Weekly Clergy Devotions
Posted: Sunday, August 20, 2017
How is your prayer life? We all need to ask this question of ourselves from time to time lest we get into a rut of repetitive, trite or disingenuous prayer. The Canaanite woman in the Gospel today gives us a very good example of how to approach God with our needs. When the woman approaches Jesus initially, she apparently has heard of his fame as a healer and calls him by the title “Lord, Son of David.” When Jesus taught his disciples how to pray he opened with “Our Father,” just as the Canaanite woman used the proper address for Jesus so we too use the identifier of our relationship to God daring to call Him our Father. The Canaanite woman is also persistent in her plea to Jesus even as she is ignored by Jesus and even when he refers to her as a household pet compared to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, she is still determined in her response. Jesus himself told us to be persistent in our prayers to the Father when he states, “will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night?” (Luke 18:8) The final characteristic of prayer that the Canaanite woman has is that of humility. The worst footing that we can be on with our Creator is the idea that He owes us something. On the contrary, it is us who owe everything to our God, and there is nothing that we possess that He has not given us. Just as the tax collector in the Temple, we should bow our heads, acknowledge ourselves as sinners before our Father and ask of His forgiveness. Remember that there is always time for prayer even if it is a quick “thank you God,” so let us imitate the Canaanite woman in the Gospel and pray with all of our hearts.
Deacon Bill Watzek
Posted: Sunday, August 13, 2017
Don’t We Think Our Lives Are So Full Of Noise?
The first reading today caused me to recall the day God made it clear He was calling me to the priesthood. A lot of things led up to it, but the moment was one of almost complete silence. I was working at a chicken farm helping my father for a summer right before my senior year of High School. It was a beautiful day, like today. In a single instant it came over me that I could become a priest. Not just as a theoretical possibility like every other catholic boy, but as a real and actual possibility for me. I felt something very strange: a complete freedom but also the awareness of my grace. Then it was simply an overpowering experience and I was amazed that each morning I woke up it was still on my mind.
That was almost twenty-five years ago. Since then I have never doubted that being a priest is God’s will for me. I have had my good days and my bad days. I have experienced the human feelings such as: anger, discouragement, distress, and whining. But through it all, I have carried in my heart the assurance that this is what God wants me to do with the existence He gave to me.
I mention my experience of meeting God in a moment of silence not because I am some great mystic. I am far and far away from it. However, in the first reading today we have the prophet Elijah who is an example for each one of us. First, there came a strong wind, but God was not in the wind. Next, an earthquake, but God was not in the earthquake. Then a blazing fire, but God was not in the fire. Finally, a gentle, whispering breeze and Elijah covered his face because God was in that small, still voice.
Our lives are so full of noise. Some of it is difficult to escape. I read that the average American is exposed to over 2,000 advertisements every day. Each one no matter how fleeting is trying to get us to buy something. Buy this: it will take away the stress, the pain you feel. This product will make you happy. Our noisy world is constantly trying to create false needs inside us. The noise of our world is trying to distract us, but it does not necessarily have to overwhelm us. All of us have an inner ear which can be attuned to something better. We can pay attention to a sound that is softer, but even more powerful.
So my dear brothers and sisters, we have to follow the example of Elijah. Find a cave, a quiet place where God can speak to us. All of us need silence to listen to God. That is the true solution; it can get us back on the right road.
– Fr. Dominic Toan-Tran
Posted: Sunday, August 6, 2017
Within today’s second reading we are reminded that because we are followers of Jesus Christ, we do not, “follow cleverly devised myths” (2 Peter 1:16). Well… at least we are not supposed to! But in one way or another, and since the serpent met Adam & Eve in the Garden of Eden, we have been bombarded by one form of myth after another!
- There are myths from the world (here’s a popular example: “it’s better if you live together before you get married”).
- There are myths which attempt to cloud our faith (centuries of heresies which have confused millions over centuries, such as Jansenism’s claims that only some pre-selected individuals will be saved such that free-will doesn’t matter).
- There are myths which we largely create (“seeking help from others is a sign of inadequacy,” or “if I’m not the first out of the parking lot I’m going to miss that early-bird special!”).
Our Heavenly Father does not want us ever to live in the darkness of any myths (cleverly-devised or otherwise) but in the glorious light of his transfigured Son, who we celebrate in an extra-special way on today’s Feast of the Transfiguration! We are reminded to simply listen to Jesus as Savior, Redeemer, and fullness of Revelation. Two of the greatest tools we have to eradicate the myths from our lives (and to help others do the same) are the Bible & the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The former gives the story of salvation history. The latter shines a great light on all the truths of our faith—truths that aren’t yet commonly known, but are so beautiful and based on our rich history through the triumph of The Second Vatican Council!
Among the greatest joys I’ve experienced are the many occasions I’ve seen the joyful relief that comes over a person as they were freed from a myth that plagued them for most of their lives! God is inviting you too to be an instrument of his love, his truth, and his peace by learning about, and sharing, more and more about our rich and eternal truths!
