Tag Archives: Florida

An Unclean Spirit

Our gospel today is from the first chapter of Mark.  Jesus has come from his baptism in the River Jordan,  gathered disciples and is living at Peter’s house in Capernaum along the Sea of Galilee. He enters the synagogue in the town and amazes people with his teaching. They’ve never heard anyone like him.

But a man in the synagogue with an unclean spirit challenges him.  I’m not sure what an unclean spirit is, and neither do most of the commentators on this gospel. The man certainly reacts violently to Jesus, shouting out:
“What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” (Mark 1,21-28)

In other words: “Keep away from us; you’re only going to bring us trouble.” The man just wants to be left alone. Even in the synagogue he wants to be left alone. Even if Jesus is from God, the man just wants to be alone. “Get away from us!” he says.

That strong reaction to Jesus was not limited to the synagogue in Capernaum. It continued as he made his way to Jerusalem. The rejection was sometimes strong, sometimes people just ignored him. Mark see that rejection as diabolic.

No matter how wise his teaching, how compassionate his healing, how loving his words, Jesus was rejected.  In the end, his enemies killed him.

We believe the gospel repeats itself, and so it’s repeated today as we hear it.  “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” Can we reject Jesus too? As we sit in our synagogue today, do we reject him in signs of his presence and in faith?

Belief in Jesus Christ is at the heart of everything. “I believe in God, the Father Almighty…I believe in Jesus Christ…I believe in the Holy Spirit.” Believing means hearing Jesus, listening to him, offering ourselves to him, entering into friendship with him, hoping in his strength, waiting patiently to receive what he promises.

Believing is not something we do occasionally; we believe day by day. There’s always the danger of losing faith in him. “Leave us alone,” we say, “You want to destroy us.” We can prefer isolation to communion with the One God has sent.

So maybe an unclean spirit is not rare at all. Maybe we could call it that cloudy, dark spirit that can take hold of us, so we don’t see the light. Deliver us, Lord, from an unclean spirit.

Rejection of Jesus was not unusual in his day, as the gospel of Mark reminds us, and it’s not unusual today. Today, however, it’s influenced by some different factors.

For example, our western world resists the idea of Jesus as a unique Savior and Teacher. We live in a pluralistic society, and so when we say Jesus is a unique Savior and Teacher, we seem to deny the truth in other religions and religious teachers.

What about the Dalai Lama? What about Buddhism, Hinduism, the religion of native Americans? Don’t they teach the truth? When you claim that Jesus is unique, do we deny there’s truth in other religions and religious teachers?

In answer to that, we can say that we believe a human search for God goes on from the beginning of the human race. The human spirit is always searching for God and its search has been blessed by wisdom and spiritual insight. So other religions religions have been blessed with truth.

But the uniqueness of Jesus comes from the fact that God approaches us.  He sends us his Son. Jesus is his Word to us. His revelation is something we couldn’t arrive at on our own. We didn’t earn it. “This is my beloved Son, hear him,” God says from the heavens when Jesus is baptized. God takes the initiative and calls us into friendship with him, eternal friendship. It’s a promise beyond what we could dream of.

And Jesus not only promises new life, but he takes away what hinders us from enjoying a life with God. He takes away sin. He took away the unclean spirit that was there in the man in the synagogue.

I think there are other factors today that contribute to the rejection of Jesus, particularly in our western world. We’re proud of our individuality and there’s a fear following Jesus causes us to lose our own personalities and dreams. Jesus will take over our lives and impose on us a mold of his own.  We don’t like losing our individuality–not at all.

There’s a fear too that a code of morality will be imposed on us that will deaden our lives and make us scared to love and to live. For many Christianity appears to be a religion of cold moralism, but it isn’t.

The man in the synagogue with the unclean spirit may not be too far from us, then. “Be quiet! Come out of him!” Jesus cried out. We may need that healing ourselves.

Palm Sunday

We call this week “Holy Week,” because it’s the week the church follows Jesus closely to his death and resurrection. Today we go with him into Jerusalem where people clapped their hands and shouted out his name and sang his praises; a few days afterwards they put him to death by crucifixion.

This is a week to ask “Who is this?” and “Why did this happen to him?” We ask these questions because they answer the great questions of life. “Who are we?” and “Why are we here?”

