The most difficult times can produce the greatest spiritual blessings. God truly knows just what we need at every moment!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

18 Sunday in Ordinary Time
Ecclesiastes 1:2, 2:21–23; Colossians 3:1–5, 9–11; Luke 12:13–21

Years ago a Chicago restaurant had specially printed place mats at all its tables. The mats were designed exclusively for the restaurant. And if you asked the waitress, she’d give you one to take home, frame, and hang on your wall. Let me share with you the wording that appeared on those mats. It went something like this:

“In 1923 an important meeting took place at Chicago’s Edgewater Beach Hotel.

Attending the meeting were the following men:

· the president of the largest steel company,
· the president of the largest utility company,
· the president of the largest gas company,
· the president of the New York Stock Exchange,
· the president of the Bank of International Settlements,
· the greatest wheat speculator,
· the greatest bear on Wall Street,
· the head of the world’s greatest monopoly,
· a member of President Harding’s cabinet.

That’s a pretty impressive lineup of people. Yet, 25 years later, where were those nine industrial giants?
According to the story on the place mat,

· the president of the largest steel company, Charles Schwab, died bankrupt;
· the president of the largest utility company, Samuel Insull, died penniless;
· the president of the largest gas company, Howard Hobson, had gone insane;
· the president of the New York Stock Exchange, Richard Whitney, was just released from prison;
· the bank president, Leon Fraser, died a suicide;
· the wheat speculator, Arthur Cutten, died penniless;
· the Wall Street bear, Jesse Livermore, died a suicide;
· the head of the world’s greatest monopoly, Ivar Kruegar, died a suicide;
· the member of President Harding’s cabinet, Albert Fall, was just given a pardon from prison so that he could die at home.

That story dramatizes -as few stories can- the point behind today’s Scripture readings.
And what is that point?
It is summed up perfectly in Jesus’ parable of the foolish farmer.

Contrary to what some people think, in this parable Jesus isn’t knocking the acquisition of wealth. He isn’t knocking private enterprise. What he is knocking is the foolish idea that some people have of placing greater importance on laying up material treasures than on laying up spiritual treasures.
How does one calculate one’s wealth? Usually we calculate it by checking how much we have, but the saints tell us we should calculate it by checking how much we have given away.

“You fool! This very night you will have to give up your life.”

No serious person can read today’s Scripture readings without asking the question: “What have I done with my life?

Saturday, July 24, 2010

17th Ordinary Sunday - “C”

In today’s Gospel from St. Luke we see that Jesus was in a certain place praying and when He had finished one of His disciples said “Lord, teach us to pray.

Obviously they were watching Him pray and were impressed because they waited until He had finished before the one disciple asked the question.

He said to all of them “Say this when you pray:”

Our Father, who art in Heaven, Hallowed be thy name, Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen

That is the modern day version of the “Our Father”. As we say it today. The modern version captivates the prayer more or less as Jesus said it according to St. Matthew - which really is just a longer version of the prayer we heard in today’s gospel from St. Luke.

The “Our Father” is the first and greatest of all Christian prayers because not only does it come from God Himself but also it’s short and simple phrases pretty well embraces every relationship between us and our God.

It not only tells us what to pray for, but also tells us how to pray for it.

Properly understood, this wonderful prayer of the ”Our Father” contains in it all that we should know to live our lives in Christ.

If we were to live up to everything that it contains, we would be perfectly in tune with the mind of Christ, because there can be no doubt that that is how He Himself prayed and lived.

The first part of the “Our Father” deals with God.

We acknowledge God's existence and call Him 'Father'’ because that is what Jesus called Him. God is neither male nor female.

However, God is a parent to us, and we are His children. Sometimes He acts like a father, and sometimes He acts like a mother.

Then we praise His name. In praising His name we praise Him.

We pray for the coming of His kingdom - a kingdom of truth and life, holiness and grace, justice, love, and peace. We have a part to play in making His kingdom a reality.

We pray that His will may be done on earth. 'On earth' means that His will be done in our lives too. God's will may not always be the easiest thing to do, but it is always the best thing.

The second part deals with us and with our needs.

