Reach Out and Touch Someone

jesus Cleanses the Leper

Leviticus 13: 1-2, 44-46
1st Corinthians 10:31—11:1
Mark 1:40-45

In the Scripture readings for the Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, we see again passages that emphasizes the role of Jesus as healer. We saw in last Sunday’s readings, that his reputation as a healer spread so fast, that the whole town of Capernaum crowded around St. Peter’s home, many seeking a cure, others wishing to witness a miracle. Realizing that he could be trapped in Capernaum by the crowd, he leaves the town early the next morning; before anyone else is awake to stop him. He goes to a deserted place for prayer, but his disciples are still able to find him. He tells them that his purpose is to bring the Good News to all the Galilee. But even in that deserted place, Jesus encounters someone in need of healing, a leper. Now leprosy was among the most dreaded diseases of ancient times, seen as highly contagious. In the first reading, from the Book of Leviticus, we see the ritual one had to go through if he or she was suspected of leprosy. The leper was driven from the community, living in solitary suffering. That person would eventually either die alone, or in company of fellow lepers. Jesus wishes to heal the leper before him, so he does what would be considered madness by his companions, he touches him. The miracle happens, the person is made clean, made whole. Jesus instructs him to just go and show himself to the temple priest and be brought back into the community. Of course, this does not happen, the cured man proclaims to all what has happened to him, and who did it, and Jesus must change his approach to the people.

 

However, I would like to offer another interpretation of this Scripture. It has to do with the fact that because of this disfiguring disease, this person was separated from the people of Israel. He was lost, destined to be alone in deserted places. Now, consider that “leprosy” can come in many forms; like poverty, like addiction, homelessness, mental disabilities. One can be considered a societal “leper;” if one is an immigrant or refugee, with different languages, different customs, different beliefs. They feel separated from the wider community, ostracized, discriminated against. And here is Jesus Christ, who is telling us, by his example, to reach out and touch them; reach out and embrace them; reach out and bring them back into the wider community of our cities and towns, our states and nation. This is the mission, the calling of the Christian community. This is the work of our Church, to heal and bring back those who are wounded, lost and alone.

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Prayer For The Rough Patches

We all have had rough patches during our lives.  These are the times when our life situations can seem to be difficult, chaotic, and uncertain.  We question why things did not turn out as we hoped; and what the future holds.  I have rediscovered a prayer written by the Trappist monk, and spiritual writer, Thomas Merton.  He included this prayer in his 1958 book, “Thoughts in Solitude.”  I discovered it on a prayer card, issued by a society dedicated to promoting his writings.  I would pray it at times, then forget about it, find it, and forget about it, again.  It does seem to pop up in my sight or consciousness during those times when I need it.  I offer it below for any of you who might need it:

Merton 0218

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will, does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”
― Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude

Christmas – 2017

Christmas Eve SBC 2017

 

Christmas time has come around once more for all Christians, for all Catholics. The Church has put away it’s purple colored vestments and liturgical decorations. The Advent wreath has been taken down. In their place, the chapel sanctuary, where I worship, is strewn with red and white poinsettias, a Christmas tree, with white lights. A manger scene with Mary, Joseph, and the Baby Jesus, has been set up in front of the altar.

 
The chapel quickly fills for our 4:00PM Vigil Mass, and soon it is standing room only. Our guitar choral group leads us in song, we join in singing the old Christmas favorites. We have a guest priest as our celebrant this night, and the sacred liturgy begins. We hear the words of the prophet Isaiah spoken; telling of ancient Israel’s future vindication, and rebirth. Then we hear the Good News from St. Matthew, proclaimed by our celebrant:

 

“18
Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the holy Spirit.
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Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly.
20
Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord* appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her.
21
She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
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All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:
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“Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,”
which means “God is with us.”
24
When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.
25
He had no relations with her until she bore a son, and he named him Jesus. “ (Matt. 1: 18-25)

 
After hearing how Christ Jesus, though he was Son of God, willingly came into this world as a child, to begin the work of salvation; we are soon witness to another miracle. Christ is made present to us in the form of bread and wine, transformed into his Body and Blood. It was my privilege and honor to help distribute Holy Communion to those who approach. I feel something in my heart, as I hold up each host for the communicant to see, and say with conviction: “The Body of Christ.” And then place the host in the hands of the person, or on their tongue.

 
There the final prayers, and the blessing of the priest; we then sing joyful Christmas songs; celebrating the sacred event that happened in Bethlehem; the sacred moment we just experienced, and leave with the hope of Jesus’ promised return, when a new heaven and a new earth will come to be.

