Weekly Clergy Devotions
Posted: Sunday, April 22, 2018
The Good Shepherd Continues to Call Us to Follow Him
Today we celebrate the fourth Sunday of Easter, the Good Shepherd Sunday and also the World Day of Prayers for Vocations. The reason becomes clearer when we recall what we prayed for at the beginning of Mass. We asked that we the humble flock may reach where the brave Shepherd has gone before. We asked God to help us to arrive at our destination. Whether we realize it or not, we are all meant to be on a journey – the same journey that Jesus, our Good Shepherd, has already made and completed.
As followers of Christ, we are called to make this journey, whether we like it or not. This is our vocation. It’s not easy; we face a lot of challenges. At times, we may find ourselves overcome with exhaustion and too tired to move on. What are we to do when this happens? Our first reading and the psalm remind us that, instead of giving up, we need to keep making Jesus our cornerstone.
At other times, we may feel not only tired, but also discouraged. Sometimes because we choose to follow God’s ways, we end up losing out to those who don’t. Why don’t we just do what everybody else does? At such times, the second reading reminds us of two important things. First, we are reminded of who we already are. We are the children of God, and we are the brothers and sisters of Christ the Lord. This is the reason why we act the way we do, and why we live differently from others. We live as Christ our brother lived and act as he acted. Second, we are also reminded of who we are to be in the future; that we shall be like him because we shall see him as he really is. This is the goal of our journey and also our final destination. To see him as he really is and to remind ourselves of who we are and who we will become is to find new courage in times of discouragement.
At such times, we need to remember what Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel, that he is the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep. When we are in danger of getting lost, he is the one who continues calling out to us. What we need to do is to stay close to him as he speaks to us in the silence of our hearts as well as in the different people and situations that we encounter every day. This is our vocation. We fulfill this vocation in different ways. Most of us do it as lay people: married or single. Doing our best to shepherd the people we meet in the world: in our homes, our schools, workplaces and on the streets.
Dear brothers and sisters, today the Good Shepherd continues to call us to follow him. What do you need to keep persevering on your journey today?
– Fr. Dominic Toan-Tran
Posted: Sunday, April 15, 2018
Today’s second reading (1 John 2:1-5) may seem contradictory. While we are told that we have Jesus as expiation for our sins, it also claims we do not know God if we do indeed sin (not follow the commandments). The way of reconciling this passage is to recognize our calling to always strive to keep his commandments so that if (“when”) we do not, we can trust that God will still be there to help instantly pick us up in order to strive again!
Recognizing this is a necessary element of living our discipleship. The greatest invitation we have in life is to know God, and part of that recognizes that we are meant to instantly turn to him. Of course we want to always avoid (and never make an excuse to commit) sin, but if we sin we still have a choice. If we choose to stay there and wallow in the sin (“I blew it, so what difference does it make so I might as well stay here for a while”) we are only making things worse, more complicated, more painful. The other option is to instantly pray, “God forgive me, help me!” This is not only so we can “stop the bleeding” right away but it can also help us take steps to undo the damage caused by seeking the forgiveness of those we may have harmed by our decisions. There is even the potential for our mistakes to be transformed into something good via a resolve to never make that mistake again—which solidifies our commitment to living the lives we were created to live!
But as great as it is to rely on God’s help to get us out of the mire caused by our wrong decisions, the greater invitation is to rely on God’s help to avoid the mire in the first place! The teachings of our most-wonderful faith are not to restrict us in misery but to free and protect us for the greatest happiness possible. Yet God knows it is not easy in this world that bombards us with the temptations not just to sin but to not be instruments of God’s love for others, and that is precisely why God offers his help every step of the way! But the key is to strive to love as God loves us, because the more we can love the more naturally the adherence to all of God’s commandments will flow! Through love, prayer, the sacraments, and pursuing the greatest of relationships possible with God and others, God’s love will indeed be perfected within us!
– Fr. Martin Dunne, III
Posted: Sunday April 8, 2018
Easter is a time of great joy for a Christian because we are celebrating the single most important event in the history of the world. Besides the Incarnation which made it possible, the redemptive suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ is the single event in all of time, in all of salvation history most important to humanity. It is important because this event opens up eternity for us, allows us to be born into eternal life in joyful being with our God in the heavenly kingdom. What used to be called eternal death now becomes eternal life. The resurrection appearance stories that we hear in the Gospels during Easter are full of wonder and awe, nothing like this has ever happened before and will never happen again. The only question is how will we respond to this wondrous event? Will we believe and change the way that we live in response to this amazing gift of God, or will we ignore the message of the Gospel and live our lives as if nothing extraordinary has happened. The choice is always left up to us, God will not force us to be His. All He will do is present Himself to us. We are the ones who have to respond, just as Thomas did today in the Gospel. “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”
– Deacon Bill Watzek
Posted: Sunday, April 1, 2018
The Mystery of the Empty Tomb!
Have you ever tried looking through a glass window? What do you see? Well, it depends, right? If the space on the other side of the glass is brightly lit, then you see whatever is there. But what if that space is dark? What if it’s much darker than your side of the glass? Well then, very likely, all you’ll see is your own image reflected back at you.
