Sunday, July 18, 2021

Beside Restful Waters

 

Deacon Kevin Gingras

July 18, 2021

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/071821.cfm


Fear no more, security, saved, restful, refreshes, courage, goodness, kindness, peace, reconcile.  These are the positive words that leapt out at me when reflecting on today’s readings.


It wasn’t all positive however, there was just a smidge of negative from Jeremiah:

Woe to the shepherds who mislead and scatter the flock of my pasture, says the LORD.

Ok, so don’t be that person, and read even further:

You have not cared for them, but I will take care to punish your evil deeds.

I mean REALLY do NOT be that person!  Jeremiah was calling out the Jews for their sins and towards a true conversion of heart. He was telling them not to lose hope.  A fair and just king will be coming who will do what is right.  Judah shall be saved.  Jeremiah was prophesying about Jesus here.  If only they knew this Jesus that was coming for them like the Jesus we know today!


Other than Jeremiah's stern warning at the beginning, however, even his message ended on a positive note.  Then we move to the Psalm.  How much more positive can we get!  When I meditate on today’s Psalm it makes me want to go fly fishing and to me, well, that’s a positive for sure.

beside restful waters he leads me; he refreshes my soul.

I imagine myself fly fishing on a nice cool, calm river filled with trout. That would certainly refresh my soul right about now!  Bring me peace, like a little retreat.  We could all use a little peace.


Our reading from Ephesians tells us where that peace comes from - Jesus Christ.  Jesus broke down the dividing wall of enmity - that dividing wall was also a physical wall in the Jewish Temple.  It would separate the inner court from the outer court.  If you were a Gentile you would break laws and be severely punished if you entered past that dividing wall into the inner court to worship, only the Jews were allowed there!  All I can think of is Ronald Reagan saying “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”  That’s what Jesus did, not actually tearing down the physical wall in the temple but the spiritual division that was set up between the Jews and the Gentiles.  Paul wrote in his letter to the Ephesians that Jesus came to:

create in himself one new person in place of the two, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile both with God, in one body, through the cross, putting that enmity to death by it.

And

through him [meaning Jesus] we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.


In the Gospel the apostles had just gotten back from their first mission trip.  They were probably out teaching messages very similar to that letter, that Jesus has come for all, not a select group.  They were probably amazed at what they were able to accomplish, driving out demons, proclaiming the good news of Christ, and healings.  They excitedly reported to Jesus all that they did and taught.  Jesus clearly appreciated all their hard work and thought they deserved a bit of rest.  Jesus wanted them to have repose beside restful waters if you will.  Unfortunately for the Apostles I don’t think fly fishing had been invented yet.


 Well, when we hear the rest of that Gospel from Mark we know that didn’t happen, they never get their rest.  Instead, a vast crowd follows them and somehow arrives before Jesus and the Apostles at their destination.  I’m not sure how the crowd knew where Jesus and crew were headed but somehow they knew.  Then Jesus, being the good and perfect shepherd that he is:

His heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.

Well, I guess some things are worth sacrificing your peace for.  Jesus saw that this flock of people gathered to hear and learn from the master and that was worth that sacrifice.


What do we sacrifice our peace and rest for these days?  Is it really worth the sacrifice?  I was on my way to Bible Study the other night with my wife Allison and I was complaining to her about all these meetings I have at Church, and how busy I’ve been at work this week, how could I even take the time to have dinner after finishing up work.  Bottom line - I was whining.  Then at the Bible Study on Tuesday night I heard this Gospel.  Basically, the Holy Spirit was whacking me upside the head, trying to move my heart with pity!  Because of my human faults, I'm not automatically moved to pity, sometimes I need that nudge from the Holy Spirit. Well, I listened, I had all my meetings and even managed to have dinner too!  Dinner was only McDonald's but that's ok, I like their french fries a lot! Ultimately, I didn’t really sacrifice too much for those meetings and in the end, it was well worth it.


