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These reflections are a result of more than 40 years of ministry as a Roman Catholic priest. Most of these years I spent in the Diocese of Charlotte which covers Western North Carolina. Now I am retired, and live in Medellín, Colombia where I continue to serve as a priest in the Archdiocese of Medellín.

Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (Mt 16:24-25)

The cost of discipleship . . . sometimes we wonder if it’s worth it. And of course, the answer comes . . . where else would we want to be but with Him? Today is the feast of Pope Saint Sixtus and his companions. What is so special about Saint Sixtus? Well, in three days we will celebrate the feast of Saint Lawrence . . . which is the rest of the story. The Church of Rome traditionally had seven deacons. The deacons held very important positions in the church . . . Saint Lawrence was the arch-deacon. There was a persecution of the church at that time and gatherings of Christians were prohibited. Pope Sixtus said he wanted to celebrate the Eucharist with the community at one of the cemeteries. Cemeteries were outside the city walls and away from the police. So the pope along with the seven deacons gathered with the community. But the police arrived and grabbed the pope and five of the deacons. Pope Sixtus and four deacons were beheaded on the spot: Januarius, Vincentius, Magnus and Stephanus. Two of the deacons managed to escape to the cemetery across the street . . . where they were captured and beheaded: Felicissimus and Agapitus. The arch-deacon Lawrence was arrested and his story follows on August 10th.

Sunday, 02 August 2020 15:52

THE TRANSFIGURATION OF THE LORD, August 6

Beloved: We did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father when that unique declaration came to him from the majestic glory, “This is my Son, my beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven while we were with him on the holy mountain. (2 Peter 1:16-18)

Like the witness of the first disciples, we too have been to the Holy Mountain and have caught glimpse of Jesus revealed in glory. And as the Lord reminds us, we are witnesses of these things “to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). The picture today is the Great Western Window of the Basilica of Saint Lawrence in Asheville, NC.

With age-old love I have loved you; so I have kept my mercy toward you. Again I will restore you, and you shall be rebuilt, O virgin Israel; Carrying your festive tambourines, you shall go forth dancing with the merrymakers. Again you shall plant vineyards on the mountains of Samaria; those who plant them shall enjoy the fruits. Yes, a day will come when the watchmen will call out on Mount Ephraim: “Rise up, let us go to Zion, to the LORD, our God.” (Jer 31:3-6)

The promise of restoration . . . but with age-old love. What a beautiful image! And dancing with tambourines! Today is also the feast of the dedication of the Arch-Basilica of Saint Mary Major in Rome. It is also known as Our Lady of the Snows. Located in Belleville, Illinois, and near St. Louis, Missouri, the Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows holds a special place in the heart of the Midwest.

Thus says the LORD: See!  I will restore the tents of Jacob, his dwellings I will pity; City shall be rebuilt upon hill, and palace restored as it was. From them will resound songs of praise, the laughter of happy men. . . . . You shall be my people, and I will be your God. (Jer 30:18-22)

Not war, woe and pestilence but a promise of restoration . . . “You shall be my people, and I will be your God.” Today is the feast of Saint John Vianney, the patron saint of parish priests. He always referred to our Lord as “our good God.” In the middle of this pandemic we need a word of hope, we need to hear the laughter of children and the elderly, we need to sing songs of praise once again. Perhaps we could use Saint John Vianney's prayers today!

Wednesday, 29 July 2020 16:47

MONDAY, WEEK XVIII, ORDINARY TIME

Some time after the prophet Hananiah had broken the yoke from off the neck of the prophet Jeremiah, The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: Go tell Hananiah this:   Thus says the LORD: By breaking a wooden yoke, you forge an iron yoke! (Jer 28:12-13)

Dueling prophets in the house of the Lord . . . folks must have been a little bit confused. But seeing Jeremiah wearing a wooden yoke around his neck must have must have provoked howls of laughter, especially when the prophet Hananiah removed it from Jeremiah’s neck and broke it. But a wooden yoke will soon be replaced by an iron yoke, says the Lord, and no one is laughing anymore.

Wednesday, 29 July 2020 16:39

XVIII ORDINARY SUNDAY

Taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds. They all ate and were satisfied. (Mt 14:19-20)

What a feast we have today in the readings for the Mass: Isaiah’s invitation to come to the water, Paul’s declaration that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ, and Matthew’s Feeding of the 5,000. The Feeding of the 5,000 is one of the many feeding stories that form the background for the Table Ministry of Jesus and which culminates in the Last Supper in the Gospel According to Matthew and is a sign of its fulfillment in the Wedding Feast of the Lamb in the Book of Revelation (Rev 19:9). The connection with the Eucharist is deliberate. The gospel writer uses the same verbal actions to describe both the Feeding of the 5,000 and the Last Supper: take, bless, break and give:

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and giving it to his disciples said, “Take and eat; this is my body.” (Mt 26:26)

R. Lord, in your great love, answer me. “See, you lowly ones, and be glad; you who seek God, may your hearts revive! For the LORD hears the poor, and his own who are in bonds he spurns not.” R. Lord, in your great love, answer me. (Psalm 69)

The Lord hears the cry of the poor . . . how important the psalms are for the church. The Book of Psalms was the original hymn book for the temple which means they were written to be sung . . . not recited. Although the music hasn’t survived, we still have the lyrics. Every age and culture of the church have made the psalms their own. Musicians, composers and singers have combined to produce beautiful music with these ancient hymns. The message of the psalms still sings!

Today is the feast of Saint Alphonsus Liguori, the founder of the Redemptorists. Like most religious founders, Saint Alphonsus wrote a meditation on the fourteen stations of The Way of the Cross. I still remember how each meditation ended:

I love you, Jesus, my love, with my whole heart. I repent of ever having offended you. Never permit me to offend you again. Grant that I may love you always, and then do with me what you will.

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