Give Us This Day: Reflection, July 30, 2021

This reflection is published in Give Us This Day, July 2021, by Liturgical Press, Collegeville, MN

A Prophet’s Attention

Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, CSC, served as president of the University of Notre Dame for thirty-five years. Not as widely known, perhaps, was his fifteen years of service on the United States’ Civil Rights Commission. I grew up just miles from Notre Dame and vividly remember local television news broadcasting his prophetic witness across the globe. Throughout my youth, I watched from our living room as Fr. Hesburgh influenced five popes and many world leaders.  

I learned from black and white television that a prophet’s voice impacts the world in living color. His voice planted a seed for my vocation as I watched a priest of the Church offer education and concern to a broken world. His voice knew no academic or national border. I heard Jesus when he spoke.

The source of the prophetic voice is Jesus’ death and resurrection. Jesus is the ground of truth and change. Many people approached Jesus for physical and spiritual healing. Today, victims of abuse, racial injustice, disease, and human trafficking beg every Christian to speak out and on their behalf. Attention to suffering forms the prophet’s words and actions.

The prophet speaks knowing the cost of discipleship.  My voice is not a clear trumpet as was Fr. Hesburgh’s.  However, I still listen to the mentally ill runaway, the husband lost in pornography, and the mother who aches for sobriety. I don’t have solutions for them, but their pain opens my heart and forms my outcry. I am learning that the prophet’s say-so rings true at home or across the globe.  

            Fr. Ronald Raab

Ronald Patrick Raab, CSC, is pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Colorado Springs. Learn more at http://www.ronaldraab.com.

Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time 2021: Cover Art, Column

August 1, 2021

18th Sunday in OT

Dear Believers in the Christ,

In today’s gospel, John 6:24-35, Jesus invites us to center our hearts on food that does not perish. His presence as food and drink, reveals to us the mercy of heaven. The Eucharist we all receive changes our lives, our mission as Church, and opens new doors to welcome those God needs the most. God befriends the lost, the weary and the sinner and he truly desires to heal all of us. His food, the Eucharist, reveals the sign of God’s Kingdom here on earth.

Sometimes in our society, we settle for the bottom line. What time do we need to show up? How much does this cost? When does this event end? What can I gain if I meet a stranger? When will I get my share? Tell me what to do so I can get the most benefit with the least amount of input. Tell me why I should care…about anything.

We can easily translate this sense of bottom line in our spiritual lives, especially when it comes to the Eucharist. Does it count if I get to church after the gospel? Can I get the host if I come in at the last minute? If I get the host, then I can go heaven, right? And all I need is to get the host just once a year, right? Do I have to go to confession first so I can earn my place in heaven?

We often want to limit and reduce the God of All Creation, the God of Wonder and Justice, the God of Heaven and Earth, to our timetable on Sunday so we can make a tee time or go to brunch. The Eucharist requires of us to be in relationship with God. Like any relationship, it requires time, intimacy, give and take, showing up and vulnerability. We so often don’t get the results we need in prayer, so we make God an insurance policy at the end of our lives so we know we can go to heaven. Well, if we didn’t want to spend time with God on earth, what makes us think we will enjoy heaven for all eternity? So, we learn to open our hearts, our minds, our souls, here on earth.

The Eucharist is not just meant for personal piety. The Eucharist is meant to transform the world. The grace of our Eternal Father is revealed in the Real Presence of Christ Jesus. We capture a glimpse of the Kingdom in the Eucharist for all humanity. We are now the Body of Christ here on earth becaIf our hearts are open, we see our lives in the glory of God’s love, mercy, and kindness. Receiving the Real Presence of Jesus Christ is not our reward to keeping the rules and regulations of our Church. The Eucharist is for us, who really need God, for those who have been abandoned by life, lost among the fry of injustice, hatred, violence, and sin. In fact, the most broken people among us, know that they need God, and we can all learn what that means when we enter the mystery of our humanity.

The Father reveals the Kingdom in the Breaking of the Bread. God’s food is meant to feed our humanity. We learn how to become more human when we share the Eucharist. We learn that God’s grace is not meant to make us more pious or otherworldly, but we are to learn how to live on this earth in a new reliance on God. In other words, we become people who work for the dignity of all human life, to relieve the suffering of the oppressed, to give food to those starving, to protect our children from violence, abuse, and neglect. The Eucharist is given to us so we can imitate heaven here on earth. The Eucharist reveals our deepest humanity. The Eucharist is a foreshadowing of heaven. If we have a taste of love here on earth, we make recognize God then in all eternity. If we do not know love now, I often wonder how we will know love when we see God face to face.

It is learning to be human that is the key to spiritually. We are not to live as angels here on the earth, this is always impossible. We are created by God to learn what this creation means. We are to enter our deepest longings and desires as human beings. There God meets us, he feeds us and calls us into changing the world. We are to open our hearts, minds, and experiences to what it means to walk on this earth as children of God desiring a better world for the future of all life and all good. Therefore, we always pray for those most in need at Mass, to lift the needs of people so they can capture a glimpse that we believe what we proclaim, that God is here in our midst. The Real Presence is not just on the altar, but in every human life and heart.

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”

God give you peace,

Fr. Ron

Steve Handen, 1939-2021

We memorialized a spiritual giant yesterday, Steve Handen. A former priest. An advocate for life among God’s poor. With his wife and children, he offered hope to the marginalized for decades in Colorado Springs. Many service organizations in Colorado Springs bare the mark of his influence, his prophetic words, and his organizational skills.

