Images by Professional Photographer, Rusty Kern, May 23, 2018
Images by Rusty Kern: May 23, 2018
Here is a link to my latest article in The Priest Magazine from June 2018.
Come, Holy Spirit, Come!
Today, the gospel takes us into the land of fearlessness. Jesus appears behind locked doors and offers the disciples peace. Calm and tenderness fall upon them. The doors open and their hearts have hope. The Church is born.
Today, fear meets the Holy Spirit. Our hearts carry the same, fear and Spirit. Today, let us recognize that within us is born something new where hope and love create a home.
Faith is an art form. The complete, sin-free, structured, organized Church did not fall from the sky. The Church is human and divine. We all must grapple with how we pass on faith, how we live hope in our world, how we design service to the poor and how art reflects our worship and praise. We put one step forward in each generation because we are co-creators with God. The Church is based on our ability to be creative, prayerful people.
I received a letter from a California prisoner this week. He read my article in Give Us This Day about creativity and art. He explained to me that he has found new skills and talents behind bars. His life is full of art and he is now teaching art to other prisoners and invites other artists to help him. He is the Church behind bars. His fear has met the Holy Spirit.
Pope Francis in an interview last week said, “An artist is an apostle of beauty.” Our creative lives, our self-expressions, our true voices in the world, all come from the Holy Spirit. We are caretakers of hope, we are instruments of the beauty of faith, we are doers of peace, making us all artists of the Divine.
Holy Spirit, free us from fear. Unlock our jaws so we may give you praise. Free our creativity so we may all bring forth hope and love in our world. Holy Spirit, bring fire to our souls, energy to our faith and strength to our voices of worship.
Come, Holy Spirit, Come!
Dear Followers of Christ Jesus,
The Solemnity of Pentecost concludes the Easter Season. During Lent and Easter we have been exploring and celebrating the foundations of our faith, Jesus’ Paschal Mystery, that is his passion, death and resurrection. Within Easter we renewed our commitments of baptism, to follow the path of Jesus leading to eternal life.
Pentecost pushes us out of this reflective nest. This is the birthday of the Church. We are to live what we have been celebrating all during these seasons. We are to live the mission of the Church that includes being people of fearlessness, hope and compassion. We are to live with beauty, integrity and imagination. Trust must outweigh fear in all areas of our lives.
In John 20:19-23, Jesus speaks a word of peace. We become such authentic believers where the peace of Christ is our true identity. We celebrate this peace in Pentecost and work diligently to implement this gospel value.
This is the same gospel we proclaimed on the Second Sunday of Easter, the first week after Easter. Thomas was not present when Jesus first appeared behind locked doors. Now it is our role to probe the mystery of the wounded Christ and to proclaim such a belief to others. The Spirit was given to the disciples in John’s gospel in this moment of fear. We too have inherited such a gift of the Holy Spirit in our baptism. The Holy Spirit does not fade or dull.
The Holy Spirit does not decrease in time or purpose. The Holy Spirit does not seek out favorites or give extra to the privileged. There is no golden age of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit was not more present to the disciples than to us. The Holy Spirit invites us into mercy and forgiveness, into truth and integrity. The Holy Spirit is alive! The Church is alive!
In the celebration of Pentecost I invite you to ask for what you need. I am not kidding. Pentecost is the real thing. We must ask the Holy Spirit for what we need with complete vulnerability and purpose. We should look around our world, our nation and our families and ask for the big stuff such as peace, lasting respect among all people, food for all the hungry and hope for every soul. Today in this solemn celebration we ask for the Holy Spirit that enlivens our souls, restores our integrity, and gives us energy to live with mutual respect and harmony.
We celebrate our last Masses in the Parish Center this weekend at Sacred Heart. It has been a rich experience celebrating all of our seasons and sacraments in this way. I want to thank you all for your patience and your ability to adjust our prayer. I know it has not been easy for some. However, we have waited patiently for something incredible! Please know of my prayer for all of you as we celebrate the dedication of our renovated church and move lovingly into our future!
Blessings in the Holy Spirit,
Dear Believers in Christ Jesus,
Mark 16:15-20 sets the stage for a very intense and interesting feast day. We celebrate the Ascension of Jesus to make ready for the great feast of Pentecost next weekend. Before Jesus leaves the earth he tells his disciples to go forth with vigor to baptize and heal. This passage is overwhelming to us in our day since we do not drink deadly poison or pick up serpents with our hands. Even healing the sick seems unimaginable.
However, Jesus is inviting his disciples to live fearlessly in the world. We are not only called to baptize and bring people to God, but we are also called to work for the common good. How do we interpret driving out demons and carrying serpents and drinking poison today? How might Jesus be calling us into such a mystery of fearlessness today? Here are some ideas:
Jesus, help us acknowledge the serpent of division and separateness. Help us live in the middle where healing can happen in the center and chaos of political divides, hatred and hopelessness.
Jesus, help us live in the tenderness of your healing when we are faced with false power and greed. Help us on earth to understand that you are the real gift of healing and hope in our world. False power, our own power, is a mighty serpent that always comes back to bite us.
Jesus, help us calm the world of racism. Only you can heal our divisions when we build up walls of violence and feel superior to others, when we separate ourselves from the issues of war, hunger and race. Help us to pick up these deadly things to find healing for us all.