We begin by praying for our daily bread. 'Bread' stands for all of our material needs. All the things that we need for that day because all that we really need in our lives is really just enough for today.

We pray for forgiveness for our own sins, and for the grace to be able to forgive those who sin against us. We need to remember that our inability to forgive others makes it impossible for us to receive forgiveness from God.

We pray also not to be led into temptation. God does not put temptation in our path but our ordinary daily life does.

And then again we ourselves sometimes walk into tempta­tion all on our own.

And so we ask God to help us to cope with the temptations that simply come to us, and also to avoid those temptations we choose of our own free will.

Finally, we pray that Our Father will deliver us from all evil, both moral and physical. We can't expect that we would never encounter evil.

But what we are asking God for is the grace to be victorious over all evil that comes our way, most especially moral evil.

We notice that the whole of the Our Father is spoken in plural terms. We say “Our” instead of “My”. This shows us that we are really one family under God and states our belief that there can be no salvation for us independent of others.

In the last part of the parable Jesus says “Ask and it will be given to you.”

“Search, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you. For the one who asks, always receives.”

“The one who knocks will always have the door opened to him. The one who searches, always finds.”

Ah, we say. I have prayed and prayed and asked and I did not receive.

I have searched and searched and I have not found. I have knocked and knocked but the door stayed closed.

In fact I have begged and begged the Father and still I did not get what I wanted.

So how can Jesus say “Ask and it will be given you”?

Jesus answers this question with another question.

“What Father among you would hand his son a stone when he asked for bread?

Or hand him a snake instead of a fish? Or hand him a scorpion instead of an egg?

How often in our own lives we have refused our own children what they have asked for because as parents we knew that it was not the best thing for them.

How do they react when we do that?

Jesus is saying that God always answers prayer.

However, sometimes we do not receive that which we have asked for even though it seems to us perfectly obvious that what we are asking for (it seems to us) to be exactly what we figure we need.

But, only God knows the future and it is now that we need to increase our trust in Him.

We should not react like a spoiled child in anger because we God does not always answer our prayers in the manner in which we would want Him to.

God always answers prayers. We need to submit ourselves to His will when our prayers seem not to have been answered. We need to trust in Him. God knows best.

When it seems that God is not answering our prayers we need to conform our will to the Father’s will for us.

We need to ask for the grace to submit to God’s will for our lives.

We need to ask for the Holy Spirit to manifest Himself in our lives.

Because Jesus said “If you who are evil, know how to give your children what is good, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!

When we pray we need to mean what we say.

When we pray we need to mean “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

For the Kingdom, the power and the glory are yours, now and forever, Amen.

Deacon Bernie Ouellette

Saturday, July 17, 2010

July 22, 2010 Sixteenth Sunday of the year C

Genesis 18:1-10; Colossians 1:24-28; Luke 10:38-42


The well-known Benedictine motto is: Ora et labora - Pray and Work.

A Benedictine monk was transporting people from one side of the river to the other. On his oars he had written pious inscriptions: on one “ora” - pray, on the other one “labora” – work. One day an atheist came asking for a ride to the other side of the river. Seeing the inscription on the oars he started to challenge and contest the word “ora” – pray, asking: “What is the need to pray? That is stupid and useless; it’s a wasting of time and energy."

The boat was in the middle of the river, so the monk broke the oar with the inscription ora/pray, and the second one with the inscription labora/work he gave to the atheist telling him: “Now, try to paddle the boat towards the shore." We can imagine what happened. Is it not the same in our lives? Have we forgotten that our lives also have two paddles … ora et labora?

How often we forget about the oar ora – about the prayer? And we are surprise that our life is messy, that it doesn’t work.

Jesus in today’s Gospel tries to remind us just about this, about a necessity of prayer. Otherwise your life is empty or at least half full.

Do we live a balanced life? Do we live the life of balance between hearing and doing, praying and working; do we live a calm, quiet and purposeful activity? Or rather we are struggling and trying to achieve something only by our own forces and means, forgetting that with only one ore we will turn around and achieve nothing?

