There is a story in Acts of the Apostles chapter 19. St. Paul had been in Ephesus for two years, preaching and healing in the name of Jesus Christ. Then itinerant exorcists came into the city. They were like the traveling medicine men of the Old West, selling snake oil that healed everyone’s woes........for a price. When they learned how the popular Paul had become, they saw a chance to make a profit using his name and Jesus’ name. It would be relatively simple since they knew that many people would be healed by the power of suggestion. The trouble is that they came upon the real thing, a man who was really suffering from demonic possession. These charlatans, the seven sons of Sceva, proclaimed over the man, “I adjure by the name of Jesus whom Paul preaches to come out of this man.” Well, the devil answered back from the man, “Jesus I know. Paul I know. But who are you?” The Jews fled for their lives.
This weekend's first reading and Gospel tell totally different stories. We see in the first reading Eldad and Medad weren’t at the gathering, but they still received the Spirit and began to prophesize. Moses's assistant and successor, Joshua, could not tolerate the two men who started prophesying without attending the appointed place at the appointed time, but Moses had the wisdom to know that God gives the spirit to whomever God wishes. Moses was about extending boundaries.
The first reading provides biblical background for the Gospel with Jesus's response to the same kind of jealousy. The apostle, John, noticed a man casting out demons in Jesus name. He said, “We tried to prevent him.” Jesus gives a warning to his disciples for their jealousy and suspicion. Jesus told them, “Whoever is not against us is for us.” Jesus was about extending boundaries.
Are we not like the disciples when we get upset at the good others do because of jealousy or fear? Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa put it, "We are to watch with joy, not with jealousy, the many who prophesy and cast out demons, thus contributing to authentic human development." So stretch out our hands in generosity. The only restriction concerns whatever causes you to sin and lose the kingdom. Otherwise, expect God to work in unexpected places, in unexpected people, in unexpected ways.
A couple of years ago when I did the homily on this passage, someone asked me after the Mass, “Father, how do we recognize the working of God’s spirit in our world?” The first story I explained from Acts, tells us to be prudent. This weekend’s reading tells us that we need to recognize the goodness around us and lead others to goodness, joy, love, and holiness. I think we need to pray to the Holy Spirit and ask help, so we can see his presence and spirit in action around us.
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I write this message from Heartwood, Trego, WI. I am with other priests from our Diocese for our annual retreat. Our retreat master Fr. Paul Lickteig SJ is our retreat master who talks about Ignatian Spirituality. He asked us to meditate on three questions. They are: 1. What have I done for Christ? 2. What am I doing for Christ? 3. What ought I to do for Christ?
The first Sunday of September, Immaculate Conception celebrated Catechetical Sunday and this weekend St. Anthony and St. Francis are celebrating. This year the theme for Catechetical Sunday is "Enlisting Witnesses for Jesus Christ." I thought those three questions can be asked in the context of Catechetical Sunday too. As a priest, deacon, CRE, catechist, parent, grandparent, whatever our role, the above questions are relevant. I think we can add one more question: how do we share our faith with our young people?
I would like to borrow a thought from Fr. Bloom. He writes, many years ago, in England, three men were pouring into a trough a mixture of water, sand, lime and other ingredients. A passer-by asked them what they were doing. The first said, "I am making mortar." The second: "I am laying bricks." But the third said, "I am building a cathedral." They were doing the same thing, but each looked at it differently. And what a difference that made! We can see something similar in the way people relate to their parish, why they give. One person says, "Oh! All they do down there is ask for money." The second person replies, "Well, you have to pay the bills." But the third person says, "I am building the Body of Christ."
We are entrusted with Good News to spread in the world. Catechetical Sunday is a wonderful opportunity to reflect on the role that each person plays, by virtue of Baptism, in handing on the faith and being a witness to the Gospel. Catechetical Sunday is an opportunity to rededicate ourselves to this mission as a community of faith.
