Weekly Clergy Devotions
Posted: Sunday, December 10, 2017
Today’s first reading mandates, “Comfort, give comfort to my people” (Is 40:1). But with two weeks until Christmas it can seem that even thinking of comfort is absurd! If our lives weren’t already extremely busy, this time of the year can seem even more overwhelming than any other. So very many extra activities, so many extra obligations, so many extra events (both for us and for family members), so many expectations to create that “perfect” Christmas experience and find those “perfect” Christmas gifts in the now-chaotic shopping centers (never mind chaotic roads and parking lots)–so many pressures which seem to make comfort all but impossible!
But this Advent season beautifully attempts to remind us that we are to be at peace as we remember the big picture—not only that Jesus already came as a baby two millennia ago to forever free us from sin, but that he will return one day to make everything right, to restore us all completely, to take away anything that causes pain and to bring us to ultimate and eternal fulfillment with him and our loved ones! Advent is our season dedicated to reminding ourselves of this reality. It may sound counterintuitive, but our greatest & most important priority this advent season is setting time aside. Time for random acts of charity towards those in need (for example as many of you have most-generously done for the Angel Tree), for (dare I say it?) periods of rest, for prayer, for silent reflection, and for conversation with God (which will help us to remember that although we have many responsibilities and expectations, they can never ever outweigh the reality that He remains with us every step of the way, will continue to give us what we need, and will continue to offer His infinite love to us).
The more we can remember this the more we can keep our perspective. The more we keep our perspective, the more we will stay calm in spite of the many demands on our time. The more we can calm down, the more we’ll feel an internal comfort that neither anything, nor anyone, can remove, a calm which will help us through all the extra (and “regular”) activities we have on our undeniably packed schedules. We will find a deeper comfort in many other places too: the embrace of a loved one, the beauty of our church, the excitement on a child’s face. And the greater comfort we feel, the more we will be able to (in spite of whatever little shopping time there is) enjoy the greatest blessings of Christmas—Our Savior, our loved ones, our calling to do what we can to remind others of the ultimate meaning of our existence—doing all we can in gratitude for all God has given us—most especially the salvation won by Jesus Christ from his love for us!
– Father Martin Dunne, III
Posted: Sunday, December 3, 2017
The beginning of a new Church year is always a time that one can renew one’s self in their faith and their relationship with God. During the season of Advent we are presented with a time of fasting, prayer and meditation on the coming of the Incarnation, the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ. Each year, during the beginning of our Liturgical Year, the Church presents to us this wonderful opportunity to make a fresh start in our spiritual lives which is so important in a world that has become more and more secularized and materialistic. The concept that “it is all about me,” so prevalent in society today, is in direct opposition to the message of the Gospel to give one’s self over to the will of God in their lives and in doing so live one’s life as gift to the other, family, friends, coworkers and all who may be in need. So as we enter into a new Church year let us take stock of our relationship with God and how we demonstrate that relationship in our daily lives. Maybe we could make a new church year’s resolution to work on one area of our spiritual life in order to come closer to the will of God in our life so that we may grow in our faith and the demonstration of our faith in a world that is so desperately in need of transformation.
– Deacon Bill Watzek
Posted: Sunday, November 26, 2017
None of us are without power!
Today is the Feast of Christ the King, the final Sunday of our liturgical year; next Sunday is already the 1st Sunday of Advent. We are invited to mediate on the meaning of the Kingship of Christ. As we approach the end of the year, we recall what we believe will happen at the end of our time.
In today’s first reading the prophet Ezekiel delivers a damning incrimination of self-serving leaders of Judah. In direct contrast is Pope Francis’ advice to today’s bishops and pastors that they should smell like the sheep. I would like to focus on all of us. None of us are without power. I, as a parish priest, and you as grandparents, husband, wife, parent or child also exercise power. And no matter what we do for a living, it involves some exercise of power. If nothing else, we have power over our own lives. Moreover, social media has added a new dimension to the exercise of power. Those things we would not say to people face to face we more easily do it over social media. People’s lives are ruined on social media. People break up on Facebook and Twitter. And then we have Christ. He was not powerless as He lay in the manger or Hung on The Cross. Yet He chose to exercise power in very a specific way. His power was tempered by unconditional love, undying compassion, and unending mercy. His power was most evident in His selfless service. If we want know our own attitude toward power and authority, all we have to do it is to look at how we conduct our relationships. To the extent prejudice, jealousy, selfish anger, and pure self-interest is part of any of our relationships, to that extent we fail in the Christ like exercise of power.
The gospel reading on the feast of Christ the King teaches us that as central as the poor are to our lives, so central is Christ to our lives. The problem today, especially in our country, is that the poor and vulnerable have become victims of political and economic ideology.
Today, as we worship Jesus in the Eucharist, let us not fail to find the same Christ in those who need us most. None of us are without power, so we have to use it. Just like Christ gave His body and blood to us, may we be selfless in our serving the poor. This is the best honor we can give to Christ our King.
– Fr. Dominic Toan-Tran
Posted: Sunday, November 19, 2017
Today’s first reading, from the Book of Proverbs was written in the poetic language from an era around 3,000 years ago. It exclaims the priceless treasure of a “worthy wife.” Although we may use different words today, it acknowledges the beautiful, timeless, and often-taken-for-granted truth, that certain individuals are placed into our lives by God to play a key role in our journey into heaven, and that they are a treasure (Sirach 6:14). For those called to marriage, this role is most primarily fulfilled as the spouse of the person God intended them to journey through life with, but from the beginning God intended that no person go through the journey of life alone, in isolation, as even Jesus had several close companions (such as Mary, Martha, Lazarus, Peter, James, and the Beloved Disciple John just to name a few). These are good reminders to counter a world that seems to encourage growing isolation behind the very limited sanctuary of various devices.