Monday, July 12, 2010

03-04 July - 15th Sunday of Ordinary Time 2010 - Cycle C

Introduction: With the example of the Good Samaritan, Jesus teaches us to recognize our neighbor in need.
Penitential rite:
Lord Jesus, whoever sees you sees the Father, Lord, have mercy
Christ Jesus, you are the first and the last, Lord, have mercy
Lord Jesus, you are the vine that bears fruit. Lord, have mercy
May Almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and brig us to everlasting life. Amen.


“Why didn’t I turn?” A woman was standing on a curb, waiting for the light to say WALK so that she could cross the street. Directly across from her on the opposite curb was a girl of about 17. She too was waiting for the light to say WALK so that she could cross the street. The woman couldn’t help but notice that the girl was crying. In fact, her grief was so great that she made no effort to hide it. For a moment their eyes met. It was only a fleeting glance, but it was enough for the woman to see the terrible pain that filled the girl’s eyes. Then the girl looked away. At that moment the light changed. Each stepped off the curb into the street and started across. As the girl approached, the woman could see that she was quite pretty, except for that terrible grief in her face. Just as they were about to meet, the woman’s motherly instincts came rushing to the surface. Every part of her wanted to reach out and comfort that girl. The desire was all the more great because the girl was about the same age as one of her own daughters. But the woman passed her by. She didn’t even greet her. She just passed her by. Hours later the pain-filled eyes of that girl continued to haunt the woman. Over and over the woman said to herself, “Why didn’t I turn, fall in step with her, and say, ‘Honey, can I help?’ But I didn’t. I walked on by. Sure, she might have rejected me and thought me a nosey person. But, so what! “Only a few seconds would have been lost, but those few seconds would have been enough to let her know that someone cared. But, instead, I walked on by. I acted as if she didn’t even exist.’’

Who is my neighbor? The Letter of James says, "faith without good works is dead". Today's Gospel story is a case in point. It is one of the most famous stories told by Jesus. There are four people. There is a priest, who is a Jew and, besides, a man of deep religious convictions. There is a Levite, also a Jew, and also a religious person and a member of the priestly caste. There is a Samaritan, whom we only know as some kind of merchant. We know nothing about his religious convictions (although in those days a totally non-religious person would be rare); it seems that his religious faith is irrelevant to the story. Finally, there is a fourth person lying severely injured on the road. Who is this person? What was he by profession? We think of him mostly likely as another Jew, otherwise the point of the other Jews passing by loses some of its force. But he could have been a Samaritan, or another priest, or another Levite, or someone else altogether... As far as the story goes, it is totally irrelevant what labels could be attached to him. The only thing that matters is that here is a human person who is deeply in need of help. In such a situation, the response to be given is perfectly clear. Forget about your own ambitions, or what other people will think about you. Forget about your personal desires and fears which lock you into a kind of prison.

Forget about your "religious" obligations. Were the priest and the Levite on the way to the Temple in Jerusalem? If so, they could not risk coming in physical contact with the injured man if, as was most likely, he was bleeding. Contact with blood would have rendered them "unclean" and prevented them from carrying out their Temple obligations. "I know you have broken your leg and need an ambulance but, sorry, I will be late for Mass. But if you are still here when I get back..."

Forget about the moral condition of the person to be helped. It is again totally irrelevant to the story how the injured man got into this situation. He may have been quite stupid to be traveling alone along a road that was notorious for robberies and hijackings. He might even have been a highwayman who had been beaten up by those he intended to rob!

For Jesus, in telling this story, none of these considerations mattered. What did matter was that this injured man now had a higher priority than the concerns of the other three. But only one of the three others - and he was a despised, non-believing outsider - responded to the injured man's immediate and urgent need. Yet one is given the impression that the Samaritan was the one most likely to be in a hurry. However, not only did he break his journey to apply first aid, he even went out of his way to bring the man to a hostelry where he could rest and recover. He paid the expenses as well.

Today's story has very practical implications. And, once again, let us remind ourselves that Jesus is not giving a "religious" teaching for an elite minority. He is telling all of us how to be truly human. It is the way all people are called to behave towards each other. As the First Reading puts it, this Law is "not in heaven... nor is it beyond the seas" outside our reach. No, "it is very near to you, it is in your mouth and in your heart for your observance". In other words, Jesus is calling us, not to be some kind of unnatural super-being, but to be true to the deepest convictions of our own nature.