Jesus, help us go deeper into your command to spread good news. Help our divisions and labels today of conservative and liberal, of rich and poor, of young and old, of clergy and lay, of men and women, and help us realize that we are baptized into your name and you are our true identity.
Jesus, help us look for signs and wonders of your love. We are devastated by issues that take life away such as divorce, abortion, violence, mass shootings, lack of health care and homelessness. Help us lift up people who need us and help us not to be afraid of the issues of the world. Only in our world do we find your grace, your mercy and your call to reach beyond our own lives. Jesus, help us learn from our past mistakes such as clergy crimes of abuse and power. Help us lift up such serpents of violence and help us find a way toward forgiveness.
Jesus, help us find you at our dinner tables to break down the family fears of sharing our lives and faith. The serpents in our households of jealousy, selfishness and misunderstanding keep us from receiving your intimacy toward us. Help us preach with our silence and our words, with our gestures and our compassion. Help us preach with our integrity and our work toward justice. Our greatest work in the Church is to recognize faith is for people’s lives, all people.
Dear Believers in the Risen Christ,
In today’s gospel, John 15:9-17, Jesus speaks of the love of God as the bonding agent between himself and his disciples. This model of love for the faithful disciples is unconditional and limitless. We live in this same bond, the love of God for each of us.
Remaining in God’s love is our lifelong journey. As followers of Jesus we surrender to such love especially in this Easter season. However, we sometimes lose our way. We often prefer our own self-sufficiency, our own power and our own authority. Living in this bond of faithfulness and kindness is never easy when our human desires remain so strong.
This past weekend we brought a class of young children to the Eucharistic Table for the first time. Their First Communion is a way we pass on to our offspring the love of God. We stood in awe as they received Christ’s Body and Blood for the first time in their lives. However, their communion is just beginning. As a Christian community, we are all responsible for passing on faith. We pass on good decision-making, a kind heart, authentic prayer and ways to work for justice. We teach our children how to live with love and kindness, how to sort through daily suffering, how to reach out to others with hope and healing, how to learn more about the Church and how to have a deep relationship with God. Remaining in God’s love means that we learn how to pass on our faith to the next generation.
This coming weekend, Bishop Richard Hanifen will celebrate the sacrament of Confirmation for another class of our young people. The gifts of the Holy Spirit will be confirmed on these students. They will be strengthened by the Holy Spirit so to live in our complicated world. The Holy Spirit brings courage, strength, fortitude, knowledge, piety, wisdom and fear of the Lord. We are grateful for our young people and their willingness to remain connected to Christ Jesus.
Jesus says to us that if we remain in his love, we also will bear fruit. The fruit of faith is the source of real justice for others. We learn to bear the mystery of Jesus’ love and then are compelled to offer such love to others. We learn how to respect all matters of life. We learn to work for food and shelter and education for our poor, and we work for the sick and the lonely and the orphan— all because of the love of God.
Here are some questions to consider this week:
1. How can you support our next generation in faith and service?
2. How can you offer your voice to others who wait for love and acceptance?
3. What does “remain in his love” mean for you?
4. How do you live out Jesus’ command to “love one another?
Peace to you,
Dear Followers of the Risen Christ,
On this Fifth Sunday of Easter, John 15:1-8, offers us an image of remaining connected the Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection. Easter hope is deep within us and our connection to Jesus’ resurrection remains from our baptism and the grace of the Holy Spirit. Jesus calls himself the true vine. We remain deeply connected to his life of mercy, love and forgiveness even when we feel cut off from such a gift. We remain connected to the source of life even though Jesus is not physically among us.
In this Easter season, we all see the beauty of new life within the Church. We welcome the new sprouts of life in our children and adults born again in baptism. We celebrate First Communion with our young people so that they can be connected and nourished on the vine of love throughout their lives. We are all inspired by our students allowing the gifts of the Holy Spirit to be given them in the sacrament of Confirmation. New life buds forth in our sacramental life in the Church in these Easter days.
Sometimes as we grew older, we feel less of springtime. From my pastoral experience, I am aware that many people do not feel connected to Jesus when life takes a turn. They site their misfortunes or their inabilities to live a suitable life in the eyes of the Church as examples of dying on the vine. They believe that their choices in life determine whether or not they belong in God. So many people put the blame on themselves that God could not possibly love them and that Jesus could not possibly be for them, since everyone tells them that they are cut off from the Christian family because of sin and doubt, selfishness and greed, and apathy and not feeling good enough to be loved in the first place.
However, we do not make the decisions about whether we belong or not to God. God is the decision maker. I suggest in this Easter season that we cling to the vine of God’s love for us and continue to search for the beauty and hope that rises up within us no matter what happens. Easter makes all things new in the spiritual life. Christ’s resurrection heals sin and division and helps us live in the tensions of life. Easter casts light and hope on our lives when we feel we have been stunted by our inabilities to thrive in prayer and in life.
My heart breaks for people who have given up on God and on themselves. In these Easter days, we need to listen again to this gospel, “ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.” I want to live deeply connected in that message for all of us. Jesus, the vine, is our gladness, our joy, our way of life and our hope for tomorrow.
Easter blessings and deep peace,