Risen Savior would be like if everyone was open to encuentro? I’d like to believe it would be something quite beautiful.

Are you open to encuentro?  If so, please contact me.  I’d love to share the experience with you!


January 13, 2019: Like Jesus, We Are Beloved Children of God

Each year the feast of the Baptism of the Lord completes our celebration of the Christmas season. On Monday we begin a stretch of Ordinary Time until Ash Wednesday. Luke’s version of Jesus’ baptism is a little different than the version in the other gospels. Luke portrays Jesus at prayer after his baptism when the Holy Spirit descends upon him and he hears the marvelous words: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

This gospel connects with us in two ways. While we are at prayer in the Eucharistic celebration we ponder the meaning of the divine message proclaimed about Jesus the Christ. Also, like for Jesus, after our baptism we have experiences that open up doors into the meaning of being God’s dear children. This may happen when we are at prayer, going about our daily activities, helping someone in need, or being cared for by someone in a striking way.

When are you especially aware that Jesus is the beloved Son of God? When are you especially aware of God’s redeeming love for you?

 


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