June 23, 2024 
12th Sunday in Ordinary Time

      Right now, you and I are only worried about one of only two things: wind or water. Bear with me. This week we hear the account of the terrified disciples waking Jesus in a sea storm. He chastises them for their lack of faith, and then, “rebuking the wind, he said to the sea, ‘Quiet, be still!’” He rebukes the wind and stills the water. In the Bible wind and water represent the two most fundamental poles of our experience of creation. Wind means heaven, spirit, that which gives identity, unity, order, light. Water stands for earth, variation, potential, that which can be drawn into identity, darkness, chaos

 Too much “wind” is when things get way too rigid, abstract and ideological — when we face oppressive leaders and tyrants, when we get addicted to our own way of doing things, when our attention is too narrowly focused on one thing. Too much “water” is excessive novelty, passivity, indifference, and chaos — when our attention is too broadly diffused on many things, when things seem to be crumbling without direction into the dark abyss. We know both terrifying experiences all too well.

      The point of the miracle is that God in Christ is the One who brings final cosmic harmony between these two vital but threatening forces. He ultimately does so from the wood of the cross, when he breathes forth the wind of his spirit and pours forth the water from his side to establish a new creation, filled with harmonious peace. When the wind and water are out of control, trust him.

Father John Mu

June 16, 2024

Deacon Ken’s Homily for the 11th Sunday of Easter

     A Chinese proverb goes like this: “The journey of a thousand miles, begins with the first step. Nothing happens until the first step is taken, and much will happen between the first step and the end of the journey. Along the journey there will be failures and successes, but as the journey nears the end, faith and confidence soars. Like a mustard seed, many great things start out small.

     Most, if not all of you, have heard of a Poor Clare nun by the Name of Mother Angelica. As a young woman she had a horrible stomach ailment. Mother Angelica’s mother took her to see a Mystic who prayed over Mother Angelica and made her promise to pray a novena, which she did. At the end of the novena, Mother Angelic was healed. Her healing is what led her to become a Nun. She felt God asking her to begin a ministry for Catholics in the Bible Belt in the south, and with a handful of Nuns, they began making fishing lures to support the venture. In 1961, Mother and her sisters bought some acreage and a building and began a community. The community was named Our Lady of the Angels Monastery and is located to this day in Irondale, Alabama. Working in the community Mother Angelica began to give talks. Eventually, her talks were recorded and broadcast via satellite to the entire world. In the early 1970’s, Mother Angelica, felt inspired by God to begin a Television Station for Catholics. Acquiring donations worldwide, The Eternal Word Television Network was born. It began when a garage was fashioned into a makeshift television studio. It is estimated that EWTN reaches 264 million families worldwide daily. On a trip to Columbia, Mother Angelica received a vision she was to build a Shrine in honor of the Baby Jesus. Collecting over $48 million in donations from around the world, the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament was constructed in Hanceville, Alabama. The Shrine is visited by thousands each year. Like a mustard seed, many great things start out small, even fishing lures.

     Saint Mother Theresa of Calcutta was a schoolteacher in the mid-40’s. While travelling to Calcutta for a retreat with her Sisters of Charity, Saint Theresa felt she received a call to care for the poor and suffering in Calcutta, India. She began her journey by opening a hospice, in an abandoned Hindu temple, where people who were a blight on society, could come and receive medical treatment. Some came to Saint Theresa so they might die with dignity, not laying in the street or sidewalk. She walked the streets of Calcutta looking for those who needed her help and brought them back to her Hospice. She often had to walk those same streets begging for food, and contributions money, medicine and volunteers. Her goal was that no one in Calcutta would die alone while on the streets. Later, Saint Theresa opened a hospice for those with leprosy, and the Children’s Home of the Immaculate Heart, for orphans and homeless youth. Saint Theresa then expanded the congregation abroad, opening houses in Venezuela, Rome, Tanzania, the United States and many countries in Asia, Africa and Europe. By 2007, the Missionaries of Charity worldwide, operated 600 missions, schools and shelters in 120 countries. Like a mustard seed, many great things start out small.

