Friday, November 15, 2019

Previously on This is Us

One day this past summer my daughter called saying she had tickets to watch a taping of “Late Night” with Seth Meyers. The big guest of the evening would be Milo Vetimiglia, the star of “This is Us”. 


We arrived at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, tickets in hand before 3:30, While the taping did not begin for 2 hours, we were told that if we didn’t arrive by this time our spots would be given to someone with “standby tickets.”


Being on time wasn’t the only rule. We had to be dressed appropriately (we might get on camera). We were also told (multiple times) that once we got inside the studio, we could not leave until the taping was over. If we did, we could not re-enter.


Finally, we were taken as groups on elevators and assigned numbers to enter the theater in a prescribed order.  The rule was to file in and take the next seat at the direction of the NBC page standing at the end of the row. There would be no switching seats or sitting on the end and forcing people to climb over us.


At each stop we were entertained by professional comedians whose job it was to pump us up.  We were repeatedly reminded that “the success of the show would be directly related to our energy.”


I can tell you that Alessandra and I followed all the rules and were rewarded by hearing Milo Ventimiglia talk about his new movie and his experience on This Is Us.


***


Consider how you would feel if the previous “rules” were requirements for coming to mass today. 


Now take a few minutes to reread this article and see what you’d accept and what you would not if it was required for you to attend Mass. (Don’t worry, I’ll wait.)


Now I’m certainly not advocating adding rules for admission to or participation in mass.  But out of curiosity, did you follow my instructions in the last paragraph? If not, why? If so, were you put off by these rules?


I’m sure you would agree that hearing Milo Ventimiglia pitch a movie that lasted about two weeks in theaters is nowhere near as important as meeting Christ in the Eucharist. So why would people (including myself) follow multiple rules to view a taping of a talk show yet bristle if asked to come outside our comfort zone at Mass?  


I conclude with a quote from the church’s Constitution on Sacred Liturgy.  (The emphasis is my own.)

The church, therefore, earnestly desires that Christ faithful when present at this mystery of faith should not be there as strangers or silent spectators; on the contrary, for a good understanding of the rites and prayers they should take part in the sacred action conscious of what they are doing with devotion and full collaboration.


Blessed to be in ministry with you at St. Mary’s,


Bruce



Friday, November 8, 2019

This saying is trustworthy: 
If f we have died with him, we shall also live with him.
                               2 Timothy 2:11

It is Monday morning. The deadline for this “Liturgical note” sits at the top of my to-do list.  Sipping my coffee, I take a fresh glance at the readings which will be proclaimed this weekend.

The first reading from the Second Book of Maccabees seems like a dramatic moment in a Netflix miniseries. The torture of the seven brothers and their mother is vividly gruesome.   To make things worse, what we hear proclaimed today is an ABRIDGED VERSION.  

Feeling overwhelmed, I procrastinate by opening my yahoo news feed.   Before I write more about what Ii find this let me go back to today’s scripture reading.

The Maccabees were a group of Jewish people who preserved the faith during a time of intense  persecution. Their valor and success are integral to the Jewish celebration of Hanukah.

You may ask why this book is part of our (Catholic) bible? More importantly, you may wonder why the  crafters of the lectionary decided to include it on the 32nd Sunday of Ordinary time. I would suggest two reasons:

  1.  It is a story of fidelity (i.e faithfulness) to the law.
  2.  It tells of God’s promise that those who are faithful will have a future beyond death. *  
* hence the quote from Paul’s letter to Timothy at the top of this page.

This brings me to the headline on my yahoo feed that continues to be part of my prayer and reflection:

“At the age of 95, Jimmy Carter says he’s “completely at ease with death”.

Despite living what many would consider to be an extraordinary life, the former president continues to call himself “a simple peanut farmer”. He lives in the same modest home that he lived in before he became president. At 95 he finds the time to teach Sunday School and the energy to participate in building homes for Habitat for Humanity.

President Carter may not be a hero like the seven brothers and their mother who refused to renounce their faith when faced with torture and death. He is, however what gerontologists call a super-senior. More importantly he is an example of what it is to live a life of fidelity and trust in Christ’s promise of eternal life.

