Weekly Clergy Devotions
Posted: Sunday, February 25, 2018
In the Gospel we have the scene on the mountain where God the Father speaks from the cloud and calls Jesus His beloved Son, the beloved Son whom the Father will allow to be sacrificed. This time the hand will not be stayed, the sacrifice will be accomplished, and not a sacrifice of man to God but a sacrifice of God for man, for our salvation. What God would not allow Abraham to do God in fact does, giving us His only beloved Son in humility and love, thus allowing His creatures to become His adopted sons and daughters through Christ.
What the three apostles witnessed must have shaken them and yet filled them with wonder as well. Here was their teacher, their master being made known to them as they have never seen Him before, in His heavenly glory. What effect does Jesus have in our lives? This is the question that we must ask ourselves. Do we stand in awe of our God upon that cross or has it become so common place in our lives that it no longer moves or affects us? It is God up there, giving Himself over to death for our salvation. Such a gift should not be taken lightly. This is the moment that changed everything, the victory of God over death and the opening of heaven for us. Let us make this Lenten season a time of prayer and gratitude to God for caring about His creatures so much that He gave us His only beloved Son and allowed Him to be sacrificed for the sake of sinners such as us.
– Deacon Bill Watzek
Posted: Sunday, February 18, 2018
Lent is the Time for the Desert Experience.
One day, a mother camel and her baby are talking to each other and the baby camel asks, “Mom, why do we have these huge three-toed feet?” The mother replies, “So we can cross the soft sand of the desert without sinking.” “And why do we have these long, heavy eyelashes?” “To help keep the sand out of our eyes on the trips through the desert” replies the mother camel. “And Mom, why do we have these big humps on our backs?” The mother replies to her son, “They are there to help us store fat for our long walks across the desert, so we can go without water for long periods.” “Thank you mom, I get it!” says the baby camel, “We have huge feet to stop us sinking, long eyelashes to keep the sand from our eyes and humps to store water. Then, Mom, why are we here in Disney World?”
You and I live in the modern world, sometimes we feel like a camel living in Disney World. Like camels in Disney World we sometimes need to go into the desert in order to discover who we truly are. Lent invites us to enter into this kind of desert experience.
In today’s gospel after Jesus was baptized: “The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and He remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan. “He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him.” (Mark 1:12-13). The desert was the school where Jesus came to distinguish between the voice of God, which He should follow, and the voice of Satan, which is temptation.
How many voices do we hear from the moment we get up in the morning until the moment we go to sleep at night? The countless voices in the daily newspaper, on the radio and the television, the voices of those who live and work with us, not forgetting our own unceasing inner voices. In the desert, we leave most of these voices behind to focus on distinguishing between the guiding voice of God and the tempting voice of Satan.
My dear brothers and sisters, in the desert we come to know ourselves, our strengths and weaknesses, and our divine calling. Lent is the time for the desert experience. We can set aside a place and time to be alone daily with God, a time to distance ourselves from the many noises and voices in every day, a time to hear God’s word, a time to rediscover who we are before God, a time to say yes to God and no to Satan just as Jesus did.
Welcome to Lent and welcome to the desert!
– Fr. Dominic Toan-Tran
Posted: Sunday, February 11, 2018
St. Paul simply states the reality “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.” (1 Cor. 10:31) What a beautiful reminder this Sunday before Lent, as we prepare for Ash Wednesday in a few days, of the ultimate explanation of “why we do what we do?”
We all have our Lenten practices (“giving-up chocolate” seems to remain the most popular one), but I question if these popular practices are really making the most of (or anything of) this season. Year after year, we “give-up” something, and then on Easter Sunday everything returns to the exact way it was before Lent began. If that’s what Lent is, then what’s the point? An exercise in will power? Diet time? Bragging rights? Before Lent begins, I’m trying to remind myself that our motivation for engagement with the Lenten season is to make an extra effort (to the effort we should be already be striving for daily anyway) to draw closer to God; to ensure that, as St. Paul hopes, everything we do is for the glory of God; to make sure we truly recognize God as the main, central priority in life; to recognize how that is the key to having the best possible relationships with all around us; to see what is getting in the way of having everything in life in the right order; to take steps to get rid of those obstacles; to take advantage of the richness of our Church, whether through the sacraments or engaging in ministerial service to others; to realize we can only achieve all of this with God’s help.
So with this in mind, what will your Lent 2018 practices be? How will you express your gratitude for all Christ has done for you? How will you prepare for an Easter in a way where you will also celebrate the reality of having a closer relationship with God than you did before Ash Wednesday?