Jesus Christ came upon earth, not just to teach us but through his death to take away the death we all face, and through his resurrection to give us the promise of life, eternal life.

The first few days of Holy Week, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, the gospel readings follow Jesus as he prepares to die. He stays away from the temple area in Jerusalem where he spoke previously to mostly hostile listeners. In these first days of Holy Week he looks for the company of “his own,” his friends in Bethany and the disciples who have followed him up from Galilee.

On Thursday of Holy Week Jesus goes with his disciples into the city, to an upper room near the temple, and at that meal he offers himself to his Father as a new sacrifice for the life of the world.

On Good Friday he faces death on a cross in a drama that has never been equaled and has hardly been understood.

Holy Saturday is a day when the world is silent. Like the disciples of Jesus before us, we wait with the little faith and hope we have for the light that will come from the empty tomb.

Easter Sunday Jesus Christ rises from the dead.

This week at Immaculate Conception Parish in Melbourne Beach, Florida, I’m preaching a mission for the first three days of Holy Week. My reflections will be mostly from the Gospel of Mark, but they will include the other scriptures that speak of the mysteries of Holy Week.

On Monday, I’ll speak about the supper at Bethany and the Last Supper in Jerusalem.

On Tuesday I’ll speak about the Passion narrative of Mark from the arrest of Jesus in the Garden to his burial in the tomb.

On Wednesday, I’ll speak about his Resurrection from the dead as the scriptures describe it.

Ponce de Leon

Just down the road from Immaculate Conception Parish here in Melbourne Beach is a small park on the beach commemorating the spot where the Spanish explorer and 1st Governor of Puerto Rico, Ponce de Leon (1475-1521) touched down in Florida in April 2, 1513. He came with three ships and over 200 crewmen, looking for gold and new land for Spain–not for the  “Fountain of Youth” as later legend claimed.

He called the land “Florida” because it was the Easter season, in Spanish “Pascua florida,”  “Easter of the flowers.”

There’s going to be a big celebration here next April, 2013, 500 years after his arrival.

Certainly, that day brought grief to the native peoples, many of whom suffered death and enslavement at the hands of the newcomers. The Spaniards who came were battle-hardened veterans of the recent triumphant campaign against the Moors and they used the tools of war to get their way.

So what’s to celebrate? Can we say this was in God’s plan that his kingdom come through Jesus Christ. The conquerors were Christians who came here, and  like their Jewish predecessors who invaded Canaan from the Sinai desert centuries ago,  they came by way of the sword. Unfortunately, we learn the teachings of Jesus slowly, “Put your sword into its place, for those who take up the sword will perish by the sword.”

Religion, in spite of what many think, looks to the future more than the past. It’s about what is to come and how we can get there. Our nation is dedicated to Mary, under the title of her Immaculate Conception. She was free from the sin that marked her ancestors and ours. The dedication expressed a hope that this new land be unmarked by the old rivalries, ambitions and sins of the Old World.

That hope may still be unfulfilled, but it’s interesting that close by the site where Ponce de Leon came ashore, where the 500th anniversary celebration will occur next Easter, is the Church of the Immaculate Conception, dedicated to the humble woman who carried no sword.

Can our Catholic faith offer that noble hope for the years to come?

Resurrection Thinking

I spoke today, the final day of  our mission at Immaculate Conception Church, Melbourne Beach, Florida, about the mystery of the Resurrection of Jesus, a crucial mystery of our faith. Each of the gospels presents it in its own way. Here’s a summary from a previous blog of mine.

A recent presentation on the Resurrection by Bishop Wright, the Anglican bishop of Durham, to the Catholic bishops of Italy, is particularly interesting. I put it on my blog last month.

I began my presentation talking about Harold Camping’s prediction from last spring that the world was going to end on May 21, 2011. It didn’t, of course. But Harold’s thinking probably reflects the widespread gloom in our western world, in particular, about where the world is heading.

Our belief in the Risen Christ affects the way we see our church, ourselves and our world. We learn from this mystery to trust in the Risen Christ who King of all creation, our Way, our Truth and our Life. We need Resurrection Thinking.