Amongst all the sacrifices we make we also need to care for ourselves too.  We have to find that balance.  We need to take that time to rest awhile, perhaps in a deserted place - to do this, we need to put our electronics away, focusing on getting our hearts, souls, and minds back to focus on Jesus.  He should be our center, take that time to put him back in the center if you’ve moved him off-center a bit for something else whether it be work, sports, school, games, whatever it may be.  Our lives are busy and that business can emotionally and physically tire us out.  We have to balance our activity with contemplation and spend some personal one on one time with the Lord.  This time alone will help reinforce our spiritual connection to God.


"Everyone of us needs half an hour of prayer each day, except when we are busy - then we need an hour." - St. Francis deSales


Saturday, June 19, 2021

Faith will get you through the storm

 

Deacon Kevin Gingras

June 19, 2021

12th Sunday in Ordinary Time

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/062021.cfm


There are a few things that jumped right out at me from today’s readings. First, Jesus is a VERY sound sleeper but I’m not so sure that would be a good basis for a homily! Next is when Jesus says Quiet! Be still! to calm the storm and the sea obeys him. In chapter one of Mark, Jesus also spoke to a demon in a similar manner:

“Quiet! Come out of him!” The unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him.

The demon listened to Jesus, obeyed his command like the sea did in today’s Gospel. The other thing that jumped out was a comparison to the first reading of Job and the Gospel. In both, there is a storm. God is addressing Job in that storm telling Job that it is He, God that formed the seas, controlling it, telling it where to go, setting its limits. The sea listened to its creator God. In the Gospel of Mark, it is Jesus who is controlling the sea, telling it to “be still” and the sea listened and calmed down. That’s quite the Christological study right there - Jesus' power equals God’s when we compare these two readings. It helped his disciples see who Jesus really was and it should also help us see that today in time as well. We could ask the same question they did:

“Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?”

Thanks to great theologians, Church Doctors, and Church Fathers who gave us the definition of the Trinity we know who Jesus is today in time. Jesus is God. They are two distinct individuals yet one and the same. Today we need to rely on the entire Trinity: Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit to get us through the storms in our life! When I began the Diaconate program in the Fall of 2015 life threw some curveballs at me. We had a few issues going on. We were not financially stable at the time, to the point where I would go to the gas pump on my way to work and pray to God that my debit card would work so I can get to the office. At the same time, we also knew my dad would be dying soon and was under the care of hospice in Good Samaritan Hospital. Also, somebody else very close to me was in another hospital along with several other things we were dealing with in life at the moment. I had to tell my family why I wasn’t at the hospital as much to see my dad during these last days. I remember one of my family members saying to me that with all this going on how do you keep it together. The answer was quick and simple - God and my faith. Without that, I would have been a blubbering mess. It was my faith, the Trinity getting me through this storm in my life. My faith got me through this storm and I look back on it as a place where my faith grew, not where it went away and I offer prayers of Thanksgiving for that, for the Holy Spirit guiding me when I needed it most. I’m not angry that the storm wasn’t calmed, I’m overjoyed I made it through. If you have some time this week, read the entire book of Job. It’s an allegorical story; a dramatic telling of the problem of the suffering of the innocent. See what Job went through and not once did he curse or become angry with God. Job stayed strong through many trials. We can learn from that.

Satan will use our life’s storms to try and break us down. Our fear, our anxiety, our anger. Emotions like this, when not kept in check through prayer, will become a weapon Satan uses against us. Don’t let him! Remember how many times Jesus told us not to fear. For some reason it seems oddly fitting to quote Yoda from Star Wars who also was very wise as he said:

"Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering."