     Behind Saint Augustine, volunteer trees grew from a foot tall to fifteen feet tall in an area deemed too rough for the landscapers to mow. There was a hole in the ground six feet long, four feet wide and three feet deep, that looked as if someone used a bobcat to move dirt from one place to another, leaving the hole. A simple plan was made dig up the trees, fill up the hole, level the ground. To keep the area cleaned up, an idea was born to create a pile of dirt on which a small statue of Mary would be placed, and flowers would be planted. Today, it is a Rosary Prayer Garden. The beads are made with concrete and broken glass placed in KFC side dish bowls. In the center of the garden stands a life-sized statue of Mary. The garden has comfortable benches for those who want to sit and meditate. A woman, visiting Germantown from Lake Elsinore California described it on her Facebook page as “A little Gem”. Like a mustard seed, many great things start out small, even a pile of dirt.

     How did Jesus enter the world? He entered the world as a little baby in a manger in a stable. He began life listening to the sounds of cattle and oxen crunching their grain and hay. No brass bands, no ticker tape parades. As he grew, he acquired a few followers, and continued to acquire more followers. To this day, there are a little over 1.39 billion Catholics in the world. Like a mustard seed, the greatest of all things started out small, like a little baby.

      Our faith can be the catalyst to inspire others in their faith. Often, we hear, I am not worthy, and the truth of the matter is we are not. But God calls us to do great things. We often let fear keep us from doing the small things that can blossom into the larger things. If we only remember the words of the Prophet Isaiah who said: “Fear not, for I am with you, be not dismayed, I am your God, I will strengthen you, and help you, and uphold you with my right hand of justice” (Isaiah 41:10)

      Today, God is calling us to do great things for his Kingdom. Will we answer the call, or will we let it pass by like a shadow in the night? Today, start something small for the Kingdom, and watch how God will make it grow!

      Happy Father’s Day to all the dads, and to those who were Father figures to others. Happy Father’s Day also to our church Fathers who feed us with the bread of life

Deacon Ken Stewart

 

June 16, 2024 
11th Sunday in Ordinary Time

GOSPEL MEDITATION –
ENCOURAGE DEEPER UNDERSTANDING OF SCRIPTURE

      Today, we hear two parables from St. Mark’s gospel. All these two parables emphasize our faith journey. The first parable, which is unique to Mark alone, portrays the image in our faith journey when we think it is through our effort alone that we can bring about the kingdom of God. At times we feel guilty and blame ourselves that we didn’t do enough to speedy up our salvation. We take consolation from this parable that all we can do is act like farmers to plant the seed of faith and nature that faith, with our daily spiritual exercise, and God, who is the chief farmer, will see to its growth.

     The Second parable encourages us who think we have little or no faith at all to continuously hope for a better time as we do our part, putting in all the effort we can and leaving the rest to God to do it. Let us take consolation from Paul in the second reading today as he says, “Brothers and sisters; we are always courageous although we know that while we are at home in the body, we are away from the Lord, for if we walk by faith, not by sight… we aspire to please him whether we are at home or Away”. St Augustine in his confessions puts it in a short and straight forward manner that “our hearts are restless until it rests in thee”.

      As we navigate life in our mortal bodies, we will inevitably face moments of frustration, anger, rejection, and loneliness. It’s important to remember that these struggles are not unique to us; even the chosen people of God, the Israelites, experienced them. However, we can find solace in the assurance that ‘the Lord has said it and he will do it’. He will indeed lift us out of the pit and crown us with victory.

Fr Francis Tandoh, C.S.Sp.

 

June 9, 2024 
10th Sunday in Ordinary Time

GOSPEL MEDITATION –
ENCOURAGE DEEPER UNDERSTANDING OF SCRIPTURE

       Jesus asks us a stunning question this week: “How can Satan cast out Satan? To enter into this question opens up the often-hidden dynamics of what Jesus has done and is constantly doing. If we’re honest, our response to some degree is: “How else can we cast him out? Satan is precisely how we cast out Satan!” But Jesus wants us to see this finally does not work. Here’s what I mean.

       Satanas names the demonic mechanism by which we render wholeness through accusation. When we face a threat, we seek something to protect us (e.g., more money, social status, security, power, etc.). Rivals inevitably arise for these things and so do tensions. Accusation presents itself. “I’ll never be successful unless I get ahead of that guy.” “She’s already trying to get ahead of me.” “That group of immigrants is trying to take our jobs.” And so on. The accusation grows into a fear-inducing threat — things will break apart — no, they already are! Hurry! We inflict violence on the victim and — as if by magic — peace ensues. For a time. Soon fresh accusations are required to hold new chaos at bay, until there is no community left at all. This is essentially humankind’s sad history in a nutshell.