‘It’s none of my business.’ Some years ago, a magazine carried an article. It was entitled “Why Should I Get Involved?”

One day the journalist boarded a subway train. Inside the car, a young man about 18 was holding the center post. Across from him sat a young woman. At 50th Street the train slowed to a stop. The young woman headed for the door. Suddenly she began hitting the boy and screaming, “You fresh punk!” The astonished boy threw up his arms in defense. In doing so, he must have hit her face, because her mouth began bleeding. She shouted, “Police! Police!”. In panic the boy ran from the car. The girl ran after him, still shouting.

The journalist sat stunned. He had witnessed the whole thing. The boy had done nothing. The girl had falsely accused him. At that point, The journalist wondered what would happen if the boy got caught. When The journalist got to his office, he couldn’t get the incident out of his mind. Finally, he picked up the phone and called the nearest precinct.

The boy had been caught and sent downtown to Juvenile Court. He was told that the boy’s name was Steve and that a lawyer named Fleary would be representing him.

The following Monday, the journalist showed up for the court case. The lawyer briefed him. There was bad news. A few years back the boy had been picked up with some other boys on suspicion of stealing a car, but he had not been charged. When the judge began questioning the girl, the journalist couldn’t believe the things she was saying. At that point the judge asked her to be specific, because a witness to the incident was present. When the girl heard this, she grew nervous, fumbled for words, and began contradicting herself. The judge stopped and called both lawyers forward. He huddled with them, and they nodded in total agreement.

The judge dismissed the case. The girl was apparently sick and needed psychiatric help. Overwhelmed with gratitude, the boy grasped the journalist’s hand, too choked to speak. On his way home, the journalist thought to himself, “How close I came not to get involved, thinking, ‘It’s none of my business.’”

****** - interesting idea of Pope Benedict XVI

Pope Benedict proposes another, more contemporary application of the parable of the Good Samaritan. He sees the entire continent of Africa symbolized in the unfortunate man who has been robbed, wounded, and left for dead on the side of the road, and he sees in us, members of the rich countries of the northern hemisphere, the two people who pass by if not precisely the brigands themselves.

We cannot say, “it’s non of my business

I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” “Whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me. – Mt 25,40&45

- With confidence, we turn to God with the needs of the world, to God who hear the cry of the poorest.
- Saving God, your mercy heals the wounds of the world. Hear and answer the prayers we offer in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

14 Ordinary Time - July 8, 2007

In the new creation of Jesus Christ, the church is the visible sign of God’s Kingdom. Let us recognize that very often we don’t se this reality, and we try to set up our private and personal procedures, so that the church goes according to our ideas and our principles.

Let us ask for pardon and deepening of our understanding of the reality of the Church.

Lord Jesus, you comfort us as a mother tends her children.
Lord, have mercy
Christ Jesus, you give us the bread from heaven.
Christ, have mercy
Lord Jesus, you offer us the victory of resurrection.
Lord, have mercy

May Almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and brig us to everlasting life. Amen.

Isaiah 66: 10-14c; Psalm 66: 1-7, 16, 20; Galatians 6: 14-18; Luke 10: 1-12, 17-20

The passage in today’s Gospel is an advice to the early Christian followers of Jesus that they are to travel light and keep a distance between themselves and their material possessions. Disciples travel light, totally dependent on other people for even their basic needs, they are sent in pairs and rely on the hospitality of people based on who will accept or not accept their message.

It is undoubtedly based on advice Jesus gave his followers during his public life when he sent them forth to prepare the way in the towns and cities he was planning to visit. It was not meant to be taken literally in an unrealistic way, but it was not meant to be dismissed as rhetoric either. Jesus and his companions had a treasury, we know, because Judas the treasurer was a thief and stole from it. The apostles appointed deacons to handle administration so the advice Jesus is giving his disciples today is not a ridiculous utopia. However the church today having enormous goods at its disposal, which generally are used well, is quite far from the ideal proposed by its Founder. There is a terrible danger that financial administration will be confused with religious leadership and pastoral accomplishment. There is a danger that our churches become rather the spiritual factories or religious industrial units where external accomplishment will be confused with the true and ultimate spiritual good. Jesus tries to warn us against this misunderstanding.