So when we have those moments of fear in our lives, doubt, anger, negative feelings cry out to Jesus (not Yoda) as the apostles did:

“Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”

We are on this crazy journey called life. We will face trials, tribulations and storms during this journey. Remember that Jesus is always close by, don’t leave him asleep in the stern during those storms, cry out to him in the storm. He does care for you and will help you, maybe not by taking away the trial, but by giving you stability during it. Saint Faustina teaches us well how to get through these tough times as she went through many herself. She says:

"In difficult moments I will fix my gaze upon the silent heart of Jesus, Stretched upon the cross, and from the exploding flames of his merciful heart, Will flow down upon me power and strength to keep fighting"


Friday, May 14, 2021

The Highest Priestly Prayer

 Deacon Kevin Gingras

May 26, 2021, 7th Sunday of Easter

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/051621-Sunday.cfm


Who doesn’t love love?  I love love.  We have heard a lot about love lately in the readings.  Why?  We are still within the Easter season and this is the season in which we celebrate God’s incredible love for us more than ever.  God sent his son to earth, not to condemn us but to love us, to save us.  His son died demonstrating God’s immense love for us.


In today’s Gospel we read from John 17 - entitled The Prayer of Jesus or Jesus’ Prayer for his Disciples.  This whole chapter 17 of John’s Gospel has also been called the “highest priestly prayer.”


Now the first thing we need to determine is who Jesus' disciples are. Who does this prayer apply to? In the New Testament, the word disciple is most often applied to Jesus’ Apostles.  In our first reading, we see that Matthias was counted with the eleven Apostles after Judas’ betrayal to get the number to 12 again so it would match the 12 tribes of Israel.   A disciple, however, is meant to be a broader statement as we see in John 4:

And now it became known to Jesus that the Pharisees had been told, Jesus is making more disciples and baptizing a greater number than John.

Today in time, any follower of Jesus is a disciple of Jesus.  That means me and you, all of us, everyone on earth, as a matter of fact, is called to be a disciple of Jesus.


Now let’s break down the “highest priestly prayer” looking at each petition in order.


  1. Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me - Jesus will soon be dying and then ascending into heaven, he knows this.  He is asking his and our heavenly father to shepherd us as Jesus did while on earth. Jesus knows we will need watching over still!

  2. So that they may be one just as we are one - The Son and the Father are one in unity.  We, as a Catholic Church, must also present as one.  We need this part of the prayer now more than ever! The discord that is rampant now, even within the Catholic Church is crazy, we need to correct that and become one!

  3. So that they may share my joy completely - I’ve been told in the past by a very wise priest that you can only know true joy through Jesus.  Here Jesus makes it very clear that he desires us to share that joy with him in its entirety!  What a beautiful part of this prayer!

  4. I do not ask that you take them out of the world - Jesus knows that his disciples will face hard times in the world.  He isn’t asking for relief from that, he is asking for them to have strength for these hardships. We too will face hardships, following Jesus doesn't mean life will be easy, it means we have somebody to lean on, to go to when life gets difficult. Place your troubles at the foot of the cross, give them to Jesus.

  5. That you keep them from the evil one - Satan is always busy trying to steal souls from Heaven.  If anybody knows this it’s Jesus.  Satan was bold enough to pounce when he thought Jesus was hungry and weak after His 40 days in the desert.  Jesus held strong, we must hold strong as well!

  6. Consecrate them in truth - Pilate asked Jesus, “What is truth?” following  Jesus’ statement that it is the Son of God who testifies to the truth and everyone who belongs to that truth listens to His voice.  Read the New Testament, know what Jesus taught, learn from Him - be consecrated in the truth, the truth that is held within the Bible, and the truth that is cared for by the Catholic Church.


Once we have that truth, joy, and unity from this prayer we can’t keep it boxed up to ourselves!  We are called to go out into the world and share that truth, joy, and unity.   On May 23 we will celebrate Pentecost, where the Holy Spirit came down like tongues of fire and they were given the gifts of the Holy Spirit in an incredibly special way.


The Church needs a new Pentecost now.  Don’t let Jesus’ prayer for us be in vain!  When we do finally open fully it’s up to you to help us gather the flock back when we do!  We can’t do it alone, we need you!  If you know somebody who has been away, is waiting for the dispensation to be lifted approach them now.  Ask them back and more importantly pray, pray that those who have been away will return.  Only here, in church, can we get the full sacrificial nature of the Mass.  Only here in the church can we receive the true body of Christ.  Only here can we really meet that joy that Christ prays we will obtain.

