RICHES AND POVERTY

Homily      28th Sunday in Ordinary Time. October 14, 2018

Today’s gospel passage from Mark is not an easy one about which to preach.  What Jesus says about riches and poverty make us all feel uncomfortable.
When the man said he had kept the commandments from his youth, Jesus expressed admiration for him.  At this point in the gospel story we are not too disturbed even though it is possible that we may not have been so observant from our youth.
It’s the next set of words out of Jesus’ mouth that we may not want to hear: “You are lacking in one thing.  Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”  The man went away sad because he had many possessions.  Jesus then told his disciples how hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God.  No doubt this would be so because the wealthy can become more preoccupied over their possessions than about the rule of God in their lives.  This preoccupation, of course, can happen to any of us.
There are not too many who have followed Christ in such total surrender of worldly possessions.  We think of St. Francis of Assisi, St. Theresa of Calcutta, St. Junipero Serra of California.
So what about ourselves?  We cannot ignore this teaching of Jesus and pretend that He did not mean these words for all his disciples.
I think it can be helpful to us if we remember that in receiving the gospel we do so in our own particular situations.  The gospel is one message with many perspectives (the whole Bible, including 27 books of the New Testament).  Very few of us are called to be a St. Francis or Mother
Theresa or Father Serra.  But all of us are called to acknowledge that everything we possess belongs to God.  All of our possessions, including what we have earned, are entrusted to us by God to be used well for the accomplishment of good in this world.  We are called to be good stewards of what we possess.  We are called to be responsible stewards.  We have responsibilities for ourselves, for our families,  for our society, and especially for the poor.  All of us can live simpler lives.  Even though we may like money and need it, greed and love for money can lead to dishonesty and corruption.  We certainly see this everywhere. We must not let our riches or possessions stand in the way of following Christ.  We must not let anyone or anything keep us from accepting the command of Jesus to follow him.  The great test for us is our care for the poor.  Are we selfish or are we generous to those in need?  If we are generous our reward will be great in heaven.
Jesus’ teaching on riches and possessions will always make us uncomfortable and that’s good.  It will keep us on our toes for generosity.
As Jesus said, it really is impossible for us on our own to get ourselves into heaven.  But here is the great consolation and word of encouragement for us: “For human beings it is impossible, but not for God.  All things are possible for God.”
So do not be discouraged upon hearing this gospel passage.  Rather be encouraged to become an ever more generous person in following the Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior.  “All things are possible for God.”
Bishop Stephen Blaire

Jesus’ Positive Regard for Children

27th Sunday in Ordinary Time    October 7, 2018

Today’s gospel reading contains a very moving passage which illustrates Jesus’ positive regard and affection for children.  Jesus embraces the children and blesses them.  We have to remember that children are powerless and dependent and were especially so at the time of Jesus.  Everything comes to them from adults as a gift.
This is one more reason why child abuse is so horrendous, because children are so vulnerable.  Any adult who abuses a child in any way – and it is very wide spread in the societies of the world – engages in grave evil.  But it is even more abominable when it is perpetrated or protected by one who represents Christ, by one who is to welcome and bless children as Jesus did.
Jesus chose children to be the example of how we are to receive the kingdom of God in our lives.  Before God we are powerless and dependent.  The kingdom of God, the presence of God, the love of God is pure gift for us.  We cannot earn the love of God, just as no parent should expect their children to earn their love.  God’s love for us is totally gratuitous.  What God asks is that we accept the reign of God – the presence of God, the love of God – in our lives.  The living of life without God  diminishes the meaning of our lives and could keep us from the full glory of God’s kingdom in eternity.
There are people who constantly talk about Satan creating all the evil in our world.  I do not think this is the way to speak about evil.  Satan is not responsible for the evil in the world.  Human beings are responsible for evil in the world.  Satan is the one who tempts us to reject God, to live without God, to deny the kingdom of God.  Satan is the one who tempts us to remain in our sins by not seeking forgiveness.  Satan is the great deceiver who tempts people to ignore the evil they are doing.  It is Satan who promotes the lie and deception.  It is Satan who seeks to keep us from overcoming evil by good.  “Lead us not into temptation” means “do not let us be so tempted by the evil one that we will reject God and  not accept His kingdom of love, justice and peace.” We are asking for the grace and strength to accept the kingdom of God in this world and in our daily lives.  We are asking for the grace to persevere in faith until the end when we will enter into the fullness of God’s kingdom in the glory of heaven.
Let us not forget Jesus’ words: “Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.”  Then Jesus embraced the children and blessed them.
Bishop Stephen Blaire

BELIEF/TOLERANCE/SCANDAL

HOMILY    September 30, 2018.   26th Sunday in Ordinary Time

As Catholics we hold Jesus to be the center of our lives.  He is the Son of God become flesh, the Savior of the world.  Our faith in Jesus is at the core of our human existence.  Although Jesus is at the center of our lives, our faith is not exclusive in the sense we have from Jesus when He said: “Whoever is not against us is for us.”(Mk9:40)  While we as Catholics are strong in our faith we are tolerant of others with different beliefs.  This is not to say we hold to a relativistic conviction that one belief is good as another.  It is not.  Jesus Christ alone is the Son of God, Savior of the world. But it does mean  we respect those who believe differently.  I would underscore Jesus’ teaching by saying whoever does good is with us and for us.
What Jesus did condemn is what we call scandal.  To scandalize is to trip up other people, to cause others to sin, to entice others to sin.  This can happen in the church as well as outside the Church.  In following Christ we are to avoid causing others in any way to sin.  We need to watch what we say and what we do so that we do not lead people into sin.  As followers of Christ we are to be the light on the lamp stand, a light for goodness and truth and right, in spite of our own limitations, sinfulness and failings.
We who follow Christ must not be afraid to confront the forces of evil in the world and any of these forces that may have crept into God’s Church.
To follow Christ is to avoid whatever would keep us or others from entering the kingdom of God in this world and in the world to come.  May we all live in peace with one another as Mark’s gospel proclaims.