When we read this Gospel about Jesus sending out the seventy-two disciples we naturally think also about vocations to the priesthood and religious life and I feel that this is particularly relevant to us. We are living in a society where material resources and economical planning are so essential and indispensable to daily life and to successful progress that we don’t believe that church will be able to survive without careful financial planning and scheduling. Many people listening to today’s teaching of Christ will simply smile with irony and perhaps even mockery or sarcasm. Who will be able to follow the poor and humble Christ of today’s Gospel when everybody is worried about financial arrangements and planning?

Maybe for these reasons we must realize that this problem of the shortage of vocations is mostly a “Western countries problem” and that it is primarily something for us to solve.

Did you ever hear the story of the twenty dollar bill and the loony? They finally met in the Canadian Treasury. After a long life, they had come to the end of their usefulness and were about to be destroyed. The twenty speaks, "I don't mind. I've had a good run. I have been in many excellent restaurants. I've been on great vacations. I've seen wonderful theater in my day." Then the twenty asks the loony: "How about you, pilgrim? What kind of a time have you had?" Downcast, the loony responded, "Lousy! I've spent most of my life at the bottom of collection baskets in Catholic churches."

In verse 4 of today's Gospel, Jesus addresses the disciples, whom He is sending out into the field, "Carry no purse, no backpacks, no sandals." Many people like to think that Jesus was endorsing poverty for His missionaries. But that is not the case at all. Rather, He is telling them that those among whom they labor will supply them with purses, backpacks, and sandals. In a word, He was encouraging His followers to be generous to those working among them.

And, should anyone miss His point, The Teacher says in verse 7, "The laborer deserves his wages." The former carpenter, who Himself had no doubt been cheated by deadbeat clients in Nazareth, was saying to contemporary Catholics, "Just as you pay the plumbers and house-painters who work in your home, support my messengers who build your spirits and my Church."

How does this advice from the Teacher compare with the facts? A recent study showed that while the average Catholic family donates 1% of its income to the church, its counterpart in the Presbyterian Church is giving 2.2% or more. That is of course two times what the Catholic family gives.

And, if anybody is anxious to take a guilt trip, do consider that the Mormons give 10% of their income to their church. And oftentimes they give two years of their lives working as missionaries.

Or how about this mind-boggling statistic? It is estimated that two million Seven Day Adventists give more money to their church for the missions than 800 million Catholics around the globe.

We can look for what we might call an external solution to this problem of vocations believing that if clerical celibacy was dropped or if the church admitted women to the priesthood the problem then would be solved. But if we do think that, then I think we are deluding ourselves.

It is known that other Christian communities who dropped the clerical celibacy and admitted women to the priesthood didn’t solve the problem at all, on the contrary they are experiencing not only the shortage of vocations, but what is more significant, they are losing their members as well. So, the solution is certainly not there.

I would like to suggest that the question of vocations is a question of faith. A vocation is not merely a matter of one person hearing God’s call and deciding of his own volition to answer that call. A vocation occurs within the community of faith, within the community which understands that the material and financial commodities are not the most important in the “preaching of God’s Kingdom”.

Make no mistake about it, God is calling people to the priesthood and to the religious life, but he is calling them through the words and actions of you and me. And He is calling them in our families and our communities. So let us not be timid, but let us share our faith with one another, let us pray for vocations and create the kind of atmosphere most conducive to the answering of that great call. Let us change our minds and try to see that what is essential to the church is not money, not in economic planning and not in good business administration.

Now we can ask ourselves, "How good are we as disciples? Don’t we have burdens that weigh us down? Do our lives contradict our talk about Christ?" Let us leave the excess baggage … it’s making your journey an impossible one.

Celebrant: We come before God empty-handed, confident that our concerns will be heard.

Celebrant: God of peace, you send us into the world with the message of your Son. Hear and grant the prayers we offer through Christ our Lord.