Thursday, August 8, 2019

Why the Transfiguration?

I have decided to suspend my blogging activities until further notice beginning with next week.  Please read this one to the end.

The Catholic Church celebrated the Feast of the Transfiguration this past Tuesday, August 6.  As you may recall from Scripture, Jesus "was transfigured before them (Peter, James, and John), and his face shone like the sun, and his garments became white as light."  (See Matthew 17:1-8).  Besides this, Moses and Elijah from the Old Testament appeared in this scene and were talking to Our Lord.  Peter was flabbergasted and could hardly put words together that made sense.  While shielding his eyes from the extreme brightness, he stated that he wanted to build three booths or tents, one for Jesus, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.

But before he was able to clarify himself, a "bright cloud overshadowed them" and a voice from within the cloud spoke, saying "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to him."  At this point, the light was so bright and the voice so overwhelming that they "fell on their faces with awe."  But, then, just as suddenly and unexpectedly, everything was back to normal.

Have you ever wondered what prompted Jesus and his heavenly Father to display themselves like this?  What events led up to this fascinating show of divinity, both of Jesus and of God the Father? Well, this Transfiguration occurred shortly after Our Lord made a strong statement to Peter:  "Get behind me, Satan!  You are an obstacle to me.  You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do."  (Matthew 16:23).  He was upset with Peter for not believing that Jesus would die and then rise again.  Apparently there was a need to bring Peter back to reality.  The Transfiguration accomplished that and then some.

Peter made reference to this event later, after Jesus' death, resurrection, and ascension, as we noticed in the second reading from the Mass on August 6: 

"We did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty.  For he received honor and glory from God the Father when that unique delcaration came to him from the majestic glory, 'This is my Son, my beloved, with whom I am well-pleased.'  We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven while we were with him on the holy mountain.  Moreover, we possess the prophetic message that is altogether reliable.  You will do well to be attentive, as a lamp shining in a dark place, until day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.'"  (2 Peter 1:16-19).

Throughout the MTT blog weekly for the past 5+ years, I have tried to communicate the importance to being faithful to God and to his Church.  But with this one clear statement from St. Peter in his letter, my posted thoughts take a back seat.  Scripture stories are not cleverly devised myths.  Peter was an eyewitness!  Peter's takes ownership of the divine message and this message is altogether reliable, and here it is, spoken plainly by God himself:  "Listen to him."  It is important, as St. Peter says, to "be attentive."

I have posted my thoughts almost every Thursday since the fall of 2013.  That is approximately 300 posts.  This is my last.  But every now and then, Facebook recalls a memory that is a MTT post.  I will share it when that happens.  God bless you in your efforts to remain faithful to God in your life.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

That Word "Communion"

The word "communion" is one that is used in a number of different contexts in Catholic prayer and rituals.  People often refer to the Eucharist as Communion.  We celebrate a person's "First Holy Communion," for example, when he/she receives the Eucharist for the first time.  In addition, the priest/celebrant begins Mass with the words "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you."  And, when we pray the Apostles' Creed, we state that we believe in the Communion of Saints.  What does it mean?

Webster's dictionary gives five different definitions, such as a "sharing" or a "participation," or "an intimate relationship with deep understanding" as well as a Catholic definition: "the sharing in or celebration of, the consecrated bread or wine of the Eucharist."  I  like the definition given in my Catholic dictionary because it seems to cover all the bases in Catholic contexts: "The most sacred expression for any one of different forms of togetherness." 

Togetherness ... in other words, a union, a unity, a spiritual closeness, a spiritual relationship, a spiritual intimacy.  That especially seems to fit with the use of the word with the Eucharist.  But the communion of the Holy Spirit?  The Communion of Saints?  Togetherness with the Holy Spirit?  Togetherness with the Saints?  Yes!

My Catholic dictionary has a definition of the Communion of Saints.  It is the unity and cooperation of the members of the Church on earth with those in heaven and in purgatory.  We profess the same faith, obey the same authority, and assist each other with prayers and good works.  We honor the saints in heaven as glorified members of the Church, request their intercession, and strive to imitate their virtue.  And we exhibit a togetherness and a cooperatioin with the souls in purgatory by praying for them, knowing that they will become saints.

All this togetherness gets the adrenaline flowing.  What a great gift we have in our faith!  Nurture it, love it, ask God to increase and protect it.  Amen!

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Everyone's Dream

Winning the lottery is everyone's dream.  Once you pay the taxes on it, you can retire and live a life of luxury.  My question today is, what was the equivalent of the lottery back in the time of Christ?  What was everyone's dream back then?