     Jesus’ cross and resurrection unmasks this broken system of “casting out Satan by Satan” and ushers in a new one he calls “the Kingdom of God.” He reveals that the dynamic of accusation is nothing compared to his power of divine mercy and love. The cross (and not Satan) is the real power to tear down strongholds of sin and cast out Satan. This is why he describes himself as the “stronger man who ties up the strong man to plunder his house.” This week let’s notice the ways we “cast out Satan by Satan,” and then refuse to do it anymore. Because in the long run, that divided house cannot stand

 — Father John Muir

 

June 2, 2024 
GOSPEL MEDITATION –
ENCOURAGE DEEPER UNDERSTANDING OF SCRIPTURE

 The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

 The best way to understand the Eucharist is to recall God’s long, careful teaching process beginning in the Old Testament. This week in Exodus 24, we learn the basic pattern. Moses reads the dictates of God’s law to the people, who profess their allegiance to it. Then Moses takes representatives of Israel’s twelve tribes and splashes the sacrificed blood of animals in two directions: on the altar and on the people. It’s clear and serious business: clear, because the participants are entering a blood-bond with God Himself; serious, because the dead animals symbolize the life-and-death stakes at play

      Many centuries later, God uses the experience at Sinai to teach us something new. At the Last Supper, like a new Moses, Jesus proposes to “pour out” blood as a new covenant. It will land on the altar of the cross and the lips of his disciples. They have promised to be obedient to him who is God’s law in flesh. This renews and elevates the breath-taking romance God wants with His people, unfolding from Sinai to this Supper. The Body and Blood of Christ is the sacrificial action whereby this covenant is strengthened.

     How hopeful that, like us, the Israelites and the apostles repeatedly fail to live up to their promises and discover that the blood of the covenant continually renews and refreshes them. Today the blood of Christ faithfully flows, to unite and renew, moving us forward toward where our great teacher is taking us. This week, we should say a renewed “amen” to God who so carefully teaches us how to be one with Him in this new covenant.

— Father John Muir

 

May 12, 2024 
The Ascension of the Lord

GOSPEL MEDITATION –
ENCOURAGE DEEPER UNDERSTANDING OF SCRIPTURE

     When I was a kid, my parents took me to the circus, and I was mesmerized by the acrobats. I recall one show in which the trapeze artists would swoop down just above the ground and then launch up into the air, flinging their bodies seemingly to the top of the tent, all at dizzying speeds. It wasn’t just their height but their dangerous proximity to the ground that thrilled me.

     Perhaps that’s a little how St. Mark wants us to feel as he describes the Ascension of Jesus. He tells us that Jesus “sat down at table with them” and then, just a few lines later, “he ascended into heaven and took his seat at the right hand of God.” He dies, he rises! He sits down, he ascends! What do these divine acrobatics teach us?

     The depth and height on display are a show of his love for us. When Jesus “sat down” he “upbraided them for their lack of faith and stubbornness of heart.” He dangerously swoops down into our lowly place of fragmentation, disbelief, and death. When he ascends, he confirms their preaching with signs of powerful healing. The height of heaven is the place from which God brings wholeness, faith, and life. The point is the Ascension of Jesus is not about his departure. It is about the feat by which he unites the heavens and the earth, the highest and the lowest.

      We are meant to relive this spiritually dizzying experience in every Mass, when Jesus sits down with us at his Eucharistic table and then offers himself up to the Father with and for us. Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls: welcome to the great tent of the Church! Feast your eyes on the divine and human acrobat whose saving feat is the great thrill of our lives.

— Father John Muir

May 5, 2024 
6th Sunday of Easter 

GOSPEL MEDITATION –
ENCOURAGE DEEPER UNDERSTANDING OF SCRIPTURE

     Once a man came to the Vatican and asked to see Pope John Paul II, claiming that they had been friends in Poland. When told of the man, the Pope said, “He is mistaken about our friendship. I don’t recall ever having suffered with him.” As it turned out, the man had never known the Pope. Now, I’m not sure if the story is totally factual. But doesn’t the juxtaposition of suffering with friendship sound exactly like JPII? He understood that the deepest and most lasting friendships are forged in the fires of shared suffering. No suffering, no friendship. Amazing.

