Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time: Bulletin Column

fullsizeoutput_e77

“The Mustard Seed,” Sketch from 2016, Ronald Raab, CSC

October 6, 2019

Dear Followers of Jesus,

In today’s gospel from Luke 17:5-10, we hear the apostles ask Jesus to increase their faith. I can imagine they were willing to receive even more than what they were experiencing. In following Jesus, their eyes were opened to the needs of people as Jesus touched the eyes of a blind man or ran after the lost sinner. They wanted desperately what he had. They wanted to ensure him that they had received the beauty of their calling.

We all desire Jesus. We all desire to follow at his invitation. So often we feel let down by our awkward unwillingness to put into practice what we desire. We know what we should do and who we should become, yet we do not participate in such grace. So we ask exactly what the disciples requested, “Increase our faith.”

Jesus reminded them that faith the size of a mustard seed is all you need. He tells the apostles that trees can be uprooted and planted into the sea if only we could really believe in the goodness of God and the richness of our calling. Today, Jesus reminds us of the same circumstances. We are in relationship with the Divine. What more could we possibly need than to rest in such faith and hope for our lives and our own outreach to people.

Faith is so unknown to us. Sometimes we think faith is showing up to church on Sunday or memorizing the Catholic catechism. We may ponder the meaning of faith and think we have it all figured out. We have it and others don’t. We live it and the outsiders can’t possibly have it. Yet real faith is nothing of these externals. Faith is a rich, profound relationship with God and our willingness to put our enter lives into the hands and wisdom of Christ Jesus.

Our faith is not something we accumulate. Faith, as it is lived, is revealed to us mostly when we let go of so much in our own human lives, when we let go of our plans, our bloated egos, and even our human attachments. Faith is a relationship that changes our attitudes toward what we own, how we use our resources, and how we live in relationship with people. Faith is not static; it is an ever-deepening awareness that we need God. Faith comes to us to move mountains and to open our hearts to God’s healing mercy, forgiveness and love. Faith is relationship with Divine love through prayer, attentiveness and reflection. Faith is a life full of grace and a heart willing to love in new and unbounded ways. Faith opens doors to people who most need the basics of life. Faith creates community and sustains our relationships. Faith is lived at tables and workplaces. Faith invites us into prayer and into service.

In today’s second reading from Timothy, we also hear that faith is strong and it is not a spirit of cowardice, but a conviction of love and hope. We don’t have to worry if we don’t have enough. Faith is not a commodity. Faith is simply a relationship with divine love and we wait for our hearts to be ablaze with such passion.

Blessings to you,

Fr. Ron

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time: Prayers of the Faithful

Version 2

Sunday September 29, 2019

Let us pray to expend our wealth of love and compassion toward all people in need. May the weak and weary at our doors be welcomed in faith and mercy.

We pray to the Lord.

Let us pray for the end of violence and hatred at the doors of our nation. May we welcome those whose lives are burdened by hatred, division and poverty.

We pray to the Lord.

Let us pray for those who thirst for a sip of water. May we learn to serve people most in need, especially people who long for the basics of life.

We pray to the Lord.

Let us pray for people facing uncertain futures, those who hear today about a new disease, those who live with unemployment, and people surviving unexpected divorce.

We pray to the Lord.

Let us pray for people who cannot surrender to God’s love. May all people who live in the pain of arrogance discover a rich faith and unbridled mercy from Christ Jesus.

We pray to the Lord.

Let us pray for our families and strangers who have died. May the miracles of heaven welcome both the deserving and undeserving. In this Mass…

We pray to the Lord.

Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time: Bulletin Column

Version 2

September 29, 2019

Dear Followers of the Master,

Today’s story from Luke 16:19-31 speaks boldly to us. The rich man remains as image of our power and prestige even today. The poor man at his door is invisible to the well-dressed man who has everything. The inability of the rich man to see, to really view the poor man is an ongoing concern in our day and society. This story is linked to our redemption in Christ Jesus.

We all struggle to see beyond our own needs. We all strive to protect what we own. We all are blind so often to the needs of people. We also struggle to view strangers as people. These ideas are imbedded in today’s gospel. In many ways, human relationships have not changed much in all these generations. The gospel story tries to change our minds about how we treat one another here on earth. Life among us looks different in Christ Jesus. Let’s open our eyes.

The tensions between rich and poor are strong. At Sacred Heart, we serve many people in the course of a week. The dedicated volunteers in our food pantry serve many folks who come to us hungry. Many of them have housing, but not the ability to make ends meet. Some of them live outside and food is always a struggle. Many people come to the parish center to attend an AA meeting. Some of them come because the court system tells them to get sober. Some people come because they can’t live with themselves another day since they have lost spouses and children and homes, jobs and health.