Jesus brought up the subject at least twice.  He knew what everyone dreamed about.  One was finding out that there was a great treasure buried in a field.  He said that when someone finds out about it, he would go and buy that field.  Another was a man who found a pearl of great price.  Even back then, it seems, everyone's dream was to become rich through no effort of their own.

But what point was Jesus making?  Was he making sure that everyone would be aware and pay the taxes?  No, he didn't mention taxes.  It was all about heaven.  Both parables begin with the words "The kingdom of heaven is like ....."  Yes, the kingdom is like that buried treasure.  The kingdom of heaven is like that pearl of great price.  Everybody wants to find it.  Today, Jesus would probably say that the kingdom of heaven is like that winning lottery ticket.  It would mean that our every wish and desire would be satisfied. 

No one knows what it's going to be like for sure.  Jesus assures us that it means eternal happiness.  People ask "Will my dog be there?"  "Will I be driving a shiny new Corvette in heaven?"  Such questions are the wrong questions.  The real question should be "How do I get there?"  Jesus wants you to have faith in him and his message. 

Here is another statement from Jesus:  "Blessed are you when people insult, persecute you, and utter every kind of calumny against you on my account.  Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.  Amen!

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Jesus and Martyrdom

Today, I'm thinking about holy martyrdom.  Recently, my family played a little game while traveling in the car.  We were to take turns naming a saint who is also a martyr and see if we could get to fifty.  My first thought was that it will be nearly impossible.  Fifty saints who were martyred?  But then I immediately thought of the apostles.  All the apostles were martyred except for Judas and St. John, right?  So I thought I could use most of my turns just naming the apostles.  Piece of cake!  But other family members, I found out, could name quite a few!  St. John the Baptist, Saints Agatha, Lucy, Agnes, Cecelia, and others named in the first Eucharist prayer at Mass.  Then there were more obscure saints that some family members knew about.  St. Tarcisius, St. Maria Goretti, St. Isaac Jogues and his companions, St. Maximillian Kolbe, etc.  Surprisingly, we got to fifty in very short order.

A short while later, I learned about another martyr, one, who, like Maximillian Kolbe, died in a Nazi concentration camp.  His name was Blessed Franz Jagerstatter.  Talk about obscure!  I recently had the privilege of attending a play about his life produced by old friends back in Nebraska.  I drove seven hours to see it and it did not disappoint.  The stories of the martyrs can be really fascinating!

What did Jesus have to say about martyrdom?  The closest I have come to answering that can be found in the gospel of Matthew, Chapter 10.  Jesus seemed to address that very topic when he said "And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gahenna."  (Matthew 10:28).  In other words, do not be afraid of being murdered for the Christian faith.  Other human beings can kill the body but not the soul.  The one who can kill both the body and soul is in Gahenna.  In other words, the Devil.  Yes, be afraid of the Devil, but not another human being.  Give in to the death of the body for your faith, but do not give in to temptation to sin.  Sinning results in the death of the soul and without repentance and forgiveness, it is eternal.  Fear the Devil and don't give in to his temptations.

What else did Jesus say?  A few lines later in Matthew, we read this:  "Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father.  But whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my heavenly Father."  (Matthew 10:32-33).  Here is the scenario:  One, like a Nazi, points a gun at you and says "Deny your Christian faith!"  If you interpret Sacred Scripture like I do, we must say "no" and let him kill you.  Your body will be gone, but your soul will be in heaven.  If you feel that you would not have the courage, pray for strength and an increase in faith.  I recommend praying to  St. Maximillan Kolbe and Blessed Franz Jagerstatter for their intercession.  Two amazing saints!  Amen!

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Unworthy, But Miraculously Healed

Have you ever noticed how many of the prayers that are part of the Mass have their origin in Sacred Scripture?  For example, take the following passage from the Gospel of Matthew:

“The centurion said in reply, ‘Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed ….’”  (Mat 8:8)

This closely resembles the words we pray immediately before receiving the Eucharist at Mass:

Lord“, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”

In the case of the Scripture passage, the centurion had just asked Jesus to heal his servant who was suffering dreadfully due to paralysis.  But in his humility and because of his great faith, he knew that Jesus did not need to make the trek to his home to “enter under my roof,” but rather, he could just simply say the healing words right where they stood.  This, in fact, is what Jesus did.

So, too, at Mass, it is a prayer of humility … we are not worthy.  We are sinful beings and we acknowledge that Jesus can work the miracle of his forgiveness and we can receive him “under our roof" in spite of our unworthiness.  We have faith in Jesus' holy words and can then receive his body and blood in this wonderfully intimate sacrament while miraculously flooding our souls with the abundance of grace that accompanies it!  Amen!

