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Fr. Tom’s Reflections

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?

 


January 6, 2019: The Mystery Continues To Be Revealed

Today we celebrate the feast of the Epiphany. All of the Bible readings in the Liturgy point to the wider manifestation of Christ incarnate to the whole world. Isaiah speaks of the glory of the Lord appearing over all people. We sing the melodious Psalm 72: “Lord, every nation on earth will adore you.” Paul speaks of the mystery made known by revelation. And the magi represent all who are willing to be led to Christ.

The Collect or Opening Prayer today captures the meaning of this feast: “O God, who on this day revealed your Only Begotten Son to the nations by the guidance of a star, grant in your mercy that we, who know you already by faith, may be brought to behold the beauty of your sublime glory.”

How is the mystery of Christ’s presence revealed to you on your pilgrimage of faith?

 


December 30, 2018: A New Family

A New Family

Today we continue our celebration of the Christmas season with the feast of the Holy Family.  The  gospel reading  today is the story of finding the twelve year old Jesus in the temple with the teachers.  He  was  listening  to  them and  asking them questions. Jesus speaks the famous line to Mary and Joseph: "Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?"

Here we begin to see a dynamic interplay between the two natures of Jesus -- his humanity and his divinity. Jesus is the son of Mary and the Son of his heavenly Father. It is not a matter of one or the other. Both are the mysterious reality in this Christ. Through his identity and his mission Jesus builds a new family to live in the Father's house. You and I are part of this family.

 


December 23, 2018: Rejoicing In the Blessings

“Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” This is the acclamation Luke puts on the lips of Elizabeth during her visit with Mary. We echo these same words every time we pray the Hail Mary, including when we pray the rosary. Mary’s role as the one who brings forth the Christ from her own body is highlighted on this Fourth Sunday of Advent.

Throughout the Christmas season (which concludes with the feast of the Baptism of the Lord on January 13) we joyfully celebrate how we are blessed by the birth of Christ into our humanity. He came to share our human life so that we can more richly share in God’s life. We are blessed indeed! During this Christmas season, take time to reflect on how your life is blessed by the presence of Christ.

Blessings of peace and joy to you and all your loved ones during this holy season!

 


  December 16, 2018: What Should We Do?  

What Should We Do?

“What should we do?” Three times the question is asked of John the Baptist in the gospel today by three groups – the crowds, tax collectors, and soldiers. The questions are asked with sincerity and a sense of urgency. The response of John is very straight forward and very practical. Share with those in need, don’t cheat, don’t bully anyone.

There are times when we ask the question, “What should we do?” Our call to action is usually not something hugely extraordinary but to do ordinary things well. Whatever our state in life, being virtuous, merciful, and sensible is what we are called to do. This way of right living is the context at the time of John and in our day for Christ to come with a fire and the Holy Spirit to usher in a richer sense of God’s reign. Then we can say with the prophet Zephaniah, “The Lord our God is in our midst, a mighty savior!”

What coaxes you to grow in Christian virtue? How does this growth help you to know the nearness of Christ?

 


December 9, 2018: How is the way for you?

On this second Sunday of Advent we hear Luke’s version of John the Baptist coming on the scene with his familiar message about the need to prepare the way of the Lord, to make straight a way for the Lord to come into our lives. Luke gives us very specific references to persons and places of that time. It helps us to realize that we must also be about the same preparation in our place and time. 

The word translated “way” or “road” is the Greek word hodos. It can mean a particular road or route we take to get somewhere. It can also mean a way of living. In the early centuries of Christianity “The Way” was the name used for the manner of living as a faithful follower of Christ. Advent makes us think about our manner of living and the route we take.

How do you feel about your manner of living? What kinds of preparation and “road construction” do you sense God wants of you at this time in your life?

 


December 2, 2018: God Keeps Coming Toward Us

God Keeps Coming Toward Us

“The days are coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made.” These are the first words we hear proclaimed in the Eucharistic assembly as we begin the season of Advent and a new liturgical year. A promise fulfilled. This is how God is toward us. This is our focus as we celebrate these Advent days before Christmas.

Be aware. Be attentive. Be vigilant. This is how we are to be during these sacred days. God’s hope for us is that we go even deeper into the spiral of the mystery of God’s tremendous love. God became human in Christ so that we can share more intimately in God’s unending and redeeming love. It takes a whole lifetime to more and more taste of this truth. “Advent” literally means “coming toward.” God keeps coming toward us with mercy and grace and peace.

How do you experience God’s way of constantly coming toward you? How will Advent help you in being aware of this grace?

 


November 25, 2018: The Sovereign Christ

Today we celebrate the last Sunday in this liturgical year. We call it the feast of Christ the King. This celebration was instituted in 1925 by Pope Pius XI. He said that when humanity recognizes "that Christ is King, society will at last receive the great blessings of real liberty, well-ordered discipline, peace, and harmony." The unity of society, the pope said almost 90 years ago, depends on a shared faith in the reign of Christ.

The Sacred Scriptures today use royal images for Christ. Dominion, power, glory, and kingship belong to Christ. He is to be sovereign in our lives. This means that Christ "must reign in our hearts, minds, wills, and bodies," said Pope Pius. We serve the Kingdom of God and the mission of Christ.

This transition between one liturgical year and another is a good time for reflection. During this past year, how did you allow Christ and the teachings of Christ to reign in your heart, mind, will, and body? As we approach a new liturgical year, how is God inviting you to experience the sovereignty of Christ in a clearer way?                                                                                                                           

 


November 18, 2018: Thinking About the “End” Times

Thinking About the “End” Times

Today we celebrate the second last Sunday in this liturgical year. In two weeks we begin the season of Advent with a new liturgical year. Our focus shifts to what we call the “end times.” This is signaled by the words “In those days” in today’s gospel and in the reading from the prophet Daniel.

We use the word “end” in two different ways. One sense of the word is about termination or completion – like the end of a movie or the end of a challenging ordeal. Another sense of the word has to do with the goal or purpose of a project or task we undertake. This second sense of “end” connotes fulfillment and accomplishment. Both senses of the word apply to our Christian living. The day will come for each of us when our pilgrimage on earth will be completed. At certain times we muse about the goal and purpose of our lives.

Using both senses of this word, what do you see as the goal and purpose of your life? How do you want to be remembered once your pilgrimage of faith is completed?

 


November 11, 2018: A Tale of Two Widows

A Tale of Two Widows

Today's Liturgy of the Word highlights two widows -- a widow and her son who are near starvation living north of ancient Israel and a widow in the Jerusalem Temple who donates her last two coins to the Temple treasury. The first woman does not hesitate to offer a meal to Elijah in the spirit of hospitality to a stranger. The second widow does not hesitate to give all she has to support the upkeep of the Temple.

It is stirring to ponder how these women are so generous in their poverty. We stand at a distance to contemplate their generosity as they look beyond themselves. What motivates them to be this way? Perhaps it is their experience of God toward them as described in today's Psalm (146). It is the Lord God who feeds the hungry, sustains the widow, and raises up those who are bowed down.

Prayerfully spend some time with Psalm 146. Think about how God is toward you with compassion in your vulnerability and weakness. Then think about how you can be toward others in a generous way -- like God.

 


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