In my years of priesthood, I have learned many things about the tensions of those who have and those who don’t. Poverty is threatening to us. No one wants to lose jobs, careers, possessions, spouses and health. No one wants to be a “loser” in society’s eyes. However, the threat of poverty gets transferred to people and how we view other human beings.

People who have lost everything become a threat to people who have everything in their control. The rich struggle to view the poor because they are afraid they will lose everything as well. If we can bridge this gap of fear, we learn to accept people as people. This is what faith is all about. We cannot blame people for being poor. We cannot blame people for the disease of alcoholism. The notion of telling people to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps is not a reality anymore.

We need to restore our awareness of people. This is the essence of the gospel today. Jesus’ mission on earth was to restore our awareness that the lost have a home. His mission was to offer peace, forgiveness and comfort. These things are hard to come by in our world. These things are not pious rhetoric. Jesus offers us these divine gifts in order to open our eyes to the reality of people. When we fear people in poverty, we distance our selves from faith and even Christ Jesus.

Our possessions on earth are illusive. We cannot control them in the end. They can easily slip through our fingers. Our possessions do not name who we are in God. I invite you to take some time this week and reflect on your fear when you encounter a stranger, especially when the unknown person has few possessions. Can we learn from the man in purple in today’s gospel that our eyes and minds need to be opened?

In peace,

Fr. Ron

 

 

Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time: Prayers of the Faithful

Version 2

Sunday September 22, 2019

Let us pray for our leaders and guides within the Church. May they be faithful stewards of financial resources and good caretakers of people’s talents and gifts.

We pray to the Lord.

Let us pray for people who are bashful about their human talents. May we seek delight in every God-given gift under heaven.

We pray to the Lord.

Let us pray for those who look at others with judgment and blame. May we all learn to gaze into our world with hope and vitality, with peace and forgiveness.

We pray to the Lord.

Let us pray for those ashamed of their lives, those who carry heavy burdens of guilt, and those who cannot look others in the face. May healing and mercy become real for every human being under heaven.

We pray to the Lord.

Let us pray for those whose tongues speak only with arrogance. May the haughty and prideful come to terms with faith and vulnerability.

We pray to the Lord.

Let us pray for our family members and friends who have died. In this Mass…

We pray to the Lord.

 

Saint Matthew, Feast 2016

My reflection on Saint Matthew from 2016. How is God calling us into a life of hope and love for others? How is the gospel of Christ being written in our hearts and actions?

Broken But Not Divided

img_1421 “Saint Matthew” Painting: Ronald Raab, CSC

Painting: My illustration of Saint Matthew includes some of the classic images usually associated with Matthew and his role in the Church as an Apostle. First, the three coins on the left side illustrate Matthew’s old life, his livelihood. He was a tax collector and because of this profession, he was marginalized by the community. He was not trustworthy in the eyes of the people. The coins become an image of how Jesus uses our weakness or sin or past offenses to show that conversion and change is possible. The three coins also show us the value of his new call, the three images of God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Second, the wing on the right side refers to the classic symbol of the winged man or angel from Revelation that guided the hand of Matthew. In all the early paintings or…

View original post 255 more words

Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time: Bulletin Column

Version 2

CLICK here for full bulletin. We are publishing the bulletin every other week during this autumn. 

September 22, 2019

Dear Believers in the Christ,

All of life is a gift. This reality is difficult to acknowledge on many days. We all struggle to survive. We work to make sure our children have what they need and that our aging parents are comfortable. When we are stressed, we may think the entire world rests upon our shoulders. We then carry the heavy burden of other people, losing sight that all is gift to us while we are here on earth.

I love watching families interact with their children. I can see all the subtleties of love and misunderstandings, of control and compassion, of stress and sheer enjoyment. With every person comes a different personality in how we live and what we think is important in life.

From today’s gospel, Luke 16:1-13, we are given once again an opportunity to reflect upon our stewardship. Good stewardship of the gifts of the earth will lead us into becoming stewards of God’s presence in the world. We are stewards of earth and of heaven. So how can we reflect on what is given to us by God?

This first place we need to look is toward the people we love. God enjoins to us real relationships. He is offering us life and the ability to be in right relationship. God is the source of all life and all life is vital to God. I invite you to take stock of your relationships. How is God calling you into caring for those you love and but smothering them with control? How is God allowing you to live in freedom with fidelity toward people who care for you?

