Weekly Clergy Devotions
It seems the news on the Coronavirus gets worse by the day. It seems to have negatively impacted virtually every aspect of our lives. Yet the 1st Reading (EZ 37:12-14) beautifully reminds us that no matter how bad or scary things may get, we need to keep our perspective.
In the first reading we are not only told about our future resurrection, we are promised it! We even say that, “we look forward to” the resurrection every single Sunday. Things may have gotten worse in many ways since this new decade began, but we need to keep our perspective that this life is virtually nothing compared to our eternal destiny.
We are reminded of this destiny not only to keep our hopes up through the hard times and, often, unpredictable challenges, we are also reminded so that we can begin living our destiny today—to show that we recognize that, with all its joys and sorrows, life does not end here; to free ourselves of anything that is keeping us from that realization in any slight way.
First and foremost, to make sure anxiety does not make things unnecessarily worse. We are called to be concerned, not anxious—to do all we can to protect ourselves and our loved ones. During this unexpected and unprecedented circumstance we have gone from struggling to get everything done in an nearly-overwhelming frenzy of activity to being mostly confined to our homes with most (if not all) of our schedules cleared. While it’s not our choosing, it is our opportunity to look at our closet relationships and to reconcile, to restore them, to get to know each other better, to enhance our relationships.
While I’m absolutely referring to immediate family, I am also referring to our relationship with God. Please take this opportunity to spend more time in prayer, spiritual reflection, and reading the Bible and other spiritual books—individually and as a family. I promise that, ultimately, great things will come of it!
Although it may not feel like it at all right now, the many woes surrounding Coronavirus will pass. By striving, in the meantime and always, to give that same love which Jesus has already given us, we show that we are keeping the perspective of our eternal destiny today!
Fr. Martin Dunne III
4th Sunday of Lent
In our reading from the first Book of Samuel we have the story of the Lord choosing David to be the next King of Israel and the sending of Samuel to anoint him as such. Samuel, not knowing which of the sons of Jesse God had chosen and looking on the first son, Eliab, he thought that he had his man due to his “appearance” and being “lofty in stature.” The Lord, however,
informed Samuel that the outward appearance is not to be trusted and that “Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but the Lord looks into the heart.” The truth of this is very apparent to us in that we often judge people, either rightly or wrongly, by outside appearances, while God, who knows us more intimately than we know ourselves, sees our whole being including our thoughts and motivations. This can be a very frightening revelation if we do not take into account the overflowing mercy of God and the fact that our salvation comes directly from Him through the Incarnation, death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ. Thus, even though God sees us as we truly are, creatures who fall into sin, He still loves us with the love of a Father and is always there for us to turn to even in our worst of times. So as we proceed with our Lenten practices there is still time to turn to our Lord and seek His forgiveness for the times that we have failed to do His will in the knowledge of His generous and certain love.
Deacon Bill Watzek
Called Out of Our Comfort Zone!
Do you like interruptions? Let’s say you’re relaxing on the couch in your home. Maybe you’re watching the game on TV. Then you hear a voice, a very insistent voice, calling to you from the kitchen. It’s dinnertime, your mother, or your spouse, wants you to help set the table. In any case, your peace is disturbed, and your relaxation is interrupted. How do you feel? What will it take to get you off your couch?
I imagine that the people in our readings today had to struggle with similar questions. Of course, it’s unlikely that Abram and Jesus and his disciples ever relaxed in couches exactly like the ones we find in our homes. Nevertheless, it’s quite clear that each of them was called to leave a place of comfort, and to embark on an uncertain, even dangerous journey.
In the first reading we meet Abram, he is living in a place called Haran. This is where Abram’s father, Terah, had settled with his family many years ago. And now, Abram is already seventy-five years old. He has gathered many possessions and a large household. Haran is like a pleasant couch into which he and his family have settled, and they are comfortable here. Then, suddenly, a voice disturbs their peace. Indeed, this is no ordinary voice. It is God, calling Abram to uproot his family, to leave the comfort of Haran, and to go on a journey, where? God will not say. We can imagine what it must have been like for Abram to receive this call.