Friday, July 5, 2019

The Doubting Thomas

I had a post all prepared for yesterday, but then I received what seemed like a message from God saying He did not want me to publish it and to come up with something else. So here I am, publishing My Thursday Thoughts on Friday!  I'm glad, because the Gospel from Wednesday's Mass gives me more important thoughts.

Wednesday was the feast of St. Thomas the Apostle in the Catholic Church and the Gospel from the Mass was the story of his doubt in the truth of Jesus' Resurrection.  He was not present when the resurrected Jesus first appeared to the apostles.  And he doubted the story,  saying "unless I put my finger into the nail holes and my hand into his side, I will not believe."  Well, when Jesus appeared to them the second time and invited him to do just that, Thomas didn't need to do it.  He fell on his knees proclaiming "My Lord and my God."   

Jesus' response was epic.  "Thomas, you believe because you have seen.  Blessed are they who have not seen, yet have believed."  Who are those who have not seen?  You and me!  Jesus is saying that we, you and me, are blessed because we believe.  Jesus said that!  It just makes me shiver with joy!  

If you  have doubts, my prayer today is that you will come to believe, because if you do, you will be blessed by God with awesome feelings of joy.  Amen!

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Serra, NOT Sierra!

Today, I’m thinking about our Serra Clubs and their patron, Saint Junipero Serra (pronounced Hoo-nip-err-oh, with accent on the “nip").  First off, let me be clear, I have not misspelled “Serra.”  I’m talking about the Serra Club, NOT the Sierra Club.  Recently, I spoke to someone who presumably was a devoted Catholic.  I told him that I was a member of the Serra Club of Rochester (MN) and he responded with “Oh, the Sierra Club.”  I said, “No, Serra Club.”  I asked him if he knew what it was, and he said “no.”  I’m am writing this post as if I am responding further to him.  So here goes.

Serra is an international organization of Catholic men and women dedicated to promoting and nurturing vocations to the Catholic priesthood and religious life.  Our patron and namesake is Saint Junipero Serra (pictured), a Catholic Franciscan missionary priest who personally founded nine of the twenty-one missions that line the California coast.  These missions, including the Mission San Diego, the Mission San Juan Capistrano, the Mission San Francisco and six others were built between Father Serra’s arrival date in California, July 1, 1767, until his death on August 28, 1784.  He is known as the “Apostle of California” and his bust can be found along with other famous men and women from America’s past in the halls of Congress.  You may recall that he was canonized a saint of the Catholic Church by Pope Francis during the Pope’s visit to the United States in 2015. 

Today, “Serra International” is the name of this lay apostolate in the Catholic Church, otherwise known simply as “Serra” and the members as “Serrans.”  Serra was founded by a group of men in Seattle, Washington, in 1935 and has spread to forty-six countries on six continents.  As of 2013, there were over 20,000 members in 1,109 Serra Clubs worldwide.  The international headquarters, as well as the USA Council of Serra, are located in downtown Chicago.  We are divided into districts, each district having a governor.  Local clubs are relative small.  As examples, the Rochester club of which I am a member, has forty-eight members and the Lincoln, Nebraska, club, which was my former club, has ninety-five members.  Each club has a governing board, which includes a president, and at least seven others, including a secretary, a treasurer, a number of vice-presidents who have charge of important components, such as communications, vocations, membership, etc.  We meet usually twice a month for Mass and lunch.

Serra Clubs have a very important function if they are to live up to their mission to promote and nurture religious vocations.  Our most important task is to pray.  I mean really pray.  Rosaries, Holy Hours, Masses, retreats, group prayers, etc., etc.  The secondary task is to get to know and to befriend all priests in their local area as well as all the seminarians, religious sisters, deacons and any other religious persons.  Promoting and nurturing vocations is the name of the game.  Clubs do have a budget and do have dues.  We sponsor activities that draw from our treasury, including golf outings and dinners for priests and seminarians, promotional “contests” for local high schoolers and elementary students, and the like.

If I have rattled your cage at all and you want to check out the club that serves your parish, please talk to your pastor about who to contact.  Recent scandals among the Catholic clergy has made the job a little more difficult, but remember that our primary tool is prayer and prayer can be used under any and all circumstances.  Here is an idea!  Monday, July 1, 1767, was the day Fr. Serra arrived in California.  This coming Monday is July 1.  It is St. Junipero Serra's feast day in the Catholic Church.  Let's all go to Mass and pray for his intercession.  Saint Junipero Serra, pray for us!  Amen!