Become What You Eat. May 29, 2016

We Catholics believe deeply that at every celebration of the Eucharist, the bread and wine are transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ. This core teaching and belief has been given to the church by Christ, Himself, but for a distinct purpose that is frequently lost or forgotten. When the multitude of people needed to be fed with a minuscule amount of available food, Christ makes it clear the he wants THEM (US) to feed everyone with leftovers to spare. Of course, Christ is the power that multiplied loaves, fishes and love. But WE are the instruments. WE become Christ. 

Christ “feeds” the hungry multitudes through OUR humanity. We, ourselves, must also be transformed by the Eucharist, which is what is often missing in liturgical spirituality. We are called to become what we eat, so that we can feed people a rich diet of compassion, kindness, humility and justice. How much the world needs the multiplication of these beautiful realities that build up a world in which all people have a place at the Table…and are fed until satisfied. 
We kneel and genuflect before the Blessed Sacrament so that we may kneel in humility before the poor: “that which you to the least of my people you do to ME.” May we Catholics become what we eat…the entire foundation and purpose of the Eucharist. 

Peace. Fr. Frank 

Be A Human Candle. May 25, 2016

A  spiritual writer wrote a beautiful description of St. Bede the Venerable, today’s Saint : “Bede was a human candle of the Church…lit by the light of the Holy Spirit.” What a great image: a “human candle,” whose light draws others to the God of  Light. Every act of compassion, justice and mercy is like a light shining in the darkness of loneliness and sadness. 

Wherever you are, see yourself as a human candle, being a “light” for others. The light of the Holy Spirit shines within your heart, which is  where God dwells. Let others see that “light” through your words and actions. To borrow words from Jesus, don’t light the candle only to put a bushel basket over it, which only extinguishes the light. Let your light shine for all to see. Let’s stop living under a bushel basket: it’s hot and doesn’t smell very well. 

Peace. Fr. Frank 

Following Jesus Isn’t Easy. May 23, 2016

The rich man in the gospel had no idea what was coming, he just wanted to know what more  he needed to do to  inherit external life. He followed the Commandments in their entirety, not  very challenging, since  most people follow those 10 Laws anyhow. Jesus is calling the rich man, and each one of us, to a higher purpose and ideal. We are to sell, or let go of, those possessions or attitudes that control how we live our lives. 

The man in the gospel had no idea what was coming, when Jesus told him what that extra thing he needed to do to inherit eternal life was: sell all his possessions and give to the poor. He walked away very sad, for his possessions possessed him. 

Following the Law is just the beginning of discipleship, not the end result. We are called to living the Beatitudes, a lifestyle of self sacrifice and concern for the other. What is it that each one of us needs to “sell off,” or let go of, to live in the Kingdom? Perhaps I need to let go of my judgements, the need to control, jealous attitudes, pessimism, apathy or self righteousness. For some of us, maybe it is cutting back on spending money and buying things. Selling everything we have is not a ready made answer for most of us to follow, unless you are specifically called by God to a life of volunteer poverty. Let’s face it, the vast majority of us are NOT called to such a life. 

But we are called to an INNER poverty that demands letting go of any and all attitudes and values that do not make us utterly dependent on God. Living the Sermon on the Mount, literally,  which begins with the beatitudes, is much more painful than selling all of our possessions. A gospel lifestyle is so much more challenging, and rewarding, than just following the Law. Jesus is gazing at YOU in love, just as he gazed at the rich man in love, gently  telling you what it is that you , in your own life,  must do to inherit everlasting life. His words will not be easy to hear…they rarely are. 

I believe the rich man went home and began to sell his possessions, one by one, very slowly, perhaps taking a lifetime. God takes us where we are at. 

Peace. Fr. Frank

Let The Children Come To Me. May 21, 2016

“Let the children come t0 me,”says theLordin today’s gospel. The disciples were trying to prevent the children from “bothering” Jesus, since children in their culture  were not seen in a positive light. They were not embraced and cherished as we do in our own culture and times. Jesus was overturning a deeply entrenched mindset, certainly causing many to raise their eyebrows. 