Here’s a visual meditation on the Passion of Jesus from Rembrandt:

Mission at St. Thomas More: Tuesday Evening

Tuesday evening at our mission in St. Thomas More Parish, Sarasota, Florida, we’re going to reflect on the Passion of Jesus Christ. Those who can’t attend our service at 7 PM (and maybe some who attended too) may find this great presentation by Rembrandt something to study. He’s a great visual teacher of scripture.


Here’s some thoughts on it:

Rembrandt’s Crucifixion.

Light from above falls on this dreadful scene, falling first on Jesus Christ, who is the Light of the World, even in this dark hour.

The same light bathes those on his left (Is it because blood and water from his pierced heart flows on them?). The thief, his face turned already toward Paradise, has a place among those who followed Jesus from Galilee. Some of them sit on the ground overwhelmed by it all; some comfort Mary his mother; some stand looking on. Mary Magdalene comes close to kiss his nailed feet.

The centurion kneels before Jesus and cries out his confession of faith, “Yes, this is the Son of God.” But his soldiers look ready to leave their grim duty for the barracks and dinner.

On the left, Jesus’ enemies are heading home too, into the darkness. The other thief’s face is turned to them, as if he wished he could go with them, away from this place.

But I notice some light seems to reach out to them too. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”


Mission: St. Thomas More Parish, Sarasota, FL

I preached at all the Masses on Sunday at this vibrant parish which is now expanding its church. Wonderful music ministry and a large congregation, some fleeing from the cold of the north.

During the mission from Monday to Wednesday, I’ll be preaching in the morning after the 8 AM Mass and at an evening service at 7 PM.

You can find a  summary of the morning homily on this blog and a video outlining the evening service.

Here’s  video for the evening service:

Cleansing the Temple

3rd Sunday of Lent

John 2,13-25

All four gospels report this key incident in the temple of Jerusalem when Jesus drives out those who buy and sell things there. Keep in mind how important the temple was to the Jews and their spirituality at that time.

It was the center of Judaism. You can see how important the temple was by reading psalms like Psalm 27, one of many psalms that spoke of it:

There is one thing I ask of the Lord,

This I seek:

To dwell in the house of the Lord

all my days.

To gaze on the loveliness of the Lord,

to inquire in his temple.”

Psalm 27,1-4

The loveliness of God was in the temple; God was present there. You inquired about God in the temple precincts where the learned Jewish teachers taught.

John’s gospel, our reading today, says that Jesus went into the temple and drove out those who were buying and selling there, and unlike the other gospels that say it happened just before Jesus was arrested and tried and crucified, John’s gospel places it early on in Jesus’ ministry, some years before his passion and death.

John’s gospel may be more historically correct and it certainly explains an opposition to Jesus at the highest levels that began early in his ministry. If he came into the temple, the center of Jewish worship, and overturned the tables of those buying and selling in the Court of the Gentiles, what would he do next? As he became more popular, could he destroy this great building? The alarms went off; Jerusalem’s leaders were going to keep an eye on this troublemaker from Galilee.

When Jesus was finally put on trial, remember, one of the key charges against him was he said he was going to destroy the temple.

The question comes up: why did Jesus overturn the tables of the money changers and drive out those selling sheep and doves and oxen? Was it because there was a lot of corruption there. Someone was stealing the bingo money. But that reason doesn’t seem adequate. The temple was a place of sacrifice, you needed sheep and doves and to exchange money, especially tainted Roman money.

A few scholars say that Jesus secretly belonged to the Zealot party. The Zealots wanted to overthrow the existing order by violence.  In other words, Jesus was a terrorist. But that picture doesn’t match the picture the gospels give. On Palm Sunday he enters Jerusalem, not as an armed warrior in a chariot, but riding in a  humble donkey, unarmed, unprotected.

The most likely reason behind this incident is a symbolic reason. As so many of the prophets did before him, Jesus used prophetic gestures in his ministry. Here in the temple he turned over the tables to say “there’s a change coming! A radical change!”He turned the tables over in the Court of the Gentiles, that large expanse in the Jewish temple where gentiles, outsiders, non-Jews were permitted to come, to say “the gentiles are coming.”

The prophet Isaiah and other prophets before him had said, “all the nations shall come to this holy mountain. God wants all his people together, to know him and to live in peace. Jesus says “This is the time. All the nations are coming. Get ready for this great change. I am the new temple of God.”