In the Gospel reading, we find Jesus and the three disciples resting in a comfortable place. Their couch is not Haran, but the mountain of transfiguration. Indeed, below the mountain, there are lots of people waiting to disturb them, begging to be healed of diseases, and things are messy and noisy. But up here, on the mountaintop, there is peace, and there’s even an intense experience of the glory of God. Is it any wonder then that Peter wishes to remain on the mountain? “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
My dear brothers and sisters, we too are called to leave our comfy couches and to follow in the footsteps of Christ. And our couches are as many as they are addictive. But the least we can do, especially in this season of Lent, is to allow God to teach us the same lesson that Abram learned: That if we choose to cling to our comfort, not only will we cause others to suffer, but our lives will remain self-centered and barren. So what will it take to get us off our comfort zone today?
Fr. Dominic Toan Tran
The 1st Reading reminds us that the call to follow God has always, and often called for radical steps to be taken, as Abram left his family, his homeland, everything he had ever known to follow God’s will!
God’s will is truly the very best path anyone can take for their lives, as God’s will is the very purpose of our existence. However, it does not take much to imagine people close to us being disapproving, or even rejecting, of us for our decision. They may think we’re wasting our lives, making a horrible mistake, depriving ourselves, causing scandal, creating bad perceptions, even hurting others. Yet if it is God’s will (and we believe it to be such) how can it be anything but the very best path? We can do our best to explain why we believe God’s will is the best path (and God’s will is the path the results in the greatest internal peace). Even if no one else understands we still have to pursue God’s will. Otherwise we are shortchanging many who would have benefit from our decision, especially ourselves.
This Lent is the perfect season to take stock of whether we are totally, un-hesitantly, embracing God’s plans in every way, especially insuring that we are not allowing anything, or anyone to be an excuse for us not to pursue them. Part of the trust in taking God’s will as our own is believing that, even if there is short- and/or long-term rejection, we are the ones who will benefit the most for the radical display of trust.
Yet it is so critically important to remember that taking the radical steps to fulfill God’s will is, ultimately, the most rewarding path. Just as Abram began a great people, a great source of blessing (ultimately leading to Jesus), our, “yes” to God’s plans will yield great fruits for our lives. We only need to respond as Abram did, in trust that God will not only bring us such fruits, but will also guide us every step of the way.
Fr. Martin Dunne III
1st Sunday of Lent
In our gospel reading at the outset of Lent Jesus goes out into the desert and is tempted by the Devil. Lent itself has also been
described as a desert experience. We enter Lent with a day of fasting and abstinence, we are called to be people of charity, prayer and repentance during our Lenten experience. Just as Jesus was tempted by the Devil we will be tempted during our Lent to not be as rigorous in our prayer life as we should be, to be lax in our generosity to others and to break our Lenten promises to God.
So as we proceed through our journey this Lenten season let us remember to be conscience of our duty to our God. As members of the body of Christ we are called to do our part, to turn away from sin and truly believe in the Gospel, that Good News which binds us together and gives us mission. So let our mission be to remain faithful to our Lenten practices and come to Holy Week ready to share in the suffering death and glorious resurrection of our saving lord and God.
Deacon Bill Watzek
Let us Allow God to Touch us and Make us Holy
Dear brothers and sisters, I am going to ask you a few questions. How many of you think that you are perfect? How many of you think you are holy? And this question is for couples: How many of you think that your spouse or partner is holy? This question is for children: How many of you think that your parents are holy? Are they perfect? And here is the last question. What makes somebody holy and what do I expect to see in a holy person?
