Make America Great Again! A reflection on the Election and the 33rd Sunday of OT.

Make America Great Again! A reflection on the Election and the 33rd Sunday of OT.

Thank you to The Holy Spirit, Archbishop Jose Gomez, Stephen Colbert, and all those that said you are afraid for our country both before the election and after for the inspiration to write this. It isn’t great but…

Last night I stayed up until about 2 am before I just couldn’t fight going to sleep.  The night started off as a slight interest in how much Trump would lose by and turned into a roller coaster of Trump is going to win.  In the end, I just gave up on trying to watch.  You see I know one thing the entire time…no matter who won, Jesus Christ is still King!

What an interesting road we have been on since the beginning of the year and now we start the new journey of our 45th President.  One that half the country didn’t vote for.  The election was filled with fear, terror, rumors, and allegations from both sides.  We know that over half of each party is in true fear of the other party.  Think about that for a second.  To be truly afraid of a fellow American because of their beliefs.  Someone that you go to school with, work with, or even go to Church with.

Jesus speaks about fear in this week’s gospels.  He tells us that when we hear of wars and tumults, when we hear of nation raising against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, not to be terrified because he will be with us in the end.  You see one of the things that we know from both history, what God & Jesus has told us, and what Archbishop Jose Gomez of Houston reminded us on is that “politicians come and go; nations rise and fall; empires fade away – what remains and what continues is the Church that Jesus established on the rock of St. Peter.”

No matter who won last night, we are called to follow Jesus Christ as children of God and missionary disciples.  To be faithful to Christ and to build God’s Kingdom here on earth.

 

Why is it that we should look to God on how to build our society?  Just like with any creation it takes on the aspects of the person that built it.  If I was to sit here and attempt to make a sculpture it would turn out horrible, because I am a flawed artist.  No instead you should look to a great artist with much less flaws then me to make a sculpture.  It is the same with society…we can look to these flaw rulers to make our society but in the end, we will still have a flawed society.  With our flawed rulers, we start forgetting who the human person is.  We listen to the flawed ruler rather than God and we start seeing others as not our brothers and sisters in Christ but we label them Democrat, Republican, Muslim, illegal immigrant, and pit ourselves against one another.  With our flawed rulers, we marginalize those that are different.  We make enemies of those that disagree with us.  But, we may find rulers that have the least number of flaws and they led us towards a better society, that does less horrible things, but in the end they are still not perfect rulers and cannot make a perfect society. In the end we should look to that perfect ruler, Jesus Christ, to build our society.

Instead if we want to make America Great again, we need young men and women like yourselves who are committed to serving God and living their faith in every aspect of their lives.  We need youth like 15-year-old, St. Jose Sanchez del Rio who till his dying breath shouted “Viva Christo Rey” during the Mexican Revolution and inspired others not to hide their faith but proudly declare their love for Jesus. We need youth like 24-year-old, Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassatti who turned away from the things the world and his society said were important, money and power, to help the poor and feed the hungry all while lifting them up in prayer to God, till his death of polio.  Like 10 and 11-year-old Bl. Francisco, Jacinto, and Lucia who brought the message of Our Lady of Fatima to the world, helping to bring many to Jesus during the tumults of the First World War.

Our new President wants to Make America Great Again. However, it will never be great if we relay on his vision and those of other men. As Archbishop Gomez said, “Our country and our world will be renewed – not by politics, but by saints.” Saints who know that Jesus Christ is King. Saints who love their fellow man no matter what. Saints who want to bring about the Kingdom of God. “And that means you and that means me. If we want a greater America, we need to become, by the grace of God, greater saints.”

 

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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

Teaching the faith at every chance!

Every so often I get the question of “What do you do?” I have a really hard time answering that question because it varies so much day to day. Like today I came into work and found three glass bottles that we can fill with Holy Water for those getting Baptized during the Easter Vigil. I spent some time looking over the very nice certificates Sr. France, SHCJ in California made for our newly baptized. I read over the Holy Thursday Mass that I am MCing tonight.

But all of that really isn’t my job. I did my job twice today when I got a random call from Nicodemus, who wanted a quick prayer for him as he went off to a job interview at Disney. I don’t know who Nicodemus is but I am looking forward to seeing him this weekend and him filling me in on how the interview went. So say a quick prayer for him if you can.

The second time is when a recently confirmed young adult texted me. It was something I never thought I would do.  I held a mini lesson over texted.  I also love how after learning about the faith more they wanted to go out and share it with the world.