Let's also try to live by the words of this message from Pope St. John Paul II:

“The Church of Christ is always, so to speak, in a situation of Pentecost: she is always gathered in the Upper Room in prayer, and at the same time, driven by the powerful wind of the Spirit, she is always on the streets preaching”


Saturday, April 17, 2021

Know Jesus, Know Peace, No Jesus, No Peace!

Deacon Kevin Gingras

April 18, 2121, Third Sunday of Easter

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/041821.cfm

 

Peace be with you!


He stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.”


Jesus only used this greeting after his Resurrection, not before it.  We heard Jesus say, “peace be with you” twice in last week's Gospel.  Again we hear it today.  Why?  They NEEDED peace at that moment!  His Apostles were kind of freaking out.  Jesus died and they were left without a teacher, a leader, they feared that same death would strike them!  They were like a fish out of water, I fish, I’ve seen them out of the water, it’s not pretty!


Today 

The two disciples recounted what had taken place on the way, and how Jesus was made known to them 

in the breaking of bread.


Suddenly, there is Jesus standing in their midst.  They were sure it was a ghost.  They still didn’t understand the resurrection.  “Peace be with you,” he says.  He tries to calm them down, showing He is a physical man and not a ghost, even asking for food!  Ghosts don’t eat food!


What he does next is amazing.  He opens their minds to understand the Scriptures so they will understand all that was written from Moses to the prophets and the Psalms - to understand that these things Jesus came to fulfill.


I wish it was that easy for us!  We could just hang out with Jesus and our minds would be opened to the Scriptures.  It’s not so easy but it is doable!  It’s been very hard for me to have that faith kick in where logic can’t explain what we will read in the Bible.  That’s where the Holy Spirit comes in, we need to ask for the gifts of wisdom and understanding.  Trust me, it works.  I’m a computer programmer by trade and have been for over 30 years.  Logic is my business and I have trained my mind to be logical so when I try to understand certain things in the Scriptures, Moses and the Jews walking dry through the Red Sea, manna in the desert, the lifting of the brazen serpent to heal those bitten by the seraph serpents, none of it makes logical sense.  


When we see Sacred Scripture as a whole, what Jesus was doing with his followers in the Gospel, opening their minds to the Scriptures, giving them the whole Scripture picture. We can see how walking through the Red sea is a precursor to Baptism.  It becomes obvious that manna is a foreshadowing of the Eucharist.  How Moses lifted the serpent to save those who were dying is like Jesus being lifted on the cross to save us.  See, totally logical!


I hope we all read our Bibles at home.  Before reading Scripture do you ask the Holy Spirit for guidance?  If you get tripped up on understanding a reading do you ask for help?  Ask a priest, a deacon, or a friend that you know is well versed in scripture.  If you decide to ask Google, do so with caution, there are a lot of things out there and some of them won’t be in line with the Catholic Church's teachings.  


Once you start to get a grasp on Scripture you will find there is peace in the Scriptures, look for some quiet time to find that peace in your Bible at home.


I guess what I’m trying to say is, “know Jesus, know peace, no Jesus, no peace”.  This won't translate well in my spoken homily but it's pretty clear here!  The bottom line is we have to know who Jesus is to receive the peace that he has to give to us.


Every time we celebrate Mass, we hear the priest say:

Lord Jesus Christ, you said to your apostles: I leave you peace, my peace I give you.

He didn't give this peace before his Resurrection, but afterward, he does give it, and he gives it because we need it.


Christ's peace is the antidote to most problems of our modern, secular society: stress, depression, and anxiety, and even this pandemic. We have all been affected by these things in some way. 


As we get to know the Lord more through Scripture, through Adoration, and through prayer He will give us peace of mind, peace of heart, and peace of soul.

Today’s Psalm is a Psalm of David and he put it well when he said: 

As soon as I lie down, I fall peacefully asleep, for you alone, O LORD, bring security to my dwelling.