In his recent book, “Jesus of Nazareth,” Pope Benedict chooses this explanation for Jesus cleansing of the temple. A wonderful book on Jesus, by the way.

Drawing on that explanation, the pope urged recently that all of our churches have a Court of the Gentiles, where we welcome others, outsiders, to our church. We need that openness to others that Jesus had when he said “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will refresh you.”

So if we are looking for a practical lesson from this gospel today, how about this:: Is the church we belong to open to everyone? Are strangers welcomed here? People who are different than we are, of a different race, a different culture, a different economic background?

The scriptures are challenging, aren’t they? Following Jesus Christ through Lent means being challenged by him again.

This week we’re beginning a Passionist Mission at St. Thomas More Parish, Sarasota, Florida.


Parish Mission, Monday Night, March 30,2009

We Would Like To See Jesus
Lord Jesus Christ,
Once you passed along the shore of the Sea of Galilee and saw some fishermen working at their nets.
You called them and they followed you. You went into their homes and lived with them and their families and you changed their lives.
You call us too to follow you. Be with us where we live day by day. Strengthen our faith in you.
We would like to see you.

Peter, the Apostle

Readings:  St. Mark’s Gospel  1,16-33

Before the New Testament was written, people were telling stories of what they’d seen and heard about Jesus Christ. Peter, the fisherman from Galilee was one of them.

Jesus called Peter and his brother Andrew as they tended their nets in the fishing town of Capernaum, along the Sea of Galilee. They followed him. Others soon joined them, mostly uneducated men and women.

They saw what Jesus of Nazareth did, they listened to him teach, they followed him to Jerusalem where he was crucified and died. Then, they saw him risen from the dead.

They came to believe that he was God’s Son, the Messiah sent by God to bring good news of life and hope to all creation.  Then, they went out into the world to tell others. And Peter was their leader.

Our faith rests on their preaching.

Preaching Apostles

Most of the first followers of Jesus were ordinary people from Galilee, with little education and knowledge of the great Greek and Roman world beyond them. They weren’t philosophers speculating about life, or people trying to cash in on Jesus’ celebrity.

They told what they had seen and heard to others. Their experience of Jesus was simple and powerful. From their lowly homeland, they traveled to every part of that world to tell about Jesus Christ.

When these eyewitnesses began to die, possibly from the years 40 to 70 AD, their recollections were written down and then collected into the gospels that we know today. But before we had books, we had people who spoke about Jesus  first hand from their experience of him.

Let’s look at one of them, Peter the Apostle.

The Preaching of Peter

We may be able to capture something of what Peter said about Jesus through the lens of the Gospel of Mark which, tradition says, is a summary of Peter’s preaching. It’s based, then, on what Peter said about Jesus as he went from place to place. Some scholars say the Gospel of Mark was written in Rome shortly after Peter died there by crucifixion around the year 67 AD.
Not all scholars agree with that theory, of course–that’s what scholars do, disagree–but it’s a solid opinion that Mark’s gospel substantially reflects what Peter as an eyewitness said about Jesus. And so it’s possible to read Mark’s gospel, not as the writing of an anonymous author, but as Peter’s account of Jesus.

Let’s consider two sections of the gospel¬– Mark 1, 16-33, which relates their meeting at Caphernaum along the Sea of Galilee and the surprising beginning of Jesus’ ministry in that town, and Mark 14, 17-72 which takes us to Jerusalem and Peter’s painful denial of Jesus after his arrest in the Garden of Gethsemani.

Can we see in these accounts what Peter might say in his own words if he came into one of our congregations today?

Maybe he would start like this.

“ I’m here to bring you good news about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
The Prophet Isaiah said that God would send a messenger in the desert to prepare for the Messiah. Just before Jesus, John the Baptizer appeared in the desert, baptizing people in the Jordan River. He wore clothes of camel hair, with a leather belt around his waist and people came from all over Judea and Jerusalem to hear him. John told them to turn to God and confess their sins. ‘Prepare the way of the Lord.’
Then, Jesus came from Nazareth and was baptized by John in the River Jordan and a voice from heaven said “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
When Jesus came up from the water, he was led into the desert where he was tempted.
They arrested John, and Jesus came to Galilee– where I lived–saying that God’s kingdom was near, and we should believe.”