So here is the lesson, warts and all:

Hey richard ☺️

Hey!

Question!

Long time no speak!
Shoot!
(After 5 minutes of no text) Oh oh…this sounds like a long one!

Haha not too bad, good Friday’s tomorrow and I’ve never been to church on that day, what should I do, expect, how do I prepare? Why is it important?

So! Great question!

Haha thank you

Lent is over today. And these next three days. Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday are called the Triduum.
Tonight’s Mass marks a couple of important things the institution of the mass and the washing of the feet. So we know why the Mass is important and the importance of celebrating it’s anniversary. But the washing of the feet is important too because it reminds us that if we truly want to be good disciples of Christ then we need to be like him, a servant. So the Priest, goes around, humbles himself, and washes the feet of the people. As a good servant should do. But it is a reminder to us that we should humble ourselves as well and go out into the world and be servants to others.

That happens tonight at mass?

Yes
At the end of the mass the Priest processes out with the Eucharist and places it into an Altar of Repose.

Do people take off their shoes?

Only the 12 that will have the feet washed. So yes the Priest is kneeling to stinking feet and even kisses them afterwards.

This altar is to symbolize the time that Jesus spent in the Garden of Gethsemane before he was betrayed by Judas. We are asked to spend time with him in the Garden like he asked two of the apostles to do. To pray “That we do not enter into temptation. (Luke 22:40). After a little bit of prayer (I normally do a Holy Hour of Adoration) everyone leaves in silence. So now there is no Jesus in the Church. The Church is empty. and that is what we come up to on Good Friday.

The mass on Good Friday is normally done at 3 to symbolize the hour that Jesus died on the Cross. Since Jesus is dead the Church has no mass. It is a time to venerate the Cross that was the altar of our salvation. It is also a time to remind ourselves of what it feels like to be without Jesus in our Presence. The Churches always feel different to me in a unexplainable way on Good Friday. But it is a time to pray and reflect on our sins and the importance of his dying for us on the Cross. Again people leave this service in silence and nothing happens in the Church until Saturday Night where the Church comes together to hold a Vigil.

It used to be that people will come at night and pray together until close to dawn, waiting for the resurrection of Jesus. But today we have pushed it to after sunset on Saturday. That is the mass that we get to celebrate the that Christ is risen.
So why should you come to Mass tomorrow…because it is a reminder of what we lost. Just like you can’t have Lent with Mardi Gras, you can’t have Easter without Good Friday.

So to separate the two is to forget about the suffering and sacrificial nature of our faith that brought about the celebratory resurrection.

Thank you so much for that, so from 3-5 it’s usually silent prayer? No reading, no Eucharist, no Holmey?
No singing?

No there is a service
it’s only like 3-4
it isn’t a mass though
so there will be readings
there will be solemn prayers for the world
Then the priest will unveil the holy cross
then adoration of the cross
then communion (they use the consecrated Hosts from Holy Thursday)
then everyone leaves

What is the consecrated host?

The Eucharist
They don’t consecrate any of the bread on Good Friday (since it isn’t a Mass) they do a little Extra on Thursday so there is enough for Thursday and Friday

Ohh so they use the same Eucharist from Thursday’s mass?
Ohhhhhh I see

yep

Another question lol

yep

What does the bunny, eggs or colors have anything to do with? Or is it just something to get the children engaged?

So…it isn’t really a Catholic tradition but it has catholic roots.
As you know Rabbits are very fertile and eggs always have represented new life.
So Easter is all about new life. Waking up a new person in Christ.
So some people started decorating eggs for the children
The Eastern Church also has some traditions about Eggs
http://www.denver.goarch.org/parishes/Grand_Junction/mary_magdalene/
http://usa.greekreporter.com/2015/04/07/why-do-greeks-dye-easter-eggs-red-how-to-do-it/

Thank you so much
I’m going to be sharing this info with other today ☺️

Good

Feed the Hungry

Feed the Hungry

On December 8th, the Church began the Year of Mercy.  In the Pope’s letter to the Church, Misericordiae Vultus, he reminds us to “rediscover [the] corporal works of mercy”.  So that we may “reawaken our conscience, too often grown dull in the face of poverty.”  Today we continue the weekly series on Mercy by looking at the corporal work of mercy: feeding the hungry

“What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit? So faith by itself, if it has no works is dead.” (James 2:14-17)

In the United States we are sometimes lulled into the belief that everyone is able to go to bed with a full stomach.  However, the USDA reports that about 13.8% of the population in Florida experiences food insecurity, meaning that they do not know where their next meal is coming from.  It is important for us to remember always that some do not have their full human dignity due to not being able to eat.