Looking through a darkened pane of glass, isn’t this a good image of what life is like? Mostly, we go through our days so busy with many concerns that we don’t bother to think about whether or not there may be another side to things. Of course, there are times when we may be drawn to pause. We need to take a break from our anxious dashing about and to try to peer through the glass, and to try to reflect the meaning of life. But it’s not easy. Often, all our view is clouded by the burdens and pleasures of daily living. But what can we do then? How are we to see through the darkened glass in a moment of crisis?
I think this is the question that on this first Sunday of Easter helps us to ponder. In the gospel of John, Mary Magdalene and the Disciples are facing a terrible crisis. The man whom they were following, the one whom they believed to be the Messiah has died. And He has died a most brutal death, an utterly disgraceful death. A death that puts into question everything they had believed Him to be. What are they to do now?
Mary Magdalene does what her heart draws her to do. She goes back to the place where her master’s body was laid, perhaps to mourn and to weep. But what she finds there shocks and upsets her because the stone had been moved away. In the darkness of her grief, Mary assumes the worst: “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him.” Wrapped up tightly in the pain of her loss, Mary is unable to penetrate the Mystery of the Empty Tomb. Much like what happens when we try to look through darkened glass, all she sees is her own reflection.
Mary does not give up because her love is too great. There is not a possibility of her simply walking away. She rushes off but only to call for help. Then she returns to the darkness of the Empty Tomb, painful and confusing as it may be, she continues to gaze into the depths of the Mystery. She stares into that darkened surface, hoping that somehow when the time is right, the light will begin to shine.
Indeed, it does. Although the Risen Christ is still hidden from view, enough light is already shining for at least one of Mary’s companions to identify the signs of new life. The disciple whom Jesus loved gazes through the darkened glass of the empty tomb and his eyes begin to penetrate the Mystery: “he saw and believed.”
My dear brothers and sisters, today, after 40 penitential days of Lent, we begin 50 joyful days of Easter. 50 days devoted to letting the light of Christ penetrate the darkness of our hearts and our world. 50 days of gazing into Empty Tomb and as believing gentiles, waiting for the Risen One to enlighten and to transform each one of us.
– Fr. Dominic Toan-Tran
Posted: Sunday, March 25, 2018
In John’s account of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem (often read Palm Sunday), it notes that, “the disciples did not understand this at first.” And who can blame them? Jesus predicted several times before that he would face a humiliating death in Jerusalem, and he still entered Jerusalem…and on a colt no less! We may still struggle with fully understanding the question, “Why did Jesus, the innocent Son of God, King of Kings have to endure the crucifixion?” Or, in the context of our unique individual lives, the question that we painfully ask over and over, “Why does it have to be this painful /difficult /frustrating /disappointing/etc.?” While we may not get the full explanations until we get to heaven, answering this question will help us through it all—just like it did for Jesus: “What is our identity?”
It was because Jesus knew his identity that he was able to face the events leading to his Passion, Death and Resurrection, which we commemorate this week, the greatest gesture of love of all time, so the worst damage caused by Original Sin can be undone. The keystone moment of his identification was Jesus’ own Baptism, where he was identified by God the Father as “my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Mt. 3:17). Jesus did what he had to because he knew his identity. Likewise, this Holy Thursday, Jesus reminds us of our identity, which we also received at our baptisms. At the Last Supper he identified us as his, friends (Jn 15:15) & immediately before this he states there is, “no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
So when it feels like we have nothing else, we can, and must, cling to the reality of our identity. This reality assures us that we are in the loving care of God and that we will ultimately be saved by counting on God’s help as we strive to be faithful to our identity in living our universal discipleship (& our unique vocations) at each moment—however difficult, painful, or routine! This is because we do so out of the greatest love possible—a love, which in many forms, invites us to lay down our lives for our friends!
But it is also by living our identity we express our convictions: that we do indeed have the help of God, either directly such as in the sacraments, or indirectly through those around us. Our particular identity is not only our path to our salvation but also our path to our greatest peace & joy possible in our life, because we are striving to live both our universal identity as disciples and the unique purpose no one else in time was created to fulfill—all of which can offer a great peace which can turn the most simple gesture of love into an unexpected occasion of fulfillment! May God Bless you this Holy Week, and every day as you live your identity!
– Fr. Martin Dunne, III
Posted: Sunday, March 18, 2018
In this fifth Sunday of Lent we are presented with a prophesy from the prophet Jeremiah which states that God will make a new covenant with His people. This new covenant will not be like the old covenant that was given to Moses and the people fleeing Egypt, it will be a new and a special covenant. With the old covenant God saw how they had broken that covenant and He had to become their master. In the Incarnation of Jesus the Christ not only made a new covenant but a surprising new messenger; instead of a prophet delivering the message we have God Himself giving us His new covenant. Jesus also makes it clear that with this new covenant we no longer have to see God as master but now we can call Him Father! In this new covenant we actually come into relationship with the entire Trinity at Baptism, calling God our Father, Jesus our brother, and the Holy Spirit is given to us with the fullness of whom we receive at Confirmation. Everything changes with this new and everlasting covenant. Freed from our sins and enriched by the sacraments we can live our lives in the midst of the Church and we can raise ourselves with the help of God to live our lives eternally with Him in the Heavenly Kingdom. Amen.
– Deacon Bill Watzek