I’m sure Peter told his story with honesty and surprise.  I think you can still hear Peter’s excitement in Mark’s gospel.

Memories of Capernaum

Jesus calls Peter and Andrew from their fishing boat to follow him.  They take him to their home and he lives with them. He cures Peter’s mother-in-law. He goes to the synagogue on the Sabbath and teaches there with authority. The people of Capernaum are astounded by his preaching. They’ve never heard anyone like him.

But then a man cries out. “Get out of here, Jesus of Nazareth. You’ve come to destroy us!”  The gospels say the man has an unclean spirit. I don’t know what that means, but someone like Peter would probably see the man as one of the first who would violently oppose Jesus.  Jesus drives the unclean spirit out of the man.

After Peter’s mother-in-law is cured, “That evening, at sunset, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed by demons. And the whole town was gathered around the door. And he cured many.

In the morning, while it was very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place and prayed.”  Peter and the others went looking for him. “Everybody’s looking for you.” they told him.
Let’s go to the neighboring towns and proclaim the message there too,” Jesus said, “for that’s why I came.” So they went to the towns and synagogues of Galilee.

Peter and the Mystery of Jesus

It was exciting but mysterious. It must have been puzzling to Peter, a simple fisherman used to routine. He believed in God, he believed that God was at work in the world, he believed a Messiah, the Christ, was coming. But how was God’s kingdom to come?

Jesus himself was a mystery, and Peter didn’t always understand him. Their thinking wasn’t always the same. At one point, Jesus called him “Satan”. But there was a bond between them that lasted. They were friends.

Jesus chose Peter, not because he was perfect, or because he was smart, or because he liked international travel, or because he was a good linguist. He wasn’t any of these. Peter mirrors the humanness we find in the church and in the world.

In Peter we see Jesus reaching out to engage humanity so frail and sinful. He’s reaching out to people like us. Peter is the rock on which Jesus builds his church, but he is hardly “rocklike.” He is rock because Jesus makes him so and sustains him.

“Depart from me, O Lord, for I am a sinful man,” Peter says to Jesus. But Jesus does not depart from this sinful man. Holiness belongs to God, and he never abandons his church or the world, sinful and imperfect as it is.’

Peter’s Betrayal

The second selection from Mark’s gospel I’d like to consider is Mark 14,17-72, the account of Jesus’ arrest and trial. Peter denies he ever knew Jesus when a servant girl confronts him in the courtyard of the house of the High Priest.

If this section of the gospel represents Peter’s preaching, it indicates that Peter never toned down or omitted or excused himself from betraying Jesus. His betrayal and the entire story of the Passion of Jesus are stated bluntly in the gospel. Evidently, the apostle never omitted the story of his own cowardice during the Passion of Christ.

No doubt, Peter was a good man with natural gifts. He was a loyal Jew, a religious man–probably a good fisherman, a good businessman, a good family man. He seems to have been a natural leader.

But he was a sinner too. He didn’t know everything; he learned through time, and he learned through his own faults.

For him, the Passion of Jesus was a testimony that God forgives.  When they first met at the Lake of Galilee, Jesus invited him to follow him. When they met there after Jesus rose from the dead, after Peter’s betrayal, Jesus’ words were the same: “Follow me.””Feed my lambs, feed my sheep,” Jesus told him. Tell them what happened and tell them to follow me too.

Lessons for us and our world

Can Peter describe our relationship to Jesus Christ for us. Like him, we are unworthy friends, but he continues calling us to friendship. We sin, but he calls us anyway. He comes to stay in our homes, to be our teacher, our guide, our Savior. He is with us as our lives unfold, with mysteries of our own.

Jesus Christ is the image of God who loves the world and reaches to save it.
Can Peter tells us something about the nature of our church? I don’t have to tell you we don’t live in a perfect church. Our church is capable of sublime actions, we have extraordinary saints, but it’s also weak and sinful and sometimes scandalous. “We have to suffer as much from the church as for it, “ Flannery O’Connor, the writer, once wrote.

Can Peter tells us something about how God looks at our world. It’s not a perfect world either. But God loves the world and cares for it and serves it. So should we.