All peace and joy be yours this Christmas day, and God’s blessings on you for the coming year.

Pax et Bonum!

 

On Retreat

April had been a rough month.  During Holy Week, I came down with flu, and lost my voice.  So I was not able to assist at the Holy Week Services.  Getting over the flu took a lot out of me, physically and spiritually.  So it was probably a good thing that the Archdiocese of Boston annual Deacon retreat took place this weekend.

It was held at the Jesuit Campion Retreat Center, on Weston, MA.  Our retreat director was Brother Paul Feeney, CFX, who is popular with the Diaconate community, both as an educator and Retreat master.

His theme was what we can learn from spiritual master’s Evelyn Underhill, Dutch priest, Henri Nouwen; and how their writings can help us renew our spiritual lives.

It was also an opportunity to recharge my own spiritual life.

Fifth Week of Lent Reflection – 2017

Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise.’  Martha said to him, ‘I I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day’  Jesus told her,

‘I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and in me will never die.’

I think that in many ways, the above statement by Jesus is among the most powerful in Saint John’s Gospel.  It is indeed, the “Good News” that a suffering, weary world is waiting for, yearning for.

I feel, however, that these words give more than hope for eternal life, after death.  For those of us weighed down by the life’s heavy burdens; we will rise!  For those of us threatened by persecution and discrimination; we will rise!  For those of us who are in depression and despair; we will rise!  By the love and power of Christ; we will rise!


First Sunday of Lent – 2017


Since last Wednesday, “Ash Wednesday,” the Catholic Church, along with other Christian churches, began a 40 day period of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving.  This leads up to Holy Week, and the commemoration of the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Today, the First Sunday of Lent, the sanctuary of our church is decorated in somber, purple; with no flowers.  We process in, not with hymns, but chanting prayers, begging for God’s mercy; and for the intercession of the saints.

The scripture readings for today, first tell of how our first parents, gave into temptation, and brought sin and death into the world.  Then  we hear the Gospel, the “Good News,” of how Jesus resisted temptation, and began the journey that would lead to our liberation.  

So how will we spend these days of Lent; will we intensify our spiritual lives? Will we “repent and believe the Good News?”  Will we be lights to a world so threatened by darkness, by hate, and violence.  Let us “prepare the way of the Lord, and be witnesses of the power of His Love!

Weekend Coffee Share – o6/19/2016

deacon coffee mugIf we were sharing a cup of coffee, I would tell you that my wife and I are on Cape Cod this weekend.  We are visiting her parents, and celebrating Father’s Day.  The weather is beautiful; cool sea breezes, blue skies and bright sunlight.  It is a nice break, a nice change of scenery for a bit.  And it is a little respite from the feelings that I still have concerning the tragedy in Orlando, FL  My in-laws do not have their TV on much, so I have been out of touch with the world.  It is a nice break, but only a temporary one.  We still have to reflect on, pray over, and act on the events of that terrible night.

Over a cup of coffee, I would tell you that since last we met, I, as a deacon, baptized two little girls into the Catholic Christian faith.  One was a relative newborn, the other was a toddler.  I preached a short homily, telling the assembled families and friends that we were about to witness something awesome!  The power of the Holy Spirit was going to be at work before us.  Through the waters of Baptism, they were brought into the Mystical Body of Christ.  And their lives will be forever changed.  And the lives of their parents are forever changed, for they have made a commitment to the Church to bring their children up in the Faith.  I tell them that fulfilling that promise means something more than just seeing to it that their child goes to religious education classes.  It means that they must show how the Faith is lived, by the example of their own lives; both the struggles and the joys.  They are in my prayers.

ACMNPOver a cup of coffee, I would tell that many years ago, when I was a young seminarian, I spent a couple of summers in an ecumenical program, called A Christian Ministry in the National Parks.  They recruited seminary and college students from all Christian denominations; to go out to various national parks, and lead Sunday worship services for park visitors and employees.  We seminarians were called Student Ministers.  Those of us who were Catholic, would either assist a visiting priest at Mass, or lead a Service of the Word.  I had my first experiences of preaching before people back then. Some of usalso organized Bible study groups, or organized choral singing groups.  We earned our keep by working for the park concessionaires; I found myself working in some kitchens in Yellowstone National Park.  Recently I signed up to become a ACMNP Prayer Partner for someone who will be going to a park in Alaska.  Daily, I remember this young man in my prayers; praying for his safety, and success in his ministry.

Well, the coffee cup is empty, I wish you all wellness and blessings, and hope to see you again over a hot cuppa joe.