– Fr. Martin Dunne, III
Posted: Sunday, February 4, 2018
In today’s reading from St. Paul to the church in Corinth he states that he preaches the Gospel not for pay but because he has a divine commission that he has to fulfill and woe to him if he does not preach it. Paul understands the importance of his mission. He does not preach the Gospel as a job to do and be paid for. He preaches the Gospel because he has been commanded by God to do so, and this is the compulsion of a prophet. There is nothing more for Paul to do than to preach the Gospel and the reward for preaching is that very thing, to preach the Gospel without payment! It is as if there is a fire burning within Paul which compels him to preach the word of God and the only way to gain any relief from this fire is to do that which he is compelled to do, preach that word! Paul, here, sets a very high standard for following the will of God in his life but God does not want everyone to be a Paul. We are all, however, called by God to discern what His will is for us at this point in our lives, no matter what age we are or what our station in life is. We must always pray that we are doing our best for ourselves and our families in keeping with our responsibility to love our God and neighbor as best we can, and to change the things in our lives that prohibit us from doing so. As brothers and sisters in Christ we can always implore our Father in Heaven for direction in life and ask that the Holy Spirit within each of us gives us the strength and courage we need to go wherever we are called.
– Deacon Bill Watzek
Posted: Sunday, January 28, 2018
How Do We Deal With Distractions?
Have you ever tried talking to someone who is distracted or someone whose attention is drawn to something else? What is it like? It can be quite frustrating, right? Frustrating because you can tell that person is not really listening to you. What if you have something important to say?
One way to capture a distracted person’s attention is to overpower the distraction and to drive it out with something stronger. We find something similar in our readings today. In the Gospel, Jesus teaches in a synagogue, where He encounters a man who is very badly distracted and not just with any ordinary distraction. This man is unable to listen to Jesus, unable to receive the Good News that Jesus proclaims, because the man is possessed by an unclean spirit. What does Jesus do and how does He deal with this terrible distraction? Jesus speaks with authority; the attractive force of Almighty God, Jesus overpowers the unclean spirit. He drives it out and frees the man to finally receive the word of God, and so to enter into the fullness of life.
Brothers and sisters, it’s helpful for us to remember this story. For we may not be possessed by an unclean spirit in exactly the same way as the man in the Gospel’s reading today. However, don’t we sometime allow ourselves to become very badly distracted? I don’t mean when we daydream or doze off at Mass or during the homily. There are even worse distractions than these: when we are unable to let go of our petty jealousies or when we hold onto a grudge against someone for something that the person did or said years ago or when we are trapped in troublesome obsessions and addictions. These things can possess us, harden our hearts, and prevent us from receiving the Good News of God’s love for us in Christ Jesus.
Just as the man in the Gospel’s reading today was able to enter the synagogue even while possessed by an unclean spirit. So is it possible for us to come regularly to church, and still remain badly distracted by serious sin. What must we do? We must allow the Lord to do for us what He did for the man in the Gospel. We must allow the Lord to overpower our sin to drive it out. We must allow the Lord to turn our attention back to Him alone and let Him become the main attraction in our life.
– Fr. Dominic Toan-Tran
Posted: Sunday, January 21, 2018
The invitation of today is crystal-clear: To not let our feelings of unworthiness keep us from accepting God’s offer of love. In the first reading the people of Nineveh appealed to, and accepted, God’s offer of mercy in spite of the sinfulness which nearly led to their self-destruction, and the apostles in today’s gospel accepted Jesus’ call to be his apostles and among the very first disciples and in spite of their seeming unworthiness as poor fishermen of Galilee. Two of the most extreme examples of history: neither group let their feelings of unworthiness get in the way. So how can we?
- Do we feel unworthiness for receiving God’s forgiveness? Maybe that means we still need to forgive ourselves. Maybe that means we still need to forgive someone else. Maybe that means we still have to trust that God’s mercy will always be infinitely greater than whatever wrong choice we may have made. Maybe that means we still need to let go of something in our lives we already know is causing harm. Maybe that means we have yet to see the redemptive value of our past by incorporating the hard lessons learned from our missteps into insuring that we live the rest of our lives more completely.
- Do we feel unworthy to be God’s disciples? Maybe that means we still need to receive God’s forgiveness (see above!). Maybe that means we have not yet seen the very act of God forgiving us as our greatest opportunity to show others that God is also offering his forgiving transformative love to them. Maybe that means we do not trust that our unique God-given talents can be used in helping others seek the joy of the gospel. Maybe that means we haven’t yet taken the opportunities we already know of to serve those who are depending on our help. Maybe that means that we don’t fully believe that God will always be with us to give us what we need to fulfill our purpose (often at the most unexpected moments).
- Do we feel unworthy to enjoy God’s blessings? Maybe that means we still need to receive God’s forgiveness (see above!). Maybe that means we have yet to accept that we are each in our own unique way the beloved children of the one true God who desires our happiness (more than we desire it for ourselves) and has already given us so very much!
Yes we can struggle with the feeling of unworthiness because we still could be working on overcoming one struggle or another—but that’s precisely why we can’t allow that feeling to get in the way of accepting God’s offer of love in all things. In the process we will not only be living our lives to the fullest but also we can become more worthy.
– Father Martin Dunne, III