I encourage everyone to find time for Mass every weekend and encourage our young people to come with you. Second, try to attend more than weekend Mass, if you can make it to a weekday Mass. On September 19, we have a Blue Mass to honor all current and retired law enforcement, firefighters, EMTs, and First Responders in the area.
The weekend of September 22 and 23rd we have dynamic speaker Dr. Mario Joseph. He will be speaking during Mass and there will be an hour session after the 9:30 Mass on 23rd. He was a Muslim priest and converted to Catholicism. It is an amazing story.
On September 26 at 6:30pm we have a one man performance of the Sermon on the Mount performed by Frank Runyeon
This is another opportunity to grow in faith: just sign in on your computer or cell phone for FORMED.ORG . Click on access code and enter the code for our parish GB88X. Through the generosity of our people and parish participation, we have purchased this website for a year. Please make use of it as there are tons of faith resources. You can watch a movie or documentary, reflect on weekend readings, and so on. Let us make use of this opportunity to grow in our faith. Let this Catechetical Sunday bring new beginnings in our faith community and let us thank each other, pray for each other, and support each other in our faith journey.
Have you ever imagined how you would feel if you could not hear or talk? Take a minute to use your imagination and experience that situation. We see in the Gospel that people brought to Jesus a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment. A group of people interceded to Jesus for the healing of this man. Jesus took him away from the crowd. He touched his ears and his mouth and said, "Be open". And the man left singing the praises of God to the world.
The first reading from the Book of Isaiah reminds us that God's eyes are constantly focused on the helpless. God tells the frightened, “Be strong, fear not! Here is your God, he comes with vindication; with divine recompense, he comes to save you.” Isaiah’s prophesy is fulfilled in Jesus’s healing of a man who was deaf and mute. And it even continues in our time, through the Sacraments and acts of charity. This is the second Sunday we hear from St. James in the second reading. The apostle gives some basic and challenging principles of life. It is a warning against our temptation to discriminate against people in our day to day life. If we want to be away from these temptations, we need to listen to Jesus, “Be open,” open our hearts and minds for others.
All of us have the ability to hear and talk, and this weekend’s readings invite us to open our ears to hear the word of God and loosen our tongues to share the good news of God’s love and salvation to others. It is also inviting us to be humble instruments of healing in the hands of God.
You might have noticed during a baptism that the priest or deacon touches the baby’s ears and mouth and says be open. This Gospel story is a story about our lives with the Lord. This Gospel story is also a good example of the intercessory prayer. There is a great need for praying for healing and the needs of others, even people those who are struggling to pray.
The Ephphatha, or opening to Christ at baptism is just the first of many openings to Christ all during our lives. At that first opening, it was Christ who opened our ears and mouths. Since then it is up to us to open up to Christ. How many times does Christ stands before us in various ways; we have to decide to open up to Christ.
Today, are we open to receiving healing and to be an instrument of healing? We need to receive God’s love, forgiveness, and healing in a personal way and in a communitarian way. At the same, the reading reminds that we need to intercede for others for their healing. At the Eucharist, the true healer, Jesus shares with us his very life in the Body and Blood. Let us open our minds and hearts to receive his healing touch, and hear his word, “Be opened.”
Priest's Retreat: This week, Monday through Thursday, the priests of the Superior Diocese will be gathering for a retreat. Please pray for everyone. We will have on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday in place of the usual Mass. Thank you.
Every human being likes to be respected, not for any title or accomplishment, but because we are created in the image and likeness of God. Labor Day is the day we can be proud of what we do, and respect others for their great service. Pope Francis pointed out, "Work is fundamental to the dignity of a person. . . . It gives one the ability to maintain oneself, one's family, to contribute to the growth of one's own nation."
After Labor Day, schools are open; it seems like we are more active, and society is more engaged and busy. It is an opportunity for us to pray for each one of us, our labor, whatever we do. It is also a special moment to pray for our children and youth, those who are going back to school. That’s their labor: to study well. Let us pray for them, their families, and their teachers.