It seems that Jesus relishes in challenging prevailing customs and norms. He certainly pushed the envelope in his relationship with women. By embracing and blessing the children in the gospel, that envelope was pushed again. 

The church of our own day must not hinder the children but must follow Jesus’ example and welcome children at Mass, not frown when they fidget in the pews, be examples to them, not only in church, but in the home, the neighborhood, and on the ball field. Our children NEED us to pass on the faith, which is what the word “tradition ” means and to create a healthy religious culture. Our children need families and parents to lead them and guide them in a gospel way of life. Our children need to be protected from all people and situations that would cause them harm. 

In every child, from the unborn to those about to leave for college, may we see a bright future and the face of Christ. 

Peace. Fr. Frank

The Patience of Job. May 20, 2016

Job is that familiar character in the Bible known for the immense suffering he endured: losing his children, possessions and good health. He had to face the worst tragedies life can bring, and yet remain hopeful. Job rightly refused to believe that he deserved any of these horrible realities due to his sinfulness. And he made is frustrations known to God. 

What kind of a God would perposefully cause a child to die to “get back” at a parent for their own indiscretions? This past week I encountered two families who had to bury a child in their early 20’s. Horrible. The God revealed by Jesus weeps with these families. God does not intervene to prevent suffering and illness, a great mystery for every human being. But if God intervened for one innocent person, why stop intervening for every human being suffering?

We endure the painful realities of life not understanding why they happen, but living through the suffering they cause. The Cross is the ultimate symbol, not of death,  but of the triumph of life. Resurrection always has the final word.  Through patient endurance you will find life, so the Scriptures say. Through patient endurance,  Job discovered new life: a new home, new children and  a new family. And the children he lost…he would encounter as he breathed his last, alive and well. 

Peace. Fr. Frank 

The Greatest Prayer. May 16, 2016

In the gospel today, the desperate father of the boy possessed by an unclean spirit, pleads to Jesus, “I do believe but help my unbelief.” The most beautiful prayer uttered in the gospel: short, simple and so true. When we are in the midst of something beyond our power to change, we realize how helpless we are…totally dependent on God. We also realize, deep down, that our faith is tenuous and wavering. 

That simple prayer asking God to help his unbelief showed that man rooted in humility. Humility, the mother of all virtue, is the compass that guides us and leads us through life. Knowing who we REALLY are, a mixture of the good and not so good, is the foundation of wisdom, a gift of the Holy Spirit. When we walk with clay feet, our feet planted firmly on mother earth with each step, our prayer is so beautifully simple and oh so true. “I do believe but help my unbelief,” is the kind of prayer that transforms the human heart, so that we can  “act justly and walk humbly with the Lord.”

Peace. Fr. Frank

Refugee Ministry. May, 13, 2016

On Tuesday , May 17, I will be gathering with volunteers who will be organizing efforts to help a refugee family. We meet at 7:00 pm to discuss the various issues, concerns and concrete details in the area of planning. We are will be helping a family from a different culture and country become acclamated to a new city and way of life. In all likelihood, these individuals will not speak English, which will challenge us to discover creative ways of communication while they learn English. 

A refugee is leaving their country of birth, giving up a familiar culture, language and way of life, due to poverty and violence. They see the U.S.  as a place of “refuge” where they will hopefully have new opportunities and freedoms to live their lives with meaning and purpose. 

“I was a stranger and you welcomed me,” teaches Jesus. 

Another note: Catholic Charities and Refugee Outreach  has asked us to collect packages of disposable diapers for boys and girls in all sizes. There is a serious need for diapers. Please help if you are able and bring them to any Mass you will be attending. If you like, you can place them near the altar in the baskets or plastic storage cartons provided during the Presentation of the Gifts. During this time if the Mass, we take up the Collection and “present” the bread and wine to be transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ. Why not present food for the poor, shoes for the undocumented and diapers for babies, along with, the symbols that are at the heart of the Eucharist, bread and wine?

The Mass is all about the transformation of our hearts. 

