When PEACE shows up justice reigns!

When PEACE shows up justice reigns!

In this Year of Mercy, we are reminded of the Corporal Works of Mercy, that command us to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, help those imprisoned, shelter the homeless, care for the sick, and bury the dead.  Each of these items are about doing true justice to our brothers and sisters, by restoring the human dignity due to them.  We are each called to individually do those things “for one of the least of these brothers and sisters, (Matthew 25:40)”, there are times however when we cannot do what is necessary on our own to bring about true mercy and justice to our brothers.  In those times, it is important that we come together with other Catholics, Christians, and community leaders to help solve the difficult social issues that plague our communitypeace 9

The Polk Ecumenical Council for Empowerment (PEACE) is one organization that allows us to come together to solve the issues of our local community.  PEACE works diligently alongside community leaders to ensure Polk County continues to bring justice and mercy to the needs of its citizens.  On October 24th, 20 local Churches bringing over 300 people, gathered together at St Joseph Catholic Church for the Community Action Problems Assembly of PEACE.  The purpose of the assembly was to discuss the issues that PEACE will attempt to tackle this year.  St Matthew had 5 parishioners in attendance at the event.

With Florida House and Senate Candidates in attendance members of PEACE shared the background on three issues that affect our local community, the importance of reducing youth arrests in our county, increase availability of affordable mental health treatments, and increasing availability of affordable health care treatment.  20161024_195308After each report a network member give personal testimonies of how these issues personally affected them.  A member of St Joseph’s shared how children of friends and family members have been arrested for minor offenses like a school yard fight when they were young and could not get employment they studied for because of having an arrest record.  A husband and wife from St David’s Episcopal in Lakeland shared how the lack of affordable mental health treatment in Polk County has led to hardship for the both and been a strain on their marriage.  Finally, a single mother from First Missionary Baptism Church in Winter Haven shared the struggles she has had in the past to get proper and affordable health care for not only herself but for her children.

Following the testimonies Richard Monteverde was elected Recording Sectary of the organization and the night ended with the GNAT (Great Network-member All the Time) award being presented. Getting its name from the plague of Gnats that drove Pharaoh to do justice for the enslaved Hebrews, the award is presented to Network Members who attended all four of the annual meetings, brought 3 or members to the Nehemiah Action, and donated at least $200 to continue to the mission of PEACE.  This year Rem Brown, Richard Monteverde, and 29 other Network Members were recognized as GNATS.

If you are interested in assisting to bring justice to our community by being a network member, please contact Richard Monteverde at 863-324-3040.  Commitments are minimal, network members are asked to attend 4 meetings a year, invite 3 people to the Nehemiah Action, and donate to help maintain the PEACE organization. Opportunities are available to serve on issue research committees that interview local community leaders that are experts in the current years PEACE issues.

Reflection on 29th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Reflection on 29th Sunday of Ordinary Time

We live in a world that calls for instant gratification.  We want some random book or item we order it on Amazon and in some cities you will have it at your door by the end of the day.  We want answers to a question and we only have to do a Google search to find the answer.  If we are hungry we go to one of the many numerous vending machines or restaurants and get food.  If we are bored we simply turn to Netflix, to Amazon, or YouTube to find exactly what we want to entertain us.

These are all good things, in moderation of course, we are able to learn faster because it doesn’t take weeks for books to get to us or spend days upon days going to bookstores and libraries to find the book you want.  Arguments and disagreements are quickly solved by simply asking Google.  We don’t have to watch MTV for 5 hours to see that one music video that everyone is talking about. Yes, MTV actually played Music Video when I was younger.  But in this passage we see that we can’t translate that into our prayer lives.

Jesus tells this parable to a group of his disciples who have lost hope in the coming of the Kingdom of God.  The parable talks about a widow who is seeking justice from a corrupt Judge.  At first the Judge doesn’t listen to her but after her persistent petitions he gives her justice.   Jesus then reminds the disciples that if a corrupt Judge can be swayed to do justice by persistence how much more will God do justice if we ask him for it.

Imagine if you went up to your father or mother and asked them to eat and since it is Friday and you rather abstain from meat then do some extra penance you ask them for some fish, how many of your parents would instead just toss a live venomous snake on your plate?  Or if you ask for eggs for breakfast they instead toss a live scorpion on your plate?  Not many of them would do that, right.  So Jesus explains that if your parents, who are sinners, know how to give good things to you how much more will God, who is perfect, give the Holy Spirit to those who ask.

But it is easy to be persistent when it is easy, when we have no obstacles in the way, it’s easy to pray the rosary when we are filled with the Holy Spirit, and we see quick answers to our prayers.  But what do we do when we hit an obstacle? What do we do when it starts getting old and boring?  What do we do when God doesn’t answer our prayers as quickly as we want him to?  For many of us we give up, we stop being persistent.

I want to leave you with a story I recently heard from Brandon Vogt.  A smart and gifted boy, like many of you here, leaves home for college.  He joins a fraternity and makes new friends.  The spend their time partying, chasing girls, and embracing new thoughts and ideas.  He even gets involved in a new age group that allows him to be spiritual but not religious. He moves in with his girlfriend and they have a baby together, without being married.  The entire time the smart and gifted boy’s mother is at home crying and feeling like she can’t change anything.  But being a good Catholic she does what she can and prays for him daily.

The mom’s prayed and fasted for many years for her son to return to the Catholic Church. Then when her son went off to another college she went with him and met a bishop there.  The Bishop became a spiritual guide to her and saw how sad she was about her son not being a good Catholic.  The Bishop promised her that a son of so many tears will not perish.

That young man and the Bishop ended up becoming friends.  The young man would ask the Bishop lots of questions.  Similar to what you guys do with your adult mentors here.  Finally, at the age of 32 the man got Baptized.  The young man’s name was St Augustine, the one the city is named after, and he would go off to become a Bishop himself and become one of the greatest Saints of the Church.  The mother was St Monica and she never faltered as it seemed like her prayers were not being answered by God.  She never gave up hope and continued to pray for over 20 years for that one thing.

It is in that time that we have to be the most persistent.  When we ask for big things we have to be willing to pray big.  We have to be willing to always talk to God and ask him “have you answered this prayer for me and I haven’t seen it?  How will your will be done through this petition?  How will I grow closer to you?” I hope each of you have been persistent in praying the rosary this week.

St Monica, Pray for Us