     This week we hear Jesus say to the apostles and to us, “You are my friends if you do what I command you” (John 15:14). In Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, God entered the world of human suffering and transformed it into an avenue of friendship with Himself. Following His command — to love, to lay down our lives for others — will always entail suffering. But this suffering only deepens our friendship with Him. His suffering is ours; ours is His. We have become friends of God.

      This week, how might you share your suffering with the Risen Jesus? How might he be sharing his suffering with you, in the lives of those around you? Be attentive to that, and you’ll find that you are indeed a friend of God, because you’ve suffered together a great deal.

— Father John Muir

 

April 28, 2024 
5th Sunday of Easter 

GOSPEL MEDITATION –
ENCOURAGE DEEPER UNDERSTANDING OF SCRIPTURE

     My friend and fellow pastor, Father Paul, noticed unsightly, overgrown trees near his parish church. He asked the maintenance crew to cut back the growth, which they happily did, telling him the trees would be much healthier and even fuller after a good pruning. A few days later, Father Paul received a letter from an irate man in the neighborhood who wrote, “Jesus would never prune trees like that. He loves trees, unlike you.”

     I suspect that the neighbor was not familiar with this week’s Gospel in which Jesus says of his Father, “He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit” (John 15:2) I don’t mean to pick too much on that fellow. He was perhaps ignorant of arboriculture. But I’d wager his main confusion was the pruning and removing quality of God’s love. That confusion afflicts us all to some degree, doesn’t it? It is just so darn easy to react negatively when God cuts something out of our lives and assume it’s not his work at all. In the moment, all we see is the loss, and not the loving desire for future flourishing.

      The cross is the great pruning of Christ’s body. Jesus’ rising is the brand-new growth. It is God’s promise to us that all the painful pruning in life is leading us somewhere beautiful. What has been cut back or out in your life? A friend, an opportunity, a sense of certainty, a job, health, a relationship? This week, offer those dry branches to the one who lovingly prunes us in order to make our lives burst with verdant growth.

— Father John Muir

 

Deacon Ken’s Homily for the 4th Sunday of Easter

 CORPORAL JASON LEE DUNHAM USMC
(A Good Shepherd)

      Jason Lee Dunham, was born in Scio, New York. Just an average boy from New York but destined to be a hero. He graduated from Scio Central School in early 2000 and left for Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island in July of that year. After graduating recruit training, He completed Advanced Infantry Training and was assigned to Company K, 3d Battalion, 7th Marines, based in Twentynine Palms, California and deployed with them to Iraq in early 2004. Jason didn’t have to go. As a matter of fact, Jason had to extend his time in the Marine Corps by six months to go to Iraq. He told his parents: “I want to be with my boys. and I want to make sure all my boys come home”. He loved his Marines, and they loved him.

       On 14 April 2004, Jason was participating in a reconnaissance mission as a Rifle Squad Leader, in the town of Karabilah, Iraq, when they heard gunfire erupt a short distance away. Jason quickly ordered his squad toward the fighting. Jason and his team discovered seven Iraqi vehicles attempting to depart the area and began stopping the vehicles to search them for weapons. As the Marines approached the vehicles, an insurgent leaped out and attacked Jason. While wrestling the man to the ground Jason noticed that the insurgent had released a grenade during the struggle. Jason shouted a warning to his fellow Marines to “Get Back”, before covering the grenade with his helmet and body, bearing the brunt of the fatal explosion himself and saving the lives of at least three other Marines. Three of Dunham’s platoon mates suffered shrapnel wounds but survived. what he was doing. He wanted to save Marines’ lives from that grenade,” said Lance Cpl. Jason Sanders, a mortarman in Jason’s squad. The battalion commander at the time, Lt. Col. Matthew Lopez, submitted Jason’s Dunham’s nomination for the Medal of Honor, noting “I deeply believe that given the facts and evidence presented, he clearly understood the situation and attempted to block the blast of the grenade from his squad members. His personal action was far beyond the call of duty and saved the lives of his fellow Marines”. Corporal Jason Dunham died of his wounds eight days later at the Bethesda Naval Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland, at the age of 22. The Navy’s newest destroyer bears the name “the USS Jason Dunham”. A good shepherd who laid down his life for his sheep.