We are beings of both flesh and spirit.  To truly have our dignity we must be complete both body and spirit.  To lack in one of those two is not to be fullness of what God intended for us. Each of the corporal works of mercy attempt to correct a deficiency in a person’s body.  Through the works a person is able to be made whole physically.  In feeding the hungry a person is able to receive the nutrition that is necessary to live in the world.  The importance of being able to eat is shown in the Lord’s Prayer where we ask God to “, give us this day our daily bread.”  In God’s Mercy when the people of Israel wandered the desert for 40 years, he gave them “bread of heaven,” as a sign of his mercy.  To be without bread, without food, is to have something lacking in our lives.  We are not truly whole without it.

feeding-of-the-5000-by-julius-schnorr-von-carolsfeld1Those of us that eat of the Bread of Life, the Eucharist, should take the graces that we receive from it to be channels of God’s mercy.  We should remind ourselves as we eat our meals that we are blessed to have a meal to fill our stomachs and pray for those that do not their daily bread.”  What is even more shocking is that 30-40% of the food supply in the United States is wasted, more than 20lbs of food per person in the US is thrown away.  Pope Francis reminds us that “waste of food is theft of the poor.” As we gather together for our family meals we can attempt to ensure none of our food is wasted.

In addition to prayer we should perform works.  Here in Lakeland we are fortunate enough to be able to volunteer at Talbot House.  There we can cook for the hungry and help serve the food.  Allow us to see the face of the hungry and to get to know the stories of those that go without food.  In addition, we can continue to bring our food to the Parish Food Pantry that feeds many families every week.  We can also make monetary donations to Catholic Relief Services and Catholic Charities so that they may feed the poor not only locally but worldwide. Finally, we as Catholics can band together to encourage our governments to prevent widespread hunger in the world in the first place. In this way we can ensure that our prayers for less hunger in this world are not dead because of our works.

The Psalms and Mercy

The Psalms and Mercy

On December 8th, the Church will begin the Year of Mercy.  In the Pope’s letter to the Church, Misericordiae Vultus, he reminds us that Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s Mercy and through Jesus Christ Mercy is living and visible in Jesus.  Today we continue the weekly series on Mercy by looking at the Book of Psalms as not only a School of Prayer but a School of Mercy.

 “In a special way the Psalms bring to the fore the grandeur of his merciful action”– Pope Francis in Misericordiae Vulutus, §6

Many Catholics only experience with liturgical prayer is the Holy Mass, however throughout the world at multiple hours of the days another liturgical prayer occurs, The Liturgy of the Hours.  This Tradition is gained from our Jewish roots.  The Jewish people would gather at the temple, or if not able to make it to the temple face towards the temple, to offer praise to God using the Book of Psalms throughout the day.  Jesus, being a good Jew, also prayed the Psalms throughout the day.  Throughout the Gospels you can see Jesus referencing the Psalms as he prayed and as he instructed.  Through his, and the other Jews, daily prayer of the Psalms they had become items that were easily referenced and used in daily discussions.

The Liturgy of the Hours, like the Mass, is shared by the entire Catholic Church and ensures that the Church answers St Paul’s command to pray without ceasing. The Prayer has a rhythm of repetition to it (if all the hours are prayed then all 150 psalms will be prayed in 4 weeks) which allows us to see the Psalms in a different light throughout the year.  When we are depressed we may resonate with the Psalmist who is looking for happiness in the Lord.  On the other hand when we are joyful we may also be reminded of those less fortunate then us. By using the same words that Jesus prayed with also learn how to pray in our own words.  Forcing us to not only remember ourselves but to remember others, to slow down and mediate on God’s words, but more importantly see that we can pray to God not only on Sundays, but throughout our everyday lives.