We are back from summer, a relaxed time, to the active and vibrant beginning. It is the time to start something new. I read in an article about William Glasser who developed a method of “reality therapy” which focuses on changing our behavior patterns. He calls it “positive addiction,” and gave the examples of jogging and meditation. Beginning either of these or any new discipline is difficult. As we continue jogging or meditating, it becomes easier. If we stick with it, it becomes a healthy addiction that we simply cannot seem to do without.
It is true with our spirituality as well. For example, going to Mass, or saying a daily prayer and so on. An ancient, nameless, wise person said: “The act is the parent of the habit; the habit is the parent of the virtue.” Perseverance is key. Persevere through the hard/severe stuff to habitually praying, doing good, and attending mass.
We are back to the Gospel of Mark from John. We see in the reading, the Pharisees are scandalized that Christ’s disciples “took food with unclean hands" (Mk 7.2). The first thing to note is that Jesus does not teach at all to disobey the law. He teaches to give more importance to the dispositions of the heart rather than to the superficial gestures and rites. On one hand, Jesus invites us to follow the Commandments and on the other hand, He shows that "purity" is not a matter of washed hands or lips purified by rituals, but is a matter of the heart.
Jesus emphasizes that unclean or impure are not external things, but the bad actions and intentions that came from a heart bad and away from God. God does not exist where there is no heart because it is distracted or closed in fear. How to return the heart to God? How to approach him?
We approach God "with the frequent purification of alms, tears and the other fruits of justice that make the heart and the body pure in order to participate in the mysteries of heaven." (St Bede the Venerable). Jesus came to tell us that no law, big or small, has meaning if it is not accompanied by love and if it is not consumed in love. Every time we gather for the Eucharist, we encounter Jesus who offered himself for us and won eternal life for us. From every Mass we send out to follow in his footsteps, to live the broken and shared love. It is not easy, but let us persevere and get into a healthy addiction.
Malcolm Muggeridge accompanied a film crew to India in order to narrate a documentary on Mother Teresa. He already knew she was a good woman or he wouldn't have bothered going. When he met her, he found a good woman who was also so very compelling that he titled his documentary, Something Beautiful for God. When he asked Mother Teresa why she went to Adoration and Mass every day early in the morning she replied, "If I didn't meet my Master every day, I'd be doing no more than social work." (Victor Shepherd, December 2001.)
Every Mass, we gather to meet Christ. We are here to listen for Christ's word for our life. We are here to say, like Peter, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God."
In the first reading Joshua challenged the Israelites to decide whom they would serve, the God of their fathers, or the gods of the Amorites in whose country they were then dwelling. The Israelites recall that it was the Lord, our God, who brought their fathers out of slavery, and they responded to his challenge and renewed their relationship with God of Israel. The renewal of the covenant ceremony in Joshua 24 reminds us that the Eucharist is a covenant meal that calls for a decision of faith.
Concluding the long bread of life discourse in today’s gospel, Jesus challenges His audience to make their choice of accepting the new covenant. The disciples respond to Jesus’s challenge in two ways. One group finds Jesus’s words too hard to take. They left Jesus and embraced their former ways. The second group faced the challenges and remained with Jesus.
Today’s passage describes the various reactions of the people to Jesus’s claims. As Joshua spoke to his followers, Jesus speaks to the twelve apostles and gives them the option of leaving Him or staying with Him. Jesus said to his twelve disciples, “Do you also want to leave?" Simon Peter answered him, "Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” The disciples couldn’t reject Jesus after all that He had done for them. The apostles exercised their freedom of choice by choosing to stay with Jesus.
In the Eucharistic celebration, we, like Peter, are called to make a decision, profess our faith in God’s Son, and renew the covenant ratified in His life, death, and resurrection. We have Mass every day of the week. We have the opportunity to spend time in adoration every first Friday of the month. On first Friday we can come any time of the day if you cannot come for particular hour of the day. Let us meet him personally in Eucharist celebration.