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Thursday, June 29, 2006

Courage or Fear?

Courage or Fear? This is a question faced by firefighters virtually every time the tones sound and a dispatch comes in. Firefighters are recognized for their courage. Many of the calls that come in are "routine" medical assists, accidents or fires. That routine can change in a fraction of a second as any experienced fireifghter knows. Hence the demand for courage is always there for firefighters. Whether waking up from a sound sleep in the middle of the night or hastily wrapping up an equipment inspection midday firefighters can face an array of dangers in rapidly changing moments.
The picture of the firefighter on a roof, in a venting operation illustrates this point. There are numerous dangers to face, the height and pitch of the roof, smoke, heat, flames, the danger of the roof collapsing, the saws used to cut the opening...all illustrate SOME of the dangers that have to be faced IF the job at hand is to be done. The need for courage is experienced quickly and often repeatedly, on a single call. It leads to a basic point of firefighting: conquering the challenge. This is usually expressed in controlling and extinguishing the fire, the medical emergency or whatever crises is manifested.
The reality of facing fear and conquering the challenges of life is something I have observed and known, both as a firefighter, a clergyman, parent, or more simply a human. It is especially as Christians and particularly as Roman Catholics that privileged reality is being felt in mnay ways.
The second picture of a church in flames illustrates my point. There would be those who see this picture as a church being destroyed. In fear (or perhaps for some, in glee) they would wring their hands and lament (or applaud) the flames.
Once again in my own Diocese of Santa Rosa a new allegation of sexual abuse by a priest presents flames to be faced. The priest involved has sadly succumbed to fear and apparently fled to Mexico. This is very wrong, yet very human. Guilt, especially when compounded by a virtual witch-hunt mentality as commonly preached by our local paper, The Press Democrat, makes the demand for courage even more difficult. That dread and desire to flee is also being felt by many of the faithful.
The reality of fear is faced by many, in diverse fronts. The problems above are just one example. The fear may be more personal. Sickness, financial needs, family struggles, relationships, job or education demands, all are examples of fears we face in life. And for the individual confronted by the flames of their fears it can be as searing as standing on a roof needing to be vented amidst smoke and flames. So what is the answer, what is the solution?
I can only share what I have known to work, in the middle of a fire or whatever the fear might be. The answer is not a solution, but a Person, Christ Jesus. "THERE IS NO FEAR IN LOVE BUT PERFECT LOVE CASTS OUT FEAR...FOR GOD DID NOT GIVE US A SPIRIT OF FEAR, BUT OF POWER AND LOVE AND A SOUND MIND" { I John 4:18 & II Timothy 1:7}. We cannot be courageous except in a frightening situation. It is in those places we can reach out and know the arms of the Crucified about us. God will not allow anything to cross the path of the faithful that would separate us from His love. All things can be for our good and His Kingdom, if we persevere in loving, courageous faith {Romans 8}. In His Presence and Truth fears can and needs be faced and conquered.
Let's look again at the picture of the church in flames. Is it a church destroyed? Or is it a Church consumed by the fire of God's courageous love? A church in flames or a church that will know the power of the Resurrected One? Will we respond in courage or fear?

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Feast of the Holy Trinity

Homily (Cyber-version) for the Feast of the Holy Trinity, 11 June 2006


In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Alright...Let’s do it again but this time close your eyes and picture your greatest distraction. Perhaps a problem, a need, a person, and event..whatever it is, now picture it in your hand. And, let’s PRAY again,

In the name, of the Father,.......of the Son,........and of the Holy Spirit......Amen..