Jesus Died and Rose Again

There’s another reason for the Peter’s stark portrayal of Jesus’ death, which appears also in Mark’s Gospel. It has to do with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

First of all, the gospel emphasizes that Jesus had really died. Certainly, rumors were circulating at Peter’s time, as they are now in certain books that are popular today, that Jesus appeared to die and his disciples had taken his body away. You can hear that claim in the Gospel of Matthew (chapter 28), written after Mark’s Gospel but surely representing an early argument against the death and resurrection of Jesus.

In Mark’s Gospel (chapter 15) Jesus is brutally beaten by the soldiers; they put a crown of thorns on his head, causing him to lose blood; Simon of Cyrene has to help him carry the Cross. They he refuses to take wine mixed with myrrh, a sedative; the soldiers stand guard at his execution, representatives of the Jewish establishment are there. Jesus cries out a cry of death, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

When Joseph of Arimathea goes to ask Pilate for his body to bury it, Pilate wonders if Jesus has really died, so he calls the centurion who was at the cross, if it were true. Only when he is assured does he release Jesus’ body for burial.

Jesus really died, Peter says in his preaching, and he rose again–I saw him, I talked to him, I ate with him, and the mystery of his death and resurrection affects us all.

The apostle describes Jesus’ death so starkly because death has been changed by Jesus Christ. In the account of Peter’s preaching at Pentecost, in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 1,14-36) we can hear Peter’s most important message: Jesus is “Lord and Messiah.” He comes to destroy death and bring life. He really died; he really rose from the dead. He fulfills what the prophets promised of old. Death does not end life; Jesus has made it the door to a new life.

In his address at Pentecost, which he gave in Jerusalem, the apostle points to the tomb of King David, which all his hearers who came to the Holy City reverenced. His tomb is there; his bones are still there, Peter says to them. Not so, the tomb of Jesus. His body is not there. He has risen.
This is the Good News Peter will bring to the world.

Follow up:

The Gospel of Mark indicates that being a disciple of Jesus can be hard: we’re not sure what it demands. Peter began to be a disciple slowing, over time.  He found the Cross a mystery , which he could not understand or accept.

•    Is that what you feel too?
Peter never omitted the story of the Passion of Jesus in his preaching and, in fact, never omitted his own betrayal of Jesus.  In his Passion, Jesus reveals a surprising love for his disciple, even when he failed.  For Peter, the Passion of Jesus is a promise of life;  death is not our final destiny. If we die with Christ, we will rise with him.

•    Can you see that too?

How about praying the Stations of the Cross every day of the mission? You can find an internet text at http://www.cptryon.org/xpipassio/stations/index.html  A video version: http://www.vimeo.com/user1344343/videos

In the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults, Peter introduces readers to the mystery of the church, a rock established by Jesus Christ, yet ever frail and sinful.
•    Can the figure of Peter help you understand your church and your parish today?
You can find a biography of Peter (I wrote it myself) at Bread on the Waters http://www.cptryon.org/holylives/nt/peter/index.htm

Visit some of the churches honoring Peter.  They’re wonderful places to get to know him. I have a video visit to some of them: St. Peter’s in Rome, St. Peter in Chains in Rome.  See  http://www.vimeo.com/user1344343/videos

The Franciscans have an extensive website that features Capernaum, Peter’s hometown. Jesus stayed in Peter’s house through most of his Galilean ministry. Franciscan archeologists have excavated a house pointed out by ancient tradition as Peter’s. http://www.ffhl.org/2006/Capernaum.asp

The Passionists have a good presentation on the Passion of Christ at http://www.cptryon.org

Here’s a description of our world today, from Vatican II’s Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World. Sounds like a description of Peter, on a world scale, doesn’t it?

The world today appears both powerful and weak, capable of the best or the worst. The way to freedom or slavery, progress or regression, community or hatred lies before it. We’re aware that we can give direction to the forces that we have awakened, forces we can master or serve. So we question ourselves.
The tensions that disturb our world today are in fact like those that disturb the human heart. There are conflicts within us. We see our limitations, yet we have unlimited aspirations. We know we are called to a higher life.
Many things compete for our attention, and we know we have to choose some and give up others.  In our weakness and sinfulness, we often do what we do not want to do, and fail to do what we should. Therefore, we are conflicted within ourselves, and this causes so many tensions in our society.
Many people, infected by a materialistic way of life, can’t see this state of affairs clearly, or can’t think of it because of their own unhappiness.
Many look for peace in different philosophies. Some look for liberation from human efforts alone.
Some despair of finding any meaning in life at all, or say life means only what they say it means.
Yet, in our world today many are asking fundamental questions: Who are we? What’s the meaning of pain, of evil, of death, which are still with us despite all our progress? What does success bring anyway? What should we bring to society and what should we expect from it? What comes after life here on earth?
The church believes that Christ died and rose for all and can give us light and strength through his Spirit to achieve our high calling–he is the one who saves us.
The church also believes that the center and goal of human history is found in her Lord and Master.
The church believes that underlying all change many things don’t change. They are founded on Christ, who is the same yesterday, today and forever.
The Church in the Modern World,  9-10