Thank God we are all called to live in freedom from, “cleverly devised myths,” as well as anything else which can hold us down and contribute to our unhappiness instead of bringing us fulfillment as we grow closer to God and to each other! Happy Feast of the Transfiguration!
– Fr. Martin Dunne III
Posted: Sunday, July 30 , 2017
In the parables that we receive from Jesus today, we have images of people who find something valuable and then go to sell all that they have to obtain that thing, one a treasure buried in the field and the other a pearl of great price. These stories are prefaced with, “The Kingdom of heaven is like,” so it would seem that Jesus is trying to tell His listeners, and by extension us, that the kingdom of heaven should be the most important concept in our lives. The treasure, that is the kingdom of heaven, must be a priority in our lives, and centering our lives around Christ is that pearl of great price. Just as Solomon prayed for wisdom of discernment in our first reading, we to should pray for God to give us the gift of understanding the importance of keeping the kingdom of heaven foremost in our hearts. In gaining this understanding, we will be able to order our lives in conformity with the will of God for us. We are the people that Saint Paul speaks of in his letter to the Romans when he writes about, “those who love God who are called according to his purpose. For those he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.” And “those he predestined he also called; and those he called he also justified; and those he justified he also glorified.” Amen
Deacon Bill Watzek
Posted: Sunday, July 23, 2017
Do We Really Want to Make Things Better?
Don’t you think we live in a strange world? Many people begin things with good intentions and wonderful visions, really wanting to make things better, both in their own lives and in the lives of others. Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin, the fathers of communism, really wanted to make the lives of their countrymen better. However, as in so many great efforts, things are likely to eventually go wrong.
The same is true in our own personal lives. People fall in love and get married with nothing but the best of intentions, high hopes, hearts filled with love, and wonderful visions. Then, somewhere along the line, things turn sour.
Indeed, life is a mixture of good and evil. We are imperfect people living in an imperfect world. There’s much in our nation that is both good and bad. Our governmental officials are both good and bad. There’s also much in our Church that is good, and there are some bad things in it too. If we’re honest, we see that there is both good and bad in us individually and collectively. Everywhere we look we find this strange mixture of what is right and what is wrong.
You and I as followers of Jesus Christ, what do we do with the problem of the immoral? That’s the question raised in today’s gospel reading. Answering the question is a big problem for all of us. Just what do we do when it comes to ridding ourselves and our world of the immoral?
The Scripture passages in today’s first reading and also today’s gospel suggest that we deal with the immoral as God deals with it, with patience and self-control. Wrong intention will eventually reveal itself and it will eventually suffer the consequences it brings down upon itself. Sin brings with it, its own suffering and punishment.
There is no quick fix or easy solutions. Patience and self-control are necessary, and to have patience and self-control one must have faith. This is what Jesus is calling each one of us to have, faith in His Heavenly Father’s plan. We have to believe in God’s goodness and believe in His love for all that is good.
Yes, it is a strange world we live in; however, at the same time it is a beautiful world, a beautiful world filled with wonderful and eventually all good people around us. So my dear brothers and sisters, what is the vision in which you live? Today, Jesus invites each one of us to share in His vision, in His love, and in His faith that in the end God will bring good out of evil.
Father Dominic Toan-Tran
Posted: Sunday, July 16, 2017
Within the Bible there are 365 verses, one for every day of the year, which tell us to, “be not afraid.” This alone tells us how important it is for us not to be afraid, even though it seems a greater challenge than ever before, as there are so many things, externally and internally, which seem to threaten us into worry all of the time. For example, we place so much stress on ourselves if things beyond our control interfere with our plans for the day, and we then fear that we won’t be able to get everything done, and that it will cause a snowball effect and that it won’t end well. The repetition of this message 365 times says just how deeply God cares for us, how keenly aware he is of the threats that fear can impose on us, how he wants to spare us from all fear, worry, and senseless anxiety which can rob us of both our happiness and our unique purpose in life.
Although not as clearly noticeable as the 365 verses directly telling us, “be not afraid,” God is once-again giving us the same message in this Sunday’s gospel, the parable of the seeds: Be not afraid.
The fate of the seeds which do not bear fruit represent the various fears which can become the excuses preventing us from fulfilling all our particular vocations, yet most especially our universal vocation to be Christ’s disciple:
- The seed that, “the evil one comes and steals away:” Will we fear we will forget that we have been enriched by Word and Sacrament each Sunday as the stresses of life spur us to making the wrong decisions? Maybe as early as the church parking lot?
- “The seed sown on rocky ground:” Will we fear that we will be rejected by others (whether family, friends, or society) if we do not make compromises on our faith, our Catholic moral teachings which seek to spare us of unhappiness, our very vocations?
- “The seed sown among thorns:” Will we fear that if we don’t compartmentalize and hold people or things higher than God as the greatest good we will lose them?
Jesus loves us so much that he desires us to always live in freedom from all fear. Jesus wants us to savor the joy of the gospel in our daily lives. Jesus wants to entrust us with making others aware of the joy and fulfillment they are meant to have—so we can all produce 100 – or 60 – or 30 – fold with our daily lives! “Be not afraid!”
– Father Martin Dunne III