In the first reading, God says to Moses, “Speak to the whole Israelite community and tell them: Be holy, for I, the LORD, your God, am holy.” In other words, holiness is an invitation from God. In the second reading, the call to holiness comes in a more convincing question, “Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” In the gospel reading, Jesus, continuing with the Sermon on the Mount, says to His disciples: “be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” In all these passages, holiness is not presented as an option. It is proposed as the very goal of each one of us as a Christian discipleship.
As we grow further in our spiritual life we need to recognize that holiness is more than just about morning and evening prayer and avoiding wrongdoing. The way scripture talks about holiness, it also means actively pursuing that which is true, just, and good. Holiness and perfection are about the character we develop and the kind of persons we become.
As we are approaching Lenten reason in a couple days, let us allow God to touch us and make us holy. As we do so, let us be aware of the presence of God within us. And may our own sanctity lead us to share our holiness with others. May this Eucharist give us the grace to strive for holiness and perfection by breaking the cycle of hatred, revenge and whining.
Fr. Dominic Toan Tran
The 2nd Reading seems insignificant, maybe even irrelevant: it is Paul’s greeting to the Church community of Corinth in his first letter to them (and all biblical scholars agree that this was one of the letters Paul definitively authored!). Yet there is more significance than even that! There are many similarities between Corinth and our country today.
Ancient Corinth was considered one of the most advanced, diverse populations in the ancient world, but there were, understandably, great divisions as a result of the sharp differences such that some thought themselves superior to others. Compounding everything was a cultural immorality which was comparable to Las Vegas’ main street. Yet Paul saw their potential because of the things the Church community got right, and he believed this potential could be their springboard to fine-tuning, and thus enriching, our faith.
Paul’s messages in this letter are more relevant than ever: the reminder of initiation into God’s elect by baptism, the power of the Eucharist to keep the participation in Christ alive, the pre-eminence of love, the gift of the spirit offered to all (which reminds us that we are equally God’s children called to the same salvation), and the reality that true love destroys hierarchies of status are just some of the many timeless lessons contained—lessons we must remember so we do not get swept away from the darker influences of society (such as from much of the media) which frequently seek to tear us down.
Now, as then, the purpose of Paul’s letter is to encourage all to focus on the good and our God-given potential to be better! No matter how far-off someone may seem, I believe that there is at least (& often more than) a grain of good in everyone—a good that is meant to develop into a greatness such that there is simply no more room for the bad!
Fr. Martin Dunne III
5th Sunday Ordinary Time
The salt of the earth and the light of the world, these are what Jesus compares his followers with. Salt was used as a preservative as well as flavoring in the time of Jesus. So Jesus is telling us to preserve the human condition and to flavor it with the graces that he sends us. We are also to be the light to the world, reflecting the Holy Light of God that shines on His loved ones to share with the world the path out of the darkness of sin into the brilliance of the love of God. So let us all do our jobs and be that salt and that light so we may share the love of God with all we meet!
Deacon Bill Watzek
We adore and worship Christ our light and our salvation!
We are making a retreat back to the Christmas season. February 2nd is the Feast of the Presentation of Lord in the Temple, and this year February 2nd happens to fall on a Sunday. So here we are once again back to the childhood of Jesus, when just last week we heard about the call of the disciples.
I would like to approach the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the temple as an extension of the feast of the Epiphany. The difference between the two feasts is that whereas at the Epiphany Jesus is manifested to the whole world, at his presentation in the temple, he is manifested to his own people. Simeon’s prophecy in today’s gospel foretells what Christ will accomplish for Israel as a nation. Simeon’s prophecies suggest that Jesus will be glory to the people Israel, and that he will be responsible for the rise and fall of many in Israel. Simeon also has a very different prophecy for Mary as opposed to what the angel has told her at the annunciation. He says to her, “and you yourself a sword will pierce so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” Anna, the prophetess also focuses on the internal ministry of Jesus. She “spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.”