       Today is vocations Sunday. There’s a story I heard about Saint Francis of Assisi, that Saint Francis was walking down a road in France one day and a Priest was walking toward him. As they neared each other, St. Francis said, “If I were to meet at the same time some saint coming down from heaven and any poor little priest, I would first pay my respects to the priest and proceed to kiss his hands first. I would say, ‘Ah, just a moment St. Lawrence, because this person’s hands handle the Word of Life and possess something that is more than human. These hands have touched my Lord, and no matter what they be like, they could not soil Him or lessen His virtue. To honor the Lord, honor His minister. He can be bad for himself, but for me he is good.”  

       Today is a day to celebrate God’s goodness to us. It is a day to celebrate that we have Priests, whose hands give us the Eucharist. To receive the body and blood of Christ is to receive all the splendor the earth has to offer. The Priest who truly lives for others, that others might attain salvation. They sacrifice themselves, that others might live in the kingdom of God, forever. Thank God for our Priests!  

      Vocations are not only for those who have been ordained. Everyone has a vocation, in life and in the church. For our Church to continue to function we need Eucharistic ministers, Musicians, Lectors, Sacristans, Altar Servers, Ushers, Money Counters and Environmental people who decorate our church so beautifully. Average people doing extraordinary things. These are examples of self-sacrificing love. Love of a Marine for his Marines, Love of our Priests for their people and love for each other in our community. See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are. God Bless you, and God Bless our Priests.

Corporal Dunham story adapted from his Medal of Honor Citation

https://www.usmcu.edu/Research/Marine-Corps-History-Division/Information-for-Units/Medal-of-Honor-Recipients-By-Unit/Cpl-Jason-Lee-Dunham/

 

Saint Francis story adapted from the Franciscan Website.


https://franciscandiscernment.org/index.php/2017/11/13/st-francis-on-bad-priests/

Deacon Ken Stewart

 

 April 21, 2024 
4th Sunday of Easter 

 GOSPEL MEDITATION –
ENCOURAGE DEEPER UNDERSTANDING OF SCRIPTURE

      Recently I was with my little dog Libby at a retreat center in the Arizona desert. I sat in a chair near a ravine filled with shrubs. Unbeknownst to me, Libby wandered down there and disappeared. Suddenly an animal’s wild shriek erupted from the area. Without thinking, I bolted down into the ravine fully expecting to see coyotes, javelinas, or rattlesnakes. I didn’t care. I desperately wanted to get Libby out of there, without any self-regard. Before I could face whatever danger lay hidden, my dog blissfully trotted out from an entirely different area, utterly unaware that I had (quite heroically) just placed my life on the line.

      When the adrenaline wore off, I thought to myself: how far would I have been willing to go to save her? I don’t know. But I do know, if I had literally died, my friends and family would have certainly thought me insane for dying for a dog. No offense, Libby.

      How passionately Jesus wants us to know him and his willingness to die for us! This week he says, “I know my own and my own know me,” and “I lay down my life for the sheep.” Here we encounter an insanely excessive love for us. Christianity is a relationship and not simply a religion or ethical code. In Jesus, God rescues and saves us. He laid down his life for you and me — and he has taken it up again. So often we are like Libby — blissfully ignorant of the reality of both our spiritual danger and his saving love. This Easter season, the risen Jesus calls us to be more conscious than ever before about his love. He never ceases to lay down his life for us.

 — Father John Muir

 

 April 14, 2024 
3rd Sunday of Easter 

 GOSPEL MEDITATION –
ENCOURAGE DEEPER UNDERSTANDING OF SCRIPTURE

     When I was a kid, a friend at my home parish told me, “If you get to Mass by the Gospel reading, it counts!” As a life-long late-arriver, it’s something I have told myself many times, especially in my earlier years as a Catholic. If the “it counts” is justifiable on a pathetically minimal scale of liturgical legalism, then the Gospel reading today shows how insanely wrong-headed it is, and how helpful it is to re-think the Mass in its light.

     The famous “Road to Emmaus” story recounts, on that first Sunday of the Resurrection, the basic two-fold structure of the Mass: Word, followed by Eucharist. Jesus spends a significant period of time with two dismayed disciples, as he connects a wide swath of the Hebrew scriptures with his own suffering, death, and resurrection. They would later report that this Liturgy of the Word touched their hearts with an inexplicable fire. This Word-induced flame alone is what leads the two disciples to discover Jesus’ presence in the “breaking of the bread.”