Steve was the grandfather of the social gospel in Colorado Springs. He believed in God. He believed in people. His prophetic, yet humble voice, challenged church and city leaders. His manner exemplified his inner life. Visiting the prisoner, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless, were not just passing remarks of Jesus Christ, but Steve understood that salvation depends on how we live these commands in our society.

I so admire Steve Handen and his faith life of honest service. After the Mass yesterday, a leader of a service organization came up to me, offered me a hug, and I wept in her arms. I told her I have felt so diminished by the pandemic in my role as pastor. I felt the grief of Steve’s passing, but also the passing of the social gospel in our Church.  As I looked at the crowd in our pews, most of the people were older. I entrust the social gospel and the voice of people to God. God’s love will reveal how we care for one another. I must believe.

Tears open new doors. Our role is to continue to listen to the gospel and to learn from our prophets in our world. When grief breaks us open, new life will lead us. Goodness in God prevails. Steve’s legacy has just begun.  

Steve Handen, rest in peace.  

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time 202: Cover Art and Scripture Column

July 25, 2021

Dear Followers of Jesus,

In this passage, John 6:1-15, we encounter Jesus who offers his followers abundance. People gathered to listen to him. They were hungry. They could not find enough food on their own. Jesus takes five barley loaves and two fish and offers it all to the crowd. Everyone was filled, everyone was satisfied, everyone was nourished.

At every Sunday Mass, I look out into the congregation and ponder the many needs of our people. I know a few stories of pain, of questions, of doubt. However, God truly knows us. In the Mass, there is plenty for each of us. God feeds us in the ways in which we need to be fed.

Imagine such a miracle for your own life, God aches to feed your unique hunger. There is plenty of grace, mercy, and kindness from God to go around. We just need to enjoy our portion, in the time given us, in the moment of God’s offering.

In the Mass, the scriptures are proclaimed. We believe when they are heard, they provide grace from God. Grace is present in the breaking open of the Word. The Real Presence of Jesus is revealed in each text. The scriptures become true food. We taste the sweetness of God’s covenant with us when the gospel is proclaimed and preached. We all long for this food of the Word of God to satisfy us. All we need is a heart that aches for such food and a desire to pay attention to what God offers us.

When we approach the altar and receive the Real Presence of Christ Jesus, God is longing to nourish us with forgiveness, with mercy, with hope and with peace. We already belong to his love, and he so desires us to finally conclude that we need Him. We do not receive the Real Presence of Jesus Christ as a reward for being good. We receive communion because we are all in need of such profound mercy and tenderness. God is not stingy. God is pure gift and offers us abundance of miracles where each of us may experience the forgiveness we need. God offers us a gift of himself so to nourish each of us in the ways in which we all need Him.

In today’s gospel, the disciples thought scarcity would rule the day. They just did not have enough food for the thousands of people. Jesus had other plans. He revealed abundance to all the people. In fact, there were leftovers. People had more than enough to eat. This abundance is still present in the Eucharist itself. God’s fidelity to God’s people is revealed in this gift. We may want to put limits on how God loves us. We may believe that God has a limited amount of mercy and forgiveness. When we want to put a limit on God, we then limit our own growth, our own spiritual lives and both God and humanity becomes limit and all too small.

We live in an era where God desires us to experience such abundance for the good of the world. We are constantly challenged to explore our role in living love, forgiveness, and courage from the example of Christ Jesus. We must go deeper in our relationship with Christ if we are to meet the demands of our world. Hate, violence, and despair are not the portions of life we need to feed our children. We need to explore the depth of God’s love, a food that never ends, an abundance that is rich for the asking.

This is truly the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world.

God give you peace,

Fr. Ron

Rev. LeRoy Clementich, CSC 1924-2021

Clem died today, July 16, the 99th Anniversary of Sacred Heart Parish where he served from 1984-1993. I served with him from 1984-1987.

Clem was short in stature and a pastoral giant.

Clem first believed in Jesus Christ as a child, then lived his faith among people brought low by heartache, loneliness, and guilt. He learned in a one-room schoolhouse, then taught in universities and parishes. Clem acquired a work ethic on a North Dakota ranch, then lived out his beliefs at the altar in many sanctuaries.

He served in military discipline, then learned the flow of unappreciable pastoral life. Clem drove a yellow Volkswagen on streets and flew his favorite plane in the sky. Clem loved Texas Blue-Bells, Colorado Aspen, bird songs, and steep mountains, yet his life was firmly planted in the reality of people’s pain.  

Clem read gospel commentaries every day, then authored newspaper columns of his everyday life in Christ Jesus. Clem loved new ideas and approaches as a pastor, so to bring the gospel into greater light. Clem broke through the challenges of Vatican II and found God who loved him and the people on the edges of Church life.

Clem jogged his way to health after suffering prostate cancer. Bishop Hanifen in Colorado Springs, now 90, still remembers his 4:00am runs.  

Clem taught me to lock church doors. One Christmas he talked down a thief wielding a knife in our unlocked church who wanted to steal the money Clem was carrying. I still ask Clem for forgiveness from that moment.  

Clem laughed with us. He loved us.

Clem penned his homilies prior to Sunday, until one day he found them in his heart.  

Fr. Clem commissioned a monk to design and sew wool vestments and a local potter to create liturgical cups and plates. He believed that Jesus is revealed in human creativity and the work of human hands. I still wear those chasubles, with remembrance and love.

Clem served nine years as pastor of Sacred Heart Church in Colorado Springs. I serve in that exact position but cannot hold a candle to his leadership and influence.

Fr. Clem, rest in peace.