TRES MENSAJES DE JESUCRISTO

Homilia  Vigesima quinta Semana Domingo

A veces es difícil entender las enseñanzas de Jesus.  Sus discípulos no entendieron los tes mensajes más importantes de Jesus: el misterio de la cruz; la grandeza del servicio y la vida de Jesucristo dentro de nosotros.
Primero, el plan de Dios era la entrega de Jesus (el hijo del hombre) a la muerte por nosotros y la Resurrección tres dias después de muerto.  Jesucristo en su pasión sufre con nosotros en nuesros sufrimientos y nos llevará a la vida eterna.
Segundo, Jesus dijo: “Si alguno quiere ser el primero, que sea…el servidor de todos.”  Como Jesus ofreció su vida por nosotros, es necesario que demos nuestra vida unos por otros.  En la Biblia, el amor no es una emoción sino una acción de ayuda para los demás.  El amor significa la accion de tomar a pecho el bienestar de nuestras familias y de los necesitan ayuda y protección.
Tercero, Jesus puso en medio de la gente un niño.  Los niños no tienen poder ni posiciones de autoridad en la sociedad.  Son muy vulnerables.  Es por eso por lo que el abuso a los niños es pernicioso y malévolo.  Jesus vive en los que extendien la bienvenida a Dios y especialmente en los pobres y vulnerables.  Jesus no da ningún lugar de importancia a la condición legal or humana de cada individual.  Jesus está present porque nos respeta y nos ama como personas.
Jesus aceptó la Cruz por nuestra salvación.  Jesus no vino a ser servido sino a servir.  Jesus quiere vivir en nuestros corazones.
Como discípulos de Cristo queremos aceptar la cruz en nuestras vidas.  Queremos encontrar la grandeza en el servicio a los demás.  Queremos dar la bienvenida  a Jesucristo que viene a habitar dentro de nosotros.

WHAT A PARENT FEELS

The only way I can begin to understand the evil of child abuse is to imagine that I am a parent and how I would feel if my little boy or girl were sexually abused by our parish priest.  The anger within me, however, could only be analogous – meaning that what I would be imaging could never come that close to what a parent would actually feel. I will never know what parents have experienced but I ask God to help me to understand and to be compassionate with those who have been so abused.

A MESSAGE FROM PRISON

I have received many wonderful notes since the amputation of my lower left leg in February.  One you might enjoy as I did came from a prisoner at the California Institute for Men.

“Dear Bishop Blaire, In a way, you are very blessed.  You already have one foot in Heaven, smiles, peace &  joy.  Dan”

BE STRONG AND FEAR NOT

Homily.  September 9, 2018. 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

The miracle story of the healing of the deaf and mute man appears only in Mark’s Gospel but is often commemorated by the Church in the celebration of baptism.  The priest or deacon touches the ears and mouth of the one being baptized and prays:  ‘The Lord Jesus made the deaf hear and the mute speak.  May he soon touch your ears to receive his word, and your mouth to proclaim his faith, to the praise and glory of God the Father.’.
This healing and these words bring home to us that Jesus came not as a political messiah but as a religious messiah in the tradition of the prophets.  What God wants from us first of all is that we open our ears to hear the word of God.  When you observe all the violence in the world, the disregard for the sacredness of human life, the abuse of the human person and children, the lies, the cheating, the dishonesty and corruption, the greed for power and wealth, the name calling and slander, we have to ask ourselves:  are we listening?  Are we listening to the commandments of God?  Are we listening to the teachings of Jesus?  We must begin with ourselves and within the Church before we can ask the world to look within itself.
Secondly, are we speaking and living with faith?  We proclaim our faith by how we speak and by how we act.  I am not talking about pious words or pious actions but rather about truthful, respectful and honest words and deeds.  The greatest witness of our faith is by how we care for the poor and vulnerable and for those who need our love and attention. Again we must begin with ourselves and in the Church before we can ask the world to do so.
It was not some act of magic that cured the deaf man.  It was the power of God conveyed through Jesus His Son when He spoke the word ephphatha – be opened.  It is the power of God that opens our hears to listen and touches our lips to speak as believers.  People who do not listen are enslaved in their own self centeredness; people who do not speak with conviction and truth are  afraid.  This miracle of Jesus symbolizes the freedom that is given to us when we have confidence in God.
Isaiah the prophet says to us:  “Be strong, fear not.”
May God open our ears and  touch our lips, not only as individuals, but also as a Church to listen carefully to the voice of God and to speak with courage and forthrightness in faith what is the just and right thing to do.
Our deeds validate our words to the praise and glory of God.