     With this in mind, how can we possibly think that the Liturgy of the Word is unnecessary or incidental? The two disciples needed the Scriptures explained to them in order to experience Jesus alive in the eucharistic breaking of bread. Sure, we say, but they had the Risen Jesus. But that’s precisely the point: Jesus is risen and accompanies us in both parts of the Mass. Imagine how much our experience of Jesus in the Eucharist would deepen if we (preachers and listeners) took even more seriously that Jesus himself sets our hearts ablaze with his Word so that we know him in the Eucharist. That Word-induced fire counts, too!

 — Father John Muir

 

 April 7, 2024 
2nd Sunday of Easter (Sunday of Divine Mercy)

 GOSPEL MEDITATION –
ENCOURAGE DEEPER UNDERSTANDING OF SCRIPTURE


     A protestant pastor friend of mine was invited to meet Pope Francis with a group of other pastors. He noticed the Pope’s chair was especially ornate and set at the head of the group. He somewhat playfully said, “Holy Father, why do you get that special chair?” The group chuckled nervously at my friend’s audacious chide.

      The following year, the group was invited to return. They entered the room to find only simple chairs placed in a circle. Pope Francis entered, sat down in one of the humble chairs and, looking directly at my friend, with a twinkle in his eye, asked, “What do you think of my chair now?” My friend was stunned that the Pope remembered his concerns — and took the time to answer them.

      Thomas the apostle was certainly stunned by the Risen Jesus displaying his wounds in person. But he also must have been equally shocked that Jesus knew and answered his particular questions, worries, and even demands related to his faith. How humbled — and perhaps a bit terrified — he must have been to realize God remembers his concerns and cares enough to answer them.

      What questions or demands about Jesus do you find in your heart? Like Thomas, will you be bold enough to voice them this week? How wonderful to know that if we do so, God will remember and respond even to our most audacious desires.

— Father John Muir ©LPi

 

 

MARCH 24,2024 
Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord

     A few months before they married, my twenty-three-year-old sister and her fiancé planned a cross-country road trip to visit his family. My parents told them that they could only go if they slept in separate hotel rooms, offering to foot the bill. It might sound prudish, but my parents wanted the young couple to understand that their approaching unity was close, but not yet. Patience solidifies love.

     What could this possibly have to do with Palm Sunday? It’s usually overlooked, but the Gospels tell us that, after entering Jerusalem, Jesus “looked around … and since it was late, went out to Bethany with the twelve” (Mk 11:11) for the night. Who cares? Why include this detail? Jews in those days believed that the new Davidic King would one day reenter and “marry” the city. A new future marked by fidelity would begin for God’s people. Israel’s God would be in union with His people forever. Without over-sexualizing the metaphor, perhaps Jesus refused to sleep in Jerusalem to remind us of his marital purpose. He was entering Jerusalem as the bridegroom-king. It was almost time, but not yet. Soon he will sleep in Jerusalem in the tomb and then something new will begin: his one body, his Church.

     Lenten challenge: This Holy Week, I challenge you to keep this image in your mind all the way until Easter Sunday: Jesus is the faithful bridegroom who patiently prepares his bride for their new life together. Go to the Good Friday liturgy and kiss the cross. When you do, let that gesture be the long-awaited “I do” to our faithful God, who always waits for us.

— Father John Muir ©LPi

 

 

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May 12, 2024 
The Ascension of the Lord

GOSPEL MEDITATION –
ENCOURAGE DEEPER UNDERSTANDING OF SCRIPTURE

     When I was a kid, my parents took me to the circus, and I was mesmerized by the acrobats. I recall one show in which the trapeze artists would swoop down just above the ground and then launch up into the air, flinging their bodies seemingly to the top of the tent, all at dizzying speeds. It wasn’t just their height but their dangerous proximity to the ground that thrilled me.

     Perhaps that’s a little how St. Mark wants us to feel as he describes the Ascension of Jesus. He tells us that Jesus “sat down at table with them” and then, just a few lines later, “he ascended into heaven and took his seat at the right hand of God.” He dies, he rises! He sits down, he ascends! What do these divine acrobatics teach us?

     The depth and height on display are a show of his love for us. When Jesus “sat down” he “upbraided them for their lack of faith and stubbornness of heart.” He dangerously swoops down into our lowly place of fragmentation, disbelief, and death. When he ascends, he confirms their preaching with signs of powerful healing. The height of heaven is the place from which God brings wholeness, faith, and life. The point is the Ascension of Jesus is not about his departure. It is about the feat by which he unites the heavens and the earth, the highest and the lowest.