Our stewardship from God then reaches far and wide. We are stewards of the earth, the food we raise and the care of our natural resources. The earth is a God-given gift and our challenge is to live upon this planet caring for it for the next generations. How can be better the soil, the air, and the resources for our children and our children’s children?

We are also caretakers of human life. All life is of God. So we stand among people to help them keep their children from womb and beyond. We rush to hospitals and jail cells, from homeless shelters to school cafeterias all because we believe that life has value and that all life has meaning. We work to dismantle racism because of the true value of all human life. We work in the center of all injustice because we must rely on God to show us how incredibly beautiful life is meant to be on earth.

As Christians, we are stewards of the many gifts on earth. We do so because God has entrusted all aspects of life to us. We are caretakers so that God will show us the value of the Kingdom, where we know we shall find our place and our ultimate home.

Our true wealth is in God. May we search our hearts to protect all matters of life on earth. We cannot serve both God and mammon.

May peace flow on earth,

Fr. Ron

 

 

Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows: Prayers of the Faithful

IMG_0397

Our Lady of Sorrows: Image from Sacred Heart Church, 2018, by Ronald Raab, CSC

Sunday September 15, 2019

Our Lady of Sorrows

Let us pray for Pope Francis and all leaders of our Church. May they strive to comfort the weary and find hope for the grieving by their ministry and service.

We pray to the Lord.

Let us pray to live the example of Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows by standing next to those who suffer. May we serve others with compassion, those who live with only broken hearts.

We pray to the Lord.

Let us pray for the Congregation of Holy Cross as they celebrate their Patroness, Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows. May our priests, brothers and novices strive to lift up the poor and carry the burdens of the lost as they stand next to suffering.

We pray to the Lord.

Let us pray to bring God’s mercy to the unemployed, the ill, the hungry and the prisoner. May Our Lady of Sorrows show us how to live our faith in daily life.

We pray to the Lord.

Let us pray to stand among people who face uneasy questions of life. May our search for faith bring us new hope for all people on earth. Let us work for clean water, adequate housing and available health care.

We pray to the Lord.

Let us pray for our beloved dead. May we learn from Our Lady of Sorrows who held the wounds and death of her son, Jesus. In this Mass…

We pray to the Lord.

Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows: Sunday September 15, 2019, Bulletin column and painting

fullsizeoutput_14cb

Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows, Painting by: Ronald Raab, CSC, 2018

September 15, 2019

Dear Followers of the Crucified,

Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows, offers us a tender image of faith. Mary, the Mother of Jesus, stood next to the cross of Jesus. Zachariah foreshadowed such a death after Jesus’ birth. Mary spent her entire life lifting up the suffering of Jesus. She was unable to change the course of Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection. She beheld for the rest of us that pain and suffering leads us to Kingdom love. Her motherhood gives hope even today.

I have lived my priesthood deepening this image of Mary in prayer. She speaks to me. She consoles me. This image offers me a healing balm when my own life is unsteady and unsure. She speaks loudly across the generations. All mothers seem to understand such a place and posture in their lives with their children.

I remember as a child my own mother coming to the bathroom in the middle of night when I was sick. She held my forehead. I still hold such a gesture in my heart. This was truly a mother’s place in the course of raising a child. I can still feel her hand on me when I am ill today.

Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows, is the Patroness of the Congregation of Holy Cross. She gives us consolation and helps us witness to the suffering of people. At Sacred Heart Church, there are several images of pierced heart of Mary with seven swords. The Seven Sorrows in the gospel reveals the many times Mary witnessed the suffering of her son.

I cling to the image that Mary stood next to suffering. This has become one of my sure foundations for ministry. I claim this posture in my priesthood when I anoint a child who is dying or steady my thumb to anoint a dying parishioner who I know has given his or her entire life to raising children and believing in Jesus.

I remember my twenty years of ministry among people with HIV/AIDS. In those early years, it was the mothers who would reach out me to pray with their child. The mothers wanted the best for their child who was suffering, especially when they felt so powerless because there was no remedy or cure. I have walked with many mothers to the graves of their children. They not only rely on Mary for help but also have become such witnesses in our world.

I pray for our children sleeping on concrete at our boarders, perhaps we can go beyond the political and see them as Mary views them. Perhaps we can see again our children being trafficked around the world. We can really see the mothers and daughters who survive the violence of war or the starvation from poverty.

Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows, is not a pietistic notion of faith, but she is a real model for how to live our lives in Christ Jesus. She becomes a radical mother bringing mercy and tenderness to lives when suffering cannot be changed. She could not fix Jesus. She could not take his pain away. However, she gives us the joy of putting our faith into practice among the vulnerable and lonely.

Lean into the mystery of Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows,

Fr. Ron