Remember, even David was granted this peace as he came to know the Lord more and more and repented for what he had done.


Saint Jerome gives us a great three-thousand foot summary of this as he said:

Be at peace with your own soul, then heaven and earth will be at peace with you.



Saturday, March 20, 2021

Pray for a Clean Heart

Deacon Kevin Gingras

March 21, 2121, 5th Sunday of Lent

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/032121-YearB.cfm


So quite a few years back I took my son out shopping for a gift for his mother. I told him this expedition was to purchase a gift for his mother and nothing else. NO TOYS. We went to the mall and I foolishly parked in a spot where we would have to walk past the toy store on our way to Jordan Marsh. That was enough. He began to petition me for a toy. Again, I lovingly explained what our trip was for. He didn’t stop and his petition escalated to supplication. We are now in Jordan Marsh and his petition turns to frustration and anger with my response. The more he petitioned the more I dug my feet in and would not relent to that behavior. Finally, I decide it’s best we just head back home empty-handed. As I grab hold of him and we slog through Jordan Marsh he is now exclaiming “He’s not my father, he’s not my father” over and over again. I remember the look the lady at the makeup counter gave me. I managed to eke out a small wry smile and look her in the eye and say: “If he wasn’t my son do you think I’d still be holding on to him”? She smiled back and mentioned how he looks just like me and fortunately we were able to leave without security getting involved. Sometimes we feel God is like that, don’t we? No matter how hard we pray we feel he isn’t listening to us. Rest assured, He hears our prayers, all of them. Of course, God, like a good parent, knows how our prayers should be answered, and sometimes we don’t get our petitions and supplications answered as we would like. Jeremiah is prophesying about an answer to the prayers of the Jewish people of that time. The answer will be a Messiah who, through Jeremiah says:

I will be their God, and they shall be my people - All, from least to greatest, shall know me, says the LORD, for I will forgive their evildoing and remember their sin no more.

For some of the Jews, especially the leaders, this prayer will not be answered in a way they want and they will put that Messiah to death in their aggravation, exclaiming like my son did that day at the mall: “He’s not my Father”! I’m glad I didn’t suffer the same outcome at the mall that day, I made it home alive! Contrary to what they wanted to believe about God - He is our father. We should have a relationship with him. One of the ways we do that is through prayer. We hear about Jesus praying all the time in the Gospels to his Father God. Our second reading from Hebrews illustrates that well as it states:

He offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence.

There are several types of prayer that we can use to assist us. Prayers of Supplication/Petition/Intercession - that’s what we just heard about, prayers asking for what we need or for the needs of others. When we read today’s Psalm we hear of another type of prayer, prayers of Contrition or Repentance. King David had committed a mortal sin with Bathsheba and then doubled down on this sin when he sent her husband Uriah to his death. Now King David asks for mercy, for the forgiveness of his sin, and asks for a clean heart. Shouldn’t we ask for a clean heart as well through prayers of repentance? A perfect heart. When the original Ark of the Covenant was built it was to be covered with pure and precious gold and it held the law. The Ark of the New Covenant, who is Mary, had to be perfect as well, conceived without sin to carry Jesus. The first reading from Jeremiah says for this new covenant that God will:

place my law within them and write it upon their hearts

Prayers of Contrition should be our mantra as the Psalmist says “Create a clean heart in me, O God”. Since this new law will also be written upon our hearts we should get them as near as perfect as we possibly can just as the Ark of the Covenant was so carefully crafted and how Mary, the Ark of the New Covenant was conceived without sin? Prayer is one of the most powerful tools in our Catholic Toolbox. We just discussed prayers of Supplication or Petition and prayers of Contrition or Repentance. There are also prayers this homily won’t get into today and they are prayers of Adoration or Blessing and Thanksgiving or Gratitude. Prayer should be how we continue to evolve our relationship with God, our loving Father, and Jesus the Son. It is the Holy Spirit who motivates and guides our prayers if we simply ask. As St. Padre Pio said:

One does not win the battle without prayer. The choice is yours.