Losing Patience

The reading from the Book of Numbers in today’s Mass is a classic text describing the journey of the Israelites from Egypt to the Promised Land.  After their miraculous release from Pharaoh’s armies, the people make their way through the desert where miracles are few and their steady march never seems to end.

The people lose patience. They had wished for an easier way. They complain about their food and they probably complained about everything else. Falling into a nest of snakes, they suffer from their poisoned bites. In answer to his peoples’ pleas, Moses fits a bronze serpent on a pole, and those who look at it are healed.

In the reading from John’s gospel, Jesus promises that when he is lifted up, he will heal those who look at him with faith.

The Lord wishes to lift us up by the power of his cross. This holy time is a time to receive healing through this holy mystery and gain patience for our journey.

Losing patience is still one of our greatest trials, isn’t it? Sometimes it’s a long illness that turns our lives into a desert, or a strained relationship, or a marriage that ends without hope for repair, or dreams dashed by years of failure. We grow impatient, and impatience can be a poison.

So we look for signs that lift us up. Besides the cross of Jesus, there are people in our lives who are like him, who follow his example and his love. Look at them; they lift us up. They’re saving signs, strengthening us on our journey.

Parish Mission: Melbourne Beach, Florida

I’ll be conducting a parish mission at Immaculate Conception Parish in Melbourne Beach, Florida, from March 29th -April 2nd.  I’ll preach at the weekend Masses and at the weekday Mass in the morning at 8 AM. The main mission service will be at 7 PM.

I’m also offering some material from the mission on the internet these day and will use this blog to do it.

Here’s what I going to do.

I like the approach used in the new United States Catholic Catechism for Adults, (Washington, DC   2006). Written with an American public in mind, the catechism, based on the Catechism of the Catholic Church, begins each section with a short biography of a saint or a prominent Christian–some Americans, like Dorothy Day and Elizabeth Seton are among them.

People introduce us to God.

The theme of this week’s mission is taken from this Sunday gospel, “We would like to see Jesus,” a request some Greeks made of Philip, as Jesus was going into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.

Philip, of course, brought them to meet Jesus.

Each evening of the mission we’ll ask one of the saints to help us see Jesus. On Monday, we’ll go to Peter, the Apostle, who experienced Jesus in a very personal way. He was his constant companion and Jesus’ choice to lead his disciples. We’ll look into Peter’s experience as it’s described in the Gospel of Mark.

On Tuesday, we’ll ask Mary, the Mother of Jesus, to help us to know her Son. She kept thinking about him, who he was and what he did. She’s a very good teacher of prayer. We can’t know God or Jesus, his Son, without prayer. We’ll look at her through the eyes of Luke’s gospel.

On Wednesday, I want to look at St. Elizabeth Seton, an American saint. We can’t know God outside of our experience as Americans. Elizabeth Seton thoroughly epitomizes the American experience and I think we can learn from her how to search for God in the world in which we live.

On Thursday, I hope to consider St. Paul of the Cross, the founder of my community, the Passionists. He’s not known well enough. He got to know God through the mystery of the Cross, an unpopular place for most of us to meet God.
We’ll conclude each evening with a prayer. On Monday we pray the Stations of the Cross, on Tuesday we pray and meditate on a decade of the Rosary, on Wednesday we have Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament and on Thursday we’ll have an anointing of the sick.
Some wont be able to get to church for this mission, of course, but I’ll offer the mission on the Internet for on-liners or mission attendees who want to review what we said in church. That’s at my blog  https://vhoagland.wordpress.com/
Invite your friends and neighbors to join us too, either at church or online.