Friday, May 24, 2013

Moore, OK

My nephew lives in Moore, Oklahoma. He is a music director. It’s hard to imagine what he experienced last Monday afternoon. There were a host of concerns, even terrifying moments. A roofing truss tore through the house leaving a clear reminder of what had happened. But he was alright. We had a terrifying few moments that ended with the fear being washed away almost instantly upon hearing the voice of my brother tell us that he was alright.

How we see these events is a matter of perception. Even the passage of time seems to have an effect on how we look at the unfolding of an event. There are always the nagging questions concerning why something happens, especially if it has tragic results. Our faith has a great amount to say about this and we turn to it to help us. The truth is, however, that there is very little that expresses an argument that holds water. Is God punishing us for our sins? In opposition there are those who say that God cannot be the cause, for God is loving. And then there are those who hold to the idea that God is a just judge and all his actions are an expression of his judgment.

One my favorite passages from the Gospel of John concerns the “Man Born Blind.”
As he passed by he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him. (John 9:1-3)
Of course, the key is verse three that is rather unmistakably a testimony to (1) the goodness of God and (2) that fact God is involved. All God’s ways express his majestic goodness. How does a tornado rumbling through a quiet town in the middle of a prairie express anything but destructive power? The answer has to do with heroes, those who in a simple, everyday manner make the glory of God known through their heroic acts. The loving care, the unbridled courage, the sense of desperation that moves a man or a woman to focus on one thing: helping.

We are deeply appreciative for the sacrifices made by emergency workers and all the many others who never say “no” to the call they are given.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

How Much Should I Give?

Providing guidance for people’s participation in the Capital and Endowment Campaign for the Diocese of Dallas is a most difficult proposition. This is not limited to people who are looking for guidance that will allow them to make a minimal contribution. The committed Catholic might be ready to make an offering but is simply unsure. Is it merely a matter of math or are there deeper spiritual principals involved?

The first and most obvious of principals is that stewardship choices have an impact on our relationship with God. This may be of no great surprise. It usually is the obvious that is most often overlooked.
Matthew records Jesus’s teaching:
“No one can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat [or drink], or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they?
Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span? Why are you anxious about clothes? Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin. But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them. If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?

So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’ All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom (of God) and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.
(Mat 6:24-6:34 NAB)
Do we have the courage to depend on God? Are we ready to follow in the way that he teaches? Much of the fear concerning this is practical. There are people in need and God has placed them in our path. Our response is difficult to escape.
If anyone says, “I love God,” but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. This is the commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. (1John 4:20-21 NAB)
One of the great challenges for a Catholic today is simple: raw materialism. It involves filling our life with things. This can be done at every income level. An organized and committed stewardship resolution (or plan) keeps that materialism in check. For example, giving at a level that challenges us helps us to detach from our love of money and financial success. To fall into this trap is sometimes irreversible.

Ultimately it is the cross that defines our response to any challenge to give. It was there that our Lord taught the world how to deal with materialism. He showed us how to answer the question of “how much?” One day it will be obvious that our negotiations concerning this will be at an end. By then, we shall have learned how to give or not. The amount will be inspired by the Lord whose decision to give was motivated by his love for us. Undoubtedly it involves a leap of faith, falling into the Father’s merciful arms.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Ascension and Pentecost

The close of the Easter season is composed of a number of “markers” in time.  First there is the Feast of the Ascension, which according to ancient calendars is forty days after Easter.  For reasons of pastoral necessity the feast day has been transferred to the Sunday following Ascension Day.  In order to thoroughly confuse, Ascension follows Ascension.  This year Ascension is May 12.  It is a Sunday and the thinking is that more people will be sure to observe the feast if it is on a Sunday.  The information concerning the meaning of the feast comes mainly from the Acts of the Apostles and a brief mention in the Gospel of Mark. 

While the work of redemption continues it is primarily accomplished through the Church.
“He said to them, "Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.  Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:15-16 NAB)

Pentecost is more colorful scene.  The “coming down” of the Holy Spirit is accompanied by signs, tongues of fire, wind and a loud noise.  The disciples are able to speak different languages and the experienced of spiritual ecstasy (joy) is a feature of the life of the Church.  The word “Pentecost” refers to the “fiftieth day,” fifty days after Easter.  This was first harvest festival of the new year with the tithe of the land was first brought to the lord in the New Year.  At about the time of Christ, the Jewish feast of Pentecost also included a reference to Moses and the celebration of the giving of the law to Moses and God’s People. With the coming of the Holy Spirit given to the Church, we begin the celebration of the new law, the Law of the Spirit.

Honduras Mission Update

One of the principals that drive the missionary efforts of the church is education.  In consideration of how to proceed we believe that education is indispensable.  In cases of extreme poverty, such as we experience in Honduras and even in parts of the United States, education is a necessary door out of poverty. Following that principal we are making a huge commitment to build a school in Honduras.  It has been slow to get started but we hope that we will be able to proceed within a few months.  The first stop is to obtain land.  Please pray for this project, for its success and the success of all our missionary efforts.

Thursday, May 2, 2013


There are many reasons to pursue forgiveness in our relationships. I say “our relationships” because the need for forgiveness seems greatest among friends and relatives. Sometimes there is a sense of indignation that deepens the grip we have on our anger to the degree that there seems to be no hope for reconciliation. We make things worse and feel completely justified.

Jesus had much to say about forgiveness. A call for forgiveness is embedded in the most popular prayer ever placed on the lips of those who pursue God’s help:

Our Father who art in Heaven,
Hallowed be thy name;
Thy kingdom come
Thy will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
And forgive us our trespasses
As we forgive those who trespass against us;
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.

There is little question that the forgiveness being spoken of in the prayer is conditional. In other words, God will forgive us if we in turn will forgive others. We tend to separate the two acts of forgiveness in the prayer. On one hand we seek God’s
forgiveness and on the other we are urged to forgive others of their offenses committed against us. What limit is there to this?

Accidental infractions are heroically easy to forgive, but the bigger things, well, as we feel in the right so we may believe that gives us permission to hold onto our anger. We remember Jesus words to Peter in response to his question:
Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he wrongs you seven times in one day and returns to you seven times saying, ‘I am sorry,’ you should forgive him.” (Luke 17:2-4 NAB)
Of course the greatest moment of teaching comes to us from the cross in a moment of unimaginable grace. Jesus has done everything to prepare his disciples for this moment. All the miracles witness to their carrying this eternally in their hearts. They could hear the good thief ask for pardon and receive it, the impossible task in the hands of the author of peace and forgiveness. How many times, almost every day, do we turn away from someone who is a brother, a sister and we do not forgive them? We wonder why we feel cheated of the grace and love that mercy bring. If we do not forgive, we will not be forgiven.