I have selected Stand By Me (#633) as our offertory hymn as it highlights God’s faithfulness during times of trial.  

We will also sing Tis A Gift to be Simple (#518) as a reminder that faithful living need not be dramatic or headline catching.  It can be as simple as reconsidering how we spend our time and moving service higher up our to-do lists.

Last, but not least; we will conclude our liturgies by honoring our veterans in the closing blessing and by singing Mine Eyes Have Seen The Glory (#577)

Blessed to be in ministry with you at St. Mary’s

Bruce


Thursday, October 31, 2019

Lord, for your faithful people life is changed, not ended.

Lord, for your faithful people life is changed, not ended.
                                                                        Preface for Christian Death

I wake up early, open my computer but go no further. The view through the window has taken hold of my attention.  It’s not yet 7 a.m. but it is still dark. The rain shimmers as it passes between me and the streetlights. I walk to the window for a better look. When did all these leaves fall?   I open the window. It is warmer than I expected. It is as if I am standing on the cusp of summer and fall.

The church is also on the cusp of two seasons:  ordinary time (the end of the current liturgical year) and advent (the beginning of a new year).  Today is the first of 3 Sundays which precede this transition - The Solemnity of Christ the King.

The gospel for Christ the King reminds me of this dark morning.  Jesus hangs on the cross and and is taunted by the authorities as well as a criminal hanging next to him. They see him as just another dying leaf hanging from a tree limb - ready to fall and be swept away.  

Those with eyes of faith see something different.   

I am  the true vine and my Father is the vine-grower.  (John 15:1)

During November the church directs our attention to those who have lived, died and returned to the vine-grower.

Among these are the saints whose names are known by many like Saint Luke, the recorder of today’s gospel and the newly canonized Saint John Henry Newman.  

There are also those whose names are less known but precious to each of us.  They are our spouses, parents, grandparents, children, mentors and friends who have died.  As we receive the Eucharist we are communion with them through Jesus..

During communion we will pray the Litany of the Saints (#721).  The response “pray for us” in an invocation to the saints for us as well as those souls who await entrance into the fullness of God’s kingdom.

Blessed to be in ministry at St. Mary’s and honored to be part of the funeral liturgies for your loved ones over these past years.

Bruce

Sunday, October 27, 2019

“O God, be merciful to me a sinner.”
                                                  Luke 18:13b   


Today we will be hearing from a very important preacher.  It is the same great preacher who preached last Sunday. You might call this man -  “The Ultimate Preacher!” 

OK, so that was a shameless attempt to get your attention.  

Consider the first line of last week’s gospel:  Jesus told the disciples a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary.  Luke 18:1  

There’s no doubt that Jesus was a teacher.  People called him, “Rabboni” (Rabbi in English) which means teacher  But, if you close your eyes as you hear this reading it is not hard to imagine Jesus himself preaching.

Today, we hear another parable found only in Luke’s gospel; The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector.  Don’t miss the significance of Jesus’ choices of characters. Jesus knows his audience will assume that the Pharisee will be the hero and the tax collector the goat.  You and I know better.

The line that echoes in my mind is the humble prayer of the tax collector - O God, be merciful to me a sinner.  We will sing similar words in today’s offertory song, ”The Jesus Song” (#406).

***
This week the church celebrates the Solemnity of All Saints (Friday) and The Commemoration of the Faithful Departed.  (Saturday) It begins is a time when we particularly remember those who have died:

  1. the saints whose names are familiar to many 
  2. the saints whose names are familiar in our own hearts and memories 
  3. those who are still waiting to gain entrance into what John describes as:  A new heaven and a new earth, the holy city, a new Jerusalem.

November is a time when the church on earth joins with the first two groups and in praying with greater intensity for the latter or these groups.

Here at St. Mary’s we will begin the All Saints liturgy by praying John Becker’s setting of the Litany of the Saints (#721).  We will continue this prayer during communion for each of the Masses this November.