The Liturgy of the Hours, based off of the Book of Psalms, can also assist us in understanding our Merciful God.  While many times we get hung up on the concept of Mercy, sticking to a “head” knowledge of it, the Psalms allows us to understand Mercy with our hearts. Just as each of us can describe what falling in love is like to someone it does not compare to how a musician talks about love in their music.  In the music it becomes universal and we are able to apply to our personal lives easier. In the same way the Psalmist takes the hard to explain concept of our Lord’s mercy and makes it personal and evokes our memories of the mercy of God.  As Archbishop Rino Fisichella tells us, “The Psalms are able to reflect everyone’s life … their lives are reflected in these ancient poems that have become an inheritance of prayer for generations of people.”

psalm_24_initial_a
Psalm 25

 

In the following year of Mercy, the United States Bishops suggest that we meditate on ten specific Psalms;
Psalm 25, 41, 42, 43, 51, 57, 92, 103, 119:81-88, and finally 136.  Slowly reading and praying over each of these Psalms assist us in seeing more clearly the Mercy of God and how he has provided mercy to each of us.  Take time once a week and focus on one Psalm to pray over.  Allow the words to guide you in prayer and become a stepping stone with your discussion with God.  If you are having difficulties it may benefit you to pick up a copy of The Psalms of Mercy, which was released by the US Pastoral Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization.  The Psalms of Mercy provides commentary on each of the Psalms so that if you are stuck on a Psalm or need more clarity it can assist you.  We must always remember that through the Psalms, “God speaks a language that can be understood by everyone, and he speaks to everyone as a friend. (Fr Sebastiano Pinto, The Psalms of Mercy)”

The Eucharist: The Sacrament of Mercy

The Eucharist: The Sacrament of Mercy

On December 8th, the Church will begin the Year of Mercy.  In the Pope’s letter to the Church, Misericordiae Vultus, he reminds us that Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s Mercy and through Jesus Christ Mercy is living and visible in Jesus.  Today we continue the weekly series on Mercy by looking at the Eucharist as a Sacrament of Mercy.  This week’s article is made possible with the assistance of Matthew Hawkins, a Seminarian for the Diocese of Orlando in his second year of Theology at St Vincent de Paul Seminary.


How can they meet us face to face till we have faces?” ― 
C.S. LewisTill We Have Faces

We must remember that mercy is not about pity.  It is also not only about forgiveness, but as we learn last week forgiveness plays an important part in mercy.  Instead mercy is a restoration of one’s dignity.  As CS Lewis points out in the above quote, we must regain our “face”, our identity, before we can truly have our dignity.  In Luke 15:11-32, we find the Parable of the Prodigal Son, as St John Paul II explains, shows us the importance of our identity that is rooted in God.  In that parable we see a father who has lost his identity, his dignity, as father and the son has lost his identity, his dignity, as son.  It is only after mercy, shown by the father, are the familial bonds restored and therefore both regain their identity and their dignity.

In the same way for us to truly know mercy we must know what our identity, our ‘face’, is based off of.  From Genesis we find out that we are made in the image and likeness of God.  That our identity is based off of the overflowing love that is present in the Trinity.  To assist in knowing our identity Jesus became physically present and revealing himself in our world through the Incarnation, which we will celebrate shortly on Christmas.  We also know that he continues to make his presence known in the Eucharist.  We also know that due original sin we may mistakenly place the source of our identity in something worldly, like our jobs, our cars, or our hobbies.

Knowing these facts we must ensure that we come before Jesus often in order to regain our true sense of identity.  It is in his real presence in the Eucharist that we can most clearly see his face and regain our face for ourselves.  Through this interaction Jesus in the Eucharist becomes the “Face of Mercy,” that Pope Francis speaks about in Misericordiae Vultus.Öèôðîâàÿ ðåïðîäóêöèÿ íàõîäèòñÿ â èíòåðíåò-ìóçåå Gallerix.ru  Like the Prodigal Son, we must begin our journey of mercy by burying our faces in the cloak of the Father so that we may be lifted up to see him face-to-face.  Through our submission, through our adoration of our Lord in the Eucharist, we gain union with him and are able to fully receive his love.

So what ways can we submit to Jesus in the Eucharist during this Year of Mercy?  We can begin by ensuring that we seek Mercy himself by attending Mass every Sunday. If possible we should strive to attend a weekday daily Mass.  In addition throughout the Year of Mercy there are opportunities to sit in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament every First Friday.  On those First Friday after the morning Mass, Priests will expose the Blessed Sacrament for adoration. During this period we can look on the Face of Mercy, giving us time to reflect how who we are looking at.  That we truly look upon the Jesus, the Face of Mercy, when we look at the Eucharist.  We must use that time to submit fully to Jesus so that in seeing him physically present in the Eucharist we may see his face and gain an awareness of who we truly are.