Monday, February 13, 2017

Do You Love Me?

Friends of Faith:
I don't often send something I haven't written but this post by Andy's seminarian group who are studying in the Holy Land for 10 weeks seemed too appropriate not to share. I left the pictures in for those of you who want to spy Andy (Clue: it looks like he shared his Cubs hat with a friend.) Please say an extra prayer for them as they head to their Canonical retreat this week in preparation of their Diaconate ordinations when they return.
The greatest gift of love is God's love for us -- May you share it this Valentine's Day!

2017 Holy Land Pilgrimage

Posted: 11 Feb 2017 12:16 PM PST
Yesterday, after having spent a few days by the Basilica of the Annunciation, we left Nazareth, and spent the night in Tabgha, located at the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Welcoming us was a spectacular and peaceful sunset reflecting over the water of the sea. It was like an invitation to enter into a more contemplative stage of our pilgrimage.
In the morning, we departed to the Mensa Domini Church, also known as the Church of the Primacy of St Peter. There we meditated about the Gospel of John 21, 14-17. In this gospel passage, Jesus asked Peter the same question three times: Do you love me? To which Peter replied: “Yes, Lord, You know I love You.” Then Jesus said to him: “Feed My lambs.” “Shepherd My sheep.” “Feed My sheep.”

Those same questions are asked to us by Jesus in our daily lives as Christians. These questions demand an active and affirmative response. “Do you love me?” is not a romantic question that looks for a sentimental answer, but the longing for a deep and authentic answer manifested through a way of living. It is a “Yes Lord, I love you” by extending our hands to our neighbor in need, and feed him, not only with bread, but with Christ Himself present in the Eucharist, in the Holy Scripture, and within ourselves. Our love for Christ should be reflected in our love for our neighbor.

Later, we moved from Mensa Domini Church to Tabgha Monastery, where the Church of the Multiplication is located. Here is where Jesus miraculously multiplied 5 loaves and 2 fish to feed 5 thousand men (John 6:1-14). Here, continuing with the lesson started on the previous place, Jesus gave us a concrete example of what to do; He is the one feeding his people. But there is something very interesting in this passage of the Gospel that resounded in my heart: “There is a little boy here who has five barley loaves and two small fish. But what are these among so many people?” (John 6: 9). Yes, it was Jesus who performed the miracle, but it was possible because a “little boy” shared all that he had and put them in Jesus’ hands. 
For some of the Apostles, what that “little boy” had was nothing in comparison with the present need, but for Jesus that “littleness” was sufficient to perform a great miracle. Just like that “little boy,” we are invited to bring to Jesus all that we have. It doesn’t matter if it is “too little” that it makes our name not to be found “worthy” to be remembered, just like the one of this “little boy”. The important thing is what Jesus can do with whatever we bring to him, and what others can receive through our “littleness.” Once again, here is Jesus asking: Do you love me? Then if you do, give me your “littleness” and let me perform great miracles.

After visiting the Church of the Multiplication, we had a very quiet and peaceful boat ride on the Sea of Galilee. There I understood why Jesus needed those moments of silence, contemplation, and prayer during His missions. That brief, but very refreshing ride through the Sea was like a fresh breeze on a sunny summer afternoon. Once our ride was over, we returned to the hotel. 
In the afternoon, walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, I found a school of fish jumping very close to the shore. I slowly walked through the water to the place where all those fish were. I noticed that water was coming out from between a pile of rocks, and mixed with the water was something that the fish were eating. It was dirt. I looked at the immensity of the sea, and I thought of the many other sources of food that these fish could have, but they rather chose the spot that provided easy “food”, even if it was not good for them. They were hungry and in need of food. This was the last part of today’s lesson. Those fish were the representation of the people who experience hunger for God, and who in that need are able to eat whatever spiritual consolation they receive from the world, even if it poisons their soul. Once again, it was a call to feed God’s people.
My classmates and I are about to be ordained as deacons. We are about to become fishers of men as Jesus called us, and it is our responsibility to feed God’s people with the Bread that gives life (John 10:10). It is our responsibility to bring God’s people to “streams of living water” (John 7:38). And what a blessed way we have to prepare ourselves for our future ministry by living this pilgrimage, where we are following in the steps of the One who is The Way, The Truth, and The Life. (John 14:6).

Today’s spiritual nourishment is not only for me, or only for my classmates. It is for all of us who have heard these words: Do you love me? Then, be “salt and light” for the world (Matthew 5:13-16).

May God bless you all.

Monday, February 6, 2017


Friends of Faith:
Do you remember the song, “R-E-S-P-E-C-T—just give me a little Respect” by Aretha Franklin? I feel like that’s what God must be thinking as we make choices contrary to Church teaching formed by twenty century’s of guidance by the Holy Spirit in the Church Jesus left here to complete his salvation vision for all people.

“Brothers and sisters: Through Jesus, let us continually offer God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of lips that confess his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have; God is pleased by sacrifices of that kind.
Obey your leaders and defer to them, for they keep watch over you and will have to give an account, that they may fulfill their task with joy and not with sorrow, for that would be of no advantage to you. Pray for us, for we are confident that we have a clear conscience, wishing to act rightly in every respect. Heb 13: 15-18

This verse from Saturday’s readings spells RESPECT to me and points to the issues created by the lack of respect of leaders in today’s culture.

God deserves our respect, praise and thanksgiving because everything we have is from Him: Life, the chance for eternal life given by His son, Jesus’, death and resurrection, and all that sustains our very being.

And leaders in our homes, our schools, our workplaces, and our world should be given the chance to earn our respect when we equally serve each other—each doing our part in making our homes, our schools, our workplaces and our world a better place for everyone. Our world is not something we deserve, but something God gifted us so that we would have a “space” and a reason where we could reflect His love on others.

Instead our lack of respect is shown by our self-serving individualistic natures and our perceived needs for unbridled wealth and happiness which is reflected in the divorce rate, bullying and materialism.

The reading also defines respect in terms of sharing; doing good for the other (and not expecting anything back, or expecting something for nothing); obedience to authority; and experiencing joy in having done the right thing vs giving sorrow because of criticism, blame and complaining. 

R-Right Judgment through a clear conscience. Do I have a true desire to do what is right for others? And do I give obedience to those in leadership roles: starting first with God and then with those who are entrusted to lead us.

E-Empathize! Think about where the other person is coming from and how they perceive the situation. Right or wrong, if we aren’t at least trying to understand the other person’s heart, their upbringing, and the motivation for what they do it will probably lead to sorrow rather than joy. How much “sorrow” do we create in our own homes because we fail to respect those we profess to love the most?

S-Share. It’s one of the first virtues we teach children. But as adults we can be very self serving and neglectful of doing good, sharing our time, talents and treasures with others. When we receive a shared gift given from the heart it is difficult not to respect the person giving the gift.

P-Prayer and “Please and Thank you.” (Not power, not politics--‘Nough said)

E –Expect the Best, Don’t look for the worst. (Again, enough said)

C-Character, Built on Christian values and morals.

T-Truth. Tell, Teach and Trust the Truth. Not our “relativism” truth, not culture’s truth, but God’s truth. The kind of truth you would tell if you were swearing on the bible. And be honest with yourself about your own faults. I believe if everyone was more truthful we’d have much less division, much more respect and abundant joy.

Let us give God Respect. Pray and truthfully seek to share the gifts He has given us for the good of others so that everyone can get a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T.