      We are meant to relive this spiritually dizzying experience in every Mass, when Jesus sits down with us at his Eucharistic table and then offers himself up to the Father with and for us. Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls: welcome to the great tent of the Church! Feast your eyes on the divine and human acrobat whose saving feat is the great thrill of our lives.

— Father John Muir

 

May 5, 2024 
6th Sunday of Easter 

GOSPEL MEDITATION –
ENCOURAGE DEEPER UNDERSTANDING OF SCRIPTURE

     Once a man came to the Vatican and asked to see Pope John Paul II, claiming that they had been friends in Poland. When told of the man, the Pope said, “He is mistaken about our friendship. I don’t recall ever having suffered with him.” As it turned out, the man had never known the Pope. Now, I’m not sure if the story is totally factual. But doesn’t the juxtaposition of suffering with friendship sound exactly like JPII? He understood that the deepest and most lasting friendships are forged in the fires of shared suffering. No suffering, no friendship. Amazing.

     This week we hear Jesus say to the apostles and to us, “You are my friends if you do what I command you” (John 15:14). In Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, God entered the world of human suffering and transformed it into an avenue of friendship with Himself. Following His command — to love, to lay down our lives for others — will always entail suffering. But this suffering only deepens our friendship with Him. His suffering is ours; ours is His. We have become friends of God.

      This week, how might you share your suffering with the Risen Jesus? How might he be sharing his suffering with you, in the lives of those around you? Be attentive to that, and you’ll find that you are indeed a friend of God, because you’ve suffered together a great deal.

— Father John Muir

 

April 28, 2024 
5th Sunday of Easter 

GOSPEL MEDITATION –
ENCOURAGE DEEPER UNDERSTANDING OF SCRIPTURE

     My friend and fellow pastor, Father Paul, noticed unsightly, overgrown trees near his parish church. He asked the maintenance crew to cut back the growth, which they happily did, telling him the trees would be much healthier and even fuller after a good pruning. A few days later, Father Paul received a letter from an irate man in the neighborhood who wrote, “Jesus would never prune trees like that. He loves trees, unlike you.”

     I suspect that the neighbor was not familiar with this week’s Gospel in which Jesus says of his Father, “He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit” (John 15:2) I don’t mean to pick too much on that fellow. He was perhaps ignorant of arboriculture. But I’d wager his main confusion was the pruning and removing quality of God’s love. That confusion afflicts us all to some degree, doesn’t it? It is just so darn easy to react negatively when God cuts something out of our lives and assume it’s not his work at all. In the moment, all we see is the loss, and not the loving desire for future flourishing.

      The cross is the great pruning of Christ’s body. Jesus’ rising is the brand-new growth. It is God’s promise to us that all the painful pruning in life is leading us somewhere beautiful. What has been cut back or out in your life? A friend, an opportunity, a sense of certainty, a job, health, a relationship? This week, offer those dry branches to the one who lovingly prunes us in order to make our lives burst with verdant growth.

— Father John Muir

 

Deacon Ken’s Homily for the 4th Sunday of Easter

 CORPORAL JASON LEE DUNHAM USMC
(A Good Shepherd)

      Jason Lee Dunham, was born in Scio, New York. Just an average boy from New York but destined to be a hero. He graduated from Scio Central School in early 2000 and left for Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island in July of that year. After graduating recruit training, He completed Advanced Infantry Training and was assigned to Company K, 3d Battalion, 7th Marines, based in Twentynine Palms, California and deployed with them to Iraq in early 2004. Jason didn’t have to go. As a matter of fact, Jason had to extend his time in the Marine Corps by six months to go to Iraq. He told his parents: “I want to be with my boys. and I want to make sure all my boys come home”. He loved his Marines, and they loved him.