So dear brothers and sisters, in today’s gospel reading Simeon and Anna prophesy that Jesus would be light and salvation for Israel. It is in this context that I also would like to talk about evangelization. Evangelization means that believers today can bring the light and the good news of salvation to those around us. The most important thing to understand about evangelization is that not something we do. Evangelization calls for our life, our families, and our parishes to have Christ at the center. When Christ is truly at the center of our life then evangelization becomes a byproduct of who we are rather than something we do. May this Eucharist, in which we adore and worship Christ our light and our salvation, help us individually and as a family, to become light and bearers of the good news of salvation.
Fr. Dominic Toan Tran
In the 2nd Reading Paul humorously, but genuinely, pleads that there be no divisions among us. It’s not the only time he does this in his letter (not counting the untold number of letters that are, “lost”). I’m convinced more than ever that this is the biggest challenge we face in discipleship. Yet with God’s help we can even overcome this!
The most poignant reminder I received about this need for no divisions among us was at college seminary. Aside from being Catholic males discerning the call the priesthood, we were literally as different as could be—and that would constantly be a source of frustration when you live under the same small roof for months on-end 7 days each week! But our rector reminded us we are never meant to even say anything harmful about the other—because each of us, through our baptism, are not only equals but one through our baptism into the Body of Christ! We still got under each other’s skin all the time but remembering that did make things easier!
I feel that is the key to overcoming our divisions (however small or insignificant they may seem)…there can’t be any divisions, because even if the other isn’t yet baptized they still have that calling to be one through Baptism. In a very real sense, if we cause divisions between ourselves and anyone else, however small, we are harming ourselves; we are harming the Body of Christ. Now why would we want to do that?
Fr. Martin Dunne III
2nd Sunday Ordinary Time Cycle A
How does one get to know someone else? Often it begins with an introduction. In our Gospel today John the Baptist is introducing Jesus to some of his own disciples. He introduces him not as one is usually introduced but in a very interesting way. He says “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” This is surely some introduction! The disciples must have been somewhat impressed and also somewhat confused about what this meant. We on the other hand know the rest of the story so we are not as confounded as the students of John must have been. The question now remains, now that we have been introduced to Jesus and pretty much know who he was and what he did for us, how are we responding to him? Is he a force in our lives and the way that we live or is he just an hour out of our week because we were taught to go to church on Sunday. At the beginning of this new liturgical year is a good time to come to know who Jesus is and allow him to have some affect in our lives. Listen to the Gospels throughout the year, study the Bible a bit and allow Christ to come into your heart. This is a great opportunity to get to know your savior.
Deacon Bill Watzek
Our Baptism Is An Act of Submission!
Dear brothers and sisters, I would like to approach the baptism of Jesus from the perspective of submission. The idea that Jesus should be baptized is a rather awkward thought. The question will arise in our mind: If Jesus was without sin, if Jesus was the Redeemer rather than standing in need of redemption, why should he submit himself to the Baptist? As in the Gospel reading today, John the Baptist even protested saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me?” And also the Catechism of the Catholic Church says that at Jesus Baptism, “he is submitting himself entirely to his Father’s will: out of love he consents to this baptism of death for the remission of our sins” (CCC#536). Indeed, at Christmas, Jesus chose to dwell among us by becoming one of us, and today at his baptism, Jesus chose to take his stand beside us. He was baptized not because he needed to be baptized but rather by his submission he was bringing all of humanity to God. That is why Jesus says, “Allow it for now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill righteousness.”
So we must reflect on our own baptism as an act of submission. As baptized Christians and as disciples we must understand the power of sub-mission not so that we might be misused but rather, that our submission may unite us with Christ. Our baptism must be lived out in our submission to God in the same way Jesus did. Our submission to God must lead us to be empowered and affirmed in our identity as children of God, and in our mission as disciples. Every time we gather at the table of the Lord, we see the power of submission at every Eucharist. Jesus submits himself to us in the bread and wine. And we are invited to submit ourselves to the power of Christ.
Fr. Dominic Toan Tran