Blest to be in ministry at St. Mary’s,


Bruce

Friday, October 18, 2019

If God Is For Us


If God is for us, who can be against us?
                                 Paul’s letter to the Romans 8:31

I saw it and wondered what to do. The prudent part of me answered immediately, “It won’t come up again for another three years, ignore it, everyone else does.”

I’m speaking about a reading that comes up just once in the three-year cycle.  Here is a portion:

In those days, Amalek came and waged war against Isreal. So Moses said to Joshua, “Choose some men for us, and tomorrow go out and engage Amalek in battle. I will be standing on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.  Exodus 17:8,9

If you’re not sure about for whom we should root and why, send me an e-mail.

And Joshua mowed Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword.  Exodus 17:10

Am I the only having a hard time cheering the victory? 

If you’re having a hard time with your decision, take a look at the verse we don’t hear this morning.

Then the LORD said to Moses: Write this down in a book as something to be remembered, and recite it to Joshua:  I will completely blot out the memory of Amalek from under the heavens. Exodus 17:14

Wow!  That is harsh!

For the past few week’s I’ve researched, studied and reflected on this portion of Exodus.  The best help I have found is from Bishop Robert Barron who suggests looking at this reading allegorically. 

An allegory is a figure of speech that teaches a moral lesson using (in this case “historical”) characters, figures and events. 

So, what is the moral lesson of this story?

For me, the lesson has nothing to do our enemies or the memories of the blotted out Amalek.  It has nothing to do with war, or even the just use of force. 

The lesson is about God and comes from Paul’s letter to the church at Rome.  We sang it as our processional hymn last week and will sing it again today as we leave church.  It is written at the top of this article.

Blessed to be in ministry at St. Mary’s,

Bruce

PS
I continue to struggle with violent biblical texts.

PPS
If you are at the 10:30 liturgy you will not find the psalm in the usual place.  Turn to #620.




Thursday, October 10, 2019

Jesus, You Are the Healing


Jesus, you are the healing, 
you came to make us whole again.
                             “You Are The Healing”  words and music by Scott Soper

Today’s scripture readings contain 2 stories about healing. A significant part of both stories is that the main character (the person) healed is not Jewish.

In Second Kings Chapter 5 the Prophet Elisha instructs Naaman to plunge in the River Jordan. Naaman is the General of the Arameans, a people at war with Israel. The reading ends with the newly healed Naaman making testimony to the Lord.

Interestingly, the person who brings Naaman to Elisha is an Israelite girl captured by the Arameans in a raid and works as a servant for Naaman’s wife. Another interesting thread has to do with a man named Gehazi.  (I’ll leave that or you to read.)

In the gospel we hear a story where a Samaritan is among 10 people healed of leprosy.
  1. As he was entering a village, ten lepers met [him]. They stood at a distance from him
  2. and raised their voice, saying, “Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!”
  3. And when he saw them, he said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.”* As they were going they were cleansed.
  4. And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice;
Here is a portion of the U.S. Catholic Bishop’s commentary:
This incident... provides an instance of Jesus holding up a non-Jew as an example to his Jewish contemporaries....(resembling).... Lk 10:33 where a similar purpose is achieved in the story of the good Samaritan....

If you are like me, you might wonder as to why only one the 10 realize he had been healed. The answer is found in the continuation of the commentary and is the main point of today’s scripture lessons.

.....it is the faith in Jesus manifested by the foreigner that has brought him salvation.

Our processional, “If God Is For Us” (#605) and offertory “You Are the Healing” (#399) were selected to highlight God’s healing power. The recessional hymn “Now Thank We All Our God” (#196) gives us the opportunity to praise God for God’s gift of healing in our lives.

Blessed to be in ministry at St. Mary’s

Bruce

PS
We continue our October devotion to the Blessed Mother by singing “Hail Mary, Gentle Woman” (#705) as the Gathering Song.



Previously on This is Us

One day this past summer my daughter called saying she had tickets to watch a taping of “Late Night” with Seth Meyers. The big guest of the...