       On 14 April 2004, Jason was participating in a reconnaissance mission as a Rifle Squad Leader, in the town of Karabilah, Iraq, when they heard gunfire erupt a short distance away. Jason quickly ordered his squad toward the fighting. Jason and his team discovered seven Iraqi vehicles attempting to depart the area and began stopping the vehicles to search them for weapons. As the Marines approached the vehicles, an insurgent leaped out and attacked Jason. While wrestling the man to the ground Jason noticed that the insurgent had released a grenade during the struggle. Jason shouted a warning to his fellow Marines to “Get Back”, before covering the grenade with his helmet and body, bearing the brunt of the fatal explosion himself and saving the lives of at least three other Marines. Three of Dunham’s platoon mates suffered shrapnel wounds but survived. what he was doing. He wanted to save Marines’ lives from that grenade,” said Lance Cpl. Jason Sanders, a mortarman in Jason’s squad. The battalion commander at the time, Lt. Col. Matthew Lopez, submitted Jason’s Dunham’s nomination for the Medal of Honor, noting “I deeply believe that given the facts and evidence presented, he clearly understood the situation and attempted to block the blast of the grenade from his squad members. His personal action was far beyond the call of duty and saved the lives of his fellow Marines”. Corporal Jason Dunham died of his wounds eight days later at the Bethesda Naval Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland, at the age of 22. The Navy’s newest destroyer bears the name “the USS Jason Dunham”. A good shepherd who laid down his life for his sheep.

       Today is vocations Sunday. There’s a story I heard about Saint Francis of Assisi, that Saint Francis was walking down a road in France one day and a Priest was walking toward him. As they neared each other, St. Francis said, “If I were to meet at the same time some saint coming down from heaven and any poor little priest, I would first pay my respects to the priest and proceed to kiss his hands first. I would say, ‘Ah, just a moment St. Lawrence, because this person’s hands handle the Word of Life and possess something that is more than human. These hands have touched my Lord, and no matter what they be like, they could not soil Him or lessen His virtue. To honor the Lord, honor His minister. He can be bad for himself, but for me he is good.”  

       Today is a day to celebrate God’s goodness to us. It is a day to celebrate that we have Priests, whose hands give us the Eucharist. To receive the body and blood of Christ is to receive all the splendor the earth has to offer. The Priest who truly lives for others, that others might attain salvation. They sacrifice themselves, that others might live in the kingdom of God, forever. Thank God for our Priests!  

      Vocations are not only for those who have been ordained. Everyone has a vocation, in life and in the church. For our Church to continue to function we need Eucharistic ministers, Musicians, Lectors, Sacristans, Altar Servers, Ushers, Money Counters and Environmental people who decorate our church so beautifully. Average people doing extraordinary things. These are examples of self-sacrificing love. Love of a Marine for his Marines, Love of our Priests for their people and love for each other in our community. See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are. God Bless you, and God Bless our Priests.

Corporal Dunham story adapted from his Medal of Honor Citation

https://www.usmcu.edu/Research/Marine-Corps-History-Division/Information-for-Units/Medal-of-Honor-Recipients-By-Unit/Cpl-Jason-Lee-Dunham/

 

Saint Francis story adapted from the Franciscan Website.


https://franciscandiscernment.org/index.php/2017/11/13/st-francis-on-bad-priests/

Deacon Ken Stewart

 

 April 21, 2024 
4th Sunday of Easter 

 GOSPEL MEDITATION –
ENCOURAGE DEEPER UNDERSTANDING OF SCRIPTURE

      Recently I was with my little dog Libby at a retreat center in the Arizona desert. I sat in a chair near a ravine filled with shrubs. Unbeknownst to me, Libby wandered down there and disappeared. Suddenly an animal’s wild shriek erupted from the area. Without thinking, I bolted down into the ravine fully expecting to see coyotes, javelinas, or rattlesnakes. I didn’t care. I desperately wanted to get Libby out of there, without any self-regard. Before I could face whatever danger lay hidden, my dog blissfully trotted out from an entirely different area, utterly unaware that I had (quite heroically) just placed my life on the line.

      When the adrenaline wore off, I thought to myself: how far would I have been willing to go to save her? I don’t know. But I do know, if I had literally died, my friends and family would have certainly thought me insane for dying for a dog. No offense, Libby.

      How passionately Jesus wants us to know him and his willingness to die for us! This week he says, “I know my own and my own know me,” and “I lay down my life for the sheep.” Here we encounter an insanely excessive love for us. Christianity is a relationship and not simply a religion or ethical code. In Jesus, God rescues and saves us. He laid down his life for you and me — and he has taken it up again. So often we are like Libby — blissfully ignorant of the reality of both our spiritual danger and his saving love. This Easter season, the risen Jesus calls us to be more conscious than ever before about his love. He never ceases to lay down his life for us.

 — Father John Muir

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