I never forgot what both parents frequently told me as a child: “choosing good friends helps you to become a good person.” Some of my most profound life experiences, through the day before writing this, show that their words, along with the words of today’s first Reading, are accurate in noting that the ideal friend, among other traits, brings good into one’s life, works with loving hands, and extends their arms to the needy. These individuals have repeatedly amazed me and filled me with unimaginable joy through the examples of their own lives, with their unconditional love, thoughtfulness, patience, generosity, perseverance through their own challenges, their courage to tell me what I need (not necessarily always want) to hear because of their love for me and their desire for me to be my very best, their companionship, their joy, their ability to heal me in ways no one else could, and their enthusiastic encouragement for me to be myself—the unique person God created me to be by striving to be my best. For example, they are my proof that we can participate in the love of God because the more they love, the more they are able to love, and the richer that experience of true Christian love. All of this and more has inspired me daily to strive to become more worthy of them by becoming a better person—out of both my love of God and my love of them!
Having those special people in your life is one of the greatest gifts God offers to each of us on this side of heaven. They offer glimpses of heaven, and they lead us to heaven as we strive to do all we can to help them towards heaven! I want to take the opportunity this Thanksgiving Week to express my indescribable gratitude to them (you know who you are!). I also express my thanks to God several times a day for these individuals who have helped me to become more the person God created me to be—and I look forward to expressing my gratitude to them for them and many others through the daily example of my life!
– Father Martin Dunne, III
Posted: Sunday, November 12, 2017
Each one of us is going to die. We all know it and the readings we have for this weekend are about this very fact. In the early years of the Church it was thought that the second coming of Jesus was going to be very soon, that Christ would return within their lifetimes, therefore Paul writes about those who have already “fallen asleep” and those “who are left until the coming of the Lord.” The end will surely come for each and every one of us, some sooner and some later. We do not know “the day nor the hour.” The Gospel message is very clear for us, even in the form of a parable, that some of us will be ready as the wise virgins were and some of us will not be ready as the foolish virgins were. This being so, what steps might we take to ensure that we have the “extra oil’ for our “lamps” when the Lord comes for us? It is interesting to note that oils are used in four of the seven sacraments of the Church, with no less than 2 oils used in Baptism alone, our first sacrament of initiation. In pointing to the sacraments we see, as Catholics, an important connection between ourselves and God. What better way to be ready to “meet our Maker” than participating in the gifts that He has given us in order to stay close to Him during our time on Earth? Being faithful to the Mass so that we can receive our Lord weekly in Communion and not just when it is convenient for us, even if it takes a great effort, demonstrates our love of God and enriches our souls with grace. Becoming regular attendees of the sacrament of Penance, not obsessively but regularly, helps us to reorder our lives in a way that moves ourselves away from our sins and toward God. Having regular prayer lives, communicating ourselves with God and being attentive to His responses is another way to ensure we are keeping our lives on the right track. In short, keeping ourselves close to God here on Earth is a very good way to ensure that we will be with Him in eternity. Amen.
– Deacon Bill Watzek
Posted: Sunday, November 5, 2017
God Looks at Us and Sees that Many of Us “Trick or Treat.”
Over the last couple of days, your doorbell rang and little children stood outside saying “Trick or Treat”. Indeed, children love Halloween because they like to make believe. God has given them huge imaginations, and with a little cloth here and a mask there they can be anyone their minds tells them they are. The only problem I have with Halloween is when it becomes a glorification of evil. For most of us, Halloween is just an opportunity for the children to dress up, and have fun.
Putting on a mask and pretending is perfectly acceptable for children, particularly on Halloween. However, putting on a mask and pretending is not acceptable for a follower of Jesus Christ. God is not satisfied with people imagining that they are great followers of Christ. In the Gospel reading today, Jesus gives the example of the Pharisees. These Pharisees went trick or treating to all the important banquets so that everyone else could see them. They pretended to be holy, but they were not holy.
God looks at us and sees many of us as trick or treaters. He might see a religious leader wearing a nice pious costume and saying all the proper things, but carrying on immorally. He might look at a mother or a father, who quickly proclaim their Christianity, but in reality act as though this is just a costume disguising someone who is not open to God in his or her life. We are told to fight against our own hypocrisy. How can we do this? For one thing, we cannot demand more from others than we demand from ourselves. As a priest, I cannot demand that others fulfill their worship obligations if I do not fulfill mine. You cannot demand that others be kind and caring, if you are mean to your neighbors that you’ve never liked. If you are still in school, you cannot claim to be a Christian if you join those kids who hurt other kids in your class.
Dear brothers and sisters, Halloween is for children. Following Jesus is the serious work of people who are willing to expose their faces and their lives to the world. If we can find the courage to let Jesus be our guide, if every aspect of our lives reflects the presence of Jesus in the world, then we would not be wearing masks, but would really and truly be followers of Christ. May the grace of Christ on the Cross, which we receive in the Eucharist, give us the ability to live our Christianity.
– Fr. Dominic Toan-Tran