It is as we pray that our hands that were holding our distractions had to open, and, in taking and making the sign of the Cross we reached God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Today is the Feast of the Most Holy Trinity. One God, three persons, the Holy Trinity. The specific word is never mentioned in Scripture. However the truth of the Trinity is found from Genesis to Revelation . The Holy Trinity will never be explained or understood to the limited, finite capacities of our human intellect. God is too infinite, to big to fit. We are called by God, not to an intellectual understanding of the Trinity but to know, by relationship, by experience, the Triune God. We are called to be baptized, immersed in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Baptized in the Father’s Love: St. Paul speaks of the working of God whereby we are freed to call out Abba, Father. From our wilderness wanderings as children who have strayed to a loving daughter or son who eagerly calls out to their papa upon seeing them the relationship is meant to be one of Love. We are created for and called to be immersed in the love of the Father. This love understands the needs and weaknesses, strengths and talents, of each and every child and yearns for that child to grow to the fullness of life for which they were, in love, created. Yet there will be those who say: “ I cannot relate to God the father was cruel, distant, can I know God the Father of which you speak?” We all can know the Father’s love as we are immersed in the Passion of His Son, our Savior.

Immersed in the Savior’s Passion: It is in the infinite mercy of God that we are brought to be immersed in the Passion of Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of the Father.
It is as we allow ourselves to come to the Cross of Christ, touch and enter His wounds that we are immersed in Him. In His Body and Blood, Present in the Holy Eucharist for our lives, our wounds are healed, filled with the fullness of God. Wound, by wound, need by need, day by day the holy flood of His Passion and Love will immerse and fill our lives as we yield to Him. As we make the sign of the Cross we need to truly let go of all our distractions and be filled in His embrace. As we grow in the Father’s love, are immersed in the passion of His Son we will know the fullness of Truth in the Holy Spirit.

Filled with the Holy Spirit: Old Testament example and New Testament promise teach us that we are each to be Temples of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit longs to dwell within, fill us with the power, the Truth that is in God alone. One of the clear indications of the working of the Holy Spirit is the way the Comforter will lead us to the Truth..that sets us free.
In the cleansing, liberating confines of the Confessional we can especially know and experience this working of God who knows us, loves us and sets us free to be filled with the joys of Heaven.
We are called to be immersed, baptized in the Love of the Father, the Passion of His Son and the Truth of the Holy Spirit. This occurs as we pray, from the heart...

In the name of the Father, ....the Son, .....and the Holy Spirit..... Amen.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Feast of St. Ephrem

St. Ephrem ~ "The Harp of the Holy Ghost"
Today is the Feast of St. Ephrem. He is one of the more obscure of the saints (except perhaps in the Syrian church). I sense this relative obscurity does not trouble St. Ephrem in his heavenly home in the least. However his spirituality has much to teach us today. His legacy is shared in virtually every parish and church in the world every time we worship our Lord.
St. Ephrem (306-373 A.D.) was one of the first doctors of the Church in spite of his relative lack of schooling. He was, however, deeply schooled in the Scriptures that resulted in powerful insights into the mysteries of God and in sharing Godly wisdom. St. Robert Bellarmine wrote of the saint that he was; "more pious than learned". It was this piety, rooted in God's Word, and prayer that brought forth a harvest of wisdom and teaching.
St. Ephrem was a prolific writer and teacher. He expressed this fruitfulness usually in poetic form. He wrote many ancient hymns. It was this early 'troubador of the Lord' that is credited with introducing sacred song into Christian public worship.
In many ways he was a saint in the model of St. Francis of Assisi. His intense appreciation of the Passion of our Lord, humility, love of Scripture and relative poverty of worldly learning were all precursers of St. Francis.
St. Ephrem, relatively late in his life, was ordained a deacon in the Church. For me, all deacons, and all the faithful he is a real and practical example of learning and living the Gospel of Christ.
St. Ephrem, pray for us that we may learn and live the ageless wisdom and power of God's Word. Amen.

Sunday, June 04, 2006


Pentecost ~ The Gift of the Holy Spirit, the fire of God

Holy Spirit, consume and purge all that is not of You, in me.
Holy Spirit, may Your holy fire burn to ash the dry, deadwood of our lives,
Holy Spirit, ignite within us the Passion of Christ, His Cross, His love,
Holy Spirit, may your flame of Truth help us to see our wounded self in Your Light,
Holy Spirit, may that same Truth guide us to the wounds, the Body of Christ, and entering in,
Holy Spirit there may we discover, daily, the beauty of your holiness the glory of Your love.
From there, Holy Spirit, empower us to live and share that same holy love wherever You lead.