Peace. Fr. Frank 

The Liacs ¬†of the Field. May 12, 2016

I’m visiting a friend in Lombard , a western suburb of Chicago, who lives one block from Lilacia Park, arrayed with thousands of lilacs. Yes, Lombard is the land of the lilacs, the official flower of this part of the world. They even have a parade in honor of this beautiful, but delicate,  flower. 

Jesus used the beautiful image of the lilies of the field to illustrate a powerful  truth: not even the magnificence and glory of King Solomon can possibly compare with the beauty of this simply flower. At the heart of this image of the lilies  is another beautiful truth: the lilies do nothing to achieve their beauty…they simply ARE beautiful because that’s how God made them. And so are WE: our beauty is a beauty that runs deep within, to the center of of our beings. Skin-deep beauty is fleeting, like lilies and lilacs, which last barely through Spring. 

Our bodies look less and less beautiful on the outside as we age, another simple, sobering truth. But our inner beauty never fades, it becomes  more vibrant and distinctive. And yet our physical bodies, not just our souls, are an eternal part of our identity and personhood. When souls  and bodies come together in the Resurrection of the Dead, we will be able to once again embrace and laugh and dance in a field of lilacs and lilies that never fade our die…What a glorious destiny we have. No need to worry about anything.

A soul without a transformed body is an angel, of sorts, not a human being. We  can’t dance or embrace without our bodies. Another glorious truth. 

Peace. Fr. Frank

Red Licorice . May 11,2016

As I was rushing down Michigan Avenue yesterday, I reached State street and turned. As I was briskly walking down State Street, umbrella in hand to keep me from getting drenched, I heard a tiny voice, “Could you help me.” I continued walking but that voice followed me. I stopped and reached in the front, right pocket of my jeans and pulled out two 20’s and a 10. What would you do, given that there were other people down that same street gently saying, “Help me?” Do I give to every person on the street who calls out in need or do I sheepishly walk by? And when should I just give that twenty dollar bill away?  “Well, we can’t help everyone,” is the voice of reason but is it the voice of the gospel? We all do whatever we can and must not judge the other who might respond differently. 

I did respond by remembering how much I love red licorice. I walked in the Walgreens at the corner of Michigan and State, purchased a little package of red licorice and then I had plenty of smaller bills, making it easier to respond to the voices of God reaching my ears. Paul says in today’s reading that it is more blessed to give than to receive. True, but we all receive something back every time we give. That little package of licorice was a sweet reminder of how much I receive when I give…when I am not deaf to the cries of the poor. 

God reached my heart through a package of licorice.  We connect with God in countless ways, simple unassuming ways, if only we become aware of the connection. God even uses licorice. 

Peace. Fr. Frank

Holy Spirit: O Comforter, O Disturber. May 10,2016

When we pray to the Holy Spirit we expect to be comforted, inspired and encouraged. But St. Paul says clearly in today’s reading from Acts that the Spirit led him to other towns and countries, and in these journeys, he frequently was met with rejection, beatings and imprisonment. We forget that the Spirit comforts us when needed and discomforts us when necessary. “I have come not to bring peace but the sword,” Jesus teaches, in a verse that certainly makes us very uncomfortable. 

Today we celebrate the Feast of St. Peter of Molokai ( 1849-1889), the Hawaiian island that was a refuge for lepers. Yes, they were “refugees” finding in that island a place of security and refuge from societies rooted in Christianity that banished them out of fear. Peter Damien was quite comfortable in his religious community and in his priesthood. The Holy Spirit compelled him to volunteer to go to this dreaded place, knowing that he most likely would contract the disease. The Spirit disturbed his inner peace and led him to Molokai. He proclaimed the gospel not in words but by bandaging wounds and limbs that were rotting…by loving and not fearing these human beings…by being the face, the eyes, the hands, the heart of Christ. 

How might the Holy Spirit be making you uncomfortable? Let each of us NOT be afraid to ask this question,  and most importantly, to respond in action. This way of divine discomfort always leads to inner peace and new life. 

Peace. Fr. Frank